Ever since the USS Donald Cook incident, there's been growing concern - finally being voiced by American and Western military leaders - that Russia's capabilities in electronic warfare, and in particular the ability to jam western communications and radar - is far more sophisticated than once thought, and now the concerns are over new "invisibility" technologies Russia is allegedly developing:
What interests me here is something far beyond the invisibility assertion. What interests me rather are the assessments of Russian capabilities, first revealed in the USS Donald Cook incident. You'll recall that an old Russian Sukhoi-24 fighter bomber approached the US naval frigate in the Black Sea, when suddenly the ship's electronics and computer systems went down. The Russian jet then made no less than twelve passes over the American ship on mock attack runs. At the time, US authorities denied the two events were linked, even as the Donald Cook made for the nearest Rumanian port of Constanza for "rest and repairs", also, we were assured, having nothing to do with the incident. In short, we were being told that the old Russian fighter has nothing whatsoever to do with the equipment and electronics failure on the frigate.
Nothing to see here, nothing to be concerned about, move along.
But now, if one reads the article closely, it appears that some military leaders are challenging that narrative:
Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the commander of the US army in Europe, has described Russian advances in electronic warfare in Syria and Ukraine – a field in which they were typically supposed to be backward – as “eye watering”.
[…] Moscow is now deploying anti-aircraft systems in Crimea… It is doing so, he says, in a way that makes it “very, very difficult” for Nato planes to gain access safely to areas including parts of Poland.
Mr Putin has relished pointing out the significance of the West seeing “for the first time that these weapons do exist, that they are of high quality, and that we have well-trained people who can put them to effective use. They have now seen, too, that Russia is ready to use them…”
The article itself goes on to put this in perspective:
These unbelievably powerful applications in electromagnetic (EMF) warfare are game changers, and Russia has made significant strides in dominating the war zones of the future, for better or worse.
Russia has been shutting down and disabling U.S. ships and equipment around the world.
So where's the high octane speculation here?
Well, note that Russia has been revealing and using these technologies operationally and tactically, not strategically. But their mere existence and the Russians' willingness to reveal their existence by demonstrable use, against American targets, has got to have the midnight oil burning in the Pentagram and American intelligence agencies. And what probably has them concerned is, given the fact that the Russians were supposed to be "behind" in such capabilities, when in fact, they're demonstrably not, raises the stakes and implications considerably, for this might mean it has an unrevealed strategic capability of a similar nature. and such an unrevealed strategic capability would mean that those neocon hopes and deliberations for "first strike" use of nuclear weapons might not turn out so well. To put it as plainly as possible, one might launch a flight of ICBMs toward Russian targets, only to see them fly wildly off target in crazy directions, like a bunch of very expensive bottle rockets ignited in a fireworks stand and flying all over the place. Indulging in this high octane speculation a bit more, it might even mean (for those in the "analysis community" whose job it is to think in wildly out-of-the-box in Dr. Strangelove fashion) that the Russians might even have a remote electromagnetic means of the premature detonation of nuclear weapons, shortly after launch, or perhaps even on the launch pad.
Whether or not these extreme scenarios are true or not is, in one sense, rather moot, but rest assured, whether technically feasible or not, analysts are thinking them nonetheless, for after all, the Russians weren't supposed to be able to do even what they have done.
The real point, however, is that Russia has been busily sending messages in the last couple of years, not only with Syria, not only with the Ukraine, but by demonstrating these capabilities. And if one is inclined to the view that the recent hacking spree in the USA is of Russian inspiration as well, then that message is all too clear: think twice, before continuing down the road of your current policy.
And notably, it's a message that is intensifying as the USA draws nearer to its elections.
See you on the flip side...