Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

In Recent Battles, the U.S. Has Forgotten How To Tell Its Side of the Story. It Must Remember.

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Maurice Greene from the USA carries his nation's flag following his team's victory in the men's 4X100m relay final at the Sydney Olympics September 30, 2000. (Ian Waldie/Courtesy Reuters) Maurice Greene from the USA carries his nation's flag following his team's victory in the men's 4X100m relay final at the Sydney Olympics September 30, 2000. (Ian Waldie/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert A. Newson

This commentary comes courtesy of Captain Robert A. Newson, CFR’s U.S. Navy fellow and a SEAL officer. He argues that, by failing to provide a credible counter-narrative in recent contingencies involving ISIS and Russia, the United States has effectively ceded the information domain without a fight. Captain Newson argues that an effective information operations strategy will hinge on both long-term commitment and a willingness to expose audiences to the full complexity of political issues rather than resorting to misinformation and simplification.

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Weekend Reader: Hybrid War, the Al-Qaeda Counter-Caliphate, and Failing Military Hospitals

by Janine Davidson Friday, September 5, 2014
Pro-Russian separatists patrol an area near an orthodox church in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk September 5, 2014. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters) Pro-Russian separatists patrol an area near an orthodox church in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk September 5, 2014. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

NATO allies must prepare for “hybrid war.” This is the word from General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, as Russia’s encroachment and stealth invasion of Ukraine continues. Interestingly, as Steven Pifer notes in the National Interest, persistent Russian denials of entry into Ukraine may be domestically focused, intended to counter discontent over Russian military casualties. Regardless, as I first argued during the annexation of Crimea in March, “hybrid war” is here to stay.

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Long Weekend Reader: As U.S. Celebrates Labor Day, Crises Simmer

by Janine Davidson Friday, August 29, 2014
Pro-Russian separatists walk past an unmarked grave at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk, August 28, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that Russian forces had entered his country and the military conflict was worsening after Russian-backed separatists swept into a key town in the east. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters) Pro-Russian separatists walk past an unmarked grave at Savur-Mohyla, a hill east of the city of Donetsk, August 28, 2014. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that Russian forces had entered his country and the military conflict was worsening after Russian-backed separatists swept into a key town in the east. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

Invasion. As NATO confirms the presence of at least 1,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and releases these amazing satellite images showing actual Russian combat forces, including a convoy of self-propelled artillery, moving into Ukrainian territory and engaging in military operations. The Russian role in the conflict is no longer in doubt. According to the Russian presidential human rights council, 100 Russian soldiers have been killed in a single battle. Ivo Daalder, writing in the Financial Times, calls for a decisive response. The Washington Post observes that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “hybrid war” is here to stay. CFR’s Stewart Patrick calls it “the definitive end of the ‘post-Cold War’ world.” And Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, delivers a scathing speech on the UN floor accusing Vladimir Putin of  flat out lying about its “deliberate effort to support, and now fight alongside, illegal separatists in another sovereign country.  The speech is worth reading in full.  Here is an excerpt:

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In Russian Aid Convoy Standoff, There Are Three Scenarios. Only One Is Good

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, August 13, 2014
russia-convoy-putin A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, behind a police escort, stops along a road near the city of Yelets, August 12, 2014. The convoy carrying tonnes of humanitarian aid left on Tuesday for eastern Ukraine, where government forces are closing in on pro-Russian rebels, but Kiev said it would not allow the vehicles to cross onto its territory. (Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)

As of Wednesday morning, 280 Russian trucks are en route to the Ukrainian border supposedly to supply aid as part of a humanitarian mission run by the Red Cross.  Amidst accusations that the trucks are part of a Russian “Trojan Horse,” Ukraine is refusing to allow the trucks entry until they have been thoroughly inspected and verified by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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With Russian “Peacekeepers” Poised at Border, Putin Is Still Escalating

by Janine Davidson Tuesday, August 5, 2014
ukraine-russia-war A member of Ukrainian self-defence battalion "Donbass" guards the area as his colleagues deliver medicines and medical equipment captured from pro-Russian separatists to the staff (back) of a local hospital in the eastern Ukrainian town of Popasna August 4, 2014. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Courtesy Reuters)

According to The New York Times, this weekend has seen an immense build-up of Russian forces poised along the Ukrainian border. This comes at the same time that the Ukrainian military has launched its long-awaited assault on Donetsk, urging civilians to evacuate from the rebel-held “people’s republics.” The Ukrainian separatists are encircled and increasingly desperate; the pressure for Russia to act is mounting. As I wrote last week, the stage is being set for a Russian invasion under the guise of a “peacekeeping” operation. Vehicles arrayed just over the border reportedly bear the insignia of Russian peacekeeping forces.

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Amid Growing Evidence of Russian Involvement in MH17 Tragedy, No Sign of De-Escalation

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, July 23, 2014
mh17-ukraine-intelligence College students gather around candles forming the shape of an airplane, during a candlelight vigil for victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a university in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province July 19, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

As the Russian media continues to spin its own increasingly far-fetched narrative about the tragic shoot down of MH17, the U.S. military has released new intelligence that solidly links Russian military assistance to the disaster. The intelligence reaffirms the White House’s statements that Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, likely with Russian help, are responsible for firing the Buk missile that downed a passenger jet flying over Ukrainian airspace.  Officials have also stated that the Ukrainian military had no surface-to air-assets within striking range of MH17.

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As Facts About MH17 Emerge, U.S. Turns Up the Heat on Putin

by Janine Davidson Monday, July 21, 2014
mh17-putin-obama An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The burden is now on Russia.” This was the conclusion of today’s statement by President Obama, as mounting evidence suggests that the MH17 tragedy and deaths of 298 passengers can be directly attributed to Russian-armed and trained rebels operating in eastern Ukraine. This terrible incident has served as a wake-up call for those who have so far been content  to look the other way as Russia plays an increasingly heavy hand in the violent conflict.

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In Shootdown of Malaysian Airlines MH17, Two Likely Scenarios

by Janine Davidson Thursday, July 17, 2014
mh17-russia-ukraine-military The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. The Malaysian airliner Flight MH-17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 295 people aboard and sharply raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels in which Russia and the West back opposing sides. (Maxim Zmeyev/Courtesy Reuters)

The downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and death of all 295 passengers on board is a heartbreaking tragedy. It ranks as the fourth deadliest single-plane disaster in aviation history, and the deadliest from a manmade cause. While the facts of the crash will take many days to determine, the political ramifications will come almost immediately. As Russia, pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, and the Ukrainian government each cast blame from one to the other, it is important to understand how this terrible event might have happened.

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What Does NATO’s Core Mission Look Like in the Twenty-First Century?

by Guest Blogger for Janine Davidson Monday, June 2, 2014
nato collective defense Soviet Army soldiers sit on their tanks in front of the Czechoslovak Radio station building in central Prague during the first day of Soviet-led invasion to then Czechoslovakia. Picture taken August 21, 1968. (Libor Hajsky/Courtesy Reuters)

By Mark Jacobson

This commentary comes courtesy of Mark Jacobson, who served previously in Kabul, Afghanistan as Deputy NATO Senior Civilian Representative. Jacobson observes that the political crisis in Ukraine has caused many members of NATO to agitate for a shift back to NATO’s “core mission”—collective defense against Russian incursion—and to swear off contingency operations like the one seen in Afghanistan. Jacobson also observes, however, that the modern security environment is much different from the one in which NATO was first created. It would not be wise to dismiss Afghanistan as an aberration. 

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Weekend Reader: Shinseki Leaves the VA; Ukraine Heats Up

by Janine Davidson Friday, May 30, 2014
shinseki United States Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki arrives to address The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in Washington May 30, 2014. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary Eric Shinseki formally submits his resignation as head of Veterans Affairs. Foreign Policy has the story. Even as the chorus of voices calling for his resignation grew, the tone remained often respectful: Shinseki was always “a good man.” As the Huffington Post’s David Wood recounts, Shinseki, who took the reins of the VA following a 38-year Army career—where he rose to become Army Chief of Staff—may simply have trusted too much given his organization’s complexity and inherent flaws.  Time will tell who can replace him.

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