Article co-authored with Svetlana Izosimova, Master’s student of International and European Relations at Linkoping University, Sweden.
In the context of globalization the ability to challenge internal and external threats is a precondition for development. International and national security today are inextricably linked. States acquire military capabilities not simply to defend their homelands but also to maintain global power projection capabilities. In the post-Cold War system, among the major powers whose behavior affect the security the whole international arena we have the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation. The United States is emerging as the status quo hegemonic power, while the EU can be seen as unifying around a shy opposition to the US and as seeking to become a new pole of power. Finally, Russia during the past couple of years is trying to restore its great power influence.
Each of these major powers occupies a different position in the international system which agreeably affects their national strategies toward security and military power. By focusing on the key elements, such as major threats, strategic objectives, the ways these objectives are intended to be achieved and the position of each state regarding other actors, similarities and differences between the approaches in national security strategies can be discerned.
The European Security Strategy
The European Security Strategy (ESS) was adopted in 2003 and presents a crosscutting approach in security problems. It outlines the interests of the EU among which enlargement and prosperity, promotion of democracy and international order, reduction of climate change and vital resources security, the autonomy of EU decision-making and migration management, as well as the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and OSCE.
The key threats challenging European security are: terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), regional conflicts, state failure, organized crime. In 2008 the threats mentioned in the European Security Strategy were extended with the Report on the implementation of the ESS: providing security in a changing world. The listed threats were completed by adding specific challenges such as climate change, cyber security and energy security.
To defend its security and promote its values the European Union pursues concepts based on conflict and threat prevention. Each require a mixture of instruments and patterns including economic and security cooperation, better institutional coordination, transparency and flexibility. Essential approaches to address challenging situations require political and security development through diplomacy and cooperation, crisis response and civilian and military crisis management. The expansion of the dialogue and mediation capacities is facilitated by the civil society and NGOs which are as vital actors. The ESS offers very little guidance as to the kind of military instruments. The value of military capabilities and the use of military force is discussed only in the context of crisis management where the importance of the civilian input is mostly stressed.
Apart from countering threats the European Security Strategy suggests two separate strategic objectives: ‘building security in our neighborhood and promoting an international order based on effective multilateralism.’ The emphasis on an effective multilateral order, both in the form of cooperation between member states and under global cooperation is a key aspect of the strategy. The key players that contribute to the international system are The United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the United States and NATO. Emphasis is also placed on the importance of expanding relationships with China, Canada, Japan, Russia. On the regional level, the EU supports collaboration with organizations such as ASEAN, MERCOSUR and the African Union.
The EU sees itself as a ‘global player’. The ESS states that the EU should be ready to share responsibility facing global challenges: ‘There are few if any problems we can deal with on our own. The threats described above are common threats, shared with all our closest partners. International cooperation is a necessity.’
The US Security Strategy
The most recent US National Security Strategy was adopted in May 2010. It is primarily focusing on issues regarding security, prosperity, and values. The strategy underlines the necessity of renewing American leadership to advance its national security interests. That includes military might, economic competitiveness, moral leadership, global engagement and efforts to shape an international system that serves cooperation to meet global challenges.
Threats addressed by the strategy are terrorism, extremism, pandemics, the economic crisis, climate change and Arctic interests. The actions of al-Qa’ida and its affiliates are considered a prominent threat to the American nation. The U.S. National Security Strategy sees weapons of mass destruction as the greatest threat to national and international security. Furthermore, the need for better cyber-security and the dependence on fossil fuels are also defined as fundamental national security issues.
To respond comprehensively to dangers, the US see the renovation of economy by providing education, energy, science/technology and health care as a starting point. Values such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are essential sources which ought to be promoted. The modernization of institutions, strengthening of international norms and enforcement of international law under US leadership is also a strategic task. The use of military force together with diplomacy, development and international norms and institutions can help resolve disagreements, prevent conflict and maintain peace. Nonproliferation entailing a reduction of the nuclear arsenal and the reduction of the reliance on nuclear weapons is also on the security agenda.
The report stresses the need for international cooperation and engagement. The necessity of ensuring strong alliances through multinational cooperation and coordination is noted. The cornerstone partnership organizations remain the traditional European and Asian allies, NATO and Eastern European countries. Relations with countries such as China, India and Russia are critical to building broader cooperation on areas of mutual interest. The strategy also focuses on Iran stating that the US can offer Iran a pathway to a better future provided Iran’s leaders are prepared to take it. Supporting the expansion of democracy and human rights abroad is also one of the main points in providing international security.
Russian Federation Security Strategy
Russia’s strategy was approved in 2009 and consists of 112 paragraphs dealing with strategic priorities, goals and measures. As the first priorities for Russia’s national security, defense, state and societal security are listed, followed by social-economic concerns such as increasing the quality of life and economic growth. According to the NSS the interdependence between civil stability and national security is crucial. Also, social-economic development is just as important as military security.
NSS points out as a threat the policy of a number of leading countries which seek military supremacy by building up nuclear as well as conventional, strategic arms, unilaterally developing anti-ballistic missile defense systems and militarizing space (which may trigger a new arms race). Another threat is NATO expansion near Russian borders and the attempts to grant this military alliance a global role. Energy security represents another challenge claiming that competition for energy resources might create tension which could end in the use of military force near Russian borders. In addition to external threats, the document also listed domestic problems, terrorism, separatism, radicalism, extremism, organized crime, corruption and the danger of pandemics.
The main component of the provisions of national security consists of preventing global and regional wars and conflicts on the basis of the principles of reasonable sufficiency and effectiveness including non-military response, mechanisms of public diplomacy and peacekeeping and international military cooperation. Military security is ensured by developing and improving the military organization and defensive potential of the state through the implementation of military-technological policies, the development of military infrastructure as well as by increasing the prestige of the military service.
The development of bilateral and multilateral cooperation with member states of the CIS is a priority direction of Russian foreign policy. Russia will seek to develop relations with the United Nations and NATO on the basis of respect and mutually beneficial cooperation. Cooperation with the European Union is also in the long-term national interests. Russia is willing to increase collaboration with G8, G20, RIC, BRIC as well as the partnership with the United States in terms of strategic offensive arms.
As a result, in matters of security the European Union has been more sympathetic to issues such as integration and multilateral coordination, where it can exercise its ‘soft power’ resources to influence other actors. The US is predisposed to the path of ‘smart power’ through the use of military might with greater investments in its partnership, alliances and public diplomacy. Finally, Russia in attempts to build a new stable economy puts on the first place economic and social development. National security is without a question important and the preconditions for reinforcing the system of national security have been created, although the model of security hasn’t been changed largely since the collapse of Soviet Union. The nuclear shield and military hard power still remain crucial features of the national security concept.
Paul ,T.V. and Ripsman, Norrin. Globalization and the National Security State. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010;
Rees, Wyn. The US-EU Security Relationship: The tensions between a European and a Global Agenda. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011;
European Union. A Secure Europe in a Better World – The European Security Strategy. Approved by the European Council held in Brussels on 12 December 2003 and drafted under the responsibilities of the EU High Representative Javier Solana;
European Union. Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy – Providing security in a changing world. Approved by the European Council held in Brussels on 11 and 12 December 2008 and drafted under the responsibilities of the EU High Representative Javier Solana;
Russia’s National Security Strategy to 2020, Rustrans [English], 2009 available at http://rustrans.wikidot.com/russia-s-national-security-strategy-to-2020;
United States. National Security Strategy. 2010
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.
Is there such thing as cyberwar?
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: https://www.rand.org/pubs/reprints/RP223.html
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.
On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures
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).
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.
Bradbury, D. (2012). SCADA: a Critical Vulnerability. Computer Fraud & Security, 4, p. 11-14.
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