Ukraine in a Futures Context
Conflict is Becoming Increasingly Difficult to Disentangle from Daily Life
A Looser World, More Tightly Bound
We sometimes forget that smart, determined people will use every means at their disposal to achieve their aims. Today, because of our deeply interconnected and digital world, those means include links to the discussions you have with your friends and followers online, the devices and data you rely on, and the markets that shape your daily life. The result is that businesses and communities around the world – not just governments – are immediately impacted by, and potentially drawn into, contemporary conflicts.
Ukraine, unfortunately, is a stark demonstration of how the landscape of the world has changed in many ways. Even as the norms and rules that seemed to govern behavior on the global stage have frayed and loosened over the last several years, time and again we are experiencing how tightly bound we are in the consequences of events and decisions that seem unrelated to us.
Russia's Invasion of Ukraine: a Regional War and a Globalized Conflict
The current war in Ukraine illustrates how much the world has changed in the last twenty years. Armed conflicts occurring far away from us have always presented the possibility of affecting our local lives – eventually. Today, this can happen almost immediately, and across multiple levels.
Your operations can become the target of digital and material reprisals. The supply chains and markets you rely on can be disrupted, with shortages and cost increases quickly impacting business. Because of the digital nature of life today, every government, business, and community leader must account for the possibility that members of their groups may be active participants in the conflict or material supporters to one or more sides, which in turn increases the risks to your organization.
The war in Ukraine is revealing how diversified modern conflict has become. It can easily involve a broad range of participants and supporters: government personnel; private sector contractors; citizen militias; civilians drafted into service; volunteers; donors; and cheerleaders and protestors.
Some of the Concurrent Activities Include:
Governments publishing intelligence to counter disinformation
Open source intelligence analysis (OSINT)
Independent hackers getting involved
Crowdsourcing defensive and offensive efforts
Commercial and retail bans against Russian companies
Private individuals organizing fundraising and evacuation operations
(see PDF of article below for sample list of the range of activities currently underway)
Given many of the trends that have been shaping recent conflicts – digitization of society, diffusion of powerful technologies, and advances in machine learning – we expect that the complex and entangling character of conflict will grow more pronounced. In other words, this will get more challenging for all of us. Looking at the years ahead, other people’s conflicts will become increasingly difficult to ignore, just as it has become difficult to ignore other people’s social movements and economic troubles.
It becomes increasingly important for organizations of all types to incorporate this changing and globalizing character of conflict into their strategic thinking.
How do your assets, operations, and people present as potential targets in future conflicts?
Where is your organization attractive as a channel or threat vector for conflict actors to work through to achieve their aims?
In what ways are your staff and key stakeholders vulnerable to both broad-based and targeted influence operations?
Given emerging technologies and operating models, where are the opportunities to increase operational security and strategic resilience?