Confronting bullies on the world stage: How to deal with Russia and China

A bully is someone who exploits weakness; identifies the meek and mild; and does not pick on strength.  A bully will cull the meek or mild from the herd, isolate them, and force their own will for self-centered reasons.  If confronted from a position of strength; or confidence; or firmness; or a staunch, formidable defense, a bully will back down.

Over the last few years, it is safe to say, President Vladimir Putin, has been such a bully in Crimea, Ukraine and now Syria.

The events of this past week, clearly demonstrate Russia is playing by its own rules in Syria.  That SU-24 was not striking ISIS targets.  It was tasked to support Mr. Putin’s personal agenda of continued support to the Assad regime.

Flying into Turkish airspace cost them an aircraft, an unfortunate life and has taken an already powered-keg region to a higher level.

Mr. Putin takes full advantage of weaknesses, pushes his own personal agenda with perceived Russian strength, and all with an in depth knowledge of their Russian built and purchased defense system.

One such example is Russian use of Electronic Warfare (EW).  The October 22, 2015 Foreign Policy (FP) Situation Report states the head of the U.S. army Europe expressed “eye-watering” concerns over Russia’s use of the electronic spectrum in Ukraine. Mr. Putin, being the bully that he is, has been jamming everything possible from cellphones, to radio transmission, to drones.

The same is happening in Syria.

Both have the U.S. pentagon scrambling not only to determine how he is doing it, but also how it could affect U.S. and NATO systems.

Significant questions certainly arise. What counter measures or counter EW does the US and NATO have? How effective are they? This should keep many a western political and military leader awake at night.

That same FP report went on to state Russia is not the only one with such EW capabilities.

The Chinese have developed units up to the brigade size level, which specialize in EW and counter EW.  Their dedicated units, with specific chains of command, are simply exceeding western technological capabilities.

Both of these nations, and their bully-type leaders, are also lurking and thriving across the full spectrum of cyber warfare.  Both demonstrate on a daily basis, they will not hesitate to conduct offensive cyber operations to threaten governments, financial institutions and critical infrastructure.

Just look back to 2007 to see what Russia did to Estonia.  They nearly brought many Estonian institutions to their knees with a not very sophisticated cyber-attack.  Imagine what they could do right now!

Growing concern continues to mount about how the US going it alone, or with a few coalition partners, or as the NATO Alliance would counter or defeat a near peer competitor, especially when faced with modern “double digit” surface to air missile systems (SAMs).

One such way to mitigate and defeat these capabilities is with focused and fused intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) coupled with the employment of the most modern 5th generation aircraft.

NATO’s purchase of the Global Hawk Air to Ground Surveillance (AGS) system, and partnering, by some Alliance nations, on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ensures NATO burden sharing and smart defense.  These capabilities will be crucial in any potential conflict with an adversary possessing near peer competitor weapon systems.  These potential adversaries are not only on the eastern side of Europe, but in the Middle East, and as mentioned above, in East Asia.

Another area of concern is the threat of ballistic missiles.  The ability to range European allies and partners, and even the United States, presents a clear and present danger.  However, worries should be assuaged knowing the pillar of ballistic missile defense (BMD) within the Alliance and other nations, squarely rests on a proven, reliable, interoperable weapon system…the Patriot Missile System.

Poland’s recent decision to acquire the Patriot Missile System sends an important message to Russia and others.  We are not going to be bullied and will defend Polish and NATO territory from a position of confidence and strength.

Our allies in Europe, and especially Poland, do not have time to wait for another system which is years away from production.

The bully is lurking.  The situation is urgent.  Patriot is the answer.

Bullies don’t just prowl in playgrounds. They lead certain bellicose nations, and non-state actors, in this uncertain world which have electronic warfare, cyber, near peer competitor and ballistic missile capabilities able to threaten the United States, Europe and allies, partners and friends in East Asia.

We cannot let them push us around.  The right thing must be done.

The right thing to do is to maintain our competitive and technological edge. It is a known fact; the bullies of the world are closing that gap. However, in the area of ballistic missile defense, we’ve maintained our qualitative advantage with the Patriot Missile System.

Today, the Patriot system ensures the territorial security for the NATO Alliance, along with other allies, partners and friends, and in the near future, it will do the same for Poland.

Positions of confidence, strength, and collective security with battlefield proven EW, air, sea, land, space and cyberspace weapon systems must take place right now – today!

If not, how will we confront the bullies?

Lt. General Ralph J. Jodice is a retired 3-star Air Force command pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours. A decorated flag officer, he was the NATO Combined Forces Air Component Commander during Operation Unified Protector, resulting in Libyan liberation from the Muammar Gaddafi regime. Jodice has received numerous awards and decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal and Defense Superior Service Medal.