Exclusive: Russia’s Attack on Georgia: What to Do With the Awakened Bear: Part Two of Two
by GEN. DAVE GRANGE, S.K. SWANSON, CHUCK DE CARO, ALEX ALEXIEV
September 26, 2008
Here is what a set of policies likely to be effective could look like:
A. The Diplomatic Response
The political response called for is, or should be, simple and clear cut. There could not be a return to business as usual and normal relations with Russia, let alone any recognition of the results of its aggression, until they are reversed. Given Russia’s obstinate and continually demonstrated belligerence, this is almost certainly going to take quite some time, and Washington should have no illusions about that. There should be no negotiations or much interaction until the status quo ante is restored. In the meantime, America should do nothing to help the Kremlin out of the international isolation and opprobrium in which it has put itself.
This kind of policy, more than anything else, would reassure American allies in Eastern Europe that we stand by them as they face Russian intimidation. As far as Georgia is concerned, the single most effective message to Putin would be to begin, without further delay, the process of accepting Georgia in the North-Atlantic alliance.
B. The Military Dimension
As all bullies, Putin is much more likely to be impressed by a firm political response if it is accompanied by concrete steps to bolster Tbilisi’s ability to defend itself. It is important to note here that, contrary to uninformed Western reporting, the Russian army has not ‘crushed,’ ‘routed,’ or ‘demolished’ Georgia’s military. Most of the country’s defense capability remains intact and could easily be further enhanced. The fact is, that following the massive Russian invasion, Georgian units promptly withdrew behind a defensive perimeter around Tbilisi without engaging the aggressor, which also explains the very light military casualties on both sides. It could, of course, be argued whether or not this was the best strategy, but the fact remains that the Georgian army is intact and Russia chose not to attack the capital. Thus, it is far from a foregone conclusion that Russia will easily win a full blown war with the Georgians. Such an engagement would present nightmarish logistical problems for Moscow, which would have to supply its troops over the formidable Caucasus mountains through a sole existing tunnel that could easily be bottled up and two minor roads that pass over 9500 feet and are open just a few months in the summer. There are no airfields in South Ossetia that could handle jet fighters or large transport planes, and supply by sea would be very problematic in the face of determined conventional or guerilla resistance.
The United States should promptly supply the Georgians with weapons that further minimize Russia’s advantages, such as its massive air superiority and large numbers of armor, by providing them with effective anti-air defenses, including shoulder-fired systems, and modern anti-armor weapons.
An American naval presence in Georgian waters, however limited, would also have a significant deterrent effect and must be maintained; and should Russia decide to establish a military base in South Ossetia, as its puppet government there has repeatedly asked for, a similar NATO or American presence should be contemplated.
C. The Economic Response
The most effective and feasible economic response to Putin’s aggressive economic warfare strategy is to stop the further deterioration of Europe’s energy dependence vis a vis Russia, in general, and Gazprom, in particular. To do that, the U.S. must do everything possible to stop the construction of two Gazprom-controlled pipelines known as North Stream and South Stream, scheduled to start shortly. In both cases, the coming on stream of these pipelines will dramatically exacerbate Europe’s dependence of Russian gas and make any efforts to achieve even a modicum of energy independence futile. Both pipelines pursue blatantly political objectives, North Stream by bringing Russian gas directly to Germany while bypassing the Baltic republics and Poland, thus allowing Moscow to blackmail the latter without endangering its lucrative business in Germany and Western Europe. It must be forcefully made clear to the German government, whose former chancellor is now a paid stooge of Gazprom, that pursuing North Stream is a hostile act towards their Eastern European neighbors and NATO allies, apart from being a foolish surrender of economic sovereignty. It is no wonder that more than a few Eastern Europeans look at North Stream and hear the odious echo of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
The implications of South Stream are no less disturbing. Designed to bring Russian gas to Italy and Austria through Bulgaria and Serbia, its clear political goal is to make the building of the alternative Western Nabucco pipeline, connecting the Caspian Basin gas fields with Europe through non-Russian territory, difficult if not impossible. South Stream cannot be built without the active participation of Washington’s NATO allies Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, as well as friendly countries, like Ukraine, and America must make clear to them the vital geopolitical interests of the alliance that are at stake here.
Instead, we must do everything possible to make Nabucco a reality as soon as possible. Here again the importance of defending the sovereignty of Georgia, through whose territory Nabucco runs, cannot be overemphasized.
Above and beyond that, both Europe and the United States must finally realize that their energy dependence on oppressive, non-democratic regimes has become a serious security problem and must move quickly to reverse the trend through a concerted program of developing their own energy potential by focusing on the long-neglected offshore drilling, nuclear energy, and coal, alongside renewable technologies.
D. Information and Political Warfare
The conflict over Georgia has graphically revealed yet another significant Washington failure – its failure to communicate to the Russian people themselves the truth about the events. This is again as relevant as it was during the Cold War because the Kremlin under Putin not only tightly controls the flow of information, but systematically engages in propaganda and disinformation that rival the best Soviet agit-prop practices. From the very beginning of the conflict, for instance, the Russian public was bombarded with lurid tales of Georgian troops using innocent Russians as “human shields,” “negro mercenaries” rampaging in North Ossetia, and massive spy networks discovered in Russia itself, all of it completely made up and designed to demonize the Georgians and suggest direct American complicity.
In the face of such propaganda and Putin’s concerted assault on the freedom of speech, Washington’s ability to speak to the Russians directly has been severely eroded. Under brutal pressure from the Kremlin, Radio Liberty has lost most of its 60 local affiliates and is down to a single AM station in Moscow. And so the American station that survived decades of KGB sabotage and heavy jamming to remain the most trusted source of information for the Russian people, has now been emasculated by Putin and our own unwillingness to confront him. In yet another example of Washington’s misguided priorities, the Voice of America stopped its 60-year old Russian language broadcasts just days before the invasion of Georgia.
This intolerable situation must be reversed as a first order of priority. It should be remembered that American broadcasting behind the Iron Curtain, a highly effective form of political warfare, was hugely successful because it told its captive audience the truth. Under Putin, the Russian people need that again, no less than they did under communism.
And there is plenty to tell them about the heavy price they’ll sooner or later pay for their government’s policies. Few Russians know, for instance, that Putin’s quest to turn Gazprom into a one company international cartel has involved huge spending on foreign ventures and acquisitions at the expense of investment in the development of new resources. As a result, even as it pushes exports aggressively for political purposes, Gazprom is unable to satisfy rising domestic demand and is forced to rely on expensive imports. Its production is now stagnating or falling, and any significant drop in the current exorbitant prices could actually bankrupt it. The one thing that is certain is a new law that will force Russian customers to pay European prices as of 2011.
Another example of how fragile Putin’s imperial project really is, that the censored Russian media are silent about, is the rapidly deteriorating situation in the north of Caucasus. The republic of Ingushetia, brutally administered by a KGB general hand-picked by Putin, is in open rebellion against Moscow, and over a thousand local policemen reportedly resigned in protest against Moscow’s Georgian adventure. It has not escaped the non-Russian ethnic communities of the region that while the Kremlin invokes the right to self-determination of the 30,000 South Ossetians, it has brutally suppressed the legitimate autonomy movements of the North Caucasian people. The inevitable result of these heavy-handed policies has been a new resurgence of separatist sentiments across the region, accompanied by a dangerous upsurge of radical Islamic movements calling for the violent establishment of Islamic rule. Ironically, even as the Kremlin has temporarily succeeded in the territorial grab of two small parts of Georgia, it is slowly but surely creating the conditions for losing the entire Caucasus. These and other likely consequences of Russia’s new revisionist policies must be constantly communicated to the Russian people.
2. Counter Propaganda
SOFTWAR efforts are needed to insure that the world hears and sees Russia’s propaganda. For instance, the current narrative in the press is that Georgia began the conflict on August 7, 2008 when it began military action against the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Evidence exists that Russia began the current crisis with attacks on the previous day, not to mention the many Russian provocations, such as the easy issuance of Russian passports to South Ossetians, that occurred over the previous months and years.
The U.S. can support an effective information campaign to publicize the facts of the invasion and ensure that Russia appears as an aggressor, not a savior of an oppressed Russian minority.
Documenting and publicizing the atrocities committed by “irregulars” who supported the Russian invasion can help reduce international legitimacy for Russia’s action.
Consider tailored information campaigns targeted toward the following audiences:
• Western Europeans: The cost of a Russian monopoly of oil and gas production and distribution systems, with the idea of generating a unified response and subsequent negative effects upon the Russian modernization.
Especially effective might be a series of privately-funded public service announcements aimed directly at Gazprom.
Nabucco would be well advised to open a large marketing effort aimed at all Europeans, where both inexpensive energy and security can be bought at the same time.
• East Europeans: The possibility of future invasions by Russians such as against Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.
• Russians: The possibility of a slowdown integration with the rest of the world and what the consequences of that would mean to the improving life of the Russian people.
• South Ossetians and Abkhazia: The cost of being “independent” from Georgia but not from Russia.
In each case, it is critical to first measure each target audience, research the most effective visuals to be used on each demographic. By carefully crafting each sub-campaign, it would be possible to juxtapose strong visuals which would, in turn, cause strong negative effects in each target population.
Major Frank Capra did this brilliantly for the War Department during WWII with his WHY WE FIGHT series. It is possible to counter images in near real time in the contemporary news environment.
3. Counter Programming
It may be possible to sway target audiences by using alternative programming against the Russian target populations, by examining their viewing habits, and funding more of what those populations deem as highly viewable. In Bosnia, SAGE recommended that OHR use the Venezuelan soap opera CASANDRA against Karadich, in order to break down his viewing demographics, especially those composed of young males.
Whatever programming works against the target populations must be heavily subsidized to provide a large quantity and upgrade the viewer desired quality of the effective programming. This would put the Russians in a spending race, which will break their focus.
By using commercial techniques, such as staff raiding, market hyping, and organic promotion against the Russian propaganda infrastructure, Russian target audiences will be eroded.
6. Special Means
Unconventional activity against the Russian forces in Georgia can also be used to make their presence inconvenient, expensive, and unpopular to the Russian government and Russian people. These operations must be conducted in direct support of an IW campaign, not the other way around.
7. Economic Support of IO
The U.S. can continue to support efforts to build pipelines that provide alternatives to Russian-controlled pipelines. Once again, such actions should be in direct support of an IW program, to encourage smaller nations in the region and discourage future Russian land grabs.
8. Financial Information
Additionally, the U.S. can identify the foreign bank accounts of Russian leaders and let it be known that targeted sanctions are possible, especially through the global media.
Without programming interfaces between white, gray, and black counter-propaganda, there is so much wasted effort that various agencies and formats may cancel out each other’s effects upon the target audiences. It is absolutely imperative that a kind of strategic communications ombudsman, preferably a reservist general officer whose civilian media credentials are unassailable, be appointed as a presidential envoy to coordinate U.S. and host nation efforts.
E. Enhanced Intelligence
The Russians have aggressively rekindled their HUMINT activities and use of shadowy surrogates around the world. They have taken the KGB model used during the Cold War and tailored it to the current operating environment. Their network of intelligence and boldness of covert operations is on the rise. The United States and its allies must meet this challenge and gain informational advantage in order to shape current and most likely operational areas.
Military aggression against the Republic of Georgia represents the possibility of other future threats from Russia, but symbolically is representative of many nationalist and ethnic conflicts globally that challenge U.S. actions, reactions, and abilities to predict violent flare-ups. The cornerstone to enhanced situational awareness and options to employ regarding Russia is enhanced intelligence. With somewhat limited intelligence-gathering capabilities available to span each and every potential conflict around the globe, the U.S. military and intelligence community will have to leverage more comprehensive analytical trade-craft skills to anticipate and identify evolving “priority area” conflicts toward which to direct more assets—before a major clash occurs.
Indications and Warning (I&W) assessments are perhaps the most critical component to event prediction, especially when they consider past history and the socio-cultural mindset of a target and the peoples within its territory. In the current case of Russia, I&W inferences will help the U.S. plan better responses to the Georgia conflict and will enhance visibility to other “hostile” Russian movements. I&W will also provide insight as to whether Russia is actually engaging in adversarial aggression or whether it is simply defending itself according to its own fears and assumed vulnerabilities. Many within the military circles may leverage aspects of the Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (JIPOE), which is “the analytical process to produce intelligence assessments, estimates, and other intelligence products…by identifying, assessing, and estimating the enemy’s center(s) of gravity (COG)(s), critical factors, capabilities, limitations, intentions, and courses of action (COAs) that are most likely to be encountered based on the situation.” JIPOE is a strong tool for response planning, but preliminary assessments before a response must delve deeper into the area of Intent and Will.
To work the counter-strategy against Russia’s potential threats to U.S. interests, we should additionally take an even closer look at the JIPOE element of “Intentions” through Russia’s historical activities, former military strategy, current leadership’s foundational education, socio-economic base, and social-culture to plan the most effective responses or pre-emptive measures. The same categories may be used to plot indicator movements that may trend toward a specific action that can be cast in various scenarios or COAs and will point to the degree of “Will” Russian leaders possess in each of their next steps.
A brief example of areas to consider:
Georgia was drawn into the Russian Empire in the 19th century, became independent following the Russian revolution, and was forcibly absorbed into the USSR until the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Ethnic and territorial tensions during this broad period have often occurred between Georgia and the Ossetians, with the Ossetians typically receiving support from the Bolsheviks. Recent history has shown a number of exercises and increased operational tempo, with a focus on prospective Georgian incidents. Russian warplanes entered Georgian space, shot down Georgian drones, and both Russia and separatist leaders have evidently rejected Georgian peace initiatives over the past months—and beyond. Their mobilizing process during the attack, to include hostage taking, was telltale of other similar border crossings. Russian movements against other countries and territories would have many of the same pre-invasion aspects.
The move on Georgia challenged NATO, intimidated Europe, reestablished the display of Russia’s military prowess to Ukraine and Baltic nations, and created the perception around the world that the bear has awoken. This too, is typical of Russian strategy. Russians have long attempted to confuse their enemy’s knowledge, feigned its own disorder, and baited the enemy through deception before an attack. Tactics have re-emerged using enhanced propaganda and strategic communications, new cyber-warfare capabilities, and threats to oil and gas. Responses to any perceived acts of Russian aggression should consider multiple potential scenarios of Russians setting strategic traps with a broader agenda in mind.
Most of Russia’s leadership has been educated largely through a constant Communist overtone. The Soviet and military schools continue to incorporate the ideas of Marx, Lenin, and Engels. Strategy remains linked with many of these influencers. Russian leaders who have taken their country out of precarious situations have been recognized socio-culturally by their population as strong and willful individuals. Peter the Great and Stalin are still regarded by its people for their efforts in demonstrating that Russia is not weak, but instead a magnitude of strength to respect and to be reckoned with. The West must make efforts to understand how this part of their culture plays into Russia’s actions and fears for survival.
Russia’s socio-economic foundation also remains linked to the ideas of Marx, cautious of self-serving interests and abuse. Controls therefore still remain to ensure a sense of trust and protection—even if those controls exist now more conceptually in the culture. Russia would prefer to do more export business and would benefit greatly by the financial benefits, but it has instead used its natural resource trade as a political weapon to pressure other foreign economies. Despite the self-directed hardship it may cause, Russian leaders are willing to persevere and take a long-term focus to achieve its goals. Years ago, after a pipeline explosion, Russia allegedly left Georgia without natural gas supplies for approximately one week, during the winter season. Despite potential fall-out from the action, Russia took a calculated risk that the message it was sending to Georgia outweighed the ramifications of its act.
The Georgian move asserted a number of ideals where Russia could regain a sense of entitled respect by the world and, as importantly, by its neighbors. Russian social culture takes its security quite literally to ensure an absence of danger. Despite insecurity to others, Russia will do whatever it can to restore power and dignity with its military might at the forefront while still keeping a strong eye on its defenses and the calculated risks posed to it by its own acts. A significant consideration for Western policy makers to remember is that balancing arms against Russia should create a deterrence factor but not force a defensive posturing from Russia.
6. Future Russian Conflicts
Georgians, like the Armenians, Hungarians, Estonians, and Ukrainians are less supportive of Russia than say the Serbs or Bulgarians. Russia similarly has little tolerance for separatists and ethnic or territorial stalemates that threaten its eminence. Central Asian radical Islamic movements could also threaten Russian sovereignty. Russia often responds to perceived transgressions or infractions using armed confrontation. The strangleholds over separatists have had precursor large-scale Russian military exercises and forward base construction in the vicinity of the target. So, to react to current or future Russian conflicts (or those of other nations), it is vital to be able to anticipate what the actor may do before retaliatory solutions fall to a reactionary approach. Specific to Russia, retaliatory repayment for U.S. involvement in Georgia or from U.S. missile defense deployments in Europe may take the form of Russia meddling in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Indicators relating to social culture, history, and the Russian psyche are a useful tool when combined with other intelligence tradecraft and equipment. With regard to Russia, many of the same military preparations can be observed, and strategic planning anticipated, in advance of an attack, as can a number of the ethnic disputes or socio-economic and political propaganda displays that can be tracked months if not years in advance.
In the same consideration, while the U.S. may improve the capabilities to observe the subtleties in Russian behavior shifts towards a flashpoint, we must also warn our allies with actionable intelligence and effective communication to the public to avoid unnecessary reactions that effect global security and economies. We must warn not only of the threat from probable Russian courses of action, but advise friends of the degrees of restraint or action that may be exercised just to the point of averting a no-win dangerous situation. By leveraging analytical intelligence rigor to anticipate potential flashpoints and assess Russian intent and will, the U.S. can direct the proper resources and personnel in a rapid execution to cope with complex environments and circumstances.
Russia’s invasion of Georgia cannot go ignored. Covert operations, which the authors believe to be ongoing, are not enough. The people of Georgia and nations of the region, both member states of NATO and those preparing to join NATO, as well as others on the periphery of Russia must see action by the United States and Europe that has bite. The taste of success will encourage Russia to move on to its next target country, preceded by an extensive disinformation campaign. Russia’s growing wealth, cartel influenced leadership, and reinvigorated military strength shape a reemerging enemy that must be dealt with now. Russia currently has positional advantage on the ground in Georgia, and economically and psychologically throughout the region. This needs to be taken away, or at least challenged, to establish containment.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Alex Alexiev is a contributing editor to familysecuritymatters.org and vice-president for research at the Center for Security Policy in Wash. D.C. He is the author of a forthcoming book on shariah finance titled Jihad on Wall Street: Shariah Finance in the War Against America. David L. Grange is president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation; Chuck de Caro is President of Sea Aerospace Ground Evaluations (SAGE), and S.K. Swanson is and advisor for Delphi International Research.