Ukraine at D+566: Ukrainian drones and missiles hit naval units in Sevastopol.
N2K logoSep 13, 2023

Ukraine strikes Russian naval units. The US Department of Defense issues a cyber strategy informed by the experience of Russia's war against Ukraine.

Ukraine at D+566: Ukrainian drones and missiles hit naval units in Sevastopol.

Ukrainian official sources claim more local successes around Klishchiivka (southwest of Bakhmut) and south and southeast of Robotyne.

The BBC reports a Ukrainian attack against Russian naval units in Sevastopol. The strike involved both aerial weapons and uncrewed surface boats. Russian sources report fires at the port and damage to two ships, the large landing ship Minsk and the submarine Rostov-on-Don. Both are believed to have been in dry dock. Russian state media was quick to say that both ships would soon be repaired and returned to service. Comments by Ukrainian officials in social media suggest that air-launched Storm Shadow or SCALP missiles, supplied respectively by the UK and France, were used in the strike.

Debate within Russia's Presidential Administration over how to fill the ranks.

Reports based on a Telegram channel close to Russian security services suggest that there's an internal debate within the Russian government over how to replenish the army's ranks. (Telegram reading has replaced looking at who's standing where atop Lenin's Tomb during the May Day parade in this post-Soviet phase of Kremlinological hermeneutics.) The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) yesterday said that, "Russian insider sources claimed that the Kremlin’s inner circle is again actively disagreeing about the necessity of and preparations for a second wave of reserve mobilization ahead of the semi-annual fall conscription cycle, which starts on October 1." Some officials are said to be preparing for a second reserve mobilization like the one conducted last Fall. That earlier reserve call-up brought 300,000 into the ranks, but it also prompted about 400,000 Russians to flee the country.

The ISW wrote, "The channel claimed that Russian officials want to mobilize between 170,000 to 175,000 reservists and move the fall conscription date from October 1 to November 1 to accommodate a reserve mobilization processes, while simultaneously conducting “contract mobilization” to recruit an additional 130,000 personnel for contract service using coercive measures." It's a hard-line approach to manning, favored by "siloviki [strong men] hawks" who also want loopholes closed that in their view have exempted too many from service. The reserve mobilization and its proposed ancillary measures are resisted by others in the government, who foresee an adverse public (and bureaucratic) reaction, and who probably also remember the 400,000 who bugged out the last time reserve mobilization was tried.

President Putin, asked about reserve mobilization during the Eastern Economic Forum meetings yesterday, responded by talking about contract recruitment rates, which may indicate a preference for a quietly coercive "crypto" mobilization.

Early deployment of newly organized formations.

The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) this morning reported another sign of the manning challenges Russian forces are facing. "Elements of Russia’s new 25th Combined Arms Army (25 CAA) have highly likely deployed to Ukraine for the first time. The formation is likely focused on Luhansk Oblast in the north-east of the country," the MoD writes. "As recently as August 2023, recruitment adverts for 25 CAA claimed it would only deploy to Ukraine from December 2023. It is likely that units have been rushed into action early partly because Russia continues to grapple with an over-stretched force along the front and Ukraine continues its counter-offensive on three different axes. However, there is also a realistic possibility that Russia will attempt to use parts of 25 CAA to regenerate an uncommitted reserve force in the theatre to provide commanders with more operational flexibility."

Chairman Kim pledges his support for Russia.

Meeting at Vostochny cosmodrome, a launch facility in the Russian Far East, North Korea's Chairman Kim pledged his commitment to Russia's "just fight." The AP reports that the DPRK leader said, as he met with President Putin during a rare (for Mr. Kim) trip abroad, "Russia is currently engaged in a just fight against hegemonic forces to defend its sovereign rights, security and interests. I take this opportunity to affirm that we will always stand with Russia on the anti-imperialist front and the front of independence.” What Russia hopes to get is lots of artillery ammunition, which North Korea has been stockpiling since the 1950s. What North Korea hopes to get is Russian missile technology. (The missile tech is being framed as cooperation for the exploration and use of space, and there's talk of Russia flying a North Korean cosmonaut, but it's missile tech that's really at issue here.)

US Department of Defense publishes its 2023 Cyber Strategy, informed by lessons from Russia's war against Ukraine.

The US Department of Defense has sent its 2023 Cyber Strategy to Congress and made an unclassified version available to the public. "This strategy draws on lessons learned from years of conducting cyber operations and our close observation of how cyber has been used in the Russia-Ukraine war," Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb said. "It has driven home the need to work closely with our allies, partners, and industry to make sure we have the right cyber capabilities, cyber security, and cyber resilience to help deter conflict, and to fight and win if deterrence fails." The Strategy outlines "four complementary lines of effort:"

  1. "Defend the Nation." This commits to defending forward, and "disrupting and degrading" the adversaries' capabilities and the "ecosystem" that supports them.
  2. "Prepare to Fight and Win the Nation's Wars." This line of effort aims at national resilience, and at achieving the ability to operate in contested cyberspace.
  3. "Protect the Cyber Domain with Allies and Partners." This line of effort is most clearly influenced by the lessons of the hybrid war against Ukraine.
  4. "Build Enduring Advantages in Cyberspace." That is, the Department of Defense is in this for the long haul.

"In Russia's war on Ukraine," the Strategy says, "Russian military and intelligence units have employed a range of cyber capabilities to support kinetic operations and defend Russian actions through a global propaganda campaign. Russia has repeatedly used cyber means in its attempts to disrupt Ukrainian military logistics, sabotage civilian infrastructure, and erode political will." To be sure, the Russian cyber campaign has fallen well short of expectations, but that's no accident: they faced effective opposition. "While these efforts have yielded limited results, this is due largely to the resilience of Ukrainian networks and support from the international community. In a moment of crisis, Russia is prepared to launch similar cyber attacks against the United States and our Allies and partners."

The strategy also notes that deterrence in cyberspace requires that cyber capabilities be integrated with other capabilities and operations, that cyber operations deter best when they're integrated as combat support, and when they're accompanied by other measures, presumably including non-military legal and economic action. "Experiences have shown that cyber capabilities held in reserve or employed in isolation render little deterrent effect on their own. Instead, these military capabilities are most effective when used in concert with other instruments of national power, creating a deterrent greater than the sum of its parts."

A recent example of defending forward was provided by the deployment of a team from the US Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) to Lithuania. That team has now rotated back to Fort Meade. US Cyber Command sees that engagement as having paid off considerably in terms of the intelligence it developed. Major General Joe Hartman, CNMF commander, said in a Cyber Command press release, “Cyber threats rarely occur in a vacuum. Ultimately, what impacts one nation or network can impact us all and that is why we are fortunate to have opportunities such as these to work side by side with trusted partners in Lithuania.”

Pegasus found in Russian journalist's phone.

The Washington Post reports that a journalist writing for Meduza, the exiled Russian outlet that's deeply out of favor with President Putin's regime, was targeted with Pegasus spyware. Galina Timchenko's device was infected on February 10th when she was in Germany. It's unknown which Pegasus user was responsible, but the Post says "leading suspects include Russia or its neighbors, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia or Uzbekistan."

Online advertising placement and online advertising fraud show a wartime decline.

A study by the anti-fraud firm Anura and the University of Delaware concludes that ad fraud--fraudulent traffic drawn to online ads--has declined during Russia's war against Ukraine. In one respect the result is counterintuitive: one normally expects an increase in most forms of crime during periods of social dislocation, and war obviously represents one such period. But wartime can also be a period of depressed economic activity, and that's been the case with Russia, especially given the large number of international companies who've exited the Russian market. The online advertising sector has suffered, and with it, apparently, opportunities for successful fraud. Certain criminal sectors closely track the fortunes of legitimate sectors.