The Gerasimov Model in Action: Russian Tactics, Techniques, and
Procedures in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, 2013–2014
This study uses an analytical framework derived from the work of General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Russian Federation. General Gerasimov’s
main thesis is that modern conflict differs significantly from the paradigm of World War II and even from Cold War conflict. In place of declared wars, strict delineation of military and nonmilitary efforts, and large conventional forces fighting climactic battles, modern conflict instead features undeclared wars, hybrid operations combining military and nonmilitary activities, and smaller precision-based forces.
Gerasimov, observing American and European experiences in the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the intervention in Libya, notes that political, economic, cultural, and other nonmilitary factors play decisive roles. Indeed, even humanitarian
operations should be considered part of an unconventional warfare campaign.
Gerasimov’s model is a useful construct for analyzing Russian actions in Crimea and Ukraine because it makes clear that political, economic, and intelligence efforts precede (indeed, can even bypass) military action. His explanation implies that the state prosecuting the unconventional warfare campaign must be in control of the
catalysts and crises that lead to escalation and resolution, rather than simply react to events. In the 2014 campaigns in Crimea and Ukraine, Russia in fact controlled and exercised a strong grip on the pace of many of the headline events.
The ouster of Yanukovych and the threat of armed action by the hard-right opposition led to the next phase of Russia’s effort to impose its will on Ukraine. At the
start of the conflict Russia turned its focus on securing Crimea. Later, after the annexation of Crimea, Putin’s priority turned toward securing Russian influence
and control over eastern Ukraine, in part to maintain a land bridge to Crimea. While the covert origins and escalations stages of Gerasimov’s model are related for both Crimea and eastern Ukraine, two different timelines began to
manifest for the later stages: one for Crimea and the other for eastern Ukraine.