"From Moscow, Vladimir Putin has seized the momentum of this unraveling, exacting critical damage to the underpinnings of the liberal world order in a shockingly short time. As he builds a new system to replace the one we know, attempts by America and its allies to repair the damage have been limited and slow. Even this week, as Barack Obama tries to confront Russia's open and unprecedented interference in our political process, the outgoing White House is so far responding to 21st century hybrid information warfare with last century's diplomatic toolkit: the expulsion of spies, targeted sanctions, potential asset seizure.
We can only confront this by fully understanding how the Kremlin sees the world. Its worldview and objectives are made abundantly clear in speeches, op-eds, official policy and national strategy documents, journal articles, interviews, and, in some cases, fiction writing of Russian officials and ideologues. We should understand several things from this material.
First, it is a war. A thing to be won, decisively � not a thing to be negotiated or bargained. It's all one war: Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, the Baltics, Georgia. It's what Vladislav Surkov, Putin's 'grey cardinal' and lead propagandist, dubbed 'non-linear war' in his science fiction story 'Without Sky,' in 2014.
Second, it's all one war machine. Military, technological, information, diplomatic, economic, cultural, criminal, and other tools are all controlled by the state and deployed toward one set of strategic objectives. This is the Gerasimov doctrine, penned by Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Chief of the General Staff, in 2013. Political warfare is meant to achieve specific political outcomes favorable to the Kremlin: it is preferred to physical conflict because it is cheap and easy. The Kremlin has many notches in its belt in this category, some of which have been attributed, many likely not. It's a mistake to see this campaign in the traditional terms of political alliances: rarely has the goal been to install overtly pro-Russian governments. Far more often, the goal is simply to replace Western-style democratic regimes with illiberal, populist, or nationalist ones.
Third, information warfare is not about creating an alternate truth, but eroding our basic ability to distinguish truth at all. It is not 'propaganda' as we've come to think of it, but the less obvious techniques known in Russia as 'active measures' and 'reflexive control.' Both are designed to make us, the targets, act against our own best interests.
Fourth, the diplomatic side of this non-linear war isn't a foreign policy aimed at building a new pro-Russian bloc, Instead, it's what the Kremlin calls a 'multi-vector' foreign policy, undermining the strength of Western institutions by coalescing alternate - ideally temporary and limited - centers of power. Rather than a stable world order undergirded by the U.S. and its allies, the goal is an unstable new world order of 'all against all.' The Kremlin has tried to accelerate this process by both inflaming crises that overwhelm the Western response (for example, the migration crisis in Europe, and the war in eastern Ukraine) and by showing superiority in 'solving' crises the West could not (for example, bombing Syria into submission, regardless of the cost, to show Russia can impose stability in the Middle East when the West cannot)."
This article assumes a bit of a pro-neoliberal bias, but is a good overview of the reality of modern conflict - and it's call out to the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings is important as well.