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Hybrid Warfare of the Future: Sharpening NATO’s Competitive Edge

Engaging the next generation to prepare for tomorrow’s hybrid threats


Over the next seventy years, hybrid threats facing the transatlantic Alliance are likely to grow in complexity, intensity, and scope. Disinformation, cyber-attacks, subversion, low-level conflict, and other hybrid challenges that can be blended with conventional warfare will be exacerbated by rapid technological change and increasing global connectivity. To maintain its competitive edge, NATO must adapt now for the hybrid warfare of the future.

To inspire innovative ideas for how NATO should better prepare for these challenges, CEPA has led a digital campaign throughout Spring 2021 engaging next-generation security, tech, and policy voices from across European allied publics. Through videos, articles, online quizzes, and infographics, the campaign explores what hybrid warfare means, how these threats will evolve in the future, and what NATO can do.

The campaign features a contest on social media soliciting memes, short stories, and videos from rising leaders depicting their ideas of what hybrid warfare of the future could look like. This exciting new project is designed to inject creative thinking into the policy debates about the Alliance’s role in addressing hybrid threats.


How will hybrid warfare evolve in the coming decades? If you imagine a hybrid scenario that NATO and its members could face in 2030 or even 2040, what would it look like? Who would be involved? What tools would be used? Where and how would these hybrid threats occur?

Whether robots or biotechnology being used to threaten European public safety, or artificial intelligence and elite cyber tools being harnessed to manipulate our information space, these submissions are meant to channel imaginative and unconventional ideas about the future security environment to inform the Alliance’s planning.

Share your thoughts on the future of hybrid warfare with top experts and officials by submitting to our Meme, Video, and Short Story Contest from January 28 through March 31, 2021. One winner and one runner-up in each category will be eligible to win cash prizes of $1,500 and $500 respectively. Additionally, first place winners in each category will be invited to present their entries at a virtual town hall event in Spring 2021 with policymakers, practitioners, peers, and thought leaders across defense and tech communities.


The Meme, Video, and Short Story Contest has closed. Stay tuned for an announcement of the winners! Vote for your favorite submission.

The winner in each category (meme, story, and video) will receive a cash prize of $1,500 (USD). The runner-up in each category will receive a cash prize of $500 (USD).

In addition, the three winners will be invited to make a brief presentation of their submissions at a virtual town hall event hosted by CEPA, which will gather a wide audience of subject matter experts, students, media policymakers, military leaders, tech industry representatives, and other creative voices for a public discussion on the future of hybrid warfare. A panel of experts and officials will unpack and comment on the winning submissions, how their themes fit with NATO’s current efforts, and implications for the future.

Even if you do not win, CEPA will retain your submissions to share with its network of policymakers and thought leaders to inform their work on these issues.


Contestants must be between the ages of 18 and 35 and citizens of European NATO member countries, Canada, and NATO partner countries. Those with a background or interest in transatlantic relations, public policy, security and defense, or technology issues are strongly encouraged to participate.


Each contestant is permitted one submission. Submissions should be in the form of a meme, video, or short story, as explained below:

  • A meme accompanied by a caption of no more than five sentences. (accepted formats: .jpeg, .pdf, .png, a single image/slide in .ppt, .mp4, .mov., or .wmv; text should in your submission file)
  • A short story of 500 words maximum. Excerpts could be fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, satire, or any other type you choose. (accepted formats: word, pdf)
  • A video of two minutes maximum, which could include b-roll and narration, animation, or individual testimonies and footage. (accepted formats: .mp4, .mov., or .wmv)

Submissions could focus on one type of hybrid threat (e.g., a cyber-attack, an information operation, drone warfare) or depict a multi-pronged or multi-domain scenario that NATO populations or governments could encounter over the next 20 years. Submissions should allude to the perpetrator (state actor, non-state actor, technology itself, etc.), the target of the hybrid threat, and how or where the hybrid threat occurs. Contestants are strongly encouraged to consider the role of technology in their submissions.


Submissions will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary panel of expert judges, including military leaders, technology experts, content creation and artistic voices, and policymakers. The names of the judges will be released at a later date.

All submissions will be evaluated for:

Originality of content: You may draw on science fiction books and movies for inspiration, but you should put a new twist or offer a new idea about how these scenarios could play out.

Plausibility of content: Submissions should be realistic and based or build on scientific research, unfolding geopolitical dynamics, or current trends in the hybrid environment.

Explanation of subject matter: Our judges will value submissions that are easily understandable and clearly explained.

Each submission will only be judged in its own category. The top two submissions from each format category, as selected by our judges, will be put to a public vote on CEPA social media to determine the winner in each category. (All contestants are eligible to vote via social media too.)

The winners and runners-up will be announced in late April 2021.




Hybrid Warfare of the Future Town Hall

Sharpening NATO’s Competitive Edge

The Future of Hybrid Warfare

Interview with Max Brooks, Author of World War Z


Hybrid Warfare of the Future

Key Campaign Insights

Military Education for the Age of Hybrid Warfare

By Joanna van der Merwe

Lt-Gen Ben Hodges on the Future of Hybrid Warfare

By Ben Hodges

NATO’s Unified Response to Hybrid Threats

By Michael Rühle

Poor Relation

By Edward Lucas

What is “Hybrid Warfare,” Really?

By Mark Voyger

Inbox: NATO Needs Continuous Responses in Cyberspace

By Lauren Speranza, Franklin D. Kramer, Conor Rodihan

Countering Russian and Chinese Cyber-Aggression

By Franklin Holcomb

An Agenda for NATO’s Next Generation

By Lauren Speranza