Dozens of “Russia scare” traders flocked to Estonia to sit down and find out how best to protect against Moscow’s pervasive hand. Things they discussed were either out-of-date or profoundly irrelevant.
A bizarre two-day event, called the Annual Conference on Russia 2018, was hosted in a tiny university town of Tartu, Estonia, by the Baltic Defense College. Coincidence or not, the event was largely underreported in Western or local media, despite some of the odious speakers who were in attendance. Let’s take a closer look at the people who are at the forefront of modern-day Kremlinology.
Take, for instance, Mark Galeotti, a pundit at US State Broadcaster RFE/RL, who was a keynote speaker in Tartu. He rose to fame after coining the odd term “Gerasimov doctrine,” named after Valery Gerasimov, the incumbent Russian Chief of the General Staff. According to Galeotti and the likes, the mystery doctrine was a new way of waging a hybrid war or a combination of military actions and subversion.
Two days before the Russia conference, Galeotti, who promoted the term for several years, admitted in a Foreign Policy piece that the doctrine does not actually exist, saying, “I’m sorry for creating the Gerasimov Doctrine.” His theory was previously dismissed by Bryan MacDonald, an RT columnist.
“I feel I can say that because, to my immense chagrin, I created this term, which has since acquired a destructive life of its own, lumbering clumsily into the world to spread fear and loathing in its wake,” Galeotti said.
He explained that in his original blog he did not imply that General Gerasimov was laying out some hypothetical Russian doctrine of hybrid war, even though he did write “Call it non-linear war (which I prefer), or hybrid war, or special war” at the very start.
Still, it did not stop him from appearing in Estonia, where he spoke during the session called “Info War in Hybrid Warfare Model.”
Interrupted by coffee-breaks and a lunch, the conference went on, this time taking aim at Russia’s military policy. A night-owl session featured two colonels and one retired general – namely Ben Hodges, the former commander of US Army Europe – who spoke of the joint Russia-Belarus Zapad exercise.
General Hodges was the one who spearheaded NATO’s controversial build-up in Eastern Europe, labeled Russia “a real threat” to the military bloc and fanned fears of Russian military outpacing Western counterparts in deployment capabilities.
And as in the case with his obsolete Cold War military thinking, the session’s topic was also a bit too outdated. The Zapad-2017 exercise took place in September last year, spanning across several territories of Russia and Belarus.
Fitting in perfectly with this remarkable cohort of experts was Elizabeth Wahl, who made a show of resigning from RT America on air in March 2014 over what she denounced as the channel’s biased coverage of the conflict in Ukraine. Thrust into the spotlight overnight, Wahl became a frequent guest on mainstream shows, where she used her new-found fame to spew anti-Russia vitriol and promote the mainstream media’s narrative. She recently went as far as to suggest the US intelligence should meddle in the Russian presidential elections to help elect Putin’s critic, Alexei Navalny.
At the conference, Wahl supposedly offered her insight into the lessons one might learn from Russia’s campaign in Syria.
The conference, hosted by the Baltic Defence College, took place on March 8 and 9. Its stated goal was to study threats posed by Russia’s military and political aspirations and think of ways to hit back with a special focus on “transatlantic deterrence.”