aslund65_Mikhail SvetlovGetty Images Mikhail SvetlovGetty Images

Confronting the Kremlin's New Hybrid War in Europe

With the Kremlin intent on dividing and weakening the European Union, and now probing for vulnerabilities, Western powers must come together and issue a forceful response. History has shown that there must be no accommodation or turning a blind eye to Russian military, political, and economic provocations.

STOCKHOLM – As winter approaches, the Kremlin is instigating trouble in Europe. Its latest machinations include a gas war against Central and Eastern European countries; a migration crisis along Belarus’s borders with Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland; a renewed military mobilization on Ukraine’s eastern border; and agitation for Serbian secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Although this campaign has multiple objectives, a common thread runs through it: the Kremlin’s desire to divide and weaken the European Union. That means acquiring Germany’s approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as fast as possible; disrupting the EU gas market, with a view to returning to Soviet-style long-term contracts, with gas prices tied to oil; and weakening Ukraine and forcing Moldova to abandon its European Association Agreement and join Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union instead.

The Kremlin tends to send up trial balloons to see what it can get away with before hitting hard if the opportunity arises. That means the West – the United States, the EU, and the United Kingdom – will need to act fast to head off whatever is coming next. The biggest mistake one can make in responding to Russian provocations is to do nothing, or to react too slowly and too softly. As Keir Giles of Chatham House argues, the West must recognize “that confrontation with Russia cannot be avoided because it is already happening.” History shows that “Russia respects strength and despises compromise and accommodation.”