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Defence Committee launches inquiry into conflict in the grey zone

18 September 2023

The Defence Committee is today launching an inquiry into conflict in the ‘grey zone’. The grey zone can be defined as coercive activities that “…fall below perceived thresholds for military action and across areas of responsibility of different parts of the government”. Examples of grey zone conflict include cyberattacks, information campaigns and other hostile activities that fall below the threshold of armed conflict.  

However, as seen in Ukraine, these activities can also take place alongside more conventional military operations. This inquiry will ask whether the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces are sufficiently capable of operating in this part of the spectrum of conflict. It will examine how the grey zone interacts with more conventional military activities, and what lessons can be drawn from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Committee’s inquiry will focus primarily on the UK’s Armed Forces, looking across the rest of Government’s grey zone capabilities within this context, and scrutinise the Government’s ability to work cross-departmentally.  

The deadline for written evidence is Tuesday 31 October.  

The Committee welcomes evidence on the following questions: 

  • How well are the UK’s Armed Forces configured to operate effectively in the grey zone for defensive and, where appropriate, offensive operations? For example, are grey zone threats adequately factored across the Defence Lines of Development, such as suitable doctrine, training and equipment?  
  • How well does MOD work with allies and other friendly states to counter grey zone threats, and is UK Defence perceived to be a leader on the subject?   
  • Responding to the grey zone threat requires effective cross-departmental and inter-government coordination, involving private sector and other sub-state organisations. Where does responsibility lie across Government for the United Kingdom’s grey zone strategy, planning and coordination activity, and how does Defence fit in?   
  • What challenges and opportunities do different forms of government face in the grey zone, and how specifically can liberal democracies operate there effectively?  
  • Does the full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in 2022 indicate a failure of Russia over the past decade to achieve its aims through the use of grey zone activities, or simply a rebalancing of conventional and unconventional capabilities?  

Form of written evidence:  

Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain:  

  • a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;  
  • a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience;  
  • any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses;  
  • any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.  

Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. 

Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence.  

Further information