PRAGUE — When the crisis in Ukraine dramatically heated up last November and in the ensuing weeks, I was impressed by the ability of the Russian state to mobilize so many different tools in its bid to destabilize its neighbor. It became clear very quickly that Russian politicians, journalists, purportedly nongovernmental organizations, state companies, think tanks, the military, the courts, government agencies and the Duma were all working from the same instructions for the same goals. At the time I remarked on Twitter that the crisis showed the tactical effectiveness of the “unitary state” Russian President Vladimir Putin has been building since 1999.
In June, I came across a fairly obscure article by General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Federation, and was struck by how closely it mirrored my observations of the unfolding Ukraine crisis.
Gerasimov writes about how “a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war.
”This is achieved, Gerasimov writes, by “the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other non-military measures applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.” The goal is “to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state.”