Information Warfare · Russia · Strategic Communications · Ukraine

US, Russia, Syria, Belarus, And Ukraine Cross Thresholds

Yesterday the United States launched 59 missiles at the Shayrat Airfield in Syria, a punitive measure and a message, sent as a result of chemical weapon(s) strikes on a village in the Idlib Province in Syria.

The result was a turning point for many strategic events which have been set to end, to change, or be recognized. All these events are related to Russia.  Only time will tell how this plays out domestically in Russia.

A colleague sent me the following analysis which I believe is something which should be shared, widely.

The last three weeks have been important strategically, as we have seen some critical thresholds crossed in a number of areas.

  1. The US hit Syria, crossing the threshold in relations with Russia, where actions are decisive and the US has signalled Russia that it will not tolerate further nonsense;
  2. The US congressional investigations have expanded in scope to cover the whole gamut of Russian influence operations in the US, and the full scope of problematic conduct during the election by all players;
  3. The Russian influence / corruption / IW / IO / cyber campaign in the West is now seen for what it is and attempts are building to counter it;
  4. Russia experienced surprising increases in public discontent and social upheaval, sooner and more severely than most analysts expected;
  5. Belarus has entered the final regime meltdown phase, with the leadership committing to Russia and guaranteeing its eventual fall;
  6. Ukraine has seen the Russians cross the threshold of openly conducting assassinations on the streets, or planning such;
  7. Ukraine has crossed the lethal aid supply threshold with Canada, and if McCain is correct, likely the US as well in coming weeks

These are all important thresholds that were uncertain over the last three years, and in many instances, even the last few months and weeks.

The biggest question which remains is about the culprit of the chemical attack targeting Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province in Syria. Numerous experts have questioned if Syria used chemicals against their own peoples. Assad had no reason to use chemical weapons against his own people and every reason not to. Then there is this:

Syria strikes: Site of chemical attack hit again

The Shayrat Airfield, the target for 59 American cruise missiles, is operational again.  The above article makes it clear that it is not apparent if this strike, as well as the previous strikes, were carried out by the Russian or Syrian Air Force.

A US defense official said Friday’s strikes were not intended to damage runways or fully disable the base. Instead, the strikes hit aircraft, fuel storage, weapons dumps and other equipment, aiming to send a message to the Syrian regime that any use of chemical weapons would not be tolerated, the official said. – CNN

In the world of Strategic Communications, the point that a military strike sends a message is powerful.

Russia was clearly caught off guard, their national messaging took a full twelve hours to coalesce. Russia is not accustomed to reacting and certainly not when they are being hit on multiple messaging fronts and means at once. Russia is not driving the narrative, for the first time in a long time.

Continuing in that vein, the following conclusions and predictions can be made.

  • The US will not reveal their next step or reveal their strategy.
    • This has as much to do with formulating a new strategy as maintaining operations security.
    • Most calls to reveal a strategy have more to do with domestic politics.
  • The strike on Shayrat Airfield was appropriate
    • It does not really matter if Russia or Syria launched the chemical attack strike.
    • Russia was either complicit or incompetent in controlling Syria.
  • A national Strategic Communications strategy is definitely not in play
    • The narratives from the Press Secretary are only loosely aligned with State and the President
    • Other national SC tools are not being synchronized, coordinated, or integrated.
    • Other nation’s SC mechanisms are only loosely aligned, are not talking, sharing, or assisting.

The media, since the US 2016 election and the subsequent reaction to Russian attempts to influence are now using terms like message, narrative, strategy.

Indeed, when Democrats and Republicans, alike, agree that a military strike on a Syrian airfield was appropriate, this marks a watershed event in the Trump administration.

Many things crystalized as a result of the strike on Shayrat Airfield. It was not as much euphoria as it was a quiet determination.


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