Engelstein’s book serves as a useful reminder that the hybrid warfare playbook is not new, especially not within the context of Eastern Europe. Almost every tactic Western analysts have attributed to Russia since the 2014 invasion of Crimea can be found in the book. Invading and calling a snap referendum to validate it is how the Poles took Vilnius from Lithuania. When an election in the Ukrainian Rada resulted in unfavorable political leadership, the Ukrainian Bolsheviks decamped to Eastern Ukraine (Kharkov) to create their own competing institutions, primarily to justify Soviet intervention. Propaganda using the latest technologies of the day, provocations, assassinations (at home and abroad), front-organizations, a nexus between organized crime and state power, and the political use of diasporas were all used extensively by the belligerents of the Russian Civil War. Many of the hot-spots are even the same: Crimea, Donetsk, Kharkov, Abkhazia, Adjara, Transnistria, and others.
Modern readers will find parallels and similarities between the intervention of a century ago and those more recent. Churchill’s Secret War with Lenin engagingly illuminates the history of a small war that served as both part of the Great War and the dawn of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West. Wright masterfully presents the history of a failed campaign in compelling human and strategic terms through his use of primary sources, synthesis of other works, and his own analysis. Strategists, planners, and tacticians will all take something away from the work.