Edward Lucas: Hybrid warfare works against countries that are weak

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Hybrid warfare ultimately works against countries that are weak and unwilling to defend themselves; the Baltic states do have the will and it works as the first and most important line of defense, senior editor of the newsweekly The Economist Edward Lucas said ahead of his appearance at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn later this month.

«We have seen that Russia is capable of doing things that, ten years ago, people would have discounted. So we are dealing with a different sort of Russia now, a Russia that has the means to do unpleasant things to its neighbors,» Lucas told BNS in an interview and added that this is, however, not inevitable. «Each of the Baltic states has its own opportunity to, first of all, prevent this from happening, and, if it does start, resist it very strongly. Ultimately, hybrid warfare works against countries that are weak and do not have the will to defend themselves. The Baltic states do have the will to defend themselves so this is your first and most important line of defense,» he said.

The elements of Russian psychological warfare such as organizing snap exercises and making threats are fundamentally hollow as well, Lucas said and remarked that Russia is a two trillion dollar economy, whereas the NATO member states constitute a forty trillion dollar economy and the defense budget of the United States is nearly half the GDP of Russia. «This is not like the old Cold War, when the Soviet Union was a real rival to the West. Russia is just too weak to pose a challenge to the West. Russia can only win if the West's willpower is weak,» he said. «If somebody is trying to make you scared, it's always a good idea to not be scared.»

A welcome shift in public opinion has taken place in Sweden and Finland and Germany has moved away from its ultra-pacifist stance, which means that a lot of things are moving in the right direction, Lucas remarked. Then again, in his view Europe still has some fundamental problems, primarily a choice between defending itself and depending on American military power. «We still need to do a lot more to show America that we are willing to really bear the burden of defending ourselves in a real partnership, not just be free-riders on America,» he said.

In Lucas's opinion, to stop Russia, it is important to enforce sanctions that would affect the top figures in the regime. «We should see that (…) all people that are involved in aggressive foreign policy and human rights abuses can no longer come to the West – and not only they can't come, but their spouses and siblings and parents can't come. And that would be a very clear lesson from the West, because if you preach anti-Westernism at home, you can't expect you and your family to enjoy the benefits of studying or shopping or saving or vacationing in the West,» he said.

Edward Lucas is a senior editor and columnist with The Economist who has during a journalism career that spans more than three decades covered also events in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe including the Baltic states. He was chief of the Moscow bureau of the magazine in 1998-2002.

Lucas has worked as correspondent of the daily The Independent and BBC. He is the author of two books about Russian espionage and energy policy.

The British journalist is a non-resident fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for European Policy Analysis. He became the first e-resident of Estonia in December 2014.

The eighth annual Lennart Meri Conference titled «The Limits of Order», to be held from April 24-26, will focus on today's international situation as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act.

The lineup includes Deputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow, Secretary General of OSCE Lamberto Zannier, Marshal of the Polish Sejm Radoslaw Sikorski, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Anne Brasseur, chairman of the German Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs Norbert Rottgen, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, commander of NATO Allied Land Command and chief of U.S. land forces in Europe, Lt. Gen. Frederick Ben Hodges, former foreign minister of Spain Ana de Palacio, former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, member of the Russian State Duma Ilya Ponomarev, Russian president's former advisor Andrey Illarionov, Russian opposition activist Masha Gessen, Pakistani writer Ahmed Rashid and Edward Lucas.