General Winter is fighting for Ukraine
Narrative insights into her resilience and will to fight
Good afternoon, TAT readers,
Today is an edited and updated article from almost one year ago and even more relevant than it was then. Yes, it is short as well. I can almost hear the sighs of relief after my book long posts this week. As noted with my last article this past week, about the criticality of doubling down on our support for Ukraine, this fight is not only for freedom for our courageous fighters in Ukraine, but to US, NATO and global security. Let’s as they say, “get ‘er done.”
War, competition, conflict etc. is not solely about weapons, logistics and so many other quantifiable qualities. What the military calls, “will to fight” is actually the generator that provides the power to all else. A large part of will to fight is also defined as resilience, especially when on defense. All of this is bound up in the specialty of our think/ do tank, Narrative Strategies. It’s how, with proper understanding of narrative principles, understanding yours and your enemy’s identity determines actions, inactions, resilience, will to fight and much more. We call this, Narrative Warfare. Think of it this way; you can predictably determine how a person will act, react or otherwise (often subconsciously) if you know them exceptionally well, like a spouse, sibling, close family and friends.
Russia and the Soviets afterward, believe in a narrative about General Winter or General Frost being the most effective officer in defeating Napoleon and then again Hitler. Like all narratives, this one is about meaning, not necessarily truth. That it is believed even until today by both Russia and Ukraine, indicates that it is built into their respective identities. Since narrative in this respect is about who we are, it also underpins will to fight and/ or resilience.
As discussed in a recent article I co-authored for Homeland Security Today Magazine, Dr. Ajit Maan, the cutting-edge expert on the role of narrative and narrative identity in conflict, we discussed this topic in-depth. It’s something that our US national security community, still stuck on 1990s doctrine with fancy new language doesn’t understand but must learn if we are to remain a global security leader.
This is all fairly murky to absorb but critical to understand, if we are to address any item mentioned in our recent NSS, national security strategy.
Now, back to General Frost and Winter. Ukraine, progenitor of the Kievan Rus, later, Imperial Russia shares several layers of their narrative identity with Russia. Identity in all of us predetermines how we will behave under certain circumstances, mostly subconsciously. This is a powerful tool of influence, if you know the identities of the adversary well or know how to sort through narrative identity analysis. Sadly, most western powers, the US and NATO included, do not understand Narrative Warfare, nor are they interested in learning.
Finally, I’m getting to the point, even though it wasn’t possible without some background. Russia actually owes a large part of their identity to Ukraine due to coming together as an early form of Russia, when the unified parts of the empire had Kyiv as their center. Both Russian and Ukrainian militaries share the narrative about General Winter and/ or Frost which means that both have the opportunity to be influenced by it, positively or negatively.
Napoleon and Hitler both fell victim to Russian winter or at least as the narrative asserts. The defeat of powerful western powers attempting to conquer Russia have a deeply embedded safe area in Russian, Soviet and Ukraine identity. Hence, the criticality of this narrative to today’s war.
What Russia is missing when they claim that General Winter fights on the side of Russia, is a key component of the actual narrative that says, “when the Russian or Ukrainian winter comes, the advantage goes to Russia. This is but a fraction of the narrative. What Putin and his thugs don’t get, is that when General Winter showed up to save both Russia and Ukraine, it was because they were under attack and occupation by western aggressors and oppressors.
In Ukraine, it’s Putin who is the cruel aggressor. In my professional opinion, this indicates that like last winter, the winter of 2023/ 2024 will see General Winter coming to Ukraine’s aid. The US and NATO must capitalize on this subtle but powerful narrative by kicking the obstructionists in the US House of Representatives, until they provide whatever Ukraine requires to win.
This interpretation, if employed to build resilience and the will to fight, overwhelmingly favors Ukraine, not a soulless, genocidal thug like Putin. In case you haven’t noticed, the will to fight and national resilience is powerful in freedom loving Ukrainians, fighting to remain the independent nation that they’ve always held in their hearts. Just because both Imperial Russia and the Soviets attempted to erase Ukraine’s unique identity via oppressive means, the resistance they are getting in their illegal invasion clearly shows that they failed to extinguish the freedom aspect of Ukrainian identity.
These types of insights are the core of strategy if, leadership understands how to develop such. At the moment, Ukraine gets it, and we are still taking notes but not really learning. Ukraine could hardly be a better case-study for those within the US national security community, if they had any real interest.
In the meantime, and until the last Russian invader/ occupier leaves Ukraine, I’ll stick with my personal mantra of support for these incredibly courageous freedom fighters… Slava Ukraini, Glory to Ukraine and Heroiam Slava, Glory to the heroes.
Happy Friday and weekend to all,