Staunton, Sept. 29 – Hybrid war, the use of non-military means for military ends, has infected the thinking of many in the Russian elite, leading to greater repression at home and to the risk of a major war abroad, according to Ivan Aleksandrov, a pseudonymous Russian journalist.
Because almost anything that is a problem for the Kremlin can be described as a weapon of hybrid war, he argues, many in the Russian elite are quite prepared to accept the idea that their domestic opponents are in fact agents of the West working against Russia in an undeclared war against it (russian.eurasianet.org/как-миф-о-гибридной-войне-против-россии-превратился-в-опасную-теорию-заговора).
Such conspiracy thinking provides a justification for repression at home, but it also creates an atmosphere in which all actions of the West are viewed as aspects of an assumed hybrid war against Russia, a perspective that justifies and even encourages a Russian response that in the worst case could lead to a major war.
Various leaders of the Russian siloviki have promoted this perspective in order to justify a harsher line against the West and against those in Russia that they have convinced themselves must be Western “agents.” And what has become worrisome is that ever fewer members of the elite are challenging them on any aspect of this picture.
This current trend has its origins in the 2013 article of Valery Gerasimov, then chief of the Russian General Staff who argued that in war today, the lines between military and non-military means in war have blurred and that what looks like something independent of military moves in fact is part of them (vpk-news.ru/articles/14632).
But Ilya Budraytskis of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics argues that “one must distinguish the term hybrid war and the propagandistic ideal that now we are in the state of some mental war or war of values. Hybrid war represents special interests of the competing sides and as such can be concluded by an agreement … or the establishment of a new balance of power.”
However, “a war of values or a mental war in conspiratorial mythology does not offer any chance for completion on the basis of an agreement. It presupposes Western politicians have besides specific foreign policy interests a secret super-idea, the destruction of Russia and the conversion of Russians into slaves by destroying their history and collective identity.”
According to the Moscow political scientist, such notions “are in no way connected with reality.” But they flow easily from talk of hybrid war precisely because that term remains without the clear boundaries of definition that might prevent its extension to spheres where it does not apply and thus its misuse.
Other Russian analysts, Aleksandrov continues, like Grigory Yudin, acknowledge that Moscow is using this tactic but doing so without believing what they are saying (echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/2859128-echo/). But even such pragmatic use carries with it dangers because it can lead those who do so to cross dangerous lines.
“The custom of thinking in categories of war in combination with growing internal problems hypothetically,” he suggests, “can push the Russian elite to take risky steps.”