Russia’s Hybrid War by Maxim Trudolyubov, New York Times
Almost anything Vladimir Putin touches these days is perceived by the West as a weapon, and almost everything he does is seen as an attack, very often a successful one. The Kremlin can change facts on the ground, stage quasi cease-fires and create zones of influence to exert pressure on other nations. It has done so in Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, and the pattern is now being repeated in Syria.
Meanwhile, the West goes on declaring one Kremlin success after another in ways that many Russians themselves cannot see. Under an editorial headline “Putin’s Syria Victory,” for example, The Wall Street Journal opined on Feb. 12: Negotiations can “‘freeze’ the conflict in place, a tactic Russia used to its advantage after the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and last year’s Minsk agreement over eastern Ukraine.”
It is not by crude force alone that Russia twists events to its advantage. By using its total control over the Russian news media to sow confusion in the West, Mr. Putin has managed, in the words of the journalists Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, to “weaponize” information…
How to Bog Down Putin in Syria by Seth G. Jones, Wall Street Journal
Reading the headlines, it might seem as if Russia’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is finally tipping the country’s indecisive civil war in his favor. Pro-regime forces, backed by Russian air power and ballistic missiles, have seized key terrain once held by U.S.-backed rebels and now threaten the strategically important city of Aleppo. Moscow shows no signs of slowing down, even with a recently announced cease-fire in Syria.
But the lessons from the nearly 200 insurgencies that have taken place since World War II suggest that Russian aid probably will fail to turn the tide. The Assad regime still faces serious challenges, not the least of which is a lack of legitimacy among the Syrian people. Moscow may find it difficult to sustain a major change in the balance of forces over the long run, particularly if the Obama administration—or, more likely, the next one—decides to push back…