Small states have disproportionate power online

Small states can potentially overcome much larger adversaries thanks to the information and communications technology (ICT) methods used in asymmetric warfare, diluting traditional power and dominance logic, concludes a Tallinn Papers report.

In her report Lilliputian States in Digital Affairs and Cyber Security, Liina Areng, a NATO cooperative cyber defence centre of excellence ambassador and head of international relations at the Estonian Information System Authority, considered the role of small states in international cyber security.  She suggests that innovation and technological change enable small states to attain influence in international relations and, through this new asymmetric toolbox of ‘digital power', gain leverage in international cyber security. Estonia is used an example of how a small country has seized the opportunity to guide international developments in the cyber domain.

“Digital power gives a clear asymmetric advantage in national security to small states. Small states have more opportunity to compete in this domain than in traditional warfare because, in modern warfare, ‘mass' is no longer a decisive factor,” says Areng. As a result: “The large and powerful cannot take it for granted that they will always come out as winners from cyber conflicts with a small state, particularly if small states have jointly developed a seamlessly functioning cooperation network that builds upon a pool of individual states' expertise and capabilities routinely tested in regional exercises.”