From 18 to 20 January, the 2nd Seminar on the Support of the Armed Forces to Civilian Authorities in the Grey Zone was held in Toledo. The Seminar, organised by the Operations Command (MOPS in Spanish), was structured into a series of presentations by experts, as well as working groups, which worked on the contribution of the SAF, the fight against disinformation, collaboration in cyberspace and the role of the SAF in deterrence against hybrid strategies.
During the inauguration of the conference, the Commander of the MOPS, Lieutenant General Francisco Braco Carbó, recalled that 'throughout the year 2021 an Action Plan has been launched in the EMAD area for the planning and coordination of actions in the Grey Zone. This seminar is therefore a fundamental milestone in terms of dissemination and support for the integration of national military and civilian structures that must cooperate to overcome hybrid crises'.
'Wars are no longer declared and, once they have started,' said the CMOPS, 'they do not develop according to the 'classic' model, but rather combine all kinds of tools and instruments, many of them unknown until recently, and the very word 'war' is no longer used, but only 'crises and conflicts'.
This use of a multitude of tools of a diverse nature and with a minimal use of violence are those employed in that increasingly diffuse zone between peace and war, which has been called the Grey Zone, which according to the Doctrine for the Use of Armed Forces (PDC-01) is defined as: 'An area of the spectrum of conflicts where actions outside the principle of good faith between states predominate, which despite significantly altering the peace do not cross the thresholds that would permit or require an armed response'.
Once the National Defence Directive, the Defence Policy Directive and the National Security Strategy have been enacted, the new Armed Forces Planning Cycle has begun, the first step of which has been the drafting of the Concept for the Employment of the Armed Forces (CEFAS). In this Employment Concept, a model of action is proposed that will make it possible to respond to all the security challenges and, to this end, the Strategic Lines of Action are defined.
These Lines of Action, among other objectives to be achieved, are aimed at modulating the military response in peace, crisis and conflict situations, contemplating action within the Grey Zone, as well as collaboration with other Administrations.
'This makes it possible to have the ideal reference framework for maintaining adequate situational awareness, providing sufficient early warning of the possible outbreak of an incipient crisis and the necessary information during the development of the crisis. All this is aimed at providing effective deterrence and reaction capability to avoid an unnecessary escalation of the conflict', as Lieutenant General Braco stated.
Furthermore, action in these domains must be integrated, 'the specific has been left behind and what is left is the joint, we are moving towards multi-domain integration, employing capabilities aimed at both the physical destruction of the target, as well as combating disinformation, information poisoning, influencing the adversary's public opinion abroad, overriding command and control systems, cyber attacks, etc.' The latter, I stress again, below the threshold of armed response'
The aim of this seminar is therefore to be a catalyst for greater awareness of the various instruments available to the State to deal with changing and sometimes diffuse threats, by providing the tools and methodology necessary to understand and identify the objectives, modes and means employed in the strategy to be followed to combat in the grey zone.
'Driven by this catalytic role, we organised the first seminar, which led us to share with different organisations and institutions the idea of how to act in this area and the importance of creating a common conceptual framework and the need for a coordinated response. Today, in this second seminar, we intend to take another step forward by involving both state bodies and the academic community, as well as companies that, due to their strategic value, are certainly the target of actions that can be carried out in the grey zone,' concluded the MOPS in Spanish Commander.
Synergies and initiatives in the face of an adversary's actions in a changing environment
The Chief of Defence Staff (CHOD), Admiral General Teodoro López Calderón, was in charge of closing the seminar, and wished to highlight that the recently approved National Security Strategy 2021 establishes three major objectives, the third of which is literally the following: 'to develop Spain's capacity for prevention, deterrence, detection and response to hybrid strategies, in a security context in which conventional threats alternate with the combined use of economic, technological, diplomatic and information vectors, among others, as elements of pressure and destabilisation'.
'In order to achieve this objective, we have worked in this seminar, where after three days of intense effort, you have tried to identify the main areas where the Armed Forces, in conjunction with other public or private organisations and instruments, can contribute to guaranteeing the security of our society in the face of Hybrid Strategies,' said Admiral General López Calderón.
He also recognised that in relation to the Grey Zone in which we live immersed, 'it is evident that hybrid actions that 'operationalise' the grey zone have become the preferred strategy of any adversary to destabilise states, a given society, or simply the international order based on rules, always for the benefit of their own interests of any kind'.
In conclusion, the JEMAD expressed the need to work not only on a theoretical level, 'but to bring these grey zone scenarios as fully as possible into our day-to-day training, planning and capability development. This, integrating all the actors, so that at decisive moments, to which the reality of the current geopolitical scenario may lead us, we are also capable, in this nebulous grey zone, of taking the initiative and ensuring appropriate defence and security. In short, to fulfil the third objective of the National Security Strategy on prevention, deterrence, detection and Spain's response to hybrid strategies'.