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New threats

Online Expert Chat, 23-24 November 2020

New threats are the risks that we have not noticed earlier. Infodemic, pandemic, nuclear and space programs, AI, cyber and hybrid threats. How does the world react? How can we adapt? 2020 brought a new challenge that affected international relations – COVID-19. What are the future pandemics and unknown threats that can affect security and development in the world? We also need to understand whether we are not missing the critical developments that undermine our security, development, and international relations, such as Radicalism, Religious and Political Extremism, Populism.

Participants

Lauren M. Speranza, Director of Transatlantic Defence and Security at the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), the USA

Balkan Devlen, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Adjunct Research Professor at Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, Canada

Anna Gussarova, Director of the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies, Chevening Scholar, KCL Kazakhstan

Mykola Kapitonenko, Ph.D., Co-Editor at UA: Ukraine Analytica, Associate Professor at Kyiv Institute of International Relations, Ukraine

Moderator Hanna Shelest, Ph.D., Editor-in-chief, UA: Ukraine Analytica and Director of the Security Programs at Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” (MMF’16)

The event is organized by UA: Ukraine Analytica. This project is supported financially by the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation.



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Hanna Shelest
Hanna Shelest
November 22, 2020 23:52

Dear colleagues, 
It is my great pleasure to start our two days online chat on new threats. We have a wonderful team of experts from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Canada, and the United States, who specialize on different aspects of national and international security. So my first question to them – are the new threats are really new? We talk a lot about pandemic, infodemic, religious and political radicalization – but the world have seen this before. Why now this social and political challenges are becoming matters of the security debate? 

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 23, 2020 12:28

Well, as an old proverb says there is nothing new under the sun. Even though this is highly controversial, common sense can seen here. When something new occurred, both of a man-made nature, such as wars, political violence or revolutions, and artificial character, i.e industrial revolution and technological innovation, positive aspects of new things quickly intertwined with the negative effects, in particular security-wise. The security of the state has been always the priority and should be maintained by any means. Nowadays, the technological advances that the countries have been long developing, are also utilised as weapons to protect national security… Read more »

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
Reply to  Anna Gussarova
November 23, 2020 13:08

An interesting point raised, thank you, Anna.
To which extent are new threats following the logic of the security dilemma? Technologies may be seen as a tool for enhancing a state’s security, but at the same time perceived by others as a tool for undermining security of their own.
When applied to weapons and power in general, this sort of reasoning has triggered numerous wars and violent conflicts in history.
Looks like news types of threats, if perceived as new types of power resources, may follow the same logic.

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 23, 2020 14:34

Indeed, Mykola! The history is full with evidence of wars and violence. When it comes to security dilemma, I do not believe new threats are new. Same old-school military and technological upgrade have led to spike in cyber crimes and cyber espionage. Same logic – if one can do this, why others not? However, I would go further and argue that cold war paradigm or its new dimesion or whatever you name it just led to further aggravation of the situation, where the branch point is far behind and one cannot simply go back to the origin.

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 23, 2020 16:15

When it comes to cyber, the growing influence of information and communication technologies in all spheres of human life, in addition to new opportunities, has also revealed new vulnerabilities. The structure of social relations and the role of states as institutions of power have fundamentally changed. Cyber espionage is booming internationally, which casts doubt on the effectiveness of newly developing cyber legal regimes. Changes in the balance of power in virtual space could easily lead to changes in the geopolitical balance of power, which rather highlights consequences and response in a physical domain. States not only operate in cyberspace but… Read more »

Balkan Devlen
Balkan Devlen
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 23, 2020 22:22

Thanks a lot for the invitation Hanna. My fellow panelists already raised a good number of points and I do largely agree with them. I want to emphasize three points thar are raised previously, particularly by Lauren. What is “new” in these threats is the scale (in addition to intensity and frequency as Lauren argued) of these challenges. For the first time in human history, those threats have the potential to be truly globe in their scale, thanks to advances in transportation and communication technologies. The gradual emergence of a global international society after the Second World War and the… Read more »

Lauren Speranza
Lauren Speranza
Reply to  Balkan Devlen
November 23, 2020 23:38

Great insights, Balkan! Your point on this notion of the increasing complexity of systems, more possible points of catastrophic failure, and the potential for cascading effects, especially in the cyber domain, is so important. We face huge risks for our society’s core functions — interconnected economic, food, health, and infrastructure systems. Much more work is needed to understand those risks and how to mitigate them, leveraging our international institutions to our advantage.

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
November 23, 2020 00:25

Indeed, there were numerous ideological, technological, ecological and other transformations before which shaped history – or at least were perceived that way. But unfortunately very often there were no experts around to discuss their impact on international security. Births of new religions, epidemics, massive injection of new technologies or emergence of powerful ideologies, e.g. nationalism, went largely unnoticed. Only the most far-sighted philosophers and politicians were able to grasp the significance of those changes and transform states’ policies accordingly. Today we do have an ongoing observation and debate about every issues affecting international security. And we discuss them a lot.… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 23, 2020 14:43

Mykola, absolutely agree with the points you raised. Security attracts now is over-excessive…but wasn’t that always? Why does the feeling of being secure is now more important than earlier? And how is it different from security of the state, security of regime and security of people? Securitisation also matters, in particular in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Major transformations that limit civil liberties and basic human rights, target protests and CSOs are justified by securitisation. And in this context, ufortunately, perceiving threats and talking about them sometimes are not coming together. Usually the first step is to recognise the problem… Read more »

Lauren Speranza
Lauren Speranza
November 23, 2020 16:48

Hanna, Thanks very much for having us for this interesting event. I look forward to the great discussions to come. To your first question: I certainly agree with what our colleagues Anna and Mykola have raised so far. The threats of pandemics, disinformation, and political radicalization are not new themselves, but what is new is their scope, intensity, and frequency. Today, we see these threats being amplified and exacerbated by the trends and forces of globalization, increased digital connectivity, rapid technological evolution, etc. These dynamics are, as Mykola pointed out, forcing us to notice and talk about these challenges more… Read more »

Hanna Shelest
Hanna Shelest
November 23, 2020 17:34

Let me build-up on our previous debate, as many of you used a terminology of “hard security.” And threats’ perceptions are defined by our security understanding. Our awareness and definitions have been definitely changing within the last 30 years. From the hard security debate of the Cold war to the dominancy of soft security and human security. However, many aspects, including cybersecurity, which have not been considered a part of the hard security – now are an integral part of it, and even Military Doctrines of some countries add cyberspace as a new domain of warfare.  So what are the security… Read more »

Lauren Speranza
Lauren Speranza
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 23, 2020 21:04

I certainly agree with Mykola that our collective understanding of security has broadened dramatically in recent years. In the context of European security in particular, our post-Cold War transition away from hard security to softer issues such as crisis management, counter-insurgency issues, human security, and ‘out of area’ operations/capacity-building activities in the Middle East and North Africa seemed to indicate hard security concerns were a thing of the past. But Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea reminded us that traditional issues such as territorial defense are still very relevant today. That realization sparked a major shift in… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 07:14

Hanna, it is literally everything which influences the feeling of being secure. And this relates to all elements of hard and soft security. But I will go on and argue that security is not transforming per se. While the strategic environment is changing due to numerous reasons, particularly technological and communication advances, as Balkan argued earlier, the response to to new emerging challenges remains in old paradigm. New rules of engagement and behavior remain unsolved and highly contested, and this mainly relates to relations with Russia, China and others not like-minded countries of the Euro-Atlantic partnership. Additionally, if we compare… Read more »

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
November 23, 2020 19:23

What I see is a broadening of the concept of security over last decades. From Arnold Wolfer’s classical approach, reflected in his 1952 piece “National Security as an Ambiguous Symbol” to David Baldwin’s reframing of the basic concept in 1997 “The Concept of Security” and further on to current notions relying on a substantially more complex understanding. The more dimensions we’re including into security, the more difficult it is to measure each of them separately. Divisions along the lines of hard of soft security are rather methodological than substantial. In practice these forms of security, as well as same forms… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 24, 2020 05:38

Great point, Mykola. To what extent will we be able to reflect and react with the new theoretical framework towards new challenges, in particualr in cyber domain? International law is currently struggling to find its application in online world. Nowadays, international legal efforts concerning cyber domain focus primarily on privacy, data protection, and human rights. However, an increasing cyber aggressive environment, which has become both a domain and a tool for a state to offence and defence, also lacks legal framework and regulation. Without a comprehensive understanding countries will continue to cope with many challenges deriving from such attacks.  Although… Read more »

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
Reply to  Anna Gussarova
November 24, 2020 07:34

That’s a comprehensive analysis, Anna. I totally agree that we can’t expect too much from international legal instruments. Hopefully, establishing a “cyber world order” would be a peaceful process – by “peaceful” I mean without too much aggression and mutual damage. Cyber capabilities seem to be a power asset. But is it under a state’s control? Same discussions were raised some time ago in reference to soft power. Leading by an example and expanding values were surely taken as new dimensions of power, but is US controlling Hollywood? Same here. In my view, we may hope that a) states will… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 24, 2020 08:14

Absolutely! States continue to control its capabilities and consider cyber realm as a power asset. And even though being optimistic is great, I’m skeptical that any cyber world order can be achieved and will be agreed among the nations, even peacefully. As the Russian-American working group on cyber security have not reached any major consensus, nor there will be a decision without aggression or mutual damage, as you say. And so far, main collateral damage has included huge ecnomic loss (billions of dollars), some infrastructure damage (as it happened in Estonia and Ukraine because of Russian offensive cyber operations) and… Read more »

Hanna Shelest
Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 00:03

My last question for tonight for those in Western Hemisphere and for early morning for Eastern Hemisphere will be about level of probability and consequences. What threats that we are currently facing, do you see as potentially more dangerous for our societies –
1) those of the political nature, such as extreme populism, radicalization, extremism, and terrorism;
2) those of the technological nature – cyber, Artificial intelligence, nuclear;
3) or those that we expect the least and can’t attribute, as current COVID-19 pandemic?

Lauren Speranza
Lauren Speranza
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 06:00

On one hand, I would say the political challenges are the most fundamental, as everything else flows from them. In the transatlantic context in particular, our ability to address these issues in our populations — rising populism, radicalization, extremism — affects our ability to uphold the liberal international order which has preserved relative peace and stability for so long. It affects our ability to elect leaders that will exercise good governance, implement the true will of the people, and advance the core principles underpinning our societies — democracy, freedom, and human rights. We have seen some implications of these phenomena… Read more »

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
Reply to  Lauren Speranza
November 24, 2020 08:03

I’d agree with you, Lauren, especially in what concerns political challenges’ fundamental character. Will elaborate on it a bit more in a separate post, but the way you emphasized the good governance problem is very up to the point.
Along with different sorts of ideological challenges it is deteriorating governance which brings so many security risks not only in fragile states, but also in relatively strong as well.

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Lauren Speranza
November 24, 2020 08:21

Thank you, Lauren! I cannot say and agree more with what and how you answered to Hanna’s question. Particularly, how the West and its strategic partners among NATO/EU and beyond should react and respond to adversaries such as Russia and China. With regard to your last point on aligning the US and Europe in some crucial aspects which target democratic values and way of life, how this can be extrapolated to partner nations which are targeted by both China/Russia?

Lauren Speranza
Lauren Speranza
Reply to  Anna Gussarova
November 24, 2020 22:00

Thank you, Anna! Your question about how to bring in partners on this issue is key. I think the US and Europe, through NATO, are doing some thinking now about how to approach partnerships more strategically, precisely for this reason. There is a new desire to reach out to potential democratic allies — for instance, in the Indo Pacific — which may have been unlikely NATO partners in the past, but now present opportunities for closer collaboration as a counterweight to growing Chinese influence (based on the CCP’s alternative values/system). But it must be broader than NATO, to include the… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 08:06

Well, there is no simple answer to this question, Hanna. However, I would frame my answer to your provocative question through the lens of understanding ‘danger,’ probability and impact and my assessment. I would agree with Lauren in saying that political changes have been and will remain the most critical for democracies and those countries which want to follow the democratic path in the long run. Addiing to what Lauren has already mentioned about the significance of good governance, democratisation, and human rights, and how populism, rise of far-right groups in Europe and America, fueled by trumpism (even Central Asia… Read more »

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
Reply to  Anna Gussarova
November 24, 2020 08:47

Thank you, Anna! I like the difference between more and less technologically advanced countries you point out in terms of being subject to new challenges and opportunities. Guess, that’s important.

Balkan Devlen
Balkan Devlen
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 17:43

As with the other question, many good points have already been raised. So I will only add the following: Very Long-term: AI that is malignant or not aligned with human values is among the greatest threats to humanity, potentially exceeding that of nuclear war. Too long and detailed to go into it here but there is a burgeoning literature on that (regarding alignment problem, AI safety etc.) that one can check if interested. Mid-term: A new arms race in cyber and AI domains poses a significant threat since, especially when it comes to AI, there are huge winner-take-all effects that… Read more »

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
November 24, 2020 08:14

I’d pick up political risks as the most fundamental. Technologies change over time and quite quickly. History shows that generally people are quite adaptive. But political systems, on the contrary, are quite stable. In fact we have same set of institutions for about two hundred years with slight modifications. Modern state, ideologies, political ideas, sovereignty including, were here at times when there was no electricity. Thus, political institutions and instruments are decisive. Technologies expand the boundaries and change the landscape, but security is provided by political means. The way power is distributed, trust is built and maintained, values and ideologies… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 24, 2020 09:32

Agree with the last point! Same difference. Threat perception and response remain the same, while out-of-the-box thinking is strongly desirable. Even same narratives and call remain the same: Responsible Europe, in-between states/buffer zones, future without the war, dialogue. Institutions are of utmost importance, yet their impotence on some hot spots is another headache for optimists. Again, the strategic importance and power of Euro-Atlantic partnership is vital, still many conflicts and event with far-reaching consequences even for Europe happen on the outskirts of the EU. Just to compare the EU response to illegal Crimea annexation and the situation with Lukashenka in… Read more »

Balkan Devlen
Balkan Devlen
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 25, 2020 05:05

I would also add that, despite believing very long-term consequences of AI and AI race to be of fundamental importance, it remains the case that when push comes to the shove, it is state’s ability to use violence, or to put more bluntly, how many people they can kill and how effectively, is the ultima ratio in international politics (in domestic politics as well as we see in Syria and elsewhere). So all the other concerns here, including cyber, ideological tools etc, matter to the extend that they can be translated into limiting or augmenting state’s capacity for violence and… Read more »

Hanna Shelest
Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 13:22

Let us look into the future. Next five years. What new threats can we expect, in which domain the probability of their eruption is higher? Or will we stay with the same set of challenges and risks, and only a scope of their use will be changing? 

Lauren Speranza
Lauren Speranza
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 22:29

Over the next five years, I think we will see many of the challenges discussed below increasing in scope and intensity: political issues of populism/extremism and foreign malign influence, technological and security issues from cyber to AI to hypersonic/nuclear missiles, and nontraditional issues related to climate change and pandemics. I think the cyber domain has a particular vulnerability for possible ‘eruption’ as you describe because it is so universal and integral to many aspects of our lives and so accessible to adversaries and competitors. Yet, we are least comfortable operating there in terms of knowing the ‘rules of the road,… Read more »

Balkan Devlen
Balkan Devlen
Reply to  Lauren Speranza
November 25, 2020 04:55

Cyber is important and I think the attribution problem will be one of the biggest challenges when (and not if) we end up seeing a major cyber attack that lead to loss of life (and not only economic damage). We need to rethink about how to ascribe responsibility, how to coordinate with allies, and how to respond. Otherwise, there is the possibility of paralysis or individual, uncoordinated responses, which will not necessarily be effective. I would even go a step further Lauren and argue that we should not only be “proactive” but also explicitly incorporate offensive cyber capabilities into our… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 25, 2020 07:46

My fellow panelists have contributed so much to this question, so I will just say that all security challenges we have been discussing over these two days will be relevant to a certain degree to any country. However, more technologically advanced countries of the EU, US and Asia-Pacific will continue to strive with cyber and AI-driven challenges. Others will face more classical and traditional, so to say, security challenges associated with political changes, rise of nationalism, etc. At the same time, the probability of certain security risks depends on its perception, significance and ability/capacity to tackle it – be it… Read more »

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
November 24, 2020 15:52

I’d bet on a classical agenda. The rise of China and transition of power globally and regionally will generate new conflicts and lines of tension. Since there is a limit to any military escalation, these conflicts are about to take various forms, from trade wars to proxy military conflicts. Generally I expect instability on political level to rise and conflicts to become more violent and numerous. Another set of threats may be linked to states’ inefficiency (poor quality of governance we’ve already mentioned) and deficit of democracy. With more authoritarian regimes, there will be less security globally; just as with… Read more »

Balkan Devlen
Balkan Devlen
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 24, 2020 19:30

I agree with Mykola. Great power competition and how others line up within this competition between the US and China will be the major story of the next 5 years in terms of international politics. I am a bit less sanguine about the possibility of large-scale war. I think it is more probable compared to 5 years ago in addition to the continuing escalation of proxy wars, especially in the greater Mediterranean basin and beyond.

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Mykola Kapitonenko
November 25, 2020 07:36

Agree with Mykola over the classical agenda. Competetion among great powers will continue to shape strategic partnership, shared values and common goals against Russia and China. However, more will happen in in-between countries, as Ukraine, Belarus and Armenia-Azerbaijan have already showed. The situation can easily get worse with oppresive domestic regimes. Artic security will definintely reach a new point, where competition will go far beyond water, energy, environment and military bases. Additionally, environment challenges have been on international agenda for some time, and yet no major improvement has been seen so far. Shortage of resources (water and energy), lack of… Read more »

Hanna Shelest
Hanna Shelest
November 24, 2020 20:04

And let me add a bit to the previous question about 5 years future in terms of probability, the question that will become our last one for this intense discussion. What our countries should do at the national or international level to minimise these threats and risks that we are expecting or at least to become more resilient to them?

Balkan Devlen
Balkan Devlen
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 25, 2020 04:44

What do we need to do? That depends on where you sit, as the saying goes. Few things are important to recognize for the global West (by which I mean the traditional Transatlantic alliance + partners like Ukraine, Japan, Australia, S. Korea, Taiwan etc.). First, recognize the nature of our adversaries in this great power competition. That would mean treating China and Russia primarily as adversaries that fundamentally have a different conception of how the international society should be ordered. Both CCP and Kremlin have a particular view of sovereignty I call “Animal Farm understanding of sovereignty”. All are sovereign… Read more »

Anna Gussarova
Anna Gussarova
Reply to  Hanna Shelest
November 25, 2020 07:52

Being resilient means being flexible and open to new horizons, while maintaining strategic partneships with like-minded nations. I would agree with Mykola security infrastructure is essential, however it is as simple as it can be. Trust is vital to cooperation, and it has been not only damaged after Crimea annexation, but almost completely destroyed during Trump presidency. Alliances are of utmost importance now, while domestically a proactive political change is desired to sustain democracies.

Mykola Kapitonenko
Mykola Kapitonenko
November 24, 2020 23:35

We’ll need to invest more into security infrastructure at all levels. Improving mutual trust and strengthening institutions would be the key. One of the outcomes of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been damage to international institutions and undermining trust. As a result, everyone got less security. Worst-case scenarios and negative expectations shape perceptions and actions of many states nowadays, making security more expensive and less durable. We need to tackle that. And that would require efforts in multiple directions. On the one hand, strong messages should be sent about high price of any application of force. If the world is… Read more »

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