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From Hybrid Threats to Hybrid Security Policy

By Christian Mölling

There is currently a lot of hype surrounding the term “hybrid warfare”, and the problems that NATO and EU countries face in dealing with hybrid threats extend far beyond the Ukraine/Russia conflict. Christian Mölling sets out why NATO and the EU should place the vulnerabilities of Western societies at the heart of a hybrid security policy to redefine the relationship between resilience, deterrence, and defense.

Mölling also discusses the extension of the “combat zone” as being a real danger. The West – particularly the United States – is still perceived as an opponent that is hard to beat militarily, which is why adversaries choose other methods. This extends or shifts the “combat zone”, especially into “non-military” fields such as politics and the economy. The means of combat here are often not the classical military means. Force takes on a new face, e.g. blackmail or propaganda. These methods are used by different actors, placing them well below the threshold of warfare. As a result, the gray area between war and peace also expands, and, according to Mölling, this is a “chronic” vulnerability for Europe.

Russia can make use of these possibilities for engaging in conflict, but so can any other actor. By focusing on Russia’s activities, Europe even risks losing sight of the issue of its own protection, and overlooking areas which increase Europe’s susceptibility to attack. In this context, Mölling cites four areas of conflict which are currently important: territorial integrity, necessary political cohesion, global interdependencies and the inner vulnerability of open and pluralistic societies. 

Because of these complex challenges, what Europe needs – in Mölling’s view – is not a European army, but rather a global security policy that enables a hybrid response and, as far as possible, simultaneously prevents escalation and military force through “deterrence”, “defense” and “resilience”. In this concept, the military still has a role to play, but not in the front row. This is about values such as escalation prevention, internal security, strengthening social unity in diversity, and crisis management as a typical element of security policy.

Mölling believes that the way in which hybrid wars have been dealt with so far is merely a repetition of old Cold War patterns. Instead of any real strategy, there is often only actionism – and the action usually comes too late. In many cases, before political decisions are actually implemented, a new “threat of the day” makes headlines. This can be seen in the current fight against IS and the security implications of the refugee crisis.

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