RUSSIAS HYBRID APPROACH: WHAT CAN NATO DO TO SHARPEN ITS SWORD AGAINST IT
AIR WAR COLLEGE MONTGOMERY United States
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Russias long, volatile history has been shaped in part by violent struggles using the proverbial sword to maintain its survival and territorial integrity. Russian President Vladimir Putin prefers to cloak his sword under an array of hybrid tools such as misinformation, cyber attacks and special purpose forces intended to create ambiguity while attempting to discredit the very promises that underpin international security institutions, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO. Despite the proven effectiveness of Putins hybrid approach as seen in Ukraine in 2014, there are diplomatic and informational actions that NATO can employ to blunt Putins sword. In Putins hybrid approach, information is being used as an ambiguous weapon with effective results, unlike the more clear-cut conventional approach outcomes. Within that context, a comprehensive communication campaign to counter Putins misinformation is imperative. At the heart of this strategic campaign should be substantial counter-information operations and information defense intended not only to prepare the Alliance members and partners for Russias actions but also to expose Putins misinformation. Most importantly, NATO must ensure indestructible resilience across the Alliance and strengthen relationships with strategic partners such as the European Union EU and the United Nations UN. To reinforce this effort, NATO should revise the Article V verbiage to include the use of hybrid tools and explicitly articulate what will trigger an Article V response. Without it, NATO could find itself ill-prepared to deal with Putins next ambiguous engagement that may very well be within NATOs borders. The result could be, at best, a weakened Alliance, shaken by uncertainty of the collective defense of its trusting members. In the worst case scenario, Putin succeeds at permanently shattering the venerable North Atlantic security establishment.
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