Denying Russia's Only Strategy For Success

(MENAFN- Asia Times) If the West mobilizes its resources to resist the Kremlin,Russia cannot defeat Ukraine or the West – and will likely lose.

The West's existing and latent capability dwarfs that of Russia. The combined gross domestic product ( GDP
) of NATO
countries, non- NATO
European Union states and the United States' Asian allies is over $63 trillion.

The Russian GDP
is on the order of $1.9 trillion. Iran and North Korea add little in terms of materiel support. China is enabling Russia, but it has not mobilized on behalf of Russia and is unlikely to do so. If we lean in and surge, Russia loses.

The notion that the war is unwinnable because of Russia's dominance is a Russian information operation, which gives us a glimpse of the Kremlin's real strategy and only real hope of success. The Kremlin must get the United States to the sidelines, allowing Russia to fight Ukraine in isolation and then proceed to Moscow's next targets, which Russia will also seek to isolate.

The Kremlin needs the United States to choose inaction and embrace the false inevitability that Russia will prevail in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin
's center of gravity is his ability to shape the will and decisions of the West, Ukraine, and Russia itself.

The Russian strategy that matters most, therefore, is not Moscow's warfighting strategy but, rather, the Kremlin's strategy to cause us to see the world as it wishes us to see it and make decisions in that Kremlin-generated alternative reality that will allow Russia to win in the real world.

Those whose perspective aligns with the Kremlin's are not ipso facto Russian dupes. The Kremlin links genuine sentiment and even some legitimate arguments to Russia's interests in public debate. The Kremlin is also an equal opportunity manipulator. It targets the full spectrum of those making or informing decisions.

It partially succeeds on every side of the political spectrum. Perception manipulation is one of the Kremlin's core capabilities - now unleashed with full force onto the Western public as the Kremlin's only strategy for winning in Ukraine. That is not a challenge most societies are equipped to contend with.

The United States has the power to deny Russia its only strategy for success, nevertheless. The US has allowed Russia to play an outsized role in shaping American decision-making, but the United States has also made many sound choices regarding Russia's war in Ukraine.

The key successes achieved by Ukraine and its partners in this war have resulted from strategic clarity. Lost opportunities on the battlefield, on the other hand, have resulted from the West's failure to connect ground truths to our interests quickly enough to act.

Fortunately, the United States faces an easier task in overcoming the Kremlin's manipulations than Russia does in closing the massive gap between Russia's war aims and its capabilities.

The United States must surge its support to Ukraine, and it must do so in time. Delays come at the cost of Ukrainian lives, increased risk of failure in Ukraine, and the erosion of the US advantage over Russia, granting the Kremlin time to rebuild and develop capabilities that it intends to use against the West - likely on a shorter timeline than the West assesses.

The United States must defeat Russia's efforts to alter American will and decision-making for reasons that transcend Ukraine. For the United States to deter, win or help win any future war, US decisions must be timely, connected to our interests, values and ground truth – but, above all, these decisions must be ours.

The US national security community theorizes a lot about the importance of US decision advantage over our adversaries, including timeliness. Russia presents an urgent and real-world requirement for America to do so in practice.

The Kremlin's strategy

The Kremlin's principal effort is to force the United States to accept and reason from Russian premises to decisions that advance Russia's interests, not ours. The Kremlin is not arguing with us. It is trying to enforce assertions about Russia's manufactured portrayal of reality as the basis for our own discussions, and then allow us to reason to conclusions pre-determined by the Kremlin.

Accepting Russia's premises and reasoning from them may proceed in a formally logical way but is certainly not rational, since it is divorced from actual reality and from our interests. Soviet mathematician Vladimir Lefebvre defined this process as“reflexive control”– a way of transmitting bases for decision making to an opponent so that the opponent freely comes to a pre-determined decision.

A key example: Putin
takes the false assertion that discussions of Ukraine's NATO
accession posed a clear and imminent danger to Russia along with the false assertion that Ukraine is not a real country and builds them into a false conclusion that he was justified in launching a war of conquest.

Another assertion: Russia has the right to a self-defined sphere of influence, and, therefore, a right to do whatever it wants to those within this sphere – including invading, killing, raping, and ethnic cleansing – with no repercussions.

The degree to which Western discourse includes serious consideration of these falsehoods marks the success of long-running Russian information operations.

Some sincerely accept the Kremlin's false predicates and resulting conclusions. Others may accept the predicates but stop short of leaping to conclusions that any of these arguments justify the Kremlin's invasion and atrocities. Many can see past the Kremlin's manipulations and recognize that Russia's war is an unprovoked war of conquest, however.

The Kremlin then targets this last category on a different level of reasoning – the predicates that inform our will to do something about Russia's war and the lengths to which we are willing to go. The Kremlin targets our perceptions of costs, priorities, risks, upsides, alignment with our values and effects of our own actions.

Two main categories of false assertions that the Kremlin is trying to enforce in this respect are that:

  • (a) Ukraine cannot win this war, supporting Ukraine is a distraction from“real” US problems, Ukraine will be forced to settle, the United States is at risk of being stuck in another“forever” war and
  • (b) the risks in helping Ukraine defend itself, let alone win, are higher than the risks of failure in Ukraine for the United States – it is too costly, too risky, and Ukraine is not worth it.


Asia Times

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