As I wrote in my column today for Foreign Policy, the United States and NATO allies should apply their hard-won knowledge combating insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq to help the government in Kiev prepare to counteract against violent separatists in Ukraine.
In the article, I lay out the 7 fundamental steps for counterinsurgency operations and how they can be applied to the situation In Ukraine, given what appears to be Russia’s obvious support for the insurgents. They include a mix of soft power tactics—such as strategic communications, economic incentives, beefed up protection from cyber attacks and intelligence sharing—alongside enhanced hard power capabilities to help the Ukrainian military protect its borders and guard against internal threats.
It’s a 21st century, integrated approach to security that relies on public-private partnerships and inter-agency cooperation across borders to enhance stability and support economic development.
1. Undercut the insurgency by all political and economic means.
In practical terms, this means a powerful campaign of strategic communications that makes the case — a strong one — that a unified, cohesive Ukraine is a home to all Ukrainians,whatever first language they speak and from wherever their ancestors hailed. A sincere and inclusive message will win over some number of ethnic Russians (but fistfights in parliament don’t help). A significant part of the message is that Ukraine’s best future lies not in policies that are pro-Russian or pro-NATO, but pro-Ukrainian — meaning the freedom to evaluate where the best opportunities for the nation lie. This can be a powerful force in undermining an insurgency’s message ofhate, separatism, and total alignment under Russian domination.
2. Provide an economic future that makes sense.
The West must offer healthy economic inducements in the form of International Monetary Fund grants, EU assistance, and U.S. funding — all of which appears to be on track and in the pipeline. Much of counterinsurgency is in providing alternatives to the “employment options” offered by insurgent leaders; fortunately, most young people would rather have a job or an education than be out planting car bombs. Providing funding to allow Kiev to offer those kind of job inducements is key.
With Russian troops still massed along the border with Ukraine, international leaders across sectors, disciplines and border will need to work collaboratively, think creatively and act early in order to stabilize the region and curb Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.
Dean Stavridis with his basset hound, Lilly.
Dean James Stavridis is the 12th leader of The Fletcher School since its founding in 1933. A retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander.