– Nowadays, the Russian strategy is a synthesis focused on the exploitation of the modern means of executing hybrid, information and conventional warfare.
– One should strive to recognize the present and future potential of the asymmetric threats to effectively neutralize them at national and international levels.
– Ukraine’s conflict with the Russian Federation, which so far has not had the features of regular war, has pointed to the need to verify the response capabilities of international organizations towards an appearing danger.
– The current situation in the security environment of Central and Eastern Europe should be used to analyze and improve the Polish national security strategy.
The analysis of any threats to international safety should begin with the reflection that a conflict is a consequence of reasonable decisions taken by politics. War and the means of its realization are tools, which thrive alongside the formation of the new international order. Following the words of Clausewitz: “war is merely the continuation of politics with other means”. The war of our times evolved to consist of a range of new methods of conducting military operations, therefore the new threats are inevitable and should be recognized when seeking their elimination. Particularly, the period of the Crimea annexation in 2014 has aroused great interest among the western experts and military theoreticians, since several publications have appeared, concerning not only military activities but also the security strategies taken by particular countries towards the rise of asymmetric threats.
The considerations regarding the hybridity of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the evolution of unconventional military activities have a very broad character. They cover the elements of the use of military means, i.e. conventional warfare and unconventional, soft methods of information warfare, including propaganda, and effecting social consciousness on behalf of manipulating and realising political targets. In theory, the asymmetric threats can be transferred to every previous conflict in the history of the world, because of them being an integral part of the rivalry of dominance. However, it should be highlighted that these kind of threats require a redefining of the war originally comprehended in its classical approach, and also an adaptation of international security policies to combat them or minimize their influence on the internal structures. Moreover, the hybridity of the threats is also an important part of developing international cooperation towards security, even within the framework of such alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Evolution of Asymmetric Threats
The ongoing processes of a new reality in the XXI century enable us to draw an clear conclusion that the international order, which creation process we are witnesses of, characterize in so far unknown threats, and classically understood military actions slowly come to an end. The analysis of the modern asymmetric threats should begin with the present understanding of security in the context of the international order shaping. Currently, a definition of security perceived only as a component of the military sphere is being shifted away towards a softer aspect of this phenomenon. At present, this terminology includes, among others, a cultural, religious, social, ecological, humanitarian, and technological aspect. Therefore, the modern understanding of safety is multi-dimensional, hence it covers many new phenomena that influence its character and perception in an international environment.
The asymmetry of threats, in the discussed approach, had initially concerned military threats. However, this phenomenon can be currently observed both when the opponent uses the non-conventional methods, and when the opponent makes a technological breakthrough revolutionizing already known combat possibilities. In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, they are mainly connected with the term of a hybrid war, understood as the coexistence of classical and new military methods. In reality, that comes down to the use of new force methods of conducting war alongside a fight for the social consciousness, propaganda, information warfare, and the use of cybernetic actions, however, with a constant threat of utilizing the new fighting systems (e.g. long-range missiles) or weapons of mass destruction.
In general, there are more threats, however, apart from these commonly known, i.e weapons of mass destruction and radiological weapons, the less popular ones should be also mentioned, as anti-satellite weapons combating Earth’sartificial satellites, or incapacitating weapons, which aim is to exclude the opponent from the fight without causing death, psychotronic weapons affecting human’s psychic and physiology, ethnic and geophysical weapon, which aims at interfering with geophysical conditions by affecting the climate, ozone layer and by leading to natural disasters. However, it should be highlighted that this description is not finished and not complete due to the constant development of the tools used to lead conflicts, the same as the definitions of the asymmetric and hybrid threats which may be inconsistent.
As previously highlighted, information warfare has a particular meaning for the asymmetric actions, which has as a result a dynamic increase of information-related technology development, including in the cybernetic theatre. That is one of the biggest challenges within the framework of conducting the conflict (between the states) because of it being more and more difficult form of action to detect, which directly hits the society’s unconscious with the influence of such phenomena. Currently, the information warfare covers: information manipulation, spreading propaganda, unauthorized use of information resources, logic bombs, blocking communication systems, falsifying information, and the utilization of so-called troll factories. In addition to the above-mentioned elements, within the scope of the asymmetric threats one can also distinguish international terrorism (including cyberterrorism), transnational organized crime, and activity of foreign service. Such a compilation, featured in information warfare, is the most general. However, this points out the most dangerous threats in the security environment. Although, the analysis of asymmetric threats, in theory, should come down to a broader perception of the phenomenon defined by the modern methods of conducting warfare. That is important not only for the realization of offensive operations but also for the reinforcement of the defensive potential of the state.
Ukraine as the area of the Russian asymmetric activities
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has a primarily international character. That is one of the key events in recent years, which has had an impact on relations of all countries with the Russian Federation – depending on whether they have a positive or negative character. The show of force in eastern Ukraine, which has developed into a conflict lasting more than 7 years of conflict, is the main cause of concern to NATO states, and it makes global rivalries flare up again. Moreover, in international terms, this time in a „cold war of XXI century”, apart from the USA and Russia, a stronger and stronger China participates, and France and Turkey are also manifesting their own potential
It should be highlighted that Russia did not accept in any way the mass protests in Ukraine, mainly in Kyiv, as its target is an intra-state escalation of the conflict. Hence, the changes that occurred after President Yanukovych’s departure from power, have been used by Moscow. The reason for such a dynamic reaction – the seizure of Crimea, could have been the Russian Federation’s fear of Ukraine joining the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,which was, in fact, considered at the beginning of 2014. At the same time, Ukraine lacked a decisive and steadfast will of the government, including a determination to conduct the key intra-systemic changes needed to finish the process of the pro-western integration. It may seem, that the crisis on the Ukrain has caused a deferral, maybe for several dozen years, of the possibility to join the international structures which would cut the Kiev from Moscow.
So far, no broad or mainly even slightly effective actions in defense of Crimea have been taken. Any attempts or ideas were extinguished at the very beginning of the conflict, when then-Acting President Oleg Turchinov admitted on March 12th, 2014, that Ukraine would not get involved in a conflict with Kremlin. That could have been a result of innovative use of the tactic concept by the Russian Federation, which was conscious that Ukraine was not ready for the open war, and due to the fact that the Ukrainian government wanted to resolve the conflict peacefully, meant to bring it closer to strengthen its relation with West. According to the estimations of the Ukrainian experts, about 20 – 25 thousand Russian soldiers have participated in the military actions back then. On March 17th, 2014, by means of the actions of the Russian Federation, Crimea became independent, and the day after, it was joined to the Russian territory.
It should be pointed out that Ukraine is going through a great crisis of identity. The appearing threats do not only result from the actions of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation. The problem also arises from the situation inside the country, which has been continuously unstable since 1991 when Ukraine declared its independence. Throughout the years, there have been attempts to act towards escaping the area of influence and legacy of the ZSRR through, among others, the actions of Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma. Then, when it seemed like both Viktor Yuschenko and Julia Tymoshenko would turn things around, ideals fell again. Tried Viktor Yanukovych by adopting the pro-Russian discourse, and then Petro Poroshenko directing himself at Western Europe. Both governments have fallen. Currently, the Ukraine lead by Volodymyr Zelensky maintains a pro-eastern course, but it tries to establish proper relations with the Russian Federation through, inter alia, the Normandy Format – to calm the situation inside the country. Therefore, the question arises, whether it is possible to finally change the situation of the country since it has been very unstable for almost 30 years. The annexation of Kremlin and the conflict in Donbas have caused a destabilization of the whole administrative and national security system, which will result in a long-lasting path towards reconstructing the stability of the country. Such formed new reality, which has undermined the foundation of the state as a whole unit, will additionally hinder any attempts to strengthen the defensive structures and recovery of the national identity in Ukraine.
For the Ukrainian authorities the ongoing conflict in the eastern part of the country and joining Crimea to Russia poses a great threat. An unstable internal situation and a constant influence of propaganda operations directed towards weakening the government have lead to the impotency of reconstructing a self-determining Ukraine and within the framework of establishing international alliances, which could strengthen the position of Kyiv on the international arena. The conflict on the Ukrainian territory, defined as a hybrid war, or the development of new asymmetric threats, has been continuous since April 2014. What is more, the situation does not seem to stabilize within the next couple of years, due to the constant and varied threats, of varying forms and intensities, from the side of the Russian Federation.
The new form of threat, that is the hybrid conflict of Ukraine with the Russian Federation which so far has not had the characteristics of a regular war, has pointed out the need to verify the country’s abilities to react to danger. That primarily has to do with all actions of the governments, efficiency of security systems, and also with the international cooperation towards security. In this case, it is crucial to perceive the current situation in Ukraine through the prism of both military and non-military challenges.The main factor, which should be taken into consideration, is the non-state subjects’ involvement in calling a conflict inside the country. It is defined that such actions have three stages:
1. Activities causing instability in the attacked country.
2. Actions aimed at depriving states under siege of the possibility of self-determination.
3. Influencing the change of authorities of the state in order to control the government.
At present, Ukraine is a geopolitical gameplay element (in the context of policy and security). The consciousness of the appearing asymmetric threats, and therefore the intensification of the global strifes, which has as an outlet the Ukrainian and Syrian crises, point to the need for a proper reaction. Worth mentioning is the fact that the media, which has lost its objectivity, cannot be the buffer of these undertakings. There are strifes between pro-Russian and pro-European mentality concerning the Ukrainian conflict, and between pro-Kurdian, pro-Turkish, pro-Russian, and pro-American (after the withdrawal of the American troops) idea of ending the multi-dimensional war in Syria.
The situation in Ukraine shows that the optimistic vision of peace, which would be based on the process of developing a national and state identity, does no longer exists. In this context, within the framework of international, firm, and coherent efforts, the actions of one country towards another should be sanctioned to redefine the sovereignty and international security. Creating proper conditions for independent determination of Ukraine should be the main focus.
The Ukrainian crisis has been enhanced with the weakness of the European Union, in the context of the dynamism of changes of the international relationships. There has been a redefinition of European security due to the stagnation in the multilateral actions with Russia. The crisis has also revealed significant discrepancies among the members of international organizations and their true political targets, due to the fact, that there is still no consensus over the Ukrainian case, hence there is a lack of long-term and effective solutions. The situation of northern Macedonia and Albania have also cast a shadow on the current EU policy, due to their multi-annual efforts to join the union, which has been denied despite many conditions concerning the accession have been fulfilled. This demonstrated the instability in pursuing the external policy by European Union, and therefore points out its weakness in the context of the appearing threats. With such a definition, it does not seem that the union would be yet interested in the membership of Ukraine, especially during the time of facing the consequences of Brexit.
Hybrid conflict as a natural international rivalry
Ukraine remains present in the sphere of influence of the European Union countries and Russia, where at the same time, the following changing phenomena are taking place: shifting of borders, government changes, political changes, and also attempts to isolate Kyiv from international organizations. It seems that the lack of security within the country, and hence the threat to sovereignty (political, economic, military) points to the conflict of interests along the Russia – Ukraine – Western line. This concerns Ukrainian freedom of development, constant military readiness, and also creates a specific risk of a potential conflict on the East-West line. It should be noted that this state of affairs has not changed since the end of the second world war when the soviet sphere of influence persisted in Eastern Europe. At present, that is another form of the metamorphosed dependence of Ukraine from the Russian Federation.
The evolving conflict on the territory of Ukraine has also had an influence on the actions taken by the United States of America. An example of such activities could be primarily an increase in the number of soldiers on the eastern NATO flank. The main aim of taking the initiative has been the will to show the Russian Federation that the Alliance remains in solidarity with the Baltic States. It has been assumed that such form of demonstration would not result in the escalation of the Ukrainian conflict to other countries and therefore would allow the members of NATO to reorganize and create a new defense strategy in the case of Russian aggression. What has been also taken into account was the possibility of a similar scenario happening again in different countries, like when in 2008 a Russian-Georgian conflict occurred, when Georgia was deprived of a chance of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty.
Currently, only the United States has the possibility to plan and conduct a military operation on a full and global extent. It would involve engaging most of the members of the NATO alliance (also the ones who would not support a particular activity – e.g. France, Germany, and Turkey), and therefore ensuring self-sufficiency and independence towards the use of, among others, energy resources, food, armament and the significant number of soldiers. The accumulated forces would enable a definite reaction in the case of the appearance of a considerable threat from Russia.
On the other hand, the asymmetric conflict allows an option to avoid open war, and therefore to negatively affect another country, deceptively covering disproportions in the difference between the conventional forces. The new form of war and ability to have a harmful influence, which would affect the whole state is for sure one of the most efficient methods of conducting a conflict, because the attacked subject cannot react effectively.
When analyzing the scenarios of progress of the conflict on the Ukraine – Russia and the NATO – Russia line, conducting irregular actions by the Russian Federation, including the growth of asymmetric threats, is worth considering. According to L. Sykulski, a conception of the wars based on rebellious movements seems particularly up-to-date. They primarily rely on the lack of a formal declaration of war and on avoiding the official involvement of the country in military activities. In such an approach, there occurs a contrast in perceiving the differences between the period of peace and war. The hybrid war, rebellious war, national liberation conflict, separatistic movements, nonlinear war, controlled chaos war, all of those actions may be defined as a form of fighting, which is characterized by the lack of specified frontlines, creation of new independent combat groups, increase of the role of armies and special forces, militarisation of society, changes in the media functionality (e.g. disinformation, fake news) defined as an informative war, terror, and also terrorist activity. Then, it is incredibly difficult to verify what is a state, and what is non-state, and to point out formal and informal activities.
The conflict in Ukraine is a form of war, in which the main role is played by the people defined as separatists.The method of taking actions in the hybrid war is very effective, and at the same time, it does not allow for a clear evaluation of what is a military action and what is a civilian action. That is a type of vanquishing the authorities of a state by attacking it with sabotage, terrorism, corruption, and the destruction of capital. In fact, the communities (supporting separatists) may become an army with a possibility of using its abilities to harm the opponent on all levels, among others, military, economic, informative, and political levels.
In addition, it is worth mentioning that the costs of conducting irregular activities, defined as a hybrid war, are certainly lower than those of a traditional war. Moreover, the attacking subject is not exposed (at least not completely) to a firm reaction of the international community. The hybrid conflict in Ukraine should draw the attention of the western international community because the evolution of the situation in the post-soviet states depends mainly on that. Allowing enclaves to develop, as it is present in Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, will cause a great problem in cooperation and creation of a common security area in cooperation with the alliances of NATO and EU.The persistent uncertainty in the context of the future actions of Moscow is certainly a threat befitting of an asymmetric nature. Primarily, in the context of the next actions taken to cause damage to Ukraine, already from the territory of Crimea or towards taking over the next territories, which used to be under the rule of ZSRR. The Ukrainian conflict is a multidimensional crisis, which consists of the actions of national and international parties.
The multiplicity of the asymmetric threats encourages reflection about the ongoing worldwide conflicts and draws a conclusion that the modern unconventional methods are often a bigger threat for security than the classic methods of conducting military actions. At the same time, a broad specter of threats gives a chance to predict conflicts and enables a redefinition of next generation warfare. The description of present and future conflicts, defined by Gierasimovand others, encourages all the international actors to participate in a fight for knowledge concerning the shaping of the new methods of combat. It may seem that currently, an unquestioned leader in this field is the Russian Federation, with its activities in Ukraine showing a great advantage in this area. Such a turn of events obligates other empires to redefine their security policy and to take the new perspective to implement their strategies in the key regions of the world.
Placing the euro-atlantic security system in an undisputed doubt in the context of assymetric conflict on Ukraine establishes a new scheme of international responsibility. That primarily requires an analysis of international policy and new sanctioning of the activities of the state in the military sphere. One should build the awareness that there is no consent for unsanctioned activities and intervention of whichever country against the sovereignty of another country.
The development of assymetric threats and the formation of modern forms and techniques of fighting may cause lesser control and greater inability to prevent unconventional actions. The force with which the hybrid operations hit, these conventionally defined and these described as irregular ones, causes a destabilization of the attacked subject in every sphere of the states functioning. That is not only a violation of a territory’s sovereignty but also countless statistics of deaths. That is a multidimensional anarchization of the whole state’s security system, administration, human consciousness, economic, ecological, and technological sphere by the use of all tools and methods of combating potential, so-called soft power.
The evolution of asymmetric threats is a phenomenon particularly visible in the process of new technologies development, especially within the military sphere. Moreover, the classical military actions will be accompanied by the preceding long-term activities realised in the period of stability and peace. Thus, it is crucial to analyse the development of the threats of an asymmetric character, and also forecasting their probable influence they have on the internal state structure. One should then use the experience of other countries (of both victims and attackers) to strengthen Polish national potential in the field of security.
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 More about the term of war: J. M. G. van der Dennen, On war: concepts, definitions, research data – a short literature review and bibliography, UNESCO Yearbook on Peace and Conflict Studies 1980, Greenwood Press, 1981, pp. 128-189
 L. Sykulski, Rosyjska geopolityka…, op. cit., pp. 80-81
 M. Marcinko, Bojownicy o wolność czy terroryści?: członkowie ruchów narodowowyzwoleńczych w świetle międzynarodowego prawa humanitarnego, Polski Rocznik Praw Człowieka i Prawa Humanitarnego 1/2010, p. 205-224
 O. Wasiuta, S. Wasiuta, Wojna hybrydowa…, op.cit., p. 33
 P. Muncaster, Russian Fake News Targeted Ukraine Elections, Info Security, 2019
 Defined also as an informative war
 L. Sykulski, Rosyjska geopolityka…, op. cit., pp. 81-82
 A. Olech, Terroryzm na Ukrainie a stanowisko, wizja i rozwiązania republiki francuskiej, [w]: Cyberbezpieczeństwo w polskich realiach, red. G. Skrobotowicz, Lublin 2019, pp. 119-122
 W. Baluk, M. Doroszko, Wojna hybyrydowa…, [w:] Wojna hybrydowa…, red. W. Baluk, M. Doroszko, op. cit., p. 17
 I. Katchanovski, The separatist war in Donbas: a violent break-up of Ukraine, Volume 17, 2016 – Issue 4: Ukraine in Crisis, pp. 473-489
 O. Wasiuta, S. Wasiuta, Wojna hybrydowa…, op.cit., p. 102
 L. Sykulski, Rosyjska geopolityka…, op. cit., p. 82
 W. Baluk, Perspektywa pokojowego zakończenia konfliktu rosyjsko-ukraińskiego, [w:] Wojna hybrydowa Rosji przeciwko Ukrainie w latach 2014-2016, red. W. Baluk, M. Doroszko, Lublin 2017, p. 258
 M. Gołda-Sobczak, Krym jako przedmiot…, op. cit., pp. 186-187.
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