How Ukraine is using resistance warfare developed by the US to fight back against Russia

Russia’s almost bloodless occupation and annexation of the occupied territories shocked Ukraine and the West and intensified the study of how to create a plan for total defense that included not only the military but also the civilian population.

But his point of achievement is the broader war on Ukraine that Putin launched in February.

The doctrine, also known as the ROC, provides an innovative and unconventional approach to warfare and total defense that not only guides Ukraine’s military, but also engages the country’s civilian population as part of a collective resistance against Russia’s forces.

“It’s all geared toward the comprehensive defense of the government of Ukraine,” said retired Lt. Gen. Mark Schwartz, who was commander of Special Operations Command Europe during the doctrine’s development. “They are using every resource and they are also using some very unconventional ways to disrupt the Russian Federation military.”

National Resistance Plan

Outnumbered, outgunned, and outgunned, Ukraine still fought back against Russian forces who thought it would invade the majority of the country within weeks, if not days.

“It’s a way to turn the tables on the first world superpower,” Schwartz said. “Despite the incredible loss of life and sacrifice, it is simply incredible to see what the will to resist and the determination to resist can do.”

In a series of recent attacks and explosions on Russian positions in Crimea, Kevin D. Stringer, a retired Army colonel who led the development team for the countermeasures concept, sees signs of its use.

“Because you can’t do it conventionally, you’ll use special operations forces and those [forces] Resistance support — intelligence, resources, logistics — will be essential to access these regions.”

A Ukrainian government report shared with CNN acknowledged that Ukraine was behind the attacks on Russian bases and ammunition depots. The strikes, behind enemy lines, were beyond the range of weapons the US and others have publicly sent to Ukraine, and videos of the explosions did not show any incoming missiles or drones. Russia blamed sabotage or explosive munitions for the blasts.

“A high probability would say that it is very reasonable [the ROC] Principles are at play in actual warfare right now,” Stringer said.

In early April, US Special Operations Command commander General Richard Clarke told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that over the past 18 months in Ukraine, the US has helped train embedded resistance companies with special forces. Asked if he sees any success of that training in the current conflict, Clark was direct in his answer.

“Yes, Senator, we are.”

Resistance in Ukraine

Early in the conflict, the Ukrainian government created a website that explained different ways to protest. The site describes ways to use nonviolent action, including boycotting public events, labor strikes, and how to use humor and sarcasm. The aim is to disrupt the ability of pro-Russian authorities to govern while reminding the population of Ukraine of its rightful sovereignty. Violent actions, including using Molotov cocktails, deliberately setting fires, and pouring chemicals into gas tanks to sabotage enemy vehicles, also suggest resistance theory.

Civilians take part in a military training course organized by the Christian Territorial Defense Unit on February 19, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

The theory calls for a broad messaging campaign to control the narrative of the conflict, prevent the merchant’s message from taking hold, and keep the population united. Videos of Ukrainian attacks on Russian tanks, often to a soundtrack of pop music or heavy metal, have gone viral, as have Ukrainian soldiers rescuing stray animals. Intentionally or not, it becomes part of the resistance, allowing Ukraine to create headlines in their favor in the Western media and often dehumanizing Ukrainian service members as Russian forces fail.

At the forefront of the resistance is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has kept the conflict out of sight with nightly speeches and frequent international demonstrations. While his visits to the frontline make news around the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin is rarely seen outside the Kremlin or his resort in Sochi.

The ongoing messaging barrage has garnered support from abroad and successfully pressured Western governments to supply Ukraine with more weapons and ammunition.

Flexibility and resistance

Overall, the concept of resistance provides a framework for increasing a country’s resilience, which defines the ability to withstand external pressures and planning for resistance, as a whole country’s effort to re-establish sovereignty in occupied territories.

Dalia Bankauskaite, a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis who has studied resistance planning in Lithuania, explained, “Resilience in peacetime is a strength of society that becomes resistance in wartime against aggressors.”

Rather than providing each country with the same set of plans, the doctrine is tailored to each country’s population, capabilities and terrain. It is not intended to create or support rebellion; Its mission is to establish a government-sanctioned force that will operate against a foreign occupier with the goal of restoring sovereignty.

At first, only Estonia, Lithuania and Poland expressed real enthusiasm for the new theory. But after Russia’s nearly bloodless takeover and annexation of Crimea in 2014 stunned Ukraine and the West, interest in the resistance method grew rapidly.

Latvian Zemesardze, or National Guard, soldiers prepare to launch an attack during a small-unit tactical exercise in June 2020 near Ikawa, Latvia, during the implementation of the Resilience Operating Concept with NATO allies and partners.

Since its inception, at least 15 countries have participated in some form of training on this deterrence doctrine, according to Nicole Kirschmann, a spokeswoman for Special Operations Command Europe, where it was developed.

In mid-November, as the Biden administration offered its first public warnings about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hungary held a conference on the Resistance Operating Concept. Commanders of Ukraine’s special operations forces were at the conference, Kirshman told CNN, as well as nearly a dozen other countries.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fueled interest in the concept.

“The Baltic states, in particular, are actively talking in their parliaments about implementing the ROC at the national level,” a US official said.

Resistance in the Baltics

In May, almost three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania’s parliament adopted a new policy for civil resistance that is much broader than strict resistance against occupation.

Martinas Bendikas, spokesman for the country’s Ministry of National Defense, said that preparing for the resistance includes developing the will to defend the country, improving the military and non-military knowledge and skills of citizens, and much more as part of national defense.

The existence of deterrence doctrine and parts of planning around deterrence are intentionally public, Stringer explained, intended to act as a deterrent against potential attack, another objective of Russia’s preferred hybrid warfare rather than traditional military and nuclear deterrence. But the details of the plans and the country’s organization are being kept tight-lipped.

For Estonia, a country of about 1.3 million people bordering northwest Russia, civil resistance has always been part of the defense plan.

“There is no other option for every Estonian,” said RenĂ© Tumse, spokesman for the volunteer Estonian Defense League. “If anyone attacks you – if Russia attacks you – you fight for freedom – or you die.”

Estonia regularly updates and develops its defense plans, integrating its standing army with its general population and its volunteer army, which Toomse said has seen an increase in applications since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Estonian officials have studied the war in Ukraine to learn lessons about what worked well against Russia and where Ukraine’s resistance could improve. Toomse says that Estonians remember the Soviet regime well, and those who don’t remember it in school.

Ukraine has excelled in winning information campaigns, Toomsey notes, using media posts on multiple platforms, a president who has become a vocal international figure, and a steady stream of information about how well Ukraine’s military is fighting, “even if it doesn’t emphasize its own losses.” .”

But Estonia, if faced with an invasion, would be more active in any occupied territory, using smaller, well-equipped and trained units, Tomse insists. “I imagine we can do a lot more damage behind enemy lines than Ukraine did,” Toomsey said. “All the logistics, all the convoys, are going to be constantly attacked.”

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