Chris Bryant MP: Hello, I am Chris Bryant. I think the reason I am here to chair this is not because I am an MP for Rhonda but because I am Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia and I have been involved in these sort of issues for quite a considerable time. My interest further started (inaudible). I remember the BBC had a “How to learn Russian” program many years ago called ‘Do svidania, leto’, which I think means ‘good-bye summer’. And that is when I learnt my 25 words Russian. Though I also remember during Soviet time going to Leningrad in fact as it then was and going to the opera and we went to see an opera. We were not quite sure what it was because I could not read Cyrillic at the time and for some strange reason we managed to get in to some sort of a royal box and half way through we realized that it was Pique Dame by Tchaikovsky. Because there is moment when he shouts out ‘Pravda, Pravda, Pravda!’ so I knew he was a newspaper salesman. Anyway, we are in the Palmerston Room. I am not sure if that is particularly important.
Bob Seely MP: Actually, Palmerston refers to the first Cold War with the Russians from 1870 to 1900 as a Cold Severity.
Chris Bryant MP: So there we are. That is why we are in this room. I have known Bob for long. Bob and I are both on Foreign Affairs Committee but I think it is fair to say that from the moment that he has arrived in this Parliament not too many months ago he has made a very distinct impact and has shown that expertise in a particular issue is one of the most important things that an individual MP can bring to bear. And although sometimes we think that MPs are primarily there just to represent the interest of their specific constituency and obviously that is an important part of your job, actually having expertise on something which might have absolutely nothing to do with your constituency but has something to do with a nation and to do with international affairs is just an important. So I do not think that Bob needs any further introduction from me. Bob, I will introduce Mark a bit later. But over to Bob.
Bob Seely MP: Chris, thank you very much indeed. Can I just say that Chris has been in many ways people who I admire most, people who have not been hostile to the Russians but actually have been aware of the issues with the Russian state in this country. And people I hold in great respect and there are not that many of them. But one of them is Chris and the other one is Ben Bradshaw and indeed … and they are all Labour. They have done a fantastic work over the years and I congratulate them and admire Chris very much for the work that he has been doing on this for many years. That’s the first one. Secondly, for those of you who have not read the report I have got about 15 copies here which you can share around and it might be that I just hand a few out to people who want them because there is a chart in them that I am going to make a reference to so maybe if we just hand them down and try to maybe use one between three or so. My apologies. But you can also, if you haven’t seen the report, go to Henry Jackson Society website and go on publications. So Henry Jackson website, go on publications, the report is there. And you will be able to (inaudible) but you can follow because I made the reference to it. I will talk to you until I run out of steam which is probably going to be 10 and 20 minutes and then over to Mark who has got a very well-reviewed book coming out and he is one of the people who have peer-reviewed this work. I hope it is good. I am reasonably proud of it but one of the reasons I am actually proud of it is because the people who have reviewed it are people are admire very much which is Edward Lucas and Mark Galeotti. So again, I feel I am in a very privileged company. The purpose of, I am just going to run through what I am going to say in about 90 seconds or two minutes, and then I will expand a bit more. I am providing today a definition of what I call a contemporary Russian conflict. I am doing so because there isn’t really one. People have done bits and pieces but I do not think that there is actually a definition of contemporary Russian conflict and we need one. Just like any problem or project we need to know what we are dealing with in order to be able to deal with it, be it an illness, be it a project, and etc. This is about understanding. The Russian Embassy was saying ‘God, you are paranoid in your scaremongering, and you are just being nasty’. Actually, I had a bit of a twitter storm, or more a twitter spat and I said that actually almost all of this stuff is based on a) your non-military doctrine b) your national security doctrine c) your foreign policy concept d) your information security doctrine e) President Putin’s speeches on myagkaya sila, soft power f) Chief of Staff Gerasimov’s …. sequencing. So actually, this is Russian content but I am ordering and filling in some of the gaps. So this is not me who is ranting and raving about how awful the Russians are but this is me taking the Russian doctrine from the Russian language and making it available in English and trying to explain it to us. So if the Russian Embassy or anybody else want to criticize me for being a scaremonger I would actually say go and read Russian doctrine because that is what I have been doing and that is where it actually comes from. That is the first point. So this is understanding and not particularly (inaudible) with the Russkies. Second, the purpose everything I do regarding Russia is to avoid making a bad situation worse and ultimately avoiding conflict with Russia, which will be a catastrophe for mankind and absolutely for us. Thirdly, this is not an endless criticism of the Russian people – it is probably some more critical of the Kremlin but actually I am afraid to say I think we have a pretty good reason to be critical of the Kremlin. So what am I going to say? The key points that I am going to make in the next 15-20 minutes are these: contemporary Russian warfare is a multifaceted form of conflict and it uses dozens of tools. And basically the tool is something which is used as part of the great whole instrument full of purpose. I provide what I hope on page 8 and page 1 with a schematic is a comprehensive and concise definition of what this is and I provide that up into 7 areas. 6 basic areas and then a command-control at the heart of it because that is critical as well. Second point, contemporary Russian conflict it is not primarily a military art because it uses power of a state. It is a strategic art and not voennoe isskustvo but a strategic art and there is a difference. It operates at a strategic level and not a military level or even not operation level. The reason why I say contemporary Russian conflict is because I did not actually want to call it a hybrid war. I did not want to give it a tagline or a name. I wanted to call it something mutual so one can investigate what it is. Most of the information comes from the Russians themselves. Military doctrine – four iterations, Russian security – one iteration, foreign policy concept – a couple of iterations, 2 iterations of the information security concept, several articles by President Putin, and a big and important work by Gerasimov. I do not believe the Gerasimov doctrine which I know Mark would also articulate but actually there is really important stuff there nevertheless. And most of the overlooked things in there is the sequencing model which is a piece of detective work that links Russian warfare now with the gold KGB active measures warfare in the Cold War. That is one of my key arguments that what we have is political warfare at its heart around which there is this matryoshka doll of full spectrum defence. Hybrid war can be seen as an entity in its own right so when we talk about hybrid war, yes, that’s some of the tools in the full spectrum but it is unhealthy in my opinion to see hybrid war, covert war, grey-zone war, call it what you will, as a separate entity in its own right. Because it is not a separate entity. It is a subset of Russia’s full spectrum war.
Next we have pointed, it is a highly political form of war. It is Clausewitzian. Again I know this is a point that Mark makes and I think I probably quote him, reference him in a longer document. I am not sure I do in this one, I apologise. But I also believe it is very Clausewitzian in a sense a) it is a traditional version of warfare – you are compelling others to do your will but you are linking your tools and your techniques very closely with the ability to achieve political affair. A very basic example, there was a proxy war in Moldova back in 1990, there was violence in a place called Bendary, there was a violence in a place called Tiraspol. I remember being there as one of the first slightly scary wars I went to as a young reporter and then about 6 months later when the Moldovans were determined to pull out of the CIS, the Commonwealth of the Independent States, they suddenly found tariffs on anything that they produced (inaudible) and they were effectively faced with economic ruin. And about 6 weeks after the initial threat they signed the CIS treaty. So actually that was a very efficient use of state power. Why invade the country, I mean you already started a proxy war, you already seized a little ground, called Transnistria which is on the right side of the Dniester but if you wanted to keep the rest of Moldova in the CIS you did it by economic threats. So that is an example of a highly political element.
Right, moving out. Bigger picture stuff. The definition and framework covers Russia but actually it is broadly applicable to a lot of states and it is especially applicable in my opinion to other states like Iran and China that have a revolutionary tradition but are also engaged in this form of covert operations and cover war. And in Australia where there is (inaudible) Australian politicians, where there is lots of stuff going on with Chinese influence a lot of these tools can be seen here at play as well. So it is as applicable to China but actually Russia is the master of this and you know, to give them a credit, what Russia has invented is at least a generation or two ahead of anything what West comes up with. There is a lot of things that we could not do legally and we shouldn’t do morally here as well, but it is a highly advanced and an extraordinary creative form of warfare and in many ways it is similar, I throw back slightly in history here back to the 1920s where Russia was very poor economically and quite unstable but at the same time it was very ideologically adventurous and it was very politically dynamic. And in some ways, you could see that Russia is very politically dynamic at the moment and it makes use of speed and surprise and integration of all these effects in order to achieve and it only has to defeat the West or NATO or get its way in very small areas around its border in Syria. And yet it can create a great sense of achievement by doing that. It doesn’t have to take on the United States across the border in a way that it did 10-20 years ago. So, framework is from Russia. But we can use it with China and Iran and elsewhere. I think it is genuinely helpful because it reminds us of different facets. We could add to that. So Mark who is probably the world’s expert on Russian criminality he would probably say well you need criminality into my little schematic. But the problem is you then have a doubling effect. So you have criminality already in the economic element, you have criminality in a political warfare. And as Mark was reminding a minute ago, you have criminality in a military as well because some of the people who were doing the fighting in Donetsk and Lugansk are effectively hoods, who work for the local mafia structures who can provide muscle either on the front lines where they have been killed off in the last 3 years or to keep internal security. So I haven’t chosen for example to have criminality. Humanitarian aid is another one. But again, unless humanitarian aid, you could fit it into element which deals with hard power because humanitarian aid probably in Eastern Ukraine all those white trucks that have been coming in over the past 4 years were actually bringing in weapons and they were probably taking out machinery and equipment. So you had two forms, another two tools. You have humanitarian use of, humanitarian behaviour as a cover for supplying weaponry to your proxy forces as a tool. And you had a second tool in a sense of humanitarian aid and all these trucks being used for asset seizure on the way back and actually removing these assets from Eastern Ukraine and taking them back to Russia.
The final broad point is that this definition of full spectrum conflict, contemporary Russian conflict, is helpful to understand the nature of power now and how that power is exercised in a modern world. Because if you believe people like Dima Adamsky who is I think one of the living academics in understanding Russian military theory he would say the centre of gravity for the understanding of modern warfare, specifically modern Russian warfare is perception management. And if I can change your perception on something that is the victory of swords for me as well. And the reason why this is so important is because of two things – we live in a world which is connected and interconnected as never before – that is the first point. The IPhone is probably the most efficient and extraordinary weapon of war we have had invented in the last 20 or 30 years. It is a range finder, it is an intelligence collection tool, it is a vacation finder, it is a secure comms so it can do lots of extraordinary things. I can probably double or triple the number if I had another 30 second to think about it. Also we have equal levels of political engagement than ever before in history. And that is one of the reasons why the Russians are playing this game with bots and playing this game with crowd-sourced information because they want to play in that space of their revolution’s (inaudible) to be popular. So for example, they would try to do crowd-source targeting, I do not know if I have this paper here, it is so small – if you can type in http://militarymaps.info – this was a so called crowd-source targeting Facebook website that the Russians have been using from 2014 to 2015 either to track Ukrainian kit or to give the appearance of tracking Ukrainian kit. Now what is interesting and I worked on the ISIS campaign until last May when I quitted the Army and I spent a quarter of my timing in Irbil and there were similar sites but genuine sites and real sites run by ISIS’ opponents that were doing information collection, crowd-source information collection and what we found is the BDA, the Battle Damage Assessment was coming in quicker from Facebook than it was from our own drones. The problem was that ISIS found all these people and killed them, which is not so good, clearly. So crowd-sourcing very important.
Right, that is my background. I am just going to go and make a few other general points and I am going to stop in about 5 or 10 minutes so that Mark can talk for good 5-10 minutes even more because he is incredibly eloquent. Behind some of these concepts – asymmetry. Asymmetry is important. If you are a Western soldier asymmetry was something what has been done to you in Iraq. You were blown up by a bloke, there is no weapon, he had a Kalashnikov, a pair of flip flops, he knew how to make an improvised explosive device and he was invisible only because he seems to drop his weapon, or she, but basically that was a “he”. You could not do anything about it. Asymmetry to Russia is something very different. They see asymmetry as something that was done to them, they see Russia being a target of all this horrible Western information war. However, they are also doing it to us. And they are doing this in two ways and this is critically important to understand. They see asymmetry as a tool in terms of conventional warfare. Why bother building a 5th generation fighter plane when for a hundred of a cost you can build the air defence kit to shoot it down. Now that is a form of asymmetry. The air defence 400 kit that they have in Kaliningrad and in Syria – that can pretty much close elements of the Baltic and Middle Eastern airspace to Western flights, and is a form of conventional asymmetry. We then go on to unconventional asymmetry, which is the political warfare, the information warfare, the disinformation and similar stuff. Another quick point I would like to raise. The sequencing framework. In many ways I am slightly proud of this. Because this was a good bit of detective work. If you go back to the old KGB form of, what is it called, active measures, the old active measures warfare, charter page 14, if you listen to somebody like Yuri Bezmenov who was a 1960s defector. He worked as a KGB agent in India. And India, actually, in the 1960s and 70s sort of worked a bit like the internet does now. If you wanted to get out a forgery or if you wanted to get out some, create a bit of fake news you now do it on internet. Back then you did it by the Indian media because it was free, it was very rumbustious and the Communist Party could only use newspapers. So a lot of the Soviets’ most famous forgeries came out via India. That is not to slam Indians and the Indian media but because it was free and because it was actually quite a good place to push it out, because it was in a non-aligned state etc, etc. So Yuri Bezmenov, he worked there. He then dressed up as a hippie and defected, and he spent about 6 months on a hippie trail and then got to Greece and got to Canada. His theory, and I have not yet found anybody who challenged this and I think it is true that the KGB active measures warfare, which was disinformation, smears, propaganda, espionage, use of forgeries, assassinations, not as many as nowadays sadly – this was a 4-phase operation. Phase 1- demoralise. This could be generational. In fact, if you remember Khrushev, once the likelihood of war was … away, the ideological struggle will be increased. And that was to demoralise and destroy the West’s ability to defend itself over generations. So the first phase – demoralise. Then you have destabilise, which may last anything from a few weeks to a couple of years and actively try to get society to fight and to undermine and you have got people out on the streets fighting each other. Then you breed the crisis and then you re-normalise. And actually, if you look at Crimea. Crimea was a textbook active measures operation. You had 20 years of demoralising. You subverted every Ukrainian or you got rid of them, you set up your Black Sea newspaper, you know. You did all your funfairs, you did your historical societies, you did your cultural societies, you did all this stuff to demoralise the Ukrainian state and to make sure you had active participants and you were recruiting within this your Russia-friendly people. You then destabilised. Now because of what was happening the destabilised bit was actually quite truncated. You then brought in the crisis over a period of a few days or a week or two and then you renormalize just like that, in a referendum. Boom – job done. That was a perfect operation. Gerasimov in his article turned these four stages into six. Hidden genesis (setting up stuff in secret), escalation, beginning of compleductions, crisis, resolution, restoration. For me, it is actually slightly more inefficient inefficient way of the abducted measures. That for me proves one critical point and I am just going to leave it on this at the moment. If you want evidence that at the heart of Russia’s new warfare is active measures is the old KGB warfare is possibly Putin’s own influence on how Russia fights warfare nowadays – this is it. And it is a link between that 6 stages of modern Russian warfare and the 4 stages of KGB active measures from the 60s and 70s. I am going to leave it there and I am going to hand over to Mark now but hopefully we’ll get a few more questions in the end.
Chris Bryant MP: In a way, Mark Galeotti had lots of introduction already but I am going to have my own (inaudible) I am sure everybody who is here already knows of so much work that Mark has done over many years. He is a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and has advised all sorts of different governments and some of the advice has been solicited, some of it has been unsolicited and some of it has been welcomed, some of it has been not acted upon. But Mark, over to you.
Mark Galeotti: Super. Thanks very much. Very difficult to follow (inaudible) like that. But nevertheless, the whole point of being a discussant is obviously to show off how intelligent you are while at the same time finding things to say that are totally negative and yet are in some ways constructive. So what I want to do is in some ways outline a slightly different route to the same destination. Obviously, Bob is sort of coming from one point of view which is very much rooted in the doctrines, the writings, the official thinking of the Russians and it is worth mentioning that they take their doctrine seriously. And there has been a lot of time and effort into creating these documents. It is not just simply a piece of propaganda or whatever. Me, I spent a lot of my time in Russia, as much time as I can, talking to Russians and therefore in some ways what I want to do is to give it a slightly human dimension, particularly because and here is the irony. If we were sitting not in the House of Commons but instead in the Russian State Duma, the counterpart, well, were it not for the fact that unlike members of our own “o, gospodi”, most members of the Duma are clowns and .. But in a similar session, they could well be sitting and talking about the inequities of contemporary Western conflict. Here is one of the tragedies or the ironies. This whole toolkit that the Russians have established, and here I would very much agree with Bob’s assessment, is very much based on their distorted mirror perspective of how they think the West is. And they have looked at the Arab Spring and they looked at the Euromaidan in Ukraine and so forth and they said – this clearly shows the hand of Western manipulation. The Ukrainians could not have turned against the corrupt and inefficient government. They wanted to bar them from getting closer to Europe without the dead hand of Langley. Or indeed, I mean it is worth mentioning, we really should be very proud of the role that the Britain Secret Services have within this sort of Russian threat cosmology. As far as I am concerned, the CIA has the numbers but the Brits have the cunning. They think that this is what have been used against them. And in a way they have to construct this whole approach based on a bizarre misunderstanding of that. And this is where I think, I do want to shine a light on something which came up in Bob’s presentation that I think is really crucial. This is not just KGB tactics; this is not even just a KGB tactics plus some new gimmicks. What this is, is in some ways the particularly malign and toxic confluence of KGB tactics and a KGB mind-set that essentially says everything is conspiratorial, everything can be worked out plus the modern world, plus the factor of exactly whether this is iPhones or wider issue of connectivities, not just technological but social, economic, political. The fact that we live in a world in which many of the old bastions and bulwarks have crumbled and anyone can now be a media source just simply because they have a blog. That money is totally fundable and moves around the world with a speed of electrons that even concepts of sovereignty are now inevitably conditional, modified and so forth. There is no such thing as absolute sovereignty in the modern world anymore. This is actually an extraordinary time and reflection point that time has changed. And in many ways, by accident, Russians have stumbled on many of the ways of precisely manipulating and using that for essentially negative purposes. And when historians write like this, the stories of the Putin regime, one of the key points they will say is how he is tactically superb, strategically inept, and in many ways this is a story of constant failure. But the trouble is, Putin’s failures are also damaging us. This is not a binary world. So what is actually going on in many ways, I would say is, and I am delighted that you took it beyond this awful ‘hybrid war’ sort of mantra, is the Russians are trying to, I hesitate to use the expression “make Russia great again”. But Putin clearly is looking to his historic legacy. Putin clearly is looking to basically assert Russia’s role as a great power and Russia is not a great power. Russia is a country which has a capacity to blow the world of its nuclear arsenal which is fine if you want to blow up the world, it is useless for anything else other than getting your seat to the UN Security Council. But beyond that, this is a country with economy of the size of Spain’s. This is a country with strikingly little soft power. There are various authoritarian strongmen around the world who might want to be like Putin but very few people are saying “if only our country was more like the Russian Federation then things would be great”. This is a country which is squinted so much of its profits and also is increasingly suffering from a lagged series of investments in both technology and also social sphere that is really going to bite. The point it, great power is something that you cannot negotiate, great power is something the rest of the world can give you. And therefore in many ways what Putin is using in this is where the asymmetric dimension is coming in, is essentially the geopolitics of extortion. It is an attempt to basically create enough trouble that either we decide to basically buy him off. You want your Yalta 2. not, you want to ask to affirm that Ukraine is part of your sphere of influence and does not have the right to choose its own future. Fine, as long as you just stop hassling us and hacking us. Or, if we are not willing to do that, and I hope we are not, – to disrupt us, to shatter the bonds between countries, within countries, to distract us with all kinds of other challenges, to emphasize the whole series of crises and challenges which would be here anyway, to magnify them. Let us be honest, Putin cannot create legitimacy crisis. What he can do is emphasize them, strengthen them, bring them to more people’s attention, and so forth. To the point where we lack the unity, the will, the attention to do anything about it. Because this is one of the few advantages of the authoritarian regime – it does not have to worry about the parliamentary approval. It does not have to worry about how much budget is put into its security – up to 40% of the Russian federal budget addresses security in one form or another. Not that many Western countries could get away with that kind of spending. And this is the regime that can change policy on the proverbial twinkle of an eye, so like the American regime these days. But it also does not have to worry about all various checks and balances of the West. So as far as he is concerned, this is now a conflict that fought in the realm of governance and in the realm of the mind and again, I think this is something that came up quite strongly in the paper which I think is excellent, – I do not believe that the Russians had any territorial ambitions beyond their borders. I do believe they have political ambitions beyond their borders. And this is the key point – this is a conflict about politics. This is a conflict about basically asserting Russian will over those of others. It is not in my opinion something that is always phenomenally well-coordinated. One of the ways in which the Putin state works is precisely by cultivating whole cast of political entrepreneurs. Business people, politicians, officials, people who are in the shadowy realms between them who have an idea what the boss wants. Sometimes there are operations which are clearly absolutely centrally decided, planned and executed. Particularly through the Presidential Administration which has become the sort of political general staff, shall we say, of Putin’s Russia. But a lot of it isn’t. A lot of it actually is the initiative of an individual ambassador, media outlet, oligarch or minigarch who thinks, “Well, I have a particular opportunity, I think this is a good idea”. This is in some ways a geopolitics of start-up. You have the bright idea and hope to shop it to a patron, and say “What do you think?”. And if you look, for example at the attempted coup in Montenegro, and that was actually something that came as an individual initiative that was then sold to Moscow and Moscow said: “We like that idea, run with it”. So what this means actually is, in terms of the threatening environment we face, the (inaudible) is instead of using the great might shock a single formidable entity with a one even if rather small brain, we face a Charles A Perones, each of which individually is vastly less formidable. But the point is, while we are dealing with one the rest are eating flesh out of our backs. So instead of trying to work out a single specific target or plan, Putin is not a chess player incidentally. That’s one of the classic Russian clichés along with bears, balalaykas and vodka. And he did not play balalaika, he does not drink very much and he is not a bear. Instead, he is a judo fighter. You don’t go into the ring planning how you are going to win necessarily. You take the advantage of the situation, what is the next move I do. That is how Russians are operating and therefore for me one of the key strengths of this paper is precisely it tries to create a notion of a style of war, a variety of threats and a way that they interconnect with each other, rather than a single strategy. This is what they are going to do by February 2019 and then that would lead to the following thing by June 2020 because they don’t know either. Instead they have a rough sense of where they want to be, and they are looking for all the different ways that will get them. And it reminds me of something, once talking to a Russian policeman back in 1990s – very rough times who said actually I am more scared of disorganised crime than organised crime. Sure, the gangsters are tough but this organised crime, first of all I cannot predict it. Secondly, half of the time I am thinking that it is organised crime and therefore, I am desperately kind of constructing theories of how this all fits together when it does not. And thirdly, because of all the noise of general crime I miss what the gangsters are doing because it is buried within the other things. This gives us a model to try and understand, the signal within the noise. So to conclude, I mean the last thing I would make and in some ways that was a point that I was looking forward to jump on and say “Ha-ha, you did not think of this but then – damn you, you (inaudible). This in my opinion is not so much contemporary Russian conflict – as this is the shape of war in the modern age. War as we understand it, men with guns and nowadays drones, has become ridiculously expensive in monetary terms, in political terms, in terms of public opinion. We have, I am delighted to say, populations nowadays that are very casualty-averse and that even applies to Russia. So one of the key reasons for understanding this is not just to deal with the current threat that we get from Putin’s multi-vector attempt to divide, distract, demoralise us but it is also to address the threat that we would probably face from other predatory challenging aggressive powers, nations and groups in the future. So that is why I think this is a very welcomed step forward.
Chris Bryant MP: I will take questions from the people in a moment. It would be great if the people would make great questions into quick, shorter questions which are genuinely questions. In other words, do they have a question mark at the end rather than a lengthy peroration which comes after a lengthy introduction or (inaudible) somebody’s personal views on the subject. I have asked these questions myself before. But I am going to ask something myself first, which is to both of you really, which is I fully get, this is a cheaper way of doing stuff. Even though you want to have lots of big expensive guns and show them off, you do not really want to use them too much. Because that is when you are actually spending money rather than buying stuff. So I get this is a cheap way of maintaining sort of chaos in the world around you. The bit I don’t quite understand is and maybe I am old fashioned but I always thought that people who exercised power in situation like this might like some of the stress of it but eventually they would want to retire. Now that is not true in every big business, is it? Some people want to stay until they die. Some politicians want to stay on until they die. But what I don’t understand is whether Putin himself has a personal strategy for himself other than remaining forever in power. Because it seems to me leaving at the moment, you know, if you were to leave in 3 to 4 years-time the danger of somebody else following you want to dig up all their bones is quite significant. I don’t know Mark, do you want to?
Mark Galeotti: Sure. I mean this has always been one of the challenges and this is interesting when I was in Moscow over the presidential elections. And nobody doubted that he was going to win. But in some ways, everybody was talking about the post-Putin era. I mean, I think this is actually in many ways his biggest challenge at the moment. I think he is bored of the job frankly. I think he wants to step down but he need to find a successor who he thinks he can trust. And create institutionalised safeguards to protect him. I am not sure if he is ever going to find that. In some ways and I don’t suggest that we should be shedding bitter tears for him but I think exactly he has created this totally deinstitutionalised, frankly rather cannibalistic state system which is going to be very hard for him to set down but I think he would like to.
Chris Bryant MP: And to you, Bob. As I understand it, Bob, the Russian military doctrine starts with the greatest threats to the Russian security is the existence of NATO.
Bob Seely MP: Yes, there is threats and there is risks. So one shouldn’t exaggerate – they are not saying we are at the point of war with NATO. The most aggressive of all the doctrines is the national security doctrine that basically says the West is responsible for all our ills and is by far the most virulent out of the three or four. Although the foreign policy concept says that we don’t respect the right to protect so you are not going to get involved to safe life in Syria because they are killing of lots of people there and that stuff. Parking that aside, what are the aims of the Russian state? To be honest, there are probably ambassadors and diplomats from the Baltics republics who probably got a better idea. And as far as I can see, Putin wants to remake the identity of Russia in illiberal and anti-western light. He does not like western concepts of democracy and liberalism. He does not think they work in Russia. He wants Russian identity to define itself as what it is not. It is a bit like Pakistan and India, but on a much bigger scale. He wants to humiliate and destroy NATO because he blames NATO for the collapsing of the Warsaw Pact. He does have a KGB mentality. It is a bit like, I don’t want to lay to this point because it sounds like crass but if you imagine that Nazi Germany sort of semi-survived and you had some SS product that was leading a semi-reformed Germany that it never actually come to terms with its horrible past. If that’s sort of what you got (inaudible) the KGB types, I don’t want to cause offence but I think that is not an entirely inaccurate analogy. He doesn’t like the West. He wants to trash in whichever way he can. But he also needs us.
Chris Bryant MP: Richard, do you want to ask a question? Mr. Benyon?
Richard Benyon MP: I’ll do later.
Bob Seely MP: Can I just say, Richard, thank you very much for being there. The few Conservative MPs have taken a consistent interest in this and Richard Benyon is one of them and he is also somebody who (inaudible). Thank you very much indeed.
Richard Benyon MP: Sure.
Chris Bryant MP: Right, I am conscious that all hands that are up at the moment are male. No? I lie. There is a woman in a front there, so I am going to take her first.
Question 1: Thank you. My question is for Bob Seely.
Chris Bryant MP: Would you mind to say who you are?
Question 1: Yes, I am Maria from the Institute of Statecraft. I am wondering if there is any specific reason why the report is very focused on Gerasimov and does he mention (inaudible) Toporov?
Bob Seely MP: Ok, I don’t think it is actually focused very much on Gerasimov and if it is, it is because it got slightly edited in that direction, and I tried to edit it back. I love the editing that was done and I am very grateful to The Henry Jackson Society on that. It was actually primarily looking at all the other doctrine elements. The bit of Gerasimov that works for me is a couple of points.
Chris Bryant MP: Bob, could you just please explain. Not everybody might understand that distinction that is being made. Could you please help?
Bob Seely MP: Valery Gerasimov, Chief of Staff for the Russian Armed Forces. He is a senior guy for the Russian Armed Forces. He is an impressive man, a very intelligent man, who wrote an important article which has been slightly over-emphasized and lazy Western soldiers called the hybrid war the Gerasimov doctrine which it absolutely is not. But Gerasimov, in his article, In the Military Industrial Complex journal made a series of really important points two of which are critical here. Firstly, the Arab Spring. He is basically saying look, all these Arab Springs are going on, you Russian soldiers probably think what on Earth does that have to do with us? But actually that could be the future of war. So you have to get your heads around the fact that modern war is not going to look like shock armies in Eastern Europe. But it is going to look like people running around Cairo with Kalashnikovs and smoke grenades. So that’s the thing. He said that this type of unstructured war that longer starts before you realise and is full part civilian, one-part military and the military in 6 stages and it is always supporting. So again, if you are a commander you say am I supported or am I supporting? The military aims must be always supporting so it is played in mind in a much bigger picture. So that is the first thing he is saying that the Arab Spring is the warfare yet to come. The second thing he said is that we are going to have a 6-stage sequencing and that 6-stage sequencing as I said earlier is critical for me because that shows the political link to the KGB, effectively through Russian military (inaudible) to the secret services and say, right, intellectually you are in the lead.
Chris Bryant MP: Yes, gentleman here.
Question 2: My name is John Wilkin. What do you think Moscow gains from its friendship with Tehran at the moment? Is it playing a dangerous game given the Islamic minorities (inaudible)?
Bob Seely MP: Great question, thank you. Mark may know more about it than I do. I think it gains a lot. What it gains is a negative that actually they are a player in the Middle East again. The reason why they are a player is because there are divisions in the Middle East, there are proxy wars between Saudi and Iran. The Iranians need something what Russians can offer – airpower, some advanced kit, I-star, surveillance, drones, all this sort of high tech stuff but the Russians are just about up there, they are generations behind the Americans. Not that they can offer levels of kit that the Iranians cannot and it gets Moscow as being a great power again. And if you define yourself by who your adversaries are if you are siding with the Iranians against the Americans and the Saudis you are a player again on the world stage. So some of this is practicality. I think there is the Russians are clearly looking at to make a lot of money or regain a lot of money they have spent in Syria, on oil contacts in Syria and maybe in Iran as well. So there are some economic reasons, a lot of it is about macho politics but maybe I am wrong, maybe Mark would add to that.
Mark Galeotti: I think it is interesting for example that several times the Israelis have launched the airstrikes against Iranian forces in Syria. And the Russians haven’t even bothered switching on the radars of their highly efficient air defence system. They are actually quite lucky to see the Israelis hammering them. One of the things about the relationship between Russia and Tehran which is also, one could say, the relationship between Russia and China, the relationship between Russia and Turkey and so forth. What it actually demonstrates is that Russia has strikingly few allies, at best it has frenemies. With Iran there are certain areas of common interest. But at the same time they are competitors. They are competitors for regional interest in the Middle East, if you look at what is going on in Azerbaijan for example, there actually there is much more of a competitive dynamic. So in some ways, we tend to focus on one part of the relationship. Russia is engaged with Iran because it cannot afford to do otherwise, and in some ways, they conceive areas of common interest. But at the same time, I mean I have spoken to Russian military officers in Moscow who say one of the reasons why they went to Syria, a minor one, but non the less the present one, was not to let the Iranians basically get Syria. By leaving them as the only allies for Assad. So we shouldn’t regard this as a too close a relationship.
Chris Bryant MP: I was struck in my dealings with Russian counterparts during the Labour government that one of the things that Russians would most pride themselves on was their garnering of their intelligence, military intelligence, other forms of intelligence. And I remember when British intelligence knew about the Qom, the nuclear site in Iran and the Russians had no idea about it whatsoever, they felt shamed. And three of the senior figures were sacked. So there is an element of amour propre, pride as well, which comes into quite a lot of this, you know the way the Russian senior figures in the Russian administration like to work. Now, there is a gentleman there.
Question 3: Thank you very much. Euan Grant, also at the Institute for Statecraft. I have worked as a law enforcement analyst and terrorism analyst on ex-Soviet organised crime. Mark Galeotti catches so much of (inaudible). My question for both of you – is there any intention to take the report and to deliver its message to the schools and universities in this country where there is a high concentration of pupils and students from ex-Soviet states studying along some of the, let’s be honest, often people who are going to be the elites in this country in the future and in other countries? And also, a few other institutions where significant number of academics do have a rather (inaudible) view of Russia? Thank you.
Bob Seely MP: Thank you, I think the Foreign Affairs Select Committee is going to have a quick chat about the report and we can see if we can get it recommended and then if we get it recommended for Parliament I think, hopefully, we are going to have a Russia debate again and in the next couple of weeks or certainly at some point in June because I am having a discussion about that at the moment. I mean I wouldn’t be ambitious about this. If somebody comes up with a better definition – fantastic. I am genuinely doing this for the best academic reasons that actually I want to put something out there and if people can improve it, and I am sure they can, – good luck to them. But we need that definition. I have been talking to the comms of the Congress this afternoon, to two American Senators’ offices. I will be discussing it with an Australian Senator tomorrow at the Henry Jackson Society, Millbank. I think the Henry Jackson Society will be kind enough to play some articles around the world on this topic. I wrote a piece in The Times today, in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of days ago on this topic. I want this to be the standard definition of Russian warfare but I wanted it to be the standard definition of contemporary nonconventional full spectrum war. Until somebody comes up with a better framework than the Seely framework. But I want to kick this off because if we kick it off we can get into the right space of thinking about how we define and understand war for the modern age. (inaudible) the National Security Council and I have sent it to Ben Wallace, who is the Security Minister, this afternoon. Whether they will listen to it or not is another matter but if I can get the Select Committees in Parliament and people like Richard and people like Chris here to support that, I hope that is going to be a good start.
Chris Bryant MP: And Ben Wallace is incidentally talking to the All-Party Russia Group later on this week when he would want to answer some of these questions as well. Mark, do you want to say something?
Mark Galeotti: Well, I mean, as someone who has been for 10 years out of the country and only just been back only for a week – give me a break. I think, look, obviously, these are things that need to be discussed. Universities rightly protect their own, sort of, jealous intellectual hegemons? and things. The main thing is precisely this is, as Bob said, starting a discussion. And the question is how do we push it forward? And frankly, if people also wish to rage against it and say how wrong it is that is also a good thing, a – because that’s what democracies do but the point is it brings this into the area of debate. I think for me, one of the things that have struck me as almost a semi outsider is actually the insufficiency, the inadequacy of discussion what is really an absolutely crucial point.
Chris Bryant MP: Now there is a gentleman in the back with the beard.
Question 4: (inaudible) But we have a couple of sort of near term targets in terms of the NATO summit in July on the modernised defence program. Are there any early implications that you would suggest your (inaudible)?
Bob Seely MP: Well, yes and no. If you want a quick list, I can do one and I have got a sort of ten point back up list. If you have either a peer review part of this document – not yet, no. What I was hoping to do because I need this to do this for my PhD is to do about 5 thousand words on a strategic culture of Russia as in what are the deep rooted reasons why it is doing this and then so what we need to do. But there are a bunch of things that we need to do and actually I very much like to talk to you about timings because if it means I would have to get something out in two weeks on the NATO summit then I will try to do that. A couple of quick points. Health of democracy. Time to work out if we have a functioning democracy, defensible electoral system that is not open to aggressive manipulations now, not six weeks after either a Brexit or a Corbyn referendum victory and I voted for Brexit but there is a bigger issue – the integrity of electoral systems. Secondly, going through Congress now, is a countering propaganda bill. You know if you have 5 packets saying ‘Don’t smoke because it knackers your lungs”? Russia Today, it is owned by an authoritarian state. It does not have an independent line. Should it have a health warning flash every five minutes ‘Believe this at your own perils’ sort of thing? Just a bunch of things like that. Sputnik, you know, when they do stupid stories on people, should Ofcom insist on a much more aggressive right of reply? How do we defend ourselves? How do we deter? Very briefly. There is a political warfare which what the Russians are doing at the moment. If you talk to Chris Donelli at a wonderful Institute of Statecraft, he would say there are another three elements to this picture that we haven’t even talked about yet. Russian conventional dominance of their neighbours, tactical nuclear dominance in Eastern Europe, conventional missile dominance in Europe. The Russians want to be able to fight and win on any level. And once they are confident in these three more physical versions of warfare they would continue to (inaudible) anti on the political warfare. So that is part of a bigger question of strategic and what do we do about that? And that is bigger than just this document now. But I will talk to Gavin about this and I will ping him an email. Buy if you have a 5 minutes afterwards I would appreciate having a conversation. Thank you very much for doing it.
Chris Bryant MP: I think I will add one thing to that which is we need to do something about Interpol. As it happened I was in Spain last week when Bill Browder got arrested by the Spanish authorities. I was actually in the same street as him when he was arrested bizarrely. I think everybody has been trying to cover their own backsides since then, both the Spanish authorities and Interpol. I think it’s six in one half who does it with the other actually.
Bob Seely MP: Was it coca boat conspiracy?
Chris Bryant MP: I think it is coca by both. But we should be able to alienate cock ups if that isn’t a very mixed metaphor. Rather uncomfortable one as well. Richard, I know you have written.
Richard Benyon MP: I am just very keen to follow this threat because if we spend a lot of time worrying about Russia Today and Sputnik – personally I know ridiculous journalists who ring me up and say you must (inaudible) journalism with such ideals, informing people about, you know, the tyrannies of power. You must be so ashamed when you look at yourself in the mirror. And I hope (inaudible). But the point is, you mentioned Interpol. Senior institutions are penetrated. I mean, the OECD. Even the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The UK delegation was in Warsaw last weekend (inaudible). And actually some of the populist parties that represent emerging polls in politics in certain parts (inaudible). I mean this is clearly a tactic. That to me will be much more useful for us, to be spending time educating people in this country and abroad through parliamentarians and future leaders about where that threat is coming from. It is fundamental for the future of for alliances like NATO.
Chris Bryant MP: Now I don’t think that had a question mark at the end.
Bob Seely MP: Well, let me answer. The question is if you define it if we look at all the various tools we can then begin to focus on those sorts of areas and prioritise where we counter and were we use our energies best. It all comes back to defining the problem. Because once you can reasonably accurately define the problem and your bit fits in sort of part 6, or part 3 or part 4 and then we can start to come up with answers. That is why we need to define what we are trying to understand.
Chris Bryant MP: Mark. And then I have two more questions.
Mark Galeotti: I must say, I am reasonably relaxed about RT and Sputnik and things like that. I don’t think many people (inaudible) not really knowing what it is. For me a lot of the concerns are precisely things like corruption and abuse of various other institutions. But again I think this speaks of an extraordinary diffuse campaign that there are lots and lots of individuals with considerable degree of autonomy who are essentially encouraged to use their imagination as to how they can abuse whatever little particularly liver they have at their disposal to support the Russian, sort of, wider picture. What we face is in some ways, imagination race. At the moment I think, that is where we are losing. I think we also need to be a lot of creative about where we imagine the threats come out from and what we can do.
Bob Seely MP: Just on that. The military are incredibly static and absurd. I do think there is an issue with Russia Today. Because when the GRU nick the contents of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party service which they probably have already done, they will start dumping the Conservative Party service online as they did with the Democrats in a year running up to the election then we are going to be much more worried about Russia Today.
Chris Bryant MP: I think the thing that I took from the Jeremy Thorpe program last night was basically when you (inaudible) you might as well lie because you might get away with it. And that seems to be the whole sort of communication strategy of the Russian government. Anyway, the gentleman here.
Question 5: My name is Nick (inaudible), I am a writer. I haven’t quite a good sense of what the Russian end goal is. It does give a sense of a diffuse trouble making but is it sort of causing trouble or is it something larger than that?
Chris Bryant MP: Mark
Mark Galeotti: Russia is vastly weaker than the West on any single index when the West is united. At the best of times, we are not very good at being united. So in a way, Russia’s end game is to getting to a situation when it can essentially force its own political solution on the geopolitical arena. To do that they have to distract, divide us, shatter our unity and our will.
Chris Bryant MP: Great. Jay D?
Question 6: Thank you, Serving on (inaudible). You will be aware that in St Petersburg at Economic Forum Macron (inaudible) spoke on platform with Putin. Do you agree with their narrative of the need for dialogue and engagement with Russia? (inaudible)
Chris Bryant MP: Bob?
Bob Seely MP: Up to a point. I mean the government has cut off the high level contacts – I don’t think we were right to do that. I do think we need to be continuing to talk. But if you are going to state the fact that we are trying to undermine you and at the same time carrying on as normal – I am sorry, I do not buy that. Actually, I think you are getting into a very difficult moral Cond reason and moral issues. So actually I do think we need to take a stand and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which I am a member and Chris as well, we came up with a very hard-written report highlighting the role of Russian oligarch and Putin oligarch money that’s coming through London which simply enables Russian political warfare to undermine Western democracies. And actually, as long as they play that game they should know that it is not going to be business as usual. And If we have to do things like stop Nord Stream 2 and (inaudible) the Russians own strategic game – we should do so.
Chris Bryant MP: I was struck again in Spain last week that the Spanish government was saying to me – you and Britain will be much better about sanctions and the kind of robust corporate position across the whole of the European Union than anybody else and indeed if it had not been for Theresa May at last summer’s European Council meeting it was clear that all the sanctions would have disappeared from the table and it was only her absolute persistence of the meeting that secured that. Of course he asked a question of what happens after Brexit? How do we make sure we can still play that kind of role? But the Spanish rulers are saying, interestingly, that they feel they will be much better on all the other measures in relation to Russian dirty money and attempts to engage in the Spanish elections and so on. Though they also noted that nearly all the fake news that attended the Catalan pseudo-referendum was magnified by Russian state actors as well.
Question 6: How effective are sanctions against Russia and how effective are our sanctions against Russia and how (inaudible) the Baltic states in terms of conventional attack?
Chris Bryant MP: Mark first.
Mark Galeotti: How effective are sanctions? Obviously, there is two sorts of these – the sectoral economic ones and then the personal sanctions. Sectoral economic sanctions do hit the Russian GDP, there is no question about that. And obviously even though this is an authoritarian regime anything that squeezes the Russian GDP squeezes its capacity to do stuff. More on the point – now we have them there, demonstration of western political will to say “oy, stop”. And therefore, in a way, almost regardless of their effect we have to keep them going or else we signal something very worrying. But the final point I will make is for me the most effective sanctions are the personal ones. This is a highly personalised regime. I would like to see more pettiness, more spitefulness against lots of individuals who matter than hitting Russia as a whole because the Russian people are not our threat.
Chris Bryant MP: Do you think Abramovych has been denied a visa?
Mark Galeotti: I am the last person here to actually have any idea though I would say that I think it is a useful sign if for example money does not buy you a fast track VIP route.