Hybrid Warfare Revisited: A Battle of ‘Buzzwords’

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Connections: The Quarterly Journal, Volume 22, Issue 1, p.7-28 (2023)


China, NATO, Russia, strategic competition, United States, Warfare


Hybrid warfare is the most common term used by commentators to describe the complexity and multifaceted character of contemporary warfare. Hybrid warfare refers to coercive methods of strategic competition that take place below the threshold of conventional military conflict and is usually applied to the blend of military and non-military methods of warfare employed by the West’s principal adversaries, Russia and China. The term hybrid warfare has evolved from an essentially military concept to one that potentially embraces all the instruments of state power. Hybrid warfare remains an ill-defined and contested term, and there are many other buzzwords, such as irregular warfare, hybrid threats, and gray zone aggression, that are used to describe the same phenomenon. This article examines the evolution of thinking on hybrid warfare and these related concepts. It highlights the challenges that scholars and practitioners have faced in trying to define and apply these terms in the policy environment in a manner that promotes common understanding and strategic coherence.

Last updated: Wednesday, 06 March 2024