Hybrid war - hybrid response?

When a country is attacked by conventional land, sea or air forces, it is usually clear how to best respond. But what happens when it is attacked by a mixture of special forces, information campaigns and backdoor proxies? What's the best response? And how can international security organisations like NATO adapt to these attacks?

Full video transcript

Hybrid war – hybrid response?

At one point

during the Ukrainian crisis,

Russia had 40,000 troops

lined up on the Ukrainian border,

but when it came

to sowing instability in Ukraine,

it was not

conventional forces who were used,

but rather unorthodox

and varied techniques,

which have been dubbed

hybrid warfare.

Russia is using it to try to play

for unilateral, national advantage,

taking territory, imposing its will,

invading countries,

annexing territory...

Stuff you can’t make up.

I think the Russians

have been very smart.

Frankly,

I think they have outsmarted us.

They use commandoes and

they pretend they are not Russian.

In terms of information warfare,

they have been extremely good.

You know, we have here

a debate in the West:

Provocative, not provocative,

presence here, presence there.

The Russians have Russia Today,

which responds to Putin's orders,

having one message,

and it reverberates.

It’s using Western technologies.

Whereas the message itself

is very, you know,

kind of communist style,

one would say.

This crisis goes well

beyond the borders of Ukraine.

What effectively Putin has now said,

is that the defence of ethnic Russians

does not lie in the countries

in which they reside

or with their laws,

government or constitution,

but with Russia.

This blows a hole in everything

we understood

about international law.

But despite these techniques often

being referred to as a new approach,

there is evidence to indicate

that it’s not new for Russia.

Go back to Estonia in 2007,

go back to Georgia in 2008.

I think the concept

of using kind of a slow effort,

a slow encroachment, has been

part of the strategic landscape,

certainly for Russia,

for quite some time.

Sometimes it involves

more overt and obvious moves,

sometimes it’s more

subtle moves, economic warfare,

sometimes it may be cyber attacks,

conducted under the cover

of being activists at work.

And it can be a combination of them

and I think this has been

a set of tactics that has been

deployed to one degree or another,

for the last five or six years.

As a student of Russian history and

particularly Russian military history,

the use of such agents provocateurs

through mainly

military intelligence organs,

special forces, goes way back.

Destabilising,

decapitating administrations,

creating the space for influence,

let's call it that, that’s nothing new.

So, we’ve just got to have the political

courage to call it for what it is.

There is still a split in Europe

between those willing to say...

confirm what it is they're seeing and

those who’d rather it all went away

and will find almost

any excuse for what Russia is doing.

So the question now is:

how does NATO respond

to the use of these techniques

and is it the most appropriate

organisation to do so?

Russia is going to use special

operations and intelligence forces,

economic pressure,

energy pressure, cyber attacks

and potential

conventional force directly

to achieve imperial goals. And is

NATO willing to use any of those tools

to prevent that or not?

That’s what we need to see.

I don’t think NATO

has the tools for that.

The European Union

might have the tools,

but if the European Union,

the Commission particularly,

does have them,

I haven’t seen them being employed.

We should be flexible enough

to take all these new threats,

like energy, like cyber, like media,

like these strange

green human beings... You know.

And we should do that on time,

not after something happens.

Some recommend

that the best way to counter this

is to invite a stronger,

not weaker response.

What creates de-escalation

is a strong response

that causes Russia to think twice

about going any further,

stabilises a tense situation

and then allows it to de-escalate.

This has all been still been

very reactive, very slow...

Many of the statements

we’ve heard from NATO leaders,

have been: if Russia goes further,

we will take additional steps.

It ought to be the other way around.

These techniques

also pose the problem

that without clear command

and control of certain forces,

it can be difficult for all sides

to know how events will unfold.

The problem is

that starting a crisis is easy,

but ending it is extremely difficult.

You know what you do

when you start creating unrest

at the Crimea and maybe

at the eastern part of Ukraine.

But then it gets a dynamic of its

own and that is highly dangerous.

And I’m fully confident

that Putin simply doesn’t know

the next steps as well.

Hybrid war – hybrid response?

At one point

during the Ukrainian crisis,

Russia had 40,000 troops

lined up on the Ukrainian border,

but when it came

to sowing instability in Ukraine,

it was not

conventional forces who were used,

but rather unorthodox

and varied techniques,

which have been dubbed

hybrid warfare.

Russia is using it to try to play

for unilateral, national advantage,

taking territory, imposing its will,

invading countries,

annexing territory...

Stuff you can’t make up.

I think the Russians

have been very smart.

Frankly,

I think they have outsmarted us.

They use commandoes and

they pretend they are not Russian.

In terms of information warfare,

they have been extremely good.

You know, we have here

a debate in the West:

Provocative, not provocative,

presence here, presence there.

The Russians have Russia Today,

which responds to Putin's orders,

having one message,

and it reverberates.

It’s using Western technologies.

Whereas the message itself

is very, you know,

kind of communist style,

one would say.

This crisis goes well

beyond the borders of Ukraine.

What effectively Putin has now said,

is that the defence of ethnic Russians

does not lie in the countries

in which they reside

or with their laws,

government or constitution,

but with Russia.

This blows a hole in everything

we understood

about international law.

But despite these techniques often

being referred to as a new approach,

there is evidence to indicate

that it’s not new for Russia.

Go back to Estonia in 2007,

go back to Georgia in 2008.

I think the concept

of using kind of a slow effort,

a slow encroachment, has been

part of the strategic landscape,

certainly for Russia,

for quite some time.

Sometimes it involves

more overt and obvious moves,

sometimes it’s more

subtle moves, economic warfare,

sometimes it may be cyber attacks,

conducted under the cover

of being activists at work.

And it can be a combination of them

and I think this has been

a set of tactics that has been

deployed to one degree or another,

for the last five or six years.

As a student of Russian history and

particularly Russian military history,

the use of such agents provocateurs

through mainly

military intelligence organs,

special forces, goes way back.

Destabilising,

decapitating administrations,

creating the space for influence,

let's call it that, that’s nothing new.

So, we’ve just got to have the political

courage to call it for what it is.

There is still a split in Europe

between those willing to say...

confirm what it is they're seeing and

those who’d rather it all went away

and will find almost

any excuse for what Russia is doing.

So the question now is:

how does NATO respond

to the use of these techniques

and is it the most appropriate

organisation to do so?

Russia is going to use special

operations and intelligence forces,

economic pressure,

energy pressure, cyber attacks

and potential

conventional force directly

to achieve imperial goals. And is

NATO willing to use any of those tools

to prevent that or not?

That’s what we need to see.

I don’t think NATO

has the tools for that.

The European Union

might have the tools,

but if the European Union,

the Commission particularly,

does have them,

I haven’t seen them being employed.

We should be flexible enough

to take all these new threats,

like energy, like cyber, like media,

like these strange

green human beings... You know.

And we should do that on time,

not after something happens.

Some recommend

that the best way to counter this

is to invite a stronger,

not weaker response.

What creates de-escalation

is a strong response

that causes Russia to think twice

about going any further,

stabilises a tense situation

and then allows it to de-escalate.

This has all been still been

very reactive, very slow...

Many of the statements

we’ve heard from NATO leaders,

have been: if Russia goes further,

we will take additional steps.

It ought to be the other way around.

These techniques

also pose the problem

that without clear command

and control of certain forces,

it can be difficult for all sides

to know how events will unfold.

The problem is

that starting a crisis is easy,

but ending it is extremely difficult.

You know what you do

when you start creating unrest

at the Crimea and maybe

at the eastern part of Ukraine.

But then it gets a dynamic of its

own and that is highly dangerous.

And I’m fully confident

that Putin simply doesn’t know

the next steps as well.

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