Monday, March 10, 2014

Valodya role-ing like a BOSS!!!

WaPo | References to Vladi­mir Putin’s invasion of Crimea as some sort of “19th-century behavior” misjudge the enormity of recent events. He hasn’t miscalculated; Putin is redefining 21st-century warfare.

Before Putin invaded Georgia in August 2008, he spent months deploying the traditional machinery of war: He rebuilt railroads and highways to move tanks and thousands of troops. He sent warplanes menacingly over Georgian territory. He also used state propaganda to muddle the narrative about who started the war. 

But Putin is no longer bound by the constraints of nation-state warfare. Years of confrontations with separatists, militants, terrorists and stateless actors influenced his thinking. In Crimea, Putin debuted a pop-up war — nimble and covert — that is likely to be the design of the future.

First, the hidden army appeared out of nowhere. Soldiers-of-no-nation were outfitted for troublemaking and street-fighting. These troops, denied by Putin, are also seemingly unconstrained by the laws, rules and conventions governing warfare — Putin’s biggest brush-off yet to international order. They are Putin’s hybrid of soldiers and terrorists: hidden faces, hidden command-and-control, hidden orders, but undoubtedly activated to achieve state objectives. The lack of an identified leader gums up the international community’s response: There is no general with whom to negotiate a cease-fire or surrender; if violence erupts, there is potentially no way to end it short of stopping each gunman. 

These irregular forces are also a psychological menace for the local population and Ukrainians nationwide, who don’t know where else the hidden army awaits.

The second component of Putin’s 21st-century warfare is cyber. Calling it propaganda diminishes the insidious and poisonous nature of this information battle

Cyber-tactics have been streamlined to Putin’s latest purpose: interrupting the communications of legislators and governance, even as the stream of Russian-language misinformation heralding the new war on “fascisti” continues to flow. 

Putin has manufactured a version of reality to propagate the narrative he needs to destabilize Ukraine. He decided an ethno-lingual division was needed to achieve his objectives — and then cast parts. Now the story is being acted out on hundreds of fronts and posted on social media, a virtual live-stream of content for Putin’s argument of oppression, victimization and fear in Russian-speaking Ukraine. 

Reality plays no role in all this. Itar-Tass ran a story last weekend, later picked up by Forbes and others, that 675,000 Ukrainians had recently sought political asylum in Russia. Recall that in August 2008, Moscow claimed that 2,000 civilians had been killed in South Ossetia, a region of Georgia into which it sent and still maintains troops. Human Rights Watch investigators later found that only 44 civilians had died. But Western news agencies cover Putin’s fake news as if it were worthy of debate. His distortions and the resulting intimidation slow responses to his actions and dilute the resolve of those who would stand against him. 

Third, Putin is using financial markets as a polemical tool. With a personal net worth said to be in the tens of billions, he understands financial might. Russia’s wealth has allowed it to forge “partnerships” based on mutual financial interest, and Putin is relying on that web of connections.


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