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.
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.
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
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.
Last night, the forces of group “A” of the KGB with the support of the OMON GUVD of the Minsk city executive committee detained 32 militants of the foreign private military company Wagner. In addition, one more person was found and detained in the south of the country.
According to sources from the Belarussian law enforcement agencies, there was information about the arrival of more than 200 militants in Belarus to engage in destabilization operations during the Presidential election campaign. Each man had small hand luggage and three large heavy suitcases.
Upon arrival in the capital on the night of July 24-25, the group checked into one of the hotels in Minsk and was supposed to check out on July 25. They left the hotel on July 27 and moved to one of the sanatoriums in the Minsk region.
According to the sanatorium’s administration, the visitors drew attention to their uncharacteristic behavior for Russian tourists and uniform military-style clothing. They did not use alcohol, did not visit entertainment establishments, kept themselves apart, and tried to not attract attention. They carefully studied the territory and surroundings of the sanatorium in small groups.
The list of detained citizens of the Russian Federation is:
1. Milaev Arem Viktorovich, born 02/01/1981;
2. Bakhtigaraev Takhir Minigayanovich, born on April 18, 1980;
3. Altukhov Alexander Viktorovich, born on April 18, 1980;
4. Lee Vladimir Alexandrovich, born on July 26, 1989;
5. Kozhevnikov Andrey Yurievich, born January 16, 1980;
6. Sapronov Alexey Vladimirovich, born on 08.07.1978;
7. Shcherbakov Sergey Vladimirovich, born on July 21, 1981;
8. Volgin Alexey Vladimirovich, born June 21, 1975;
9. Driga Oleg Igorevich, born 03.06.1986;
10. Pavlenko Sergey Grigorievich, born June 25, 1976;
11. Rudenko Alexander Svyatoslavovich, born on 26.12.1984;
12. Kharitonov Denis Yurievich, born on March 16, 1980;
13. Sidorov Sergey Alexandrovich, born 01.01.1972;
14. Koshman Maxim Yaroslavovich, born on 06.09.1981,
15. Bubnov Sergey Gennadievich, born on 08.01.1971;
16. Nizhnik Pavel Alexandrovich, born June 24, 1987;
17. Selikhov Vladimir Ivanovich, born on 04.10.1986;
18. Fetisov Gennady Evgenievich, born on October 22, 1986;
19. Fomin Mikhail Nikolaevich, born 03/07/1973,
20. Ekimov Vladimir Sergeevich, born on October 19, 1973;
21. Karimov Rinat, born on August 15, 1984;
22. Shubin Alexander, born January 15, 1996;
23. Shelomentsev Igor, born on August 18, 1975;
24. Maslov Sergey Alekseevich, born September 29, 1988;
25. Zaydulen Rustem, born 06.10.1974;
26. Tokarenko Andrey Viktorovich, born on January 24, 1965;
27. Serdyukov Andrey Viktorovich, born on August 16, 1975;
28. Sergeev Fedor Mikhailovich, born 05.17.1987;
29. Tanov Rafik Kabulovich, born on April 30, 1975;
30. Zyablitsev Evgeniy Sergeevich, 23.11.1992;
31. Samarin Pavel Lvovich, 11.11.1981 year of birth;
32. Bakunovich Andrey Petrovich, born on 30.12.1977;
33. Shatskiy Artem, born July 30, 1982.