I’ve previously plugged The Americans — the first four seasons free on Amazon Prime — and am now 29 episodes into it . . . the story of two KGB spies in Ronald Reagan’s Washington, DC, when Russia was our enemy animated by a noble, utopian — but irretrievably flawed — cause. (Communism sought to provide a good life for everyone — “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” — that, humans being hard-wired to be fundamentally self-centered, inevitably has led everywhere it’s been tried to tyranny, repression, corruption, and what can be sum up by, “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”) Now Russia is still our enemy, minus the noble cause. But watching The Americans from the point of view of the KGB protagonists, along with the FBI protagonists . . . it is completely absorbing . . . and eerily relevant today, when the FBI is investigating the KGB’s efforts (now called the FSB) to destabilize our democracy, and liberal democracies and alliances in Europe as well.
Russia is winning.
President Trump seems not to be alarmed as Ronald Reagan (say) would have been. In some ways, Trump and Putin are alike — both dishonest billionaires. In other ways, they are spectacularly different — contrast, e.g., Trump’s fake professional wrestling with Putin’s black belt and other martial arts. One presumes Putin privately holds Trump in contempt; Trump appears to admire the journalist-murdering Putin, the one person he never criticizes.
And so I commend the Sunday New York Times story a week ago about Russia’s “new theory of war” — winning without firing a shot — in case you missed it. It’s long, but oh so relevant and important to our future.
“How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop.’
. . . In early 2013, Valery Gerasimov, a top Russian general, published an article in a Russian military journal called VPK. Gerasimov had observed Twitter and other social media helping spark the Arab Spring. “It would be easiest of all to say that the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ are not war and so there are no lessons for us — military men — to learn,” he wrote. “But maybe the opposite is true.” There were new means through which to wage war that were “political, economic, informational,” and they could be applied “with the involvement of the protest potential of the population.” Russia’s military doctrine changed its definition of modern military conflict: “a complex use of military force, political, economic, informational and other means of nonmilitary character, applied with a large use of the population’s protest potential.”
Military officials in America and Europe have come to refer to this idea alternatively as the “Gerasimov doctrine” and “hybrid war,” which they accuse Russia of engaging in now. When I asked Peskov about those charges, he shrugged. Everyone was doing it, he said. “If you call what’s going on now a hybrid war, let it be hybrid war,” he said. “It doesn’t matter: It’s war.” . . .
The Wall Street Journal adds this footnote: “Russian-backed messages in the 2016 election cycle had outsize reach, ad buyers say, because of the way Facebook rewards content that gets a reaction.” As known so far, Russia’s Facebook ads reached only a few million people — a small piece of their overall effort. Will Facebook find more to reveal? (For months, they knew of none.)
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