Small Wars Journal

How Russia’s Hybrid Warfare is Changing

Mon, 07/17/2023 - 5:19pm

How Russia’s Hybrid Warfare is Changing

Larry Goodson and Marzena Żakowska

Abstract: This article argues that Russia's approach to hybrid warfare has undergone a shift, moving away from primarily relying on nonconventional measures and tactics towards a greater emphasis on conventional methods. The framework of the argument is constructed through an analysis of Russia's experiences in hybrid warfare across various conflicts such as the Afghan War, Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, and Ukraine. Methodologically, the analysis is based on the non-linear concept of hybrid warfare, commonly referred to as the “Gerasimov doctrine.” This concept acknowledges the utilization of both conventional military tactics and nonconventional tactics, emphasizing the use of nonconventional as primary measures. The evidence suggests that (i) the Georgia War of 2008 and the Ukraine War of 2014-2021 serve as the most prominent examples of Russia's approach to hybrid warfare; (ii) the comparison with the Ukraine War since February 2022 indicates that certain hybrid warfare measures may be transitioning towards a greater reliance on conventional means. This shift raises doubts about the effectiveness of implementing the hybrid warfare concept by Russia. It provides an opportunity to identify the determinants that may play a crucial role in this transformation. Consequently, the article highlights problems for further discussion to explore the evolving nature of Russia's approach to hybrid warfare and measures used for achieving national interests to preserve state security.

Keywords: hybrid warfare, Russia, state security, national interest


Russia's approach to hybrid warfare is characterized by a combination of military and nonmilitary measures aimed at achieving strategic objectives while maintaining operations below the threshold of war to undermine the sovereignty of target countries and influence their domestic politics. This concept, developed by General Valery Gerasimov, is referred to as non-linear warfare and serves as the methodological framework for this study.  Russia used hybrid measures in a series of small wars during the 1990s and the first fifteen years of the 2000s—Afghan War (1979-1992), the First (1994-1996) and Second (1999-2000, insurgency during 2000-2009) Chechen Wars; the Georgian War in 2008; the Syrian War from 2011 or 2015-Present (depending on the level of involvement). The evidence suggests that the earlier wars, prior to 2021, best demonstrate the reality of Russia’s approach to hybrid warfare. However, a comparison with the Ukraine War since February 2022 is noticeable that Russia's approach to hybrid warfare is changing toward prioritizing the use of conventional tactics and measures as the primary ones. Therefore, we argue that Russia's engagement in wars prior to 2014 primarily served as a testing ground for non-conventional measures. The war in Ukraine provided evidence that during the pre-full-scale invasion period of 2014-2021 (referred to as Ukraine 1), Russia employed a combination of conventional and non-conventional tactics. However, the subsequent full-scale invasion period from 2022 to the present (known as Ukraine 2) has predominantly witnessed the heavy utilization of conventional tactics. This shift highlights a noticeable change in Russia's approach to hybrid warfare, and it raises legitimate doubts regarding the continued utilization of the concept of hybrid warfare, particularly in the still ongoing war in Ukraine. Therefore, in this article, the following problems will be discussed (i) Russia’s approach to hybrid warfare; (ii) how Russia’s hybrid warfare appears to be changing; (iii) the factors that influenced the hybrid measures Russia uses.

  1. Russia’s Approach to Hybrid Warfare

Hybrid warfare is understood as the effort to use all instruments, elements, and determinants of power in a coordinated, comprehensive, and holistic way (including violence or the threat of violence) to achieve political end.[1]

This reflects the 21st-century approach to war, especially among the major powers. Russia devised its hybrid warfare approach a bit later, and it came to be known as “new generation” war, although it did not appear in print until 2013.[2] As the ideas set forth were articulated by General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation, they became erroneously called the “Gerasimov Doctrine.[3]  Gerasimov said:

“In the 21st century, we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template….The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, has exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness….All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, including carrying out actions of informational conflict and the actions of special-operations forces. The open use of forces — often under the guise of peacekeeping and crisis regulation — is resorted to only at a certain stage, primarily for the achievement of final success in the conflict.”[4]

Besides this, Gerasimov outlines the importance of non-military measures, he also emphasizes that military actions/warfare has a role in hybrid warfare, which the empirical tests by Russia in earlier conflicts had indicated. This approach raises some questions: When do we switch from nonmilitary measures to emphasizing military measures? And if military measures are taken as the primary stage in waging the war, do we still have hybrid warfare or conventional war?

Several key events significantly influenced the development of Russia's approach to hybrid warfare. Following World War II, the Soviet Union entered the Cold War, during which it became involved in numerous conflicts primarily in the Second and Third World. The Soviet Union and its opponent the USA relied heavily on their intelligence services, leading to engagement in covert operations and unconventional warfare, now referred to as a component of hybrid warfare. It is worth noting that the precise nature of these operations varied, but they often combined military force, political subversion, and propaganda. Then, the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, including the Berlin Wall, paved the way for the Eastern Bloc countries to consider turning more in the direction of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),[5] beginning with the initial question of what would happen to NATO once East and West Germany were reunified. In consequence, Russia began to focus on its “Near Abroad” (meaning the former Soviet Socialist republics and former Eastern Bloc countries) and view this area as Russia’s sphere of influence, due in part to its predominantly Slavic population. Not surprisingly, since 1991 Russia has fought several wars, all of which were either internal conflicts within Russia or wars in the Second or Third World (only two wars).[6] Most of the wars during this period were focused on keeping Russia intact or exerting pressure on former Eastern Bloc countries to remain aligned with Moscow. In small conflicts, Russia engaged its military after initiating hostilities with cyber and information attacks. Moreover, when Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency in 2000, the role of Russia’s intelligence agencies and efforts to use a “borderization” policy (claiming the border area of the attacked country/district, usually based on language or ethnicity of the people living there) to pull Russian-speaking or Russian-leaning populations closer to Russia became crucial tools in Russia’s security approach, as Russia embraced its hybrid warfare strategy. 

The collapse of the Soviet Union had a profound impact on the Russian Federation’s approach to war. It led to a shift towards a more defensive military posture and a greater reliance on asymmetric warfare strategies.[7] With limited resources and a weaker military, Russia began to rely more heavily on unconventional warfare tactics such as information warfare and proxy warfare. This approach allowed Moscow to leverage its strengths in areas such as intelligence gathering and covert operations while avoiding direct confrontation with stronger opponents. Additionally, Russia realized that it could no longer rely solely on military power to achieve its strategic objectives. Consequently, it implemented a renewed focus on diplomacy and international cooperation to pursue a more diplomatic course in foreign policy. Russia saw the fall of the Soviet Union as a great catastrophe and wished to have the USSR back.[8] Since Russia cannot quite rebuild a Communist empire ruling over Eastern Europe, it oriented its policy toward building a Russkiy mir (“Russian world”), which is sort of a Slavic Union, thus pulling together the Slavs that are found in Russia’s “Near Abroad.”[9] These terms are often used by Russian elites to refer to policy and the strategies designed to execute that policy. Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the USSR forced Russia to adapt its military doctrine to address the post-Soviet geopolitical landscape. During the Soviet era, the overarching policy and strategy focused on combating capitalist democracy prevalent in Europe and North America, defending the socialist state, promoting communist ideology, and deterring potential aggressors by threatening with or employing a combination of conventional forces and nuclear weapons. Following the change in the security environment, Russia faced challenges—the loss of its superpower status, greatly reduced military funding resulting from ongoing economic problems during the country's transition period, and lessons learned from the Kosovo and Chechnya wars, particularly in terms of cooperation with NATO.[10] Primarily, the NATO enlargement process in the 1990s played a pivotal role in shaping the military doctrine, as it raised Russia's concerns about the potential threat to national security. Between 1999 and 2004, ten Central and Eastern European countries joined NATO. In 2009, Albania and Croatia were incorporated as part of the next phase of the 'open door' approach, continued by the inclusion of Montenegro in 2017, the Republic of North Macedonia in 2020, and Finland in 2023.[11]

Furthermore, the dialogue and cooperation initiated by NATO with Ukraine and Georgia in the early 1990s were perceived by the Kremlin as efforts to undermine its sphere of influence, encircle Russia, and weaken Russia's position as a regional and global power. Moscow considered both Georgia and Ukraine to be within the natural sphere of Russia's influence. Those states depend largely on Russia for energy and commerce and are crucial transit countries for the transportation of Russian oil and gas.[12] Consequently, Russia employed a strategy using hybrid measures that hindered NATO's willingness to include these states, ultimately resulting in armed conflicts with Georgia and Ukraine. These actions allowed Russia to exert influence and advance its interests without necessarily provoking a full-scale military response from its adversaries, thus avoiding direct conflict with NATO. In 2019, Russia's Chief of General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, described this strategy as 'active defense,' emphasizing the importance of anticipatory actions during periods of military threat or crisis. This approach encompasses preemptive strikes and the direct use of force against opponents. The primary goal is to preemptively neutralize threats to national security by achieving surprise, decisiveness, and continuity in strategic action. Rapid action is necessary to preempt adversaries through preventive measures, timely identification of vulnerabilities, and the creation of threats that cause unacceptable damage.[13] This strategy enables Russia to seize and maintain and maintaining the initiative.

  1. How Russia’s Hybrid Warfare Appears to be Changing

As has already been discussed, Russia’s approach to hybrid warfare has been based on using a number of non-traditional or statecraft-oriented approaches to war, testing those during the 1990s and the first two decades of the twenty-first century, and finding ways to use non-military measures to set up conditions enabling military measures.  The wars and military operations undertaken by Russia during its post-USSR era serve as empirical evidence of a shift in its military approach. These endeavors involved the repeated implementation of hybrid actions that incorporate non-military or less overtly military measures while still exerting or threatening the use of force. Thus far, Russia has utilized empirical tests of its hybrid warfare approach developed following the collapse of the Soviet Union to leverage its desire to regain its Near Abroad (or Russkiy Mir) or at least deny NATO control of this region.[14] It has used hybrid warfare military and nonmilitary tactics, techniques, and procedures in conflicts in or near Russia, including the latter stages of the Afghan War (1979-1992); the First (1994-1996) and the Second (1999-2000, insurgency during 2000-2009) Chechen Wars; the Georgian War in 2008; the Syrian War from 2011 or 2015-Present (depending on the level of involvement) as well as the war in Ukraine. The latter stages of the Afghan War (1979-1992), following the Geneva Accords that formally ended direct Soviet military involvement in 1989, saw the use of mercenaries and “rented” Afghan proxies to fight the mujahideen, as well as the widespread use of intelligence assets, weapons deliveries, and cash.[15] The two Chechen Wars (1994-1996 and 1998-2000) also witnessed the use of cyber, including both distributed denial of service (DDOS) and information campaigns (this largely failed in Afghanistan) and finding ways to obfuscate the identity of various participants in the war including separatists, mercenaries, criminal networks, and classified operators (“Little Green Men”).[16] Ultimately, despite demilitarization, Chechnya, Ingushtia, North Ossetia, and Dagestan remained problematic areas within Russia, with terrorism and insurgency still providing the use of various forms of attack in the years following the formal wars.[17] The Georgia War of 2008 saw a wider and more coherent use of early-stage hybrid methods, suggesting that perhaps this might be the approach Russia would use in future conflicts. Cyberwar (both DOS and DDOS) was used prior to and during the conventional military attacks,[18] along with information warfare centered in part on borderization, disinformation and propaganda, diplomatic efforts, and full use of the Russian military both in combat and in support of proxies and separatists.[19] The Syrian War that began as part of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 provided Russia with a chance to use hybrid warfare in a different way and outside its Near Abroad. Russian troops were not deployed in Syria until 2015. However, starting in 2011, Russia sent Islamists (mostly Chechens) to Turkey from Dagestan and other areas where they had been prior to the war. These individuals then crossed into Syria to fight against the Russian-supported Assad regime. This strategy allowed Russia to target domestic Islamists, remove them from the country, and reduce the risk of insurgencies and terrorist attacks on its own soil by involving them in the conflict in Syria. Many of them joined the rebel group called Sabri Jamaat or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).[20]  Eventually, once the Russians formally entered the war in 2015 in support of the Damascus regime, Russia used its navy and air forces for air attacks, as well as ground troops and contractors (mercenaries). The mercenaries, particularly the Wagner Group, have been frequently employed by Russia in various conflicts over the past 30 years, especially in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia.[21]

In 2014, Russia initiated an intervention in Ukraine (started so-called phase Ukraine I), utilizing a range of hybrid measures to invade and seize control of Crimea. This intervention was later expanded into the Donbas region. The prelude to those events can be observed in the implementation of hybrid measures by Russia, notably including interference in Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution (which Russia perceived as American-led)[22] and the 2014 Euromaidan Protests.[23] Connected to the revolutions and protests, as well as to the early struggles for fair elections in a deeply corrupt society, controlled by oligarchs, Russia also attempted to discredit the West in the Ukrainian public's opinion, reverse the European and Euro-Atlantic agenda, and use radical nationalist and pro-Kremlin groups to weaken state security and create societal polarization.[24] Some of the latter activity was by supporting pro-Russian groups that orchestrated protests and violent incidents. Russian disinformation and propaganda, aimed at creating societal divisions in Ukraine, came from multiple sources, including repeated speeches and comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin. These information campaigns helped pave the way for a “borderization policy,” similar to what was seen in Georgia in 2008. Russia’s use of military and para-military (both the “little green men” of Crimea and overt Russian troops, mercenaries, criminal groups, and separatists) centered on Russian-speaking and Russian-oriented areas Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. Most notably, as mentioned above, Russia deployed criminal gangs, mercenaries (not only the Wagner Group), Special Forces, and others as “little green men” in Crimea, as a measure of “proxifying” the attack on a non-contiguous territory, as well as their own troops on both sides of the border in Donbas.  Finally, Russia also used other hybrid methods, including DDOS attacks, and financial efforts to close off Ukrainian grain exports. Moreover, the Kremlin made extensive efforts to rally diplomatic support from other countries and built the Crimean Bridge, linking Crimea to major Russian military bases in the Southern Military District of Russia.[25]

It should be noted that the so-called Ukraine 2 phase, which encompasses the full-scale invasion period from 2022 to the present, differed significantly from Ukraine 1. During Ukraine 2, Russia placed a much stronger emphasis on conventional military operations, shifting away from its primary reliance on nonconventional measures in Ukraine 1. Moreover, in addition to deploying increasing numbers of military forces on the Ukrainian border a year ahead of Ukraine 2 (called by Russia’s government a “special military operation”),[26] with an ultimate troop buildup prior to the 22 February 2022 invasion of 300,000 military and para-military forces.[27] Efforts were also made to assassinate the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.[28] Relatively early in the war it became apparent that Russian forces were committing war crimes and atrocities against civilians.[29] The unexpected challenge for Russia was its struggle to maintain the number of troops throughout the conflict. Initially, Russia attempted a multiple-pronged operation targeting Ukraine's major cities. However, as the conflict progressed, Russia faced casualties and burnout, leading to the mobilization of additional troops, changes in command, and increased reliance on mercenaries.[30] The next challenge the Kremlin faced was the quantitative and qualitative shortages of military equipment. Much of the equipment owned by the Russian army was technologically outdated and obsolescent. However, despite these limitations, Russia still deploys various advanced weapons, such as hypersonic weapons and thermobaric bombs, as well as phosphorus bombs, drones, and a range of non-precision weapons targeting civilian areas. Additionally, Putin's regime employed a variety of aircraft using both dumb bombs and cruise missiles.[31] The West alerted the world that Russia has considered the use of biological and/or chemical weapons, and Putin has repeatedly threatened the use of nuclear weapons to compel Ukraine to surrender, and Western countries to halt their assistance.[32] These threats of force fall clearly in the military area, even if they may be frequently announced politically or diplomatically.

During the Ukraine war, Russia has employed a range of hybrid approaches blended with conventional military means. This includes the use of proxy forces such as the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as various irregular fighters. These measures collectively served to militarize the eastern territories, making them more vulnerable to borderization, thus undermining state sovereignty and territorial integrity by establishing “proxy occupation.”[33] Consequently, the Kremlin was able to “annex” Crimea in 2014 and later, in 2022, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk. This annexation can be seen as a point of culmination and the desired end-state of the borderization policy, even if it means gobbling up Ukraine a piece at a time rather than the clear intent of Russian strategy in late February 2022. Furthermore, Russia has tried to use (i) economic pressure, initially through its gas weapon in Europe[34] and then through efforts to close off Ukraine’s grain shipments which threaten to destabilize the global food market;[35] (ii) diplomacy—trying to line up other countries to support its 2022 invasion of Ukraine and circumvent the diplomatic pressure imposed by the United States, NATO, and most of the world’s countries, as well as the numerous sanctions imposed by many of those countries and multiple international organizations;[36] (iii) widespread information campaigns, both within Russia and aimed at Ukraine, especially using the Russian Orthodox Church and undermining the recent Orthodox Church of Ukraine;[37] (iv) and critical infrastructure destruction, e.g., to strike the electrical supplies during the winter of 2022-2023, and multiple attacks on other critical infrastructure, to include dams like the destruction of Kokhavka Dam in June 2023.[38] These are only a sample of the hybrid weapons used; although they did fade into the background somewhat due to the strong preliminary activities of NATO to identify and pre-empt Russian false flag operations and use hybrid weapons better than Russia had done.[39] Also, as these approaches were aimed at the Ukrainian population, after more than eight years of war the Ukrainian population was unlikely to be easily convinced of Russian overtures.

During Ukraine 1, many Russian experts forecasted that Russia would not and could not follow a purely hybrid approach, and indeed Russia changed for Ukraine 2 and went heavy from the very beginning with military threats and attacks, with limited hybrid approaches being used successfully.[40] There are several factors that could have potentially accelerated the military attacks, these include (i) Vladimir Putin's health condition and concerns about his age, (ii) the risk of turning numerous Russian supporters against the war, (iii) the risk of facing assassinations. Alternatively, Russia might have perceived a “special military operation” as the appropriate approach to take at this stage of the ongoing Ukraine War, combining the conflicts of Ukraine 1 and 2 together. Another noteworthy aspect is the inclusion of a new objective in Ukraine 2 pursued by the Kremlin—to 'save the face' of the Putin regime, in addition to the objective of safeguarding Russia’s sphere of influence and preventing NATO’s eastward expansion visible in Ukraine 1 and Ukraine 2. This might also explain Russia's utilization of substantial military forces and transition towards a broader, more conventional style of warfare. Ultimately, Russia's military aggression against Ukraine flagrantly violates fundamental norms and principles of international law, as well as bilateral and multilateral agreements, which raises additional questions about why Russia chose to go with a heavy conventional approach so vigorously when a more nuanced hybrid approach would have kept the Western response more uncertain and muted.[41]

The factors that influenced the hybrid measures Russia used

Clausewitz’s chance played a critical role early in the war (and will undoubtedly play a role again).  Failed assassinations have left the Ukrainian leadership largely in place since the start of the war; this has helped the leadership build civil resistance in Ukraine.[42] Moreover, since 2014 the war in Ukraine had settled into low-intensity trench warfare, so when in 2021 Russia began to build up and maintain larger numbers of forces just beyond Ukraine’s borders, almost everyone in Ukraine and the West knew that a major war was likely to come. What was not so clear to the world was the extent to which Russia’s conscripted and inadequately-equipped military would perform poorly in Ukraine.[43]

The longer arc of the Ukraine war with Russia also played a key role in several ways, both for Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s primary hybrid tools were longer-term approaches that did not bear much fruit given what had already occurred from 2014 (and before)-onward. For example, using radical nationalist and pro-Kremlin groups to weaken state security and create societal polarization had less effect outside of eastern oblasts as time went on. Discrediting the West in Ukrainian public opinion and trying to reverse the European and Euro-Atlantic agenda also failed with most Ukrainians. One of us saw first-hand in Kiev in 2019 how the long Ukrainian fight had changed Ukraine into a country that wanted to turn toward Europe and away from Russia.[44] Of course, Russia’s desire to portray Ukraine as firmly in its camp and unable to rise above its socio-political and economic problems (e.g., corruption and disunity) that could not bring any value to the West probably undercut its efforts to get Ukrainians to turn away from an European future. Meanwhile, as already suggested, Ukraine realized from 2014-on that it was in an existential war and it took steps through that period to prepare for the next big round of the war. In particular, the United States, along with other NATO countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Poland, had been training the Ukrainian military since 2015, and the United States began to provide assistance to Ukraine throughout this period, first with non-lethal aid and then lethal aid in 2017.[45]

However, the pivotal aspect is that the West has demonstrated a superior ability to employ hybrid measures compared to Russia in the period leading up to, at the onset of, and during the first year of Ukraine 2. Leveraging intelligence assessments shared across NATO and USA intelligence agencies, Western countries were aware of Russia's impending attack on Ukraine before it even commenced. By preemptively exposing false flag Russian operations, the West effectively neutralized their operational success. Furthermore, the West provided Ukrainian officials with early and invaluable intelligence, enabling them to prepare for Russia's initial assaults.[46] Governments and companies from the West also shielded Ukraine from Russia's cyberattack attempts[47] and disseminated warnings to both Russian citizens and those from pro-Russian countries, using both government and private channels. The United States, European Union, and NATO led the world in widespread sanctions on Russian leaders, companies, the government, and through targeted secondary sanctions forced Western and other major countries to pull out of Russia. The West also implemented significant cultural sanctions on Russia, forcing Russia out of the G-8, the World Cup, numerous other sporting events, and "econo-cultural" events (the ballet, orchestras, movies, etc.), limiting Russia’s religious and academic influence abroad and in other Slavic countries, and prohibited the Kremlin from the implementation of projects for integration of the annexed territory of Ukraine with Russia.[48]

Western support to Ukraine, such as financial, humanitarian, and military aid, have significantly influenced the establishment of a better position for Ukrainians on the battlefield. During the first year of the Russian invasion, Western countries committed to providing Ukraine with significant financial, military, and humanitarian aid and support, along with assistance in hosting refugees (Figure 1).

Fig 1

Figure 1. Total bilateral commitments plus refugee costs (billion Euros) from January 24, 2022 to January 15, 2023. Source: Christoph Trebesch, Arianna Antezza, Katelyn Bushnell, André Frank, Pascal Frank, Lukas Franz, Ivan Kharitonov, Bharath Kumar, Ekaterina Rebinskaya and Stefan Schramm, The Ukraine support tracker: which countries help Ukraine and how?, Working Paper no. 2218, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, February 2023, 30.

The military assistance provided by the largest group of NATO countries, in the form of small arms and equipment, deserves special mention for its crucial role in enhancing preparedness, strengthening capabilities, and improving the overall readiness of Ukrainian forces on the battlefield. Prior to the full-scale Russian invasion, this support included supplying weaponry such as hand grenades, pistols, submachine guns, assault and sniper rifles, light and automatic grenade launchers, anti-tank grenade launchers, anti-tank guided missiles, point air defense systems, mortars, mines, sapper equipment, MRAP-class vehicles, off-road vehicles, trucks, ammunition, and other essential equipment needed by the military (Table 1).

Table 1

Table 1. Assistance in small arms and equipment for Ukraine until June 2022Source: Maciej Andrzej Piotrowski, Militrary-Technical Assistance to Ukraine. An Assessment of its Short – And Medium-Term Needs, PISM Report, December 2022, 66.

One notable advantage of this military assistance is that it did not necessitate special training for Ukrainian forces. The small arms and equipment provided were already familiar to the Ukrainian military, making it easier for them to incorporate these resources into their existing operations. This aspect saved valuable time and resources that would otherwise have been required for extensive training programs. Moreover, this assistance did not pose any risks of escalation for Ukraine's partners. It was aimed at supporting Ukraine's defense capabilities and was not intended to provoke further aggression or escalate the conflict. The aid was provided within the framework of international cooperation and support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This support persisted throughout the invasion, encompassing the provision of heavy weaponry such as tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery (howitzers), anti-aircraft missiles, ammunition, grenades, mortars, and reconnaissance drones.[49] The United States has far and away dominated the provision of military aid to Ukraine, although a number of NATO countries have contributed an equal or greater amount in terms of percentage of the budget. According to the Congressional Research Service on 26 January 2023, “U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine as of January 25, 2023, has included the following:

  • 8 National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
  • 1 Patriot air defense battery and munitions;
  • 38 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and ammunition;
  • 1 M1 Abrams tanks, 45 T-72B tanks and 109 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles;
  • 300 M113 and 90 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers;
  • 1,600+ Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
  • 8,500+ Javelin anti-armor systems and 50,000+ other anti-armor systems;
  • 1,800+ Phoenix Ghost Tactical UAS, 700+ Switchblade Tactical UAS, and other UAS;
  • 160 155 mm and 72 105 mm Howitzers with more than 1.5 million artillery rounds; · 30 120 mm mortar systems and 166,000 mortar rounds;
  • Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems;
  • 2,590 Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles, high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs), and laser-guided rocket systems;
  • 13,000+ grenade launchers and small arms; and
  • communications, radar, and intelligence equipment.”[50]

Based on the Western country's decision reached in February 2022 Ukraine will receive 300 tanks. These tanks were sourced primarily from the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Germany.[51] Fast forward to May 2023, and the latest information confirms the specifics of the tank deployment: The United States has committed to sending 31 Abrams tanks, demonstrating its continued support for Ukraine's defense needs; the United Kingdom is equally committed to aiding Ukraine and has contributed 14 Challenger 2 tanks; Germany, recognizing the importance of bolstering Ukraine's defense, has also stepped up by providing 14 Leopard 2 tanks; Poland initially dispatched four Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and it is further committed to sending an additional ten tanks in ongoing support. This collective effort from the Western countries highlights their commitment to Ukraine's security and their recognition of the significance of providing armored support. The provision of these tanks represents a tangible show of solidarity, with each nation contributing their expertise and resources to assist Ukraine in enhancing its defensive capabilities during this critical period.[52] Some Western countries have additionally supplied fighter aircraft, including the delivery of MIG-29s to Ukraine. The United States, in particular, has made commitments to provide F-16s and has initiated training programs for Ukrainian pilots.[53] Moreover, in October 2022 the EU launched the Military Assistance Mission in Support of Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine). The mission is a direct response to Ukraine's request for support addressed to the High Representative. Its main objective is to provide individual, collective, and specialized training to Ukraine's Armed Forces. Moreover, the mission seeks to coordinate and harmonize the training activities of member states participating in EUAMA.[54] Another notable achievement of the West was its successful management of the refugee crisis in Ukraine. By various dates in January some eight million refugees had fled into various European countries, with Russia at nearly 2.9 million, Poland at nearly 1.6 million, and Germany with just over 1.0 million leading the way.[55] An additional 5.194 million internally displaced persons are scattered around Ukraine, as updated on 20 December 2022.[56] In just under one year of the war, over 17.92 million border crossings of refugees from and returnees to Ukraine, with most of the refugees going from Ukraine to Poland, but many of those coming back to Ukraine again.[57]

Future discussion – key points

For a broader understanding of the evolving changes in Russia's concept of hybrid warfare, it is necessary to focus further discussion on the following issues:

  1. Using conventional and non-conventional measures in a hybrid warfare concept. Russia's involvement in conflicts has exhibited adjustment/shift in the application of various measures. Initially described in the concept of non-linear war, where non-conventional methods predominated, there has been a discernible transition towards a greater emphasis on conventional approaches. Understanding this evolution and the character of the factors causing this change is pivotal in evaluating and effectively responding to hybrid conflicts, including developing “counter-hybrid warfare” strategies. A closer examination necessitates the consideration of information operations, cyber operations, and the state's military potential, capabilities, and modernization (see Figure 2).
Fig 2

Figure 2. Non-conventional and conventional measures used by Russia in Ukraine 1 and Ukraine 2

Source: Authors' elaboration.

  1. Gray zone tactics. Russia has extensively employed tactics that operate in the gray zone between war and peace. These actions encompass covert operations, economic coercion, political manipulation, and subversion. Investigating such activities is crucial for regional security and stability.
  2. Use of proxy forces, mercenaries, and criminal gangs as a “parallel army” formula. Russia's utilization of proxy forces, mercenaries, and criminal gangs as a 'parallel army' strategy is notable. It is important to assess the extent of Russia's involvement, including its training and support for such groups in conflicts, in order to forecast the dynamics and termination of the conflict.
  3. This exploration focuses on Russia's approach to pursuing its national interests by analyzing its actions and measures employed in conflicts, particularly organized civil unrest and separatist movements, referendums, military operations, and annexations. The conceptual framework developed (Figure 3) serves as a basis for facilitating discussions on utilizing measures and mechanisms to achieve national interests.
Fig 3

Figure 3. Russia's modus operandi for achieving national interests

Source: Authors' elaboration.


The study of Russia's approach to hybrid warfare, based on empirical evidence from its engagement in conflicts during the 1990s and the first two decades of the 21st century, clearly demonstrates that the approach has evolved over time. It has transitioned from primarily relying on nonconventional measures to adopting a more conventional approach. While Gerasimov's concept of non-linear warfare acknowledges the use of conventional means, but the war in Ukraine since February 2022 suggests that the previous hybrid warfare strategies did not achieve Russian objectives in a timely manner, unless the attacked entity is quite small or remote to Europe. Consequently, Russia has resorted to employing traditional conventional means, raising questions about the effectiveness of hybrid warfare. In Ukraine 1 (period 2014-2021), Russia employed nonconventional measures, including deploying criminal gangs, mercenaries (including the Wagner Group), Special Forces, and “little green men” in Crimea, alongside their own troops from both sides of the border in Donbas. However, in Ukraine 2 (2022-present), the situation radically shifted towards a primarily conventional style of operation, utilizing the regular army supported by proxy forces and mercenaries.

Several factors contributed to this shift, including the failed assassination attempt on the Ukrainian president, escalating civil unrest within Ukrainian society, the outdated equipment of the Russian army, a shortage of soldiers, limited positive response to mobilization calls, inconsistency in strategy and tactics, as well as mediocre command. Another crucial factor was the strong and united response from the West to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, observed particularly in Ukraine 2. The West imposed a wide range of sanctions on Russia and provided comprehensive support to Ukraine, including intelligence information, military assistance, humanitarian aid, financial support, and assistance for Ukrainian refugees. Those actions present well used by the West's strategy to counter Russia's hybrid measures.

The careful analysis of Russia's style of current operations leads us to believe that Russia is likely to lose this war, regardless of the outcome, and we think its mistake was that it designed an approach to war that we call hybrid warfare and then abandoned it for their second attempt at Ukraine (namely Ukraine 2). It is possible that approach could never have worked in Ukraine, given that it was the eighth-largest country in Europe, prior to the Russian invasion that forced out so many people. Thus, it is a far larger country than the other empirical tests of the Russian hybrid war in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, or other smaller or non-European countries. Furthermore, the ongoing operations in Ukraine from 2015-2022 alerted Europe, the United States, and Ukraine itself that another full-scale war was eventually coming. Russia overestimated its ability to win the war in Ukraine and probably underestimated the Western countries and particularly the United States after its withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, it should be noted that Russia was already planning to attack Ukraine at that point, so perhaps the USA withdrawal was just in time.

It is worth mentioning that Russia is still using its hybrid approach in various regions in Africa, but it is doubtful that it can continue that approach to regain much of its Near Abroad, although some of the Slavic peoples might still align with Russia. Winning with a poor autocratic government, a poor economy, a contracting population, but a massive land area with great resources that ultimately China and Europe want, provides Russia with few options for achieving its policies or strategies in the years ahead, regardless of the theory of war it adopts.  Perhaps the biggest lesson of this war is that a declining Russia must change its ways if it wishes to bring its neighbors back to a 21st-century version of the USSR.

On the other hand, Russia’s best theory of war for much of its history was to use terrain and fight defensively. That is still available, assuming Russia can develop leaders that can motivate the people with nationalism rather than Russkiy Mir (Slavic Union) concepts, which perhaps reach too far and require offensive capability. And yet, it still has a massive nuclear arsenal, meant as a deterrent but in the current environment with the current leadership often referred to in offensive terms. Russia needs to step away from this methodology and return to its hybrid warfare approach, where its military capability is primarily focused on defensive measures. Under the current government, this seems unlikely, and avoiding a wider-scale European war is becoming a significant challenge.

The change in Russia's approach to waging the war in Ukraine may only happen when significant shifts in state authority are established, either through civil unrest or a military coup. History has demonstrated that Russia has experienced such changes on numerous occasions. We can only hope that if such a situation arises now, the new ruling elites will possess the means and strategies to put an end to this bloody and endless war.



This article article does not necessarily reflect the views of the US Army War College, Department of Defense, or the US government.

[1] Based on the analysis the concepts of hybrid warfare presented by Frank Hoffman, Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars, Arlington: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007; William J. Nemeth, Future war and Chechnya: A case for hybrid warfare, Monterey, CA 2002; John J. McCuen, “Hybrid Wars,” Military Review 2 (2008);  Robert G. Walker, SPEC FI: The United States Marine Corps and Special Operations, Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School 1998.

[2] Valery V. Gerasimov, “The Value of Science is Foresight,” Military-Industrial Kurier, 26 February 2013, Note that Gerasimov is describing the Russian view of what happened in the Arab Spring and Western intervention in Libya and how to defend Russia and its interests against it.  Mark Galeotti’s comment: “The essence of this non-linear war is, as Gerasimov says, that the war is everywhere.”; Mark Galeotti, “The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War,” Moscow’s Shadows, 6 July 2014,

[3] Mark Galeotti, Ibid.

[4] Valery V. Gerasimov, Ibid.

[5] NATO, Enlargement and Article 10,

[6] Note: Georgian Civil War (1991–1993); South Ossetian War (1991–1992), War in Abkhazia (1992–1993), Transnistria War (1992), East Prigorodny Conflict (1992), Tajikistani Civil War (1992–1997), First Chechen War (1994–1996), War of Dagestan (1999), Second Chechen War (1999–2009), Russo-Georgian War (2008), Insurgency in the North Caucasus (2009–2017), Russo-Ukrainian War (2014–present), Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War (2015–present), Central African Republic Civil War (2018–present).

[7] Michael Kofman, Anya Fink, Dmitry Gorenburg, Mary Chesnut, Jeffrey Edmonds, and Julian Waller, “Russian Military Strategy: Core Tenets and Operational Concepts,” Center for Naval Analyses, 2021, DRM-2021-U-029755-Final,18-21, 26-29.

[8] Vladimir Putin, Annual Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Speech, 25 April 2005,

[9] Stefan Meister, Russkiy Mir: "Russian World," German Council on Foreign Relations, 3 May 2016, For broader explanation of the concept Russkiy Mir (“Russian World”) see Mikhail Suslov, “Russian World” Concept: Post-Soviet Geopolitical Ideology and the Logic of “Spheres of Influence,” Geopolitics 23, no. 2 (2018), DOI:10.1080/14650045.2017.1407921.

[10] Michael Mandelbaum, The New Russian Foreign Policy, New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1998; Alexei G. Arbatov, “The Transformation of Russian Military Doctrine: Lessons Learned from Kosovo and Chechnya,” The Marshall Center Paper, no 2, July 2000,

[11] NATO, Enlargement and Article 10, April 2023,

[12] Dušica Lazarević, NATO Enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia: Old Wine in New Bottles?, Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes,  Connections 9, no. 1 (2009): 47,; John Mearsheimer, “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs 93, no 5 (2014):78-80.

[13] Michael Kofman, Anya Fink, Dimitry Gorenburg, Mary Chesnut, Jeffrey Edmonds and Julian Waller, “Russian Military Strategy: Core Tenets and Operational Concepts,” CAN, DRM-2021-U-029755-Final, August 2021, 5-9.

[14] China and Iran have also tested, but in different ways focused on their regional goals and environments.

[15] Larry P. Goodson, Afghanistan's Endless War.  Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2001, 70-73; Barnett R. Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, 2nd ed.   New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002, 148-149; Ralph H. Magnus and Eden Naby, Afghanistan: Mullah, Marx, and Mujahid.  Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998, 133-134.

[16] Roland Heickerö, Emerging Cyber Threats and Russian Views on Information Warfare and Information Operations, FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency, March 2010, 15-16,; Diana Roy, “Russian Propagandistic Rhetoric during the Chechen Wars,” International Policy Digest, 28 October 2019, Organizing information campaigns and operations in Chechnya was possible due to Russia's control over the majority of the mass media, see Ali Askerov, “The Chechen wars, media, and democracy in Russia,” Innovative Issues and Approaches in Social Sciences 8, no. 2 (2015): 8-24.

[17] For information regarding North Caucasian terrorists see Vassily A. Klimentov, “Bringing the War Home: The Strategic Logic of “North Caucasian Terrorism” in Russia,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 32, no. 2 (2021), 379-408; Emil Aslan Souleimanov, The North Caucasus Insurgency: Dead or Alive?,
Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2017.

[18] Roland Heickerö, Emerging Cyber Threats and Russian Views on Information Warfare and Information Operations, FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency, March 2010, 43-46,; David Hollis, “Cyberwar Case Study: Georgia 2008,” Small Wars Journal, 6 January 2011, 2,

[19] Natia Seskuria, Russia’s “Hybrid Aggression” against Georgia: The Use of Local and External Tools,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2021,; Jadwiga Rogoża, Agata Dubas, “Russian propaganda war: media as a long- and short-range weapon,” OSW/Centre for Eastern Studies, no. 9 (2008),; Ariel Cohen and Robert E. Hamilton, The Russian Military and the Georgia War: Lessons and Implications, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2011, 35-49,

[20] Maria Tsvetkova, “How Russia allowed homegrown radicals to go and fight in Syria,” Reuters, 13 May 2016,; Michael Weiss, “Russia's Double Game with Islamic Terror,” The Daily Beast, 12 July 2017,;  Neil Hauer, “Chechen and North Caucasian militants in Syria,” Atlantic Council, 18 January 2018,; Murad Batal al-Shishani, “Chechens drawn south to fight against Syria's Assad,” BBC News, 20 November 2013,  

[21] Andreas Heinemann-Grüder, “Russia’s State-Sponsored Killers: The Wagner Group,” Russian Analytical Digest no. 290 (2022): 2-4; Alan Boswell interview with Julia Steers, Russia’s Wagner in Africa, International Crisis Group Podcast, 23 March 2023,; Dominika Kulig, “The Russian Way of “Diplomacy” – the Wagner Group in Africa,” Pulaski Policy Papers,; Simone Schlindwein, Are white mercenaries fighting in the DRC conflict?, DW, 17 January 2023,; Maxim Samorukov, “What’s Behind the Posturing of Russian Mercenaries in the Balkans?,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 6 April 2023,; Kseniya Kirillova, “Wagner and the Serbs,” The Center for European Policy Analysis, 25 January 2023,; Nick Squires, “Wagner mercenaries helping Serbia prepare a potential attack on our nation, Kosovan president warns,” The Telegraph, 11 February 2023,

[22] Hans van Zon, “Why the Orange Revolution succeeded”, Perspectives on European Policy and Society 6, no. 3 (2005): 382-383, 388.

[23] Ellen Nakashima, “Inside a Russian disinformation campaign in Ukraine in 2014,” Washington Post, 25 December 2017,; Christopher M. Smith, “Russian Disinformation During Euromaidan,” International Policy Digest, 4 March 2022,

[24] Regarding Russia discrediting the West see: Stephen Hutchings and Joanna Szostek, Dominant Narratives in Russian Political and Media Discourse during the Ukraine Crisis in Ukraine and Russia: People, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives, ed. Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska & Richard Sakwa, Bristol, England: E-International Relations, 2016, 184-188.

[25] Institute for the Study of War, Ukraine Conflict Updates,

[26] Mykola Bielieskov, The Russian and Ukrainian Spring 2021 War Scare, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 21 September 2021,

[27] David Brown, “Ukraine conflict: Where are Russia's troops?,” BBC News, 23 February 2022,; Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold, “Russian military build-up near Ukraine numbers more than 100000 troops, EU says,” Reuters, 19 April 2021,; Gustav Gressel, “Waves of ambition: Russia’s military build-up in Crimea and the Black Sea,” European Council on Foreign Relations - Policy Brief, 21 September 2021,  Shane Harris and Paul Sonne, “Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops, U.S. intelligence warns,” Washington Post, 3 December 2021,

[28] Namita Singh, “Ukraine’s Zelensky has survived more than a dozen assassination attempts, adviser claims,” Independent, 10 March 2022,; Gerrard Kaonga, “Volodymyr Zelensky Survives Three Assassination Attempts in One Week”, Newsweek, 3 April 2022,

[29] “Ukraine: Apparent War Crimes in Russia - Controlled Areas,” Human Rights Watch, 3 April 2022,; Christopher Martz et al., Russian War Crimes Against Ukraine: The Breach of International Humanitarian Law by the Russian Federation, Global Accountability Network, 11 May 2022, 33-38.

[30] David Axe, “It’s Possible 270,000 Russians Have Been Killed Or Wounded In Ukraine,” Forbes, 7 February 2023,

[31] Donatas Palavenis, The Use of Emerging Disruptive Technologies by the Russian Armed Forces in the Ukrainian War, Air Land Sea Application Center, 1 October 2022,; Mark Hiznay interview with Amy Braunschweiger, Weapons of War in Ukraine, Human Rights Watch, 24 March 2022,; James Beardsworth, “Explainer: What is White Phosphorus and Is Russia Using it in Ukraine?,” The Moscow Times/ Independent News from Russia, 5 July 2022,; Nick Macfie, “Russia says it has deployed Kinzhal hypersonic missile three times in Ukraine,” Reuters, 21 August 2022,; Matt Murphy, “Ukraine war: Russia accused of using phosphorus bombs in Bakhmut,” BBC News, 6 May 2023,; Pavel Polityuk and Tom Balmforth, “Explainer: What are the 'kamikaze drones' Russia is using in Ukraine?,” Reuters, 18 October 2022,; “Ukraine: Russian ‘dumb bomb’ air strike killed civilians in Chernihiv – new investigation and testimony,” Amnesty International, 9 March 2022,; Ellen Mitchelle, “Pentagon sees indications Russia using ‘dumb’ bombs in Ukraine,” The Hill, 9 March 2022,

[32] Carol E. Lee and Teaganne Finn, “U.S. warns Russia could use chemical weapons in false-flag operation in Ukraine,” NBC News, 9 March 2022,; Benjamin Wakefield and Patricia Lewis, “Ukraine: Is a chemical or biological attack likely?,” 30 March 2022,; W.J. Hennigan, “’This Is Not a Bluff.’ Putin Raises Specter of Nuclear Weapons Following Battlefield Losses,” Time, 21 September 2022,; Guy Faulconbridge, “Factbox: Has Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons?,” Reuters, 22 October 2022,; Pierre de Dreuzy, Andrea Gilli, “Russia’s nuclear coercion in Ukraine,” NATO Review, 29 November 2022,; Jon Jackson, “Russia Starts Moving Nuclear Weapons to Ukrainian Neighbor,” Newsweek, 25 May 2023,; United Nations, “Risk of Nuclear Weapons Use Higher Than at Any Time Since Cold War, Disarmament Affairs Chief Warns Security Council, Meetings Coverage of Security Council,” Press Release SC/15250, 31 March 2023,

[33] Vladimir Rauta, “Proxy agents, auxiliary forces, and sovereign defection: assessing the outcomes of using nonstate actors in civil conflicts,” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 16, no.1 (2016): 91-111; Filip Bryjka, “The Involvement of Irregular Armed Groups in the Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” Polish Institute of International Affairs Bulletin, no. 59 (1976), 11 April 2022; “Russia’s ‘Occupation by Proxy’ of Eastern Ukraine – Implications Under the Geneva Conventions,” Just Security, 22 February 2022,

[34] Adam N. Stulberg, Out of Gas?: Russia, Ukraine, Europe, and the Changing Geopolitics of Natural Gas, Problems of Post-Communism 62, no 2 (2015): 112-130,; Arseniy Yatsenyuk, “Europe must make this the last winter of weaponized Russian energy exports,” Atlantic Council, 25 October 2022,

[35] Nik Martin, “ DW, 17 March 2022,; Andrew Meldrum,  “Russia suspends Ukraine grain export deal over claims of Crimea ship attack,” PBS News Hour, 29 October 2022,

[36] Elliot Smith, “It’s not a pretty picture’: Russia’s support is growing in the developing world,” CNBC News, 30 March 2023,

[37] Alar Kilp and Jerry G. Pankhurst, “Soft, Sharp, and Evil Power: The Russian Orthodox Church in the Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe 42, no. 5 (2022). DOI:; Janine di Giovanni, “The Real Reason the Russian Orthodox Church’s Leader Supports Putin’s War,” Foreign Policy, 26 April 2022,; Andriy Olenin, Religious deception: what Russian propaganda portrays as ‘satanic rites’ by Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Ukrinform/Ukrainian multimedia platform for broadcasting,  21 April 2023,

[38] Sławomir Matuszak, “On the verge of blackout: Ukraine facing attacks on its electricity generation system,” OSW Commentary, No. 482, OSW/Centre for Eastern Studies, 18 January 2023,; James GlanzMarc SantoraPablo RoblesHaley WillisLauren LeatherbyChristoph Koettl and Dmitriy Khavin, “Why the Evidence Suggests Russia Blew Up the Kakhovka Dam,” New York Times, 16 June 2023,

[39] Victor Jack, “NATO has ‘seen’ Russian false-flag attempts in Ukraine, Stoltenberg says,” Politico Europe, 17 February 2022,

[40] Private communications, 2018-Present.

[41] Violations of the international law, bilateral and multilateral agreements committed by Russia concern following: UN Charter (1945); Helsinki Final Act (1975); Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the UN Charter (1970); UN GA Resolution 3314 “Definition of Aggression” (1974); Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty (1965); Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States (1981); Declaration on the Enhancement of the Effectiveness of the Principle of Refraining from the Threat or Use of Force in International Relations (1987); Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances related to the Ukraine’s accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1994); Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation (1997); Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian-Russian state border (2003); Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on cooperation in use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait (2003); Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the status and conditions of Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine (1999).

[42] Regarding civil resistance in Ukraine see Julia Rushchenko and Igor Rushchenko, “Hybrid aggression and civil resistance in Kharkiv in 2014: lessons from the first phase of the Russia-Ukraine war,” Ukrainian Society 3 (2016): 88-99; Felip Daza Sierra, Ukrainian Nonviolent Civil Resistance in the face of war: Analysis of trends, impacts and challenges of nonviolent action in Ukraine between February and June 2022, Barcelona: International Catalian Institute for Peace, 2022.

[43] Zoltan Barany, “Armies and Autocrats: Why Putin’s Military Failed,” Journal of Democracy 34, no. 1, 2023: 80-94; Pjotr Sauer, “ ‘The army has nothing’: new Russian conscripts bemoan lack of supplies,” The Guardian, 20 October 2022,; Timofei Rozhanskiy, “Russian Soldiers Ask: 'We Have Nothing To Fight With. Why Should We Go Up Against Tanks With Only Machine Guns?,” Radio Free Europe, 20 January 2023,

[44] Similar trends were noted in 2021; See the result of the Public Opinion Survey of Residents of Ukraine (November 2021) provided by the International Republican Institute, “IRI Ukraine Poll Shows Support for EU/NATO Membership, Concerns over Economy and Vaccines for COVID-19,” 17 December 2021,; “Ukraine: optimism Soars Despite Brutal War,” National Democratic Institute, September 2022,; “Opportunities and Challenges Facing Ukraine’s Democratic Transition,” National Democratic Institute, January 2023: 4-16,

[45] NATO, Relations with Ukraine,; Claire Mills, Military assistance to Ukraine 2014-2021, Research Briefing no. 7135 (2022): 2-5,; Government of Canada, “Canada-Ukraine Relations,”; Christina L. Arabia, Andrew S. Bowen, and Cory Welt,  “U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine,” Congressional Research Service,  26 January 2023, IF12040 (;  Olesia Holub-Korba, “Poland’s support to Ukraine: facts and numbers,” Rubryka,

[46] Dan Sabbagh, “US and UK intelligence warnings vindicated by Russian invasion,” The Guardian, 24 February 2022,; Dan Sabbagh, “GCHQ head: Putin making strategic errors due to unconstrained power,” The Guardian, 10 October 2022,; Ken Dilaninan, Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Dan De Luce, “U.S. intel helped Ukraine protect air defenses, shoot down Russian plane carrying hundreds of troops,” NBC News, 26 April 2022,; Felicia SchwartzHenry Foy, “Western intelligence shows Russians amassing aircraft on Ukraine border,” The Financial Time, 14 February 2023,

[47] More information about programs, actions done and ongoing by UK and US to support Ukraine cyberdefence see: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, “UK boosts Ukraine's cyber defences with £6 million support package,” Press Release, 1 November 2022,; U.S. Department of State, U.S. Support for Connectivity and Cybersecurity in Ukraine, 10 May 2022,

[48] International sanction on Russia see: Maia Nikoladze, Kimberly Donovan, Russia sanction database, Atlantic Council, April 2023,; European Parliament, EU sanctions on Russia: Overview, impact, challenges,  March 2023,; US Department of the Treasury, “Fact Sheet: Disrupting and Degrading – One Year of U.S. Sanctions on Russia and Its Enablers,” Press Release, 24 February 2023,; US Department of the Treasury, “With Over 300 Sanctions, U.S. Targets Russia’s Circumvention and Evasion, Military-Industrial Supply Chains, and Future Energy Revenues,” Press Release,19 May 2023,; Yasmeen Serhan, “Why the Cultural Boycott of Russia Matters,” The Atlantic, 2 March 2022,; Sophia Kishkovsky, “Russian culture minister and a billionaire arts patron are included in the latest lists of sanctions from the West,” The Art Newspaper, 20 December 2022,

[49] Regarding the ongoing support after Russia invasion in Ukraine in February 2022 see: Claire Mills, Military assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, Research Briefing, 23 May 2023,; Government of Canada, Canada’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, enjeux_developpement/response_conflict-reponse_conflits/crisis-crises/ukraine.aspx?lang=eng; Ministry of National Defence, Poland in favor of continued military support for defending Ukraine,; NATO, NATO's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine,, Jacek Tarociński, Andrzej Wilk, “Arms deliveries to Ukraine: crossing the red lines,” OSW Commentary, 9 June 2023, OSW/Centre for Eastern Studies,

[50] “U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine,” Congressional Research Service, 26 January 2023, IF12040,

[51] Pierre Meilhan and Heather Chen, “West to deliver 321 tanks to Ukraine, says diplomat, as North Korea accuses US of ‘crossing the red line’,” CNN News, 29 January 2023,; European Parliamentary Research Service, “Russia's war on Ukraine: Western-made tanks for Ukraine,” PE 739.316 – January 2023,

[52] David Brown, Jake Horton, and Tural Ahmedzade, “Ukraine weapons: What tanks and other equipment are the world giving?,” BBC News, 19 May 2023,; Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz, “Poland says it will send 10 more Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine this week,” Reuters, 7 March 2023,

[53] Sanya Mansoor, “Ukraine Is Getting MiG-29 Fighter Jets from Poland and Slovakia. Here's Why That Matters,” Time, 17 March 2023,; C. Todd Lopez,F-16 Training, Aircraft, to Fill Ukraine's Mid-Term, Long-Term Defense Needs,” US.Department of Defense - DOD News, 23 May 2023,

[54] European Council/Council of the European Union, Ukraine: EU launches Military Assistance Mission, Press Release, 15 November 2022,; Aleksandra Kozioł, “EU Launches Military Assistance Mission in Support of Ukraine,” The Polish Institute of International Affairs, Spotlight no. 133/2022 (2022).

[55] “Estimated number of refugees from Ukraine recorded in Europe and Asia since February 2022 as of January 17, 2023, by selected country. “Statista,

[56] “Ukraine: IDP Estimate.” IOM UN Migration, Updated 20 December 2022, Ukraine: IDP Estimates - Humanitarian Data Exchange (

[57] “Number of border crossings between Ukraine and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries after Russia's invasion of Ukraine from February 24 to January 24, 2023, by selected country (in 1,000s).” Statista,

Categories: hybrid warfare

About the Author(s)

Dr. Larry P. Goodson is Professor of Middle East Studies at the U.S. Army War College,where he is the only person to hold the General Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security twice (2014-2017, 2004-2007). Since joining the US government in 2002, Dr.Goodson has been continually called upon to serve as a regional advisor on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East by senior U.S. military and political leaders.Dr. Goodson completed his PhD at the University of North Carolina. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling Afghanistan’s Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban (2001) as well as numerous chapters and articles. Currently, he is writing “The First Great War of the 21 st Century: From Syria to Ukraine to the South China Sea,” which argues that a global war between China, Russia, and the
United States is underway.

Dr. Marzena Żakowska is an assistant professor and lecturer at the Faculty of National Security at War Studies University, Warsaw, Poland. She holds a PhD. in Security Science from the National Defence University, Warsaw, Poland. Currently, she is the Director of Global Affairs and Diplomacy Studies and Chair of the War Studies Working Group at the International Society of Military Sciences. As editor and author, she has published books and articles on armed conflicts, hybrid threats, hybrid warfare, Balkan’s security, and social security issues.