In a war-game confrontation between Russia and the West – who will remain?


A war game was conducted at the American RAND Corporation to investigate Russia’s so-called use of gray area tactics and the Western response to it. The term Gray tactics may be new, but Propastop readers already know these activities as “hybrid warfare”, “nonlinear warfare”, “asymmetric warfare”, “political warfare”, etc. The outcome of the war game probably confirms the already previous assumptions and assessments of many readers.

What was the purpose of this war game? Answers to the following questions were mainly sought:

  • How are gray area tactics defined?
    • What are their different types?
    • What part of Europe is most vulnerable to these tactics?
    • Where do these vulnerabilities come from?

The hopeful results of the war game
During the war game some basic results were revealed:

The West will remain on top in this confrontation with Russia without realizing it. The main ways to do this are to strengthen Western civil societies. This means educating them in all sorts of propaganda techniques and constantly reminding them that Russia is trying to undermine their democratic societies.

The level of vulnerability varies across Europe: Russia’s so-called near abroad and Balkan countries are particularly vulnerable, while the Baltics and Central Europe are not. The vulnerability of the near abroad countries and the Balkans is mostly due to poor state institutions and their cultural, historical and linguistic ties with Russia. The Baltic States are strengthened by their culture of good governance.

Russia’s strategies were mainly divided into everyday tactics and ones that are more aggressive. It is difficult to link everyday tactics directly to Russia, so the West cannot hold Russia accountable for them. At the same time, the West is not completely vulnerable to them. Civic associations and NGOs that can raise public awareness in various fields are of great assistance. Military and state organizations will only be more successful if Russia directly uses aggressive tactics.

New term – gray area tactics
In essence, an old thing is presented in a new guise. These are activities aimed at influencing both national and international public opinion. In other words, multifaceted political, economic, informational or military activities that can help Russia increase its influence. What is new is only the word “tactics”, which describes Russian activities as actions, not as a different form of war. The aim of the tactic is to serve the interests of Russia without starting direct military action.

Gray area tactics are characterized by being blurred. This will ensure the success of these activities, as it will not allow the dangers or their consequences to be identified quickly. On the western side, however, either there have been a large number of decision-makers at various levels and various institutions, whose bureaucratic slow reaction has led to an escalation of Russian-initiated action or their slowness has led to the lack of a rapid counter attack.

Russia uses these tactics quite easily, because they are cheap to carry out. Even if their likely success is small. The war game revealed that the West and the United States are constantly exposing Russia’s covert activities. In essence, however, this is unprofitable, because Russia does not usually have to take responsibility for its non-military attacks. Exactly the same thing happens in real life. The situation was the same during the Cold War.

War games methodology: How were the results achieved?
To investigate this topic, the RAND Corporation (a USA political think tank) conducted a series of war games. In doing so, the behavior of the parties was monitored and conclusions were drawn. Before the games, a plan or theory concerning the confrontation between the West and Russia was developed. An extensive historical study and an overview of important sources (including strategic documents, known thematic interviews, and studies by other researchers) were conducted.

There were three teams in the war games:
– Russia (Red);
– Europe (Green);
– USA (Blue).

The task of the Red was to expand its influence and undermine NATO. The goal of the Green and Blue teams was to defend themselves and their allies against Red’s actions without provoking direct war. The behaviors of the teams observed in the games were broadly similar to those observed in real life. The players were experts from RAND’s own respective regions.

Photos: homepage photo Dori Gordon Walker / RAND Corporation; RAND logo; screenshot from the study.