Departures Podcast featuring Anna Aruntunyan, author of ‘Hybrid Warriors: Proxies, Freelancers and Moscow’s Struggle for Ukraine’

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When we talk about the gig economy, we usually are referring to rideshare drivers, errand runners, and all sorts of service industry freelancers. But we rarely think about the freelancers and non-state actors which take part in wars and armed conflict, doing the sometimes violent fighting and often disruptive hacking, as playing a very important role in how some of the world’s most intractable competitions for influence develop into hybrid wars and eventually into conventional wars between nation states.

Joining the podcast this week is the author and journalist Anna Arutunyan, whose new book, “Hybrid Warriors: Proxies, Freelancers and Moscow’s Struggle for Ukraine,” explores the myraid ways in which Vladimir Putin’s approach to the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year was colored by his history of deploying a chaotic and decentralized network of “rogues, businessmen, enthusiasts, mercenaries and political technologists” into the separatist conflict.

In her discussion with Departures host Robert Amsterdam, Arutunyan offers her vision of Moscow’s rationale at the time which led to the decision to invade, how Putin’s decisionmaking process left open several blindspots, and what happens when hybrid wars escalate out of control. 

Arutunyan’s book offers surprising insights to many Western readers, drawing the granular relationships between civilians, non-state actors, and the Kremlin, which is often lost in our wider understanding of how Putin’s administration works and how it has strategically approached its war on Ukraine.