Gray Zone Project
The United States is being confronted with the liabilities of its strengths. Given the significant costs of engaging the United States in combat, and the growing range of indirect and non-military tools at their disposal, rivals are seeking ways to achieve relative gains without triggering escalation. From fake news and online troll farms to terrorist financing and paramilitary provocations, these approaches often lie in the contested arena somewhere between routine statecraft and open warfare—the “gray zone.”
The gray zone phenomenon is also referred to as hybrid threats, sharp power, political warfare, malign influence, irregular warfare, and modern deterrence. Although it reflects an age-old approach, it is newly broad in its application. Today, the toolkit for coercion below the level of direct warfare includes information operations, political coercion, economic coercion, cyber operations, proxy support, and provocation by state-controlled Forces. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, as well as non-state actors, are increasingly turning to these strategies to overcome U.S. strengths in global diplomacy, law, and commerce.
CSIS’s International Security Program has analyzed these threats and how the United States can best deter, campaign in, and respond to gray zone approaches. Meet our scholars and explore our work here.
All Gray Zone Project Content
Brief by Hijab Shah and Melissa Dalton — May 27, 2020
Report by Lindsey R. Sheppard Alice Hunt Friend Megan Donahoe Matthew Conklin Joseph Kiernan Melissa Dalton Kathleen H. Hicks and Joseph Federici — August 13, 2019
Report by Joseph Haberman and Joseph Federici — August 13, 2019
Report — August 13, 2019
Report by Joseph Kiernan — August 13, 2019
Report by Lindsey R. Sheppard and Matthew Conklin — August 13, 2019
Commentary by Kathleen H. Hicks — July 25, 2019
Report by Lindsey R. Sheppard Alice Hunt Friend Hijab Shah Asya Akca Kathleen H. Hicks and Joseph Federici — July 8, 2019
Event — November 27, 2018
Critical Questions by John Schaus and Michael Matlaga — October 24, 2018