This book cuts through the misunderstandings about Russia’s geopolitical challenge to the West, presenting this not as ‘hybrid war’ but ‘political war.’

Russia seeks to antagonise: its diplomats castigate Western ‘Russophobia’ and cultivate populist sentiment abroad, while its media sells Russia as a peaceable neighbour and a bastion of traditional social values. Its spies snoop, and even kill, and its hackers and trolls mount a 24/7 onslaught on Western systems and discourses. This is generally characterised as ‘hybrid war,’ but this is a misunderstanding of Russian strategy. Drawing extensively not just on their writings but also decades of interactions with Russian military, security and government officials, this study demonstrates that the Kremlin has updated traditional forms of non-military ‘political war’ for the modern world. Aware that the West, if united, is vastly richer and stronger, Putin is seeking to divide, and distract, in the hope it will either accept his claim to Russia’s great-power status – or at least be unable to prevent him. In the process, Russia may be foreshadowing how the very nature of war is changing: political war may be the future.

This book will be of much interest to students of strategic studies, war studies, Russian politics and security studies.

chapter |4 pages


part I|2 pages

Birth of a notion

chapter 1|9 pages

The creation of a threat

chapter 2|10 pages

The roots of Russian conduct

chapter 3|15 pages

The view from the Kremlin

part II|2 pages

Wars hybrid and political

chapter 4|7 pages

The Russian way of (real) war

chapter 5|9 pages

Political war in theory

chapter 6|10 pages

Political war in action

part III|2 pages

Weapons of the new wars

chapter 7|9 pages

‘Polite people’

Conventional military, unconventional uses

chapter 8|7 pages

Impolite people

Militias and gangsters

chapter 9|6 pages

Invisible people

The ‘warriors of the hidden battlefield’

chapter 10|8 pages

Everyone else

The mobilisation state

part IV|2 pages

Facing the challenge

chapter 11|7 pages

Welcome to the new world of war

chapter 12|10 pages

Fighting (defensive) political war