Hybrid and transnational threats

Discussion Paper

In an age where hybrid tactics such as disinformation and cyber-attacks are increasingly deployed, the limitations of conventional military power have become evident. Both state and non-state actors are using discrete hybrid tactics in order to meet their geopolitical objectives. Through fake news, election interference and disinformation campaigns, perpetrators are exploiting the current state of polarisation and government mistrust in Western democracies.

European countries have felt Russia’s hybrid aggression, from the illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued efforts in destabilising Eastern Ukraine to its interference in democratic elections in Europe and North America, all of this accompanied by hostile cyber-attacks and fake news. Most EU member states have strengthened their capabilities in face of these threats, notably Finland and Sweden who have built proactive and resilient strategies.

However, many challenges still lie ahead. The state of information sharing among EU and NATO member states is not ideal and trust-building practices might be needed to ensure proactive and rapid responses in times of crisis. Member states need to speed up attribution of cyber-attacks and take appropriate action. Additionally, a global cyber convention might be needed to set international rules of behaviour in the cyber domain. Finally, cooperation between the private and the public sector must also be enhanced in order to ensure technological preparedness in face of hybrid threats.

The paper includes different perspectives from a range of authors including: Giles Portman, Head of the East Stratcom Task Force at the European External Action Service, Antonio Missiroli, NATO Assistant Secretary General, Emerging Security Challenges, and Marina Kaljurand, Chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.

The publication is divided into three parts:
Part 1: Hybrid Threats in Action: What’s in the Toolkit?
Part 2: Building Resilience of Critical Infrastructure: Case Studies
Part 3: Managing the Threat: Foresight, Crisis Management and Damage Control

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