WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities held a hearing, “Russian Influence and Unconventional Warfare Operations in the ‘Grey Zone’: Lessons from Ukraine.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), as prepared for delivery:
Chairwoman Ernst, thank you for holding this important hearing and thank you to our witnesses for their testimony on Russia’s use of influence activities and unconventional warfare in the so-called “grey zone” that encompasses the struggle between nations and other non-state actors short of direct military conflict. This hearing builds on the testimony the Full Committee received last week on the security situation in Europe.
At last Thursday’s hearing, General Scaparrotti, Commander of U.S. European Command, stated that Russia is using a range of military and non-military tools to “undermine (the) international system and discredit those in the West who have created it.” When I asked him about Russia’s conduct of denial, deception and disinformation operations, General Scaparrotti stressed that Russia takes not only a military approach but a “whole of government” approach to information warfare, to include intelligence and other groups, which accounts for its rapid and agile use of social media and cyber. Russia’s use of the full range of political, economic, and informational tools at its disposal provides it the means to influence operations in the grey zone short of a direct conventional war.
Today’s hearing is an opportunity to examine the lessons drawn from Russia’s malign activities in Ukraine. In 2014, General Scaparrotti’s predecessor as EUCOM Commander, General Breedlove, said that Russia was engaged in “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.” Russia used information warfare as a dimension of its military operations in Ukraine, including to sow confusion and disorganization prior to initiating more traditional military operations. Russia’s combination of information warfare with other unconventional warfare techniques – including the training, equipping, and advising of proxies and funding of separatist groups – is what allowed them to “change the facts on the ground” before the international community could respond effectively through traditional means.
This is relevant not simply as a history lesson, but to better prepare us for the kinds of operations we can expect to see Russia conduct in the future. For example, the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian Activities and Intentions in the 2016 U.S. presidential election assessed that what occurred last year represents a “significant escalation” in Russia’s influence operations that is likely to continue here in the United States and elsewhere.
So there is much to explore with our witnesses this morning, and again, I thank them and look forward to their testimony.