What is NATO doing to address hybrid threats?

  • 21 Apr. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 21 Jun. 2021 14:12

David Cattler, Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security, describes hybrid threats.

What is NATO doing to address hybrid threats?

NATO Allied governments and societies, as well as those of their partners, face a growing threat from hybrid warfare, which can include the full spectrum of conventional and non-conventional threats. That is why NATO works across the military, political and intelligence spheres to help Allies make themselves resilient against hybrid threats.

Questions and Answers with David Cattler, Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security

1. Can you explain what exactly hybrid threats are?

Hybrid threats combine military and non-military, as well as covert and overt means, including disinformation, cyber attacks, economic pressure, and deployment of irregular armed groups and use of regular forces.

Hybrid activities are often used by adversaries because they realise they cannot prevail in a conventional conflict with NATO, or broadly with the West, or even compete politically, militarily or economically.

2. What makes hybrid threats so dangerous?

Hybrid methods create turmoil and disunity among us—they quietly undermine democratic states and institutions, blur the lines between war and peace, and attempt to sow doubt in the minds of target populations, all while avoiding traditional conflict. 

These threats are in our social media feed, usually without our awareness. They are influencing the media and academia. Adversaries use hybrid methods to make us feel unsafe, make it hard for us to distinguish the truth from lies, and erode our trust in our leaders and governments. 

3. How does your Division, the Joint Intelligence and Security Division (JISD), contribute to NATO's response to hybrid threats?

Intelligence and security services across our Alliance and the people working within my Division play crucial roles in identifying, combating, and calling out hybrid operations. We work together to exchange sensitive information; to develop the means to distinguish, defend and defeat disinformation and other hybrid operations; and to explain these issues to our leaders and societies.

4. Have you seen hybrid methods used during the COVID-19 crisis?

Yes. Hybrid methods were employed during the COVID crisis and attempted to gain political, military, and economic advantage. Both China and Russia employed disinformation campaigns against the West during this crisis, including about the nature of the coronavirus and the means of preventing its spread. And they continued these disinformation campaigns regarding vaccines and treatments. These efforts don't just challenge governments, they risk people's lives. 

5. What is something the general public may not know about hybrid threats?

The public is likely less aware of other emerging technologies that support hybrid actions such as artificial intelligence, deep fakes, and cryptocurrencies. These make it easier for state and non-state actors to conduct hybrid activities more efficiently and covertly. We are working hard to understand and defeat these technologies.

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