[Jim Sciutto, The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America. Hasper-Collins. New York, 2019. 308 p.]

review / Álvaro de Lecea

The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat AmericaWith the end of the Cold War, which pitted the former Soviet Union against the victorious United States of America, the international system shifted from bipolar to a hegemony led by the latter. With the United States in the lead, the West focused on the spread of democracy and commercial globalisation, and if anything the geo-strategic preoccupation of the West was focused on the Al-Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11, so the focus of attention shifted and today's Russia was pushed into the background. However, Russia continued to slowly reconstitute itself in the shadow of its old enemy, which no longer showed much interest. Russia was joined by China, which began to grow by leaps and bounds. At this point, the United States began to realise that it had two major powers on its heels and that it was engaged in a war it did not even know existed: the Shadow War.

This is the term used by Jim Sciutto, CNN's chief national security correspondent, to describe what he describes in detail throughout his book and what has largely come to be known as hybrid or grey zone warfare. Sciutto prefers to speak of Shadow War, which could be translated as war in the shadows, because this better denotes its character of invisibility under the radar of open or conventional warfare.

This new war was started by Russia and China, not as allies, but as powers with a common enemy: the United States. It is a hybrid war subject and therefore contains both military and non-military methods. On the other hand, it does not envisage a direct military confrontation between the two blocs. In The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America, Sciutto explains seven situations in which the strategies being pursued by China and Russia to defeat the United States in order to become the world's major powers and impose their own international norms can be clearly observed.

First, it is important to note that Russia and China, while pursuing similar strategies, are different types of adversaries: on the one hand, China is a rising power, while Russia is more of a declining power that is trying to return to its former self. Nevertheless, both share a number of similarities. First, both seek to expand their influence in their own regions. Second, both are suffering from a crisis of legitimacy within their borders. Third, both seek to right the wrongs of history and restore what they perceive as their countries' legitimate positions as world leaders. And finally, they possess great national unity, so that the majority of their populations would do whatever is necessary for their nation.

In the shadow war, thanks to the rules established by Russia and China, any major actor can win, regardless of its power or influence over other international actors. Following the theories of International Office, these rules could be considered to follow a very realistic patron saint , since, in a way, anything goes to win. The power of lies and deception is the order of the day, and lines that were thought unthinkable are crossed. Examples of this, as the book explains and elaborates, are the militarisation of the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea when Xi Jinping himself had promised not to do so, or the hacking of the Democratic Party's computer system in the 2016 US election campaign by Russian hackers, which may have helped Donald Trump emerge victorious.

To all this must be added an essential part of what is happening in this context of non-traditional warfare: the particularly mistaken idea that the United States has about everything that is happening. To begin with, the first mistake the US made, as Sciutto explains, was to neglect Russia as a relevant focus in the international arena. It believed that, having defeated it in the Cold War, the country would no longer re-emerge as a power, and so failed to see the clear clues that it was slowly growing, led by President Vladimir Putin. Similarly, it failed to understand the Chinese government's true intentions in situations such as the South China Sea or the degree program submarines. All of this can be summed up as the US believing that all international actors would play by the rules established by Washington after the Cold War, without imagining that they would create a new scenario. In conclusion, the US did not understand its opponents.

In his latest chapter, Sciutto makes it clear that the US is currently losing the war. Its biggest mistake was not realising status until it was in front of it and it now finds itself playing on a disadvantaged stage. It is true that the US remains the world leader in many respects, but Russia and China are overtaking it in others, following the new rules they themselves have set. However, a change of attitude in US policies could turn the tide. The author proposes a number of solutions that could help the US get back in the lead.

The solutions he proposes focus, in the first place, on the total knowledge of the enemy and its strategy. This has always been his great disadvantage and would be the first step to begin to control status. Similarly, it recommends greater unity within the Allied bloc, as well as an improvement of its own defences. He also recommends a better understanding of the new scenario in which the whole conflict is taking place, and therefore a series of international treaties regulating these new spaces, such as cyberspace, would be of great help financial aid. Further on, he proposes setting clear limits on enemy actions, raising the costs and consequences of such actions. Finally, it encourages the US to exercise clear leadership.

In conclusion, Sciutto's thesis is that the United States finds itself fighting a war whose existence it has only just discovered. It is a subject war that it is not used to and with a set of rules that are alien to what it preaches. While it is still the leader of the current international system, it finds itself losing the game because China and Russia have been able to discover its rival's weaknesses and use them to its advantage. America's biggest mistake was to ignore all the signs of this shadow war and do nothing about it. New scenarios have been introduced and the rules of the game have been changed, so the US, if it wants to turn status around and once again emerge as the victor, the author argues, will have to unite more than ever internally as a nation and strengthen its alliances, and know its enemies and their intentions better than ever before.

In terms of a evaluation of the book, it can be said that it succeeds in concisely and clearly conveying the most relevant points of this new contest. It manages to make clear the strengths and weaknesses of each actor and to take stock of the current status . However, the author does not manage to be too goal judgemental. While admitting the failings of the US, he gives a negative picture of its rivals, taking for granted who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Objectivity is lacking in some cases, as the good guys are not always so good and the bad guys are not always so bad. That said, Sciutto provides a great analysis of the current international status in which the world's major powers find themselves.

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