The aggressor must be crushed on his home ground

Erkki Koort
, uuriva toimetuse juhataja
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The myth of Russia’s military might is increasingly like a gilded church cupola made of ordinary tin and rotten wood.
The myth of Russia’s military might is increasingly like a gilded church cupola made of ordinary tin and rotten wood. Photo: Ivan Sekretarev / AP / Scanpix
  • Estonia must be prepared for attacking the aggressor’s territory.
  • Taking the war openly to Russia is inevitable for Ukraine’s victory.
  • The West must overcome the compulsion of not attacking targets in Russia.

No country under attack actually has much of a chance of ending the war without attacking the enemy's territory. This is clearly demonstrated by Russia's war against Ukraine. The West must overcome the compulsion of not attacking Russian territory, writes security expert Erkki Koort.

The war in Ukraine has taught, or rather confirmed, one very important basic principle in the fight against an enemy bigger than oneself – one has to surprise the enemy constantly and asymmetrically.

Russia mostly bases its offensive activities on the logic of World War I and II, and although it seemed that this logic of action had changed in the era of hybrid wars, the course of the current war shows the opposite. The occupation of Crimea in February 2014 created the impression that the Russian armed forces can act quickly, efficiently, with an unexpected strategy and are capable at that. Of course, one should never underestimate the opponent, but it seems that in 2014 this impression could be maintained only in the case of certain units which were able to cooperate with the special services. But the most important aspect was that they were managed to be effective when they did not face opposition.

The attack on airfield

On December 5, 2022, drones with explosive charges attacked airfields in Russia, which are located 600-700 kilometers away from Ukraine. This was preceded by an announcement from an anonymous US source that they have limited the capabilities of the HIMARS rocket systems so that their range would not exceed 70-80 km.

There was a shift in Russian rhetoric regarding this attack. If earlier explosions were explained with negligence, they now directly blamed Ukraine. One of the reasons for this change in rhetoric is probably the preparation of the Russian society for the next mobilization. People must be told clearly that if they do not go and die for Russia, Ukraine will bomb them.

Legitimate targets must include the aggressor’s institutions which do not directly participate in hostilities but are related to the control of occupied territories and violence against the population. HQ of the FSB security service in Moscow.
Legitimate targets must include the aggressor’s institutions which do not directly participate in hostilities but are related to the control of occupied territories and violence against the population. HQ of the FSB security service in Moscow. Photo: Alexander Nemenov / AFP / Scanpix

Although there have been constantly fires in Russia lately, and suspicions have been voiced about earlier attacks, not all of these events can be attributed to Ukraine. Ukraine has attacked military facilities, but warehouses and shopping centers are burning for other reasons. Apparently, the reason is economic difficulties and insurance fraud, while a further reason could be an attempt to cover up a simple theft from warehouses.

But let us return to the attacks. The Ukrainians have retained the ingenuity, which has largely died out in Western Europe. If they have no tank, they would not wait for the tank before attacking; there is no navy, but this cannot interfere with the sinking of the enemy's flagship. In other words, they fight with the means they have and they fight by maintaining the initiative and surprising the opponent.

Taking the war to Russia

There is no doubt that the war must increasingly spread to the core territory of the aggressor, and the West must overcome the compulsion of avoiding it. It is clear that the liberated Sumy and Kharkiv regions are under constant fire from across the border. In other words, you have driven the enemy troops out of your territory and liberated it, but in reality it is not fully under your control and it is certainly not safe for civilians there either.

The end of the war is brought closer by pushing hostilities into the enemy territory. This is something Russia does not expect, and the success of attacks carried out by or attributed to Ukraine confirms the claim. Such an approach forces the opponent to change his strategy, and thwarting the opponent's plans is the basis of success. In addition, it protects our people and helps to reduce damage to the infrastructure.

As of now, Estonia has not directly said that in the event of an attack we will take hostilities to the enemy's territory. We could do this in the security strategy document “Basics of Security Policy". This would send a clearer signal and increase deterrence.

At this point, taking the war into the territory of the aggressor should not be understood narrowly as the occupation of Russia’s territory. Although, in order to protect the Baltics, Kaliningrad must be neutralized in any case. This means that we declare targets on Russian territory legitimate. However, this category includes some targets which are not related to the military, but to all the forces of the aggressor which can be used against us. Once again, the lessons from Ukraine are available, and we must be prepared to attack all the instruments used to occupy and hold territory. In addition to the Russian army, these include the Russian National Guard (with all its sub-units), the FSB security service, the border guard forces (officially part of the FSB), police units, as well as paramilitary formations, such as Cossack units.

Overcoming the compulsion

As of now, it is certain that Moscow will not relent until Putin is dead or the last Russian soldier has fallen on the Ukrainian steppes. It will take time, but openly taking the war to the aggressor's territory will bring the victory closer. Covertly, this war has already reached the territories of the aggressor, and the attacks which have hit various military bases in Russia have a great psychological impact. This effect is not limited to civilians, who are assured that “the Ukrainian drones were shot down and their fragments destroyed the strategic bombers.” The Russian command knows they failed and will have problems in the future if such attacks continue.

Dictators usually do not reckon with the possibility that someone dares to attack their territory; this is why hostilities must be taken to the enemy’s territory in case of an attack. The photo depicts Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu observing army exercises in Kaliningrad in 2013.
Dictators usually do not reckon with the possibility that someone dares to attack their territory; this is why hostilities must be taken to the enemy’s territory in case of an attack. The photo depicts Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu observing army exercises in Kaliningrad in 2013. Photo: RIA Novosti / SCANPIX

Therefore, it is reasonable for Estonia to say publicly that in the event of a conflict, all units of our adversary, regardless of their location, will become legitimate targets. This would not be the first time, because Israel's security strategy has been based on two important principles for a very long time. First, if war is seen to be inevitable, attack first. Second, in a state of war, immediately move combat operations outside the borders of your country. The extension of war into Russian territory is their soft underbelly, which the aggressors usually do not consider in their planning activities.

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Legitimate targets must include the aggressor’s institutions which do not directly participate in hostilities but are related to the control of occupied territories and violence against the population. HQ of the FSB security service in Moscow. (Photo: Alexander NEMENOV/ AFP)

Dictators usually do not reckon with the possibility that someone dares to attack their territory; this is why hostilities must be taken to the enemy’s territory in case of an attack. The photo depicts Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin and Sergey Shoigu observing army exercises in Kaliningrad in 2013. Photo: RIA Novosti

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