7.3.5 Hybrid Warfare

According to the NATO definition, Hybrid Warfare, “Hybrid threats are those posed by adversaries, with the ability to simultaneously employ conventional and non conventional means adaptively in pursuit of their objectives”.  NATO has been particularly concerned about Russian activities, from the annexation of the Crimea onwards.  “The term ‘hybrid warfare’ appeared at least as early as 2005”, though, “and was subsequently used to describe the strategy used by the Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War” according to a NATO article: Hybrid war – does it even exist?

A Rand Research article, Hybrid Warfare in the Baltics: Threats and Potential Responses, analysed some of the possibilities:

“Potential Russian hybrid aggression in the Baltics can be divided into three categories: nonviolent subversion, covert violent actions, and conventional warfare supported by subversion”.

This is not an idle threat: Russia has already used all of these techniques in Eastern Ukraine.  The BBC article, Ukraine crisis: What’s going on in Crimea?, accused Russia of infiltrating “little green men”, sparking protests, supplying military equipment and holding a referendum in Crimea – which showed that the population wanted to become part of Russia, giving a veneer of political respectability to the annexation.  It would be very difficult for NATO to intervene in a situation where the population in the Baltics appears to be actively welcoming a Russian presence.

Russia’s strategy has avoided provoking direct Western military intervention, but it has still been costly: as reported by the BBC, Crimea annexation: Putin admits sanctions ‘damaging’.

Hybrid warfare is visible to other countries, even though some aspects may be hard to prove.


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