Ukraine is successfully using a method of resistance warfare developed by U.S. special operations forces to fight back against Russia and bog down its vastly superior military, CNN reported on Aug. 27.
The method – the Resistance Operating Concept (ROC) – was developed in 2013 following Russia’s war with Georgia a few years earlier, but its value was only realized after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
The doctrine is not intended to create or support an insurgency; its goal is to establish a government-sanctioned force that will carry out activities against a foreign occupier with the goal of restoring sovereignty.
CNN said that the ROC provides an innovative and unconventional approach to warfare and total defense that has guided not just Ukraine’s military, but also involved the country’s civilian population as part of a concerted resistance against Russia’s army.
Early in the conflict, the Ukrainian government created a website that explains different ways to resist. The site describes ways of using of nonviolent actions, including boycotting public events, labor strikes, and even how to use humor and satire. The goal is to disrupt the ability of pro-Russian authorities to govern while reminding the population of Ukraine’s rightful sovereignty.
The resistance doctrine suggests violent actions as well, including using Molotov cocktails, deliberately starting fires and putting chemicals in gas tanks to sabotage enemy vehicles. The doctrine also calls for a broad messaging campaign to control the narrative of the conflict, prevent an occupier’s message from taking hold, and keeping the population united.
In particular, videos of Ukrainian strikes against Russian tanks, often to a soundtrack of pop music or heavy metal, have gone viral, as have clips of Ukrainian soldiers rescuing stray animals. Whether intentional or not, it becomes part of the resistance, allowing Ukraine to frame the headlines in western media in their favor and often humanizing Ukrainian service members in ways the Russian military has abjectly failed to do.
According to CNN, at the forefront of the resistance is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has not let the conflict fade out of sight with nightly speeches and frequent international appearances. His visits near the front-lines make news around the world, while Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is rarely seen outside the Kremlin or the resort of Sochi.
The ongoing messaging barrage has spurred a groundswell of overseas support and successfully increased on western governments to supply more arms and ammunition to Ukraine.
“They (the Ukrainians) are using every resource and they’re also using some highly unconventional means by which to disrupt the Russian Federation military,” said retired Lt. Gen. Mark Schwartz, who was commander of Special Operations Command Europe during the doctrine's development.
“It’s just incredible to watch, despite the unbelievable loss of life and sacrifice, what the will to resist and the resolve to resist can do.”
At the same time, in a series of recent attacks and explosions at Russian positions in Crimea, Kevin D. Stringer, a retired Army Colonel who led the development team for the resistance concept, sees signs of its use.
“Since you can’t do it conventionally, you would use special operations forces, and those (forces) would need resistance support – intelligence, resources, logistics – in order to access these regions,” Stringer said.
“High probability would say it’s very plausible that (the ROC) principles are playing out in actual warfare right now.”