Russia, Reflexive Control, and the Subtle Art of Red Teaming
“To understand the Russian approach to strategy and conflict, we must first understand something about the concept of reflexive control. Initially developed and championed by Vladimir Lefebvre, it’s a uniquely Russian view on stratagem and deception that repackages and reframes much of what we usually associate with Sun Tzu. If we expect deception and stratagem from China but not from Russia, we’ve set yourself up to be surprised. We’d be foolish to assume that the Russians are not currently employing reflexive control against the West.
By definition, reflexive control is ‘a means of conveying to a partner or an opponent specially prepared information to incline him to voluntarily make the predetermined decision desired by the initiator of the action.’1 In other words, when employing the theory of reflexive control, you paint a picture of the world, that, if successful, your opponent accepts. This false picture compels your opponent to act in your favor. A close term in the U.S. lexicon is ‘perception management,’2 although the tone of reflexive control is arguably broader and more Machiavellian. “