Welcome to the Grey Zone: Future War and Peace

Bressan 2020 Grey Zone
Source: Jaredd Craig / Unsplash
Sarah Bressan, Mari-Liis Sulg
13 Jul 2020, 
published in
New Perspectives

What could the future of war and peace look like? Which trends in warfare and threats to peace will shape (in)security in Europe and its neighborhood until 2030? What are the key issues at stake in creating a peaceful world? What are the likely consequences of failing to do so – and who will be hit hardest? 

In November 2019, the Hamburg (Insecurity) Sessions brought together policymakers and scholars to debate these questions and push the boundaries of what is considered possible policy. In a workshop on the future of war and peace, participants explored continuity and changes in war, warfare and peacekeeping with a view toward technology, politics, society, and culture. 

The discussions formed the starting point for the development of a scenario of war and peace in Europe’s neighborhood in 2030 and an accompanying analysis of its possible implications. Building on emerging trends in warfare and global order, the scenario shows how shifting global powers, the failure to build an inclusive European project, and patchy transnational governance could lead to a situation of permanent grey” in which some actors exploit the ambiguity between war and peace to their advantage, while others fail to even realize what is happening. The scenario provides an image of a possible future for war and peace from a European perspective, including NATO, the transatlantic relationship, the European Union’s relation with its Eastern neighbors, and a potential new security alliance in the Middle East. It illustrates how an uneasy pact between criminal businesses and state actors alongside the rise of polarization in Western societies could lead to different forms of violence and suffering outside of traditional battlefields. 

The authors question the analytical value of concepts like the grey zone, hybrid and political warfare, and argue that a positive future of peace and the necessary management of the grey zone absent effective global governance require a better and more honest understanding of violence and domination in both war and peacetime. With clearly delineated battlefields gone, they argue, so must be the illusion that universal peace existed outside of them.

The full article was published in New Perspectives on July 13, 2020 and is available for download.