Small Wars Journal

NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:23pm

NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2015 – Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove discussed the implications of hybrid war during a presentation to the Brussels Forum over the weekend.

Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, said Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and continued actions in the rest of Eastern Ukraine is a form of hybrid war.

Russia is using diplomacy, information warfare, and its military and economic means to wage this campaign, he added.

Aspects of Hybrid War

One of the first aspects of the hybrid war is to attack credibility and to try to separate a nation from its support mechanisms, the general said.

“Informationally, this is probably the most impressive new part of this hybrid war, all of the different tools to create a false narrative,” he said. “We begin to talk about the speed and the power of a lie, how to get a false narrative out, and then how to sustain that false narrative through all of the new tools that are out there.”

Military tools remain relatively unchanged, he said. “But how they are used or how they are hidden in their use, is the new part of this hybrid war,” the general said. “How do we recognize, how do we characterize and then how do we attribute this new employment of the military in a way that is built to bring about ambiguity?”

An Across-government Approach

Using the economic tool, he said, hybrid warfare allows a country to bring pressure on economies, but also on energy.

“What the military needs to do is to use those traditional military intelligence tools to develop the truth. The way you attack a lie is with the truth,” Breedlove said. “I think that you have to attack an all of a government approach with an all of government approach. The military needs to be able to do its part, but we need to bring exposure to those diplomatic pressures and return the diplomatic pressure. We need to, as a Western group of nations or as an alliance, engage in this information warfare to … drag the false narrative out into the light and expose it.”

Regarding Western response to Russian actions in Ukraine, no tool should be off the table, Breedlove said.

“In Ukraine, what we see is what we talked about earlier, diplomatic tools being used, informational tools being used, military tools being used, economic tools being used against Ukraine,” he said. “We, I think, in the West, should consider all of our tools in reply. Could it be destabilizing? The answer is yes. Also, inaction could be destabilizing.”


Bill M.

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 4:22pm

In reply to by GoatRope

I think the success of Putin's use of ambiguous warfare can be argued. At the operational level it was as successful as Germany's blitzkrieg approach, but strategically the blitzkrieg failed, and I think Putin's ambiguous warfare approach is on track to fail (it is gaining no momentum) for a number of reasons.

Russia's failure in some respects could result in a more dangerous Russia than a success. An irrational Putin could decide to escalate the conflict, to include the use of nukes as he has threatened. Of course we reject that out of hand as illogical, so in effect we wish that course of action away. But one can argue this whole episode has been illogical, so why would he stop acting illogically? Russia appears to be a dying nation, and if it is, will it die with a bang or a whimper? Putin could have secured Crimea and called it a day, but his continued actions in eastern Ukraine are pointing to significant flaws in his overall strategy and military capability from what I can see.


Fri, 03/27/2015 - 8:59am


You are surely familiar with the Gerasimov Doctrine of AMBIGUOUS WARFARE, which appears to be working splendidly for Putin?

Russian Army General Valeriy Gerasimov articulated this doctrine in 2013 at the Russian Academy of Military Science’s annual meeting. In 2014, his doctrine was officially adopted as Russian Military Doctrine. Was anyone in NATO paying attention?

Since then, Putin has effectively enacted almost every single plank of Gerasimov’s doctrine.

Gerasimov builds his concept of AMBIGUOUS WARFARE out of the doctrine of COERCIVE DIPLOMACY, which Thomas Schelling discusses in detail in his classic work on the subject, filling a hopper with examples from the Comanche in North America to the Mongols of Ghengis Khan. CD is the precurser of hybrid war and ambiguous warfare. Its orgins are found in tribal wars and tribal conflicts.

Another forgotten source for hybrid warfare is Professor Dean C. Worcester who was Teddy Roosevelt's man in the Philippines. Worcester was the first strategist to derive lessons about hybrid warfare from the US "Indian" wars and apply those lessons learned to conduct covert-type, anti-insurgent operations on foreign terrain (1890s). What Worcester articulates in his post-war memoires sounds very much like what you are describing as hybrid warfare today.

Coercive diplomacy and ambiguous warfare FAIL, as the scholar of war doctrine, Seymour Brown, points out, when open war breaks out. Putin knows that neither NATO nor the EU will engage him or his proxy Army in OPEN war.

In your "hybrid model," you don't take account of the current RUSSIAN practice of AMBIGUOUS WARFARE. Yet, Putin and his General are proving to be masterful shadow commanders.

As I have said elsewhere at SWJ, I don’t see us (NATO/EU) responding effectively to those who are ACTUALLY practicing what you appear to be preaching—namely ambiguous warfare. But Putin most certainly does put his money and hardware where his mouth and doctrine are.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 6:42am

This dispute is similar to the current US/KSA and US/Israeli dispute--reminds me of this quote that kind of sums up everything.

By the way it seems both the KSA and Israel are going it alone as they have written off the current US administration as nothing but interested in their 2017 legacy nothing more nothing less.

Notice how the US "leaks" intel info although old but in fact just as damaging in the ME.

Outside of four single sat photos released by the US taken over the Ukraine and around the Debaltseve fighting the US has released absolutely nothing that would rock the Russia boat even though the Russians have challenged them three times to release their data--ever wonder why?

Obama's recent actions, sadly, confirm the great Mideast scholar Bernard Lewis' dictum: "America is harmless as an enemy, (but) treacherous as a friend."…

Biggs Darklighter

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 7:50pm

The differences between German and American views on Russia in Ukraine may very well be cultural. Since WWII there is a cultural inclination in Germany to shy away from war, so follows all of western Europe. The Germans alone suffered about 9 million total civilian and military deaths. The U.S. has no comparable experience to such heavy losses. The U.S. and Germany see Russia through different experiences, it should be no surprise how they interpret intelligence, the OE, or how they spin their views on Russia to to the public....for better or worse.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 3:42pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---this is an interesting admission by NATO that their intel divisions had no indications and warnings concepts for "hybrid warfare".

NATOSource @NATOSource
NATO commander: "we have to change our culture of intelligence we can see the problem before it happens"…

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 12:31pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Madhu--more reporting this time from the Russian mercenary side of the Debaltseve that never makes it into western mainstream media.

Which by the way it should be carried into the mainstream media as it lends depth to the argument that Russia is in fact directly supporting her own mercenaries and these mercenaries are definitely not "separatists".

Well worth the complete read as these are translations of the Debaltseve fighting from the side of the Russian mercenaries and it was not a "glorious victory" to say the least.

Kazzura translations: "Bitter truth about Debaltsevo operation."
Inside look from Russian side …

Outlaw 09

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 12:44pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Reference Debaltseve:

Note that the twice-daily trainloads of "stuff" to Ilovaisk & Debaltseve go unreported by Western media.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 2:22am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu--here is a counter that might surprise you based on the der Spiegel article.

1. never forget the SACEUR "sees" and "reads" a far different all source intelligence product than does der Spiegel and since the Wall fell the BND has "lost" a lot of it's reputation within the "Dienste". His intel team is actually 75 % US and 25% NATO analysts and he sees and reads US national level products as a balancer.

2. check the der Spiegel report that they released concerning who based on "their intelligence" shot down MH17--really read the article as it was a full scale attempt to place the blame squarely in the Ukrainian BUK

3. this report was fully questioned by bellingcat and several other open source social media analysts which has now been seen to have been fully correct if you have read the recent results of the Dutch investigation team- these social media analysts called it correctly one week after the shot down

4. reference the Merkel mediation efforts--did you notice that after Debaltseve fell and during that major battle which was not covered anywhere in the Minsk 2 document Germany remained extremely silent as well as the French--reports are that Merkel knew that Putin had repeatedly talked about Debaltseve so she knew his interest but they German/French desperately wanted an agreement so they simply glossed over the dispute following the mantra if we get this agreement working then we will revisit Debalsteve.

5. what both the French and Germans did not fully understand was that Putin had already made the decision that Debaltseve was to be taken and it was by actual Russian elite airborne and SF with heavy loses---you can see it in his Minsk statements and his following statements the following week in Budapest--really check his statements before one cuts loose on Breedlove.

The question is why Debeltseve--it is a super key railhead which was damaged but restored by a Russian military rail specialist sitting inside the JCCC--and now large numbers of troops, munitions and heavy weapons are arriving via rail almost daily into that area.

So before one cuts loose on Breedlove and "believes" der Spiegel and the BND check the history first.

BY the way Merkel and Hollande have been massively silent on the fighting that continued way past the Minsk 2 and still are making no statements and are markedly non active right now outside of stating the sanctions will continue until all of Minsk 2 is implemented

Lastly the great BNd is getting a new headquarters here in Berlin and it has one of the most secured construction sites in all of Europe during the construction-SOMEONE or more than one person was recently able to get in and took off a large number of water facets and flooded the building which was totally finished with heavy damage and no one knows how they got in or why-----that is the current BND.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 9:55pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

"Max Boot's book is shockingly free of those key insurgencies because of the way in which the Anglo-American alliance was involved in its patronage of Pakistan. "

This should read: Max Boot's book is shockingly free of those key insurgencies. The way in which the Anglo-American alliance was involved because of its patronage of Pakistan would have helped understand the problems we are having with Saudi Arabia and the situation in the Middle East today. The ways in which that patronage occurred, thinking about how to combat them, would have helped. But that is nonsensical, because why would the parties that were involved want to understand this, even if it would have helped in counterunconventional warfare?

Fates are cruel.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 9:52pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

This should be read with the following article that I've posted around here before:

<blockquote>The German decision to recognize those two separatist governments was followed by an active diplomatic campaign led by then German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher to press the then European Community (EC) to recognize Croatia and Slovenia, leading to the December 15, 1991 decision of by the EC members to recognize their independence.

Critics of German policy at the time argued that the decisions by Genscher were made without consultations with Britain and France, not to mention Washington that favored a more cautious response to the declaration of independence by Croatia and Slovenia.</blockquote>…

Euroscepticism is a complicated topic but it doesn't track neatly into right and left, and, anyway, American right and left doesn't really translate very well overseas. Other countries have their own complicated domestic politics. In the UK and France, prominent Eurosceptics are found on the right.

Policy is not a smooth thing, there are always domestic battles and nations try and gain advantage within alliances. There are always resentments and without the Soviet Union as a threat, and with the new economic environment, those resentments are at a boiling point. Generally, this means that the alliance is not only aging but may not be particularly well suited to this moment as it was originally designed. NATO went searching for a purpose after the Soviet Union collapsed. It is not supposed to work like that.

Demographic and economic factors, among other things, will continue to create problems with the alliance. It is not such a Eurocentric world anymore, or a West versus East world either. It's just a different time requiring different thinking.

But we have a lot of people that are used to the way things are and are resisting change.

I'll be honest, I was shocked that some people I knew, ardent non-interventionists in Afghanistan and Iraq, against any intervention in Syria, whole heartedly supported an expansion of NATO. When I asked why Ukraine was so vital to American interests, they didn't have an answer.

It's just an ethnic bonding, the way I think about India. But if you are an American of European descent, you might not think that you need to examine your feelings.

This is not directed at anyone here, but in those conversations I felt a tinge of bigotry. It depressed me.

Good catch on that Tamil Nadu/IS connection in the Council.

I wish people had been more interested in the sectarian/communal nature of both the Punjab insurgency and Kashmir. This would have been far more helpful in AfPak than studying Galula.

I think a lot of the young guys get it, and got it. They are probably as perplexed as I am. Max Boot's book is shockingly free of those key insurgencies because of the way in which the Anglo-American alliance was involved in its patronage of Pakistan. It would have helped understand not only that hybrid conflict, but the problems the Army is facing in Europe.

Please don't let it be bigotry, just habit. The system ignores that stuff so it keeps doing it.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 9:39pm

@ Bill

I was thinking of this article, among others. To be fair, the article says that Washington is vetting this stuff, he's no rogue? I confess, I find the whole thing very strange. Various NATO parties are fighting and the Ukraine crisis is the result (partly):

<blockquote>German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn't understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn't the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The pattern has become a familiar one. For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove's numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America's NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.

The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel?</blockquote>…

Bill M.

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 7:04pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


You went off on a tangent in this post, and I really don't get your bottom line. What point are you trying to make? You claim Gen Breedlove isn't a unifier, but face facts, Europe has never been united. The U.S. has probably done more than any other country to develop supranational economic and political systems post WWII to unify Europe to avoid another WWI or WWII (at least in the near term), or all the inter-European wars before then. I'm sure the far left in Europe loves to blame the U.S. for its problems, since it is a convenient way to deflect their dysfunction away the mirror they refuse to look at.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 1:00pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Half of NATO wants to blow up a ceasefire that the other half supports. Awesome alliance.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:55pm

I posted this in another thread and I think it belongs here:

"Americans: You are trying to use NATO to push the EU as a trading bloc! Want us to protect your back while YOU pivot to Asia economically!
French: The EU is American hegemony! You screw us over to get better deals FOR YOU!
British: The Americans are screwing us over on the EU! Do you know how much we invest in your country?
Americans: Yeah, thanks for nothing on NATO by the way, whispering in our ears to get involved in Syria and stay in the MidEast while cutting your defense budgets! Who are you all fooling on the Saudis and the Gulfies? Nice of the Qataris to be so interested in British education.
British: Ha, like you should talk. Any retired Generals asking for the 28 pages to be released. Oh, wait a minute. Don't do that."

Pushing into Ukraine (and many parties supported this within many different nations for different national reasons) only intensified this, and, frankly, General Breedlove's behavior has increased the tensions among different parties, IMO, although some around here probably think I am being too hard on him. His behavior is not that of a, uh, uniter, though. Not in practice.

I wonder what collection of DC factions is supporting him and what he is really representing? The Germans must have been furious for that article in Der Spiegel to appear. Or is he stuck because if he stays quiet, some get upset, but if he speaks up, others get upset.

Built into the cake of NATO expansion and game theory, I guess.

What a riotous mess. And why no mention of this?

</blockquote>(Reuters) - Ukraine's president fired powerful tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky as a regional governor on Wednesday in a risky move that could affect the internal balance of power and Kiev's fight against Moscow-backed separatists.</blockquote>

Ukraine leader fires powerful oligarch Kolomoisky as regional chief

Sorry, again with the links but you can search for yourselves.

It's not 1985. There are different medias, heck, Google Earth, you know? The Chinese must be laughing themselves silly. Hey, I don't blame them, they work hard, they want to be top dog. It's just life. Everyone does, in one way or another.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 2:51pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill--I tend to disagree for a number of reasons.

If we really look back to the Cold War days one could argue it was all about ideologies ie communism vs democracy but today we seen an interesting shift at least from the Russia side that to a degree carries over to IS.

We now have a growing trend in both Russia and the IS towards fascism using the cover of a "values" fight over the so called "neo liberalism" --in the case of Russia it is against gays, gay marraige, our neo liberal economic system, the alleged abandonment of religion and God and on and on.

Go back and reread alot of UBLs early arguments against the US and you will a similar trend in his thoughts about the US controlling the holy places of Mecca and Medina. Just because he is dead does not excuse us from reading a number of his articles much as we read Che these days.

So the "values" fight of the 80s has been replaced by a "values" fight of 2015 BUT it only hides a deeper development-- that of fascism and yes that what we see in the IS Islamic ideology today is "fascist to the core"--just covered with the cloak or religion.

I think what you are really talking about is the effect of "globalization" which to a degree has controlled entire governments in the name of economic development as the perceived savior of the world in the 20th century.

Example-- I was debriefing a 50 year old Sunni businessman from Mosul who had been an ardent supporter of AQI from the beginning and whose sister was married to the Mosul AQI religious Emir before he fled to Syria-my guy survived a pick up by JSOC where I then met him in Abu Ghraib. He owned a old shoe factory under Saddam with most of the shoe making equipment out of the 60s and early 70s.

For the first four hours I was with him all I herard were bitter complaints on why the US was "allowing" Chinese shoe companies to sell sandals in Iraq for 1 USD to 1.50 USDs when he with utterely cheap Sunni labor and old machines could not make them for less than 2 USDs and that did not include a small profit--four hours in a military prison listening to the complaints of "globalization" and the US was being blamed for the problem.

At the heart of the fundalmentalist IS is the argument that the US wants to control everything including Islam --that argument you will see also in comments coming out of Putin--both have equated our form of government with the economic globalization being driven by US companies that are in name only US companies as they are listed in the NYSE but their capital sits offshore as do many of their headquarters.

In the late 70s and 80s I would often hear a similar argument directed against the US in Europe--namely your language, your culture, your movies are killing us and are not our "values" and it is corrupting our youth.

See the trend--first it was our language and culture then it was our economic system and then it was our form of government but what exactly is the underlying fear of both say Russia and the IS?

I argue that if you take the time to analye the ME you will find a schism between secular Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims just as you will find in Russia-- neo or ultra conservatives cloaked in the Russian Orthodox Church vs a younger generation that sees their ability to become a globe trotter looking for a better employment chance and a chance for self definition and not afraid of that confrontation.

That is exactly why Putin fears the Maidan and why IS attempts to impart on secular Sunnis their version of Islam.

Both sets of fundalmentalists use a form of fascism that evolved within their own civil society or within their religion.

All other arguments are just smokescreens for that form of fascism and believe me--how many American and or Europeans can actually define "fascism" these days?

By the way still stand by the comment--hybrid warfare is simply nothing realy new-- what is new are the various forms of mass communication coupled with the speed of the internet tied to a military that has modern weapons systems and who are willing to use them.

Check the CIA 1983 document--it virtually supports that argument.

By the way I would also argue that with the apparent inability of this WH and the NSC to "lead" we have ourselves caused a massive amount of confusion from a globe that was and still is use to US leadership good and or bad.

Bill C.

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:31pm

Outlaw -- at his March 25, 2015 1:35am comment below -- asks us if there is really anything new since the early 1980s re: hybrid (and political/unconventional?) warfare?

Herein suggesting that "the only difference between say 1983 and now is the internet, speed of mass communications i.e., social media, and new weapons technologies."

I must beg to differ.

As my argument below suggests, what is new is that the United States/the West, post-the Cold War, has (1) adopted the position that the Soviets/the communists held during the Cold War and, thus, has (2) ceded the moral high ground to our opponents -- wherever in the world they may be.


a. During the Cold War, the Soviets/the communists were the one's that were seen as being embarked on a crusade to impose their alien and profane political, economic and social preferences on others.

b. Post-the Cold War, it has been the United States/the West that has been seen in this light.

c. During the Cold War, the United States/the West could, in the face of the Soviet/communist threat to traditional ways of life, be seen as something of a "cultural defender."

d. Post-the Cold War, the United States/the West could (much as was the case with the Soviets/the communists during the Cold War) be seen as something of a "cultural destroyer."

e. Thus, during the "Soviets/the communists v. the Rest of the World" scenario of the Cold War, the United States/the West could often find common cause with the Rest of the World.

f. In today's the "United States/the West v. the Rest of the World" scenario, however, it is the Russians, the Chinese, the Islamists, etc., who can often find something akin to a common cause and, thus, can be seen to be employing somewhat common defensive rationales, rhetorics and techniques.

Thus, I suggest -- and specifically re: political, hybrid and unconventional warfare considerations today -- it is this amazingly new, different and, shall we say, "role reversal" backdrop and paradigm that must come to form the basis for our discussions.

Discussions that have (as the fate of the Soviets/the communists might indicate) exceptionally important implications.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 6:47am

And there is no current "disconnect" between NATO, SACEUR Breedlove and the National Command Authority Obama who is nominally the Commander and Chief of all US Forces---someone convince me there is no "disconnect" over Russia and the Ukraine and Europe.

The current European view is that he simply no longer cares as it is not on his "legacy list of things to do ie Cuba and Iran".

He can deal with Iran but not NATO where the Russian stated geo political goal is to disconnect the US from NATO and Europe--remember the recent Russian FM infowar messaging that stated Europe should not be following US Generals and Obama as it will lead them to disaster.

Bloomberg View ✔ @BV
.@joshrogin scoop: Obama snubs NATO chief at moment of crisis.

From that article the following sticks out--it seems that in three full days in DC the WH "light calendar schedule" somehow could not fit the NATO SG's visit in--how can that be in the days of at least Twitter?

Last Friday, at the German Marshall Fund Brussels Forum, Stoltenberg talked about the importance of close coordination inside NATO in order to first confront Russian aggression and then eventually move toward a stable relationship with Moscow.

“The only way we can have the confidence to engage with Russia," he said, "is to have the confidence and the strength which is provided by strong collective defense, the NATO alliance."

“The only way we can have the confidence to engage with Russia," he said, "is to have the confidence and the strength which is provided by strong collective defense, the NATO alliance."

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski told the Brussels Forum that there has been a worrisome lag between NATO’s promises of more defensive equipment for Poland and what has actually arrived, a blow to the alliance's credibility. “It’s very important and necessary for everyone to have the conviction, including the potential aggressor to have this conviction, that NATO is truly determined to execute contingency plans,” he said.

The White House missed a perfect opportunity to reinforce that message this week in snubbing Stoltenberg. It fits into a narrative pushed by Obama critics that he would rather meet with problematic leaders such as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who will get an Oval Office meeting next month, than firm allies. The message Russian President Vladimir Putin will take away is that the White House-NATO relationship is rocky, and he will be right.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 2:35am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C---just a side comment--we talk about hybrid warfare as being "new" especially the informational warfare that we are seeing massively everyday--but again is it really "new"?

If we look at the early 80s in Germany and the Soviet led anti Pershing 2 and Cruise missile basing campaigns and the Stop the Bomb movements they were lead by German peace groups and German leftists---today it is Russian led with leftist groups and European neo Nazi's.

The only difference between say 1983 and now is the internet, speed of mass communications ie social media, and new weapons technologies.

It is interesting that the CIA called it correctly in 1983 but has no answers for 2015.

Remarkable analysis by CIA from 1983 "Soviet Thinking on the Possibility of Armed Confrontation with the United States"

(Touched up a little.)

The context within which political warfare, hybrid warfare and unconventional warfare today are being contemplated was anticipated by Ambassador Paul Nitze in the early 1990s.

Herein, Ambassador Nitze voiced his concern that the victorious United States/the West, post-the Cold War, would come to adopt the thinking (universal values) and the associated practices (ignore sovereignty; impose one's political, economic and social preferences on others) that had been the purview of the former Soviet Union/the communists during the Cold War.

Thus, Ambassador Nitze suggested -- before we go down such a "role-reversal" road (we become the cultural aggressors rather than the cultural defenders) -- that we consider "one of the most important lessons of the past era;" which he believed was to be derived from the Soviet/the communists experiences of the past half-century.

This being that, in spite of communist leaders efforts -- for decades -- of trying to impose a common culture and society on others, they did not succeed.

Why? Ambassador Nitze suggested that the reason was "the near impossibility of erasing cultural ties, ethnic identities and social practices in a world where communications and ideas cannot be suppressed."

Thus, Ambassador Nitze suggested that the United States post-the Cold War -- instead of going down the same road as the Soviets/the communists in the second half of the 20th Century -- adopt "political diversity" as our way forward.

As we know, the United States/the West ignored Ambassador Nitze's such warnings and suggestions and, accordingly, paid the price.

It is against this backdrop (that we are the one's who are now seen as attacking/undermining sovereignty and attempting to impose our alien/profane way of life and way of governance on others) that we must understand the common strategy, the common narrative, and the common defensive measures which are being undertaken by the Rest of the world.

In this regard, and re: the Russians/Putin specifically, consider this from the Economist:

" ... Mr Putin’s purpose is not to rebuild the Soviet empire—he knows this is impossible—but to protect Russia’s sovereignty ... "

" ... When thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets demanding a Western-European way of life, the Kremlin saw this as a threat to its model of governance."

"Russia feels threatened not by any individual European state, but by the European Union and NATO, which it regards as expansionist. It sees them as “occupied” by America, which seeks to exploit Western values to gain influence over the rest of the world."

“We see how many Euro-Atlantic countries are in effect turning away from their roots, including their Christian values,” said Mr Putin in 2013. Russia, by contrast, “has always been a state civilization held together by the Russian people, the Russian language, Russian culture and the Russian Orthodox church.”

"The Donbas rebels are fighting not only the Ukrainian army, but against a corrupt Western way of life in order to defend Russia’s distinct world view."…

Thus, it is via this "West v. the Rest" narrative, which essentially suggests a role-reversal for the United States (now seen by all the world as the destroyer of individual cultures) that not only the Russians but also the Chinese and various entities within the Middle East and elsewhere are able to effectively stand against us.

The Soviets/the communists -- during the Cold War and with amazing political/hybrid/unconventional warfare capabilities -- were unable to overcome the fundamental truth of their untenable position.

The United States/the West, to suffer this same fate, and for much the same reason?

Something to consider (i.e., the wrong political objective, of fundamental and comprehensive outlying state and societal transformation, thus, the same goal the Soviets/the communists had during the Cold War) before:

a. Going further down the political/hybrid/unconventional warfare path so as to

b. Attempt to overcome such "natural" resistance -- as is described above.

(Note: This, as we know, did not work for the Soviets/the communists.)

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 11:30am

General Breedlove is in fact frustrated due to several things;

1. he knows after watching events unfold in the Ukraine that any C-UW strategy, tactics and then deployment takes a "total whole of government approach" and that as they say "ain't never going to get off the ground" when one has to get 28 yes votes just to change a word in any joint doctrine document at ACT.

2. he has seriously now fully understood and watched daily the Russian "informational conflict" at work and to counter that alone will cost the US and NATO well north of a billion in start up costs. Russia paid out in budget money just for their own 113 TV and radio stations in 113 countries a billion plus and have budgeted 700M USDs for next year--that is not counting their social media troll business based on St. Petersburg where 300 plus are employed 24 X 7 365.

If one cannot control the daily narrative and the daily news cycle with all media forms especially the social media--do not even get into an informational conflict as you have already lost it.

I count currenly four different infor war initiatives that have started--Ukrainian, NATO, DoS and the EU is considering starting an operation long term. what is needed is a centrally controlled and driven operation in all major languages spoken in Russia AND in real time.

3. he knows that from a tactical level he is seeing a well orchestrated joint conventional and SOF operation which again "ain't going to happen" inside 28 countries--try getting a SF decision on something that involves the SF international training site where only six NATO members are involved.

4. he is seeing a National Command Authority unwilling to make decisions for a number of reasons 1) do not want to disturb the legacy after 2017, 2) need Russian support on Iranian deal, 3) soft power preferred and no inkling to even use the threat of hard power even if treaty after treaty has been basically violated by Russia to include the INF, 4) absolutely no understanding of Putin and current Russian influencers.

Remember the NCA is not a product of the Cold War veteran generation nor was he educated during that period of time.

UW as being currently practiced by Russia, China and Iran have been basically successful-- we are simply coming late to the party as we focused way to long on two wars around COIN that should have never been fought to begin with.

A typical "hybrid warfare' day today in and around the Ukraine and Russia and one then wonders by General Breedlove is frustrated--and this is just the social media side of the house?

It's #Ukraine or Bust:

So, the #Russia|n's are breaking Minsk by preventing @OSCE inspecting, verifying heavy weapons withdrawal in #Ukraine


#Russia wants own international tribunal for war criminals to replace #Hague court "that depends on sponsors of the war crimes in #Ukraine"

Dave Maxwell

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 10:25am

In reply to by Bill M.

Thanks, Bill. Yes we are in agreement though our definitions are the result of doctrine writers holding to doctrine and GOFO approval (in this case ADM Olson was the final approval for the UW definition as it exists today and he made us remove some of the other parts that we wanted. But part of the problem is that definitions are only like sound bites or a power point slide. As you and I both know UW is far deeper and more complex than a sound bite of "power point deep."

I tried to give an aha moment a couple of years ago when I wrote the paper at this link and used the exact excerpt I posted today.…

I do also think that the Joint Encyclopedia should be reprised because it helps to fill out the definitions. It kind of serves as a bridge between the definitions and doctrine because it is hard to get people to read and study the doctrine and as you well know the definitions alone are insufficient to provide understanding especially on something as complex as UW. I do recommend reading pages 713-715 on UW in the Joint Encyclopedia

Bill M.

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 10:04am

In reply to by Dave Maxwell


This comment was not directed at you or anyone else in particular. We discussed this at length previously and we're in general agreement on this point. My principle point is you don't necessarily counter UW with UW, but you have to understand it to counter it. Heck, you have to understand it to even recognize it. I'm supporting your argument in this regard.

Regarding your comment about the definition, you make a good argument, but I still think we need more of a description of what UW is to facilitate understanding across the joint force. The definition won't stop us and the definition will never be perfect. However, while the current definition does have some value, IMO it does little more than summarize "our" doctrinal approach to UW. The description you provided below provides more of an aha moment for those not familiar with it.

Dave Maxwell

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 9:15am

In reply to by Bill M.


I have never argued that you counter UW with UW although that may be appropriate in some cases. You counter UW with a strategy that is developed based on the understanding of how (and why) our adversaries are conducting UW. We have long ignored UW not only for our own conduct but also that conducted by our adversaries and failed to recognize that it is being employed against us or our friends, partners, and allies. It is also just not the application of foreign internal defense or security force assistance though again, those missions may have application depending on the strategy. The key is understanding the operational and strategic environment and then developing strategies to achieve our policy aims and protect our interests. But a big part of our strategic environment today consists of adversaries employing their own forms of UW.

It is interesting to read about Gen Breedlove's frustration with Russia's actions in the Ukraine. In my view this is what happens when NATO apparently has a paradigm that seems to embrace the view they are either at peace or war, and adversaries don't cross the line that equates to conventional war NATO is at a loss of what to do.

While the impact of globalization changes many things (strategic considerations based on relations between actors), underlying the changes is a persistent continuity. Dave's comments below on UW are certainly worth thinking deeply about, and I would only add that the USSR had similar plans for Western Europe that NATO was well aware of, and were allegedly prepared to counter. Maybe it is time to dust off and update old plans? Maybe NATO nations need to invest more in counterintelligence to get as far left of bang of possible. To prevent the Russians from achieving their goals by establishing decisive local political conditions via subversion in the first place?

I'm not convinced you counter UW with UW, but you certainly have to understand UW to counter it. We shouldn't hesitate, the CJCS should mandate that UW as a concept is a mandatory part of joint and service professional military education. Assuming our interagency partners have anything that comes to close to a professional development program they should also gain an awareness of this form of warfare also. It all too often seems we're driving blind. Having sat in numerous intelligence briefs over the past few decades I have noted a shift from when they used to address subversion and other UW activities, to now getting a blank stare if you ask an analyst if country X or Y is conducting this type of activity. This is why I think one of the most important comments Gen Breedlove made in this interview is,

"What the military needs to do is to use those traditional military intelligence tools to develop the truth. The way you attack a lie is with the truth,”

Dave Maxwell

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 9:09am

In reply to by Bill M.


I wish we would get over the myopic focus on a definition some people do not like. What is above is not a definition but a description and what has always been and continues to be in the details of doctrine. Our arguments over the definition prevent us from understanding the nature of unconventional warfare.

Excerpt from a paper I am working on:

Unconventional Warfare Described

What is unconventional warfare? The US Department of Defense definition is quite simple: “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary and guerrilla force in a denied area.” Or at least it appears quite simple as Clausewitz said in war everything is simple but even the simplest thing is hard. Unconventional warfare is quite hard. It is complex, it is difficult to control and requires patience and persistence. Most of all it requires investment - in people, at the tactical level, in their training and education and in relationships with indigenous personnel and at the strategic level in the education of strategists and policy makers so that they have an understanding of the nature and value of unconventional warfare.

The definition should be viewed in three parts, the first at the campaign plan level, the second as a strategic decision requiring the application of a combination of the elements of national power, and the third as tactical employment. “Activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency” require an integrated campaign plan executed by a designated task force usually under the command of a geographic combatant commander. A strategic or national level decision is required to “coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power.” This has to be nested in national policy. Tactical employment is conducted by special operations forces and elements of the intelligence community working “through and with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.” Unlike most other doctrinal military definitions this special operations mission requires policy direction, strategic decision-making, campaign planning and tactical execution. Again it is both simply defined and a complex operation. However, there is one more important aspect of this definition. It is not US centric nor exclusively a US concept. In fact, a number of countries and non-state actors are conducting various forms of unconventional warfare.

Bill M.

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 6:31am

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

That is the most intelligent definition of UW I have seen. I hope SWC considers adapting it. The current definition that focuses on a potential task organization for conducting this type of warfare falls short.

Dave Maxwell

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 5:43am


QUOTE: One of the first aspects of the hybrid war is to attack credibility and to try to separate a nation from its support mechanisms, the general said.

"Informationally, this is probably the most impressive new part of this hybrid war, all of the different tools to create a false narrative," he said. "We begin to talk about the speed and the power of a lie, how to get a false narrative out, and then how to sustain that false narrative through all of the new tools that are out there."

Military tools remain relatively unchanged, he said. "But how they are used or how they are hidden in their use, is the new part of this hybrid war," the general said. "How do we recognize, how do we characterize and then how do we attribute this new employment of the military in a way that is built to bring about ambiguity?" END QUOTE

The question is are we able to operate within this type of warfare which can perhaps also be characterized as political and unconventional warfare. While we think what is happening with Russia in Ukraine and Crimea is new if we look back to our own doctrine we can see parallels (and we do not even have to go back to George Kennan's 1948 memo on political warfare. ( Below is an excerpt from the no longer published DOD Encyclopedia from 1997. (

QUOTE: UW is the military and paramilitary aspect of an insurgency or other armed resistance movement and may often become a protracted politico-military activity. From the U.S. perspective, UW may be the conduct of indirect or proxy warfare against a hostile power for the purpose of achieving U.S. national interests in peacetime; UW may be employed when conventional military involvement is impractical or undesirable; or UW may be a complement to conventional operations in war. The focus of UW is primarily on existing or potential insurgent, secessionist, or other resistance movements. Special operations forces (SOF) provide advice, training, and assistance to existing indigenous resistance organizations. The intent of UW operations is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by advising, assisting, and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish U.S. strategic or operational objectives.

When UW is conducted independently during military operations other than war or war, its primary focus is on political and psychological objectives. A successful effort to organize and mobilize a segment of the civil population may culminate in military action. Strategic UW objectives may include the following:

• Undermining the domestic and international legitimacy of the target authority.

• Neutralizing the target authority’s power and shifting that power to the resistance organization.

• Destroying the confidence and will of the target authority’s leadership.

• Isolating the target authority from international diplomatic and material support while obtaining such support for the resistance organization.

• Obtaining the support or neutrality of the various segments of the society. END QUOTE