Washington, D.C., United States—The Pentagon is about to offer its cyberwarfare technology and capabilities to the service of its NATO allies.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to make the announcement after a meeting with his NATO colleagues later in the week. The decision follows an agreement reached during a NATO summit in the summer. In July, NATO members had agreed to utilize one another’s cyberwarfare capabilities as a way to defend against network cyber attacks.
France, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the US have been some of the NATO members who have had to deal with cyber attacks in the past years. Russia has been the main suspect or perpetrator behind the attacks. Russian hackers and trolls interfered in the US and French presidential elections and in the Brexit, Scottish and Catalonia independence referenda.
“Russia is constantly pushing its cyber and information operations,” said Katie Wheelbarger, a Senior Pentagon official.
According to Pentagon officials, the US will maintain control over the cyberwarfare units and capabilities.
The intent behind the decision is for America’s cyberwarfare capabilities to serve as a deterrent, much like its nuclear armory serves.
Only recently, the Pentagon published its new cyberwarfare and cybersecurity strategy. It names Russia and China as the most important threats. It accuses the former of attempting to “influence our population and challenge our diplomatic processes.” As far as China, the Pentagon claims that Chinese hackers consistently steal public and private sector data to gain economic superiority.
The strategy also commits to a more aggressive posture from here onward.
“We will conduct cyberspace operations to collect intelligence and prepare military cyber capabilities to be used in the event of a crisis or conflict,” reads the strategy.
The Pentagon’s announcement comes at a very suitable moment for some NATO allies. Only recently, the British Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Marshal Phil Osborn, described the unenviable state of the UK’s cyber defenses. “Depending on opposition capability and intent and, critically, our resilience, a full-scale cyber confrontation could have the nationally strategic crippling effects in minutes and hours,” he said.
The expected announcement, however, does raise some questions. Turkey is a NATO ally. President Tayyip Erdogan, however, has been consistently steering his country away from NATO and into Russia’s eager bosom. Be it the purchase of the S-400 anti-air artillery batteries, or Turkey’s aggressive actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and Syria, Turkey has set out to map its own course. It’s vying to become a regional power. US cyberwarfare resources defending Turkish networks might give the wrong message.