Grey zone warfare

1 min read
Grey zone warfare Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Grey zone warfare
  • What does grey zone warfare mean?
  • What grey zone warfare looks like?
  • Why is grey zone warfare seen as a separate category of action?

Why in news?

  • On the last day of the 2024 Raisina Dialogue, India’s Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan said that grey zone warfare is the latest in informal warfare.
  • During a discussion titled ‘The New Wars: Policies, Practices, and Preparation’, he gave an example of the situation in the South China Sea.
    • Occasionally, confrontational incidents involving small boats have been reported in the region, over the fact that several countries have extended competing territorial claims here.

What does grey zone warfare mean?

  • About
    • Grey zone warfare generally means a middle, unclear space that exists between direct conflict and peace in international relations.
    • Multitude of activities fall into this zone — from nefarious economic activities, influence operations, and cyberattacks to mercenary operations, assassinations, and disinformation campaigns.
    • Other experts include economic actions too, such as debt traps and economic sanctions.
  • Features
    • Activities in the grey zone have always been a feature of great-power competition.
    • Proxy wars, destabilizing insurgencies, legal warfare (lawfare), and information warfare—by adversaries and allies alike—have been a feature of this conflict.
    • Experts claim that such methods are often employed by parties who have not had access to massive resources or power, traditionally. Therefore, such tactics can help gain an advantage over a more technically well-equipped adversary that is more used to conventional warfare.
  • Origin
    • Experts believe the Cold War era, which began after the end of the Second World War in 1945, led to conditions that favoured grey zone warfare.
    • Amid the US-USSR rivalry for ideological and economic dominance, the knowledge that both parties were armed with nuclear weapons meant direct conflicts had to be restrained.
    • In today's nuclear age, the price of traditional wars has become too high, and the danger of things getting worse is very serious.
    • Because of this, countries are trying to achieve their goals by being aggressive in secret or by hiding.

What grey zone warfare looks like?

  • Experts from the US and Europe have characterised certain Russian and Chinese actions of late as examples of grey zone warfare.
  • It includes the Chinese military’s presence in the South China Sea.
    • The Philippines is one of the countries which has challenged China’s claims, extending over around 80 per cent of the region.
    • In December 2023, it termed the presence of more than 135 Chinese maritime militia vessels near a disputed reef as illegal.
    • It accused China of firing water cannons at its boats and ramming into others, while the Chinese coast guard blamed the Philippines for hitting Chinese boats.
  • A recent Reuters report mentioned that Taiwan has been expressing concerns for the past four years about increased military actions by China.
    • This includes Chinese fighter jets flying over the strait regularly.
    • It is part of China's strategy to pressure Taiwan with activities that fall just short of starting a full-scale conflict.
  • Analysts claim that the US has also engaged in similar tactics.
    • These include its economic sanctions against China and imposition of duties on Chinese imports to the US, along with maritime reconnaissance.

Why is grey zone warfare seen as a separate category of action?

  • The challenges that grey zone warfare poses differ from those of an open conflict.
    • Here, action is often covert or indirect, meaning a country’s response needs to be appropriate in terms of its scale.
    • These actions could be designed to bait the other party into escalation.
    • If this happens, the use of force would then be legitimised as a form of self-defence or response in kind to what the other party does.
  • Other reasons for engaging in such tactics include the projection of strength, and to normalise disputed territorial claims by repeatedly marking a presence in those regions.
  • Judging by its appearance, grey zone conflict seems mild when compared to traditional strategic competition.
  • However, the limited intensity does not make grey zone conflict less vicious.
  • Rather than escalate in one-dimension, grey zone conflict tends to escalate in multiple dimensions and leads to unintended over-escalation, creating a nightmare for crisis management.

Q1) What is Cold War?

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc, that started in 1947 after the end of World War II and lasted to 1991.

Q2) What is debt trap?

A debt trap is a situation where someone is forced to take out more loans than they can afford to pay off.

Source: What is grey zone warfare, mentioned by India’s Chief of Defence Staff recently? | The Hindu