On Thursday, April 21st, the Boston Global Forum and the Global Alliance for Digital Governance (GADG) co-hosted the High-Level Dialog: Cyber Defense: From the Russia-Ukraine Battleground to Cyberwarfare with Authoritarian Regimes. Part of a series of events intended to foster ongoing and sustained dialogue through interactive forums in response to the systemic challenges confronting contemporary geopolitics.
This dialogue brought together distinguished experts to discuss the current challenges of global political affairs with the goal of developing a coordinated strategy to counter foreign and domestic cyberthreats, as well as effectively devising countermeasures to systemic and state-sponsored hybrid threats that may affect human rights and democratic processes, and to discuss strategies for the development of international cyber peace and security principles.
Participants agreed that current global challenges such as the pandemic, global warming, the impending energy crisis, and the global dynamics surrounding the war in Ukraine are rapidly solidifying the realization that we may have reached an turning point in modern history. After decades of global success, liberal democracy faces an uncertain future due to overlapping challenges in global systems and geopolitics that may have far-reaching consequences. Several internal and foreign challenges are threatening liberal democracies. Heightened internal social contrasts and polarisation in the US, a rise in internal and foreign threats to the European project, the war in Ukraine and an increasingly powerful pushback to globalisation and the democratic model in many areas of the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is hastening trends that were already underway and posing a systematic challenge to the basic foundations of international relations, international law and the UN Charter. Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in a democratic country and his use of digital channels and infrastructure to spread disinformation and cyberwarfare threaten global security and stability. They are setting the stage for a systemic challenge.
These confluence of events has re-established national security as a top global priority, with an increasing operational impact on the ratio of commercial to military technological investments, as well as an increasingly unstable and confrontational global geopolitical environment that is exacerbating disinformation, increasing separation and national resilience efforts in digital infrastructures and services, amplifying the threat of cyber confrontations, and the development of novel forms of cyber warfare fuelled by AI innovations that will undoubtedly constitute the technological challenge of the future.
With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), new challenges and questions will arise regarding their role in preserving democratic institutions and ideals, enhancing national and international security, and challenging the definition of democracy itself. The war in Ukraine created the perfect storm for a potentially epochal transformation that could undermine decades of liberal and democratic globalisation efforts.
Security and military infrastructure, elections, the global economy and governments foreign policies could all potentially be transformed.
The current complex crisis necessitates immediate responses from liberal democracies, which must work to reconcile their differences and forge the newfound unity required to face modern challenges. Considerations about the new long-term role that cybersecurity and cyberwarfare may play are no longer optional, but rather necessitate coordination. In response to the growing cyberthreats, NATO and other allies should prioritize a strong technological response, including the development of countermeasures to systemic and state-sponsored hybrid threats. Furthermore, other international law-abiding organizations promoting global peace and legal accord, such as the UN, should negotiate a new coordinated strategy to adapt and strengthen their role in the pursuit of human rights, democratic processes, international peace, and the global order based on international law and global peace and security principles and stability.
Francesco Lapenta, Director of the Institute of Future and Innovation Studies at John Cabot University, and member of the “Global Alliance for Digital Governance (GADG)” Initiative.
Participating to the debate
Corrado Giustozzi founder and senior partner at Rexilience, Former Information and cyber security expert at Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale, and Former member (2010-20) of the Advisory Group at the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA).
Andrea Gilli, Senior Researcher, NATO Defence College and Affiliate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
Walter Dorn, Professor of Defence Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) and the Canadian Forces College (CFC).
Giovanni Sembenini. Deputy Director – NATO STO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation.
Mats Karlsson, Former Vice President of the World Bank
Nguyen Anh Tuan, CEO of Boston Global Forum and coordinator of the event.