What is a “hybrid attack?” Why prepare? Eastern Europe, at this moment, is facing a new kind of warfare, slow-motion mass infiltration, violating border sanctity, leading with thousands of children, abusing asylum laws, effectively seeking to overrun a nation.
Where is it happening? Much is written about Russia’s efforts to insinuate troops into Ukraine. That history is complicated. Military threat real, troops on Ukraine’s border, but beware the foil.
Like our WWII feint at Calais to throw Hitler off, causing him to miss our movement on Normandy, the real “hybrid attack” may be elsewhere. Within the week, Belarus – supported by Russia’s Putin – has massed thousands of “refugees” on Poland’s border to flood the zone.
Pause for a geography refresher. Belarus – aligned with Putin – is the hub of a wheel, the center of action. To that nation’s east is Russia – with a long border. To the west is Poland. To the northwest is Lithuania, north Latvia, south Ukraine. Belarus is in the middle.
Why does that matter? For a “hybrid attack” to flood the zone, Belarus is perfect. Using non-Polish “refugees” – and children, like terrorists do for human shields – Belarusian infiltrators could push over Poland’s border in huge numbers, claiming asylum by thousands, sowing chaos.
The goal would be disorientation, challenging NATO – using the European Union’s asylum laws against them. Or it could be a clever reverse, creating a distraction that allows Russia to move on to Ukraine, as NATO is preoccupied by an overrun Poland.
It could get worse, accelerating swiftly. Even as Belarus prepares for a “hybrid attack” on Poland, three other nations are at risk. A “hybrid attack” could also be launched on Lithuania, Latvia, and – ironically – driving south from Belarus, not east from Russia, on Ukraine.
Remember, Russians are excellent chess players. While we have more to fear – magnitudes – from China, that does not mean Russia is blind to their moment, to weakness in NATO, to an unfocused, incoherent US President, to deepening American concerns over China.
If a perfect time existed to put NATO in fear – through members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia – this is it. Belarus is integrated into the Russian military, interoperable. The EU is divided, dependent on Russia for energy. NATO is divided, the US internally divided, morally adrift.
Russia knows all this – as does China. One unasked question is – Could China and Russia (using Belarus) be cooperating to maximize a shot at long-sought territories, regional control, pressuring NATO, causing a weak US administration to spread thin, or worse – do nothing?
Certainly possible. We do not know, but the smart money says Russia recalls Nixon “playing the China card” against the Soviets, while China recalls post-Soviet US openings to Russia. They could now return the favor in tandem.
If Russia moves on Poland – via “hybrid attack,” using surrogate Belarus – NATO will be hard-pressed. If Russia triples the ante, using Belarus to push over the borders of Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine, NATO will be at a disadvantage. War would be a bad option, but absent deterrence, those NATO borders begin to look very vulnerable – like the old Maginot line.
Add an eager China, which would look at any move – including a direct one by Russia on Ukraine, a historically fraught relationship – as a chance to potentially move on Taiwan.
The international chess pieces are related, some whispering to each other. This is worth quickly focused on by Biden’s team. They need to get deep into diplomacy or will be deep in something else.
The kicker: What does all this remind you of? Where else could a “hybrid attack” be launched already be underway? Where else is there a long, vulnerable, challenged border? While Poland has shut theirs, what nation has not done that?
Yes, I think you are onto the game. Chess pieces in our backfield are vulnerable. If a “hybrid attack” – aimed at mass distraction – is possible in Europe against NATO, why not here?
The US Southwest border is open. Our most hateful adversaries know it, know we are weak at home, not showing the resolve Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia are against Belarus. If they can do it there, anyone can do it here.
Beware the “hybrid attack,” as it would make current crossings look like a trickle. What is bad could get far worse unless we get serious. The time is now to pivot, deter and protect. We should follow Poland’s example and make clear – our border matters.