By Richard Weitz
Recent clashes in Ukraine, Syria and the South China Sea indicate the magnitude of the challenges that revisionist powers Russia and China present to the Western powers. Using “hybrid” techniques, Russian and Chinese policymakers have skillfully mixed military and non-military tactics to achieve geopolitical gains at the expense of the United States and its partners and allies.
Despite major dissimilarities in terms of their national assets, methods, objectives and world visions, Russia and China present some comparable challenges to global security. In particular, both authoritarian states have applied various military, paramilitary, legal, economic and information tools in the western Pacific and Eurasia to expand their regional influence, divide potential opponents and otherwise seize the strategic initiative.
The West has yet to develop an effective response to what can be variously termed their “asymmetric,” “sub-conventional,” “hybrid,” “non-linear,” “ambiguous,” “unrestricted,” unconventional” and “next-generation warfare” tactics. Chinese and Russian instruments of influence have included economic coercion, proxy actions, sophisticated propaganda and exploitation of ethnic and other societal tensions. The aggregate effect of these tools has presented a potent hybrid mix that other countries have found difficult to counter.
Picture: Elizabeth Arrott / VOA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons