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The Facelift of Global Security and Non-State Actors

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Article co-authored with Svetlana Izosimova, Master’s student of International and European Relations at Linkoping University, Sweden.

Since the two World Wars and the end of Cold War, the concept of international security has become more complex and wide. Back then, international security was largely focusing on such fields as national-state security policy, strategic studies, defense studies, military studies, war studies, etc. The era of globalization created a context for the transformation of the international security studies arrangements. Today this field includes an increasing number of studies on economic security, human security, environmental, resource security and HIV/AIDS as a security issue.

Globalization and International Security Studies

The notion of the state as the primary unit of interest has similarly  changed. Globalization may exert influence upon global security through different means: producing economic changes, technological development (particularly involving communications and transportation) and border reduction (reflected in trade flows in goods, cross-border travel). Reaction to globalization may lead to a reassessment of key security threats and bringing in new actors.

More specifically, economic disparity and inequality cultivates social polarization and ends in protests and social unrest, international terrorism and civil wars. Cheap and fast access to advances in computers, communications and software leads to cybercrime and diffusion of power. The elimination of geographical borders, once heavily guarded,  moved such dangers as organized crime and the possibility of weapon proliferation to the new level.

Globalization transforms patterns for interdependence and cooperation by changing the environment under which nation-states operate. The key point is that globalization reduces the ability of states to unilaterally protect themselves in terms of responding to specific security threats which result from greater openness. The need for states to cooperate in managing the threats increases.

Change in the quality of threats

Traditional state-centric views of military security are challenged by globalization responsible threats. Almost none of these contemporary security threats are “new.” Concerning terrorism, proliferation, and civil war, they have existed as national threats since the 1940s.For example, in the nineteenth century, terrorism was used by anarchists and transnational revolutionaries who killed half of the  heads of state. In the twentieth century, World War I was triggered partly by such a terrorist-turned-assassin. It can be argued that with the spread of globalization and interdependence not only has the amount of transnational threats increased but they are of a new quality and type.

The ability to cross national boundaries with little hindrance undermines the security idea established by a system based on sovereign nation-states. All of the mentioned threats, from civil war, terrorism,  transnational crime, the proliferation of small arms, to HIV/AIDS are transnational. Using the same technologies and means of transport that have benefited globalization, these transnational security threats in fact do not target states but societies and individuals.

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Source: Erwin [email protected]

Another main feature that illustrates the quality change among security threats is the probability. In comparison with interstate war, civil conflicts have not only been on average about five times more frequent but the number of internal conflicts has also been steadily increasing since the end of World War II, while the occurrence of intrastate war has been relatively stable.

In addition, the new security threats are more diverse in terms of their scope and intensity. Intrastate wars can last for decades and might not involve a clear beginning and end point. Many such conflicts start with very low levels of violence, or they might involve long periods of low violence where it may seem that no war is taking place. The recently ended intrastate conflict in Sri Lanka, for example, lasted for over 25 years. Many such wars therefore are very ambiguous in terms of measuring precisely when they start or finish, or how they might shade into acts of terrorism, insurgency, genocide, organized crime, violence, or even interstate war.

Emergence of new actors

Globalization provides international actors with additional tools for enhancing their interests and power. More actors which assume the shape of threats are actively and directly involved in everyday international  affairs. That is why extremist and terrorist ideological groups for example achieved the ability to manipulate an audience by cultivating fear on the global scale. Rebel or resistance movements, warlords, criminal organizations, local militias, ethnic groups, and many other forms of armed opposition act on both national and international levels. The preferences and interests of these groups can vary widely from political goals to profit-making.

Nevertheless, non-state actors have not only contributed to the emergence of new security threats such as terrorism and transnational crime but they also play an important role in conflict managing and provision of security. Non-state actors included into patterns of interstate relations can be grouped into the categories of private actors and intergovernmental organizations. The former includes such actors as private companies, charities, local pressure groups, as well as national and international NGOs. The latter refers to multilateral institutions formed by sovereign nation-states.

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Source: Massy [email protected]

What makes the mentioned actors “new” in contemporary security is that they are challenging the role of the nation-state. States  no longer own the ‘monopoly’ on the legitimate provision of security. Moreover, some of these actors lay claim to a higher legitimacy than states because they are not operating in the interest of a single nation. With the increased complexity of the international system, the task of providing security became complicated. A system based on national sovereignty can be rather ineffective when it comes to tackle transnational challenges. Thus, non-state actors appear to be more suited for addressing contemporary threats because they can operate across boundaries by building on multilateral cooperation.

To be more precise, sovereignty is not lost but transferred from national to other levels: supranational and regional. States still play the central role in providing security. The changing nature of the global arena requires though a reconsideration of a exclusive state-centric approach in international security. This reconsideration can be observed in the fragmentation of political authority among governmental and nongovernmental actors.

The fragmentation of political authority is characterized particularly by the delegation of security functions from the state to such organizations as NATO and the European Union on the regional level, and on the global level to such actors as the United Nations or to private actors such as NGOs and private security companies. The functions and policy-making arrangements can be spread between all the actors. For instance, in the conflict with former Yugoslavia the United Nations and NATO provided military security, while NGOs dealt with humanitarian aid, and private security companies offered logistical support.

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Source: Medien [email protected]

For the last decades non-state actors have proved their significance and expanded their contribution to security policies. NGOs have become key actors in the provision of human security during conflicts. Private military companies increasingly offer military support services for national armed forces. International organizations, such as NATO and the European Union, have extended their functional and geographical scope and address a new range of security threats.

Conclusion

Globalization posed a new challenge to international security studies. During the recent period the meaning and nature of  primary national and international security threats have changed. A multitude of threats, such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, civil war, HIV/AIDS danger, ethnic conflict together with an increase in the number of non-state entities characterizes the world today. The state as the central focus of security studies found itself in the complex interdependence with various other international actors. While states continue to play a central role at the national level, they have to share authority in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of international policies, rules, and regulations with international organizations, NGOs and multinational corporations at the regional and international levels for the purpose of achieving international security. Moreover, the changing nature of threats and actors is making the concept of security more profound and wide by bringing it from the level of the state to societies and individuals and shifting from military to non-military issues.

References:

  • Kapitonenko, Mykola. Globalization, Nation-state, and Global Security, Arrangements. Europolis, 2009, Issue 6, p585-603
  • Krahmann, Elke. New Threats and New Actors in International Security. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005
  • Nye, Joseph S. The Future of Power. New York: Public Affairs, 2011
  • Smith, Michael E.  International Security: Politics, Policy, Prospects. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
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Opinion

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

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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

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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.

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On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures

Alexandra Goman

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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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