NATO allies rally for collective cyber defense strategies

The allies notably expressed support for the creation of a NATO Cyber Centre, though its exact mandate remains unclear, with discussions anticipated to conclude by the Washington, D.C. summit in July, addressing the need for collective responses to cyber threats beyond resilience.

NATO flag.North Atlantic Treaty Organization flag waving.

In Berlin, Germany, NATO delegates convened for the inaugural Cyber Defence Conference, highlighting a growing recognition among allies of the necessity for innovative approaches beyond resilience to address cyber threats. During the publicly disclosed segments of the conference, including opening speeches and a panel discussion, endorsing the establishment of a NATO Cyber Centre emerged as a consensus among allies, with Germany, this year’s host, and the UK, next year’s host, expressing support.

The specific mandate of the proposed NATO Cyber Centre remains unclear, leaving room for speculation on whether it would focus on developing cyber capabilities among allies, fostering a shared situational awareness in cyberspace, or operating as a tactical-level command for combined operations.

Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Minister, emphasised the commitment to prevention, stating, ‘Our commitment to prevention requires us to be able to actively defend ourselves in cyberspace if necessary.’ She referred to Germany’s new National Security Strategy, which envisions a dedicated entity for offensive cyber operations. However, the strategy’s language remains vague on the offensive side, and it includes a rejection of the use of ‘hack-backs’ as a means of cyber defense.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added to the ambiguity, stating, ‘NATO is perfectly positioned to share information, to spread innovation, and to coordinate our collective defense in cyberspace.’

Negotiations regarding the nature of the NATO Cyber Centre are anticipated to conclude by the time of the NATO summit in Washington, D.C., scheduled for July. This summit follows the NATO summit in Lithuania earlier this year and is expected to build on the outcomes of the Vilnius summit, where allies agreed to new cybersecurity pledges, the details of which remain classified.

The Vilnius Summit Communiqué reiterated NATO’s stance that ‘cyberspace is contested at all times,’ emphasising that cybersecurity is a constant concern beyond the circumstances of international armed conflicts. The communiqué expressed the alliance’s determination to employ a full range of capabilities to deter, defend against, and counter a spectrum of cyber threats, including consideration of collective responses.