I don't buy this whole "hybrid warfare" craze that so many defense analysts have embraced as some type of new warfare unveiled in the seizure of Crimea:
Putin has become notorious for using “little green men” — Russian intelligence operatives and Spetsnaz (special forces) in civilian clothing — to infiltrate Ukrainian territory and start an uprising among the Russian-speaking population. And it worked: Russia annexed Crimea and has gained de facto control over much of eastern Ukraine. This tactic of undertaking barely disguised aggression has become known as “hybrid warfare,” and it has consistently left the West wrong-footed because Putin is careful to avoid crossing the normal red lines.
Putin has not avoided crossing normal red lines. His possession of Ukraine's Crimea and portions of the Donbas shows that.
And it was achieved against a Ukraine completely unprepared to resist. The same approach would have failed against the second largest army in Europe right now:
After a two-year crash course to rebuild its military, Ukraine has increased its active-duty ranks from 150,000 to 250,000 troops. ...
Ukraine’s military strength, however, lies in the size of its army, and the quantity of military hardware at its disposal.
Ukraine, for example, currently operates more than 2,800 tanks—compared with 423 in France, 407 in the U.K., and 408 in Germany.
And Ukraine’s arsenal comprises 625 multiple launch rocket systems—compared with 44 in France, 42 in the U.K., and Germany’s 50.
Somehow, those "indigenous" rebels in the Donbas are armed to the teeth and amazingly organized for conventional warfare:
According to Ukrainian military reports, combined Russian-separatist forces in the Donbas now wield about 700 tanks, 1,200 armored vehicles, 1,000 pieces of artillery, and 300 multiple launch rocket systems.
All Putin has done is deny that he invaded anyone.
And that hacking Russia is no doubt doing is just old-fashioned Russian disinformation operations with the advantage of the Internet that makes it harder to prove in a court of law that Russia is responsible.
But we know Putin invaded Ukraine. It doesn't matter that Putin has denied it. If we wanted to, we could have reacted far more vigorously than we have to help Ukraine fight and regain their territory.
After all, there are few limits to the ability to get away with a denial of aggression when you consider that China denied fighting the American-led United Nations alliance in the Korean War.
China didn't send in the People's Liberation Army. No, China sent in the People's Volunteer Army, which had nothing at all to do with China. Just a bunch of heavily armed Chinese men with a deep affection for North Korea.
Three million Chinese troops and civilians (I won't dare call them "little yellow men") served in that "volunteer" army before the war ended.
That fiction didn't prevent America and our allies from waging war on China on the Korean peninsula. We just called it a "police action."
We met fiction with fiction.
Perhaps we should organize an effort to help Ukraine wage a "police action" against the separatists in Donbas--that Russia claims they have nothing to do with--in order to reclaim their lost territories.
And help Ukraine build up mine warfare and long-range missiles to put the Sevastopol base are in danger.
Good Lord people, Russian "hybrid warfare" is just Russian aggression that we pretend isn't happening. Sadly, there's nothing new or novel about that.
As for the battle for hearts and minds? Well, Boot has a point that if Russia is going to wage cyber-war on the West on Putin's theory that the West has been waging a war on autocracy in the Russian corner of the world, the West should actually wage that war and show him the difference between what Putin thought was war by other means and actual war by other means.
UPDATE: It shouldn't take more than two years to conclude the obvious by gathering proof only needed in a courtroom:
Russian howitzers and rocket launchers regularly pounded Ukrainian positions across the border in the early stages of the war in eastern Ukraine, according to an analysis of hundreds of attack sites published Wednesday by the open source investigative group Bellingcat.
The 43-page report adds to the pile of evidence suggesting the still-smoldering conflict pitting the Ukrainian government against separatist forces in eastern Ukraine was stage-managed from Moscow — a charge the Kremlin has denied.
Russia has invaded and occupied Ukrainian territory. Russian denials should have been laughed away long ago and met with Western efforts to help Ukraine send Russian soldiers back to their Motherland in body bags.