I believe we are now about to enter a new kind of cold war - a lukewarm war. In this type of war, the powers will fight each other in any way that does not involve a declaration of war. The three main ways in which the superpowers will fight will be cyber, psychological warfare and robots
I was invited to be interviewed on the radio this morning about the future of war following (and during) the invasion of Ukraine. After the interview, I thought that the conversation could also be of interest to the readers of the blog and Facebook, so I put the main ideas in writing.
Let's start, of course, with the question that everyone wants an answer to: Will an all-out war (World War III) break out following the current crisis?
As I try to emphasize in every forward-looking article, it is impossible to predict the future with certainty.
But it is certainly possible to provide some guesses about him.
My guess is that a world war as we know it, in which all possible means are used for the victory of the enemy, is not going to take place following the invasion of Ukraine or at all.
The reason for this statement is that there are European countries - Great Britain and France - with their own nuclear weapons. Others, such as Germany, Belgium and Italy, have nuclear weapons on their territory and can load them onto their own bombers. And of course, Russia itself also has a fair number of nuclear missiles.
Many of our contemporaries are not particularly interested in the nuclear weapons in the possession of the states. Most of us were born into a world where the Cold War had already ended, or we had already become numb to the dangers of using nuclear weapons. This particular sword of Damocles has been hanging over our heads for so long that we stopped thinking about it. For limited evidence, I did an analysis of the patterns of online conversation about nuclear weapons. I used SparkBeyond's AI engine for this, and we've seen a significant decline in this particular discourse over the last decade.
There is no need to explain that this is a big mistake on the part of the public. We forget how shocking the nuclear weapons are and how great their potential is for the war of Gog and Magog: for the widespread destruction of cities and the creation of areas unfit for living and growing food. They can harm innocent populations over time, due to the nuclear fallout that floats in the wind and drifts in the water. We forget the global panic that arose when the power of the nuclear bomb was first demonstrated. A panic so great that there were pacifists who loudly stated that in order to avoid the total destruction of humanity, the USA should immediately take over the entire world. In this way, only it will have nuclear weapons, and the war of mutual annihilation that will surely occur once many countries have nuclear weapons can be avoided.
Since then we have calmed down a bit, which is a big mistake. But those who study military history know that period very well. The generals still remember, and the advisers to Modi-History remember, and accordingly - the prime ministers and presidents will not be complacent when it comes to wars that could easily degenerate into the launch of nuclear weapons. They will do anything to avoid this risk.
At least that's what I believe and hope. If the national leaders themselves forget how dangerous these weapons are and are ready to start a third world war, then only God can help us, and I'm an atheist after all. But I believe that Putin is not playing checkers but chess, and he is clear-headed enough to avoid entering into an all-out war. My guess is that he will invade Ukraine and stop there. Western countries will not let it continue to spread to Poland and other countries in Eastern Europe. If he tries to do this, they will stop him point by point without reaching an all-out war. There is no point in a war in which there can be no winners, and in which the loser can at the push of a button destroy the other side.
What will happen is a different kind of war, which I call a "lukewarm war".
Let's remember for a moment the Cold War. It was a war that was conducted quietly between the powers, with spies trying to get information about each other and very targeted countermeasures. The powers also fought each other indirectly through attempts to sway neutral countries in their favor. The fighting was always under the radar, and no country dared to declare war on another country with nuclear weapons.
I believe we are now about to enter a new kind of cold war, but hotter than it was before. We will call it a lukewarm war. In this type of war, the powers will fight each other in any way that does not involve a declaration of war.
The three main ways in which the superpowers will fight will be cyber, psychological warfare and robots.
The cyber war started a long time ago. The Russians fund groups of talented hackers, who break into systems and steal information from all over the world. They spread, for example, the harmful NotPetya that was supposed to paralyze Ukraine - but also affected many Western companies. They managed to paralyze power plants in Ukraine with cyber attacks a few years ago, and also managed to penetrate critical infrastructure in the United States. The Chinese enjoy similar success, and even North Korea has an entire army of cyber people who rake in billions of dollars for the government from cyber hacks and cool digital currencies like Bitcoin. It certainly goes without saying that Israel also has impressive cyber capabilities, according to foreign sources.
Through cyber war, countries can harm each other without being able to trace the source of the attack with certainty, so there will be no reason to declare war in the physical world either.
To tell the truth, this type of war scares me almost as much as the use of nuclear weapons, because it suggests that the era of Fax Americana - the peace that the United States has imposed on the world since 1945 - is coming to an end. These attacks are reminiscent in nature of state-sponsored pirate attacks on international trade routes - a custom that was accepted for thousands of years, and ultimately harmed everyone. I hope that such a quiet cyber war does not mark a return to this pattern of action, which will harm international cooperation and the passage of goods from country to country, and accordingly - also the ability of the world to advance technologically.
The second type of lukewarm warfare is psychological warfare. Here the Russians are real artists: we have already seen in the US that they are able to reconcile different sides with each other, with a minimal investment of resources. But we will not be naive: the United States is also capable of doing exactly the same thing, and if we go to such a lukewarm war, then the whole world will be filled with fake news and group extremism. We will have to find ways to deal with the rise of fake news and the relentless attempts of funded trolls to radicalize any opinion.
The third type of lukewarm warfare, and one that did not exist before, is the use of autonomous robots. Realist science fiction writer Daniel Suarez wrote a book called Kill Decision in which he describes the use of autonomous drones as a weapon of war that cannot be assigned to a particular side with certainty. They are devoid of identifying marks, and are able to operate in packs to destroy targets. It is, in fact, a military force for all intents and purposes, but one whose operators and creators can deny their involvement in it. Or even, in extreme cases, can claim that the autonomous weapon is out of control.
I'm guessing that in the lukewarm war we will see an abundance of autonomous robots of all kinds, especially in the arenas that are further away from settlements. Thus, for example, we will find drones in the sky that will destroy particularly threatening targets, such as uranium refining plants. Or submarines and autonomous boats in the oceans that could attack merchant ships, simply to shock the state of the world where a certain power feels disadvantaged.
First of all, a real world war will end, in my opinion, only if in some way we manage to disable the nuclear weapons. One possible way - although very unlikely - is that some power will succeed in developing sophisticated cyber weapons that can prevent the launch of nuclear missiles despite all the defenses that exist precisely against such actions. It is also possible that a power that is endowed with sophisticated intelligence capabilities and believes that it has identified all the facilities and nuclear weapons of another country, will be able to destroy them in one quick blow and go to war. The chances of the realization of these two possibilities are slim, in a world where the superpowers develop their technologies at a similar speed.
And yet, if a third world war really breaks out without the possibility of using nuclear weapons, then I guess that such a war will be similar in principle to the ones that have existed until now: air forces that neutralize enemies and ground forces that occupy territories.
It's the small differences that are really interesting. Cyber forces, for example, will be able to paralyze economies and factories deep in enemy territory. In this respect, they are similar to the Air Force. The air forces themselves will make massive use of swarms of drones, which will be able to neutralize and destroy targets on the battlefield and in the rear by attacking them from all directions. And the ground forces will be assisted by autonomous robots for carrying equipment and even for actual warfare in the field.
Generals will develop strategies and tactics by working closely with artificial intelligence, with the understanding that these can beat any person - therefore they should be integrated into the decision-making processes. Together with the artificial intelligence they will have to determine what the price of human life is. This will not be an easy task.
Last but not least, and the scariest of all: we will see biological warfare, of the kind that we are already beginning to understand how far-reaching its implications can be. It is enough to think what would happen if the rapidly spreading leumicron had the virulence of SARS-CoV-1, to understand how genetic engineering can completely change the face of war.
But I say again: if we get to a real war between superpowers, it will be a big surprise for me. There will be tension, Ukraine will probably be occupied, but as soon as everyone realizes that Putin is interested in more than that - they will put up a stable front in front of him that he will not be able to pass without entering into an all-out war. And I'm willing to bet it won't happen.
My friend Gilad Greenbaum contributed two points for thought, which inject some optimism into thinking about the post-Ukraine future.
First, Putin may achieve in this war exactly what he wanted to avoid: a stronger NATO, with a truly united European Union against the Russian threat.
A month ago, this idea would have seemed like a dream, following the corona virus that made all the conflicts in the Union worse. It didn't seem like things were getting any better, and the highlight in regards to Ukraine came when the Germans sent her helmets as military 'aid'. No planes, no hot weapons, not even spears. Only helmets.
But then a strange thing happened: as soon as Putin invaded Ukraine, the Germans were among the first to announce severe sanctions, which would make it very difficult for Russia to sell gas to Europe. The other European countries, at least for the time being, do not oppose these sanctions and express themselves strongly against Putin. Paradoxically, Putin may have contributed with his own hands to the strengthening of the European Union.
Another positive thought is that the sanctions on Russia may force European and other countries to strive for energy independence. They will no longer be able to rely on the oil coming from Russia, so they will switch to relying on renewable and cleaner energies. These include solar energy and wind energy, as well as the use of advanced generation nuclear reactors with safe technology. No country would want to be dependent on another country - especially when it knows that it could go to war with its energy supplier in the coming years.
The European Union and the United Kingdom alone include just over 500 million citizens. If everyone switches to renewable energies, we can slow down the next climate change for the worse.
good luck to us!
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