Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 16

to insurgencies and revolutions. The Russian operations that led to the annexation of the Crimea prove their applicability in state-on-state conflict. The Crimean campaign was above all an effort in strategic communication followed up by a minimal but decisive military operation.24 The ousting of the Ukrainian President Yanukovych on 22 February 2014 sparked violent mass demonstrations in the Crimean capital Sebastopol. The Russian media capitalized on popular unrest and depicted the new government in Kiev as a fascist regime. Promises of economic development and social benefits supplemented propaganda promoting adhesion to the Russian Federation. One week later, the Russian parliament discussed a bill granting Russian citizenship to “Russian-speaking citizens of the former USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republic], irrespective of their nationality, faced with the real threat of discrimination based on ethnic and cultural, political or professional affiliation.”25 By offering passports to the Crimean people, the Kremlin not only gave them the opportunity to express their affiliation to Moscow in the clearest of ways but also it created a Russian minority on Ukrainian soil—a minority the Kremlin could claim to have the right and duty to protect. Increasing numbers of “little green men”—believed, but not proven, to be Russian soldiers who had removed all insignia from their uniforms and light-armored vehicles—appeared in Sebastopol’s streets. They mingled with civilian protesters and armed “self-defense” militias surrounding key infrastructures and Ukrainian military bases. These militias were not of great military value but provided the Kremlin with the deniability it needed to claim that the little green men were not Russian troops. Unable to enter or leave their barracks, Ukrainian units surrendered one after the other. In less than one month and almost without firing a shot, an estimated ten thousand Russian soldiers forced sixteen thousand Ukrainian troops to leave the Crimea, abandoning 189 military bases, all weapons, and the entire Ukrainian fleet. The annexation of the Crimea proves how initiatives to mobilize the protest potential of the urban population can greatly enhance the ability of land forces to create favorable and lasting outcomes to armed conflicts. Conclusion As a result of urbanization, belligerents now have the option to tap into an unassailable source of power: the protest potential of the population. In the ever more numerous megacities of the twenty-first century, this potential allows urban-based belligerents to raise force requirements for population control measures to prohibitive levels. The defeat mechanism in this type of warfare is not decisive battle, but conflictual coexistence. It is applicable in revolutions and insurgencies as well as to state-on-state conflict. As urbanization continues, its occurrence will only increase. To cope with this evolution, land forces need to adjust their understanding of initiative. Because popular support—as a source of power—is not exposed to destruction or capture, the only way to deny it to the enemy is to acquire it for oneself. Therefore, initiatives in land operations have to focus on the comfort, hope, and anger of the megaurban population. This calls for capability development in the fields of understanding, inform and influence activities, humanitarian assistance, and the provision of urban essential services. In an urbanized world, gaining popular support is not a mechanism to consolidate the outcome of decisive military operations but a prerequisite to start them. Lt. Col. Erik A. Claessen, Belgian Army, is the commanding officer of the Belgian Defense Distribution and Transit Center for Material Resources. Between July 2010 and October 2014 he served in the Strategy Department of the Belgian Joint Staff as the officer in charge of the land capabilities desk. He earned an MMAS from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Notes 1. Albert Sidney Britt, The Wars of Napoleon (Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers, 2003), 117. 14 2. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976), 75. November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW