Defence secretary: ‘Hybrid warfare is our new reality’

Ben Wallace uses speech at NATO summit to stress importance of emerging technology

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Defence secretary Ben Wallace has claimed that the “new reality” of warfare is a hybrid battlefront that encompasses cyberthreats, online disinformation, and next-generation computing.

Addressing the NATO Engages summit currently taking place in London, Wallace referenced a famed 2013 speech made by Russian general Valery Gerasimov in which he claimed “the very rules of war have changed”.

“With social media, cyber and more open societies giving our competitors unparalleled opportunities to achieve their aims, the Gerasimov doctrine is here to stay,” the defence secretary said. “And hybrid warfare is our new reality. It is constant, and challenging to all our aims.”

Wallace told representatives of NATO member states that “our adversaries are striking from the shadows… exploiting new technologies to exacerbate the uncertainties of an uncertain world, and undermine our way of life”.

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The meet these new challenges requires a three-pronged response, he said. 

One part of the answer lies in investment in both traditional armed forces and new capabilities, according to Wallace, while another element is increased and enduring “solidarity” among allies.

The third aspect is “innovation”.

“NATO is now looking at the ways in which new and emerging technologies will continue to change the threat landscape, from hypersonic missiles, reducing our decision-making time in the face of an attack, to quantum computing, potentially rendering current encryption obsolete,” he said. “We must understand these challenges are what we face today, and we must adapt accordingly. And we must constantly be on the hunt for the next great geopolitical disruptors, such as demographic shifts or climate change, or the next technological advancement that changes the game completely.”

The defence secretary said that the leaders of NATO countries would use the summit to agree on a plan for their collective “response to emerging and disruptive technologies”.  The organisation will, he claimed, also now recognise two new “operational domains” for warfare: space; and cyberspace. 

Wallace added: “Maintaining our technological edge is the only way we can avoid obsolescence and deliver on our most important pledge – keeping our people safe.”


Sam Trendall

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