Thursday, January 11, 2024

Review of Hybrid Warfare: The Russian Approach to Strategic Competition & Conventional Military Conflict by Curtis L. Fox

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = History, War
Intriguing Connections = 1) Get To Know The Peoples Of The World (Russia), 

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At the operational level, Hybrid Warfare holistically uses all levers of national influence (political, cultural, economic, military, or informational) to create asymmetric advantages in support of discrete objectives.  At the tactical level, hybrid warfare deploys non-military influence to sow chaos ahead of elite troops who are tasked with swiftly seizing objectives and terrain to pave the way for conventional forces.  These tactics leverage deception and ambiguity, allowing Russia to straddle the watershed between interstate political competition and overt warfare.” – Curtis L. Fox, Chapter One, Page 30

“Russia maintained its strategic position by prying social cracks open, supporting dissident groups, employing propaganda, and avoiding direct and unwinnable engagements.  In between the luminary leaders who fostered cultural revivals and economic improvement in Russia (Catherine the Great, Peter the Great), this approach to foreign policy preserved Russia during times of famine and economic catastrophe and in the face of technologically superior competitors.  Hybrid warfare was and is the modern manifestation of this foreign policy tradition.” – Curtis L. Fox, Chapter Two, Page 46

“Many Soviet “illegals” stole identities from dead children in the West.  Soviet operatives would steal or forge a birth certificate and then fabricate a history for the child as though it had grown up, creating a paper trail for a false identity that one of their operatives could assume.  “Illegals” even trained as couples, getting married in Russia and then moving to the West where thy could “meet for the first time” and fall in love in the presence of Western friends.” – Curtis L. Fox, Chapter Five, Page 131

Excerpts with permission from the publisher


Is This An Overview?

Hybrid warfare is a mixture of covert and conventional overt actions.  Covert actions enable a more effective use of conventional efforts.  Sovereign states use hidden methods to interfere with other states which prepare advantageous conditions for conventional efforts.  Covert actions increase the chances for successful conventional forces operations.  Hybrid warfare is a method of managing political competition and overt warfare through deception and ambiguity.  Meant to reduce costs to international politics and reduce the loss of troops in overt military conflict.  Hybrid warfare enables the projection of power with plausible deniability. 

Russia has historically needed to use hybrid warfare to defend their sovereignty and intervene in other states.  Before an intervention, Russian operatives gain access to a target government using diplomatic ties.  The operatives then generate civil unrest through propaganda, politics, and economics.  While seeking and gathering individuals who are sympathetic to Russian causes and ideology.  These actions reduce political and military resistance to Russian narrative and demands.  Chaos from civil unrest changes the operational environment to favor Russia, and justifies Russian intervention as a way to resolve the crisis.  In this way Russia has opportunities to influence the policies of the target government. 


How Does Russia Protect Its Sovereignty?

Russia is using the same type of warfare strategy for centuries, as there are similar geopolitical constants.  The Russian winter was used to deter invaders as invaders could not concentrate their forces nor could they protect long supply lines. 

Russia uses buffer states to protect its sovereignty rather than military might across its vast border.  During the USSR phase, there were neighboring states that had socialism imposed on them.  The states had their cultures, economies, and identities suppressed.  The states became known as the Eastern Bloc, and were meant to prevent Western influence.  When the USSR regime collapsed, many buffer states gained independence.  Russia has been trying to rebuild the buffer states network since the fall of the USSR.

During the 1990s, democracies have proven a more effective governance method than centrally-planned governance.  Russia was destitute and feared invasion from the West.  Many sought U.S. allegiance to defend against USSR influence, but Russia was not longer seen as a threat after the fall of the USSR, which led to many U.S. allies to question their reliance on the U.S.  As U.S. foreign policy had become to be seen as a distraction, Russia gained foreign influence.

After WW2, growth was not dependent on new territories and colonial possessions.  Growth was obtained through economic expansion that was facilitated by U.S. efforts to protect the global commons, the sea borne routes.  Rather than colonize, Russia creates permanent client-states that support Russian choices.


What Are Some Details On Russia’s Military Use?

While Boris Yeltsin decentralized military authority to prevent any from having a monopoly of information and provide a system of checks and balances on power.  Vladimir Putin centralized military authority into the FSB.  

Russia has long term information gathering operations, but their effectiveness has been negligible.  They are not trusted in Russia after being undercover for a long time.

Russia uses paramilitary groups for overt political subversion, and prevents rival states from building coalitions.  Russia also uses a mercenary organization to take actions.  These are considered military advisors, but are mercenaries.  They enable actions that appear to be voluntary on their own behave, but they obtain a salary from a Russian proxy.  They are considered volunteers and tend to be disavowed and disbanded after the conflict is over.  When caught, Russia claims they are volunteers or soldiers on extended leave. 

Russian soldiers have psychological problems from how they are treated.  Russian soldiers deal with various abuses from their colleagues, and hierarchy.  Conditions of military barracks are a factor of low retention rates of soldiers. 



This book focuses on Russia, while the ideas of hybrid warfare are applicable to all groups of power.  The book was dedicated to those with military experience, with many parts of the book focusing on the miliary aspects.  A diverse set of factors that influence political decisions are acknowledged and provided, but they tend to be limited. 

Hybrid warfare increases the chance of successful outcomes, but does not determine them.  The author describes the successes and failures of hybrid warfare from which Russia learned how to change operating procedures.  Hybrid warfare is referenced as something comparatively new, while the methods described have been used throughout history.  The appearance of novelty may come from a survivorship bias that favors the overt actions, more than the covert actions. 

The caveat of hybrid warfare not being something new can be described in more detail.  The covert actions are meant to be hidden which makes them more difficult to recognize and acknowledge.  Alternatively, the overt actions are salient and are given the credit for their efforts.  Creating a survivorship bias in favor of overt action while minimizing the information on covert actions. 

Hybrid warfare is meant to influence other states to favor Russia decisions, prevent political counter criticism, and reduce resistance to Russia.  But, the author references that various states became resistant to Russia due to Russian efforts, gained independence from Russia, and sought out Russia’s political opposition to defend against Russia.  What are missing are the methods Russia uses or can use to influence other states to be willing to want to join Russia rather than oppose Russia.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is hybrid warfare?
•What are the tools of hybrid warfare?
•Why did Russia need to rely on hybrid warfare?
•How do states interfere with other states?
•How does Russia justify interventions in other states?
•What are buffer states and why does Russia rely on them?
•How does Russia’s geography influence which territories Russia seizes?
•What happened to Russia under Bolsheviks governance? 
•What happened to Russia after the USSR collapsed? 
•What was Russia’s role during WW2?
•How did WW2 change economic power projection? 
•How does the energy sector effect Russia? 
•How did Russian military change?
•Who are the “illegals”?
•How are military personal promoted? 
•How are military personnel treated? 
•What is the Wagner Group? 
•What is the Night Wolf biker gang?  How does Russia use the gang? 
•How did Russia handle Napoleon? 
•How did Stalin try to break the Ukraine’s resistance to Communist collectivization?
•How did Russia use Sub-Saharan African conflicts? 
•How did Russia handle the Chechnya conflict? 
•How did Russia handle the Georgia conflict?
•How did Russia annex Crimea?  How dose Crimea effect Russia? 

Book Details
This book was provided by the publisher
Foreword Author:   Ashley Franz Holzmann
Edition:                   First Edition
Publisher:               Four Minute Men Books [-30- Press Publishing]
Edition ISBN:         B0CPHPLR9N
Pages to read:          270
Publication:             2023
1st Edition:              2023
Format:                     eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall          4