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Hybrid Warriors: Transforming Czech Security through the ‘Russian Hybrid Warfare’ Assemblage



This article analyses the ascent of ‘Russian hybrid warfare’ (RHW) as a notion that transformed the understanding of national security in the Czech Republic in the short period of 2014–2016. It argues that the emergence of RHW as a specifically understood prime security threat was the result of contingent and often unruly social interactions across different settings, rather than a linear and centralised response to Russia’s actions. To capture this process, the concept of ‘assemblage’ is introduced and then defined as a temporary constellation of a variety of different actors, both public and private. Building on research interviews and documents produced in the RHW field, the authors then proceed in three steps. First, they chronologically trace the gradual emergence of the Czech RHW assemblage from a variety of different actors—bureaucrats, NGOs, academics, journalists—after Russia’s attack on Ukraine in 2014. Second, they unpack the inner workings of the assemblage by identifying the key actors and asking who did the assembling and how. Third, they look at how different actors were able to reinforce and/or transform their identities by being part of the assemblage, with an emphasis on the effects this had for the distinction between the public and the private.
© Sociologický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., Praha 2018
Hybrid Warriors:
Transforming Czech Security through
the ‘Russian Hybrid Warfare’ Assemblage
Institute of International Relations, Prague
Abstract: This article analyses the ascent of ‘Russian hybrid warfare’ (RHW)
as a notion that transformed the understanding of national security in the
Czech Republic in the short period of 2014–2016. It argues that the emergence
of RHW as a specifically understood prime security threat was the result of
contingent and often unruly social interactions across different settings, rath-
er than a linear and centralised response to Russia’s actions. To capture this
process, the concept of ‘assemblage’ is introduced and then defined as a tem-
porary constellation of a variety of different actors, both public and private.
Building on research interviews and documents produced in the RHW field,
the authors then proceed in three steps. First, they chronologically trace the
gradual emergence of the Czech RHW assemblage from a variety of different
actors—bureaucrats, NGOs, academics, journalists—after Russia’s attack on
Ukraine in 2014. Second, they unpack the inner workings of the assemblage by
identifying the key actors and asking who did the assembling and how. Third,
they look at how different actors were able to reinforce and/or transform their
identities by being part of the assemblage, with an emphasis on the effects this
had for the distinction between the public and the private.
Keywords: hybrid warfare, disinformation, assemblage, Russia, Czech Re-
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6: 907–931
On 1 December 2016, the then Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Minis-
ter of the Interior Milan Chovanec called a press conference to present the results
of the National Security Audit (NSA). This unprecedented, year-long process of
evaluating the country’s preparedness to face security threats was summarised
in an extensive analysis of risks and a set of recommendations to avert them. One
of the main conclusions was that the NSA ‘discovered new modern threats in the
cyberspace, or hybrid threats’ (Prime Minister Sobotka cited in Nováková [2016a])
and these ‘so-called hybrid threats and the related disinformation attacks’ need to
* Direct all correspondence to: Jan Daniel, Institute of International Relations, Nerudova 3,
118 50 Prague, Czech Republic, e-mail:; Jakub Eberle, Institute of International
Relations, Nerudova 3, 118 50 Prague, Czech Republic, e-mail:
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
be addressed in a ‘more comprehensive’ manner [Nováková 2016a]. To this end,
the document called for the establishment of the Centre against Terrorism and
Hybrid Threats (Centrum proti terorismu a hybridním hrozbám / CTHH). With
this, the issue of ‘hybrid threats’ or ‘hybrid warfare’, which was at the periphery
of security vocabulary until early 2014, had been deeply ingrained in the official
language of state authorities and even led to the creation of new bureaucratic bod-
ies. Furthermore, as the public debate that followed from the announcement and
President Miloš Zeman’s subsequent accusations that the CTHH was established
to censor the internet [Zeman 2016] demonstrated, the issue now also resonated
with the wider public. In less than three years, the contested and ambiguous no-
tion of ‘hybrid warfare’ transformed the understanding of Czech national security.
The focus of this article is this change in security policies and the shared no-
tions of security and dominant threats to it that happened in the Czech Republic
in 2014–2016. Building on debates in security studies and international relations,
we approach threats as social constructs [Campbell 1998; Buzan, Wæver and de
Wilde 1998]. Siding with the sociological and anthropological approaches within
this broader field [Bigo 2014; Villumsen-Berling 2015], we focus on the often mun-
dane processes through which the meaning of security is produced and renego-
tiated in interactions of a number of different actors—politicians, bureaucrats,
academics, journalists, and NGOs.
In line with this tradition, we do not aim here to delimit what ‘Russian hy-
brid warfare’ is (for various attempts at this, see Charap [2015], Kříž et al. [2015],
or Renz [2016]). Instead, we look at the ways in which the notion of ‘Russian
hybrid warfare’ was used to unify a certain field and enable particular political
effects by means of it being constructed as an existential threat. While the actors
analysed in this article might slightly differ with regard to the definition and
understanding of RHW, most of them would be largely comfortable with the of-
ficial approach as outlined in the Security Strategy, which conceptualises hybrid
warfare as a combination of ‘conventional and non-conventional military means
with non-military tools (propaganda using traditional and new media, disinfor-
mation intelligence operations, cyber attacks, political and economic pressures,
and deployment of unmarked military personnel)’ [MFA 2015b: 13]. Most of the
actors would also agree that it is the non-military aspects, with a particular focus
on propaganda and disinformation, that are the key concern in the Czech context,
and that Russia is their primary originator.
The ascent of RHW in the Czech Republic was not driven only and exclu-
sively by state security agencies, nor were these agencies merely responding to
pressures from civil society. On the contrary, this process was made possible only
through a series of interactions between actors from both the public and private
spheres. In fact, Minister Chovanec himself mentioned the participation of ‘over
120 experts from the public service and academic environment’ in the preparation of
the NSA (cited in Nováková [2016a], emphasis added).
Taken together, the socially constructed nature of RHW as a security threat
and the engagement of public and private actors in the process through which it
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
emerged invite highly relevant questions. The speed of the articulation of RHW,
the involvement of diverse actors, as well as the often messy and horizontal na-
ture of the interactions suggest a different process than in the traditionally un-
derstood policy cycle [May and Wildavsky 1978; Howlett and Ramesh 2003]. To
capture the ways in which different public and private actors temporarily coa-
lesce around particular issues, interests, or narratives, how they work together to
produce certain outcomes and how their identities are transformed in this pro-
cess, novel and more flexible concepts and approaches are needed. We argue that
the notion of assemblage can shed new light on public–private interactions, as
it allows us to capture also the more unruly and disorganised aspects of public-
private policy-making. In this study, we understand assemblage chiefly as an
analytical device, which, through its interpretative engagement with different
sources of data, enables us to organise the case around a particular narrative. We
are not aiming to establish a universally generalisable argument that would ap-
ply across different contexts. Instead, what our article seeks to do is to map the
Czech case in detail and, more broadly, to demonstrate the utility of assemblage
as a concept for analysing policy-making. In addition, we offer a few observations
about the ambiguous and unstable boundary between the public and the private.
The article proceeds as follows. We start by outlining the concept of assem-
blage and showing its relevance for broader discussions on public/private inter-
actions. We then reconstruct the Czech ‘Russian hybrid warfare’ assemblage, as
it emerged in 2014–2016, around three different axes. First, we follow the chrono-
logical logic of its emergence in 2014–2016, asking how its different elements were
pieced together so that they were able to articulate RHW as a prime security is-
sue. Second, we turn to the inner workings of this assemblage, mapping its core
actors and connections so as to address the question of who did the assembling
and how. Third, we offer a critical perspective on how different actors reconstitut-
ed their identities via their performance within the assemblage and what effects
this had for the distinction between the public and the private.
Assemblage: the relational and open emergence of actorness
Assemblage thinking has become one of the most rapidly developing ways of
capturing complex interactions in anthropology [Ong and Collier 2005], human
geography [Müller 2015; Dittmer 2017], or international relations [Abrahamsen
and Williams 2011; Acuto and Curtis 2014; Bueger 2018]. Building on these di-
verse approaches, we treat assemblage primarily as an analytical concept, which
allows us (1) to meaningfully organise the data at hand, including some basic
methodological guidelines, (2) to productively rethink the problem of public–pri-
vate interactions, and (3) to pursue a theoretically-informed critical intervention
into the debate on RHW [for a similar approach see Sassen 2006; Abrahamsen
and Williams 2011]. In contrast to other approaches to the construction of secu-
rity threats, our study goes beyond the sole attention to securitising speech acts
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
[Buzan, Waever and de Wilde 1998] or the Bourdieusian focus on field struggles
and symbolic domination [Bigo 2013]. Neither of these allows us to fully capture
the often unruly dynamics of constantly (trans)forming relations between actors,
and the effects these may have. Moreover, assemblage enables us to highlight the
performative aspect of actors’ practices, relations, and their public and private
identities. In this regard, we are inspired above all by the recent Dittmer’s [2017]
and Bueger’s [2018] readings of the concept, which unpack the dynamics of as-
semblage’s formation, diversity and agency of its elements, and the transforma-
tive effect brought by the assemblage to its constitutive parts.
Assemblage here refers to a temporary constellation of different actors and
their socio-material contexts, which coheres around particular effects, interests,
ideas or purposes. It is ‘a mode of ordering heterogeneous entities so that they
work together for a certain time’ [Müller 2015: 28–29]. More formally, assemblag-
es can be defined by four characteristics (based on Dittmer [2017] and Müller
[2015]). First, they consist of relations between their elements. Relations are at the
very centre of assemblage-focused analysis, since it is only in relation to other en-
tities of a particular assemblage that an element can be seen as having a particular
identity, function or effect. Second, assemblages are ‘productive of novelty’ [Ditt-
mer 2017: 10]. Through the formation of an assemblage, new realities emerge. As
Loughlan et al. [2015: 43] note, security assemblages form around newly identi-
fied security issues, while they at the same time shape the very understanding of
what these security issues mean. Third, assemblages are heterogeneous, as they are
put together from different elements (humans, things, ideas, narratives etc.), and
fourth, unlike social structures, they are ‘open systems with elements constantly
entering and leaving’ [Dittmer 2017: 10, emphasis added]. This also makes them
‘impossible to delimit’, meaning that for the analyst ‘the only possibility is to
attempt to describe trends in their relational space over time’ [Dittmer 2017: 10].
While the use of assemblage thinking is broad and varied, we agree with
Bueger [2018: 615] that the concept is particularly useful for dissecting contem-
porary forms of governance and ‘debates on public-private interaction’. As such,
assemblage thinking speaks to other conceptualisations of public–private rela-
tions, such as policy networks [Marsh and Rhodes 1992; Börzel 1998] or epistemic
communities [Haas 1992]. In particular, it communicates with the research on
‘democratic network governance’ [Marcussen and Torfing 2007; Sørensen and
Torfing 2007]. In this work, governance network is defined as ‘relatively stable,
horizontal articulation of interdependent, but operationally autonomous actors
who interact through negotiations that take place within a relatively institutional-
ized community […]’ [Torfing 2007: 5].
There are plentiful similarities between a governance network and an as-
semblage, especially in the notions of horizontal coordination and actors’ auton-
omy. However, there are also important differences. First, the emphasis on the
‘relatively institutionalised’ nature of network governance means that this strand
of research focuses on the more organised and coordinated aspects of the policy
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
process, leaving aside the more unruly and decentralised activities—for example,
those happening within the NGO or media spheres. By emphasising openness,
assemblage thinking is sensitive to a broader array of actors and practices and
better suited for the often chaotic nature of social interactions. Second, network
governance—with the exception of the small ‘poststructuralist institutionalism’
branch [Sørensen and Torfing 2007: 38–41]—sees actors as interdependent, yet
still possessing an intrinsic identity that is more or less unchanged by their par-
ticipation in a network. In contrast, assemblage thinking conceives the actors as
‘having no essence or particular identity prior to entering the assemblage’ [Bue-
ger 2018: 619; paraphrasing Marcus and Saka 2006]. By entering the assemblage,
the identity of actors is produced and reproduced, including their identity as
public/private [Abrahamsen and Williams 2011: 95].
Therefore, while other approaches are well-suited to capturing public–pri-
vate interactions, assemblage thinking moves beyond them by analysing also the
process-based and relational production of the public/private distinction as such.
In the assemblage lens, the focus moves away from particular actors and institu-
tions towards the processes in which they come together to forge new possibilities.
Therefore, we look at the ways in which the different entities—‘think tanks, polit-
ical parties, universities, embassies, lobbying groups, media networks, and so on’
[Dittmer 2017: 18]—are linked together into a system of relations in and through
which they gain their capacity to act (e.g. to articulate a policy) in the first place.
Policy-making is thus seen as a much messier process, in which agency is distrib-
uted across the particular assemblage. The assemblage approach thus ‘emphasiz-
es openness, dynamism, and self-organization’ [Dittmer 2017: 9] against the more
hierarchical, closed, static, and binary models of public–private policy-making.
This emphasis makes it also particularly ‘sensitive to short-term change’ [Bueger
2018: 615], making it possible to track the often rapid processes through which
certain policy issues are articulated by means of ad hoc coalitions of actors—such
as in the case of RHW in the Czech Republic.
At the same time, this does not mean simply dissolving ‘public’ and ‘private’
as meaningful categories. It would be naïve to argue that actors do not mobilise the
political capital that comes from their belonging to a particular institution (news-
paper, party, bureaucracy) or their occupation of a certain subject position (recog-
nised expert, elder statesperson) [see Abrahamsen and Williams 2011: 105–108].
By entering into an assemblage, the identity of the actors is not completely erased,
but the context for its performative reconstruction is changed. How actors recon-
stitute themselves as ‘public’ or ‘private’ vis-à-vis others and, especially, what this
means in the context of a particular assemblage thus becomes an empirical ques-
tion—and also one intimately intertwined with politics and power. ‘Assemblages
establish relations of expertise and authority, technology and politics.’ [Bueger
2018: 620] Therefore, it is upon the different actors to utilise these resources to
(successfully) perform their identities as ‘public’ or ‘private’, (re)assert themselves
in the policy process and (re)capture a privileged position in the shifting order.
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
Methodologically speaking, in mapping the RHW assemblage, we follow
the actors’ own narrative descriptions of the assemblage and their relations with
others [see Loughlan et al. 2015: 38–39]. In doing so, we rely on a variety of differ-
ent sources of data. First, we draw on nineteen semi-structured interviews with
actors from the RHW field. Our respondents have a background in media, think-
tanks, academia, ministries, and national security agencies and were selected on
the basis of their prominence in our preliminary media sample and in references
made by other interlocutors. Given the sensitive nature of the information gath-
ered, all our respondents have been anonymised (on the other hand, we use the
real names of those who identify themselves with the counter-RHW agenda in
the public sphere). The interviews were centred on interviewees’ descriptions
of the actors involved in countering RHW, the nature of the threat, and their
own contribution to the counter-campaign and cooperation with other actors.
The interviews allowed us to capture above all the inter-subjective aspects of as-
semblage, as present in the respondents’ narratives and perceptions. Second, to
triangulate this, we complemented interviews with an analysis of an extensive
textual archive made up of media articles, press releases, think-tank analyses,
and official documents (more than 120 texts on RHW). Our key objective here
was to map relations between actors. Therefore, the documents were examined
for mutual references and intertextual links that showed us the patterns of mu-
tual familiarity, recognition, and interaction through which an assemblage is
produced and reproduced. Our third source of data were the lists of contacts
participating in one Facebook messaging group and two e-mail groups devoted
to RHW that were made available to us, and the attendance sheets or at least the
lists of speakers at fifteen conferences, roundtables, and other public events that
took place in 2015–2016.
Two caveats are necessary to further clarify our analytical position and its
limits. First, we do not claim to provide a complete and exhaustive picture of all
actors, relations, and practices that had something to do with RHW in the given
time frame. Instead, we focus on the key actors that played a prominent role in
the public articulation of RHW as a threat. Some parts of the assemblage that
were not exposed to the public were side-lined, in particular those relating to
communication occurring in a classified regime to which we did not have access.
This constitutes a limit of our analysis, but not necessarily a problem, since our
key interest is in unpacking the public articulation of the RHW assemblage and
the role of public and private identities in its performance.
Second, while being ourselves members of the small Czech security policy
community, we do not consider ourselves part of the Czech RHW assemblage,
as we neither engage in counter-RHW activities, nor share most of the ideas and
narratives around which it coheres. Rather, we think of ourselves as sceptical, yet
engaged participants in the broader field of interactions related to RHW. As this
article is the first output of our broader project, we did not have to face too much
suspicion or disagreement during our interviewing research. Our respondents
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
were mostly uninterested in our normative opinions on the matter. During the
writing phase, however, we gradually entered the RHW debate by presenting
our drafts in public, sharing them with our respondents (even mutually com-
menting on draft reports with some of them), and commenting on the matter in
the press [see Kovanda 2018]. The following pages are a continuation of this in-
tervention, which will most likely be seen as challenging (if not hostile) by at least
some actors of the RHW assemblage, likely impacting the nature and quality of
our future access. Therefore, we do not claim a naturalistic detachment from our
research objects. Instead, in the spirit of double hermeneutics, we are using con-
ceptual tools to make sense of a section of social reality of which we ourselves are
The emergence of ‘Russian hybrid warfare’ in the Czech Republic (2014–2016)
Hybrid warfare was not considered a major threat to the Czech Republic until
Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Before that, it was merely a peripheral topic for
professional debates on the pages of security journals and specialised servers
[e.g. Kubeša and Spišák 2011; Zůna 2010]. The Russian attack on Ukraine played
an agenda-setting role, which, however, was only gradual and rather slow. Rus-
sia’s actions were mostly unexpected. In the words of a key figure in the RHW
assemblage, ‘[w]hen Russia invaded Ukrainian territory in early 2014, we were
surprised’ [Janda 2017]. The response of Czech security intellectuals can be
chronologically organised according to the three years that followed: 2014 was
characterised by mostly uncoordinated efforts to reflect and respond to Russia’s
aggressiveness; 2015 was decisive in putting the issue on the top of the agenda
of the Czech security community; 2016 then marks the condensation of the as-
semblage and the formulation of a state response to the newly constructed threat
of RHW.
In the first months after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, there was little
concerted action. The RHW assemblage was emerging only slowly and from a
scattering of originally disconnected actors, practices, and narratives. The first
occasion when the RHW threat became publicly articulated came with the exten-
sion of the impact and nature of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which were broadly
discussed in the media, to constructing them as a direct danger also for the Czech
Republic. The key actor was the right-wing conservative media server,
in particular the journalist Vladimír Ševela, who wrote a number of articles on
hybrid or information warfare. In August, he provided the first comprehensive
coverage of, a leading disinformation website, which then became one
of the favourite targets of the RHW assemblage. The article uses strong security
rhetoric, articulating the presence of this website as part of an existential threat:
‘It appears that the struggle [between Russia and the West] ... will be waged on
multiple fronts. The media-information one is only one among them, the first
Russian paratroopers have already landed.’ [Ševela 2014]
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
A purely coincidental impulse came with the arrival of the new Czech
government in February 2014, which made the promise ‘to revive Czech foreign
policy’ [Zaorálek and Drulák 2014]. This involved revising key strategic docu-
ments, of which the first was to be the Security Strategy, the update of which
was requested by the National Security Council in June 2014 [MFA 2015a]. This
process of redrafting provided a good opportunity to insert RHW into the official
vocabulary. Similarly coincidental was the scheduling of the NATO Summit for
September 2014, which was indeed announced long before Crimea [BBC 2013].
However, under the changed circumstances, the summit provided an important
push to the formation of the Czech RHW assemblage, especially because of its
own prime-time focus on hybrid warfare. NATO’s hybrid warfare terminology
was then embraced also by Czech leaders, albeit at the time still seen rather as
restricted to Ukraine, than as extending also to the Czech Republic (e.g. Defence
Minister Stropnický’s comments for Czech Television [MoD 2014]).
A crucial event for raising public awareness was connected to the Novem-
ber 2014 commemorations of 25 years since the Velvet Revolution, a part of which
was a public happening, during which the participants displayed red cards to
symbolically show their disagreement with President Miloš Zeman. The disin-
formation server accused the US Embassy of staging the event, a dis-
information that was subsequently appropriated and spread also by a series of
mainstream outlets and politicians [see Echo24 2014; Kundra 2016: 161]. A number
of our respondents from the media, civil society, and public service recalled that
this was the first time they realised the power that disinformation can have, and
that this constituted a trigger that pushed them to act and get involved.
If 2014 had laid the groundwork, 2015 brought an explosion of activities and
knitted different discursive threads together into an articulation of RHW as a
prime security issue, one epitomised in the Czech context above all by covert Rus-
sian influence operations and ‘pro-Russian’ websites. In February 2015, this was
defined clearly and urgently as a threat in the updated Security Strategy. Absent
from the previous version from 2011, hybrid warfare now made it straight to the
top of the list, coupled with a visible emphasis on propaganda and disinforma-
tion and an implicit yet clear reference to Russia:
Some states seek to achieve a revision of the existing international order and are
ready to pursue their power-seeking goals through hybrid warfare methods com-
bining conventional and non-conventional military means with non-military tools
(propaganda using traditional and new media, disinformation intelligence operati-
ons, cyber-attacks, political and economic pressures, and deployment of unmarked
military personnel). [MFA 2015b: 13]
As one of our respondents put it, this was the state authorities’ first direct
elaboration of the newly constructed threat. The momentum was then sustained
also by the conference ‘The Future of Security, the Security of the Future’, held
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
two weeks later in the Czech Parliament, which drew several distressing com-
ments from high-ranking military officials. Most importantly, speaking explicitly
about hybrid warfare, Special Forces general Karel Řehka uttered the much ech-
oed comment: ‘In a way, we are already at war, we just do not realise it or are not
able to admit it.’ [Lang 2015] By the end of February, members of state security
agencies—including high-ranking military personnel like Řehka or even the then
Chief of the General Staff Petr Pavel—were part of the nascent RHW assemblage.
This was followed by the mobilisation of civil society between February and
June 2015. The two most visible ‘speakers from the civil sector’ on the matter (a
phrase borrowed from an interview with an NGO) became Ivana Smoleňová of
the Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI) and Jakub Janda of the European Val-
ues think-tank (EV). Already in March, Smoleňová published articles in promi-
nent American (Forbes) and Slovak (Denník N) media, in which she spoke about
Russia’s ‘information warfare’ and discussed the challenges facing those who
would want ‘to counter a well-organized, billion-dollar propaganda push from
Moscow’ [Smoleňová 2015a, 2015b]. EV had a slower start, initiating its activities
only during the course of the summer. By then, other NGOs, such as Jagello 2000,
the Association for International Affairs (AMO), or the People in Need Founda-
tion had become active on the issue. Also involved was the Prague office of the
Open Society Fund (OSF), which started sponsoring an investigative project con-
ducted by the server—an online magazine dedicated to investigative
journalism and tackling corruption.
In parallel with the increasing involvement of both state and civil society
actors, the media coverage of the issue intensified. continued its report-
ing and was joined by a number of other outlets. This included the niche web
projects (‘’—an investigative online magazine) and the
already mentioned, but also more mainstream actors, most notably
the liberal opinion-making weekly Respekt, especially Ondřej Kundra’s detailed
investigation of [Kundra 2015]. By summer 2015, the assemblage thus
included highly interested actors from public service, academia, civil society, and
the media.
During the autumn of 2015, the intelligence services also suddenly became
much more detailed in their unclassified study of RHW threats. In a report pub-
lished in September 2015, the Security Information Service (SIS) listed ‘Russian
and pro-Russian propaganda’ as a major cause for concern. ‘Russia has been cre-
ating influence and propaganda structures in the Czech Republic over a long
period of time. ... The Czech public was and is greatly influenced by Czech pro-
Russian organisations and individuals using websites to present their interpreta-
tions of Russian stances’ [SIS 2015]. To highlight the urgency of the matter, SIS
considered this a part of a broader Russian master plan to build a structure in
Europe that could even ‘be considered a return to the Komintern concept’ [ibid.].
In this cascade of securitising arguments, fringe websites came to be identified
as a grave danger, as they were assessed as a part of a broader imperialist expan-
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
sion. Only one month later, ‘alternative news websites’ were for the first time dis-
cussed also in the Ministry of the Interior’s quarterly reports on extremism [MoI
2015]. By the autumn of 2015, websites like were thus publicly called
out as a danger by key actors from the military, intelligence services, and the MoI.
In 2016, the assemblage grew further. Above all, it was now able to steer
and influence policy-making, as well as shape political discussion in the country.
A decisive moment came with the National Security Audit (NSA), a bureaucratic
exercise that, according to the official press release [Nováková 2016a], involved
more than 120 professionals from all across the state security apparatus, includ-
ing a handful of consultants from academia and NGOs. The aim was to evaluate
the Czech Republic’s ability to respond to a broad range of threats and risks,
from natural disasters to terrorism and cyberattacks. The political impetus for
this unprecedented process came from Prime Minister Sobotka, who requested
the audit already in November 2015 [Czech News Agency 2015]. Multiple minis-
tries, security services, and other agencies participated, with coordination placed
in the hands of the MoI. The audit itself then ran throughout most of 2016, in-
cluding working group meetings, discussions, conferences, and drafting. In May
2016, a conference was held to present the first drafts. The recommendations al-
ready included the creation of the Centre against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats
[Nováková 2016b]. While the origins of the NSA process were framed in terms of
countering terrorism and managing the looming ‘migration crisis’, by now it was
hybrid warfare that was starting to emerge as the master narrative.
The key development in making the issue one of the top ones in the public
debate was the rapid increase in the activities of the EV and the establishment of
their ‘Kremlin Watch’ programme at the end of 2015. In the words of Jakub Janda,
the programme’s head: ‘From the beginning of 2016, things started rolling.’ [Jan-
da 2017] Under the Kremlin Watch banner, whose declared aim is ‘to uncover and
resist disinformation and influence operations of the Russian Federation and its
fellow travellers’ [European Values 2017a], EV started producing countless moni-
toring reports, weekly newsletters, papers, and policy recommendations, as well
as organising events and appearing in the media on subjects related to RHW.
Many other civil sector players were active in 2016, but EV stood out.
Finally, the conclusions of the National Security Audit were presented on 1
December 2016. The document—a 140-page, rather dryly written and often dis-
connected text—was wrapped in the master narrative of hybrid warfare. While
the RHW agenda was discussed throughout different chapters (especially ‘For-
eign Power Influence’ and ‘Cybersecurity Threats’), the part on ‘Hybrid Threats
and Their Influence on the Security of the Citizens of the Czech Republic’ claimed
to be the document’s ‘overlapping’ and ‘coordinating’ chapter [MoI 2016: 127].
Like the earlier statements of state agencies, the document also argued that ‘prop-
aganda and the spread of disinformation as a means of information warfare’ are
part of a broader strategy of hostile foreign powers acting against the Czech Re-
public. This is ‘part of hybrid threats … and therefore one of the most serious
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
threats’ [MoI 2016: 50]. These threats are, again, personified also by ‘media and
quasi-media platforms and social networks’ [ibid.]. The official establishment of
the Centre against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats (CTHH) was the most visible
outcome of the NSA process.
The presentation of the NSA was the high point in the constitution of the as-
semblage and construction of RHW as a major security concern. ‘Hybrid threats’
were now a key part of the language through which Czech national security was
understood, a special institution was set up to address them, and this perspective
had strong backing from key political actors, including the Prime Minister, the
Minister of the Interior, and the Minister of Defence. However, this moment was
also the starting point of a heated public contestation, as the results of the NSA—
and the CTHH in particular—came under heavy public attack, especially from
President Zeman [Zeman 2016]. The public exchange that followed was accompa-
nied also by growing inner fragmentation and disintegration of the assemblage,
marking a new phase in its existence, one that lies outside the scope of this article.
Holding the assemblage together: core actors and connections
This section turns to the actors who were crucial in keeping the RHW assemblage
in motion and explores the ongoing (re)construction of connections between its
core elements. As already argued, assemblages are dynamic and ever-changing.
Holding the assemblage together requires continuous work, which involves con-
necting heterogeneous elements, ascribing them a single purpose, and constantly
reiterating the performance [Bueger 2018]. Therefore, we start our mapping by
describing those actors who were perceived as the most important assemblers
and performers of the agenda. We aim to highlight the parallel activity of the
assemblage on the levels of civil society, media, and governmental bureaucracy,
thereby documenting the patterns of involvement of both public and private ac-
tors. We also point out the connections between these actors and their mutual
support in promoting the campaign. This kind of mapping allows us to identify
those who are at the centre of the RHW assemblage and whose ‘work’ holds it
together. The following account thus does not represent a complete description of
the assemblage, which would be impossible anyway due to its constantly chang-
ing nature, but is rather an overview of its most active core.
European Values
The European Values think-tank was identified by almost all our interviewees
as the most active actor in the Czech campaign against RHW, basically for three
main reasons. First, they were highly visible in the media, which a number of our
interviewees attributed to the then deputy director of EV Jakub Janda’s hard-
working and highly ambitious personality. Second, their outputs were character-
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
ised by a clear-cut anti-Russian ideological message, which made it very easy to
understand. Third, they were keen to work very closely with policy-makers and
connect with a number of other Czech and international actors. The EV team pro-
duced dozens of articles dedicated to the issue of ‘Kremlin Information Warfare’.
In some cases, these texts were republished on web portals, such as
and, and others were further promoted by national media. Some of the
outputs were written and/or published jointly with other highly visible actors
of the RHW assemblage, such as the journalist Ondřej Kundra or the political
communication researchers from Masaryk University, Miloš Gregor and Petra
Vejvodová [Janda and Kundra 2016; Gregor and Vejvodová 2016].
However, the importance of EV for the formation and performance of the
assemblage goes well beyond their presence in the public sphere. EV played an
essential role also in bringing diverse actors together. Thanks to their networking
skills and their engagement in mapping and debunking the alleged Russian dis-
information campaigns, EV became closely connected with several Czech and in-
ternational agencies and policy figures (interviews, MoI, 5 May 2017 and NCISA,
23 June 2017). In particular, already in the spring of 2015, they started cooperating
with Jakub Kalenský, at that time an active networker himself and a future Czech
representative in the EEAS StratComm East team, who supported further expan-
sion of their network on the international and especially the European level. The
established international connections were later used by EV to advance its posi-
tion at the national level, as EV was able to connect foreign experts with Czech
bureaucrats. The think-tank established close cooperation with the team at the
MoI that formed the core of the nascent CTHH. Jakub Janda became a consultant
in the NSA process and other EV analysts worked with the MoI on the develop-
ment of counter-disinformation training scenarios (interviews, MoI, 5 May 2017,
EV, 8 September 2017, EV, 12 September 2017).
On a more mundane level, EV was among the primary contributors to the
closed Facebook messaging group ‘Svědkové Peskovovi’ (‘Peskov’s Witnesses’,
named in ironic reference to Putin’s press speaker Dmitry Peskov), which brought
together influential figures from the media, the policy sphere, and civil society.
At the time of our data collection (mostly spring and autumn 2017), this group
consisted of more than fifty members. EV was also very active in organising semi-
nars and roundtables. At least six smaller events dedicated to the issue of tackling
the Russian hybrid and disinformation campaign took place in 2016 alone and
their participants included think-tanks active in the area, the media, and officials
from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, and the Interior [European Val-
ues 2017b]. Together with the MoI, in October 2016 they organised the Stratcomm
Summit, a high-profile event with participation from representatives of NATO,
the USA, Germany, and the Baltic states alongside high-ranking Czech military
and civilian government officials [European Values 2017c; interview, MoI, 5 May
2017]. In sum, EV were able to establish themselves as one of the main assemblers
and performers of the campaign against RHW.
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
Think-tanks and Masaryk University
The scale of the assembling performed by EV was unparalleled, but other actors
were also active within the assemblage, promoting the issue on the public agen-
da and linking diverse types of actors together. Ivana Smoleňová, a researcher
from the Prague Security Studies Institute, became a regular media speaker on
RHW following her first media outputs in the spring of 2015 and in particular her
study of the ‘pro-Russian disinformation campaign’, which was later republished
by connected think-tanks and organisations [PSSI 2015; Smoleňová 2016]. PSSI
simultaneously positioned itself explicitly as an organisation that seeks to ‘de-
ter and defeat hybrid warfare strategies and other forms of external aggression’
[PSSI 2017a]. Even though it also dedicated a fair share of its activities to the niche
area of hybrid economic threats, where it was highly active in networking with
civil society and business actors, PSSI also organised a series of events on the
issue of pro-Russian disinformation operations and information warfare on the
internet. As manifested by many of its public outputs, PSSI activities were, com-
pared to EV, less attached to Czech state-security agencies and the institute relied
more on cooperation with Ukrainian and Central European activists, domestic
connections with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and donors such as the
OSF or the National Endowment for Democracy [see, e.g., PSSI 2017b, 2017c].
While being a publicly visible and frequently noted part of the assemblage, PSSI’s
connections rested more within civil society than in the policy-making sphere.
Jagello 2000 played a distinct networking role. In contrast to PSSI or EV,
Jagello 2000 rarely published its own analyses. Instead, it acted as an intermedi-
ary between international organisations (NATO in particular), security experts,
and the wider public. It organised a series of expert workshops funded by NATO,
which culminated in a report written by security analysts from Masaryk Univer-
sity, one of the first studies on RHW in the Czech Republic (interview, Masaryk
University 1, 6 September 2017; Světnička [2015b]; Kříž et al. [2015]). The work-
shops and subsequent Jagello 2000 projects brought together a slightly different
community than the ones that formed around EV or PSSI, and attracted primar-
ily Czech and international defence and security policy experts, academics, and
bureaucrats (Interview, Masaryk University 1, 6 September 2017; see also, e.g., [2018]).
A group of political communication researchers at Masaryk University
around Miloš Gregor and Petra Vejvodová originally gained recognition and me-
dia presence thanks to their short-lived cooperation with EV on the publication
of their analysis of the manipulation techniques used by ‘pro-Kremlin websites’
[Fojtů 2016]. However, they later distanced themselves both from EV and from
linking their work primarily to the Russian hybrid campaign, and shifted their
attention more towards issues connected to media literacy and disinformation
in general (interview, Masaryk University, 7 September 2017; Golis [2016]). While
the focus of the Masaryk University group was less on policy advocacy, they re-
mained a strong presence in the public sphere as experts and educators with
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
outreach well beyond academia. Therefore, given their awareness-raising role
and strong media presence, they were still perceived by our respondents to be
attached to the wider campaign against RHW. They also continued to cooperate
with state agencies, such as MoI or NCISA, as well as civil society groups and
donors on issues related to the analysis of specific communication techniques
(interviews, Masaryk University, 7 September 2017, NCISA, 23 June 2017).
The successful construction of RHW as a threat would hardly be imaginable
without dedicated journalists. While hybrid threats were regularly covered by a
number of media outlets, our respondents pointed primarily to journalist Ondřej
Kundra writing for Respekt magazine. Since 2014 Kundra had published several
articles and a book dedicated to Russian covert operations and had conducted
agenda-setting investigations into Czech disinformation websites and
in particular [e.g. Kundra 2015, 2016a, 2016b]. Kundra is known to be a well-con-
nected figure in state agencies, including the MoI and MFA, and the police and
intelligence services, as well as among civil society actors (his work with EV was
already mentioned). He has also been a frequent public speaker at events on dis-
information and Russian activities in the Czech Republic [e.g. European Values
2017d]. Kundra’s role and public exposure was essential for the public perfor-
mance of the RHW threat, as he provided other actors and the issue itself with the
legitimacy of a respected journalist from a leading national magazine.
Naturally, Kundra and Respekt were not the only ones who picked up this
topic. Our interlocutors noted also the extensive and continuous investigative
coverage of the Russian disinformation and influence networks pursued by the portal throughout 2015 and 2016. While could not match
the national influence of Respekt, its articles dedicated to uncovering ‘pro-Rus-
sian’ disinformation websites resonated within the assemblage and helped to
keep the issue on the agenda ( 2016). A similar role was played by
the investigative portal, which maintains a special section dedicated
to mapping Russian interests and activities in the Czech Republic and regularly
republishes expert studies on the topic.
Security bureaucrats
The last core part of the assemblage consists of the bureaucratic and military ac-
tors who supported the campaign against RHW inside the main governmental
agencies and in some cases also through cooperation with civil society actors.
The first group, one that played a decisive role in the assemblage, was the initial
CTHH team around MoI officers Benedikt Vangeli and Eva Romancovová, who
were identified by our respondents as the main supporters of the RHW agenda
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
at the Ministry and who since 2016 have frequently made public appearances to
speak about the issues of disinformation and foreign influence. While the core
of their workload took place behind the scenes, Vangeli and Romancovová also
became the public faces of policies aimed at countering RHW. Both also estab-
lished close working relationship with EV, attended its events, liaised with the
think-tank to organise study trips abroad and conferences, and shared informa-
tion and experience with EV’s foreign and domestic contacts (interviews, MoI, 5
May 2017, NCISA, 23 June 2017, EV, 8 September 2017). However, the connections
of this group extended also to other civil society actors, such as PSSI, Masaryk
University, and various journalists. The team at the MoI was responsible for the
chapter on ‘Foreign Power Influence’ in the NSA, which was written in collabora-
tion with EV (in turn, EV repeatedly praised the NSA in public).
Second, a group of high-ranking military officers, among others the Special
Forces general Karel Řehka, became early promoters of the notion of RHW as a
threat operating on Czech territory. Řehka later appeared also in events organised
by EV, occasionally commented on RHW in the national media, and even wrote
a chapter on hybrid threats and hybrid warfare in a book on the nature of change
in contemporary societies [Krejčí 2016; Řehka 2015]. Another important military
figure, Petr Pavel, former Chief of the General Staff and Chairman of the NATO
Military Committee, also gave a series of interviews and appeared in conferences
organised by EV or Jagello 2000. Besides military officers, our interlocutors also
often mentioned a team of civilian planners and bureaucrats at the Defence and
Strategy Division of the Ministry of Defence, acting under the auspices of Deputy
Minister Jakub Landovs. Ministry of Defence (MoD) bureaucrats were also re-
sponsible for drafting the ‘hybrid threats’ chapter in the NSA, which adopted an
explicitly military framing.
The third and least visible group was composed of the cyber-security ex-
perts of the National Security Authority, which was later transformed into the
National Cyber and Information Security Agency (NCISA). This group was re-
sponsible for the ‘Cybersecurity Threats’ chapter in the NSA, which is rather tech-
nical and less expressive compared to those drafted by the MoD and the MoI.
Accordingly, they were identified by our interlocutors as important supporters
of a low-profile, bureaucratic, technical, and educational approach to the threats
posed by RHW. Their role in the assemblage was thus confined mostly to back-
door bureaucratic negotiations and they were sceptical of the public, bombastic
approach associated with EV and CTTH. NCISA staff also forged close ties with
Masaryk University, none the least because of their shared location in Brno. This
collaboration took the form of university lectures, providing researchers with ac-
cess and information, and the recruiting of personnel from the ranks of univer-
sity students (interviews, NCISA, 23 June 2017, NCISA, 6 September 2017).
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
Performing public/private actorness
We have argued that by entering the assemblage, actors’ identities are somewhat
altered. Assemblages produce new constellations and understandings of prob-
lems, but also new identities for actors who change their ways of acting upon the
world by appropriating these understandings. In this section, we turn to the ways
in which identities were reconstructed through participation in the Czech RHW
assemblage, with attention paid to how actors redefined themselves in relation
to the categories of public and private. Based on our data, and in particular the
actors’ own narratives from the interviews, we offer an ideal typology of differ-
ent types of identity performances grounded in two sets of intersecting criteria.
First, identity performances can be located on a continuum between ‘reproduc-
tive’ and ‘transformative’, defined by the extent of repetition versus change in
identity through the performance. Second, this reproduction and transformation
can relate both to the identity of actors themselves and to the actors’ situatedness
with respect to the public/private divide.
The purpose of this typology is to provide pragmatic tools for navigating
a complex and messy social reality. However, it should not fool us into believing
that actors can be easily pigeonholed into these categories or that actors always
behave in a consistent manner. On the contrary, our study shows that identity
performances through and within the RHW assemblage were characterised by
paradoxical interplays of both repetitive and transformative aspects. The same
actors often engaged in multiple practices, through which their identities were
simultaneously both reproduced and altered. These different, yet often intersect-
ing and intertwined patterns of behaviour are captured below. Due to our focus
on identity performances through practices, we concentrate only on the most
typical examples in each category and leave out the actors whose practices fell
somewhere in between.
The first type is the reproductive performance of identity in the changed
environment. For many actors, the RHW debate came as a new context that had
to be responded to, yet without significantly altering one’s own practices and
identities. RHW served as a vehicle by which actors could present themselves
as capable of dealing with the new situation. This aspect can be documented in
the response of the state, or, more exactly, its leading policy-makers and agen-
cies. The process of revising the Security Strategy and conducting the National
Security Audit indeed served the very purposes of ‘assisting the Government
of the Czech Republic in its key task’ [MFA 2015b: 30] and to ‘verify the ... basic
capabilities of the state’ [MoI 2016: 8]. Put bluntly, by engaging in these practices,
state agencies wanted to reinforce their identity as institutions that are able to
fulfil their role also under the changed circumstances and in the context of the
newly defined threats. This is relevant also for individual policy-makers. In par-
ticular, a number of our respondents argued that the driving force of the NSA
process was the ambition of the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior
to be seen as competent in matters of national security at a time when the public
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
was increasingly worried by uncertainties caused by Russia’s aggression, terror-
ism, and mass migration to Europe (interviews, MoI, 17 March 2017, MoI, 5 May
2017, NCISA, 23 June 2017). Therefore, the RHW assemblage served as a con-
text through which these public actors were able to reinforce and legitimise their
identities as the citizens’ defenders against security threats.
The polar opposite option was the emergence of a new identity through
involvement in the RHW assemblage. By taking part in RHW debates and ac-
tivities, some actors were able to change the repertoire of practices in which they
were involved. The clearest example of this is EV and its key RHW figure Jakub
Janda. Before 2014, EV was just one of the Czech think-tanks interested in foreign
and security policy, arguably a smaller one, focusing predominantly on EU af-
fairs. This changed completely with their RHW activities. As one of the inter-
viewees put it, it was not clear how exactly it happened, but suddenly, ‘EV could
be seen everywhere’ (interview, Masaryk University, Prague, 13 September 2017).
The organisation used the opportunity to make RHW a key activity, but also to
alter its broader character. From an organisation known chiefly within the policy
community, they changed to an actor with high public visibility. This transforma-
tion can even be tracked quantitatively. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of
EV’s website visitors and media citations tripled, while the amount of Facebook
followers doubled and their budget grew by almost 40% [European Values 2017e,
2017f]. Put simply, EV is now a different organisation than it was in 2014 and the
RHW assemblage played an important role in this change. A similar process can
be traced also for a number of individuals whose career paths and professional
identities were significantly altered through their involvement with the RHW ac-
tivities, such as Ivana Smoleňová of PSSI or Miloš Gregor and Petra Vejvodová
from Masaryk University, all of whom became at a certain point public figures
attached to this issue [see, e.g., Golis 2016; Světnička 2015a].
Participation in the RHW assemblage had an effect also on actors’ identities
with respect to the public/private divide. Certain actors were keen to reinforce
the divide and stick to locating their identity firmly on one side of the boundary.
Typically, this was the case of security professionals—for instance, from the MoI
or the NCISA. They were keen to highlight their reservations about non-govern-
mental experts and their participation in the policy-formulation process, espe-
cially through the NSA. One interviewee argued that it was ‘nice to have’ experts,
but their advice was not really asked for (interview, MoI, 17 March 2017). Another
suggested that external experts were unnecessary, since the most important data
were already available to officials and ‘it would be strange, if expert evaluations
were different’ (interview, MoI, 18 September 2017). This did not always mean
that public actors would be completely dismissive, but rather that they saw their
role as superior, since they were the ones who possessed the relevant expertise.
Similar distancing was performed also by many of the academics we talked to.
Contrasting themselves with the NGOs that were willing to work closely with the
government, especially EV, many of them told us that they saw their role as con-
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
ducting independent and methodical research according to the standards usu-
ally required of it, regardless of the preferences of the government (interviews,
Masaryk University 1, 6 September 2017, Masaryk University, 7 September 2017,
Charles University, 31 October 2017). In other words, they were very keen to re-
inforce the rules attached to their identities as academics and not to compromise
them by becoming too close to the government.
The final type of identity performance is the symbiosis of public and pri-
vate actors, which had ambiguous and rather paradoxical effects on the public/
private divide. On the one hand, by cooperating closely across the divide, actors
on both sides were able to get access to novel ways of formulating and legitimis-
ing policies and to utilise this access as a source of symbolic capital within their
respective fields. On the other hand, however, this cooperation was at the same
time a source of mistrust and distancing within these very fields. The boundaries
between the public and the private were thus reinforced and erased simultane-
ously through the complex interplay of close cooperation on the one hand and
insistence on their original identities as a way of remaining relevant within their
fields on the other hand. A prime example is the cooperation between the MoI
and EV. EV were extremely vocal in making this liaison public, happily listing
their supposed achievements in influencing policies (interview, EV, 8 Septem-
ber 2017; Janda [2017]). EV’s Jakub Janda even highlights that he ‘advises the
Czech Ministry of the Interior’ in the short bio under his articles [e.g. Janda 2016].
Similarly, an MoI official labelled the cooperation with EV as mutually beneficial,
especially with respect to EV’s role in organising conferences and collaborating
within international networks created through EV’s private efforts (interview,
MoI, 5 May 2017). Both MoI and EV clearly benefitted from the cooperation, as
EV gained privileged access to public decision-making in exchange for providing
a quasi-independent voice to legitimise the very policies they helped formulate
in public.
This article mapped the ‘Russian hybrid warfare’ assemblage—a constellation of
public and private actors that redefined the understanding of national security
in the Czech Republic. Emerging in the aftermath of Russia’s aggression towards
Ukraine, it gradually took shape in 2014–2016, eventually managing to make ‘hy-
brid warfare’ a prominent trope in the official language and broader public de-
bate. This was also accompanied by tangible policy outputs, such as the creation
of the Centre against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats. Drawing upon an analysis of
research interviews, documents, message groups, and conference programmes,
we have shown that this transformation was a rather messy and contingent pro-
cess, often arising from a haphazard co-occurrence of events. Constructing and
holding the assemblage together required substantial work on the part of some
of its key actors, such as the European Values think-tank, Ministry of the Interior
Jan Daniel and Jakub Eberle: Hybrid Warriors
officials, and journalists like Ondřej Kundra. Consequently, the emergence and
nature of RHW as a prime security issue was much less direct than it seems. It
had to be gradually shaped and formed in complex public–private interactions,
which could have taken a different route at any given moment.
We argued that participation within the assemblage had transformative ef-
fects on the identities of the actors involved, but also on how they contributed to
the performance of the public–private distinction. Through their practices and
interactions, actors participated in the paradoxical process of simultaneous eras-
ure and reinforcement of the public–private boundary. Therefore, the assemblage
perspective and our case study portray the public/private divide in a compli-
cated and ambiguous manner. On the one hand, the boundary is a porous one,
as cooperation between different actors was necessary for the RHW to emerge
in the way it did. In constructing public policies, actors habitually transgressed
these boundaries and engaged in hybrid relations—of symbiosis, for example—
in order to acquire certain resources for themselves, such as ideas, information, or
access to the public sphere. On the other hand, by defining oneself as ‘public’ or
‘private’ and performing the practices related to their fields along one side of the
divide, actors gained acknowledgement and authority. Therefore, we argue that,
rather than essentialised categories, ‘the public’ and ‘the private’ are characteris-
tics that are constantly re-enacted in practice. Establishing oneself as a ‘public’ or
a ‘private’ actor requires ongoing work, as do the maintaining and erasing of the
boundary that occur simultaneously.
Offering an initial exploration of the RHW assemblage, our research leaves
a number of important questions open to further investigation. In particular, we
see three interesting avenues for further research. First, focusing on the Czech
security community and local performances of public/private identities, we have
left out the international connections of the RHW assemblage. Much more could
be said about the ways in which Czech actors interact with their foreign part-
ners, as debating and responding to ‘hybrid warfare’ is by no means just a local
phenomenon. Second, our analysis of 2014–2016 could be productively embed-
ded within a larger historical study of the discursive resources that were utilised
and modified by the RHW assemblage. Clearly, techno-anxieties or fears of Rus-
sia are not a novel phenomenon and it would be relevant to look at how these
longer-term discursive threats mutated into RHW and how they enable certain
performances of the assemblage. Last but not least, by emphasising the cohesion
of the assemblage and the success of its agenda-setting, we have backgrounded
the elements of difference and dissent. Not everyone interested in RHW had the
same understanding thereof and not everyone agreed with the dominant narra-
tives and policies. Further research could also turn to the ways competition was
marginalised and neutralised.
Sociologický časopis/ Czech Sociological Review, 2018, Vol. 54, No. 6
Jan Daniel is a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague. He
is also a part-time researcher at the Institute of Political Studies, Charles University. His
main research interests include anthropological and sociological approaches to the study
of international politics and security as well as politics in the Middle East (particularly
in Lebanon and Syria). He has published on Islamist political movements and the political
sociology of peacekeeping and security governance.
Jakub eberle is a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague. His
research interests focus on international relations theory, international political sociology,
and Czech and German foreign policy. His work has appeared in such journals as Inter-
national Political Sociology, Foreign Policy Analysis, and Journal of International
Relations and Development. His monograph Discourse and Affect in Foreign Poli-
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... Another officer, contributing to the special issue, builds his examination of hybrid threats exclusively on Russian sources and, consequently, claims that the Russian Federation is under hybrid threats through sanctions, imposed by the US, European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, etc., imposed in 2014 "after the unification of Crimea to Russia" [32, pp. [35][36]. ...
... Finding a proper response to these attempts requires innovative forms of complementing and coordinating the efforts of public authorities, academia and private actors. Examples of such coordination are already available, e.g. in the experience of the Czech Republic [35]. ...
The main purpose of the national security system is to reveal, prevent and protect against attempts to undermine the national sovereignty and independence. However, in itself it is not immune to hybrid influence. This chapter suggests a framework, representing a simplified version of John Warden’s ‘Five Rings Model,’ for arranging and analysing publicly available information on attempts at degrading the national security sector. It then describes the respective venues of influence and presents a number of cases, likely related to the interests of the Russian Federation to undermine Bulgaria’s national security. The suggested framework, along with innovative models of cooperation between public authorities, academia and private actors, can be used to collect and verify information on influence attempts, to analyse their actual or potential impact, and find effective remedy.
In the last decade Czechia’s foreign and security policies were destabilised by the activities of external actors, with Russia in the leading role, and also by internal ac- tors who followed the Russian and pro-Kremlin propaganda and disinformation campaigns and/or actively participated in such subversive activities. After 2015, within the set of crises and their securitisation, a disinformation network was developed in Czechia using social media and so-called ‘alternative online media’ for the dissemination of disinformation, mis- information, fake news and chain mails to spread these campaigns. As leading persons in the executive belonged to the disinformers, the government was not able to develop work- ing strategies against the disinformation campaigns as the new hybrid threat until 2021. At the end of 2021, the new Czech government of Prime Minister Petr Fiala launched a new strategy regarding hybrid threats which contained disinformation. The one-year plan to establish a systemic platform for the struggle against such threats was challenged by Russian aggression against Ukraine. In this article, we analyse the development of the security eco-system in Czechia against these hybrid threats, specifically the acceleration and intensification of this activity after 24 February 2022.
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The text focuses on the definition and reconceptualisation of the concept of hybrid interference, traces the use of the concept in Czech security documents, presents the historical development of the use of the concept and then seeks a practical conceptualisation applicable towards research on the resilience against it. This conceptualisation includes a narrower definition of the concept, which is necessary for the real application, graspability and researchability of resilience in the context of the Czech environment. We arrive at a framework of hybrid interference that we believe to be more practical and useful, mostly due to its higher clarity and precision. Furthermore, we believe that definition of hybrid interference which is agnostic towards sectors, actors and specific tools used during such activities is preferable and more likely to remain universally relevant than those relying on enumeration and itemisation.
Working at the intersection of political geography and international relations, this article does two things. First, it theorises the relationship between geopolitics and anxiety. Second, it uses this conceptual lens to analyse and critique the discourse of ‘hybrid warfare’. The conceptual part draws on Lacanian political theory and contributes to critical geopolitics, ontological security studies, and the literature on politics of anxiety. It is built around the notion of anxiety geopolitics, which denotes a discourse that promises to deal with social anxiety by providing geopolitical fixes to it, yet also ultimately fails in doing so. We then move to argue that ‘hybrid warfare’ is a prime case of such discourse. Using examples from the Czech Republic, we show how the discourse of ‘hybrid warfare’ successfully connects different sorts of anxieties together and creates a sense of ontological security by linking them to familiar East/West civilisational geopolitics that points to Russia as the ultimate culprit. Yet, at the same time, the discourse simultaneously subverts itself by portraying ‘hybrid threats’ as too insidious, invisible and constantly shifting to be ever possibly durably resolved. We conclude that this makes ‘hybrid warfare’ self-defeating, normatively problematic, and strategically impractical.
The terms ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ have lost their shock value in today’s public discourse and seem to have become part of our normal political vocabulary. Fake news, mis- and disinformation are not a problem of a particular country but are found in politics around the world. In this paper, I look at how disinformation appears as a problem for democracy. Empirically, this paper explores dominant patterns of argumentation with a focus on the US, Germany and Czechia. I discuss the themes of media literacy, hybrid warfare and the emergence of fringe media. This paper argues that more attention needs to be paid to the affectual dimension of why people share fake news. Even though there is no easy solution for dealing with fake news, a first step is to stop denouncing people for believing in fake news and putting all our hope in media literacy.
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In recent years, the concept of grey zone has been popularised to analyse the activities a State can use to influence the decisions and to limit the strategic choices of another State below the threshold of war. This article presents a case study, aimed at verifying if the Russian activities in the Czech Republic may constitute a grey zone. The paper commences by introducing the concept of the grey zone and developing the appropriate theoretical framework to identify its main characteristics. It continues by examining the Russian influence in the Czech Republic by using open sources, local sources and documents from the Czech intelligence services. It concludes by asserting that the analysed case meets most of the requirements to classify it as a ‘limited grey zone’. This new theoretical development may help to assess similar situations that may occur in this or other nations.
What do we speak of when we speak of ‘hybrid warfare’, a notion that has become prominent in discussions of European security? The article shows that this question is difficult to answer, as the hybrid warfare discourse is not only vague, but also consists of multiple, and at times contradictory, narratives. While talking and writing about supposedly the same thing, participants in the hybrid warfare debate often suggest markedly different ideas about the precise nature and target of the threat, offer different responses and draw upon different expertise. Grounding our argument in critical scholarship on narratives, security knowledge and hybrid warfare, we build a framework for studying security narratives around the four elements of threat, threatened value, response and underlying knowledge. This framework is utilised in a case study of Czechia, a country that has played a pioneering and outsized role in European hybrid warfare debates. We identify three narratives of hybrid warfare – defence, counterinfluence and education – which present markedly different understandings of ‘hybrid warfare’, and ways to defend against it. Our intervention hopes to contribute to disentangling the contradictions of the hybrid warfare discourse, itself a necessary precondition for both sound state policy and an informed public debate.
The challenge of propaganda and disinformation has not gone unnoticed by civil society actors. Their activities in this area represent an exemplary case study of the possibilities and limitations of active citizen involvement in the area of security. Therefore, this chapter aims to present the most relevant civil society initiatives tackling disinformation in the countries of central Europe—Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. While not only describing the activities of civil society but also mapping the dynamic of reactions to the disinformation phenomenon and the identity of actors involved, it informs about the contexts in which they are operating. This approach allows similarities and differences among measures applied in central European countries to be found and illustrates that local conditions have a significant impact on the activities of civil society. Based on this conclusion, the chapter provides convincing evidence that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy of measures against disinformation will fail, and thus, a more nuanced approach supported by proper research of local conditions is needed.
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Intelligence agencies play a prominent role in the production of knowledge about national security threats and their evaluation. This function is not just a value-neutral technical activity, but a social and political action. The purpose of this article is to explore the ways in which the Slovak Information Service, an intelligence agency responsible for the protection of national security, discursively constructs security threats and assigns enemy images to specific actors. The analysis was conducted on the publicly available parts of the agency’s Annual Reports. It utilised qualitative document analysis, supplemented by quantitative analysis of the frequency of use of specific keywords. The analysis, which identified the main threats connected to internal security, is constructed in a manner which connects terrorism with migration and the Muslim faith, assigning terror identities to specific groups. The agency’s constructions of internal threats were also utilised in the political discourse. Moreover, securitisation rhetoric was used in connection to the movements promoting human rights and fighting fascism, labelling them as left-wing extremists. In the field of foreign threats, their construction depends on both international developments and domestic political dynamics.
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V posledních několika málo letech se v zahraniční odborné komunitě začal obje-vovat nový termín "hybridní válka". Při prvním setkání se s tímto termínem a přečtení si několika článků v odborných časopisech, jako je například Armed Forces Journal, nevěnoval jsem tomuto termínu žádnou velkou pozornost, protože mi nepřipadalo, že by něčím zásadně novým přispěl do používané typologie konfliktů. Protože se ale tento termín začal poměrně často objevovat ve slovníku našich vojáků, nedalo mi to, abych se nevrátil nazpátek a nad tímto termínem se nezamyslel. Termín hybridní válka nenajdete v žádném oficiálním výkladovém slovníku vojen-ských pojmů. S přídavným jménem hybridní se ale můžete setkat také ve spojeních jako hybridní vedení boje, hybridní nepřítel, hybridní hrozby, hybridní konflikt apod. Na úvod bych rád zdůraznil, že hlavním proponentem termínu hybridní válka je Frank G. Hoffman, podplukovník v záloze americké námořní pěchoty, který je vědec-kým pracovníkem Centra pro studium hrozeb a příležitostí při Potomackém institutu politických studií. (1) Toto centrum je výzkumným pracovištěm námořní pěchoty USA a řeší projekty přímo spojené s použitím jednotek námořní pěchoty. Námořní pěchota USA je tradičně tzv. hrotem vojenských sil USA, který je nasazován tam, kde se oče-kává vysoká intenzita bojových činností. Tato afilace Hoffmana předem předurčuje jeho názory a postoje. Podívejme se nejdříve na definici pojmu hybridní válka, která není zcela jednoznačná a lze nalézt její korelaci s definicemi jiných konceptů. 2. Defi nice pojmu hybridní válka Hoffman ve své stěžejní práci [1] nepoužil primárně pojem hybridní válka, ale hybridní hrozby. Podle něj hybridní hrozby zahrnují celé spektrum různých způsobů vedení boje, včetně konvenčních schopností, nepravidelné taktiky a formací jednotek, teroristických aktů včetně neomezených forem násilí a zastrašování, kriminalitou způ-sobený společenský rozvrat. Hybridní hrozbou se rozumí působení nepřítele takovým způsobem, že současně a adaptabilně používá přizpůsobené variace konvečních, nepravidelných, teroristic-kých a kriminálních metod a prostředků k vedení boje v prostoru operace. Spíše než působení samostatných aktérů, jde o kombinaci působení státních a nestátních aktérů současně. [2] Hybridní hrozby jsou tedy výsledkem hybridního způsobu vedení bojové činnosti (hybrid warfare). Russell W. Glenn definuje hybridní hrozby jako nepřítele, který současně a adapta-bilně používá různé kombinace politických, ekonomických, sociálních a informačních Ing. Pavel Zůna, MSS Kritický pohled na koncept hybridních válek
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This article presents an empirical study that aims to draw out core elements of an assemblage theory of global governance. Situating assemblage theory in the third, practice-oriented generation of global governance research, I argue that it provides us with a feature-rich toolbox sensitive to the routine matters of international cooperation, the role of artefacts and the vitality of territories of governance. To showcase the advantages of an assemblage approach, I study a paradigmatic case: the organization of the international community’s fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. This effort has not only been very successful, with no major piracy incident reported from 2012 to 2016, but also a ‘miracle’ that can be explained by the close cooperation of all actors involved. I zoom in on one of the core components of this cooperation, the so-called Best Management Practices, which organize state–industry relations. I present a detailed study of the making of the Best Management Practices and the territory of authority and expertise that it established, and show how it became a core tool of governance. The case study documents the analytical power of assemblage theory for understanding global governance.
What is the role of the engaged intellectual in assemblage theory? In addition to being a partisan for assemblage theory, against other forms of organizing and presenting knowledge, in the trench warfare of post-positivist methods, what responsibilities does a particular attentiveness to a flattened ontology imply for writers, scholars and activists? Assemblage theory poses a fundamental challenge to our current model of intellectual-as-hero precisely because of its more distributed sense of agency. © Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2014. All rights reserved.
Governance networks contribute to the production of public policy and governance. Political visions, policy ideas, comprehensive plans, informal norms and detailed regulations are often crafted, or at least influenced, through policy processes involving relevant and affected actors from state, market and civil society. The networked policy output is a contingent result of negotiated interaction between a plurality of interdependent, and yet operationally autonomous, actors. The form and character of the policy output depends on the form and character of the horizontal interplay between the network actors. The negotiated exchange between the various actors changes over time and varies from governance network to governance network. Basically, network-based governance is a complex and potentially chaotic process in which numerous interests, identities and rationalities fuse and collide.
This edited volume aims to assess the recent experiences with governance networks at the local, national, and transnational levels. It reports and discusses the results of empirical studies of networks of public, semi-public and private actors who interact on the basis of mutual dependencies, institutional incentives and shared conceptions that help to facilitate negotiation and joint decision making in the face of persistent conflicts of interest. The contributors present new and insightful analyses of the formation and functioning of governance networks in different countries and different policy areas and they aim to assess the contribution of governance networks to an effective and democratic governing of our increasingly complex and fragmented societies.
In the aftermath of the Crimea annexation in March 2014, the idea of ‘hybrid warfare’ quickly gained prominence as a concept that could help to explain the success of Russian military operations in this conflict. Although the concept continues to enjoy widespread popularity in both scholarly and policy circles, its utility as an analytical tool is also heavily contested. This article adds to the literature critical of the ‘hybrid warfare’ concept. It argues that in addition to the fact that what is now described as a ‘hybrid’ approach to war is nothing new, the problems pertaining to its utility for the study of contemporary Russia go deeper than this. ‘Hybrid warfare’ inadequately reflects the direction of Russian military modernisation and as such has led to a skewed understanding of Russian military capabilities. Moreover, the tendency to use ‘hybrid warfare’ not only to conceptualise developments in the Russian military, but in the country’s foreign policy in general, can lead to serious unintended consequences.
That Russia is no longer the basket case it once was does not mean that Moscow has a hybrid-war doctrine that could be effectively deployed against NATO.