How the United States and Europe helped Ukraine prepare for the insurgency

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In recent days, Ukrainian officials and citizens have been clear: even if the country falls under a massive Russian invasion, the fight will not stop there.

“It is high time to move on to the resistance! Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a March 2 Facebook post. “I appeal to the citizens who are in the territories temporarily occupied by the enemy. With your help, our army will quickly defeat and drive out the occupiers.

” The hunters. Foresters. You know all the roads… in your area,” Reznikov said, adding that the guerrillas should “leave the [Russian] tanks” and target logistics convoys. “The enemy must feel that every uninvited step on Ukrainian soil may be the last.”

Ordinary Ukrainians near or behind enemy lines seem to be listening, resisting through both violent and non-violent means.

For some officials, that means everything is going according to plan.

Since 2018, U.S. and European officials have quietly helped Ukraine implement key elements of a total defense framework that military officials call the “resistance operation concept,” according to a U.S. special operations official. who requested anonymity to discuss the project with Military Times. The work took place over time, through inter-agency meetings in Kyiv and with multinational representation, the official explained.

Special Operations Command-Europe was unable to accede to Military Times interview requests for resistance experts due to the ongoing conflict. The Pentagon has taken a restrictive media stance on the war in Ukraine, refusing requests for media integration and performing routine intelligence updates in the background.

From Civil Resistance to Violent Resistance: The ROC and Ukraine

The Resistance Operating Concept focuses on enhancing the ability of NATO members and friendly nations to mount effective civil and military resistance should they face a Russian invasion.

The ROC also encourages civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance in the face of enemy occupation.

Nations supported under the ROC are encouraged to develop the legal and organizational framework for a resistance and place it under the official control of their armed forces. This makes it easier for resistance forces to receive external training, funding, and weapons.

Ukraine’s Total Defense Project, part of a US-NATO-backed defense reform collaboration since the war began in 2014, culminated in such a framework last year. last – and not a second too soon.

“The ROC has helped Ukraine self-evaluate [their national defense plan]…and that generated some momentum for Ukraine to catch up with its neighbors in this proper legal structure,” explained the US special operations official familiar with the country’s resistance planning. The official added that other countries have also implemented the lessons of Ukraine’s combat experience against Russia in the Donbass region.

The Kyiv legislature passed “On the Foundations of National Resistance” in July, according to a statement from President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office. The legislation included “significant measures aimed at developing territorial defense and [a] resistance movement and introducing a system of preparation of the population for national resistance”.

It also provides legal protections for any civilian in Ukraine who takes up arms against an occupying force, while providing the government with options to disavow or block counterproductive resistance.

The law also gave highly capable Ukrainian SOF units – which have trained extensively with US, Canadian and European troops since 2014 – responsibility for building up and coordinating insurgent forces in the event of an occupation.

It is not yet clear whether the Ukrainian SOF are organizing and leading the insurgent forces amid their ongoing ambushes and raids against Russian columns. But the first signs of resistance appear as Western nations flood the country with man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

One of many widely shared videos outside the conflict zone depicts a Molotov cocktail attack while driving on a towed disabled Russian vehicle.

Videos from Kherson, one of the few cities currently under Russian occupation, show a restless population protests and hinders the occupying forces. A video even showed protesters brawling with Russian troops as a hail of warning shots rang out in the background.

Citizens of Energogar, another town in southern Ukraine, delayed a Russian advance on the city’s nuclear power plant when hundreds of residents blocked the road with vehicles, barricades and their own bodies.

Training materials anytime, anywhere

Ukrainian officials are also doing their best to fan the flames.

A new official website – the “National Resistance Center” – run by Ukraine’s special operations forces offers advice and manuals for would-be insurgents of all stripes. It also broadcasts daily “fresh news” on protests and resistance actions in Russian-occupied areas of the country.

The website includes how-to guides on reporting Russian troop movements, tactical medicine, secure communications, sabotage and more.

A 19-page “pocket book” consolidates much of the training material into a single PDF document illustrated with various images of Vault Boy, a symbol of the Fallout video game series where players navigate a post-apocalyptic world through intelligence and sabotage.

Notably, the website also tells ordinary citizens how they can resist the Russian occupation without taking up arms.

One page calls on office workers of any future Russian occupation administration to ‘work as slowly as possible’, spread ‘alarming’ rumors in the workplace, ‘do their jobs poorly’ and misplace documents .

Implications beyond Ukraine

Embracing total defense is not unique to Ukraine, although the Eastern European country of more than 40 million people is poised to be a test case of these principles in action.

In recent years, other countries in Europe have quietly updated their national defense plans to lay the groundwork for an insurgency in the event of Russian invasion and occupation.

Countries at the forefront of resistance planning include Poland, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden; and other vulnerable states, such as Georgia.

Ukraine, if its government falls, will offer insight into a burning question for these countries: Can a country sow the seeds of insurgency even before a full-scale war begins?

That’s what military planners in countries that have invested heavily in resistance capabilities are watching closely, the editorial director of West Point’s Modern War Institute, John Amble, explained in a recent article.

“Ultimately, the questions are whether civil resistance is a credible way to defend against aggression, and if so, what balance between such an approach and conventional capabilities is appropriate,” Amble explained. He noted that the effectiveness of these efforts so far “remains unknown in an operational sense but has certainly been symbolically powerful.”

Ukraine is considered one of the countries best suited for armed resistance among ROC adherents due to its combat experience in the east of the country, said the special operations official familiar with planning the country resistance.

If the resistance cannot succeed there, some fear it will succeed nowhere – although Ukraine cannot rely on NATO military intervention like many other ROC-inspired armies can. .

Meanwhile, planners supporting Ukraine are bracing for what could be a protracted fight.

According to the Washington Post, Ukraine’s partners are “planning how to help establish and sustain a government-in-exile, which could direct guerrilla operations against the Russian occupiers” in the event that Kiev and other cities fall and render untenable continuation of conventional warfare.

“We have to win the war,” an adviser to Zelenskyy told The Washington Post. “There are no other options.”

Davis Winkie is a staff reporter covering the military. He originally joined Military Times as a reporting intern in 2020. Prior to journalism, Davis worked as a military historian. He is also a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.

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