How has Russia used eastern Ukraine as a Testing Ground for Hybrid Warfare Tactics?
Russia has been actively supporting separatists in the Donbas region since 2014 with high-grade military weapons. The Ukrainian military has struggled to cope with the separatists’ technological prowess and has had to rely on old-school technology, such as wired telephones in the trenches. The separatists easily intercept modern radio and cell phone messages because the Ukrainians are unable to encrypt them. Instead, they just use the technology available to them. The Ukrainian military has struggled to cope with the separatists’ technological prowess because of budget constraints. Therefore, they have had to rely on old-school technology, such as wired telephones in the trenches.
The Russian-back separatists’ capabilities transcend simple communications. Militarily, they have been able to pinpoint artillery attacks by tracking Ukrainian soldiers’ cell phones. Psychologically, they have sent soldiers threatening messages, such as “Surrender, we will defeat you anyway, this is our land and you are Ukrainian fascists.” Soldiers’ parents will also receive hoax texts saying that their son died. The Ukrainian government has not invested in new military technologies, and they will likely struggle to repel Russia’s digital attacks.
Cyberattacks are the tip of the sphere for Russia’s hybrid warfare tactics. The Russian government likely sponsors numerous hacking teams and directs them to attack critical Ukrainian infrastructure. Over the last eight years, Russia has employed a wide range of tactics to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty. This style of hybrid warfare that has been forged in eastern Ukraine will likely define future global conflicts for the foreseeable future. For Ukraine, this indicates that there is no end in sight for the war that has ravaged the Donbas for the last eight years. And unless Ukrainian officials decide to heavily invest in new military technologies, soldiers can expect to fight against an elite 21st-century military with 20th-century technology.