Commentary: Russian general plots our cyber downfall

Russian President Vladimir Putin, third left, observes a minute of silence with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) head Alexander Bortnikov, third right, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second right, and others before a meeting on Russian plane crash in Egypt, at Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, early Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. Bortnikov says the crash of the passenger plane in Egypt was the result of a 'terrorist' act. Bortnikov told Putin on Tuesday that a homemade explosive device blew up on the plane. Others are, the chief of General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, left, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, second left, and Foreign Intelligence Service head Mikhail Fradkov, right. (Alexei Nikolsky/SPUTNIK, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Ever heard of Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov? He may go down in history, if such things exist in the future, along with Napoleon, Alexander the Great and Hitler as among the greatest conquerors of all time.

Gerasimov was the commander of the 58th Army during the Second Chechen War and also served as tank army commander in Afghanistan. His experiences in those conflicts, coupled with the Orange Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union, embittered him toward the West. They also turned him away from conventional military tactics.

In 2013, he authored an article for a relatively obscure Russian publication “The Military-Industrial Courier” wherein, among other things, Gerasimov suggested that future wars will be fought with a four-to-one ratio of civilian to military tactics. The former, he wrote, “would shape the political and social landscape of the enemy through subversion, espionage, propaganda, and cyberattacks.”

His essay, written just after “The Arab Spring”, pointed to the anarchy and violence that erupted in Libya and Syria (much of it fueled in the social media), “as proof that a combination of carefully planted stories, outside pressure and political interference can destroy an adversary’s ability, or even the will to fight. To quote the General:

A perfectly thriving state can, in a matter of months, and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention, and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war. ... the role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, have exceeded the power and force of weapons in their effectiveness.

In some military circles this is now known as “The Gerasimov Doctrine.”

Gerasimov has risen to the position of chief of staff of the Russian military. Considering the accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the continued activity of the nominally civilian St. Petersburg hacking groups “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear” in our social media, it is clear that Gerasimov’s Media Blitzkrieg is being put into practice. Last week we learned that Russian cyber warfare units attempted to hack the voter registrations in 21 states and succeeded in penetrating six. A day or so later we learned that Russian hackers helped inflate the number of twitter postings demanding “Release the memo!” composed by congressional Republicans. Russian cyber units have been involved in manipulating some “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” campaigns and in promoting other other socially divisive issues.

Last week, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said, “Cyber has been a game-changer in many ways. The United States is under attack. Now.”

Over the last year divisive issues and inflammatory rhetoric have torn at the very fabric of our society. If Gen. Gerasimov is not the architect of these attacks, he is most certainly prophesying our downfall.

Gerald McDonough

Gerald M. McDonough is a teacher, writer, director, historical researcher and biographer living in Salt Lake City.