Winning future wars: Russian offensive cyber and its vital importance in Moscow’s Strategic Thinking

Rod Thornton, Marina Miron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article highlights the importance of offensive cyber as an instrument for Russia to generate strategic effect against NATO and its core states. It focuses on the use of offensive cyber by the Russian military at the strategic level. It is this military that is perceived to be the lead actor in terms of the operationalization of offensive cyber by Moscow. And given that it is a military that sees itself as being at an overall disadvantage vis-à-vis NATO’s conventional capabilities, it is offensive cyber that it is looking to in order to provide a means of fundamentally redressing this imbalance. Offensive cyber is a vital tool for the Russian armed forces. It is viewed, indeed, as being the only available instrument that can, short of the use of nuclear weapons, bring about the ‘neutralization’ of core NATO states; that is, to ‘defeat’ them. This ‘neutralization’ can be engendered, according to Russian military logic, in two particular ways: through either cyber-psychological or cyber-technical attacks. This article unpacks these terms and indicates how both can theoretically generate the degree of impact that might actually lead to the ‘neutralization’ of core NATO states. Finally, there will be a review of the Russian use of offensive cyber in the Ukraine conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)117-135
Number of pages17
JournalThe Cyber Defense Review Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2022


  • Russia
  • cyber
  • offensive cyber
  • strategy
  • hybrid warfare
  • sub-threshold warfare
  • NATO


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