Practical aspects of hybrid warfare. Chapter two.

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Practical aspects of hybrid warfare. Chapter two.

The purpose and object of study: non-military tools in Hybrid Warfare. 

Title:  Non-military tools of fight in hybrid warfare – upstream activities. How to prevent them and prepare own means of discouraging.

Practical aspects of hybrid warfare.

In the context of international law, as defined, the classical war is carried out as a result of the breaking of diplomatic relations. In the case of a hybrid war, military operations will be conducted without official declaration of war. These are military operations below the threshold of war. Ukrainian conflict shows how the rivalry between the countries can look without declaring war, because war is difficult, costly, and in a clear and direct way set responsibility on the aggressor. And so you can hide or cover up behind other non-state actors which are often weaker and controllable. Hybrid warfare methods can also be used by stronger state to weaker one to hide and blur responsibility for the actions taken (what is the opposite of the asymmetric conflict). It can be presumed that the hybrid warfare allows the aggressor to completely or partially divert from the responsibility for conducting an armed conflict. 

Clue one of the activities that we can distinguish is to combine different methods of dealing with an emphasis on activities in the sphere of information, propaganda activities, the activities of non-military or economic. The question of using force, whether in the form of so-called green men or in the form of regular military action, is an additional, final and most often final stage. If we come to that stage then we can talk about the finalization of the previous actions, and unfortunately it is often too late for effective countermeasures. This trend may be closer to us after acquainted with the course of activities in Ukraine. The advantage of narrative information and the ability to present conflict is the key here.

As Colonel Marek Wrzosek writes, we can distinguish three dimensions of the hybrid warfare: 

  1. Regular and irregular military action.
  2. Psychological operations.
  3. Propaganda on the international scene.

Regular and irregular military operations are dominated by the using of old weapons in a new way. To direct operations are preferred mobile tactical battalion groups. First and foremost, the role of non-military means used to achieve political and strategic objectives has increased (they have been included in section 2 and 3). 

Essential dimensions of hybrid combat are psychological operations conducted in their own country. In order to create the desired reality in the Russian society, disinformation and propaganda using the mass media were used. Russian media began to report on the collapse of Ukraine even before the events on the Maidan and secession in the east of the country. The February Revolution of 2014, which was a wave of events launched on November 21, 2013, which was a demonstration against the postponement of President Viktor Yanukovych’s association agreement with the European Union, initiated a disinformation operation in the mass media in Russia. Many citizens of eastern Ukraine saw the events in Kiev through the prism of the psychological war on Russian television, according to which the West was dominated by fascists, the work of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists, the assassination of Ukrainian independence. The legally elected president was abolished, shops and government buildings were plundered, people connected with extreme political factions came to power – such was the media image. Russian journalists in the eastern Ukraine often used manipulation – they spoke alternately of facts and fictions. One of the elements of manipulation was the information that the new Kyiv authorities banned the public use of the Russian language under threat of application of the penalty. On Russian television, President Putin argued that Ukrainian right-wing extremists are lurking for the lives of Russian citizens living in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

Information was being exhibited, that the Ukrainian extreme sector of the right wing was assuming the power in the Ukraine. When the separatists  seized television towers on the area under control,  it was known  that the information influence of Russia in this region will be bigger The possibilities also expanded of information transmission and for this reason at the beginning of the war Ukraine probably already lost the fight for the rule over people’s hearts and minds in eastern areas of the country

When the next sanctions towards Russia Slovakia wasn’t going to support and their Prime Minister RF stated that they were fruitless, the posts of Moscow didn’t change  in conflict with Ukraine but above all aimed at economic interests of Slovakia. He threatened, that if the European Union sharpens them, he will raise an objection.  There were noticed the inconsistent stance of states of the EU and Russia used it. Immediately  announced of expanding economic sanctions against Union .In this way  to the Russian public opinion  transmission came in that it is not  Union put sanctions to Russia, but Russia provided EU selected countries with sanctions for the lack of the commitment in the solution of dispute in the Ukraine. Using divergences of businesses, the Russian propaganda  effectively handed over the signal to the world that on conflict in the Ukraine still Russia is dictating it in the space of international relations.

The Kremlin in the transmission inside the country uses the strategies
of a „beleaguered tower” almost as at the times of the II WW, simple philosophy applies: the world is against Russia & Russia has to short the ranks out around the chief who is firm, strong and uncompromising.Russia needs a chief able to resist agression  and in any case also to attack and and resist the strike. Thanks to such a narration when the rate of life of a random Russian ( when the prices of oil fall down and the country is encompassed by economic sanctions) do not rise up and even diminish, strong centralized power enjoys support all the time, as perhaps it does not give money but gives something else, dignity, pride, respect according to the principle: they can not like US, it is important them to be afraid of US. The 3rd dimension of hybrid war and at the same time non-military means of interraction, which Russian Federation uses is propaganda in the international arena.

Events in Ukraine clearly demonstrate the extent to which new techniques can be used to pursue policy and as a tool of information warfare. Modern techniques allow manipulation of the image and sound and the publication of false information processed to achieve a specific propaganda goal. It often happens that the presented material relates to another place, time and situation, but the average recipient is not able to see it.  Russian propaganda often uses such strategy, especially for creating messages for the Western media. It also uses the motive of brutality in dealing with the opposite party (images of violence against women, especially children are desirable). Showing the suffering of civilians, mainly children, during armed conflict has become a basic weapon in the information war. Such actions are all too apparent in the coverage of the crisis in Ukraine. It is important to realize that the actions of Russian propaganda are not really aimed at Ukraine but on the Western world. The point is that Western societies behave in accordance with the will of the Russian leader to diffuse faith and unity, to loosen ties between NATO and EU countries, leading to a schizm and the loss of faith. The United West is a serious challenge for Russia, but the West, battered and weak, is not a force.

Social media allows you to publish your image, sound and comment practically in real-time, giving tremendous power to those who use these tools.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, experts have pointed out the increasing activity of Russian special services on the Internet. Russia is developing its army of hackers and computer criminals to create virtual reality. The so-called trolling, or antisocial behavior of users of various discussion forums, has become so widespread. Troll takes action to shape other users’ opinions for ridicule or injure. The essence of the activities undertaken is aggressive, controversial, and often untrue information.

The basis of this action is to publish interestingly crafted messages as bait that can trigger discussion. Exactly the „troll factories” since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine flooded the network with properly targeted and prepared comments.

It is interesting that the trolls are joined by users with little knowledge, which prevents them from distinguishing the truth from false. On the Internet, people who promote anti-Western sentiment and often anti-American mood are as important as trolls. In cyberspace there are many opponents of European integration policy and American politics.

This is a suitable target group capable of interpreting the reality presented by the Kremlin on the international stage. On the example of Hungary, you can see how massively this is happening: „In Hungary, there are almost 90 pages and blogs that fit in with the news coverage of the Russian Information War. For most of them it is difficult to say whether they serve the purposes of Russian propaganda from their own zeal or are part of a larger disinformation network”. Different dimension of Russian propaganda on the international stage is presented by the classic media – Sputnik Agency. This new source of information is part of the government multimedia project. It is controlled by the Kremlin news agency Russia Today, which was created in December 2013 by the decision of President Vladimir Putin. It absorbed, among other things, the RIA Novosti agency, Russia Today television and the Voice of Russia radio. The purpose of this change was to ensure a high level of information effectiveness of the state media in the international arena. As you can read on the website, Sputnik Agency is available in 30 languages.

As demonstrated, among other things, the course of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, there is the possibility of undertaking military operations without conducting open warfare. Legal regulations must therefore be adapted to the nature of the threat, giving the state authorities the power to make the necessary decisions even in an emergency. In recent years, US Army Europe commander General Ben Hodges has reported that obtaining diplomatic consents for the displacement of troops between two NATO countries, including those in the Schengen zone, may take up to two weeks. This means that if procedures were kept in a real threat, it would take longer than getting ready and moving the units of the „NATO spear”. Therefore, last year, May 20, the Polish President signed an amendment to the Act on the Rules of Stay and Movement of Foreign Troops in Poland. As indicated earlier, in the current security environment it may be necessary to move the first units of allied forces „battle mode” on the territory threatened even before the onset of outright aggression, invoking the reference to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. On the other hand, allied forces, especially those without the explicit right to use weapons, can become targets of attack. The introduction of regulations that allow the use of operational allied forces on the territory of the country during peace (of course with the consent of the Polish authorities) allows to close an important „gap” in the collective defense system. The peacekeeping arrangements in the host country at the request and with the consent of its authorities are fully consistent with international law. It can help to ease the crisis and deter potential aggression, both by strengthening the host country’s defense capabilities and by giving potential opponents a clear signal that in the event of an attack it will have to struggle not only with the armed forces of that country, but also with allied forces. Defense capabilities must be built in a comprehensive manner, including through the appropriate development of the legal system.


The hybridity of wars is nothing new. In practice, any threat can be hybrid unless it is limited to one form and dimension of activities. Therefore, one must be careful not to define any threat or use of force as a hybrid because the term loses its value and causes confusion rather than explain the reality of modern warfare.

The new kind of war waged  by Russia consists primarily in the use of resources other than conventional weapons. This applies mainly to long-term, well targeted policy, based on the precise strategy of building international links and the use of tools traditionally not intended to wage war – national minorities, information propaganda, retention of non-state actors and cyberwarfare. This will involve time resolving conflicts – they cease to be subject to restrictions on time. They may vary with intensity in time, but they have neither a clearly defined beginning
(no declaration of war) nor an end.

We can be prepared for the dangers of a hybrid war, that is aggression In the form of military actions below threshold of war, by using non-military measures, such as greater integration with the North Atlantic Alliance structures.

It should be borne in mind that as Western states, Euro-Atlantic we already have a wealth of experience in conducting hybrid wars or initiating individual actions, which today would be called hybrid. All we have to do is refresh the conclusions of our previous operations and translate those experiences into new ground. The need to adapt in a changing security environment. However, in my opinion, we should not be afraid of these challenges because they are the result of positive trends. We would not talk today about new challenges if we did not develop – as countries, societies or international communities. Until there were no submarines, there were no dangers in this direction. We were not talking about cybercrime 20 years ago because there was no global Internet It is therefore natural that new and unknown threats arise in developing societies. The world will be more dynamic and we have to react more and more flexibly using old methods in a new way.


  • Col Marek Wrzosek, Prof. „Three Dimensions of Hybrid War in Ukraine”, Bellona Bulletin 2015 no 3
  • Marcin Andrzej Piotrowski, „American Theory of Hybrid Conflict”, PISM Bulletin 2015 no 2
  • A. Jacobs, G. Lasconjarias, „NATO’s Hybrid Flanks – Handling Unconventional Warfare in the South and the East”, Research Paper – NATO Defense College, Rome, 2015 no. 112
  • Anna Antczak-Barzan, Prof. „Dynamics of the Hybrid War in Ukraine”, Bellona Bulletin 2016 no 1

Author: MSc Maksym Sijer: Absolvent of War Studies University in Warsaw, INFO OPS Poland Foundation.

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