Dispel the fog of war

13:26 15 November Kyiv, Ukraine

Uncertainty has been one of the most important categories of military art since the days of Sun Tzu and the works of Carl von Clausewitz. Uncertainty is the weapon with which the warlords of one belligerent try to outplay the warlords of the other. The formation and cultivation of uncertainty, as well as its management, is one of the key guarantees of victory at the front.

Ekaterina Egorova-Gantman, Russian author of books on history, political science and psychology, described the concept of “fog of war” in one of her books published by the Nicollo M publishing house.. In the most simplified interpretation, the concept of “fog of war” is a complex of knowledge, views and sensations that decision makers have about the surrounding reality in the course of hostilities. The better you know how to manage uncertainty, the “fog of war”, the better your results in military craft.

Uncertainty and the process of managing it have only one negative feature, the understanding of which is the paradox of this process.

In a state of uncertainty, trust and expectation cannot be formed. And trust and expectation are, in turn, the main prerequisites for peace. At the moment when superiority over the enemy is born out of uncertainty as an instrument of war and defense, expectation begins to form. That is, we believe that our defense (of which uncertainty is a part) is so strong that we cannot be defeated, we are protected from potential threats. In other words, it is protection from potential threats, which is national security.

And when security shows a certain stability, then there is expectation and certainty.. Which, in turn, is a prerequisite for peace.

To summarize: the “fog of war” and its competent management gives us success in defense. Successes in defense give us security. A set of approaches to the formation of security lead us to peace. And only in this way ... Defense! Then security. Then peace. Until security is formed, peace cannot come.. There will be only a short-term truce.

That is why peace can be born out of uncertainty, not when the Ukrainian army reaches its internationally recognized borders of 1991, but only if we can control our expectations from the impossibility of launching missiles and kamikaze drones from deep inside Russia or from the Black Sea -Azov sea area.

This means that in order to achieve a long-term and stable peace, Ukraine's control of its borders is not enough.. The current political regime in Russia, which creates uncertainty not only for Ukraine, but for the whole world, forcing more and more investments in defense rather than development, must be deconstructed. It should be replaced by some formation that will meet the main security criterion - expectancy! Expectancy means that given a certain set of real world characteristics, we understand how decision makers in Moscow or another city that will be the capital of a new political formation will behave.

The more understandable and expected the political process in Russia is for the international community, the more motives it (the international community) will have to bring the war to its logical conclusion.

Accordingly, as long as there is no understanding and expectation of the processes within Russia that will take place after the end of the war (any end of the war with Ukraine and the world), then there are no geopolitical reasons to end the war. That is, to give Ukraine a sufficient number of weapons to put an end to the full-scale aggression of Russia against Ukraine.

In other words, until the powers that be understand what will happen to Russia after Ukraine wins this war, the war has no reason to end.

An example of this simple formulation is the false and contrived discussion about the conflict between "peace" and "justice", which supposedly cannot be obtained at the same time.

For example, German expert Robert Rottgen stated at the discussion panel of the Warsaw Security Forum that the attitude towards the Germans after the First World War formed in them revanchist moods, which led to the Second World War.. Therefore, the punishment of those responsible for the crimes committed during the war, of course, is necessary. However, Rottgen believes that if war criminals know that they will be punished, then it makes no sense for them to stop the war on some conditions.. Consequently, the insistence on justice can be a hindrance to achieving peace.

However, there is another point of view, which is voiced by the Ukrainian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Alexandra Matviychuk. To achieve it, we need the transfer of weapons in sufficient quantities by the West.

For the transfer of arms to take place, Western politicians must be confident in the future that will come after the victory of Ukraine over Russia. The certainty of the future will open up opportunities for decision making.

A discussion on this issue will finally help to solve the “problem of good Russians”, which consists in the fact that the Ukrainian audience has an extremely negative attitude towards any public Russian opposition speakers and contacts with them.

A lot of negative feedback, including among Russians, was received by the Free Russia Forum's initiative to create an "ausweiss of a good Russian" - that is, some kind of document that certifies that its bearer is against Vladimir Putin.

However, speaking about the fact that there are no good and bad peoples, but there are good and bad people, we need to talk about the criteria for how we will distinguish good from bad. For, for the victory of Ukraine, changes are also needed in Russia. And the changes in Russia must be carried out by the Russians themselves. And these changes should suit Ukraine as a victorious country.

Thus, we need the criteria of the “friend or foe” recognition system for cooperation in the issue of transforming Russia. And such a criterion may not be a “passport of a good Russian”, but how much and how exactly the Russians participate in achieving the Ukrainian victory and in shaping the answers to the questions set out above.

Obviously, in this case, it is necessary to say that the Russians, who are ready to participate in achieving victory for Ukraine and in changing Russia, should support violent methods of change, since it is precisely violence directed against the existing Russian government that unleashed the war that is a tool to respond to challenges that are in front of us.

However, the search for non-violent methods in the discussion that can lead to the same results of changes within Russia that we are talking about - would also be useful if it could be successful and save people's lives, subject to two key conditions:

Fixing the military-political victory of Ukraine over the aggressor country as the only possible outcome of an unprovoked aggressive war;

Complete exclusion of the repetition of aggressive actions against Ukraine and other countries of the world in the future.

Scenarios for the end of the war and the events that will take place after its end have already been written a lot of texts. Francis Fukuyama, an American political scientist and director of the Center for the Development of Democracy and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, believes that Russia must suffer a “catastrophic defeat” to begin change.. Moreover, the criteria for this "catastrophic" should be easily read by a wide audience.

At the same time, American historian Timothy Snyder believes that Vladimir Putin, by controlling television broadcasting and all media in Russia, can turn even his worst defeat into victory.. In this context, one cannot fail to recall the recent incident when the North Korean media announced that the North Korean football team became the world champion, having defeated the Brazilian team in the World Cup final.

Consequently, Francis Fukuyama's hypothesis that Russia's defeat must look catastrophic to the Russians themselves is open to criticism, since it is impossible to convey information about Russia's defeat if the means of delivery of this information are subject to totalitarian control.

Thus, the criterion for the “catastrophic” nature of Russia’s defeat in the war unleashed by it can only be an element that cannot be hidden or framed in any way in the media.. And this could be the loss of control by Russia over Crimea, or over Belarus, or over both regions.

The American journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman, believed that, in addition to the military victory of Ukraine, there are two more options for ending the war - this is a dirty deal with Putin (truce) and a slightly less dirty deal with Putin (withdrawal to the lines before a full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022 of the year).

Given the liberation by Ukrainian troops of Kherson, the only regional center captured by the Russian army since the invasion, Fridman’s options are already a little outdated. At a minimum, we can only talk about the option of restoring the borders of contact as of February 23, 2022. However, the political situation in Ukraine will not be able to allow Volodymyr Zelensky to make such decisions. As for Vladimir Putin, even the surrender of Kherson has already caused public indignation among certain Russian elites.

Even on Russian television, one of the presenters expressed the thesis that it is almost impossible to comment on the surrender of Kherson. Because if you support the abandonment of Kherson by Russian troops publicly, then this can be interpreted as actions falling under Article 280-1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Public calls for the implementation of actions aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation”.

If we criticize this decision, then such actions can be regarded as “Public actions aimed at discrediting the armed forces of Russia” - Article 280-3.

Thus, the Russian authorities drove their own citizens into a trap. In this regard, what could be the motives for making any deals with Vladimir Putin that Thomas Friedman writes about?

For Putin himself, after holding fake referendums and accepting the occupied territories into the Russian Federation, any decision to leave these territories will lead to his delegitimization as a political leader. This, in turn, will threaten him with forceful removal from power and even physical liquidation by more radical representatives of the Russian political community.

Since Putin and his entourage have driven themselves into a trap, they would very much like to resume negotiations with Ukraine. However, the Russian side has nothing to offer Ukraine in such negotiations, since the first issue that will be raised is the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This suggests that none of the scenarios, except for the victory of Ukraine, suits either Ukraine or most of the civilized world.

However, in order for world political leaders to realize this, they need help. The phrases of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, spoken at different times, are perfect illustrations of this inability to accept the inevitable.

Thus, the position of Scholz and Stoltenberg is expressed by the phrases “We cannot allow Russia to win this war” or “Ukraine cannot lose this war”. Thus, if the status quo continues, and the bloody war on the territory of Ukraine continues, then, in this case, the goals formulated by them can be considered achieved.

Does this mean that Scholz and Stoltenberg consider the continuation of the war in Ukraine an acceptable scenario for themselves? Or, will they be satisfied with some kind of agreement between the warring parties, in which no one party can be considered the winner? However, this cannot be achieved, because if at least one side of the agreement process continues to operate within the framework of the “zero-sum game”, as Vladimir Putin does, there can be no agreement.. For, any agreement that suits Ukraine will automatically be considered a defeat for Vladimir Putin. He himself created such a political system in Russia.

Thus, in order to achieve an uncontested victory for Ukraine, we need to determine in what form it will suit us? After all, in fact, it has already happened, because Putin's plans to conquer Ukraine were thwarted.

The liberation of Kherson, Melitopol, Mariupol and the eastern territories of Ukraine (and possibly also Crimea) will inevitably lead to the loss of legitimacy by Putin and the traumatic experience of all emotionally involved Russians, as well as the disintegration of the power system of the Russian Federation.

In addition, defeat will inevitably become a psychological trauma for a large number of people who believe in the myth of the greatness of the Russian state.. The trauma that follows the shattering of these hopes could be the basis for a new war against Ukraine in the future.

After all, there is no discussion about lustration in the state apparatus and in the power bloc of the Russian Federation at the moment. Oppositional Russian politician Vladimir Milov admits in his report that even if power changes in Russia, reactionary populists and nationalists in Russia can have political representation.

There are currently no grounds for changes in the minds of Russians. The German people after the Second World War went through repentance and cleansing for 25 years. This required the complete occupation of Germany, because an important part of the process of repentance was the mass forced attendance of history classes and watching documentaries before film screenings. And this is in Germany, a country with strong basic moral principles, where an entire generation, rejected and disfigured by Nazism, had to find its political path. How, then, will the repentance of the Russians take place? How will they get through their catharsis if they are not immersed in the realization of their defeat?

Catharsis Needs Basic Ethics. But, unfortunately, it is not available in Russia. Unlike the Soviet regime, built on the rules of cohabitation and responsibility for their violation, today's regime in Russia has no ideology and preaches values that are opposite to the Soviet preaching of peace and brotherhood.

The main difference between systems of ethical relations (“blue” - in the categories of Spiral Dynamics) and anti-ethical (pre-ethical, “red” - in the categories of Spiral Dynamics) lies in the concept of “sin”. Sin implies repentance, after which you return to the frame of the system.

The Bible says: "... I do not want the death of the sinner, but only that the sinner turn from his path, and he will live!" Ezekiel 33:11. And there are dozens of such quotes. However, in the ethical system that Putin created, there are no concepts of sin and repentance.

Instead, ethical beliefs are replaced by prison concepts. After all, Prigozhin forms his team from former prisoners. Unlike the Christian system of society, repentance is impossible in prison culture. You can't repent if you've already made a mistake once.

Thus, the Russians will not be able to step over their defeat, having learned from it. Revanchism and ressentiment will push them to violence again. After some time, in an absolutely legitimate way, forces that promise the Russian people "greatness" and "the return of the lands" will again be able to come to power in Russia.

The Empire cannot afford to even think about defeat, let alone reflect on it. Consequently, there can be no solidarity with the downtrodden and trampled in Russian society. There cannot be an image of a victim and there cannot be tragic pages. After all, “whoever wins is right,” and we cannot be wrong. As a result, defeat will create a severe break with reality.

Despite the fact that Russian history is replete with its own deep tragedies, none of them has ever received the status of a national tragedy. The reason for this is the inadmissibility of providing political subjectivity to civil society, which could reflect on the tragedy and unite to experience it.. This would give the masses political legitimacy.

However, in a political system that cultivates the principles of autocracy and “power from God”, this is not possible. Otherwise, the empire may seem weak. And this cannot be allowed.

According to the American evolutionary biologist Robert Sapolsky, identity can be determined by the past repeated experience of generations of a particular people or community.. Thus, it is possible to make a hypothesis about the difference in approaches and relations with state institutions between Ukrainians and Russians.

Throughout their history, Ukrainians have been able to successfully survive even during periods of the most difficult events, only if they actively or passively resist any government institutions. That is why the recent history of Ukraine since 1991 shows that Ukrainians are also actively attacking their own institutions in the process of building them. The habit was second nature.

At the same time, the people who lived on the territory of the Russian Federation had the opposite. Including, it is possible that in connection with a longer period of domination of the Tatar-Mongol yoke. People in that territory could only survive if they obeyed the institutions of power and showed them all kinds of loyalty.

That is why the numerous videos about how police officers beat girls at Russian rallies, and a large crowd stands and films this process on smartphones, instead of fighting back, surprise Ukrainians so much.

Differences can also be seen in issues related to trust in what the state says. Russians often know that the state lies to them. However, they continue to support this lie in words, and even show by their actions that this is not a lie, but the truth. This may indicate that Russians are used to accepting as “truth” not what is true, but what provides the greatest security. Thus, it is safer to think exactly as the state prescribes.. Whether it lies at the same time or not - it does not matter in principle.

If the empire is lying, then these lies are necessary for the common survival. And since the representatives of the state know better than the common people what exactly they need to survive, then the truth is what they say.

To change this situation, it is necessary either to weaken the state and its punitive apparatus. In this case, the rejection of lies and distrust of the state will not become a reason for punishment and a source of danger.. Or to convince the Russians that the acceptance of this lie as the truth becomes for them not a protection and refuge from all the threats of the world, but, on the contrary, a source of increased danger. In that case, they will decide to give up this lie for their own safety. However, for this, it is necessary, again, to convey such information to them, bypassing the propaganda barriers in the media.

This, in turn, is possible if reality can shake the strength of the empire so much that it can no longer be hidden or reframed - turning the “disgraceful disease into a feat”. Such a message could be, for example, the liberation of Crimea, or the liberation of Belarus.

A republic, unlike an empire, on the contrary, cannot exist without tragedy, without personal sacrifice and inhuman trials, as a result of reflection of which a myth of national viability appears, where one “Prometheus” can voluntarily sacrifice himself for many.

It is precisely because of this gap in the willingness to understand and reflect on tragedies that a republic cannot be born from an empire on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Empire, like imperialism, appeals to two important foundations that distinguish them from other models.. Firstly, it is the holiness of power - both directly outlined in the legislation ("anointed of God" on the throne), and indirectly - for example, the king of Britain as the guardian of the faith and the head of the Anglican Church. In the modern Russian Federation, the sacralization of power has acquired large-scale features, but it is transmitted through more modern rhetoric.. Nevertheless, the fundamental principle remains: power does not come from people below, but from above, from the Almighty.

The second important aspect of empire is a certain claim to the universality of culture. The empire conditionally places itself above different ethnic groups (and often is precisely a multi-ethnic formation), creating the highest layer of culture at the court, which then becomes a role model in the social ranks. Theoretically, this culture has a claim to becoming a classic - that is, the universal property of mankind.. And such a cultural frame itself is most often produced in accordance with the ideals and aesthetic canons of classicism, appeals to the heritage of antiquity and Rome. Therefore, most often imperial architecture follows classical patterns, pursuing this line of adopting universalism from Rome as a global state.

In general, an empire is a state that contains a certain number of different peoples and nations, where some have the status of the dominant, while others are subordinate. Such a system of relations can be achieved through, first of all, force or wide economic, social and cultural dependence.. And all this is based on the ideas of imperialism, that is, the ideological justification of the rights to enslave (subjugate) other states, peoples and nations. Justification may be based on:

  • "right" or "wrong" religion,
  • help in attracting backward peoples to "civilization",
  • the superiority or privilege of one people, race over others.

Russia, which calls itself a federation and “guarantees” in the constitution the rights and freedoms of its subjects, really falls under all the signs of a modern empire:

  • ethnically heterogeneous
  • existing national territories
  • existing apparatus of suppression (army and police)
  • rigidly hierarchical, authoritarian and one-man power
  • concentration of political, economic, financial power in one center
  • there is an official national ideology
  • expansive foreign policy
  • despotic national and social domestic politics

Of course, history plays an important role in this matter.. After the era of the Golden Horde, the Muscovite state was created, which from the moment of its foundation had imperial ambitions and set a course for expansion by annexing a number of lands. Also at that time, the idea of the “Third Rome” began to be conceptually substantiated, which modern Russia still uses to confirm its God-chosenness.

This was followed by a natural stage of "evolution" - the empire. During this period, Peter I officially consolidated the status of the state - "empire", destroyed the main centers of political and ideological influence that could resist the power of the tsar (the boyar duma) and continued the course of expanding the codons.

Further, violent methods of suppressing uprisings were used (the Decembrist movement, the uprising of the Cossacks); rewriting history (the succession of Kievan Rus), the “facts” of which Russia still uses; appropriation of foreign culture (Gogol's works stolen from Ukrainians; matryoshka stolen from the Japanese; balalaika, an exact copy of domra; "vodka", which appeared in Ukraine from Europe and was exported by the Cossacks to Moscow under the name "Cherkasy wine").

During the period of the Soviet Union, propaganda became the main imperial tool and, conveyed with its help, the ideas of proletarian internationalism and the “brotherhood of peoples”, against which Russification was carried out and any national cultural identities were censored.

The collapse of the USSR was never completed! It was more profitable for the United States to leave the nuclear arsenal in the hands of one state than to split it into many medium-sized politically indeterminate countries.. With the resources available, the US made a big mistake, the consequences of which the world is now reaping.

The empire, after a short lull, began to recover, forcibly suppressed the will of the peoples to sovereignty (Russian-Chechen wars) and wished to return the lost territories that managed to detach. Under Putin, the use of the characteristic imperial toolkit for conducting politics began again in full.

Any subsequent (new) form of government in this territory modernizes the imperial methods of the previous one, which makes it obvious that no other form of government allows you to keep, within the same country, such a large number of different nations, peoples and cultures.

To successfully keep them in the supposedly federation, a great force is needed, which in the empire can be subjectivized only through expansion. And this means that people can again become “not Russians”, but Siberians, Cossacks, Urals or Pomors. And then, these people can admit to themselves that the senseless unprovoked war unleashed against Ukraine has nothing to do with them, just like the political system that unleashed this war.

Otherwise, the defeat will be a catastrophe for the Russians, with which they will not be able to coexist. So, either they will demand revenge and revenge. Or they will have to go through a long process of change (like the denazification of Germany after World War II). Or they will have to go beyond the established framework.

The self-name “Russians” is a collective concept, a polytonym, which means “subjection” to a certain imperial administrative structure, including the colonized peoples who became part of Russia after violent military actions. Like Chechnya, for example.

The rejection of Russian identity (for example, in favor of Russian identity) also removes the problem of shared responsibility and a sense of common guilt that can arise after a military defeat.. In addition, the emergence of new entities may also change the approach to paying reparations to Ukraine, which will be partially covered by the already arrested assets of the Russian Federation in Western countries.

Moreover, the issue of the exclusion of the Russian Federation from the UN Security Council on the basis of the questioning of the succession by the Soviet Union may also raise the issue of Soviet assets in the European Union and other countries of the world, which Ukraine can also lay claim to.

Thus, the transformation of Russia into some other subject or group of subjects is not only possible and carries fewer risks than the preservation of the Russian Federation in the form in which it is now, but also opens up opportunities for new (old, suppressed by the empire) identities, including Russian identity. After all, the empire, for the sake of managerial autocratic mezhanisms, exploited Russian identity only for the purpose of expansion and suppression of other identities.

In this context, I consider the use of the word “disintegration” in relation to Russia to be unconstructive. The transformation of the Russian Federation may lead to the revival on its territory of subjects that were suppressed by the empire. Why would we talk about “decay” if we should talk about the “birth” of new non-imperial entities?!


I express my deep gratitude for the help in creating this material to Valery Pekar, Alexei Panich, Vladimir Gorbach, Yaroslav Bozhok and many others who think and write about the future.