On March 3, 2017 the National Defence Foundation together with the Committee on National Security and Defence of Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania held an international conference Strengthening Social Resilience against Hybrid Threats in the Baltic Region. The event took place at the Hall of the Act of 11 March of Seimas and gathered over 280 direct participants, and 1000 indirect participants over DELFI TV, including honorary speakers and guests from the EU member states, Belarus, Ukraine, the US and representatives of NATO.
The conference was opened by Col (ret) Vaidotas Malinionis, Managing Director, National Defence Foundation, who greeted the participants and introduced following honorary guests responsible for welcome remarks: Mr. Vytautas Bakas, Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Defence of Seimas and Mr. Raimundas Karoblis, Lithuanian Minister of Defence.
In his remarks Mr. Vytautas Bakas brought to participants’ attention the historical value of the March 11 Hall, in which the conference took place. 27 years ago the independence of Lithuania was re-established in that same hall. Bakas emphasized the importance of freedom, how it should not be taken for granted, and that it requires protection and promotion. The people of Lithuania are well aware of the strategic threats given the contemporary ambitions of the Russian political regime to reinstate its supremacy and area of influence. Lithuanians make “unprecedented investment into security and safety of the country and its people, reinforce our democracy and civil society”, Bakas noted. In 2017 Lithuania has increased its national defence budget by more than 50%, what equals to 1.8% of the national GDP. Although this is a marginal increase, the government has pledged to meet 2% NATO requirement and more in the near future.
While individual efforts of member states are highly important, Bakas reminded that partnership and strategic alliance is also a crucial variable for freedom and democracy. For 27 years Lithuania has not been alone, and the year of 2017 marks a historic date for the reason that allied forces are on Lithuania’s land, demonstrating solidarity of the alliance. Hostile outside forces are trying to skew the public opinion into thinking that NATO is crumbling, which is falsified information. But the propaganda apparatus is changing its focus, and Lithuania is doing its best at implementing modifications to its national policy and laws. Mr. Bakas commended Ukraine and its people for pursuing a similar strategy fuelled by motivation and objective focus. Furthermore, the Europe integration process is very important, it helped Lithuania 27 years ago, and it should also be a pivotal prospect for Ukraine.
Lithuania faces challenges when it comes to protecting the outside borders of NATO. According to Bakas, 3% of the population of NATO is protecting more than 10% of the external borders. With the help of the European Union, Lithuania managed to protect 30%, but by the year 2020 has “pledged to fully ensure security of the border by technical means so that NATO is safe”. To meet these ambitious goals, Lithuania will require assistance and support from its allies. Furthermore, the near-future challenges are engaging the society in decision making, reducing the gap between the government structures and the society. A crucial step for Lithuania will be creating a security plan, which will be used for the next 10-15 years. As Bakas noted, “we will hear weapons near the border”, thus the issues concerning security context need to be addressed thoroughly. Promoting investment and getting people to come back to Lithuania are just a couple of more issues that Lithuania is facing.
The introduction was succeeded by Lithuanian Defence Minister Mr. Raimundas Karoblis, according to whom, the most important topic which requires attention in terms of security is “how can we strengthen resilience against hybrid threats in our region since.” He quoted Sir Winston Churchill’s speech given on the 4th of June, 1940 to the House of Commons which defined the winning strategy of the 20th century: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills”. Karoblis intended to display that although the political tensions of the mid-twentieth century are gone, some things are yet to change, and contemporary geopolitics are once again aligning towards a near-war status. States like Ukraine are already facing armed conflict and the global community needs to help. Furthermore, the Baltic region, including Lithuania, is at a constant struggle fighting fake news and disinformation, propaganda, and cyber-attacks. Europe itself is combating hostile ideas and actions carried out by politicians “fed by the generous hand of Russia.” Minister refered to Klaus Welle, the Secretary General of the European Parliament, by saying that Europe is once again in a crisis, but this time there is a great threat and influence from outside forces, mainly Russia.
Russia continuously conducts cyber-attacks, is increasing military presence near the NATO borders with the aim of weakening readiness of defence, discrediting security by strengthening activities, and most importantly changing the future, which democratic countries like Lithuania have worked for so hard. “It is our responsibility that they never succeed” firmly reassured Karoblis. NATO members, including Lithuania, have already taken a number of significant security measures, not to mention that the raised NATO military presence near its Eastern borders is a paramount mean of deterrence against all types of threats including hybrid ones. Without solely relying on military capabilities, according to Karoblis, we must also use “soft power” capacity of the European Union, which needs more development in terms of cooperation with equivalent NATO abilities.
Just as Bakas stated, Karoblis reiterated the advancements that have and are being made by Lithuania. The national rapid reaction forces are now ready to respond to non-conventional threats such as local armed conflicts or border violations. In addition, by increasing cyber resilience last year Lithuania was able to fix almost 400 breaches, not including attacks which are thought to have originated from the East. The cyber warfare topic is of the utmost importance during the contemporary global power dynamics, and Lithuania is trying to keep its defence modernized. As an example, just last year it organized its first national cyber security exercise. Despite the positive development there are still plenty of challenges and objectives. He concluded by paraphrasing the earlier given quote by Churchill, including “cyber space” and “news rooms”, thus emphasizing the will and capabilities of NATO and its member states to resist aggression.
Introductory remarks were followed by a session on Current Security Environment in the Baltic Region, which was addressed by a guest speaker Mr. Edward Lucas, Journalist, Senior Editor of The Economist and moderated by Ms. Eglė Murauskaitė, Senior Researcher and Simulation Developer, European Affairs, ICONS Project / START, University of Maryland.
Lucas admitted, that security situation of the Baltic region is complicated and resulting in many advantages for Russia. Along with geographic and other inevitable disadvantages that the Baltic States are doomed to live with, strategic incoherence is one of the most acute weaknesses of the Baltic security that had to be solved years ago and now it can be too late. Lucas underlined the importance of communication between politicians, the society and military in promoting security and strategic coherence.
According to Lucas, in pursuing its ambitions Russia uses many unconventional cunning tactics, such as organized crime, because it is often not easy to distinguish private from state-sponsored crime. Russia successfully exploits financial resources to bribe foreign institutions, think-tanks and to create propaganda lobbyists. Lucas noted that Russians well understand that should you succeed in bribing foreign state’s leaders, there is no longer necessity to invade.
An important advantage that Baltic States have, according to Lucas, is their growing economies and GDPs that are relatively higher than Russia’s. He also underlined good threat assessment capabilities of the Baltic States, including think-tanks expertise on Russia and its policies.
Finally, the speaker stressed upon importance to avoid methods used by Putin’s regime when reacting or defending from threat posed by Russia. It is equally important to avoid demonizing Russian population and to provide Russian youth with education opportunities in universities in the West.
Following session focused on Enhancing Social Resilience, Challenges, Policies and Lessons Learned in Non-NATO/EU Countries. New Russian Border Regime with Belarus and included experts from Belarus and Ukraine. The session was moderated by Mr. Zbigniew Pisarski, Political Analyst, Foreign and Security policy media commentator, Founder and President of the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, Poland.
The session was opened by Mr. Pavel Usov, Director of the Center for Political Analysis and Prognosis in Belarus. He focused on addressing problems of forming social resilience in hybrid society: Belarusian case. Presentation available here.
Usov started by asking - what should be the strategy of Belarusian society and authority when speaking about the threat of Russian impact and its possibility to intervene in the political process in the region? One of the main issues which had to be addressed is the situation of Belarusian society itself. First off all, it is important to identify the Belarusian populous as a hybrid society. Usov identified it as a “blurry system with national, cultural, and historical values.” Furthermore, it is a mixture of different mental and cultural elements. The hybrid combination also includes various Russian, Soviet, orthodox, and atheistic identities. Although, when it comes to their social beliefs Belarusian population is quite stratified, with the majority of its people maintaining a strong feeling and attachment towards their national statehood. While these variables have benefits on their own, they also create an environment for external negative influence and manipulation of the public mentality and actions. In Usov’s words, “Belarusian society can be easily, without serious resistance, inserted into the Russian world”. The reasoning for this hybrid definition can be attributed to several social phenomenons. One of which is the active rejection and elimination of the “national tradition of the state’s official ideology and political agenda”. Furthermore, the void of nationally oriented ruling elite contributes to the overall societal attitude and strips it of such mentality.
Contrary to some if its post-Soviet neighbours, Belarus has yet to partake in a nation-wide de-sovietisation process. Unfortunately, the situation is quite opposite – Belarus is undergoing a course of re-sovietisation, a fashion of glorifying the Soviet period of Belarusian history, especially the Great Patriotic War. Not only are the symbols of re-sovietisation dominant in the conscience of Belarusian society, they are also elements in the state’s policy. As an example of inability of the Belarusian authorities to distance themselves from the old Soviet traditions Usov displayed the Coat of Arms of Belarus in contrast to the counterparts of Transnistria and the Luhansk People’s Republic. They all share similar symbols. Moreover, statues and monuments of Vladimir Lenin are still easily found across Belarusian cities, promoting national symbolism.
Adjacent to the civil system of the country, the hybridization of the population poses a much greater threat in its defence structures. Soviet and pro-Soviet tradition and education in the army is wide spread and still actively practiced despite a probable conflict with Russia, causing a great threat. Vulnerabilities in such crucial national entities are prone to intensive propaganda and other threats posed from outside sources, and combined with the pro-Russian mentality of the ruling elite it exposes the nation to a great amount of risks. As an example given by Usov, the head of state Lukashenko often makes public remarks and displays its affection towards Russia, such as “Belarusians are Russians with a quality mark”, and “I’m a Soviet man”. It is difficult to expect a unified national mentality from the society and official media sources when the leadership of the state bears no signs of such intents.
The passive susceptibilities of the society to threats, created by its hybrid nature, are creating a lot of leniency for Russian and pro-Russian forces to actively exploit these gaps in security. Propaganda from these sources are not only actively exploiting such hybrid mentality, but also strengthening it, creating more hybrid conditions and constructing more points of weakness in the country. Usov specified few tools of the propaganda apparatus, which are unlimited and unrestricted: nation-wide broadcasting of Russian media, public lectures of pro-Russian public figures, activity of the Orthodox church of the Moscow Patriarchy, activeness of pro-Russian NGO’s enforcing anti-national content and “almost openly hating national tradition and symbols”. In addition, absolute domination of the Russian language has a great impact on all public and political spheres of the country. Almost 90% of the population speak Russian on a daily basis.
Russian world already exists in Belarus without any military aggression. It is crippling enough to have a cultural, informational, and policy integration to a certain extent with Russia. Belarusian state officials are not involved in the protection of national identity, despite their obligation to do so. This is due to the fact that the main initiative for developing and disseminating national motives and policies belong to democratic oppositional organizations, which operate in very hostile environment and are under constant oppression from the administration. One of the examples of such scenarios given by Usov is the case of Belsat TV, an oppositional news agency in Poland, which transmits to Belarus in Belarusian, although, it is forbidden to do so by Belarusian government. Belsat TV is the only TV channel to actively try and resist Russian cultural and informational impact.
The government of Belarus doesn’t implement a strategy for enforcing a unified national consciousness, and even worse – shows a lack of motivation to implement any informational or administrative barriers against Russian cultural impact and propaganda. Usov concluded his presentation by emphasizing a need for the Belarusian government to implement a systematic strategy for limiting Russian informational, cultural, and political impact to avoid “losing Belarus without any kind of forced involvement of Russian troops”.
Following speaker Mr. Mykhailo Samus, Deputy Director for International Affairs, Centre of Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies in Ukraine focused on new ways for development of national resistance. He mostly used Ukrainian experiences. Presentation available here.
Samus started by pointing out that despite heavy casualties sustained from the present armed conflict with Russia, the struggle against oppression grants Ukraine a chance to be a “normal European country and develop values shared by all Europe”. Speaking about national resilience, in the case of Ukraine the concept is well beyond theory, and it has shifted towards a course of action for the society. No more than three years ago Ukrainians had to restart with the remains of what happened after their nationality was betrayed by the President, Ministry of Defence, Chief of General Staff, and a great amount of political and military leaders. At that time the populous lacked capabilities to resist these anti-national movements and fight for independence, which created a strategic vulnerability. To no surprise Russia was quick to exploit these weak points, expanding the damage even further. The fact that the “Ukrainian state as a system doesn’t work”, given the start of the annexation of Crimea, was abused and in terms created a platform for jump-starting operation “Russian Spring”.
According to Samus, Ukrainian “national resilience is a mirror of hybrid warfare”, a tool against Russia or any other potential aggression sourced from outside. In further detail, national resilience is the “ability of a nation to adapt (to recover) and progressively grow under constant negative influence (crisis) without compromising its national interest.” Ukraine has quite a lot of practical experience in terms of national resilience, given that in 2014 the state was unable to execute its duties. The civil society of Ukraine made a large amount of efforts, mostly successful, to support the state during a critical point in history. Furthermore, social disarray became even greater due to the fact that the military, armed forces, secret service, and other law enforcement agencies became crippled as a result of state officials abandoning national interests coupled with informational attacks carried out by Russia.
Samus once more reiterated and emphasized how crucial and important was the civil society and its support for the state. One of the examples he gave is the clash in the city of Sloviansk, during which battalions comprised of volunteers held the main defence lines against Russian aggression, thus, granting major support for the Ministries of Defence and Interior, who at that time were in a very difficult situation. As a result, these voluntary battalions are now integrated into the Ministry of Interior providing support to the National Guard, Armed Forces, and for other units of the Ministry. Despite these structural changes, absorption of volunteers failed to bring synergy to the modernization of existing structures. The current development of Armed Forces and National Guard rely on reaching and maintaining NATO standards, and military volunteer organizations fall short of these norms.
The focus given by Samus was developing a new project with an updated approach for the national guard with mostly volunteer and contract based military. At the moment, the National Guard consists of primarily post-Soviet internal troops, or “gendarmerie” type military police, and Samus identified their goal as being used as local law enforcement in conflict territories, while the Armed Forces are carrying out combat operations on the frontlines. It could be evolved into two components, one of which should be a permanent system of voluntary-military organizations. This means that the experience gained by these civilian units in 2014 should be used in making and administrating local organizations, which in term would be adopted to construct large-scale involvement of civil society in the national defence system not only on a strategic, but also on a local level.
While the reform of National Guard is crucial to maintaining the defence of Ukraine, Samus also pinpointed three more sectors which are in need of more attention towards achieving security: assisting police in their daily operations to maintain civil order; organizing and operating volunteer fire-fighting teams; and providing emergency and disaster relief. Decentralization reform aimed at changing post-Soviet state structures on a regional and local level calls for a bottom-top approach, in which military and paramilitary units should play a key role. More importantly, during a period of time in which Ukraine’s defence and security system is constantly being re-evaluated, national mentality and patriotism is of huge importance to the statehood.
The last speaker Mr. Yauheni Preiherman, Chairman of the Board at the Discussion and Analytical Society Liberal Club, Belarus addressed the issue of recently introduced border zone between Russia and Belarus.
Preiherman began by discussing the bilateral border situation between Russia and Belarus, sanctioning of Belarusian goods, and specifically the recently established Russian border zone. He defined the border zone as a “territory adjacent to an interstate border, on average about 30 km inside country’s territory, which has a specific entrance and movement regime.” What was Russia’s reasoning for setting up such border zone with its closest ally? One of the scenarios is that Russia has to protect itself from threats originating from Belarusian territories. Russian ambassador in Belarus claim that these border zones will have no effect on Belarusian citizens, for the reason that they are intended for 3rd party people. More specifically, Russian side asserted that the decision to establish border zone was a pre-emptive measure in response to Belarus’ agreement to establish a visa-free regime for nationals of 80 countries, and that “Russia is weary of possible repercussions” meaning foreigners without Russian visas entering the country from Belarusian territories. Preiherman sees logical inconsistencies with this argument due to the fact that the President of Belarus signed the decree of visa-free regime on the 9th of January, 2017 while Russia’s decision to establish a border zone was formalized on the 29th of December of the previous year. Despite the fact that Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed Russian officials on travel liberalization beforehand, it could be speculated that the border zone was constructed as a sign of Moscow’s overall dissatisfaction with some aspects of its relations with Minsk. In addition, some opinions display that it was inappropriate for President Lukashenko to make this decision without the approval of Russia, coupled with the fact that Belarus is exhibiting more leniency towards the West.
Shortly after the border zone issue became viral and gained more public opinion, the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement asking not to dramatize the situation, underlying two important aspects. First of all, Russia ignored all existing agreements while making this decision without an advance warning to the Belarus side. Moreover it was not the first time, and a similar situation had unfolded in 2016 when Russia restricted the access to 3rd country nationals from the Belarusian territories. Secondly, the population of Belarus interpret Russia’s decision as means to completely restore full border patrol between the two countries. Given Lukashenko’s remarks, such border would require detailed geographical coordinates, and could lead to serious territorial conflicts, and therefore it is unlikely for Russia to make such steps. Preiherman reminds that Lukashenko made a similar decision in September of 2014, when he established a border territory, which is different than a border zone. This situation seems complicated, and it looks like bilateral relations between Russia and Belarus mainly depend on Moscow’s side of interests, and in Preiherman’s words “the only realistic option is to keep Russians calm and the West cooperative.”
Preiherman continued his presentation by giving general remarks on the topic of providing stability and strengthening Belarus sovereignty in existing conditions. While it would be convenient to have the ability to alter these conditions, the only realistic variable which has leniency to a certain extent is policy. Furthermore, there is a need to be able to detect developments and decisions, as well as alternatives, which face Belarus through Belarusian lenses, otherwise we are prone to “missing important details and misinterpreting critical developments.” In addition, the best realistic foreign policy strategy Belarus can pursue is “strategic hedging with active neutral positioning, including on the Ukrainian crisis”. In order to achieve this scenario, Belarus needs favourable external conditions, among them the tensions between the West and Russia should not reach uncontrollable levels. Also, Belarusian government authorities should escalate their interaction with their Western counterparts. Finally, optimal internal policy for Belarus can only be some sort of a mixture between identity approaches due to the fact that Belarusian society and the elites are far from being homogeneous.
Next session provided a U.S. Perspective on Baltic Defence in an Age of Turbulence. Guest speaker for the session was Dr. Michael Carpenter, Senior Director of the Joseph R. Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania. Lt. Col. Palle Ydstebo, Faculty Advisor, Military Strategy and Operations Department, Norwegian Defence Command and Staff College, took a role of moderator.
Carpenter started by acknowledging the fact that we live in a world of duality, where the new US President’s remarks focus on the obsolescence of NATO, warmer relations with Russia, the inability of NATO allies to fulfil their obligations, and the need to modify the participation and contribution of the US to the alliance. While at the same time a stratification of US foreign policy is visible when the Vice President, Secretaries of Defence and State, and the National Security Advisor are displaying the importance of NATO, and the Russian aggression presented by trying to pick the alliance apart. What does this duality propose? How do we interpret it? Mixed messages are visible in the rhetoric of US state officials, which balance between reinstating diplomatic relations with Russia, and strengthening US involvement in NATO, especially its Eastern members and the “grey zone” comprised of Ukraine and Belarus.
One thing which Carpenter was certain of is that the links between President Trump and the Russian Federation are having a “corrosive effect on the US policy.” Majority of the US’ population could agree that a special prosecutor is in dire need to investigate the unprecedented interference in the electoral process that took place in the course of the last 6-12 months. Despite the complex and mysterious relations between Trump and Russian individuals, Carpenter ensures that it will be extremely politically difficult for those in the Trump administration to remove the allocation of resources for the Baltic. In turn, this will grant more manoeuvrability for individuals like Secretary Mattis, who “understands the importance of deterrence and defence to continue and pursue policies which began in Obama’s administration to build credible deterrence in this part of the world.” Moreover, the recent change of the National Security Advisor grants a more positive and professional approach towards foreign policy with a more sober understanding of the true role of Russia in the global order.
Moving forward, Carpenter shared his thoughts on the future of deterrence and defence, focusing on Lithuania and its ability to contribute. The contemporary agenda is the “full-spectrum deterrence and defence”, where you not only have to prepare for the most unlikely scenarios like a Russian conventional invasion, but also for more overt scenarios like “little green men” and hybrid tactics. The emphasis here should be on increasing the active measures and political subversion which are both – cheaper and easier to execute. Carpenter went further into identifying high-end threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity in Eastern Europe. Baltic states should move from the air policing mission to air defence; invest in cyber capabilities and electronic warfare; in territorial defence to integrate counter mobility with the air defence; further develop NATO decision making by delegating decision authority to generals on the ground; increase inter-operability between Ministries of Defence and Interior and the Border Guard; invest into special operation forces; invest into social resilience and defeating political subversion; increase transparency; inform the public about arising threats without raising the panic; do not stop military spending by 2% line; use military exercises Zapad 2017 to raise awareness and support among your allies, especially the US.
Another session on Security Policy of the New US Administration and its Implications for the Baltic Region included guest speaker Col (ret) Samuel Gardiner, United States Air Force, Independent analytical expert, Military strategist, USA. Lt. Col. Palle Ydstebo continued with moderation.
Gardner in his presentation (available here) covered 4 fields concerning new US administration’s security policy: 1) organizations of decisions; 2) process of the decision-making; 3) predictions on future decisions; 4) issues expected in the future of administration’s foreign policy. He noted that security policy has to be organized and implemented by correctly assessing signals of a threat coming from foreign adversaries. He was critical towards the US and NATO policies for not being able to respond to the threat signals coming from Russia. He noted that irresponsiveness is the most clear in cases of nuclear or cyber threat signals, because the US or NATO has no real answers and solutions to such types of threats. However, Gardner also said that there is a lack of responsiveness even in cases of more common types of threat signals and the most recent example is the case of upcoming massive Russian military exercise “Zapad 2017” in Russian and Belarussian territories. “I don’t hear any talk in the US about this. It should be made a big deal off it. <…> We need to be able to talk more about it.” Finally, Gardner criticized President Trump’s position on nuclear weaponry as a tool creating an element of surprise: “According to Trump, surprise is something that we want to keep in our strategic thinking. <…> Surprise is not an element of deterrence; surprise is an element of tactics in the operational realm.” Concluding his presentation Gardener expressed pessimism about the US Government’s prospects in responding to hybrid threats in the Baltic region. The reasons he mentioned include: large variety of strong and weak signals; low propensity to accept signals, already completely filled the US international agenda and inexistent solutions for some type of threats.
Session on Enhancing Social Resilience, Challenges, Policies and Lessons Learned in NATO /EU Countries was most diverse and included five speakers from Poland, Estonia, Sweden and NATO HQ in Brussels. The panel was again moderated by Ms. Eglė Murauskaitė.
First speaker Dr. Anna Popielarczyk from the Polsih Army Museum addressed the contribution of the Polish Army Museum to the formation of national identity based on respect for the Polish Armed Forces. She presented the network of army museums in Poland, its expositions and described museums’ role in forming national identity of Poland. Popielarczyk emphasized the importance of historic narrative in forming national identity that would make society more resilient. Presentation available here.
Brg. Gen. Jarosław Kraszewski, Director of Armed Forces Supervision Department, National Security Bureau, Poland, addressed necessary operational adjustments for NATO to deter Russia’s hybridized threats. He emphasized increased dynamics in the sphere of region’s security after 2016 Warsaw Summit and pointed out 5 objectives that, according to Poland, the Baltic states should pursue in operational domain: 1) to reinstate freedom of manoeuvres; 2) to improve quick-forward deployment; 3) to keep up scale and difference of exercises and training events to show cohesion and readiness to deter hybrid threats; 4) improve decision making process to ensure that quick reaction to any threats is available; 5) improving comprehensive operational picture. Presentation available here.
Mr. Tomas Jermalavičius, Head of Studies/Research Fellow, International Center for Defense and Security, Estonia, focused on societal resilience as a basis for the whole-of-society response to hybrid threats. Presentation available here. In his remarks Jermalavičius emphasized not only on economic and social aspects of the state in dealing with hybrid threats, but also described an importance of human, physical and natural capital of the state when talking about given type of threats. According to him, the problem when talking about societal resilience is that we understand its necessity, but we have no methodology to assess how resilient our society is: “We don’t know how resilient we are until something very bad strikes us. And then we realise: are we resilient or not. Ukrainians are going through this process now, recognizing whether they are resilient or they are not. And this is an extremely important experience to learn from.” Jarmalavičius emphasised, that in order to increase our resilience, first of all we need to focus on the most vulnerable social groups in our societies, because these groups are most often abused by adversaries to fracture society. Besides that, he described education as a crucial factor in creating resilient society. Jermalavičius also presented a practical case and described weaknesses of societal resilience in Estonia, which include: increasing economic and social inequality in Estonia, differentiation and alienation between Estonians and Russian minorities; low level of society’s voluntarism, with too little regular involvement; problems with media responsibility. When concluding his speech, Jarmalavičius pointed out, that it is critical to provide society with tools necessary in promoting resilience that would reach masses: “Government is sometimes more of a problem than a solution, so you have to empower the society.”
Mr. Michael Malm, Strategic Advisor and Programme Manager, Institute for National Security Studies at Swedish Defence University, contributed to the panel by bringing in his presentation (available here) about the social resilience case of Sweden. Explaining Swedes’ commitment to defend their country in the case of armed attack, Malm pointed out to existing heritage of social contract between the state and society:” We have a strong social contract in Sweden. It has been developed for over hundreds of years. <…> Over the years we have learned to trust the government, we’ve learned to trust the state. The state is not an evil thing, it is something that helps us, and so we trust the state. And that’s part of our resilience.” Malm also emphasized that for the creation of resilient society, that trusts its government, freedom of press and education promoting critical thinking is necessary.
The last speaker of the panel was Mr. Eero Kytomaa, Staff Officer, Civil Preparedness Section, NATO HQ Brussels. He focused on NATO’s strategy in building resilience against hybrid threats. In his address Kytomaa pointed out that for NATO such resilience is the combination of civil preparedness and military capacity and that members of NATO are obliged to promote resilience in their societies: “Now, following the Resilience Commitment by NATO Heads of State and Government last July at the Warsaw Summit, nations are working to achieve baseline requirements for national resilience to protect their vulnerabilities and to make sure civil support to the military authorities is robust.” Kytomaa spoke about 7 baseline requirements, outlining the critical civilian functions that underpin nation’s ability to defend it-self: 1) continuity of government; 2) resilient energy supplies, energy systems that can withstand disruptions; 3) ability to deal effectively with large population movements; 4) food and water resources, that are resilient against disruptions or sabotage; 5) ability to deal with mass casualties; 6) ability ensure security and availability of key national civil communications networks; 7) ability to secure transportation systems and infrastructure. As Kytomaa noted: “The requirements represent the level of resilience that each ally is expected to meet so that the core functions of continuity of government, continuity of essential services to the population and civil support to the military are at all times maintained – even in the most demanding scenarios.” Finally Kytomaa emphasized the importance of cooperation between NATO and the EU in case of hybrid crisis: “Our priority in this area is to make sure the NATO-EU playbooks are made operational and exercised. We want to ensure that the links which have been established are operational and can help rather than hinder our responses in a crisis.”
The final session of the conference was dedicated to Russia’s Regime Evolution and included Mr Garry Kasparov, Chess Grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, writer, and political activist. The session was moderated by Ms. Vilija Vaitkute-Pavan, Head of the Dispute Resolution practice group, partner at Valiunas Ellex law firm, Lithuania.
Beginning his speech, Kasparov stressed that it is important to understand that Russia is not the same page as Putin’s regime and that it is Putin and his followers but not Russia itself that cause international problems. Kasparov admitted that Putin successfully managed to build network of relations with many foreign leaders and that it would be a mistake to think that Putin’s ambitions are only concerning Russia’s internal politics. Kasparov said that after Putin eliminates enemies inside Russia, he will definitely look for enemies elsewhere: “Attacking free world as a whole is inevitable for him. He tries to undermine democracy. Any hopes of improvement of the relations with Putin’s Russia are futile. As long as Putin stays in power, confrontation increases.” Kasparov noted that Putin’s image plays an important role in foreign societies and international community: “Unless Putin’s regime looks weak, and Putin is defeated, the success of opposition is impossible. Soviet retreat from Afghanistan in 1989 sent message to Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic states that the empire is weakening. The same algorithm should work now.”
According to Kasparov, one of the most effective tools of Putin’s regime is Russian propaganda that promotes confrontation and alienation with the West. It creates a picture as if the whole Western world sees Russian as an enemy, Russia needs to prepare for inevitable war and Putin is the best leader for such task, Kasparov said.
The weak spot of the regime, according to Kasparov, is a loss of Russian people’s lives: “Putin’s regime is sensitive for human life losses. Putin always looks for easy targets, where he can win without significant loses. Another such target is probably Belarus.”
Kasparov advises that the first correct move in dealing with a given problem is the realization that Putin poses an existential threat to the free world. The threat of Putin’s regime has to be understood not only in the Baltic States, but also in the rest of the Western world. Despite all the rumours, Kasparov sees no way, that Putin could abuse Trump’s presidency in the US. However, Kasparov thinks, that Trump played a good role of an alarm for Europe: “You can never rely on America only.<…> Europe has to think about new ways of opposing threats.”
Although Kasparov expressed hope of the end of Putin’s regime, he admitted, that most probably regime transition in Russia won’t be peaceful: “Inevitable violence after collapse of Putin’s regime. Such regimes don’t go away without bloodshed. There is even a chance that Russia will not survive in current geographic boundaries. However there is also hope for Russia to join democratic world.”
The sum up of all conference sessions was delivered by Ms. Dovile Sukyte, Policy Analyst, Eastern Europe Studies Centre. Sukyte brought attention towards the necessity to follow values, ethical principles, transparency and respect to the rule of law, which are shared by Western democracies, when addressing Russian propaganda and other hostile actions.
Decisions should be made with strategic consciousness or, in other words, with well-grounded understanding about what and for which purpose the fight happens. Decisions cannot be overshadowed by other, as at that time might seem, bigger threats.
Security consciousness should be used when working with population. Moreover it is crucial to increase public understanding about arising threats, as well as developing skills for societal resilience.
In the events of resilience it should not be forgotten that it is equally important to engage Russian people and to change their view towards the West, which is currently demonized by Russian elites.
Experiences from Belarus and Ukraine reveal importance of the civil society. These countries, especially Ukraine, should not solely be seen as only security consumers, but also as security providers. While the Western community is still looking for ways to counter Russian propaganda, Ukraine with such organizations as StopFake is successfully doing it since 2014. In Belarus, democratic organizations are protecting and promoting national history, culture and even Belarusian language.
While summing up suggested areas where increased military spending should be channelled – stationing more troops, hosting more trainings, developing air defence capabilities, as well as cyber defence, increasing interoperability among security institutions, being open and transparent – Sukyte also brought attention to developing an economic capital. Opposite to popular opinion, it is not only ethnic Russian speaking minorities that are easy to penetrate by Russian propaganda, but also economically vulnerable parts of the society, for example, pensioners. Thus, social and economic disparities have to be addressed.
Final observation by Sukyte included necessity to have a smart and coordinated communication. Upcoming “Zapad 2017” exercises provide the Baltic States with argument when channelling concerns to the NATO Allies. However, it is also in responsibility of the Allies to maintain awareness about security situation in the Baltic region and neighbouring countries. Common position and willingness to support by reacting should be a continuous action, not something developed in the eyes of arising threats.
The conference was closed by Col (ret) Malinionis who thanked everyone who contributed to and attended the event, including the sponsors and partners: NATO, Baltic American Freedom Foundation, Rifleman Union, Colonels Association, Baltic Institute of Advanced Technologies, SAAB, Kongsberg, Valiunas ELlEX, Litak Tak, Light Conversion, Delfi and a team of interns with who’s assistance this Conference made possible.