18 July 2018

Hybrid war: Russian contemporary political warfare

By Christopher S. Chivvis

Russia is waging a far-reaching political warfare effort against US interests in Europe and elsewhere, an effort facilitated by the Internet, cyber tools, cable news, and especially social media. This persistent political warfare effort largely eschews traditional military force; rather, it is focused on influencing the populations of targeted countries. Though the effects of Russian political warfare operations are hard to measure, they have likely had some effect on elections in France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. Factors that make nations vulnerable to political warfare include physical proximity to Russia, high levels of corruption, contested politics, and cultural or historical affinities with Russia. 

If left unchecked, political warfare can do great damage to US power and interests by creating unwanted tensions, weakening allies, and eroding faith in democracy. The United States, as an open and democratic society, is at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to countering Russian political warfare. Nonetheless, Washington can seek to defend its interests by investing in effective counter-messaging, ensuring that the US intelligence community has the analytical and collection resources it needs, prioritizing anti-corruption programs in certain countries, and helping to build defense institutions in allied and partner nations. Read this article from the September/October issue of the digital Journal.

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