Ukraine: Russian "small war" at the enemy's expense
The attacks against the Donetsk airport, symbolizing Ukraine's resistance to Russia's intervention, don't stop for several months. As the defenders of the airport witness, periodically alongside the Russian heavy weapons assaults, some groups of strangely dressed and drugged people attack the airport in a way as "if they were immortal."
Russia uses locals to capture the airport. At the same time, this is a convenient way of cleansing the occupied territory from those unreliable known as "pro-Russian separatists," posing a problem for Moscow.
So-called local 'separatists" started realizing that they were blinded by Russian propaganda and began going out of control, transforming from Moscow's "useful idiots" to a potential threat. Civic dissidents to the new regime also forcibly conscripted into the "separatists" army, controlled by the Russian Special Forces and sacrificed during the attacks.
"Dead Souls" election technology
The passports of sacrificed locals are available in upcoming local elections, guaranteeing Moscow the "right choice." Their documents can legitimize the Russian Special Forces' presence in the region, who assure the occupied territory's management according to Moscow's instructions. The pretended "heads" of the Donetsk and Lugansk "people's republics," in fact, are just "talking heads" allowed to articulate the decisions made by the Kremlin.
Russian Special Forces occupy apartments and houses of the "dead souls" and refugees who fled to Russia scared by Russian propaganda. Invented by Russians, "Ukrainian fascists" became the main "virtual weapon" of Moscow's hybrid war. Russian Migration Service provides Special forces with the necessary information obtained from the passport confiscated in Russia from refugees. The refugees are then sent without documents to the Russian Far East. Thus Moscow resolves another problem - diluting the local ethnic population with Ukrainian refugees.
In essence, the Kremlin performs massive replacement of the local male population of the occupied region with mercenaries from the different Russian regions including Chechnya and other unreliable ethnic republics, thus defusing their separatist potential. The videos from the occupied zone show that the volleys of heavy weapons directed at Donetsk airport are ordered with the exclamations "Allah Akbar!"
Using the Chechens and other ethnic groups abroad allows for defusing pressure in potentially rebellious Russian regions, redirecting the potential of the most active male population to Russia's terrorist operations and new territorial conquests abroad.
Technology of centralized control over occupied territory
Moscow uses a centralized scheme of colonial rule over the occupied regions providing complete control of the region. Russian Special Forces, under the guise of "Ukrainian separatists' continue destroying the region and terrorizing the local population into obedience.
Putin does not want to annex these territories or recognize their independence. In case of recognition or annexation, Putin should pay for reconstructing the intentionally destroyed region. That would be devastating for the Russian economy and would lead to defeat.
Putin's strategy intends the destruction of Ukraine by permanent devastation of the controlled region. Under the guise of "humanitarian convoys," Russia continues saturating the area with heavy armament. The same "humanitarian convoys" return to Russia with the equipment of the strategic Ukrainian enterprises, leaving the population of the occupied Ukrainian territories without means of living.
Making West pay for Russia's military bases
Putin seeks from Poroshenko a de facto recognition of Russia's control over the occupied territories, turning them into a de facto Russian military base while maintaining the visibility of Ukraine's sovereignty over the territory.
Thus Kremlin would ensure the centralized management of the region while all the costs for infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance of viability of the region are imposed on Ukraine. In this way, Russia plans to continue its war of attrition against Ukraine and the West, which promised to help Ukraine reconstruct the devastated region.
By creating a terrorist enclave on the enemy's territory, Putin can maintain permanent "nonlinear war" against Ukraine by creating chaos throughout the country and, at the same time, demand from the international community recognition of his "peacekeeping role" in resolving the "Ukrainian crisis" and consequent lifting of the sanctions.
Moreover, the artificially created terrorist enclave is a springboard for Russia's new territorial conquests.
Kremlin: between conventional and asymmetrical war
In asymmetric warfare, the main bulk of the military force is used mainly for demonstrative assaults. The purpose of the assaults is to intimidate and coerce the enemy into making concessions that Putin needs. However, this does not mean asymmetrical war won't eventually transform into a conventional war. The early October announcement on the withdrawal of the troops, presented by the Russian propaganda presented as Russia's desire for peace, was just a tactical move.
Wedging war during the winter is more expensive. On the other hand, Putin hopes during the winter to lift the Western sanctions. He also intends to create "Ukraine fatigue" in the West by provoking the chaos in Ukraine, orchestrated by the Russian Special Forces.
If Russia's new colonial scheme is successful in Ukraine, Putin will use it in other places. The operation illustrates the basic principle of the Russian asymmetric war – obtaining high results at the lowest cost by using rival resources in its favor.
Putin believes that the strategy and tactics of the low-cost asymmetrical war should let him gradually take under control not only Ukraine but the countries of the EU, which Putin intends to destroy. In his view, the EU is the main enemy of the "Eurasian empire from Lisbon to Vladivostok." Anti-American rhetoric should isolate the EU from the US and deprive Europe of military protection.
Legitimation of occupied territories
Thus, announced earlier in October withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukraine, presented by Russian propaganda as Moscow's desire for peace, is just a tactical move. Winter war is more expensive. Until the spring, Putin plans to lift the Western sanctions by causing "Ukraine fatigue" due to chaos artificially created by the Russian provocations.
According to the Russian plan, the West should realize that the reconstruction of occupied territory is impossible after transforming Ukraine into a "black hole" where European resources disappear. The next step should be the West rejecting Ukraine in favor of Russian control over the region.
Legitimizing the occupied territory as a separate entity should trigger the Balkanization of Europe - the process in which Russia is actively involved. For a long time, Russia has supported financially and ideologically the separatist parties inside the EU, thus building focal points for future destabilization. After achieving the stage of chaos, Russia plans to start building its version of Europe from the remains instead of the EU.
An alternative to the Russian creeping colonization is recognition of Russia's responsibility for the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory and the creation of a robust defense line between Russia (including the temporarily occupied territories) and Ukraine, which should lead to isolation and reversal of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Reflexive control in action
To achieve control over occupied territories, Putin counts on the stereotypical Western perception of the war as an internal "Ukrainian conflict." Russian propaganda regularly imposes this formula through Russian-controlled news channels or under the guise of analytical articles of Western experts, whose only input often is stylistic editing and signing the Kremlin-written articles.
Abundantly funded and getting more sophisticated by the day, Russian propaganda works hard to impose on the West Putin's decisions, damaging the West and benefiting Russia.
In Putin's opinion, the West is especially vulnerable in spontaneous decision-making when suggestive Russian propaganda is combined with physical intimidation, such as infractions of EU country's space by Russian military planes, submarines or declarations on potential nuclear arms use.
Exploiting Western uncritical and stereotypical thinking, Russia manages to capture new territories by subversive means first and then to call the West for a "diplomatic solution," "peaceful settlement," "dialog," and "new reset" – all the "magical words," evoking involuntary approval of the West.
For Western politicians, these words are not empty sounds but the basis of coexistence in the world. Thus, using the conditioned reflexes of the Western leaders, Putin gets a convenient perpetual scheme for legitimizing new territorial seizures, which he can apply elsewhere, including in Europe.
If Western leaders don't want to play along with Putin's scheme for building a Eurasian empire, they should learn to react consciously to Putin's "magic formulas." They don't automatically deliver peace, stability, and high political ratings. The result would be the opposite - the spreading of unfettered "Eurasian fascism" over the continent.
The conscious reaction should base on principles and values that constitute a real soft power, against which Putin's 'soft force' is powerless. To combat Putin's "soft force," the West must learn to think out of the box and to get rid of prevailing stereotypes imposed by Russian propaganda. The result of the psychological warfare which Putin leads against the West depends on this.
Mass media: Russia's main weapon in asymmetric war against West
Russian occupation of Ukraine would have been impossible without the indoctrination of the people in Russia and Eastern Ukraine - the main element of Russian asymmetrical war, making people of the attacked country fight in Russia's favor against their government and their interests.
Russia wages an asymmetric war not only against Ukraine but also against the West. It started several years before the occupation of Ukraine. Putin is confident in obtaining the complete support of the Western po. The war against the West presumes gradual seizing of control over the Western media, experts, and public opinion, supporting the dead-end anti-European parties and protest movements to the total control of the country.
Western leaders underestimate the threat due to democratic traditions and a lack of awareness that their countries are under attack. Methodically capturing control of the Western media, Putin deliberately creates a conflict between the mass audience of the Western public and Western leaders.
The easy targets for Russian control usually are state-financed media organizations, especially those including Russian-language services, making them vulnerable to Moscow's influence. Among them are Euronews – the most popular news channel in Europe, BBC, DW, and other public broadcasters. Putin also expands to the West Russia's propaganda channel RT (Russia Today) and other less apparent instruments.
By controlling Western public and expert opinion, Putin obtains control over the political situation in the European countries. He intentionally creates unfair competition between acting moderate politicians who resist his aggression by supporting the ultra-left and ultra-right, united by their hatred toward the EU.
Control over public opinion allows for deepening contradictions, triggering conflicts, and shaping its "fifth column," which he can use at the right moment at his discretion.
Of course, Russia is using many other technologies and active measures to create on the enemy's territory a loyal to Russia underground. However, the news channels are crucial for creating a general "correct" mental background, carefully constructed in the Kremlin psychological laboratories.
The situation is critical. If the West does not take the measures necessary to protect its citizens from Russian indoctrination, Putin will bring the left and right fringe to power. Despite the ideological contradictions, they merge in supporting the authoritarian view of the world and willingness to submit to Russia's influence. The occupied Donbas, where Putin applied all these technologies, shows the result they can produce in practice.