Sympathy for the Syrian Devil


I fear what President Obama will give away to placate the French.

This is Statecraft, much more than Public Diplomacy, Strategic Communication and Information Operations.

As President François “Rambo” Hollande comes to Washington with guns ablaze, it’s time for the West to deal with the real problem in Syria.

French President François Hollande marched into Washington, D.C., Tuesday, accompanied by the beat of war drums and cries of “Aux armes, citoyens!” President Flanby — custard, as the French derisively dub their jiggly, inoffensive Socialist leader — has turned into Rambo these days.

Since the Nov. 13 attacks, which killed 130 people, Hollande and his ministers can’t seem to open their mouths without uttering the words, “la guerre.” French politicians are flying by the seat of their pants trying to respond — and be seen to be responding — to a jihadi threat that has been brewing over the past two years. Rafale fighter jets are now bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq. Emergency rule has been extended. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned an already jittered populace of chemical and biological terrorist threats. Constitutional amendments are being mulled over, and politicians are discussing new laws that will be tougher than the old-new tough ones passed after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January that critics dubbed “le Patriot Act à la française.

Paris is beginning to feel a lot like Washington back in those terrible post-9/11 days, when the world was either “with us or against us” as we waged our “war on terror” against the “axis of evil.” So, in a way, Flanby (turned Rambo) going to Washington is a bit like coming home.

This time, it’s a lightning visit à l’américaine. The moment Hollande steps off the presidential Airbus A330-223 until he boards it again for a Moscow-bound flight midweek, the French president will have one message for his U.S. counterpart: Europe is in peril! Quick Obama, step up to the plate.

“The problem is that the attacks in Paris and the refugee crisis show that we don’t have time. There is an emergency,” a European diplomat told theGuardian last week. The diplomat, who did not want to be identified, sounded like a British conservative when he noted that the migrant crisis “is dividing the Europeans, destabilizing the continent, so we have to act quickly, telling the U.S. administration the core interests of the Europeans, your best allies, are at stake.”

How it makes one wish for the good old days, when the Syrian migrants were just a “swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean,” as British Prime Minister David Cameron put it. Post-Paris attacks, European conservatives and right-wingers are turning them into a swarm of terrorists. But to his credit, Hollande has not jumped on the populist refugee-bashing bandwagon even though he faces regional elections next month, when Marine Le Pen’s National Front is expected to make big gains.

While the migrant issue certainly features on Hollande’s agenda, it’s not as high as trying to find some sort of solution to the Islamic State crisis, which, after all, is one of the sources of the refugee crisis.

The French president’s priority is to form “une grande coalition” to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This involves getting the United States and Russia to put aside their differences and come together over a common enemy — with a little nudging from the French.

Russia appears to be inching closer to the U.S.-EU position in the wake of the Paris attacks and the Federal Security Service’s acknowledgment last week that a bomb brought down Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt’s Sinai region. In a rare diplomatic convergence on Syria, Russia approved a French resolutionat the United Nations last week, calling on member states to take “all necessary measures” to combat the Islamic State. On the military front, Russia, the United States, and France are coordinating on “deconfliction,” or alerting each other to avoid airspace collisions, as they pummel Islamic State targets in the eastern Syrian desert. Of course, the downing of a Russian fighter jet on Tuesday by Turkey, a NATO member, only heightens the tension and imperative for cooperation — lest things spiral out of hand.

But if we’re all allies in the fight against the so-called “caliphate,” we can’t seem to agree on the Lion King in Damascus. Over the past few months, there has been much talk of Washington and Paris easing their “President Bashar al-Assad must go” position to “Assad may stay a while” until a transition to the great unknown is hammered out.

In a rousing speech before a special session of parliament the first working day after the Paris attacks, Hollande signaled a shift in France’s hard-line stance when he noted that the country’s new top priority is the fight against the Islamic State.

The Paris attacks have done wonders for Assad. On both sides of the Atlantic, some influential people are starting to warm up to — or at the very least tolerate — him. In an interview with CBS News, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell acknowledged that Washington’s Syria strategy has not worked and it was “time to look at something else.” Assad, he conceded, was “part of the problem,” but Morell noted that “he may also be part of the solution.”

In France, the calls for Hollande to adopt a realistic approach to Syria have turned into a roar. Former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine did not mince his words in a France Inter radio interview in late September when he said, “Let’s not forget that in the fight against Hitler, we had to ally with Stalin, who killed more people than Hitler.”

That’s a Socialist former minister and a darling in certain French lefty circles talking. In Parisian chattering circles, where speculation of a cabinet reshuffle is rife, Védrine is on top of the speculation charts to replace Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the staunchest defender of the “Assad must go” position.

On the extreme right — a rising force in France — the romance with Assad, the exterminator of “les barbus” (the bearded ones), never faded. A day after the attacks, right-wing French weekly Valeurs Actuelles featured an exclusive interview with Assad that was chilling both for the sycophantic questions and the hubris of the replies. Here’s a sampling: “Q: If you had one message for M. Hollande and M. Fabius, especially after what happened in Paris yesterday, what would it be? Is it ‘please cut your relations urgently with Qatar and Saudi Arabia’?” To which, the Syrian strongman grandly replied: “My message to Hollande and Fabius … be serious when you talk about fighting terrorists.”

Right. Here’s my message to the “Assad may stay a while” crowd: Be serious when you talk about finding a solution to the Syrian crisis. Assad has no plans to take a hankie out of his coat and wave the Syrian people goodbye when that transition train arrives at the station. The Assads do not go gently into the good night; they learn lessons in holding on to power at the family breakfast table.

We may tell ourselves that the old devil Baathist we know is better than abarbu we don’t. We may even console ourselves that at least he won’t annihilate the minorities and blow up heritage sites. But this sympathy for the devil will get us nowhere.

If we make a peace that involves Assad in power without facing justice, it will be a peace to end all peace.

If we make a peace that involves Assad in power without facing justice, it will be a peace to end all peace. Sunni disaffection will see legions of young men across the Arab world and Europe getting lured by the call to fight Assad. We can legislate and pass emergency laws until the cows come home, but we will be swimming ineffectively against the tide rushing toward jihad.

I’m no fan of oil-soaked Gulf monarchs, but if they’re warning us about this route to a so-called peace, we must pay attention or we will all pay the price. It seems to me that over the past few months — and certainly after the Paris attacks — a number of people have been channelizing their anger and frustration over the Syrian quagmire onto Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Sunni powers. The justifiable old rancor over the Saudis spreading their deplorable Wahhabi doctrine is blinding our ability to understand that the Islamic State’s brand of jihadis poses an existential threat to the House of Saud. After all these years, is it that difficult to make the flow of Gulf money for noxious Wahhabi cultural imports illegal? In France, the doomsday scenario of a Muslim Brotherhood-like political takeover painted by writer Michel Houellebecq in his latest book,Submission, has tied neatly into simmering anti-Qatari resentment over a parvenu Gulf takeover of all things quintessentially French.

Into this “amalgame” — as the French call the mixing of unrelated ideas — a secular Baathist tyrant is a veritable savior. But look how our last savior, Nouri al-Maliki, saved the peace in neighboring Iraq.

There’s no question the Syrian crisis needs a political solution. Getting all parties together is the answer — as the Saudis did in Taif, when all parties in the grinding, complex Lebanese civil war were thoroughly exhausted. Frankly, I don’t understand why France, the United States, and Russia are mucking around these parts. (OK, I do understand why. I just wish they wouldn’t.) Getting the Iranians and Saudis, along with other Sunni powers, to sit together to sort out their Shiite-Sunni hissy fit will move us closer to a solution than Hollande jetting around Washington and Moscow. Whatever happens this week, if Hollande loses his nouveau Rambo nerve and turnsflanby before a steely Putin propping up Assad, there will be no let-up to the violence in the Middle East — or on the streets of Paris, Brussels, and places in between.



Watch Syrian Rebels Blow Up a Russian-Made Helicopter

Ed. note: In what I can only describe as a good Western piece of propaganda, this shows Syrian rebels blowing up a Russian helicopter.

Having once been a TOW Platoon Leader, I see this very old technology changing the outcome of a proxy fight between the US and Russia.

The Russians are all up in arms, saying “Turkey has shown its hand” and “Turkey is too aggressive”.  To which I can respond without hesitance, Russia overplayed its hand by not respecting Turkey’s sovereignty and encroached on Turkey’s airspace once too often and got shot down.  Most world leaders would apologize, meet in private, shake hands and agree to not have a fist fight in public.  But petulant Putin will play the role of the alpha-male, and suspend commercial air traffic into Turkey until he realizes he is denying Russians another vacation spot. Russia will surely engage in a covert operation against Turkey. An esteemed colleague suggested the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which is right on the Turkish border.

Watch Syrian Rebels Blow Up a Russian-Made Helicopter


The same day that Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet for allegedly violating Turkey’s airspace, Syrian rebels affiliated with the Free Syrian Army published a video purporting to show their fighters blowing up a stationary Russian-made helicopter on YouTube.

The video shows Syrian rebels launching what arms analyst Elliot Higgins, who runs Bellingcat, a website for open-source analysis, identified on Twitter as a U.S.-made TOW (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided) missile at a helicopter sitting exposed in a field some distance away.

The First Coastal Division, the group that uploaded the video, said it destroyed the helicopter after forcing it to land with an earlier missile strike, according to Reuters. And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group monitoring the conflict in Syria, told Reuters that at least 10 passengers evacuated from the helicopter after it landed, escaping the second missile strike that ultimately destroyed it. It’s not clear whether the crew was Russian or Syrian.

Russian military officials have confirmed that two of its Mi-8 helicopters were dispatched on a search and rescue mission for the pilots who parachuted from the Russian jet downed earlier on Tuesday, and that rebels destroyed one of the two helicopters. “During the operation, as a result of small-arms fire, one of the helicopters was damaged, and forced to make a landing on neutral territory,” Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi toldreporters on Tuesday.

One Russian soldier died in the incident, and “the downed helicopter was destroyed by mortar fire from territory controlled by armed gangs” Rudskoi said. It hasn’t been confirmed whether the video below depicts the helicopter referenced by Rudskoi or if it’s of a separate incident.

Check out the video here:


The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War

Dr Mark Galeotti

By Dr Mark Galeotti

Call it non-linear war (which I prefer), or hybrid war, or special war, Russia’s operations first in Crimea and then eastern Ukraine have demonstrated that Moscow is increasingly focusing on new forms of politically-focused operations in the future. In many ways this is an extension of what elsewhere I’ve called Russia’s ‘guerrilla geopolitics,’ an appreciation of the fact that in a world shaped by an international order the Kremlin finds increasingly irksome and facing powers and alliances with greater raw military, political and economic power, new tactics are needed which focus on the enemy’s weaknesses and avoid direct and overt confrontations. To be blunt, these are tactics that NATO–still, in the final analysis, an alliance designed to deter and resist a mass, tank-led Soviet invasion–finds hard to know how to handle. (Indeed, a case could be made that it is not NATO’s job, but that’s something to consider elsewhere.)

Hindsight, as ever a sneakily snarky knowitall, eagerly points out that we could have expected this in light of an at-the-time unremarked article by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. In fairness, it was in Voenno-promyshlennyi kur’er, the Military-Industrial Courier, which is few people’s fun read of choice. Nonetheless, it represents the best and most authoritative statement yet of what we could, at least as a placeholder, call the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ (not that it necessarily was his confection). I and everyone interested in these developments are indebted to Rob Coalson of RFE/RL, who noted and circulated this article, and the following translation is his (thanks to Rob for his permission to use it), with my various comments and interpolations.

Military-Industrial Kurier, February 27, 2013

(My comments are indented and italicised and in red, and the bold emphases are also mine)


General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation

In the 21st century we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template.

The experience of military conflicts — including those connected with the so-called coloured revolutions in north Africa and the Middle East — confirm that a perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war.

There is an old Soviet-era rhetorical device that a ‘warning’ or a ‘lesson’ from some other situation is used to outline intent and plan. The way that what purports to be an after-action take on the Arab Spring so closely maps across to what was done in Ukraine is striking. Presenting the Arab Spring–wrongly–as the results of covert Western operations allows Gerasimov the freedom to talk about what he wants to talk about: how Russia can subvert and destroy states without direct, overt and large-scale military intervention.

The Lessons of the ‘Arab Spring’

Of course, it would be easiest of all to say that the events of the “Arab Spring” are not war and so there are no lessons for us — military men — to learn. But maybe the opposite is true — that precisely these events are typical of warfare in the 21st century.

In terms of the scale of the casualties and destruction, the catastrophic social, economic, and political consequences, such new-type conflicts are comparable with the consequences of any real war.

The very “rules of war” have changed. The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.

For me, this is probably the most important line in the whole piece, so allow me to repeat it: The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness. In other words, this is an explicit recognition not only that all conflicts are actually means to political ends–the actual forces used are irrelevant–but that in the modern realities, Russia must look to non-military instruments increasingly.

The focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures — applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.

All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, including carrying out actions of informational conflict and the actions of special-operations forces. The open use of forces — often under the guise of peacekeeping and crisis regulation — is resorted to only at a certain stage, primarily for the achievement of final success in the conflict.

This is, after all, exactly what happened in Crimea, when the insignia-less “little green men” were duly unmasked as–surprise, surprise–Russian special forces and Naval Infantry only once the annexation was actually done.

From this proceed logical questions: What is modern war? What should the army be prepared for? How should it be armed? Only after answering these questions can we determine the directions of the construction and development of the armed forces over the long term. To do this, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the forms and methods of the use of the application of force.

What Gerasimov is signalling here, and it may prove an important point, is that the Russian military needs to be tooled appropriately. This may mean a re-opening of the traditional hostilities with the politically more powerful defence industries (that want to pump out more tanks and the other things they produce) over quite what kind of kit the military gets. When former defence minister Serdyukov announced a moratorium on buying new tanks, Putin slapped him down and restated the order. Shoigu and Gerasimov will have to be more savvy if they want to make progress on this one.

These days, together with traditional devices, nonstandard ones are being developed. The role of mobile, mixed-type groups of forces, acting in a single intelligence-information space because of the use of the new possibilities of command-and-control systems has been strengthened. Military actions are becoming more dynamic, active, and fruitful. Tactical and operational pauses that the enemy could exploit are disappearing. New information technologies have enabled significant reductions in the spatial, temporal, and informational gaps between forces and control organs. Frontal engagements of large formations of forces at the strategic and operational level are gradually becoming a thing of the past. Long-distance, contactless actions against the enemy are becoming the main means of achieving combat and operational goals. The defeat of the enemy’s objects is conducted throughout the entire depth of his territory. The differences between strategic, operational, and tactical levels, as well as between offensive and defensive operations, are being erased. The application of high-precision weaponry is taking on a mass character. Weapons based on new physical principals and automatized systems are being actively incorporated into military activity.

All worthy enough, but in fairness nothing we haven’t heard before.

Asymmetrical actions have come into widespread use, enabling the nullification of an enemy’s advantages in armed conflict. Among such actions are the use of special-operations forces and internal opposition to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state, as well as informational actions, devices, and means that are constantly being perfected.

This, on the other hand, does show something of a different nuance, with the renewed emphasis on “internal opposition”, something which harkens back to Soviet-era playbooks rather than post-Soviet military doctrine, which was largely cleared of such language except in some specific contexts such as counter-insurgency.

These ongoing changes are reflected in the doctrinal views of the world’s leading states and are being used in military conflicts.

Already in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, the U.S. military realized the concept of “global sweep, global power” and “air-ground operations.” In 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, military operations were conducted in accordance with the so-called Single Perspective 2020.

Now, the concepts of “global strike” and “global missile defense” have been worked out, which foresee the defeat of enemy objects and forces in a matter of hours from almost any point on the globe, while at the same time ensuring the prevention of unacceptable harm from an enemy counterstrike. The United States is also enacting the principles of the doctrine of global integration of operations aimed at creating in a very short time highly mobile, mixed-type groups of forces.

In recent conflicts, new means of conducting military operations have appeared that cannot be considered purely military. An example of this is the operation in Libya, where a no-fly zone was created, a sea blockade imposed, private military contractors were widely used in close interaction with armed formations of the opposition.

Yes, these were all used in Libya, but whether they were that new is open to question. The key point for Gerasimov, I believe, is that actions such as the no-fly zone that were presented as (and have traditionally been) the preserve of humanitarian interventions were really used to favour one side in the conflict, the rebels. Combined with the use of mercenaries to support them, this makes Libya a convenient synecdoche for the kinds of operations the Russians are really contemplating, in which the mask of humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping can shield aggressive actions.

We must acknowledge that, while we understand the essence of traditional military actions carried out by regular armed forces, we have only a superficial understanding of asymmetrical forms and means. In this connection, the importance of military science — which must create a comprehensive theory of such actions — is growing. The work and research of the Academy of Military Science can help with this.

The Tasks of Military Science

In the main, I will comment less on this section, because often it really doesn’t connect so clearly with the first half. However, taken together it is worth noting that it presents a pretty scathing picture of modern Russian military thinking. I can’t help but wonder whether Colonel General Sergei Makarov, head of the General Staff Academy since only last year, must be feeling a little anxious about his prospects.

In a discussion of the forms and means of military conflict, we must not forget about our own experience. I mean the use of partisan units during the Great Patriotic War and the fight against irregular formations in Afghanistan and the North Caucasus.

These are interesting examples, not least because they omit other, equally or even more appropriate examples, such as the Soviet experiences fighting the basmachi rebels in 1920s Central Asia and supporting anti-colonial insurgencies in Africa, Asia and Latin America during the Cold War. In the latter, for instance, the Soviets tended to use military assistance, handfuls of specialists and trainers, third-party agents and extensive propaganda, influence and subversion operations to achieve political goals, ideally with as little direct conflict as possible and without letting Moscow’s hand be too obvious. Sound familiar?

I would emphasize that during the Afghanistan War specific forms and means of conducting military operations were worked out. At their heart lay speed, quick movements, the smart use of tactical paratroops and encircling forces which all together enable the interruption of the enemy’s plans and brought him significant losses.

Another factor influencing the essence of modern means of armed conflict is the use of modern automated complexes of military equipment and research in the area of artificial intelligence. While today we have flying drones, tomorrow’s battlefields will be filled with walking, crawling, jumping, and flying robots. In the near future it is possible a fully robotized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations.

How shall we fight under such conditions? What forms and means should be used against a robotized enemy? What sort of robots do we need and how can they be developed? Already today our military minds must be thinking about these questions.

The most important set of problems, requiring intense attention, is connected with perfecting the forms and means of applying groups of forces. It is necessary to rethink the content of the strategic activities of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Already now questions are arising: Is such a number of strategic operations necessary? Which ones and how many of them will we need in the future? So far, there are no answers.

There are also other problems that we are encountering in our daily activities.

We are currently in the final phase of the formation of a system of air-space defense (VKO). Because of this, the question of the development of forms and means of action using VKO forces and tools has become actual. The General Staff is already working on this. I propose that the Academy of Military Science also take active part.

The information space opens wide asymmetrical possibilities for reducing the fighting potential of the enemy. In north Africa, we witnessed the use of technologies for influencing state structures and the population with the help of information networks. It is necessary to perfect activities in the information space, including the defense of our own objects.

The operation to force Georgia to peace exposed the absence of unified approaches to the use of formations of the Armed Forces outside of the Russian Federation. The September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi , the activization of piracy activities, the recent hostage taking in Algeria all confirm the importance of creating a system of armed defense of the interests of the state outside the borders of its territory.

Although the additions to the federal law “On Defense” adopted in 2009 allow the operational use of the Armed Forces of Russia outside of its borders, the forms and means of their activity are not defined. In addition, matters of facilitating their operational use have not been settled on the interministerial level. This includes simplifying the procedure for crossing state borders, the use of the airspace and territorial waters of foreign states, the procedures for interacting with the authorities of the state of destination, and so on.

It is necessary to convene the joint work of the research organizations of the pertinent ministries and agencies on such matters.

One of the forms of the use of military force outside the country is peacekeeping. In addition to traditional tasks, their activity could include more specific tasks such as specialized, humanitarian, rescue, evacuation, sanitation, and other tasks. At present, their classification, essence, and content have not been defined.

Moreover, the complex and multifarious tasks of peacekeeping which, possibly, regular troops will have to carry out, presume the creation of a fundamentally new system for preparing them. After all, the task of a peacekeeping force is to disengage conflicting sides, protect and save the civilian population, cooperate in reducing potential violence and reestablish peaceful life. All this demands academic preparation.

Controlling Territory

It is becoming increasingly important in modern conflicts to be capable of defending one’s population, objects, and communications from the activity of special-operations forces, in view of their increasing use. Resolving this problem envisions the organization and introduction of territorial defense.

Before 2008, when the army at war time numbered more than 4.5 million men, these tasks were handled exclusively by the armed forces. But conditions have changed. Now, countering diversionary-reconnaissance and terroristic forces can only be organized by the complex involvement of all the security and law-enforcement forces of the country.

The General Staff has begun this work. It is based on defining the approaches to the organization of territorial defense that were reflected in the changes to the federal law “On Defense.” Since the adoption of that law, it is necessary to define the system of managing territorial defense and to legally enforce the role and location in it of other forces, military formations, and the organs of other state structures.

We need well-grounded recommendations on the use of interagency forces and means for the fulfillment of territorial defense, methods for combatting the terrorist and diversionary forces of the enemy under modern conditions.

Again, here defence is used in Aesopian terms to address issues of offence. I don’t dispute there is a genuine need for this kind of coordination, and it may reflect the confidence of a recently re-empowered General Staff in trying to reassert some kind of supreme authority over national defence after years in which the security agencies have been dominant. But primarily I read into this a recognition of the importance for the close coordination of military, intelligence and information operations in this new way of war. If we take Ukraine as the example, the GRU (military intelligence) took point over Crimea, supported by regular military units. In eastern Ukraine, the Federal Security Service (FSB), which had thoroughly penetrated the Ukrainian security apparatus, has encouraged defections and monitored Kyiv’s plans, the Interior Ministry (MVD) has used its contacts with its Ukrainian counterparts to identify potential agents and sources, the military has been used to rattle sabres loudly on the border–and may be used more aggressively yet–while the GRU not only handled the flow of volunteers and materiel into the east but probably marshalled the Vostok Battalion, arguably the toughest unit in the Donbas. Meanwhile, Russian media and diplomatic sources have kept up an incessant campaign to characterise the ‘Banderite’ government in Kyiv as illegitimate and brutal, while even cyberspace is not immune, as ‘patriotic hackers’ attack Ukrainian banks and government websites. The essence of this non-linear war is, as Gerasimov says, that the war is everywhere.

The experience of conducting military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq has shown the necessity of working out — together with the research bodies of other ministries and agencies of the Russian Federation — the role and extent of participation of the armed forces in postconflict regulation, working out the priority of tasks, the methods for activation of forces, and establishing the limits of the use of armed force.


You Can’t Generate Ideas On Command

The state of Russian military science today cannot be compared with the flowering of military-theoretical thought in our country on the eve of World War II.

Of course, there are objective and subjective reasons for this and it is not possible to blame anyone in particular for it. I am not the one who said it is not possible to generate ideas on command.

I agree with that, but I also must acknowledge something else: at that time, there were no people with higher degrees and there were no academic schools or departments. There were extraordinary personalities with brilliant ideas. I would call them fanatics in the best sense of the word. Maybe we just don’t have enough people like that today.

Ouch. Who is he slapping here?

People like, for instance, Georgy Isserson, who, despite the views he formed in the prewar years, published the book “New Forms Of Combat.” In it, this Soviet military theoretician predicted: “War in general is not declared. It simply begins with already developed military forces. Mobilization and concentration is not part of the period after the onset of the state of war as was the case in 1914 but rather, unnoticed, proceeds long before that.” The fate of this “prophet of the Fatherland” unfolded tragically. Our country paid in great quantities of blood for not listening to the conclusions of this professor of the General Staff Academy.

What can we conclude from this? A scornful attitude toward new ideas, to nonstandard approaches, to other points of view is unacceptable in military science. And it is even more unacceptable for practitioners to have this attitude toward science.

In conclusion, I would like to say that no matter what forces the enemy has, no matter how well-developed his forces and means of armed conflict may be, forms and methods for overcoming them can be found. He will always have vulnerabilities and that means that adequate means of opposing him exist.

This is an obvious, if necessarily veiled allusion to Russia’s relative weakness compared with the West today and, probably, China tomorrow. The answer is not to not have conflicts, but rather to ensure they are fought in the ways that best suit your needs.

We must not copy foreign experience and chase after leading countries, but we must outstrip them and occupy leading positions ourselves. This is where military science takes on a crucial role.

The outstanding Soviet military scholar Aleksandr Svechin wrote: “It is extraordinarily hard to predict the conditions of war. For each war it is necessary to work out a particular line for its strategic conduct. Each war is a unique case, demanding the establishment of a particular logic and not the application of some template.”

This approach continues to be correct. Each war does present itself as a unique case, demanding the comprehension of its particular logic, its uniqueness. That is why the character of a war that Russia or its allies might be drawn into is very hard to predict. Nonetheless, we must. Any academic pronouncements in military science are worthless if military theory is not backed by the function of prediction.


Hybrid Warfare on the Rise: A New Dominant Military Strategy?


I must say that I don’t like the term hybrid warfare, its sounds far too nice. We all know that the Toyota hybrid is a very modern, ecologically clean, friendly, and technically sophisticated machine. Putting the word hybrid in front of the word war is like trying to soften the cruelty of Putin’s regime when he ordered the annexation of Crimea and initiated the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. War is ugly, believe me, I have seen it; there is nothing friendly or clean about it.

Regarding the term ‘war’, Sun Tzu wrote that ‘the supreme art of war is to conquer the enemy without battle’ already in 513 B.C. The annexation of Crimea was a well-conducted strategic act that must be defined as war. War is war. But why talk about the events that took place in Ukraine using such terms?

Putin’s team has implemented several new tactics in his approach to strategic combat. I would like to bring your attention toCRIMINALITY as an aspect of the new hybrid war. What do I mean by that?

In a normal democratic country, when you see people wearing camouflage (bought from a shop, as Mr Putin said), equipped with rifles, you might think this man is a hunter, but when these men are walking through the centre of the town, green and friendly, or driving cars that have no number plates, they are breaking the law; such people are criminals by definition since only particular authorities designated by the country in question have the right to give others the permission to carry weapons or remove car number plates. When armed people are blocking the work of governmental institutions, their actions are taken in blatant disregard for the law.

According to the Geneva Convention, the situation in Ukraine is defined as an international armed conflict. International armed conflict is a conflict between states. So we can say that by denying the presence of Russian forces in Crimea, the Russian leadership was breaking the international law of armed conflict. Here is a timeline containing statements made and real actions taken by the leadership of the Russian Federation.

22 Feb—Putin orders the annexation

23 Feb—a large military exercise is launched in Russia

24 Feb—Russian Forces enter Crimea

25 Feb—Foreign Minister Lavrov claims Russia’s ‘principled position of non-interference in the domestic affairs of Ukraine’

26 Feb—Defence Minister Shoygu announces that the snap exercise being conducted in Western and Southern Russia involving over 150,000 troops ‘is unrelated to Ukraine’

27 Feb—Russian forces occupy key Crimean buildings

1 Mar—Putin is authorized by the Duma to use force in Ukraine

3 Mar—the Russian Foreign Ministry says that the Black Sea Fleet warships ‘are not involved’ in Crimea;

4 Mar—President Putin says ‘Those were self-defence forces.’

10-13 Mar—Paratroopers, artillery, and armour ‘exercise’ near Ukraine

16 Mar—Crimean referendum

18 Mar—Russia annexes Crimea

18 Mar—Putin says ‘Russia’s armed forces never entered Crimea.’

One year later, on 22 Mar 2015—the Documentary “Crimea: The Way Back Home” reveals the truth.

How can the international community trust the Russian President and his Foreign and Defence Ministers when they come to the negotiation table after telling such large lies?

In a civil war or internal armed conflict, Putin’s green men would be identified as combatants; criminal law would not apply to them. It was the use of civilians, or so-called non-legal combatants, that violated the law of armed conflicts in Crimean crisis. Unidentified civilians, who take active part in military actions, are unlawful combatants whose actions can be prosecuted by domestic law.

Thanks to the 27 February 2013 issue of the magazine Voenno-promyshlennyi kur’er (the Military-Industrial Courier or VPK), we know that General Gerasimov, Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces has written the use of civilians during a crisis into his military doctrine.  Can we conclude that criminality is an accepted part of Russian military thinking? Stalin himself had a criminal record. He was prosecuted for robbery before he became a communist. After his death things started to normalize, but sometime during the 1970s, when the Soviet army lacked manpower, a decision was made to allow criminals, those who had been convicted of less serious crimes and had completed their punishment, could serve in the Soviet Army. This was the decision that brought criminal behaviour into the ranks of the Soviet Army conscripts. Today criminal behaviour has reached as far as the Generals, the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces.

Hiring actors to distribute false information to internal and external audiences is perfectly acceptable for the criminal mind. Most people familiar with this topic know the facts concerning Russian actor Galina Pyshniak, who was required to play the role of witness in the story of the crucified boy, a wounded bystander in a shooting incident, as well as a member of an angry crowd. This is another example of an unlawful combatant who can be prosecuted by domestic Criminal Law.

General Gerasimov’s doctrine also states that military actions should be undertaken during peacetime, and the first confrontation should be in the communication environment where military means can also be used.

The military uses special tools, not available to general public. Such tools were used to hack the telephone call of former Estonian Foreign Minister Mr Paet to EU high official Ms Ashton. The call was recorded and posted on YouTube. This is not the only incident; there are many examples from Lithuania and the US as well. These are illegal activities. Hacking is a criminal act, even in Russia.

Another unique tactic in the information war that the Russians have developed is the ‘Troll Farm’. The closest one is located 150 km from the EU border in St Petersburg, at Savuskina 55. Computer operators or trolls are paid to write false and inflammatory comments to blogs, online magazines, and various social media platforms. Today the main focus is, of course, Ukraine, but there is some activity regarding the Baltic States as well. The StratCom Centre of Excellence conducted a study on trolls in Latvia identifying five categories of trolls: 1) the blame-the-US troll, who consistently finds a way to put the US at fault for everything, even bad roads in Russia 2) the angry troll, who focuses on hate speech 3) the bikini troll, who asks naïve questions and posts pictures posing as a girl  dressed in a bikini 4) the Wikipedia troll, who creates false arguments using lots of materials copied from many different sources, and 5) the attachment troll—the most dangerous type—because, in addition to leaving inflammatory comments, they also distribute viruses using attached links.

The Kremlin is currently putting more emphasis on means of combat that undermine and create confusion. By using a combination of falsified historical and present day facts, the trolls create confusion, influence public opinion through social media, and disseminate conspiracy theories with the goal of undermining Western values and the existing democratic system.

Another criminal tactic is the violent rhetoric used by the Kremlin, driven by the intent to scare. This tactic can also be traced to Russian convicts and criminals who live by the phrase боится значит уважaет’, which means ‘if you are scared of me, you respect me’. Putin makes enormous efforts to show Russia’s superiority. His belligerent attitude can be seen in the Georgian conflict, the annexation of Crimea, and the continuing tension in Ukraine. If we look more broadly, we see it also in the increase in flights of old Russian nuclear bombers in sensitive airspace, as well as the establishment of the Arctic Joint Strategic Command, a fifth Russian military district, in December of last year.

In conclusion, the Kremlin leadership has broken a number of laws and we have been giving a rather soft name to an ugly thing instead focusing on the hard truth.


Turkey shoots down a Russian jet and we return to the 19th century


Preface: From Guardians’ Live Update.

White House: ‘Russian incursion into Turkish airspace lasted seconds’

Turkey shoots down a Russian jet and we return to the 19th century

Dr Mark Galeotti

Is the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 ‘Fencer’ bomber by a Turkish fighter – the first direct NATO vs Russia combat incident – a big deal or not? My first thoughts are that the answer is probably not, at least not in the long term, but we can expect a fair amount of overt sound and fury on the one hand, and probably some covert retribution from Moscow, too. WW3 is not, however, on the cards.

The Russians are saying it was on the Syrian side of the border, the Turks say the plane was on theirs. I have no idea at this stage which is true, although it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if the Russian jet had intruded. Putting aside the (remote) possibility of pilot error, Moscow has been willing to cross into NATO airspace in the past and may even had an operational reason for doing so, perhaps trying to set up an attack run on a rebel convoy or facility on the Turkish border. After all, let’s not forget that Ankara is playing an active role in the Syrian civil war, and in its eagerness to hammer Kurds, wherever they may be, arguably supporting some pretty toxic elements.

Moscow may well have been assuming the Turks would be as restrained as other NATO members, which was an undoubted mistake. Putting aside any cultural stereotypes, Ankara is not only embarked in a campaign to assert itself as a regional power, it also sees Moscow as a sometimes partner-of-convenience, but also local rival. Russian intelligence officers have assassinated Chechen fundraisers in Turkey, and generally the Kremlin has shown little signs of seeing in Ankara a serious ally, partner or player, even in the days when Putin and Erdogan were getting along. Only this Friday, Russia’s ambassador had been given adressing down about the bombing of Turkish-backed rebels. It may well be that Ankara leapt at the opportunity to teach Russia a lesson and also show that it was a serious player.

Putin’s immediate response has been mordant and tough, accusing Turkey of stabbing Russia in the back, of in effect protecting ISIS, and running to its NATO powers as if it has been one of its own aircraft that had been shot down. We can expect some kind of retaliation on the political-economic front (maybe stopping Turkish airliners coming to Russian airports?) and maybe also some unloading of additional serious ordnance on Turkish-backed elements in Syria. However, I suspect neither Moscow nor, at the very least, the other European NATO powers will want to let this go too far. Russia cannot fight hot diplomatic wars on too many fronts, and Europe clearly wants Moscow to be part of the solution in Syria and maybe Ukraine, too. And, frankly, there is in many capitals concern about Turkey, its agenda and its role in the region. Much will depend on where Washington falls, of course, but if Moscow can get even a crumb of contrition from Ankara or sympathy from Europe, then we can expect this to be splashed on Russian TV and allow the Kremlin to let this slide a little.

But even in this best-case scenario, I don’t imagine that will be the end to it. Moscow has already been willing to operate inside Turkey covertly, and is engaged in political tussles over influence in the South Caucasus as well as Middle East. I would expect some uptick in ‘mischief’ – perhaps some support for the Kurds or other violent extreme movements, for example – as well as a more assiduous campaign to push back and stymie Turkish regional ambitions.

It’s often said, with good reason, that Putin really wants a return to 19th century geopolitics, when might made right and realpolitik was all. Let’s not forget that one of the defining 19thcentury conflicts was that between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, which were sometimes openly at war, sometimes ostensibly at peace, but never anything than enemies. Here we go again.


We Need More Study, Not Less


American Propaganda.  We Need More Study, Not Less 

Nancy Snow, Ph.D.

American propaganda researchers are a lonely bunch. We’re like the old MaytagCorporation washing machine repairman. Maytag had a very successful commercialadvertising campaign that ran in print and television for twenty years. It proved just howreliable its machines were by showing its repairman whose phone never rang. Like thatlonely repairman, those of us who call what we do propaganda research are not oftenappreciated in American institutions of higher learning. To be frank, with few exceptions,I’m much more likely to write and speak about propaganda outside my nation of originthan inside. Call it the paradox of American propaganda. People outside the UnitedStates readily see propaganda in the management of democracy. As I stated in thechapter, “Pervasive Propaganda in America,” in my edited volume with leading propaganda scholars (Snow, 2014, 120): The United States of America is the leading purveyor of propaganda in liberal democratic societies and one of the leading propagandamanufacturers in the world today. The two dominant strains of propaganda in Americansociety, the commercial/cultural and the military/governmental, drive American production at home and abroad.

I would like to present a case for deeper study of propaganda, whether or not it is viewedas good, bad, or neutral. My argument is based on both historical precedent and a need tounderstand the propaganda environment today that knows no national boundaries. Idefine propaganda this way, and it is certainly open to debate: Propaganda is source- based, cause-oriented, emotion-laden content that utilizes mass persuasion media tocultivate the mass mind in service to the source’s goals.

Its utilization is not good or badas all social institutions (government, commercial, citizen-based) use propaganda fortheir own purposes. The ethical questions associated with propaganda involve itsmeans/ends agreement or lack thereof and its asymmetrical exchange of information thatalways favors the sponsor of propaganda. At its best, propaganda involves pro-social causes that do not stray too far from the truth; at it worst, propaganda serves strictly a pro-source function that uses whatever means necessary to fulfill its goals.