chapter  5
Reconsidering western concepts of the Ukrainian conflict: the rise to prominence of Russia’s ‘soft force’ policy
Pages 20

On 26 April 2007 the Estonian parliament announced the removal of the bronze soldier statue from central Tallinn. Within hours cyber-attacks occurred at the ‘injustice’ of removing a symbol of Estonia’s liberation of Estonia from Nazism.2 Hackers targeted government websites and banks, universities, media and civil society organizations. Later a Nashi member admitted to perpetrating the attacks. Yet the attacks peaked at over 100 a day. Such effective attacks must have had backing. The cyber-attack emphasizes an element of soft force. Soft force has evolved from overt intimidation to using economic and

political levers. These less coercive measures involve media, the economy and culture. The Kremlin has refined intimidation, although the Estonian cyberattacks emphasize intimidation if required. Soft force has reached an apogee in the Ukrainian conflict. Regardless of Sergey Lavrov’s3 denials, the Russian military provides intelligence, equips and fights for the ‘rebels’.4 Sutyagin5 is unequivocal in the Kremlin’s involvement in the conflict. This paper contends that the evidence is no longer circumstantial. Scholars now comprehend what inspired the Kremlin to engage in conflict going beyond soft power and engaging hard power, whilst limiting a full military invasion. Competing Kremlin factions (the Main Intelligence Directorate – GRU, nationalists and Orthodox oligarchs) operating in Ukraine have increased hard power tactics.6 Existing literature has called the Kremlin’s tactics asymmetric or hybrid war. I disagree. I do not agree with Snyder7 that tactics have existed since 2013 with the growth in Eurasianism and the perception of the European Union (EU) as an ‘enemy’. Rather I argue soft force has developed over years, so tactics in Ukraine are not new, but the apex of perfected methods. The tactics used so effectively in Ukraine were refined in previous conflicts: Chechnya, Moldova, Tajikistan and Georgia. The Kremlin has developed destabilization tactics in the Baltic States which have been used efficiently in Georgia and the current Ukrainian crisis. What occurs in Ukraine is not new, but comes from years of perfecting a policy I call soft force.