3 Seas states face many of the same threats together. This shared threat landscape creates fertile ground for further building regional cooperation on security, writes Izabela Albrycht, co-founder of the CYBERSEC Forum and co-initiator of the Digital 3 Seas project.
Since the 24th of February, the geopolitical breakthrough is in the making. You can feel it especially in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region with a threat of an escalation of the Russian aggression.
There is already a state of some sort of hybrid conflict, and many more worrying scenarios for the future can be drafted based on President Putin’s ultimatum to the West aimed at redrawing the geopolitical order which ultimately refers to all 3 Seas (3S) countries apart from Austria.
That already gives a perspective on the risk which the region is facing, as well as the reasoning behind the huge support offered to Ukraine by the most of 3S countries. In the era of strategic competition and so-called “strategic simultaneity”, also other challenges and threats cannot overlook.
Among them there is China and its influence in the CEE region which has been visible for years. Therefore, to those who tend to forget: the region has once again proved to be of significant importance, both geopolitically and in terms of security of Europe. In this respect nothing has changed over the centuries.
But in the digital age, there are at least few more drivers of change which will impact the next decade, if not the future, of this geography.
Among them there is the development of innovative emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) which are of key importance for the security, deterrence and defence. And the other driver is an evolution of cyberspace as the borderless theater of confrontation and competition between states, but also non-states actors, which has added to the geopolitical equation an important agent.
These all mean that security-oriented cooperation in the 3S region should be given the new impetus. The 3S countries need to strategically concentrate on securing their borders, upgrading resilience, and protect their economies.
This has to be done in the real world urgently, with energy diversification, supply chain reconfiguration, and military spending increase, but it has to be done also in cyberspace. This means that countries’ digital and cybersecurity capabilities, which are adding up to their cyber power, should be strengthened above all.
By cyber power one should understand not just effective cybersecurity posture but also the innovative, digital and technological postures.
3S states face many of the same cyber threats together. This shared threat landscape creates fertile ground for further building regional cooperation on cybersecurity making it a critical dimension of 3S collaboration and geopolitical precondition for the prosperity and safety of this part of the world.
The 3S network defenders should start building defensive strategies to proactively counter cyberthreats, with permanent operational cooperation, including analytical support and enhanced collaboration between CERTs, proactive cyberthreat hunting, and cooperation for attribution.
The 3S need to make sure that cybersecurity is included in the design phase of technology solutions, throughout the supply and value chain, and “embedded” in all infrastructure projects jointly developed in the region within all three pillars – digital, energy, and transportation.
Here, it is particularly important to implement security standards in the process of building 5G networks and to cooperate in the IT components certification, for example by establishing the 3 Seas Cybersecurity Certification Center (3S3C).
Also, the new models of innovation and application of EDTs should serve as useful and important frameworks to deal with cyberthreats of tomorrow and to improve cyber defence, deterrence, and security, for example with AI and QC cyber solutions.
Within the framework of European Recovery and Resilience Facility and other EU funds the goal for 3S countries should be to allocate substantial funds and impose ambitious strategies in the areas which they are lagging behind.
3S should undertake crucial projects of smart connectivity – the digital transformation of the energy and transport sectors, with a particular emphasis on the challenges of the green economy; adapt education to the requirements of the digital age, support investments in data centres and provide access to efficient and secure cloud solutions.
It should also focus on conducting feasibility study of critical digital infrastructural projects such as the Digital 3 Seas Highway and the 3Seas1Ocean transatlantic cable.
Governments should ensure the creation of an ecosystem that organically supports innovation and the development of future digital markets, e.g. through regulations that encourage the region’s business and the introduction of digital services, the creation of technology clusters that drive economic competitiveness.
A systemic approach to the development of innovation must take on a holistic dimension and be based on effective coordination that abolishes the silo approach in government administration, as well as on the development and implementation of comprehensive and relevant strategies, including technological strategies.
EDTs will affect the security and stability of the countries on NATO’s Eastern flank, therefore national and business leaders in 3S region can decide to establish robust innovation ecosystems for EDTs in their countries.
It should be done along with technological and industry strategies and defence investments funds to attract defence-focused VCs and engage in initiatives, launched by EU and NATO (DIANA and NATO Innovation Fund), aimed at fostering deep tech and dual-use technologies development in the model of civil-military cooperation as well as to work with innovative start-ups and local companies.
The 3S countries, having tech-savvy talent, young community of innovators, and robust ICT industry, as well as growing defence budgets and military-modernisation ambitions, can surf through the trend of rising security and defence-oriented investments in EDT.
Both the timing and the location for CEE countries to become technology hub for security and defense are here to stay.
The author is co-founder of the CYBERSEC Forum and co-initiator of the Digital 3 Seas project. A member of the Advisory Group to the President of the Republic of Poland on security and defence issues and of the NATO Advisory Group for Emerging and Disruptive Technologies.