NATO must help allies in the east bolster first-line defenses to counter any aggression from Russia, whose unconventional tactics in Ukraine could pose special challenges if deployed on alliance turf, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander, said Thursday.
Before the incursion of what Western officials say are regular Russian troops into Ukraine, Moscow stirred unrest in other ways during the early stages of the crisis, Breedlove said during an Atlantic Council event that coincided with the start of NATO’s two-day summit in Wales.
Russia’s utilization of troops without national uniforms — the so-called “little green men” — and perhaps “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare” were part of the first Russian push in Ukraine, Breedlove said.
NATO members, especially the Baltic states that border Russia, must take into account such tactics as allies prepare for future threats, he said. That means steps should be taken to help build the capacity of other arms of government, such as interior ministries and police forces, to counter unconventional attacks, including propaganda campaigns, cyberassaults or homegrown separatist militias.
“What we see in Russia now, in this hybrid approach to war, is to use all the tools they have … to stir up problems they can then begin to exploit through their military tool,” said Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander.
By building up pre-crisis capabilities to deal with such tactics, nations will be better able to assign responsibility to an aggressor nation, which is key to triggering NATO involvement in a crisis, Breedlove said.