“The minds of the population are being targeted”: when the war in Ukraine is played out in Western homes

“The minds of the population are being targeted”: when the war in Ukraine is played out in Western homes
“The minds of the population are being targeted”: when the war in Ukraine is played out in Western homes
The difficult fight against sabotage in the North Sea: “Russian spy ships pass almost every week”

What forms can a “hybrid war” take?

I personally use the term “hybrid threat” because the notion of “war” is limited to the battlefield. Most often, this manifests itself in the form of a disinformation campaign coupled with waves of cyberattacks. An actor hacks a large amount of data, before using it in disinformation campaigns. The main target of these actions is the trust that citizens have in their government. When we attack underwater infrastructure, for example, we want the population to ask themselves “is the government capable of protecting the infrastructure on which my existence depends? ?”

Is the phenomenon recent?

Some experts will tell you that hybrid threats are as old as war, but I don’t completely agree because the context is entirely different. Today, it is extremely easy for an authoritarian state like Russia, China or Iran to discredit our liberal democracies. In the case of Russia, for example, we see this very clearly with the exploitation of migrants, whom Moscow has been pushing for several months towards the Finnish border in order to generate pressure. Which de facto creates a problem for the right-wing and far-right Finnish government, which took the decision to close this border in November, exactly the expected response. The whole objective of the maneuver is to put our democracies in contradiction with their practices, their values, to say “Look how hypocritical liberal democracies are”.

How to react when faced with this type of threat?

This is tricky because the government that is the victim often does not know exactly what is happening, which puts it in a situation of terrible institutional stress. Social media has the fascinating ability to fine-tune propaganda and disinformation campaigns on a virtually individual level. Which, obviously, encourages new political behaviors with disconcerting ease. In certain countries, we have seen private companies specializing in disinformation massively encouraging voters not to vote, at the request of a candidate who was advantaged by abstention. There will never be a completely effective method to counter this type of campaign; these are complex crises to which the responses are not necessarily secure. We must have the finest and most creative political response possible, because our old reflexes are perfectly anticipated by our adversaries when they set a trap for us.

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