Over the past two decades, the world has been subjected to an unprecedented peacetime assault. Unlike past major conflicts, this one is taking place largely below the level of overt hostilities. It involves the use of non-military or, at the most, paramilitary means to attack an adversary’s critical national assets – the economy, military and security services, infrastructure, political system, and media. As explained by Frank Hoffman, perhaps the best scholar on the subject: “The most distinctive change in the character of modern war is the blurred or blended nature of combat. We do not face a widening number of distinct challenges but their convergence into hybrid wars.”
Hybrid warfare blurs the distinction between the overt use of military force to impose one nation’s will on another, what we think of as traditional warfare, and the use of other instruments of power, either overtly or covertly, to achieve the same ends. Hybrid operations are particularly useful in undermining an adversary’s will and capacity to resist coercion or aggression.
Russia is one of the premier practitioners of hybrid warfare. It employed a combination of propaganda, economic coercion, cyber operations, bribery, and the deployment of paramilitary forces – so-called "little green men" – to undermine Ukraine's ability to resist the seizure of Crimea and the occupation of the Donbass. It routinely uses these and other measures not only against Ukraine but other former Soviet Republics and even Western nations.