Hybrid warfare and grey zone
Governments and military leaders have always sought to win fights and wars already in the minds and hearts of the enemy before on the battlefield. Sun-Tzu formalized this aspiration in his ancient treatise on the art of war, but it is only in recent times that we have moved from an often unfulfilled hope to something that materializes with so far extraordinary results.
The season of the “color revolutions” that reshaped Eastern Europe in the post-Soviet Union era, the “Arab Spring” that sought to reshape the Arab world, and, in general, the street demonstrations that overthrew regimes disliked to the West, apparently with a minimum of bloodshed, have all been possible thanks to the development of Internet, of social networks that can be viewed through web interfaces, and to the development, hidden from the general public, of social, psychological, and legal technologies that were not available at the beginning of the first Cold War.
A gigantic river of money has been spent in an attempt to redesign the entire world in the image of the elites who dominate the collective West, but the Special Military Operation that Russia has been forced to initiate for its own survival has shown that those who rule the West have gone beyond the limits Sun-Tzu had set to his ideas.
Infantry assaults, tanks, artillery attacks, missiles, bombs, warships, and fighters have proven to be the real stars when either side turns the table and moves from the psychological warfare in hearts and minds to the kinetic one on the material battlefield.
It could be said that each Russian victory in Ukraine, on the bloody terrain of war, crumbles a piece of the most modern Western textbooks by demonstrating how the grip of certain “mind tricks” is not necessarily lasting and that even the most ambitious plans of economic conditioning can prove itself as futile.
However, it is wrong to think that the concepts of hybrid and proxy warfare, of grey zone and grey zone attack, of lawfare, are passing fads destined to disappear. On the contrary, they are ideas with solid conceptual foundations but which have been applied to excess by a West that is now a prisoner of its own narrative and therefore blind and deaf to any criticism from the rest of the world.
The recent work “Hybrid Warfare and the Grey Zone” by Russian political scientist Leonid Savin, opens up more than a glimmer on these topics. Savin, a member of the Eurasian Movement and close collaborator of the Russian philosopher Alexandr Dugin, answers some questions about his latest work.
1) Mr. Savin, can you explain to our readers what is meant by “grey zone” and “hybrid warfare”? The two terms are often coupled…
A) Yes, both concepts are intentionally used by western politicians and analysts like two sides of one coin. Initially it was terms for description of specific operations or regime by the US military and intelligence community. Hybrid warfare was proposed by marines and gray zone by special operations forces. Then it became more political and State Dept started to use it officially some years ago. For hybrid warfare used certain characteristics, but gray zone is more blur term, it reflects some uncertains that may happen in political or/and physical domains. Last time gray zone used both for land and maritime activities. South China Sea and tensions around region usually marked by the USA and its partners as Chinese gray zone strategy.
2) Can you give us examples of “gray zone attacks”? What are their characteristics?
A) For example, from the US point of view, it is all types of Chinese activities in maritime domain in disputed areas. But in general attacks in gray zone are difficult to analyze cause gray zone itself is place where are no clear characteristics.
3) So, such attacks are not necessarily military in nature but span a very broad spectrum: finance, ideology, society…. Is this correct?
A) Exactly. Military action is ultimate means on high level of escalation. The West prefers to use own formed international system with actives of IMF, World Bank, etc. as well as juridical tools like London or Hague Courts (that is funded by oligarchs and really has no legitimation, but presented like international). There is also a broad spectrum of the instruments like insurance companies, rate agencies and media groups that can influence on politics and economics of many countries.
4) Are they directed exclusively against countries considered hostile (or enemies) or also against friendly ones? Why?
A) In one manual of the US Army we can read that war is conducted during the time of peace, conflict and post-conflict period against enemies, neutral actors and friends. By this logic (that is US) we see constant war against everyone. In some sense it reminds famous formula of John Hobbes homo homini lupus – or another ancient one: bellum omnium contra omnes. Probably it is a development of the Anglo-Saxon thinking and manifestation of its superiority and exclusiveness.
5) What is the relationship between “hybrid warfare” and “proxy warfare”?
A) Proxy war is conflict when third side support or conduct one side. It is type of indirect involvement like NATO in Ukraine against Russia. And they can use different options like military assistance, diplomatic pressure, direction of mercenary groups, financial blockade, etc. Proxy war reflects the involvements of actors. Hybrid warfare is type of form. But in some sense all types of wars now are hybrid.
6) Coming to your country, what attacks has Russia suffered? How has it defended itself?
A) We have many frontlines from economic and diplomatic sphere to proxy war in Ukraine and acts of sabotage inside Russia. Actually, it started in 2014 when puppets of the West organized a coup d’etat in Ukraine and then started repressions against own citizens there. Russia partially interfered because of high loses of the civilians in the Ukraine, mostly Russian speaking population. Citizens of Crimea peninsula as well as Donetsk and Lugansk regions organized referendums for independence, but this time Russia recognized in Crimea only. Finally, in February 2022, Lugansk and Donetsk regions also was supported by Moscow and special military operation started. Now we are in phase of protracted conflict where the West interested to paralyze economic and political system of Russia. Besides order of partial mobilization this year will be organized more military trainings and drills for non-active and retired staff. Special services of Russia work hard for search of terrorists and agents inside Russia. Unfortunately, few acts of terrorism were conducted in Russian cities organized by Ukrainian agents. Many economic actives of Russia in western countries were arrested and confiscated (both private and state owned). In Poland, diplomatic property has been confiscated. There are very many hostile aggressive acts against Russia and our compatriots. And our society and state agencies react on it in different way. Probably you remember attempts of the West to “cancel” Russian culture on international level. It failed. Mostly because society in the western countries were opposite this idea. Now we see grow of solidarity with Russia and disagreement for policy to support Ukrainian regime.
7) In general, what defenses can be developed by countries that suffer this kind of aggression?
A) It is necessary to understand own vulnerabilities for its protection, to monitor such types of aggressions abroad for situational awareness and to organize trainings with partners for exchange of experience and building sustainability. Theoretically it seems easy but on practice level need a lot of work and systematization of the many processes.
8) In light of what has been discussed so far, what can we say about the Special Military Operation that Russia is conducting in Ukraine?
A) There are hybrid tools used too. For example, we can see groups of pro-Russian hackers abroad as well as some pro-Ukrainian hackers groups (but mostly assistance of NATO experts). From both sides there are organized fundraising companies to provide different types of assistance on front line. In Russia, there is big significance of Wagner group whose combatants are very active and well experienced. Media war is another dimension of conflict. Mostly all western media provides fabricated news about “Russian loses” or “war crimes”. Russian media or pro-Russian voices in the West under censorship, so readers have not access for alternative sources of information. What is very important, the West are not success to destroy Russian economy and we all here see the coward nature of Western elites. It gave us more energy to continue westernization (that means more cooperation with friendly countries and strengthen our sovereignty in different spheres from education and science till military power and diplomacy).
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