ArticlePDF Available

Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe



Russia's use of force against Ukraine since early 2014 has prompted some observers to remark that it is engaging in 'hybrid warfare'. This form of military statecraft has made other former Soviet republics, such as the Baltic countries, fear that Russia would use subversion rather than pursue a conventional military engagement against them. Despite this concern about Russian hybrid war, existing descriptions of this form of war suffer from conceptual weaknesses. In this article hybrid warfare is conceived as a strategy that marries conventional deterrence and insurgency tactics. That is, the belligerent uses insurgent tactics against its target while using its conventional military power to deter a strong military response. The article then outlines why some former Soviet republics are susceptible to Russian hybrid warfare, allowing it to postulate inductively the conditions under which hybrid warfare might be used in general. The analysis yields two policy implications. First, military solutions are not wholly appropriate against hybrid warfare since it exploits latent ethnic grievances and weak civil societies. Second, only under narrow circumstances would belligerents resort to hybrid warfare. Belligerents need to be revisionist and militarily stronger than their targets, but they also need to have ethnic or linguistic ties with the target society to leverage in waging hybrid warfare.
Russian hybrid warfare and
extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92:  () –
 The Author(s). International Aairs ©  The Royal Institute of International Aairs. Published by John Wiley & Sons
Ltd,  Garsington Road, Oxford  , UK and  Main Street, Malden, MA , USA.
The way in which Russia has used force against Ukraine since early  has
prompted some observers to remark that it is engaging in ‘hybrid warfare’. Rather
than openly using military power to secure its political objectives in Ukraine,
Russia has adopted a subtler approach intended to give the Kremlin ‘plausible
deniability’ while reducing the costs associated with engaging Ukraine’s armed
forces directly. For example, Russia did not launch a traditional invasion to wrest
Crimea away from Kiev’s control; instead, it fomented local pro-Russian demon-
strations, inserted unmarked militia groups (‘little green men’) to occupy ocial
government buildings, and oversaw a local referendum to lend an air of legitimacy
to the annexation eort. In eastern Ukraine, Moscow continues to deny that it is
directly involved in armed hostilities between Kiev and rebel groups. Neverthe-
less, it provides those rebels with diplomatic cover as well as heavy munitions and
logistical support. Despite the Kremlin’s assertions to the contrary, there is strong
evidence that some Russian units are fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbas
Russia’s military statecraft has also raised concerns regarding the security of
its other neighbours, especially the Baltic countries. These concerns were ampli-
fied by the announcement in June  that Russia is reconsidering the legiti-
macy of the independence those states achieved in –. Individually and
collectively, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania suer from an unfavourable balance of
power with Russia. Their armies comprise about ,, , and , soldiers
respectively; by contrast, the Russian ground forces amount to , soldiers,
to say nothing of the country’s aerial, maritime and nuclear capabilities. The
Baltic countries are members of NATO and so enjoy a commitment from the
* The author thanks Henrik Hiim, Michael Hunzeker and Carol Saivetz for comments and help regarding this
article. All errors and other infelicities are the author’s own.
Maksymilian Czuperski, John Herbst, Eliot Higgins, Alina Polyajova and Damon Wilson, Hiding in plain
sight: Putin’s war in Ukraine (Washington DC: Atlantic Council, ),
publications/reports/hiding-in-plain-sight-putin-s-war-in-ukraine-and-boris-nemtsov-s-putin-war, accessed
 Nov. . Other labels have been used to refer to Russian military tactics in Ukraine. On non-linear
warfare, see Mark Galeotti, ‘The “Gerasimov Doctrine” and Russian non-linear war’, In Moscow’s Shadows, 
July ,///the-gerasimov-doctrine-and-russian-non-
linear-war/, accessed  Nov. .
‘How Russia sees Baltic sovereignty’, Moscow Times,  July ,
opinion/article/how-russia-sees-baltic-sovereignty/.html, accessed  Nov. .
The Military Balance (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, ), pp. , –, .
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
United States and other allies under Article  of the alliance’s founding treaty,
which arms that an attack against one member constitutes an attack against
all. Thus the disparities between their own and Russian forces are oset by the
military protection of a conventionally superior and nuclear-armed NATO. Still,
the Baltic states see themselves as vulnerable, not least to the application of hybrid
warfare; Russia, they fear, may use subversion rather than pursue a conventional
military engagement against them. It remains unclear what an alliance like NATO
could do to deter (and defend against) such forms of aggression.
Despite these concerns, existing descriptions of hybrid warfare suer from
important conceptual weaknesses. The purpose of this article is to describe the
logic of hybrid warfare and explain why former Soviet republics like the Baltic
countries might be vulnerable to it. It first defines hybrid warfare, conceiving
it as a marriage of conventional deterrence and insurgent tactics. Rather than
being a new form of conflict, hybrid warfare is a strategy that the belligerent
uses to advance its political goals on the battlefield by applying military force
subversively. The article then describes why former Soviet republics are vulner-
able to Russian hybrid warfare. In the course of this analysis, it identifies four
conditions that jointly make hybrid warfare more likely: first, the belligerent has
local escalation dominance; second, the belligerent seeks to revise the status quo;
third, the belligerent has a relatively weak neighbouring state in so far as the latter
lacks a robust civil society and has local ethnic or linguistic cleavages that can be
exploited; and fourth, the weak neighbour has some ethnic or linguistic ties to
the belligerent.
By describing why Russia has resorted to hybrid warfare within the former
Soviet Union, and where other belligerents might do the same elsewhere, this
article shows that military solutions to this threat are incomplete. After all, hybrid
warfare exploits nationalist identities, thereby blurring responsibility and even
gaining political support among foreign audiences. Hybrid warfare incorporates
the most potent attributes of an insurgency while minimizing the drawbacks
associated with using conventional force. It is a strategy born not out of weakness
but out of strength. Thus, in the Baltic context, Russia’s strategy aims to weaken
NATO’s willingness to follow through on its own deterrent threats. Military
solutions overlook this dimension of Russian hybrid warfare because they focus
disproportionately on modifying or restructuring military capabilities. These
capabilities can deter some forms of aggression, but they may be insucient
to prevent Russia from sowing local discord. Political solutions that lie beyond
NATO’s ambit are necessary if the Baltic countries are to address their greatest
vulnerability to hybrid warfare: namely, the presence of large stateless popula-
tions in Estonia and Latvia.
This article first conceptualizes ‘hybrid warfare’ and proceeds to explain its
appeal for the Kremlin in respect of NATO’s eastern flank. It then identifies the
general conditions under which a belligerent might launch hybrid warfare before
reviewing recent proposals for how NATO should deter Russia.
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
The concept and utility of hybrid warfare
Military strategists have long been aware that belligerents can wage war against
their adversaries in ways that do not involve set-piece battles or large coordinated
military campaigns between opposing armies to score decisive victories. With the
emergence of nationalism and class identities in the nineteenth century, military
theorists such as Carl von Clausewitz and political thinkers such as Friedrich
Engels and Vladimir Lenin contemplated the conditions under which insurgen-
cies could prevail against central governments. T. E. Lawrence and Mao Zedong
also wrote on how best to mount military operations against stronger adversaries.
A common thread in all these analyses is that direct military confrontations would
only benefit the strong. Accordingly, for weaker combatants, more incremental,
subtler and indirect tactics are appropriate. These tactics include using propaganda
to mobilize support for the insurgency and to demoralize enemy forces as well as
attacking the weak points of opposing militaries.
Contemporary military theorists have drawn on this intellectual tradition to
speculate on the nature of war in an age marked less by interstate conflict and
more by civil wars. Presumably because nuclear weapons make direct military
confrontation between them too risky and costly, major powers choose not to
fight each other. When they do wage wars, as the United States did in Vietnam
and Russia did in Chechnya, they fight weaker adversaries, usually to change
regimes, mount counter-insurgencies or launch proxy campaigns against peer
competitors. Military theorists argue that contemporary wars between adver-
saries of vastly unequal capabilities now combine elements of regular conven-
tional warfare with elements of irregular (guerrilla) warfare. That is, in one
military campaign, large formations might still be used for some missions, while
other missions could require smaller, more mobile units that sometimes need to
act covertly to inflict damage on the adversary. Russell Glenn cites a US defini-
tion of a hybrid threat as
any adversary that simultaneously and adaptively employs a tailored mix of conventional,
irregular, terrorism and criminal means or activities in the operational battlespace. Rather
than a single entity, a hybrid threat or challenger may be comprised of a combination of
state and non-state actors.
Similarly, although they argue that hybrid warfare has been a feature of inter-
national politics for millennia, Williamson Murray and Peter R. Mansoor define
hybrid warfare as ‘a conflict involving a combination of conventional military
forces and irregulars (guerrillas, insurgents and terrorists), which could include
both state and non-state actors, aimed at achieving a common political purpose’.
András Rácz, Russia’s hybrid war in Ukraine: breaking the enemy’s ability to resist, FIIA Report  (Helsinki: Finnish
Institute of International Aairs, ), pp. –.
Robert Jervis, The meaning of the nuclear revolution (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, ).
Definition adopted in support of US Joint Forces Command hybrid war conference, Washington DC,  Feb.
, cited in Russell W. Glenn, ‘Thoughts on “hybrid” conflict’, Small Wars Journal,  March , http://-glenn.pdf, accessed  Nov. .
Williamson Murray and Peter R. Mansoor, Hybrid warfare: fighting complex opponents from the ancient world to the
present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ), p. .
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
Yet the alleged hybrid warfare that Russia has used against Ukraine reveals
the inadequacies of these definitions. Specifically, the focus on the combined use
of regular and irregular warfare is at once too broad and too narrow. It is too
broad because many wars in history have incorporated features of both regular and
irregular warfare. As much as the Grand Alliance waged set-piece battles against
Nazi Germany in the Second World War, its members also backed resistance
groups fighting Nazi occupation, dropped propaganda leaflets and supported acts
of sabotage (e.g. Operation Gunnerside, undertaken by Norwegian resistance to
prevent Germany from obtaining materials for its nuclear weapons programme).
Even the Second World War, then, can be considered to have been a hybrid war.
The focus is also too narrow because in these definitions both regular and irreg-
ular wars are used either simultaneously or sequentially in the theatre of opera-
tions. However, the occupation of Crimea did not involve Russian deployment of
new regular forces in Ukraine until Russian control of the peninsula was already
secured. The annexation of Crimea was conspicuous in its lack of regular warfare.
Mindful of these observations, I reconceptualize hybrid warfare as a strategy
rather than a new form of war. It is a strategy because it deliberately integrates
the use of various instruments of national power so as to achieve foreign policy
objectives in the light of the believed goals and capabilities of the adversary. It can
cover a range of expedients so long as they are guided by an overarching goal.
As such, hybrid warfare involves the coordinated use of irregular and regular
military means towards dierent but complementary ends. Irregular warfare is
used to expose and to exploit a target’s vulnerabilities at lower levels of violence
than a direct confrontation between militaries, while regular warfare is used—
somewhat ironically—as minimally as possible. That is, the belligerent threatens
to use higher gradations of military force so as to deter its target from retali-
ating strongly. Hybrid warfare thus requires that the belligerent possess escalation
dominance, meaning that it can engage and defeat its target at dierent levels of
military escalation. In waging hybrid warfare, the belligerent is actively striving
to undermine its target’s territorial integrity, subvert its internal political cohesion
and disrupt its economy. Hybrid warfare can serve such revisionist goals as territo-
rial expansion and the imposition of indirect rule over another (nominally) sover-
eign state.
The irregular military component of hybrid warfare can encompass dierent
tactics of varying intensity, many of which have been used in insurgencies. At one
end of the spectrum is propaganda, which is a communicative act that a belligerent
undertakes in order to influence the attitudes held by members of the target’s
society. Propaganda serves to hamper the target’s ability to draw on popular
support in pursuing its policies and mobilizing its resources. Next is espionage,
whereby agents clandestinely gather intelligence in order to confer on the bellig-
erent a coercive bargaining advantage, and/or spread deliberately false information
Accordingly, a belligerent using hybrid warfare can alter and adapt its approach to respond to unforeseen
events or moves made by its target.
A similar point is made in Andrew Wilson, Ukraine crisis: what it means for the West (New Haven: Yale University
Press, ), p. .
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
among unsuspecting members of a public regarding the activities and intentions
of particular organizations. Another stage along the intensity spectrum is agita-
tion, to which the belligerent can resort to create dissension and discord within
a target society when none previously existed. After this comes criminal disorder,
whereby the belligerent’s agents engage in hit-and-run attacks, cyber attacks,
sabotage or kidnapping. The belligerent could also cultivate fifth columns: groups
of individuals, usually acting covertly, embedded within a much larger population
that they seek to undermine. Fifth columns may agitate, or may simply wait for
hostilities to break out between the target and the belligerent before becoming
active. Such fifth columns might facilitate the military campaign of the govern-
ment they support at an opportune moment. Next, the belligerent could insert
unmarked soldiers who are armed but lack the insignia that would identify them
and their home government. Unmarked soldiers enable the belligerent to estab-
lish and operate checkpoints, occupy government buildings and other sites of
strategic interest, seize prized military assets and clear an area ahead of an overt
military operation. Most intensely, but still short of a direct military confronta-
tion, the belligerent might launch border skirmishes to unsettle the target, probe its
weaknesses and sap its resources.
All these actions take place in the shadow of possible conventional war, and
from this fact alone it should be apparent that hybrid warfare is not a recent
invention. Indeed, the Soviet Union employed these tactics immediately after
the Second World War with Cominform, sponsoring communist movements in
Europe and elsewhere to undermine capitalist countries from within. Aggressors
have long used ‘fifth columns’ to pursue political objectives at the expense of their
adversaries. One illustrative example of a ‘fifth column’ was the Sudeten-German
Free Corps, which was active in Czechoslovakia in the late s. This paramili-
tary organization was ethnically German and had Nazi sympathies. It launched
terrorist attacks aimed at provoking the Czechoslovak government into a military
or political response that would precipitate Nazi actions to rescue co-ethnics and
annex the Sudetenland into the Third Reich.
Hybrid warfare is not simply guerrilla warfare waged by a strong state. Consider
one definition of guerrilla warfare that emphasizes four distinguishing attributes.
First, guerrilla fighters are irregular forces ‘organized in small, highly mobile
units and operating without heavy weaponry such as tanks, artillery, or aircraft’.
Second, guerrilla fighters prefer protracted warfare, use such tactics as hit-and-
run attacks and terrorism, and avoid set-piece battles. Third, guerrilla forces often
operate in areas that their adversaries control, thereby waging warfare in a manner
that obscures the lines of battle. Finally, guerrillas depend on local populations
for support. Guerrilla fighters even hide among members of the local population
to prevent detection by their adversary. Hybrid warfare can incorporate these
features, but some aspects of guerrilla war do not have to be present. For example,
 Bruce B. Campbell, ‘The SA after the Rohm purge’, Journal of Contemporary History : , , p. .
 Benjamin Valentino, Paul Huth and Dylan Balch-Lindsay, ‘“Draining the sea”: mass killing and guerrilla
warfare’, International Organization : , , pp. –.
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
hybrid warfare does not preclude the use of heavy weaponry. The belligerent can
arm local groups with heavy weapons in order to erode the strength of the target
while still avoiding a direct confrontation. The belligerent might deem protracted
warfare unacceptable, in which case it might use a fifth column to destabilize a
contested environment, thereby positioning itself to move swiftly to grab a certain
prize before the target can respond.
The desire to avoid a direct military confrontation may spring from any of a
range of sources, some of which may be more salient in contemporary times. First,
global norms against war, conquest and territorial violations have strengthened
since the Second World War. States find it harder to justify unilateral seizures of
territory held by other sovereign states. They prefer to legitimate or rationalize
their uses of force through international institutions such as the United Nations
Security Council. Accordingly, Russia annexed Crimea in a manner intended to
make the takeover appear indigenously led. Second, more direct use of force might
elicit resistance from a militarily superior coalition of adversaries. If the target
has powerful allies or friends, then hybrid warfare also helps avoid triggering an
intervention that the belligerent does not believe it can handle. This observation
implies that the belligerent has local escalation dominance but not global escalation
dominance. By maintaining an element of ‘plausible deniability’, the belligerent
could forestall a widening of the conflict while still degrading the capabilities of
its target. Third, domestic considerations might make hybrid warfare an attractive
option to the belligerent. An overt military conflict could be unpopular, especially
if it means imposing some hardship on the domestic public. Put all these factors
together and it becomes apparent that hybrid warfare is appealing because it is
not as costly as a direct military confrontation on the battlefield, it skirts around
direct contravention of international norms and it avoids incurring harmful politi-
cal consequences at home.
Hybrid warfare thus features a paradox. By resorting to irregular warfare in
order to realize political objectives, the belligerent appears to be averse to military
escalation. However, the belligerent is using the threat of military escalation to
unsettle its target and deter it from responding strongly. How can this threat be
credible if the very adoption of the hybrid strategy should undercut it? Several
answers are possible. Because the belligerent has local escalation dominance,
the target is self-deterred from escalating: it knows that it will be defeated in
an actual military confrontation with that belligerent. Another possibility is
that hybrid warfare gives the belligerent ‘plausible deniability’ and thus deters
external intervention by confusing the potential opposition. The belligerent can
disclaim responsibility for local agitators and rebel groups. Alternatively, it could
claim that the actions of local agitators have popular support. In either case, the
 Tanisha Fazal, State death: the politics and geography of conquest, occupation, and annexation (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, ).
 On legitimating military force, see Ian Hurd, After anarchy: legitimacy and power in the United Nations Security
Council (Princeton: Princeton University Press, ). On rationalizing military force, see Alexander Thomp-
son, ‘Coercion through IOs: the Security Council and the logic of information transmission’, International
Organization : , , pp. –.
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
belligerent can exploit the resulting uncertainty so as to keep its adversary o
Of course, the costs of hybrid warfare must be considered alongside the
benefits. Subterfuge generally requires patience and care. It does not yield
immediate results: fifth columns need nurturing before they can become opera-
tional, and propaganda might take time to resonate with the target population, or
fail to gain purchase at all. Local enforcement agencies and intelligence communi-
ties can also undertake counter-measures against agitators, saboteurs and enemy
agents. Moreover, targets of hybrid warfare will not take the bait if they suspect
that they are being goaded into a certain reaction. Agitation may even backfire if
members of the target population rally around their government rather than show
dissension. Finally, as in any war, miscalculation is likely; it might even be more
common because the local agents serving the belligerent could have their own
interests and become dicult to manage once they are armed.
The appeal of hybrid warfare in the former Soviet region
Situational factors may also contribute to resolving the seeming paradox at the
heart of hybrid warfare. Below I argue that particular conditions within the
former Soviet Union might facilitate Russian subversion, forestall military escala-
tion, deter external intervention and, by extension, make hybrid warfare viable.
At least four attributes of the region deserve mention: its ethnic heterogeneity;
the presence of latent historical grievances; the weakness of local civil society; and
the resulting regional complexity, which Russia is better positioned to grasp than
external powers. Although Russia has escalation dominance over Ukraine, this
asymmetry alone does not account for the substance of the Russian hybrid warfare
we have so far observed. Nor does it fully reveal the ways in which other countries
of the former Soviet Union might be vulnerable. Finally, the attributes of the
region itemized above would not matter if Russia had no interest in mounting
hybrid warfare. Here I will discuss briefly the political and doctrinal drivers of
this interest before formulating several general propositions regarding where we
should observe hybrid warfare.
Because the following discussion addresses issues regarding ethnicity and
nationalism, several definitions are necessary. An ethnic group has a group name,
a sense of common descent, shared historical memories, shared cultural attributes
(such as language and religion) and some degree of territorial attachment. A
nation is a ‘socially mobilized body of individuals ... striving to create or maintain
their own state’. Nationalism is the ideology underpinning this eort. Ethnic
groups can engage in nationalism if they value independent statehood.
 Anthony Smith, The ethnic origins of nations (Oxford: Blackwell, ), pp. –.
 Ernst B. Haas, ‘What is nationalism and why should we study it?’, International Organization : , , pp.
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
Ethnic heterogeneity
The Soviet Union was one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.
Ethnic Russians barely formed a majority of its total population. At its collapse
in –, some ethnic groups declared the Soviet republic they dominated as
their own newly independent country. Conversely, many ethnic Russians and
Russian-speaking peoples found themselves in new countries governed by an elite
who did not speak their language or share their ethnicity. For example, the popula-
tions of Estonia and Latvia are about a quarter Russian; and ethnic Russians form
a majority of the approximately  per cent and  per cent, respectively, of those
populations who are stateless, lacking political rights and experiencing dispropor-
tionate rates of unemployment. Other post-Soviet countries have much smaller
proportions of ethnic Russians but still contain diverse populations. Ethnic groups
in these countries sometimes clamour for greater autonomy: Abkhazians and
South Ossetians in Georgia, to take two examples. Ethnic Armenians and Azerbai-
janis still contest the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The ethnic heterogeneity of the former Soviet region does not of itself mean
conflict, but it does oer opportunities for the Kremlin to foment local discord to
its advantage. First, Moscow can assist the eorts of aspiring secessionist groups at
the expense of those countries that pursue foreign policies Russia sees as inimical
to its own interests. These secessionist groups do not necessarily have to be
Russian or speak Russian to be of value to the Kremlin. What matters is whether
they can challenge or fight governments that the Kremlin dislikes. Second, as the
Kremlin has done already in the case of Ukraine, it can assert itself as a guarantor
of the political rights of self-identifying Russians or Russian-speaking people.
Whether those groups see such protection as desirable is immaterial. Russia can
still intervene in the domestic policy debates of its neighbours when language
and other cultural rights come under discussion. The Kremlin might even find
individuals within those Russian minority populations to do its bidding. Such a
situation is dangerous. If governments start seeing certain minority populations as
potential fifth columns, then they could take repressive measures. Not only would
such a response entail the unfair and harmful treatment of minority populations,
it would also prompt the Kremlin to act upon its self-proclaimed status as the
defender of Russian rights.
Latent historic grievances
Ethnic politics owes its salience in this region in part to the many myths and
symbols that continue to resonate. Symbols are emotionally charged referents to
beliefs that supply meaning to events or actions for a particular group of people.
 On how ethnic mobilization and nationalism spurred the demise of the Soviet Union, see Ben Fowkes, The
disintegration of the Soviet Union (London: Macmillan, ); Mark Beissinger, Nationalist mobilization and the
collapse of the Soviet Union (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ); Astrid S. Tuminez, ‘Nationalism,
ethnic pressures, and the breakup of the Soviet Union’, Journal of Cold War Studies : , , pp. –.
 Amnesty International Report 2014/15: the state of the world’s human rights (London: Amnesty International, ),
pp. , .
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
Ethnic groups value symbols that evoke kinship feelings as well as a shared sense of
history. Sometimes these symbols justify chauvinism or hostility towards another
group. When members of an ethnic group fear that their rights and welfare are
threatened, the symbols by which they orientate their world-view can shape
their response. Those groups with a history of having experienced victimization,
domination and other collective traumas might react more forcefully than others
in order to safeguard their interests. Accordingly, ethnic conflict is not neces-
sarily the result of cynical elites seeking to maintain their hold on political oce.
Mass-led movements could emerge, compelling elites to appeal to ethnic loyalties
in order to retain support.
In eastern Europe, as elsewhere in that continent, nationalist and ethnic identi-
ties were generated by social processes that began in the nineteenth century.
However, the formation of these identities was influenced by elite reactions to
imperial domination. Lithuanian nationalism developed in response to percep-
tions of Polish cultural hegemony among literary elites. Ukrainian nationalism
was partly born out of a shared sense of subjugation to Polish, Russian and even
Soviet control. Several other nationalisms coalesced in the light of how ethnic
groups (for example, the Georgians) experienced imperial Russian, and later
Soviet, colonization.
A historical experience of domination can create an acute sensitivity to external
threats. Compounding this problem in the former Soviet region is the way in which
traumatic events impinged upon the historical development of these nationalisms
over the course of the twentieth century. By way of illustration, consider the
history of Polish–Ukrainian relations. In the interwar period, ethnic Ukrainians
living in eastern Poland saw Polish rule as discriminatory and repressive—so much
so that some used the Soviet invasion in  as an occasion to launch reprisals
against local Poles. The bloodshed that ensued created spiral dynamics whereby
members of both ethnic groups would escalate conflict by targeting each other
with increasingly brutal violence. A campaign by the Organization of Ukrainian
Nationalists (OUN) to bring about the ethnic cleansing of the region of Volhynia
led to the killing of about , Poles. In the internecine conflict that continued
even after  in what is today western Ukraine, Poles committed their own
atrocities against Ukrainian populations, particularly during a campaign of forced
resettlement called Operation Vistula. Both sides thus have their own grievances
and a sense of being wronged. The history of Lithuanian–Polish relations features
similar moral controversies surrounding Polish massacres of Lithuanians and
Lithuanian cooperation with Nazis.
These events unfolded against the backdrop of a larger struggle between Nazi
German and Soviet forces. This conflict had visited its own terrors upon the many
 Stuart J. Kaufman, Modern hatreds: the symbolic politics of ethnic war (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, ),
pp. –.
 For a comparative history of how these nationalisms developed, see Timothy Snyder, The reconstruction of
nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 (New Haven: Yale University Press, ).
 On spiral dynamics and ethnic war, see Barry R. Posen, ‘The security dilemma and ethnic conflict’, Survival
: , , pp. –.
 On these ethnic conflicts in the s, see Snyder, The reconstruction of nations, pp. –.
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
civilians caught in the middle. The Soviet Union ultimately prevailed against
Nazi Germany, putting it in a position to rule over a large share of central and
eastern Europe in the postwar period. The establishment of this rule was often
violent. The three Baltic countries once again lost their independence and were
absorbed into the Soviet Union. During the interwar period, those elites who had
survived the conflict fled from their home countries, withdrew from political life
or suered some fate at the hands of the Soviet police. The communist parties that
installed themselves in power in the region regarded stakeholders in the interwar
regimes and anti-communist opponents alike as counter-revolutionary enemies
and treated them accordingly. Over time, these communist regimes consolidated
their power, even gaining the acquiescence of the populations over whom they
ruled, despite the occasional revolt and reformist movement.
These traumatic experiences provide a repository of historical grievances and
emotionally charged symbols that the Kremlin can use to divide and conquer
target societies and to prevent strong ties of alliance from developing between
them. It is no accident that Moscow denounced the Euro-Maidan movement in
Ukraine and the post-Yanukovych regime in early  as being steeped in the
historical influence of Stepan Bandera, the leader of the OUN. After all, it was
under Bandera’s leadership that the OUN briefly sided with Nazi Germany in 
to subvert Soviet influence in Ukraine. Even after the annexation of Crimea, the
Kremlin appealed to the linguistic and ethnic identities of populations in eastern
Ukraine in order to present itself as a legitimate guarantor of their security. The
Kremlin arguably hoped to inspire an indigenous movement that would agitate
for unification with Russia, provoke Kiev into a violent response and invite a
Russian intervention to rescue it.
Such manipulation of symbols has become common. Elsewhere in the region,
Facebook groups have appeared demanding the deployment of ‘little green men’ to
support greater independence for Russian- and Polish-speaking populations living
in Lithuania. Polish and Lithuanian government ocials quickly denounced
these eorts as provocations. Another cynical manipulation of symbolic politics
involved President Vladimir Putin’s defence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
This treaty of  between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union contained
guarantees of mutual non-aggression as well as secret provisions outlining the
annexation and partition of countries in eastern Europe. In defending this treaty,
Putin referred to Poland’s annexation of disputed territories in Czechoslovakia to
argue that the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was typical of its time. These abortive
eorts to create discord are a reminder of how nationalist controversies could be
stirred in a manner that disrupts the internal cohesion of NATO members and the
diplomatic relations between them.
 For a refutation of these propagandistic eorts, see ‘Four myths about Stepan Bandera’, BBC Russia News, 
Feb. ,//_bandera_myths.shtml, accessed  Nov. .
 ‘Chcą na Wileńszczyźnie “polskich zielonych ludzików”. I podszywają się pod legalną organizację’ [‘They
want in the Vilnius region “little green Polish men”. And they pretend to be a legal organization’], Gazeta
Wyborcza,  Feb. ,,,,Chca_na_Wilenszczyznie__pols-
kich_zielonych_ludzikow__.html, accessed  Nov. .
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
Weakness in civil society
Because of the historical legacies with which they have to deal, civil society is weak
in many former Soviet states. Of course, groups of people participate in volun-
tary associations independent of government and business, but social networks in
the region have not acquired the density found in western Europe. The weakness
of civil society in the region has several implications for local political order.
First, norms conducive to liberal democracy and civic values, including those that
promote community participation and intergroup cooperation, remain under-
developed. Second, given that, as Francis Fukuyama has written, ‘civil society
serves to balance the state and to protect individuals from the state’s power’,
authoritarianism remains a persistent feature of the post-Soviet space. Alexander
Lukashenko’s autocracy in Belarus endures partly because national identity is
weak and voluntary associations have historically been repressed. Lukashenko has
sought to extend his rule by actively discouraging the formation of Belarusian
national identity and keeping tight control over associational life in Belarus. Even
where elections are contested, as in Ukraine, elite infighting dominates national
politics, resulting in governments with democratic and authoritarian features.
In robust liberal democracies such as the Baltic countries, civil society is stronger
than anywhere else in the former Soviet space. Nevertheless, in both Estonia and
Latvia there are large numbers of stateless people who are not yet integrated into
either local political institutions or the domestic economy.
Civil society matters in the present context because it provides a buer against
the exploitation of social cleavages by hybrid warfare. After all, hybrid warfare
involves manipulating existing cleavages to sow internal dissension and foment
local discord. A strong civil society is one where dierent groups overcome the
cleavages that may divide them to cooperate with one another in the interests of
larger political stability. It thereby immunizes the country against some forms of
hybrid warfare. By contrast, a weak civil society and the accompanying weakness
of civic values will not inspire confidence among citizens in the governing insti-
tutions of the state. A belligerent can exploit this situation by finding recruits
and opportunities to pursue its political objectives to the detriment of the target
 On the origins of authoritarianism in some post-communist states, see Keith Darden and Anna Grzymala-
Busse, ‘The great divide: literacy, nationalism, and the communist collapse’, World Politics : , , pp.
–; Valerie Bunce, ‘The national idea: imperial legacies and post-communist pathways in eastern Europe’,
East European Politics and Societies: , , pp. –; Grigore Pop-Eleches, ‘Historical legacies and post-
communist regime change’, Journal of Politics : , , pp. –.
 Roger Sapsford and Pamela Abbott, ‘Trust, confidence, and social environment in post-communist societies’,
Communist and Post-Communist Studies : , , pp. –.
 Francis Fukuyama, ‘Social capital, civil society and development’, Third World Quarterly : , , p. .
 On the elite nature of Ukrainian politics, see Neil Robinson, ‘Economic and political hybridity: patrimonial
capitalism in the post-Soviet space’, Journal of Eurasian Studies : , , pp. –; Taras Kuzio, ‘Twenty years
as an independent state: Ukraine’s ten logical inconsistencies’, Communist and Post-Communist Studies : –,
, pp. –.
 See Anders Uhlin, Post-Soviet civil society: democratization in Russia and the Baltic states (New York: Routledge,
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
Regional complexity
The former Soviet region is complex because it features diverse ethnic groups,
some of which have their own latent historical grievances against each other.
These tensions are likely to persist if local civil society remains weak. A complex
regional political environment is thus prone to misunderstanding by outsiders.
They might attribute ethnic conflict to situations where none exists; underes-
timate the power of symbols that particular groups cherish; overlook cleavages
that could aect local political allegiances; and mistake the goals and preferences
of local populations and their leaders. Accordingly, because it is relatively more
familiar with its own region, the Kremlin has a tactical advantage over other major
powers. It can exploit western uncertainties and misperceptions by justifying its
actions as having indigenous support. Other states (or at least members of their
publics) that could otherwise mobilize a response to Russian hybrid warfare might
too easily accept the Kremlin’s interpretation of regional events. Using its media
outlets, the Kremlin can disseminate its own perspective widely, thereby framing
local political developments in terms favourable to its own interests.
This tactical advantage was apparent in the early stages of the crisis between
Russia and Ukraine in early . Beforehand, a common interpretation in
the western media was that Ukrainian politics featured two coalitions, one
pro-western (or pro-European) and another pro-Russian. These coalitions were
formed on the basis of the linguistic cleavage between Ukrainian-speakers located
in western Ukraine and Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine. Samuel Huntington
once called attention to these demographic factors to argue that Ukraine repre-
sented a ‘fractured state’—the allegiance of which would always be torn between
the West and Russia so long as it continued to exist in its post-Soviet form. Yet
this view oversimplifies pre- Ukrainian politics. The western city of Odessa
is a pocket of Russian-speaking people whose relationship and identification with
Russia is at best ambiguous. The Crimean status referendum in March  is
another case in point. The reported poll results suggested that voters overwhelm-
ingly favoured joining Russia as a part of the federation. Although reports of
coercion and fraud cast doubt on these results, studies predating the Ukrainian
crisis nevertheless show that survey respondents in Crimea were mostly in favour
of Crimea gaining at least more autonomy vis-à-vis Ukraine, if not integration
with Russia. Yet pro-separation forces in Crimea generally lost strength over the
course of the post-Soviet period.
Notwithstanding this complexity, the western narrative of the Ukrainian politi-
cal crisis in early  relied on standard tropes of an east–west national division.
The implication of such characterizations of Ukraine is that Russian claims of
indigenous support might have some validity, if not legitimacy. In consequence,
international eorts to challenge Russian eorts become dicult to mount on
 Samuel P. Huntington, The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order (New York: Simon & Schuster,
), pp. –.
 Taras Kuzio, ‘Strident, ambiguous, and duplicitous: Ukraine and the  Russia–Georgia war’, Demokrati-
zatsiya: , , p. .
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
liberal principles, especially if the majority of a region’s population have expressed
support for Russian integration in the past; and uncertainty deepens among outsider
states as to the true nature of the political interests of local actors and how they
ought to be accommodated in a political solution that diers from Russian propos-
als. Russia’s strategy had this very goal in mind, its leaders adopting legal rhetoric
to deter a western response. As Roy Allison wrote, that legal rhetoric ‘aimed to
blur the legal and illegal, to create justificatory smokescreens, in part by exploiting
some areas of uncertainty in international law, while making unfounded assertions
of “facts” (especially ostensible threats to Russians and Russian-speakers)’. And so,
while condemning the annexation of Crimea and the subsequent local referendum,
NATO leaders had few ideas for reversing this outcome.
Why Russia might use hybrid warfare
The Baltic states or other former Soviet republics are vulnerable to hybrid warfare
only if Russia has an interest in expanding or reasserting its regional hegemony.
This is certainly a possibility. Putin famously stated that the collapse of the Soviet
Union was the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. Moreover, Putin and
other Russian leaders might see their political survival as linked to the fate of those
neighbouring regimes that share similar political values. The Kremlin might regard
the success of opposition movements in nearby countries as unsettling because it
fears ‘the transnational spread of revolution’. In any event, the interest driving
hybrid war is not orientated on defending the international status quo since it
can involve territorial expansion and violating the sovereignty of other countries.
Contemporary Russian military doctrine emphasizes the need to respond
to both external and internal threats. This doctrinal perspective has a historical
basis: in the past, the Kremlin has feared not only other Great Powers, but also
subversive organizations operating within areas under its control. Against external
threats, under the influence of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky’s military thought,
Soviet war planning after the First World War centred on using combined arms to
strike deep into the enemy’s rear, thereby exploiting firepower and mobility to go
on the oensive. These plans remained unchanged even when the Soviet Union
incorporated nuclear weapons into its arsenal. Against threats emanating within
its sphere of influence, the Soviet military played more of a domestic political role
within satellite countries, intimidating potential opponents by its mere presence.
In Czechoslovakia, where the Soviet Union did not have a troop presence before
, Warsaw Pact forces invaded in order to quash the Prague Spring. Similarly,
the Soviet Union deployed its military in Afghanistan to prop up a communist
 Roy Allison, ‘Russian “deniable” intervention in Ukraine: how and why Russia broke the rules’, International
Aairs : , Nov. , p. .
 Mark R. Beissinger, ‘Structure and example in modular political phenomena: the diusion of Bulldozer/
Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions’, Perspectives on Politics : , , p. .
 William E. Odom, The collapse of the Soviet military (New Haven: Yale University Press, ), pp. –.
 Condoleezza Rice, The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak army, 1948–1983 (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, ).
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia inherited most of its military assets.
During the post-Cold War period, the country’s weakened international position
and fragmented domestic politics meant that the attention of the Russian armed
forces was focused on countering internal threats. Between  and  they
fought two brutal counter-insurgencies in the republic of Chechnya that employed
indiscriminate warfare extensively. Over time, partly thanks to increased revenues
from its indigenous energy sources, Russia restored its economy, modernized
its military and became more assertive in the former Soviet space. In  the
Kremlin fought a war against Georgia, ostensibly to protect South Ossetia and
Abkhazia from Georgian military aggression. Here, Russia resorted to traditional
military means: this war involved set-piece battles and large-scale conventional
military operations. Though Russia eventually prevailed, its conduct of the war
was vitiated by several logistical challenges and poor tactical performance.
Moscow evidently learned suciently from these mistakes to avoid showing the
same clumsiness in its use of force against Ukraine in .
The receptivity of the region to hybrid warfare was not apparent to the
Kremlin during the s and the first decade of the new century. However,
some Russian military theoreticians and leaders did speculate on the future of
war, and have continued to do so. They have been aware since the s that the
United States was gaining an edge in information, precision strike and commu-
nications technologies. One prominent Russian military theoretician declared
in  that countries could ‘become objects of information warfare’. He specu-
lated that the opening stages of a war would feature disinformation campaigns
whereby belligerents would seek to undermine local trust in the governments they
targeted. More recently, Sergei Chekinov and Sergei Bogdanov have described
‘new-generation war’, noting that ‘the role of mobile joint forces operating in an
integrated reconnaissance and information environment is rising’. In their view,
information superiority has become a necessity in contemporary warfare. Though
they have the United States in mind as an adversary that will exploit such advan-
tages, they write that ‘with powerful information technologies at its disposal, the
aggressor will make an eort to involve all public institutions in the country it
intends to attack. Subversive missions would thus precede any conventional
military campaign. Other Russian military leaders have drawn similar conclu-
sions. The Chief of the General Sta of the Russian armed forces hypothesized
that in future conflicts the use of force would be disguised and the information
space exploited so as to undermine the target’s ability to retaliate. Even presiden-
tial adviser Vladislav Surkov, writing under a pseudonym, claimed shortly after
the annexation of Crimea that contemporary war would be total yet discreet in
 Carolina Vendil Pallin and Fredrik Westerlund, ‘Russia’s war in Georgia: lessons and consequences’, Small Wars
and Insurgencies : , , pp. –.
 Makhmut Gareev, If war comes tomorrow? The contours of future armed conflict (London: Cass,  [first publ. in
]), p. .
 Sergei Chekinov and Sergei Bogdanov, ‘The nature and content of a new-generation war’, Military Thought
: , , p. .
 Chekinov and Bogdanov, ‘The nature and content of a new-generation war’, p. .
 Chekinov and Bogdanov, ‘The nature and content of a new-generation war’, p. .
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
its conduct. Thus, by the time Russia launched hybrid warfare against Ukraine,
its military leaders and strategists had come round to the view that war would
increasingly use subversion in the information space to achieve coercive eects.
Putting it together: a theory of hybrid warfare
Several features of the former Soviet political landscape make hybrid warfare a
tempting strategy for Russian leaders. The diversity of the groups that inhabit
the region, some with at least latent historical grievances against others, make the
area ripe for tension. Russia has a tactical advantage by virtue of being in it; it has
historical familiarity with the plethora of conflicts in it; and it is well positioned
to frame local events and conflicts in a manner helpful to its interests, thereby
forestalling unfavourable responses from outside actors. Yet these factors would
be irrelevant if Russia did not have escalation dominance over its neighbours and
an interest in expanding its zone of influence and revising the status quo.
To be sure, hybrid warfare has not been equally eective across all parts of
the former Soviet space. Russia has found some areas of Ukraine more amenable
to this strategy than others. This observation is unsurprising, since war turns on
unforeseeable and sometimes random developments. In annexing Crimea, Russia
was able to avail itself of the large military presence it already had there. Indeed,
the presence of many retired servicemen in Crimea’s major cities was useful for
rallying indigenous support. By contrast, in eastern Ukraine it has proved harder
for the Kremlin to mobilize the local population against Kiev. Russia remains
prone to miscalculation despite its relative familiarity with the region. Yet the
larger point stands: at least during the beginning of the crisis, Russia was able to
draw on greater knowledge of regional politics than outsiders, and to frame local
events favourably to itself. That is, Russia’s advantage in local knowledge and
access over NATO was relative and not absolute. When other governments finally
started appreciating the complexity of Ukrainian politics, Russia had already
taken control of Crimea and begun arming rebels in eastern Ukraine.
This discussion has revealed four conditions in which a belligerent might use
hybrid warfare. First, the belligerent has local escalation dominance but not neces-
sarily global escalation dominance. Because the belligerent has greater military
power, it can threaten to unleash greater violence than its target can marshal in
order to deter a particular military response from that target. Not having global
escalation dominance means that the belligerent wishes to contain the conflict
locally and deter external intervention. Second, the belligerent wishes to expand
its sphere of influence and to revise the status quo by changing borders and influ-
encing the political regimes of neighbouring states. Hybrid warfare is not a defen-
sive strategy used by status quo states. Third, the target state is weak specifically
because it lacks a strong civil society that mends ethnic and linguistic cleavages.
The belligerent can manipulate local grievances and animosities to weaken the
target from within. Finally, there are ethnic or linguistic groups in the target
 Rácz, Russia’s hybrid war, pp. –.
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
state that have some ties with the belligerent. These ties confer an informational
advantage on the belligerent, giving it a better understanding of local rivalries
and grievances. Moreover, these ties might even lend the eorts of the belligerent
some legitimacy in its framing of the conflict.
Implications for NATO in the former Soviet region
If the post-Soviet region is a favourable environment for Russian hybrid warfare,
how can the United States and NATO best contribute to defence and deterrence
against such forms of aggression? How should they use military power to protect
members such as the Baltic countries from hybrid warfare? What are the limits in
providing extended deterrence on their behalf?
The Baltic states already benefit from NATO membership in many ways. They
can call other allies to a joint session for consultations if they feel threatened,
as Poland and Lithuania did in April , by invoking Article  of the North
Atlantic Treaty. Moreover, Article  of this treaty asserts that an attack against one
ally is an attack against all; and the treaty also facilitates joint military exercises
that enhance the war-fighting capabilities of its members. Beyond the provisions
of the treaty itself, NATO has an aggregate conventional and nuclear supremacy
over Russia. Even so, Russian actions against Ukraine have prompted observers
to debate whether NATO poses as eective a deterrent as possible against Russia.
Many of the solutions that strategists have described as useful for countering
Russian aggression rely largely on making adjustments to the military infrastruc-
ture that NATO already has in place in Europe. The problem is that Russia pursues
its hybrid warfare specifically to lower the risk of triggering the use of NATO’s
capabilities, which are more appropriate for conventional or even nuclear war.
Consider a sophisticated and comprehensive discussion by Matthew Kroenig
of how NATO should adapt its military posture to the current security environ-
ment in the former Soviet Union. The US and NATO military presence in the
Baltic countries is limited; American forward-deployed troops and tactical nuclear
weapons are located primarily in western Europe. Kroenig’s proposals include
extending and expanding NATO’s temporary deployments to the Baltic states;
having a forward presence in eastern Europe despite the injunctions against so
doing in the NATO–Russia Founding Act; assisting east European members with
the modernization and standardization of their military forces; and developing
and deploying to Europe a new generation of substrategic nuclear weapons to
respond to potential Russian nuclear aggression at the tactical level.
Kroenig does address strengthening NATO capabilities at levels of violence
lower than conventional and nuclear war. He writes that NATO ought to:
 Matthew Kroenig, ‘Facing reality: getting NATO ready for a new Cold War’, Survival : , , pp. –.
For a similarly strong but military-centric view of how NATO should respond, see Edward Lucas and A.
Wess Mitchell, Central European security after Crimea: the case for strengthening NATO’s eastern defense, Report No.
 (Washington DC: Center for European Policy Analysis,  March ).
 Lucas and Mitchell, Central European security, pp. –.
 Kroenig, ‘Facing reality’, pp. –.
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
strengthen Eastern European states, including military assistance with intelligence and
early-warning capabilities, cyber security, airpower, and stepped-up training in policing,
border patrol and counter-insurgency. Although outside of NATO’s normal lane, vulner-
able member states should also be encouraged to pursue a political agenda to incorporate
ethnic minorities into a shared national-identity conception. In case all else fails, Eastern
European allies must make themselves indigestible to a Russian occupation.
This brief passage aside, however, much of his attention centres on deterring
Russia at much higher levels of violence.
The primacy accorded here to military means is understandable given that
NATO is a military alliance. Indeed, many of the measures adopted by NATO so
far have this flavour. At the Wales summit in September , NATO members
agreed to a Readiness Action Plan, which included among other measures a
fourfold increase in the number of fighter jets on air-policing patrols, the begin-
ning of surveillance flights over the Baltic states, the dispatch of more ships to
patrol the alliance’s eastern flank and the deployment of ground forces to eastern
Europe for training and exercises on a rotational basis. NATO also announced
a new Spearhead Force—a ‘land brigade of around  troops’—with the goal
of bolstering its high readiness capabilities. In summer , the United States
even decided to pre-position heavy weaponry in eastern Europe. NATO military
exercises have also become more frequent, including in autumn  Trident
Juncture—the largest military exercise it has undertaken in  years.
However, the discussion above regarding the applicability of hybrid warfare
in the former Soviet region reveals some of the shortcomings associated with a
predominantly military solution. To begin with, too much emphasis on deterring
aggression at higher levels of violence might undercut deterrence at lower levels
of violence. Such is the stability–instability paradox that Glenn Snyder describes.
Under conditions of mutual assured destruction between two nuclear-armed
adversaries, direct and major war becomes very unlikely, since both sides seek to
avoid annihilation. Consequently, both sides might perversely find it safe to engage
in conflicts that do not involve nuclear weapons. Therefore, bolstering alliance
capabilities at higher levels of violence could make hybrid warfare even more attrac-
tive. After all, hybrid warfare exploits the vulnerability of targets at yet lower levels
of violence, whereby the belligerent can plausibly deny that it is even engaging
in aggression. The belligerent could thus deter its target from undertaking escala-
tory measures. It also denies adversaries a clear, compelling rationale for military
intervention by obfuscating the nature of local crises fomented from without.
Such is the concern that the Baltic countries have with respect to NATO.
Although NATO has escalation dominance over Russia, Russia has escalation
 Kroenig, ‘Facing reality’, p.  (emphasis added).
 NATO, NATO’s Readiness Action Plan, fact sheet, Dec. ,/assets/
pdf/pdf__/_-facstsheet-rap-en.pdf, accessed  Nov. .
 NATO, ‘Defense ministers agree to strengthen NATO’s defenses, establish Spearhead Force’,  Feb. ,.htm, accessed  Nov. .
 Glenn Snyder, ‘The balance of power and the balance of terror’, in Paul Seabury, ed., The balance of power (San
Francisco: Chandler, ).
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
dominance over the Baltic countries individually and collectively. Their level
of susceptibility to Russian hybrid warfare varies. Lithuania, for example, does
not have a stateless Russian-speaking population; the most homogenous of the
three states, Lithuania granted citizenship to all residents, regardless of ethnicity,
shortly after independence. Elsewhere in the region, the Estonian Centre Party
is popular among ethnic Russians and has even courted United Russia, which
is associated with Putin. The Latvian Union of Russians tried unsuccessfully
to amend the country’s language laws in  and has supported Russian moves
in Crimea. More urgently, as noted above, Estonia and Latvia have substan-
tial stateless populations that are largely Russian, rendering them vulnerable to
opportunistic inciting of ethnic tensions by Russia. Such actions could destabi-
lize those societies and forestall an unfavourable NATO reaction if its members
were unable to agree that Russia bore responsibility for them, especially if some
semblance of local initiative existed, making it hard to establish with clarity what
and how much Russia had instigated.
The Baltic countries, then, remain exposed to more subversive Russian tactics
that are ambiguous enough not to prompt escalatory measures such as the invoca-
tion of Article . Indeed, Article  is most appropriate for scenarios that involve
overt and unambiguous forms of military attack against a NATO member. More
subtle forms of attack that give the belligerent ‘plausible deniability’—such as
those involving local ethnic tensions—might not even prompt consideration of
Article . Alternatively, though invoking Article  does not automatically mean
a military response, it might still be a disproportionate answer to hybrid warfare;
after all, it has occurred only once in the entire history of NATO to date, after
the terrorist attacks on America of  September .
The Baltic countries benefit from NATO’s enhancement of its aggregate
military capabilities, but they remain vulnerable if their western counterparts are
unwilling to defend them. Indeed, NATO’s deterrent threat depends just as much
on the willingness of the entire alliance as it does on its capabilities—something
which predominantly military solutions overlook. Russian hybrid warfare seeks
to dampen such willingness by exploiting situational factors unique to the Baltic
countries that could confound eorts to attribute an apparent act of aggression
to Russia. The Baltic countries accordingly have an incentive to improve their
counter-intelligence capabilities, both among themselves and with other NATO
allies. Yet even this solution needs to be coupled with a concerted eort to integrate
stateless populations, both politically and economically, to address existing and
potential grievances regarding their status. Alliance members would do well to
work at strengthening civil society and law enforcement capabilities. Strong civil
society helps to inoculate states against belligerents attempting to undermine them
from within. Strong law enforcement capabilities can improve the detection and
arrest of agents and provocateurs.
 ‘Party with ties to Putin pushes ahead in Estonian polls’, Financial Times,  Feb. ,
intl/cms/s//decac-bea-e-a-feabde.htmlaxzzofvyRcV, accessed  Nov. .
 ‘Pro-Russia party signs major deal with Crimea group’, Baltic Times,  Aug. , http://www.baltictimes.
com/news/articles//.VAmRbgJHU, accessed  Nov. .
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
There is another reason why western NATO allies might be reluctant to defend
the Baltic countries. Already some NATO members have trouble meeting their
stated alliance commitments in full. Some, such as Spain and Italy, that do not
feel directly threatened by Russian actions are likely to keep defence expenditures
low. Those countries are also less likely to back strong sanctions against Russia.
Moreover, the Kremlin has actively courted populist political parties in Europe
regardless of their political orientation. The most prominent examples are Front
National (France), Jobbik (Hungary), the United Kingdom Independence Party,
Podemos (Spain) and Syriza (Greece). These parties have recently made electoral
gains in their home countries because they capture the disaection of voters who
feel the strain of persistent economic crisis and/or are disillusioned with more
mainstream political parties. Out of their anity with the Kremlin, members
of these parties have endorsed the Crimean referendum and separatist-organized
elections in eastern Ukraine, criticized eorts to sanction Russia, and expressed
an admiration for Vladimir Putin and his brand of social conservatism. If they
become more popular, then NATO might be hamstrung in its eorts to show
unity, counter Russian narratives and apply sanctions to Russian actions. Already
surveys have shown domestic publics in some European countries expressing
reluctance to provide military support to vulnerable NATO members.
These observations suggest that a reliance on military solutions obscures the
underlying political dimension of the conflict. It is no coincidence that Russia has
used nationalism both to legitimate its eorts and to engage in hybrid war at a time
when political parties friendly to Russia in western Europe are taking populist or
nationalist stances. Russian pledges to support the initiative of local co-ethnics
align well with the ideological agendas of west European nationalist parties.
European nationalists in these societies lack the experience of Soviet or Russian
domination and so do not feel threatened by Russian policies. Accordingly, in
contrast to their counterparts in the former Soviet region, west European nation-
alisms lack an anti-Russian element. This political situation, along with NATO’s
diculty in crafting a unified and coherent policy to check Russian aggression,
creates enabling conditions for Russian hybrid warfare. Consequently, Russia is
able to deter a stronger response from an international coalition while fighting to
obtain its goals in Ukraine. Hybrid warfare is something that a military alliance
alone, such as NATO, might not be able to deter. It could provide an institutional
framework to augment jointly the counter-intelligence and law enforcement
capabilities of the Baltic states; however, the integration of stateless populations
 NATO, ‘Defence expenditures data for  and estimates for : financial and economic data relating to
NATO defence’, press release,  June ,.htm, accessed
 Nov. .
 Michael A. Orenstein, ‘Putin’s western allies’, Foreign Aairs,  March , https://www.foreigna
articles/russia-fsu/--/putins-western-allies, accessed  Nov. . See also Marlene Laruelle, ed.,
Eurasianism and the European far right: reshaping the Europe–Russia relationship (Lanham, MD: Lexington, ).
 Pew Research Center, June , ‘NATO publics blame Russia for Ukrainian crisis, but reluctant to provide
military aid’,//Pew-Research-Center-Russia-Ukraine-Report-FINAL-
June--.pdf, accessed  Nov. .
 Andrew Wilson makes a similar point in Ukraine crisis, p. .
Alexander Lanoszka
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
in the region is a political challenge that demands a political solution rather than
a military one.
The larger problem of nationalist politics indicates how NATO members
should respond to Russian disinformation campaigns. Already the Netherlands
and Poland have launched a Russian-language news agency intended to counter
Russian claims. The receptivity of some west European political parties to
Moscow’s line suggests that such campaigns should also be directed to European
audiences. These campaigns would require NATO members in western Europe
and North America to cultivate regional expertise in the political aairs of central
and eastern Europe and the former Soviet space.
Hybrid warfare brings significant conventional military power together with
tactics normally associated with guerrilla operations. The belligerent uses hybrid
warfare to obtain its political objectives at the expense of its target by keeping the
conflict local. Russia’s use of hybrid warfare reflects to some degree its position
of strength and local advantage. Accordingly, international security analysts are
incorrect to argue that Russia has resorted to hybrid warfare because it is an ‘option
of weakness’. Indeed, the strategy of hybrid warfare is applicable in the former
Soviet region precisely because here Russia can leverage its escalation dominance
over its neighbours and its relatively better local knowledge.
Of course, hybrid warfare has its drawbacks. Its subtlety requires patience and,
as with any strategy in war, miscalculations can detract from its eectiveness.
Agitators and ethnic allies become dicult to control once they receive weapons.
Russia might have learned this lesson when rebels inadvertently shot down Malay-
sian Airlines Flight MH, prompting the United States and the EU to impose
stronger sanctions. The fact that a region is susceptible to hybrid warfare does not
mean that hybrid warfare will succeed. Nevertheless, the military solutions that
some observers advocate are at best incomplete. NATO members must display
political unity and resolve as well as military capability. Vulnerable countries,
especially Estonia and Latvia, require strong civil society and law enforcement
capabilities, while NATO must counter Russian propaganda eorts, including
among its own domestic publics.
In outlining why the former Soviet Union is conducive to hybrid warfare, I
have inductively postulated the conditions under which a belligerent could engage
in it. First, the belligerent has local escalation dominance but not global escalation
dominance. It can deter escalation by the target but its military capabilities are
 ‘Dutch–Polish “Content factory” to counter Russian propaganda’, euobserver,  July , https://euobserver.
com/foreign/, accessed  Nov. .
 Charles King, ‘The death of international studies: why flying blind is dangerous’, Foreign Aairs : , ,
pp. –.
 Sten Rynning, ‘The false promise of continental concert: Russia, the West, and the necessary balance of
power’, International Aairs: , May , p. .
 On Russia’s experience of challenges in its military and political operations against Ukraine, see Lawrence
Freedman, ‘Ukraine and the art of limited war’, Survival : , , pp. –.
Russian hybrid warfare and extended deterrence in eastern Europe
International Aairs 92: 1, 2016
Copyright ©
2016 The Author(s). International Aairs © 2016 The Royal Institute of International Aairs.
insucient against an international coalition or a global power. Second, the bellig-
erent seeks to revise the status quo. Third, the belligerent’s target is weak in so far
as its society features exploitable cleavages. Fourth, the target has some ethnic or
linguistic ties with the belligerent, which oer opportunities to sow local discord
and confer an informational advantage over outside actors whose intervention the
belligerent seeks to deter.
For policy-makers, these propositions suggest that belligerents are likely to
resort to hybrid warfare in only limited sets of circumstances. Hybrid warfare,
then, is not necessarily the future of warfare. However, many of the conditions
described above do obtain in the former Soviet Union. In Moldova, the govern-
ment currently faces allegations of corruption after US$. billion disappeared
from the country’s three largest banks just weeks before national parliamentary
elections. Opposition groups have held large protests, demanding a government
inquiry. Indeed, throughout its post-Soviet existence, Moldova has experienced
political instability, armed conflict with the partially recognized state of Trans-
nistria, and tensions between the majority Romanian-speaking population and the
minority Russian-speaking population. Thus, Moldova is vulnerable to Russian
hybrid warfare. In other conflict-prone regions, such as East Asia, however, hybrid
war should be less prevalent. China might already have escalation dominance over
Vietnam and Taiwan, but only against Taiwan could it potentially use tactics to
divide and agitate the population on the basis of linguistic and ethnic ties; and
even then, China would find it very dicult to smuggle weapons and supplies to
local agitators over the Taiwan Strait. For these reasons, too, China cannot use
hybrid warfare against Japan or South Korea.
 ‘, protest in Moldova over missing $. billion’, Associated Press,  Oct. ,
article/daabcaabacbbcdc/-protest-moldova-over-missing--billion, accessed 
Nov. .
... Both state and non-state actors' growing dependency on digital infrastructure and sophisticated cyber capabilities has transformed cyberspace into a theater for conflicts (Smeets, 2018). Nonetheless, the global reach of cyberspace and the anonymity inherent to cyber warfare present unique hurdles to traditional Westphalian principles (Lanoszka, 2016). ...
... Territorial integrity and non-intervention principles face challenges due to the fading borders between states in cyber warfare (Lanoszka, 2016). ...
... Cyberattacks, originating from any global location and impacting multiple jurisdictions, make identifying perpetrators or enforcing Westphalian principles complex (Lanoszka, 2016). Furthermore, non-state actors' participation in cyber warfare interrupts the state-centric Westphalian system, as these groups can execute intricate cyber operations with substantial geopolitical repercussions (Bourne, 2018). ...
Full-text available
The research explored the relationship between the Treaty of Westphalia's principles of national sovereignty and non-intervention and Cyber warfare in the modern era, using the Russian-Ukrainian war as a case study. Through a literature review, the study examined how these principles are evolving in today's boundary-less digital world. An in-depth analysis of incidents between Russia and Ukraine from January 2020 to January 2022 revealed that both countries experienced significant cyber attacks. However, there was no evidence linking Ukraine to any incidents against Russia, and no surge in incidents was observed prior to the events in Ukraine in February 2022. The study concluded that digital incidents appears did not significantly impact the Treaty of Westphalia's principles, suggesting that these principles remain robust in the face of cyber challenges.
... Öncelikle, Renkli Devrim biçimiyle rejimlerin dönüşümü ile iktidarların değişimi, Sovyetlerin merkezi olan Rusya'nın, adı geçen diğer ülkelerin iç politikalarına müdahalesi ile sonuçlanmaktadır. Özellikle Gürcistan ve Ukrayna'da da görüldüğü gibi Renkli Devrim sonucunda iktidara gelmiş elitler ile Rusya'daki siyasi yönetim arasında önemli ölçüde jeopolitik sorunların ortaya çıktığı görülmektedir (Lanoszka, 2016 Eski Sovyet ülkelerinde Renkli Devrimlerin içerdiği riskleri diğer ülkelerden gelebilecek jeopolitik unsurlar oluştururken; Egemen Demokrasi modelindeki risklerin sebepleri daha farklıdır. Bu risklerin sebepleri, eski Sovyet ülkelerinde yukarıdan aşağıya doğru biçimlenen demokrasi modelinin, elitler/klanlar arasındaki mutabakatla kurduğu ilişkiyle ilgilidir. ...
... Bu durum Rusya için eski Sovyet coğrafyasındaki başat gücünün ortadan kalkması anlamına gelmektedir. Rusya'nın, Gürcistan ve Ukrayna'ya karşı uyguladığı hibrit müdahalesinin başarılı olmaması hâlinde ayrılıkçı güçlerin bağımsızlıklarını destekleme eğiliminde olduğunu görmekteyiz(Lanoszka, 2016). 2008 yılında Gürcistan ve Güney Osetya arasında yaşanan savaşta Rusya, ikincisine açık şekilde askeri destek vermiş ve savaş sonrası iki ülkenin defacto bağımsızlığını tanımıştır. ...
Full-text available
Sovyetler Birliği dağıldıktan sonra bağımsızlıklarını elde eden cumhuriyetler, demokratikleşme ve kapitalist sisteme entegre olma sürecinde öngörülemeyen iç ve dış sorunlarla karşı karşıya kalmışlardır. Eski Sovyet devletlerinin, bağımsızlıklarından sonra demokratikleşme, insan haklarını içselleştirme ve iktidar değişimlerini seçimle gerçekleştirme konularında ciddi sınavlar vermeleri gerekmiştir. Bununla birlikte eski ittifak üyelerinin birbirlerinden toprak talepleri sonucunda ortaya çıkan savaşlar (Abhazya, Güney Osetya, Dağlık Karabağ, Transdinyester) ile etnik zeminde iç savaşların (Tacikistan, Kırgızistan ve Özbekistan) ve Çeçenistan bağımsızlık savaşlarının yaşanması, bu bölgenin istikrarı konusunda önemli sorunlara yol açmıştır. Böylece güvenlik ve özgürlük dengesini gözetmek zorunda kalan eski Sovyet devletlerinin politikaları, mevcut otoriter rejimlerin daha da güçlenmesine sebep olmuştur. Eski Sovyet devletlerinin Batı ile entegrasyon sürecinin ekonomik ve siyasi meseleleri içermesi, bu bölgenin demokratikleşmesini ve bölgede Batılı norm ve kuralların içselleştirilmesini gerekli kılmaktaydı. Fakat iki bölge arasında kurulan ilişkide, eski Sovyet devletlerinin iç politikasında olduğu gibi, güvenlik ve özgürlük dengesinin gözetildiği zamanla ortaya çıkmıştır. Özellikle Batı’nın, söz konusu bölgeden enerji (petrol- doğalgaz) ihtiyacını sağlaması, buradaki demokrasi ve insan hakları konusunda yaşanan ihlâllere göz yummasına neden olmuştur. Eski Sovyet devletlerinin iç ve dış politikasında, güvenlik ve özgürlük dengesinin korunmaya çalışılması sonucunda ortaya çıkan ikilemler, demokratikleşme sürecini aksatmakla birlikte farklı patikaların ortaya çıkmasına da yol açmıştır. Bunun nedeni, bölgenin kendine özgü kültürel, sosyal ve ekonomik koşullarıyla bağlantılıdır. Söz konusu devletlerin üçüncü yol arayışı da, mevcut rejimlerin iktidarlarını sürdürme söyleminin dönüşmesine ve kontrollü ya da idare edilebilen demokratikleşme süreçlerinin ortaya çıkmasına sebep olmuştur. Eski Sovyet devletlerinin demokratikleşme süreci zamanla iki önemli patikada, “Renkli Devrimler” ve “Egemen Demokrasi” modellerin ortaya çıkmasıyla ayrışmaya başlamıştır. Gürcistan, Ukrayna, Moldova, Ermenistan ve Kırgızistan özelinde yaşanan Renkli Devrimler, bu ülkelerin Rusya gibi komşularıyla sorunlar yaşamasına yol açmıştır. Diğer taraftan Egemen Demokrasi ya da “Nazarbayev Modeli”ndeki değişim süreçleri, elitler/ klanlar arası yaşanan rekabet savaşlarını ortaya çıkarmıştır. Bu modellere karşılaştırmalı bir şekilde baktığımızda her iki modelin içerdiği riskler açısından farklı olduğunu görmek mümkündür. Eski Sovyet coğrafyasında yaşanan rejim ya da iktidar değişimlerinin barındırdığı risklerin nitelikleri ile içeriklerine bakmak bu çalışmanın amacını oluşturmaktadır. Aynı zamanda bu risklerin ortaya çıkma sebepleri de çalışmada ele alınmıştır. Bu amaçla, makalenin ilk kısmında Eski Sovyet coğrafyasında ortaya çıkan Renkli Devrimlerin sosyoekonomik siyasal nedenleri incelenmiş; ikinci kısmında Rusya’da önerilen Egemen Demokrasi modelinin ne anlama geldiğine ve örneklerine bakılmıştır. Son kısımda ise her iki modelin taşıdığı iç ve dış risklerin neden ve nasıl ortaya çıktığı karşılaştırmalı olarak analiz edilmiştir.
Full-text available
Gri Bölge, Yeni Nesil Savaş
Este artigo apresenta a trajetória do conceito de “guerra híbrida”, explorando suas potencialidades para a análise de formas complexas de interferência externa. Partindo da constatação de que o termo se difundiu de maneira acrítica no debate público desde 2014, busca-se recuperar sua origem e desenvolvimento no interior do pensamento geoestratégico e militar, visando a uma compreensão mais precisa do conceito. Trabalhada aqui como uma estratégia abrangente de atuação no campo externo, fundada na lógica de escalada progressiva do emprego de recursos de poder estatal em cenários de antagonismo, a guerra híbrida emerge como uma opção menos custosa, política e economicamente, para a consecução de objetivos de política externa — sobretudo a desestabilização política e a mudança de regime num país alvo. O cenário de escalada conflitiva próprio da guerra híbrida é aqui exemplificado por dois fenômenos a ela associados: revolução colorida e guerra não convencional. A guerra híbrida teria, pois, duas faces, derivando sua complexidade das formas ambíguas pelas quais se relaciona com os polos político e militar. Conclui-se que essa relação pendular e intersticial própria da guerra híbrida impõe dificuldades às estratégias convencionais de resposta estatal às ameaças securitárias, exigindo uma melhor compreensão do fenômeno e atenção constante aos seus desdobramentos por parte das comunidades de inteligência e de defesa. Por fim, busca-se refletir sobre possíveis contramedidas estatais com potencial de neutralizar ameaças híbridas. Em suas conclusões, o artigo sintetiza como o estudo do caso brasileiro pode ser relevante para essa agenda de pesquisa.
For two decades, a large body of security practitioners and scholars axiomatically expected “future war” to be ambiguous and hybrid, based on recent cases. The scale and overt form of the Russia–Ukraine war, which begun on February 22, 2022, demonstrates the limits of this orthodoxy. This article asks why informed opinion fell prey to such false expectations. It argues that as well as the pathologies of fashion in military-academic circles, there was an intellectual failure. Those who confidently expected war to remain in the shadows did not take seriously enough war’s political nature, and the possibility that it will intensify as political stakes rise. Either they assumed apolitically that war’s form was determined by the tools of globalization, or that the politics would be of the status quo, whereby the stability of the unipolar era would endure. Paying lip service to Carl von Clausewitz, in fact, they were unwittingly channeling Francis Fukuyama. To demonstrate this failure, I examine three representative texts of the genre and unpack their assumptions, by David Richards, Antoine Bousquet, and Sean McFate.
Full-text available
If Russia were to rerun its playbook from Ukraine against a NATO member, how would the West respond?
The development of civil society has varied greatly across the former Soviet Union. The Baltic states have achieved a high level of integration with the West and European Union membership, while some regions in Russia lag far behind. Now for the first time there is a comparative study of civil society and democratization across post-Soviet national borders. Acknowledging the enormous variation throughout the region, the book offers unique data on developments in Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Applying an innovative analytical framework derived from theories of democratization, civil society, social movements and transnational relations, the researchers have formulated broader comparisons and generalisations without neglecting the specific post-Soviet context. The book provides a systematic comparison across sectors as well as nations, and includes chapters on NGOs, the state and conflict, and transnationalisation. Quantitative survey data is combined with qualitative interviews and case study research to both confirm previous findings about the weakness of post-communist civil society and to qualify previous research.
The war in Ukraine is revelatory of a malaise in Europe's security order created by Russia's resistance to western institutions on the one hand and the western desire to maintain these institutions while partnering with Russia on the other. Absent a sense of priorities, western policy risks contributing to the erosion of Europe's security order that Russia seeks in opposition to western ambition. Europe's order is premised first and foremost on a distinctively western concert of nations—whereby Euro-Atlantic states coordinate policy according to a common purpose layered into both NATO and the EU—that forms part of a wider balance of power between Russia and the West. Western policy should aim to strengthen the concert and clarify the balance. However, the prevalent desire to include Russia in the concert confuses matters in a major way, eroding both the underlying sense of priorities and the foundation for order. This article examines this threatening erosion and traces it to three underlying trends: political contestation with regard to the meaning of ‘restoration’ post-1989; military instability following from the unpredictability of ‘hybrid war’; and moral equivocation on the part of the West when it comes to defending the Euro-Atlantic security order. The article concludes that given the depth of contestation, western allies should learn to distinguish concert from balance and act on the condition that the former, a vibrant western concert, is a precondition for the latter, a manageable continental balance.
The Russian military interventions in Ukraine, which have led to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and to the entrenchment of separatist enclaves in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, directly challenge the post-Cold War European state system. Russia has consistently denied any wrongdoing or illegal military involvement and has presented its policies as a reaction to the repression of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. This article argues that it is important to examine and contest unfounded Russian legal and political claims used by Moscow to justify its interventions. The article proceeds to assess in detail three different explanations of the Russian operations in Ukraine: geopolitical competition and structural power (including the strategic benefits of seizing Crimea); identity and ideational factors; and the search for domestic political consolidation in Russia. These have all played a role, although the role of identity appears the least convincing in explaining the timing and scope of Russian encroachments on Ukrainian territorial integrity and the disruption of Ukrainian statehood.