In this article, we analyse what hybrid war entails in the context of Russian military periodicals. Two dominant interpretations emerge from the debate. Hybrid war involves a conflict between civilizations and a geopolitical struggle for power. In both cases, the West is represented as an active participant in the conflict, intent upon undermining Russia’s geopolitical status, cultural code and political system. The debate emulates Russian official rhetoric about national security threats and thus consolidates official interpretations, rather than offers alternatives to them. Russian analysts have also engaged in more abstract theoretical analysis in which hybrid terminology is rarely used or is approached critically.

For example, the exclusion of the reflexive control theory from the debate is logical only if the purpose is to emphasize foreign roots of hybrid war, rather than Russian excellence in conducting information-psychological operations. In other words, the debate about hybrid war can be seen as a part of Russia’s strategic communication to the extent that the debate amplifies officially accepted vision of threats towards Russia.

Further research is required to assess the ways in which this debate has been used in shaping public perceptions of threats towards Russia.

Article available at:

Pynnöniemi, Katri & Minna Jokela (2020), Perceptions of hybrid war in Russia: Means, targets and objectives identified in the Russian debate, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/09557571.2020.1787949

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