#act power thursdays: Russia’s trade- and statecraft – same old, same old?

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“1979 stamp Radio Moscow” by Postal Service of USSR Copy right wikipedia

On this blog, I am looking at examples of successful statecraft – the art of thinking and acting in terms of power(s). My primary interest is to find out how states, in a hyper-competitive and interdependent international environment that forces them both to compete and to cooperate can bring power to bear. States who themselves continue to undergo massive transformations brought about by economic globalisation and the rise of information and communication technology which challenge their capacities to act. The first case study I am exploring is Russia.

While countries of the European Union struggle to see the world through spectacles of power, Russia has no such problems. Having grasped that the current strategic environment is not playing
to its strengths, Russia is out to undermine the existing
European security architecture by all means available, while keeping a tight lid on internal politics

What is Russia actually doing to achieve its goals? It is pursuing a campaign of destabilisation on as many fronts it can think of, exploiting the contradictions, weaknesses and inconsistencies of our so called “open societies.” Its creativity knows no bounds (and we shouldn’t expect otherwise) – be it overt or covert military operations of some kind (triggering endless Western discussions about hybrid warfare) or attempts at political destabilisation in its near abroad or at the heart of the European Union. It is important to keep in mind that targets and techniques are not set in stone, but are being tested and are continuously evolving.

If Russia is quite good at looking at our weaknesses, it is because it has been doing it throughout the lifetime of the Soviet Union, equipped with a worldview that did not distinguish between times of peace and war. Fast 20-odd years forward after the disbanding of the Soviet Union, and both that underpinning mindset and the mentality of the people working in the institutions devoted to statecraft seem not to have terribly changed.

I am inviting you to peruse the June 1992 report “Soviet Active Measures in the “Post-Cold War” Era 1988-1991, prepared at the request of
the United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations by the United States Information Agency. Oh, the aesthetics of early webpages! But nostalgia should not blind us to the fact that the report very helpfully details the arsenal of Soviet tradecraft and statecraft in the area of influence campaigns. It concludes by looking into the future:

“An understanding of the types of active measures and disinformation
operations pursued by the Soviets during the “post-Cold War” era is
essential to analyzing future political influence operations. Any future
such operations are likely to incorporate, in large part, many of the
manipulative techniques that the Soviets pioneered and employed heavily
in recent years.”

Happy reading!

Johanna M

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