Thoughts on Ukraine, Part 8: Multi-Domain Operations

Thoughts on Ukraine, Part 8: Multi-Domain Operations


Figure 1 Multi-Domain War

A story in my morning news feeds got me thinking. Yahoo Finance wrote: “This is in effect a financial war now,” warned Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid. Perhaps Yahoo Finance is not the best source, but it is usually reliable and then send me the morning news feed since I have an email account with them. Regardless, they are usually reliable with verifiable statements, such as Reid’s statement. I found it interesting, but thought it only told part of the story.

The graphic

Figure 1 above shows what is perhaps really going on. Since Reid invoked the term “war”, I thought I will stay with the theme and use military symbols, albeit differently. I will start with the figure and explain the symbols, then move on to a more holistic discussion.

In the lower left, there is the military symbol for disruption, with the label “Seize Property”. An example of these operations is the Italian seizure of two Russian kleptocrats’ yachts and villas.

In Ukraine there is the military symbol for delay. Ukraine needs to fight a military delaying action for other dimensions of the conflict to achieve their effects. This means holding in the cities and tying down Russian forces.

The military symbols for blocking positions are in Poland and the Baltics. NATO forces need to establish strong blocking positions to prevent the conflict from spreading to support the NATO nations that border Russia.

The two curved arrows are military symbols for air assault and air attack. The air assault graphic, labeled Corporations, shows the deep attacks Corporations can make against a state. Corporations are taking their own actions against Russia. These even include at least one Russian company, Lukoil, that I discussed in Part 7. Another Yahoo Finance article lists external corporations taking action against Russia. The other curved arrow with the arrow in the middle labeled Government Sanctions shows the financial measures governments are taking against Russia, such as SWIFT and freezing assets.

The straight arrow pointing into Ukraine is for lethal and non-lethal aid. These can be provided by governments, Non-governmental Organizations (NGO) and Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO).

Holistic Multi-Domain Operations (MDO)

Ukrainian President Zelensky called for a no-fly zone. NATO rightfully has resisted these calls. They almost certainly will bring Russia and NATO into an armed conflict that we need and want to avoid. NATO’s best military options are the blocking forces. But this brings up an issue with the holistic approach. To be effective, the holistic approach requires synchronization and coordination.

Perhaps a holistic statement of purpose could be “Ukrainian and NATO military operations disrupt and block Russian military aggression, provide sanctions and other financial measures time to create the conditions for change within Russia that will stop its aggression.”

The military has great tools for this, such as a Target Synchronization Matrix. The secret, however, is tasking authority. In order to synchronize and coordinate, there needs to be at least implicit tasking authority. Otherwise, independent operations can duplicate effects or interfere with each other and potentially cancel out the effects.

Then there is the potential for blowback. Blowback can come in two forms:

  • The immediate form is what Putin threatens. He sees them as acts of war, even though they are not kinetic. That is the reason given for escalating the readiness of Russia’s nuclear forces. Russia is responding in an MDO manner. If we believe in our own concept of MDO, we should not be surprised. Under that concept, we have been locked in MDO conflict with Russia and China for years. It just has not gone kinetic.
  • The longer-term form is a re-shaping of global financial and corporate systems. This can take a few forms.
    • Corporations see the power they can exert and become more aggressive players on the world stage. They may exert a form of “reverse corporatism” on states where the corporations exert control over the state.
    • Russia and China develop alternative financial systems that nullify the impact of sanctions. This could set up even greater financial and other competitions within an MDO framework.
    • When the Iranian nuclear facilities experienced a cyber attack, there was some interesting discussion of blowback. Skilled technicians could deconstruct the attack and develop their own exploits based on it. There could well be a similar effect with financial sanctions and events. Russia and China, as corporatist states, control most of their corporations. They can readily engage in their own form of corporate warfare and perhaps do it more effectively than the west for two reasons.
      1. The west does not control corporations the way Russia and China do. Russia and China can task and synchronize.
      2. Russia and China can, and do, dictate terms to western-born multi-national corporations (MNC) that want to do business in their countries. China is especially effective with this technique. Of course, it could also blowback on them.

Now, not that we cannot engage in effective MDO in this situation. We just need tools to coordinate and synchronize without tasking authority. We also need to consider the longer-term implications of these operations against Russia. For coordination and synchronization, we can create a clearing house where states and corporations can discuss actions and at least try to coordinate them when required.

The clearing house approach is proven in disaster assistance and should therefore be effective in humanitarian aid. With some tweaking, it should be effective on lethal aid as well. NATO can draw upon its experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to set up a lethal aid clearing house.

While we are doing this, we also need to contain potential blowback and think through the longer-term implications of holistic MDO.

What are Acts of War?


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