30 September 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


On Feb. 28, 2021 The New York Times (NYT), based on analysis by a U.S. based private intelligence firm Recorded Future, reported that a Chinese entity penetrated India’s power grid at multiple load dispatch points. Chinese malware intruded into the control systems that manage electric supply across India, along with a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired power plant.

The NYT story1 gives the impression that the alleged activity against critical Indian infrastructure installations was as much meant to act as a deterrent against any Indian military thrust along the Line of Actual Control as it was to support future operations to cripple India’s power generation and distribution systems in event of war.


Christopher Faulkner and Jeff Rogg

On September 30, 2011, a hunting party of US drones found its quarry while flying over the desert in Yemen. They fired Hellfire missiles at the vehicle carrying Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico–born, firebrand cleric, whom the Barack Obama administration accused of being an operational leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The killing of al-Awlaki was the result of a multiyear operation involving the CIA, Joint Special Operations Command, and allied foreign intelligence services. That same morning, President Obama heralded the strike as a counterterrorism success. But ten years after al-Awlaki’s death and twenty years after 9/11, the United States must reconsider the precedents and prospects of its drone wars.

Counterterrorism Coup or Constitutional Crisis?

In the years following al-Awlaki’s killing, a chorus of legal scholars and journalists discussed and debated the circumstances surrounding the strike. The case was unprecedented in many respects: The president of the United States had personally overseen a secret executive branch process leveraging the massive capabilities of the US intelligence community and military to extrajudicially kill an American citizen. The use of technologically advanced surveillance and targeting systems in the form of weaponized drones also lent weight to those who believed the killing was an assassination or even an execution.

Afghan Resistance Mulls Formation of Government in Exile

Lynne O’Donnell

The leaders of Afghanistan’s armed resistance against the Taliban have left the country and are regrouping with former senior figures of the toppled Ghani administration with the aim of forming a government in exile.

Politicians including ministers and parliamentary deputies of the deposed government, as well as senior military figures, are in neighboring Tajikistan, seeking financial and military support to bolster a formal opposition to the extremists who took control of Afghanistan on Aug. 15, former officials living abroad said. Ahmad Massoud, son of a famed resistance leader, and former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who both led a short-lived resistance in the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul, fled across the border in recent weeks after their efforts to hold out against the Taliban were crushed.

A former senior Afghan security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the resistance comprises three broad categories: supporters of Saleh and Massoud’s National Resistance Front; former officers, including generals of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, as well as senior officials of the former defense and interior ministries; and former ministers and deputy ministers. Discussions are in the early stages, and the groups are yet to unite ideologically.

Can the World Get Aid to Afghanistan?

Philip Smucker

The troubled nation of Afghanistan, set in unforgiving deserts and the foothills of the Hindu Kush, is once again sagging under the yoke of a medieval-minded regime that enforces draconian punishments and gender rules that echo those of 16th or 17th century Europe. According to international experts trying to come up with a viable plan to help oppressed and underfed Afghans, the truth of Afghanistan in 2021 is significantly stranger than an imaginary dystopia. Certainly, it should be taken more seriously than the Hollywood thrillers likely to be spun off from its current and ongoing tragedy.

Humanitarian assistance experts desperately want to help, but their options are limited and could well, as some of them said in interviews for this story, end up strengthening a government made up of leading men often wanted for terrorism and crimes against humanity, persons U.S. military brass often referred to curtly as “the bad guys.”

Turkey's Risky Afghanistan Strategy

Stefano Graziosi & James Jay Carafano

Nature abhors a vacuum. So does Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is not the graveyard of empires. It is their crossroads. That remains true in this age of great power competition.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s abrupt withdrawal from the country opened the way not just for the Taliban’s return to power, but for other nations to establish their influence as well. Much attention has focused on the role that China, Iran and Russia may play. One key question, however, will be: What will Turkey do?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced that, unlike other NATO members, Ankara will maintain its diplomatic presence in Kabul.

Ankara is also considering a request to run the Kabul airport. Indeed, Ankara had already agreed to manage airport security before the allies’ sudden withdrawal. The airport was at the center of the first talks held between Turkey and the Taliban, four days before the last U.S. troops boarded the last plane out.

Can Turkey’s Erdogan Rebuild the Bridges He Has Burned?

Since his sweeping overhaul of Turkey’s political system in 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cemented his near-total control over the country. Despite the worst electoral setback of Erdogan’s career in the Istanbul mayoral election in June 2019, as well as a tail-spinning economy exacerbated by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, he continues to maintain his grip on power, even if he must destabilize Turkey’s democracy to do so.

At the same time, Erdogan has pursued an adventurous and bellicose foreign policy across the Mediterranean region, putting Ankara increasingly at odds with its NATO allies. After Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air-defense system in July 2019, Washington suspended Turkish involvement in the F-35 next-generation fighter plane program. In October 2019, the Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria targeting Syrian Kurdish militias raised tensions with the U.S. Congress—which fiercely defended the Syrian Kurds, America’s principal partner on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State—even if former U.S. President Donald Trump seemed oblivious to their plight and subsequently received Erdogan at the White House. Turkey’s repeated incursions into waters in the Eastern Mediterranean claimed by Cyprus, as well as its standoffs with Greek and French naval vessels in the region, have further raised tensions and alarmed observers. And its support for political Islamists since the Arab uprisings as well as its role in the Middle East’s various armed conflicts have put it at odds with the Gulf states and Egypt.

Towards a Better Understanding of the Underlying Conditions of Coups in Africa

Muhammad Dan Suleiman

On Sunday, 5 September 5 2021, news broke of a coup in Guinea. An elite group in Guinea’s military had ousted the country’s president of eleven years, Alpha Condé. The usual condemnations flew in as many Guineans jubilated in the streets. The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expelled Guinea and imposed sanctions. The latter froze financial assets and placed a travel ban on the putschists. Guinea’s coup is one of many recent cases of the army intervening in national politics, after many African countries are expected to have significantly democratised, post-Cold War, from the early 1990s. This has alarmed democracy watchers, and analysts are binging – with an air of surprise – on why coups are making a comeback or rising in the continent. This question, however, assumes that the conditions that fueled “old” coups left the continent in the first place.

A tale of many – or different? – coups

Africa led in coups between 1950 and 2010, accounting for 36.5% of all coups globally. According to one report, since the first coup in Togo in 1963, there have been over 200 coups and attempted coups in Africa. In each decade between 1958 and 2008, West Africa, designated as a “coup-belt”, had the highest number of coups in the continent, accounting for 44.4%. Condé’s ousting is one of four coups and attempted coups in the sub-region in less than nine months – after two coups in Mali (September 2020 and May 2021) and one attempted in Niger (March 2021). These figures take the continental count to nine coups and 29 attempts since 2010, excluding the attempted coup in Sudan few days ago.

The Necessity of AUKUS


LONDON – The basic text making the case for an international-relations rulebook was provided by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides in his account of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta in the fifth century BCE. During that struggle, the inhabitants of Melos, the only significant island in the Aegean Sea not controlled by Athens, insisted on retaining their neutrality despite intense Athenian pressure. Eventually, the Athenians lost patience and wiped the Melians out, killing all the men and enslaving the women and children. The Athenian justification was simple: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

It has become increasingly apparent that this is also China’s view of the world today. Now a global economic power with a large navy, China seeks to tempt others with the prospect of selling more goods in its huge market or borrowing money for infrastructure projects. It may, for the sake of form, pretend to abide by the international agreements it has signed. But China’s leaders, in fine Leninist form, simply do whatever they deem to be in the Communist Party’s interest.

Post-Merkel, a muddle: 9 German election takeaways


Negotiations among Germany’s parties have just begun. But one election outcome seems clear: The next government will be a centrist one once again — there’s just the small outstanding question of who will lead it.

That question will take weeks or months to answer. But what’s now evident is that the poor results of The Left party — which could have opened the door to a leftist alliance with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens — mean that the SPD’s Olaf Scholz has diminished leverage.

Here are nine takeaways from election day in Germany.

1. Small is powerful

Both would-be chancellors, Scholz and Armin Laschet of the center-right Union alliance, claim they got a mandate to lead a new government. But their potential partners say that’s not their call. Instead, it’s the night of the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) — who both see one clear outcome. The Union and SPD “haven’t made any gains overall compared with the last election,” FDP leader Christian Lindner said. That’s why there can be no business as usual in Germany, he concluded, but rather a “time for a new beginning.”

Chinese Influence Threatens the Neutrality of the SDGs

Kristen A. Cordell 

The prevailing foreign assistance architecture of today’s world, which prioritizes transparency, inclusion and accountability, was developed and codified in a unipolar system—with significant U.S. leadership and influence. Since the end of the Cold War, Western donors have supported this framework, further developing and codifying it in the Millennium Development Goals of 2000; the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness; the 2008 Accra Agenda, which built on the Paris Declaration; and the 2011 Busan Agreement to standardize good development practice, norms and standards.

This architecture is now coming under pressure, largely due to China’s growing interest in and influence over today’s predominant development paradigm: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Beijing’s interest comes at a particularly important time, as the U.N.’s Agenda 2030—which calls for achieving all of the SDGs by that year—is looking further out of reach due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact in low- and middle-income countries. COVID-19 is forcing the development community to take stock of current progress on Agenda 2030, while recognizing that the framework that succeeds it will be forged within the constraints of an increasingly competitive and multipolar world.

China’s Increasing Influence in the Middle East

Suhail Ahmad Khan

Both China and the Middle East have a long civilizational history. Relations between China and the Middle East date back to some 2000 years when China was ruled by the Han dynasty (Zhang 1999). In the coming centuries, trade played a vital role in improving relations between China and the Arab lands. Trade was mainly carried out in jade, silk, and other goods, and these commodities would later become a part of the Silk Road (Chen 2011, 1).

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, relations between China and the Middle East remained limited. This fact was especially true during Mao’s era as China was more involved in events happening in its periphery. Given this state of relations with the Middle East during Mao’s regime, nine Arab states did not recognize the People’s Republic of China until the early 1970s (Zhang 1999).

Beijing’s Growing Influence on the Global Undersea Cable Network

Justin Sherman


The vast majority of intercontinental internet traffic traverses submarine cables laid across the ocean floor. Private and state-owned firms have long invested in these submarine cables to carry internet traffic and other data, often in cooperation with one another due to the high costs and complex logistics of laying cables undersea. In recent years, Chinese state-owned telecommunications companies have greatly increased their investment in submarine cables; in 2021 alone, three state-owned Chinese telecoms had ownership stakes in 31 newly deployed cables (TeleGeography, accessed August 30). Much of this investment has focused on infrastructure beyond the Chinese mainland.

These Chinese state investments are occurring in the context of growing international concern about Chinese technology practices: specifically, how the Chinese government is working to undermine the global open internet; the degree to which the Chinese government exerts control over Chinese internet companies; and whether the Chinese government’s overseas infrastructure and development projects—broadly represented by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—are a means of spreading surveillance technology and increasing technological dependence on China.[1] In this context, Chinese state investments in submarine cables are especially significant.

Divide, Depoliticize, and Demobilize: China’s Strategies for Controlling the Tibetan Diaspora

Tenzin Dorjee


Last fall, the Tibetan community in New York City was scandalized by news that a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer named Baimadajie Angwang, allegedly of Tibetan ethnicity, had been arrested and charged with spying on the local Tibetan community for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) (New York Times, September 21, 2020). Court filings alleged that Angwang had been affiliated with the CCP since at least 2014 (Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office, September 21, 2020). While news of Angwang’s arrest intrigued national media and intensified Washington’s growing concern about China’s overseas influence operations, Tibetans have long felt the creeping presence of Chinese espionage activities in their communities. Traditional exile hubs like Dharamsala and Kathmandu have been menaced for decades, but this problem has now spread to Western outposts of the Tibetan diaspora.

Beijing has historically viewed the Tibetan diaspora—with its resilient exile government and highly effective transnational advocacy movement—as a threat to China’s international reputation and its foreign policy objectives. This was especially so during its heyday in the late nineties and the early aughts, when the international Tibet movement dealt Beijing several defeats on the global stage––from thwarting China’s bid for the 2000 Olympics to foiling a high-stakes World Bank loan that would have enabled Beijing to transfer some 60,000 Chinese settlers into eastern Tibet (Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1993; World Bank, April 28, 2000). During this time, Beijing began expanding its overseas influence operations targeting the Tibetan diaspora, refining its strategies and innovating new tactics to counter the Tibet movement.

Connecting the Dots in China


NEW HAVEN – All eyes are fixed on the dark side of China. We have been here before. Starting with the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s and continuing through the dot-com recession of the early 2000s and the global financial crisis of 2008-09, China was invariably portrayed as the next to fall. Yet time and again, the Chinese economy defied gloomy predictions with a resilience that took most observers by surprise.

Count me among the few who were not surprised that past alarms turned out to be false. But count me in when it comes to sensing that this time feels different.

Contrary to most, however, I do not think Evergrande Group is the problem, or even the catalytic tipping point. Yes, China’s second-largest property developer is in potentially fatal trouble. And yes, its debt overhang of some $300 billion poses broader risks to the Chinese financial system, with potential knock-on effects in global markets. But the magnitude of those ripple effects is likely to be far less than those who loudly proclaim that Evergrande is China’s Lehman Brothers, suggesting that another “Minsky Moment” may well be at hand.

Turkey’s Role in Syria: A Prototype of its Regional Policy in the Middle East

Shaimaa Magued

Turkish policy toward Syria has gone through different phases since the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1924. Yet, Syria has always been the main sphere of Turkey’s regional role in the Middle East. Geographical proximity, shared history, and common security issues have shaped the evolution of bilateral relations and Turkish regional conduct toward either conciliation and rapprochement or tension and military encroachment. By sharing common borders of nearly 900 km, Turkey and Syria have engaged in permanent interactions that influenced the balance of power in bilateral relations and the security dilemma in the Middle East.

Historical Background on Turkish-Syrian Relations

Not only had Turkey the balance of power in its favor throughout the Cold War period and the 1990s but also regional dynamics were dominated by power politics, notably antagonist military alliances involving Western countries and Israel vis-à-vis Arab countries. Although the Turkish-Syrian difference was instigated by bilateral conflicts over the region of Hatay/Iskenderun, the repartition of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the Kurdish issue, Arab countries expressed solidarity toward Syria on the bilateral level and within regional instances such as the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference. Egypt alongside Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Gulf countries have always condemned Turkish policy toward Syria and limited cooperation with Turkey to the economic level.

UAE-Israel relations risk being built on questionable assumptions

James M. Dorsey

A year of diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel has proven to be mutually beneficial. The question is whether the assumptions underlying the UAE’s initiative that led three other Arab countries to also formalise their relations with the Jewish state will prove to be correct in the medium and long term.

UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed laid out the strategic assumptions underlying his establishment of diplomatic relations, as well as its timing, in a conversation with Joel C. Rosenberg, an American-Israeli evangelical author and activist, 18 months before the announcement.

Mr. Rosenberg’s recounting of that conversation in a just-published book, Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East, constitutes a rare first-hand public account of the Emirati leader’s thinking.

Mr. Rosenberg’s reporting on his conversation with Prince Mohammed is largely paraphrased by the author rather than backed up with quotes. The UAE’s interest in building good relations with American Evangelicals as part of its effort to garner soft power in the United States and project itself as an icon of religious tolerance, and Mr. Rosenberg’s willingness to serve that purpose, add credibility to the author’s disclosures.

Signposts on the Road to 9/11: Why the History of Islamism Still Matters

Emman El-Badawy


The West has long regarded the Islamist fight as one of security and defence. The aftermath of 9/11 set America and its allies on a war footing against Islam’s violent extremists. Consequently, Western nations underestimated the ideological component of the fight and, despite the rhetoric at the time, the West did regard the so-called war on terror as one that would have a conventional, conclusive moment of victory or failure.

For decades – both before 9/11 and since – extremist groups have lived deep within the fabrics of societies, crossing borders in search of new conflicts and havens from which to recruit and inspire a revolt against the system. Islamist groups do this time and again, based generally on a belief in the obligation along theological and political lines to establish and enforce an absolute reading of Islamic sharia law as the underlying principle of public and state life. Islamists – whether militant or political, 20th or 21st century – have sought a restoration of Muslim “dignity” with a return to the so-called caliphate. For those who adopt violence, armed conflict and intimidation are regarded as legitimate means to overcoming perceived enemies of Islam who try to restrict the success of this project. Enemies include those who are seen to profit, benefit from or facilitate non-Muslim rule over “Muslim lands”, and those who emulate the lifestyle of so-called “disbelievers”. While some Islamist groups focus on struggles at the national or local level, many have an expansionist vision that continues to advocate a social and political model predating the advent of modern nation-states.

What Difference Did 9/11 Make?

Joseph S. Nye

When the next terrorist attacks come, will US presidents be able to channel public demand for revenge by precise targeting, explaining the trap that terrorists set, and focusing on creating resilience in US responses? That is the question Americans should be asking, and that their leaders should be addressing.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were a horrific shock. Images of trapped victims leaping from the Twin Towers are indelible, and the intrusive security measures introduced in the wake of the attacks have long since become a fact of life.

But skeptics doubt that it marked a turning point in history. They note that the immediate physical damage was far from fatal to American power. It is estimated that the United States' GDP growth dropped by three percentage points in 2001, and insurance claims for damages eventually totaled over $40 billion — a small fraction of what was then a $10 trillion economy. And the nearly 3,000 people killed in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, when the al-Qaeda hijackers turned four aircraft into cruise missiles was a small fraction of US travel fatalities that year.

Twenty Years After 9/11, Terrorists Could Still Go Nuclear

Matthew Bunn

As Americans reeled after the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago, one question was at the front of many minds: Could even worse be coming? If the terrorists who attacked on September 11 had a crude nuclear bomb on the plane, it wouldn’t have been just the twin towers—the whole lower half of Manhattan could have been turned to rubble and ash, with hundreds of thousands dead and injured.

Unfortunately, that possibility was all too real. Investigations after the attacks uncovered focused al Qaeda efforts to get nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The nuclear program reported directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the leader of the group, and got as far as carrying out crude but sensible conventional explosive tests for the bomb program in the Afghan desert. Weeks before 9/11, Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri met with two senior Pakistani nuclear scientists and discussed how al Qaeda could get nuclear weapons.

America’s Soft Power Secret Weapon Against China – The Environment

Tim Gallaudet & Lexa Skrivanek

The ongoing domestic narrative contrasting the approaches of the Trump and Biden Administrations concerning environmental issues is overshadowing an important fact: The United States continues to achieve numerous environmental successes, which serve as a critical soft power weapon against China. Our leadership in environmental quality, conservation, and science provides a powerful counterweight to China’s increasingly malign influence and has made the U.S. a preferred partner over the People’s Republic of China in view of its extensive environmental abuses.

Simply contrasting the activities of China and the U.S. in a variety of environmental indicators paints a compelling picture.

Between 2014-2017, a global increase in the ozone-depleting gas CFC-11 was observed, and analysis determined the source to be centered in Eastern China, proving Beijing to be in violation of the Montreal Protocol despite falsely reporting otherwise. The U.S., on the other hand, has followed the agreement and continues to lead the world in monitoring ozone-depleting gases and calling on China to meet its obligations.

Operations in the Information Environment: The Perspective from MARFORPAC Marines

Robbin Laird

During my August 2021 visit to MARFORPAC, I had a chance to talk with the specialists in information operations within the command. In particular, I met with Mr. Justin Bogue, Information Maneuver Branch Deputy, Maj. Melissa Giannetto, MARFORPAC PsyOp Officer and Maj. Nick Mannweiler, COMMSTRAT Operations.

Clearly, one major change since my last visit to MARFORPAC in 2014-2015 has been a renewed focus on information operations.

With the Russian seizure of Crimea which involved significant use of information warfare, and the ramp up of information operations including cyber in the Pacific – China, North Korea and Russia – a focus on crisis management operations needs to incorporate information operations as a core capability.

It needs to be, in the words of one participant in the discussion, “not a bolt-on capability but a core integrated capability.”

Russia’s Military Boosts Electromagnetic Spectrum Capability

Roger McDermott

As a result of major reforms and continued state investment in modernization over more than a decade, the Russian Armed Forces have significantly advanced their capabilities both in general and specifically in Electronic Warfare (EW; in Russian, radioelektronnaya borba, or REB). This has involved forming specialist EW structures, including at the brigade level, and populating all branches and arms of military service with EW-trained personnel and equipment. The modernization process benefiting Russian EW capability has in many cases eclipsed the technology that exists in foreign militaries, including those of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states. These advances boost the Russian Armed Forces’ overall capability to disrupt, jam and interfere with potential enemy command-and-control (C2) systems, communications, radars, or weapons. And the technology on offer continues to receive high priority in Russian military modernization. The latest illustration of this burgeoning capability to fight in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), will likely replace other advanced EW systems currently in service, especially based on some of the details emerging around the new Divnomorye-U complex (Discover24.ru, January 25).

Uncovering the French Origins of COIN

M.L. deRaismes Combes

In 2006, the U.S. army released a new field manual, The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual: U.S. Army Field Manual no. 3-24: Marine Corps Warfighting Publication no. 3-33.5 (FM 3-24) on counterinsurgency operations (COIN), which was hailed at the time as a significant shift in thinking about how to approach fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[1] Although counterinsurgency was not new to the U.S. Military, the armed forces had largely ignored the doctrine since Vietnam because it was not the type of war it preferred to fight. Yet as Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, one of the authors of the COIN manual, quipped, “Unfortunately, the enemy has a vote.”[2] Since then, and until very recently, COIN has dominated the strategic landscape of warfare at the Pentagon.[3]‘Winning hearts and minds’—a shorthand colloquialism for the crux of counterinsurgency doctrine—rests on the supposition that placating, bribing, coercing, or swaying a general population against militants, cuts off necessary support to the rebels, making it substantially more difficult for them to feed, shelter, and arm themselves. Moreover, winning local trust and support helps build up a robust informant network to aid in ongoing efforts to dismantle the insurgency. In the United States, the provenance of contemporary counterinsurgency is typically located in the mid-twentieth century and the independence movements of (now former) colonies. Nagl himself notes that he and his co-authors relied heavily in their thinking on Lieutenant Colonel David Galula, who wrote about his experiences in Algeria in the 1964 classic Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice.[4] However, counterinsurgency as a discrete military (and political) practice dates even further back—to the nineteenth century and to the height of European imperialism.

A Coup Attempt at the IMF


NEW YORK – Moves are afoot to replace or at least greatly weaken Kristalina Georgieva, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director since 2019. This is the same Georgieva whose excellent response to the pandemic quickly provided funds to keep countries afloat and to address the health crisis, and who successfully advocated for a $650 billion issuance of IMF “money” (special drawing rights, or SDRs), so essential for low- and middle-income countries’ recovery. Moreover, she has positioned the Fund to take a global leadership role in responding to the existential crisis of climate change.

For all of these actions, Georgieva should be applauded. So, what is the problem? And who is behind the effort to discredit and oust her?

The problem is a report that the World Bank commissioned from the law firm WilmerHale concerning the Bank’s annual Doing Business index, which ranks countries according to the ease of opening and operating commercial firms. The report contains allegations – or more accurately “hints” – of improprieties involving China, Saudi Arabia, and Azerbaijan in the 2018 and 2020 indexes.

Interview with Merkel’s Former Foreign Policy Adviser

Christiane Hoffmann und Christoph Schult

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Heusgen, you served as a foreign policy adviser to Angela Merkel from the time she took office in 2005 until 2017. Merkel is considered a major proponent of realpolitik, especially when it comes to foreign policy. What explanation can you offer regarding the degree to which Berlin was taken by surprise by the reality on the ground in Afghanistan?

Heusgen: It wasn’t just in German foreign policy circles – everyone was surprised by the dynamics that developed in Afghanistan.

DER SPIEGEL: Shouldn’t we have been able to predict that the Taliban was going to seize power in the country again?

Heusgen: Hindsight is always 20/20. As a matter of principle, it was right for us to be engaged in Afghanistan, both militarily and in terms of development policy. But we made the mistake of not forcing good governance on Afghan leaders. We should have attached much stricter conditions to our aid. Having seen how Afghan politicians thought first and foremost about themselves and their clans, it is not surprising in retrospect that this government had no standing with the population or with the security forces. When things got serious, everyone ran for the hills. This could have been foreseen with a little common sense.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you think the West could have succeeded in Afghanistan if things had been done differently?

Heusgen: Personally, I think we should have stayed longer in Afghanistan, just as the Americans did for decades in Japan, South Korea and Germany. The key difference was the that the governments there helped in building democracy and institutions, and they also had the backing of the people.

DER SPIEGEL: What bothered you more: the negotiations with the Taliban under former U.S. President Donald Trump or the unconditional withdrawal under Joe Biden?

Heusgen: Excuse me, but the Trump administration was an amateurish, diplomatic mess. It was a grave mistake to forge an agreement with the Taliban and sideline an Afghan government that had been receiving support for years. Biden’s decision was logical and consistent. He knows how incredibly expensive the deployment is and how unpopular it is in the U.S. But I still wish he would have decided differently.

DER SPIEGEL: What does the defeat in Afghanistan mean for current and future deployments? How, for example, can we prevent a similar situation from arising in Mali, where the German armed forces are also deployed?

Heusgen: The lesson is that we need to set clearer conditions. We cannot have a transitional president who refuses to move forward with the transition to civilian rule. We need to be clear: Either you implement good governance reforms, or we will end our support. If the government doesn’t look after the welfare of its people, the terrorists will continue to gain ground. Foreign troops can’t do anything to change that.

DER SPIEGEL: But you also then have to carry through with it.

Heusgen: Yes, then you have to get out.

DER SPIEGEL: Was Afghanistan a defeat for the West?

Heusgen: I have actually eliminated the term "the West" from my vocabulary.


Heusgen: From my point of view, it is no longer about a dispute between the West and the East today, but between states that adhere to a rules-based international order, to the United Nations Charter, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and those that do not. These principles are not Western, but universal. The West has become a negative fighting word that the Russians and Chinese use against us, along the lines of: The West is yesterday’s news.

DER SPIEGEL: What’s your assessment of foreign policy in the Merkel era?

Heusgen: Over the past four years in New York (where Heusgen was Germany’s ambassador to the United Nations), I have seen that Germany has an excellent reputation, thanks in part to its chancellor. When I then return to Germany, I can only shake my head at my nagging compatriots, who complain about so many things here. People are always envious of us in New York, as an example of a country that works well and of a chancellor with foresight who, for 16 years, has ensured reliability, stability and balanced crisis management – in the euro and financial crises, the Ukraine crisis and the refugee crisis. When it comes to the refugee crisis, especially, perceptions in Germany and abroad diverge widely. My American colleague Susan Rice told me at the time that the refugee policy had permanently changed her view of Germany. Opening the border to Syrian refugees in 2015 was a great thing for our country’s reputation.

DER SPIEGEL: Crisis management is indeed considered to be Merkel’s legacy. But shouldn't the aim of successful foreign policy be to avoid crises, to pursue forward-looking policies? The refugee crisis, in particular, could have been avoided if the migrants in Syria’s neighboring countries had been dealt with at an early stage.

Heusgen: It is true that more could have been done. We have learned from that. Today, Germany is the second-largest financial contributor to the United Nations. We provide massive support to the World Food Program and UNICEF.

DER SPIEGEL: Could we not have predicted the Ukraine crisis? It was becoming clear, after all, that Russia was not going to accept the country’s orientation toward the West. Did Germany fail to prevent Ukraine from getting pushed into this conflict?

Heusgen: No, the chancellor had that in mind. We did not want to promote that conflict. That is why, against strong opposition from the United States, she prevented Ukraine from being granted the prospect of joining NATO; nor did the Association Agreement with the European Union open up any prospect of membership. She always kept in mind what was tolerable for Russia. But then, overnight, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said: No, I'm not going to do this thing with the EU.

Bild Chancellor Merkel, adviser Heusgen: "Germany has to do more." Foto: Markus Schreiber / AP

DER SPIEGEL: Because Russia had placed massive pressure on him.

Heusgen: But we could not have known that Russia was planning an invasion. U.S. Senator John McCain, however, felt it could have been foreseen. From the moment when President Obama stood by and watched as Assad cross his red line in Syria in 2013 and deployed poison gas against the civilian population. McCain felt Putin saw this as a sign of weakness and believed that the Americans would not intervene in Ukraine either. But we still couldn’t tell the Ukrainians: Sorry, because of your geographical position, there can be no Association Agreement.

DER SPIEGEL: In your opinion, is Germany having a particularly hard time coming up with a forward-looking, strategic foreign policy?

Heusgen: I believe that Germany is still in the process of taking the step from being a divided nation to a reunified country that also parlays its economic strength into political strength. We have to get away from always looking first at what others want and think. Leadership is expected from Germany. This, of course, includes crisis prevention. We do that, too – in the Balkans or in Libya, for example. When it came to military intervention in Libya in 2011, Germany had the foresight to recognize that there was no upside, and it abstained at the UN Security Council.

DER SPIEGEL: The decision was not considered far-sighted, but rather typical of the Germans' reticence when it comes to military missions.

Heusgen: In retrospect, the decision has given us great credibility in Libya and in the region; it provides the foundation for our mediation in the country. I see this as part of a forward-looking policy to try to keep the EU’s backyard stable. This also includes our engagement in Africa, which has been a central focus of the chancellor in recent years.

DER SPIEGEL: Is Germany properly positioned for a leadership role in foreign policy?

Heusgen: No one else seems interested. The U.S. is pulling back, and you can see it everywhere. China has developed in a very nationalistic manner. When the Chinese wake up in the morning, the first thing they are thinking about is not how to strengthen the international legal order. So, Germany has to do more.

DER SPIEGEL: The election platforms of the center-left Christian Democrats and the business-friendly Free Democrats call for Germany to establish a National Security council along the lines of the one in the U.S. The Greens have similar ambitions. Is this a good idea?

Heusgen: A National Security Council would be good for a unified foreign policy. So that, for example, the Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry aren’t working at cross purposes. But that is difficult in a country that has coalition governments. The Chancellery, where central decisions are made, must coordinate closely with the ministries in order to implement them.

DER SPIEGEL: Are there issues where you say today: I should have been more persistent, even with the chancellor. It is said that you have always had a more critical stance about, for example, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

Heusgen: Let me answer that on principle. My role in the Chancellery was that of foreign policy adviser. However, decisions very often also have economic or domestic policy dimensions that the chancellor must take into account. If the chancellor then makes a decision, you have to accept it. She’s the politician, I am the civil servant. If you can’t deal with that, then you should find another job or go into politics yourself.

DER SPIEGEL: You were known for making some striking statements during your time on the UN Security Council. Did it feel good to drop the diplomatic restraint at times?

Heusgen: Those are two completely different roles. As adviser to the chancellor, it isn’t your job to be in the public eye, but when you sit on the Security Council, you speak for Germany. In a situation in which Russia, China and Trump’s America had trampled on the international order, I saw it as my duty to stand up for international law from morning until night – especially in light of Germany’s history. I have indeed often taken a very clear stand on this, and many other countries have thanked me for it. Even my Russian counterpart says that things are no longer as interesting without me there.

"The Trump administration was an amateurish, diplomatic mess." Foto: CHRISTIAN HARTMANN / AFP

DER SPIEGEL: You once asked China and Russia how their presidents could still look in the mirror after they cut off 500,000 children in Syria from humanitarian aid. Was that statement coordinated with Berlin?

Heusgen: I think about formulations like that while I am jogging. If something is crying out to the heavens, you need to consider how to express it in a way that it will be heard. On important issues, you have to seek polarization.

DER SPIEGEL: The chancellor has been accused of being too naive in her dealings with China.

Heusgen: The chancellor had China's growing strength on her radar from the very beginning. She knew early on that the country would be a world power. That’s why she has traveled to China every year since 2006 and started government consultations. This intensive attention paid to China was far-sighted and correct.

DER SPIEGEL: Many thought she was too optimistic about the potential for change created by trade.

Heusgen: I don't agree. I also think the EU's investment agreement with China, which Merkel pushed forward, is right. We must meet China at eye level. The chancellor has never been naive. She has raised human rights concerns with Chinese leaders, she has been critical of the situation of the Uighurs and Tibetans, and she has helped get dissidents out of the country. She has constantly addressed the difficult points, but in a way that kept the discussion going. Of course, we shouldn’t have any illusions. China has become a totalitarian state under Xi Jinping. This will not change in the foreseeable future. We have to remain in dialogue with China and also do business with the country, but in doing so, we must clearly defend our principles and prevent the world from being run according to Chinese rules in the future.

Heusgen on the eyebrow-raising statements he made as Germany's ambassador to the UN: "I think about formulations like that while I am jogging." Foto: Andreas Chudowski

DER SPIEGEL: The Chinese UN ambassador said goodbye to you by saying that he was glad to be rid of you. What was your experience with the Chinese at the UN?

Heusgen: My experience in New York was that you can work with the Chinese if you do it from a position of strength. It is very important that we do not turn a blind eye, because that won’t get us anywhere. The Chinese will interpret it as weakness. I was given such a "warm” farewell by the Chinese UN ambassador because I was a source of discomfort and clearly addressed the shortcomings: the military threats in the South China Sea, the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and the treatment of the Uighurs. And we must act together with other countries. We should not breathe a sigh of relief when Beijing goes after other countries like Canada or Australia. We have to stand together – that impresses the Chinese.

DER SPIEGEL: Can you give an example of where that has worked?

Heusgen: I experienced that last year, when the annual declaration of the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations was discussed, in which the situation of the Uighurs in Xinyang was condemned. In previous years, Britain and the U.S. were in charge, but last year we Germans took over. Instead of 23, 39 countries joined the declaration. That was an earthquake from the perspective of the Chinese. According to reports, a department head in Beijing had to resign as a result.

DER SPIEGEL: Is that also the way to confront Putin?

Heusgen: In contrast to Russia, China actually does care about its reputation abroad. The Russians don’t care if a resolution is passed against them in the General Assembly by a vote of 120 to five. The Chinese do care – they don't want to lose, and they will try to prevent losing by all means. They blackmail countries. When it comes to an issue that China cares deeply about, you sometimes see African ambassadors reading from Chinese talking points. It’s pretty brutal.

DER SPIEGEL: On the one hand, you are pleading for toughness, but on the other, you are sticking firmly to dialogue. Can that work in the long run?

Heusgen: Name an alternative.

DER SPIEGEL: The U.S. no longer sees China as a partner and competitor, but exclusively as a systemic rival.

Heusgen: The Americans call this "decoupling," but the policy doesn’t work. America’s trade with China may stagnate, but it will not decrease significantly. The economies are far too intertwined for that, and the economic losses would be too high. Furthermore, the Americans are not decoupling entirely. They still want to cooperate with China on climate policy.

DER SPIEGEL: Before Merkel brought you into the Chancellery, you served as chief of staff to Javier Solana, the EU’s first high representative for common foreign and security policy. Are you disappointed by how little has happened in EU foreign policy over the past 20 years?

Heusgen: Those were the golden days of European foreign policy. Solana had previously served as NATO secretary general and could speak on equal footing with EU heads of state and government. No such heavyweight has been appointed to the post of high representative since. Most countries are not prepared to hand more competencies over to Brussels. A first step would be if a former head of state or government were finally appointed to this office.

DER SPIEGEL: What about Angela Merkel?

Heusgen: I don't think she will seek a task like that after the end of her term as chancellor.

DER SPIEGEL: You are a member of the Christian Democratic Union. What distinguishes a Christian Democratic foreign policy from that of the business-friendly Free Democrats, the environmentalist Greens or the center-left Social Democrats?

Heusgen: As a Catholic and a Christian Democrat, the focus for me is on people. Human rights have always very much driven my foreign policy thinking and actions. There is definitely overlap with other parties.

DER SPIEGEL: Is it your hope that Armin Laschet will become chancellor?

Heusgen: Yes.

DER SPIEGEL: What's next for you personally? Is it true that you are likely to succeed Wolfgang Ischinger as chair of the Munich Security Conference?

Heusgen: As chairman of the circle of benefactors of the Munich Security Conference, I will now play an even greater role there and work together with my long-time colleague Wolfgang Ischinger. Apart from that, I have taken on a teaching position at my old university in Sankt Gallen, and I am very pleased about that.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Heusgen, we thank you for this interview.

Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches

Though not confined, there are three main ‘categories’ (in a broad sense) that are commonly used for research designs when analysing data: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches. In that broad sense, they incorporate all of the other methods available in some way or other. The resources below help to identify and understand when these broader categorisations are in effect, what sorts of methods they incorporate, and why. The multimedia resources below have been curated by the E-International Relations team. You can find more resources on our methods homepage.

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Multimedia and Textual Analysis

Working with documents, in whatever form (multimedia, textual, digital/physical etc.) is the backbone of academic research and the bulk of how students conduct research. Any ‘artefact’ that has been created in the past is a document and therefore can be used for research. While traditionally this was limited to books, journal articles and government/public policy documents (essentially the things students and researchers find in libraries and archival repositories) – today it is a vast field that includes social media, podcasts, videos and much more besides.

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Brian E. Frydenborg


Article 5 of NATO’s foundational 1949 North Atlantic Treaty demands that if an “armed attack” is carried out against even just one member state, all other member states “shall” consider that attack (and any armed attack) on a member state “an attack against them all” and “will assist,” up to and “including the use of armed force.” This bedrock is the centerpiece for over seven decades of the Pax Americana: the U.S.-led global system of military power, alliances, collective defense, and ability to project combined strength anywhere on the planet. For it to continue in these roles, NATO must adapt to current and future threats by adding cyberwarfare—including information warfare—to Article 5.

Cyberwarfare a Defining Part of Modern Warfare

Most cyberattacks against NATO states are carried out by Russia. A key element of these involve what is called “information warfare” (“a new face of war,” quoting a RAND Corporation report), heavily involving disinformation and that includes “warfare” to indicate these are hardly benign/normal influence operations but those that have always been part of any serious conventional war in modern times.

The ever-evolving concept of warfare in our digital age, then, does not have to include shots being fired from guns, and it is naïve to not consider cyberwarfare as simply another form of war in the twenty-first century that uses force in the digital realm to achieve results in some of the same spirit as traditional armies: attack, defense, deception, sabotage, destruction, and to pressure actors to change behavior. Clausewitz most famously wrote that “war is merely the continuation of policy [or politics] by other means” and would have well understood cyberwarfare to be war and well within that “other means” category.

Russia and China are the two countries that have led in cyberwarfare. Bolder but weaker Russia is NATO’s—and America’s—foremost enemy (even if unofficially but obviously in a de facto sense), while China is stronger but more reserved as the West’s clearest top rival. China has carried out and been a leader in non-weaponized hacking and espionage (admittedly common among all major states), but has not, say, publicly released disinformation or stolen information in a manner timed to seriously interfere with NATO countries’ elections (as Russia has). And though China has its own complex influence operations, Russia undoubtedly has led by far in cyberattacks more hostile than espionage (uniquely so among major powers) since its game-changing 2007 Estonia cybercampaign.

Figure 1. Where the political warfare fits within the implements of power. “All activities are illustrative, rather than an exhaustive list of possible actors.” From RAND's The Growing Need to Focus on Modern Political Warfare

Russia officially considers NATO a “threat,” and since that 2007 Estonia cybercampaign, has been far more aggressive and threatening towards NATO states, often stoking internal divisions and flooding them in cyberattacks, including election interference and boosting secessionism, with notable cybercampaigns being carried out against over twenty NATO member states (apart from campaigns against non-NATO states).

Furthermore, de facto, undeclared wars are the most common type of war in modern history even if the term “war” is not used. America, for example, has a long history of undeclared war going all the way back to the nation’s earliest days involving conflict with Native Americans and also the 1798-1800 Quasi-War, then popularly termed “The Undeclared War with France.” As one scholar notes, “the legal state of war is possible without actual fighting.”

The Nature of Russian Cyberwarfare Confronting NATO

Thus, it is hardly extreme to consider NATO and Russia in an undeclared cyberwar and, therefore, a state of undeclared war. NATO Review, NATO’s flagship journal, even in 2017 published analysis noting that Russia was waging “non-kinetic political war on the West,” as I have also maintained.

Russia’s weapons in its undeclared war on NATO are not tanks, bombs, bullets, or jets; rather, they are illicit financing, trolls, bots, and fake news, with the Kremlin often fomenting, funding, and promoting the rise of far-right ethno-nationalist extremists, all while disparaging those in the center and mainstream left. Putin’s party, the banally nationalist United Russia, has even formed formal and informal alliances with significant like-minded political parties in major NATO countries.

These campaigns, relying on hacking, disinformation, propaganda, and other cyber-methods, are coordinated through major components of the Russian government and close Putin allies in and out of the Kremlin, often using thousands of fake accounts to artificially boost their impact, which, in turn, are bolstered within the target states by agents and local allies along with unwitting true believers long dubbed “useful idiots.” In many NATO countries—including the U.S.—Putin is even liked by far-rightists. Domestic media, then, can become loud voices augmenting Russia’s propaganda, especially right-wing media outlets, but also some on the far-left. Repeated enough, top traditional outlets latch onto this disinformation, sometimes mainstreaming it, other times critiquing yet still propagating, as I have previously explained.

Reigning as the supreme disruptor on social media, Russia spews a “firehose of falsehoods” that has been massively effective, distorting and gaslighting public discussion to wildly amplify Russia’s preferred narratives beyond any natural organic reach, influencing many millions, thus helping to create an atmosphere where disinformation is sometimes consumed even more than actual news and doubt about even basic truths becomes widespread.

And once Putin’s favored are in office partly because of Russian disinformation, they in turn further spread Russian disinformation from the highest levels of their governments, even mimicking Kremlin tactics and adopting policies favorable to Russia, even covering up Russia’s trail (both America’s 2019 Mueller report and the British Parliament’s Intelligence & Security Committee’s exceptional Russia report released last year note damning examples of obstruction in their respective governments).

Most notably for NATO, the American presidential candidate Putin twice ordered Russian election interference on behalf of had expressed hostility to NATO repeatedly during the campaign, even contemplated leaving the Alliance as president, and may still have done so if reelected.

Cyberwarfare a Larger Threat Now to NATO than Terrorism

By far, the most damaging, destabilizing, and effective attacks NATO countries since 9/11 have been Russian cyberattacks, campaigns that have been able to affect political outcomes and internal dynamics in numerous NATO countries to suit Putin’s agenda.

Russian cyberwarfare efforts against the U.S. have included election interference—beginning with what I called back in December 2016 the First Russo-American Cyberwar—that has already caused damage to America, its democracy, and its reputation that is hard to exaggerate, with effects not only still being felt by the U.S. but guaranteed to still be felt for some time. Russia is also clearly and repeatedly promoting unrest and division, recently pushing both disinformation about the coronavirus and bogus conspiracy theories of fraud 2020 U.S. presidential election. In the run-up to that election, the Russians targeted the main political rival of their preferred incumbent, just as in 2016.

These efforts produced results: multiple respectable surveys and any casual look at social media show that vast numbers of Americans—even key leaders—are supporting this disinformation, even spreading nonsense about both the 2020 presidential election, damaging faith in the very foundations of democracy coronavirus (including millions doubting coronavirus vaccines, literally helping kill Americans). There are also global effects on opinion of America and the rest of the West along with international views on coronavirus and vaccines.

Most recently coming to light are the devastatingly far-reaching SolarWinds operation; a cyberattack against USAID that ensnared some 150 government agencies, non-profits, think tanks, and human rights groups globally that have criticized Russia; a recent attack on top U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye; and the Colonial Pipeline and JBS meat plant ransomware attacks, with Russia playing a role with these ransomware groups similar to how the Taliban gave al-Qaeda safe harbor, resulting in the 9/11 attacks—incidentally, the only time NATO ever invoked Article 5.

In contrast, physical terrorist attacks in NATO countries since 9/11, while tragic, have still had comparatively limited effects. Even Russia’s own 2018 Novichok chemical weapon attack on British soil in Salisbury against Russian military intelligence officer turned spy for the UK Sergei Skripal had more symbolic an effect than anything else, dwarfed by the damage from Russian efforts to move the 2016 Brexit vote in the direction of Leave or the effect of Russia’s campaign to amplify Scottish secessionism (now increasingly likely and sooner rather than later, an outcome that would obviously dismember and damage a UK already acutely damaged by Brexit). To quote journalist George Packer, “antisocial media has us all in its grip.”

Falling Short

NATO currently has a Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn, Estonia. Yet even presently, one-sixth of NATO— Albania, Canada, Iceland, Luxembourg, and North Macedonia—are not members of this Centre, though, encouragingly, Canada and Luxembourg are going to join, new states were recently added, and non-NATO states Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland are “Contributing Participants,” a status available to those outside of NATO; Australia, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, and—most recently—Ukraine will join that second group. There is also set to be a new military cyberdefense command center fully operational in 2023 at NATO’s military base in Belgium.

NATO considers “cyber defence…part of NATO’s core task of collective defence” and has since 2014, when the Alliance first specifically articulated the possibility of invoking Article 5 in reaction to cyberattacks (but only “on a case-by-case basis”). NATO has since “pledge[d] to ensure the Alliance keeps pace with the fast evolving cyber threat landscape and that our nations will be capable of defending themselves in cyberspace as in the air, on land and at sea,” repeatedly reiterating that Article 5 being invoked in response to a cyberattack is a possibility, including just this September 2020 and in June 2021.

Yet official working papers, conferences, interviews, statements, and raising possibilities are no substitute for a concrete, clear policy, and NATO simply does not have this.

The vague idea seems to be that if a cyberattack was “serious” enough, Article 5 could be activated, but this seems myopic: death by a thousand cuts is still death and has the same effect as decapitation, so tolerating many smaller attacks, thereby transmitting a clear indication that there will not be a collective Article 5 response to them, is just bad policy. It is also most decidedly not the case for armed attacks, in which any by a nation-state or sponsored by one would trigger Article 5. Years of unrelenting cyberwarfare has done more damage to NATO than any Soviet Army did during the Cold War, in part, because of Article 5: the USSR and then Russia did not dare use armed force to strike any NATO country for fear of Article 5’s unequivocal guarantee of a collective response, even in 2015 when NATO-member Turkey shot down a Russian military jet over Syria.

Yet when it comes to cyberwarfare, NATO is practically inviting Russia to attack and get away with it, with the Alliance quite consistently demonstrating an unwillingness, even inability under its existing framework to collectively respond to Russia’s cyberaggression. As the aforementioned UK Russia report noted, “Russia is not overly concerned about individual reprisal” against its aggressive acts, including its cyberattacks, with even the U.S. demonstrably inspiring little hesitation.

Clearly, pretending cyberwarfare is not war and allowing cyberwarfare in real-world practice to be kept out of NATO’s Article 5—leaving individual members states flailing independently and ineffectively against an organized, determined, and capable de facto enemy content to stand down its conventional military against NATO while unleashing its cyberunits upon it with impunity—has failed.

At the end of New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth’s recent book This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends—the indispensable, terrifying, definitive account of the development of cyberwarfare and the mess in which we currently find ourselves—the author warns that “many will say” that “these…critical assignments of our time” to deter and defend ourselves from cyberwarfare “are impossible, but we have summoned the best of our scientific community, government, industry, and everyday people to overcome existential challenges before. Why can’t we do it again?…We don’t have to wait until the Big One to get going.”

As a main advantage of the West over Russia is that people like the West a lot more than Russia—materializing in close economic, diplomatic, and military ties Russia can only dream of—the easiest way for the West to face and fight this dire and metastasizing cyberthreat from Russia is by leveraging its alliances, and, most of all, this means involving NATO and doing so in a big way.

As there is no statute of limitations on cyberattacks and the just-proposed framework not precluded by the current NATO treaty, NATO would even be in its full rights (and is overdue) to now invoke Article 5 against Russia for its cyberwarfare so that this cyberwarfare will result in far more pain for Russia than any damage it inflicts.

How to Revise Article 5 and the NATO Treaty Overall

With Russia’s rampant cyberwarfare only intensifying and its obvious pattern as a hostile bad-faith actor, it is absolutely necessary for a paradigm shift in the international system for deterring cyberattacks. Because NATO is the premier Western defensive alliance, crystalizing cyberwarfare’s relationship to Article 5 is a must, the only way for NATO to maintain credible collective defense in the twenty-first century.

To this end, “or cyberattack” must be added after every occurrence of the words “armed attack” in Article 5 (e.g., “The Parties agree that an armed attack or cyberattack against one or more of them…”).

In a longform, earlier version of this proposal, I have proposed a new detailed Article 15 that defines cyberwarfare in the Article 5 context and who/what would be covered. Any attacks that cause damage and harm would be included, as would digital information warfare/disinformation campaigns. Yet fairly standard espionage operations will not be included (say, China’s hacking) unless either the scale is so exceptional (as was the case with Russia’s unprecedented SolarWinds hack) or if what is hacked is weaponized or threats to weaponize that information are made.

By “weaponized,” I mean any action that tries to coerce, influence, or target publicly. Targets that would trigger Article 5 include all NATO citizens, residents, or entities—public sector or private—or anyone operating on NATO member state territory, as NATO cannot tolerate its territory being used for any such attack. Any attacks targeting family, friends, or connections of these folks for the same purposes would also be covered. This would apply to all state or state-sponsored cyberattacks, while terrorist or non-state actors would also be covered under certain actions but other activities would default to being handled by normal counterterrorism and/or law enforcement agencies.


Expanding Article 5 is necessary and overdue. The early twenty-first century’s second decade has been something of a Wild West, with Russia using the lawlessness of the cyber domain to its devastating effect. The time for lawlessness is over, and revising NATO’s Article 5 as suggested herein will not only clarify the rules for NATO enemies and rivals, but also for the members of a NATO Alliance itself that is in desperate need of clarity and strength on this issue. It will also make NATO once again an alliance that instills fear in the minds of Russian leaders (as it did with Stalin and subsequent Soviet leadership) who would engage in reckless acts of aggression against NATO or its states, even if “just” through cyberwarfare.