Author: Pavel Luzin
The term ‘hybrid’ or ‘proxy’ warfare became more widely-used in international political terminology after Russia annexed Crimea and then subsequently turned chronic socio-economic issues to the point of a full-scale war in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.
The Essence of Hybrid Warfare
Hybrid warfare is essentially when one country acts aggressively against the government and army of another by mobilizing rebels or combatants within the country under attack. Unofficially, the rebels or combatants supply weapons, volunteers and military experts. On their side, whole combatant units can secretly fight the aggressor state. On behalf of the rebels, alternative public authorities are created, which are in fact completely controlled by the aggressor as its proxy force. In reality it is an international conflict between two states but inaccurately portrayed as an internal political and civil conflict.
It is fairly easy for military and other experts to identify a hybrid war. It is much more difficult for other actors, including the state political institutions, those interested in resolving the conflict and international organizations to do so. These actors simply do not know how to operate in a situation such as hybrid war, and moreover, certain principles often preclude them from getting involved. In addition, since decisions taken by political institutions are based on documented facts, the collection of which requires time, these institutions simply do not have the necessary time to react to what is happening. Russia skillfully took advantage of this major weakness in February 2014, though this is far from the first time something like this has occurred.
According to Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist, hybrid warfare is another method of perpetuating a policy. Modern Russia inherited this method from the Bolsheviks. The very genesis of the Bolshevik regime in Russia is founded on what we today call hybrid warfare. We cannot say, however, that it has become exclusively Russian know-how. It is important to understand that the party behind this system started in the underground and learned from its own experience. It was a political machine aimed at seizing power in Russia and abroad.
The Evolution of Hybrid Warfare
It began in the fall of 1917, when the Bolsheviks staged a coup in Russia, using the lower social strata recruited from Petrograd’s military garrison. With this assistance, they were able to seize power in what was then the Russian capital. What followed evolved into a bloody civil war. The communists used a hybrid method of conflict to assume power in Azerbaijan and Ukraine. During the Red Army offensive in Poland in the summer of 1920, the Bolsheviks attempted to launch a hybrid war by establishing the Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee. Also, in 1920 the Bolsheviks created a proxy-state—the Far Eastern Republic—which allowed them to control the provinces east of Lake Baikal.
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