Defending the Borderland: Ukrainian Military Experiences with IO, Cyber, and EW

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Army Cyber Institute at West Point

Ukraine is currently experiencing a conflict in two separate regions within its boundaries that challenges traditional conceptions of war, intervention, international law, and peacekeeping. The involvement of foreign military forces, unaffiliated foreign fighters, domestic rebels, irregular military units, and civilians in the conflict it a case study in hybrid warfare. This report seeks to understand the current state of hybrid warfare in Ukraine with a particular emphasis on the use of Information Operations (IO), Electronic Warfare (EW), and Cyber Operations (CO). We examine Ukraine’s technical, training, political-legal, financial, and cultural vulnerabilities and illustrate how Russian and Russian-backed actors have tailored their IO, CO, and EW operations in Ukraine to exploit these vulnerabilities to achieve their strategic objectives. This model of hybrid warfare has affected Ukraine militarily and domestically and has had geopolitical implications within the region and the broader international community. We argue that the conflict in Ukraine serves as a testing ground for a new, more complex and dynamic form of hybrid warfare for which the United States Army and Department of Defense (DoD) must be prepared. Developing a robust and detailed understanding of the conditions that enabled this style of warfare and how Russia has exploited those conditions in Ukraine will serve to inform strategists and decision-makers of the measures that must be taken to prevent or counter future uses.

The context in which hybrid warfare has transpired in Ukraine is important as it forms the starting point for all subsequent findings on the impact of cyber, IO and EW on Ukraine’s military and society. This report focuses on the military impact of hybrid warfare, a future report building on these findings will focus on the societal impact.

Our analysis is based on two weeks of in country meetings conducted with members of the Ukrainian government, military leadership and rank and file, volunteer battalions, members of the academic community, military industrial and commercial sectors as well as civilians. The result is an analytical work that provides an array of insights into many of the technical and societal aspects of a complex conflict.

cyber operations (CO), electronic warfare (EW), information operations (IO)