Denmark has proven its abilities to be a pro-active defense member of NATO and the EU. Now the country isn’t only a regional power, it’s also expanding its role outside of the geographical territory, becoming an international player in today’s geopolitical challenges.
Today, Denmark is proudly getting out of its comfort zone and moving into one of the areas that was until now reserved for a only a small group of power players – space. Denmark recently agreed to contribute 313 million Kroner ($51 Million) to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) projects, especially the International Space Station (ISS). Although it isn’t directly linked to Denmark’s defense, it is a strong sign of where Denmark stands in terms of spatial exploration and industry. In fact, Denmark’s first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen will soon visit the ISS.
“Within the next two years, we will have both an astronaut and a climate gauge sent up to the USS. With Denmark’s contributions, we are sending a clear signal about out participation,” said Sofie Carsten Nielsen, the minister for higher education and research. Nielsen said that the ESA’s sensational Philae mission helped to demonstrate the importance of space exploration – “it is important for me that we see an increased focus on how important the space industry is to our modern infrastructure and daily life” (1).
Back on earth, gravity has taken hold of Denmark and the future of its defense seems to be developing rapidly. Recently, Danish authorities have made it clear that they want to be on the frontline for any worldwide issue, recognized as a global power. During the recent events in Syria with the Islamic State (ISIL), Denmark’s two coalition parties agreed on punishing foreign fighters and have been discussing ways of implementing it. Social Democrats Spokeswoman Trine Bramsen said the government is to release further details of a new comprehensive anti-jihadist package and Morten Østergaard, Minister of Economy and Interior declared, “my position is that If someone is on their way down to help the Islamic State with their brutality, it should be stopped. We are obligated to stop Danish citizens from going to Syria and committing serious offences. There is no doubt that no Danes should be going to Syria (2)”.
But for Denmark, the Syrian issue became an international geopolitical problem, which Denmark is willing to face out of its borders. Morten Ostergaard recently declared that Denmark will do whatever it can to help Lebanon cope with the Syrian refugee crisis. “We in Denmark stress our commitment to finding a political solution to the ongoing Syrian crisis, especially on a humanitarian level, over the coming years” said Ostergaard after meeting Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk in Beirut (3).
Denmark also directly faced Qatar to address its indirect support of the Islamic State. If Qatar’s regime is officially supporting the coalition against the Islamic State, the government has been ignoring traffickers who use Qatar to launder money and fund terrorist groups. Critics have lately argued that the regime could easily put a stop to the flow of money, if they wanted to. “Qatar should be thrown out of the alliance. We are at war with the Islamic State and we can not have someone on the team that is also on the side,” said Søren Espersen, foreign Policy spokesman for the Danish People’s Party. “Economic sanctions can be an option,” added Holger K. Nielsen, former Foreign Minister, asking the U.S. to confirm the accusations against Qatar before taking any consequences. Ole Haekkerup, member of the Foreign Policy Committee would like to have a serious talk with Doha’s government along with the U.S. “There is an impression that Qatar is doing something criminal. We need to have a thorough talk with them,” said Haekkerup.
Today, Denmark has become a key country involved in this international challenge. Its place within NATO is also significantly shifting Denmark’s history within the alliance, as NATO has been seeking to share the burden of providing expensive defense equipment in an equal manner across the Alliance. In fact, a new multinational project is being launch to increase the availability of munitions to the Alliance. Denmark, once again is in the lead in the project, which is focused on air-to-ground precision-guided munitions (PGMs). It’s because of its recent on the ground experiences that Denmark is able to lead such projects today. “Danish experiences from the air operation over Libya in 2011 showed us that national munitions stockpiles are not always sufficient… and they cannot easily be re-supplied within the short timeframe needed during operations,” said Lieutenant General Per Pugholm Olsen, Danish National Armaments Director (4). “Therefore we must pursue innovative and more flexible approaches towards provision of munitions” he added.
This effort illustrates the success of the Smart Defence initiative and of Allies working together on armament matters. But it also shows Denmark’s proactive approach for equipment. Because of its recent engagement in Afghanistan, or even in Mali to support the French Armed-forces, and also because of what’s at stake today for Denmark’s sovereignty in Greenland and larger parts of the Arctic, Denmark is thinking in terms of ground force projection.
As Denmark is willing to partner with some European countries on a case-by-case basis on worldwide engagement, the Danes have now made a priority of being able to send out troops and sustain them on the ground wherever the mission calls them. That’s one of the reasons why the Danish government has partnered with France during their engagement in Northern Mali. From these experiences, the two countries are now able to develop partnerships in terms of strategy, as well as industrial cooperation. The idea behind it is to develop a comprehensive mutual strategy throughout defense matters in order to be able to work together in all domains, including strategy planning, industrial development, equipment sharing, training and on the ground cooperation. All of these components are adaptable to the different existing frameworks, either in a bilateral partnership, within the EU framework though European Defense, or within NATO.
With Denmark raising its voice within Europe but also for the Arctic, for the Middle-East, for Africa, we should soon see a significant shift in the Danish defense policy, as well as a reinforced Danish military.
(1) Denmark ups ESA funds ahead of first astronaut, The local DK, December 4th 2014
(2) Denmark prepared to get tougher on Jihadists, The Local DK, September 12th 2014
(3) Danish minister pledges to help Lebanon deal with Syrian refugee crisis, December 17th 2014, Daily Star Lebanon.
(4) Danish ministry of defense
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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