Deception is an essential tool in any military or strategic endeavor. Before the advent of satellites, fixed-wing surveillance aircraft and drones, military planners had an easier time hiding their military movements and planning attacks. In the 1900’s the authorities were able to use hot air balloons and observers, planted in a basket hanging below the air filled with air, looking through the spyglass trying to find enemies and troops. This gave only a very limited view of the battle plan and could easily be confused by the clouds, created by the eruption or by Mother Nature, that covered the area. Eighteenth-century officials also relied heavily on public spies.
In the first half of the 20th Century, technological advances in aviation (for example, fixed-wing aircraft) and electronic communications enhanced the ability of military planners to detect enemy activity and terrain. But the task of finding out what the enemy team was doing was a double-edged sword. For example, a wise general could have the same army march repeatedly into an area where it would appear that his army was the largest. Confederate officers in the American Civil War, for example, used this method several times. That is some kind of deception.
Deception techniques begin with the assumption that the enemy is gathering intelligence about the size, capabilities, location, and intent of your forces. Your job, as a deception expert, is to convince your adversary that you will take a certain course of action by feeding the adversary information that focuses their attention on a false target and away from the real goal.
One of the most famous examples of World War II was Operation Bodyguard. The Brits get credit for coming up with this trick.
Operation Bodyguard it was the code name of a World War II fraud The strategy used is Associated countries before the 1944 invasion of northwestern Europe. The bodyguard set up a trick High Command of the Wehrmacht regarding the time and place of the attack. Planning for Bodyguard began in 1943 with a London Controlling Section, Department of Defense. He created a self-organization plan, called Plan Jaeli, which was presented to the leaders of the conference Tehran Conference at the end of November and, although he was skeptical because of the failure of the previous trick, approved on 6 December 1943.
Bodyguard was a method used by all fraudsters. The main objective was to lead the Germans to believe that the invasion of northwest Europe would come later than planned and to expect further attacks, including Pas-de-Calaisand Balkansin the south France, Norway and the Soviet invasion Bulgaria and northern Norway. A major part of the strategy was to try to cover up the concentration of troops in Southern England, by creating threats throughout the European theater, and by emphasizing the Allied interest in large-scale bombing contests.
The main method was not a working method; instead it set up all the topics for each sub-task to support. Fraud planners in England and Cairo developed several methods of operation (which were very important Operation Fortitude which caused the risk Pas-de-Calais).
Operation Fortitude had General George S. Patton as the commander of a fictitious army landing at Pas-de-Calais. The trick involved setting up a base in England full of burned out tanks, trucks and ammunition, and a flood of radio traffic that enticed the Germans to monitor communications and images from reconnaissance planes so Patton could lead an invasion of Europe.
The Brits were good at these tricks, but the Soviets were even better. Maskirovka is a Russian word for preparing and delivering a heavy blow without alerting the enemy to Russian intentions. Operation Bagration is a well-known example:
By mid-war the Soviets had mastered the nature of radio and communications security. Concealment techniques had advanced greatly, and Soviet officials had mastered the difficult task of moving troops quickly to exploit German forces. Zhukov also noted that at the time the Soviets were very good at keeping their intentions secret and spreading disinformation and misleading the enemy. At that time many Soviet units were using code tables for radio and telephone. Numbers were changed every 24 hours, and cipher keys were sent by couriers. A detailed section of maskirovka was included in each work order.
In Belarus, as part of Operation Bagration in 1944, Soviet tanks and guns rolled out of the marshes on the northern edge of the Pripet Marshes, surprising the German defenders. Undetected by the Germans, Soviet engineers laid wooden roads, creating a permanent road for Soviet artillery that gained 25 kilometers per day against the panic-stricken Germans, who retreated against the attack.
The planning of Operation Bagration was so secretive that the Soviets were able to get the rebels to attack the main German Army Group Center. Deceptive operations encouraged the Germans to strengthen the southern sector of the front while a major blow struck the north. Destroyed railway lines meant that the Germans could not get their weapons back to where they were most needed.
Credit to Patrick Armstrong for his observation that modern deception in the age of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (aka ISR) is far more complex than that used in World War II. It is unlikely that Ukraine or Russia can mobilize a large military force in a war zone without being detected. The United States has ignored the deception in this matter by regularly announcing the deployment of troops and weapons to the Ukrainian border.
When it comes to the war in Ukraine, it seems that Russia has a big advantage in maskirovka because NATO has no way to coordinate and is under a lot of pressure to start domestic politics. Then there are social networks and the Internet. It’s a powerful way to shape public opinion and confuse intellectuals. The Western arrangement of Prigozhin and the Wagner Group is a good example. Americans and Europeans have been captivated by stories and movies about Wagner’s latest masterpiece. So answer this question – where are all the Russian soldiers? Western journalists don’t talk much about how the Russian military is doing, unless a general, like General Popov, is deposed. What is surprising about Popov’s story is that he was sent to lead Russian military operations in Syria instead of being paid. Maskirovka? Maybe.
Maskirovka is very similar to fly fishing. Fraud planners need to know how to use the hook and something that Westerners and military planners can easily swallow. I wouldn’t be surprised that Russia has been feeding the West stories about the turmoil in the Russian military, Putin’s isolation and illness, and moral turpitude. We are already seeing that many adults in the United States and Europe approve of these memes. If Western leaders believe that Russia is on the brink of collapse they can reject intelligence reports and ignore evidence that says otherwise.
My advice is simple – take everything you read in the media and on the internet with a grain of salt. I believe that Russian military planners continue to accept deception as a central part of their military philosophy and tactics and that many in the West are ignoring this concept. In contrast, the United States and its NATO allies – more socially conscious – are focusing on information warfare to the exclusion of other covert operations. The result is confusion – NATO is struggling to figure out what Russia will do to end the war in Ukraine.