Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.


Jo CoelmontSenior associate fellow at Egmont—The Royal Institute for International Relations

My short answer is: no. Hybrid warfare is a very particular mode of acting—comprehensively, and against everything the EU stands for. So I would like to turn this question around and reply: comprehensiveness will save Europe.

The comprehensive approach is the #EU's mantra.
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The comprehensive approach is the mantra of the union. And there are promising signs it will be transformed from philosophy into practice, ensuring unity of effort, in particular in the area of security and defense. At the upcoming June European Council meeting, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, will be tasked develop a new European Security Strategy. She is said to favor a broad approach, looking beyond the union’s Common Security and Defense Policy to all foreign policy instruments, including humanitarian assistance, development, cybersecurity, migration, energy and climate, and trade.

A strategy may sound like an academic luxury, but it is first and foremost an organizing principle. For the union, such a strategy is indispensable to do away with turf battles within and among the European Commission, the European External Action Service, the European Defense Agency, and, indeed, member states.

Back in December 2013, the European Council still used opaque language when it called for a new security strategy. Now, the new buzzword “hybrid warfare” has made it easier to talk in real terms and to accelerate a process that was lagging behind within the union.


Andrew MichtaM. W. Buckman professor of international studies at Rhodes College and adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Russia’s application of hybrid warfare in eastern Ukraine is a recipe not so much for defeating Europe outright as for peeling the post-Soviet space away from the rest of the continent. The war in Ukraine has already put paid to the idea of a Europe whole and free and at peace.

#Putin's war in #Ukraine has reestablished a fault line between East and West.
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So far, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hybrid war in Ukraine has achieved two fundamental goals. First, it has reestablished a fault line between Europe’s East and West, this time running along the Bug River and the borders of the Baltic states. And second, it has injected into Western Europe a degree of buyer’s remorse over post–Cold War NATO enlargement. Today, the limits of the West’s collective response to Russia’s irredentist policies are in plain view, foreclosing (for now) the prospects of any meaningful Western military aid to Kiev.

If Russia decides to jump NATO’s borders and, for instance, launch a hybrid campaign in one of the Baltic states, this will force the West to grapple with questions about NATO solidarity and the alliance’s continued ability to conduct collective defense. Such a scenario—should a united response prove impossible—would constitute the ultimate success of Putin’s new war.


Alexander NicollSenior fellow for geo-economics and defense and editor of Strategic Survey and Strategic Comments at the International Institute for Strategic Studies

No, but there is plenty that NATO allies and partners can do to make absolutely sure of this. The West can still draw on its economic and political clout to isolate Russia if it wishes. But it can also boost its resilience against hybrid threats in several ways.

The West can draw on its clout to isolate #Russia if it wishes.
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First, the Readiness Action Plan on which NATO leaders agreed at their September 2014 summit was a significant step toward showing Russia that it will meet a strong response if it attempts to disrupt a NATO ally with tactics similar to those it used in Ukraine. But implementation is vital, and allies need constantly to consider whether the steps they have taken so far are sufficient.

Second, it is necessary to keep in mind that this is not just a military matter. Hybrid tactics seek to undermine the foundations of a state, so it is important that all states look to their foundations and attempt to deal with issues and divisions that could be exploited by an adversary—and that if necessary, they get help in doing this.

Third, Western nations need to ensure that they have good governmental and NATO systems for identifying hybrid tactics when they are used, and for responding to them rapidly, effectively, and in unison.


Roderick ParkesScholar at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and nonresident senior fellow at the Polish Institute of International Affairs

Hybrid warfare neatly undoes NATO and its clear-cut territorial defense commitments. For the EU, the challenge is different: it lies in the growing relativity of international power. As Europe’s power dips, its values and behavior become more relative. When the EU screams “Hybrid warfare!,” Russia just screams back “Civil-military intervention!” (a speciality of EU security policy). The EU’s territorial expansion rested on its impeccable tolerance of other cultures, but that tolerance will herald the union’s disintegration too.

Hybrid warfare undoes #NATO's territorial defense commitments.
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The EU used to be a model for others. Now, it is used by others as a precedent: by Russia for its Eurasian Union, by Turkey for its neo-Ottoman foreign policy, and perhaps even by the self-styled Islamic State. What the EU previously presented as exceptional about itself—its supranational statecraft and rewriting of territorial order—is becoming normal; and what was normal—its espousal of enlightenment values—is becoming exceptional.

How, then, does a normative power like the EU survive this loss of moral authority and capacity to define international rules? The answer probably lies in the democratization of its common foreign policy—democratization in the sense not of increasing accountability and rule making, but of building popular will to action. The EU can no longer bluntly assert European norms, it must actively inhabit them.


Diāna Potjomkina and Kārlis BukovskisResearch fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs, and deputy director at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs

Not likely, unless Europe falls completely asleep and forgets about its own interests. European states have several centuries’ experience in hybrid warfare. They have fought the phenomenon both offensively and defensively throughout history and now possess greater-than-ever know-how and instruments of nonmilitary influence.

Europe is strong economically, it has strong societies, and it continues to work on building an integrated demos at the local and European levels. The EU is an attractive role model and has developed an intellectual and political doctrine of normative power that resonates widely, helping to strengthen other societies. Europe and its achievements are appealing and are copied in other parts of the world.

#Europe must recognize threats at an early stage.
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The most important task for Europe is to recognize threats at an early stage. As the events of 2014 have shown, the warnings and reckonings of the EU’s newer and more peripheral members should be treated seriously—although the youngsters themselves should also excel at their homework, and here, older, more experienced partners are the best teachers. Strategies of monitoring, threat identification, and rapid response must be promoted, including in the context of the European Security Strategy review.


Gianni RiottaMember of the Council on Foreign Relations

Europe has trouble understanding the fractal nature of the 20th century.
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Europe has trouble understanding the fractal nature of the twentieth century. The wonderful stability of the postwar era leaves many EU citizens longing for an eternal status quo, steady jobs, steady borders, steady vacations, steady lives. Wars at the gate—in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Chechnya, and Georgia—have so far failed to stir public opinion, which is mesmerized by immigration and the economy.

American analysts including John Nagl, Daniel Bolger, John Schindler, and John Arquilla have been pointing out for almost a generation about so-called special wars, in which politics, the military, terrorism, cyberwar, and economic pressure blend to form a destructive offensive wave.

Is former Russian intelligence officer Leonid Reshetnikov canvassing the Balkans, stirring opposition to what is left of the U.S.-sponsored peace process and promoting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions? Is Putin ready to negotiate a soft landing for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras if his country falls out of the eurozone?

Nobody cares. Special wars are ferocious, ideological, aggressive. You need to really hate the enemy and be very committed to the battle plan to fight wars like this. Poles, Balts, and Swedes already feel the heat and see the coming threat. Does anybody else? 


Susan StewartDeputy head of the Eastern Europe and Eurasia Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)

Hybrid warfare is not the primary threat facing Europe. Nor is it particularly new, and there are means to deal with its different aspects. What could defeat Europe—in the sense of destroying the principles currently espoused by the European Union, namely democracy and the rule of law within states and peaceful relations based on international law and compromise among states—would be Europe’s failure to recognize Russian behavior for what it is.

Hybrid warfare is not the primary threat facing #Europe.
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The Russian leadership is: (a) unable to come to terms with the country’s history and current international status; (b) willing to lie blatantly to its counterparts in the global arena; and (c) indifferent to loss of life and health, not only for those in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, but also among Russian citizens in general. This points to a leadership that has no respect for its own population or its international interlocutors, and for which human dignity has lost its meaning.

Unless Europe manages to understand the moral depravity of the Russian regime, as former EU ambassador to Moscow Michael Emerson recently termed it, European leaders will not be in a position to confront the enormity of Russia’s departure from the above-mentioned principles. Nor will they be able to successfully defend them against challenges from those for whom such principles have no intrinsic value.


Marcin ZaborowskiDirector of the Polish Institute of International Affairs

Hybrid warfare, as exercised by Russia since its March 2014 invasion of Crimea, represents a major challenge to European security, but it is unlikely to defeat Europe. The full-blown methods of hybrid war witnessed in Crimea and then in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region have been extremely effective; but they are limited to local circumstances, which are marked in particular by a high concentration of people loyal to Russia combined with a weak Ukrainian state.

Hybrid warfare represents a major challenge to European security.
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A high concentration of a Russian-speaking population also exists in the Baltic states, but the local circumstances there are markedly different from those in Ukraine. Most importantly, the living standards and freedoms enjoyed by the Baltic states, which are higher than in Russia, mean that while local Russians may hold grievances, they would be unlikely to turn against their states. Also, the states’ structures and abilities to control their own territories are vastly superior in the compact Baltics than in expansive Ukraine.

However, the elements of hybrid warfare witnessed in recent months—incursions into other nations’ airspace,  cyberattacks, sponsoring of far-right and far-left parties, and information warfare—are likely to continue testing the West’s resolve. It is essential that NATO and the EU adopt firm measures to counter these practices. In particular, much higher attention must go toward countering Russian-sponsored propaganda, which is making inroads into the European youth.