Friday, 7 November 2014

Defending Poland against hybrid warfare

The situation in Ukraine continues to be uneasy; the truce signed in Minsk in September is regularly being broken. There were reports today of a further 80 Russian vehicles including 32 tanks crossing the border into Ukraine, reports which the Russians of course deny.

It looks like Ukraine has held the line and that Putin will, for the time being, do what he can to swallow parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts and incorporate Crimea into Russia, something the rest of the world will not recognise. So another frozen conflict, more land grabbed by Russia to be run by Mr Putin's unsavoury associates - along with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria - Russia's neo-imperialist appetite has been held in check by international pressure.

In Ukraine, it is clear that Russia has been stopped short of its greater territorial ambitions - a land corridor to Crimea, the whole of the Donbass region, even Odessa and a land corridor to Transnistria. Western sanctions have forced the Kremlin to hold back on further overt military action.

While Putin may be less inclined to pursue traditional means of war to conquer what he calls 'Novorossiya', the Kremlin's policy of hybrid war continues apace. Russian aircraft probe the approaches to NATO airspace on a daily basis. Russian hackers keep up the pressure on Western IT systems, while Russian propaganda is working at full-blast, feeding the usual lies, disinformation and half-truths to distract and confuse Western public opinion.

Russia's targets for mischief include former parts of the USSR such as Estonia and Latvia; meanwhile the Czech Republic has emerged as being a hotbed for Russian spying - much as Austria was during the (first) Cold War. Finland - a part of the Romanov Russian empire for over a century, is also feeling anxious. This BBC feature explains what Russia is up to and what the West is up against.

How should Poland react to the threat of hybrid warfare? The notion of re-creating a Home Army (Armia Krajowa) such as the one set under Nazi occupation is a sound one. Even with a massive rearmament programme, a Polish army would be unable to hold off a full-on Russian military attack based on armour, infantry and airpower. The key would be the willingness of other NATO members to commit to the defence of Poland. Some are notoriously wobbly, both when it comes to political will and military power.

It is realistic for Poland to plan for NATO limited support at the most in the eventuality of a Russian invasion. A large, well-organised citizen army, ready to go underground at a moment's notice, to harass the invaders behind their lines, disrupt their administration and logistics, would have a strategic deterrent effect.

But such a force, embedded into local structures in communities along Poland's north-eastern border with Russia, would also prove useful should the Russians try out hybrid warfare on Polish soil. This would not involve massive armoured thrusts through Ukraine 'reaching Warsaw in a week'. Nor would it involve sending convoys of troops by sea to Kaliningrad, giving NATO advance warning of threats to Poland and/or the Baltic States.

No. It would involve 'little green men' as were seen in Crimea and in Donbass. Deniable, not officially there. Entering Poland via Kaliningrad, they would initially engage in small-scale sabotage and provocation - who knows - pretending to be Lithuanian nationalists or Islamicists, creating some phony narrative to be retransmitted worldwide via RT (Russia Today as it is now branded) and the legions of Russian trolls commenting on the websites of Western news media.

The presence of armed men dispersed locally, who know the lie of the land, who can distinguish neighbour from stranger, would be a strong deterrent to 'little green men'.

The ideal base for such a Home Army would be the fire stations (remizy) of the OSP - voluntary fire service - of which there are over 15,000 scattered around Poland's smaller towns and villages. Embedding platoons of volunteers trained in the use of firearms and military communications alongside the OSPs, cooperating closely with Poland's border guards, the Straż Graniczna.

It would not be unfeasible for a volunteer force of up to 20,000 part-time soldiers, trained at weekends and during periodic military exercises, to be raised and equipped. The costs would be modest compared to equipping the Polish Air Force with F-16s armed with JASSMs and anti-missile systems. A Home Army should never be considered a replacement for conventional armed forces, rather an low-cost, highly effective countermeasure against the type of warfare that the Kremlin is currently engaged in.

The 'AK' brand is Poland enjoys sky-high respect, and young Poles today wishing to honour their grandparents who fought against the Nazi occupier would rally around it.

This article is worth reading.

This time last year:
Another office move

This time three years ago:
PiS splits - Solidarna Polska formed (anyone remember them?)

This time four years ago:
Tesco vs. Auchan

This time seven years ago:
My father's house


Bob said...

Good post as usual.

Wonder what would happen if Ukraine officially asked for UN observers, overflight protection from NATO (would escalate) and begin to aggressively protect their eastern flank? With all the info about tanks, troop carriers etc crossing why not decimate any and everything crossing the border - close it 100% to anything mechanized?

Georgia and Moldova should also get more aggressive about the transgressions and create their own red-lines. Yes they are small beer when it comes to Russia's size but acquiescence will just make things worse. There are Russian troops and material in Abkazia and South Ossetia.

Also, why not cut all data access to and from Russia i.e. internet?

I know many of my thoughts are fraught with problems but the west needs to get off it's collective ass and act. The economic sanctions have neen working but things need to ratchet up and the Chinese need to be brought into the equation more. Letting Putin eat away at other countries like a cancer is not tenable.

Alexander said...

German state owned DHL has started a container train service from China to Warsaw via Russia. This means Russia is less depending on oil and gas, and the west more depending on Russia.
Team Merkel-Putin are showing the Russians the international sanctions are a farce and the Polish people have nothing more to say in their former own country.
And military equipment can still be exported to Russia, even nuclear equipment.
Also the slow symbolic sanctions are giving the Russians a lot of time to switch their business to China and Turkey. Dutch apples are shipped in unmarked boxes to EU free trade partner Turkey. Turkey can still export fruit to Russia. Another moneystream saved.
Defense is still NOT a EU business. They have tried to make it their business in Syria, but thank god and the House of Commons they have been stopped, and it is still NATO.
I think Britain, USA and Canada will fight for Poland and the Baltic states, but how about Vichy partners France and Germany ?
The German communist party is now in a coalition in power at state level. An will the Germans fight for Poland against Russia ?
If you scroll down on the link below you see pictures of British tanks on a freight train in Poland.,7169581
Below that our German friends are convinced the NVA ( East German Army ) would have shot the tanks to peaces, most complaints about a letter wrong in the German language, and yes something about a waste of money the east is.
These are common people, and it shows the state of unity and democracy in Europe.
I do not think many countries will fight for Poland. It will be UK, USA and Canada again.

Regards, Alexander

Alexander said...

Sorry link is not working,7169581 / foren

Auslandsforum classics 8-10

(PL) Sichtungen auf Rückfahrt

Regards, Alexander

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Bob - the West's greatest Trojan Horse in Russia is IT... every time Russian MS Windows, Apple OS or Android users get an automatic update of their operating system, just think of what fun stuff they could be downloading! Little wonder Mr Putin showed off his Russian smartphone at the APEC summit - he knows the risk and is working to cut Russia off from the world's IT networks!

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Alexander

You are right. The Germans today would be as useful in the battlefield as the French in 1939/40. The recent report on the woeful technical state of their kit is a huge worry. "If you can count, count on yourself". High-tech military hardware for Poland by all means, but well-trained armed men along the Kaliningrad border from the Baltic to the Lithuanian border, ready to give a hostile reception to little green men, would be better bang for defence bucks.

adthelad said...

Couldn't agree more.