IATE Term of the Week: Hybrid Warfare

July 20, 2018 10:30 am

hybrid warfare

Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, cyberwarfare and irregular warfare with other influencing methods, including fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention.

The relative novelty of hybrid warfare lies in its ability to utilise multiple instruments of power simultaneously and purposely exploit ambiguity, non-linearity and creativity, along with the cognitive elements of warfare. Hybrid wars – whether conducted by state or non-state actors – are usually tailored to remain below obvious detection and response thresholds. They often rely on digital technology, which characterises the present information age. They also rely on fake news and propaganda.

Unlike conventional warfare, the central focus of hybrid warfare is a target population. The engagers attempt to manipulate influential policy-makers and key decision makers in order to destabilise and polarise the targeted country’s society.

Many struggle to fully understand hybrid warfare, but everyone, including NATO (the National Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union, agrees that it is a threat. However, in order to solve a problem one must first discuss it. Thus, hybrid warfare was one of the main topics at last week’s NATO Summit in Brussels, where NATO Heads of State and Government met with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, to reiterate their joint commitment to develop their partnership further, as this partnership is instrumental in creating a peaceful, stable and undivided Europe.

In response to the current situation in Ukraine, NATO is taking ambitious steps to develop tools to deter and defend against opponents waging hybrid warfare. This is an opportunity for NATO and the EU to work together in order to deter a hybrid war and to protect Ukraine from actions associated with hybrid warfare.

The Alliance will have to strengthen cooperation with international organisations, particularly the European Union, to counter the threats associated with hybrid warfare successfully.  The EU and NATO have already taken several steps to strengthen their capabilities and pursuit of common objectives through closer cooperation.

The joint EU-NATO declaration, adopted in July 2016 in the margins of the Warsaw NATO Summit, signifies a clear step forward regarding contemporary threats. The document outlines new areas for practical cooperation, with particular focus on hybrid threats, building resilience in cybersecurity, and strategic communications.

In recent years, NATO has put in a great amount of effort to stay abreast of contemporary threats, particularly those in cyberspace. Hybrid warfare isn’t new, but its recent intensity is. Therefore, steps taken by the EU and NATO are instrumental in preventing destructive hybrid wars.

Here is the IATE entry for hybrid warfare:

hybrid warfare iate

Join us next Friday for another meeting with IATE!


Written by Emma Wynne – Communications Trainee at TermCoord

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