The war in Ukraine is not only a military war, but also a hybrid war

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The war in Ukraine is a hybrid one. A first idea in this regard appeared in the academic discourse, and then in the media and political debates. The statements belong to Johann Schmid and were published in an analysis in volume five of the “Baltic Security Journal”.

The author of the article says that hybrid wars are not a new phenomenon, but the type of hybrid actions that Russia and the pro-Russian separatists have demonstrated in Ukraine presents a special challenge for Europe.

In this context, Johann Schmid wonders: What is hybrid warfare? What is specific to this phenomenon? Based on the war-related events and conflicts involving Russia in Ukraine and around the world, the article examines the actions of the main actors involved in hybrid elements and therefore derives benchmarks for characterizing the hybrid war on this basis.

External occurrences such as wearing masks, the presence of no national signs, as well as asymmetrical, irregular or terrorist actions can often accompany the hybrid war, but these are not sufficient clues to make statements about a hybrid war. However, both uniformed men with no national insignia in Crimea and separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine are two key features of the hybrid war.

“Not only Russia, but also the Ukrainian side used a hybrid strategy to respond to Russian separatist actions. Political propaganda, embargoes and disruption of electricity supply in Crimea, the separatist territories, were some of the instruments chosen by Ukraine. The “center of gravity” of Ukraine’s actions is now in the areas of diplomacy, politics and the media. The main objective is to delegitimize the opposite party and get as much international support and as many allies for its own cause. In this way, Ukraine pursues a fundamental principle of success in war and has been relatively successful with this course”, writes Schmid.

In the same analysis, the author states that Ukraine is not able to decide the conflict in its favor primarily through military means. For this reason, Ukraine will most likely continue the conflict in hybrid form, focusing primarily on non-military areas.

After all, in the case of Ukraine, what makes war hybrid is not something we can see, says Johann Schmid. Although relevant in themselves, the use of misinformation and propaganda, creating ambiguity and using subversive or clandestine means to destabilize Ukraine are also only partial features of a grand hybrid strategy. The decisive factors are the “hybrid” orchestration of these elements in a global strategic approach and their dynamic and flexible orientation towards a wide range of “non-military” gravity centers, in particular, to decide the conflict.

In conclusion, considering the dynamic and versatile nature of the phenomenon of hybrid warfare, the central point of meeting this challenge is to identify and understand the models and its strategic reason constantly changing. It is impossible to properly identify an answer, unless hybrid warfare strategies and methods are identified and understood promptly. As a result, not only the long-term measures to build resilience, but also the ability to quickly conduct an in-depth analysis of war, conflict and strategy will become a key capability in combating and responding to hybrid warfare methods.


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