Russia Security Update: December 22, 2015-January 5, 2016
Russia heightened its confrontation with the U.S. and its allies beyond conventional military aggression, conducting information, economic, and possible cyber operations. President Vladimir Putin instituted a new national security strategy outlining Russia’s primary security objectives and threats. Russia accused the U.S. and its partners of conducting multimodal warfare in an effort to contain Russia’s resurgence as a great power, a core objective in its updated strategy. Moscow also suggested that U.S. efforts to compete with Russia provoked the war in eastern Ukraine and allowed ISIS to expand. The accusations in the new strategy represent Russia’s disinformation doctrine of reflexive control, which the Kremlin employs to both disguise itself as a besieged rather than an aggressive actor and to preempt assertive Western military action. Russia escalated economic disputes with Ukraine as Kyiv took a landmark step toward European integration with the January 1 launch of an EU free trade agreement. Ukraine accused Russia of inflicting a major blackout in western Ukraine in an unprecedented cyberattack on December 23. If confirmed, the attack would demonstrate a new Russian asymmetric capability amid an ongoing conflict between the two countries over power supplies to occupied Crimea. Russia continued to drive its confrontation with Turkey with the imposition of additional economic sanctions and the high-profile invitation of a pro-Kurdish Turkish opposition leader to Moscow. Russia meanwhile continued to pursue deeper security integration with its former Soviet allies with newly completed air defense deals and to develop military trade ties with countries beyond the region, including Egypt and India, as a means to project global Russian influence.