On April 30th, the European Union Institute for Security Studies published a paper titled “Protecting Europe,” which portrays Russia as the biggest “hybrid threat” to the EU, as well as the region.
“The EU takes hybrid threats seriously and has designed an array of policies to counter them. Its main focus is the ongoing crises beyond its borders, throughout its eastern and southern neighborhoods. In Ukraine and elsewhere, the EU is trying to counter hostile Russian actions. But its countermeasures are focused inwards too as its own member states come under at-tack. These measures are helping more generally to ‘future-proof’ the EU itself, to shore up its own internal structures and networks in the face of a rapidly shifting international landscape. They are helping Europe respond to powers such as China and the use of new technologies such as 5G.”
Hybrid threats has become a popular term recently, and the paper very accurately points out that “The use of the term ‘hybrid threats’ has been accompanied by some doubts about whether it actually means anything.”
The issue is that, the biggest “hybrid threat” comes from Russia and ISIS, directly compared on the same line, but their actions are so different that they need a very wide definition of their activity that is as wholly-encompassing as possible.
According to the EU, hybrid campaigns are ‘multidimensional, combining coercive and subversive measures, using both conventional and unconventional tools and tactics (diplomatic, military, economic, and technological) to destabilize the adversary. They are designed to be difficult to detect or at-tribute, and can be used by both state and nonstate actors.”
Thus, with the entire unclarity surround what exactly is a hybrid threat it fits perfectly with the narrative of Russian aggression towards Europe, since there is seldom any evidence to back any claims, so the definition has a little freedom of movement before it enters full absurdity territory.
It should further be noted that the EUISS is an EU-funded agency and the objectivity of its claims should also be scrutinized since the narrative of Russian “hybrid threats” could be used simply to mask internal issues by shifting the focus of the citizens to another “more pressing issue.”
The reason that pushed the EU to realize that “hybrid threats” were, in fact, a thing was the “aggressive behavior of Russia” and the “seizure of Crimea” in 2014.
“This led to fears that Russia may use the same tactics against other former Soviet states and Warsaw Pact members,” for which there’s really been no indication.
The first action towards combating this mostly imaginary threat was the establishment of the East StratCom Task Force in 2015 to combat disinformation by the Russian government and media directed at Europe.
Apart from that, the EU’s borders need protection, since to the East it shares a border notably with Russia, and due to the former Soviet domination of the region, including of Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine, it is under danger of “a new iron curtain on the East.”
“But this commitment to a light-touch border regime may invite exploitation by Moscow, which has not been shy to use criminal networks for geopolitical purposes.”
Furthermore, an example of Russian disinformation was Russian television reporting that a Russian-German girl was beaten and raped in Berlin by Middle-Eastern migrants in early 2016. The same people that Russian forces are fighting to allow go home in Syria.
Separately, Russia allegedly tried to exploit Europe’s “fragmentation” and thus directed migration at three countries – Norway, Finland and Turkey. So, the migrant crisis is also to blame on Russia.
Later on, in the report it is stated that energy in Europe is in jeopardy since Russia continues to show interest in selling its LNG, especially through the upcoming Nord Stream 2.
The number of troops NATO has deployed along the Russian border was also exaggerated thanks to Russian disinformation efforts; the report claimed.
“Pro-Kremlin or state-controlled media have targeted NATO forces and allies. As the EEAS East StratCom Task Force’s ‘EU versus Disinformation’ campaign shows, Russia has used official social media accounts to spread falsehoods about the level of troops deployed by NATO during military exercises. One tweet by the Russian Embassy in London from 3 November 2018 claimed that NATO had deployed 11,000 troops in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland near the Russian border.”
Of course, the Western establishment has the monopoly on propaganda and disinformation, so how dare Russia or China or anybody else possibly partake in any such actions.
In conclusion, the report claimed that much success is being achieved in combating Russian destabilization efforts, but much more could be done.
“The truth of the matter is that hybrid threats are potent because they are difficult to detect. A threat to critical infrastructure might well be part of an overall attack on the EU that includes border tensions and disinformation campaigns (i.e. horizontal hybrid strategies). Alternatively, a coordinated disinformation campaign may be employed to set the groundwork for some later escalation (i.e. vertical hybrid strategies). In other cases, an attack on critical infrastructure might not be part of a hybrid campaign at all – it could be the work of criminals, terrorists or extremists. It is for this reason that the rapid identification of and reaction to hybrid threats is challenging. It also means that high-calibre data and intelligence is required and that the Union builds up its resilience through regular exercises and learning lessons from external partners that have been subject to hybrid campaigns in the past.”
They are specifically hard to detect if they need to be produced out of thin air first and even, possibly substantialized, but proof isn’t something that Western diplomats or MSM is interested in when it comes to Russian hysteria.
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