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.
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