The Ukrainian War of Online Defense: the richness of the different perspectives

(To Andrea Cucco)

When I read some comments to the articles we publish on the initial Ukrainian "crisis" and subsequent "war", I am delighted (leaving aside the troll and "influencer citizenship "that characterized the entire legislature ...) to read extremely divergent opinions in this newspaper:" you are in the pay of NATO ... "," you are pro-Russian ... "," finally someone who tells the truth. .. "," here are others who make propaganda ... "," good! "," shame on you! "," you are a hope "," you are like everyone "...

I consider it an honor to collaborate with experts who have the advantage of not thinking univocally and above all of saying so openly. Well yes, here the single thought is not (at least in this juncture) welcome!

Observing from different perspectives allows us to gather and merge information that would otherwise be only partial. The reality is complex and it is not always "easy".

I know, what I am saying may seem trivial, however it is important to underline it, it is an Online Defense quality.

A few weeks ago a reader wrote to us: I recently discovered your newspaper, and I am following it with interest. However, I notice a "slight" discrepancy between Gaspardo's and Rossi's analyzes. Who should I listen to? The answer was: "To both of you!". The invitation is to always appreciate - when honest! - different points of view.

I hope that with the following interview you will be able to listen, even if you do not share them and even if - sometimes - "difficult", different visions.

Propaganda has been the protagonist for months. Could it be evidence that, like it or not, we are at war?

(Rossi) At war, since the time of the Ancients, truth is the first victim (cit. Aeschylus). This does not mean that the parties always lie: it is up to geopolitics analysts, such as those of the team that I undeservedly lead here on Online Defense, knowing how to grasp the nuances behind which the true in the false or the truth in the unspoken is hidden. In doing so, they must act according to science and conscience. Then, propaganda does not always have the same function: it is a kind of code whose decryption must be easy for some recipients and impossible for others, in such a way as to obtain different effects on different recipients.

I'll give you a couple of examples, one for each: Ukraine and Russia.

Kiev has an interest in keeping the home front motivated and cohesive towards Ukrainian public opinion, but it must always seem a bit in trouble to stimulate Western "donors" not to miss the opportunity. Furthermore, Ukraine is a democratic country and one where the Western media can easily access: if it tells too big lies, it could be discovered and ruin the good offices with London and Washington. Therefore, its propaganda cannot hide the advances and war damage done by the Russian aggressors.

Conversely, Russia needs to continually demonstrate that the enemy is aggressive, that Russian forces are welcomed by liberators, and that the Ukrainian population is hostage to a minority. In doing this, Russian decision makers often put so much zeal that they almost seem to believe their own propaganda: however, even Moscow is partly predictable as it often hides important decisions behind small semantic constructions: remember when it announced that they would "reduce" the offensive north of Kiev and then left three oblasts? (see article). On the home front, Mosca plays easy but always does it on the wire: it doesn't take much for the king to show himself naked. What about terminology then? To the "neo-Nazis" invented by Putin, Kiev has opposed the "russists" (or more effectively rushists in English), a mixture of Russians and Nazi-fascists. But above all, Kiev was able to oppose a young and lively team of politicians and soldiers to what should have been the Kremlin's mass media war, which was not seen much later. Indeed, in Moscow they ended up wearing, unexpectedly, a suit that made them look like old bureaucrats, like in the early XNUMXs.

This, on the Ukrainian or Russian side, is, however, a normal war of communication: those who are scandalized because they do not tell the truth, do not know that the same happens in finance, in commerce, in politics ... Gentlemen, it is marketing and war cannot be avoided! 

(Gaspardo) Propaganda is an essential element of any conflict and is an integral part of the war strategies of the contenders; and this is where Humanity and war in general have existed. Indeed, it would be strange and scandalous if there were no propaganda!

What is striking in this specific case is the overall volume and the loss of control by the "upper floors". Already during the Battle of Britain the British realized that the total volume of false and / or sensationalist news must never exceed 30%. The West is now waging a propaganda war that exceeds 70% of the news and has also put an end to any ability on the part of the public to look at the "overview" with the result that people are tempted to look for the " Truth ”among the ever-green ranks of“ conspiracy and disinformation theorists ”disdaining the“ official ”media. When at a certain point the "castle" thus created will be unsustainable, we will reach the short circuit and everything will turn against us.

Propaganda also exists on the Russian side, but it is rougher and largely aimed at the domestic public who, however, much more distrustful of power than we are, instead follows the news that invariably filter from the front. (especially through Telegram) and that contrary to what one might believe, and independently of the leadership of the Kremlin, reinforce the sense of solidarity between soldiers and citizens united in what they believe is a historic mission to save Russia from looming mortal danger.

The failure of the West to understand this truth of the facts as well as the shameful wave of Russophobia, with respect to which Islamophobia has become synonymous with philanthropy, will cost us dearly.

On May 9 ("Victory Day") what happened in Russia?

(Rossi) Well, the sky was a bit cloudy and there was a slight breeze: for this reason, the Russian aerobatic team, the one that had trained for days to draw iconic zetas in the sky, and the "doomsday plane" ”, Putin's flying bomb bunker, they did not come out cautiously… Either they were afraid of the clouds or that some brave pilot would take advantage of them for a demonstration of dissent: tertium non datur!

Apart from the planes, not many "high poppies" of the regime have been seen, starting with the famous general Valery Gerasimov, who has not shown his face in public since February 27. I'm not here wondering if he was injured in the attack by the Ukrainians on the Russian command in Izyum, which according to my sources claimed more than two hundred victims, many with important names (see article). After all, for a month not even the face of Dvornikov has been seen, who is (or should be) the commander of operations in Ukraine ... Gerasimov, however, is a more interesting case, because of the three men with the "nuclear briefcase" of the Russian Federation, that is the decision makers on a nuclear attack, was the only one absent: mind you, his last public appearance coincided with the threat of nuclear escalation made by Putin in front of the two stunned collaborators, he and Minister Shoigu.

(Gaspardo) In reality, nothing particular happened at the level of "Power". We have seen the classic iconography of "Russian Power" at work with the leader's speech, military vehicles, brass bands and marching soldiers, but nothing really unexpected or exceptional. From my point of view I would almost dare to call it "boring".

What is instead interesting to note is that there have been no protests of any kind from one end of the "Empire" to the other. Despite the mass events that took place in all the big cities of Russia, and which would have constituted the simply perfect stage for demonstrative actions with a strong media impact, nothing in this sense happened, when instead at the beginning of the war the squares such as the webs were seething with popular discontent with "the actions of a single man." Repression in this case has very little to do with it. The events of the last three months and the disordered reaction, if not real hostility, of the West disguised as opportune and improbable "Ukrainianophilia", have constituted a rude awakening for the Russians after 30 years during which, for the good and in the evil, they had still looked to the West with hope and admiration, and the slogan "Everything the Power told us about ourselves was a lie, but everything it told us about you was the truth!" it has now become part of the collective consciousness of the Russians, and the country has turned towards a long and painful, but necessary, path of war.

And in Ukraine?

(Rossi) It was a day like any other: of war. Kiev has not celebrated its victory over the Nazis on May 9 for years: to tell the truth, it was only the Soviets who did so since, according to them, the surrender of Germany came after midnight, Moscow time.

With regard to May 9, we know that in the evening the Russian air force hit a shopping center and two hotels with three Kinzhal supersonic missiles: a "showdown" against civilian targets - useless from a military point of view - at a cost of 2-3 Millions of dollars. In the same hours some Ukrainian officials announced, without hiding the concern, that Russian forces had completed the construction of a pontoon bridge over the Sivirsky Donets River: according to Kiev, there was the possibility that this bridge would have allowed Russia to threaten the defenses Ukrainians and supply routes in the Luhansk region. Then, the story went differently: in the following days this and other bridges became targets of the Ukrainian forces with a loss of Russian troops that some estimate, without exaggerating in my opinion, in a thousand troops.

(Gaspardo) In Ukraine it was another dramatic day of war with soldiers engaged at the front and at the same time tied with an invisible thread to their relatives and friends who are waiting for them somewhere around the country when not around Europe. The only note different from this sad and dramatic reality was the media show of President Zelensky filmed against the backdrop of the monumental Khreshchatyk street, deserted for the occasion, to act as a stage for him. In the same way that I found Putin's speech "boring" I find that Zelensky's is simply "ridiculous" and this further strengthened in me the belief that "comedians" should never lead countries, especially those of a certain importance.

Who benefits from keeping all eyes on Ukraine?

(Rossi) Let's say that the question thus posed is ambiguous. If the question is understood as: does the war in Ukraine serve to distract public opinion from something bigger? The answer is possible in three words: let's not say nonsense! This war is a global catastrophe and certainly does not serve to hide anything else! Conversely, I believe that the question must be read in the sense: does the constant media attention on the war, the fact that in three months it has never been classified as a "forgotten war", benefit Russia or Ukraine more? I believe that a war that directly involves Russia and indirectly the United States and the United Kingdom can hardly be "overlooked" and is being fought within an hour's flight from Berlin.

In Moscow it would agree that attention should drop because it could wage war as it has done for centuries without the hassle of international pressure: media attention disturbs those who habitually fight by hitting civilians, deporting entire populations and, so to speak, making use of not really conventional weapons.

In Kiev, a decline in attention is not very convenient now: its Anglo-Saxon "sponsors", in particular, the war gives political and geostrategic dividends that are best collected in the light of day. If the Ukrainians get bogged down and fail to set up a counter-offensive in the summer, then the discourse would change: the war only in that case would only serve to wear down Moscow in the medium to long term and would slip to the fifth or sixth page in the newspapers. It is funny that today some commentators, in bad faith, repeat that war serves to keep Russia busy and wear out: no, due to the way things have turned out and due to the terrible test made by the Russians, war serves precisely to devastate it. forces immediately. Those who say the opposite are simply lying ...

(Gaspardo) Actually nobody. If the war had lasted a few weeks, there would have been two countries (the United States and China) that could have obtained considerable position gains, but now everything has changed. It is clear that the war will last months and its effects are merging with those of the global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (which will most likely raise its head in the autumn) and by the more or less pronounced rise in interest rates everywhere. .

The effect on China will be heavy, and it has been predicted by the same political leadership that the economy of the "Dragon" this year will grow by a measly + 4% according to the most "rosy" scenarios (which for China is equivalent to a deep recession). At the same time, the United States made a glaring mistake when it made the decision to seize Russia's legally owned (and I stress the words "legally owned" thirty times) of Russia. By doing so, they have signaled to the world their unilateral will to use the currency as a geopolitical weapon, but this will have the effect (in the next 5-10 years) of pushing other countries to accelerate the de-dollarization process and this process will end. to make the debt pyramid on which the economy and even the power of the United States rests simply unsustainable.

Finally, solidarity between the so-called "Western countries" is starting to creak as it is becoming more evident day by day that we are moving towards a war economy perspective and that next winter we will have to, figuratively, "warm our houses with wood ". Economically and strategically speaking, no one will truly gain from these events.

Is World War III on the horizon? And if so, how far away in time?

(Rossi) This is, as I have argued for three months, a repetition of the "strange war" fought in Poland, Finland, the Baltics, Norway and Denmark between September 1939 and May 1940. Then as now, two great powers (France and the British Empire in 1939, United States and United Kingdom in 2022) offer aid to a country with which they do not have a formally ratified agreement, but with which they have entered into a commitment to maintain its sovereignty and independence. Back then, the victim of the attack was called Poland, today Ukraine. The application of heavy sanctions is matched by formal declarations of war that today are no longer even made ...

Do not be distracted by what you know after the discovery of Auschwitz: in 1939 Germany was not scary as an exterminator and a racist. The problem, then as now, is border revisionism and the will to power: whatever Putin's hired spokespersons tell us, the "living space" required by the Germans at the time is equivalent to the "Russian world" that the Kremlin wants to build today. Ultimately, the idea that Poles should be "by nature" subjects of the Reich is tantamount to saying that Ukrainians must "for history" be together with the Russians.

The difference, in recent months, has made Europe: back then, Poland found itself crushed between the joint forces of Hitler and Stalin, who later would have even paraded as old friends in Brest, while today European countries are effectively arming Ukraine. For the "strange war" to become a conflict of global dimensions it is necessary for Russia to escalate, in my view suicidal, and attack NATO or the countries of the Finno-Scandinavian area that have asked to join the Atlantic Alliance . Or that you use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, as General Hodges stated in my interview (see link).

The idea that the People's Republic of China attaches itself to the Russian wagon and takes advantage of it to take Taiwan is pure fantasy: Beijing has an interest in having a hearty meal on Russia's meager remains, rather than dictating the timing of the coming war with the west by the Russians.

(Gaspardo) Here it is necessary to understand what is meant by the term "Third World War". If by "Third World War" we mean, as I want to interpret it, a prolonged period of global disorder punctuated by a myriad of armed conflicts that is reshaping the balance of geopolitical and economic forces between small and large powers and which will lead to creation of a new world order centered on players other than those who have dominated up to now, well, I would say that this process began already after the "Great Financial Crisis of Subprime Mortgages" of 2007-2008, becoming a real tsunami already with the so-called "Arab Springs" and even more with the Syrian Civil War, which has been described by various analysts as a sort of "proto world war". This process is set to continue according to my calculations at least until 2040, if not beyond. So let's put our souls in peace and try to go all together as a self-respecting national community through this complicated but inevitable historical upheaval.

Is the deterrence of a weak country but inside NATO more effective than that of a strong and determined nation (Taiwan, Israel ...) outside?

(Rossi) It is always better to have very strong friends, determined to protect you and with interests contrary to those of your enemy. And it is important to let your "friends" know that you too are serious and determined. Alliances without an automatic guarantee mechanism, full of members with often opposing interests and with the need for unanimity to activate a military response are the right thing ... NATO is experiencing these months of renewed prestige as London and Washington have positioned themselves as leaders of the Free World in opposition to the Autocracies: it is a bit like the European Union, which is driving the determination (or lack of interest) of Paris and Berlin.

This also teaches Italy an important lesson: maintaining (and developing) a privileged relationship with the United States will be an essential element for our security and will give us political weight in the European decision-making process that we do not currently have. Old-fashioned Atlanticism - that of Italy, succubus and weak - is dead, but its opposite, that is to set us free in a multipolar world - without the will to fight -, was aborted before being born: the destiny of If Italy wants to be truly sovereign, it means treating the Atlantic and the Mediterranean as two lakes… Italian-Americans!

(Gaspardo) It's a very complicated speech and I don't think there is an answer. Probably the best examples we have available globally are two, they are both found on the European continent and are called Vatican City and the Swiss Confederation.

The Vatican has the smallest armed forces in the world but its diplomacy is one of the most powerful and articulated, and thanks to the global presence of the Catholic Church, it is able to project its influence on the life of almost 20% of the world population.

Switzerland is a neutral country and occupies a small but critical position in the economy and in the international arena, but despite this, throughout its contemporary history it has maintained some Armed Forces which are among the best equipped, trained and organized in the world. Europe and that they would be able to give much bigger opponents a hard time.

It is true that in the world there are strong and determined states both small (Israel, Taiwan, North Korea, etc ...) and large (Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran) that are not part of real systems of alliances, but on closer inspection the condition of international security in which they find themselves is precarious to say the least.

NATO has guaranteed common peace to its members for a long period of time, but the war of aggression it waged against Serbia in 1999 led to its moral bankruptcy in my view as the nefarious attempt to expand eastward. it is transforming from a common defense alliance into an instrument of aggression against a civilization, the Russian one, which does not want to be rightly recognized the right to have its place and its sphere of influence in its part of the world; a right that is objectively inalienable to it.

When will the war in Ukraine end?

(Rossi) The ongoing war has been prepared by the regime that has ruled the Russian Federation since 2000 and will not cease, in its most violent form, until the main tumor that is destroying, by different means, Ukraine and Russia together is removed, that is, the revisionism (of the borders) and the Russian post-imperial chauvinism embodied by President Putin: all the other top characters are only metastases, that is, secondary localizations of this cancer. If the malignant growth of the Kremlin were eradicated, the balance that has been established between these secondary carcinomas would enter into crisis: in that case, a spasmodic and violent search for new balances would be created that would cost Russia from a minimum of two to one. maximum of ten years of internal instability, but it would not necessarily transform it into a democratic and tolerant country. Unfortunately, Russia today, like Germany in the thirties and forties, does not have the conditions for a liberal democratic turn: indeed, we could say that Russia even lacks many of the antibodies, originating from a tradition of free religious, scientific and cultural heritage, which Germany had then and which re-emerged in 1945 and even more so in 1989.

Therefore, the war will not end even if the Ukrainians, as I believe, manage to launch a massive and successful counter-offensive in the Kherson, Zaporizia, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts during the summer. It will simply continue in other forms, such as an endless series of provocations, aggressions and penetrations against Ukraine, but not only. The war will not end even if the Russians will have fewer and fewer material and human resources: suffice it to say that they are pulling out "from mothballs" the vehicles and weapons that the Soviets had ceased production in the XNUMXs and XNUMXs, leaving them as a legacy to Russia. overflowing warehouses.

War, it must be said, had already been fought for twenty years, but not only on the battlefields: if the attacks on Georgia, Crimea and the Donbass had been clear and illegitimate forms of military aggression, if internally the Kremlin had annihilated with the violence separatist / autonomist movements and opposition, Putin had also launched various offensives through the regime press, culture, textbooks in schools, the management of the electoral system, etc., which we have not wanted to see for almost a decade. And to think that there are still those who believe that “russophobia” exists, another of the Kremlin's inventions!

(Gaspardo) At the beginning of the large-scale invasion of Russia against Ukraine (February 24, 2022) I anticipated, based on the previous experience of other conventional wars between countries that occurred in the thirty years between 1991 and 2021, which this conflict could not have lasted more than 100 days. Unfortunately, I must admit that this initial prediction turned out to be optimistic and it is now accepted that this large-scale conventional war will last indefinitely (perhaps until the end of the year) and will be decided on the battlefield with a clear victory by one of the two contenders who, considering a whole series of elements and despite the setbacks we have seen, in my opinion will in any case be Russia.

Ukraine had a very important chance of obtaining its only possible "victory" in early April when the combination of initial resistance and unmanageable logistical lines had undermined the Russian offensive capacity by forcing the Kremlin to order a withdrawal from the Kiev area. , from the north-east and much of the east of the country. At that moment, if Zelensky had really been a political genius like Talleyrand, Metternich, Bismarck or Mannerheim, he would have used the unique historical opportunity to engage Russia from a diplomatic point of view in order to wrest a "separate peace" that could have saved "Goats and cabbages" but what we have seen is very different. Driven by their delirium of omnipotence, both Western governments and Zelensky and the men around them truly believe they can achieve the goal of humiliating Russia by forgetting that in history all those who have been blinded by such "ὕβϱις" ( ancient Greek word translatable as “pride”, “hubris”) have had a very bad end. They think they are using the Ukrainians as living bayonets to undermine the “Russia-system” and impose a regime change in Moscow without understanding that at this moment the country has once again united under the banner of patriotism; what they will get instead is the destruction of Ukraine.