Russia is building more multi-purpose forces near Ukraine (including moving amphibious assault ships from the Mediterranean through the Dardanelles and to Ukraine’s Black Sea coast) while diplomatic efforts to reduce tension are continuing. Belarus continues to emerge inasmuch as milestone for Russian conventional forces. However, no new large-scale cyber activity is reported.
The state of diplomacy vis-à-vis Russia and Ukraine.
The New York Times Comments the current state of multilateral negotiations and sees, if not deadlock, at least stasis. His analysis foresees “long and dangerous diplomatic work towards a difficult settlement.”
The Guardian reports that French President Macron said Russian President Putin gave him a personal assurance that Russia would not be the one to escalate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. President Macron conveyed this assurance to his Ukrainian counterpart, President Zelensky, during talks yesterday in Kyiv. Zelensky, who has bother at minimize impending Russian invasion while bracing for the worst, was politely skeptical, saying, “I don’t really trust words. I believe that every politician can be transparent by taking concrete action.”
Macron’s view is that the Minsk agreements represent the best way out of the conflict, and Russia has indeed stressed that it wants Ukraine to continue to accept this agreement. But the Russian and Ukrainian parties differ on the exact meaning of these agreements. Russia insists on demanding that Kiev recognize the Donbass separatists, which Ukraine is not ready to do. President Putin’s remark about the Accords, directed at Zelensky, is oddly threatening, at least in its translation: “Whether you like it or not, you’ll have to put up with it, my beauty.”
The official Russian comment on French claims that Moscow had agreed not to undertake new “military initiatives” was equally dismissive. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This is fundamentally wrong. Moscow and Paris could not conclude any agreement. It’s just not possible. France is a leading country in the EU, France is a member of NATO, but Paris is not a leader there. In this block, a very different country is in charge. So, what offers can we talk about? »
Poland sets up a cyber defense force.
The AP reports that Poland has appointed Brigadier General Karol Molenda to lead the country’s new cyber defense force. Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak called the new command a defensive measure taken in recognition, in particular, of cyber threats from Russia. “We are fully aware that in the 21st century, cyberattacks have become one of the tools of an aggressive policy, also used by our neighbour. For this reason, these capabilities are of a fundamental and essential nature for the Polish Armed Forces.
Report: European Central Bank prepares banks for Russian cyberattacks.
Reuters cited unnamed sources who claim that the European Central Bank (ECB) has raised its cyber attack alert level and shifted its focus from common financially motivated cybercrime to the prospect of state-directed attacks from Russia. The ECB is said to have asked banks about their ability to withstand such attacks and whether individual banks are conducting drills to improve their own preparedness. The measures appear to be driven more by prudential considerations regarding Russia’s continuing threat to Ukraine and by Russia’s record of offensive actions in cyberspace than by specific intelligence about a particular imminent threat.
Prepare for cyberattacks.
The United States has been exceptionally open with the intelligence it has gathered about Russia’s cyber capabilities and operations. Disclosures are generally considered to have undeniable utility as influence operations, but POLITICO said that some members of the US intelligence community believe too much may have been shared. There are also concerns that the releases could be unduly alarmist, especially when taken collectively and without further context. POLITICO quotes a former CIA officer: “I am concerned about the long-term credibility of our intelligence with all these selective declassifications. If this turns out to be false, or partially false, it undermines our partners’ confidence in the information we give them, or, frankly, the public’s confidence in it.
Other observers believe that simple deterrence is likely to prevent Russia from escalating its hybrid warfare in cyberspace. A editorial in the Telegraph, for example, argues that Russia understands British (and American) offensive cyber capabilities and that its calculation will tell them that a broader cyberwar is one Moscow is unlikely to win.
Task and objective Comments potential cyber threats from Russia and concludes that none of them amount to “shock and awe”. It reviews five major cyber campaigns Russia has mounted against Ukraine (widely seen as a testing ground as well as a theater of operations) since 2014.—Election Interference (2014), Power Grid Sabotage (2015), Power Grid Sabotage (2016), NotPetya Economic Disruption (2017), and BadRabbit Economic Disruption (2017) — and rates the strategic effects of all but NotPetya as “negligible.” (NotPetya’s effect is listed as “unknown.”) These are, of course, all real attacks. There are other potential threats, in particular large-scale and destructive attacks on power grids, the consequences of which could be far more devastating than these. But the essay’s narrative of using cyberattack as a tactical complement to military operations is interesting.
Near Abroad NATO members look at the calendar and see 1939.
After Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks published a long statement presenting Russian pressure on Ukraine as analogous to German pressure on its neighbors in 1939, and strongly urging appeasement, Lithuania drew a similar comparison. The Guardian quote Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said: “It is a moment of 1938 for our generation. Neutrality helps the oppressor and never the victim. It is particularly concerned about the role that Belarus has assumed in the dispute.
“After the August 2020 elections and protests in Belarus, Lukashenko has no options on what he can do,” she said. “He used to flirt with the EU, freeing prisoners for money. He played this double strategy, but he can’t do it anymore. Nobody considers him legitimate in Belarus. He needs money and help from Russia to survive. He is dependent on them.
“This current build-up of Russian forces in Belarus is not planned. There was a Russian military exercise in 2021. If these military exercises mean that weapons and troops will remain on Belarusian soil indefinitely, that changes the calculations significantly.
“It will mean an increase in NATO’s presence, and it would not be a provocation, as Moscow claims, but a reaction to what has changed on NATO’s borders. It is now an area full of weapons. Russian troops in the south of his country can be moved very quickly. There are sort of hybrid attacks going on. Collapsed pipelines. Unfortunately, that is how these diets work. There are no red lines they won’t cross.