A Quarterly, Peer Reviewed Online Journal

From the Editor | Vol. 6 No. 4, November 2016

The Combating Threats Exchange staff are happy to bring you the November 2016 issue of CTX.

Asset Publisher

The Russian Federation is at war with the West. Pretending this is not the case or obfuscating the character of the conflict with delicate semantic constructions does not make it any less so. Russia has established strategic objectives that violate the sovereignty of its neighbors and threaten the stability of the international system. It has selectively deployed tools from the full range of state power, including the overt and covert use of force, to achieve those objectives. Yet this simple realization eludes many in the West, particularly those who are far from the geographic points of physical contact. If they did acknowledge Russia’s aggression, many Westerners would demand an immediate response...

Read More

Introduction: The Theory, History, and Current State of Hybrid Warfare

The articles in this special edition of the Combating Terrorism Exchange (CTX) discuss current and future uses of Special Operations Forces, particularly the best use of SOF in a pre–Article V scenario—that is, before invoking the “collective defense” clause that permits resort to armed force according to the stipulations of the original North Atlantic Treaty.

Read More

Countering Russian Hybrid Warfare: Acknowledging the Character of Modern Conflict

The articles in this special edition of the Combating Terrorism Exchange (CTX) discuss current and future uses of Special Operations Forces, particularly the best use of SOF in a pre–Article V scenario—that is, before invoking the “collective defense” clause that permits resort to armed force according to the stipulations of the original North Atlantic Treaty.

Read More

Russian Aggression Toward Ukraine: A Long-Term Example Of Hybrid Warfare

Many people assume that Russian aggression toward Ukraine began early in 2014, when largely peaceful anti-government protests in Kiev turned violent, and Russian forces without insignia subsequently crossed into eastern Ukraine to support a separatist uprising there. A close examination of the events that led up to that period shows, however, that Russia had been carrying out not only information operations, but also other clandestine and special operations against Ukraine for more than a decade...

Read More

The Strategic Utility Of The Russian Spetsnaz In Crimea

The Russian Federation’s near-bloodless annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, for the second time in Russian history, was achieved mostly by means of operations carried out by Russia’s special operations forces (Voiska Spetzialnogo Naznacheniya, or Spetsnaz). After undergoing a period of reforms following the transition from Communist to democratic rule, the Russian Spetsnaz proved to be a salient strategic asset for Russian political and military leaders and emerged as a credible threat for the countries of Russia’s near abroad...

Read More

Is It All Just A Bad Habit? Explaining NATO's Difficulty In Deterring Russian Aggression

From the splitting off of South Ossetia and provocations against Estonia to the annexation of Crimea, the Russian Federation is on the offensive (for more details on these events, see the articles by Dayspring, Danylyuk, and Atay in the first section of this issue). What hampers NATO from mounting an effective deterrent response to recent Russian aggression? I offer the following (partial) answer to this puzzle: the Russian threat falls outside of NATO’s strategic “habit." In other words, legacy assumptions, norms, and behavior patterns drive NATO’s inability to respond to the threats posed by Russian activity, and these legacies have been entrenched through decades of environmental conditioning and discourse...

Read More

From Tactical Champions To Grand Strategy Enablers: The Future Of Small-Nation Sof In Counter–Hybrid Warfare

The “little green men” took the world by surprise when they appeared at a Crimea airport on 28 February 2014 and sparked renewed concerns about Russian foreign political ambitions. Who would be Russia’s next target, and what could small neighboring countries do to deter and counter the hybrid threat from the East? Special Operations Forces could play a key part in small nations’ counter-hybrid warfare in the future. Elaborating on the work of a recent US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) study, I believe SOF should form the core of a new multidisciplinary unit acting as a grand strategy enabler for a small nation, guiding and coordinating its counter-hybrid warfare efforts...

Read More

To Change Or Not To Change?

After more than a decade of expeditionary operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO alliance and many European nations in particular have recently started to refocus their defensive efforts back on their own national territories. This is partially due to the reemergence of an aggressive Russia, with its “new” approach to warfare, and to the rise of ISIS, the violent and multifaceted terrorist organization that has conducted a number of spectacular attacks on European soil over the last two years...

Read More

Sharpening The Spear Of NATO SOF: Deterring Russian Hybrid Aggression Through Network Targeting

The Russian model of hybrid warfare has been designed to blur the lines between war and peace. Recent Russian hybrid campaigns in Georgia, Crimea, and eastern Ukraine have demonstrated to the world that Russia is highly adept at advancing its objectives through its own unique brand of hybrid warfare. To counter and deter the new Russian threat, NATO must reconfigure its own hybrid warfare approach toward a more proactive collective defense. NATO’s currently reactive collective defense paradigm, characterized by routine conventional military exercises and the forward positioning of military equipment and rapid reaction forces throughout Europe, is simply no longer effective at deterring Russian aggression. NATO should move to a proactive defense approach with a robust irregular warfare component to complement conventional diplomatic, military, and economic deterrence efforts...

Read More


This journal is not an official DoD publication. The views expressed or implied within are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any governmental or nongovernmental organization or agency of the United States of America or any other country.


Copyright © 2023 by the author(s), except where otherwise noted. The Combating Threats Exchange journal (CTX) is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal available free of charge to individuals and institutions. Copies of this journal and the articles contained herein may be printed or downloaded and redistributed for personal, research, or educational purposes free of charge and without permission, except if otherwise noted. Any commercial use of CTX or the articles published herein is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the copyright holder. The copyright of all articles published herein rests with the author(s) of the article, unless otherwise noted.


  • SALLY BAHO, Copy Editor
  • LAYOUT AND DESIGN, Graduate Education Advancement Center, Naval Postgraduate School


  • VICTOR ASAL, University of Albany SUNY
  • CHRIS HARMON, Marine Corps University
  • TROELS HENNINGSEN, Royal Danish Defense College
  • PETER MCCABE, Joint Special Operations University
  • RAJAN RAVINDRAN, Indian Army (Ret.)
  • IAN C. RICE, US Army (Ret.)
  • ANNA SIMONS, Naval Postgraduate School
  • SHYAMSUNDER TEKWANI, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies
  • CRAIG WHITESIDE, Naval War College


  • AMINA KATOR-MUBAREZ, Naval Postgraduate School