Staunton, April 24 – Vladimir Putin has developed “a new kind of war” in Ukraine, one that has achieved many of his goals including the partial dismemberment of that country and the creation of a new region on the basis of his perception of “new international conditions,” according to Yuliya Latynina.
In an article in yesterday’s Yezhednevny Zhurnal, the Moscow commentator says that this war has four particular characteristics. Because the Russian president has used them with such success in Ukraine and because as a result he may apply them elsewhere in the former Soviet space, they deserve close attention.
The first of these characteristics of the new type of war Putin has launched concerns the use of women and children. “In traditional wars,” Latynina points out, these are not used “because they are weak.” But in the new war, they are “an important military force,” and Putin himself has suggested they must be used: “’Let them try to shoot at their own children,’” he said.
As Latynina notes, the first to use this tactic were the Palestinians; now it is being used by the Russian “liberators” of Ukraine. It is based on the idea that “under new world rules, he who shoots at the civilian population is wrong” and the creation of a situation in which one side forces the other to do so or back down.
The second characteristic of the new type of war is its focus on the media as a battleground. “PR operatives are a no less important component of it than ‘the living shield’” women and children offer. More than that, she continues, in this new kind of war, “the goal of one or another operation is public relations” rather than a direct victory on the battlefield.
Again, this strategy was developed and is used by Hamas, but now it has been taken up by Moscow. Like the Palestinians, Moscow sees the presentation of its side as victims as being “more important than achieving victory” or in fact as the victory it sees. In such conflicts, “crudely speaking it is no longer necessary to kill others. It is sufficient to kill one’s own and cover that with sufficient PR activity.”
The third feature is that one invariably accuses others of what one is doing oneself. By so doing, “the aggressor blames others for the victims he has in fact created.” Thus, again like the Palestinians, “Moscow is sending armed diversionists into Donetsk and organizing the local dregs of the population, but at the same time, it accuses the West of doing that.”
The fourth characteristic, Latynina says, is that “the main object of attack is the brains of those whom you are liberating.” The main target “is not the opponent but one’s own or ‘liberated’ population.” It is “zombified” through the promotion of hysteria about an enemy that does not in fact exist. Again the Palestinians have shown the way, she writes.
This is an extension of the world George Orwell described in 1984, one in which “propaganda and duplicity … are imposed by society on each of its members,” and one in which, even those who retain the ability to think independently go along because they cannot withstand the attacks of fanatics and prefer to be part of “the collective.”
And by so doing, and again like Hamas, Putin is using the ideology of the West against itself, presenting what he is doing as being based on “the sovereign will of the majority,” something many in the West have trouble responding to because they forget that democracy to survive must protect more than just that.
Moreover, by using this new kind of war, Latynina says, Putin is doing an end run around the West which “condemns any application of force by the state but does not take note of force if it comes from ‘activists,’ ‘social organizations’ or ‘the people.’” That Western failure opens the way for those using Putin’s tactics to use them ever more widely.