Hybrid War: Arctic Front

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Russian Hackers Have Plunged the Global Economy Into Chaos

Russian backed populist movements are creating political upheavals in the US and France. Russian hackers have crippled banks across Europe, and Russian malware has shut down the electricity grids in the US and Germany. To capitalize on this political and economic chaos, Little Green Men are infiltrating arctic territories in Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Norway. You must stop Russia’s latest aggression before Putin turns the Arctic Ocean into a Russian lake.

This game is intended to simulate a Russian attempt to annex the Arctic coastlines of Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Norway. Controlling this coastal territory would give Russia oil rights to most of the Arctic Ocean’s continental shelf. This would be a huge windfall for a nation that is dependent on oil exports. Of course, Canada, Norway, Iceland and Greenland (Denmark) are all NATO members, so Russia would have to go to war with more powerful alliance members like the US, the UK, France and Germany if Russia wanted these territories. The trick for Russia, therefore, would be to find a way to keep the more powerful members of NATO out of the fight.

Today, Russia probably has the tools it needs to sap NATO’s will to fight. Russia could not win in a shooting war with even a subset of NATO members, so the key to victory would be to destroy public support for a war with Russia. Russia could do this by utilizing these strategies:

1) Little Green Men:

The forces invading NATO territory should not identify themselves as Russian soldiers. They may speak Russian and carry Russian weapons, but as long as they claim to be acting independently of Russia, the Kremlin can deny that Russia has committed an act of war against a NATO member. Putin used this strategy to good effect in the Russian annexation of the Crimea. In the Arctic, the Russian soldiers could claim to be environmental activists trying to keep polar waters free of oil drilling. This would limit the amount of direct military support Russia could provide to its invasion force. However, Russia’s military is pretty weak, and would not be much use far beyond Russia’s borders. It would be better to use a light and stealthy invasion force that can infiltrate remote areas and dig in. A skeptical NATO ally could plausibly claim that the well armed environmentalists are not foreign invaders, and getting rid of them is a domestic law enforcement problem for Norway or Canada. In other words, the invasion force has to be just strong enough to defend itself from the Canadians. This is something Russian special forces could definitely pull off.

2) Hackers:

Disabling keep pieces of infrastructure could disrupt the economies of key NATO members, creating financial and political chaos. Banks and power grids are two likely targets. If Russia could cause a country wide blackout in a key NATO ally like Germany, Germany would likely sit out the war. German politicians would use scarce military resources to help keep order in darkened cities and distribute relief supplies. It would be hard to justify sending army diesel generators to the Arctic when there are hospitals in Hamburg that could use them. A blacked out economy would also start to run out of gasoline as electricity intensive oil refineries go offline. Even if the political leadership of Germany wanted to help NATO allies, the Germany military might not have enough gas to sustain military operations. Disruptions to the financial system could be equally devastating. If consumers lost access to their checking accounts and/or businesses lost access to lines of credit, a country’s economy would quickly plunge into recession. An expensive war on behalf of an ally would be a tough call for a politician dealing with the fallout from a banking crisis. As a prelude to any invasion, therefore, Russian hackers would likely shut down power grids and major banks across Europe and North America.

3) Right Wing Populists:

Populist politicians pushing isolationist policies are probably Russia’s best weapon against NATO. Donald Trump may not be a Russian sleeper agent, or a target of Russian blackmail, but he is someone who has questioned America’s commitment to NATO and praised Putin. We have no idea of how the Trump administration would react to a request from Norway for help against Russian invaders. Now imagine if anti-globalization populist politicians take power in Germany or France. Big chunks of the NATO alliance could simply decide to ignore their treaty obligations. Even if Donald and the EuroTrumps decide not to sit out a conflict with Russia, they would be leading deeply divided and damaged nations to war. For instance, President Trump’s feud with America’s intelligence community could deeply damage America’s ability to detect and counter Russian moves. If large numbers of intelligence personnel are fired, or quit in protest, America’s intelligence capabilities would be crippled. A subtler threat would be a collapse in cooperation between NATO intelligence agencies. There is evidence that western intelligence agencies believe that Trump is in contact with Russian intelligence, and that any sensitive information that an ally shares with the US would go straight to Putin’s desk. Consequently, there could be a deep reluctance to share critical intelligence about an impending Russian attack. For example, MI6 might have a spy inside Russia who tips the British off to a pending cyber attack on US banks. The British would probably not tell the US, suspecting that Trump would tell Russia about the spy, and that the British asset would be killed. Better to protect a source that could be useful to the UK in the future than help an ally that may not be an ally.

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