We live in an era of hybrid threats.  There are state and non-state actors that are challenging countries and institutions they see as a threat, opponent or competitor to their interests and goals. The range of methods and activities is wide, including: influencing information; logistical weaknesses like energy supply pipelines; economic and trade-related blackmail; undermining international institutions by rendering rules ineffective; terrorism or increasing insecurity.

Hybrid threats are methods and activities that are targeted towards vulnerabilities of the opponent. Vulnerabilities can be created by many things, including historical memory, legislation, old practices, geostrategic factors, strong polarisation of society, technological disadvantages or ideological differences. If the interests and goals of the user of hybrid methods and activity are not achieved, the situation can escalate into hybrid warfare where the role of military and violence will increase significantly.

Accordingly, the Hybrid CoE characterises hybrid threat as

  • Coordinated and synchronised action, that deliberately targets democratic states’ and institutions systemic vulnerabilities, through a wide range of means.
  • The activities exploit the thresholds of detection and attribution as well as the different interfaces (war-peace, internal-external, local-state, national-international, friend-enemy).
  • The aim of the activity is to influence different forms of decision making at the local (regional), state, or institutional level to favour and/or gain the agent’s strategic goals while undermining and/or hurting the target.

Based on experience Hybrid influencing divides roughly in two: priming phase and operational phase. At priming phase, the adversary is constantly monitoring the situation, exercising reasonably subtle means of influencing whilst gradually improving its assets. If decided, it may initiate a more serious hybrid operation whereby the effect of measures becomes stronger, means more violent and plausible deniability decreases.