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21 noiembrie 2019 - Special reports - NATO - UE

NATO-EU Political and miitary events /August 2019

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

• A cybernetic attack on NATO member state could trigger Article 5 • Rapid steps towards a Brexit without agreement … and consequences • Indra is working on the EU’s codename “Sparta” cybersecurity project • F-16s for Slovakia • The Boeing contract for modernizing the AWACS aircraft is endangered

Sursă foto: Mediafax


A cybernetic attack on NATO member state could trigger Article 5

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warns that a serious cyberattack on every NATO nation could trigger the Alliance’s collective defence commitment and its response, enshrined in article 5.

According to Stoltenberg, cyberattacks on NATO’s networks have increased in frequency, and are more complex and destructive. They vary from low-effort attempts to sophisticated attacks. These attacks are generated by state or non-state actors, near the Alliance’s borders or thousands of kilometres away. The attacks could target computer networks, mobile phones, communications systems or other elements from NATO’s critical infrastructure.

Appealing to previous events, Jens Stoltenberg reminded the case of the “WannaCry” virus which affected the United Kingdom’s healthcare system in 2017, cancelling thousands of scheduled operations and medical checks and generating losses in the millions of pounds.

Faced with this threat, NATO adapts to a new reality. The Alliance’s secretary general said that cyberspace was designated as a theatre in which the Alliance will function and defend just as it does in the air, on the land or the sea.

To this end, until the new Cyberspace Operations Centre (CYOC) will be established in Mons, Belgium in 2023, the current CYOC, recently established within the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), also in Mons, hosts a team of 70 experts which monitor civilian military cyber information in real time. The purpose of these structures is to follow, minute by minute, the state of NATO’s communications networks, so that commanders will be able to count on them and to ensure freedom of manoeuvring in all the fields affected by hostile cybernetic actions. This also serves as a component of NATO’s cyberspace theatre and is responsible for ensuring information on the cybernetic situation, as well as the centralized planning of the cybernetic aspects of Alliance’s operations and missions.

Alongside NATO efforts, each country is increasing its efforts to counteract these threats. One example is the UK, which used its cyber capabilities in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. It managed to limit the terrorist’s organization propaganda, disturb its recruitment and planning process, as well as its coordination of terrorist attacks.

Under the Joint Statement on NATO-EU cooperation, as well as a technical deal signed between NATO and EU intervention teams, the two organizations intensified their collaboration, especially in areas such information exchange, education, research and instruction by drills. This autumn, the EU will take part in “Cyber Coalition 2019” drill (November 18-23), one of the largest cyber defence drills in history.

At the same time, NATO is strengthening its relation with the cyber industry in order to keep pace with technological progresses. The IT industry, creates, operates and innovates in the cyberspace, and the relation with this industry will become increasingly more important as the “internet of things”, AI and automated learning develop.

NATO must also form its human resources of “cyber defenders”. The UK has already started working on this with “CyberFirst”, a program meant to support and prepare students for a career in the field of cyber defence.

The cyberspace is the new battleground, and defending the virtual space is a maximum priority for NATO.

But let us return to the secretary general’s statement regarding the potential triggering of article 5. The idea that a cybernetic attack on a member represents an attack against all members poses certain problems. Approaching threats in the cyberspace is also complicated by the significant activity which takes place below the threshold of armed conflict, and which aims to weaken institutions in order to obtain strategical advantages. From this perspective, determining a proportional and efficient answer to such a cyber activity is made harder by the diversity of the individual strategies adopted by each ally.

In the Cold War, launching an attack on a military convoy or another objective would have not raised too many doubts on the perpetrator. But, in the virtual space, this is not always easy to prove.

When Estonia saw its own infrastructure hit by a cyberattack in 2007, Russia was accused. But were the “patriotic hackers” or state cyberattack structures functioning in Russia?

Another problem is the “minimum threshold” for considering an action to be an attack. Russia is accused of stopping a Ukrainian power plant in December 2015. Does “paralysing” infrastructure represent this “minimum, threshold” necessary and sufficient to activate article 5? But what happened in 2017, when it was presumed that Russia launched the “NotPetya” virus against Ukraine, which later spread to other countries, including NATO members.


Rapid steps towards a Brexit without agreement … and consequences

Brexit will inevitably take place on October 31. A possible delay is a scenario which depends on a weak opposition in the UK Parliament.  A renegotiation of “divorce” terms is not accepted by the EU anymore. Following Boris Johnsons’ meetings with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, it can be stated that Berlin and Paris have adopted similar stances, but with different emphases. Berlin has insisted on the short time remaining, and Paris on limiting alternatives. During all this time, it is becoming increasingly clearer that Boris Johnson is decided to implement Brexit at October 31, and the perspective of the United Kingdom leaving the EU without an agreement becomes a more and more possible scenario. As a consequence, the UK’s “divorce” will have many negative consequences.

The first visible consequence would be economic. Reinstating customs checks will raise goods transit times and increase prices, by implementing tariffs for non-EU products. Specialists in the field consider that the reinstatement of tariffs will generate additional costs of more than EUR3 billion. Although the economic problem refers to business relations with all the EU member states, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is the key element in failure of former British PM Theresa May’s attempt to withdraw the UK from the EU with an agreement. Now, Boris Johnson is faced with the same challenge. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be the only land border between the UK and the EU. The EU considers that this border must remain open for goods and people to freely pass, but at the same time requested for goods which enter the EU to continue respecting its customs and legal standards.

Boris Johnson wrote a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk on August 20, in which he said that he wishes the establishment of a judicial commitment between the two sides which would stipulate free movement and the lack of customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as long as the union also promises the same. Johnson did not offer any details regarding the customs arrangements and supported the necessity of a ”certain degree of trust” between the EU and the UK.

The Republic of Ireland is discussing with the EU about how to collect taxes and how customs checks should made, but claims that these will not take place at or near the border. Although it admits that inspections to fight contraband will be neccessary, Irish PM Leo Varadkar takes into account the possibility of examining goods at the headquarters of the companies, before they are distributed or used, as well occassional checks.

The second consequences is in the area of security. Re-establishing control points, 20 years after the peace agreement which ended the violence in Ireland, will bring back unpleasant memories for the population.

Martin McGuinness, a Northern Irish politician, warned since 2017 that re-establishing a post-Brexit border will be a “mouthful of air” for those who oppose the region’s peace process. At the same time, other politicians argue that way more than customs and security checks would be necessary for the security situation on the island to make a jump back through time. In mid-August 2019, Northern Ireland’s Chief of Police Service Simon Byrne warned that a Brexit without agreement, which would re-establish the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, could reactivate paramilitary groups and extremism in the area. The statements were made following violent incidents which took place in Northern Ireland on August 19 and 21, 2019. The Northern Irish police concluded that these incidents were carried out in a “paramilitary style”.


Indra is working on the EU’s codename “Sparta” cybersecurity project

The Indra company is working on T-Shark research program, which is part of the “Sparta” European project, in order to consolidate warning capabilities in the cyber area which will help Europe monitor, detect and rapidly respond to any threat and protect the digital economy and citizens’ rights in the cyberspace.

The “Sparta” project involved 44 companies and organizations from 14 EU member states. The project is led by the French Committee for alternative energies and atomic energy (CEA), with the purpose of creating the most powerful cybersecurity network in the EU. The project’s funding, worth EUR16 million, is ensured by EU funds through the Horizon 2020 project.

“Sparta” is based on using artificial intelligence, big data and data analysis to protect public administrations, companies and critical infrastructure, by automatically offering authorities the possibility to implement cyberattack prevention and reduction actions.

“Sparta”, “Concordia”, “CyberSec4Europe” and “Echo” are the four pilot programs which will lead to the creation of a European Cybersecurity Excellency Centre and Network.



F-16s for Slovakia

Lockheed Martin received a contract worth approximately USD800 million to produce, technically support and instruct F-16 pilots in Slovakia. The contract, announced on the last day of July 2019, by the US Department of Defense, covers the production of 14 F-16 Block 17 aircrafts and technical support for them. The hunter jets will be produced at the Lockheed Martin facility in Greenville, South Carolina, with a predicted finishing date of January 31, 2024.

Slovakia opted in 2018 for F-16s instead of the Gripen to replace its MiG-29 aircrafts. Slovakia will receive the newest F-16 version, Block 70/72 F-16V.

The Boeing contract for modernizing the AWACS aircraft is endangered

A dispute on funding for the USD1 billion contract could frustrate the efforts to extend the flight resource for 14 Boeing E-3A surveillance airplanes until 2035.

NATO officials invited the 16 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) member states to an extraordinary meeting on September 12, in order to mark the 40th anniversary of the program and resolve the budget dispute. If the problem will not be solved soon, the contract will not be offered to the Boeing company as was planned for NATO Summit in London, at the end of this year.

The current financial dispute would not signify the project’s end, but would delay attributing the contract to Boeing until 2020, marking a regress for the US company.

The NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Programme Management Agency (NAPMA) – the agency which manages the AWACS fleet – stated in the June that it expects to finish by December 2019 the signing of a USD750 million contract with Boeing to extend the aircrafts’ lifespan until 2035, of which 250 million USD will be allotted for designing, spare parts and testing. But, for this to happen, the unanimous agreement of the program’s member states is needed, and Norway objected to the unbalanced allocation of funds until the contract is finished in 2027. Oslo wants the program’s biggest states – the US, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands – to transfer most of the funds at the beginning, but this is not possible because of the financial laws in these countries.

 In this context, Ann-Kristin Salbuvik, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, said that Norway remains committed to the project of extending the AWACS flight resource and is prepared to fund its part of the program for the following years, but that the decision to launch the program was conditioned by the approval of all member states, and Boeing’s offer must be “accessible and feasible”.

Boeing spokeswoman Melissa Stewart did not comment on the situation, only stating the Boeing continues to work with NATO in order to “assess needs and present the best options for the AWACS fleet”.

A NATO official state that the project is not endangered, but admitted that it is necessary to continue negotiations to assure the signing of final agreements, confirm budget arrangements and set “last minute details”.

Translated by Ionut Preda