Updated: Jan 4, 2021
Russian military deception is known as Maskirovka (маскировка), in Russian, literally meaning disguise. Maskirovka is a military doctrine that has been around since WWI but today is taking on many forms and is used as a cover for 'grey warfare' around the globe by several state actors for many purposes including the destabilization and covert interference with sovereign states.
This doctrine covers a broad range of measures for military deception, from camouflage to denial and deception. Deceptive measures include concealment, imitation with decoys and dummies, maneuvers intended to deceive, denial, and disinformation.
As a young soldier with a British tank regiment in West Germany, we would watch the Russians watching us from across the border. On our way to Berlin, on the train through the Berlin Corridor, we would see the rows and rows of thousands of tanks on display on each side of the railway track.
"I expressed my concern to one of the old soldiers and he dismissed my concern telling me that none of the tanks had engines."
The annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the army of insignia-less uniforms waging war and an invasionary force to seize the peninsula, access to the Black Sea. The assassination of a high profile anti-Putin activist within earshot of the Kremlin in 2015. In 2018, the attempted assassination of a former Russian military officer and double agent in Salisbury, England with the deadly Russian made nerve agent, Novichok.
But then at the turn of the century, the seed funding from Moscow that was the catalyst of the creation of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the shipments of weapons to the Emerald Isle to fuel the fight against the United Kingdom, to destabilize a nation. High profile assassinations in the light of day, creation of the Oligarchs, and then their dismantle, and for those who refused, jail or worse. Ukraine, the Kremlin turning their gas pipeline off in the midst of a cold, and bitter winter to get political obedience, the list of questionable actions under the guise of Maskirovka goes on.
More recently, and the highest of profiles, the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, was there interference or not? Was there coordination, collaboration, or just an acceptance that it was happening, and given it was in the current administration's interest, then why stop it.
Documenting this approach, the 1944 Soviet Military Encyclopedia refers to :
MASKIROVKA: "A complexity of measures, directed to mislead the enemy regarding the presence and disposition of forces."
Now the question becomes, who is the enemy? and this is now even harder to discern in the current state of not knowing who is your enemy and who is not.
Deception or Maskirovka contributed to major WWII Soviet victories including the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Kursk, and Operation Bagration in Belarus. In these cases of open warfare, surprise was achieved despite very large concentrations of force, both in attack and in defense. During WWII, the Russians suffered the largest casualties of all ally nations with an incredible sacrifice of over 36 million souls, staving off the Nazi onslaught, digging in as deep as they did and in effect weakening Hitler's war machine for the British, Commonwealth and Americans to claim the glory of victory.
The doctrine has also been put into practice in peacetime, with denial and deception operations in events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Prague Spring, the annexation of Crimea.
Since the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall which is a lasting and very visual memory that symbolized the fall of the former United Soviet Social Republic, Russia has smarted in the embarrassment of the former empire of Tzars in effect going bankrupt.
As we have seen Russias fortunes improve, and maybe even partly as a result, Maskirovka has developed to include strategic, political, and diplomatic means including manipulation of 'the facts', situation and perceptions to affect the media and opinion around the world, so as to achieve or facilitate tactical, strategic, national and international goals.
"But wait! The art of deception isn't preserved just as a Russian thing."
There are many examples, including the Central Intelligence Agency and allies funding the rise of Osama bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, thereby creating the monster that years later became Public Enemy #1. Then was the use of social media and other means to stir up discontent and the Arab Spring, removing administrations from power. And then, built on a premise that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, the invasion of another oil-rich nation that in reality represented little threat to the military powers of the west. In all of these cases, there is an argument that this interference left these nations in a worse place than where they were before.
"So why as a writer do I find this so interesting?"
All of my novels are based on factual or historic events - the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections in #OperationARGUS. A replay of the Wonga Coup in an African oil-rich nation, #BikiniBRAVO. Shackleton's 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition starting with a meeting with the ship's carpenter, Harry McNish in New Zealand. Then #NorthernECHO and the story of two boys growing up in the north of England during the Punk-Rock era, a dark secret keeping them apart until the end, and finally, the tale of #GipsyMOTH, Aviatrix set on the backdrop of the golden era of aviation, and two mysterious disappearances that remain unsolved today.
In each of these stories, I explore the truth beneath the facts and uncover hidden nuances that may otherwise never have been revealed or uncovered before. Questioning the underlying factors at play, challenging the often commonly held belief of the story at face value but exploring the depths in my pursuit to discover the truth.
In all cases, I hope that you like my writing and exploring the depths in the pursuit of the truth.