ISBN: 978-0-300-25344-3

Pavel K Baev

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

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The proposition that war as a direct application of military force toward political aims has become too cumbersome and expensive. Various other means – from trade to culture – can be weaponized instead. This is the key idea of this very readable book, which might seem to be overtaken by the onset of the Ukraine war. Indeed, the ongoing and apparently deadlocked battle for Donbass is so conventional and even old-fashioned in the dominance of artillery on the battlefields that the application of various ‘hybrid’ means, on which the author is an acclaimed authority, appears to make scant difference. Yet, it is exactly the deployment of sanctions, cyber-defences and counter-propaganda by the remarkably united West that undercuts the thrust of Russian aggression and may already in the near future empower the defiant Ukraine to gain a victory. Galeotti makes a thorough examination of the arsenal of ‘non-kinetic’ instruments of modern wars, relying not that much on hard data on economic vulnerabilities or estimates of cyber capabilities, but rather on his insights into the interplay between corrupt policy-making and haphazard power-projection. His easy drawing of multiple historical parallels will give pause to experts processing the overload of current news and satisfy academic peers as every chapter ends with learned suggestions for further reading. The confrontation that deforms and transforms our fragile world order may be unique in complexity and intensity, but sharp logic and history-informed thinking – the combination that enlivens every page of this concise book – can help not only in understanding the evolving risks but also in guiding the choices we make for mitigating them.