Maskirovka: Russia’s Gray Zone Between Peace and War

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Vladimir Putin at the UN

While all militaries seek to lead enemies astray, Russia’s military doctrine of deception – known as maskirovka, Russian for “masking” or “camouflage” – is a foundational component of the Russian military and intelligence mindset. With maskirovka, the fog of war is not merely the natural byproduct of combat, but a deliberately manufactured feature of military operations intended to increase ambiguity and indecision in opposing forces. Using decoys, clandestine actions and disinformation, maskirovka facilitates military resilience, surprise action and increases doubt in an adversary while concealing Russian weaknesses.

  • The tools of maskirovka broadly include psychological operations, manipulation of media, disinformation and propaganda, electronic and cyber warfare, irregular forces not in uniform, private military contractors, proxies and physical deception through camouflaged military maneuver.
  • While not necessarily a new doctrine of warfare, maskirovka in its modern iteration takes place at the seams of conventional conflict – the gray zone between peace and war.

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