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Practicing a Whole-of-Society Approach to Counter Hybrid Threats

Interview between GCSP alumni


Mr Nico Segers

Release Date:

August 2017

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In a 21st Century warfare context the ‘battle for hearts and minds’ aspect is ever more present. Taking advantage of modern-day communication technologies, and using far developed techniques such as information system penetrations, spin doctoring, gas-lighting, and social engineering for political purposes have given way for nations like Russia to rev up activities that are cast as being tools of hybrid, or unconventional warfare.

Those phenomena, spotted in locales ranging from Ukraine and various other European states to the United States and elsewhere, are causing critical security issues across the board. Because of the anticipated further expansion of the hybrid arsenal, it has brought strategic planners and communicators within the EU and NATO together to expand and coordinate proper countermeasures, and establish a new brand of agencies to monitor the hybrid domain. This deepening coordination between the two structures allows for holistic response capabilities aimed at making Western societies less vulnerable and more resilient against wily tools and methods, such as tailored cyber attacks, disinformation, and ‘weaponised’ economic relationships.

This interview addressed the following relevant points of analysis and learning: 

  • What are the key tenets of hybrid warfare, which liberal democracies and the current world order are increasingly confronted with and challenged by? 
  • How have hybrid threats prompted a closer EU-NATO cooperation, and what does that cooperation entail?
  • How should state and citizen policies effectively address the needs and rights of foreign ethnic-cultural diaspora, who are targeted to adopt antagonistic views about their Western host country – a hybrid threat dynamic which risks devolving into dissenting animosity?
  • How are different political, civil, military and business actors to assume a proper role in addressing hybrid threats altogether?
  • Does the adage ‘fight fire with fire’ hold up in a hybrid warfare context, as the rules of the security game are being increasingly redressed by hybrid warfare actors?

This interview is sourced from a lengthy conversation held on 13 April 2017 between Mr Nico Segers, the author and a GCSP alumnus (ITC MAS 2015), and Mr Pasi Eronen, lead researcher in the Russia project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and GCSP alumnus and former fellow.


Nico Segers holds a Master of Advanced Studies in International and European Security (GCSP 2015) and in History (KU Leuven,2007) and studied abroad at Bologna University and Johns Hopkins SAIS Bologna campus during his postgraduate Master year in International Relations and Diplomacy (University of Antwerp, 2008). As a research assistant at the Assembly of Western European Union (Office of Studies, Paris) he covered European security and defence issues and thereby acquired relevant knowledge on European and transatlantic defence cooperation, parliamentary oversight on missions and multilateral defence projects, planning, strategic and geopolitical analysis and capability gap issues within NATO and the EU. Mr Segers’ previous roles involved managing high-level events and discussions at the Brussels-based European Security Round Table (ESRT). As a consultant/manager on standardization issues for trade goods, he supported the facilitation of a master data aggregation initiative between GS1 and the NATO Standardization Agency. Mr Segers also has experience as a trainer in conflict mitigation (for private security schooling), and currently collaborates with the Atlantic Treaty Association and its junior professionals branch on a range of projects on transatlantic security and defence.

Expertise: European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), NATO, EU-NATO cooperation, intelligence and decisionmaking.


Pasi Eronen is the lead researcher for DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in their Russia Project. His work at FDD focuses on economic coercion, hybrid threats, and their nexus with cyber and information warfare. In 2016 FDD published his report covering hybrid warfare and Russia, “Russian Hybrid Warfare: How to Confront a New Challenge to the West”. Pasi is GCSP alumnus and was a part of the GCSP Global Fellowship Initiative back in 2015. While at GCSP, he worked closely with In-House Associate GCSP Fellow/Expert Colonel (ret.) Aapo Cederberg. They co-authored the influential GCSP Strategic Security Analysis paper “How can Societies be Defended against Hybrid Threats?”. Pasi has also taken GCSP courses in Cyber Security and has actively supported the annual European Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge initiative at GCSP. Outside of research context, his professional career includes working for the Finnish Ministry of Defense as a senior advisor, a tour as a seconded national expert in the EU’s European Police Mission in Afghanistan, and as a military officer with the Finnish Defense Forces in NATO’s Kosovo Force. Pasi earned a master’s degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University, USA, and a master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Joensuu, Finland.

Expertise: Hybrid Threats, Cyber Security, Information Warfare, Societal Resilience”