By Reid Standish & Emily Tamkin @ The Cable @ ForeignPolicy.com, April 11
On Tuesday, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, a sign of just how seriously world leaders are taking Moscow’s attempts at destabilizing Europe.
Since the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine in 2014, things have gotten tense between Moscow and the West: Russian jets have probed Finnish and Swedish airspace; a barrage of Russian disinformation has targeted Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania; and France, Germany, and the United States have all accused the Kremlin of interfering in their domestic politics. It’s part of Russia’s embrace of so-called “hybrid war,” or the use of politics, diplomacy, the media, and cyberspace to destabilize opponents without necessarily having to resort to tanks and artillery.
The combination of military posturing and disinformation has become the backbone of Moscow’s modern day military doctrine as it tries to reassert itself along its borders and beyond. Violations and provocations near borders are meant to test a neighbor’s resolve, while information attacks are meant to inflame internal problems and sow discord. Other operations, such as Russia’s cybermeddling in the U.S. election, were meant to boost Donald Trump, who as a candidate denigrated NATO, the European Union, and the liberal international order.
The pact signed Tuesday is meant to establish a center to deal with those hybrid threats, which are hardly limited to the signatories. France and Germany in particular are concerned about Russian disinformation influencing upcoming elections.
But for Sweden and Finland, Russia’s attempts at destabilization are souring relations. Neither is currently a member of NATO — a throwback to both countries’ histories of military neutrality and complex relations with Moscow. But since the end of the Cold War [......]