When is a war not a war? When it’s Hybrid.


At the Munich Security Conference last week Angela Merkel was talking Hybrid Warfare. Hybrid warfare is most definitely back in vogue, wise heads point at ongoing events in the Ukraine, nod sagely and say ‘Hybrid warfare, don’t you know”. Hybrid Warfare is an as yet evolving concept, but worth looking at because it is shaping how we think about war and conflict and this in turn is shaping UK Government policy and the doctrine and design of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Hybrid warfare first rose to prominence as a concept in 2007 with the publication of Frank Hoffman’s paper “Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars”. Hoffman defines hybrid threats as “Any adversary that simultaneously employs a tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism and criminal behavior in the same time and battlespace to obtain their political objectives.” This is very similar to the extant UK definition (JDP 3-40) “…where states or non-state actors choose to exploit all modes of war simultaneously using advanced conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism and disruptive criminality to destabilise an existing order.” The Munich Security Conference in its report has broadened the concept of Hybrid Warfare to include most the elements of national power (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence and Law Enforcement) used in concert.

At this point is it worth recapping on the difference between the nature and character of war. The nature of war is generally agreed to be unchanging and is defined in the UK (Army Doctrine Primer) as “War, which is the most intense form of conflict, is an inherently confrontational, volatile, dangerous and chaotic violent contest.” The defining characteristic of war as we understand it, is that of violent contest (for political advantage). The character of conflict evolves continually and is an expression of how war is fought. The character of conflict reflects the technology, politics and sociology of the societies in conflict and can therefore be multi-faceted within any one conflict, as well as evolve rapidly during the conflict. Hybrid warfare as the MOD defines it is simply a concept to describe the current character of conflict in some places.

Western military thinkers generally use the term “war” to describe the deliberate use of violence to meet political ends and the term “warfare” to the (physical) conduct (means) of fighting wars. Both Hoffman and the UK focus in their definitions of hybrid threats, on the tactics involved (conventional, irregular, terrorism and disruptive criminality). Is Ukraine engaged in a hybrid war with Russia? Arguably the use of conventional, irregular and criminal elements would indicate that most of the criteria are being met. But would Ukraine be involved in a hybrid war if no conventional elements were involved or would this be a straight-forward insurgency? Even in such a case the ability of Russia to bring significant hostile economic, information and diplomatic power to bear and the rapidity of its effect would indicate that this might not be war as we traditionally understand it, but it certainly is bigger than a domestic insurgency. One should always be aware of what the Russians are thinking.

Russian military thinking from the 20th century to the present day has often been in advance of Western military thinking, even if their technology has not. In terms of military theory arguably the Russians first grasped the true potential of mass mechanisation and Precision Guided Munitions. In this instance the words of General Valery Gerasimov the current Russian Chief of the General Staff are worth careful attention:

The very “rules of war” have changed. The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, such new-type conflicts are comparable with the consequences of any real war.

The focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of of the broad use of political, economic. Informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures – applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.

What the Russians appear to be saying, much like the Chinese in their theory of “War Beyond Rules” and doctrine of “Three Warfares” is that in terms of decisive effect the power of military force has declined relative to other levers of national power. To put it bluntly in the operational architecture of “Shape, Clear and Hold” conventional military force is being applied only in the hold phase. It is entirely possible that the Russians are engaged in what they recognise as a war and we do not.

For democracies and coalitions with devolved and/or consensual decision making systems, this form of conflict is highly problematic as it provides multiple dilemmas, many not in the military sphere. Conversely states and bodies with a highly centralised decision making system, such as autocracies, can gain a significant advantage in tempo and initiative. Even more worrying from the West’s perspective if our view of war is different from that held elsewhere the strategic calculus becomes very difficult (as can be seen in the Ukraine); when is a war a war? At what point is NATO’s Article V invoked?  It is very telling that the definition for Hybrid Warfare used by the UK is much narrower in scope than that of the Munich Security Conference and presumably referenced by the German Chancellor. Confused thinking hampers clear communication and hinders effect response, especially in a coalition or alliance context. If NATO and the EU cannot agree on what hybrid warfare is than it is unlikely to agree on how to respond.

Not yet an Article V event.
Not yet an Article V event.

From a UK perspective this puts a new emphasis on addressing national security architecture for SDSR15. While the formation of 77 Brigade and the increased focus on cyber activities indicates an acceptance of the evolving character of warfare it remains to be seen if the UK and NATO will address their institutions to meet the threat posed by the blurring of the borders between peace and war, conflict and competition (eg: could or should the activities of DFID, the MOD, Attorney General and the BBC be coordinated; At what point do Treasury contingency funds get accessed?).

What is clear from both the current conflict in Ukraine and much of the thinking going on is that the traditional Western concept of war and warfare is under challenge and that this will challenge Western security assumptions, policies and structures.


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Another words, “It’s a Live, Dog and Pony Show”.


Such fashions only show that the people who should actually don’t know enough about war.



My view:

It is still war, there are two reasons why we in the West like to call it hybrid war:

1) Calling it hybrid war, and thus implying its not really an invasion, makes it easier for us to not do anything about it. Russian troops scrubbing their insignia just before they cross the border is not clever, it just invites the West to use the faux doubt it causes to take a less resolute response. And it feeds the conspiracy nuts who are Putin’s accidental allies. But ultimately a proxy-war, is a proxy-war, is proxy-war. We acquired plenty of experience of them during the Cold War, its hardly a new concept.

2) Calling it hybrid war rather than actual war makes it easier for us to deal with the fact the Russian’s are winning. The Russian’s have a far more joined up and focused approach to fighting wars than we do, the coordination between all their different agencies, with a singular objective, has been remarkable. As is the deep preparatory work they have been undertaking in Ukraine- and one assumes elsewhere. One can not help but notice that the West made a mess of both Afghanistan and Iraq (with the British doing especially badly) whilst Russia has snatched Crimea without hardly firing a shot and just forced an armistice (bits of which it is ignoring as it sees fit) which essentially cements a Russian dependency inside Eastern Ukraine. From a military perspective they are winning.

Putin’s polls amongst his people are in the “crapper”, he needs something to rally the people around him. And if that mean a proxy war, so be it. What’s the lives of a few innocent, if still has control of the reign’s…



You have that the wrong way round. Putin still enjoys approval ratings at home that Western politicians could only dream of, having total control of the media helps. His proxy war is less popular though, its hard to hide combat casualties and even harder to hide empty shelves.



I’m not convinced by the Afghan/Iraq analogy with Crimea. The reality was that 80 % of the Crimea population was already Russian and supported Russia.

The majority of Ukrainians (east or west) want an end to corrupt regimes which have rune Ukraine since independence. East and west just have a different template in mind. For a poor Russian speaking Ukrainian rich successful Russia is an enticing prospect. For a western Ukrainian, the opposite is true.

Our (that is Western) strategy in this hybrid war with Russia is essentially an economic assault (via sanctions) and political (by isolating Russia) in response to a military assault by the Russians. This has several aims (to isolate Putin et al from economic backers and to create dissent within the state are two obvious ones) with a minimal cost to us economically. Since the strategies differ and work on different timescales who says we are losing ?

Surely, we are hesitating to arm Ukraine as we know Russia will up the ante by increasing military support for the separatists, creating a bigger problem than today. This doesn’t mean that we wont provide arms when (if) we conclude the current ceasefire has failed. It is absolutely clear that the current accord isn’t a framework for a peace treaty.

The fight on the ground right now is not over the creation of a separate state (that was a given after last summer), but over where the boundary will sit. The larger the area the separatists control – including the road, rail and port infrastructure within the boundaries – the more viable that state will be. Kyiv is fighting to minimize the loss of territory. Both sides will now rearm and rebuild until the next offensive; the separatists can’t stop until they attain an economically viable state.

The really interesting question is what happens then ? Putin will have his New Russia buffer to the north of Crimea but at a great economic and political cost. The rest of Ukraine will be on a different path (hopefully) supported by Poland and the EU/US. Ukraine might not be in NATO, but it will not be a Russian client state.



Excuses excuses, Russia has achieved substantial gains in its wars (including the very last Chechen campaign and Georgia they have been having a good run), the British in particular have failed miserably in theirs.

As for Russia’s supposed isolation, it would be more impressive if people outside Europe and North America had gotten the memo. As it stands sanctions against Russia just seem to be speeding up the balkanisation of the world whilst temporarily hurting the Russian economy.

Don’t bank on Ukraine not becoming a Russian client state, Ukrainian politicians have an excellent habit of screwing up their own country and sustained periods of economic decline (the Ukrainian economy makes Russia’s look peachy) and bloody war without victory starts to affect a population after awhile.



I have to say that our military performance in Iraq and Afghanistan was pretty appalling. I have yet to read a credible explanation for this, only a series of rather poor excuses.

The problem in Ukraine is that the government infrastructure is so corrupt and corrupted that it seeks to return to its corrupt normal situation, which inherently undermines any chance that the uncorrupted politicians (if there are any) have of reforming the system. The majority of the population want the corruption to end. Problem is how do you do it ?

Certainly you need significant funds to spend (but outside the corrupt system so the loss by corruption is minimized), but how can provide and manage the services needed outside the current civil service infrastructure ? You also need real significant economic growth to radically improve the standard of living of the average person. Arguably this is incompatible with the demands of current Oligarchy driven economy. We used to talk about revolutions to fix this sort of thing didn’t we ?



You rather elegantly made the point. I suspect the resources and commitment required to save whats left of Ukraine and fully drag it into the West are far beyond what the West is prepared to commit.



I’m not that pessimistic regarding the cost if collectively provided by the EU/US. It’s probably not anywhere as much than we collectively spent in Iraq (was that 3 trillion or 6 ?) or bailing out the banks in 2007/8 over a 10 to 20 year period.

However, to do it, you need to have a Ukrainian government that you can work with that wants to travel the same path. With the loss of Donbass and Crimea voters, you have a majority Western Ukrainian population rather than the 50:50 west/east split previously. The problem with resorting to violence is that it polarizes opinion (just look at Iraq). Its much harder for Ukraine to return to the Russian fold now than it was even 1 year ago.

Wasn’t the EU, whose very existence is an example of gaining what you want without violence but also without the consent of the those whose sovereignty has been removed, engaged in “hybrid” warfare when it poured money into projects in Eastern Ukraine and negotiated an Association Agreement wih Kiev that was not just a trade deal but included military clauses? When Cameron (the supposed Eurosceptic) said he wanted to see a “Europe” united from “the Atlantic to the Urals”, what were the Russians supposed to think? The “Project” has finally tried to bite off more than it can chew – it should stick to bullying Kenya and other African nations in trade and fishing “deals”. That’s working out well, isn’t it? Certainly keeping the Italian coastguard busy.

If you think I agree with how Putin has reacted, you’re wrong. However, they invented the term “maskirovka” and will outfox their leaden-footed opponents. Lavrov purportedly described the 2nd. Minsk agreement as “better than super”.



The Iraq money achieved nothing, the bank bailout was a wise investment, either way we are not likely to be throwing that sort of money around.


If “hybrid war” isn’t and can’t be governed by the rules of land warfare, why don’t we use hollowpoint handgun ammunition and softpoint, expanding rifle/machinegun ammunition on the Daesh crowd? Hell, I’d be willing to bring back napalm to use on Daesh scumbags.

Hybrid war is just a modern way of saying what has been happening when nations/tribes/religions sort out their differences by violence for ever. What this definition is trying to do is establish a legal definition to who is culpable . As Kent says if the conflict is outside the existing conventions , as in todays beheading of 21 civilians on the net , why should more conventional western forces abide by restrictive rules of engagement and what weaponry they can apply or not. Some is restricted obviously due to the risk of collateral damage , anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs , nerve gas etc but others may bring an extra edge to our forces . If we think it might cause the enemy to mis-treat their prisoners I point you to a certain Jordanian pilot. I mentioned western forces as the Russians in Chetneya were happy to use thermo baric weapons modified with white phosphorous in a general fashion regardless of risk to civilians (the USMC admitted WP use in Fallujah on insurgents) This type of method to bring about a political change has generally fallen out of favour in the West but was common ,the CIA being notable in this field . Today though an opportunity to criminalize the instigation of such conflicts which could result in individuals being arrested in their Black sea Dachau , Riyadh Villa or Mayfair apartment for that matter may help to limit it but you would have the devil of a time proving it.


All this talk of anti-Geneva Convention nasties, and no-one mentions “Exposure to Biological Organism from Low Altitude” – strange. There was a rumour 30 years back that HIV was a manufactured virus for germ warfare use, but which ‘escaped’ the labs. The rumour faded away without media storm.

I am expecting a visit to the thread from IXION to give one & all whacked knuckles for thinking the unlawful.



It self-evidently does add value, any properly managed military campaign leverages as many levers as it can. One of the obvious features of the complete failure of the Brits in the last few years is the use of just one lever- the military. Which is irritating as historically the British have been rather good at what we now call hybrid warfare.

Hybrid warfare is not new, its just a new name for war. What Russia is doing today is a continuation of what the Russian military has always done. The shock is because in the West we have come to see War as something outmoded, something so uncivilised that only American’s use it. The most telling period during the whole Crimea affair was the shock which seemed to strike Europe when the little green men appeared in Ukraine. That shock wasn’t because it was “hybrid war” it was because it was war and Europe had ceased to believe that such a thing even existed. This has left Armed Forces without much of a purpose, if you look at most European militaries they seem to exist for no other reason than because they always have, as such they have become isolated components of the state with few connections to other state levers; without a coherent purpose it is impossible to create a coherent strategy. The Russian Forces clearly have a coherent purpose and a coherent strategy towards which the entire state is acting.


As an addendum: Hybrid War as Putin conducts it is aimed to leverage his, not entirely inaccurate, view of Europe as an increasingly passive and pathetic continent inhabited by cowards too far up their own backsides to recognise the obvious utility of force and too distracted by domestic security problems of their own creation to look much further than beyond their own national borders. I am sure he could not believe his luck as European governments wielded the axe on their own militaries year after year in the face of both his own rearmament and chastisement from the US, as the number of people in the MoD dedicated to Russia analysis tumbled to just a couple and as MI5 complained that Russian intelligence activity was “distracting” them from Jihadi following. That very intelligence failure proved him right, the European moment of glory in Kiev lasted just as long as it took Russian units to leave their barracks and now he has Crimea and and a client statelet his military carved out of Eastern Ukraine.


Something in the papers today, that Western banks may have lost £650 million to a clever gang, that uses malware to get the banks own computers to stock a cash machine then dispense that cash at a certain time without a card being inserted. The software is so subtle, that the banks have a hard job finding it, even if they think it is there. Reminded me of the Nazis printing fivers to undermine the Pound. Could Putin be funding his war with money nicked from Western banks? On the other hand, it was a Russian internet security firm that first spotted the problem. So blame Russia, China or the Ukraine, according to taste.

Think Defence

On the the main factors in Putin’s success has been the sheer bare faced brass neck to deny involvement. He can do this because he owns a criminal exporting business with total information control, not a country.

Is the West capable of being ambiguous, subtle and contradictory, or are we too honest, bound by law, accountability, disclosure and freedom of information?

Its not that we don’t know how to do it but our own media and legal system keep sticking their oar in . Take poor Col Oliver North , pulled up for trying to make a buck to help fund a regime change shortfunded by his government in the Iran-Contra affair, would the CIA have been as successful in overthrowing the communist government of Chile and installing everyone’s favourite uncle Gen Pinochet? The Bay of Pigs with a little clandestine help from the USMC , what LHD ? I see no LHD , according to our records it was still tied up in… You have to have total control of the media or the public really really behind you or to afraid to say anything to get away with it. Look at the crap thrown at Blair and Bush over the Iraqi WMD for instance.



We don’t need to be nor should we be ambiguous, that’s his game with his rules, it’s where he will always win. If we want to stop we must draw a line in the sand, pick it and stand to it. And then when he probes that line we send in the the new rapid reaction force, the 82nd, 101st and a few MEUs, the Para’s, the Marines and the Legion and when he makes the inevitable noises about nukes we quietly remind him we still have some of ours to. The only reason we don’t do this is because of the inherent pacifism that has come to dominate the European discourse, it is is precisely that pacifism that hybrid war is designed to exploit, the answer is a show of force and a willingness to use it. That is how deterrence worked in Europe in the Cold War, it doesn’t work now because Putin has correctly sensed our unwillingness to draw the sword. The mechanisms that existed in the Cold War that would force us to do such a thing have also been largely deconstructed- they must be replaced, thus far we have only made tentative steps.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@TD – “Is the West capable of being ambiguous, subtle and contradictory” – only once the Guardian goes bankrupt, the licence fee is not renewed, and Public Interest Lawyers are disbarred…might get two of those three in the next ten years, but probably not all of them…so I’m not holding my breath… :-(



“Is the West capable of being ambiguous, subtle and contradictory, or are we too honest, bound by law, accountability, disclosure and freedom of information?”

“Iraqi WMDs!”


If the term allows people to see something through a different conceptual lens, and that leads to insight then its a good thing despite my disaste for RUSI-esque fashionable turns of phrase. A useful tool if one doesn’t get too carried away into thinking its some kind of new chapter in war.

That being said I think what is happening in reality is nothing more than what always happens in war – an enemy applying what forces it can / is willing to commit / is socially acceptable to commit in order to impose its will or make its gains. Germany did everything Russia has done in Ukraine whilst building up to, and then fighting the quintessential conventional, Clausewitzian war.

As for Russia and its seeming purposeful movements – I think this is down to the fact that (a) the Ukraine is a far more tangible and direct interest to Russia than it is for anyone else except the Ukrainians and thus the way forward is clearer; (b) Russia is one actor and (c) that said I imagine that what appears to be unity of action is as ever a mixture of planning, contingency and negotiation combined with what can actually be done in practice.

Dear Mr Putin,

Thanks for giving us 90% of The Ukraine.


Wow…I agree with Phil…thats…erm…disconcerting.

jon livesey

Hybrid war isn’t all one way. The West is also waging hybrid war against Russia. And as for the UK “failing miserably” it’s the Russian economy that is now down to about half its previous size in Dollar terms, not the UK economy. It is Russia that is now suffering from over-dependence on one commodity, not the UK. It is Russia that has been forced to negotiate with France and Germany.

And if you mean that the UK is “failing miserably” in Afghanistan or Iraq, failing miserably at what? We are not trying to annex Afghanistan or Iraq. We are mainly trying to keep rival factions from killing one another and innocent bystanders. If we “fail” at that, well, that’s the nature of rival factions. Police actions are not existential wars.

jon livesey

TD: “Is the West capable of being ambiguous, subtle and contradictory, or are we too honest, bound by law, accountability, disclosure and freedom of information?”

Both, of course, and we always have been. Since Western Government are constrained by being answerable to electorates who don’t understand all the issues, they can’t be as overtly aggressive as they would like to be. But read any decent history of the Cold War and you’ll find that under the covers Western Governments can be plenty machievellian and quite effective.


Hybrid Warfare? Does a mix of say, OSS attacks, French Resistance, Commando raids and Operation OVERLORD meet the definition? Nothing new to see here….


Greetings, gentlemen.

Personally, I am a bit surprised that nobody has directly suggested we also learn to utilize this Hybrid War more effectively, as it is as a doctrine partly informed by our retreat and strategic failure in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I agree that we are already engaged in a Hybrid War of sort by trying to undermine Russia with several economic, informational and legal methods – there are several cases being considered in the European Human Rights court, which Human Rights Specialists assure me is a court Russia has for a long time also submitted to. I think they recently pulled out of there, but I’m not sure. Plus, the Human Rights crowd (caps intentional) thinks a bit too highly of their assets, though it’s not wholly untrue that they do add a dimension to the discussion and justification of political action.

While I do not agree with the narrative that the Ukrainian revolution – either of them – was a targetted, planned and purposefully executed operation by the West, as NGOs don’t coordinate to that extent and the Maidan affair occurred too quickly after the rejection of the EU agreement. Even Putin, who had followers and even citizens in the eastern Ukraine, needed several weeks to set up a “protest movement”, and at least one week after his “paid humanitarian volunteers” which the media have conventiently forgotten after mentioning them once, infiltrated. Plus, the “protest movement” in the eastern Ukraine and moreso in Crimea (where he likely had contingencies in place already, unlike in eastern Ukraine) was quite obviously and popularly a minority, and many Ukrainian voices rejected it – not to mention that the North-Eastern attempt in Kharkiv has completely failed. The same was not true for the Maidan movement, there has been no “dissent” besides what Putin sponsored and an unclear riot in Odessa a few months ago that may have been honestly sympathetic, but was crushed by other groups with force and some burning. That kind of unity is not something you can artificially create on short notice, so I am quite convinced our involvement was, if anything, a lesser conductor and not the driving force behind Maidan.

However, Russia has been accusing us of “abetting instability” for almost a decade, and their foreign policy and domestic has steadily moved towards preventing this, though for a long time not with open movements against as, likely more to prevent souring the trade relationship – which Putin still wants to maintain, and this is not just a bait for Germany (again, we have more bilateral trade with Russia than with some of our neighboring EU countries), but actually necessary even beyond what amounts to luxury food – Russia can’t even explore and extract oil fields without some western technology, and that technology was added to the sanctions list a while ago. So, if we were “abetting instability”, which was the media narrative in Russia for quite some time (Georgia too, supposedly their US military advisors made them start their ill-advised attack on Russia), and Russia has not done much about it so far, what keeps us from actually doing it?

We have a great potential for this Hybrid war, even if we are only using a minimum of it in the Ukraine conflict and almost none of it in the muslim world, though the IS war is slightly better in that regard. We could do more, and reap similar benefits to Russia with its now-veteran “volunteers”, if we were so inclined. It would go over less well than for Russia since our media love that kind of bullshit, but we can simply package it differently. “Military Advisors” joining the fight has its precedents, and the civilian volunteers fighting in the Ukraine, though in neglegible numbers (most nationalities can be counted in single figures) also don’t garner much media attention after the cordial “sales offer” to check if an article about it generates enough interest to justify the expense and front page opportunity cost of more in-depth reporting.

So, it’s not like we were unable, or even wholly unwilling to do this Hybrid Warfare on our own, and in cases like the IS or other interventions it would be a far better solution than sending gold-plated anti-Warsaw Pact armies to get IED’d into insolvency. In fact, I think this blog itself has suggested to use only special forces for training locals and commit only the absolute minimum of visible assets to combat for COIN operations like Afghanistan (after the first two or three weeks bombing the stuff the Taliban didn’t hide in time) and Iraq (sameish).

The few engagements western forces have fought with traditional militaries recently were largely a rout, with losses being as low as can be expected, but our military is obviously optimized for quick, decisive strikes and has little staying power either in sufficient numbers or political will. Russia would face the same problem if they did ever decide to invade EU proper, either because we quickly and decisively strike them so hard their offensive can’t continue even if we face great losses, or wimping out on the prospect, irregular forces draining the Russian troops and assets, which would cause issues for Russia also, even if more of their citizens are ready to fight – they still need to equip them to an extent that makes them survivable, because without that even some hunters with game rifles or hobby marksmen are a threat. Note that Germany, for example, has several million of those, plus leftovers reserves from our recently dismantled conscription and a fair population of people who are willing to violently attack the police, some of whom might have the stomach to do like upon an occupying force. Hence, even more reason for Russia to resort to “Hybrid Warfare”, because the number of humans keeps climbing and cities keep growing, but militaries keep shrinking. Unless the Geneva Accords are completely destroyed and militaries start to behave in the manner of an alien invader (they already do that in the Middle East, but what a terribly underfunded alien invasion it is), nothing else will work to achieve war goals, especially the soft ones our interventions tend to have.

Done right, we could get the same sweet deal Russia has with being lauded by the majority of the world’s population, as both India and China largely seem not to be bothered by the concept, and neither are a lot of other countries all over the world, as has been correctly remarked. Probably because the West no longer has all the money, and thus has to follow rules sometimes instead of making new ones up on the fly.

Which, admittedly, has since the Second World War been more of an US affliction than European, Europe (many of its countries, not just GB) just tends to follow those rules sometimes.



From the handful of people I have met or know of who went to the Euromaidan, your analysis seems 100 % true to me.

Wrt to Donbass, I think you have to assume that the majority of city dwelling Ukrainians (certainly the younger ones) who aren’t tacit supporters of the separatists have already left the region. I’m sure that if the Separatist’s tried to take over a non-supporting area to the west of Ukraine, it would be very hot for them due to irregular guerilla activity and infiltration of Ukraine troops. Likewise if the Russians invaded western Ukraine, then they would have to employ massive force and high troop numbers to hold the region captured.


My view is rather like Mike Wheatley’s above. Putin may be “winning” in SE Ukraine and has picked up Crimea, but at what cost ? Just linking Crimea into the Russian infrastructure network is going to cost him Billions (and a multiple of the true cost because of corruption). Sanctions have weakened the ability to develop new oil and gas reserves (in a situation where the current assets are mostly declining) when the (accidental or otherwise) Oil price fall is bankrupting the nation. For every $1 fall in oil prices, the Russian Government loses about 90 cents in tax income at the marginal rate.

This is a Pyrrhic victory at the very best. Unlike 1933/38 appeasement, the west has largely pulled together in a united response. It may not be as tough as it should be and we might be treading on egg shells when dealing with Putin, but I don’t think you can claim this is the response of a weak and divided west. This is a long game we are now playing.


Nick, I also agree with M W’s interpretation, but you being the public finances man here, what will be the cost?

So both sides will have (in 5 years’ time) taken cumulative hits in double, or even low triple, figure billions?
What a waste!



The 19 km road bridge is thought to have a budgeted cost of 3 billion euro. You also need to add in the cost of linking the bridge to the Russian road and rail network (assuming the rail route thorough Ukraine is closed and you build a common structure for both road and rail) as neither road or rail goes to that location. Presumably they will want to add direct gas, water and electricity connections as well. In the longer term, if Ukraine ports on the Black Sea are closed to Russia, then you might need to improve the commercial port facilities on the peninsula (I think Odessa and Mariupol are the most important ports today ?).

Crimea is a big holiday destination (or was) for both Russians and Ukrainians. Ukraine visitors has dropped pretty close to zero from what I understand, although there are more Russian visitors the overall level is down on previous years. The Russian military port is the big employer there anyway. Russia has already brought pensions and public sector wage costs up to Russian standards (Ukraine pays less). Crimea has c2 million inhabitants, so this isn’t a small sum.

On paper Gazprom has lost one of its largest single customers for Russian gas (although payment was a bit sketchy and was part paid – I assume – by the Russian government as there was an agreed discount for renting the military port in the government to government deal pre-2014.). Russian domestic gas prices are c 1/4 of what we pay for Russian gas in Europe (Ukraine paid European prices even after the various discounts in the deal). So even Gas supplied to Crimea and the Donbass will be at Russian domestic prices wont recover Gazprom’s lost profit. In the medium term, Europe demand for Russian gas will probably drop to a degree as well. The new Chinese won’t realise any serious cash until the 2020’s and needs a big capital outlay to build the pipelines and drill the gas wells in Eastern Siberia to supply the gas. Expect Chinese banks to charge top $ for financing as well. BTW most western facing gas infrastructure is soviet era build; the economics are very different.

I’d guess the short term real cost to Russia is certainly up to $10 billion cost with virtually no significant economic gain.

Engineer Tom

An interesting point I came across a few months ago was that a few weeks after annexing Crimea, Putin brought in a law making it illegal to promote separatism within Russia, so to even ask for a referendum to go back to Ukraine will now get you 5 years in jail.


And we are surprised because? When the leader of the Novopolitburo is ex head KGB you’d sort of expect a no-argument no-dissent policy with regard to being loyal to Mother Russia. Wouldn’t you?


Thanks Nick,

As I am not that well versed with the detail, I take the topdown approach:
– that tenner, for starters
– Kuwait was pretty well devastated, but a lot of it was expensive infra… Their heritage fund shrunk from 100bn+ to 40 bn on that

So, I add another tenner, and the 20 is a third more than Russia offered as a bribe for ” stay with me”

– a basket case for starters, minus $30bn I make it as a base assumption (but commercial terms, and that is where we are getting closer to”the” cost)
– now we are at 40… No rebuilding, no transformation, no allowance for veterans (and families), just to stay afloat

You do see how I am getting to the hundred? And above…

The taking over of Crimea , by democratic means , by Russia is economically not possibly a big plus for them now or in the new future but the oil and gas reserves will pay off eventually. Its a political boost for Putin mostly. In terms of monies you have to think of West Germany and East Germany joining , the east is still struggling 25 years on even with EU help and the strongest economy in the groups support but it had to be done.


@ monkey’s example: It’s a bit more differentiated than that. While the East is definitely poorer and both wages and living costs are lower, it also had to deal with a considerable people-drain because many East Germans moved to the former West after the reunification, especially young and well-educated ones. Meanwhile, this opened up opportunities for restructuring, open-top coal mining and some high-tech firms, though the latter is of course not too prevalent because Germany has something of a problem with approaching fundamentally new technologies or getting startup enterprises of the ground. The opportunity for restructuring is the important part, we’re still getting some benefit from it, and it provides rooms for further population growth either if our birthrate ever climbs back over the replacement threshold or if immigration continues. Currently, immigration in particular is a hope for the East, as most of the immigrants are fairly well-trained and from other EU countries, and the existing population has similar experiences in its social memory as a fair share of the ones from Central and Eastern Europe. Part of the population even has the experience of migrating, because many of the Germans living on territories that we relinquished after the Second World War came back right after the war or at some later point.

Continuing the comparison, Crimea might create some much-needed dynamic in the Russian population in the mid-to-long term. I don’t agree it was only a popularity plus for Putin in the short term, as for a proud people like the Russians, symbolic actions like that evidently hold meaning in themselves. This is also a plus for Putin, as he could use this situation as a trigger for reforms, as has been speculated he is planning – specifically, less dependence on imports in some fields, to promote the domestic economy. Reforms don’t mean dismantling the Oligarch tarpit of course, that would be silly.


It is all going swimmingly then?

“, symbolic actions like that evidently hold meaning in themselves.(TICK) This is also a plus for Putin, as he could use this situation as a trigger for reforms,(AHAH, Held back then in his, so far, early tenure?)as has been speculated he is planning – specifically, less dependence on imports in some fields( ANY CHANCE they are the ones targeted by sanctions?), to promote the domestic economy”


Where in Germany could I take the combined literature/ social & political sciences Master’s degree?

Sazuroi, please advise, as I am sure I could get the credits for the latter 2/3’s for what I have already done elsewhere.



The real cost of Crimea to Russia (just the straight costs) is certainly a very large number. The indirect costs are also extremely high.

There may well be reasonably significant Gas offshore Crimea. However, this is relatively expensive to develop compared to the very large amount of onshore Russian gas. Russia has vast reserves of Gas which are undeveloped, especially smaller fields. Russia really doesn’t need new gas fields in the west its needed near the new market (China). Given the difficult legal position these gas fields, I wouldn’t expect much money being spent developing these fields in the near future. I don’t think we should kid ourselves, annexing Crimea has solely a political benefit for Putin.

The problem which Putin has regarding reforms is that you cant just order it to happen. You need to create a market for the goods and services both in Russia and export potential. On top of that, you cant have state control and direction over the way new businesses are started up and develop. Therefore the reforms would need to scrap significant elements of the way the Russian state works. A large chunk of the Communist era regulation is still in force today, largely untouched.

Russia currently sets the rate of production and export taxes on Petroleum production/sale one month in advance of the period it relates to. The rates are adjusted monthly to reflect shifts in the current months global oil prices. The rate applies for the month in its entirety. Why do they do this ? Because they don’t trust Russian Oil companies not to game the tax system if they used a flat % rate based on specified selling price criteria. Better to set a rate in advance and if actual oil prices are higher or lower than you expect the government looses tax or the producer pays more. This is just a small illustration of the mind set.


Could work here, salary paid cash & without tax deductions (to leave no paper trail),a secure office building smack-bang middle of St. Petersburg (and no degree required; there is a daily production quota, though):
Agentstvo Internet Issledovanii
Ulitsa Savuškin, 55


Thanks Nick, i think more broadly the tax system is the biggest thing holding true entrepreneurship from developing. And trumped up tax evasion charges are a usual weapon used against both individuals and organisations not to the liking of those in power. Not to mention that once you have some real assets, they are not secure (ask BP!).

I hear more oil revenue ends up here than makes it back to Russia:
“Leichtenstein is in a customs union with Switzerland and is a member of the four-nation European Free Trade Association”… So not partaking in the sanctions then. It is only the small fish who put their money to Cyprus (an EU member, not known how enthusiastically they are enforcing the sanctions, anyway).


… I directly stated that the lines ACC used to construe I was one of those dreaded “Putinbots” above were taken from elsewhere, often the news and sometimes western political analysts therin.

It is also very telling he did not quote the joke about those reforms never including any targetting the crippling overconcentration of capital in the hands of the Oligarchs, as this joke made my own position on that analysis very clear. If the usage of summary in a comment otherwise giving a detailed outline and the much-vaunted position at the very bottom like an afterthought and the overuse of ambiguous word like “speculate” did not make it clear enough.

Also, the main field he states he wants to achieve independence in is agriculture and vegetable production, where he placed a sanction – and is thus responsible for the empty supermarket shelves and presumably malnutrition all by himselves. That is an even better joke, but it’s so overused in this context that I didn’t want to make it. You happy now? The poor joke, at some point it will stumble over its beard.


Deniable is something, but to officially contradict oneself? Assuming the reporting from Reuters is accurate:

“Despite Putin’s public call for a surrender, Russia sponsored a resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council that called on all sides to implement the truce agreement, expressing “grave concern” at the violence.”


There is nothing dishonourable about working in the address I stated, and in fact St. Petersburg is a wonderful city. But I strecth that statement only as far as the wage takers are Russian. Those who get paid, to contradict their own countries policies are an entirely different matter. But all of them together provide good entertainment (laughable qualifies for that, right?).


Look it up



Political and social sciences are a normal combination, I know, as I have done it. The question was whether a Master’s with literature in the combination exists…

Now, shall I copy/paste the recruitment adds, to keep this going? Do you believe we have a genuine article here? Just as the bot discussion died down, a good opportunity to keep the Germany bashing was spotted, and some poor soul got some of his daily quota (100 comments) allocated for rekindling it. Now… let me calculate how much I have earned with my cumulative comments… nahh, Weihnachtsgeld!


SO, you should declare to other readers that the tinyURL service let’s the creator track the visitors. Google, luckily taken to task, and Germany leading that charge.


I always thought the age of the hybrid war started in the late 1930s with thoses well known lovelies Hilter and Stalin. With the art being perfected during the Cold War and it’s many prox wars ( which all taken together equate to the ultimate expression of hybrid war)


@ ACC: This poor soul apparently being you.

That citizens of a democratic country openly agree or disagree with its policies should be a given, not least since the article above does so, either in one or the other direction. Plus we have a super-country we can also agree or disagree with. Furthermore, I can not concieve as to how me suggesting that we do indeed practice Hybrid war against Russia in the way they long accuse us of doing would serve Putin more than curbing any dissent against an open military approach that would obviously lead to an escalation and thus, further alienation of the rest of the world from the west and a very good excuse for Russia to uparm and sell weapons.
In fact, the purely diplomatic-economical attrition strategy is a far smaller risk to NATO’s postion as a still somewhat-dominant power block than either my suggested “Hybrid response” or overt military support, but it is not terribly effective and is not understood in the “morally superior” way our political class would like it to be understood, so escalating within the means the rhetoric already allows us would be justifiable.

Also, I am not studying a single interdisciplinary course but a major and two minors in the old Magister system which ends in a degree equal to the english and bologna process MA, but since the Bologna degrees have replaced it you would not find the model any more.


Yeah, but you are still taking it?

Don’t get me wrong, have read your writings with great interest. And will do so – just that the Mumbo-Jumbo you spin around the argument is fooling nobody.


I’m sure you find your own arguments convincing, as I do mine, but that does not change that you argue to the exclusion of other approaches, which eventually precludes a consensus and is serves an outsider looking to profit from the dissent just as well. Plus it is inconsistent, if the objective is to secure international approval for your methods, an overt military attack would not achieve that and would not solve the conflict with Russia either, while a more low-key approach likely would.
The economic approach has merit since Russia is as a matter of fact economically dependent on the EU, which can be leveraged, but the lever goes in both directions and though Russia is the weaker party here which stands more to lose – which is not necessarily an identical situation to a conventional military conflict, should one arise – but Russia is also more willing to bite the bullet. Hence, why the success of the economic approach would justify it as part of the western toolbox, it is less clear that it would have a future, especially since – as I have said several times now, and which is abundantly clear now that China has passed the US in GDP – the West is not the only part of the world with money anymore. Leveraging the economic angle is ultimately cheaper than the tiniest military adventure. All of this is a fact from the economic perspective, it doesn’t need me, however low you seem to rate my integrity, to refer that. In fact, most examples I gave I gave precisely because they are known from the media and thus common knowledge.

Plus, falling back into a Cold War mentality and sending in the tanks for some proxy for action would support Putin in his Cold War-ishness vastly more than a less confrontative and more differentiated approach ever could. Not least because a very large part of the world is not on our side in this conflict.
Plus, it’s essentially a political conflict. How many military analysts and generals have generated a large mainstream media audience recently in this context? It’s always politicians talking. The military dimension is suborned to political conflict on both sides, only the Ukraine and “weekend Russians” are actually in a military conflict, no matter how hypocritical it may be.



One thing that tends to get lost in the debate, is that China is as dependent on the west (perhaps more) than Russia is. You just need to look at the trade imbalance and where Chinese funds are being invested to know that. In addition there are 800 or 900 million Chinese living on less than $10 per day. In addition, the Chinese internal economy is built on debt and a property bubble. Its more of a house of cards than is widely believed.



Whilst I’m not sure whether I buy into this entirely, there is some merit to the opinion


that’s worth discussing.


@ Nick

Not sure I see any merit in the arguement, looks ill thought out and seems to be written in a situation that doesn’t really exist.


@ Nick: While I am aware of the risks inherent in the Chinese economy, they have been taking steps to increase domestic consumption and to build new consumer markets and some factories in other countries, especially in eastern africa – this is also a move to deny India an expansion there, most likely. Hence, in a few years the risk may be balanced, possibly more so than our own economies which are increasingly dependent on the financial markets instead of decreasingly so. Also, China may be dependent on the US chiefly, but the US economy is dependent on them to a similar, if not greater extent. As leveraging either would be a much greater risk than Europe leveraging Russia’s interdependence with us, it isn’t as much of a diplomatic option, which also potentially reduces the impact on China if they chose to move assertively. Finally, the economic theories we have assume a mostly diplomatic and liberal politcal background, which is not really the case in China, so they are only to a limited extent appropriate to predict the effects of any type of crisis. Likely the Chinese who do have a large amount of money would oppose actions that could threaten their earnings, but they are also for the most part in the party and therefore part of the system, so the base assumption that wealth makes them more likely to promote democracy/peace is also not fully applicable.

While it is clear that China is vulnerable, the actual extent of that is very hard to gauge, which makes building a strategy against them difficult. This is likely deliberate, but also the effect of limited research and insufficent dissemination of the findings. And as the economic structure of China keeps changing and their dependence on the west is decreasing – which can be stated to be the case with some relieability – their advantage over us increases. As we have little substance to build on and financial market dependence makes military adventures even more of an economic risk than trade dependence does, we will also have a hard time preventing that. We lost the initiative on that shortly after the Cold War ended, and China has started to gear up for its modernization in the 80s already.


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Hybrid war is a proxy war with modern tactics.