Moscow's Advanced Tactics Outmaneuver West in Ukraine

Image: Moscow's Advanced Tactics Outmaneuver West in Ukraine Russian soldiers sit atop their tank during military exercises in southern Russia's Volgograd region on April 3.

Tuesday, 22 Apr 2014 06:16 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Military analysts are crediting Vladimir Putin's Russian army with swift and skillful execution of 21st century tactics to achieve Moscow's goals in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, The New York Times reported.

The Russians have combined cyberwarfare, propaganda, and special operations to outsmart the West, according to the Times. In Crimea, clandestine special operations forces took over key installations, while Russian cyberwarfare blocked the Ukrainian military's command and control. Meanwhile, Russian media asserted that the intervention was necessary to aid endangered Russian speakers from Ukrainian extremists.

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Russia's strategy has been made easier because it requires only a small number of highly trained soldiers, operating just over the border, and exploits the local support of ethnic Russians. The approach has implications for other former Soviet republics and former satellite nations in Central Europe, the Times said.

The tactic leaves Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and states in Central Asia "very vulnerable," said ex-NATO specialist Chris Donnelly, according to the Times.

"It is a significant shift in how Russian ground forces approach a problem," James Stavridis, a retired admiral and former NATO commander, told the Times. Having played their cards with skill by integrating special operations, propaganda, and cyberwarfare "quite capably," Moscow's position is improved no matter where it chooses to operate, he said.

Stephen Blank, an expert on the Russian armed forces, said the approach "reflects the evolution of the Russian military and of Russian training and thinking about operations and strategy over the years," according to the Times.

By massing 40,000 soldiers on Ukraine's border, Moscow is able to deter Kiev from asserting its influence in the east and to discourage Washington from offering significant military aid, the Times reported.

Moscow's tactics worked so well that the annexation of Crimea was hardly raised in the recent Geneva talks over the crisis. At the same time, the Kremlin has furthered its aim of weakening Kiev's influence over eastern Ukraine, the Times reported.

Analysts said Russia's success close to its borders did not mean its army was a match elsewhere for the more advanced American military, the Times reported.

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