July 31, 2021

a sensitive issue on the menu for the Brussels summit

Among the topics on the agenda of the NATO summit on Monday June 14 in Brussels, cyber defense should feature prominently. As cyber attacks around the world intensify and military operations become more complex, a new cyber ‘policy’ – different from the more comprehensive review of the Alliance’s strategic concept – should be presented at this inaugural summit. ally of the Biden era. A subject, however, more technical and less consensual than it appears on issues of infrastructure, software and data exchange between Member States.

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At this stage, the outlines of this revision of NATO’s cyber defense policy, which could have consequences as much technical as doctrinal, and whose last version dates from 2014, are not known. No working document was communicated before June 14 and the subject will not be detailed at length in the final press release of the summit.

“Deterrence and defense remain NATO’s number one task (…) but the alliance also needs unity in the face of destabilizing and malicious cyber activities ”, only pointed out US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on 1is June, during a meeting of defense ministers to prepare for the summit. According to Jens Stoltenberg, who traced, on Friday 11 June, the main lines of the brief meeting in Brussels, cyber will, in any case, be one of the three major topics of discussion at this meeting, alongside relations with Russia and China. And, indicated the Secretary General, one of the four areas of future action of the transatlantic organization, with land, naval and space.

One thing is certain: this project to revise NATO’s cyber policy is particularly highlighted by the United States, a prominent member of the Atlantic Alliance. It comes at a time when Washington has decided to make attribution of cyberattacks one of the pillars of its containment policy towards Russia and China. This choice is reflected in the increasingly direct designation of the presumed authors of the attacks against the interests of the United States, as in the case of the SolarWinds affair, revealed at the end of 2020, which President Joe Biden officially attributed, mid- April, to Russia.

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Underlying ambition of the new host of the White House: to rally as many countries as possible to this approach, in order to give substance to its concept of “alliance of democracies” against authoritarian powers. A method that has, however, for a long time divided cybersecurity experts and diplomats, while it is considered very difficult, if not impossible – including for the United States which has the most important technical capacities – to establish with certainty the identity of possible attackers.

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