A definition of contemporary Russian conflict

Bob Seely MP today offers the first comprehensive definition of the nature of modern Russian warfare in a peer-reviewed paper for The Henry Jackson Society – and draws a direct comparison between Cold War-era KGB ‘Active Measures’ and the aggression of Putin’s Russia. This report warns that the West faces a new kind of conflict: one in which military and non-military tools are combined in a dynamic, efficient and integrated way to achieve political aims. Until now, there has been no common agreement on what we are fighting – but Seely offers a comprehensive definition. In his paper, the Conservative MP and Russia researcher offers the term ‘Contemporary Russian Conflict’ to describe the covert and overt forms of malign influence used by the Kremlin. In this co-ordinated approach to warfare, at least 50 tools of state power are used, grouped into seven elements: Political Conflict; Culture and Governance; Economics and Energy; Military Power; Diplomacy and Public Outreach; and Information and Narrative Warfare. At the heart of this is the seventh element: Command and Control. This model is less a military art so much as a strategic one, in which all the tools of national power are woven together. Armed conflict – whether overt, covert or via proxy forces – is but one part of a full spectrum of tools used in the pursuit of political aims. The role of the Armed Forces in this definition is supporting, not supported – used to bolster the wider political conflict being waged.

A Definition of Contemporary Russian Conflict examines the ways in which Russia goes to war and how it came to adopt this hybrid warfare model. It highlights how: The Kremlin considers non-military tools to be potentially more powerful than military tools, with instruments such as information warfare, cultural manipulation and social media hacktivism being used to achieve foreign policy goals without the use of direct force. There is an enduring influence of the secret services on Russian strategic planning, with the stages of Contemporary Russia Conflict based heavily on the ‘Active Measures’ toolkit used by the KGB as political warfare during the Soviet Union. President Putin and the security clique around him, judging by Russian foreign, defence and security doctrine, believe that the Western system, based on the rule of law and universal human rights, is antithetical to Russia and that the West is an adversary – not a partner – of Russia, with Russia a victim of Western action. Mr Putin wants to undermine NATO, the EU, and other Western institutions; and wishes to use disinformation campaigns and the tools of subversive warfare to undermine trust in our values, leaders, and way of life.

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