How to win the Second Cold War
The Second Cold War will not be won by nuclear weapons or ground armies. The catastrophic Russian invasion of Ukraine has proven that. Russia can't even invade their own neighbour, because they have lost the capacity (if they ever had it) to mass produce modern warfare's complex weaponry. Also they have lost all focus on quality of regular infantry, essential for a Ground War, assuming that quantity will make up for lack of quality. In times past it might have done; but this strategy was not successful in World War I and now we have mass media it is increasingly difficult to avoid international and domestic reportage of mounting death tolls.
Moreover the first Cold War was not won by armour and infantry either. Nuclear warheads just go to show that you can't use them due to the high chance of annihilistoc mutually assured destruction as the use of the first nuclear warhead leads to exponential escalation. The Americans have vastly larger capacity to produce and replace armour and other weaponry, because she has the strongest economy in the world and it remains highly militarised: what Eisenhower called the 'militwry-industtial complex'.Nobody else can come anywhere near to matching this. Hence there will be no more proxy wars with the United States. Ukraine shows the world the outcome when the Americans put their mind to fighting a proxy war. They really fight it, their steamrolling bureaucratic machine systematically arming their proxies to the teeth (here the Ukrainians) so that they are enabled to fight back against Russia's massive but poorly trained, poorly equipped armed forces.
Russian missile technology may have secretly grown more capable than that of the United States since the years after the First Cold War; but the Americans will catch up and indeed already are doing. The American HIMARS, if more expensive, is now proving almost as effective as the Russian S-400's. The slight discrepancy remaining is more than compensated for by quantity.
So what will determine the outcome of the Second Cold War? The answer is the same as the first: the battle of ideas. Consider the following:
Whatever the outcome of the Hot War, Russian citizens are thoroughly demoralised by watching the pathetic loss of life involved for their young men in fighting a war the obscurantist ethno-theological rationale for which propounded by Russian President Vladimir Putin makes no sense to anyone, however articulately it has been expounded.
Russian young men are dying in droves, so much so that the Ukrainian government has set up a hotline explaining to them how to surrender.
The war in Ukraine is so unpopular that young Russian men subject to the draft are fleeing over any border they can find; the Russian Armed Forces are reduced to recruiting inmate's from prisons or foreign 'cannon fodder' mercenaries through the Wagner Group.
Unlike in the Soviet era, the Russians have no comprehensive ideology in whose name they can legitimately ask Russian citizens to fight and to die. For Russia, this is purely a trial of strength and the capacity to absorb death and infrastructure damage; hence why Russia has adopted a policy of destroying Ukrainian energy infrastructure with a view to compelling Ukrainians concede on pain of freezing to death during the 2022 / 2023 Ukrainian winter. To all right-thinking people, this is a disgraceful military policy.
By contrast Russia's real opponents - NATO - are deeply ideologically driven. They are driven by the imperative to uphold international law - something Russia barely understands - as well as by their original mandate, unimpeached, to prevent Russian aggression from allowing them to make territorial gains over Eastern Europe and thereby submit the peoples thereby occupied to totalitarianism (which is what we have in contemporary Russian government).
This war has gone catastrophically badly for Russia - not just because she lost Kherson, or for this or that tactical advance or retreat - but because she proved herself to be ideologically and morally rudderless. She did not anticipate a war fought in the international media, something Russia is hopeless at manipulating. (See e.g. Russia Today, www.rt.com, a widely derided attempt to mimic western media with a pro-Russian bias by the Russian government. The Russians just aren't any good at it, because totalitarian societies produce propaganda not free media debate and the difference is obvious to all right-thinking people.
Unlike Russia, the West fights for acawries of values and ideologies which it genuinely beloved in, and they are concrete They include the value of democracy as a system in itself and not just something to be manipulated (which is how the Russians see it); the principles of free speech; the self-determination of peoples; and a stable international political order. The West is not always perfect; but on balance it has promoted these values across the world since 1945 and there is strong common belief in those values. Western liberal democracy did not suffer a catastrophical ideological collapse as did Soviet Communism in 1989. People still believe in it.
There are two approaches to Russia. One is to manage her; the other is to convert her. On balance we think the latter is over-optimistic at this stage. Russia today is a more totalitarian society than she was in 1990; she has gone backwards. Hence her primitive thinking about international relations - stepwise aggression to absorb neighbouring territories - must and will be fought to a halt.
Once the admittedly bureaucratic American machine starts it's cogs whirring, it is undefeatable in a land war amidst friendly peoples (for this reason Ukraine is very different from Vietnam). America spends substantially more than the rest of the world put together on her armed forces. And hence, once her bureau racy has decided upon a specific course, as it now seems to have done, her armed conflict capacity is going to prevail. And all the people's within the NATO umbrella support the United States, because upon victory in this conflict they realise that their own security as modern liberal democratic nations rests.
Henx MATO is now a ideological alliance, not just a military one. And Russia has nothi.g with which to compete against that. Russian propaganda efforts are paltry in comparison.
Cold wars are long, particularly with Russia. But it is just a matter of grinding away with the propagation of ideas that justify the use of overwhelming might, particularly as China now LL ooks in upon herself with a new round of mass street demonstrations against government oppression: the thing the Chinese Communist Party fears most. China is about to implode, as she does from time to time, the structural stresses involved in totalitarian rule over so vast a population eventually causing the system to break apart.
The Second Cold War is the West's to win, fuelled by a common system of belief in how to run government for and on behalf of the people rather than in the interests of a corrupt elite. With these ideas, NATao will remain a military whole and it will face down whatever the next humanitarian horror Russia humiliates herself with. Because the only strategy left now to Russia, due to her ideological paucity, is the mass slaughter of individuals. In the modern age, where every battlefield action is beamed round the world via social media in a matter of minutes, you can no longer win wars like that. You need a common narrative to persuade your people to support you.
Slaughtering people is not an ideology in the sense of an idea that moves nations and continents to support their leaders. The West has a genuine ideology that hopes for and seeks a better world. Russia does not.