Discussion panel “New Generation War” (report)

The main goal of the discussion panel entitled “New Generation War”, which took place during the second day of this year’s Europe-Ukraine Forum, was to examine the latest ways in which the Russian Federation conducts its modern, European war.

During the discussion, the guests of the panel did not focus on the analysis of the war in the new sense of it  (hybrid and cyberwar). Instead they focused on an even newer, constantly evolving type of war, which is the Russian information operation in Europe.  This conflict, skillfully controlled by the Kremlin, has already sneaked unnoticed into our daily lives, wreaking havoc both in the USA and in many countries of the old continent.

The discussion was attended by eminent panellists in person. The following speakers took part in the discussion: Janis Berzins, Director of the Centre for Security Research and Strategy,  Bjorn Marcusson, lecturer at the Lithuanian National Military Academy, Phillip Petersen, Chairman of Centre for the Study of New Generation Warfare in USA and Marek Voiger, Senior Lecturer on Russia and Eastern Europe at the Baltic Defence College in the USA. The panel was moderated by Gregory Melcher from the aforementioned Centre for Contemporary War Art Research in the USA.

According to experts present in the discussion, this new, extremely dangerous type of information war waged by Russia assumes a strong impact on society through the use of artificial intelligence, social media and the dependence of young people on modern technologies as well as popular promoters of fashion and gossip. By using the already mentioned ways to promote its idea, Russia is very effectively creating the phenomenon of the so-called cultural disturbance, which aims at dividing society and undermining people’s faith in government institutions. Most importantly – dismantling from the centre of the democratic system, which in its freedom of speech and the presence of civil society remains the greatest enemy of Russia, which wants to influence European society as much as it already affects its own citizens today.

Phillip Petersen from the Centre for the Study of New Generation Warfare pointed out at the very beginning of the discussion that the most important person who had already fallen into the trap of the aforementioned information war waged by Russia was President Donald Trump himself, who, despite being unaware of his key role in this conflict, actively supports the destabilisation of the democratic system in the USA through his fierce fight with the national media that criticise him. By accusing them of acting against the prosperity of his country, President Trump is doing exactly the same thing only to an even greater extent.

During his panel time, Mark Voyger from the American Baltic Defence College presented a diagram organizing the methods and ways in which Russians use hybrid and information war in Europe and the United States. The most interesting concept presented by Mark was the idea of ‘Lawfare’, i.e. the author’s, Russian way of conducting information and hybrid war, which still takes place within the borders of international law. Despite the bending of some provisions and taking advantage of legal loopholes in international agreements, Russians try to avoid blatant violations of the law, making it harder for the public to reach their cunning operation, further aggravating the public’s decline in trust in government organisations in the countries under attack. Moreover, the example of Trump shows that the Russians have even managed to direct the vectors of their information war to use the ignorant elites from different countries to achieve their own goals of undermining democracy and the rule of law.

Dr Janis Berzins from the Lithuanian Centre for Research and Security and Strategy for a change focused on the ideas and ideas that the Russians are successfully spreading in the consciousness of Western societies. The most important of these ideas are defamation of the globalisation process, lowering the morale of soldiers and undermining the capabilities of the army of the country under attack among its inhabitants in order to create as many divisions and social discontent as possible, which will be difficult for it to reunite in case of a collective perception of the threat from Russia.

Mykhailo Samus from the Centre for Armed Forces Research, Conversion and Disarmament focused his speech on the purely Ukrainian experiences of the hybrid-information war waged by Russia on its territory since 2014. Thanks to this it was possible to show the audience how wide and extensive such an operation can be in every selected country of Europe -if NATO and the EU do not start to support these countries in their struggle for integration with the rest of the continent. Mykhailo also reminded that the recent military crisis between Ukraine and Russia on the Azov Sea showed that Russia is less and less afraid of NATO’s response to its aggressive policy. This became absolutely clear when we saw that, for the first time since 2014, the Ukrainian army was attacked by a uniformed, professional army of the Russian Federation, as opposed to “separatists”, “green men” and private armaments companies who used to attack Ukraine in the past, avoiding any binding them to the Russian Federation.

Bjorn Marcusson from the Swedish Defence Academy approached the subject of the Russian hybrid and information war from a completely different, unique perspective – through the process of money laundering. According to Byorn’s research, in 2018 alone, the Russian Federation displaced as many as 28 billion dollars using as many as 26 countries from all over the world. This money, legalised in these countries, can then be used to further undermine the idea of the democratic system and to dismantle society by financing anti-government, anti-globalisation and openly or secretly pro-Russian organizations.

At the end of the panel discussion on the new generation war, all panellists unanimously concluded that the hybrid-information war in the Russian edition is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the countries of the so-called West. During a conventional war, there is a clear methodology and order in terms of attacking forces and their actions. However, this changes dramatically in relation to the hybrid-information war, where not only the methods but also the organization and tactics of the attacking forces of the Russian Federation are unknown. The only way to effectively combat this phenomenon is to launch a much broader study of the war topic by both the non-governmental and governmental sectors.