Amidst the focus on Russia’s military engagements in Ukraine over the past year, not enough attention has been given to the cyber resilience needs of other countries on the periphery of the former Soviet Union. Notably, Georgia, Lithuania, and Poland warrant particular attention as they could become the next targets if Russia shifts its focus from Ukraine. Georgia, a victim of a Russian invasion in 2008 and a cyber-driven influence campaign in 2019, presents a compelling case study. Drawing from Ukraine’s experiences, Georgia can translate those insights into robust cyber resilience strategies to defend itself against future Russian aggression.
Irregular warfare (IW), deeply interwoven with cultural, political, and sociological factors, has historically relied on the agility and adaptability of intelligence operations. As the fabric of warfare has evolved from the dense jungles of Vietnam to the digital frontlines of Ukraine, so too has the nature of intelligence shifted, from human-centric insights to technology-driven reconnaissance. Moving forward, the fusion of advanced technological innovations with intrinsic human understanding will redefine the essence of intelligence in IW, making it a more potent force in navigating the complexities of future unconventional conflicts. By delving into the distinct epochs of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, we can discern the shifting sands of intelligence in support of IW and envision what the future might hold. Many will claim that the future of intelligence lies in technology and this claim has taken the front stage in the past, but it was unequivocally refuted with many mishaps that could have been prevented. Let’s look at the evolution of intelligence and see what the future ahead looks like for it.
North Korea’s mafia state is a persistent threat to the U.S. homeland that, if left unaddressed, will metastasize and ultimately drain resources from confronting the pacing threat of China. Recent technological developments, such as its first solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile test in April after an unprecedented 68 missile tests in 2022 (ten times more than in 2021), underscore the increasing danger. Past attempts to restrain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, like President Obama’s “strategic patience” and President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaigns, have failed. It is time for a new approach—one that prioritizes the information instrument of power to support integrated deterrence and set conditions for eventual regime transition and denuclearization.
As warfare evolves from sticks and stones to nuclear armaments and beyond, digital tools like scamming and social media offer novel and significant impacts on the battlefield. New digital tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) developed by Ukraine in response to Russia’s February 2022 incursion mark the beginning of social media warfare, characterized not just by cyber confrontations but how the digital translates into action on the battlefield. The use of digital platforms will only grow and further expose how these technologies can both aid and compromise military efforts in modern warfare. Russia’s experience with Ukrainian-leveraged digital assets serves as a cautionary tale for both individuals and militaries about the perils and possibilities inherent in our connected world.
In The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder Sean McFate takes readers on a compelling journey through the evolving landscape of modern warfare, dissecting the shifts in tactics, strategies, and actors that have reshaped the nature of conflict. With a keen focus on unconventional warfare, McFate presents an urgent exploration of how non-state actors, technological advancements, and ideological battles are redefining the rules of engagement on the global stage.
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.
On the morning of 22 May, 2023, an artificial intelligence (AI) generated image of an explosion at the Pentagon surfaced online and spread like wildfire throughout social media. Multiple news sources reported and shared the AI-generated image on their platforms. As a result, markets responded to the reports and image, and the S&P 500 index fell in just minutes after its reporting, causing a $500 billion market cap swing, even though this image was quickly proven as fake.