Reflexive control

6a00d834530f5469e200e54f74dcce8834-800wiReflexive Control is a study on how to control the enemy by influencing its decision-making processes.

These decision-making processes can be human-based or computer-based. The initiator of Reflexive Control typically operates by delivering  specially prepared information to the decision-maker of the opponent to incline him to make a predetermined decision, beneficial to the initiator.

“By definition, reflexive control occurs when the controlling organ conveys (to the objective system) motives and reasons that cause it to reach the desired decision, the nature of which is maintained in strict secrecy. The decision itself must be made independently.”

In fact, the enemy comes up with a decision based on the idea of the situation which he has formed, to include the disposition of our troops and installations and the command element’s intentions known to him. Such an idea is shaped above all by intelligence and other factors, which rest on a stable set of concepts, knowledge, ideas and, finally, experience. This set usually is called the “filter,” which helps a commander separate necessary from useless information, true data from false and so on. The chief task of reflexive control is to locate the weak link of the filter, and exploit it.

To gain the Reflexive Control, one needs to study the opponents “filter” in order to learn how to exploit it.

When Reflexive Control is achieved, the initiator has some level of control over how the enemy sees the situation and it becomes possible to influence their future moves and how they fight. This enables the initiator of RC to impose their will on the enemy. As a result, the enemy may make decisions that will be disadvantageous or fatal to them.


The ways how to control enemy’s decisions include

  • Disinformation
  • Selected information
  • Camouflage
  • Blackmail
  • Compromising of various officials and officers
  • Encouragement
  • Force
  • Intimidation
  • Enticement
  • Deception
  • Concealment
  • Distraction
  • Information-overload
  • Cyber-attacks
  • Asymmetric warfare (using fighters without insignia and unmarked military vehicles, denying involvement)
  • Economic attacks
  • Other stratagem (tricks of war for deceiving and outwitting the enemy)

How to use it?

Russian military theorist S.A. Komov wrote that Reflexive Control is a form of “Intellectual Information War”. His suggestion on how to use Information War against systems, people, alliances or forces are:

  • Distraction—during preparatory stages of combat operations, creating a real or imaginary threat against one of the most vital enemy places such as flanks and rear, forcing him to reevaluate his decisions to operate on this or that axis.
  • Overload—often manifested by sending the enemy a large amount of conflicting information.
  • Paralysis—creating the belief of a specific threat to a vital interest or weak spot.
  • Exhaustion—cause the enemy to carry out useless operations, thereby entering combat with expended resources.
  • Deception—during preparatory stages of combat operations, force the enemy to reallocate forces to a threatened spot.
  • Divisive techniques—cause the enemy to believe he must operate in opposition to coalition interests.
  • Pacification—through a peaceful attitude and approach cause the enemy to lose vigilance.
  • Deterrence—create the impression of superiority.
  • Provocation—force enemy action advantageous to your side.
  • Suggestion—offer information that affects the enemy legally, morally, ideologically or in other areas.
  • Pressure—offer information that encourages society to discredit its own government.

Reflexive Control mechanisms

Clifford Reid wrote a chapter for the book “Soviet Strategic Deception” in which he categorised Russian reflexive Control mechanisms as follows.

  1. transfer of an image of the situation: providing an opponent with an erroneous or incomplete image of the situation.
  2. creation of a goal for the opponent: putting an opponent in a position in which he must select a goal in our favor (for example, provoking an enemy with a threat to which he must rationally respond).
  3. form a goal by transferring an image of the situation: feigning weakness or creating a false picture.
  4. transfer of an image of one’s own perception of the situation: providing an opponent with false information or portions of the truth based on one’s own perception of the situation.
  5. transfer of an image of one’s own goal: a feint by a basketball player is a classic example where you change the enemies perception of where he thinks you are or are going.
  6. transfer of an image of one’s own doctrine: giving a false view of one’s procedures and algorithms for decision-making.
  7. transfer of one’s own image of a situation to make the opponent deduce his own goal: presenting a false image of one’s own perception of the situation, with the accepted additional level of risk.
  8. control of a bilateral engagement by a third party.
  9. control over an opponent who is using RC: exploiting opportunities identified as imitation of the initiators own process of RC.
  10. control over an opponent whose doctrine is game theory.


The study of Reflexive Control

The study of Reflexive Control began in the Soviet Union in the 1960’s. The theory has been researched, developed and used ever since by Soviet Union, Russian Federation and likely many other countries.

Examples of usage

Soviet Union

Fake missiles in Military Parades

Soviet Union used Reflexive Control methods to alter the US perceptions of the nuclear balance during the Cold War. The goal was to make the Soviet nuclear power to appear more formidable than it actually was. The Soviets paraded fake missiles that were huge, implying that they carried multiple warheads inside them.

The leaders of the Soviet Union knew that the foreign attachés attended the shows and would report everything to the Western intelligence and military-industry.

In addition to parades, the Soviets also manufactured other disinformation so that the when the western intelligence would investigate the matter, they would find supporting evidence of the existence of the missiles.

Ultimately, the aim was to prompt foreign scientists, who desired to copy the advanced technology, down a dead-end street, thereby wasting precious time and money.

Russian Federation

Occupation of the Russian White House

During the occupation of the Russian White House (1993) the Security Police allowed the protesters to overrun one of their communication posts. While they knew the protesters were listening, they broadcasted a bogus conversation making it appear as two high-ranking MVD officers discussing imminent storming of the White House. They also led the protesters to believe that they might kill one of their key figures during the attack.

Within minutes the two key players of the occupation appeared on the White House’s balcony and asked the crowd to capture Ostankino TV station. Now Yeltsin had justification to act, since they had called for civil disobedience.

The reflexive control operation had indeed worked. As a result, Yeltsin now had a raison d’être to act against both Khasbulatov and Rutskoi based on the latter’s call for civil disobedience. In effect, the two MVD officers had effected both leader’s actions and put ideas into their heads that provided grounds for the demise of this plan. They did so by literally “getting into” the leaders’ minds.


Use of troops in uniforms without insignia and use of unmarked military vehicles. These forces were named “self-defence groups”.

East Ukraine

Military intervention in East Ukraine by troops in uniforms without insignia and using unmarked military vehicles.–15_Russian_military_intervention_in_Ukraine

Other countries

United States of America

Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)

SDI was a Reagan-era program that included a plan to create a space-based missile-defense system. It is speculated to be an example of Reflexive Control, with a goal to financially exhaust the Soviet Union by forcing it to keep up with the USA in the arms race of the cold war times.

Related topics

Perception management

Perception Management is a term used by the US military. Perception Management aims at similar goals as Reflexive Control.

Definition by the United States Department of Defence:

Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.

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