Rethinking hybrid warfare in the age of persistent competition,

Julien Bastrup-Birk, served in senior advisory, policy and strategy positions within the UK government

So-called hybrid warfare has been the subject of much debate and doctrinal thinking in recent years, resulting in frenzied thinking within academia and government ministries and even the establishment of dedicated research centres.

The term is now used more or less interchangeably with variants such as ‘non-linear’ operations, ‘sub-threshold’ and ‘grey-zone’ warfare’ and traditional concepts such as ‘indirect’ warfare to describe offensive campaigns that are aimed at securing incremental strategic gains whilst calibrated to remain below the threshold of major war. The emphasis is placed on deniable activities such as subversion, cyberwarfare, interference in financial markets, disinformation, electoral tampering and other covert and indirect influencing methods, alongside traditional warfighting. Although conceptually appealing, there are however at least three issues that arise from the hybrid warfare debate. […]

Ultimately, the risk is that strategists and policy makers send themselves into a conceptual tailspin, devising detailed responses to highly hypothetical, or perceived scenarios. Illustrative of this problem was the speed with which Western commentators pointed to a speech by Russian General Valery Gerasimov in which he described how subversion and propaganda could turn “a perfectly thriving state […] into an arena of fierce armed conflict” as evidence of a new Russian doctrine.Speaking at the time of the Arab Spring, Gerasimov was in fact highlighting his own national security concerns, rather than revealing any kind of strategic intent. Läs artikel