What is Hybrid Warfare? Part III

By | October 21, 2021

Civilians: Civilian instruments refer to the exercise of power in areas such as the judiciary, the police, education, public information. Government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can also be used to create unrest or divisions in the opposing society. Creative use of international law to promote one’s own interests, especially through loopholes, has also increased in importance in recent years.

  • Economic and financial: The use of economic and financial instruments may force another actor to change his policy or position in a conflict. This can be done through traditional economic instruments (boycotts, sanctions, blockades, embargoes) or through financial incentives (investments, aid, corruption) or through the use of financial instruments to harm another’s economy.
  • Military:In hybrid warfare, military means are not as central as in conventional warfare. Some therefore call hybrid warfare ” indirect warfare ” due to the lack of direct military confrontation . By refraining from using military means, an actor can ensure that he does not cross the “border” of war. This makes it difficult for the opponent to respond militarily without being accused of starting the conflict. However, this does not mean that military force is not used. An actor can, among other things, use deputies (proxy groups) to fight for themselves. An example of this is Russia’s logistics and weapons support to the rebel groups in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. Another method is cyber attacks on military targets.

Although these components are already well known as separate means of power, it is the interplay between them that constitutes the hybrid warfare model . This list also does not preclude an actor from using other and unforeseen military means. War always takes place within a context (context), and the means, character and course of the war will often adapt accordingly – even in hybrid wars.

6: Challenges: ambiguity and paralysis of action

According to nonprofitdictionary, the use and combination of different means of force also helps to create ambiguity . By this is meant hostile acts that are difficult to define and recognize as an act of war . Then it can be difficult to know for sure who is performing the actions . This is often referred to as the ” attribution problem ” and occurs very often in connection with cyber attacks.

A good example is the mysterious computer worm Stuxnet , which attacked and destroyed parts of Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010. It was long unknown who had developed the worm and planted it in the Iranian system. It was not until 2012 that the United States and Israel were behind it. Ambiguity about who is behind or what is the goal, creates problems for political decision-makers and not least for legitimizing actions against public opinion. Ambiguity thus increases the room for maneuver for an attacker, especially with a view to buying time before the other party can react.

A newer and more unusual example of the attribution problem is the Russian annexation of Crimea. In February 2014, Crimea was occupied by soldiers who surrounded military bases and took control of the peninsula – not to mention that not a single shot was fired. Officially, these soldiers were unknown because they operated without symbols and flags. They were nicknamed “little green men”. Eventually it became clear that the occupiers spoke Russian and hoisted Russian flags over buildings in the Crimea. Russia, however, denied that the soldiers were Russian. This created an unclear situation that paralyzed Ukrainian and Western leaders. They were not prepared for how to deal with such tactics. Did the occupation correspond to an act of war? And how should one hold Russia accountable?

The desire to avoid military confrontation is typical of the weaker party in a conflict, and is traditionally associated with guerrilla warfare. Also in hybrid warfare, by using a wider range of means of force, an actor will try to gain an advantageous position over a militarily superior opponent. Among other things, the aim of ambiguity is to inhibit the political decision-making processes of the opponent, as well as to undermine the possibility that a military response can be perceived as legitimate. At the same time, doubts are being raised about where the line goes between war and peace. This doubt benefits the hybrid players in that it becomes very difficult for the opponent to deal with.

Western notions of warfare have traditionally revolved around military force. This is problematic in the face of a hybrid player. Among other things, it is difficult to predict which means of force an actor will use and how these will be organized. Traditional thinking about war and conflict does not necessarily provide adequate answers. This creates challenges for the organization of Western military powers and their ability to plan and structure their approach to future hybrid conflicts.


Hezbollah (means party of God)

  • Both a political, military and social (humanitarian) organization
  • With great military capacity – a powerful military force in present-day Lebanon, which put up significant and surprisingly strong resistance in war with Israel in 2006. Then it was war between Hezbollah and Israel, not Lebanon and Israel.
  • Shia-dominated and has significant popular support in elections, is strongly represented in the National Assembly and popular as a result of the many social services they stand behind.
  • The group came into being in response to the Israeli invasion and occupation in the early 1980s.
  • Operates its own influential TV channel.
  • Oriented towards Iran and also supported from there, but does not necessarily share the Iranian view of society in one and all (theocracy, sharia law…)

Hybrid Warfare 2