Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Kazuto Suzuki

【#911】Modern Warfare Depends on Electricity and Radio Waves

Kazuto Suzuki / 2022.04.20 (Wed)

April 18, 2022

Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has made it clear that electricity and radio waves are extremely important for modern warfare. When Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, it used so-called hybrid warfare approach under which the Russians took control of the electric grid to trigger outage and of radio waves to shut down telecommunications and then spread fake information. Russia also projected irregular forces to control the peninsula by force and unilaterally declared its annexation of the peninsula after a local referendum for which Ukraine’s constitution has no provision. Russia took advantage of the approach to create a gray zone situation that differs from a war using regular forces.

Ukraine dominating information warfare

This time, however, Ukraine has won an advantageous position against Russia in information warfare and public opinion warfare. Just after Russia spread disinformation that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fled away from Kyiv, he used his selfie to show that he stayed in the capital city. While inviting Western media to have them report Russian atrocities throughout the world, Zelensky has kept Ukrainian forces’ operations secret to expand the scope of their activities. Through almost daily online speeches to foreign legislatures, he has sent messages tailored to their respective countries, requesting reconstruction assistance from Japan, weapons from the United States, and Germany’s destruction of invisible “walls” to find what have been happening in Ukraine. These messages have received strong response from the respective countries, successfully leading international opinion to support Ukraine.

In contrast, Russia that cited the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s expansion to the east, Ukraine’s Nazification and other groundless reasons for the invasion and used force in a manner running counter to international law. Russia has made no effort to persuade the international community to justify its invasion, plunging into a completely disadvantageous position in public opinion warfare.

Another reason Ukraine has been dominating information and media warfare is that Russia has failed to destroy Ukrainian telecommunications and electricity infrastructure despite its armed invasion of Ukraine. As far as Ukraine has electricity and radio waves, Zelensky can continue to send messages throughout the world and allow foreigners to see terrible footage in Ukraine. Now that Ukraine has the backing of international public opinion, Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Space X that operates space communications infrastructure, has allowed Ukraine to send messages to the rest of the world through satellite communications even if ground-based telecommunications networks are lost.

Japan should learn public diplomacy capabilities and a sense of speed

What should Japan learn from the Ukraine case? First, Japan should have clear messages and send them in an internationally acceptable manner while avoiding unilateral pleadings or assertions. Second, Japan should have a sense of speed. Any country in information warfare is required to immediately respond to disinformation. Third, Japan should have strong leadership that consists of a leader who can demonstrate leadership in an emergency and the staff and system that support the leader. Finally, Japan should have a clear strategy. Japan should develop electricity and radio wave infrastructure required in an emergency and always consider what to do and what measures to use for national survival in preparation for an emergency.

Kazuto Suzuki is a professor at the University of Tokyo.