International Relations Hybrid Warfare
by
John G.L.J. Jacobs, Martijn W.M. Kitzen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0260

Introduction

Hybrid warfare has been the bandwagon term to describe modern warfare in academic, policy, and journalist accounts. It describes a wide array of warfare techniques that do not correspond with earlier notions of warfare. Yet none of these are really to be called “new” and the military thought associated with them can be traced back as early as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Perhaps it was the shock of being faced with unfamiliar tactics, the breach of morality with hybrid tactics disregarding jus in bello principles, or the rigged black/white understanding of the dichotomy of war and peace—but whatever the reason, it has led to a plethora of terms and monikers to describe the phenomena now labeled hybrid warfare. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), for example, in discussing the “gray zone,” points out that this topic has had many monikers within the US literature. To name a few: low-intensity conflict or low-intensity operations, small wars (this one did lead to an excellent online journal called Small Wars Journal, or SWJ), irregular warfare, asymmetric warfare, and military operations other than war (MOOTW). Hybrid warfare might indeed encompass a low-intensity operations type of conflict. All of these include elements of hybridity and hybrid warfare as this bibliography seeks to demonstrate. In particular, the authors seek to address the perception that hybrid warfare has mainly been conducted by the adversaries of the West. Western governments do use hybrid tactics and hybridity comes to the front in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. (For more on counterinsurgency see the Oxford Bibliographies in Military History article “Counterinsurgency in the Modern World”). For non-state actors hybrid warfare is mostly linked to the insurgencies, with recent insurgencies using elements of terrorism.

Origins

The term hybrid warfare, as currently used, was first introduced by US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Frank G. Hoffman in 2006, though Hoffman states he took the term from a thesis by Robert G Walker in which Walker describes low-intensity operations conducted by the US Marines. Mockaitis 1995 is the earliest modern source we could find using hybrid war. In 2006 Hoffman referred to the phenomena as “complex irregular warfare” (Hoffman 2006), building forward on work he conducted with US Marine Corps General James Mattis in 2005 in an opinion piece in United States Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine (Mattis and Hoffman 2005). In 2007 Hoffman gave the first definition of hybrid warfare in academic published work: “Hybrid wars incorporate a range of different modes of warfare, including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts including indiscriminate violence and coercion, and criminal disorder” (Hoffman 2007, p. 14). This definition would be revised several times by Hoffman and others. Noteworthy in this discussion is Bjerregaard 2012, which contests the idea of hybrid warfare being a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Rob de Wijk’s contribution in the Oxford Handbook of War captures the discussion to that point well, while predicting the debates linked to hybrid warfare that play today (De Wijk 2012). By 2015, an excellent overview of the discussion appeared in Tenenbaum 2015 (in French) and in Thornton 2015. The Hybrid Warfare discussion of the past two decades is captured in Johnson 2021, making this book chapter a good starting point for scholars new to the topic of hybrid warfare.

  • Bjerregaard, Thomas. “Hybrid Warfare: A Military Revolution or Revolution in Military Affairs?” MA thesis, US Army Command and General Staff College, 2012.

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    Thesis that uses the definitions of Military Revolution (MR) and Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) provided by Williamson Murray and McGregor Knox in order to determine if hybrid warfare falls under Military Revolution or Revolution in Military Affairs. Bjerregaard concludes that hybrid warfare is neither Military Revolution nor Revolution in Military Affairs but something different.

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  • De Wijk, Rob. “Hybrid Conflict and the Changing Nature of Actors.” In The Oxford Handbook of War. Edited by Julian Lindley-French and Yves Boyer, 358–372. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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    A chapter in the Oxford Handbook of War that summarizes the debate up to 2012 and suggests multipolarity, climate change, and the structural weaknesses of coalition warfare as avenues to discuss in more detail.

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  • Hoffman, Frank G. “Complex Irregular Warfare: The Next Revolution in Military Affairs.” Orbis 50.3 (2006): 395–411.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.orbis.2006.04.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Original introduction of the term hybrid warfare in its contemporary use while discussing complex irregular warfare. With this article Hoffman was one of the few to properly react to the English translation of Unrestricted Warfare (Qiao and Xiangsui 2007, cited under Hybrid Warfare). A recommended translation is the 2007 edition.

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

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    The first definition of hybrid warfare is given by Hoffman. The definition encompasses the key elements of hybrid warfare: conventional and non-conventional, blurring of domains, and one that involves elements previously allocated to the unlawful domain.

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  • Johnson, Rob. “Hybrid Warfare and Counter-Coercion.” In The Conduct of War in the 21st Century: Kinetic, Connected and Synthetic. Edited by Rob Johnson, Martijn Kitzen, and Tim Sweijs, 45–57. London: Routledge, 2021.

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    Short introduction chapter capturing twenty years of development in hybrid warfare (including five years avant la lettre). Johnson highlights the most important events and deduces their meaning and reflects on the military role in counter-coercion, counter-hybrid operations.

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  • Mattis, James N., and Frank G. Hoffman. “Future Warfare: The Rise of Hybrid Wars.” United States Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine 131.11 (2005): 18–19.

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    Article reflecting on the downfall of the fascination with technology (Revolutions in Military Affairs), while predicting future wars would involve more psychological or information operations aspects.

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  • Mockaitis, Thomas R. “A Hybrid War: The Indonesian Confrontation.” In British Counterinsurgency in the Post-imperial Era. Edited by Thomas R. Mockaitis, 14–44. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995.

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    Makes use of the term hybrid warfare in 1995 that is close to contemporary usage. Because hybrid warfare is used by weaker actors against stronger actors there is overlap in the usage of the term. However, the use of hybrid warfare in counterinsurgency is fundamentally different from Hoffman’s reintroduction of the term, making Mockaitis’s text an important piece of literature for understanding the history of hybrid warfare.

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  • Tenenbaum, Elie. “Le piège de la guerre hybride.” Focus Stratégique 63 (October 2015).

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    Article in French summarizing the debate between 2005 and 2015. Literature in this era focuses on the US and NATO understanding of hybrid warfare; Tenenbaum argues that it should also include the 20th century.

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  • Thornton, Rod. “The Changing Nature of Modern Warfare.” RUSI Journal 160.4 (2015).

    DOI: 10.1080/03071847.2015.1079047Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    RUSI journal article summarizing hybrid warfare and stressing how Western states struggle with the concept while rival Russia employed it efficiently in the war on Crimea.

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Definitions

The different monikers, each with their own nuanced meaning, have caused the discussion on hybrid warfare to be blurry and often meaningless by repeating what is known, and contesting who has the better definition, without really providing a clear understanding of hybrid warfare or producing academic work leading to new insights. This bibliography provides insight into the different understandings of hybrid warfare, the specific tactics of strategic communications or lawfare, while providing a holistic and historical explanation of how hybrid warfare has developed in various places in the world. In this section the three most common definitions are discussed: Hybrid Warfare, as defined by Hoffman; Unrestricted Warfare, the Chinese variation on hybrid warfare; and Fourth-Generation Warfare, a term popular in military literature. The latter is commonly linked to insurgency warfare. Like insurgency warfare, hybrid warfare is characterized by the ability to shift between kinetic and non-kinetic activities. Additionally, hybrid warfare focuses on the non-kinetic and the battle in the information domain.

Hybrid Warfare

The commonly used definition of hybrid warfare is still very broad. In the original definition as articulated in Hoffman 2007 (cited under Origins), “hybrid” in hybrid warfare simply means the combination of one or more previously defined types of warfare. While it can be useful to think beyond contemporary definitions, using the term hybrid warfare for everything that appears new in modern warfare is inherently imprecise. To clear up this misunderstanding, Hoffman 2014, in an analysis devoted explicitly to what the author calls “not-so-new warfare,” led to the contemporary definition: “Hybrid threats are any adversary that simultaneously employs a tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, and criminal behavior in the same time and battlespace to obtain their political objectives” (Hoffman 2014, p. 1). The newness of hybrid warfare can perhaps best be understood as the balance between the kinetic and non-kinetic elements in military operations, with modern warfare having a majority share of non-kinetic elements, in contrast with its auxiliary function in our common understanding of operations. Alongside Hoffman’s first definition of hybrid warfare, Thornton 2007 argues that hybrid warfare is no different from asymmetric warfare, which definition predates hybrid warfare by a decade. Aside from hybrid warfare, shifting between kinetic and non-kinetic activities is described as unrestricted warfare in China, as put forward in Qiao and Xiangsui 2007, a work by two Chinese colonels, or as more recently coined as non-linear warfare in Russia (Dubovitsky 2014). An interesting variation is provided by Nadia Schadlow, who removes the kinetic element from the definition of hybrid warfare completely (Schadlow 2015).

Fourth-Generation Warfare

Yet another moniker, predating the introduction of modern warfare, is the term fourth-generation warfare (4GW). Like hybrid warfare, fourth-generation warfare finds its roots in scholarly work from the US Marine Corps, with a Marine Corps Gazette article titled “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation” (Lind, et al. 1989). The authors identify three earlier generations of regular warfare (tactics of line and column, reliance on indirect fire, and tactics of infiltration). The fourth generation focuses on irregular tactics used by non-state actors. In 2004, the concept was expanded upon by US Marine Corps Colonel Thomas X. Hammes (Hammes 2004). A fourth-generation warfare adversary might use the tactics of an insurgent, terrorist, or guerrilla in order to wage war against a nation’s infrastructure. Fourth-generation warfare takes place on all fronts: economic, political, the media, military, and civilian. Mockaitis 1995 describes this fourth-generation warfare as hybrid warfare when discussing (counter) insurgency in the British post-imperial era.

  • Hammes, Thomas X. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century. St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004.

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    Book building forward on the concept of fourth-generation warfare, describing a proto version of hybrid warfare. Hammes illustrates how insurgents and terrorists will fight unconventionally in the face of an adversary with superior military capability.

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  • Lind, William S., Keith Nightengale, John F. Schmitt, Joseph W. Sutton, and Gary I. Wilson. “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation.” Marine Corps Gazette (October 1989): 22–26.

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    Article introducing the fourth generation of warfare. In general the article was poorly received and critiqued as nothing new, irrelevant, or “reinvented” by the authors for personal gain. Notwithstanding, the article summarizes the generations of warfare quite well and describes elements of contemporary hybrid warfare.

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  • Luman, Ronald R., ed. Unrestricted Warfare Symposium: Proceedings on Strategy, Analysis, and Technology, 14–15 March 2006. Laurel, MD: John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, 2006.

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    Proceedings of the 2006 Unrestricted Warfare Symposium, the first in a series of four. Held to examine the concept of unrestricted warfare in the then recently translated book of the same name, it instead discusses fourth-generation tactics by non-state actors and focuses on terrorism and US interests in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite its title, as a book on fourth-generation warfare and as an introduction of the idea that counterinsurgency requires hybrid tactics it is a valuable contribution.

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  • Mockaitis, Thomas R. “A Hybrid War: The Indonesian Confrontation.” In British Counterinsurgency in the Post-imperial Era. Edited by Thomas R. Mockaitis, 14–44. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995.

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    Early text linking hybrid warfare to the concept of counterinsurgency. Mockaitis’s definition of hybrid warfare in the insurgency context fits the modern usage of hybrid war as well.

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  • Osinga, Frans. “On Boyd, Bin Laden, and Fourth Generation Warfare as String Theory.” In On New Wars: Contributions from the Conference ‘New Wars.’” Vol. 1. Edited by John Olsen, 168–199. Oslo Files on Defence and Security 4. Oslo, Norway: Institutt for Forsvarsstudier, 2007.

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    Book chapter offering an explanation of fourth-generation warfare (4GW) as an exercise in strategic thinking. Osinga positions 4GW as an idea in which its authors aim to connect certain developments that, in their view, will dominate the future strategic landscape. Osinga concludes that 4GW may be akin to a string theory of contemporary strategic studies.

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Unrestricted Warfare

The concept of unrestricted warfare is put forward in a book on military strategy written in 1999 by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui (Qiao and Xiangsui 2007), two colonels in the People’s Liberation Army. Though translated in 1999, it gained attention only six years later. A translation in India from 2007 (Qiao and Xiangsui 2007) offers a direct translation from the original text. The book was written in reaction to the stunning 1991 US-led coalition victory in the Gulf War against Iraq. By the time it was translated the events of 11 September 2001 were about to occur in the United States. Rather than applying hybrid tactics to a non-state actor, the two colonels see China as the weaker party vis-à-vis the United States. Being aware that China could not field a similar air power capacity or Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capability unnoticed, they suggested adopting a different approach to war. The publication of a 2006 conference proceeding (Luman 2006, cited under Fourth-Generation Warfare) shows that the strategic studies community did not perceive China’s unrestricted warfare as a threat. Instead, ideas of unrestricted warfare were applied to counterinsurgency activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Aside from news articles published in the Diplomat, little has been published in English on unrestricted warfare. China has appeared to focus on four aspects of non-kinetic or hybrid warfare: economic warfare, lawfare, information warfare, and psychological operations. Chinese lawfare is described in English in Wensheng 2004. Although the subject of unrestricted warfare has received little coverage in Western academic writing, an attempt to draw unrestricted warfare into academic circles is made in Woudstra 2017, where the author focuses on the maritime domain, an area often forgotten in discussions of hybrid warfare.

  • Cheng, Dean. “Backgrounder Winning without Fighting: Chinese Legal Warfare.” In Heritage Foundation. Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation, 2012.

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    Article describing the three contemporary uses of unrestricted warfare: information warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare.

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  • Qiao, Laing and Wang Xiangsui. Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America. Dehradun, India: Natraj, 2007.

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    Originally translated by Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1999, the 2007 edition offers a good translation directly from Chinese. Chinese version of hybrid warfare—earliest publication on the new way to fight war.

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  • Wensheng, Cong. Faluzhan Yibaili Jingdian Anli Pingxi. Beijing: PLA Publishing House, 2004.

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    Translated as “Analysis of 100 cases of legal warfare.” Chinese jurist mandated by the Chinese military to develop lawfare further by analyzing legal cases. Each case is described in detail, an analysis is given, and a “moral” is offered to the reader for ways to enhance political-military effects.

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  • Woudstra, Niels. “Winning without Killing in the South China Sea.” In Netherlands Annual Review of Military Studies 2017: Winning without Killing; The Strategic and Operational Utility of Non-kinetic Capabilities in Crises. Edited by Paul A. L. Ducheine and Frans P. B. Osinga, 287–299. The Hague: T. M. C. Asser, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-6265-189-0_16Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Contemporary book chapter in a series focused on the non-lethal aspect of (hybrid) warfare. Woudstra focuses on the maritime domain using the South Chinese Sea as a case example. Woudstra draws unrestricted warfare back into the light. By doing so he highlights the link between law and war in contemporary warfare.

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Hybrid Warfare through the Ages

As illustrated before, hybrid warfare, in its essence, is nothing new. Two edited volumes provide plenty of historical illustrations and examples of tactics now associated with hybrid warfare that have always been part of war. The most recent is the edited volume by Williamson Murray and Peter R. Mansoor, with examples going as far back as the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens (Murray and Mansoor 2012). Three chapters are worthy of mention: Richard Hart Sinnreich describes the Peninsular War (1807–1804) that led to the introduction of the term guerrilla (Hart Sinnreich 2012), Noboru Yamaguchi describes early Chinese hybrid warfare in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) (Yamaguchi 2012), and Karl Lowe describes the inception of hybrid warfare as counterinsurgency in Vietnam during the second half of the Second Indochina War (1955–1975) (Lowe 2012). The second relevant volume, edited by Thomas M. Huber (Huber 2002), describes a term for hybrid warfare that received little traction: compound warfare. Compound warfare combines irregular troops with regular troops, and again it has plenty of historical examples. In one chapter Huber describes the Peninsular War using the concept of compound warfare, while contributions by Gary J. Bjorge and Robert F. Baumann give insight into the development of hybrid warfare in two key campaigns in Russia and China. The oldest and perhaps best-known historical iteration of hybrid or compound warfare is found in the exploits of Captain T. E. Lawrence in the First World War, as captured in his autobiographical Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Lawrence 2018 [originally published in 1926]). In the Second World War, proto-elements of hybrid warfare were also evident. Historical accounts of Perry Biddiscombe (Biddiscombe 1997) and Gerhard Weinberg (Weinberg 1994) describe hybrid tactics employed by the United Kingdom, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union.

  • Baumann, Robert F. “Compound War Case Study: The Soviets in Afghanistan.” In Compound Warfare: That Fatal Knot. Edited by Thomas M. Huber, 285–306. Leavenworth, KS: US Army Command and General Staff College Press, 2002.

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    Describes compound and hybrid tactics employed by the Soviets during the 1979 invasion in Afghanistan against the mujahedeen. The experience proved fruitful for the development of hybrid tactics on both sides, and the conceptualization of hybrid warfare as counterinsurgency, later employed against jihadists in Chechnya and against both the Taliban and NATO allies in Afghanistan.

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  • Biddiscombe, Perry. Werewolf! The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

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    Book describing the use of hybrid tactics by Nazi SS special forces against Russian guerrillas.

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  • Bjorge, Gary J. “Compound Warfare in the Military Thought and Practice of Mao Zedong and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Huai Hai Campaign.” In Compound Warfare: That Fatal Knot. Edited by Thomas M. Huber, 169–220. Leavenworth, KS: US Army Command and General Staff College Press, 2002.

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    Book chapter describing compound tactics in the Huai Hai Campaign. The chapter gives relevant insights into Mao Zedong’s thinking. Hybrid warfare developed to a great extent in East Asia and it can be directly or indirectly attributed to Mao Zedong.

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  • Hart Sinnreich, Richard. “That Accursed Spanish War: The Peninsular War, 1807–1814.” In Hybrid Warfare: Fighting Complex Opponents from the Ancient World to the Present. Edited by Williamson Murray and Peter R. Mansoor, 104–150. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139199254.005Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Chapter in Murray and Mansoor 2012 that describes the emergence of the word guerrilla in the Peninsular War, describing how the Spanish resisted Napoleon using hybrid tactics.

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  • Huber, Thomas M., ed. Compound Warfare: That Fatal Knot. Leavenworth, KS: US Army Command and General Staff College Press, 2002.

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    This book describes the combination of employing regular and irregular arms through use of the term compound warfare. The combination of regularity and irregularity is a key element in hybrid warfare, though this book focusses purely on the military aspect.

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  • Lawrence, Thomas Edward. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2018.

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    Originally published in 1926 (Ware, UK: Wordsworth Editions). Describes the exploits of T. E. Lawrence in an early version of compound warfare in which Lawrence’s Arab raiding band assisted General Edmund Allenby’s thrusts with the British Expeditionary Force against Jerusalem and Damascus.

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  • Lowe, Karl. “Hybrid War in Vietnam.” In Hybrid Warfare: Fighting Complex Opponents from the Ancient World to the Present. Edited by Williamson Murray and Peter R. Mansoor, 254–288. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139199254.010Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Book chapter that describes hybrid war as it occurred in Vietnam during the Second Indochina War. The war in Vietnam was a key experience for US officers and scholars leading to the rise of the COINdinistas in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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  • McCulloh, Timothy, and Richard Johnson. Hybrid Warfare. MacDill Air Force Base, FL: Joint Special Operations University Press, 2013.

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    Examines the Soviet Partisan Network in the Second World War through the lens of hybrid warfare. The authors compare a case study of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, the initial introduction of hybrid warfare by Hoffman, with the Soviet use of similar tactics when fighting Nazi Germany.

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  • Murray, Williamson, and Peter R. Mansoor, eds. Hybrid Warfare: Fighting Complex Opponents from the Ancient World to the Present. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    Edited volume arguing hybrid warfare has existed throughout the ages. Criticizes the perception that hybrid conflicts are unique with nine historical examples.

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  • Weinberg, Gerhard L. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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    Book describing the creation of the British Special Operations Executive that carried out a mixture of hybrid warfare and covert operations.

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  • Yamaguchi, Noboru. “An Unexpected Encounter with Hybrid Warfare: The Japanese Experience in North China, 1937–1945.” In Hybrid Warfare: Fighting Complex Opponents from the Ancient World to the Present. Edited by Williamson Murray and Peter R. Mansoor, 225–253. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139199254.009Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Book chapter focusing on an early use of ideology as a weapon. Describes a possible influential experience for Mao that furthered the development of his ideas on warfare.

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Weapons of the Weak

Hybrid tactics have historically been attributed to non-state actors, such as rebel groups and militias, that were not able to fight a militarily superior adversary in a conventional way. Throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries Communist Revolutionaries and Islamic Jihadists have been considered the two main categories of actors resorting to irregular tactics to challenge the major powers.

Communist Revolutionaries

Communist revolutionaries were mainly active in two places around the world: Latin America and Southeast Asia. Often funded and guided by the major communist powers, most especially the Soviet Union and later the People’s Republic of China, their tactics were largely based on the revolutionary wars conducted by China. Bernard Fall shows in the translated works of Hô Chí Minh (Hô 1984) that the Vietnamese leadership was influenced by Maoist doctrine. In turn, inspired by the success of the Vietnamese, revolutionaries and insurgents in Latin America took heart. The dominant narrative was that if a small Third World country like Vietnam could defeat the mighty United States, anything was possible. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas (the Sandinista Front for National Liberation [FSLN]), through evolutionary steps, further increased the emphasis on political developments in driving the battlefield outcome. Shirley Christian finds that the Sandinistas refined Maoist doctrine by making political strategy itself the end game (Christian 1986). A complete account of the development of these hybrid tactics, starting with Mao Zedong, is given in Hammes 2004, in which the author refers to this development as Fourth-Generation Warfare.

  • Christian, Shirley. Nicaragua: Revolution in the Family. New York: Vintage, 1986.

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    The Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter chronicles the events in Nicaragua that led up to the revolt against President Anastasio Somoza, the consolidation of power by the Sandinistas, and the period of unrest that followed.

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  • Hammes, Thomas X. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century. St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004.

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    Builds upon the idea of fourth-generation warfare to describe the origins of hybrid warfare in the tactics used by Mao.

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  • Hô, Chí Minh. On Revolution: Selected Writings 1920–66. Edited and translated by Bernard B. Fall. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1984.

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    Translation by Bernard B. Fall. Hô Chí Minh and Võ Nguyên Giáp developed and employed the next major modification to hybrid warfare. Using Mao’s People’s War as a base, they refined the model to include an aggressive attack on the national will of their principal enemy—first versus France, then against the United States.

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  • Mao Zedong. On Protracted War. Peking: People’s Binding House, 1954.

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    Translated work compromising a series of speeches given by Mao Zedong that describes early versions of Maoist revolutionary combat.

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Islamic Jihadists

The second non-state actor that has traditionally been categorized as a user of the weapons of the weak is the global jihadist movement. Lowther 2007 describes three American experiences with asymmetric conflict conducted by parties belonging to this classification. The 1983 Beirut barracks bombings in Lebanon may be seen as the first use of the suicide bomber as a hybrid tactic to bring a stronger adversary to its knees. While still using the Walker definition of hybrid warfare, Nemeth 2002 describes hybrid warfare, and the linkages among low-intensity conflict, terrorism, and the fourth generation of warfare in a case study of the first and second Chechnya wars, unintentionally showing both hybrid tactics by Islamic extremists in Chechnya as well as hybrid warfare as counterinsurgency tactics employed by Russia. David Kilcullen describes hybrid warfare tactics used by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida (Kilcullen 2005). Hoffman 2006 uses the Hezbollah attack on Israel in 2006 as the first case to describe hybrid warfare.

  • Hoffman, Frank G. “Lessons from Lebanon: Hezbollah and Hybrid Wars.” Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2 August 2006.

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    Early article from Hoffman in which he discusses the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Hoffman uses the term hybrid warfare to describes Hezbollah’s use of C802 anti-ship cruise missiles against land targets.

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  • Kilcullen, David J. “Countering Global Insurgency.” Journal of Strategic Studies 28.4 (2005): 597–671.

    DOI: 10.1080/01402390500300956Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Paper suggesting that the War on Terror should be seen as a counter against global insurgency and how to apply counterinsurgency tactics, thereby unintentionally describing hybrid warfare is conducted today by Russia and China. At the same time, the author describes hybrid warfare tactics employed by Osama bin Laden.

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  • Lowther, Adam. Americans and Asymmetric Conflict: Lebanon, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

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    The author reflects on American experiences with asymmetric conflict in Lebanon, Somalia, and Afghanistan, summarizing insights in the (then) ongoing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lowther’s chapter on Lebanon describes the first use of the suicide bomb.

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  • Nemeth, William J. Future War and Chechnya: A Case for Hybrid Warfare. Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School, 2002.

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    Thesis describing a hypothetical hybrid society and suggesting ways to counter an early variation of hybrid warfare. In contemporary discussions these ideas are linked to hybrid defense and resilience.

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US-Led Development of Hybrid Warfare, 2006–2012

Part of the hybrid warfare discussion is the question whether hybrid warfare is new or not. A series of articles by Frank G. Hoffman (Mattis and Hoffman 2005, Hoffman 2006, Hoffman 2007) in the first decade of the 21st century put hybrid warfare on the map, leading to a buzz in academic spheres about hybrid warfare. Hoffman’s writings were quickly linked to the counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, thereby blurring the use of the term hybrid warfare in the counterinsurgency context (as was done in the 1990s) and its then future use in describing conflict in the information domain. The articles produced by Hoffman influenced writing between 2006 and 2012, and they serve an important steppingstones in understanding hybrid warfare.

  • Hoffman, Frank G. “Complex Irregular Warfare: The Next Revolution in Military Affairs.” Orbis 50.3 (2006): 395–411.

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    Original introduction of the term hybrid warfare in its contemporary use while discussing complex irregular warfare. With this article Hoffman was one of the few to properly react to the English translation of Unrestricted Warfare by Chinese colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsue (see Qiao and Xiangsui 2007, cited under Hybrid Warfare).

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

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    The first definition of hybrid warfare is given by Hoffman. The definition encompasses the key elements of hybrid warfare: conventional and non-conventional, blurring of domains, and one involving elements previously allocated to the unlawful domain.

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  • Mattis, James N., and Frank G. Hoffman. “Future Warfare: The Rise of Hybrid Wars.” United States Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine 131.11 (2005): 18–19.

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    Article reintroducing the term hybrid warfare after it was used a decade earlier in counterinsurgency literature. The article is the first in a series of articles by Frank G. Hoffman giving traction to the discussion of hybrid warfare. While not as influential as Hoffman 2006, “Future Warfare: The Rise of Hybrid Wars” is the first article in the US-led development of hybrid warfare.

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Compound Warfare

Hybrid warfare has a close relationship with counterinsurgency. Both historically and at the present time states have made use of the combination of regular and irregular troop formations, at times incorporating non-state actors. The term compound warfare, as mentioned earlier, is introduced and illustrated with historical examples in the edited work Huber 2002, though the most common contemporary examples would be Russia’s “little green men” (Galeotti 2015) and Afghanistan’s former rebels turned law enforcement officers: the Afghan Local Police (ALP) (see, for example, Schmeidl and Miszak 2017). Historical examples of using indigenous forces in a hybrid/compound way for counterinsurgency include the US counterinsurgency attempts in the Philippines and Vietnam, French campaigns in Indochina and Algeria (Cassidy 2006, see also Piasecki 2009), Russia’s wars in Chechnya (Šmíd and Mareš 2015), and the British colonial wars in Kenya (Branch 2007).

Hybrid Warfare as Counterinsurgency

For Western militaries, the tactics described as part of the hybrid warfare toolbox are most recognizable in counterinsurgency tactics. One of the first articles to describe these tactics as a means to counterinsurgency and fight against rebels was published in Parameters in 1986 under the name of John Galvin (Galvin 1986), though later it would be revealed most of the article was actually written by David Petraeus. Petraeus, together with other military officers of his generation such as James Norman Mattis and Herbert Raymond McMaster, would later go on to employ hybrid tactics as a means to counter the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the nickname COINdinistas, a term describing military officers advocating the introduction of counterinsurgency tactics and combining their military experience with academic writing (see for example Mattis and Hoffman 2005). These tactics were first fully captured in the original Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3–24 published in 2006 (Department of the Army 2006). In the latter half of the 21st century’s first decade a focus was placed on pro-government militias (see Romain Malejacq’s Oxford Bibliographies in International Relations article “Pro-government Militias”), constituting counterinsurgency with “tribal engagement” (Gant 2009). The failure to properly understand hybrid warfare as something that could originate from a state actor is captured in the conference proceedings of the Unrestricted Warfare Symposium in 2006, thus focusing the discussion on counterinsurgency instead. The correct observation of the resemblance between hybrid warfare and counterinsurgency has not been limited to Western states. Russia has an equally long history of employing hybrid tactics against insurgents in Afghanistan and Chechnya (see, for example, Kramer 2004).

Reinterpretation of Hybrid Warfare by NATO/EU, 2014–Present

The Western reaction to hybrid warfare has in recent years been marked as passive or reactive. As Boot and Doran 2013 critiques, Western states have largely forgotten how to wage hybrid war (no matter which moniker you use). Only after the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea in 2014 did hybrid warfare come to be associated with Russia. The NATO-EU European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, which opened in Helsinki in 2017, is both a good starting point as well as a sad reminder of the loss of collective understanding of hybrid warfare—apparently such a center is necessary to obtain a renewed understanding of this phenomenon Meanwhile China’s unrestricted warfare and lawfare abuses have remained largely ignored. Nevertheless, leading scholars and institutions see a role for NATO in dealing with the hybrid challenge. Aaronson, et al. 2012 argues for the need for NATO to empower the private sector while retaining intellectual ownership. The sentiment for the private sector is echoed in Limnell 2018. Lindley-French 2015 is one of the first works to argue for a full spectrum approach to face the Russian threat. Kramer and Speranza 2017 provides five critical steps to follow in confronting Russia’s challenge. All of these examples embrace the idea of a comprehensive government approach to hybrid warfare, indicating a consensus on the need for a conceptualization of hybrid defense mimicking the Finnish approach. Such hybrid defense efforts can be achieved only through more regional cooperation, as argued in Cederberg, et al. 2017. Rühle 2021 offers insights into NATO’s current response to Hybrid Threats.

  • Aaronson, Michael, Sverre Dissen, Yves de Kermabon, Mary Beth Long, and Michael Miklaucic. “NATO Countering the Hybrid Threat.” PRISM: The Journal of Complex Operations 2.4 (2012): 111–124.

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    Article by high-ranking officials suggesting approaches for NATO against the non-state version of hybrid warfare.

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  • Boot, Max, and Michael S. Doran. “Political Warfare.” Policy Innovation Memorandum 33 (28 June 2013). New York: Council on Foreign Relations.

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    Article criticizing the apparent reactive stance to hybrid warfare, while having a rich history of similar tactics during the cold war.

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  • Cederberg, Aapo, Pasi Eronen, and Juha Mustonen. Regional Cooperation to Support National Hybrid Defence Efforts. Hybrid CoE Working Paper 1. Helsinki: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), 2017.

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    Report based on the proceedings of a high-level workshop on hybrid risk assessment in the Baltic Sea region. The report identifies the need for regional cooperation to defend against hybrid threats.

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  • Kramer, Franklin D., and Lauren M. Speranza. Meeting the Russian Hybrid Challenge: A Comprehensive Strategic Framework. Washington, DC: Atlantic Council, 2017.

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    Atlantic Council report suggesting steps for NATO to employ against Russian hybrid warfare.

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  • Limnell, Jarno. Countering Hybrid Threats: Role of Private Sector Increasingly ImportantShared Responsibility Needed. Helsinki: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), 2018.

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    Hybrid CoE report on the (potential) role of the private sector in resisting hybrid threats.

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  • Lindley-French, Julian. NATO and the New Ways of Warfare: Defeating Hybrid Threats. Rome: NATO Defense College, Research Division, 2015.

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    Proceedings of a high-level NATO conference in Rome with concrete steps on ways for NATO to react to Russian hybrid warfare.

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  • Luman, Ronald R., ed. Unrestricted Warfare Symposium: Proceedings on Strategy, Analysis, and Technology, 14–15 March 2006. Laurel, MD: John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, 2006.

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    First of a series of four proceedings of the Unrestricted Warfare Symposium. Displaying the common misunderstanding of unrestricted warfare in favor of counterinsurgency tactics be employed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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  • Rühle, Michael. NATO’s Unified Response to Hybrid Threats. Washington, DC: Center for European Policy Analysis [CEPA], 2021.

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    Short article by the head of NATO’s Hybrid Challenges and Energy Security Section, Emerging Security Challenges Division explaining NATO’s Counter-Hybrid toolbox.

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Variations on Russian Hybrid Warfare

In the discussion on hybrid warfare many writers and policymakers focus on the recent resurgence of Russian aggressiveness and the use by the Russians of information as a weapon to influence adversaries. In layman discussions and panels the Russian approach is often used synonymously with hybrid warfare. A more detailed investigation in the Russian use of hybrid warfare reveals three distinct variations being used: information warfare, non-linear warfare, and new generation warfare.

Russian Hybrid Warfare (General)

Use of hybrid warfare by Russia is, however, not new. Russia has a long history in using camouflage and deception as core elements of its military doctrine, best captured in the Russian word maskirovka. The long history of Russian deception is described in Jonsson 2019 and Galeotti 2019 (cited under Non-linear Warfare). Similar historical accounts are given in Chivvis 2017 and Snyder 2018. Andrew Radin analyzes contemporary subversion employed by Russia (Radin 2017), while Rod Thornton focuses on “integration” as a key element in (Russian) hybrid warfare (Thornton 2015). Like its counterparts in the West, Russia also focuses on the interplay between counterinsurgency and hybrid warfare, as discussed in Baumann 2002 and Šmíd and Mareš 2015 Occasionally the term “Gerasimov Doctrine” is wrongly used. Gerasimov wrote about the tactics he believes Western states are using against Russia though the supported so-called color revolutions in former Soviet Union states. This perception stems from a poor translation of Gerasimov’s publication in which he accuses Western states of using hybrid warfare against Russia.

  • Baumann, Robert F. “Compound War Case Study: The Soviets in Afghanistan.” In Compound Warfare: That Fatal Knot. Edited by Thomas M. Huber, 285–306. Leavenworth, KS: US Army Command and General Staff College Press, 2002.

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    Describes compound and hybrid tactics employed by the Soviets during the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan against the Mujahedeen.

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  • Chivvis, Christopher S. Understanding Russian “Hybrid Warfare” and What Can Be Done about It. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2017.

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    Published by the RAND Corporation, this report is a testimony presented by Christopher S. Chivvis before the US House Committee on Armed Services on 22 March 2017. The testimony explains the key characteristics and uses of Russian hybrid warfare, the major tools involved, and the countries currently targeted. It then gives a brief sketch of the history of Russian hybrid warfare and outlines basic elements for a strategy to counter it.

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  • Fridman, Ofer. Russian “Hybrid Warfare”: Resurgence and Politicisation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190877378.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers a clear delineation of the conceptual debates about hybrid warfare. The book gives insight into what has led Russian experts to say that the West is conducting a gibridnaya voyna (hybrid warfare) against Russia.

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  • Jonsson, Oscar. The Russian Understanding of War: Blurring the Lines between War and Peace. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvr697c8Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The author analyzes the evolution of Russian military thought and how Russia's current thinking about war is reflected in recent crises. While other books describe current Russian practice, Jonsson provides a long view to show how Russian military strategic thinking has developed from the Bolshevik Revolution to the present. He closely examines Russian primary sources, including security doctrines and the writings and statements of Russian military theorists and political elites.

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  • Polyakova, Alina, Mathieu Boulègue, Kateryna Zarembo, et al. The Evolution of Russian Hybrid Warfare. Washington, DC: Center for European Policy Analysis [CEPA], 2020.

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    Edited series of articles detailing the development of Russian hybrid warfare attempts against Ukraine, Estonia, the United Kingdom, and the EU/NATO.

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  • Rácz, András. “Russia’s Hybrid War in Ukraine: Breaking the Enemy’s Ability to Resist.” FIIA Report, No. 43, 2015.

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    Report looking into the operational prerequisites for Russian hybrid warfare and discusses whether it is bound by country/region or deployable universally.

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  • Radin, Andrew. Hybrid Warfare in the Baltics: Threats and Potential Responses. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation, 2017.

    DOI: 10.7249/RR1577Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this RAND research report published in March 2017, Andrew Radin analyses the hybrid threat to the Baltics by “dividing potential Russian aggression in three categories: nonviolent subversion, covert violent action, and conventional warfare supported by subversion.” (p. vii).

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  • Šmíd, Tomáš, and Miroslav Mareš. “‘Kadyrovtsy’: Russia’s Counterinsurgency Strategy and the Wars of Paramilitary Clans.” Journal of Strategic Studies 38.5 (2015): 650–677.

    DOI: 10.1080/01402390.2014.942035Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses on the Russian government’s use of the Kadyrovtsy (a pro-Russian paramilitary organization in Chechnya) to fight the Chechen insurgency.

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  • Snyder, Timothy. The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America. New York: Random House, 2018.

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    Focusing on the (Russian) use of cyberwarfare, this book describes the spread of illiberalism from east to west, fueled by Russian hybrid warfare against its neighbors and against targets in the United States and Europe.

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  • Thornton, Rod. “The Changing Nature of Modern Warfare: Responding to Russian Information Warfare.” RUSI Journal 160.4 (2015): 40–48.

    DOI: 10.1080/03071847.2015.1079047Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This RUSI article offers an analysis of the Russian version of the hybrid-warfare measures, using the concept of “integration” as being at the heart of hybrid warfare.

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Information Warfare

In contemporary warfare the role of information is slowly being recognized as a fundamental element. However, Russia recognized the role played by information as early as the Bolshevik Revolution and has employed it. Bouwmeester 2017 highlights the role of deception and reflexive control theory in Russian military thinking on information warfare. Kofman and Rojansky 2015 takes a historical approach in tracing information warfare back to the Cold War, while Fridman, et al. 2019 looks at the two decades that followed.

  • Bouwmeester, Han. “Lo and Behold: Let the Truth Be Told—Russian Deception Warfare in Crimea and Ukraine and the Return of ‘Maskirovka’ and ‘Reflexive Control Theory.’” In Netherlands Annual Review of Military Studies 2017: Winning without Killing; The Strategic and Operational Utility of Non-kinetic Capabilities in Crises. Edited by Paul A. L. Ducheine and Frans P. B. Osinga, 287–299. The Hague: T. M. C. Asser, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-6265-189-0_16Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Article focusing on deception warfare, a substantial element of information warfare. The article provides relevant insights by focusing on reflexive control theory.

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  • Fridman, Ofer, Vitaly Kabernik, and James C. Pearce, eds. Hybrid Conflicts and Information Warfare: New Labels, Old Politics. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2019.

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    Edited volume on the technological/information revolution of the last two decades. This book addresses these questions from the perspectives of both Western and Russian experts. The authors offer a unique dialogue on the nature of conflict in the second decade of the 21st century.

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  • Kofman, Michael, and Matthew Rojansky. A Closer Look at Russia’s “Hybrid War.” Wilson Center Kennan Cable 7. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson international Center for Scholars, 2015.

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    Kennan Cable article looking into the hybrid tactics employed against Ukraine. The article focuses on information warfare.

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Non-linear Warfare

A recent moniker for hybrid warfare is the Russian name for non-linear warfare, introduced in 2014 by Vladislav Surkov. The term was coined in a short story written by one of Putin’s closest political advisers, Vladislav Surkov. Surkov wrote under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, a short story published a few days before the illegal annexation of Crimea. Use of hybrid warfare by Russia is not, however, recent. Russia has a long history in using camouflage and deception as core elements of its military doctrine, best captured in the Russian word maskirovka. The long history of Russian deception is examined in Galeotti 2019.

  • Bartles, Charles. “Getting Gerasimov Right.” Military Review (January–February 2016): 30–38.

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    Article based on a briefing given by General Valery Gerasimov during the Russian Ministry of Defense’s Third Moscow Conference on International Security. The article gives an overview of Gerasimov’s point of view toward the West and how Russia sees the United States as a threat based on US-led military interventions between 2001 and 2004.

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  • Galeotti, Mark. Russian Political War: Moving beyond the Hybrid. London: Routledge, 2019.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780429443442Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book cuts through the misunderstandings about Russia’s geopolitical challenge to the West, presenting this not as “hybrid war” but as “political war.” Combines Galeotti’s earlier work from single articles between 2014 and 2016: “The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-linear War” (2014), “Hybrid, Ambiguous, and Non-linear? How New Is Russia’s New Way of War?” (2016) and “Hybrid War or Fibridnaya Voina? Getting Russia’s Non-linear Military Challenge Right” (2016) into a single coherent argument.

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  • Surkov, Vladislav. “A Cloudless Sky.” Ruspioner, 12 March 2014.

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    Fictional short story introduced the term non-linear warfare.

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New Generation Warfare

A different term to describe Russian non-linear warfare, and used to a lesser extent, is new generation warfare, abbreviated as NGW. NGW was coined around the same time as non-linear warfare, a term that received less traction Authors link new generation warfare to an interpretation of Russian doctrine, and they introduced the term to combat what they perceived as a misinterpretation of Gerasmov’s publication (see Thomas 2016). Both non-linear warfare and new generation warfare (see for example Chekinov and Bogdanov 2013 and Chambers 2016) are the proper terms to use when describing Russian hybrid warfare.

  • Chambers, John. Countering Gray-Zone Hybrid Threats: An Analysis of Russia’s “New Generation Warfare” and Implications for the US Army. West Point, NY: Modern War Institute at West Point, 2016.

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    Article combining the concepts of gray zone with new generation warfare.

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  • Chekinov, S. G., and S. A. Bogdanov. “The Nature and Content of a New-Generation War.” Military Thought 4 (2013): 12–23.

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    Analysis of print publications put out by the Russian Ministry of Defense and other sources devoted to the country’s security prior to the illegal annexation of Crimea. The article offers an insight into the nature and content of non-linear warfare.

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  • Thomas, Timothy. “The Evolution of Russian Military Thought: Integrating Hybrid, New-Generation, and New-Type Thinking.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 29.4 (2016): 554–575.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518046.2016.1232541Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Article focused on the development of new generation warfare (NGW) in 2012 and 2013. Thomas explains that NGW should not be confused with Western misunderstanding of the Gerasimov Doctrine, but that Russian military staff also do not deny the development of new generation warfare.

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Related Concepts

Many monikers and related concepts are attached to the discussions on hybrid warfare. The three most important is the discussion on Political Warfare, and the two more recent discussions on Gray Zone, and the use of (international) law as a weapon under the portmanteau of the words law and warfare (Lawfare).

Political Warfare

Political warfare is the use of political means to compel an opponent to do another party’s will, based on hostile intent. A key element of political warfare is the perception of the enemy. Perceptions can be influenced using propaganda, psychological operations (PsyOps), and other activities. Such an approach requires a thorough understanding of the opponent and of relevant populations. This fundamental aspect of war can be traced back to Sun Tzu’s Art of War, in which the most desired outcome is a surrender of the enemy because he perceives the battle as already lost. Hybrid warfare focuses greatly on perception and does this through strategic communication. A historical analysis of the linkage between hybrid warfare and strategic communication is given in Andersson 2015, while we already established Russia and China as being more advanced in the use of this tool in the hybrid warfare toolbox. Within political warfare, hybrid warfare’s shift from kinetic to non-kinetic is made apparent, as argued, for example, by Sir David Omand on the 2018 chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) attack on UK soil as a hybrid tactic (Omand 2018). The fact that the adversaries of the West are more familiar with the enhancement of effects through strategic communication does not mean that Western states are not familiar with it. During the Cold War, the use of political warfare was conceptualized by George Kennan, who after his famous Mr. X. article (Kennan 1948) became US secretary of state. Unpublished memoranda now released give insights into American ideas on political warfare. Boot and Doran 2013 finds that the United States has “gotten out of the habit” of political warfare. Similarly, Hoffman 2014 argues that political warfare and hybrid warfare are not unlike one another.

  • Andersson, Jan Joel. Hybrid Operations: Lessons from the Past. Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2015.

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    Article from European Union Institute for Security Studies illustrating the importance of disinformation and strategic communication in hybrid warfare tactics.

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  • Boot, Max, and Michael S. Doran. “Political Warfare.” Policy Innovation Memorandum 33 (28 June 2013). New York: Council on Foreign Relations.

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    Critical article claiming that the United States has lost its way when it comes to political warfare. Draws on historical examples of political warfare and suggests looking at the counterterrorism apparatus created in the wake of 9/11 as a source of inspiration.

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  • Hoffman, Frank G. “On Not-So-New Warfare: Political Warfare vs Hybrid Threats.” War on the Rocks, 28 July 2014.

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    Reaction to Boot and Doran 2013. Generally a critique against the (re)invention of monikers and terms to describe hybrid warfare.

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  • Kennan, George. Policy Planning Staff Memorandum. Washington, DC: Office of the Historian, 1948.

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    Memorandum from a meeting in 1948 in which Kennan describes the European Recovery Programme (ERP) and the Marshall Plan as useful tools in political warfare.

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  • Omand, David. “From Nudge to Novichok: The Response to the Skripal Nerve Agent Attack Holds Lessons for Countering Hybrid Threats.” Hybrid CoE Working Paper 2. Helsinki: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), 2018.

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    Working paper describing the possible intended motivations behind the Skripal attack and how the Western reaction was perfectly in line with Russian political warfare.

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  • Smith, Paul. On Political War. Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1989.

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    Book on political warfare covering historical examples reaching back to Antiquity.

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  • Valaskivi, Katja. “Beyond Fake News: Content Confusion and Understanding the Dynamics of the Contemporary Media Environment.” Hybrid CoE Strategic Analysis 5. Helsinki: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), 2018.

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    Hybrid CoE report describing the dynamics of modern (social) media and its enhancing effects in modern-day strategic communication and political warfare.

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Gray Zone

The gray zone, or alternatively named gray wars, is a concept that has gained more traction within the broader US strategic studies community and, in particular, in the official and unofficial documents from the US government and intelligence agencies, although the American spelling of the word “gray” is used. Some analysts identified gray zone conflict as the phenomenon that will shape the international system in the decades to come (Brands 2016). Brands defines the gray zone as the area “deliberately designed to remain below the threshold of conventional military conflict” (p. 1). Others combine the gray zone with hybrid warfare (Chambers 2016b). Again others have argued that the concept is a hype, the result of static and bandwagon jumping (Elkus 2015), while the US Army Special Operation Command indicates it is one of the monikers of modern warfare (US Army Special Operation Command 2015). Nora Bensahel combines the work of Brands and Schadlow to describe the non-kinetic conflicts in the post-Soviet and Chinese spheres of influence (Bensahel 2017). Hoffman 2018 links the discussion on the Gray Zone with the author’s earlier work on hybrid challenges from the past decade. Stoker and Whiteside 2020 argues for moving away from the distortion that the concept of gray zone (and by extension hybrid warfare) causes. A new angle on deterrence within the gray zone is provided in Sweijs and Zilincik 2021.

  • Bensahel, Nora. “Darker Shades of Gray: Why Gray Zone Conflicts Will Become More Frequent and Complex Interact.” Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 13 February, 2017.

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    Article consulting the works of Brands and Schadlow in describing the non-kinetic nature of hybrid warfare and links back to the Chinese idea of unrestricted warfare that triggered the definition of hybrid warfare.

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  • Brands, Hal. “Paradoxes of the Gray Zone.” Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 5 February 2016.

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    Encompasses an explanation of the gray zone. Highlighting gray zone approaches are meant to achieve political gains without escalating to overt warfare, crossing red lines, or exposing the practitioner of the covert action. Brands argues that such a limited approach minimalizes the consequences of escalating.

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  • Chambers, John. Countering Gray-Zone Hybrid Threats: An Analysis of Russia’s “New Generation Warfare” and Implications for the US Army. West Point, NY: Modern War Institute at West Point, 2016a.

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    Report analyzing Russia’s new generation warfare, an alternative term for non-linear warfare, using the lens of the US-coined gray zone. The article combines both the Russian and US lenses and analyzes the implications for the US Army.

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  • Chambers, John. “Owning the ‘Gray Zone.’Army Times (6 November 2016b).

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    Links gray zone as the “socio-geographic domain “in which gray wars or hybrid warfare take place.

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  • Elkus, Adam. “50 Shades of Gray: Why the Gray Wars Concept Lacks Strategic Sense.” War on the Rocks, 2015.

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    A critique on an earlier version of the gray zone, arguing that the span of the gray zone would be so large that no two conflicts would ever have the same level of ambiguity. Elkus argues that because of this the concept is useless, as it does not allow for comparative studies of hybrid conflicts.

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  • Hoffman, Frank G. “Examining Complex Forms of Conflict: Gray Zone and Hybrid Challenges.” PRISM: The Journal of Complex Operations 7.4 (8 November 2018).

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    Reflecting on the past fifteen years since first introducing the term, this article builds forward on the heuristic construct for conflict model Hoffman created. Hoffman places the “gray zone” within this spectrum and advocates moving beyond definitions and focusing on the “so what?”

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  • Stoker, Donald, and Craig Whiteside. “Blurred Lines: Gray-Zone Conflict and Hybrid War—Two Failures of American Strategic Thinking.” Naval War College Review 73.1 (Winter 2020): Article 4.

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    Article comparing the concepts of gray zone and hybrid warfare. Stoker and Whiteside argue that both should be removed from the (US) strategic lexicon as the problematic terms distort the concepts of war, peace, and geopolitical competition.

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  • Sweijs, Tim, and Samuel Zilincik. “The Essence of Cross-Domain Deterrence.” In NL ARMS Netherlands Annual Review of Military Studies 2020: Deterrence in the 21st Century; Insights from Theory and Practice. Edited by Frans P. B. Osinga and Tim Sweijs, 129–158. The Hague: T. M. C. Asser, 2021.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-6265-419-8_8Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Book chapter discussing cross-domain deterrence (CDD) in the context of “hybrid” or “gray zone” strategies that feature the simultaneous employment of military and non-military instruments, typically below the conventional military threshold. Sweijs and Zilincik argue for refining our understanding of deterrence and instead argue for a more specific form of dissuasion.

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  • US Army Special Operation Command. The Gray Zone. Washington, DC: Army Publishing Directorate, 2015.

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    Introduced the gray zone in official US government documentation in an attempt to break the war-and-peace duality in our understanding of conflict.

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Lawfare

The term lawfare was coined by US Air Force Colonel Charles Dunlap in November 2001 in recognition of law’s increasing utility as a weapon of war. Dunlap defined “lawfare” as the strategy of “using, or misusing, law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective” (Dunlap 2008, p. 146). At first strongly opposing the abuse of law, Dunlap evolved his thinking and argumentation over the span of nearly twenty years, leading to an appreciation of lawfare as a tool in the military’s toolbox—in this bibliography we have selected three of Dunlap’s texts. The word lawfare originates from a 1975 paper on mediation by John Carlson and Neville Yeomans in The Way Out: Radical Alternatives in Australia (Melbourne: Lansdowne Press), who expressed concern about the adversarial nature that the Western legal system appeared to embrace, arguing that “[l]awfare replaces warfare and the duel is with words rather than swords.” (Carlson and Yeomans 1975, p. 155). Kittrie 2016 finds that the term originates from a discussion on the Western legal system. The author remarks that he is surprised that the US government has only sporadically engaged with the concept of lawfare, especially because the term has been vaulted into the mainstream legal and international relations literature by an US government official. Kittrie provides many examples of legal warfare by state and non-state actors alike. Simons and Chifu 2017 and Cheng 2012 (cited under Unrestricted Warfare) focus on lawfare conducted by China, without going into depth on unrestricted warfare. Sitaraman 2012 draws parallels between lawfare and counterinsurgency. Recently, lawfare has been linked with hybrid warfare directly (Sari 2019) and in research conducted by the joint EU/NATO Hybrid Centre of Excellence in Helsinki (Ferm 2017). A fresh contribution is made by de Jongh and Kitzen 2021, using the civil war in Yemen as a case study that can serve to advance understanding the utility of lawfare.

  • Carlson, John, and Neville Yeomans. “Whither Goeth the Law—Humanity or Barbarity.” In The Way Out – Radical Alternatives in Australia. Edited by M. Smith and D. Crossley, 155. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 1975.

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    Carlson and Yeomans were one of the first to use the term “lawfare” in a discussion of the development of law and mediation. It is however the work of Charles Dunlap (2001) that brought the term to modern debate and popularized the usage of the neologism.

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  • De Jongh, Sandra, and Martijn Kitzen. “The Conduct of Lawfare: The Case of the Houthi Insurgency in the Yemeni Civil War.” In The Conduct of War in the 21st Century: Kinetic, Connected and Synthetic. Edited by Robert Johnson, Martijn Kitzen, and Tim Sweijs, 249–263. London: Routledge, 2021.

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    The author uses the Yemeni civil war as a case study to advance understanding of the utility of lawfare in the conduct of modern war and as an event that offers an avenue for further research.

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  • Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. “Law and Military Interventions: Preserving Humanitarian Values in 21st Conflicts.” Paper Prepared for the Humanitarian Challenges in Military Intervention Conference, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Washington, DC, 29 November 2001.

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    The first of the three selected Dunlap texts. This essay, presented at the Humanitarian Challenges in Military Intervention Conference, introduced the term lawfare in the academic debate.

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  • Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. “Lawfare Today: A Perspective.” Yale Journal of International Affairs 3.1 (Winter 2008): 146–154.

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    In the second text Dunlap acknowledges that lawfare is to be seen as a weapon, and, as such, it can be used for both good and bad purposes.

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  • Dunlap, Charles J., Jr. “Lawfare 101: A Primer.” Military Review 97 (May–June 2017): 8–17.

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    Having settled on the idea that lawfare is neutral by nature, this article gives examples of US, Chinese, and Russian uses of lawfare. The article concludes with the recommendation to military commanders to integrate lawfare into warfare.

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  • Ferm, Tiina. “Laws in the Era of Hybrid Threats.” Hybrid CoE Strategic Analysis 3. Helsinki: Helsinki: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), 2017.

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    Provides four examples of recent measures taken by the Finnish government to make the nation’s law system less vulnerable to hybrid threats in the form of lawfare.

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  • Kittrie, Orde F. Lawfare: Law as a Weapon of War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190263577.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Book explaining how factors, including the increased reach of international law and tribunals and the rise of economic globalization and information technology, have fueled lawfare’s increasing power and prevalence. Includes case studies of recent offensive and defensive lawfare by the United States, China, and all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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  • Sari, Aurel. “Blurred Lines: Hybrid Threats and the Politics of International Law.” Hybrid CoE Strategic Analysis 4. Helsinki: European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), 2018

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    Hybrid Centre of Excellence report suggesting three legal measures Western states can adopt to prepare against hybrid threats.

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  • Sari, Aurel. “Hybrid Warfare, Law, and the Fulda Gap.” In Complex Battlespaces: The Law of Armed Conflict and the Dynamics of Modern Warfare. Edited by Michael Schmitt, Shane R. Reeves, Christopher M. Ford, and Winston S. Williams, 161–190. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190915360.003.0006Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Book chapter positioning law as a domain of warfare and advising the clarification of laws so that they may not be abused by lawfare. An early version of the chapter is available online under the same name.

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  • Schmitt, Michael, Shane R. Reeves, Christopher M. Ford, and Winston S. Williams, eds. Complex Battlespaces: The Law of Armed Conflict and the Dynamics of Modern Warfare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

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    Book describing a variety of legal challenges, including (uncovered) new technologies and the (legal) implications of moving conflict to urbanized areas and hybrid threats affecting infrastructure.

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  • Simons, Greg, and Iulian Chifu. The Changing Face of Warfare in the 21st Century. London: Routledge, 2017.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315614441Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Book that draws examples from contemporary conflicts related to Russia and the Near East to demonstrate the combination of information warfare, offensive diplomacy, and international law to obtain political and military goals.

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  • Sitaraman, Ganesh. The Counterinsurgent’s Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199930319.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Book tackling lawfare from a counterinsurgency point of view. The author argues that fostering the rule of law in (post) conflict areas is not only morally right, but also strategically beneficial.

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