UK's Armed Forces must adapt to face 21st century conflict

The MoD launched a new cybersecurity regiment whose goal is to protect the UK's defence network operations. But is it too little too late?

Russian interference in UK affairs has been making headlines of late, as has the government's underestimation of the threat from Russia. 

The UK Intelligence and Security Committee's Russia Report, published in July, shone a spotlight on the government's inability to protect the country from Russian adversaries both physical and virtual, highlighting a failure to both acknowledge and confront the problem of - amongst other things - disinformation and state-sponsored cyberattacks.

Warfare has evolved, and Russia, along with many other countries and sub-state actors such as China, Al Qaeda and Islamic State, has moved with the times, much quicker than many of those in the ‘western world'. The role of physical ("kinetic") weapons is still important, but as far as our peer adversaries are concerned, at the moment that role is mainly as a deterrent and shield, while everything else from information, influence and money through to energy, investment and cyber, is being developed as an offensive weapon. This mix of conventional and non-conventional weapons has become known in the international community as hybrid, or ambiguous, warfare.

"This is not another cold war," says Chris Donnelly, Honorary Colonel of Specialist Group Military Intelligence - a Reserve Army unit - and former co-director of thinktank The Institute of Statecraft. "It's better to describe it at as a ‘hot peace'."

 

Fighting on the cyber frontline

Many of today's battles are taking place in the digital domain. Influence and disinformation campaigns lead the way; delegitimising western political and social systems with just a few clicks, while cyberattacks threaten businesses and national security.

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