NATO 2015: The Challenges of Hybrid War


2016-01-29 Recently, NATO released the 2015 annual report from the Secretary General.

It has been a busy year for NATO and the report highlights and summarizes many of those activities.

The executive summary to the report highlights developments during the year.

Safeguarding freedom and security has always been NATO’s aim.

As the security environment has evolved, NATO has adapted to ensure that it can deliver for the citizens it was created to defend.

The security environment in 2015 was one of complex challenges and unpredictable threats to the safety of citizens in the Euro-Atlantic area and around the world.

Violent extremism and instability in the Middle East and North Africa persisted, worsening the humanitarian crises in Syria and Iraq, and fuelling the largest flow of refugees in decades. Terrorists attacked in Ankara and Paris, Beirut and San Bernardino. They killed indiscriminately, bombing a plane of Russians on holiday in Egypt, shooting tourists in Tunisia and gunning down concert-goers and others out for an evening in France.

Through these acts, terrorists attempted to disrupt people’s everyday lives and fragment the rules-based societies and systems that are the foundation of stability and prosperity.

Russia continued to pursue a more assertive and unpredictable military posture in 2015. While persisting in illegally occupying parts of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, and continuing to support separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, Russia also began a military operation in Syria, not as part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL but in support of the Assad regime.

The serious risks associated with ignoring or skirting agreed international rules and procedures were brought to light in 2015, when violations of Turkish airspace led to the downing of a Russian jet.

The hybrid nature of security challenges – combining military and non-military means of inflicting damage or creating instability – also continued to colour the security environment in 2015.

While the notion of hybrid warfare is not new, the scale, speed and intensity of the challenge demanded a new approach to preparing for, deterring, and defending against these threats.

While Russia’s actions have been unpredictable, NATO is committed to transparency and is working to update the mechanisms meant to ensure openness in relation to certain military activities and to restore predictability to the relationship with Russia.

At the same time, NATO is fully committed to the collective defence of all Allies and continues to bolster the readiness and responsiveness of its forces. Throughout 2015, NATO continued to implement the Readiness Action Plan that was agreed at the NATO Summit in Wales, providing assurance for Allies in the eastern part of the Alliance, supporting Turkey as it is faced with instability in the South, and adapting so that NATO is prepared for the challenges of today and tomorrow. These actions have contributed to the most significant reinforcement of NATO’s collective defence in decades.

NATO agreed a hybrid strategy to cope with the fast-moving challenges posed through a range of military and non-military means. The Alliance exercised its forces in a variety of scenarios throughout the year, including in its largest exercise in over a decade, which brought together more than 36,000 troops from over 30 countries.

In 2015, Allies invested in defense and security, developing   and   improving   their   capabilities, including ballistic missile defense, surveillance and reconnaissance, and cyber defense. Allies worked together and with partners on the operations and missions in which NATO is engaged, from training and advising in Afghanistan to maritime monitoring in the Mediterranean.

Terrorist attacks are meant to terrify, but NATO, along with the broader international community, has vowed to strengthen its resolve and continue to develop the ways and means of addressing the challenge. Every member of the Alliance is part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, and NATO is working with its partners in the region to bolster their capacity to provide security and prevent further instability.

NATO deepened its cooperation with partners across a range of areas to build capacity, enhance interoperability and to generate a better understanding of and approach to a variety of shared challenges to security.

NATO provided essential training, assistance and support to Afghanistan through the Resolute Support Mission and agreed to sustain this presence and support during 2016. NATO also maintained its peace-support operation in Kosovo, contributing to the stability and security of the Western Balkans region.

The Alliance continued to stand by Ukraine in 2015, enhancing its support to Ukraine as it works to improve its governance and security structures, despite the ongoing conflict in the eastern part of the country.

In December, NATO invited Montenegro to start accession talks to join the Alliance, affirming the progress that country has made and demonstrating the Alliance’s commitment to its Open Door policy.

In order to pursue all three of the Alliance’s core tasks – collective Defence, crisis management and cooperative security – it is essential that NATO has not only the right policies, capabilities and relationships but that the structures supporting its work are fit for purpose.

To this end, NATO continued to adapt as an institution in 2015, implementing reforms to its civilian and military structures to ensure a modern, efficient, effective and accountable institution.

For the complete report, see the following: