This Is What War in the 21st Century Looks Like

We have had relative peace since the end of the Cold War due to a few factors – one (mostly) benevolent hegemonic power and nuclear arms ensuring deterrence against tank columns moving across any land mass.

There are certainly other factors.

But these two main ones have now abated. A resurgent Russia has awakened white nationalism in America and Europe. And they’ve found a way to get around the whole ‘war ensures everyone dies’ part of nuclear arms – make war in such a way that no one knows you’re at war.

I’ve seen a few key tactics, all combined towards the overall strategy of gas lighting the world.

Invasion? What Invasion?

When Russia invaded Crimea, no one bought that their ‘little green men’ soldiers were actually Russian volunteers. But it threw enough dust up in the air that it didn’t cause an outright armed response from NATO. Similar tactics are being used in the Ukraine now.

Adversaries tend to respond in kind – if you give an attack some veneer of secrecy, rather than calling your bluff, your adversaries are likely to try and do other ‘covert’ things such as funneling arms and materiel to their allies in the region. Outright conventional WW2 style war is averted, but troops are still on the ground, and artillery is still being fired.

Cyber Intrusions

The predominant tactic used by the Russians so far has been the strategic release of hacked confidential materials, after being washed through a few sources. This supported Russia’s military interventions in an ingenious way.

So long as you throw enough noise and suspicion at your enemy, your own lies don’t seem so big. If there was a coherent free press, a working deep state intelligence service, and an open minded people, Crimea would have seen exactly what was going on – this wasn’t some ethnic strife. This was an outright invasion.

However, through strategic leaks of information, the press was compromised, the people were confused and the deep state was turned against itself. Sound familiar?


The third tactic used in this strategy is the extensive use of propaganda. From obvious outlets such as RT and Sputnik to more clever outlets like massive bot twitter army’s to get ‘fake news’ shared, Russia was able to spin the story. This didn’t just happen in the US but is happening in Georgia and the Ukraine even still.

These stories primarily serve to confuse Russia’s adversaries as well as strengthen their white nationalist allies wherever they are.

With enough actual facts leaked via cyber attacks, the one-two punch of cyber-based propaganda provides wonderful cover for small, conventional armed conflict.

Information Warfare

What the above three tactics actually are examples of are key parts of most strategy – stealth and jamming. Think of an aircraft.

When trying to land a bomb on a target, defenders are going to try and shoot down incoming aircraft. To protect the aircraft, we turn to two techniques – jamming and stealth.

Stealth tries to reduce the signals the aircraft puts out to the point where the enemy doesn’t see it. Odd angles, playing with radar, stealthy materials, flying in particular ways, all to reduce the signs the enemy uses to spot the aircraft.

Jamming does the exact opposite. It tries to put out so much additional signal that it’s hard to tell the aircraft from one of the fake spoofed aircraft that you’re putting on their radar.

The lies about invasions are the stealth – Russia finds ways to divorce itself from its own armed and cyber conflict, just enough that it’s not clear to everyone who’s doing what.

The propaganda and cyber leaking are jamming. Russia is trying to kick enough dust up in the air.

Combined, even if we could normally see Russia’s lies, it’s even harder to see in the dust storm of misinformation they’ve put out.

Gaslighting the World

And it’s in this way that they’re covering their conventional conflicts. Keep them small, keep them denied. And kick up enough dust so that no one knows what’s going on. They’re making the world believe that not only are they not the bad guy, they may not even be a guy at all or not an actor on the world stage.

So long as your enemy is confused,  he’s open to being pilfered.

And It will Happen Again

Aggressors are always out to be aggressive. There’s some born in nature to it. War will always be around unless there’s some force opposing it. In the 80’s, it was fear of nuclear annihilation. We basically saw the stalemate that occurred on the Western Front over the last 40 years. No one gained any ground, and no one lost any either. Rather than machine guns and trench warfare, it was the nuclear missile that was the weapon that caused the stalemate. No one knew how to beat it.

Cyber warfare and propaganda campaigns are the weapons that beat nuclear weapons. Just as the tank was able to resist machine gun rounds and crush barbed wire, we’re currently being rolled over by massive columns of Russian trolls, hackers, and spies.

Never enough to set off the powder keg of nuclear annihilation, but just enough to reshape the world in a white nationalist image.

We’ll see this again – perfected more and more. Wars of massive armies are over, just as the use of cavalry died with the machine gun. We’ll always be able to nuke massive armies. Wars of drip drip drip leaks, misinformation, political uprisings and non-stop confusion are here.

Think of it this way – how many Russian soldiers would have had to die to take the White House only 30 years ago? And now they’ve done it without shedding much blood at all. What an effective weapon.


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