Fearing nuclear firepower and one of the world’s largest armies, foreign states are keen to avoid direct conflict with Russia, a top Moscow official has said, warning that they are waging a hybrid war against its society instead.
In an interview with the Armory of the Fatherland magazine, Andrei Ilnitsky, an adviser at the country’s Ministry of Defense, said that the West was acutely aware of the size of Russia’s arsenal of rockets and its modern, well-equipped troops. As a result, he said, there is little to no prospect of a genuine armed conflict between rival spheres within the next decade.
However, he declared, “all this has led to the emergence of a new type of war.” In the past, “the goal of wars was to destroy the enemy’s manpower, then, in modern cyber wars, it became about destroying the enemy’s infrastructure.”
Now, though, he warned that a new type of warfare has been developed, and its “goal is to destroy self-consciousness, changing the mental – civilizational – basis of the enemy’s society. I would call this a mental war,” said Ilnitsky.
Whereas lost lives and damaged property can be replenished over time, losing your sense of who you are as a country does lasting damage, the adviser said. According to him, the consequences of this kind of assault “do not appear immediately, but only after a generation, by which time it is impossible to do anything.”
Late last year, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian culture was fundamentally compatible with Western European civilization. “It would be stupid to treat the West badly,” the press secretary said. “The West has technology, and we lag behind them in many respects. They have a rich culture, and we share in it. We also have the highest level of culture. You can’t help but love it.” However, he added that President Vladimir Putin frequently encounters “colonial manifestations” on the world stage from other leaders.
In December, the country’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that a hybrid war was being fought over the reputation of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccines. “Western statesare trying not only to politicize the humanitarian theme of the fight against coronavirus infections,” the diplomat said, “but also to take advantage of the pandemic to punish governments they don’t like.”
Bemoaning the demise of friendly relations with the US, UK and EU, Lavrov said that “we remain open to dialogue with Western colleagues. Of course, on the understanding that they will give up on telling us what to do, along with their blackmail and ultimatum policies.”
However, at the beginning of the year, Jens Stoltenberg, the General Secretary of the NATO military bloc sounded an alarm over “aggressive actions” from Moscow, and called on member states to pump cash into their armed forces to head off the purported threat from the East. Instead of Russian culture being undermined, he argued that “our democracies, our values, and the rules-based order are being challenged.”
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