By Lucia Höfer, this essay won first place in the Atlantic Forum x Stability Policing COE Essay Competition, granting the author access to the Introduction to Stability Policing for Leaders taking place online between 24 to 28 May 2021.
This short essay aims to define stability policing, before examining what role this approach can play to counter hybrid threats. Stability Policing describes a form of peacebuilding using NATO’s military capability for police-related activities. Ideally, gendarmerie-type or military police NATO forces reinforce or replace indigenous police in order to restore or uphold public order and security, rule of law and observance of human rights. In fragile and unstable areas, this approach aims to create a safe and secure environment, as well as the conditions for effective governance. Furthermore, stability policing provides the added value of expanding NATO’s military instrument beyond purely combat-oriented approaches.
Stability policing can be effectively employed against hybrid threats, which are defined as combining conventional, irregular and asymmetric activities. These encompass non-military tactics such as propaganda and sabotage, and are facilitated by technological development regarding the spread of (dis)information. In this regard, stability policing can provide the following benefits:
1) Stability policing is a visible manifestation of government power and its rule of law, thereby lending credibility to the institution and rendering it less vulnerable to political subversion.
2) Stability policing offers a range of tools tailored to fight non-military tactics, as it allows policing activities under the respective nation’s legal framework. With regards to information warfare, these tools enable forces to use and disseminate police and crime-related information, as well as intelligence, providing a thorough understanding of the environment.
3) Stability policing builds a stable, confident society by fighting crime and enabling a population to establish legal livelihoods. This security in the state and their future makes citizens less susceptible to hybrid warfare tactics, such as fake news and extremist propaganda.
To conclude, stability policing describes NATO reinforcing or replacing police forces. The role of stability policing in countering hybrid threats is defined by its ability to act as a powerful symbol of governance, provide policing tools to counter methods commonly used in hybrid warfare and ultimately build a secure population resilient to subversive tactics.