New article: ‘Hybrid, ambiguous, and non-linear? How new is Russia’s ‘new way of war’?’

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 09.23.14Just a quick note, that an article of mine has appeared in the latest issue of Small Wars & Insurgencies, vol. 27, no. 2, a special issue on ‘Proxy Actors, Militias and Irregular Forces: The New Frontier of War?’ pulled together by Alex Marshall of Glasgow University. It emerged from an excellent workshop that Alex convened last year on this important and under-researched topic and the issue includes, along with all sorts of first-rate material, the always-great Vanda Felbab-Brown on Afghan militias and an interesting conceptual piece by Robert and Pamela Ligouri Bunker. My contribution, Hybrid, ambiguous, and non-linear? How new is Russia’s ‘new way of war’?, places recent Russian practice very firmly within an historical tradition going back to pre-Soviet adventures. Here’s the abstract:

Russia’s recent operations in Ukraine, especially the integrated use of militias,
gangsters, information operations, intelligence, and special forces, have created
a concern in the West about a ‘new way of war’, sometimes described as ‘hybrid’.
However, not only are many of the tactics used familiar from Western operations,
they also have their roots in Soviet and pre-Soviet Russian practice. They are
distinctive in terms of the degree to which they are willing to give primacy to
‘non-kinetic’ means, the scale of integration of non-state actors, and tight linkage
between political and military command structures. However, this is all largely a
question of degree rather than true qualitative novelty. Instead, what is new is
the contemporary political, military, technological, and social context in which
new wars are being fought.

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  1. The Tolstoy quote was an interesting one but Russia is not being countered by Emperors but by committees. Putin is well aware of this and no doubt seeks to introduce ambiguity in order to split opposition, possibly taking delight in creating rifts in the systems he holds in such contempt. There must be an assumption on the part of Putin that if it is not clear that a ‘rule’ has been broken, he is likely to get away with his actions. His invasion of Georgia and his clear attempts to weaken the non-compliant Saakashvilli might have emboldened Putin, especially given the lack of an international reaction. It is also interesting to see the extent of the use of ‘kompromat’ in Georgian politics of late and this clearly falls into the definition of aggressive actions that are unlikely to induce an international response.

    I believe that many of the above principles apply to the ways in which Putin counters opposition within Russia and it was fascinating to see the rapid adoption of online ‘aggression’ following the Bolotnaya protests – and subsequent legislation on popular bloggers.

    As an aside, it frustrates me that in the digital age, academic papers are so strictly controlled by established publishers and the £26 required to access the article is a barrier to most.

  2. lastdingo

     /  March 27, 2016

    “Hybrid” war is old, as is almost everything in war. Only those who did not study military history will be surprised and think of events and actions as new or unprecedented.

  1. Words That Should Die | Russia Without BS

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