Russian military chief pitches 'information' ops as form of war

Russian President Vladimir Putin with the country's Chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, during a meeting last December.
Russian President Vladimir Putin with the country's Chief of the General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, during a meeting last December.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW • The chief of Russia's armed forces has endorsed the kind of tactics used by his country to intervene abroad, repeating a philosophy of hybrid war that has earned him notoriety in the West, especially among US officials who have accused Russia of election meddling in 2016.

At a conference on the future of Russian military strategy last Saturday, General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff, said countries bring a blend of political, economic and military power to bear against adversaries.

The speech outlined what some Western analysts consider the signature strategy of Russia under President Vladimir Putin - and what other experts call a simple recognition of modern war and politics.

Gen Gerasimov said Russia's armed forces must maintain both "classical" and "asymmetrical" potential, using jargon for the mix of combat, intelligence and propaganda tools that the Kremlin has deployed in conflicts such as Syria and Ukraine.

And he cited the Syrian civil war as an example of successful Russian intervention abroad. The combination of a small expeditionary force with "information operations" had provided lessons that could be expanded to "defend and advance national interests beyond the borders of Russia", he said.

The speech was noteworthy for echoing themes Gen Gerasimov laid out in an article published in 2013 in a Russian army journal, and which many now see as a foreshadowing of the country's embrace of "hybrid war" in Ukraine, where Russia has backed separatist rebels and used soldiers in unmarked uniforms to seize Crimea.

Some analysts see a progression from the blend of subversion and propaganda used in Ukraine to the tactics later directed against Western nations, including the United States, where Russia's military intelligence agency hacked into Democratic Party computers during the 2016 presidential election.

Russia denies interfering in the election.

That article prompted some Western analysts to call the Russian approach the "Gerasimov Doctrine", though other experts object to crediting the general or the Kremlin alone.

"The idea that the Russians have discovered some new art of war is wrong," Mr Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute and author of Russian Political War, said of the general's latest speech. "This is basically the Russians trying to grapple with the modern world."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2019, with the headline 'Russian military chief pitches 'information' ops as form of war'. Print Edition | Subscribe