The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 30 June 2022

This is the 30 June 2022 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the scan.

Editorial: Such a perfect escalation towards World War 3!

Continue reading “The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 30 June 2022”

The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 23 June 2022

This is the 23 June 2022 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the scan.

Editorial: Business as usual, if I may say so. Interesting: something should be there and is not, the Russian reaction to Lithuania blocus on Kaliningrad, which is not good news!

Enjoy the read as you are not part of those who try not to read news anymore because they think this is bad for their mood – see Reuters’ survey – in that case, as so many “new age people”, they will just get hit on the head one day because it is too late to act… example all the companies who lost money in Russia (and elsewhere), because, of course, “ahahah geopolitics is something of the past, let’s rely on marketing, “strategy” and disruptive innovation specialists of famous consulting firms and their like for our consulting…”

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

The 23 June 2022 scan→


Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.


Featured image: Image of the Swedish-ESO 15m Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. The photo was taken by Stefan Seip, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors.

The American National Interest

(Art design: Jean-Dominique Lavoix-Carli

Do the United States still consider France to be their ally?

We have to ponder this question because of the submarine contract signed between France and Australia, and broken in September 2021, to the benefit of the U.S.. If a country takes 35 billion euros from you, possibly revalued to 55 billion, then is it still your ally? This actually looks more like hostile behaviour on the part of the Americans.

Hence, whether the U.S. and France are still allies is a puzzle. And one that is important to solve. Indeed, this kind of American attitude could possibly happen again in other circumstances, with other countries. We must therefore understand what happened and why.

This understanding, the explanation of the puzzle, lies in the American national interest, which this article and the video address. The article also details all the sources and footages used in the video.

Continue reading “The American National Interest”

The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 16 June 2022

This is the 16 June 2022 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the scan.

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

The 16 June 2022 scan→


Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.


Featured image: Image of the Swedish-ESO 15m Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. The photo was taken by Stefan Seip, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors.

The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 9 June 2022

This is the 9 June 2022 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the scan.

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

The 9 June 2022 scan→


Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.


Featured image: Image of the Swedish-ESO 15m Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. The photo was taken by Stefan Seip, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors.

The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 2 June 2022

This is the 2 June 2022 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the scan.

This week, the main signals are organised around three major – linked – focuses: the war in Ukraine, Turkey’s operation against Kurds in Syria, and continuous escalation around China, with notably Taiwan and Pacific Islands’ countries as major issues.

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

The 2 June 2022 scan→


Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.


Featured image: Image of the Swedish-ESO 15m Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. The photo was taken by Stefan Seip, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors.

Understanding the War in Syria – 2013 to 2017

You will find here a series of research articles that were published from 2013 to 2017 to help actors navigate the war in Syria, with different focuses according to years.

The early years of the war: up until 2013-2014

State of play and actors of the war in Syria

In this section you will find the state of play and the various categories of actors fighting in and over Syria. Articles written before July 2013 are open access.

General and evolution of the war

(A full report in pdf – Potential Futures for Syria in the Fog of War, published on 15 July 2013 is also available).

Al-Assad Groups

The Kurds

Salafis and Jihadis

Scenarios (2013) for the future of the war in Syria

Back in 2013, we also built scenarios for the future. Keep in mind that ideally, scenarios should then be used for monitoring and early warning. Indeed, scenarios evolve, notably in terms of likelihood, out of changes on the battleground and interactions between all actors.

Evaluating Scenarios and Indicators for the Syrian War, by Helene Lavoix, 10 March 2014.

The war against the Islamic State

Then we focused mainly on the Islamic State. You can access our detailed work in the corresponding section as it is broader in scope than the war in Syria (see notably: At War against the Islamic State – From Syria to the Region by H Lavoix, 2 November 2015).

The years 2016 and 2017

A more recent phase of the war in Syria, end of 2016 to 2017 is handled mainly through signals’ analysis in the Horizon Scanning Board, with longer articles on the Kurds (see package above).

The Battle of Raqqa, the Kurds and Turkey – by H Lavoix, 2 May 2017.

The Kurds in Syria – State-Building, New Model and War – by H Lavoix, 22 May 2017.

The Middle East Powder Keg and the Great Battle for Raqqa  by H Lavoix, 12 June 2017.

Towards Renewed War in Syria? The Kurds and Turkey – by H Lavoix, 3 July 2017.

Bibliography

The Syrian War – Bibliography and Sources (first years of the war in Syria)

Methodology

See also our section on scenarios and scenario-building.

Food Security: China-Russia and Ukraine – Anthropocene Wars (4)

The War in Ukraine and the Great Amplification

Since the start of the Russian offensive on 24 February 2022, the raging war has triggered an amplification of the tension on global food and energy prices. The price trends for oil, gas, coal and agricultural products were already on the rise because of the Western “post” Covid pandemic economic recovery.

Since March, the war in Ukraine is turbocharging inflation trends (Charlotte Hebebrand and David Laborde, “High fertilizers prices contribute to rising global food security concerns“, International Food Policy Institute, April 25, 2022 and « Oil Prices Will Remain Above $100/ Barrel as long as the Ukraine War Rages On », The Economic Times, 25 April 2022).

Then, as seen in “War in Ukraine, U.S Megadrought and the Coming Global Food Crisis” (Jean-Michel Valantin, The Red Team Analysis Society, 1 May 2022), the effects of the war in Ukraine, not only block the exports of the Ukrainian and Russian crops but also combine with the consequences of the multiple megadroughts that impact the U.S. and Indian crops.

Meanwhile, the U.S. executive and legislative branches mobilize a 40 billion dollars package, in order to support Ukraine financially and militarily. As it happens, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the legislation in South Korea, while being on a tour in Asia (“Biden signs $40 Billion aid package for Ukraine during trip to Asia”, CNBC, 21 May 2022).

Two days later, in Tokyo, he declared that the U.S. would militarily support Taiwan in case of a Chinese attack on the island (Tripti Lahiri, “Did Biden just end U.S strategic ambiguity on Taiwan?”, Quartz, 23 May, 2022). One can infer that, given the current state of tension, those legislations and declarations are very closely monitored by Beijing.

Those political and strategic American signals happen at a time when the Chinese decision-makers have to manage difficult domestic and international crises.

On the one hand, they have to handle the struggle against the Covid-19 new wave and, on the other, the Taiwan-U.S.-mainland China tensions. Simultaneously, they must guarantee China’s food security, while having to deal with a very bad winter wheat harvest (Hallie Gu and Shivani Sing, “China agriculture minister says winter wheat condition could be worst in history”, Reuters, March 7, 2022).

In this regard, it appears that, in fact, China has stockpiled grains since 2021. Chinese companies buy, among others, wheat and corn to Russia, France and Ukraine (“China corn imports soar to new records in 2021”, Reuters, 18 January, 2022). Beijing implements this food policy as major extreme weather events impact major crops in China and around the globe.

Since 2021, extreme weather events have impacted winter and spring crops worldwide and especially in China, the U.S., India, Brazil (Sara Schafer, “Brazil’s drought: the trigger that could take corn prices higher?”, AgWeb, 28 April, 2022).

In the context of this very tense international situation, the linkages between agriculture and energy confer a reinforced geopolitical meaning to the Sino-Russian relation.

The question is to evaluate if one of the major consequences of the current geopolitical and climate change induced tensions could be the reinforcement of the Russia-China relationships. In which case, the close cooperation between Russia and China is not only about economic development. It is also about supporting each other power, while maintaining each other vital access to food and energy resources.

Chinese food security: a turning point in 2021

Export Bans

Since 2021, a growing number of major agricultural countries restrict or ban exports of their own production. The process started in June 2021, when the Russian government imposed taxes on grain exports, trying to stabilize domestic food prices.

Then, in December 2021, Argentina took a similar step (Clément Vérité, “Argentina stops exports of soybean oil and soybean meals “until further notice“, Newsendip, 14 March, 2022. Since then, the Argentinian political authorities limit corn and wheat export volumes. They do so in order to control domestic food prices. In March, the Argentinian government tightened these measures.

Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Turkey, Serbia, Hungary, and Kuwait took similar steps (Weizhen Tan, “India is not the only one banning food exports. These countries are doing the same”, CNBC, 17 May, 2022).

Then, since February 2022 and the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the exports of grain from Ukraine and Russia are also largely down. This diminution comes from the blocking of the Black Sea ports.

In May 2022, India, the second largest wheat producer, decided to ban exports. The decision is based on the destructive effects of the massive heatwave that impacts India and Pakistan. The Indian crops yield lost 20% because of this month-long, climate-change driven extreme weather event (Manavi Kapur, “India’s extreme heatwave is already thwarting Modi’s plan to “feed the world”“, Quartz, 28 April 2022).

Meanwhile, the U.S. Midwest and South are experiencing a major megadrought, as well as episodes of short but heavy rains that delay the planting of the spring cultures.

In other terms, the globalized agriculture and food markets are going through a major “perfect storm” (Jean-Michel Valantin, “War in Ukraine, The U.S Mega drought and the Coming Global Food Crisis”, The Red Team Analysis Society, May 1, 2022).

China’s stockpiles

In the context of this global agricultural crisis, since 2021, China has developed massive stockpiles of grains. Indeed, China imported 28,2 million of tons of corn in 2021 (Shin Watanabe and Eiko Munakata, “China hoards over half the world’s grain, pushing up prices”, Asia Nikkei, 23 December 2021). This is the equivalent of 152% of the 2020 annual record imports of 11,8 million tons.

Since 2021, China’s stocks of wheat represent 51% of the global stocks, while its stocks of corn represent 61% of the global total, and its rice reserves 60% of the global ones. In other words, China as apparently stockpiled the equivalent of 1,5 year of food (Watanabe and Munakata ibid). Since the fall of 2021, this massive stockpiling seems to be one of the drivers of the global food inflation.

The Chinese agricultural situation is worsened by the current rural exodus taking place in China. This social trend deprives the countryside, thus the agricultural sector, of farmers and agricultural workers (Jean-Michel Valantin, “China: Towards the digital ecological revolution?”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, October 22, 2017. To add insult to injury, China suffers from a national shortage of freshwater stemming from waste, pollution, changing weather patterns, urbanization, which is another massive limiting factor for agricultural development (Ting Ma, Sia Sun et al., “Pollution exacerbates China’s water scarcity and its regional inequality”, Nature communications, 31 January 2020).

The Mandate of Heaven at Risk 

Food security and the Mandate of Heaven

When studying China, one must always remember that it is a 1,4 billion people strong giant country. This giant of a country knows a mammoth economic and urban development since the implementation of the “Four Reforms” decided by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 (Ezra F. Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, Harvard University Press, 2013).

So, the scale of the national needs in food and resources defines the scale of the Chinese food security as well as the global scale of its food resources.

The development of massive food reserves by China takes place in a domestic and international context that is potentially adverse to China’s food security, because competition for food and power could limit its ability reach the grain volumes Beijing wants to stockpile.

Thus, the Chinese political authorities may have to face the risk of a return to hunger in China. This would be a massive breach in the social contract defined by the collective enrichment of China since 1978 (Loretta Napoleoni, Maonomics, Seven Stories Press, 2011).

As a result, it would entail a critical loss of legitimacy for the regime.

In the context of China’s history, it would be the equivalent of the loss of the “Mandate of Heaven”. Indeed, when a crisis of legitimacy happens, the Chinese society usually knows very profound and violent disruptions, while the regime topples (see John King Fairbank, Merle Goldman, China, a New History, Enlarged Edition, Harvard University Press, 1998; Andrea Janku, “‘Heaven-Sent Disasters’ in Late Imperial China: The Scope of the State and Beyond,” in Christ of Mauch and Christian Pfister, eds., Natural Disasters, Cultural Responses: Case Studies Toward a Global Environmental History, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 233–64; Chris Courtney, “The Dragon King and the 1931 Wuhan Flood: Religious Rumors and Environmental Disasters in Republican China,” in Twentieth-Century China, April 2015 and Cohen, Paul A., Paul A. Townsend, History in Three Keys, Columbia University Press, 1997).

Protecting the social contract from COVID and hunger

So, securing food for China is also a way for the Chinese government to make sure its legitimacy is maintained, while the new wave of Covid-19 induces fierce lockdowns in Shanghai and other major industrial and trade cities, as well as restrictions in Beijing.

As these lockdowns are a new occurrence of the domestic protracted fight against the pandemic, they drive a significative slowdown of the Chinese economy (Brenda Goh and Kevin Yao, “Shanghai targets June COVID lockdown exit as economy slumps”, Reuters, May 16, 2022).

This jeopardizes the promise of a shared economic growth for all Chinese citizens implemented since 1978 reforms. So, the lockdowns may become dangerous for the legitimacy of the government.

In the meantime, this serious domestic situation is combined with the tensions regarding Taiwan. This happens because the U.S. government supports the autonomous status of Taiwan.

Russia and China’s food security

In this context, the privileged relationship with Russia takes a vital dimension. Beijing authorized wheat and barley imports from all parts of Russia on 24 February 2022. Before this date, Beijing was restricting Russian grain imports for phytosanitary reasons, especially because of a fungal threat (Laura He, “China lifts restrictions on Russian wheat imports”, CNN Business, 25 February 2022).

This authorisation followed the signature of numerous trade contracts between Russia and China, during President Vladimir Putin visit for the February 2022 Beijing winter Olympics (CNN’s Beijing Bureau and Anna Chernova CNN, “Putin and Xi call for a halt to NATO expansion during show of unity at winter Olympics”, CNN, February 4, 2022).

The Russia-China food and energy Great Convergence

Stockpiling, a national endeavour

In the current strategic and climate context, imports of Russian grain are of special importance for the Chinese food security, because Russia is both a major producer and neighbour. Furthermore, since the launch by Xi Jinping, of the Belt and Road initiative in 2013. Russia plays a central role in this project, because the Chinese railways operate through Russia in order to reach Europe.

Hence, their development de facto augments the shipments capabilities between Russia and China (Frederic de Kemmeter, “OBOR-One Belt, One Road”, Mediarail.be, January 2018 and Jean-Michel Valantin, “China, Russia and the New Silk Road in Central Asia – The great co-empowerment”, The Red Team Analysis Society, March 17, 2016).

As it happens, a new railway bridge between Chinese Tongjiang with Russian Nizhnelenizskoye opened on 27 April 2022 and will become operational during the 2022 summer.

This new line is all the more important as the war in Ukraine imposes a slowdown to the Chinese railways shipments from China to Europe. However, in this context, there is marked growth of the trade between Russia and China. As it happens, in April, the Russia- China railway traffic rose by 27% at Manzhouli border crossing, and by 10% at the Suifene border crossing (Majorie Van Leijen, “This railway bridge brings China and Russia closer together”, Rail Freight.com, 28 April 2022).

 China has reduced its U.S. imports since the launch of President Trump “trade war” in March 2018 (Jean-Michel Valantin, “The US Economy, Between the Climate Hammer and the Trade war Anvil – The US Soybean Crop case”, The Red Team Analysis Society, October 8, 2018) . However, in 2021, China made large purchases of Australia’s wheat and barley, despite tensions with Canberra.

The trade war with the U.S. is also the reason why, since 2018, China quadrupled its imports of cereals from Ukraine. Chinese companies also buy large purchases of wheat and corn from France (Gus Trompiz and Michael Hogan, “EXCLUSIVE China snaps up large volumes of French, Ukrainian grain”, Reuters, 10 December, 2021) .

So, China’s grain imports appear as a way to compensate the loss of U.S. and Ukrainian imports. Furthermore, the blocking of large volumes of Ukrainian imports confers de facto a greater importance to the Russian export capabilities.

2022: the rise of China and Russia trade

At the time of writing, detailed statistics of the grain volumes traded between China and Russia since March 2022 have not yet been disclosed. However, it appears that, between January and March 2022, the trade turnover between Russia and China rose 28,7% year on year. It reached $38,17 billion for the first 2022 quarter. (“Russia-China trade surges in 2022”, The Moscow Times, 13 April 2022)

In the same dynamic, Russian exports to China rose 32% to $21,73 billions during the first quarter of the year. In March alone, Russia exported 7.84 billion worth of goods to China (Ibid).

This takes place when major agricultural producers diminish or ban their exports in order to protect their domestic market, at a moment when China establishes massive stockpiles. Indeed, these bans and restrictions de facto mitigate China’s international access to international cereals volumes. That is why, because of the combination of their large availability, of their relative proximity and the existence of transport capabilities those Russian imports are of particular importance.

In other words, in the middle of the war in Ukraine, the Russian-China agricultural closer relationship supports the Chinese food security as well as the Russian economy, that is under massive strains because of the economic sanctions that the U.S. and the E.U. inflict upon Moscow (Jean-Michel Valantin, “War in Ukraine, The U.S Mega drought and the Coming Global Food Crisis”, The Red Team Analysis Society, May 1, 2022)).

From Food to Energy special relationship

The strengthening of the China-Russia relationship through food security takes also place in the energy field, through again another increase of the Chinese purchases of Russian oil and gas. As it happens, the oil market being an international market, the rising demand by countries and companies triggers rising prices.

Meanwhile the international output remains tightly controlled by the producers, especially by OPEC+. However, since 2021, the OPEC+ members, led by Saudi Arabia, are only slightly rising their output, despite pressing demands by the U.S..

In March, the global output slightly inferior to February, thus triggered a strong price growth (“OPEC+ crude production falls as sanctions take bite out of Russia: S&P standard survey”, S&P Global Commodity insight, 7 April 2022).

Mirroring those sanctions, the Kremlin started to demand that Russian oil be paid in Russian rubles, instead of dollars or euros (Archana Rani, “4 European companies make gas payments to Russia in rubles”, Offshore Technology, April 28, 2022).

This already complex situation keeps on becoming even more complex. Indeed, the whole Russia-EU energy situation worsens with the blocking by Ukraine of some the gas flows towards Europe, in order, according to Kiev, to deprive some Russian-backed separatists from the flow of gas  (“Ukraine halts Russian gas exports to Europe at eastern transit point”, Euronews, 11 May 2022).

A Geopolitical Giant Emerges

This highly complex dynamic reinforces the oil and gas global price inflation. Consequently, the higher oil and gas prices impact importer countries, China being among the most important ones.

So, in order to secure Chinese purchases of Russian oil and gas, Gazprom and Rosneft sell to China at discount prices. This helps Russia maintaining its economy hobbled by the western sanctions, while those purchases support China’s energy security (Chen Aizhu and Florence Tan, “EXCLUSIVE: China quietly increases purchases of low-priced Russian oil“, Reuters, May 20, 2022).

In other words, Russia and China become each other economic and political supports. This takes place in the context of an increasingly polarized international geopolitical environment

It now remains to be seen how this China-Russia “special relationship” evolves, while facing the rising involvement of the U.S. in Ukraine through the 40 billion USD humanitarian and military aid package as well as the unfolding of the global food crisis in a time of accelerating climate change.

Featured image: by Vladislav Nekrasov – Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

The Red Team Analysis Weekly – 26 May 2022

This is the 26 May 2022 issue of our weekly scan for political and geopolitical risks or, more largely, conventional and unconventional national and international security (open access). Scroll down to access the scan.

The signals of this issue are neither edited nor sorted out. They are the raw result of the algorithmic process and of crowdsourcing. You can use this issue to test your skills in selecting signals from noise, and in experimenting the fuzzy boundaries between categories.

Using horizon scanning, each week, we collect weak – and less weak – signals. These point to new, emerging, escalating or stabilising problems. As a result, they indicate how trends or dynamics evolve.

The 26 May 2022 scan→


Horizon scanning, weak signals and biases

We call signals weak, because it is still difficult to discern them among a vast array of events. However, our biases often alter our capacity to measure the strength of the signal. As a result, the perception of strength will vary according to the awareness of the actor. At worst, biases may be so strong that they completely block the very identification of the signal.

In the field of strategic foresight and warning, risk management and future studies, it is the job of good analysts to scan the horizon. As a result, they can perceive signals. Analysts then evaluate the strength of these signals according to specific risks and dynamics. Finally, they deliver their findings to users. These users can be other analysts, officers or decision-makers.

You can read a more detailed explanation in one of our cornerstone articles: Horizon Scanning and Monitoring for Warning: Definition and Practice.

The sections of the scan

Each section of the scan focuses on signals related to a specific theme:

  • world (international politics and geopolitics);
  • economy;
  • science including AI, QIS, technology and weapons, ;
  • analysis, strategy and futures;
  • the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • energy and environment.

However, in a complex world, categories are merely a convenient way to present information, when facts and events interact across boundaries.

The information collected (crowdsourced) does not mean endorsement.


Featured image: Image of the Swedish-ESO 15m Submillimeter Telescope (SEST) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, located on the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. The photo was taken by Stefan Seip, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors.

Information Warfare and the War in Ukraine

(Art design: Jean-Dominique Lavoix-Carli
on a photo by Francesco Ungaro)

The war(*) in Ukraine is hastening changes in international politics in many different ways.

The possibility to see the conflict morphing into World War III acts as a convincing spur for continuing efforts at understanding and adapting. Concerned and informed actors are thus trying to make sense of the ongoing conflict and of its prospects. They seek to comprehend the way relationships between actors could evolve, and more generally to understand changes at work.

How information is used during the war is one key element that deserves close attention, as it strongly shapes and influences the conflict and its future, as well as global international relations. Indeed, Ukraine has been hailed for its formidable mastery of information and communication (e.g. Michael Butler, “Ukraine’s information war is winning hearts and minds in the West“, The Conversation, 12 May 2022). Actors on the world stage are assessing the way information warfare is carried out during the war in Ukraine and will continue to do so. The resulting lessons learned will deeply impact future handling of information in the international arena.

In this article, we present first what is information warfare, using mainly American doctrine. Then, we turn to Ukraine and some of the features of its information warfare, and give examples of its “strategic communications”. We highlight what can be seen as success, but also point out more worrying potential consequences. As much as possible we tried to include videos to illustrate our points, including a documentary on the history of psyops and an interview by Pr Noam Chomsky on the war in Ukraine and propaganda.

The galaxy of Information warfare

If we wanted to summarise quickly what information warfare is, then we could simply say that it is the use by an actor – usually a state or state-like actor, but that could be any entity, in all settings, be it war or peace, of all possible means related to and involving information to gain influence over others and see objectives met. The “others” can be anyone. It can be for example, a domestic or overseas audience. Let us examine this brief summary more detail.

Information warfare, strategic communication and propaganda

The use of information in politics, international politics, and more specifically during war means:

“Any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly”.

Dennis M. Murphy “Strategic Communications: Wielding the Information Element of Power”, in U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Issues – Volume I: Theory of War and Strategy, Edited by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees Jr., Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, June 2012, p. 162

It is considered as being as old as human history.

For its part, the American Congressional Research Service, using conceptualisations given by practitioners defines information warfare as:

“A strategy for the use and management of information to pursue a competitive advantage, including both offensive and defensive operations.”

CRS, Defense Primer: Information Operations, December 2021

For the U.S., information warfare, especially since the 2018 National Defense Strategy, is understood “as competition short of open warfare” (Ibid. – see more below with the concepts of IE and OIE).

Thus, it is indeed the use of information, including when we are not at war, directed at anyone.

When information warfare is used by actors deemed unfriendly or perceived as the enemy, then it tends to be qualified as “propaganda“, which only became a pejorative term around World War I and especially following World War II (Murphy: 162-163). For example, the U.S. Department of Defence defines propaganda as

“Any form of adversary communication, especially of a biased or misleading nature, designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly” .

“Psychological Operations,” Joint Publication 3-13.2, Joint Chiefs of Staff, January 7, 2010.

When, on the contrary, information is used by the sponsor itself, as well as allies and friends, then this activity is labelled as “strategic communication.” The U.S. military defines it as:

“Focused U.S. Government efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of U.S. Government interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power”.

“Psychological Operations,” Joint Publication 3-13.2, Joint Chiefs of Staff, January 7, 2010.

NATO’s definitions are very similar, if not identical, to those used by the U.S (see AJP 3-10.1: Allied Joint Doctrine for Psychological Operations, UK).

The problem with these dichotomous definitions is that they tend already to incorporate a biased perspective: what comes from the enemy is disinformation, misinformation, in a nutshell “lies” and “false”; what comes from me – or those allies that serve my purpose is “true” or “the Truth”. Somehow, the psychological war has already started. Once an adversary is identified as such, thence all its communication becomes tainted, which definitely will obscure understanding. As a result, this approach is inherently escalating and favours war over peace and diplomacy. It may also generate a feeling of self-righteousness, which then will imply that one becomes so sure of oneself that one becomes prey to any bias. As a result, these dichotomous definitions may end up favouring defeat if comprehension increasingly lacks as one becomes more and more persuaded that everything stemming from the adversary is false, while what comes from one’s system is right.

The “American” understanding of “strategic communication” corresponds almost exactly to China’s approach labelled “comprehensive engagement” by Jeangène Vilmer and Charon (“Russia as a Hurricane, China as Climate Change: Different Ways of Information Warfare”, War on The Rocks, 21 January 2020). Indeed, China’s strategic communication is described by Wallis as:

“A holistic approach in which language and messaging are used in tandem with other elements of statecraft, including diplomatic, military and economic efforts.”

Jake Wallis, “China and Russia aren’t the same when it comes to information warfare“, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 25 September 2019

Whoever the sponsor or initiator of strategic communication, it is key to comprehend that strategic communication is grounded in “the inherent understanding that all Diplomatic, Information, Military & Economic (DIME) activities have the potential to influence the behaviors and attitudes of specific groups” (Steve Tatham, U.S. Governmental Information Operations and Strategic Communications: A Discredited Tool or User Failure? Implications for Future Conflict, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, December 2013: 8). 

As a result, all the DIME activities may and should become the target of strategic communication if an actor wants to see its communication succeed. Meanwhile, all these activities should be combined to create a successful “strategic communication”.

Where it becomes even more interesting is when strategic communication itself works at using others’ DIME activities to carry out one’s aim. At individual level this would just be called plain manipulation. The DIME activities that are thus targeted can be not only those of allies and friendly countries, but also those of the competitors and enemies. We are here in the realm of the Russian Reflexive Control (refleksivnoe upravlenie / рефлексивного управления), built upon the Soviet Cheka’s Maskirovka (the art of surprise through deception, concealment, or psyops). Reflexive control can be defined as:

“A means of conveying to a partner or an opponent specially prepared information to incline him to voluntarily make the predetermined decision desired by the initiator of the action.”

Timothy L. Thomas, “Russia’s Reflexive Control Theory and the Military,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 17, p 237.

In this case, it is key to see that there is no need for the information used to be false, biased or directly misleading. Reflexive control can very well be done with something completely real and true. For example, leaking a real information can be very efficient. One can also set up actions in a way that will prompt people in thinking and acting in the way one wants.

Supporting capabilities and related operations

In the U.S., for example, four capabilities are traditionally supporting “strategic communication”: public affairs, military information operations, public diplomacy as well as international broadcasting services (Murphy: 163-164). Any capacity and activity that could usefully support strategic communication should ideally be involved (Ibid.).

Public affairs

Public affairs means information communicated to a domestic and international audience on the activities of the government in the interest of the latter (ibid).

Information Operations (I/Os), Operations in the Information Environment (OIEs) and Psyops

Militarily and operationally, strategic communication is supported by what is called Information Operations or I/Os:

“The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”

U.S. JP 3-13 in CRS Information Primer, 2021.

Actually, I/Os could be designed to involve all available supportive capabilities, and not only military ones, and be carried out in combination by them.

Indeed, in 2016, the DoD added a new concept, the “Information environment” (IE), with its corollary, the “Operations in the Information Environment” (OIE) (Strategy For Operations In The Information Environment, June 2016, revised in 2018 with the Joint Concept for Operations in the Information Environment).

IE is comprised of and aggregates numerous social, cultural, cognitive, technical, and physical attributes that act upon and affect knowledge, understanding, beliefs, world views, and, ultimately, actions of an individual, group, system, community, or organization. The IE also includes technical systems and their use of data. The IE directly affects and transcends all operating environments.

Glossary, Joint Concept for Operations in the Information Environment, July 2018, p.42.

Operations in the Information Environment (OIE) [are] actions taken to generate, preserve, and apply informational power against a relevant actor in order to increase or protect competitive advantage or combat power potential within all domains of the operating environment.

CRS, Defense Primer: Information Operations, December 2021.

Information warfare would then become either “a subset of OIE” (Ibid.) or coterminous with OIE.

Most importantly, these definitions and thus American actions apply to competitors too and not only to enemies in the framework of war. Competitors may, of course, also mean “friends and allies”. If we refer to the definition of “relevant actors”, we indeed read:

Relevant Actors. Those individuals, groups, populations, and automated processes and systems that, through their behavior, could substantially impact U.S. national strategy, policy, campaigns, operations, or tactical actions. These relevant actors may include governments at the national and subnational levels; state security forces, paramilitary groups, or militias; non-state armed groups; local political, religious, civil society, media, and business figures; diaspora communities; and global/regional intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Law or policy may further limit the definition of relevant actors at the time of the proposed operation.

Glossary, Joint Concept for Operations in the Information Environment, July 2018, p.42.

Hence, relevant actors maybe be close to anybody and anything according to U.S. wishes. The protection (for non-Americans) afforded by the last sentence is rather flimsy.

The IE and OIE’s perspective highlights an extremely offensive approach by America in terms of international politics. The U.S. wants to preserve its status as sole super power. The potential doubts that existed in 2017, for example, were de facto overcome (see Helene Lavoix, “Which U.S. Decline? The View from the U.S. National Intelligence Council,” The Red Team Analysis Society, 25 September 2017).

A detailed analysis of this “new” approach to information warfare, of the way it is implemented, and of the results obtained, for example in the case of the war in Ukraine, would most probably yield extremely interesting results.

A primary capability of I/Os is called Psychological Operations (Psyops) in Europe and within NATO, except in the U.S. where it has become Military Information Support Operations (MISO) (Ibid.). Note however, that in 2021, in the U.S., MISO would tend to become PSYOP again (CRS Defense Primer: Information Operations). Psyops are defined as:

“Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives.”

JP 1-02. SOURCE: JP 3-13.2

The video documentary below presents notably the use of psyops and its historical evolution, as well as real life examples.

The Lies and Brainwashing Of Psychological Warfare Tactics | Secrets Of War | Timeline, May 2021.

Public Diplomacy

Public Diplomacy is classically carried out by ministries of Foreign Affairs.

However, we may also think about other types of activities handling public diplomacy of a sort, and that could thus support strategic communications.

For example, we have Track II Diplomacy, carried out ideally by private individuals, actually usually by academics and ex-officials (e.g. Charles Homans, “Track II Diplomacy: A Short History“, 20 June 2011, Foreign Policy).

NGOs and humanitarian aid, considering notably their funding – through the use of foreign aid programs (see CRS Defense Primer: Information Operations) – and reporting process, may also be seen as being potentially part of the activities supporting strategic communication.

International broadcasting services

Finally, within the strategic communication supporting capabilities, we find “international broadcasting services” (Murphy: 164).

For the U.S., these media are managed and led by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (see also History – renaming in 2018 of the Broadcasting Board of Governors), which oversees Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, etc. The USAGM budget is USD 840 million for FY 2023.

These types of international services exist in most countries seeking global influence, for example BBC World News for the UK, France 24 and TV5Monde for France, Deutsche Welle (DW) for Germany, Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik for Russia (censored in the EU, e.g. HuffPost avec AFP, “Les médias russes Sputnik et Russia Today (RT) interdits dans l’UE,” Huffington Post, 27 February 2022), etc. In the case of China, we have notably China Global Television Network (CGTN), Global Times, and the oldest Beijing Review.

These services have of course adapted to the overall media environment and use the Internet, apps, social media platforms, or, more broadly all device and ways available. They will probably all continue to adapt to new technologies and this may also sooner rather than later mean Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

Information warfare in Ukraine

Ukraine, a new master of information operations?

Ukraine seems to have fully integrated the whole extent of information warfare into its strategy and operational capacities.

It benefits from organised capabilities, which, in 2019 under the separate Special Forces Command counted “some 4000 operators under arms” with “four Informational Psychological Operations Centers: the 16th at Huiva, 72nd at Brovary, 74th at Lviv, and 83rd at Odesa” (Max Gaelotti, Armies of Russia’s War in Ukraine, Bloomsbury Publishing, Jun 27, 2019, pp.46-47).

As a result and logically, following 24 February 2022, Ukraine rapidly highlighted the importance of the use of I/Os and psyops by “strictly forbidding” to divulge anything related to them in its “Important information for the media, bloggers and all citizens who take photos or write about the war and the army,”according to the order of the Commander-in-Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valery Zaluzhny (published 2 March 2022; modified 14 April 2022).

A recent paper on I/Os in Ukraine estimates that the Ukrainian political authorities manage and use I/Os “highly efficiently” (Matthew Ford, “The Smartphone as Weapon – part 1: the new ecology of war in Ukraine”, 8 April 2022). Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government contributes to reinforce the emergence of what Ford and Hoskins call the new war ecology (Radical War, 2022):

“In its totality, MSM [mainstream broadcast and print media], social media, military communications and the information infrastructures they depend on form a complex constellation of platforms that interact in a number of different ways, producing …the new war ecology”

Matthew Ford, “The Smartphone as Weapon – part 1: the new ecology of war in Ukraine”, 8 April 2022, p.2.

Among what could be seen as an efficient way to use strategic communication, a new supporting capability seems to be fully used by Ukraine: their own civilian population. Indeed, it is likely that Ukrainian citizens received a training in I/Os before the war started (“The Smartphone as Weapon – part 1, p. 4).

This, in turn, for example, allows integrating civilians in the targeting cycle, i.e. the whole process through which an enemy target can be identified in such a way it can be attacked and the effect of the attack is what was expected (“The Smartphone as Weapon – part 2: the targeting cycle in Ukraine, 10 April 2022). As Ford puts it,

“Ukraine’s armed forces have outsourced parts of the kill chain to civilians… On the battlefields outside Kyiv, civilians have become sensors, extending the targeting cycle into civil society.”

Matthew Ford, “The Smartphone as Weapon – part 2: the targeting cycle in Ukraine, 10 April 2022, p.1.

Other types of I/Os are carried out in Ukraine, for example “managing” the mainstream broadcast and print media news cycle (e.g. Nick Newman, “Mainstream media and the distribution of news in the age of social discovery“, Oxford University, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, September 2011). Ford reports that Ukraine’s authorities tightly surveil what journalists can report and film (“The Smartphone as Weapon – part 1, pp. 4-5). He then documents the timeline for the Battle for Voznesensk showing that between 9 and 19 days took place between the battle itself – 2 to 3 March 2022 – and first reports on main media – 15 to 22 March 2022 (Ibid. pp. 5-7). He concludes that Ukraine media handlers had thus enough time to put together material to promote a specific narrative (Ibid.).

Meanwhile, communication is broadcast from all levels, from Ukrainian President Zelensky and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine to armed elements, for example the now famous Azov Special Operations Detachment (Окремий загін спеціального призначення «Азов»), which belongs to Ukraine National Guard, or the less famous but as controversial Volunteer Ukrainian Corps “Right Sector”- Добровольчий Український Корпус “Правий сектор” ДУК ПС (DUK PS), through Ukrainians living abroad (on Azov and “Right Sector”, Hélène Lavoix, “Ukraine Spring 2022: Armed Groups”, commissioned report, 21 April 2022). This comprehensive approach, using multiple channels, allows reaching and influencing all the DIME activities of other states and relevant actors, including through the general public.

A couple of examples of Ukrainian Strategic Communication

20 March 2022 – Telegram message by Ukraine Directorate Intelligence warning about Wagner PMC presence in Ukraine

Wagner in Ukraine

This message was then “confirmed” by British Intelligence on Twitter and the piece of information was re-shared multiple times throughout social media.

Translation of the message

🇺🇦 “‼The occupiers send another terrorist group to Ukraine in order to eliminate the leadership of Ukraine 

▪️Regular groups of militants connected with Yevgeny Prigogine, a Russian propagandist close to Putin and owner of the League (Wagner), have started arriving in Ukraine today. The main task of criminals is to eliminate the top military and political leadership of Ukraine…”.

The Ukrainian Directorate of Intelligence shares what is meant to be an intercepted phone conversation – The 23 May 2022 message had been viewed 80.400 times 1 hour after it was shared on Telegram.

📞Rape, looting, mass crimes – the occupiers are discussing the latest news in the unit.

Two soldiers from the so-called “DPR” share their impressions of the course of events in their unit. They were recently told that the once-promised rotation could not even be expected: Until Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are “liberated”, you can forget about rotation. And then we do not move, because the whole group is in the DNR. When they finish there, they will send troops here and we will start moving. “

Then we talk about the rampant crime in the occupying army: “They told about the 125th Regiment. Until an eight-year-old girl was raped. Looting. “Squeezed” someone’s gas station. People were deprived of fuel and sold through this gas station. Regiment commander, battalion commanders. And assistant battalion commanders. “

DNRivets warns its interlocutor to be more careful and cannot understand why he is taking part in a Russian special operation.

🔥4th Separate Battalion Performs Combat Tasks for Victory over Moscow

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Support by the UK Defense Intelligence and US intelligence carrying out related I/Os throughout media platforms greatly contributes to the efficiency of Ukrainian strategic communication.

In the Western world, outside Ukraine, Western political authorities, elite, mainstream media and social networks then amplify the Ukrainian narratives.

The polarisation at work, where people according to their personal preference tend to flock to one or the other media/social network platform and the speed inherent to social networks serve the direct amplification of narratives, rather than a peaceful and objective analysis (e.g. Matthew Ford, “The Smartphone as Weapon – part 1).

So far, Ukrainian strategic communication, in convergence with American and British ones, were efficient enough in bringing to Ukraine quasi complete support by the European Union and its members states, regardless of the cost, military aid, financial support and, on the contrary, in degrading Russian power notably through sanctions (e.g. BBC News, “What sanctions are being imposed on Russia over Ukraine invasion?” 17 May 2022; CRS “U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine“, 29 April 2022).

Furthermore, Sweden and Finland, so far European neutral countries decided to abandon this status and join NATO, the fate of their membership being in the hands of Turkey, which by the same token enhances its international power (France 24, “Turkey’s Erdogan sets conditions for Finland, Sweden’s NATO bids“, 23 May 2022).

Support of populations in many Western countries are also indicators of the success of Ukrainian strategic communication.

A global Ipsos survey carried out on 27 countries (but not including China), worldwide, can help assessing the efficiency of Ukraine’s information warfare on populations at large (Ipsos, “The World’s Response To The War In Ukraine“, 19 April 2022).

Ukraine succeeded in attracting attention, which is a feat in a world where the span of attention lasts a couple of days at best and is generally more focused on sport or the latest influencer than in world affairs (mouse over the IPSOS image below to see the percentages).

Ukraine could also garner support for its cause, with a majority of people welcoming Ukrainian refugees, supporting financial help, military aid and economic sanctions "in general" against Russia (Ipsos, Ibid.).

Yet...

A less optimistic picture?

Actually, according to the Ipsos survey, the effects of the war and of Ukraine's strategic communications are more nuanced than what an average on 27 countries could let us believe.

For example, Ipsos highlights that there is "no consensus on supporting Ukraine’s military response" (Ibid.). Ipsos found, for example, that "those who support sending their own troops to Ukraine are a minority in each one of the 27 countries, averaging 17%."

On average, only "one-third support their country providing weapons – such as guns and anti-tank weapons – to the Ukrainian military (36%), providing funding to the Ukrainian military (33%), and sending troops to NATO countries neighboring Ukraine (32%)". However, as in most Western countries we have more than 50% ("a majority") supporting these propositions, this means that outside the West, the percentage of support is even lower than the average.

Furthermore, only 54 % on average are ready to pay more for their oil and fuel as a result of sanctions on Russia, with "fewer than 40% in Mexico, Peru, Hungary, Brazil, and Argentina" being ready to do so. "While more than 50% in Great Britain, Canada, Sweden, Poland, Australia, the U.S., and France support such a ban [ leading to further oil price increase], it is the case of fewer than 20% in Hungary and Turkey. In Germany, which is highly dependent on Russian natural gas, 45% support such a ban, 30% oppose it, and 25% are not sure".

As a result, what we see unsurprisingly happening is the emergence of a divided world, with the "West" on the one hand and the very large "rest" of the world on the other.

Indeed, in "Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Malaysia, and India, the opinion that “the problems of Ukraine are none of our business and we should not interfere” prevails". Meanwhile, as highlighted in the Al Jazeera's video below, double standards in the perception, concern for and handling of conflicts and refugees are also pointed out.

Ukraine: The information war | The Listening Post, 5 Mar 2022

We thus witness a potential polarisation of the world, with Ukraine and "the West" plus notably Japan and South Korea on one side, and the rest on the other side. The "rest' of the world, may feel all the more alienated that it has to face a tragic food crisis, consequence of the war.

Many scenarios resulting from this fracture, if it is not mended, are possible. Some are negative for the world, such as a new world war. Others are especially negative for the West, with an acceleration of a possible impoverishment, and a demise of the U.S.-led liberal order. Such a scenario could be worse for Europe, notably considering its geographical location and the now defunct importance of European trade and industrial links with Russia (e.g. "Eurozone inflation soars to record 7.5 percent in March", Politico, 1st April 2022; Balazs Koranyi and Dan Burns, "Economic outlook has 'darkened', business and government leaders warn in Davos, Reuters, 24 May 2022).

In that case, Ukraine's strategic communication would have contributed to strengthen its ties with a declining world order, while also accelerating this very decline. This would hardly be a success.

Some voices also start denouncing what feels as propaganda being constantly hammered upon Western audience, as expressed and highlighted by Noru Tsalic in "Russia & Ukraine: The smartened-up story – Chapter IV" (The Times of Israel, 28 April 2022):

"I’ve said in the previous chapters and I’ll mention it again: in the current war Russia (and only Russia) is the guilty party.  But that’s no reason for Western politicians and mainstream media to treat us as if we’re all simple-minded, unable to grasp complexity or nuance and incapable of telling reality from wishful thinking.
In this series of articles, I fight the groupthink; I attempt to expose the dumbed-down narrative that’s being fed to us and smarten it up. I trust my fellow human beings: we are able to cope with the stark, unadulterated, unvarnished reality; treat us like intelligent adults."

Noru Tsalic, "Russia & Ukraine: The smartened-up story – Chapter IV", The Times of Israel, 28 April 2022.

In this perspective it is enlightening to listen to Pr Noam Chomsky on the war, propaganda and the media:

Noam Chomsky on the Russia-Ukraine war, The Media, Propaganda, Orwell, Newspeak and Language, 1st week of May 2022, EduKitchen

With time, the negative consequences of what would increasingly be denounced as propaganda and not seen anymore as efficient strategic communication could endanger the political authorities of the countries acting as supporting capabilities for Ukraine's information warfare.

Within these countries, trust could be damaged, and thus legitimacy could decrease. Within "the West", if some countries such as the US are perceived as taking advantage of the situation while not sharing in the cost - the advantage of a US-led monetary system being that the true burden of aid is lowered - the US-led order could be fragilised.

People could start wondering about the national interest of their country regarding the war in Ukraine, and if other alternatives, less costly to everyone and primarily to Ukraine, were not and would not still be possible. For example, if Ukraine had been prompted in being neutral, its security guaranteed through new security arrangement, if Minsk II had been truly respected and enforced, then war would likely never have started. Unfortunately, the US did not favour Minsk II, as highlighted by the signature of the U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership on 10 November 2021 and by the vocabulary used, while the UK did not trust it either (Samuel Charap, "How Could the United States React to Russia's Latest Posturing on Ukraine?", The Rand Blog, 19 November 2021; Office of the spokesperson of the U.S., U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, 10 November 2021; e.g. for UK sentiment, Duncan Allan and Kataryna Wolczuk, "Why Minsk-2 cannot solve the Ukraine crisis", Chatham House, 16 February 2022; Duncan Allan, "The Minsk Conundrum: Western Policy and Russia’s War in Eastern Ukraine", Chatham House Policy Paper, May 2020).

Minsk agreements best means to protect Ukraine, says Macron • FRANCE 24 English
8 Feb 2022

Internationally, if propaganda were to become increasingly perceived as being blindly accepted and promoted within and by Western countries, the very standing and values of "the West" would suffer, with considerable consequences in terms of influence and power.

Finally, normatively, the use of citizens in the targeting cycle (Ford, ibid. part 2) and as willing vectors of strategic communication adds a new layer of difficulties to the already blurred lines between the status of civilians versus combatants (Lavoix, "Ukraine - Spring 2022"; Ford, The Smartphone as Weapon - part 3: participative war, the laws of armed conflict and genocide by smartphone,). The ICRC and the Law of Armed Conflict could try to argue that "combatant status only applies to those with ‘lasting integration into an organized armed group’ (Ibid). But what does mean lasting? If all civilians are trained in I/Os and henceforth completely part and parcel of the national defense, then is it not a lasting integration? This very evolution could imply renewed international normative discussion and disagreement, and at worst seriously challenge whatever progress had been made in terms of "law of war".

Practically, during war and irrespectively of law, the simple possession of a smartphone could transform a civilian into a target for enemy armed forces and get the civilian to be killed. Later on, there may well be a trial, but the owner of the cell phone will remain dead. The responsibility of political authorities thence knowingly endangering the lives of their civilian population could also be engaged.

Ukrainian information warfare, thus, on the short term appears as efficient. Thanks to its strategic communication, Ukraine could fight more and resist. The price to pay in destructions and probably in death and wounded, however, is very high. On the longer term, if extreme caution is not exercised in dealing with Ukraine's strategic communication and if we do not come back to reason and rational thinking, then Ukraine's information warfare could backfire. At worst, it could lead us all towards not only a world war but also a total war.

Notes

(*) We use the term of war following von Clauzewitz definitions according to which “War therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will” and “War is a mere continuation of policy by other means” (Carl von Clausewitz, On War, vol. 1. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Company, 1832).
Our choice of word is thus functional and descriptive and not a legal statement. 
Russia says it launched a "special military operation" on 24 February 2022 to “demilitarise” and "denazify" Ukraine. Furthermore, it stated it did so “in execution of the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, ratified by the Federal Assembly on February 22, …to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime” (Address by the President of the Russian Federation, February 24, 2022, 06:00, The Kremlin, Moscow).
On 22 March 2022, the UN General Assembly voted a draft resolution introduced by Ukraine, with 141 states in favour, five against and 35 abstentions that “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter” (UN, “General Assembly Overwhelmingly Adopts Resolution Demanding Russian Federation Immediately End Illegal Use of Force in Ukraine, Withdraw All Troops”, 2 March 2022; Draft resolution.
Note that the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic are hardly recognised internationally; however, legally, the case is linked to the principle of “self determination”, which is a fundamental principle of the UN charter.

EN