It’s no surprise that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. President Donald Trump spent much of their recent White House meeting talking about boosting alliance members’ spending; that’s been a focus of Trump’s since the campaign trail, and a target of NATO members since 2014. But it’s not the only, nor the most recent and urgent of the alliance’s pledges. That would be the two-year-old Cyber Defense Pledge.
Stoltenberg understands this. A few days before his American swing, he told a Paris audience that the pledge isn’t getting the attention it deserves. “Today’s great leap forward is not physical, but digital,” the secretary-general said. “Nowhere is the ‘fog of war’ thicker than it is in cyberspace”; some are using “software to wage a soft war.”
These “soft wars” have very real, complex, profound, and potentially deadly consequences. NATO has long prepared to fight in the physical domains of land, air, and sea. But we are currently under attack in cyberspace, and the attacks are ever growing in sophistication and effect. We must prioritize cyber defense.