Early warning and non-linear warfare - challenges for intelligence services


  • Malin Severin

Publish date: 2018-03-14

Report number: FOI-R--4577--SE

Pages: 49

Written in: Swedish


  • Intelligence analysis
  • security services
  • early warning
  • indicators
  • grey zone threats
  • hybrid warfare
  • measures short of war
  • situational awareness
  • non-linear warfare
  • Total Defence


The combination of novel societal vulnerabilities and powerful technologies has meant that non-military measures short of war have gained renewed relevance in interstate conflicts. Actors seeking to challenge the status quo and exert influence over other countries' policies, today have many options for doing so without crossing the threshold of armed aggression. This pilot study provides a broad introduction to these challenges and the implications facing Swedish intelligence and security services in their mission to detect, identify, and warn against emerging threats against Sweden. The study focuses on antagonistic threats in the grey area between peace and war; activities often referred to as 'grey zone' or 'hybrid' threats. These activities tend to be difficult to detect, attribute and assess, and in order to enhance situational awareness, intelligence agencies need to find ways to link seemingly disparate occurrences into a coherent whole. The complex and multifaceted threat situation highlights the need for enhanced interagency cooperation and information sharing between civilian and military agencies. For relevant signals to travel upstream, the report stresses the need to continually provide lower-level authorities with open source information relating to threat development and potential aggressors' modus operandi. The study notes that the contemporary debate on hybrid warfare in Sweden bears strong resemblances with challenges facing Swedish intelligence agencies in the 1960's. Important lessons could thus be drawn from studying how Sweden organised its intelligence sharing apparatus in preparation for a 'non-linear attack' during the Cold War.