Wars that are a continuation of politics by states have practically always been waged according to special rules of warfare, by a specially trained state organization: the army. Analysis of the international situation that has evolved lately shows that the military conflicts occurring in the world are fundamentally different from the classical war type. New-type conflicts lack the uniformity of organized force traditionally represented by the state. Instead, they feature nonstate entities as initiators of organized action and the employment of nonmilitary methods of confrontation along with traditional military methods.

Thus, the content of military conflicts has gradually transformed, yielding a new phenomenon in settling interstate disagreements: a combination of power and nonpower, indirect and asymmetric methods, and the involvement of nonstate entities in realizing various methods of conflict settlement that employ a wide range of action methods, including terrorist methods.

This combination of traditional and hybrid methods is typical of all modern armed conflicts. Moreover, the hybrid nature of confrontation in the comprehensive use of regular and irregular forces has been known for ages. And in fact, there is hardly anything new in that.

When Napoleon unleashed a war with Russia in 1812 and invaded Russian territory, he encountered a most unusual strategy of warfare; part of the Russian army (including Slobozhansky Hussar regiments) scattered about the forests and took up guerrilla tactics.1 The French had already experienced fighting with Spanish and Prussian insurgents, but to see regular regiments going guerrilla and using what seemed to the French “unfair tactics of brigands”? At the time, this was bizarre and scandalous, but already in 1827, similar methods were included in Russian Army military manuals as part of the mandatory strategy of warfare that was to be waged not only on the battlefield, as had been commonly assumed.

Unquestionably, the practice of joint actions by partisans and military formations of the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 is highly suggestive.

One of the means of impacting the adversary was agitation, which can be viewed as a prototype of contemporary information activity.

Thus, way back in the wars of the 18th century, Friedrich the Great, along with combat proper, favored forging fake documents, which allowed him to make use of some ethnic and religious preferences. He thus instructed his generals, “… The foe has to be portrayed in a most unseemly way and blamed for all manner of plotting against the country.”

In the course of the 1866 war for German hegemony against Austria-Hungary, Bismarck focused his efforts on dealing a powerful political blow at Austrian statehood from within. His instrument of choice was the Hungarian national-liberation movement. Prominent personalities in Hungary (Hungarian revolutionary general Klapka) were invited to fill high posts in the Prussian Army; captive Hungarians were granted certain privileges (easier terms in camps and at earth works; they were released from camps if they agreed to serve in the Prussian Army…). Simultaneously, Bismarck supported with money and weapons the organization of an armed rebellion in Hungary; the Prussian press published fake information about an inordinate buildup of Austrian troops in Bohemia on the border with Prussia, accusing it of secretly preparing for aggression.2

Thus, unorthodox methods of affecting the adversary coupled with military force were used to various degrees in virtually every war. However, their manifestation was fragmentary and did not seriously influence the substance of combat actions, which is the basic difference between modern approaches to war.

So where does the novelty of this approach to war manifest itself?

First, in increasing the number of war actors. In classical warfare, the main and only actors of war are sovereign states, since the basis of warfare is the conflict of interests of states outside their frontiers. Until recently, none but states were able to keep a regular army, say who the foe is, declare war, conduct a mobilization and conclude peace. Military conflicts of the new type lack the properties of a uniform organized force; taking part therein are numerous highly diverse actors unconnected with the state – protest oppositionists, paramilitary groups unrelated to the regular army, gangs, private military companies, mercenaries, and others.

The appearance of new actors also determines the novelty of the strategies they employ in war aimed chiefly at protracting the standoff, harming the adversary morally or in public opinion, demoralizing the adversary, making the continuation of conflict unbearable.

Second, in actively seizing the so-called uncontrolled space and using that as the base for impacting the adversary in every possible way, primarily in the interests of forming an internal front of instability and an armed, radical opposition.

Uncontrolled space is understood as a physical space (land, sea, air) where, given a weak state or total absence of its influence, there appears a vacuum in public order that destroys the monopoly of organized violence.

In similar territories, nonstate actors (e.g., the IS) organize the kind of activity that counters that of the state, and become a source of confrontations, unrest (tribal, ethnic, religious) gradually growing into serious conflicts, and ultimately, into warfare.

Third, in transient alliances between state and nonstate actors aimed at achieving ad hoc goals. The distinctive feature of similar coalitions is their dynamic nature, the need to conclude an alliance and its duration are determined by the nature of the planned operational objective; once the latter has been achieved, the alliance can be dissolved or concluded with the representative of the opposing party, for a change.

Typical of classical warfare is a fairly stable kind of alliance concluded, as a rule, between states at the official level. Thus, in World War I, there were two alliances at the state level, the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.

The feature of the new-type warfare is the conclusion of brief alliances between state and nonstate entities, cooperation with which happens to be useful at the moment. Nonstate entities can perform kinds of activity that the state cannot. The transparency of this kind of alliance is typically vague and covert, and is often denied formally at the state level. In this case, the state shifts all the dirty work to nonstate formations, concealing its involvement in the war. Regular troops are used mostly to display force and resolve to use the latter. With the backing of state entities, gunmen and radical ethnic groups secretly infiltrate the contiguous area to fulfill a number of military assignments.

Similar alliances defy the traditional categorization of military conflicts, erode the responsibility of states for the use of military force, and undermine the mechanisms of deterring nonstate actors from military-force actions.

Fourth, in altering the working space of war, as it were, which, in turn, results in changing the object of effort exertion in warfare.

In the case of classical war, its traditional space of conduct used to be physical. In new-type warfare, the main working space of war is becoming the informational sphere, while the object of effort exertion is the consciousness of the public, its mentality. It was no coincidence that one of interpretation of hybrid warfare defines it as battles among the population within the conflict area, among the population in the rear area, and among the population of the world community?

It is precisely the system of purposeful action in this sphere that helps reformat mass consciousness, falsify world history and national culture, and set up a fifth column. As a result, even if the regular army of a state retains moral and psychological stability and combat might, it is doomed to defeat if it loses the support of the public and state power bodies.

An obvious consequence of the emergence of the new space is the departure from the accepted rules of warfare. While the state is legally obligated to abide by a set of documents defining the right of war, such as, for instance, the Geneva and Hague Conventions, nonstate actors, by contrast, do not adhere to these standards. And state actors, too, for that matter (e.g., the United States), increasingly move away from accepted standards, citing the appearance of new, previously unknown threats, and consequently the need for new methods to neutralize those threats that do not come within the purview of these laws. A distinctive feature of hybrid warfare in this respect is contempt for all moral standards, and resort to the filthiest social technologies, including the spread of rumors, the distortion of facts, the falsification of history – everything to affect the mind of the people the most.

No less important a space for the new-type warfare is the political and economic spheres. It is here that the politics of the opposing party can be goaded into a strategic impasse, and the economy of the aggression victim can be bled dry by ineffective and unmanageable programs, with the result that the country is plunged into inner political chaos, lowering its political status and reducing its economic and therefore military might.

The enhanced priority of new war spaces relative to the classical ones has considerably changed the approach to choosing the targets of effort concentration in war, from one’s own armed forces to state government bodies and the population, and thus to the development of one’s own conceptions or strategies of combat.

Fifth, in changing priorities of confrontation types in war.

Whereas previously the main emphasis in war was on the use of regular armed forces and also on military-force methods of warfare, while other kinds of confrontation remained secondary, these days, the role and significance of indirect methods of confrontation are obviously increasing; the latter consist in using guerrilla, subversive, and also nonmilitary (information, economic, and other) actions.

By way of confirmation, let us look at what Hezbollah did in the 2006 Lebanon war. During the conflict, Hezbollah practically neutralized the efforts of the Israeli Army by guerrilla methods of warfare involving secret positions and underground passes (similar to what the Viet Kong had done). These actions prevented the Israeli Army from making use of its strengths: modern and combat-worthy ground forces and aircraft.

Obviously, the important thing is the increased priority of informational methods of confrontation, in particular, their effect on the population and the personnel of the armed forces. Use of similar methods helps change the mindset of society, the attitude toward the adversary showing the latter in a good light, and the attitude toward one’s own leadership, undermining or strengthening its authority.

The Lebanese conflict of 2006 is a perfect example of well-organized actions by Hezbollah hackers in the information sphere. They hacked into Israeli communication networks and soldiers’ mobile phones, obtained the latest information about the adversary, and also launched a massive propaganda campaign in the world.

The changing priorities in the confrontation sphere rely on the appearance of fundamentally new means of impacting confrontation participants. For instance, the appearance of such a powerful means of affecting humans as the Internet meant that it was widely used in the information sphere to shape people’s mindsets and views on world events. That determined the exponential growth of the information sphere in present-day confrontations.

In addition, the approach to the use of military-force methods when military force is used overtly is changing as well. Armed forces are increasingly being used under the guise of peacekeeping activity, crisis settlement, and humanitarian operations.

Sixth, in the changed order of the use of various confrontation means in the stages of war. Previously, military-force methods were used in concentration right from the start of a war and throughout all the stages of war until it was over. In modern warfare, however, efforts in the concentrated use of armed struggle assets are obviously shifted to the concluding stage, in order to finally consolidate success in the conflict. At the initial stages, the emphasis is more on the use of nonmilitary means, whose efficacy is reinforced by limited (surgical) military-force actions.

That trend was borne out by the 2011 events in Libya. Muammar Qaddafi realized the danger of nonmilitary methods of confrontation much too late, when they were being implemented against Libya and himself as the state leader. They consisted in seemingly uncoordinated antigovernment demonstrations and propaganda against his regime by the media, including on the Internet. Confident that unleashing aggression against Libya was a remote contingency, Qaddafi lost time, and when international public opinion had coalesced regarding the illegitimacy of his rule, the country was flooded with weapons and military experts from other states. The opposition smoothly moved from controlled chaos in isolated protests to armed struggle, pressing into service squads of fighters and radicalized citizens formed in advance that were supported by NATO air strikes and subversive acts of saboteurs. This predictably ended in the change of power in the country.

Seventh, in the altered spatial-temporal model of war. Use of hybrid confrontation methods erodes the boundaries of war stages. Thus, for instance, there is no clearly outlined initial stage, contrary to the case when armed-struggle means are employed. Confrontation between states in the interests of achieving political goals begins long before armed-struggle means are used, through resorting to economic, informational, diplomatic, and other methods of struggle implemented under far-fetched pretexts. This spatiotemporal area defined as no longer peace but not yet war was called the grey area.

For instance, the start of the military phase proper in Operation Allied Force occurred in March 1999. But back in 1991, the separatist movement in Kosovo was purposefully encouraged under the aegis of the United States; in 1992, long before armed-struggle forces and assets started to be used, economic sanctions were imposed on Yugoslavia under the pretext of curbing assistance to Bosnian Serbs, a naval blockade was announced, and the air space over Bosnia and Herzegovina was closed.

From the mid-1990s on, Western countries openly backed the separatists and illegal armed formations that eventually formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Throughout that period, this activity was endorsed by the extensive information and psychological campaign waged with steadily increasing intensity and aggressiveness until it peaked by the start of the military phase of the conflict in 1999.

In exactly the same way, the borderline marking the end of hostilities is blurred in new-type wars. In classical conflicts, the conclusion of a war was determined by the end of the acute phase of the deployment of armed-struggle assets and the signing of relevant legislative enactments. In present-day warfare, the end of armed confrontation does not signal the end of war, since other types of confrontation subsequently do not merely continue but become more active. These circumstances result in a transformation in the structure of warfare. Contemporary military theorists are already seeing a fundamentally different structure and sequence of problem solving in the new (hybrid) warfare. Within the structure of war, they identify eight phases where not only the content, but also the very ideology of warfare is changing.

Phase one is preparing favorable conditions for launching aggression. Among the methods used are economic, psychological, ideological, and diplomatic, with the help of which a way is paved for intervention. An opposition is formed to pressurize the authorities, criticize the methods of state governance, convince the public in the country that their leaders are illegitimate, corrupt, and mismanaging the economy.

Phase two is deluding and misinforming the political leaders and population of the country subjected to aggression by using information methods of confrontation.

Phase three is intimidating and bribing high-ranking officials in the administration and the army who largely determine the policies of the state, and also the top oligarchs whose business depends on the favor of the aggressor state.

Phase four is destabilizing the social situation in the country, and encouraging subversive activity (sabotage). To carry out these tasks, they use the formations of armed entities of radicalized segments of the public. State and private institutions are seized, and objectionable politicians and businesspeople are physically eliminated.

These initial phases are based on the use of nonmilitary measures, which help perform a coup d’état camouflaged as a popular uprising and dismantle the political regime. The technologies of so-called color revolutions ensure the attainment of political goals without resorting to military force, and are the initial stage in hybrid warfare. Should the aims of the nonmilitary phase fail to be achieved, the color revolution will grow into a war involving armed-struggle means.

Phase five is the imposing of an air (naval or ground) blockade that would restrict outside support, the appealing by the newly formed opposition to the leaders of the opposing state to beg for assistance in the interests of stabilizing the situation, the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent under the auspices of the opposing state, and broad use of private military companies that closely collaborate with armed opposition squads.

Phase six is the start of hostilities through pinpoint strikes on key (critically important) facilities, which finally disorganizes the state and military administration, and destabilizes the social situation.

Phase seven is full-scale invasion involving the use of armed forces (if necessary).

Phase eight is the systematic mop up of the remaining points of resistance, and the establishment of new authorities loyal to the opposing state.

In summary, it is necessary to comment that war in the traditional sense is increasingly becoming a mere element (stage) of higher-level warfare (war of the new type).

The conceptions of this kind of warfare implemented by some countries, above all the United States, rest on a single axiom – namely, the absence of rules of warfare. Their characteristic feature is more active use of nonpower and nonstate entities to achieve the goals of conflicts, contempt for every moral standard, and the employment of various social technologies, including the spread of rumors, the distortion of facts, the falsification of history – in short, everything that affects human consciousness the most.

These days, war aims not at routing the armed forces of the adversary and seizing or holding territories, but at controlling space, be it economic, ideological, or mental, and maintaining a state of chaos and unending conflict among the people. Hybrid warfare has no limits, whether moral or spatial. This significantly affects global security, increases risks and threats to stability in our state, and necessitates a search for and development of relevant counteraction concepts that should be based on the boomerang rule – a diametric shift of the threat vector from the target of impact to the source of formation.

1. Snesarev, A.Ye., Filosofiya voiny [Philosophy of War]. Lomonosov Publishers, Moscow, 2013.
2. Huntington, S., The Clash of Civilizations. AST Publishers, Moscow, 2016 (translated from the English).
3. Gibridniye voiny v khaotiziruyushchemsya mire XXI veka [Hybrid Warfare in the Increasingly Chaotic World of the 21st Century]. Ed. by PA. Tsygankov. Moscow M.V. Lomonosov University Press, Moscow, 2015.