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NATO Summit – A Funeral and Rebirth Always Postponed



Written by Gabriela Ionita
The annual meeting of NATO members is scheduled to take place on 20-21st May 2012 in Chicago, USA. An anniversary meeting, we could say, as this year’s NATO Summit edition will be reaching number 25 (only the traditional meetings are officially counted, but not the exceptional ones). According to the Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, this year’s meeting is probably the biggest in NATO’s history,  as the Summit will be attended by state and government leaders from the 28 member states, but also other senior representatives from over 30 other countries worldwide. The only notable absence in this context seems to be the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

This year’s edition is of extreme importance also because it is the first time when it takes place outside the U.S. capital, moving to the hometown of President Obama – Chicago. Scheduled right after the G8 Summit at Camp David, the NATO Summit comes with a rather complicated agenda, especially due to economic instability in Europe and the many political changes in the last six months (most recent that of the presidential elections in France). 

At the NATO Summit, there will be reports on the steps taken to underpin the decisions from the Lisbon Summit in November 2010 (where, as we remember, the key reform policies and the reaffirming of the Alliance transatlantic cooperation were outlined).

This year, the NATO Summit will focus on three main themes:

  1. The Afghanistan file and the clear commitment of NATO to assist the Afghan authorities for transitional period until 2014 and post-transition (after 2014).
  2. Implementing the Smart Defense concept in an attempt to demonstrate that NATO is able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. “Another objective of the Summit in Chicago is to show ‘how to cope with today’s economic challenges so that we are prepared for future security challenges” said Rasmussen. After more than six decades of existence, NATO can look back with pride, but to justify its existence it must clearly see future challenges, how it can anticipate and manage them with precision and speed. 
  3. The third objective of the meeting will be strengthening its network of strategic  worldwide  partnerships. Surely there is will be a public recognition of the efforts made by Macedonia in the mission in Afghanistan, even if the entry into NATO is still delayed, since the requirements agreed at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008 are not yet met. 

Regarding Ukraine’s participation in the Summit in Chicago, even when EU leaders canceled their participation at the Yalta Summit, U.S. Ambassador in NATO, Ivo Daadler, said at a press conference that: “Ukraine is a valued member of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And all members who contribute with troops, and therefore are members of the ISAF operation, are invited to Chicago. Therefore, Mr. Yanukovich could be present at Chicago. It is not our job to rule on the current political issues that are ongoing in Ukraine “.

Moreover, Israel’s lack of the guests at the summit was also justified on this basis – Israel did not participate in the ISAF troops – and not because it has been pressured by Turkey in this respect. Of course, the discussion will revolve over topics like the economic crisis and its impact on defense budgets, the missile shield in Europe, the essence of the Arab Spring, the civil war situation in Libya and Syria, but also the plan to reduce tensions and maintain security of key areas such as the Strait of Hormuz. 

Regarding the operations in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Ivo Daadler, through the bilateral agreement signed between U.S. and Afghanistan *, America agrees to give post-transition support even after 2014 and hopes to succeed in convincing the other 28 members of the Alliance to join in this common effort.

In the same registry we note the declaration of the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, who, at the end of a meeting on Afghanistan with Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, concluded: “First, we agreed on the next phase of transition and on the fulfillment of the undertaken objectives by 2014. Second, we are ready to define how we see the relationship between NATO and Afghanistan after 2014. And thirdly, we are prepared to work together with the Afghan people to ensure that the Afghan security strategy will take force and will be fully implemented. NATO is an alliance united behind all these objectives, so we expect a very productive summit in Chicago. “

However, more then few voices (even among NATO members) consider the conflict management in Afghanistan is raising a big question mark over NATO’s ability (and hence its leader – U.S.) to harness the resources of its members in a common purpose. In turn, American observers often criticize the European NATO allies for not respecting their commitments in Afghanistan, although many of these commitments have been made in such a way that they themselves constraint involvement of the agreed arrangements. 

If NATO wants to survive as alliance, the efforts of its members must reflect the political and strategic consensus. The U.S., as de facto leader of the Alliance, should encourage rather than hinder this process. Lack of political will, lack of participation in allied operations justified by the lack of defense budgets – deserves criticism from American partner – yet they reflect a basic lack of common purpose and lack of unified objectives. American efforts to influence NATO’s decision-making process has helped create the impression that the U.S. “take the decision, act and impose their own interests”, and in making decisions the opinions of other members are purely advisory, which prompted questions related to the Alliance’s purpose.

Andrew Dorman (Chatman House) rightly noted that in the meeting in Chicago “the 28 NATO members have many issues on which to come to an agreement on. First, NATO’s involvement in wars, from Libya to Afghanistan or vice versa and in the potential war in Syria and Iran, led to different degrees of commitment from its members and differences of views on NATO’s geopolitical strategies. Or formulating the question frankly: is this an alliance that focuses only on the European continent or one that focuses on broader security issues of its members and on potential global threats? How to define these threats? ” Secondly, he said that “it remains in question how the NATO relationship with Russia will evolve in the context of the tensions caused by the location of the missile shield and the thorny issue associated with the expansion of NATO to include several former Soviet states ( Georgia, Ukraine) “.

The fervent critics of the atlantist trend deemed that the summit is going to the pillars of strength of the organization, after a visible failure in Iraq and Libya, an increasingly unstable situation of the disastrous failure of Syria, the inability of the international community to find a compromise solution for Iran’s nuclear file, the general financial crisis, the U.S. election year (the fierce Republicans – Democrats dispute on foreign policy issues) and the military and economic strategy ‘reorientation’ of America from Europe to Asia-Pacific. Of course, we are already used to this, as in the last twenty years, at the threshold of any NATO Summit, a number of experts, journalists, opinion leaders not only discuss certain issues, but also predict NATO’s funeral. Common also are the press briefings of the NATO officials in the summit and after, arguing that despite all adversities, the Alliance continues to survive (even if its promised reinvention is rather theoretical). The question is: how long? 

This mosaic could not miss the usual protests, already announced by the initiators of the movement ‘Ocuppy Wall Street’ and numerous other anti-globalization and human rights organizations. So the organizers decided a plan of exceptional security measures, from which Chicago will become a city besieged by their own police forces rather than the protesters. There was even a discussion over the establishment of a restricted flights area over the city during the event (rated by the Department of Homeland Security / DHS as one that requires exceptional security measures).

Moreover, in the fever of preparations, the Mayor of Chicago, former presidential adviser, Rahm Emanuel, has proposed and adopted several measures to avoid possible protests, measures that will be taken by the authorities even after the summit. I will only mention here the installation of surveillance cameras in many places of the city, restricting certain public activities, registration of any sign or banner that is designed to be worn by more than one person, restricting parades and public marches, the right to coordinate intervention forces (other than those belonging to the Chicago Police Department). These ordinances have already attracted a number of protests by Amnesty International and Ocuppy Chicago, whose representatives consider that the event is used to abusively reduce human rights and freedoms. 

* On May 1, 2012, President Barack Obama and President Karzai signed the Strategic Sustainable Partnership between the United States of America and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. 
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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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The History Question: Is It Better to Remember or to Forget?



Years ago, a philosopher by the name of George Santayana said a phrase that fuels many debates to this day. His original saying is “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, although, many sources now present it as variations of “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. The latter definitely has more substance to it in the light of the ongoing debate about how much history we should be learning and how.

Is It Better to Remember or Forget About the Past?

On one hand, Santayana was right. Learning about the past is essential in order for people to progress. One also shouldn’t overlook the importance of remembrance and paying respects to the dead, both those who pushed the progress forward and those who have fallen victims to major tragedies that could and should have been averted.

The main argument in favor of learning about the past is that its knowledge is necessary for preventing the same thing happening in the future. Having it one can see the signs and stop the tragedy before it gains momentum.

That’s sound in theory, but the reality is always different. For example, today people are surely forgetting, and the much-critiqued education system is only partially at fault here. Even the greatest of tragedies weren’t spared this fate. It’s a proven fact that about two-thirds of millennials today don’t know about the Holocaust, and this number is surely greater for generations that follow them. In the school history course, the subject of one of the greatest disasters in history is barely touched, if touched at all. And outside of a history classroom, one can only see small, but terrifying, glimpses of it at the Holocaust Museum and other museums that rarely attract many visitors. And now we are witnessing a rise of antisemitic crime.

Are these two facts related? Does the lack of awareness about the horrors done in the name of Aryan supremacy contribute to the fact that right-winged extremists seem to be gaining popularity again?

It does, but by how much? That is the question that no one can truly answer.

And what about other genocides? The Holocaust had the highest death toll, but it was far from the only genocide in history. And quite a few of those happened after World War 2 and before the memory of the atrocities against the Jews began to fade. This means that while forgetting history is a factor, it’s not the deciding factor in its repeats.

But what is that thing responsible for the reenactment of past mistakes and tragedies?

Learning. This is the important thing that is most often overlooked when citing Santayana’s famous saying. It’s not enough to learn about the past and know the facts of things that happened. It’s important to learn from those facts and put in place protections that will prevent them from happening again. And this is something that humanity, as a whole, has yet to succeed in doing.

Dwelling in the Past Can Be Just As Bad

One also shouldn’t forget that there is such a thing as “too much history”. The Bosnian War and genocide that happened there in the 1990s is a vivid example of how the past can be exploited by political powers. Used as a part of propaganda, which fueled the war, history can become a weapon in the hands of those who want to use it for their own goals.

And this is what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. There is always someone who will use any means necessary to achieve whatever it is they wish. This results in wars and genocides, and hundreds of smaller but no less devastating tragedies.

Therefore, the problem isn’t whether people should be learning history but human nature itself. Perhaps, teaching this can help fix this fundamental flaw and truly stop the worst of the past from repeating.

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Is there such thing as cyberwar?

Alexandra Goman



Two decades have passed after Arquilla and Ronfeldt in 1993 warned the public about an upcoming. They were also the first to introduce a concept of cyberwar and give an elaborated opinion. They referred to a conduct and preparation of military operations using information-related principles and also invoked a link between intelligence (the collection of information for political or military purpose) and cyber operations. Now, the scale of intelligence has significantly expanded.

Interestingly, before cyber appeared, there was a radio which was used for intelligence purposes and was weaponized later in the World War II. From that time on, electronic warfare became standard characteristics of a modern conflict. Despite this, there is a key difference between electronic warfare and a cyber one. Traditional electronic warfare aimed to guide, target, or protect weapons systems (Ibid., p. 24). In contrast, cyber makes today’s weapons and military systems smarter but also more vulnerable for an attack.

At the moment everyone still wonders what the whole idea of cyberwar means. There is no accepted interpretation or definition. Furthermore, many experts even say that such war does not even exist (or cannot be referred to the notion of “war”). Perhaps, it is due to the fact that a war in cyberspace has not yet happened. To make it clear, cyber capability has not actually killed anyone and a code has not been used as the use of force.

Similarly, the dangers of a nuclear bomb were recognized only after its use, the same goes to the notion of “nuclear war”. Although there have been many cyberattacks, none of them have been raised to the level of war because none of them, in fact, caused the level of damage which could be adhered to the level of a large-scale conflict.

Cyber warfare has derived from different aspects of conventional warfare and traditional definitions of war. It usually involves organized units within nation-state in offensive or defensive operations which are part of a war or a conflict.

In general, since cyber study is relatively new, there are many competing terms and definitions to explain cyber phenomenon. The following concepts – the revolution in military affairs, electronic warfare, information warfare, and cyber war – have been all offered to describe the new emerging area of conflict. Experts do not agree on any particular term, more often using different notions when talking about cyber issues. Nonetheless, it is vital to understand the facts of the 21st century similarly to the need that rose along with the invention of atomic reaction. A major concern now is no longer weapons of mass destruction, but weapons of mass disruption. (2009, p. 47).

One of the central elements to define a cyberwar, is that it has to meet the same criteria, applied to any other type of war. Vandalism or spying is an act of crime, but they do not start wars. So, assumingly, there has to be physical destruction and casualties in order to declare a war.

Therefore, a cyberwar should have real world damage similar to a conventional war. For this matter, it should probably take place in a digital world. What is not clear, however, is whether it should be fought exclusively in cyberspace or it can accompany a conventional attack too. This aspect is quite interesting, because cyberattacks can easily be used in combination with a kinetic attack and can multiply the force and power of the attacker.

In this case, it does not make sense to create a new term “cyberwar” as it falls down under the same definition of war. It is the same example when aerial bombings supported the attacks on the ground during the World War I, but in the end we called it a war, not a particular type of war. Consequently, cyber introduction resembles more a revolution in military affairs, rather that a new emerging type of warfare.

What is clear, though, is that the difference in definitions complicates the matters of regulating cyberspace and prevents achieving a common ground on cyber issues and/or developing new treaties and agreements between the states. So far there is no international agreement on the cyber principles, despite some attempts of the states to engage into negotiations (Budapest Conference on Cyberspace, the World Conference on International Telecommunications). There is, however, the Convention on Cybercrime, the first international agreement that addresses compute crime, adopted by the Council of Europe. Interestingly enough, Russia (as a part of the Council) neither signed nor ratified the agreement, whereas US (not part of the Council) recognized it and ratified it.

Apart from these difficulties in defining cyberwar, there has been a hyperbolic use of the word itself, mostly by media and tabloids (e.g. The Washington Post, “We are at cyberwar and we are our own enemy”; The New York Times, “How to prevent Cyberwar”; Zdnet, “Cyberwar: a guide to the frightening future of online conflict”; Komsomolskaya Pravda, “Are we expecting the First World Cyberwar?” etc.). They do not usually give any concrete information but are eager to use this term and apply it randomly to different cases just because it sounds good.  All in all, uninformed public use of the word has enormously contributed into the heat surrounding cyber implications.

Futher, cyberattacks are too often discussed equivalently, regardless of its impact. In this sense, minor cases like ransomware or phishing might be raised to the level of an armed attack (especially if they affect multiple computers worldwide). Yet, these cases are good examples of cybercrime, and crime is not a war. When individuals engage into this type of activity, they do not engage in a war.  The same goes for espionage in cyberspace. Catching a spy on one’s territory will certainly put pressure on bilateral relations, but it would not start a war.

This exaggeration of cyberattacks can be explained through securitization theory. The notion offered by the Copenhagen Security School describes how a certain concept can be politicized and securitized to the extent that it becomes a threat to national security (See Buzan, 2006).

To conclude, it should be mentioned that there is no guidance for the conduct of “cyberwar”.  There are no internationally agreed definitions and, to that extent, the whole idea of cyberwar so far seems unrealistic. At this moment technology is not sophisticated enough to ensure a military conduct entirely in cyberspace. Besides, any cyberattack of such scale would presumably result in a physical destruction, which consequently might provoke a conventional retaliation attack. This, in result, would cause a war we know for years, so there is no need to introduce a particular type of war. On another note, using cyber operations to support a conventional war and/or conflict is the way to go, but in this case it is just a revolution and modernization in military affairs.

I would be interested to hear your opinion about that in the comments below.

For further information see:

1)    A movie “War Games” (1983)

2)    Arquilla, J. and Ronfeldt, D. (1993). The Cyberwar is Coming! RAND Corporation, [online] Available at:

3)    Cetron, M. J. and Davies, O. (2009). Ten critical trends for cyber security. The Futurist, 43(5), pp. 40–49.

4)    Stiennon, R. (2015). There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar. Michigan: IT-Harvest Press.

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On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures

Alexandra Goman



There is a lot of talk in regards to cyberattacks nowadays. A regular user worries about its data and tries to secure by all means necessary. Yet, no one really thinks whether the power plants or nuclear facilities are well secured. Everyone assumes that they should be secured.

The reality, however, differs. According to many reports of cyber security companies, there is an increased risk of cyberattacks, targeting SCADA and ICS. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is used for the systems that control physical equipment – power plants, oil and gas pipelines, they can also control or monitor processes such as heating or energy consumption. Along with Industrial Control Systems (ICS) they control critical elements of industrial automation processes. Exploiting vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures can lead to the consequences of unimaginable scale. (These types of attacks are actually used in a cyberwar scenarios and hypothetical military settings).

Source: Fortinet, 2015

There are many reasons why these systems are vulnerable for attacks. First of all, the main problem is that these systems have an old design; they were built before they were connected to any networks. They were later configured to connect via Ethernet, and that’s when they became a part of a larger infrastructure. The more advanced SCADA system is becoming, the more vulnerabilities are these to exploit. The updates should be regular and on time. Secondly, there is a lack of monitoring. New devices that are connected allow remote monitoring, but not all devices have the same reporting capabilities. There are also authentication issues (weak passwords, authentication process), however, this is supposed to restrict unauthorized access (See Common SCADA Threats and Vulnerabilities at Patriot Technologies, Inc. Online).

In these scenarios, there is no certainty to know what is going to backfire because of the complexity of communications and power networks. This is also called a cascading effect of attacks. Not knowing who is connected to who may cause major disruptions. The example of the US East Coast power blackout in 2003 proves this point (a failure in one element of the grid spreads across other electrical networks). However, given this, it is also complicated for an attacker to predict consequences, if an attack executed. This kind of attack can easily escalate into more serious conflict, so it might not be the best option for states to employ such methods.

Moreover, there is a risk to damage a critical infrastructure unintentionally. That is if a virus or worm did not intend to target SCADA but happen to spread there as well. The uncontrollability of the code may seriously impair the desire to use it, especially when it comes to nation-states. For instance, in 2003 a worm penetrated a private network of the US Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and disabled a safety monitoring system for 5 hours. In 2009, French fighter jets could not take off because they were infected with a virus.

Indeed, a scenario where an attacker gains access to a SCADA system and manipulates with the system, causing disruptions on a large-scale, might be hypothetical but it does not make it less possible in the future. However, the only known case so far, which affected an industrial control centre, is Stuxnet. It did not result in many deaths, yet it drew attention of the experts on the plausibility of future more sophisticated attacks. These potential upcoming attacks might cause the level of destruction, comparable to that of a conventional attack, therefore resulting in war.

Further reading:

Bradbury, D. (2012). SCADA: a Critical Vulnerability. Computer Fraud & Security, 4, p. 11-14.

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