MS Risk Blog

The Threat of Russian Hybrid Warfare

Posted on in Russia title_rule

On several occasions lately it has been reported that there is a concern with Russia possibly conducting a so called hybrid warfare on European countries. In Finland the flow of migrants coming from the Middle East via Russia is what some consider a form of hybrid warfare. Military researcher Antti Paronen says the vast numbers of asylum-seekers in Europe could be used as a means to keep the Finns and European West off balance and push certain pressure points. Parallels have been drawn between the Somali migrants that overwhelmed Finland after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the alleged trafficking situation with Afghani migrants that is going on presently in Finnish Lappland. Steering the flow of mass migration is a typical method in the arsenal of the so-called “grey phase” of hybrid warfare. To the Bulgarians the concept of hybrid warfare also include cyber-crime. The Defence Minister, Nikolay Nenchev, has noted that state institutions are taking cyber-crimes more seriously. This comes at a time when attacks have increased lately. Bulgarian institutions such as the National Revenue Agency and the Education Ministry have reportedly been targets of repeated hack attacks over the past months. These attacks have been linked to Russia, by Ukrainian news agencies. Chief of Defence of the Bulgarian Armed Forces has warned that the line between peace and war in the case of hybrid wars is not always clear, and that this is a dangerous thing and often a challenge for states. At the same time, the Latvians have also spotted signs of hybrid warfare directed at them, allegedly from Russia. Instead of migrant flows or cyber-crime the Latvians are considering propaganda. This is not a concern of Latvia alone, but affects several countries throughout Europe. The director of the Latvia-based NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, has said that indications of ongoing hybrid warfare are becoming stronger in Central Europe and Scandinavia. Despite cuts to the Russian budget, propaganda projects like the Kremlin-funded Sputnik news agency, which recently opened a Latvian branch, is still receiving government funds. This could be a signal of an increased Russian budget for producing and using state-propaganda. Sputnik set up a website in Latvian in early February, 2016. The Latvian Security Police said it serves as evidence to Russian attempts to spread propaganda. Such websites can be blocked but there are always tricks to bypass such blocks, not to mention that this might bring up some questions about democratic values. Therefore encouraging people to ignore the websites is the best thing to do as of now. That seems to be where the challenge lies in the case of so called hybrid warfare, because of its nature there is no obvious way to counter it. There is no discussion that adversaries have developed creative uses of the “full-spectrum” of warfare, including the use of regular and irregular tactics across all dimensions of war. In the last decade, some of the most important military forces and coalitions in the world, have attempted to address and counter so-called hybrid threats. This has turned out to be difficult, mostly because there is no agreed upon definition of the word hybrid. It is widely understood as a mixture or a blend of conventional/unconventional, regular/irregular, and information and cyber warfare. In theory any strategy of conducting warfare can be hybrid as long as it is not limited to a single method. Perhaps it is unnecessary to define it, but rather a need to consider war for the complexity that it is and counter each strategy with the appropriate counter measure. Hybrid defence for hybrid threats.

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