What is a hybrid war? Belarus propels the new threat

Thousands of migrants, mainly from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, concentrated last month on the border of Belarus with Poland with the dream of reaching Europe. A drama promoted by the Minsk authorities, according to what some of the people trapped at the border told EL PERIÓDICO. The objective, denounced Warsaw and the community authorities, was clear: destabilize the EU by means of a “hybrid attack“, a type of conflict that has emerged with the arrival of the 21st century. These are some of its keys:


One of the first occasions when there was talk of hybrid warfare It was in mid-August 2006 in southern Lebanon. In that scenario, during the previous weeks, the pro-Iranian Lebanese militia in Hezbollah had faced the almighty Israel Army. The war report did not admit any doubt about the identity of the victor: 44 Israeli civilians deceased by 1,200 Lebanese, 121 Tsahal soldiers fallen in combat by 241 Arab militiamen.

But in the realm of perceptions, the thing followed very different courses. Israel had lost the war because the offensive had failed to stop the rain of Katiusha rockets over the north of the country, nor the return of his soldiers captured by Hezbollah at the start of hostilities. Despite the human and material losses, the Lebanese militia had imposed itself on the ground because it had acted in a “very different way “to Like the actors in a conflict they had done it up to that moment, writes Florence Gaub, Deputy Director of the EU Institute for Security Studies.


Hanna Smith, Director of Research and Analysis of the European Center of Excellence to Counter Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, clarifies that the term hybrid warfare “is nothing more than A phase, the latter “, of a broader concept that scholars call”hybrid threats“, and which is defined as the” set of hostile actions “that a country or an actor undertakes in the” interior space “of a geopolitical rival” taking advantage of your vulnerabilities“with the ultimate goal of undermining it from within. In contrast to what happened in the past century with conflicts and traditional wars, the ultimate” purpose “or” goal “of these aggressive actions “It is not clear and it is difficult to identify”, clarifies the Finnish academic.


Unlike conventional wars, crises, or conflicts, adversaries in hybrid conflicts often have very disparate strengths. Tomasz Smura, research director of the Pulaskiego Foundation, a ‘think tank’ Polish specialist in security and foreign policy issues, assures that this type of aggression usually constitutes the resource used by a inferior adversary against one with greater capacity. And to prove his thesis, he mentions the conflict between Russia and NATO: “Moscow will not launch a conventional war against the Alliance because it has the upper hand; it knows that it is inferior, both economically and militarily, and that is why it resorts to these unconventional tactics. ”


The methods of carrying out that malignant activity They vary widely, according to Professor Smith: they can range “from spies breaking into cyber networks, to buying companies or co-opting local politicians, or even establishing a Cultural center that does not fulfill such functions but is dedicated to financing political parties. “And the most disturbing thing of all is that this set of actions is sometimes even” welcome “in the host country, despite the fact that it could end up threatening its own security Sometimes we have “difficulties in to accept the hybrid threats“, insists the academic, who cites as an example the purchase of” critical infrastructure “in Europe” by companies from China. “


Acquire the form they acquire, in which all scholars of the subject agree is that the so-called hybrid threat spectrum has come to stay, becoming the main protagonist of conflicts that will take place in the coming years, both between states among themselves and between countries and non-state actors, given that at present, conventional wars imply an excessive cost, even the possibility of the destruction of civilization. Professor Smura agrees with this assessment, but warns at the same time that there is “the danger of an escalation“in which the sides” lose control “and ends up leading to” a conventional warfareAs proof of this, he recalls the “provocative” actions in recent days by Belarusian border guards against their Polish counterparts, which could light the fuse of an armed conflict between the two countries.

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All these novelties caught in their day to counterfeit the OTAN, the military alliance that has guaranteed for much of the past century the security of democratic states, countries that, however, at this beginning of the century have been “surpassed by Russia in many stages of the world” thanks in part to this type of tactics, according to a senior official in the Atlantic Alliance who prefers anonymity. Despite the initial disadvantage, this source is pleased that in the “last three or four years” the agency has realized that hybrid threats will be a “crucial element” and has begun to react, creating specialized units to act in allied countries where they appear. Unlike the EU, with a wide range of capabilities such as economic sanctions, the official believes that NATO will play a role of “deterrent force“and space” where member states share intelligence information“.


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