Assessing the Non-Kinetic Battlespace | The Heritage Foundation

Kinetic warfare continues to evolve, though its brutality is enduring (as witnessed by the current war in Ukraine). But in the shadows, a preview of future conflict is playing out—that hybrid, non-kinetic future war.

Cyberwarfare, electronic warfare, information operations, intelligence, and space technology all came into play in the lead-up to the Ukraine war, and remain salient. The ongoing conflict offers many lessons that can help the United States and its allies not only to assist the Ukrainians in resisting Russian aggression, but also to prepare the West to prevail in future conflicts. All sides are keenly watching these “gray-zone” tactics play out, hoping to determine how best to use them for the battlespaces of tomorrow.

Prior to its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin had already used cyber and informational warfare, with varying levels of effect, in Estonia, Georgia, and Ukraine. Thus, when Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine in February, many experts expected to see coordinated, large-scale offensive cyber and electronic warfare operations aimed at severing communications in much of Ukraine. Also expected was a replay of previous power grid tactics meant to undermine confidence and stability in the government of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The expected attacks did, in fact, come in the early days of the war. But many were stymied or blunted by cyber defense preparation, aggressive remediation, and timely assistance from allied partners and private-sector technology and cybersecurity companies who helped identify problems and provide solutions to Ukrainian networks. Microsoft, for example, identified and attributed a vast network of Russian activity that preceding physical battlespace movements in the war.

Today, Russia continues to pursue aggressive hybrid actions in tandem with brutal land, air, and sea warfare. And allied and private sector partners continue to help Ukraine battle back. Through it all, these players as well as other world nations are watching to determine what has worked, and what has not. Those who learn the lessons now playing out in Ukraine will gain a greater understanding of how to deal with future shadow-war challenges—and,…