Despite the completely groundless accusations of the West that Russia is preparing to launch a “hybrid war” in the world, Russia demonstrates the desire for partnership and cooperation. In this connection, the Ministry of Defense of Russia radically changed its attitude to the “fourth estate”. A new doctrine in the field of public information disclosure increases the authority of Russia on a worldwide scale.
Information arms race
By the time of Vladimir Putin’s presidential career, the Russian army really was a “giant with feet of clay”, as the Soviet army called after a dubious attack against Finland in the 1930s. “Hazing” and other criminal offenses in the ranks of the army, sinking submarines and falling fighters … All this had to be justified, and the generals rarely looked convincing on camera. It was a time of rumors and classified information, and very few people could predict the rapid and effective offensive of the Russia in Georgia in 2008. Perhaps, if there were more faith in the possibilities of Russians in the West, the eccentric Mikhail Saakashvili would not advised to resolve the issue with the satellites of Russia so radically?
Today’s Russia seems to have taken into account the past mistakes and Russian military and the press service of the Ministry of Defense have taken the first place in citing and popularity among journalists recently. And such a policy pursues not one, but several goals at once.
Firstly, it is logical to assume that the power preparing for an offensive war will hide its military potential, rather than show it off. Secondly, it should be noted that Russian commanders rely not on copying of sophisticated anti-ballistic missile system, but on creating fundamentally new effective models. At the same time, the demonstration of new weapons to the whole world allows unassumingly emphasize both the inability to defeat Moscow in the arms race and the meaninglessness of spending on global military projects, such as missile defense in Eastern Europe, which could be easily overcome by new Russian weapons.
And the Kremlin has perfectly mastered the public relations in recent years. The head of the Russian military’s press service, Brigadier General Igor Konashenkov, actually announced the concept of a “transparent war”, posting on the Internet and providing the media with clips of Russian air attacks on the bases of militants in Syria, publishing interactive maps of military operations, and emphasizing in every way the openness of Russia’s actions in the Middle East. The true power of the Russian army appears in front of the Western astonished audience.
Ultimately, such an information company puts the US, the NATO countries and their allies in a disadvantaged position, forcing them to catch up with Russia, rather than the reverse as it was during the Cold War with the USSR. Instead of an outdate BMD system, it is necessary to develop a fundamentally new system of protection against Russian supersonic missiles, to change the protection system of carrier forces from a new type of torpedoes. At the same time, many eastern European politicians are scared by the growth of Russia’s military potential and require Washington and Brussels to protect their eastern borders, taking into account the latest innovations of the Russian military-industrial complex. And Europeans have to spend money, including in the budget insurance from” the Russian bear”.
“Transparent war” and its consequences
The department of Sergei Shoigu managed to change the attitude to the army in Russian society in the space of a few years. Tank biathlon videos – a kind of sport invented in Russia – generates millions of hit. Russian Special Forces units called as “little green men” had quickly occupied vital ground in the Crimea in February 2014 and became a symbol of the Russian bloodless military success for a long time. It runs to the absurd: there are not enough places in the armed forces for conscripts in some Russian regions. At the same time, “a small victorious online war” has turned into a kind of show, very popular across Russians.
Vladimir Putin’s famous Message to the Federal Assembly was conceived as a challenge or even a threat in the West, but in Russia was compared with his election program of recent elections. Russia was not afraid to start wars and get involved in global conflicts during Putin’s presidency, so he has no competitors in his country. To the contrary, candidates who have taken anti-war positions are conceived by the majority of electorate as traitors. And military successes are capitalized for Putin in real support of voters who will come to vote, even knowing who will win. It seems that elections in 2018 have turned for the Russians into an act of national unity against foreign enemy.
It must be confessed, that serious failures in military trials, failures in the introduction of new technology and problems during the military training exercise are not publicly available. But the press service of the Ministry of Defense accepts military defeats, such as the recent defeat of the column of Syrian troops and Russian private security companies by Kurds and American soldiers. After that publishes a video of effective retaliation actions or places falsehoods in the network explaining the reason of the defeat by factors that do not discredit the Russian military. It has not succeeded to catch the press service of the Russian defense establishment in a lie yet.
Moreover, the Russian side is scrupulous about various military demonstrations. The recent case of a US submarine frozen in the ice of the Beaufort Sea is hardly possible in Russia. But the Kremlin will with pleasure display effective demonstration launch of new missiles with the participation of media representatives. However, it seems that the ultimate goal of the new information policy is not to intimidate the West. First, the efforts of military PR specialists, especially on the eve of the recent elections, were aimed at own population. Secondly, Brigadier General Igor Konashenkov and his team are trying to accomplish an almost impossible task of demonstrating the power and peacefulness of Russia at the same time.
Play on the Russian field
The best way to prevent an arms race and avoid any war is negotiation and cooperation. The recent presidential elections in Russia undoubtedly demonstrated the high cohesion of Russians around Putin regardless of the numerous violations. And the speeches of the Russian leader conceived as too aggressive can also be considered as a signal that Russia is calm for its defensive capability and readiness to talk on equal terms. And, paradoxically, the openness of the Russian Ministry of Defense for contacts with the media, foreign observers and experts that can become a way for understanding Russia’s new foreign policy. If the Kremlin is ready for dialogue and answers to questions about the aspirations of the military, maybe it is through them that we should begin? Should we begin a constructive dialogue with Kremlin because of readiness of its military department for dialogue and answers to questions about Russian motivation in the Middle East and North Africa?
In the end, Russia did not turn the Middle East into an arena of endless competition of different kinds armed Islamists. Russia did not sponsor neo nazis in Ukraine, which hurl their country into chaos. Russia still looks more like a peacekeeper than an arsonist, although established an ambitious level of geostrategic interests. At least, the Russian bear engages in rattling not far from its den. Perhaps we can reach an agreement with him?