Foreign Policy Magazine:Putin fighting non-linear war

This is what Mind War looks like:

Democracy Lab
How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare
Though some deride Russia for backward thinking, Putin’s strategy in Ukraine betrays a nuanced understanding of 21st century geopolitics

Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the “old ways,” trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets. But look closer at the Kremlin’s actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the “old ways,” while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization?
The Kremlin’s approach might be called “non-linear war,” a term used in a short story written by one of Putin’s closest political advisors, Vladislav Surkov, which was published under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, just a few days before the annexation of Crimea. Surkov is credited with inventing the system of “managed democracy” that has dominated Russia in the 21st century, and his new portfolio focuses on foreign policy. This time, he sets his new story in a dystopian future, after the “fifth world war.”
Surkov writes: “It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries, two blocks of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. All against all.”
This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally “Western” companies, such as BP, Exxon, Mercedes, and BASF. Meanwhile, many Western countries welcome corrupt financial flows from the post-Soviet space; it is part of their economic models, and not one many want disturbed. So far, the Kremlin’s gamble seems to be paying off, with financial considerations helping to curb sanctions. Part of the rationale for fast-tracking Russia’s inclusion into the global economy was that interconnection would be a check on aggression. But the Kremlin has figured out that this can be flipped:
Interconnection also means that Russia can get away with aggression.
Interconnection also means that Russia can get away with aggression.
“A few provinces would join one side,” Surkov continues, “a few others a different one. One town or generation or gender would join yet another. Then they could switch sides, sometimes mid-battle. Their aims were quite different. Most understood the war to be part of a process. Not necessarily its most important part.”
We can see a similar thinking informing the Kremlin as it toys with Eastern Ukraine, using indirect intervention through local gangs, with a thorough understanding of the interests of such local power brokers such as Donetsk billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine’s richest man) or Mikhail Dobkin, the former head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration and now presidential candidate. Though these local magnates make occasional public pronouncements supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, their previous support of Yanukovych makes them wary of the new government in Kiev. Just the right degree of separatism could help guarantee their security while ensuring that their vast financial global interests are not harmed. “Think global, act local” is a favorite cliché of corporations — it could almost be the Kremlin’s motto in the Donbass.
And the Kremlin’s “non-linear” sensibility is evident as it manipulates Western media and policy discourse. If in the 20th century the Kremlin could only lobby through Soviet sympathizers on the left, it now uses a contradictory kaleidoscope of messages to build alliances with quite different groups. European right-nationalists such as Hungary’s Jobbik or France’s Front National are seduced by the anti-EU message; the far-left are brought in by tales of fighting U.S. hegemony; U.S. religious conservatives are convinced by the Kremlin’s stance against homosexuality. The result is an array of voices, all working away at Western audiences from different angles, producing a cumulative echo chamber of Kremlin support. Influencers often appear in Western media and policy circles without reference to their Kremlin connections: whether it’s PR company Ketchum placing pro-Kremlin op-eds in the Huffington Post; anti-Maidan articles by British historian John Laughland in the Spectator that make no mention of how the think tank he was director of was set up in association with Kremlin-allied figures; or media appearances by influential German political consultant Alexander Rahr that fail to note his paid position as an advisor for the German energy company Wintershall, a partner of Gazprom, Moscow’s massive natural gas company (Rahr denies a conflict of interest).
Combatting non-linear war requires non-linear measures. International networks of anti-corruption NGOs could help squeeze corrupt flows from Russia. At the moment, this sector is underdeveloped, underfunded, and poorly internationally coordinated: In the U.K., for example, NGOs such as Global Witness or Tax Justice rarely engage with Russian counterparts. Anti-corruption NGOs need to have the backing to put painful pressure on corrupt networks on a daily basis, naming and shaming corrupt networks and pressuring western governments to shut them down and enact their own money laundering laws. This would squeeze the Kremlin’s model even in the absence of further sanctions, ultimately playing a role as important as human rights organizations did in the 70s and 80s, when groups like Amnesty and the Helsinki Committee helped change the Cold War by supporting dissidents in the Communist block and shaming their governments.
Meanwhile capacity building is needed for both Ukraine and the West to deal with Kremlin disinformation and to formally track the role of Kremlin-connected influencers. So far, this work is happening ad-hoc as intrepid journalists reveal Kremlin lobbyists and triple-check leaks. To be effective, this work needs to be institutionalized, whether in think tanks or via public broadcasters such as Radio Free Europe, so every sound bite from a Kremlin-funded “expert” is properly contextualized, every Kremlin meme deconstructed, and every British peer on Russian state company boards held accountable for their connections. And this needs to happen in both Western countries and Russia’s “near abroad,” where the Kremlin projects its non-linear influence through a variety of institutions, from the Orthodox Church, to entertainment television and business groups. Georgia, Moldova, and Latvia are particularly vulnerable, and their security services need to be prepared for the sort of indirect intervention we are seeing in eastern Ukraine.
But aside from such concrete measures, it’s also important to appreciate that the Kremlin is throwing down the gauntlet to the Western-inspired vision of globalization, to the kitsch “global village” vision on the covers of World Bank annual reports and in Microsoft advertisements. It is better to understand the Kremlin’s view of globalization as “corporate reiding” (with an “e”), the ultra-violent, post-Soviet cousin of western corporate “raiders,” and the way many in Russia made and make their money. “Reiding” involves buying a minority share in a company, and then using any means at your disposal (false arrests, mafia threats, kidnapping, disinformation, blackmail) to acquire control. Russian elites sometimes refer to the country as a “minority shareholder in globalization,” which, given Russia’s experience with capitalism, implies it is the world’s great “corporate raider.” Non-linear war is the means through which a geo-political raider can leverage his relative weakness. And this vision appeals to a very broad constituency across the world, to those full of resentment for the West and infused by the sense that the “global village” model is a priori rigged. For all the talk of Russia’s isolation, the BRIC economies have actually been subdued in their criticism of the annexation of Crimea, with the Kremlin thanking both China and India for being understanding.
Perhaps, despite what Obama says, there is a battle of ideas going on. Not between communism and capitalism, or even conservatives and progressives, but between competing visions of globalization, between the “global village” — which feels at once nice, naff, and unreal — and “non-linear war.”
It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War.
It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War. Back then, the West united free market economics, popular culture, and democratic politics into one package: Parliaments, investment banks, and pop music fused to defeat the politburo, planned economics, and social realism. But the new Russia (and the new China) has torn that formula apart: Russian popular culture is Westernised, and people drive BMWs, play the stock market, and listen to Taylor Swift all while cheering anti-Western rhetoric and celebrating American downfall.
“The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock,” said Surkov when he was one of the first Russian officials to be put on the U.S. sanctions list as “punishment” for Russia’s actions in Crimea. “I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”
We live in a truly non-linear age. And the future might just belong to the reiders.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

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11 Responses to Foreign Policy Magazine:Putin fighting non-linear war

  1. AnonNation says:

    Even Foreign Policy, an ostensibly high-brow publication, is behind the curve of 21st century reality.

    There is no “West”. There are merely transnational coporatocracies focused on maximizing the incomes of the ruling elite. Traditional geo-politics must be considered obsolete until the discipline accepts this reality.

  2. I admit to being a bit puzzled by some of the Putin fandom among certain pro-whites. As RamZPaul said, he’s essentially a neo-con – his globalization is limited to a defensive containment of Western expansion, but it’s hardly pro-white or pro-Western. I’m pretty nuetral on Putin, very wary of anti-Putin and anti-Russian NATO propaganda but also Putin fandom. Oh, sure, he’s a tough white guy when compared to Barack Hussein-Osama but in that sense he’s just the TV show villian that’s cooler than the hero.

    Here’s an interesting trick to decoding Western propaganda – count the number of registered brands and names of corporations in the story. If a story mentions actual corporation names, it’s “business news” and if it doesn’t, it’s “political news.” You’ll have two different articles: one, in the Washington Post, about “US forces” and “contractors” securing some location near Basra, Iraq. Then, in the Wall Street Journal, there will be an article about BP, Exxon, and Halliburton’s new contracts in the area. The obvious fact – that these entities, the official and unofficial arms of the US Empire – work together, as one force, is glossed over and obsfucated. First the troops “establish democracy” then “privatize” public resources, then the corporations – who can be named only when out of the context of the recent violence – can be covered building the new facilities and taking x amount of revenue.

    So maybe Putin’s Russia is wise to this reality, and along with leveraging the internet’s cheap broadcast power (RT @ youtube), is fighting the US Empire with a coordinated strategy involving financial and market pressure as much as anything.

    As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally “Western” companies, such as BP, Exxon, Mercedes, and BASF. Meanwhile, many Western countries welcome corrupt financial flows from the post-Soviet space; it is part of their economic models, and not one many want disturbed.

    The left has long called this “corporate globalization” while the populist right (mostly ignoring the corporate wing) calls it the “New World Order” – and it looks like Russia is wise to it. Certainly China has been acting that way – China banned Facebook, deciding to not invite the NSA into every Chinese home at the benefit of some selfies and memes.

    Corporate globalization is a great miscegenation machine promoting a global corporate monoculture that is more about Monsanto GMOs, McDonald’s franchises, and Google’s youtube than it is about democracy, social justice, the rule of law, free markets, human rights, etc.

    I had the pleasure once to attend a talk by an African diplomat to the Coca-Cola company give a talk that was essentially a fundraiser, asking for official and unofficial investment from Coca-Cola into various African regions. It was an official government minister going hat in hand to a multinational phood corporation begging for money. The left has recognized this far longer than the right, who seems still hung up on 19th century notions of capitalism-as-ideology. As long as “consumer choice” is respected, the abstract system is right, therefore the results are by definition ok. That’s “liberty” to a libertarian.

    • Anon says:

      “I admit to being a bit puzzled by some of the Putin fandom among certain pro-whites. As RamZPaul said, he’s essentially a neo-con – his globalization is limited to a defensive containment of Western expansion, but it’s hardly pro-white or pro-Western.” – It is at the very least good to have someone opposing DC, even if only because they want to be the ones in charge of the one world multicult empire.

    • Charlotte says:

      “I admit to being a bit puzzled by some of the Putin fandom among certain pro-whites. As RamZPaul said, he’s essentially a neo-con – his globalization is limited to a defensive containment of Western expansion, but it’s hardly pro-white or pro-Western. I’m pretty nuetral on Putin, very wary of anti-Putin and anti-Russian NATO propaganda but also Putin fandom.”

      All of the pro-Putin WN I know live outside out Russia, all the anti-Putin? In Russia.

    • DC says:

      Putin’s Russia is the greatest challenger to global US hegemony. Some time around 2007 (I looked but couldn’t find a link) Putin made a famous speech, where for the first time he openly called for a “multipolar world” under international law (it was not covered in the Western press of course). As cliche as it may sound, the western 1%ers want a world government (NWO) under their control.

      Like everyone else he seeks to expand his power and influence, but his world view and methods are fundamentally different. Not all world leaders can be painted with the same brush as the paid corporate/media/bankster shills that pass for leaders in the Western world.

      • mindweapon says:

        Good comment, DC. Welcome to the blog. Hope you’ll be a regular commenter. This blog is all about the commenters, and my posts are just the first comment.

  3. Anon says:

    ” If in the 20th century the Kremlin could only lobby through Soviet sympathizers on the left, it now uses a contradictory kaleidoscope of messages to build alliances with quite different groups. European right-nationalists such as Hungary’s Jobbik or France’s Front National are seduced by the anti-EU message; the far-left are brought in by tales of fighting U.S. hegemony; U.S. religious conservatives are convinced by the Kremlin’s stance against homosexuality. The result is an array of voices, all working away at Western audiences from different angles, producing a cumulative echo chamber of Kremlin support. ” – Putin is merely exploiting a weakness that our own rulers have created for themselves. If they’d just drop the social engineering and pay heed to nationalist movements this wouldn’t be happening.

    • I just see it as a competition between the USA empire, and the smaller mini empires, now chopping out larger chunks for themselves. Not only could the USA empire be checked from expansion, the old mother countries, many allies may flip. This flipping and chopping up of countries I think will slow down the mono-empiricism perhaps, as it will inevitably coalesce ethnic and racial back grounds.

      Why the flip of allies? Two reasons, one money, and two the moral high ground that the USA likes to beat us over the head with, is being slowly but surely eroded by the internet and word of mouth. Not many people wonder why the traditional MSM is dying a death of a thousand cuts.

      The only thing left to hold the now multiculti non-west together is the ideology of multiculturalism. So no wonder the USA is now trying to introduce hate speech memes into their populace. Particularly since there is push back on such laws in the traditionally white commonwealth lands.

  4. oogenhand says:

    Reblogged this on oogenhand and commented:
    When I learned some Russian around 1984, some classmates asked whether I was a commie…

  5. wobbly says:

    The Russians are using 4th gen warfare tactics

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth-generation_warfare

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