The rise of China is not the only distinguishing structural factor for the strategic environment in which the United States finds itself. Many scholars will discuss the role of terrorism, increased globalization, and non-state actors in the current strategic environment. These are all important, but from a classical view of the structure of the international system, what the U.S. today is facing is not just a rising power, or even a bloc of powers: it is also facing a declining power—Russia.
Russian annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine that followed negatively affected Russia’s international prestige. However, in contrast to the external reaction, the domestic population demonstrated higher support for national policies. Not only did the Russian public perceive the return of Crimea as a glorious military victory, the government-controlled narrative also managed to spread the effects of such success to positively perceiving the domestic situation as well.
Napoleon’s advantage was created by a change in the sociopolitical environment. It could be argued a similar change in the nature of society and politics has been occurring in the West in the period since World War I. The more recent sociopolitical change occurred among the Western industrial nations over the last century and involved a shift towards individualism. It allowed liberal democracy to become the standard form of Western government. It created a New World Order that allowed for organizations like the EU that would have been unheard of in nineteenth-century Europe.
The political turmoil in Venezuela has captured the attention of the United States for several months, and the recent introduction of Russian troops into the country has solidified a place for the ailing petrostate on front pages nationwide. As American eyes are drawn to the ongoing unrest in the streets of Caracas, it is worth noting this is not the first time the United States has been concerned by European intervention in Venezuela.
The opportunities to reshape the Kremlin’s strategic calculations are clear and readily available in Ukraine. As the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe spelled the end of the Soviet Union, updating former National Security Advisor Brzezinski’s prescient comment for today’s struggle reveals the same opportunity—the survival of an independent and democratic Ukraine means defeat for Russia’s revanchist empire, and that will always be in the interest of the United States and its democratic allies.
The collapse of the Soviet Union has created an ideological and identity crisis in Russia. Prior to the collapse, the U.S.S.R was a multinational, multicultural state with the ideological mission to be the vanguard of a worldwide Communist revolution. Afterwards, Russians foundered to find out who they were, what ideology they should embrace, and where they fit globally. Initial attempts at liberalization seemed to have been a spectacular failure, and attempts to define themselves have bred a new form of nationalism that is not necessarily compatible with Western ideals.
The Russian military is developing the doctrine and capabilities for gaining and contesting battlefield awareness that will pose a significant challenge to U.S. forces in any future conflict with Russia. The military’s focus on information dominance extends from a broader belief among Russian leadership that information confrontation is one of the fundamental ways in which states compete. While the Russian military has always been adept at bringing tremendous firepower to bear during combat operations, it has also been a brawler, needing to get in contact with its opponent before being able to fight.
Idealism has clearly failed to grant the United States a stronger standing in the world as it failed to accurately assess the scope and consequences of interventionism, and the strategic intent of rising powers. Great power competition and the international system’s inevitable transition to a multi-polar order calls on us to embrace the challenge with clarity. This challenge should motivate an honest reassessment of U.S. foreign policy tools and processes. Adjusting to facts and reevaluating means and methods is a sign of strength and resilience of this nation.
Hunt has written a book that challenges the modern strategist to process how we end our wars and how we deal with their excesses. Furthermore, Hunt challenges how we, as a whole society, commemorate these wars and their participants through the morally complicated saga of the Latvian Legion. The book’s moral weight is palpable as we attempt to answer some of those questions in the modern era.
Tactical, operational, and strategic success requires a cultural change to reconcile institutional aversion and reluctance toward non-lethal information warfare. To dominate the information domain before, during, and after the next conflict, significant change is required in the U.S. military’s approach toward training and education of information as a warfighting function, and information operations as a discipline.
Russian strategy in Syria and the broader Middle East consists of supporting what it considers legitimate institutions through extensive foreign aid programs, including economic and security assistance, political support and, as seen in Syria, direct military intervention. However, there are caveats to this strategy that include history, policy goals, and the ability to exploit lack of foreign attention to Russian activities and capabilities.
A successful cyber doctrine must epitomize Clausewitz’s argument in favor of an active or attack-based defense, found in a relatively unknown but rich section of On War entitled “Methods of Resistance.” The chapter opens with a compelling reminder that the advantage of the defense is its defining purpose is to ward off an attack, and this warding off has as its principal strength the idea of awaiting.
Amid the fraught U.S.-Russia relations of late, it is vital for American policymakers to consider each geopolitical decision with the utmost care, ensuring the best interests of the United States and her allies are always kept in mind. An appropriate policy would include forgoing any further sale of lethal weaponry, replacing it instead with increased funds and non-lethal aid.
Although the vehicle of social media has certainly increased the speed by which disinformation reaches its recipients, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to sow internal division among his adversaries is in no way a novel undertaking, and western leaders should be hesitant to paint Russian propaganda as an earth-shaking revelation in the 21st century. This isn’t a reinvention of Russia’s unconventional warfare paradigm; it’s a continuation of it.
Since the United States’ near-peer adversaries possess nuclear weapons, the U.S. Army needs to prepare for small, politically constrained, ambiguous, limited conflict. Without a reorientation on the future, the U.S. Army doctrine and concepts are not useful and potentially limit policymakers’ options, or worse, risk accidental nuclear escalation.
While Russia and China are known for their lumbering civilian and military bureaucracies, both nations are nonetheless demonstrating that they can be nimble enough to accelerate certain technological developments, along with testing and evaluation. So far, both competitors have proven that they can take specific American elements and apply them to their own unique ecosystems. Nonetheless, using American-style institutional and procedural concepts is still a novel idea for the top-heavy ministries tasked with such breakthrough technological developments in both countries.
Political warfare and a geopolitical actor’s pursuit of political dominance is not new. The Soviet Union’s success during the Vietnam era showcases the importance of political warfare as the KGB was able to sow distrust and promote anti-war sentiment in the United States. In today’s digital age, social media is a powerful and potentially a dangerous weapon that can erode trust within society and its government. I do not suggest that political warfare acts as the backbone in projecting power or influence abroad.
Absent a clear understanding of which military problems emergent technologies are required to solve, there is, perhaps, too much confidence in their ability to reshape the character of the next war by enabling decisive battlefield advantage. More troublingly, predictions about machine-dominated warfare risk obscuring the human cost implicit in the use of violence to achieve a political objective. This article examines the integration challenge that continues to limit the military potential of available technology. It will then look specifically at why militaries should be cautious about the role artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are expected to play in future warfare.
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.
The international stage is complex and fluid, continuously changing, but human nature and the selfish intentions to achieve power have not changed in millennia. The Kremlin has added another facet to their political warfare through the savvy exploitation of new media. They are taking advantage of the West’s belief systems by conducting an end-around and using a form of malicious soft power to gain a position of advantage.