Recent announcements by the Kremlin of a withdrawal of Russian forces from along the Ukrainian border are part of a misinformation campaign in preparation for the next phase of subversive operations in Eastern Europe.
As the mainstream media has reported, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the thousands of Russian troops and military fighting vehicles arrayed along the Russian-Ukrainian border to return to their bases. What has been reported far less is that this is the third time the former KGB Lieutenant Colonel has made such a statement and that in each previous instance the announcement led to no drawdown of forces.
Despite this fact, Western leaders have already responded by assuring the Kremlin — which used force earlier this year to annex the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine — that the West would not provoke Moscow by stationing troops in Central European NATO states or deploy nuclear weapons onto their territory.
As a result the Kremlin has achieved exactly what it wanted to without making any concessions to either America, NATO, or the aggrieved party, Ukraine. During the Soviet era such techniques were termed dezinformatsia (disinformation) and maskirova (military deception) and part of larger strategy known as Reflexive Control, all terms that LTC Putin would have been meticulously drilled in by his trainers in the KGB.
Reflexive control, which is detailed in a fascinating report from the Latvian Defense Ministry published after the crisis began, and also discussed in a US Army monograph, exploits the enemy’s strategic culture against themselves. Having studied the West incessantly for more than half a century, the Russian military and intelligence establishment knows what we want to hear and uses this against us.
Brussels and Washington want to hear about Russia’s “deescalation” of the crisis. The Kremlin obliges. In the meantime preparations are made for the next phase of operations. Given that Ukraine is just days away from holding a general election and that Moldova — long eyed with avarice by Moscow — is on the cusp of signing an agreement of association with the EU (just as Ukraine was about to before the Kremlin took action), the next deployment of balaclava-clad special forces troops is imminent. More of Ukraine with be threatened, as will the Trandniester area of Moldova.
The essence of strategy is to have a clear idea of what you are fighting for and to know the enemy better than he knows himself. If you know these two things you can leverage the enemy’s weaknesses and exploit surprise in order to achieve what the master strategist Sun Tsu called the ultimate victory: wining without having to fight.
Vladimir Putin has clearly read Sun Tsu’s The Art of War. How many have done so in NATOHQ or the National Security Staff is another question entirely.
Sebastian Gorka PhD has recently been appointed the Major General Horner Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University and is the editor of national security affairs for Breitbart.com.