WASHINGTON — NATO leaders on Wednesday reiterated the alliance's stance on treating cyber attacks against a member as an Article 5 issue, which would potentially draw a military response from the entire alliance.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a key alliance planning summit on Wednesday morning that "cyber is now a central part of virtually all crisis and conflicts, NATO has made clear that cyber attacks can potentially trigger an Article 5 response."
Just last week, Stoltenberg engaged in a contentious back and forth with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of Russia's Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, at an event in Brussels when the Russian representative asked if NATO would bomb countries it suspects have been involved in cyber attacks.
"We will do what's necessary to do to protect all allies," Stoltenberg replied. "But I'm not going to tell you exactly how I'm going to do that ... that's the main message."
On Wednesday, much of the NATO chief's comments revolved around the topic of hybrid war, which Stoltenberg said combines the power of a state with unconventional means such as cyber and information operations, and disguised military operations, much like the activities of Russia in Crimea and Ukraine over the past year.
He said NATO must resist this "Russian model" and "sharpen our early warning and situational awareness … so we know when an attack is an attack. Hybrid warfare seeks to exploit any weakness."
NATO must also "demonstrate that we can and will act promptly," he added, which it has been doing in doubling the size of its quick reaction force and pushing out thousands of troops for training exercises in eastern Europe.
The efforts in bolstering quick reaction capabilities, revamping equipping strategies, and building up cyber capabilities means that the NATO alliance is "implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War," Stoltenberg said.
To accomplish this, "the alliance needs an innovation strategy for the coming decade," he insisted, but because NATO itself is dependent on the defense investments of its member states, each member will "need to invest more in our defense. It is vital that we achieve this."
The one dark cloud hanging over his first visit to Washington is the fact that President Obama's staff has neglected to schedule time between him and the president, a breach of traditional protocol even in more peaceful times.
But Stoltenberg dismissed a question about the snub, saying that he has met the president before, and their staffs are working on a meeting between the two leaders at a later time.