8 October 2015

Hybrid warfare and powerplay in the South China Sea?

In a new report from FOI, three scientists set out the current trends in the military thinking of three great powers. The report analyses the trends and tendencies in the military thinking of the United States, Russia and China.

Much is being written and said about a new kind of hybrid warfare and the “sixth generation warfare” that Russia is believed to have been using in Ukraine. But do such concepts really have a basis in current Russian military doctrine and thinking?

“The debate in the West has so far tended to be misleading. To the extent that the concept of hybrid warfare does appear at all as a topic of debate in Russian military circles, it is as their interpretation of what they believe the United States has been doing in the Arab world and in Ukraine. Not what they themselves have been doing in Ukraine. And sixth generation warfare is a marginal concept in the Russian debate,” says Gudrun Persson, an FOI specialist on Russian military matters. She believes that such labels can lead to misunderstanding and erroneous conclusions in the West.

In the new report The Eagle, the Bear and the Dragon: Military Thought in Three Great Powers (published in Swedish with a Summary in English), three FOI scientists, each a specialist in their own area, set out a concise and comprehensible assessment of the trends in military thinking in the United States, Russia and China.

China’s spectacular economic growth has also provided the headroom for entirely new and modern armed forces, now shown off in military parades. What is the intended purpose of these new forces? What motivation is driving this growth in military capabilities?

In the United States there are concerns that China, with the aid of new weapons and sensors, might be able to realise their concept of creating a broad Area Denial/Anti-Access zone, thus upsetting the current security balance in the world’s most dynamic region. As a countermove, the United States Air Force and Navy are developing the Air-Sea Battle concept which could also have applications in our own region.