The “Dark Reflection” of Hybrid War

NATO must continue to innovate to respond to the implications of so-called “hybrid warfare” tactics used by Russia in the Ukraine crisis, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the Alliance’s annual transformation seminar in Washington, D.C., March 25. Since the Russian intervention in Crimea, NATO’s security environment has changed “dramatically,” and now the Alliance must embrace its historical mandate of collective defense and the task of reacting to crises. “For the first time in NATO’s history, we have to do both at the same time,” he said, adding this is the driving force behind the creation of the NATO Spearhead Force. Rapid response capabilities will help NATO respond to the challenge of hybrid war, which Stoltenberg called a “dark reflection of our comprehensive approach.” NATO and its allies use military and non-military power to stabilize countries, while Russia has used proxy forces, unmarked forces, special operations, propaganda, and intimidation to lay a “thick fog of confusion” and attempt deniability. “Hybrid warfare is a probe. A test of our resolve to assist and defend ourselves,” he said, and behind every hybrid threat are conventional forces ready to exploit openings. Better early warning and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities will aid NATO’s efforts to respond to these threats, he said.