Chronology of Possible Russian Gray Area and Hybrid Warfare Operations
(Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies; issued Dec 08, 2020)
This chronology explores the full range of Russian competition with the United States. It focuses on the need to address all of the key aspects of this competition, including Russia’s “gray area,” hybrid warfare, and multi-domain/joint combined-domain operations.

It takes a different approach to defining such operations from those used in a number of official sources and other reports. As is discussed later in this chronology, the official and other open-source reporting now available have serious limits.

As a result, this chronology is designed to illustrate key patterns in Russian activity that compete directly and indirectly with the United States, and it serves as a starting point for a more comprehensive analysis. It highlights the need to look beyond the boundaries of the current definitions of “gray area,” hybrid warfare, and multi-domain operations, as well as beyond the narrow focus on direct competition between the U.S. and Russia that excludes indirect competition involving other countries and non-state actors as well as Russia’s increasing cooperation with China.

It stresses the need to give the civil side of competition the same priority as the military and war fighting aspects of U.S. and Russian competition – and to do so on a global basis that stresses the fact that the most successful form of competition may be in the lower-level gray areas where there is little or no direct use of force in combat.

Many Russian low-level operations, cyber espionage, and political acts are only reported as serving commercial interests, reflecting local claims or interests, or supporting Russia’s broader security needs rather than as acts directed towards competition with the United States.

Many others are covert or involve indirect action, compete through the support of unofficial disinformation campaigns, use supposedly private business and NGO activities, or operate with the support of foreign state and non-state actors.

At the same time, this is also a working document that can only cover a limited number of the events involved in any given area of competition and that only highlights part of the major areas of competition – or campaigns – where Russia now competes. It is, however, being revised and expanded over time, and the authors will be grateful for any suggested revisions and additions.

Click here for the full report, on the CSIS website.


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