From China in Asia to Russia in Europe and the Middle East, and ISIS just about everywhere, 2015 has seen the flourishing of conflicts that exist in a gray zone, one which is not quite open war but more than regular competition, which is attuned to globalization, which liberal democracies are ill-equipped to deal with, and which may well be the way power is exercised and conflict conducted in the foreseeable future.
Described by scholars as “hybrid,” “full-spectrum,” “non-linear,” “next-generation,” or “ambiguous”—the variations in the description indicate the slipperiness of the subject—these conflicts mix psychological, media, economic, cyber, and military operations without requiring a declaration of war.
In the case of Russia’s ongoing campaign in Ukraine, for example, hyper-intense Russian propaganda has cultivated unrest inside the country by sowing enmity among segments of Ukrainian society and confusing the West with waves of disinformation, while Russian proxy forces and covert troops launch just enough military offensives to ensure that the Ukrainian government looks weak. The point is not to occupy territory—Russia could easily annex rebel-held eastern Ukraine—but to destabilize Ukraine psychologically and advance a narrative of the country as a “failed state,” thus destroying the will and support inside Ukraine and internationally for reforms that would make Kiev more independent from Moscow and might, in the longer term, create hope for democratic reform inside Russia.
Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/12/war-2015-china-russia-isis/422085/