Cognitive warfare takes over in Ukraine conflict


As the war in Ukraine continues unabated, innocent civilians and armchair critics have been caught unawares in an intricate web of deceit, malicious propaganda and information warfare. Since the onset of the conventional stage of hybrid warfare on February 24 2022, Western media and so-called pundits have been pontificating that Russia is losing. Any war materiel lost by the Russians on the battlefield is used, albeit in an amplified manner, for propaganda purposes, to justify this assertion. But is this really what is happening?

Wars have evolved since the days of Napoleon. At the Battle of Borodino on September 8 1812, General Kutuzov of the Russian army battled Napoleon's forces in arguably one of the bloodiest single-day engagements of first generation warfare fighting. By the end of that day, 70 000 troops from both sides had lost their lives whilst the political objectives to take over Moscow by Napoleon remained a pipe dream.

On September 11 2001, Mohammed Atta of the Hamburg Cell led a team of muscle hijackers who took over civilian airplanes and plunged them into the iconic Twin Towers leading to the "Global War on Terror"

This single act by Al-Qaeda brought to the fore the rise of non-state actors as a phenomenon and had military watchers alert to asymmetric warfare. This kind of warfare is defined by having the state fighting everywhere against non-state actors and losing everywhere. America left Kabul in a huff, in the process replacing the Taliban of 2001 with the Taliban of 2020. Fourth Generation Warfare fighting thus proved to be the go-to option for non-state actors against powerful states via the exploitation of vulnerabilities in the power’s asymmetries.

Russian covert troops, disguised as the Little Green Men invaded Crimea in 2014 leading to the emergence of the current ongoing hybrid warfare against Ukraine being fought along the lines of the Gerasimov Principle and within the context of the Primakov Doctrine. The Primakov Doctrine encapsulates that the unipolarity of the US as a sole hegemony must be challenged and Russia must establish alliances with countries such as India and China to challenge that status quo and establish a more stable multipolar environment.

Amidst all this higi-haga, the realms of warfare in which these wars are being fought is constantly evolving. The current Russia-Ukraine conflict and numerous other conflicts across the world are now taking advantage of all six realms of warfare identified as Land, Water, Air, Space, Cyber and Cognitive. Cognitive warfare is interesting in that in this kind of warfare, the human being becomes the battlefield. The key aims of cognitive warfare, amongst others, are to change how people think and act. This is done in an effort to shape and influence behaviour for or against an aggressor.

The aims of cognitive warfare can be strategic or tactical but the objective remains the same; to subdue the enemy. Social media platforms and open source media are the most potent platforms used to wage this kind of warfare. Facebook, Twitter and other such platforms have been aggressively used by the West to paint the Russian war effort in Ukraine a cataclysmic disaster. Since day one, dosages of opinion pieces, amplified versions of anti-war sentiment and totally figmented fibs have been used to characterise the Russian army as an inefficient behemoth being slaughtered in Ukraine. On the ground, however, and contrary to all this, Ukraine has so far lost 20% of its territory to the invading Russian army and the Kremlin has just announced a new doctrine they titled Russia World, itself a reflection as to the level of confidence they are having with what is happening on the ground.

Victims of cognitive warfare have swallowed the bait of propaganda, hook, line and sinker to a point of having armchair critics on social media saying that Russia is losing. After over 200 days, the reality is that the Russians have been losing in the media and taking over territory on the ground. Another truth being that the information warfare campaign by the West has succeeded in discombobulating those who do not care to take a deeper introspection as to the objectives of the war in Ukraine.

The diabolical nature of the propaganda campaign against Russia has seen people being told, and believing, that of the 110 thousand troops deployed to Ukraine, 51 000 have been killed. Such comic levels of propaganda can only be accepted by victims of cognitive warfare who have been converted into human bots, ready to assimilate any drivel thrown at them for as long as it paints a different picture to what really is happening on the ground.

As we all hope for piece, we must appreciate that generations of war have evolved and the wars fought during the Second World War are being replaced by more subtle and dangerous methods of fighting as nuclear-carrying states seek to avoid each others strengths, avoiding nuclear Armageddon in the process by waging perception wars against each other.

The adage that all wars are based on deception remains persuasive even to this day.


How much pressure do foreign nationals put on the system?

A higher concentration of non-nationals is likely in areas of high mobility and transit like border towns and metropolitan cities.

But this is not significant enough to mount pressure on the public healthcare system. For example, most people who move to South Africa from within the region are moving for work. This suggests there’s no relation between high mobility and seeking health services. Even if there were reported cases of women crossing the border to give birth, the public healthcare system is guided by the Uniform Patient Fee Schedule, which sets out who must pay for certain services at any South African health facility.

And, where there are pressures, these can be buffered if the proper systems are put in place to respond to challenges related to documentation, language and poor referral systems.

What should be done?

The World Health Organisation has highlighted the importance of public healthcare systems needing to be responsive to the needs of migrant populations. In a 2019 report it notes countries should accommodate sudden spikes in demand brought on by the arrival of new populations.

The results of poor governance should not be blamed on poor migrants who are simply in need of services. Healthcare providers should desist from being political gatekeepers and instead use notions of morality, ethics and public service in their decision making.


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