Hybrid War: Old Concept, New Techniques

Hybrid War: Old Concept, New Techniques

Alex Deep

While the means by which state and non-state actors conduct hybrid war today have changed, the fundamental principle of utilizing a combination of conventional and irregular methods to achieve a political objective is consistent with older forms of conflict.  This blending has historic examples in the American Revolution with George Washington’s Continental Army and robust militia forces; the Napoleonic Wars where British regulars challenged French control of major Spanish cities, while Spanish guerrillas attacked their lines of communication; and the Arab Revolt where the British Army combined conventional operations in Palestine with irregular forces under British operational control.[i]  However, despite having its roots in history, modern hybrid war has the potential to transform the strategic calculations of potential belligerents due to the rise of non-state actors, information technology, and the proliferation of advanced weapons systems.

The unipolar moment that has persisted since the fall of the Soviet Union has given rise to an international system in which unconventional challenges to the idea of traditional state-on-state war are increasingly prevalent.  The preponderance of American military power has tempered conflicts in Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the South China Sea, but has given rise to a method of war that attempts to leverage the weaknesses of conventional military structure.  Where wars traditionally have regular and irregular components in different areas of operation, modern hybrid war has the tendency to combine these aspects.  Modern hybrid war practitioners apply “conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, and terrorist acts including indiscriminate violence, coercion, and criminal activity” simultaneously.[ii]  Under this model, war takes place in a variety of operating environments, has synchronous effects across multiple battlefields, and is marked by asymmetric tactics and techniques.[iii]  These tactics are difficult to defeat for militaries that lack the flexibility to shift mindsets on a constant basis, especially since the interconnected nature of modern society is such that hybrid war takes place on three distinct battlefields:  the conventional battlefield, the indigenous population of the conflict zone, and the international community.[iv]

Major powers have historically sponsored irregular fighters and non-state actors in the execution of broader military campaigns, and modern examples such as Iranian support to Hezbollah and other Shia militant groups are continuations of these policies.  The Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006 showed that although the concept of hybrid war in this fashion is not novel, some of the sophistication and lethality of non-state actors, along with their ability to persist within the modern state system, is a new occurrence.

Hybrid organizations such as Hezbollah are well armed and equipped due to the availability of technologically advanced weapon systems at low prices and pre-existing commercial technologies such as cell phone and digital networks.[v]  During the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006, decentralized cells composed of guerrillas and regular troops armed with precision guided missiles, short and medium range rockets, armed unmanned aerial vehicles, and advanced improvised explosive devices executed an irregular urban campaign against a conventional Israeli opponent.[vi]  With Iranian Quds Force operatives as mentors and suppliers of advanced systems, Hezbollah cells downed Israeli helicopters, damaged Merkava IV tanks, communicated with encrypted cell phones, and monitored Israeli troops movements with night vision and thermal imaging devices.[vii] Hezbollah leveraged information technology as fighters immediately uploaded and distributed battlefield pictures and videos in near real-time, dominating the battle of perception throughout the operation.[viii]  The Israeli military did not lose the war in 2006 on the conventional battlefield, but did little to alter the strategic environment in Southern Lebanon and lost the information campaign as the overwhelming perception within the international community was of Israeli military defeat at the hands of Hezbollah.

Apart from the increased effectiveness and lethality of non-state actors within hybrid war, the symbiotic relationship between sponsor and client is another variable that differentiates modern hybrid war from traditional forms of conflict.  The Syrian Civil War and spread of Islamic State (IS) presents a complex strategic challenge to Iran and Hezbollah as modern hybrid war practitioners.  Iran cannot afford to lose its link to its non-state proxy in Lebanon as its means by which to accomplish foreign policy goals in the Levant if forces not amiable to Iran dominate Syria.  At the same time, Hezbollah cannot afford to lose that same link to its principle supporter, lest it forfeits its ability to remain relevant as a pseudo state within Lebanon.  Therefore, while Iran has been supplying advisors, weapons, and equipment to Shia groups in Syria, it also compelled Hezbollah to send 2,000 fighters into the conflict zone as it simultaneously orchestrates a modern hybrid war within Syria.[ix]

The Israel-Hezbollah War and the Syrian Civil War also show how modern hybrid war increasingly focuses on non-state entities within the state system.  Just as Clausewitz made an assumption that the belligerents in war are hierarchically organized states, the dominant force within traditional hybrid war examples has been the state.[x] However, non-state and sub-state actors are the focal points in modern hybrid wars as proxies for state sponsors at certain times, but also executing their own independent policies.  It was the policy of Hassan Nasrullah, rather than Iran, of kidnapping Israeli troops that led Israel to war with a non-state actor.  Furthermore, the spread of IS to Iraq was initially a non-state executing a hybrid war against a conventional Iraqi military.  However, this has transformed to the state of Iraq executing its own version of hybrid war utilizing non-state, sub-state, and international actors to counter IS advances.  In addition, one of the arms of Iraq’s hybrid war, the United States, is executing its own hybrid war against IS through a combination of traditional air power, advisors to Iraqi government troops, Kurdish peshmerga, and sectarian militias, and training opposition forces within Syria.  In the end, the Iraq-Syria hybrid war is not one hierarchical entity against another, but rather an interconnected group of state and non-state actors pursuing somewhat overlapping goals where the “social and political context is complex and the state is weak.”[xi]

Modern hybrid war that simultaneously combines conventional, irregular, and terrorist components is a complex challenge that requires an adaptable and versatile military to overcome.  The United States has increasingly focused on counterinsurgency doctrine in the wake of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, insurgency alone is not the singular challenge against which the United States must structure its military. Clausewitz stated, “Every age has its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions.”[xii] It is important that the United States, and other global powers, do not focus on insurgency as the war of the post-Cold War era.  On the contrary, the commander of a military fighting a hybrid war will need to leverage a wide range of capabilities including conventional high intensity conflict units, decentralized special operations forces, and sophisticated information operations and technology platforms.  The concept of hybrid war is not new, but its means are increasingly sophisticated and deadly, and require a response in kind.

Works Cited

Filkins, Dexter. “The Shadow Commander.” New Yorker. Vol. 89, Issue 30.

Grant, Greg. “Hybrid Wars.” Government Executive. May 2008, Vol. 40 Issue 5, p. 18-24.

Hoffman, Frank. Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid War. Arlington: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007.

McCuen, John J. “Hybrid Wars.” Military Review. Mar/Apr 2008, Vol. 88 Issue 2, p. 107-113.

Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. Edited by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Schroefl, Joseph and Stuart Kaufman. “Hybrid Actors, Tactical Variety: Rethinking Asymmetric and Hybrid War.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. 37:10, p. 862-880.

End Notes

[i] Frank Hoffman, Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid War, (Arlington: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007), 20-22.

[ii] Ibid, 8.

[iii] Ibid, 24.

[iv] John, J. McCuen, “Hybrid Wars,” Military Review, Mar/Apr 2008, Vol. 88 Issue 2, 107.

[v] Greg Grant, “Hybrid Wars,” Government Executive, May 2008, Vol. 40 Issue 5, 20.

[vi] Hoffman, 35-38.

[vii] Grant, 18.

[viii] Hoffman, 38-39.

[ix] Dexter Filkins, “The Shadow Commander,” New Yorker, Vol. 89, Issue 30, 3.

[x] Joseph Schroefl and Stuart Kaufman, “Hybrid Actors, Tactical Variety: Rethinking Asymmetric and Hybrid War,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 37:10, 863.

[xi] Ibid, 863.

[xii] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Edited by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), 593.


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So long as these state actors remain undeterred they will continue to act in pursuit of their goals, regardless of what capabilities we possess, demands we make, deals we cut,or perceptions of proper we have. That is just how life is, and a rising United States was even more aggressive in this regard.

Information freedom vs information control. Powerful stuff. The US neo-con narrative is that we caused the Soviet Union to fail and dissolve, but credit lies with the people of Eastern Europe who stood up, and with Soviet policies of Glasnost and Perestroika that empowered them. Control the message, control the people.

This is the paradox of internal stability vs external effectiveness. America is founded on the principle of open and free communications where the people control the government. It gives us tremendous internal stability, but at the cost of external effectiveness. States like Russia, China and Iran exercise state control over the message and we are frustrated by the external effectiveness it gives them, but seem to not appreciate how incredibly internally unstable it makes them. Time to get Asymmetric and Hybrid and Irregular and Gray our own bad selves.

Instead of pitting our weakness against there strength in a contest of external control, we need to reframe the contest into one of our strength against their weakness: our internal stability vs their internal instability. We want to be Clausewitzian and direct, but we must be more Sun Tzu-like and Indirect. We must make this a people's contest. We need to be a better version of who we claim to be and play our game on our terms, and stop playing poorly at theirs.

Robert--getting off the topic a tad to answer your comments which I found interesting for a number of reasons.

If we really go back to the collapse of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union one needs to see how it was the Eastern European "edges" and the GDR that unraveled first before the center the Soviet Union then basically fell apart.

Starting with the GDR Berlin workers uprising in 53 then on to Hungary in 56 and then to Prague in 68---following actually what you have written here a number of times---rule of law and good governance as the drivers but more basically after the Nazi days the Eastern Europeans were simply sick and tired of anything that smacked of a dictatorship regardless of ideology and the shortages associated to the war days.

After all these failed it was apparent to the civil societies involved that nothing was about to change--- there was a period of what I would call a civil society withdrawal into themselves and at about the beginnings of the 80s one saw the civil societies in each of the above countries starting to come out of their shells---this was about the time that internal tourist travel restrictions between the various East Bloc countries had been eased and the tourist numbers had started to increase---as well as their ability to visit the Soviet Union where they would only among their closest friends would indicate they never wanted to copy what the SU was.

The younger generations born after 45 started in their own ways down a path similar as that of our 68 generation ---but just a tad on the inside of being legal within their respective civil societies--meaning provoke the system but not land in prison or denied a university entrance.

Driven and I hate to say it by US and UK rock groups and western radio stations beaming out of Berlin and via VOA and RFE.

You would not want to know how many GDR Border Guards I interviewed that had hopped the wall that would admit to listening illegally in their guard towers on the weekends to the various rock stations including the US AFN and SFB stations.

In the East Bloc countries where western TV was available and that was around Berlin and along the various borders they received a constant flow of information that while it impressed them as to what was available they also realized the "shortfalls" of capitalism.

Deeper distance wise into the East Bloc and SU ---their civil societies would often listen to the various language radio station boardcasts from VOA and RFE---though not as informed as their fellow brothers along their borders--but nevertheless informed.

I camped a number of times inside the SU in the early 70s and had to write on my somewhat older VW Beetle in the dust the price and the HP---that was critical to many Russians at that time and they would then compare it to their own "Soviet models" in price and design.

Couple these internal developments with an ever increasing awareness of the massive lying on the various 5 year plans just to "fulfill" them at the next Party Congress, the extreme shortage of consumer goods and yes even a heavy dose of corruption the various systems ---the East Bloc countries where fully ready by 1990 to collapse inwards--Poland kicked it off followed by Hungary and then the GDR.

Russia is currently just at the same point the GDR was in 1990 and Putin knows it---if you read the Russian non linear warfare article --what was the core events they analyzed the most?---the "Arab Springs" and the various "colored revolts".

Example---he started a massive anti corruption campaign recently to address the same Maidan complaints---to only have to it stopped last week for being anti government and a potential "fifth column to over throw Putin".

I have said here often Putin's single greatest fear is a Moscow driven Maidan and the "liberal" ideas that spun out of the Maidan movement---rule of law, transparency and good governance in the political and economic spheres.

My concern is that and you are right the internal stability of the US against the Russian instability is the way forward but that requires a communications media concept for carrying the message---and it must be truthful with all our own mistakes and failures.

Right now we have nothing of the sort available so the Russian agitprop barrage is all the former East Bloc and the West gets---there is not a counter voice.

The former RFE is doing some great work but their radio audiences are small in comparison to the over all numbers of individuals say alone in Russia--when one runs into Russian tourists here in Berlin---they are all on their version of FB---VK or on FB and they definitely are on Instragram and Twitter and they definitely no longer listen to radio broadcasts.

If you watch the EU and NATO they are all trying to start some form of counter communication efforts but they are really at a loss and it is a disjointed effort and in the end will run in to the sand.

Russia with it's single point for running a "whole of government approach" will always win out as being faster, and quicker on the media side-- that is why I have stated there must be a central driver again and without a centralized driver nothing can compete with the Russian "informational conflict".


I just wanted to quickly express my thanks for your posts here. I'm neck up in researching this subject for a paper on hybrid warfare emphasizing Ukraine and really have found your posts valuable. Keep it up,


Huskerguy7---thanks for the comments.

Since the Crimea and now the eastern Ukraine I have been tracking almost daily the battlefield and political moves made by Russia especially their information campaign which has been far more than just "impressive" to say the least.

I have not happy with the term "hybrid" as it does not reflect accurately exactly what Russia is doing, nor does it accurately reflect the Iranian model, the IS model and or the Chinese model.

If we really look at the various "hybrid" models they all have one thing in common---and underlying foundation built on UW.

In developing a strategy we might end up in fact with a playbook of models-but the military always seems to want to have a single generic model to plan against.

I have grown more and more comfortable with the Russian term "non-linear warfare" as it gives us the chance to really understand every battlefield and political move using Russian doctrine. I feel that if we took the time to do the same research we will see the inherent Iranian doctrine as well as the IS doctrine and the Chinese doctrine---by using the term "hybrid" it makes it sound like it is easier to deal with.

Basically it leads us astray when trying to develop a strategy to counter in this case the Russian "non-linear warfare" being conducted in the Ukraine. I tend to focus on the Russians simply because they have a nuclear trigger finger and have declared they will use it if necessary.

I will be posting several more comments on the various aspects of the Russian non-linear warfare that have been working and those doctrinal elements that have gone astray or what I call single points of failure.

The coming comments will be around what has been working well in the Russian non-linear warfare and what has not been working at all for them and what I call single points of failure.

Right now I count four single points of failure and if the Russian senior military leadership is as smart as they seem to be they have seen them as well.

Two of the points they have attempted to correct in mid stream but it appears they have not fully resolved the problems as anyone knows once the fighting starts it is impossible to adapt without causing major problems somewhere else.


I recognize your concerns about labeling it as hybrid warfare (in Ukraine). However, I haven't quite given up yet on the term 'hybrid' yet as I've been using the definition explained by Frank Hoffman in 'Hybrid vs Compund War' (Google should yield a link to the article). From him: "Any adversary that simultaneously and adaptive you employs a fused mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism and criminal behavior in the battle space to obtain their political objectives." I think that the situation in Ukraine fits into this.

However, I agree with your points on it being misapplied elsewhere; there are many instances where people are using hybrid warfare when they mean assymmetric or irregular warfare--they aren't necessarily the same thing. Nevertheless, one former Ukrainian special forces soldier I spoke with didn't like the term hybrid because of the intensity of some of the conventional skirmishes.

Russia's employment is unique, partially defined by its nuclear capabilities (the issuance of threats to coerce other states) and also by its extensive information campaign. I think the slide featured at the top of this report (http://www.janes.com/article/49469/update-russia-s-hybrid-war-in-ukraine...) does a good job at showing this.

I would type more but I am currently mobile. Nevertheless, I think the following: We have not yet fully understood hybrid warfare due to the limited amount of detailed case studies available. The term is misapplied to other scenarios. Lastly, Russia is further fleshing out the definition by demonstrating the different ways in which it can be applied.

I appreciate your thoughts

This video is made around the concept of hybrid warfare or what the Russians call non-linear warfare.

The video was part of an article in Russian on non-linear warfare and is five minutes long.

A great five minute overview of what non linear warfare has looked like in the Ukraine again in Russian.


Another aspect of non linear warfare--extremist militias.

Many also unaware there are several extremist militias in Ukraine fighting 4 "#Novorossiya" e.g #RNE #Varyag #Rusich pic.twitter.com/Y3PRRM62ya

More insight into the Russian non linear warfare taken from an interview conducted by a Russian news outlet which is not proPutin with a seriously wounded Russian tanker wounded during the Debaltseve fighting.

Insights that we seldom see in the US media and or mentioned by our senior leaders.

This interview points to two single points of failure within the non linear warfare strategy.

Well worth taking the time to review the summary. what is extremely interesting is that social media has been producing almost daily massive info on the Russian non liner war activities and it has been virtually ignored by western media in general and mentioned very little by US pundits and politicians.

James Miller @MillerMENA
Details from interview of injured Russian soldier match what we've been reporting for months - http://bit.ly/17KMbgE
There is far more to this interview that The Interpreter intends to translate in due time, including details on the lack of shared operational command between the Russians and their separatist allies, or the surprising note from Batomunkuev that his unit was told that around 70% of the population Makeyevka, Donetsk's large, eastern suburb, was regarded as pro-Ukrainian.

https://meduza.io/en/feature/2015/03/02/a-bag-and-a-gun-and-it-was-into-... … @novaya_gazeta has an important (long) interview w a Russian танкист wounded in Ukraine. Read @meduza_en's summary.

Part where he describes seeing lots of new cities and Donetsk is heartbreaking. His only chance for travel.
War as social elevator for millions of Russian youths going nowhere--and they call Ukraine the failed state.

From the same interview:
There were many trains, from all over Russia. Ours was the fifth. Before us there were boys from Khabarovsk...".

I have no regrets. We were fighting for right cause. I saw it on TV".

Ben Judah @b_judah
Russia promises to "neutralize" British military advisers sent to Ukraine. I'm sorry? What does "neutralise" mean? http://tass.ru/en/world/780572

The article below --the interview with the seriously wounded Russian tanker ---in fact points towards one of the single points of failure within the Russian UW strategy.

!! The @novaya_gazeta interview with wounded RU soldier in Ukraine has become top most-shared link in RU by far... pic.twitter.com/lAUInl9I67

Over 80,000 downloaded the link just inside Russia in one single day.

FULL translation is now in EN and well worth the read for those trying to understand Russia non linear warfare.

Russian Novaya Gazeta's article telling the story of a Russian soldier wounded in Ukraine: full English translation. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/03/02/the-story-of-a-russian-soldiers-wa...

.@novaya_gazeta interview corroborates what we knew or assumed before = maybe the most important testimony on Ukraine's war

Over 210,000 shares alone in the first two days of it's release just inside Russia make it one of the most read articles by Russians on their own soldiers fighting/dying in the Ukraine.

Depicts the ability to effectively counter Russian propaganda---it must be the truth and only the truth and it must be spread via social media which this was until finally general western mainstream media picked it up.

Effective countering of Russian disinformation at the very beginning is one of the single points of failure inside the Russian non-linear warfare doctrine--but in the case of the Ukraine the West generally failed badly at this and is still failing.

Second single point of failure within the Russian non-linear warfare doctrine:

Impact of killed, wounded and missing Russian soldiers who were either under contract and or vacationing in another country.

Mom of Russian soldier killed in #Ukraine: "What did he die for?" Part 2 of my @vicenews film on Russia's Ghost Army: http://tinyurl.com/lohkkd3

This is the "normal face" of a "normal afternoon" on the frontlines of the Russian "non linear war" in the eastern Ukraine.

Notice just how many different areas it touches within the Russian UW strategy New Generation Warfare?

While we discuss ourselves to death over what is or is not "hybrid" Russia gains another day of test bedding her doctrine.

That is why I state-go back and thoroughly understand the Russian doctrine and then hold a discussion using the every day events from the frontlines and one has a far better chance of creating a solid C-UW strategy.

Right now I alone can list five single points of failure (COGs)seen inside the UW non linear war that Russia did not anticipate happening--Russia is attempting to fix one or two-- but I believe they are not sure the fixes will work. Will be interesting to see their doctrinal debates in the coming years.

It's time to heed a common Russian phrase that #Putin violates with every breath: "Call things by their own name." We're in a new cold war.

Woman was questioned at DNR blockpost: 'you are fascist?' 'No,' she answers. 'What about your brother, dad, boyfriend, uncle ...'

With Russia's hybrid army with lots of criminals you also get lot of infighting #Krasnyi_Luch

That was 'taming' of Kosogor, cossack commandant of #KrasnyiLuch, by Russians/Plotnitski.

Great i/view w Rus Buryat soldier wounded in Ukraine by @novaya_gazeta: 90% of "DNR troops" #Debaltseve were Russians

Second one on the same interview;
Interview with Russian servicemen Feb 19 tank battle #Debaltseve http://www.novayagazeta.ru/society/67490.html … pic.twitter.com/9Dd7VmZG7G

Hard not to feel sorry for this soldier, who is 20, badly injured and doubtless in trouble for this i'view. As for his commanders/leaders...
He has no complaints,was fighting for "just cause". Putin is "cunning - tells the whole world no troops, and tells us quietly: go on go on!"

Soldiers of Russia's 7th military base in Abkhazia getting medals for fighting in Donbas https://informnapalm.org/6417-rossyjskyh-dvazhdy-okkupantov-s-7-j-voenno... … pic.twitter.com/HFLAiWTayG

Little green men celebrate the capture of #Donetsk #airport.
#RussiaInvadesUkraine pic.twitter.com/KZNrPM9NGB

Novorossya" passports are nail-color coordinated... pic.twitter.com/nLRrmTmy8h
Interview with Russian soldier from Ulan-Ude in Donbas pic.twitter.com/a1xbc3CbJL http://www.novayagazeta.ru/society/67490.html

Shoigu:Russia to expand list of combat patrol regions for strategic bombers

Eurocorps commander warns: Europe cannot continue to rely on soft power

The Slain Soldiers of Putin’s Covert War with #Ukraine (a "place of temporary dislocation") http://www.vice.com/read/russias-ghost-army-0000568-v22n2

Just an "average day".

Again we get an academic product on a very straight forward development called "hybrid warfare".

UW has been around for literally generations but the core term "hybrid" spun out of the new Russian approach to UW--a totally focused "whole of government approach" and that is the "NEW".

Every generation has it's new technologies and weapons systems--but the Russian development is a way to wage a "non linear war" ---simply meaning--without going to war--Sun Tzu would be proud of Putin right about now.

This has been my complaint for years with academicians-- they often fail to "see" and "understand" the reality of what is staring them in the face.

The core problem that is hiding possible solutions is simply this---everyone is getting "hung up" on the new buzz word or mantra "hybrid" without fully understanding exactly what kicked off this craze called "hybrid warfare" in the first place.

It really evolved out of Russian military doctrine tailored to fit the Russian form of a "whole of government" approach allowing them to both expand in a neo imperialist fashion and at the same time avoid a full scale war---IMO one full level below full war. full war meaning the complete buy in from the civil society to conduct it. One full level below war--means simply the civil society refuses to fight one.

Do we see once we understand the Russian form and I personally like the better term "non linear warfare" --other forms of it being practiced globally?

yes we do but then we also see that the Russian UW is no different than Iranian UW or IS UW--as UW has been around for generations.

The Russian "whole of government" approach to UW for which right now even NATO does not quite have an understanding on how to counter it-- has generated in the US a debate around a possible C-UW concept- but that has been lagging in the discussions as the Russians have picked up the pace of non linear warfare inside eastern Ukraine.

Facts on the ground are developing far faster than the discussions are as the US and NATO are right now in nothing but a reactive mode.

It is mandatory before one gets into a discussion on "hybrid" to understand the Russian concept of "non linear warfare" and the resulting new doctrine called "New Generation Warfare".

Well worth the reading of the following linked Russian translated document:


The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War

NATO’s problem right now:
What happens when the bear looks more like a stray dog, or a cute little kitten?

Call it non-linear war (which I prefer), or hybrid war, or special war, Russia’s operations first in Crimea and then eastern Ukraine have demonstrated that Moscow is increasingly focusing on new forms of politically-focused operations in the future.

In many ways this is an extension of what elsewhere I’ve called Russia’s ‘guerrilla geopolitics,’ an appreciation of the fact that in a world shaped by an international order the Kremlin finds increasingly irksome and facing powers and alliances with greater raw military, political and economic power, new tactics are needed which focus on the enemy’s weaknesses and avoid direct and overt confrontations.

To be blunt, these are tactics that NATO–still, in the final analysis, an alliance designed to deter and resist a mass, tank-led Soviet invasion–finds hard to know how to handle. (Indeed, a case could be made that it is not NATO’s job, but that’s something to consider elsewhere.)

Hindsight, as ever a sneakily snarky knowitall, eagerly points out that we could have expected this in light of an at-the-time unremarked article by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. In fairness, it was in Voenno-promyshlennyi kur’er, the Military-Industrial Courier, which is few people’s fun read of choice.

Nonetheless, it represents the best and most authoritative statement yet of what we could, at least as a placeholder, call the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ (not that it necessarily was his confection).

I and everyone interested in these developments are indebted to Rob Coalson of RFE/RL, who noted and circulated this article, and the following translation is his (thanks to Rob for his permission to use it), with my various comments and interpolations.

The Gerasimov doctrine then follows in translated English.

Really really worth the read before on heads over the cliff in a "hybrid" discussion.

Secondly, before heading into a deep discussion on "hybrid" highly suggest reading the following document from USASOC written by David Maxwell.


Among state actors and on the very frontiers of NATO, Russia’s actions in Ukraine embrace UW fully. Russia currently employs special operations forces, intelligence agents, political provocateurs, and media representatives, as well as transnational criminal elements in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Funded by the Kremlin and operating with differing degrees of deniability or even acknowledgement, the Russian government uses “little green men” for classic UW objectives. These objectives include causing chaos and disrupting civil order, while seeking to provoke excessive responses by the state’s security organs—thus delegitimizing the Kiev government.

Additionally, Russian elements have organized pro-Russian separatists, filling out their ranks with advisors and fighters. Russia’s UW has also included funding, arming, tactical coordination, and fire support for separatist operations. While enabling a frequency of tactical success against Ukrainian forces putting the latter at a distinct strategic disadvantage, insurgency aided by Russian UW has gained local supporters, while intimidating dissenters into acquiescing to a separation from the government in Kiev.

Russian UW is thus the central, most game-changing component of a Hybrid Warfare effort involving conventional forces, economic intimidation of regional countries, influence operations, force-posturing all along NATO borders, and diplomatic intervention. Sponsorship of separatist insurgency in Ukraine accords well with current Russian military doctrine and strategy, which embrace “asymmetrical actions… [including] special-operations forces and internal opposition to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state.”

Outstanding little known blog on Russian security and crime-well worth bookmarking the link.

With Iranian UW the messaging has never left the concept of the Khomeini "Green Crescent" and regional hegemony---with the IS UW
the messaging is all about their Caliphate.

But with Russian non linear warfare one gets a deliberate smoke screen and doublespeak designed to confuse and cloud as the "whole of government approach" is constantly turned on and never rests.

Great example came out today:

We promote imperialism but deny we promote imperialism. pic.twitter.com/bcJJIFRXIT

Lavrov Russian FM:
“The Russian World concept promoted by the Russian State and Orthodox Church has nothing to do with imperial aspirations.”

To fully understand this theory one must have read all the latest statements concerning the Russian World ie Putin's Duma speech and the latest comments in what the ROC refers to "as stopping the American project".

And how many in the non linear targeted civil society has done that lately?