Without sending troops, the U.S. wages 'hybrid warfare' against Russia The U.S. and Russia have talked for years about "hybrid war" — waging a conflict on multiple fronts beyond the battlefield. In unprecedented ways, the U.S. is now employing this against Russia.

Without sending troops, the U.S. wages 'hybrid warfare' against Russia

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The U.S. and Russian militaries both like to talk about something called hybrid warfare. It's a bit of a fuzzy term, but the general idea is to wage war on multiple fronts as well as the conventional battlefield. The U.S. and its allies are doing this now, perhaps on a scale never seen before, as they attempt to counter Russia in the war in Ukraine.

NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre is here to break this down. Hey, Greg.


SUMMERS: So let's just start with the basics here. How is the U.S. waging hybrid war?

MYRE: Well, the U.S. hasn't sent a single soldier into Ukraine, but this unconventional warfare began before the very first shot was fired. The U.S. was releasing intelligence in advance of the Russian invasion, prebunking Russian disinformation, like this notion that Ukraine was being run by Nazis. The Biden administration worked for months very closely with Europe to impose tough sanctions on Day 1. The sanctions just keep coming.

Today, the U.S. sanctioned 11 Russian military leaders. And the really big one - the U.S. has sanctioned Russia's central bank. It doesn't have many dollars, and it's facing a series of bond payments due starting tomorrow. And if Russia defaults, which is a real possibility in the near future, it could become a pariah on the international financial markets for years to come.

SUMMERS: So those are moves that are being made at the official government level. But what else are you seeing?

MYRE: Well, on social media, the West is generating wave after wave of public support. I mean, every day, we see these sympathetic scenes of Ukrainian civilians that are going viral. Contrast that with the Russians limiting social media, arresting thousands of protesters, punishing those who don't stick to the Kremlin's version of events.

And another really important development, which was not certain at the beginning of the war, is all these major companies that have suspended or shut down operations - McDonald's, Apple, big airlines, big banks. And I spoke about this with Dmitri Alperovitch. He's a Russia expert who heads a think tank, Silverado Policy Accelerator.

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Most of the impact is actually coming from Western companies that are unilaterally deciding to pull out of Russia. They're not getting, of course, their marching orders from CIA or the White House. They're doing that on their own, and that is what the Russians truly underestimated. They thought that this would be all driven top down, and it's actually bottoms up.

SUMMERS: So how, then, did this term hybrid warfare - how did it become a part of the military vocabulary?

MYRE: Yeah. It's got a pretty interesting history. It's this very elastic term. And really, it seems like the first prominent person to start talking about it publicly was James Mattis, the retired Marine general and former U.S. defense secretary. He mentioned it in a 2005 speech but didn't really go into details.

And then in 2013, a senior Russian military official, General Valery Gerasimov, gave a speech on hybrid warfare, and he was actually talking about what he believed the West was doing to support uprisings around the world and how Russia might respond. But then when Russia invaded Ukraine using - the Crimea peninsula in 2014, using cyberattacks and disinformation and little green men in unmarked military uniforms, many started calling this Russia's hybrid war doctrine, though no such doctrine actually exists.

SUMMERS: All right. That's NPR's Greg Myre. Thank you so much.

MYRE: My pleasure.

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