chapter  8
21 Pages

Reestablishing a fault line between Europe’s East and West: Russia’s ‘hybrid war’ and how should NATO respond


The issue of hybrid war, in its modern sense, boomed in the years 1960-1970, with the works of Evgeny Messner, a Colonel in the pre-revolutionary Russian General Staff. He theorized about this type of conflict, which he called ‘insurgency warfare’ – a war that is not declared and involves the participation of the civilian population, and where the boundary between war and peace is unclear. In the article titled ‘Asymmetric Warfare’, Igor Domnin and Alexander Savinkin highlight the main military concepts developed by Evgeny Messner, recalling that he was the first analyst who predicted what shape the military conflicts would take in the 21st century. Messner envisaged the imminent end of an era of wars involving largesize armies. In his view, the future military challenges will not take the form of traditional armed confrontations with other states, but rather involve extremist groups resorting to terrorist tactics. As a consequence, these new challenges would require ‘a review of the entire national military structure’.1 To paraphrase Messner,

In earlier wars, conquest of territory was considered important. In the future, the conquest of souls in the enemy country will be most important. The fighting will not happen on a two-dimensional level, as in the past, nor in three-dimensional space, as during the birth of military aviation, but in a fourdimensional space where the psychology of the warring nations becomes the fourth dimension [. . .] fighting in the future will use rebels, guerrillas, saboteurs, terrorists, propagandist on large scale.2