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Daily Research Geostrategic thinking

Guerra e complessità del rischio – War and complexity of risk

L’opzione nucleare è sul tavolo delle possibilità, lo sappiamo.

Come argomentiamo nella nostra ricerca, il rischio è in trasformazione. Quello nucleare è una faccia del rischio complesso.

Le ambizioni imperiali di Putin non sembrano poter escludere alcuna prospettiva. Constanze Stelzenmüller (Brookings, History reveals how to get Ukraine reconstruction right: anti-corruption) scrive: Consider (…) the recent explosions which damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines, the cable cuts which brought trains across northern Germany to a halt, and the hacking of the computers of several U.S. airports. All three incidents were deliberate attacks involving elaborate preparation and highly specialised technological expertise. These are signs that point to Russia as the probable perpetrator. Sabotage (…)  offers a far better benefit-to-cost ratio than nuclear weapons. Attacks on physical and digital infrastructure are hard to prevent and even harder to attribute. They undermine confidence in government and exploit the fissures and vulnerabilities of Western societies. They permit an adversary to elude retribution and play for time. Expect more such incidents, perhaps many more.

L’attenzione va posta sulla complessità del rischio. L’uso di armi nucleari è certamente più articolato dell’attacco alle infrastrutture critiche. Guardando a ciò che è accaduto, e che potrebbe accadere, la ‘guerra ibrida’, che speriamo non diventi una ‘guerra senza limiti’, nel XXI secolo genera rischi concomitanti. La paura, la tensione e il disagio prolungati sono un’arma straordinaria per tenere i governi antagonisti, e le loro opinioni pubbliche, in una condizione sospesa.

Il nostro augurio è che, in tempi accettabili, la guerra in Europa raggiunga almeno un cessate il fuoco. Il che non significa, se il rischio più probabile è quello della destabilizzazione (fisica e digitale) delle infrastrutture critiche, che cessino i possibili imprevisti. All’incertezza del rischio si può rispondere efficacemente con la creatività del negoziato diplomatico e della visione politica: urge, pertanto, ripensare una nuova architettura di sicurezza euroasiatica.

English version

The nuclear option is on the table of possibilities, we know that.

As we argue in our research, the risk is changing. Nuclear is one face of complex risk.

Putin’s imperial ambitions do not seem to be able to rule out any prospect. Constanze Stelzenmüller (Brookings, History reveals how to get Ukraine reconstruction right: anti-corruption) writes: Consider (…) the recent explosions which damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines, the cable cuts which brought trains across northern Germany to a halt, and the hacking of the computers of several U.S. airports. All three incidents were deliberate attacks involving elaborate preparation and highly specialised technological expertise. These are signs that point to Russia as the probable perpetrator. Sabotage (…)  offers a far better benefit-to-cost ratio than nuclear weapons. Attacks on physical and digital infrastructure are hard to prevent and even harder to attribute. They undermine confidence in government and exploit the fissures and vulnerabilities of Western societies. They permit an adversary to elude retribution and play for time. Expect more such incidents, perhaps many more.

The focus must be on the complexity of risk. The use of nuclear weapons is certainly more difficult than the attack on critical infrastructure. Looking at what has happened, and what could happen, the ‘hybrid war’, which hopefully will not become a ‘war without limits’, in the 21st century generates concomitant risks. Prolonged fear, tension and unease are an extraordinary weapon to keep antagonistic governments, and their public opinions, in a suspended state.

Our hope is that, within an acceptable timeframe, the war in Europe will at least reach a ceasefire. Which does not mean, if the most probable risk is that of destabilisation (physical and digital) of critical infrastructures, that possible unforeseen events will cease to exist. The uncertainty of risk can be effectively responded to with the creativity of diplomatic negotiation and political vision: it is therefore urgent to rethink a new Eurasian security architecture.