by Helmholtz Smith
"Hybrid war". Western propagandists love the expression "The bad guys are doing nasty underhand things to counter our clean-cut decent and wholly justified activities" but they are just making noise. As Clausewitz knew, however, there is an actual meaning:
We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses (...) for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.
In this sense, all intelligently-conducted wars are "hybrid wars" advancing on many levels to achieve the "political object" by "other means".
What is the "object"?
Moscow knows that NATO/USA is the real enemy and that the wretched Ukrainians are its puppets and their looted and worn-out country is the arena. Putin himself has said that NATO's threat to Russia must be stopped. NATO, and the European Union with which it is closely linked, must be exposed as useless, actively harmful to their members and their hostility defeated.
NATO, which loves to pose as peaceful (despite the five or six wars it's started in the last quarter-century), cannot or will not understand Russia's point of view. Moscow will shove its face in it. Putin says that he has many times tried other means (Munich 2007 being one of the earliest). Those means having failed, he's using these means this time.
Far-ranging aims require a multi-front attack. Let us consider the fronts.
MILITARY FRONT. Putin has explained the aims – denazification and demilitarization Maybe they could have been achieved through negotiation – although years of Kiev ignoring the Minsk Agreements suggest not – but that didn't happen. Maybe Moscow hoped that its feint on Kiev might prevent a bloody slog but that didn't happen either. And so the battle of annihilation is on – Ukraine's military power is being smashed and the Nazis killed.
It's taking a long time for several reasons. Imagine the Western Front trench line but with three times as long to build it and concrete rather than sandbags and wood. Russia and its allies attacked with smaller forces. The allied forces are moving slowly to reduce their casualties and because they are in no particular hurry. The Ukrainians are resisting very tenaciously and NATO is egging them on. The Ukrainian forces are being methodically slaughtered, allied casualties are a fraction of that because "artillery conquers and infantry occupies".
DIPLOMATIC FRONT. The West likes claim that Russia is isolated. But, in terms of population, the so-called "International Community" represents only 15 to 20 percent of the world and the Russians are well-received elsewhere. Here's Lavrov very much in the thick of things at ASEAN, in Africa (note media attempts to spin it away) and the Arab world.
Russia isn't isolated at all and its diplomacy is having effect. US diplomacy, on the other hand, is just threats – Africa is warned, China threatened.
ECONOMIC FRONT. When Moscow began its "special military operation", it expected that Nordstream 2 would be stopped because it knew the West was stuck on the idea that the Russian economy is dependent on selling energy to Europe – "Russia cannot afford to cut its sales of oil". Moscow had its response ready – hostile countries have to pay in rubles.
What's Europe's response? Hurt Putin by not showering. Don't, he doesn't care. Of course the price went up and Moscow has probably completely funded the operation out of the increased revenue. The West is discovering – and, advised as it is by people like Aslund, to its astonishment – that "the country that doesn't make anything" is a big producer of lots of essential things.
Moscow knew Washington would stick Europeans with the check – just as Washington will fight to the last Ukrainian, it will sanction until the last European freezes. The economic war is doing more damage to Russia's enemies. They will either figure this out and change their behavior or they won't and they'll suffer. Moscow waits knowing that it wins either way.
PROPAGANDA FRONT. It is a common sentiment that Moscow is losing the propaganda war but I'm not convinced. Propaganda has to have some basis in truth – instead we have the martyrs of Snake Island miraculously reviving, the ghostly Ghost of Kiev, million-man armies disappearing, Kherson counter attacks put off again, maternity hospital bombings exposed by the bombed-out mothers, bodies thoughtfully left out to be seen, Russia begging China, Iran or North Korea for weapons, another "game-changer" weapon.
Russia was running out of ammunition in March, April, June and July. You have to be pretty comatose to still believe this. The propagandists have lost their skills. And reality leaks out through the holes in these flimsy tales. Witness the reception of the Amnesty International report that Ukrainian tactics are "putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas".
"Putin's propagandists" chides The Times; "cannot be tolerated" says Zelensky; "Russian propaganda" as she quits. No news to us who have seen Azov fighters sheltering behind civilians in Mariupol, weapons hidden in shopping centers, troops setting up in schools. But it's a shocker to believers of the Western narrative (especially Vogue readers!).
Skeptics know that the difference between a conspiracy theory and reported truth is a few months. In June it was Russian disinformation that corrupt officials were selling Western weapons, in August it's news. Zelensky a hero then, corrupt now. Expect more "disinformation" transforming into truth.
JUDO. Putin is well known to be a judo master. Judo is the art of using the opponent's movements against it. That's what we are seeing. On every front Russia has time on its side and escalation dominance. The impotence of NATO and the EU – in fact the actual damage that membership in either brings – is more perceptible every day as winter approaches.
Europe's, the West's, predominance stood on three legs. The power to compel others. The captivating halo of success. The wealth to fund the other two. Watch this little video – not much respect there. I expect we will see more vignettes like this.
The statue is hollow, the Mandate of Heaven is shifting.