Russia’s Unconventional Warfare: Moscow’s domination of the Information Space


U.S. intelligence and defense services, as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) 2023 Threat Assessment recognize China and Russia as the two greatest threats to U.S. national security. The U.S. has more firepower than either of the two and is a member of the world’s most powerful military alliances NATO, Aukus, and the Quad. Consequently, the U.S. would have a distinct advantage in a direct conflict. However, direct conflict remains a future possibility. Meanwhile, Russia and China have both been attacking the U.S. through unconventional warfare for decades. Because Russia is better at understanding American language and culture, and owing to their vast experience, dating back to World War II, arguably, Russia tends to be more effective at unconventional warfare than China.

George Kennan, the father of the containment policy, defined unconventional warfare as “the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives.” Unconventional warfare can be military or quasi-military operations, other than conventional, direct warfare. Called the Gray Zone, an area between peace and conflict, unconventional warfare can include the use of covert forces or guerilla warfare in a hot conflict. Proxy wars, such as those fought in Vietnam and Korea would be examples of a conflict between the United States and the USSR which did not involve overt, direct combat between the two. More recent examples would be the Syrian Civil War, where Russia provided military support to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States was backing various opposition groups. Similar indirect conflicts have taken place in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, as well as Georgia. The most obvious example today is the Ukraine war. Although the direct combatants are Russia and Ukraine, the war can be seen as a great-power struggle between the U.S.-led west and the Russian Federation, although no U.S. troops have taken part.

In addition to backing local forces and actively engaging in combat operations, Russia also deploys the Wagner mercenary group into conflicts around the world. Wagner supports the Kremlin’s objectives, often…

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