Enhancing Local Defense Capabilities: Russia can only execute the type of rapid invasions witnessed in Crimea and the Ukraine where they can reasonably expect little military resistance. In states such as those in the Baltics NATO should be prepared to defend against any Russian military incursions If Russian leaders are confident that resistance will be minimal, it will be easier for them to deliver a fait accompli to the international community, reducing the options for countering Russian territorial seizures.
Emphasizing joint military exercises with NATO members: In order to show direct support for nations affected by Russian Hybrid Warfare strategies, nations should engage in joint military exercises with NATO countries. This would be a show of force and would help prepare the armed forces of the target nation to counter Russian forces in direct military engagements. Furthermore, these exercises demonstrate an institutional readiness to respond to Russian threats which bolsters credible deterrence.
Diversifying Target Nation Fuel Sources: One of Russia’s primary instruments of economic influence is restricting energy to coerce a target nation. A target nation is particularly susceptible if its energy is largely sourced from Russia, and thus, diversifying fuel sources away from Russia will reduce vulnerability.
Increasing Regulation of Money Transfer Channels and Foreign Business: A large sum of Russian money flows through Cyprus (due to lower tax policies in the nation) prior to reaching its final destination within a target nation. Furthermore, Russia also conducts non-transparent forms of business (i.e. contracts with companies from the target nation, company mergers, bookkeeping). Methods like these allow Russia to intervene more subtly in countries. By increasing the regulation of both money transfer channels and foreign business, countries can expose unwanted influence as well as expand their capability to prosecute corrupt business deals.
Funding NGOs to Promote a Pluralistic Media Landscape: The United States can do little to directly influence the media landscapes of other countries. However, it can indirectly encourage a pluralistic media landscape to combat Russian media influence by providing funding to vetted NGOs that offer news alternatives. For example, USAID funds Internews, an international non-profit that empowers media organizations and professionals globally. Additional aid and expansion to similar NGOs would provide additional narratives to those created in hybrid warfare.
Encouraging an Independent Press: Even without funding alternative news sources, the United States can still actively promote the importance of an independent media through public statements and leading by example. These tactics will provide the concept of an independent press with legitimacy and demonstrate the possibility of such concept.
Increasing the Transparency of Existing News Sources: The country can educate the public and raise awareness about the biases of all media organizations by labeling them based on funding, owners, etc. Ideally, the labeling would be undertaken by the government but NGOs could also promote consumer awareness should the government (or Russian influences) attempt to obscure the media origins.
Waging a deterrent cyberwarfare strategy: In order to match the pace and shape of Russia's cyber campaign, the United States must work with domestic hacktivist groups and governmental agencies in order to create and implement an offensive cyber-strategy that would involve gathering intel on Russia's critical infrastructure systems, adapting the viruses and techniques used by Russian hackers, and bolstering the defenses of networks part of American critical infrastructure.
Our research allowed us to determine a number of key components of hybrid warfare. The following warning signs are broken down by category of influence to allow a target nation to identify if it might be a victim of hybrid warfare tactics.
1. Energy export manipulation
2. Use of under regulated channels to transfer large sums of money
3. Strategic sanctions on trade
4. Exploitative contracts driven by aggressor state affiliated corporations
1. Use of coordinated “snap exercises” and other troop movements purposefully designed to avoid international attention
2. Deployment of mercenaries and special operations forces in advance of conventional forces
1. Pervasiveness of aggressor state media
2. Reduction of independent domestic target nation news sources
3. Distributed denial of services attacks against critical infrastructure
In an ideal circumstance, countries would assess their potential vulnerability to the risk of economic, military, and informational influence prior to becoming a target, enabling them to take preventative measures (i.e. high level of dependence for energy resources; considerable media influence from foreign sources; low cyber security; inadequate military capabilities). But once a nation has already identified that it is experiencing attacks in one or more of these categories, it should assess vulnerability in other areas of influence. More specifically, the nation should determine if attacks across categories are occurring in conjunction, as in hybrid warfare, or if they are singular, isolated tactics. A platform to evaluate the confluence of these threats and promote internal communication across different sectors should be developed within the government infrastructure.
Whether one interprets the hybrid warfare in Ukraine as a response to American foreign policy or a symptom of Russian aggression, it is clear that its effects are destructive. Thus, nations should leverage diplomatic, economic and military might, in combination with bargaining power, to de-escalate Russian intervention in Ukraine. Furthermore, with the insight that Russian aggression has a strong retaliatory correlation with restrictive measures from the international legal regime, the West and the Ukraine Parliament, the United States can craft policies that would anticipate possible responses of the Russian government. Underpinning this notion is that any kind of measured action on the Ukrainian conflict would have to be relatively tempered as Russia has been keen to respond swiftly, and with a barrage of attacks across all three domains.
Sanctions: Sanctions can be used as a punishment for Russia’s behaviors, when they target vulnerable foreign nations. Specifically, sanctions could be applied to Russian luxury goods (i.e. crab, vodka, caviar) as a response to when Russia enacts similar policies against a targeted nation’s luxury exports. Additionally, sanctions might be imposed on individual Russians by, for example, freezing their foreign assets and restricting travel.
Diplomatic Campaigns: The US and allies can try to limit Russia’s involvement in foreign nations by waging diplomatic campaigns against Russia in the form of public statements (i.e. UN speeches, press conferences, etc.) that condemn Russia’s actions as “bullying” and “infringing upon state sovereignty.” Statements like these might pressure Russia into changing their behavior by threatening their international standing.
Cyber Attacks: The United States can adopt an offensive cyber strategy that involves further refining its offensive capabilities by funding recruitment efforts and projects sponsored by both private and public cyber-intelligence groups and partnering with domestic hacktivist groups. In general, there needs to be a recognition that the frontiers of warfare are changing, and therefore, the military budget should be restructured to meet the expenses of cybersecurity.
Rapid Deployment: Use pre positioned expeditionary forces to rapidly support the military of a target nation before Russian forces can take key territorial positions. By combining this strategy with A2AD capabilities that would slow a Russian advance, a target nation can successfully counter Russian forces.