News

Russia's Hybrid Wars

Vladimir Putin says Russia doesn't want confrontation, but his actions contradict him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he does not want confrontation.

A week after NATO leaders said they hope Russia would fall back in line with an international missiles treaty, in his annual address to parliament, Mr Putin said other nations could count his weapons but any action from him would be retaliatory.

"Let them count the range and speed of the weapons systems we are developing," he said.

"Let them count – and then take decisions that could create additional threats for Russia."

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Picture: PA).
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Picture: PA).

The weapons include the SSC-8 nuclear missile system, one that NATO says puts Russia in breach of the INF Treaty and Europe at risk, and tanks lining up at the border of the Baltics.

It is perhaps unsurprising that NATO is committing more to its Enhanced Forward Presence.

However, in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in Central London, Professor Mark Galeotti said the Kremlin was more likely to exploit political divisions in the West than try to invade areas like the Baltic States. 

NATO's presence is increasing in the Baltics under Enhanced Forward Presence. 

Professor Galeotti says it’s important NATO shows the solidarity and strength from the alliance there, but that governments must widen their thinking to counter Russia’s hybrid warfare tactics.

Royal Welsh in NATO deployment to Estonia (Picture: NATO).
Royal Welsh in NATO deployment to Estonia (Picture: NATO).

"We want to make sure Russia knows that NATO is rock-solid," says Prof Galeotti.

"Therefore, it's not even worth trying challenging NATO."

This stance would also help prevent, according to Prof Galeotti, other adventurist powers to challenge the Alliance.

"[Two per cent GDP expenditure in defence] is not enough to secure us against the Russians," explains the security expert.

Prof Mark Galeotti speaking at RUSI 200219 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Prof Mark Galeotti speaking at RUSI.

"It's political war that the Russians are waging on us."

The Russians are using instruments that range from organised crime groups to espionage services and dark money, explains Prof Galeotti, to "weaken us and destabilise us."

However, the professor remarks, "that is not the same as trying to say that [Russia] will try to invade us."

"It's just a different kind of war we face," he says.

Just hours after Vladimir Putin said he did not want confrontation, the Russian Ministry of Defence released footage of the first test of a nuclear-armed underwater drone.

Mr Putin's claims look even more contradictory after the footage was shared online.

First Poseidon Underwater nuclear drone field test 20-0219 CREDIT Russian MOD
Images from the first underwater Poseidon field-test (Picture: Russian MOD).

"Right now Russia is more mobilised and has found a way of being really annoying – we need to call that out and stop it," says General Sir Richard Barrons, Former Commander of the Joint Forces Command.

"The enhanced [Russian] forward presence is drawing a line in the sand."

That Western unity, defence experts say, will be essential moving forward.