Hybrid Warfare and Societal Resilience: Implications for Democratic Governance

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Information & Security: An International Journal, Volume 39, p.9-22 (2018)


This paper examines the changing nature of warfare and the implications for democratic governance. The first section describes “hybrid warfare” -- the central concept used by NATO to characterize modern war. It looks at the evolution of the concept, how it is defined, and some disputes over its ability to accurately capture the essence of modern war. In NATO the concept of “hybrid warfare” is used to analyze and characterize Russian actions in Ukraine and Crimea; however, the Russian military thinks a bit differently about modern warfare and does not use the term to characterize its own actions. Thus, in the second section, the paper examines the difference in Russian military thinking from that of the West’s. One of the main differences is the role and nature of cyber operations. Cyber operations, especially influence campaigns that include propaganda, disinformation, and “winning hearts and minds,” are key “irregular” components of hybrid warfare that seek decision through influencing the beliefs, values, and collective identity of the opponent’s population. Finally, in its third section, the paper argues that the ability of any democratic country to counter hybrid threats, in large part, depends on the willingness of its citizens to support government policies that ultimately undermine the basic freedoms that define what it means to be a democratic country. The paper suggests that democratic governance is being undermined by the policies that democratic countries, with the support of their citizens, institute in order to combat hybrid threats, particularly cyber threats.