What is Hybrid Warfare and Why is It More Dangerous Than Missiles and Bullets?

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Hacker - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.05.2023
The West's ongoing hybrid war against Russia took a new turn earlier this week, with the CIA scrambling to recruit Russians on Telegram. What is hybrid warfare, who developed the doctrine, and what features does it entail? Sputnik has dug into the issue.
On May 16, CNN broke that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had taken to Telegram, a social media network highly popular among Russians, to urge them to deliver secretive information that the United States needs.
The CIA's call for Russians to share information is part of a coordinated hybrid warfare campaign against Russia, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov stated. Having failed the "sanctions blitzkrieg" and being unable to inflict a military defeat on Russia in Ukraine, the West is seeking to foment unrest in Russian society, as per the ambassador.
"The task is to make sure that everything is turned upside down for [Russians], so that [they] no longer believe in [themselves]. Then, they say, we can take Russia with our bare hands," Antonov remarked. "The special military operation enjoys consensus support among the citizens and political forces of our country. This is the reality. This should be taken into account by disaster-creative professionals in Washington to not waste American taxpayers' money on futile projects."
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This is not the first provocation by the American intelligence services, according to the ambassador. He noted that on the territory of the embassy, recruitment videos on behalf of the FBI regularly pop up on YouTube as part of "targeted advertising." Phone numbers offer one an opportunity to call the bureau and become a traitor.
Earlier, the CIA tried to enlist Russian-speaking US citizens on Twitter. Remarkably, in 2018 the author of the tweet somehow managed to slip up in English by asking their prospective candidates if they were "an US candidate with a college degree." The mistake immediately prompted netizens to mock the agency's recruitment effort.
While US intelligence agencies have increasingly been subjected to criticism from American legal experts and lawmakers for eroding standards, "wokeism," and outright ridiculousness (one glaring example is the FBI's "Happiness Seminar" meant to "discover the power of smiling"), hybrid warfare is no laughing matter for any country subjected to massive pressure through various subversive techniques.
Moscow Kremlin and Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge. In the background: the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.08.2022
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What is the Meaning of Hybrid War?

The term "hybrid warfare" has a plethora of definitions. It is also called fifth-generation warfare, which could be defined as a new advancement where cultural war gains or information are considered more important than the use of conventional weapons during third or fourth generations of warfare.
Still, it appears that NATO gives the most precise summary: "hybrid warfare entails an interplay or fusion of conventional as well as unconventional instruments of power and tools of subversion."
"These instruments or tools are blended in a synchronized manner to exploit the vulnerabilities of an antagonist and achieve synergistic effects," the military bloc's website explains. "The objective of conflating kinetic tools and non-kinetic tactics is to inflict damage on a belligerent state in an optimal manner."
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A hybrid war actor may resort to kinetic operations in conjunction with the use of non-state actors, launch cyber-attacks targeting critical infrastructure or kick off disinformation campaigns on social networks and in the media, at one and the same time.
NATO outlines two distinct characteristics of hybrid warfare:
· First, the line between war and peace time is rendered obscure. This means that it is hard to identify or discern the war threshold. War becomes elusive, as it becomes difficult to operationalize it.
· Second, another defining characteristic of hybrid warfare relates to ambiguity and attribution: the country that is targeted is either unable to detect a hybrid attack or unable to attribute it to a state that might be perpetrating or sponsoring it.
The blurred line between war and peace as well as inability to attribute the unfolding hybrid attacks make it difficult for the targeted state to work out strategic responses and react instantly and properly to the emerging threat.
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What are Hybrid War Effects?

As per the Atlantic alliance's war planners, hybrid warfare undercuts a rival's security on two fronts in tandem. First, on the capability front, a hybrid actor exploits vulnerabilities of the targeted state in the political, military, economic, social, information, and infrastructure (PMESII) realms. On the second front, the state's legitimacy is targeted to erode trust between the state institutions and the people. As a result, the state loses both its legitimacy and the ability to function.
Why does NATO consider hybrid warfare more effective than a direct conventional conflict? As per Western strategists, the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that all-out wars can be too costly in terms of funds and manpower. They also don't guarantee the desired result: "Owing to rapid technological advancements and the rise of asymmetric warfare, all-out wars can be ineffective even vis-à-vis powers that have relatively less resources and clout," the NATO paper says.
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Frank Hoffman's Hybrid Warfare

US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Frank G. Hoffman was arguably the first who introduced the term "hybrid warfare" in the 2000s. For his part, Hoffman mentioned that the term was coined by Robert G. Walker, who described low-intensity operations conducted by the US Marines in his thesis "SPEC FI: the United States Marine Corps and Special Operations" (1998).
In addition, Hoffman built on research he conducted in collaboration with US Marine Corps General James Mattis in 2005. At the time, the two wrote an opinion piece in United States Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine discussing the phenomena of complex irregular warfare and the rise of hybrid war.
In this file photo taken Wednesday, April 9, 2003, an Iraqi man, bottom right, watches Cpl. Edward Chin of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines Regiment, cover the face of a statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag before toppling the statue in downtown in Baghdad, Iraq. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.03.2023
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What is Included in Hybrid Warfare?

In 2007, Hoffman gave the first definition of hybrid warfare in his academic work titled "Conflict in the 21st Century: the Rise of Hybrid Wars": "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 described the evolution of modern warfare in the post-Cold War world and its transformation into "multi-modal" or "hybrid" wars. According to the author, "future adversaries (states, state-sponsored groups, or self-funded actors) will exploit access to modern military capabilities including encrypted command systems, man-portable air to surface missiles, and other modern lethal systems, as well as promote protracted insurgencies that employ ambushes, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and coercive assassinations." He went on by saying that "this could include states blending high-tech capabilities, like anti-satellite weapons, with terrorism and cyber-warfare directed against financial targets."
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One might ask whether Hoffman's study was a prophecy or a "to do" plan, but the aforementioned techniques have been widely exploited by the US and its NATO allies in subsequent years in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere.

Remarkably, at the time Hoffman wrote his research the US was still enjoying its unipolar moment, facing no worthy adversary for more than a decade after the collapse of the USSR. By 2007, the US-led NATO alliance had already bombed Yugoslavia into oblivion, leading to the state's fragmentation; Afghanistan and Iraq had both been invaded and occupied by the transatlantic military bloc. And yet, Hoffman's paper warned that the US was facing increasing threats amid "the ongoing Long War."

"Clearly the United States must be prepared for the full spectrum of conflict from all fronts and realize that preparing our forces for only selected types of conflict will be a recipe for defeat," the preamble to Hoffman's study stated. "Rather than Fukuyama's 'End of History,' our security is challenged by a violent reaction, generated as a side effect of globalization."
At the time, "the fervently fanatic and faith-based factions within the Middle East" were named as America's number one enemy. 15 years later, the Islamist Behemoth no longer scares US war planners, who have recently named Russia and China their primary challengers. While its adversaries have changed, Washington's bellicosity remains intact.
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What Was the First Hybrid War?

Judging by Hoffman and NATO's definitions, the Syria war appears to be a classic example of Western-led hybrid warfare in various domains, including civil disturbances, arming jihadi proxies, media psy-ops, conventional strikes, false flags, economic sanctions, etc.
The conflict in Syria started in 2011 with an opposition uprising which quickly translated into violence. The Obama administration immediately interfered, urging the nation's legitimate elected President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Meanwhile, US war planners suggested schemes to balkanize the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR). A declassified 2012 US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) report envisaged the possibility of creating a "Salafist principality" in the country's oil-rich provinces "in order to isolate the Syrian regime."
The report indicated that the Obama administration knew from the very beginning that the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria were not "moderate rebels," but al-Qaeda in Iraq*, the Muslim Brotherhood*, and Salafists.
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Later, in 2019, French investigative journalist Maxime Chaix published a book, The Shadow War in Syria, shedding light on the CIA's Operation Timber Sycamore to secretly provide weapons and training to jihadists from the start of the conflict, and describing how several Western European intelligence services joined the US effort.
In 2014, the Obama administration shifted to conventional warfare in Syria by conducting regular air strikes on what it claimed to be Daesh* positions. However, despite the US Air Force's bombing campaign, terrorists continued to enhance their presence in the Middle Eastern country until Russia stepped in at the official request of Damascus.
Meanwhile, the Western mainstream press kicked off a disinformation campaign aimed at undermining Bashar al-Assad's legitimacy. The media branded the president as a "ruthless" and "brutal" "dictator," citing murky social media accounts and non-profit groups which quickly flooded the media sphere with fake stories and false flags.
Members of the Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, take a selfie with their certificates after taking part in a training session in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta area, east of the capital Damascus, on November 22, 2016 - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.09.2018
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One of them was the Syrian Civil Defense, commonly known as the White Helmets, a group acting under the guise of a "humanitarian" organization in the jihadist-held areas of Syria. The White Helmets were particularly important for the Western narrative about the Syrian war.

In 2017, Netflix won an Oscar for a documentary called "The White Helmets," portraying the group as heroic rescue workers who provided emergency medical assistance to Syrian civilians. However, Vanessa Beeley, a British investigative journalist and peace activist, dismantled this narrative in 2017, citing testimonies of liberated Syrian civilians from East Aleppo, who denounced the group as an al-Qaeda* and al-Nusra Front* offshoot.

In 2019, it turned out that the White Helmets had staged the Douma chemical incident in 2018 to pin the blame on Syrian government forces, judging by a bombshell WikiLeaks release and OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) whistleblower accounts. Needless to say, both WikiLeaks and the OPCW whistleblower exposes were quickly muted by the Western mainstream press. Instead, the OPCW's January 2023 report falsely blamed Damascus.
The Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has condemned any use of chemical weapons, referring specifically to the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission findings - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.04.2023
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In addition to waging a media psy-op campaign, the US and its allies also attacked Syria on an economic front. In 2019 Washington slapped draconian sanctions on Syria under the Caesar Act, de facto strangling the nation and disrupting its ability to restore its war-torn economy. The US also opted for withdrawing Syria's oil and grain via their Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) proxies, thereby exacerbating the situation even further.
More recently, Western countries had no scruples about using the disastrous February earthquakes to infringe on the legitimate government of the SAR and discriminate against Syrians living in government-controlled territories by stripping them of much needed international aid. Instead, the US, UK, and France sought to step up supplying only regions not controlled by Damascus, including the Idlib enclave held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham* terrorists.
The US and its allies employed a vast arsenal of hybrid warfare tools to oust the Bashar al-Assad government. Even though they have failed to reach their objectives, they have still not ceased their efforts.
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'Russian Hybrid Warfare Doctrine'

Even though the West has proven to be a skillful virtuoso of hybrid warfare, they have strongly denied it, and pointed the finger at Russia as an apparent peddler of the strategy. They even coined the term "Gerasimov doctrine" to describe Russia's developments in the field of hybrid warfare.
For instance, decorated CIA veteran Douglas London insisted in his August 5, 2021 op-ed eloquently titled "Defense alone will not protect us from Russia and China" that in 2013, Russian General Valery Gerasimov outlined "a hybrid strategy that blurs war and peace, the Gerasimov doctrine."
In March 2022, the Wilson Center's Focus Ukraine blog went even further, claiming that Russia had long been "one of the trendsetters in military art" and that the "Gerasimov doctrine" or "hybrid warfare doctrine" articulated the art of achieving political goals by predominantly nonmilitary means, i.e. "through information warfare, cyberattacks, diplomacy, economic pressure, and coercion, combined with limited or indirect (via proxies) use of conventional forces."

It appears that neither London nor the Wilson Center's bloggers have ever read Chief of the General Staff Gen. Gerasimov's 2013 op-ed "The Value of Science in Foresight" in which he de facto implicated the West's new hybrid warfare strategy employed during the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. What’s curious, the general didn't use the term "hybrid warfare" in the text.

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"Of course, it is easiest to say that the events of the 'Arab Spring' are not a war, so we, the military, have nothing to study there. Or maybe, on the contrary, these events are a typical war of the 21st century? In terms of the scale of casualties and destruction, catastrophic social, economic and political consequences, such conflicts of a new type are comparable to the consequences of a real war itself," wrote Gen. Gerasimov.
"And the 'rules of war' themselves have changed significantly. The role of non-military methods in achieving political and strategic goals has increased, which in a number of cases have significantly surpassed the force of arms in their effectiveness," the general pointed out.
By disseminating the myth of the "Gerasimov doctrine," Western strategists and scholars are doing nothing but projecting.
In March 2017, Gerasimov published another article, "The World on the Brink of War," in which he touched upon the "hybrid war" term, US actions in Syria and the Middle East, the cyberattack on Iran in 2015, and the importance of social media. However, the general's second op-ed has not produced as much fuss and mythmaking in the West as his 2013 piece.
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Why Understanding Hybrid Warfare is Important

Still, a bigger story of Washington's hybrid warfare conduct is its current attempts to take on Moscow and Beijing at one and the same time. Washington elites have lots of cards up their sleeves: starting from the weaponization of the US dollar and ending with secret bio-laboratories on the doorsteps of Russia and China.
In the 1970s, the US managed to pit Moscow and Beijing against each other under President Richard Nixon. For decades, US war planners, including renowned geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinsky, warned against letting Russia and China form "a grand coalition." Still, the new US-NATO doctrine has facilitated the Russo-Chinese rapprochement.
One might argue that the ongoing US hybrid war against Russia started soon after the collapse of the USSR. In 1997-98, then-US President Bill Clinton approved NATO's eastward expansion, even though the military bloc's competitors, the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, were already things of the past by that time. Atlanticist war planners asserted to Moscow that the alliance's expansion was not aimed against Russia. But against whom, then?
This December 10, 2018, file photo provided by the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) shows the launch of the military's land-based Aegis missile defense testing system, that later intercepted an intermediate range ballistic missile, from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.03.2023
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Likewise, the Obama administration insisted that its new ballistic air defense installations in Europe weren't aimed against Russia either. Whom did they say they targeted? Iran's non-existent "nuclear arsenal." All these inconsistencies fit nicely into NATO's definition of hybrid warfare: obscure lines between war and peace, ambiguity, deceit. One can add here the US-sponsored protests in Russia, the Skripals poisoning hoax, Bellingcat's saga about the elusive "Petrov and Bashirov," silencing Russian media, and the demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin. All of this comes directly out of NATO's hybrid warfare toolbox.
The continuation of this policy was Washington's attempts to bring Ukraine into its fold. While this effort largely failed after the US-backed Orange Revolution under Viktor Yushchenko, the February 2014 coup d'etat, sponsored and orchestrated by Obama administration officials, including Victoria Nuland, helped the West reach its objectives. Ukraine was transformed by the West into nothing short of a militarized proxy to exert pressure and inflict damage on Russia.
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Apparently, Washington war planners are increasingly militarizing Taiwan to turn it into a similar platform for a confrontation with the People's Republic of China.
Still, while the US and NATO have mastered themselves in the hybrid warfare strategy, Moscow and Beijing have not been sitting on their hands, but have learned the lessons of the three past decades well.

Thus, Russia managed to preempt the offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), trained and armed by NATO, in February 2022. Likewise, Moscow withstood the West's unprecedented sanctions and financial decoupling by drifting away from the dollar and shifting to national currencies. Russia curbed the Western media psy-op against Russian netizens as well as massive disinformation campaigns. On the conventional battlefield, Ukraine's NATO backers have failed to defeat Russia's forces.

For its part, China has stepped forward with a Ukraine peace proposal, hailed by Russia, and emerged as a powerful peace broker to help mend fences between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Moscow, Beijing, and other nations of the developing world have declared that they choose the path to a fairer world order based on equality and a win-win approach instead of the Long War and zero-sum game offered by Washington's hybrid warfare masterminds.
*Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) are terrorist organizations banned in Russia and many other countries.
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