As was also clearly stated by Vladimir Putin on September 4, 2017: “whichever country leads the way in Artificial Intelligence research will be the ruler of the world”.
According to Thomas Kuhn’s old, but still useful, epistemological model, every change of the scientific paradigm – rather than the emergence of new material discoveries – radically changes the visions of the world and hence strategic equilibria.
Hence, first of all, what is Artificial Intelligence? It consists of a series of mathematical tools, but also of psychology, electronic technology, information technology and computer science tools, through which a machine is taught to think as if it were a human being, but with the speed and security of a computer.
The automatic machine must representman’s knowledge, namely show it, thus enabling an external operator to change the process and understand its results within the natural language.
In practice, AI machines imitate the perceptual vision, the recognition and the reprocessing of language -and even of decision-making – but only when all the data necessary to perform it are available. They do so creatively, i.e. they self-correct themselves in a non-repetitive way.
As can be easily imagined, this happens rarelyin a complex system with a high rate of variation over time and space, as is exactly the case in war clashes.
Just think about the intelligence reserved for the Chiefs of Staff, which obviously no one ever feeds into any machine to “run” it.
Hence, first and foremost, AI is about making the machine imitate the human reasoning process, which is achieved by applying the Turing test.
As you may remember, Alan Turing was the mathematician who devised for the British intelligencea number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers and cracking intercepted coded messages that could find settings for the Enigma machine used by the German Nazi Intelligence Services.
Due to the large amount of data to be checked and translated, his mathematics required an electromechanical machine, a sort of computer which was in fact created at Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre, with the technologies of the time: vacuum valves, copper wires and electric engines.
To be precise, the Nazis had developed a primitive computer, namely Z1, that was hard to program, while the British Colossuspermitted the introduction of cards and tapes that allowed its adaptation to the various needs of the British SIGINT of the time.
Furthermore, in Turing’s mind, the Imitation Game involving three people (a sort of deception game) could be replaced by a machine – and here the mathematical theory permitting AI comes into play.
The machine takes the place of either human beings who try to prevent the correct identification of the third human being (C) – an identification that remains hidden to both A and B.
Hence Alan Turing claims that man A can be replaced by a machine and that this can be correctly defined as “thinking”.
Hence, according to Alan Turing,the human thought can be creatively imitated and recreated through a Finite State Machine (FSM) that can simulate other Discrete State Machines.
In principle a Finite State Machine is a machine allowing to fully describe – in mathematical terms – the simultaneous or non-simultaneous behaviour of many systems.
With a view to better understanding this concept, we can think of an image: the warp of a fabric with respect to its weft, which can have various colours or designs.
Conversely, a Discrete-State Machine is a calculator, i.e.a machine evolving by sudden jumps from one state to another.
The same evolutionary jumps that the epistemologist, Thomas Kuhn, thought as steps of a scientific paradigm.
Finally, in Turing’s mind, the Discrete State Machine was the most suitable for simulating the human thought-behaviour.
Currently, in AI, almost exclusively “hybrid spots” are used, i.e. systems unifying various types of finite or discrete state machineswhich develop and process also probabilistic scenarios.
There is no need for going further into this network of technical reasoning, which only partially regards the topic of this article.
It is worth recalling that the issue has its true conceptual and strategic origin in March 2017, when a computer program developed by Google, namely AlphaGo, beatthe world champion in the ancient Chinese board game Go, an extraordinary strategy game.
According to some US analysts, it was the game that inspired the Head of the North Vietnamese Armed Forces and of the Viet Mihn Communists, Vo Nguyen Giap, in his confrontation with the United States and its allies.
A game in which – unlike what happens in chess-there is no immediate evidence of the victory of either contenders.
Years before, in 1997, a much less advancedalgorithm than AlphaGo had beaten the chess champion Gary Kasparov.
With a view to better understanding what an AI system is, it is worth recalling that AlphaGo is made up of two deep “neural networks” having millions of neural connections very similar to those of the human brain.
A neural network is a mathematical model inspired by the structure of the neural networks typical of the human brain.
It consists of information interconnections and it is a mathematical-information system made up of artificial neurons and processes using computational connections common to all “neurons”.
Furthermore the AlphaGo system self-corrects and learns by itself, because it stores and quickly processes the many matches and games in which it participated.
As can be easily imagined, this also makes it largely unpredictable.
In the future, however, the new military robots with high autonomy of movement and selection of targets – and, sometimes, even of the AI procedure to be used – will incorporate a great deal of Artificial Intelligence.
This will make the difference between a losing robot and a winning one on the ground.
Hence, at some point of technological evolution, they may also take autonomous actions.
Therefore the problem arises of how much autonomy can be given to robots, whether they are mobile on the ground or centralized in a command brigade.
Tactical autonomy, while the neural connections between the various military robots are managed simultaneously by a “classic” human system and by a 2.0 AI mechanism?
But here factors such as each country’s doctrine and the assessment of the probability of a war clash and with whom, must be considered.
Therefore many human lives can be saved even in a conflict and on the war theatre, except in a counter-resource robot action, which hits the civilian population.
It will also be easier to resortto armed confrontation, but a higher cost of automated defense or attack operations will be expected.
Obviously considering that the AI systems are derived from “natural thought”, if – in the activities – very few changes are to be made to an already-defined program, the machines always work better than human beings.
They are faster, much more precise and they never rest. Moreover, they have no parallel reasoning patterns deriving from personal tastes, ideologies, feelings, sensations, affections.
They are not distracted by value, cultural, symbolic, ethical and politicalissues and probably not even by the typical themes of the Grand Strategy.
In principle, however, if what is at stake are substantially equivalent technical choices or similar evaluations of the final future scenarios, on which the machine has no pre-set programming, man will always prevail in the match between man and robot.
Hence Metaphysics – or the “science of aims”, to put it in Aristotle’s words – is the unique attribute of our species.
But the process to achieve extra-technical goals can always be formalized and hence there is always at least one finite state machine in the world that can imitate it – on its own, however, without further support of the homo sapiens sapiens.
It must also be considered that the techniques for the AI “autonomous weapons” cannot be completely classifiedbecause, in these technologies, the commercial sector can often overcome the efficacy of “covered” technology weapons.
If we open up to commercial technologies, that would be the end of confidentiality.
In fact all AI, ranging from finance to machine tools up to biological and environmental programming, is a market-driven technology controlled by open markets- or rather still oligopolistic ones.
However, what are the limits and the merits of a war or global strategy technology entirely rebuilt according to AI standards?
The simple answer is that firstly no finite state or hybrid machine can evaluate the reliability of the data and systems it receives.
Hence we can imagine a new kind of intelligence action, that is the possibility of “poisoning” the command systems of the enemy’s AI machines.
The deep Internet, the area of websites – often having criminal relevance – not resulting in the official search engines, could also host viruses or even entire opposing systems, which directly reach our AI machines, thus making them fulfill the enemy’s will and not ours.
It is worth recalling that Von Clausewitz defined victory as “the prevailing of the opponent’s will or of our will”.
Nevertheless the Artificial Intelligence systems can be extremely useful in the military and intelligence sector, when it comes to using them in the “computer vision”, where millions of data must be analyzed creatively in the shortest possible time.
In fact, the Turing machine and the derived AI machines can imitate abduction, a logical process that is very different from that of deduction and induction.
Deduction, which is typical of traditional machines, such as the calculator, is the logical process that, starting from a non-analyzed premise, rationally derives particular propositions describing the perceivable reality.
Conversely, induction is a logical process that, with a number of finite steps fully adhering to the natural logic, allows to shift from empirical data to the general rule, if any.
Hence abduction is an Aristotelian syllogism in which the major premise is certain while the minor one is only probable.
The Aristotelian syllogisms are made up of a general statement (the major premise), a specific statement (the minor premise) and a conclusion that is inferred.
They are adaptable to both induction and deduction.
Furthermore, in the various types of syllogism the Stagirite developed, the major premise is the general definition of an item belonging or not to a whole.
For example, “All men are bipeds”.
The minor premise is that “George is a man (or is a biped)” and hence the conclusion is that “George is a biped (or a man)”.
Finally, in abduction, there is an opposite reasoning compared to the other two: it is used when we know the rules and the conclusion and we want to reconstruct the premise.
The definition of abduction given by Charles S. Peirce, who long evaluated it in his pragmatist philosophy, is the following: “the surprising fact, C, is observed; but if A were true, C would be a matter of course.
Hence there is reason to suspect that A is true”.
If I have white beans in my hand and there is a bag of white beans in front of me, there is reason to believe that the beans in my hand were taken out of that bag.
In fact, this is exactly the way in which an AI machine corrects or enhances its knowledge starting from the program we put in it.
Another military use of AI is the “deep” face recognition, far more analytical and fast than it can be done today.
There is also voice recognition, the immediate indication of the sources of an enemy communication and its almost simultaneous comparison with the countless similar or anyway opposing communications.
Artificial Intelligence can also be used for military logistics issues or for the multi-variable resolution of war games, and even for combat automation in mixed environments with men and machines in action.
Therefore recourse to a limited war will be ever more likely if there are no human victims and if the confrontation is directed by advanced automatic systems.
There will also be an impact on political responsibility, which could be shifted to AI systems and not to commanders or decision-makers in the flesh.
What political and strategic effects would an automatic clash have and what immediate psychological mechanisms would it trigger in the population?
However, who wins in the recently-started war for dominance in AI military and intelligence technologies?
For the time being, certainly China.
In fact, in November 2017 the Chinese startup company Yitu Tech won the contest for the best face recognition system.
The challenge was to recognize the greatest number of passengers accidentally encountered in a civilian airport.
The Chinese government has already approved a project called “Artificial Intelligence 2.0” having specific applications both in the economy and in military and intelligence structures.
The Chinese Armed Forces are now working on a unified project in AI 2.0, an initiative regarding precisely the relationship between AI civilian and military applications.
As already noted, this is the strategic weak point of the AI military programming, because it verifies strong competition between the market and state organizations, at least in the West.
In fact, for the US Intelligence Services, the line to be currently followed in the smart war automation is to implement the new technologies to enrich the information already present on the President’s table.
In China the “merger” between market and State in the AI sector is directly regulated by the Commission for Integrated Military and CivilianDevelopment, chaired personally by Xi Jinping – and this says it all.
In the framework of the new AI strategic evolution, the Chinese Armed Forces follow the criterion of “shared construction, shared application and shared use” with private individuals and entities – at least for all innovations in the programming and automatic management of information (and actions) on the battlefield and in the intelligence area.
Therefore the Chinese AI 2.0 puts together robotic research, military systems without pilot or other staff and the new military brain science.
A new theoretical-practical branch that affects even the mental and remote control of machines through human applications such as headsets detecting and interpreting the brain activity of the wearer, thus allowing them to control the machines.
This already happened at the Zhengzhou Military Academy in August 2015, with students guiding and controlling robots through sensors placed on their skullcaps.
Hence the new AI activities in the intelligence sector can be easily imagined: infinitely broader and faster data collection – and even structured and semi-processed – creation of automatic intelligence contrast systems; entry into electronic media systems and networks available to “anonymous” data decision-makers that change the perception of the battlefield and of the whole enemy society.
Finally, the synergic coverage of the civilian and military data of the country that has achieved dominance in AI technologies.
Each new technology in the AI military sector is protected and, hence, implies a civilian, military or hybrid battlefield , in which all the operations of those who possess the advanced tool always hit the target with the minimum use of soldiers and with the utmost confidentiality.
It would be good for the EU to think about these new scenarios, but currently imagining that the European Union is able to think is mere theory.
Furthermore China has created a new Research Institute on AI and related technologies linked to the Central Military Commission and the Armed Forces.
Liu Ghuozhi, the Director of this Research Institute, likes to repeat that “whoever does not disrupt the adversary will be disrupted”.
The current rationale of the People’s Liberation Army is that the new and more advanced AI environment 2.0 – i.e. that of war, of the strategic clash and of the apparently peaceful political one – is already a new stage in military thinking.
This is a qualitatively different level, far beyond the old conflict information technologies – a stage requiring a “new thinking” and a completely different approach to military confrontation, which immediately turns into a social, economic, technological and cultural one.
Hence a Chinese way – through technology – to the Russian “hybrid warfare”, but a strategic thinking remaining along the lines of the Unrestricted Warfare theorized by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui in 1999, at the dawn of globalization.
In fact, the origin of globalizationshould not be found in the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations in 1978.
It is also worth noting that, from the beginning, the implicit planning in the “Unrestricted Warfare” theorized by the two Chinese Colonels had been thought against “a more powerful opponent than us”, namely the United States.
Hence merging of technical and intelligence services in the area of operations;union of intelligence and AI networks; integration of command functions with other activities on the ground, obviously also with intelligence, and finally use of the large mass of information in real time.
This is made possible thanks to the adaptation of the Chinese Intelligence Services to the speed and wide range of data provided by all technological platforms and by any “human” source.
The ultimate goal is unrestricted warfare, in which you do not dominate the “enemy’s will”, but all its resources.
Therefore China currently thinks that “technology determines tactics” and the People’s Liberation Army intends to develop also support systems using Artificial Intelligence to back strategic decision-making.
Still today this should work also on the basis of the old US program known as Deep Green created in 2005 by the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA).
It is an AI system intended to help military leaders in the strategic evaluation of scenarios, of their own options and of the enemy’s options, as well as their own potential – at such a speed enabling to counteract any enemy move before it could be fully deployed.
Finally what is the Russian Federation doing in the field of modernization of its Armed Forces by means of Artificial Intelligence?
It is doing many things.
First and foremost, Russia is carefully studying unmanned ground vehicles (UGV), such as Uran-9, Nerekhta and Vir.
They are all armoured tanks that can host anti-tank missiles and mid-sized guns.
Secondly, since 2010 Russia has favoured the development of its Armed Forces in relation to what its military doctrine defines as “intelligence exchange and supremacy”.
In other words, the Russian military world believes that the intelligence superiority is central both in times of peace and in times of war.
Superiority vis-à-vis its own population to be protected from others’ dezinformatsjia and superiority with respect to the enemies’ propaganda in their own countries – an information action that must be mastered and dominated, so that the enemy’s public can develop an ideological universe favourable to Russian interest.
This psycho-intelligence “exchange” – always based on AI supports – implies diplomatic, economic and obviously military, political, cultural and religious tools.
It is mainly developed through two intervention areas: the technical-intelligence and media area and the other one more traditionally related to psychological warfare.
Russia is also developing a program to adapt its supercomputers to deep learning, with an AI system significantly callediPavlov.
The deep learning of computers having hundreds of petaflops (a petaflop is equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second)is an AI system allowing to fully imitate not only the “normal” human thought- which is defined as “logical” – but also the possible statistical variations, which are in fact involved in abduction, of which we have already spoken.
It is worth repeating that the EU closely follows America with regard to drones, computer science and information technologies and it is also starting to fund some projects, including military ones, in the 2.0 AI sector.
However, they are technological goals far away in time and, in any case, despite the dream, or the myth, of a European Armed Force, intelligence, advanced battlefield doctrines and intelligence neural networks – if any – are strictly limited to the national level.
With the results we can easily imagine, above all considering the intellectual and technological lack of an EU doctrine on “future wars”.
How Putin’s Russia is Exploiting Jihadists Against pro-Navalny Protesters?
Who is Putin’s terrorist: Navalny or Jihadist?
Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin is considering using old tactics to stem the growing wave of nationwide protests in support of his fiercest critic, popular opposition leader Alexei Navalny. This tactic was developed in the late 90s by the KGB ideologists and successfully applied in order to bring to power Vladimir Putin, who is ruling the country with an iron hand longer than all his Soviet predecessors except Joseph Stalin. The tactical skills of the Putin’s policy architects were aiming to frighten Russian citizens by Islamist terrorism and Chechen separatism and unite patriotic and nationalist forces around a new leader capable of challenging the West.
Thus, when the nationwide protests in support of Navalny from Yakutia to Kaliningrad became the most serious challenge, the Kremlin began to trumpet the threat of Islamist extremists and international terrorists. This time, the Putin regime is intimidating protesters with impending terrorist attacks of Central Asian and Caucasian jihadists and their Syrian parent organization, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
On the eve of the next nationwide protests on February 14, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russia warned of the inadmissibility of calls to participate in an unsanctioned rally. Russian state news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS have disseminated information that the most powerful Sunni militant faction of HTS in northern Syria is preparing a series of lone-wolf attacks during the upcoming mass street protests of Navalny’s supporters in various Russian cities. In doing so, however, the pro-Kremlin media cited its undisclosed law enforcement sources and ultimately spread merely conspiracy theories.
According to anonymous sources of Russian security services, HTS-backed Uzbek Jihadi battalion Katibat Tawhid wal Jihad(KTJ), Chechen militant groups Ajnad al-Kavkaz (AK) and Jaysh al-Muhajirin wal-Ansar (JMA) are planning to carry out explosions and attack protesters. To achieve these purposes, terrorist groups allegedly recruited Russian citizens and Central Asian migrants, who expect their leaders’ commands.
The Putin regime faced the most serious challenge when anti-government protests took place across the Russia in support Navalny in recent weeks. As is known, in mid-January, Navalny returned to the country after recovering from a chemical Novichok poisoning that nearly took his life and was immediately detained and later jailed for alleged parole violations. The robust Putin regime first demonstrated its grave alarm when tens of thousands pro-Navalny protesters demanded his resignation in more than 100 cities and towns, chanting Putin as a ‘thief’. Police detained more than 11,000 people at what they say were unsanctioned protests that the Moscow condemned as illegal and dangerous.
Alexei Navalny’s political creativity and tactical skill inspired Russian liberal youth weary with the corruption-plagued political order presided over by Putin. Fierce clashes between protesters and riot police during the mass rallies indicate that a new generation is not afraid of arrests and the repressive state machine. And to stop the pace of marathon confrontation with the opposition, Putin resorted to his long-standing KGB tactics, intimidating society with possible terrorist attacks and explosions by Islamists.
Will Uzbek and Chechen Jihadists hit pro-Navalny Protesters?
But the fact is, it’s not the first time Putin’s Russia has intimidated society with possible terror attacks by Islamist terrorists and Chechen separatists to achieve political goals. During the transition of power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin at the end of the second millennium, Kremlin ideologists successfully tested anti-Islamist tactics to overcome the challenges of the political opposition. The ideologists of Putin’s election campaign created his image as a decisive and strong leader, the one who can defeat Islamist terrorism, Chechen separatism and preserve the integrity of Great Russia. His image as the only savior of the Russian Empire was accompanied by radio and television spots and news about the atrocities of Chechen militants and their beheading of Russian soldiers.
Meanwhile, there is a conspiracy theory in Russian political circles that the powerful FSB orchestrated apartment bombings in the Russian cities of Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999 to boost Putin’s approval rating aiming to ensure his victory in the presidential elections. As a result of these “terrorist attacks”, 307 people were killed, more than 1,700 people were injured. Russian officials concluded that there was a “Chechen trail” in the bombings, but no proof of their involvement was adduced. Many still doubt the results of the investigation and consider Putin to be the culprit of this tragedy.
That’s when Putin uttered his famous phrase: “We will pursue the [Islamist] terrorists everywhere. If they are in an airport, we’ll kill them there. If we catch them in the toilet, we’ll exterminate them in the toilet.” Many still believe that the apartment bombings and the FSB’s tactic against Islamist extremists catapulted Putin into the presidency. Putin soon launched a second war in Chechnya and emerged victorious in the intra-Kremlin struggle. His ratings soared. He met with huge approval in a society weary from the economic collapse, corruption and crime of the Yeltsin era.
Usually people prefer to keep quiet about this tragedy. Russian political figures Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, and Boris Berezovsky worked to unravel the mystery of apartment bombings. But all of them were brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances. Ultimately, the Kremlin’s tactics to combat Islamist terrorists not only helped to rocket Putin to the political Olympus, but also increased Islamophobia, nationalism and chauvinism in Russian society.
Today, even 22 years after Putin came to power, the Kremlin’s ideologists have begun to intimidate Russia’s liberal society with likely Islamist terrorist attacks again as the nationwide protests seriously threaten his regime. This illustrates the regime exhaustion and the lack of confidence in face of the strategic sophistication of Navalny’s team.
So far, neither HTS, nor Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups have officially responded to the FSB on the plotting of terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition rallies. However, in encrypted Telegram chats, Uzbek and Chechen jihadists actively discussed the “leak information”.
Thus, one of the KTJ’s followers on Telegram under the name Al Hijrat said in Uzbek: “Kafir Putin frightens his people with the just sword of Allah.But the people of the blessed land of Sham know that he himself is the main terrorist. Russian infidels and Putin’s Nusayri puppy (Alawites regime of Bashar al-Assad) bomb Greater Idlib to destroy Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah. Executioners will have to hold a harsh response before the Almighty for their crimes.”
A pro-Jihadi chat “Inspire” in Telegram wrote in Russian: “the information about the impending attacks by Ajnad al-Kavkaz is fake. The authorities are trying to hold Russia’s awakening people from mass protests against Putin’s criminal group. To intimidate civilians, the Russian siloviki (FSB) can and are ready to commit terrorist acts, blaming HTS for this, which are not interested in what is happening there in Russia. The Putinists have a lot of experience in killing their own citizens and blowing up their houses.” In this message, Chechen militants indirectly protect HTS from accusations by pro-Kremlin media on impending terrorist attacks in Russian cities during opposition protests. This is no coincidence, since Ajnad al Kavkaz is known for its close ties with HTS.
On Telegram channel, some Russian-speaking jihadists from the post-Soviet space mocked at the ‘leaked information’, some expressed their anger against the “Russian occupants” in Sham, some advised protesters to be vigilant before the FSB provocation. A pro-Jihadi chat Icharkhoin Telegram recommended Muslims of Caucasus be ready for new repressions of Russian infidels and local Murtad (apostate), because after the bombings of houses in Volgodonsk, Putin started the 2-Chechen war and took away the independence of Ichkeria. The Telegram chat “Muhajireen” says that the Kremlin is preparing for a harsh suppression of the mass protests.
It is not the first time the Russian authorities have accused Central Asian and North Caucasian Jihadi networks of organizing terrorist act. On April 3, 2017, the Russian FSB blamed KTJ for the bombing on a subway train in St. Petersburg that killed 16 people and injured 67 others. On October 15, 2020, the FSB once again accused the Uzbek KTJ militants of preparing subversive and terrorist acts in Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Maikop and Volgograd. In a statement, the intelligence services claimed that during the counter-terrorist operation, they prevented explosions and eliminated two members of KTJ. Then FSB distributed photos and videos of firearms, ammunition, IED’s chemical components, and religious literature seized during the operation.
On October 16, 2020, KTJ in its statement denied the Russian authorities’ accusation in these attacks. The Uzbek militant group stated that “according the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s policy, our activities are limited to the territory of Sham, and we do not conduct jihadi acts outside of it.” Further, KTJ assured via its Telegram channel that it “does not have its cells in Russia and is not involved in organizing terrorist acts there.”
Jihadi factor of Russian democracy
The Russian authorities often make thunderous statements about plotting terrorist attacks by “international terrorist groups” and how siloviki (FSB) successfully prevented its. This time, trumpeting about terrorist plots by HTS and its foreign subsidiaries during mass protests in various Russian cities, Moscow hoped to hit two birds with one stone. First, the Kremlin hopes that alarm on terrorist attacks could become a cold shower for Navalny’s supporters, as a result of which the activity of protesters will subside and the scale of the rallies will decrease. Second, by accusing HTS of plotting terrorist attacks, Russia is trying to justify its bloody bombing in northern Syria before the international community.
However, experts on jihadism and political Islam were skeptical about accusations of HTS for plotting terrorist attacks in Russia.HTS, Syria’s most powerful rebel group, is trying to implement a new strategy to transform itself from a global jihadist outlook into a local “moderate national liberation movement”. Today its new agenda is entirely dedicated to Syria and the Syrian local Sunni community. Within this new strategy, HTS severely restricted external attacks by its subsidiaries – Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups –KTJ, AK and JMA. Consequently, HTS, which holds the last major rebel bastion in Idlib province and backs the local Salvation Government, is focused only on the internal Syrian jihad than organizing external terrorist attacks.
HTS emir Abu Mohammed al-Julani is well aware that any terrorist attacks in Russia could place his group among the global terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and al Qaeda, from which he decisively disavowed. HTS pursues a pragmatic approach to the political context, and its external attacks outside of Syria could undermine its fragile legacy, which Julani has achieved with great difficulty.
According to the new strategy, HTS has excluded Central Asian and local hardliners from its ranks. Those jihadists who did not want to submit to its new policy, such as former KTJ emir Abu Saloh al-Uzbeki and HTS Shura Council member Abu Malek al-Talli, were arrested or taken out of the Syrian jihad zone. Given the ability of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to pressure Russian-speaking militant groups to abandon its global jihadist ambitions, it can be concluded that the Russian FSB’s accusation against HTS raises many questions.
In conclusion, the Russian authorities alert about Islamists terrorist attacks during pro-Navalny protests is aimed at an internal audience and pursues exclusively domestic political goals. And these goals are clear as plain as the nose on the face. Using these methods, the Kremlin wants to stop the turbulent development of mass protests and divert the attention of people from the Navalny factor. If they succeed, the authorities will take time out to gather strength for the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2021.But if the wave of protests grows ever stronger and threatens Putin’s regime, then a repetition of the 1999 scenario is quite possible. As then, radical Islamism and terrorism can become a starting point for strengthening authoritarianism in Russia.
Corona pandemic: Realism limitation in solving 21st century security threats
Today, most serious threats of the 21st century are not ones we can protect ourselves by using armies or advanced weapons. Indeed, the popularity of extreme-right politics, unilateralism based on nationalism and COVID-19 are threatening the world’s post-war security architecture.
The state-based unilateralism and the trends of national response to the 21st century’s biggest security threat trigger lack of coordination, diplomatic divisions, and incoherent global answer to COVID-19. Hence, as we face the biggest challenge of the contemporary century today, we need to rethink the very nature of our comprehension of national security threats. By doing so, we need a different approach to facing security threats.
With the Corona pandemic as a security threat, one of the foundational international relations theories, the realism, has been revealed to be far limited in terms of its explanatory power than it declares. The argument is that realism has a valid logic and reasons for confidence since answers to the pandemic have confirmed the supremacy of sovereign states, the grounds for the state’s power competition. Nevertheless, the pandemic also presents realism’s weaknesses as a source for successful policy answer to this security challenge. In other words, realism is better at defining risks and threats than suggesting solutions. Put simply, realism’s explanatory power lies in diagnosis rather than treatment or prevention. To make this clear, one insight the theory emphasizes is the representation of states as the fundamental actors in world politics.
As the coronavirus hit, states shifted quickly to close or tighten international borders, controlled movement within their borders. However, while much independent national action is understandable from a realism’s point of view, it’s insufficient. Unilateralism and state-based measures, such as border controls did not spare states from the pandemic, and unilateral measures risk ending up in national economic and social crisis.
To fight the Corona pandemic most efficiently, policymakers will have to shift to other theoretical traditions to overcome this security threat. They will depend more and more on greater international openness, trust and cooperation. Hence, while from the realism’s view, unilateral and state-based actions may serve national interest to fight the pandemic “within the national borders”, the pandemic is a global security threat and thus remains unsolved so long as other states and non-state actors have not done the same and states move on unilaterally.
Solving global crises and security threats such as a pandemic, similar to world economic or other security crises cannot be solved based on the realist considerations of zero-sum competitive logic. Instead, transnational security threats, such as Coronavirus, is unmasking the limitations of individual states actions in the global system. Thus, while realism does an excellent job of “diagnosing the problem”, it does not offer solutions to that problem.
Considering the necessity of worldwide medical items and actions, coordinated and offered by international organizations and non-state actors, the uncoordinated state-based actions result in an ineffective solution to this security crisis. The perspective this article aims to offer is that given the limitations of realism, we need more faith in international transboundary cooperation based on mutual trust, especially trust vis-a-vis international institutions. However, neither the United Nations nor the World Health Organization (WHO) nor any other non-state actor can overcome the Coronavirus on its own; nor non-state actors such as international institutions are alternatives to national states in international relations.
Instead, they are an instrument of foreign policy and statecraft and states need to rely on them, incorporating them in finding solutions to global security threats. According to constitutionalists, Robert Keohane and Lisa Martin, “States are indeed self-interested, but cooperation is often in their interest and institutions help to facilitate that cooperation.”
From our partner Tehran Times
The Media System Within and Beyond the West: Australian, Russian and Chinese Media
This article takes Australian, Russian and Chinese media as three examples to differentiate media systems and elucidate their political or economic context to understand media systems globally. Arguably, the concept of media systems “does not possess a normative or even generally accepted definition“, mainly because the notion is posited on existing publications and empirical research rather than normative theory. More precisely, “this is so for two reasons: firstly—because of the term’s content specificity; secondly—because it is dynamic and variable in time and therefore difficult to precisely define“.
Drawing on the current research of advanced capitalist democracies in Western Europe and North America, Hallin and Mancini propose “there are two main elements of the conceptual framework of Comparing Media Systems (setting aside political-social system variables): the set of four “dimensions” of comparison, and the typology of three models that summarizes what we see as the distinctive patterns of media system development among our 18 cases”. Furthermore, they clarify the four major dimensions that can be compared in different media systems: “first, the development of media markets, with particular emphasis on the strong or weak development of a mass circulation press; second political parallelism; that is, the degree and nature of the links between the media and political parties or, more broadly, the extent to which the media system reflects the major political divisions in society; third, the development of journalistic professionalism; and fourth, the degree and nature of state intervention in the media system”.
Drawing on the four dimensions, Hallin and Mancini summarize three modules from Western Europe and North America: “the Mediterranean or Polarized Pluralist Model, the North/Central European or Democratic Corporatist Model,
and the North Atlantic or Liberal Model”, which will be elaborated on by the next tables.
Table 1 Mediterranean or Polarized Pluralist Model
|Country Examples||France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain|
|Newspaper Industry||Low newspaper circulation; elite politically oriented press|
|Political Parallelism||High political parallelism; external pluralism, commentary-oriented journalism; parliamentary or government model of broadcast governance—politics-over-broadcasting systems|
|Professionalization||Weaker professionalization; instrumentalization|
|Role of the State in Media System||Strong state intervention; press subsidies in France and Italy; periods of censorship; “savage deregulation” (except France)|
Table 2 North/Central European or Democratic Corporatist Model
|Country Examples||Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland|
|Newspaper Industry||High newspaper circulation; early development of mass-circulation press|
|Political Parallelism||External pluralism, especially in the national press; historically strong party press; a shift toward neutral commercial <p>press; the politics-in-broadcasting system with substantial autonomy|
|Professionalization||Strong professionalization; institutionalized self-regulation|
|Role of the State in Media System||Strong state intervention but with protection for press freedom; press subsidies, robust in Scandinavia; strong public-service broadcasting|
Table 3 North Atlantic or Liberal Model
|Country Examples||Britain, the United States, Canada, Ireland|
|Newspaper Industry||Medium newspaper circulation; early development of mass circulation commercial press|
|Political Parallelism||Neutral commercial press; information-oriented journalism; internal pluralism (but external pluralism in Britain); professional model of broadcast governance—formally autonomous system|
|Professionalization||Strong professionalization; noninstitutionalized self-regulation|
|Role of the State in Media System||A market dominated (except strong public broadcasting in Britain, Ireland)|
Source: created by the author of this thesis and based on Hallin and Mancini.
Furthermore, it is unfeasible to simply apply the conceptual framework to other countries without appropriate modification. In fact, the “four dimensions” and “three models” are just perfect types, only loosely matched by the media systems of different countries. The ultimate purpose is not to classify individual media systems but to identify the “characteristic patterns of relationship between system characteristics“. Consequently, these inherent patterns of media systems offer “a theoretical synthesis and a framework for comparative research on the media and political systems“.
The Australian media system as an outlier in the Liberal Model
Hallin and Mancini illustrate that Australia should be another example of the Liberal Model. It is because firstly, the “Liberal Model is the broadest, attempting to bridge the trans-Atlantic gulf that regularly emerges in the comparative literature“. Secondly, Australia has historical connections with the UK and the US regarding “early democratization and highly professionalized information-based journalism“. This association has led to strong characteristics of Anglo-American conventions in the Australian media structure, with the quintessence of a dual media system. The binary design has combined the UK-style PSBs (public service broadcasters) such as ABC and SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) with the “US-style commercial networks“. Thirdly, Australia is famous for one of the highest commercial media ownership concentration rates globally, particularly in the newspaper area.
However, the Australian media system does not offer the quintessence of the Liberal Model. Jones and Pusey apply the Liberal Model to the Australian media system and identify four remarkable discrepancies. More precisely, compared to the Liberal Model, Australia has “historically late professionalization of journalism; comparatively low levels of education of journalists; low per capita investment in PSBs; poor regulation for accuracy and impartiality of commercial broadcast journalism; and slow development of relevant bourgeois liberal institutional conventions and rational-legal authority, e.g., formal recognition of freedom of the press”.
Furthermore, Jones and Pusey contend that Australia has several similar features with the Polarized Pluralist Model, especially in clientelism. Based on the definition of Hallin and Mancini, “clientelism tends to be associated with instrumentalization of both public and private media. In the case of public media, appointments tend to be made more based on political loyalty than purely professional criteria”. More concretely, Jones and Pusey outline the following examples to indicate the similarities of the Australian media system with the Polarized Pluralist Model: “the widely accepted recognition that appointments to the ABC Board have been more often than not party-political; the infamous ‘Murdoch amendments’ by the Fraser government to broadcasting legislation in the late 1970s to facilitate Murdoch’s concentration of television ownership; and the long history of proprietorial intervention in the political world”.
Thus, to this extent, there is a certain degree of political parallelism in the Australian media system. However, the Australian one does not match the Polarized Pluralist Model in some key areas. More precisely”, Australia does not have a highly polarized political culture and a strong tradition of mass-circulation party newspapers“. Therefore, it is arguable to perceive the Australian media system as an outlier of the Liberal Model, which can be shown in the following figure:
Figure 1 Relation of individual cases to the three models
Source: derived from Jones and Pusey.
Beyond the West: the unique Russian and Chinese media model
Although the Australian media system is an outlier in the Liberal Model, it still belongs to the typology and scope of the three models, posited on the empirical reality of Western Europe and North America. However, bringing the Russian and Chinese media models into this global comparative apparatus involves two distinct and peculiar systems into the Western-centric framework. Thus, the three models’ classification cannot apply to Russia and China’s two unique systems. Nevertheless, the four dimensions of comparison as a tool for analyzing systemic characteristics still work. However, they are not perfect and need to be modified in the application, as mentioned before.
The Russian media system as a statist commercialized model
After the disintegration of the USSR, Russia took a series of measures to adopt elements of the Western media apparatus, such as “abolition of censorship, freedom of press concepts and related legislation, privatization of media, a shift to more objective reporting, and increasing control by journalists and editorial boards over news production“. However, arguing that the Russian media have been westernized only shows “a poor understanding of” the legacy of the Soviet Union and the “complexity and dissimilarities of the post-Soviet society“, ignoring the most influential factor in the Russian media system: the state. Arguably, the interplay between the state and media has defined the essence and main features of the Russian media system. Historically and culturally, “in Russian public communications, relations between the state and a citizen have involved a clear subordination of the individual to a social power that has always been associated in the Russian context with the state“.
Thus, even though the Polarized Pluralist Model is the most similar of the three models to the Russian one, the Russian media system is still far from the Mediterranean apparatus. The Russian state’s role has exceedingly overshadowed that of the Mediterranean states, suggesting that they cannot be classified as the same type. Ivanitsky differs the Russian media system from the Polarized Pluralist Model in that “it is the state which defined the particular journalism modes such as Court journalism, Imperial journalism, Communist Party journalism in Russian history. Currently, while liberating the media’s economic activity, the state is not ready to relax the control over the content”.
This overwhelming influence of the state also reflects in Russian political parallelism. Although new political parties have appeared after the formation of the Russian Federation, Oates argues that “rather than encouraging the growth and the development of a range of political parties, media outlets in Russia have worked at supporting relatively narrow groups of elites”, part of which have been formed due to the privatization. These elites, combining old political and new emerging business elites, “became key players in the media scene“. More concretely, they created “a particularly Russian form of political parallelism” by using “political media as traditional instruments of political elite management“. Besides, due to the dominant role of the state in Russia, “media, particularly television, have been used to subvert the development of a pluralistic party system“.
Furthermore, in terms of the media industry, the influence of the state is also ubiquitous. Ivanitsky believes the state “has produced practically unsolvable tension for the media themselves trying to function both as commercial enterprises and as institutions of the society”, even though Russia has achieved rapid development in its advertising and media market. Hypothetically, these tensions between the media and the state are supposed to be the “decentralized market competition as a vital antidote to political despotism“. However, Vartanovaargues that “the aims of the state converged with those of the advertising industry, and commercially determined content became both a means of increasing depoliticization and instrumentalization of political communication, and of stimulating consumption”. From another angle, de Smaele believes that the Western influence on Russian media has only been limited to market demand, with the lack of Western notions such as “independent Fourth Estate”.
As for Russia’s professionalization, “journalism as a profession had a rather late start” with a strong censorship history, thus resulting in a self-censorship tradition until now. Another factor contributing to the self-censorship is that “formally declared freedom and autonomy of media professionals came into conflict with the efforts of the new owners”, deeply connected to the state and political elites, “to use these new professional values to further their own interests” rather than the public interests and social responsibility. Thus, to notch economic successes and avoid potential political risks, Russian journalists have become increasingly market-driven and apathetic to politics. Due to the different “professional identity“, Russian journalists have a dissimilar “literary style and attitude to facts and opinions“, which has restrained them from integration into Western journalism.
However, this statist media policy does not mean there is no freedom regarding the Russian media system’s political news. Admittedly, the state has strong influences on “television channels with national distribution“, which has been regarded as “the main source of information about Russia and the world“. By comparison, the pressure of the state has become weak and even non-existent in some less disseminated areas such as the television channel “REN-TV“, the radio station “Ekho Moskvy“, and the newspapers “Novaya Gazeta“, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” and “Kommersant“, as well as almost the whole of the internet.
Therefore, it is possible to say that the duality of authoritarian attitudes to mass media and journalism—a statist media policy deeply rooted in the framework of state influence on media combined with the growing market-driven economy—has become the most crucial characteristic of the Russian media system“. To this extent, the Russian media system can be described as a statist commercialized model.
The Chinese media system as a state-dominated model
If there is still a likelihood to compare the Russian media system with the Mediterranean Model due to a certain extent of similarities, “bringing the Chinese media system into a worldwide comparative project is to bring one of the most dissimilar systems into the non-Western empirical reality“. Furthermore, if the role above of the state in the Russian media system can be portrayed as “strong influence”, the Chinese state’s position or the sole ruling party CPC in its media apparatus should be regarded as dominant. As mentioned, regarding the political news, Russians still enjoy some freedom in less influential media. In contrast, there is no autonomy in the Chinese press, with the omnipresent regulative measures such as media censorship and the internet Great Firewall in China. Thus, considering the state’s special role, the Chinese media system is far beyond the intervention framework in the West.
In fact, despite Deng Xiaoping’s reform, the Chinese media system of the post-Mao period has still applied the “different versions of Marxism and socialism” to “build socialism with Chinese characteristics” by “providing moral guidance to the population and engineering economic development and social change“. One of the most important reasons that may clarify this “guidance”, namely, strong and resilient media control, is the media ownership in China. It is undeniable that the post-Mao economic reforms have expanded the private capital to some areas that had been commanded by the Chinese government or state-owned enterprises for decades. However, Zhao argues that “in the media sector, although the Chinese state has not only drastically curtailed its role in subsidizing media operations but has also targeted the media and cultural sector as new sites of profit-making and capitalistic development, the state continues to restrict private capital, let alone the privatizing of existing media outlets”.
In fact, the Chinese state has opened the door to private and even foreign capital participation in “the media’s entertainment function” such as the film industry with the intention of profit-making. However, this profit-making entertainment also needs to be filtered by the ideological orientation of the state. More importantly, “the production and distribution of news and informational content” and the “ownership of news media outlets” have remained “monopolized by the state“. Furthermore, this monopoly also results in the fact that the state has appointed major media agencies’ leadership.
Despite the state’s overwhelming control, the Chinese media market has boomed for years since the economic reform of Deng Xiaoping, attributable to the power of marketization. For instance, in 2004, there were 6,580 daily newspapers published worldwide, and the number of daily newspapers published in China ranked first in the world, accounting for 14.5% of the global daily newspapers. However, the commercialization of the Chinese media industry has not surmounted the ideological control of the state. The media market has constituted “two distinct and yet institutionally intertwined press sectors or subsystems“. The first press sector is market-based as the film above industry, while the second is “the party organ sector“, which combines the duality of the political instrument and profit-making. This is because “most state media outlets no longer receive large government subsidies and have largely to depend on commercial advertising“. Nevertheless, rather than causing tensions, the dual roles the party organ sector plays have adopted and contained the marketization within the current political control by the statist implementation of “licensing system and the sponsor unit system“. Consequently, these two systems have guaranteed the predominance of the state over the commercialization and marketization.
As for the political parallelism, the state-dominated Chinese media system has top-level political instrumentalization, indicating “all the features of a quintessential party-press parallelism“. Almost all the media content should and, in practice, have revolved around the official ideology and slogan of the state. This is pertinent to another aspect of four dimensions, based on the theory and standard of Hallin and Mancini: the utterly low professionalization in Chinese journalism, where journalists have to successfully balance the “market forces and the party-press system” to obtain financial benefits and political security. Furthermore, Pan and Lu argue that Chinese journalists “do not fit their practices into the universal model of professionalism”, but “utilize and appropriate diverse and often conflicting ideas of journalism through their improvised and situated practices”, leading to the “truncated and fragmented in Chinese journalism”. Also, unlike the Western conception of relative objectivity in journalism, Hackett and Zhao create a term “regime of objectivity” to describe how Chinese journalists portray information on the precondition of conforming to the state ideology.
Therefore, due to its restricted commercialization and dominated state, Chan summarizes the Chinese media industry’s development as commercialization without independence. Drawing on the above, the Chinese media system can be described as a state-dominated model.
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