How can Europe work together to turn relatively low-risk, high-gain hybrid warfare activities like cyber attacks, election interference, fake news and disinformation campaigns into a low-gain, higher-risk venture for its adversaries?
That was among the questions addressed at a Friends of Europe debate on Hybrid and Transnational Threats, held in Brussels on 5 December, at which a new discussion paper on the topic was launched.
Moderator and Friends of Europe Senior Fellow Jamie Shea said that ahead of the European elections in May, it was important to “come to grips with where we are, what we’re doing well and what we need to do better”.
Panel member Clare Roberts, Senior Policy Co-ordinator for Hybrid Warfare and Resilience at NATO’s Operations Division, said their priorities included building the ability to recognise and attribute hybrid warfare and strengthening resilience through exercises and training.
“Hybrid warfare is a “top priority” for NATO. It is a reality. It confronts allies pretty much on a daily basis,” she said.
MEP Urmas Paet, rapporteur of the 2018 Cyber Defence Report, said it was imperative that universities and military academies helped train around 150,000 more experts in the field to fill a huge personnel gap.
He said fake news is one of the most serious threats because it changes political realities but is more difficult to take action on. Europe was guilty of naivety in many respects, he added, for example by ignoring “direct propaganda” like that of TV station Russia Today.
Head of Facebook’s Brussels office Thomas Myrup Kristensen said they had stepped up their work in safety and security, including hiring 20,000 new people to work on safety and security issues, and blocking around 2m fake accounts every day.
Governments, security specialists and tech companies were learning from each other, he said, but added there were no fast fixes: “Unfortunately I think this is going to be a little bit of an arms race that will be going on for a while,” he said.
This event was a part of Friends of Europe’s initiative #EuropeMatters. For the 2019 European elections we are setting out a vision for the Europe we want, based on a multi-stakeholder consultation and input from citizens, business and civil society.
Friends of Europe will be contributing to the global conversation on hybrid and transnational threats by publishing a discussion paper in December 2018. The paper will include perspectives and recommendations from 12 authors in the field of hybrid threats and cybersecurity.
In an age where hybrid tactics such as disinformation and cyber-attacks are increasingly deployed, the limitations of conventional military power have become evident. Through fake news, election interference and disinformation campaigns, perpetrators are exploiting the current state of polarisation and government mistrust in Western democracies, thus increasingly demanding a response from those accountable for protecting our security in the cyber domain. These emerging hybrid threats are forcing a rethink on how to coordinate efforts not just between allies but also between public and private actors.
In an age where hybrid tactics such as disinformation campaigns and cyber-attacks are becoming almost everyday events, the limitations of conventional military power have become evident. Through fake news, election interference and disinformation campaigns, perpetrators are exploiting the current state of polarisation and government mistrust in Western democracies. In Europe, numerous countries have experienced Russia’s hybrid aggressions, from its interference in the German and French elections and the illegal annexation of Crimea to its most recent use of an internationally banned nerve agent on British soil, all of this accompanied with continued cyberattacks and hostile propaganda.
Most EU member states have strengthened their capabilities in the face of these threats. But with the EU parliamentary elections just around the corner, it is important to get a sharper sense on how prepared the EU is to counter these hybrid threats and improve its overall resilience. Friends of Europe wants to contribute to this conversation with its new discussion paper on hybrid and transnational threats. The paper includes perspectives and recommendations from a cross-sectoral range of actors in the field of hybrid threats and cybersecurity. This paper should serve as a toolkit to learn from previous experiences and to prepare for the upcoming challenges this new domain of warfare brings.
What capabilities and actions to counter hybrid threats are in the EU’s playbook in the face of the upcoming EU elections? How effective are they?
What lessons can be learnt from previous disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks in elections across Europe?
While hybrid warfare works by exploiting the polarisation of societies and the lack of trust in governments, what can be done at the EU level to restore trust in centrist politics?
This event is a part of Friends of Europe’s initiative #EuropeMatters. For the 2019 European elections we are setting out a vision for the Europe we want, based on a multi-stakeholder consultation and input from citizens, business and civil society
Thomas Myrup Kristensen
Managing Director EU Affairs and Head of Brussels office at Facebook
Member of European Parliament and Former Foreign Minister of Estonia
Senior Policy Coordinator for Hybrid Warfare/Resilience at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Operations Division (OPS)
Chief Executive Officer of the European Organisation for Security (EOS)
Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defense at Friends of Europe, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Thomas Myrup Kristensen has dedicated his career to tech. As the Managing Director for EU Affairs and Head of Facebook’s Brussels office, Myrup Kristensen is responsible for Facebook’s representation to the European Institutions. Prior to his current role, Myrup Kristensen spent represented Facebook in a number of member states as well as countries outside the EU in the role of Director of Public Policy, Nordics, Central & Eastern Europe and Russia. He spent several years working for Microsoft and is a former special advisor at the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
Urmas Paet is an Estonian Member of the European Parliament. Paet is a specialist on foreign and security policy issues and has joined the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. He is also the rapporteur of the 2018 Cyber Defence Report. The report called on member states to step up their cyber defence capabilities and work together more closely. Before joining the European Parliament, he was the longest serving Foreign Minister in Estonia of almost ten years. Paet has also served as Estonia’s Minister of Culture.
As a Senior Policy Coordinator for NATO’s response to countering hybrid threats, Sophie Roberts provides guidance to wider NATO stakeholders. She runs the NATO HQ Hybrid Network which brings together practitioners and subject matter experts on countering hybrid threats. She is currently taking forward the establishment of NATO’s Counter Hybrid Support Team concept welcomed by Allied leaders. Prior to joining NATO, Clare worked at the Western European Union where she helped set up its Politico-Military Group and was the headquarters point of contact for the WEU’s demining assistance operation in Croatia and a multinational advisory police element in Albania.
Retiring from NATO in September 2018 after 38 years at the organisation, Jamie Shea has occupied a number of senior positions at NATO across a wide range of areas, including external relations, press and media and policy planning. As NATO’s spokesperson, he was the face of the Alliance during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts. He later worked as the Director of Policy Planning in the private office of former Secretary General Rasmussen during the preparation of NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept. Shea is also a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs.
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