On the Threat of Hybrid Warfare Across All Three OSCE Dimensions

U.S. Ambassador to the USOSCE, James Gilmore, opens a side event on hybrid threats at the 2019 OSCE Ministerial Council. (USOSCE/Gower)

OSCE Ministerial Council Side Event “Assessing the Threat of Hybrid Warfare Across All Three Dimensions”

Remarks as delivered by Ambassador James S. Gilmore III
Bratislava, Slovakia,
December 5, 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. This is a really wonderful turnout in order to focus on and address an emerging threat and challenge. We’re very grateful that you’re here and thank you very much for coming this afternoon.

Twenty years after the great promise of the Istanbul Summit and agreement on the OSCE’s Charter for European Security, the architecture of peace that we developed over decades is under threat not only from invading armies or superpower arms races, but also from insidious attacks that fall outside the traditional sphere of armed conflict and target all three dimensions of security and, frankly, it targets democratic society itself.

Now, these insidious attacks also run the real risk that the people who are doing it are going to engage in a miscalculation, which threatens all of our security. The OSCE is perfectly suited to examine and begin to cooperatively address these hybrid threats. We at the OSCE have expertise, credibility, and legitimacy across all three dimensions of security and have already begun that examination of hybrid threats – joining NATO, the European Union, and other organizations working cooperatively to warn potential targets, increase awareness, and thereby reduce risk.

Last year – before I ever arrived as Ambassador – a rich OSCE Structured Dialogue discussion of threat perceptions fueled by hybrid activities made clear the scope of this problem in the first dimension. Examples cited ranged from irregular forces in Ukraine to disinformation directed at NATO’s enhanced forward presence, to financial support for subversive and separatist activity in multiple countries. Earlier this year that discussion continued in a standing room only Georgian-hosted side event on the margins of the Annual Security Review Conference, and then the Human Dimension meeting in Warsaw, where the public conversation on use of disinformation to undermine human rights defenders and subvert civil society was cut short in Warsaw by time constraints caused by government-controlled NGO’s sucking up and taking up valuable time away from legitimate discussion. This too is hybrid warfare. Participating States continued the discussion at the Structured Dialogue in September, but it was clear to my government that we needed to gain a better understanding of the total societal dimensions of the hybrid threat. Today, we are fortunate in having as speakers a representative of the Helsinki-based Hybrid Center of Excellence, Ambassador Kirsti Narinen, and Olga Zakharova from the Civil Society Platform Parallel Conference.

Now, we hope to bring those threads together to discuss hybrid warfare across all three OSCE dimensions. I want to emphasize that this is a new form of warfare; it’s not something that people are used to. It’s new and yet it is very real. It’s very real and a real threat. So it’s time to address it, identify it, and recognize it for what it is, and to begin to address the ways that it can be combatted. I encourage participating States and civil society representatives to share their experiences, concerns, and ideas for building resilience. Your comments will be of huge benefit to us all, as we work here at OSCE to identify ways ahead and shine a light on this most damaging new threat.

With that, I’d like to turn this event over to Poland’s Ambassador at Large for Hybrid and Cyber Threats Marek Szczygiel, our chair for this event. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for chairing this; the floor is yours.