Rituals of Cyber and Hybrid Deterrence:
USA-Russia (2014-present)

This case study will focus on the evolution of deterrence signalling and practice in the realm of cyber and hybrid engagements in contemporary Russian-US relations. The principal task is to delineate Russian and American conceptual and practical extensions of the logic and strategy of deterrence to the realm of hybrid warfare (including cyber, information and political influence operations, covert and proxy deployments). This entails documentary analysis of Russian and American security strategies, political (official speeches, diplomatic reports) and strategic discourse analysis (articles in military journals by high-profile practitioners, coupled with various thematic think tank reports) with the systematic investigation of the pertinent micro-practices, their interaction and political reasoning; interviews and pertinent site visits with diplomats, defence, cyber security and strategic communication experts. The attention will be on the evolution of the Russian and US cyber and hybrid deterrence concepts and practices and their embeddedness in their respective political and strategic cultures. The analysis will pay close attention to specific discursive and practical manifestations of cyber/hybrid deterrence in relation to respective state identities.

Questions addressed:

  • How are the parameters of credible deterrence envisioned in the realm of cyber and hybrid conflicts by various practitioners and theorists?
  • How is deterrence in the cyber and/or hybrid realms related to other types of deterrence in the US’s and Russia’s respective security policies? What are their respective doctrines, strategies and planning?
  • What is the political logic of extending deterrence to cyberspace and to hybrid threats?
  • What are the United States’ and Russia’s respective strategic visions of desirable interstate cyber conduct, pertinent international order and the related dystopias of international cyber disorder?
  • What is the relationship between the emerging practices of cyber and hybrid deterrence in the US-Russian relations and the evolution of global cyber norms, the ritual rules of statecraft and international interactions ranging from diplomacy to subversion and war?