Small Wars Journal

The New Cold War Pits a U.S. General Against His Longtime Russian Nemesis

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 5:33am

The New Cold War Pits a U.S. General Against His Longtime Russian Nemesis by Nathan Hodge and Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal

A quarter-century after the Cold War ended, U.S. and Russian tank formations are once again squaring off.

This spring, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization moved armored forces to the Russian border, where they are conducting daily drills from Poland to Estonia. Less than 100 miles away, Moscow’s forces are preparing for large-scale maneuvers in the autumn, a demonstration of the country’s revitalized might, including new equipment and improved tactics meant to keep the West guessing in the event of a clash.

Facing off behind these front lines and shaping each side’s grand strategy are two of this generation’s most influential officers in Washington and Moscow: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

The two men’s lives have evolved in parallel. Both began their careers as junior armor officers at the height of the Cold War. Both were tested in irregular warfare against separatists and militant groups. Both have coped with the rise of disruptive battlefield technologies including drones, precision bombs and sophisticated new forms of propaganda.

They haven’t ever met. But each—like Patton and Rommel or John Le Carré’s fictional Smiley and Karla—has made a career of studying his opponent’s moves.

Their dynamic sheds light on the evolving military competition between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers at a time of rising diplomatic tension. Moscow has narrowed a yawning gap in the quality of its conventional forces, but the U.S. remains far more powerful in that category. It is this imbalance that has shaped the strategic thinking of the two generals. It’s American force and resolve against Russian cunning and diversion.

Gen. McMaster, now President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has emphasized that America’s true strength lies not in shadowy commando raids or pinprick drone strikes, but in well-equipped land, air and naval forces working together to clearly demonstrate overwhelming superiority.

Military officers who know Gen. McMaster said they believe he will help shape the Trump administration strategy and influence the Pentagon’s spending. Already the administration, which has been critical of allied defense budgets, has proposed a 40% increase in U.S. military spending in Europe, money that will pay for additional forces—from Army helicopters to Navy sub-hunters—to deploy there.

Gen. McMaster was a hero of the first Gulf War’s most important tank battle. He later honed his reputation in Iraq, implementing one of the first counterinsurgency campaigns in the city of Tal Afar, which later became a model for the 2007 troop surge. More recently Gen. McMaster has overseen two critical Army initiatives to prepare America for wars of the future and counter Russia’s military advances.

Gen. Gerasimov, by contrast, has always looked for American weaknesses and how Russian prowess can overcome American power. The chief of Russia’s General Staff, he has been the most articulate proponent of Russia’s emerging vision of conflict, something Western observers dub “hybrid warfare.” In conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, he has pioneered new approaches to hybrid war by combining traditional military weaponry with powerful nonlethal tools such as cyberwarfare, fake news and elaborate deception…

Read on.


Re: this suggested New Cold War, consider the following from Nadia Schadlow. Herein, note her emphasis on -- not so much the military aspect of this war -- but, rather, the political, economic, informational and cultural aspects -- and the competition over ideas, economic systems and societies related thereto. (I would add to this political systems as well, as in the Old Cold War). These appear, as in the Old Cold War and again today, to form the apparent basis for her thoughts on this New Cold War?


Russia’s cyberattacks should be teaching Americans something that those situated in the orbits of China, Iran, and Russia have long known: There are serious political competitions underway for regional and strategic dominance. These extend beyond military battlefields and are a fought across a variety of domains – political, economic, informational, and cultural. Is the United States finally ready to compete? ...

Competitiveness is inherent in the way that military and intelligence agencies think and act, but it is virtually absent in most other government organizations. Typically, those organizations focus on administering systems, running programs, and maintaining relationships as ends in themselves. Yet in virtually every theater of the world, local and regional competitions over ideas, economic systems, and societies affect America’s ability to protect and advance its interests.

END QUOTES (by Nadia Schadlow)

(Nadia Schadlow is now, I believe, a member of the National Security Council and, therein, Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for National Security Strategy. In this job, I believe, she is expected to oversee/manage the writing/authoring of the National Security Strategy of the United States for President Trump?

Thus, to ask:

If President Trump continues to see this New Cold War more in terms of military competition -- and less in terms of a competition of political, economic, social and value systems (and, specifically, the ideas that underpin same),

Then can we expect that President Trump will:

a. Continue to have difficulty understanding "the kind of war that he is embarked upon?" And, thus,

b. Continue to see victory/"winning" in glaringly erroneous/massively insufficient (see the recent Afghan and Iraq Wars?) military/major combat operation terms?

This, rather than in terms of the enemy moving more in the direction of our political, economic, social and value systems and norms? (In a New Cold War setting, as in the Old, is this not what "winning" means/meant?)

Of course, if President Trump chooses not to sufficiently participate (think his proposed gutting of the State Department) in this "battle of ideas, etc." war. And if he determines, thus, that he will literally "leave the field of battle" and "give away" the world -- and all the human and other resources contained therein -- this/these, to the U.S./the West's old and new "alternative ways of life, alternative ways of governance and alternative foundational ideas" enemies, then, of course, any such New Cold War suggestions, made by these writers from the Wall Street Journal, made by Ms. Schadlow, made by myself, etc., etc., etc., -- these, obviously, would all have to be seriously called into question. Yes?

(Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above: "Military competition," thus, does not a "New Cold War" make.)