Given the current state of European and US relations, especially with the current American President-Elect, a closer partnership must be cultivated. This is especially true in the realm of hybrid warfare capabilities of the United States and Europe. More specifically, the United States and Europe must work towards further protecting civil and military communications systems, as well as increasing our ability to jam Russian communication systems. Additionally, countering Russian propaganda will be a necessity in the near future. By exposing false Russian news through the dissemination of true information, Russian aggression can be preempted and prevented. Taken together, these two moves will serve to significantly reduce Russian hybrid warfare capabilities.
Currently, Russia has displayed a tremendous capability in conducting hybrid warfare. These capabilities have been displayed in their operations the Ukraine. In the Ukraine, Russia has shown an ability to conduct precise and effective operations with Special Operations capable troops to infiltrate international borders and conduct missions. What is more remarkable, but often overlooked, was the Russian ability to conduct electronic warfare. In the Ukraine, communications by cell phone, radio, walkie-talkie, etc. have been jammed for hours at a time, very gravely constricting Ukrainian military communication abilities, and therefore their battlefield visibility. This creates a fog of war in which the coordination of troop movements becomes nearly impossible. The resulting fragmentation between units would inevitably resulted in the degradation of the units unable to communicate and coordinate their actions.
The United States and Europe must take steps to protect their communications equipment. This means that drones, pilots, radio operators and members of intelligence gathering operations must be given protected systems that are able to resist electronic jamming. As we have seen in the Ukraine, failure to do so will catastrophically hamper future operations. A deep integration between American and European communications systems will result in robust, reliable, better-protected systems.
Additionally, the United States and Europe must access their own electronic warfare capabilities. This means not only accessing their current offensive capabilities, but also the posture and positioning of electronic warfare units. Does their training include both offensive and defensive capabilities? Where are these units physically located? Are the readily mobile?
The state-sponsored propaganda machines of Russia must also be taken into account. News organizations like Russia Today should be countered in some way. The RT tendency to spout wildly inaccurate conspiracy theories and outright lies is dangerous now, but could be even more so in the future. It is likely that RT and other news organizations could be used to create narratives about the persecution of ethnic Russian minorities in order to foster support in Russia for a protective or peacekeeping mission.
The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all have sizable ethnic Russian minorities. Estonia in particular has a sizable ethnic Russian population, just over 25% according to the CIA World Factbook. The Russian minorities in the Baltic countries are significant in relation to Russian foreign policy and potential Russian aggression there. Russia has used ethnic agitation as a pretext for support of ethnic minorities and the creation of ethnic enclaves in the Caucuses during the early to mid 1990’s, and most recently in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
By taking away the narrative of ethnic persecution against Russian minorities, Europe and the United States can eliminate a serious pretext for war. As was observed in eastern Ukraine, Russian pseudo news agencies such as Russia Today and other state-sponsored news agencies waged a potent propaganda war in the days and weeks leading up to military action. This resulted in very powerful domestic support for intervention in Ukraine. The persuasive power of fake news should not be underestimated.
The goal of an American-European partnership should be to create an alternative narrative to Russian propaganda, and disproving organizations like RT. By combating these disinformation campaigns, the United States and Europe can create counter narratives to combat Russian propaganda and give an alternative perspective. Hopefully this would serve to reduce domestic Russian support of military adventurism in the Baltic countries and elsewhere.
In short, Europe and the United States must partner together in order to face grave new challenges on the hybrid warfare front. Communication systems between the United States and European allies must be well integrated and very well protected from jamming and other electronic warfare disruptions by the Russian military. Our offensive capabilities in jamming Russian communications systems must be robust as well. Additionally, we must strive to discredit and repudiate Russian state-sponsored propaganda from sources such as Russia Today. In repudiating these sources, we will have taken a firm step forward to protect the Baltic countries and therefore ourselves by eliminating a pretext for Russian invasion.