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Russian “hybrid warfare” and the annexation of Crimea : the modern application of Soviet political warfare

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Kent Christopher Debenedictis

The Russian Federation’s 2014 operation to annex Crimea from Ukraine sparked an intense wave of literature on the nature of Russia’s modern warfare practices. Most commonly, Western academics, politicians, and military leaders alike have labelled Russia’s actions in Crimea and its follow-on operations in Eastern Ukraine as a new form of “hybrid warfare.” Despite these claims, the 2014 Crimean operation was more accurately the Russian Federation’s modern application of historic Soviet political warfare practices—the overt and covert informational, political, and military tools used to influence the actions of foreign governments and foreign populations. They involved the use of active measures, including propaganda, disinformation, front organizations, and forged political processes, as well as maskirovka, the military’s elaborate deception schemes. Two of the most prominent examples of the Soviet government’s application of these political warfare techniques were the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (the “Prague Spring”) and the earliest stages of the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. An in-depth case study analysis of these historical Soviet conflicts and the Russian annexation of Crimea demonstrates that the operation, which inspired discussions about Russian “hybrid warfare,” was more accurately the modern adaptation of these Soviet political warfare tools than it was the invention of a new type of warfare.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Nov 2019

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