The United States is regularly challenged by the actions of state and non-state actors in the nebulous, confusing, and ambiguous environment known as the Gray Zone. Planners, decision makers, and operators within the national security enterprise need to understand what tools are available for their use in the Gray Zone and how to best develop, employ, and coordinate those tools. The ICONS team at START recently designed and executed two simulations focusing on Eastern Europe and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) as part of a larger study to better understand Gray Zone conflict dynamics and the tools available to address these complex crises.
The Gray Zone is a conceptual space between peace and war, occurring when actors purposefully use single or multiple elements of power to achieve political-security objectives with activities that are typically ambiguous or cloud attribution and exceed the threshold of ordinary competition, yet intentionally fall below the level of large-scale direct military conflict, and threaten US and allied interests by challenging, undermining, or violating international customs, norms, or laws.
Ellis, Devin, Egle Murauskaite, Ron Capps, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, and Rachel Gabriel. 2017. "Gray Zone Crises in MENA and Eastern Europe." START, College Park, Maryland. March.