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Defence 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 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-governmental 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?

The deadline for written evidence is Tuesday 31 October.  

This inquiry is no longer accepting evidence

The deadline for submissions was Tuesday 31 October 2023.

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  • Phone: 020 7219 3113/6168 (general enquiries) | 020 7219 2996 (media enquiries)
  • Address: Defence Committee, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA