In February and March of 2022, as Russian troops crossed into Ukraine, Russian misinformation concurrently crossed over social media platforms to support them. Russia attempted to promote the idea that Ukraine housed bioweapons plants for the U.S. While the idea was swiftly debunked, it gained traction amongst conspiracy theorists in the U.S. The prevalence of these conspiracy theories in public debate eroded the public’s faith in U.S. institutions, capitalizing on disunity amongst Americans, lack of government efficiency, and lack of institutional transparency.
For both Ukrainians and Russians, the concept of partisan warfare is not new. Both countries have long histories of using irregular warfare to resist foreign invaders. As far back as the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Lieutenant Colonel Denis Davydov, who has been immortalized by Leo Tolstoy using him as the basis for the character Denisov in War and Peace, used guerilla warfare to stymie Napoleon’s advance.
In the ever-evolving landscape of irregular warfare, foreign governments recognize the potential of soft power as a means to wield influence, shape global perceptions, and conduct direct and indirect information operations. With a decrease in traditional conflicts and conventional war, the increasing importance of employing irregular warfare, characterized by non-traditional methods and asymmetric tactics, means that nations have recognized the importance of increasingly turning to investment, development, and control in the arena of entertainment as potent tools for projecting soft power and exerting influence both domestically and abroad.
As part of its ongoing efforts to help scholars and practitioners understand Russia’s approach to irregular warfare (IW), the Irregular Warfare Center (IWC) translated a 33-page Russian special operations journal article, The Fundamentals of Partisan Warfare: Theory and Practice. The Russian article is now available for request on the IWC website. This Insights article is the first of a two-part series meant to introduce the Russian text and apply the concepts contained within to the current conflict in Ukraine.