Jointly organized by the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, the Institute for Theology and Peace and the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats

International Workshop: "Hybrid Warfare - a challenge for security and peace, legality and ethics


What's it about?

Hybrid ways of warfare seem to offer political gain by smart recourse to a limited, deniable and supposed manageable use of force. The assumption that in hybrid warfare the risk of military escalation and political damage could be kept within limits may increase the likelihood of its offensive use. For this reason it is more than likely that hybrid warfare, with its variety of offensive options, will shape the “face of war” in the 21st century.

However, this assumption might turn out to be wrong, as uncertainties and frictions are an essential part of war’s nature. Therefore it is high time to improve our common understanding of hybrid warfare and related strategies while raising awareness regarding own vulnerabilities as a precondition for joint and comprehensive action in defence and response, as well as to deter and to prevent the offensive use of hybrid warfare in the first place. Special focus needs to be put on the potentially long priming phase of hybrid warfare, when hybrid attacks are silently prepared or covertly on the way. The open use of force might be reserved only to the last step in order to not reveal the aggressive intention too early.

With its ability to create ambiguity by silently operating in grey areas of interfaces and concealing or denying a role as a party to the conflict − combined with a limited use of force only as a last step − hybrid warfare’s potential for surprise and offensive action provides a particular challenge to the defender: To be beaten by surprise without even recognising to be under hybrid attack until it is too late (fait accompli)! Such surprise could also be carried out indirectly, by primarily civilian means and methods (disinformation, subversion, propaganda, disintegration) and in slow-motion (salami tactics). But fault lines within Western societies are a growing vulnerability that could be exploited by hybrid warfare actors (internal and external ones). Open, democratic societies that lack strategic vigilance are particularly vulnerable to methods of hybrid warfare. Moreover, effectively countering hybrid warfare may violate the standards and norms of democratic societies.

The goal of the workshop:
To address hybrid warfare as a challenge for security and peace, as well as for law and ethics, and to discover ways to prevent, contain or peacefully end hybrid warfare is the overarching goal of this workshop.

Central questions:
What are the specific challenges Hybrid Warfare poses for security, peace, law and ethics? What answers can be offered by security and peace policy, legal experts, ethical advisers and the academia?