The Shadow War | Jim Sciutto

Summary of: The Shadow War: Inside Russia’s and China’s Secret Operations to Defeat America
By: Jim Sciutto

Introduction

Welcome to the riveting world of ‘The Shadow War’, where the secret operations of Russia and China pose a significant threat to America. This summary takes you on a thrilling journey through the clandestine tactics employed by these two powerful nations – including assassinations on foreign soil, cyberattacks, and military build-up. Through this, understand how their motive lies in undermining Western democracies and disproving US military dominance. Delve into the misjudgments made by US politicians, who have consistently underestimated the true intentions of Russia and China. Finally, uncover the costs of this shadow war, its implications, and the strategies in place to contain these threats.

Putin’s Shadow War

A detailed account of Putin’s aggression and Moscow’s war against the West using assassinations and toxic nerve gas to silence dissidents and silence opposition.

The book tells the story of two ex-KGB agents, Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko, who were targeted by Putin’s brutal regime for their dissenting views. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Russian-made nerve gas, Novichok, in an English park. Meanwhile, Litvinenko was killed in London, with Russian operatives using a radioactive material which could be traced from a plane to the murder site. The unsettling message was clear; Putin is ready to kill anyone who opposes him, even on foreign soil, and risk the wrath of Western countries in doing so.

The book highlights that Putin views Russian occupation as essential, despite its dwindling economic status, and that he’s engaged in a “shadow war” against the West. It’s a war of aggression that the US has been slow to recognize, and one that it needs to get a grip on. Putin isn’t a potential ally or a democrat in training – he’s a brutal authoritarian who wants to keep Russia at the center of the world stage, even at the cost of his people and the United States. The US needs to take a new approach to international conflict, concluding the book’s argument, as the old one isn’t working in Putin’s shadow war.

China and Russia’s Goals

American politicians have a misreading of Russia and China’s goals and intentions. They have been mistaken in thinking that both nations want to shape themselves into free-wheeling democracies that allow free elections and open dissent. However, the truth is that both countries are brutal autocracies, committed to undermining the West and its democratic systems. China has long been engaged in stealing American intellectual property and technological secrets, claiming territory in the South China Sea, and bulking up its military to defeat the United States. Despite confrontations by the then-president, Barack Obama, China continued with both strategies. It has also been proven that China and Russia have no compunction about doing whatever it takes to win their battle against the West, including killing people “at the drop of a hat.” It is a harsh truth that many American policymakers have yet to realize, despite Russia and China’s provocative and aggressive behavior that aims to undermine Western powers without starting a shooting war.

Cyber Attack as a Weapon

In 2007, Estonia faced violent riots following the removal of a Soviet-era monument, which soon escalated into a cyberattack. The attack flooded pro-Russian messages and launched a distributed denial of service attack on the banking system and economy. The Estonian authorities traced the incursion back to the Kremlin, making it the largest cyberattack by one state on another. Estonia overcame the assault by compelling users to identify an image in Estonian, which Russian bots failed, causing the attacks to dwindle. The incursion served as a playbook for Russia to employ similar tactics against its former satellites, such as Georgia, and Western nations, such as the United States. The cyberattacks followed a clear pattern – Russia views itself as the opposite of the West, aims to create division, sow chaos, and sabotage public confidence in liberal democracies.

Chinese Cyber Espionage

The US government accuses China of being the most active country in stealing intellectual property. The Chinese government has created significant cyber espionage infrastructure over the last 20 years. Despite occasional arrests, Chinese hackers continue to siphon off sensitive information from US companies and government agencies. They have used numerous methods to achieve this, including phishing emails and the installation of malware. One of the individuals caught and prosecuted was Chinese operative Su Bin, who posed as an aerospace entrepreneur to gain access to Boeing’s network. Su and associates were able to steal over half a million digital files, including data on the C-17, F-22, and F-35 aircraft. They moved the files around the internet via jump servers in various countries before physically delivering them to China. Although Su was caught, most hackers remain anonymous and continue to compromise US national security. It is estimated that dozens of cyber espionage teams currently operate in the US.

Putin’s Shadow War

In 2014, Putin’s Sochi Olympics were overshadowed by the fall of Russian-backed Ukrainian leader Yanukovych, which Putin believed was orchestrated by the CIA. In response, Putin invaded Crimea and later meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. The shadow war intensified when a Malaysian Airlines plane, MH17, was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. The US intelligence blamed the Kremlin for supplying an SA-11 missile to a pro-Russian separatist cell, who mistook the aircraft for a Ukrainian military plane. Putin’s actions led to a sea change in how the US and Europe viewed Russia, and Ukrainian civilians were left to deal with the wreckage and decomposing bodies.

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