The Myth of “Hybrid Warfare”

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August 31st. Translation and comments by Tatzhit.

There were two articles recently
published on the “myth of hybrid warfare”, they are both presented here, as I think they complement each other nicely.

First, PolitRussia piece, which is more casual:


“Hybrid Warfare: No Such Thing” by Veniamin Suharev

I had the opportunity to serve in the [USSR] army as a cadre officer. So I had
to get a higher degree in a military college, with all the advantages and
disadvantages of military education.

One thing I want to tell you: We had a great Department of Tactics, and great
education in other military disciplines, too. The teachers were army officers –
mostly colonels who participated in numerous military conflicts. Our textbooks
and field manuals were also written by experienced and smart people, sometimes
by full generals, even. And neither me personally, nor any of my teachers, or
the authors of my textbooks, ever used terms like “hybrid warfare”.

Personally, I heard the term for the
first time when it was used by Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Moreover, this NATO
Secretary General (who did not have prior experience with any armed conflict,
and I personally don’t understand how come he was appointed the head of the
most powerful military organization in the world*) accused Putin, as he always
does, of being a specialist in this “hybrid warfare”.

Given that our President got his education in the Soviet Union, in a standard
KGB institute, consulted by the same Soviet Ministry of Defence that taught me,
I’m sure he also doesn’t have the foggiest idea what “hybrid warfare” is – as
opposed to Rassmunsen, the great military expert who has never seen real war.

But we hear “hybrid warfare” everywhere these days. So, let’s figure
out – where did the term come from, what is it all about?

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Let’s follow the path of least resistance – check Wikipedia. Wikipedia article
appeared only in 2014, that is, quite
recently. Before then, the term was mostly used by conspiracy theorists in the
West, and no one serious. Because, frankly, it is nonsense.

I’m quite confident that American generals, colonels, or even captains, are
educated no worse than ours. That’s why the representatives of the Pentagon, or
the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, or the Ministries of Defense
of other countries, never used, are not using, and will not use this term.

So, to get a definition of “hybrid warfare”, we’ll have to go to
civilians, or military men that are not speaking in their official capacity.

Lieutenant Colonel of the US Marine Corps Bill Nemett opined that this is a
kind of modern guerrilla warfare, which brings together “modern technologies
and methods of mobilization”.

What can I say to this statement by the esteemed colonel? That even the Minin and Pozharsky militia back in the 16th century
also “brought together technologies and methods of mobilization” that were
modern for their time, and fought a guerrilla war. Only they or their Polish
opponents did not call it “hybrid warfare”.

[“Liberation of Moscow from the Poles”, year 1612]

Nathan Freier from the Center for Strategic and International Studies stated
that “hybrid warfare” combines the following threats: traditional,
unconventional, catastrophic terrorism, guerrilla tactics, “when technology is
used to nullify enemy superiority in military power”.

I like his exhaustive definition – he is strategist alright. Let’s examine it:

So we have the “traditional” threats – what is meant by that is not exactly
clear, but, thank God, it’s probably not about gay rights.

“Unconventional” – very deep. In war, one constantly tries to find
unconventional moves in order to win. For example, great 18th century general Suvorov constantly used very unconventional
moves, which is how he triumphed against “enemy superiority in military power”.

[Suvorov’s outnumbered troops taking the supposedly impregnable Turkish
fortress of Izmail]

“Catastrophic terrorism” – I do not even know what to say here. Well, if one
blows a suicide bomber decked out with enriched plutonium somewhere inside a
dormant volcano, maybe it will work.

Guerrilla tactics – in my opinion, any war involves attacking enemy
communications. Remember the WWII Belarusian partisans, who did just that – used
guerilla tactics against superior enemy forces, as everyone did throughout

Finally, we can refer to journalist Frank Hoffman, clearly well-versed in
military science, who summarized: “hybrid warfare is defined as acts of
the enemy, who quickly and simultaneously uses a complex combination of
traditional weapons, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and criminal behavior, in
order to achieve political goals”.

Yes, I very much like this summary, Frank does not even realize how well it
fits. After all, any war really is “quickly and simultaneously using a
complex combination of traditional weapons, guerrilla warfare, terrorism and
criminal behavior, in order to achieve political goals.”

You know why? Because in any war, one wants to win.

Don’t believe me? Let us remember the “hybrid” Great Patriotic War
against Nazis, which also involved “quickly and simultaneously using” military
forces, guerrillas, terrorism, and everything necessary – to win. But
Stalin or Zhukov did not call it “hybrid warfare”.

[Fascist headquarters in Odessa in 1941, after the Soviets detonated a
radio-controlled bomb, killing Nazi officers gathered for a party]

I can go over a lot of other examples of our Western counterparts spouting
complete nonsense on military affairs for the media.

All wars waged by Western countries and/or USSR match the “hybrid” definition.
Vietnam, Somalia, Grenada, the Falklands, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yugoslavia –
I do not have enough space to list all the wars that can be called “hybrid”,
because every war is. Because any war includes the whole range of activities –
from soft diplomacy to open warfare, assassinations and even nuclear threats.

Because it’s war.

And the fact that a bureaucrat in charge of the the biggest military force in
the world blurted out something about a “hybrid war”, and the media picked it
up – means nothing.


Here is a more serious article from
“Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie”(Independent Military Review) explaining why
Crimean secession was different, why the term “hybrid warfare” was coined to
explain its unique features, and why it is wrong (full piece cut down in the interest
of brevity and clarity):


The Myth of “Hybrid Warfare” by Ruslan Nikolaevich Puhov, [Head of the Center
for Strategy and Technology Research]

Russia’s recent actions in Crimea and then East Ukraine gave rise to widespread
Western meme about some “hybrid warfare”, a pioneering form of
foreign intervention used by Moscow in the Ukrainian crisis.

Recently, the former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen even claimed
that the “unpredictable” Russia with its “hybrid warfare” has become
more dangerous than the Soviet Union ever was.

[as far as the definition of “hybrid warfare”,] The “Military Balance 2015”
publication claims that, during the Crimean operation in February and March
2014, Russian forces “demonstrated a combined use of rapid deployment,
electronic warfare, information operations, naval infantry capabilities, air
assault forces and special forces, as well as large-scale use of cyberwarfare
and strategic communications for multi-directional and effective information campaign,
for both internal and external audiences. “

It’s easy to see that this definition is quite detached from reality,
especially when it comes to the details of Russia’s actions in 2014. There was
little use of “electronic warfare” or “air assault” operations. Not to mention
“cyberwarfare” against the archaic UAF, [what would be the point of trying to
hack 1970s analog equipment?]

The propaganda support for the Crimean secession from the Russian side was also
rather sluggish, both externally and internally. The meaning and direction of
Moscow’s actions in Crimea were not explained, but rather hushed down, and the
ultimate reunification with Crimea was a surprise to many. Excuses after the
fact were also quite half-hearted.

Yes, Crimean reunification stirred mass support and even enthusiasm within
Russia, but it was achieved without much propaganda effort, as the belief that
“Crimea is Russia” was already widespread, and Ukraine was generally
viewed as a “separatist failed state”.

UAF battlegroup in the peninsula underwent steady propaganda campaign [from the
pro-Russian local groups] and Russian military, who more or less asked them to
switch sides. This was extremely successful and led to the complete
decomposition of pro-Kiev forces on the peninsula – in the end, only about 20%
of 18,000 UAF soldiers have decided to remain with the Kiev government and
evacuated from Crimea, while the rest either joined the Russian army or
deserted. However, it is clear that this success in subverting the opposing force
was entirely due to the composition of these units (the majority of troops in
Crimea were [pro-Russian] local residents), rather than any innovative
propaganda effort.

[The great battle of Crimea – unarmed shoving match between a pro-Russian Crimean
and a UAF officer]

[UAF soldiers vacate their bases]


In general, the tactics defined as “hybrid warfare” are a fairly
standard set of actions used in any “low intensity” armed conflict
around the globe in the past decades, if not centuries. It is hard to imagine
using military force without simultaneous propaganda, economic sanctions,
secret service operations, without attempting to subvert enemy troops and without
attempts to exploit internal conflicts (ethnic, social, economic, political,
etc.) within the enemy side. These were the basic tactics in any war in

The combination of public and secret military operations, often presumed to be
the unique feature of “hybrid warfare”, and the example of
“polite people” (or “little green men”) operating with ease
in Crimea, that stunned so many in the West, ignores the unique nature of the
Crimean operation. Simply put, Russia’s actions were enabled primarily by overwhelming
support of the local population, and total isolation and paralysis of pro-Kiev
military units in Crimea due to this factor.

[maybe an overly sweet video, but beats posting two dozen proofpics]

[Simferopol police joined the side of the people from the very beginning, and
stood guard the Chongar entrance to the peninsula]

This support enabled the prolonged use of unidentified military personnel – who
also operated essentially legally, from established bases and with allowed
troop levels, which was, again, a situation unique to Crimea. It is impossible
to imagine “polite people” operating like that in any other
environment – say, in the middle of Poland or the United States.

[Crimeans shop next to “polite men”, nicknamed for their politeness. Locals in USA
probably would not behave the same]

[Not Safe For Work: gory demotivator comparing USA
“freedom bringers” to Russian “invaders”]


It is worth noting that the closest historical counterpart to the current
Ukrainian conflict is not the, incessantly brought up, accession of Sudetenland
to Germany in 1938 (where, by the way, German irredentist militias were also
Rather, it is a lot more similar to the Texas secession from Mexico (plus later
Mexican-American war) or Italian Risorgimento – the unification of Italy in the
middle of the 19th century. In both cases, we see irredentism as a reason for
war, and “the mother country” (the Kingdom of Sardinia – Piedmont and
the United States), for political reasons, could not come to the aid of
irredentists with an open military intervention. So they used various ways to
support the local rebels: supporting and supplying their units, sending masses
of real and “imaginary” volunteers and camouflaged units of their
armed forces, the organization of limited intervention, etc. It’s easy to see
that all this is exactly the same as Russia’s actions in the current Ukrainian

There is another very close analogy: the relationship of Igor Strelkov, the
militia commander who spearheaded the DPR’s armed struggle in the initial
period, with official Moscow, rather closely resembles the troubled
relationship of Giuseppe Garibaldi with the King of Savoy Victor Emmanuel II
and his prime minister Cavour, who were at first willing to use and support
Garibaldi, but then began to consider him uncontrollable and potentially politically


The novelty of the “hybrid war” breaks down if one takes a closer
look at history. Its “hybrid” nature is not determined by some
ground-breaking strategy and tactics – they are only a consequence of needing
specific tactics for conflicts with a large “civil war” component, and such
“hybrid” tactics were used in these conflicts since the beginning of history.
The presence of a strong “allied” faction on the battlefield always
allows external actors to use these moves, which have now been termed
“hybrid warfare”.

Coining the term “hybrid warfare” in relation to the events in
Ukraine is a politically motivated attempt to manipulate the terms, in order to
overstate the importance of external factors in the conflict, and to downplay
the significance of internal actors that were simply assisted by external
forces, in a fairly traditional manner. This desire to downplay the
significance of internal factors in the Ukrainian civil war is characteristic
of the the West’s attitude towards such conflicts as a whole, [de-legitimizing
the opposition by pretending it does not have broad local support], which
explains their persistent promotion of the thesis about some “innovative
hybrid war” by Russia against Ukraine.



*NATO alone is just under three-fifths of the world’s military spending, if we
count other USA allies – the figure is more than three quarters. Of course,
justifying such a huge military-industrial complex is a lot of work. Hence, the
constant myth-making about “hybrid warfare”, “weapons of mass destruction”,
“unique threat of ISIS”, etc.

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