Ten concepts to understand what happens if Russia attacks Ukraine
With the Brits sending short-range anti-tank missiles to Kiev, Russian social media posting videos of missile systems heading towards Ukraine, and all diplomatic progress halted, the chances of Putin hitting the start button for the invasion of Ukraine are higher than ever.
I live in hope that it’s all, still, for show — dramatic intimidation efforts aimed at disrupting Western unity, scaring the Ukrainian people and bringing down the Zelensky regime. But when a nuclear armed state is run by a crazed narcissist, with total control over media and a cowed civil society, pessimism of the intellect must prevail.
With this in mind I want to explore what might happen and what the stakes might be. Our image of warfare, since the turn of the 21st century has been highly asymmetric: drones versus Afghan militias; American tanks rolling across desert, enjoying by total air superiority; one-sided electronic warfare battles .
Even some politicians I speak to lack the vocabulary to make sense of what’s about to happen — let alone the ordinary news viewer, or voter. So here are ten concepts to help understand what happens when two “peer adversaries” — ie states armed with modern weaponry — go to war.
1. Hybrid warfare. Sometimes called greyzone warfare, this is a mixture of disinformation, corruption, crime, assassinations, political destabilisation, election rigging practised by both sides during the 1948–91 Cold War, mostly in satellite countries.
What makes Putin’s application of it different to, say the CIA in Latin America in the 1990s, is:
- It is, today, aimed primarily at destabilising the core advanced democracies and undermining belief in democracy;
- during the past decade Putin’s strategists concluded it is more effective than traditional military threats, and invested heavily in it
- the hybrid effort is centrally controlled and “instrumented” — ie the constant focus of military/civilian analysts in Moscow, with a high intensity of inputs and outputs. It’s the main show, not the sideshow.
I do not subscribe to the US liberal view that Trump/QAnon and the US alt right is primarily a creation of…