Q: What do the following events in these former Soviet republics have in common?

Uzbekistan requiring all television and radio transmitters to be equipped with “self-destructing devices.” Tajikistan mandating that old car tires be disposed of not in the capital city, but in a dump 25 miles away, lest they be used by protesters in flammable barricades. Latvia joining Lithuania in banning Russian state TV broadcasts. Kazakhstan passing a law permitting censorship and limiting protests during states of emergency.

A: They’re all meant to prevent Russia from doing to those countries what it’s done to Ukraine.

If it isn’t immediately clear how those arguably wacky measures are supposed to help guard against… whatever it is that Russia is doing, that’s because events in Ukraine have ushered in some pretty dramatic changes to what constitutes an invasion and/or a war. And so the leaders of the former Soviet republics are reacting unevenly and abruptly to a new and unprecedented threat for which they’re totally unprepared.

Russian thinkers have long observed that the West generally underestimates the importance of political and psychological factors in war. Maybe they’re right; experience with counterinsurgencies and other flavors of low-intensity warfare, particularly since 9/11, has demonstrated that the socio-political elements […]

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