Hybrid warfare has become a term for modern warfare or for the next war. However, hybrid warfare as a term itself is a poor descriptor. Thus, the purpose of this article is to contribute to the understanding the hybrid warfare by developing a perceptional map, which will, if possible, pave the way to new theories by creating taxonomy as a result of Multidimensional Scaling (MDS) analysis.

A considerable literature has grown up around the theme of hybrid warfare for more than fifteen years (Nemeth, 2002). Although it has been the subject of much systematic investigation, to date there has been little agreement on what is. Therefore, hybrid warfare became a controversial term among the scholars, researchers, military thinkers and practitioners whether this concept is a new type of war or just a new presentation of low-intensity conflict, guerrilla war, compound war, insurgency, fourth generation warfare, new warfare and any other type of asymmetric war or combination of all or some (Kofman & Rojansky, 2015). Definition of hybrid warfare is not clear among the scholars (Abbott, 2016). Putting aside this discussion, I think that the main point is how the western military superiority faces challenges when the hybrid type of conflict dominates the present-day battles (Nemeth, 2002).  Specifically following Ukraine security crisis, western analysts and policymakers perceive hybrid warfare as the Russian version of the war, which is likely to be threatening international security -at least around Russian borders and/or beyond (M. Kofman & Rojansky, 2015; Giegerich, 2016). NATO has also imported the term into its main policy publications. In Wales Summit, 2014 heads of states and governments decided to effectively address the hybrid threat and develop necessary tools and policies to counter and deter hybrid threats (Giegerich, 2016). However, last two years showed that NATO had difficulties to address this phenomenon by its own means, structures and concepts (Jones, 2014). Therefore, we must definitely take the term seriously in order to work on it for a deeper understanding.

There is a surprising inadequacy of empirical research describing hybrid warfare. In this article, I will present the perception of western thinkers on hybrid warfare by creating taxonomy of multidimensional scaling analysis based on outcomes of data mining process. I hope that findings of this article will contribute to the aforementioned discussions in order to have a better understanding of the concept and to pave way for the new insights on hybrid warfare.


According to some scholars such as Nemeth, hybrid or similar types of warfare are regarded as modern conflicts that dictate modern militaries how to fight future wars. Furthermore, some other military analysts argue that modern armies are relatively inefficient against hybrid adversaries due to their restrictions in terms of organization, structure and law of warfare (Nemeth, 2002). But what is hybrid warfare in reality? To partly answer to this question, I will present two definitions. According to the American columnist and military analyst Frank G. Hoffman, who was one of the early developers of the hybrid warfare concept (Popescu, 2014), hybrid warfare:

“…incorporate a range of different modes of warfare, including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts including indiscriminate violence and coercion, and criminal disorder. These multimodal activities can be conducted by separate units, or even by the same unit, but are generally operationally and tactically directed and coordinated within the main battlespace to achieve synergistic effects.” (Hoffman, 2007, p.14)

In addition to this definition, I want to point out that previous NATO Secretary General Rasmussen labelled Russian tactics as “hybrid warfare,” which he described as “a combination of military action, covert operations and an aggressive program of disinformation” (Wither & Marshall, 2016). Although grasping how NATO sees hybrid warfare is helpful, I will provide a more comprehensive definition from the 2015 edition of Military Balance:

“The use of military and non-military tools in an integrated campaign, designed to achieve surprise, seize the initiative and gain psychological as well as physical advantages utilizing diplomatic means; sophisticated and rapid information, electronic and cyber operations; covert and occasionally overt military and intelligence action; and economic pressure.” (Wither & Marshall, 2016)

Does defining hybrid warfare make the concept more understandable? Probably not, because hybrid warfare is sometimes used instead of dimensions of Russian national power or any other types of warfare, which makes the term poor descriptor (Kofman & Rojansky, 2015). But that doesn’t change the fact that defence and security scholars and organizations such as NATO have put much effort on the concept (Giegerich, 2016).  Thus, understanding the complexity of hybrid warfare is vitally important if we want to develop efficient measures or strategies based on or relevant with the concept.

A great deal of previous research about hybrid warfare has focused on whether it is a new type of warfare or not.  According to Thornton (2015), in Ukraine following Georgia, Moldova and Baltics, Russia has dramatically changed how she conducts warfare by putting information in the epicentre. To him, this strategic action -changing warfare practice from destruction to targeting people’s mind with the help information warfare- makes hybrid a new concept. Kaldor (2013) suggest that blurring is becoming a key instrument in new war because it is not possible to distinguish what is act of war and what is not; a notable example is the distinction between war and organized crime or terrorist acts. In contrast to those intellectuals, Giegerich (2016) posits that hybrid should not be labelled as a new type because what we face is nothing new but current combination of conventional and unconventional warfare. Similarly, Wither (2016) suggest that use of contemporary assets and methods does not make it a new type of war, because the nature of war is still the same, gaining advantages over an adversary by threat or use of organized violence.

Numerous studies have attempted to explain hybrid phenomenon in a similar vein by presenting contradictions. A growing body of study that clarify the nature of concept with help of prefix ‘non’. Since the non-ification is very common approach in the literature, it may be useful to illustrate mostly used terms. A number of classifications can be defined using one word with another together with ‘non’; such as military vs. non-military, state vs. non-state and conventional vs. non-conventional. Here I will list some of those terms:

  • Linear vs. non-linear
  • Kinetic vs. non-kinetic
  • Combatants vs. non-combatants
  • State vs. non-state
  • Traditional vs. non-traditional
  • Lethal vs. non-lethal
  • Violent vs. non-violent
  • Geographical vs. non-geographical
  • Decisive vs. non-decisive
  • Governmental vs. non-governmental
  • NATO vs. non-NATO
  • Trinitarian vs. non-trinitarian
  • Russian vs. non-Russian
  • EU vs. non-EU
  • Country vs. non-country
  • Article 5 vs. non-Article 5

Such expositions, mingling all these terms, are unsatisfactory because they lack clarity in defining what really hybrid warfare is. Therefore, existing accounts fail to resolve the contradictory nature of hybrid warfare. In this paper, I propose a new methodology for understanding the concept. Next, I will discuss the specific methods by which the research and analyses were conducted.


Purpose of this article is to contribute to the understanding the hybrid warfare by developing a perceptional map, which will, if possible, pave the way to new theories by creating taxonomy based on MDS analysis. To this end, I utilized following statistical procedure.

Phase 1. In order to identify warfare types and create similarity matrices, I have selected 50 articles, essays and reports based on their importance and the relevance to hybrid warfare. Then, articles were uploaded to RapidMiner Studio 7.5, one of the world’s most common open source data mining software (Goyal, 2014). Data were processed by text processors with tokenize, transform cases, filter stopwords, generate n-grams, and filter tokens by name. As a result of this data process, outcome was a world list with total occurrence. This list will be base for similarity matrix.

Phase 2. If two words are adjacent and their total occurrence is more than 10 times in 10 different documents in world list, they are transferred to similarity matrix. A 27×27 matrix was produced for each adjacent word. Frequency number placed at the intersection of pairs of words. The resulting process was the similarity matrix.

Phase 3. In the SPSS, the similarity matrix was then scaled using the PROSCAL, a multidimensional scaling (MDS—Kruskal & Wish, 1978) was done to identify the dimensions of hybrid warfare. Dimensions are utilized to explore a specific item and frequently considered as polar opposites (Vanevenhoven, 2008). For instance, in order to investigate the weight of an entity, one way could be the use of a dimension anchored with “heavy” and “skinny” at the ends of a dimension, not necessarily polar opposite (Priem et al., 2002). Although the dimensions do not entirely define a concept, the main benefit of using dimensions to describe an entity is through the natural reduction in characteristics of the object, which may have more than 20 separate characteristics (Vanevenhoven, 2008). In this paper, I will attempt to reduce the overall hybrid warfare dimensions into meaningful components. These results are less likely to be manipulated by researcher prejudice, because the software program generated the list of terms on hybrid warfare without human intervention.


Data mining process provided 27 different terms (see Figure-1). MDS results gave us a matrix for one, two, three, four, five and six dimensions from the similarities. I decided to present the two-dimensional solution based on likely ease of interpretation (Kruskal & Wish, 1978). My intention is to provide a visualization of the hybrid concept by presenting a perceptional map. MDS dimensions are often named based on those items that appear at the extremes of a dimension (Priem et al., 2002). The same was done in this study as well. Two dimensions can be seen in Figure-1. I named the extremes of the first dimension as international vs. national. Because international is relatively close to the terms ‘international’, ‘civilian’, ‘organizational’ and ‘objective’. This shows that contemporary scholars see the hybrid concept as an internationally oriented problem. So, that might be interpreted as western thinkers expect an international solution. On the other hand, national is seen close to the terms ‘policy’, ‘information’, ‘environment’ and ‘strategy’. If a horizontal line is drawn on this point, we can include ‘capability’, ‘defence’ and ‘military’ items, which are mainly subjects of national approach. Moreover, we can name all the x axis as politic dimension.

Figure 1Two-dimensional solution

Thus, I labelled the extremes of the second dimension as nature of warfare (static) vs. character of warfare (dynamic). I considered ‘irregular’, ‘asymmetric’, ‘counter guerrilla’ and ‘modern’ closer to the changing character of warfare. In fact, this axis can be regarded as warfare dimension with both sides. First end is static and the other is dynamic. One can also see in the perceptional map that ‘modern’ is in the centre of unconventional types of warfare. Static side contains terms such as ‘threat’, ‘security’, ‘defence’, ‘capability’ and ‘military’. These terms reflect unchanging nature of warfare. Then, we can comment on the other end as a contemporary version of warfare.

Figure 2: Perceptional Map (Two-Dimensional Solution)


Perceptional map in Figure 2 contains significant results with the help of presenting a new taxonomy of hybrid warfare perceived by contemporary military thinkers, scholars and intellectuals. For instance; one can see a different reflection of Clausewitzian effect in the perceptual map; the x-axis is politic (international & national) and y-axis is warfare (static nature & dynamic character). Since this reflection is the central pillars of the perception map, it can be interpreted that in the hybrid context contemporary scholars perceive that the war is not the continuation of politics, instead it is the combination of them. In addition, the map demonstrates the importance of military force. Although some intellectuals state that military force is only small part of the hybrid concept (Jones, 2014), this study presents the warfare as one of the dimensions. It is, in fact, significant part of the hybrid model. On the warfare axis, static nature and dynamic character are two different extremes. Static dimension demonstrates unchanging nature of warfare, and dynamic dimension represents changing nature of it.

The International dimension is one of the significant points of the hybrid warfare concept because most of the actions under the name of hybrid conflict occur below the threshold that most western observers would consider an armed conflict, much less a war (Giegerich, 2016). Moreover, the hybrid is perceived as an international phenomenon that requires international actions. But reaching an international agreement on the threshold level is not easy, given the fact that NATO cannot take proper actions against hybrid threats.

One noteworthy pattern is that guerrilla, irregular, acts and asymmetric items are regarded as modern. That pattern verifies Giegerich (2016) who posits that hybrid warfare is just a modern-day interpretation of the time-honoured combination of conventional and unconventional approaches. In a similar vein, NATO’s Bi-Strategic Command Capstone Concept defines hybrid threats as “those posed by adversaries, with the ability to simultaneously employ conventional and non-conventional means adaptively in pursuit of their objectives.” (Bachmann & Gunneriusson, 2015). Many military thinkers concur that hybrid warfare does not substitute for the conventional warfare, or reduce the importance of conventional forces (Mccarthy, 2010; Brown, 2011). Wither (2016) takes the discussion one point ahead by saying that hybrid warfare does not change the nature of war.

Acts are very close to these types of warfare unlike tactics, at the opposite polar (see A in Figure 2). This shows that actions refer something broader than the tactics. Since the tactics are mostly attributed planned and established movements of conventional or irregular forces but acts cannot be easily classified and are frequently imprecise. Moreover, acts can be as effective as tactics.

Thus, hybrid warfare cannot be degraded into the combination of regular warfare tactics and irregular acts (Bjerregaard, 2012). Hoffman defines this as blurring aspects of the hybrid concept. He thinks that blurring occurs when regular and irregular converge. But, what is really new in hybrid warfare? First of all, novelty is the use of regular and irregular force in the same battlefield by creating fusion, and secondly, conventional use of military forces does not guarantee a decisive victory anymore (Hoffman, 2010). Hybrid battlefield is an asymmetric one where a conventional force faces with the enemy who uses both regular and irregular tactics (Brown, 2011). In this new battlefield, conventional forces are not likely to be the main instrument to win the war in the 21st century.

We can see two different neighbours to those items, countering and strategy. This proximity shows that military thinkers’ efforts are mostly on countering those threats. This is more likely a reactive pattern to response those types of warfare. Besides, countering fall in the international and irregular intersection alongside with economy, challenging and conventional (see Figure 2 D). This arc connects international organizations to modern warfare by means of economy, challenging and conventional. I think those three items reflects perception of the western international arena. On the other side, this cloud is seen as a strategic tool. Strategic part will be discussed later.

Another remarkable point is that ‘Russia’, ‘security’ and ‘threat’ are seen in very close proximity (see C in Figure 2). Russia’s coming back as a new adversary is not new, but this cloud falls in the intersection between international and static nature of warfare axis. This implies that Russia has long been regarded as a threat to international peace and security.

Russia’s coming back and her accomplishment in Ukraine has also raised suspicion over the efficiency of NATO’s deterrence and efficacy of conventional military-centric strategies (Bartkowski, 2015). NATO declared Russian actions in Ukraine as an illustration of hybrid warfare. But those actions are far from triggering article four or five (Abbott, 2016), and the boundaries of plausible deniability (Bartkowski, 2015). And also, hybrid threat requires hybrid solutions, with which NATO doesn’t have necessary tools to deal (Abbott, 2016). Most writers posit that a NATO comprehensive approach will be able to counter hybrid threats. In fact, NATO should contribute a comprehensive strategy led by UN or EU, etc. In this comprehensive approach, NATO may still have a fundamental role as a military organization, but single NATO action will fail to counter hybrid threats (Abbott, 2016). As experienced in Afghanistan, NATO was not able to win and even worse couldn’t manage building democratic bodies in the country (Bartkowski, 2015).

One remarkable point is that there is another arc from strategy to military, defense and capability (see B in Figure 2). Put it differently, hybrid warfare should be executed in accordance with a strategy with long-standing objectives (Jones, 2014) based on pillars of static nature of warfare. Although some scholars perceive hybrid warfare as a strategy rather than a new type of war in order to reach political goals by using military power on the battlefield (Lanoszka, 2016). Some others identify it as a military-strategic approach. Essentially, hybrid concept causes strategic, conceptual, and structural consequences (Williamson, 2009) for all modern armies. Hybrid warfare can be perceived both as a strategy and a tactic, but the hybrid player has mostly perceived strategic superiority over the conventional player regardless of tactical outcomes due to its ability to bridge levels of warfare (Fl, Mcculloh, & Johnson, 2013). In Ukraine, Russia used hybrid tactics as a means to achieve a broader strategy by coordinating governmental organisations, non-governmental entities, and private individuals (Hunter & Pernik, 2015). So, all the actors should be able to create harmony under strategy (policy), grand strategy and levels of warfare in the hybrid era.


Findings of this paper provided a deeper insight into our understanding of hybrid warfare and basis for further research. In this respect, four dimensions of hybrid warfare have been presented based on the perception of the contemporary scholars, military thinkers and intellectuals in this article. Those dimensions are national, international, nature of warfare (dynamic) and character of warfare (static). This study has also identified that hybrid is concurrent with presence of politics and warfare on the same conflict zone or battlefield. The other major finding, is that as opposed some other thinkers, hybrid concept is not just implementation of a strategy or use of national power elements, in addition to those, military means constitute of a significant part of it. Taken together, findings of this paper complement earlier studies and lastly I hope that the taxonomy of hybrid warfare perceived by contemporary scholars, military thinkers and intellectuals lead to a better understanding of the concept, a better-defined hybrid warfare concept, and help to further distinguish between hybrid warfare and other types of warfare.





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