We go about our lives as hybrid warfare methods target the very fabric of society, making people paranoid and hostile to each other, weakening society before a potential military strike of the enemy.

From cyberattacks to terror attacks

Hybrid warfare takes on many forms: cyberattacks, arson, psychological warfare, terror attacks, weaponizing migration, and weaponizing farmers against Ukraine. The list of Russian hybrid warfare tactics is long and, unfortunately, expanding every day. Something which seems harmless today might turn out to be a part of a Russian hybrid warfare operation tomorrow. It’s the war on our Western minds aiming to make us paranoid, hostile and unwilling to defend our countries against Russian attacks. It is meant to make us suspicious of one another and tired of the war in Ukraine, which will lead to demanding negotiations with Vladimir Putin.

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Hybrid warfare can affect us all

We’re all targets of hybrid warfare. We all need to pay attention to what’s going on around us much more than before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. We need to do background checks on people we want to do business with or enter into a relationship with. We’re all at risk of being used as props in a Russian intelligence game if we aren’t careful. Mind you, careful doesn’t mean paranoid.

Financially desperate people are being recruited by Russian security services to take part in surveillance operations.

The gig economy is a dream come true for Russian intelligence

More Than 80 Ukrainian Drones Target Russia in Nighttime Assault
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More Than 80 Ukrainian Drones Target Russia in Nighttime Assault

70 out of 80 Ukrainian drones were reportedly shot down over the Rostov region, just across the Kerch Strait from Ukraine and home to a swathe of Russian military facilities.

There isn’t a more conducive environment to recruiting potential spies, stooges and operatives than the gig economy, coupled with a steady stream of refugees from war-torn countries, desperate to earn money just to survive. People who won’t question the background of a potential recruiter. People who just need the money, regardless of its source. 

Financially desperate people are being recruited by Russian security services to take part in surveillance operations, such as taking pictures of critical infrastructure, train tracks and airports vital for the Ukrainian war effort. Some likely know that they are taking part in a Russian intelligence operation – a Pole speaking with a heavy Russian accent is obviously not who he says he is - but eating is more important than lofty notions of patriotism or honor.

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Indeed, one can be pulled into the web of Russian intelligence mind games without having any awareness of it.

A job offer too good to be true

We have all sent out resumes at some point of our lives, voluntarily listing a lot of information about us. A Russian intelligence operative can easily tailor a dream job for us. All it takes then is one phone call and an invitation for a job interview. Before you know it, you’re working for a company that is a front for a Russian intelligence operation. Even when caught, you won’t be able to divulge useful information because you were just a stooge. Russian operatives are likely using front men, so you won’t even know who was really in control. You go to prison, are branded a traitor, while Russians press ahead with their intelligence operations by targeting another easily impressed individual. Your life is ruined. The cruel joke’s on you.

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VIPs are always at risk

It’s no secret that people with access to the media and government officials are at a particular risk of being approached and recruited. While VIPs are extra careful who they let into their social circle, there are easy ways a Russian intelligence operative can gain access to a prominent journalist, politician or judge without making it look suspicious. Maybe there is a trusted go-between who introduces the VIP to the Russian intelligence operative? The intermediary likely doesn’t know he or she has been pulled into the Russian game.

At a time when Ukraine is facing a critical moment in its fight for survival, we can’t let Russian propagandists have the final say.

Dumb, delusional or just a paid puppet?

Case in point, a Polish judge-turned-traitor, Tomasz Szmydt. He has recently defected to Belarus. The former judge had access to secret NATO documents. His motivations are up to the Polish secret services to figure out, but it’s likely that he is either not very bright and believes Russian and Belarusian propaganda, or delusional and has a romanticized vision of Russia or the east in general, or he is a paid puppet of the Russian or Belarusian regime. A woman could be involved as well, maybe even blackmail. In the US, several conservative politicians turned out to have a penchant for women’s clothing. Russians don’t need to resort to torture or even bribes when they get their hands on incriminating material. 

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It’s possible that Tomasz Szmydt was used as a puppet of Russian and Belarusian security services to gauge the reaction of Polish intelligence agencies to his defection. That way, Russian and Belarusian intelligence agencies can come up with a better strategy to evade Polish secret services in the future.

Sadly, useful idiots abound and Russian-regime-aligned intelligence agencies happily exploit these people to humiliate Western-aligned nations.

Another example is Tucker Carlson. The fact Russia has turned a man with one of the biggest platforms in the world what could be best described as their puppet is a disconcerting example of hybrid warfare against the West.

Trying to shut down Carlson would turn him into a digital martyr and would only galvanize his followers into showing support for Russia. Right now, it seems, the Russian strategy of using one of the most notorious American journalists against the West is working.

At a time when Ukraine is facing a critical moment in its fight for survival, we can’t let Russian propagandists have the final say.

Method in the apparent madness

We need to understand that what Russia is doing might seem chaotic, but its hybrid warfare strategy works on several seemingly unconnected levels – such as propaganda, terrorist cells and even diplomats at the UN who peddle the same nonsense as Russian propagandists. It’s a united front against the West. Against us.

The fact we’re sometimes encouraged not to take Russia seriously as an enemy is, to me, yet another example of Russian hybrid warfare sometimes carried out by those who mean well and support Ukraine but have, unwittingly, been entangled in the web of Russian psyops. Even a novice military strategist knows that underestimating the enemy can lead to catastrophic consequences and losing the war.

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Profoundly perplexing politicians

In order to effectively counter the Russian hybrid threat, we mustn’t be paranoid and see Russian spies everywhere because then we play right into Russian hands. Western government officials informing Russia about Western red lines and intentions is profoundly perplexing. I don’t understand why Western government officials are so transparent with Russia when the name of the game must be strategy, stealth and surprise. Russians are cunning and underestimating them only serves Russian interests. If we want to win, we need to start getting unpredictable.

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