Mittwoch, 18. Mai 2016

NATO Paper on the TALLIN MANUAL Paper 4 Liliputian Sates in Digital Affairs and Cyber Securitysummary english

Liliputian Sates in Digital Affairs and Cyber Security

Liina Areng

Executive Summary

Small but Smart: Balancing the Costs and Benefits of Smallness

An information society brings significant savings for public administration and the delivery of public goods. For small states, automation not only reduces costs, but also enhances the efficiency of public services, which can be made equally accessible to citizens both in central as well as remote, scarcely populated locations of the country. Compared to larger states, small states tend to be more rational when it comes to external affairs. The lack of strategic bargaining power vis-à-vis larger states usually makes them avoid open confrontation and encourages compromise. That should make small states better partners in diplomacy, particularly in conflict resolution, where they are generally perceived as selfless, altruistic mediators. Indeed, as they are generally less visible in international disputes, they are perceived to have fewer “hidden agendas”. Advocacy for internet freedom and cyber security, for example, is an ideal, politically un-loaded topic that allows small countries to attract supporters and followers and to build digital power. Small states need to be smart in order to maximize their influence, and “smartness” can be achieved through innovation.8 Several historically low-tech small states, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Ireland have managed to gain leading positions in new industries like nanotechnology, biotechnology, telecommunications and cyber security. This has not been mere coincidence, but a systemic and comprehensive national innovation strategy encompassing important elements such as investment in human capital, research and development, and well-functioning institutions.

These examples suggest that a country’s digital power base depends on whether the government has prioritised the development of a focused and comprehensive ICT strategy, an organisational structure and a national competence base, including investment in education and research and development. The limitations stemming from being small can even be advantageous. Resource limitations, for instance, narrow the number of issues which small states are able to prioritise, and promote quick consolidation of gains in the short-term, while the attention of bigger states is scattered across different topics and between shorter and longer term goals.9 Although small states might have fewer resources to invest in cutting-edge research and development, they can still achieve remarkable success through clever and consistent prioritisation of resources in ICT and technological innovation.

The digital age brings several new opportunities for small states to increase their international “weight”. The ICT revolution has also been called the “death of distance”,10 making every actor in cyberspace – small or large – theoretically possess a global reach, broadening the scope of friends and foes11 and offering new avenues of influence. ICT makes it possible for small and peripheral states to improve connectivity with the rest of the world and widen the channels to disperse and absorb information. This affects commerce, people-to-people communication, and distance learning, but also broadens small states’ means of projecting political, social and economic activity and power. The possibility of using different and unpredictable strategic combinations of cyber tools affecting military, political, economic and social targets makes the opponents in asymmetric warfare more equal. The asymmetry is also created by the imbalance of attack space – larger, technologically dependent nations possess a larger network space with a greater number of weak spots vulnerable to attacks, while the smaller nation has a smaller network surface to protect. “Mass” is no longer a decisive factor in the military strategic and operational equations. Even a lone cyber warrior can wreak havoc in an opponent’s networks, making information technology a powerful tool for a small but sophisticated actor that possesses sufficient skill and cunning.

Estodian Case Study: Digital Innovation

Estonia is a small state by all of the three core criteria defined by Geser:12 substantial “objective” figures (territory, population), relational characteristics (comparison to other countries) and perceived “subjective” smallness (self-perception and external perception). While territory and population are not very dynamic features (although as explained Naturally, Estonia joined NATO and the EU (including the Eurozone), and embraces a strong transatlantic relationship. Although sometimes perceived as shy and quiet (national characteristics), Estonia has been a picture-perfect kid on the block; “the only country in Europe that meets the rules of every club to which it belongs [...] the eurozone’s targets on debt, inflation and government deficit, as well as NATO’s standard: 2 per cent of GDP on defence.”15 Having fulfilled its organisational commitments, Estonia holds a positional advantage for effective engagement in international affairs. Perhaps it is the national introversion or other historical and cultural reasons that explain why Estonia is not fully using its solid standing in international organisations to build up a powerful foreign policy, but there is one niche where Estonia’s activities are truly visible and are followed with keen interest, where being a small state has not hindered it in confidently pursuing an opinion-leader’s role: cyber security and digital development. Estonia has captured attention as a country which has quickly responded to such challenges in the modern information society as the use of technological innovation and shift to e-services. Estonia has been effective in developing and promoting digital services both locally and abroad, making digital development a successful case of “soft power” projection.



A state’s “smallness” is contextual and relational; it is rather a perception of a state, and therefore not a static feature in space and time. With smart choices, a small state can out-compete nations which are geographically, demographically, economically or militarily much larger.

There are several ways in which the “Lilliputians can tie up Gulliver.”20 It starts with focusing on issues in which they have a comparative advantage, some specific niche. Estonia has found that niche in developing innovative Digital power gives a clear asymmetric advantage in national security to small states. Although traditional major powers invest heavily in the development of ICT and cyber warfare capability, small states still have more opportunity to compete in this domain than in traditional warfare because, in modern warfare, “mass” is no longer a decisive factor. Even though cyberspace cannot entirely replace physical space in inter-state conflict, the diverse and unpredictable combinations of ICT methods in asymmetric warfare dilute the traditional power and dominance logic. Efficient, autonomous and well-trained cyber defence forces within a limited, well-protected cyber attack space can secure victory by using innovative techniques to breach the less defensible network breadth of large state cyber defence or cyber warfare organisation. The “large and powerful” cannot take for granted that they will always come out as winners from cyber conflicts with a small state, particularly if small states have jointly (or in combination with larger states) developed a seamlessly functioning cooperation network that builds upon a pool of individual states’ expertise and capabilities routinely tested in regional exercises. Given the level of economic integration and cross-border dependencies of critical infrastructures, a Nordic- Baltic “cyber shield” might emerge in the not-so-distant future.

A small state’s ability to project a combination of “soft power”, to win friends and increase its visibility and influence, and “hard power”, to enforce deterrence, needs intellect, courage, creativity and forward-mindedness. The digital revolution creates a number of new opportunities for small states, and small states are likely to play an ever more decisive role in international security.