FT: Bulgaria, Baltics Face Threat from Russia’s ‘Hybrid War’ Tactics
Russia’s unorthodox tactics in the conflict in Ukraine have raised fears of a repeat of such tactics elsewhere in eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, the FT has said.
In an analysis titled “Ukraine: Russia’s new art of war” published on the FT website on Thursday author Sam Jones has said that Russia’s tactics in the conflict in Ukraine, where traditional military might is just a part can be repeated in other countries in Europe which once belonged to the former Soviet bloc.
“Certainly, for governments of the Baltic and eastern Europe, the issue is real,” the author opined.
“Russia’s actions in Ukraine have exploded the notion that expansive communications technologies and economic interdependence were fostering a kind of grand bargain. Instead nationalism, genocide, irredentism and military aggression, which were thought to be in decline, are alive and well, finding new and powerful means of being deployed in Ukraine and beyond,” the analysis reads.
NATO has accused Russia of waging a “hybrid war” in Ukraine - a combination of supplying arms and ammunition to pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, deploying unmarked special operations squads and vehicles in the conflict zone while denying their existence and leading a massive disinformation campaign both at home and abroad.
“Other levers of power have been overtly pulled for years: Russia has used its gas pipelines as a tool to cajole Ukrainian policy makers since at least 2008,” the author said.
Looking to the Baltics and Bulgaria in this context, Sam Jones has highlighted the danger of the use of political and economic pressure by Moscow in its unorthodox tactics that involves a “broad range of hostile actions … that are invariably executed in concert”.
For example, in Bulgaria which depends almost entirely on Russian gas supplies to meet its gas needs, Russian giant Gazprom “…was recently exposed dictating new laws to energy officials in Sofia ahead of a proposal being made to parliament,” the analysis says.
The EU, Bulgarian politicians and the US have raised questions swirling around corruption in the Moscow-backed South Stream gas pipeline project “over the awarding of huge construction contracts” to certain companies.
With the Bulgarian government being the most corrupt in Europe, according to a European Commission report released earlier this year, “European intelligence agencies including Germany’s BND fear the entire Bulgarian political system is compromised by criminal organisations linked to the Russian state and by Moscow’s intelligence agencies,” the author said.
According to Jonathan Eyal, international director at London-based Royal United Services Institute, a military think-tank, Moscow is “creating psychological enclaves in the Baltic states.”
“In many circumstances, the Russians in all of these situations are looking for trouble. They are trying to find little sparks that will create fires,” Eyal has said.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen sounded a similar warning in June when he said that Russia was secretly funding European environmental groups in order to hinder the spread of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking in Europe and thus preserve dependence on Russian supplies of natural gas.
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