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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Tensions Broil in Ukraine; Cyber Wargames; The First Armed Drone Operator Breaks Silence

by Janine Davidson Friday, November 21, 2014
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walk into a hall before a news conference in Kiev, November 21, 2014. U.S. Vice President Biden on Friday condemned Russian behavior in Ukraine as "unacceptable" and urged it to abide by a September peace deal by adhering to a ceasefire and removing military forces from the country. (Courtesy Reuters)

Your Weekend Reader, parsing the best stories of the week:

Ukraine: “a slow collapse?” That’s the opinion of the New York Times editorial board. Meanwhile, the United States steps up delivery of non-lethal aid to Ukraine, including its first Humvees. The ceasefire continues to fray: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns that Ukraine’s planned economic blockade of the eastern separatists “paves the way for a new invasion.” Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, concludes that eastern Ukraine’s Donbas has effectively become a Russian protectorate. The crisis isn’t over.

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Weekend Reader: Poroshenko Speaks from the Floor of Congress; Australia Foils an ISIS Terror Attack

by Janine Davidson Friday, September 19, 2014
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko (C) gestures while addressing a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 18, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) listen from behind Poroshenko. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko (C) gestures while addressing a joint meeting of Congress in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 18, 2014. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) listen from behind Poroshenko. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks to the American public in a rare joint session of Congress. “Don’t let Ukraine stand alone,” he said in the September 18 address, pleading for direct military supplies. In a U.S. aid package announced the same day, such armaments were noticeably absent. Meanwhile, new Russian mobilizations on the Ukraine-Crimean border suggest that they are prepared to open a new front. And in Russia, BBC journalists have been injured in a coordinated attack by unidentified individuals following their investigation of the death of a Russian soldier, killed “in military exercises on the Ukrainian border.”

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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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Weekend Reader: Strategic Fishing Vessels, Russian “Invasion” of Ukraine and ISIS Articles Worth a Read

by Janine Davidson Friday, August 22, 2014
A Vietnamese sinking boat (L) which was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, is seen near a Marine Guard ship (R) at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014.  (Courtesy Reuters) A Vietnamese sinking boat (L) which was rammed and then sunk by Chinese vessels near disputed Paracels Islands, is seen near a Marine Guard ship (R) at Ly Son island of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province May 29, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters)

Fishing vessels have become pawns in the South China Sea. China is using fishing vessels strategically—by creating blockades and moving into contested waters—without the risk of culpability that accompanies military movement.  This tactic isn’t new—dating back to the 1990s—but it is ratcheting up tension in the South China Sea, where other states have very few options available and the fishermen themselves will potentially pay the price.

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Weekend Reader: The Islamic State, the Russian Aid Convoy, Militarizing Police, and the Life of Robin Williams

by Janine Davidson Friday, August 15, 2014
Comedian Robin Williams signs autographs for servicemembers at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 17, 2007, during the second stop of the 2007 USO holiday tour. (Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Defense.gov) Comedian Robin Williams signs autographs for servicemembers at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 17, 2007, during the second stop of the 2007 USO holiday tour. (Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Defense.gov)

Who is the Islamic State? (or is it ISIS, ISIL, or something else?) Caerus Associates breaks down the origins and evolution of the Islamic State’s name in this handy reader, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Iraq and Syria.” For more reading on the strategic dilemma facing limited U.S. intervention in Iraq, check out my own piece on the Islamic State’s leveraging of the international community’s self-imposed boundaries.

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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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Putin Appears to Be Angling for Invasion, Not De-Escalation

by Janine Davidson Wednesday, July 30, 2014
putin-invasion-ukraine Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front C), accompanied by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (front L), walks to watch military exercises upon his arrival at the Kirillovsky firing ground in the Leningrad region, March 3, 2014. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Courtesy Reuters)

Europe’s announcement of sectorial sanctions against Russia is welcome news. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued aggression in Ukraine should not go unanswered by the international community.  Over time, this latest round, which affects  military, financial, and oil sectors will surely bite.  Whether they will change Putin’s calculus in the short term, however, is far less certain.  In fact, Putin’s moves to date signal his intentions loud and clear. Far from seeking options for a face-saving de-escalation, Putin is posturing for more military intervention.

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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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