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Welcome to a New Kind of War

Russia is indeed at war with the Western alliance, one that it has unilaterally unleashed.

Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images - www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • Russia is at war with the Western alliance, one that it has unilaterally unleashed.
  • Russian agents used chemical weapons on the territory of the UK, a member of NATO and one of the US’s closest allies. In what way was it different from the Al Qaeda attack on the United States in 2001?
  • The character of warfare has changed. With the advent of rapid technological progress, the new battlefield is no longer in the sky or at sea, but in cyberspace.
  • Putin and his entourage may not even be aware of the changed nature of modern warfare. They probably didn’t see that what they were doing around the world was adding up to World War III.

The United States has imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, has called these new, much tighter sanctions economic warfare. He also threatened retaliation by economic, political and other unspecified means.

Medvedev was correct when he called the situation war, but he was only stating the obvious: Russia is indeed at war with the Western alliance, one that it has unilaterally unleashed.

Russia says it is at war with the Western alliance

This may sound alarmist, especially in German ears which seem exclusively geared to be forever accommodationist when it comes to Russia.

Germans would benefit from doing a little bit of actual listening: The Russian propaganda openly states the fact that Russia is at war with the Western alliance repeatedly several times daily on all major television channels.

Also, look at it objectively. These latest sanctions were imposed because Russian agents used chemical weapons on the territory of the United Kingdom, a member of NATO and one of the United States’s closest allies. In what way was it different from the Al Qaeda attack on the United States in 2001?

Yet, back then it was declared to be an act of war, the United States was deemed to be under attack and NATO’s collective defense clause was triggered for the first and, for now, only time in the history of the alliance.

Unscrupulous Putin

Moreover, the attempted poisoning of the Skripals was a second instance in which the UK was attacked by Russia. In 2006, Andrey Lugovoy and an accomplice used a radioactive compound to assassinate ex-KGB agent Aleksandr Litvinenko. Technically, it was a nuclear attack on Great Britain. It could have been – actually should have been – declared an act of war.

And, just in case you wonder, Lugovoy is now a member of the Russian Duma. That says everything about Putin’s “mores.”

War beyond nukes

Nuclear weapons made wars between nuclear powers unthinkable – and unwinnable. That meant that the character of warfare also changed. With the advent of rapid technological progress, the new battlefield is no longer in the sky or at sea, but in cyberspace.

Given that reality, the Trump administration’s proposal to spend $8 billion on a Space Force is utterly useless and is being dismissed as such even by his own Pentagon. Outside of Hollywood, it is hard to see how Trump’s space weaponry will be deployed and against whom it will be used.

Meanwhile, the battle in cyberspace has already been joined. Russia has been accused of hacking into the servers of the Democratic Party in order to sway the U.S. presidential elections.

And just now, evidence is mounting that Russia has been trying to attack Republican think tanks in Washington who are known to promote a hard-line position against Putin.

More important have been Russian attempts to penetrate vital American infrastructure and government agencies. Worse still, Russian trolls posing as Americans continue to polarize the country, spread fake news and promote conspiracy theories.

It’s been called virtual warfare or asymmetric warfare, but in fact it’s eclectic warfare, in which cyber hacking and propaganda are supplemented with elements of old-style conventional warfare.

The Russian logic is probably rooted in the sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union as part of the Magnitsky Act. Following on the heels of measures taken by the West after Russia committed a variety of crimes against international law in Ukraine, the Russian economy is damaged.

But that has done little to alter the Kremlin’s behavior. It does not care much about the fate of its own population. That is different when it comes to Putin’s inner circle. These powerful people care a great deal about their own economic wherewithal. That is why the Magnitsky Act sanctions are such an important tool in the arsenal of Western diplomacy.

Russia’s strategy

That said, it’s very likely that Russia didn’t have a comprehensive plan of starting a war with the West in advance, but backed into it unwittingly, taking a series of discrete, opportunistic steps.

Putin and his entourage may not even be aware of the changed nature of modern warfare. They probably didn’t see that what they were doing around the world was adding up to World War III.

Conclusion

Despite the new round of sanctions, Washington is very much of two minds about treating Russia as an enemy. As long as Trump remains in the White House, effective opposition to Putin may prove difficult. Moreover, a number of NATO members in Europe also feel that concessions to Putin are warranted.

Nevertheless, eventually the realization that the world is in a war – albeit a very different kind of war than what had been previously seen in history – will become inescapable on both sides of the Atlantic.

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About Alexei Bayer

Alexei Bayer is the Eastern Europe Editor of The Globalist. [United States]

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