18 April 2019

Interview Anthony Pfaff: Romania is a critical member of NATO and can significantly contribute to Alliance’s consolidation

Mircea Olteanu

Romania is a critical member of NATO and it can help the transatlantic Alliance to find a complex response to aggressions, including the intelligence space ones, states Dr. Anthony Pfaff, professor at the US Army War College, in an interview for MEDIAFAX and Defence Monitor.

The American professor talked, in a large interview for MEDIAFAX and the Defence and Security Monitor (DSM), about the challenges the North-Atlantic Alliance is experiencing, focusing on the necessity to find a solution for countering disinformation and aggressions’ in intelligence space.

Another major subject the American professor has approached was the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the military field, mentioning even the risks and challenges generated by the use of these autonomous military systems. “One is that artificial intelligence platforms can post challenges for the laws of war and the norms associated to warfare, because these are not accountable for their actions and their violations might go unaccounted form, because they are machines to the extend they make life or death decisions, making life or death decisions”, stated dr. Pfaff.

We are presenting you the full interview delivered by Professor Anthony Pfaff:

MEDIAFAX: I would like to ask you what it the future of transatlantic relationships given the changes in security’s dynamic, including cyber threats, populism’s increase and Russia’s more and more aggressive actions?

Dr. Anthony Pfaff: I think the future of the relationships will be strong and endurable over time. The problem for the Alliance is going to be how to operate in conditions of constant competitions, which can move from below the level armed conflict to above the level armed conflict. Moreover, given that all of these are happening across various domains, like the air, land, cyber, in the virtual world as well as the virtual world, we have to do a better job at coming up with responses to any kind of aggression because aggression is now not only physical, but it could be informational as well. And overcoming that challenge is going to require at least three things: one, the ability to work in the narrative space and to counter the false narratives as they arise, or even prevent them. We will have to understand better how the virtual domains, cyber and intelligence are operating, so that we can restrict these, to restrict anyone’s ability to promote disinformation and, finally, I think we must understand that these are not just military problems, but also political and public ones. So we need education programs to help people understand how to use the information they get, so that governments, especially the Alliance, to have time for the political actions.

MEDIAFAX: I would also like to ask you about Russia or other actors’ interference in mass-media, mass-media investments and how are these manipulating mass-media?

Dr. Anthony Pfaff: I am not an expert in this field, I tend to focus mostly on the how it impacts political and military decisions. But certainly there is a number of platforms, publicly identifiable ones, like RT (Russia Today) and others like internet’s “trolls”, used on social media platforms. So, wherever there is a platform for information dissemination, there is a corresponding ability to exploit it.

MEDIAFAX: Given the security evolutions in Black Sea’s region, how important you think Romania is for NATO and the US?

Dr. Anthony Pfaff: Of course, tremendously important, it is our South-Eastern flank, so I would say that Romania is a critical member of the Alliance, and I think it is well-positioned, as evidenced by this conference, to start help solving the problems I was talking about before, that are changing the character of conflicts. And I think Romania makes important steps and helps build the Alliance or strengthen the Alliance in that regard.

MEDIAFAX: I would like to ask you about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the military and the cyber war. How can we protect AI from enemies? How will autonomous weapons controlled by AI change the war?

Dr. Anthony Pfaff: I do some work on artificial intelligence and I think there is a couple of concerns here. One is that artificial intelligence platforms can post challenges for the laws of war and the norms associated to warfare, because these are not accountable for their actions and their violations might go unaccounted for, because they are machines to the extend they make life or death decisions, making life or death decisions, which affect people.

So, of course that makes us be concerned about them. Hence, the answer is, to directly respond to your question, that we need to have a convention to ban them. The problem is that not everyone is going to sign on to that convention. In order to respond those enemies that have this capacity, it probably won’t work, but what we could do is have international conventions wherein all the parts developing this technology to come and discuss about norms associated to its use. I think I would be a major and great political step.

Now, in terms of keeping it from getting in the hands of the enemies, I do not know how you o that, the information are there, a great part of this technology is dual-use, hence it is developed in civilian centers, which do not have that much in the way of security measures, hence it is easy to find it and get it. Also, it is used in commercial application, so it is easy to get out and get it in the future. You may be able to govern its use, but we you not be able to stop it. We must clarify what we are talking about. Hence, we have artificial intelligence: the cyber part refers only to things related to the system, where, as we know, they have their artificial intelligence basis, alike human intelligence. So, the cyber part is only that part of the system and what this system does is making us vulnerable, because other people can easily get access to that system. Therefore, is there a threat in terms of the system? Yes, that is a vulnerability that we must address and that it also very difficult to be done given the dimension of the system.

Dr. Anthony Pfaff has participated at the security conference organized by Defence Monitor, part of MEDIAFAX Group.

Dr. Anthony Pfaff is currently the research professor for the Military Profession and Ethic at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA. A retired Army colonel and Foreign Area Officer (FAO) for the Middle East and North Africa, Dr. Pfaff recently served as Director for Iraq on the National Security Council Staff. His last active duty posting was Senior Army and Military Advisor to the State Department from 2013-2016, where he served on the Policy Planning Staff advising on cyber, regional military affairs, the Arab Gulf Region, Iran, and security sector assistance reform.