Hybrid warfare, war before war

History of a concept. It is war before war, but already war in a chaotic world where the distinction between war and peace is becoming ever more confused.

“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, 2021).

The case of Ukraine is emblematic, while Russians and Americans have begun 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 well as the European Union, desired however by the overwhelming majority of the population.

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

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

Hybrid warfare is not necessarily armed. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had thus qualified as“hybrid attack” the sending, in the fall of 2021, of thousands of migrants routed by the Belarusian regime from the Middle East to the Polish and Lithuanian borders to put pressure on the Twenty-Seven. Disinformation, cyberattacks, economic predation are also part of this new form of confrontation where there is no longer any real difference between civilian technologies and military technologies, between professional soldiers and occasional fighters, 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 warfare that have sometimes been described as ‘irregular’, ‘asymmetrical’, ‘low intensity ” Where of “fourth generation” explain, in the National Defense magazine, Elie Tenenbaum, researcher at IFRI and author, with Marc Hecker, of The Twenty Years’ War (Robert Laffont, 2021). However, the concept remains vague, especially since it encompasses many, if not too many, different things.

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Hybrid warfare, war before war