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Hybrid warfare, war before war


History of a notion. It is war before war, but already war in a chaotic world where the distinction between war and peace is increasingly blurred.

“The notion of hybrid warfare helps define current conflicts that combine strategic intimidation by states with weapons of mass destruction, joint operations also involving special units and mercenaries, and large-scale disinformation maneuvers. “, writes Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), in Invisible wars (Tallandier, to be published on January 21, 317 pages, 20.90 euros).

The case of Ukraine is emblematic, as Russians and Americans began to discuss in Geneva the fate of this former Soviet republic that Moscow wants to vassalize, prohibiting it from any future membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ( NATO) as the European Union, yet desired by the overwhelming majority of the population.

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Hybrid strategies mix military and non-military, direct and indirect modes of action, often difficult to attribute and always designed to stay below the estimated threshold of response or open conflict.

After the overthrow in Kiev of the pro-Russian regime under pressure from the streets, Moscow annexed Crimea in the spring of 2014, with an operation carried out by special forces without badges – then nicknamed “the little green men” – and then manipulated a pro-Russian rebellion. reinforced by soldiers without uniform in eastern Ukraine.

Hybrid warfare does not have to be armed. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, thus called‘Hybrid attack’ the sending, in the fall of 2021, of thousands of migrants transported by the Belarusian regime from the Middle East to the Polish and Lithuanian borders to put pressure on the Twenty-Seven. Disinformation, cyber attacks, economic predation are also part of this new form of confrontation where we no longer really distinguish between civilian technologies and military technologies, between professional soldiers and occasional combatants, and where all the cogs of the State are mobilized.

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Appeared twenty years ago in strategic studies, the term was used for the first time officially in France in the 2013 White Paper on Defense and National Security. “Its success reveals the persistence of an unresolved problem, that of a certain inadequacy of Western defense tools to forms of war that have sometimes been described as“ irregular ”,“ asymmetrical ”, of“ low intensity ”. ” Where “fourth generation” ”, explains, in the National Defense Review, Elie Tenenbaum, researcher at IFRI and author, with Marc Hecker, of The Twenty Years’ War (Robert Laffont, 2021). The concept remains unclear, however, especially since it encompasses many, if not too much, different things.

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