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The Russian Influence Strategy in Its Contested Neighbourhood

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The Russian Federation in Global Knowledge Warfare


The collapse of the Soviet Union has been followed by a series of conflicts between the Russian Federation and its neighbours. Although some of these conflicts have been fought at the kinetic level, they were justified by Moscow through information warfare activities and supported by influence operations. This chapter, which includes an extensive survey of the literature on the topic, aims to investigate the hybrid warfare strategy carried out by the Russian Federation in its “sphere of influence” over the last three decades—the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), Ukraine (Crimea and Donbass, i.e., Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics), Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and Moldova (Transnistria)—and to assess the effectiveness of the Russian (dis)information strategy. The essay focuses on the nationalist discourse and the pro-Russia narrative.

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  1. 1.

    regular army is the official army of a state or country (the official armed forces).

  2. 2.

    A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of (or allow plausible denial by) the sponsor and intended to create a political effect which can have implications in the military, intelligence or law enforcement arenas — affecting either the internal population of a country or individuals outside it.

  3. 3.

    For a broad survey of information warfare literature, see, inter alia, Merrick et al. (2016).

  4. 4.

    See, e.g., Department of Defense, Joint Publication (JP) 1-02, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, JP 3-0 on Joint Operations, JP 3-12 on Cyberspace Operations, JP 3-13 on Information Operations, JP 3-13.1 on Electronic Warfare, JP 3-13.2 on Military Information Support Operations,  JP 3-13.3 on Operations Security, JP 3-13.4 on Military Deception, JP 3-58 on MILDEC, JP 3-61 on Public Affairs and JP 5-0 on Joint Planning.

  5. 5.

    For a wide review of the literature on influence operations and techniques (propaganda, PSYOP, IW, etc.), see Cordey (2019).

  6. 6.

    For a definition of grey zone warfare, see Theohary (2018, 4).

  7. 7.

    UN General Assembly, Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, A/RES/53/70, 4 December 1998.

  8. 8.

    For a meaningful list of information operations, see Schreier (2015), 19–23.

  9. 9.

    For a definition of disinformation and misinformation, see Theohary (2018, 4), Arold (2016, 25–26).

  10. 10.

    For a discussion on the IIO Russian strategy, concepts and doctrine, see Arold (2016).

  11. 11.

    For a discussion on hybrid warfare Russian strategy, concepts and doctrine, see Renz and Smith (2016).

  12. 12.

    The collective volume The Crisis in Ukraine and Information Operations of the Russian Federation, edited in 2016 by Sazonov et al. provides a wide-ranging discussion on the attempts of the RF to control the neighbouring territories and analyses the information warfare and hybrid war in the context of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict.

  13. 13.

    For a discussion on the direct impact of nationalism on the likelihood of disputes, see Ciorciari and Chen Weiss (2016).


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The author gratefully acknowledges the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal, for supporting this work through grant SFRH/BD/136170/2018.

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Correspondence to Marco Marsili .

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Marsili, M. (2021). The Russian Influence Strategy in Its Contested Neighbourhood. In: Mölder, H., Sazonov, V., Chochia, A., Kerikmäe, T. (eds) The Russian Federation in Global Knowledge Warfare. Contributions to International Relations. Springer, Cham.

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