This paper explores the concept of cognitive warfare, a multifaceted approach to achieving strategic objectives by manipulating the cognitive mechanisms of adversaries. Drawing on historical examples and contemporary developments, it delves into the increasing focus on the ”hearts and minds” aspect of modern conflict. The analysis encompasses two principal components of cognitive warfare as presented in Russian military literature: Reflexive Control and Mental Warfare. While Reflexive Control has been previously discussed in Western literature, Mental Warfare is a recent and lesser-known concept. The paper examines the theoretical and philosophical foundations underlying these components, highlighting their shared emphasis on the cognitive process. Mental Warfare, as an integral part of the strategy of Controlled Chaos, seeks to occupy the adversary’s consciousness and induce changes in collective mindsets, while Reflexive Control aims to influence opponents through tailored information. The implications of cognitive warfare for NATO and Western countries are also discussed, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures and enhanced cognitive defense in countering adversarial attempts to exploit systemic vulnerabilities. Ultimately, the paper underscores the critical need to protect the human mind, which has become the primary battleground in the pursuit of political objectives in contemporary warfare.
Jānis welcomes Alexander Lanoszka for a discussion of his new book, Military Alliances in the Twenty-First Century. Lanoszka discusses the book’s main conclusions arguing that all alliances have some degree of internal dificulties and are prone to dysfunction. The conversation moves on to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, including Turkey blocking the latter’s accession. He discusses Ukraine becoming a NATO member and the implications for European security, including the Baltic regions. The conversation ends with a discussion about the possibility of the “Global South” forming alliances to counter Western influence and the relationship between China and Russia.
It’s been 12 days of the Russian escalation of the 2014 war agains Ukraine. The situation hasn’t changed much in the last days. What’s new is combat taking place in Izyum (SE of Kharkiv) and the area of Russian control NW of Kyiv has expanded towards Korosten.
Overall, it’s getting increasingly difficult for the Russian forces to sustain the operation. General Valery “Doctrine” Gerasimov’s nephew, Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, was killed yesterday. He was the chief of staff of the 41st Army and the operation commander in Kharkiv. It’s the second Russian general this week and the third overall. To compare how low is the probability of general officers dying in combat, the only American general to die during Afghanistan and Iraq was Major General Harold Greene in 2014. If they’re sending generals to the field, a fair hypothesis is that they are running out of mid-management. Besides, the soldiers seem to have very low morale, and Ukrainian resistance is incredibly strong and creative. The Ukrainian forces were able to destroy 35 Russian helicopters in an attack against the Kherson airbase.
There are many problems with logistics and equipment. Besides running out of gas and diesel and equipment braking because of poor maintenance, some examples are:. The Su-34 are using commercial GPS kits in their cockpits that seems to be made in the USA. This might support my hypothesis that they didn’t have transponders either, when some dangerous episodes of Russian jet fighters and commercial airliners getting to close happened some years ago. This compromises operational security. The very expensive crypto-phones ERA introduced by the Russian MoD in 2021 – and guaranteed to work in any condition — aren’t working. They need 3G/4G and Russian troops are destroying cell towers. Thus, they are equipped with secure phones that don’t work in the areas they operate. Soldiers are receiving food rations that are out of validity. In some cases, since 2015.
That said, it is necessary to consider that Russia is still much stronger than Ukraine.
At the political level, it’s possible to see that Russia is reducing its demands. Yesterday, they were three:
- To recognize Crimea as Russian territory and the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk “People” Republics.
- No NATO.
- Zelenski stays pro-forma President, but the unpopular pro-Russia politician Yuriy Boyko is appointed Prime-Minister.
Ukraine refused to accept. New negotiations are expected to be held this Thursday.
The Komsolmolskaya Pravda published a “debate” between a journalist and a “political scientist” showing three possible scenarios for Ukraine:
1. Optimistic plan: Ukraine remains in its current size (minus the territories of the DPR and LPR within their administrative boundaries).For that, Ukraine would have to:
i. officially recognizes the Crimea as Russian territory and the independence of Donbass;
ii. introduce into the constitution a provision of neutrality and non-alignment;
iii. the renunciation of nuclear weapons;
iv. extradite war criminals at the request of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation;
v. fixes the position of the Russian language as the second state language.
2. Realistic plan: divide Ukraine into several parts
Create several formally independent republics similarly to the DPR and LPR, on the basis the of predominantly Russian-speaking regions of historical Slobozhanshchina and Novorossiya – Kharkiv People’s, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, Kherson, Nikolaev and Odessa At the second stage, at the unification congress of people’s representatives, they, together with the DPR and LPR, as well as Pridnestrovie, which will join them, can declare the creation of a new independent state that is in close allied relations with the Russian Federation – Novorossiya.
3. Worst case plan: destroy Ukraine as a country
If the “special operation” becomes irreversible and completely uncontrollable, Novorossiya and Little Russia will simply enter Russia as republics, territories and regions. Romania and Hungary will be able to claim Bukovina and Transcarpathia, and Poland will be able to claim six western regions.
DISCLAIMER: This list might be correct, but it isn’t wholly trustworthy. Take it with a pinch of salt.
Apple Pay: complete block
Apple: complete exit from the market
Adidas – refusal to work with the national football team
Audi – out of the market
AMD – a ban on supplying microchips and a ban on supplying video cards soon.
British Petroleum – selling 20% shares out of Rosnefty
BBC – Broadcast License Review
BMW – closing plants, blocking supplies
Bolt – 5 million euros of aid to Ukraine
Boeing – no maintenance for Russian airlines
Chevrolet: out the market
Cannes Festival – RF delegation blocked
Cadillac – out of the market
Carlsberg – export restriction
Cex Io – crypto platform banning ru users
Cinema 4D – app not working
Coca Cola – off the Market
Danone: out of the market
Disney – cancelling all movies
Dell – exit the market
Dropbox – will stop operating in the country in a few days
DHL – out of the market
Eurovision – Disqualification
Ericsson – exit the market
Exxon Mobil – recall all specialists from oil companies of Russia
Etsy is a block of all balances on ru accounts
Facebook is a ban on rf social media accounts
FedEx is a complete ban on supplies
Formula 1 – cancelled tournament in Sochi
Ford to close all stores
FIFA – disqualification of the national team for the World Cup and a ban on holding any international matches in the Russian Federation
Google Pay – Partial Block
Google – $15 million for humanitarian aid to Ukraine
Google Maps – info block for Russians
General Motors – Stop Exports
HP – no longer loading laptops
Harley Davidson – Deliveries Cut
Instagram is blocking propaganda
Intel is a ban on microchips.
Jaguar – off the market
Jooble – the service was deleted
Lenovo – exit the market
LinkedIn – preparing to leave the country completely
MOK – cancellation of all competitions
Mastercard – suspending card production, turning off several banks
Maersk – a delivery stop in/from the Russian Federation
Mercedes – exit from the country
Megogo – Deleting All Russian Movies
Metro – 10k employees – closing
Mitsubishi – employees of 141 service center – closing
Microsoft Office – a wide range of measures being discussed
Mobile World Congress – the delegation is not accredited
Netflix – a block for Russian subscriptions, stopping the production of Russian TV series
Nike – closing all stores
Nintendo – a ban on purchases in rubles
Nestle – closes all 6 factories in Russia
OnlyFans – shut down in the country
Landscape – Blocking
PayPal – freeze withdrawal accounts
Paramount – movie rental block
Parimatch – Franchise revoked
PlayStation – no payment possible
Pornhub – content ban
Porsche – exit from the market
Renault – exit the market
Samsung pay – service locking
Snapchat – out of the app in the Russian Federation and Blyadorussia, 15 million $ help Ukraine
Scania – exit from the Russian Federation
SpaceX – Starlink delivery to Ukraine
Shell – termination of contract with Gazprom
Spotify – impossible to pay a subscription
Sony – Movie Rental Block
Twitter – Russian citizens cannot register accounts
Toyota – closing
UEFA – cancellation of the Champions League final in St. Petersburg, ban on all clubs to participate in the Champions League and LE, $ 1 million in aid to Ukraine, break the contract with the general sponsor of Gazprom
UPS is a complete ban on supplies
Universal pictures – movie rental block
Viber – $ 9 million aid to Ukraine from CEO Rakuten
Visa – suspension of card production at least
Volvo – coming out of the market
YouTube – blocking hundreds of channels and their monetization
Warner Bros – Cancellation of all movie rentals
Webmoney – ban on transactions
Volkswagen – leaving the country
Zoom – review of software development licenses
Russia did it. Tonight President Putin signed the decree recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk after a very interesting meeting of the Security Council. It’s appalling nobody foresaw it as a possibility. I’ve written already in January it was possible in an unpublished paper (email me, and I’ll be glad to send it). It started last week with the Duma approving an initiative from Putin’s party to recognize the territories’ independence. Today, Putin called an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss this issue plus the FSB reports on Ukrainian sabotage in Russian territory.
The broadcast was supposed to be live, but there are many indicators it was recorded before. Shoigu’s wristwatch was marking 12:47, while the meeting was allegedly happening after 16:50. Valentina Matvienko’s (Chairwoman of the Federation Council) speech was clearly edited, and a frame showed Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov leaving the podium, although his speech wasn’t part of the transmission.
The Foreign Minister S. Lavrov spoke first, noting that “the West is not ready to accept Russia’s proposals for non-expansion of NATO. Nevertheless, Russia is prepared to discuss security issues with the United States, but only considering Moscow’s position on non-expansion of the alliance.” The head of the FSB, Alexander Bortnikov, said that after a battle on the border, a serviceman of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was allegedly captured. He also stressed that the FSB with the Ministry of Defense destroyed two Ukrainian “sabotage groups” that reached the border with the Russian Federation. The Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu estimated the number of Ukrainian military near the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics at 59,300 troops. At the same time, on February 8, Putin said that 100-125 thousand Ukrainian troops were allegedly concentrated near Donbas. He added that “we were left no choice. Thus, I say unequivocally: yes, we must recognize.”
Medvedev added that “We face a difficult dilemma associated with the recognition of these two territories. I remember 2008 well; I can say from experience that I had to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia at that time. We know what happened next. I won’t talk about it. This has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Matvienko said that “it became evident that the Kyiv puppet regime not only does not want to but also cannot solve anything. Ukraine needs this conflict to justify the degrading economic situation. The West needs this conflict as an anti-Russian project. That is why the Minsk agreements are not being implemented. What did the residents of Luhansk and Donetsk want? Let’s remember! They wanted the right to speak Russian. Ordinary requirements, common European values. Instead, a humanitarian catastrophe is organized. Where is the OSCE? Heads of state meet, decisions are made. For Russia, these are citizens, people. Two Slavic fraternal peoples are trying to be united. Well, how much more can you try to persuade? How much more can be explained? We need to call a spade a spade. Residents of Lugansk and Donetsk rebelled against the bloody coup. What has Russia done wrong to Ukraine?
The secretary of the Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, also called for support for the State Duma’s appeal to recognize the independence of Donbas and Luhansk. He said that “it’s not the people of Ukraine who organized; they are intimidated, forced to follow this path. Organized by the United States! It would be advisable to respond to Biden’s proposal to hold negotiations in which you (Putin) could say that you did everything against the people of the DPR and LPR, and we all to support them. If you do everything to stop the massacre there, we can have a dialogue.”
The director of the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) Sergei Naryshkin said that “the thesis about Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine was born within the walls of the U.S. State Department and promoted to such limits that it resembles war propaganda. This was done to provoke Kyiv to try to solve the problem of Donbas by military means. We have no right to allow this.”
When Putin’s requested him to speak clearly, he misspoke and replied that he supported “the proposal to join the DPR and LPR into the Russian Federation.” Putin himself noted that it is only about the recognition of independence.
Putin: – You propose to start the negotiation process
Naryshkin: – Oh, no, I… I… support…
Putin: – Or to recognize their sovereignty?
Naryshkin: – Oh, me, I… support…
Putin: – Speak, speak straight!
Naryshkin: – I will support the proposal for recognition…
Putin: – Will I support or support? Speak straight, Sergey Evgenyevich!
Naryshkin: – I support the proposal to…
Putin: – So say: yes or no.
Naryshkin: – That’s what I say, yes… I support the proposal to join the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics into the Russian Federation.
Putin: – Yes, you… We’re not talking about it, we’re not discussing it. We’re talking about recognizing their independence or not.
Naryshkin: – Yes… I support the proposal to recognize independence.
This is one case when I hate to be right. Yesterday, I wrote on this blog that instead of a conventional operation, Russia had many other alternatives. One was recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Lukhansk. It’s happening.
Tomorrow (15.02), the Duma will consider two proposals to recognize the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lukhansk People’s Republics. Deputies from the Communist Party submitted the first draft resolution. If the State Duma approves the draft resolution, it’ll immediately send it to the president for signature. The second draft was proposed by several deputies from the United Russia faction. If approved, the document will be first sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and other institutions for evaluation. The Duma will Voter a draft resolution taking into account the proposals of ministries.
According to Vyacheslav Volodin, “this issue is extremely important, since Washington and some European countries are escalating tensions supplying weapons to Ukraine. Kyiv continues not to comply with the Minsk agreements. All this carries threats and risks to the lives of our citizens and compatriots living in the DPR and LPR.
As William Faulkner intoned in Requiem for a Nun, “The Past is never dead. It’s not even past.” With Russia annexing the Crimea and the war in Dombas and Lukhansk, Ukraine has been hurrying to join NATO. Since it does not yet fulfill all membership requirements, a possible membership seems still a matter of many years to come. Notwithstanding that, Russia has been amalgamating approximately 130,000 troops near Ukrainian borders in the last months. Although until recently most of it has been about prepositioning hardware, recent movements indicate more troops and equipment are being deployed and being connected to the system of military logistics. Although it could mean an attack is coming soon, escalation aims to force Ukraine and the West to negotiate a settlement favorable to Russia. More precisely, to stop NATO’s expansion to the East. It is not clear how a conventional attack at this moment would achieve it.
A conventional invasion is only one option and military capabilities may be used in several manners, including to achieve non-military objectives. To understand Russian warfare, thinking outside the box is not enough. It is necessary to think without the box. Russian actions appear to be following a textbook example of the concept of escalating to de-escalate. Although it was developed within the scope of nuclear warfare, its principles are applicable to non-nuclear situations. They are simple. An impasse is created to force the opponent to negotiate a solution acceptable to, in this case, Russia. In other words, to de-escalate on Russia’s terms. Depending on the outcome of the negotiations, the de-escalation process takes place or further escalation happens. The process is not linear. One of the problems is that for the United States and NATO military escalation is a linear process. This can result in faster escalation.
Following Russian doctrine and examples from the operations in Ukraine and Syria, some possible actions in Ukraine might include launching high precision non-nuclear missiles targeting important Ukrainian infrastructure objects such as power plants, water sewage and cleaning facilities, transport hubs, and other with the objective of disturbing the normality of people’s quotidian lives, resulting in political leverage for reaching a settlement and even government change to de-escalate the situation; recognizing the independence of Donetsk and Lukhansk; increasing the intensity of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, including by creating and supporting new separatist movements in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odessa with the support of the troops already deployed near the Ukrainian border; using moles and other agents of influence to incite mass protests against the current government, just to cite few.
To put pressure on NATO countries, some possible actions include deploying missiles in the Far East that could target Alaska; escalating in the Arctic region, for example, by blocking transit in Russian exclusive areas or posturing near other countries’ areas of interest; conducting exercises in the Baltic Sea which include electronic warfare to disrupt telecommunications in the region’s countries and posturing to create panic within local populations; covert operations to make provocations and other possibilities; instigating protests against the Ukrainian or any other country government; cyber warfare in many forms, including to disrupt energy, water, finance, transit, and other basic services; submarines appearing very close NATO countries’ territorial waters; naval and air exercises, including missile range practice near other countries’ territorial waters and/or air space. These are only some possibilities. Some of them might be more effective and less risky than the conventional attack some believe might happen in the near future.
Russia will not stop to pursue its strategic interests. As a result, further escalation including demonstrative military activities and other actions that might include posturing near NATO and EU countries are to be expected.
This is of special importance, since the United States has been announcing an imminent conventional attack by Russia since December. More recently, the White House divulged that the attack to be on February 16, 2022. The risk is high and this possibility is real. However, taking into consideration the many options available for Russia discussed above, there is also a chance that the troops along the Ukrainian border are a diversion for something else. To know the concrete date of the possible attack American intelligence agencies must have a mole inside the Kremlin, one very near Putin. If this intelligence is real, the Russians are aware and this agent will soon be neutralized. There is another possibility, though. It is possible that the Russians are feeding the US with fake intelligence in what could be a textbook case of reflexive control. As a result, Moscow may and probably will act in an unpredictable way. A very probable scenario is the one creating “color revolutions” in Eastern Ukraine to break the country in two. One part stays with the West, another with Russia. It might include hybrid operations in the Baltic States, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Western Europe, the Arctic, and other regions to take NATO and the United States’ attention out of Ukraine.
The West has been trying to understand Russia in its own strategic terms. This is a mistake. The Russian strategic tradition is still based on dialectics, as Clausewitz. It considers all possible variables and outcomes. The West have a postmodern approach which is often looking inwards ignoring the specificities of each theater. It must be ready, united, and resolved, at the same time pragmatically evaluating the threat. It may be where we are not looking.
This week the Annual Conference of the International Society for Military Sciences is taking place. I’ll present a paper I’m still working called ” The New Russian Security Concept and the ZAPAD-2021 Exercises.” Click here to see the presentation. The abstract is:
Since Crimea’s annexation by Russia in 2014, the West has been trying to understand better Russia’s military strategy at both the micro and the macro, or grand strategic, levels. This is often done by framing Russian statements, documents, and actions within Western theories and concepts, including popular concepts in the West such as Hybrid Warfare, Greyzone Warfare, A2AD, to cite a few. Another issue is the prevalent idea, especially among non-academics, that the Russian security and defense documents are merely empty rhetoric for internal consumption. Anecdotally, it results in the “they know” axiom, implying that the Russian political and military elite are aware that NATO and, especially the United States, have no intention of attacking Russia and manipulating internal and external audiences to get political leverage.
This results in some grave methodological problems. First, the Russian strategic documents have a different hierarchy than the Western equivalent. For example, the Russian military doctrine deals with issues at the macro level, i.e., politics and grand strategy. In contrast, the operational level is discussed within what the Russians call Military Science. In other words, it is not possible to evaluate what is and what is not considered operational. The same applies to the question of other security and defense documents being empty rhetoric.
One way to solve this issue is to compare these documents, including the military, scientific debates, with reality on the ground, i.e., operations and exercises. This allows verifying the extent of the security and defense document’s narratives being reflected in actual actions. Another issue is the revealed preoccupations of the Russian security and defense elite is a hypothetical “hybrid” attack by NATO. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate Russia’s internal idiosyncratic fragilities that would give ground for real concerns of a hypothetical hybrid (in the West understanding of the term) attack’s feasibility and possible success.
To do that, this paper relies on qualitative and quantitative analysis. First, the texts of the Russian 2000, 2010, and 2014 Military Doctrine and the 2000, 2009, 2015, 2021 National Security Concept were tokenized using R. The tokenized lists were cleaned of common stopwords and some expressions with high frequency but without explicative meanings. Word clouds were made to compare the change of narratives within years giving a robust visualization of the main issues forming narratives. It followed a textual qualitative analysis of the most recent documents to find other specific points forming a narrative. The next step was to identify Russia’s internal fragilities. Since there is a lack of aggregate data about social issues from Russian sources, the European Social Study was used. In Russia’s case, it provides data for five rounds: 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2016. Russia did not take part in the most recent round (2018). Data was tested, aggregated, and plotted using R. Finally, a qualitative analysis of the ZAPAD exercises was done to determine its scenario. The final step was to compare narratives, internal fragilities, and the exercise’s features.
The results showed that the ZAPAD-2021 exercises reflected the narratives present in the primary security and defense documents. They also showed a non-quantitative correlation with Russia’s internal fragilities. A first conclusion is that the Russian security and defense elite is aware of the country’s internal fragilities being a possible conduit to destabilization operations in Russian territory that might escalate into open military conflict. This led to the second conclusion that national grassroots movements might be considered a foreign attack, and military escalation follows. Third, conventional military capabilities are core to Russian defense strategy and include conventional and unconventional means in a whole of society approach.