The First Digital War

After World War II, most people were willing to forgive the Germans.  That was because, under the Nazi regime, many Germans lacked access to accurate information.  Though some of them suspected something, their brainwashed minds forced them to dismiss it as false.  It is expected that the consequences of the present Russian-Ukrainian war will be quite different, because the vast majority of Ukraine is covered by 4G or 4G LTE mobile networks.

Similar to Ukraine, Russia’s mobile networks and Internet coverage are almost 100%, at least in populated areas.  Citizens of Russia have access to truthful information (or whatever remains of it during the war).  Unlike postwar Germany, Russians are not likely to be forgiven this time.  It will no longer be acceptable to say, “We didn’t know” or “We just followed orders.”

The Russian units had been identified before entering Ukrainian territory.  Each commander had been singled out.  Leaks have been reported of a database containing 120 thousand Russian soldiers and officers fighting in Ukraine. The names, addresses, passports, and military identifications of these individuals have been published.  Additionally, a massive data-mining operation with open (and some illegally obtained but commonly available in Russia) sources revealed every Russian invader’s phone numbers, family members, travel patterns, photographs, friends, and parents.  It has never happened before; recall that the Internet does not have a “delete” button.  The world will access everything it knows about the aggressors in perpetuity.  For the first time in history, the victim of the aggression makes sure that every Russian will soon google what their loved one has done in Ukraine.

Today’s generation of Russians, like the rest of the world, have no access to the names of those Soviet “liberators” who raped millions of German girls in 1945.  However, the names of those Russians who raped Ukrainian girls (some of whom were under ten years old) are filed and are potentially accessible on the Internet for everyone to see.  Atrocities committed by Soviet troops in “liberated” by Stalin European countries in World War II are not widely recognized but remembered by the locals.  Some countries are familiar with the Russian “liberators” to a greater degree before World War II, such as Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states.

It is a matter of a state secret that the death toll of Russian soldiers is kept confidential.  However, with bureaucratic punctuality, the Russian Ministry of Defense (or rather the Ministry of Offense) publishes a list of military decorations.  Details such as names, DoBs, army units, etc., are included in the description.  The point is that published data indicates whether a medal was awarded posthumously.  There is an established strict numbering system for military decorations.  The sequence of awards’ numbers with the posthumous mark provides the best estimate of Russians killed in action in Ukraine, as indirectly confirmed by the Russians themselves.  That number is currently an order of magnitude higher than what Russian propaganda claims.

Shortly after the attack, local carriers canceled the registration of Russia-issued cell phones on Ukrainian mobile networks.  Having robbed the local Ukrainian population of cell phones, the attackers became ecstatic that they could now contact their loved ones for free.  However, nobody told them that Ukrainian intelligence has access to all phone calls via Ukrainian networks.  As a result, it is the first war in which practically all communications among the “liberators” are intercepted and recorded.  Moreover, all telephone calls between the invading units and their relatives in Russia were captured and documented, along with all metadata (geolocation, timestamp, and the two telephone numbers).

Ukrainian intelligence quickly traced calls made from the territory of Ukraine to Russian phone numbers.  These stolen Ukrainian cell phone numbers are made into targets of the Ukrainian digital campaign designed to influence the current smartphone user (presumably a Russian soldier) to defect.  Similarly, the corresponding Russian telephone numbers are intended to cultivate distrust, panic, and diverse anti-Putin narratives.  Russian soldiers are receiving frightening text messages: indeed, after the war, we will find you; revenge by Ukrainians is imminent; neither you nor your family members are safe, even if you never depart Russia.  One message reads, “Maybe not today, but tomorrow or in a year, you will die.  We are coming after you.”

The Russians likely had world-class secure communication equipment prior to the invasion.  This equipment, however, is rarely used because of a lack of training.  Thus, virtually no one among the invaders uses scrambled (encrypted) communication modes.  Instead, Russian crews use known radio frequencies operated by inexperienced conscripts.  Ukrainian intelligence received complete knowledge of Russian operations through an open wireless exchange.  At the beginning of the conflict, Ukrainian radio amateurs published known Russian military frequencies, and a worldwide volunteer army of radio amateurs jumped in and drowned Russian radio traffic in interference.

The practice was later suppressed by Ukrainian intelligence because of the importance of SIGINT information.  After that, the international radio amateur community banned Russian radio amateurs from most international contests for the first time in history.  At this time, Russians are still operating openly on short-wave radio and Ukrainian cellular phones.  However, some are still baffled about how Ukrainian long-distance artillery batteries became aware of their precise positions.

Two factors initially shocked the world: the lack of professionalism of the Russian attackers and the significant level of professionalism of Ukrainian defenders.  Today, the world is surprised that the Russians have not much tried to cover up their atrocities perpetrated on the temporarily occupied (and recently liberated) Ukrainian territories.  It appears no one informed them that targeting civilians is a war crime.  The fact stands that some Russians—soldiers and officers— may not have been familiar with the Geneva Convention.  Furthermore, they did not have a great deal of knowledge about Ukraine: nobody in the Russian military was mindful of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, so they foolishly dug trenches in the still-deadly radioactive forest.

The atrocities perpetrated in Ukraine are essentially unerasable.  The high-resolution photographs and recorded metadata will be accepted as evidence by military tribunals after the war.  For example, hackers gained access to a security camera in a Belarussian military post office and uploaded the video online.  Therefore, anybody can witness for several hours what Russian marauders brought with them from Ukraine and sent to their families in Russia—from frying pans to toys to laptops to women’s underwear to toilets (including the used ones).

At this point, the war has reached a complete digital internationalization phase.  Prime Minister Winston Churchill assembled a worldwide coalition to combat the Nazis over two tough years.  President Zelensky used 21st-century digital technology to accomplish the same within just two weeks.  Accordingly, it became the first war in which every square inch of battleground territory was filmed either from space or drones.  Furthermore, it is the first war in which most firefights and post-battle dispositions were captured on cell phones and uploaded to the Internet.  In other words, the current conflict is genuine, the First Digital War.

Military historians have noted for some time that in a duel between armor and a projectile, the projectile consistently prevails.  The first large-scale conflict of the 21st century in Europe may produce another adage: in the end, digital truth always triumphs over digital propaganda, despite initial setbacks.

[Originally published at American Thinker]

Why a no-fly zone over Ukraine won’t work

Several decades ago, a colleague from a neighboring department at my university loaned me a marketing textbook.  Naturally, it was difficult to force a young physicist to read something that does not explore the Schrödinger Equation.  Anyway, I accepted the book, intending to surf it politely for a few minutes and then ignore it.

However, the moment I opened the book, I was hooked.  Since then, I have read and reread it several times.  One of the practicing marketing experts who also taught at the university wrote its introduction.  In particular, he described the type of homework given to his students.  As part of the course, students were required to develop a marketing program for new, high-quality drill bits.

All undergraduates completed the assignment, and all earned an F.

Indeed, the marketing guru substantiated an explanation for such disastrous results.  He noted that humans, in the truest sense of the word, do not need drill bits.  What people actually want is holes, not drill bits.  Thus, there is no need, and subsequently, there is no demand for them.  People need holes in wood, metal, plastic, whatever.  In reality, drill bits are only one part of the range of tools that allow men to accomplish their actual goals: the holes.

Any attempt to persuade individuals to purchase items they do not actually require is ineffective.  Such an endeavor is ultimately not profitable.  The correct, profitable approach is selling people what they truly desire: holes.  The professor argued that marketing should focus on the holes rather than drill bits.  Eventually, people will purchase these drill bits if they are convinced that they will get stunning holes at the end of the process.

Let us fast-forward to 2022.  The Ukrainian citizens call for establishing a no-fly zone over the country.  This is an excellent example of a situation where people demand things they do not actually need.  There is no question that Ukrainians are anxious to stop deadly Russian aerial and missile attacks, and that is a noble goal, but it has nothing to do with NATO’s no-fly zone.  A no-fly zone is one of many tools available to achieve this objective.  According to what is known, military personnel dislike it when civilians offer the mission and mandate specific tools.

Instead, let military professionals choose the methods and tools to stop terrible bombings and shelling of innocent civilians, assuming that the West — and, it seems, the world — wants to offer a helping hand to suffering Ukrainians.  We must stop the chorus of internet military experts who were prominent virologists and world-renowned epidemiologists just a few weeks ago.

Ukrainians should be informed that while the need to stop the bombardments is acknowledged, the external methods to resolve it are not their choice.  Various military, diplomatic, and economic tools are available — and the no-fly zone is just one (and not the most attractive) of them.  (Regarding this matter, we are still awaiting official calls to expel Russia from the United Nations, similar to the expulsion of the Soviet Union from the League of Nations for attacking Finland in 1940.)

One of the solutions would be a Lend-Lease-like program to deliver Ukraine high-tech anti-aircraft batteries.  Ukraine already uses high-tech Turkish drones; they have to be complemented with American-made surface-to-air missiles.

Along with anti-aircraft defense weapons, the United States has historically supported just causes while embracing a façade of neutrality.  There were, for example, approximately one hundred American military pilots who resigned from their commissions in 1940 and 1941 and joined Chiang Kai-shek’s army in the fight against Imperial Japan.  Note that American pilots entered the combat long before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) squadron became known as the Flying Tigers.  It is noteworthy that the Flying Tigers flew Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters, made in Buffalo, N.Y., resulting in the first American aces of World War II.

Ukrainians must also observe that Flying Tigers represent a pre-woke American military.  Today’s politically correct military will take much longer to reach the right decisions.  For this reason, Ukraine must fight off the invaders with what it has at this juncture — until Pentagon lawyers and Washington swamp-dwellers are able to explore and crunch risks, profits, and political expediency.

[Originally published by American Thinker]