Image du produit The Return of Great Powers: Russia, China, and the Next World War
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Instant New York Times Bestseller

The essential new book by CNN anchor and chief national security analyst Jim Sciutto, identifying a new, more uncertain global order with reporting on the frontlines of power from existing wars to looming ones across the globe.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 dawned what Francis Fukuyama called “The End of History.” Three decades later, Jim Sciutto said on CNN’s air as the Ukraine war began, that we are living in a “1939 moment.” History never ended—it barely paused—and the global order as we long have known it is now gone. Powerful nations are determined to assert dominance on the world stage. And as their push for power escalates, a new order will affect everyone across the globe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a part of it, but in reality, this power struggle impacts every corner of our world—from Helsinki to Beijing, from Australia to the North Pole. This is a battle with many fronts: in the Arctic, in the oceans and across the skies, on man-made islands and redrawn maps, and in tech and cyberspace.
Through globe-spanning, exclusive interviews with dozens of political, military, and intelligence leaders, Sciutto defines our times as a return of great power conflict, “a definitive break between the post–Cold War era and an entirely new and uncertain one.” With savvy, thorough, in-person reporting, he follows-up his 2019 bestseller, The Shadow War: Inside Russia’s and China's Secret Operations to Defeat America, which focused on the covert tactics of a hidden conflict.
The Return of Great Powers analyzes a historic and visible shift in real time. It details the realities of this new post–post–Cold War era, the increasingly aligned Russian and Chinese governments, and the flashpoint of a new, global nuclear arms race. And it poses a question: As we consider uncertain, even terrifying, outcomes, will it be possible for the West and Russia and China to prevent a new World War?Named a Most-Anticipated Title by Foreign Policy and Politico

"In The Return of Great Powers: Russia, China, and the Next World War, Mr. Sciutto depicts a world made more dangerous by Chinese and Russian expansionism. Drawing on his experience as CNN’s chief national-security correspondent, Mr. Sciutto has written an eye-witness account of history as it unfolds." Wall Street Journal

"Sciutto takes no pleasure in playing Cassandra, warning of a world that for all its 21st-century sophistication and irony is backsliding towards Greek tragedy." The Guardian

“A powerful and well-written warning to us all.” The Cipher Brief

“A knowledgeable, sobering assessment of one of the most consequential geopolitical situations in the world.” Kirkus

"The Return of Great Powers is a brilliant warning shot across the world's bow. If we want to avoid a new world war, our leaders are going to have to pull the blinkers from their eyes -- and this superb book can help shatter our complaisance. Jim Sciutto is saying, quite clearly, ‘Wake up, folks. A world war could easily happen.’ It is a warning worth heeding.” —Admiral James Stavridis, 16th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and Vice Chairman for Global Affairs at The Carlyle Group. His latest book is 2054: A Novel, about AI, geopolitics, and civil conflict in America.

“Jim’s prior book, Shadow War, opened my eyes to the difficulty in addressing Russia and China in a ‘below the traditional threshold’ worldwide battle for the future. The Return of Great Powers is a sobering but necessary look at the future of warfare, influence, and competition. If the US wants to remain competitive, and do so in an environment of peace, leaders would do themselves a service to read this and understand the future challenges. They aren’t going away, and the US cannot pretend the future isn’t close. It comes before we know it, and we’ll either be prepared or we won’t. Jim clearly understand that preparedness and sober assessment is the best way to avoid conflict, and leave our children better off than we are.” —Adam Kinzinger, Former US Representative (Illinois)Jim Sciutto is CNN’s chief national security analyst and anchor of CNN Newsroom on Max, airing Monday through Friday. He reports and provides analysis across the network’s programs and platforms on all aspects of US national security, including foreign policy, the military, the intelligence community, and the State Department. He has reported from more than fifty countries across the globe, including dozens of assignments from inside Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. Among the honors Sciutto’s work has earned are Emmy Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award, the George Polk Award, the Dupont-Columbia Award, and the White House Correspondent’s Association’s Merriman Smith Award for excellence in presidential coverage. Sciutto is the bestselling author of The Shadow War.CHAPTER ONE



Close to 3:00 a.m., on Monday, February 21, 2022, a member of Congress I know well woke me up in Kyiv with a call from Washington and a question. "Has the State Department or White House warned you guys at all about what's coming in Kyiv?" he asked me. I knew that Russia had surrounded Ukraine with a massive force and was in the final stages of preparations for an invasion-and I knew that I was then lying in a bed in a hotel at the center of Russia's prime target. But I wondered if I was missing something. Was the attack going to be even larger than feared? So I pressed him: "Warned us about what specifically?"

"For the hell Putin is going to unleash on the capital," he said. "Are your people aware? Are you ready?"

By then, CNN and several other US and European networks had stationed our teams at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Kyiv. It was an ideal though precarious location for witnessing the launch of a modern war. Situated on the eastern edge of the capital, where the city is perched on high ground over the Dnipro River, the hotel provides clear views of the eastern and northern approaches to Kyiv-the most likely paths of a Russian invasion. But the hotel was also right across the street from not one but two juicy targets for Russian air and missile strikes: the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the headquarters of the national police. News agencies, including CNN, had made sure to communicate the location of their staffs to the Russian authorities. But as a very good friend of mine in the Pentagon had warned me a few days earlier, "The Russians don't have very good aim."

Now wide-awake, I thanked the congressman and called one of my bosses in the US to share the congressman's warning. "Had we had any communication with Biden administration officials about a particular threat to this location?" I asked him. By then, I had a pretty good idea of what the first wave of the invasion would look like. According to US intelligence assessments, Russia planned a "shock-and-awe" barrage of missile and air strikes on the Ukrainian capital, modeled to some degree on the shock-and-awe campaign that had prefaced the US invasion of Iraq, nearly nineteen years earlier. On March 20, 2003, as the US assault on the Iraqi capital began, I'd been sitting at a Romanian airfield, surrounded by a battalion of US Green Berets, ready to board a night flight into Iraq. The accounts we heard over the radio were awe-inspiring and frightening. Two decades later, as committed as I was to be on the ground in Ukraine to cover the coming war, I was not entirely prepared to be engulfed in the shock and awe myself this time around.

The prospect of a punishing air assault on Kyiv was not a surprise. I had been warning CNN since the previous November that US intelligence agencies were forecasting a wave of air and missile strikes as the first salvos of the Russian invasion. We had staffed up in the capital with those threats in mind. But the call merited a discussion. Were we truly ready? My boss said he'd reach out to the White House and hung up the line.


Still in bare feet and with my hair standing on end, I walked down the hall from my room to the suite turned CNN workspace to share the news with our staff and security team. Skepticism reigned. One colleague told me the congressman could be just looking to get in good with a TV reporter. Others wondered if I'd allowed myself to become a conduit for US disinformation. The doubters were not outliers. Despite repeated public warnings from US and NATO officials, many European and American commentators were not convinced. The word "imminent," as US officials had been describing the invasion for a handful of weeks now, had become a punch line. What does "imminent" mean? people asked. Tomorrow? Next week? Next year? The doubts didn't come from nowhere. US intelligence had missed Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea-and memories of Iraq's nonexistent WMD endured. "Why should we believe them this time?" they asked me.

I understood the doubts from years covering the intelligence agencies and holding a top secret security clearance myself. Over decades, the US had built the most comprehensive and capable intelligence-gathering apparatus in history, but its products required reading with a critical eye. However, the assessments of Russia's invasion plans were different, because the invading force was visible, laid out right before the watchful eyes of US surveillance satellites and aircraft. And what they saw was alarming. Russia was readying for war.

"Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were phantoms," I told them. "The Russian invasion force is right along the border in 3D. They're not guessing this time."

US agencies had collected other revealing intelligence as well. In a triumph of signals collection, the intel community had penetrated Russian communications networks. They now had direct access to Russian battlefield communications. They were listening in real time as Russian commanders discussed in detail preparing and positioning their units for attack.

Yet the doubts extended far beyond our newsroom, with some NATO leaders downplaying or even dismissing the more ominous warnings of an impending Russian invasion. Tensions broke out into the public discussion even between US and Ukrainian officials. On January 28, Ukrainian president Zelensky told reporters in Kyiv, "There is a feeling abroad that there is war here. That's not the case." Ukrainian officials were fearful in part that the more dire warnings might cause panic among the Ukrainian population, with the economic costs of fleeing businesses and a panicked end to travel in and out of Ukraine. But more broadly, Ukrainian officials told CNN privately, they feared that Ukraine was becoming a pawn in a game of geopolitical chess between the US and Russia.

With detectable pique, Zelensky said, "I can't be like other politicians who are grateful to the United States just for being the United States."

Russian officials were of course eager to dismiss the fears of war as well. On February 10, two weeks before Russian forces stormed into Ukraine, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov stood beside then UK foreign secretary Liz Truss and derided the West's warnings as purely emotional.

"The deployment of Russian troops on our own territory causes incomprehensible anxiety and very strong emotions among our British colleagues and other Western representatives," Lavrov said. "Unlike the hundreds and thousands of British troops stationed in the Baltics."

Beyond the public differences over just how real or imminent the Russian invasion threat was, there was disagreement within the alliance over the possibility of finding a so-called diplomatic off-ramp for Vladimir Putin. President Emmanuel Macron of France's dialogue with Putin continued into the week of the invasion.

Few begrudged Macron's attempts at peace. However, at the core of those efforts appeared to be a misreading of Russian intentions. Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche on February 6, eighteen days before the invasion, that Moscow's goal was "not Ukraine, but a clarification of the rules . . . with NATO and the EU." Here was the French leader saying that Putin had no territorial ambitions in Ukraine, only a desire to establish, among other things, that Ukraine would not be joining NATO anytime soon.

"We must protect our European brothers by proposing a new balance capable of preserving their sovereignty and peace," Macron said. "This must be done while respecting Russia and understanding the contemporary traumas of this great people and great nation."

The fiction that Russian ambitions were limited to preventing Ukraine from entering the NATO alliance would endure even after the invasion, on both sides of the Atlantic, as some conservative commentators and lawmakers in the US shifted blame for the invasion from Moscow to western leaders. Their argument was that those leaders goaded Russia into war by pushing NATO's borders too far east.

Macron's dialogue with Putin continued until days before the war. Even on Sunday, February 20, the French president's office released a statement saying that the two leaders had agreed on "the need to favor a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis and to do everything to achieve one." The Élysée Palace added that French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Russian foreign minister Lavrov would meet "in the coming days."

Then, on Thursday, February 24, around 4:00 a.m., I was woken with a call from the CNN News Desk that the war had begun. "I thought you'd like to know," my colleague told me, with understatement. It was grim news; the warnings had been right.


The Russian invasion of Ukraine marked the cleanest break between the post-Cold War period and the new world disorder. With echoes of 1939, one great power had marshaled the bulk of its conventional military might and attempted to redraw the map of Europe.

But while western intelligence had gotten the Russian invasion right, it got Ukraine's defense wrong. From my first conversations in November 2021 with US military sources about Putin's invasion plans, I'd been told the war would be over almost as soon as it began. Western intelligence expected Russian forces to take the capital city of Kyiv within seventy-two hours, via a combination of punishing air and missile strikes, electronic warfare crippling communication networks, and then a rapid ground invasion from the east and north.

The air strikes did come. The electronic warfare did not. And Russian forces were quickly bogged down, their advance on the capital stalled, and they were eventually forced into retreat.

As I witnessed and reported on the war unfolding inside Ukraine, there were many moments that surprised me-and that pointed to an outcome far different from that forecast by western intelligence. One such moment played out live on air the very first day of the invasion. My colleague Matthew Chance and a CNN team were reporting on Russian military activity around the Antonov Airport, in Hostomel, just outside Kyiv. As they arrived, they came across a small group of soldiers engaged in a firefight.

"Where are the Russians?" Chance asked.

"We're the Russians," they answered.

Not just any Russians. They were Russian special forces, which had been dropped into Hostomel in the early hours of the invasion. And in that moment, one of the most crucial operations of the Kremlin's invasion plan, assigned to one of its most elite units, was being broadcast to the world on live television. Russia needed to control the Antonov Airport in order to ferry in more forces to march on the capital. But Ukrainian forces would prevent that, ultimately repelling the Russian assault and helping foil Putin's plan to take Kyiv within seventy-two hours. It was an early-round victory for Ukraine in a long bout, but ultimately a telling one.

Within a few days, US military officials pointed me to another warning sign for Russian forces. One week into the invasion, a forty-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks, armored vehicles, and towed artillery was stalled on a highway outside Kyiv-easy targets for Ukrainian ambushes. UK intelligence reports indicated "little discernible progress" by the Russian forces. Inside the Pentagon, US officials were assessing something more significant than a short-term obstacle to Russia's war plans. Ukrainian forces were proving themselves surprisingly capable of meeting a far larger Russian invasion force, with smaller but more mobile and highly trained units, armed with what was proving to be the "star" weapon of the war so far: the shoulder-fired Javelin anti-tank missile.

In two key battles, at Hostomel and on the highway to Kyiv, Ukrainian forces were not just getting lucky. They were demonstrating the capability, perhaps, to win the war. Ukraine's small, mobile, highly trained units were the Davids; Russia's large, plodding, poorly commanded units were the Goliaths.


The war in Ukraine has proved to be a bloody laboratory of modern warfare. Ukraine and Russia have deployed old and new weapons and tactics, adapting along the way. All three great powers have participated to some degree and learned as well. As Ukrainian and Russian forces have fought and died, they have also inadvertently become subjects of a real-world experiment in great power warfare.

The battlefields of Ukraine-from Ukraine's early surprising defense of Kyiv, to its rapid counteroffensive in Kherson and Kharkiv in late 2022, to its more plodding counteroffensive in the east and south in 2023-have showcased a remarkable combination of modern warfare, featuring new tactics and weapons systems, and antiquated warfare-becoming, quite literally, bogged down in the trenches.

"What you've seen is this paradox that we have a combination of twentieth-century warfare combined with twenty-first-century warfare," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told me. "We have trench warfare, which resembles the First World War, and then we have autonomous weapons systems and unmanned drones. We have infantry or artillery duels, resembling the First and the Second World Wars, but then we also have advanced electronic warfare."

What lessons have Ukraine, Russia, and NATO taken away? Farther afield, what have China and Taiwan learned from the fighting and the world's response? And does the war in Ukraine hint at what a war between the great powers would look like? Some answers become apparent from examining the war in a series of distinct phases: Ukraine's early defense of Kyiv, its first counteroffensives in the south and northeast in 2022, and the long, slow ground war in the east, including Ukraine's more recent offensive push in 2023. The battlefields of Ukraine provide lessons for potential future conflicts and flashpoints among the great powers.


Early on, the key for Ukrainian forces in the north was that David-versus-Goliath strategy of small, mobile units, ambushing Russia's slow-moving armored columns, which were visible to the world via civilian satellites as they made their way down Ukrainian highways. The Russian advance stalled. And Russian losses mounted.

On the battlefield, Javelin missiles became the conflict's early social media stars. Ukrainian soldiers posted videos of themselves firing them. An Instagram account titled Saint Javelin, with an avatar showing a saintly icon cradling a missile, helped popularize the posts, quickly gaining more than one hundred thousand followers.

By late March, barely a month into the war, Russia halted its advance and began to withdraw some of its forces around Kyiv in what senior US military officials told me at the time was a "major" strategy shift by Moscow. The US observed Russia repositioning its forces from the north to the south and east. At the time, the Russian Ministry of Defense described the movements as an effort to "drastically reduce hostilities" in the north. In reality, it was an ignominious retreat.

The US view, as military sources told me, was that this was not a short-term adjustment but a longer-term transformation as Russia came to grips with its failure to advance in the north. Already, US commanders in the region worried about European allies staying unified in their support of Ukraine, expecting some to press Kyiv to capitalize on its early surprise success by pursuing a peace deal to end the fighting.US


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      12 mars 2024
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