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



Now that the war in Ukraine has passed six months, US and European officials say Ukraine has successfully used a method of resistance warfare developed by US special operations forces to fight back against Russia and capture its vastly superior military.

The Resistance Operating Concept was developed in 2013 after Russia’s war with Georgia a few years earlier, but its value was not realized until after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. It provides a blueprint for smaller countries to effectively resist. to offer to a larger neighbor that invaded.

The near bloodless takeover and annexation of the occupied territory by Russia stunned Ukraine and the west, intensifying an investigation into how to devise a total defense plan involving not only the military but also the civilian population.

But Putin’s broader war on Ukraine launched in February has been the testing ground.

The doctrine, also known as the ROC, offers an innovative and unconventional approach to warfare and total defense that has not only guided the Ukrainian military but also engaged the country’s civilian population as part of a joint resistance against the Russian military.

“It’s all hands on deck when it comes to the comprehensive defense of Ukraine’s government,” said retired Lieutenant General Mark Schwartz, who served as commander of Special Operations Command Europe while developing the doctrine. “They use all means and they also use some very unconventional means to disrupt the army of the Russian Federation.”

Outnumbered, over-armed and manned, Ukraine has nevertheless fought back against a Russian army that thought it would romp through the vast majority of the country within weeks, if not days.

“This is one way to turn the tables for a first world power,” said Schwartz. “It’s just incredible to see that despite the incredible loss of life and sacrifice, 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 resistance concept, sees signs of its use.

“Because you can’t do it conventionally, you would use special operations forces, and those… [forces] would need resistance support – intelligence, resources, logistics – to access these regions.

A Ukrainian government report shared with CNN acknowledged that Ukraine was behind the attacks on Russian bases and an ammunition depot. The attacks, far behind enemy lines, were beyond the range of the weapons the US and others have publicly sent to Ukraine, and videos of the explosions appeared to show no incoming missile or drone. Russia blamed sabotage or detonation of ammunition for the explosions.

“High probability would say very likely that” [the ROC] principles now play out in actual warfare,” Stringer said.

In early April, General Richard Clarke, the commander of the US Special Operations Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the US had spent the past 18 months helping train resistance companies in Ukraine that were embedded with special forces. When asked if he saw any of that training’s success in the current conflict, Clarke was direct in his response.

“Yes, Senator, we are.”

Early in the conflict, the Ukrainian government created a website that explains different ways to resist. The site describes ways to use nonviolent actions, including boycotting public events, labor strikes, and even using humor and satire. The aim is to disrupt the pro-Russian authorities’ ability to govern while reminding the population of Ukraine’s rightful sovereignty. The resistance doctrine also suggests violent actions, including using Molotov cocktails, deliberately starting fires, and placing chemicals in gas tanks to sabotage enemy vehicles.

Civilians participate in military training conducted by a Christian Territorial Defense Unit in Kiev, Ukraine, on February 19, 2022.

The doctrine also calls for a broad messaging campaign to control the narrative of the conflict, prevent an occupier’s message from catching on, and keep the population united. Videos of Ukrainian attacks on Russian tanks, often with pop or heavy metal soundtracks, have gone viral, as have clips of Ukrainian soldiers rescuing stray animals. Whether intentionally or not, it is becoming part of the resistance, allowing Ukraine to frame headlines in Western media in their favor and often humanize Ukrainian military personnel in ways that the Russian military has definitely not done.

At the forefront of the resistance is Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, who has not let the conflict fade from view with nightly speeches and frequent international appearances. His visits near the front lines make headlines worldwide, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is rarely seen outside the Kremlin or the seaside town of Sochi.

The ongoing barrage of messages has sparked a tidal wave of overseas support and has successfully escalated Western governments to supply more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.

In general, the concept of resistance provides a framework for increasing a country’s resilience, namely the ability to withstand external pressure, and planning resistance, defined as an attempt by the entire country to assert sovereignty in occupied territories. to recover.

“Resilience is the strength of society in peacetime resisting the aggressor in wartime,” explains Dalia Bankauskaite, a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis who has studied resistance planning in Lithuania.

Rather than giving each country the same set of plans, the doctrine is designed to be tailored to each country’s population, capabilities, and terrain. It is not intended to create or support an insurrection; its goal is to create a government-sanctioned force that will conduct activities against a foreign occupier with the aim of restoring sovereignty.

Initially, only Estonia, Lithuania and Poland were really enthusiastic about the new doctrine. But after Russia’s near-bloodless takeover and annexation of Crimea in 2014 stunned Ukraine and the west, interest in the resistance method grew rapidly.

Latvian Zemessardze, or National Guard, soldiers prepare to attack during a small unit tactics exercise in June 2020 during the implementation of the Resistance Operation Concept with NATO allies and partners near Iecava, Latvia.

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

In mid-November, when the Biden administration sounded the first public warnings about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hungary organized a conference on the Resistance Operating Concept. The commander of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces was at the conference, Kirschmann told CNN, as well as nearly a dozen other countries.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has only increased interest in the concept.

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

In May, nearly three months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Lithuanian parliament adopted a new strategy for civilian resistance that is much broader than strict resistance to the occupation.

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

The existence of the resistance doctrine and parts of the planning surrounding resistance is deliberately public, Stringer explained, intended as a deterrent to a potential attack, one focused more on Russia’s favored hybrid warfare rather than traditional military and nuclear deterrence. But the details of the plans and organization within a country are closely monitored.

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

“There is no other option for every Estonian,” said Rene Toomse, a spokesman for the voluntary Estonian Defense League. “Either you fight for independence if someone attacks you – if Russia attacks you – or you just die.”

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

Estonian officials have been studying the war in Ukraine to learn lessons about what has worked well against Russia and where Ukraine’s resistance could improve. Toomse says Estonians remember the Soviet government well, and those too young to remember are taught in school.

Ukraine has excelled in winning the information campaign, Toomse emphasizes, using media reports across multiple platforms, a president who has become an articulate international figure, and a steady stream of information about how well Ukrainian troops are fighting, “even if they don’t. emphasize their own losses.”

But Toomse insists that, if faced with an invasion, Estonia would be more active in any occupied territory, using small, well-armed and well-trained units. “I imagine we can do a lot more damage behind enemy lines than Ukraine has done,” Toomse said. “The entire logistics, all convoys, will be under constant attack.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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