Today defence secretary Ben Wallace addressed senior NATO officials and think-tanks in London on NATO’s 70 year anniversary to acknowledge and address the new challenges faced by the alliance. He told delegates: "Traditional warfare has changed. The threats are no longer only conventional. No longer only overt. Our adversaries are striking from the shadows. They are pursuing new tactics to divide and destabilise. Exploiting new technologies to exacerbate the uncertainties of an uncertain world, and undermine our way of life.
"Six years ago the Russian chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov wrote that the "rules of war" has changed, as the role of non-military means in achieving political and strategic goals have grown. He said that "long-distance, contactless actions against the enemy [were] becoming the main means of achieving combat and operational goals". With social media, cyber and more open societies giving our competitors unparalleled opportunities to achieve their aims, the Gerasimov doctrine is here to stay. And hybrid warfare is our new reality. It is constant, and challenging to all our aims.
"Our Allies in the Baltic and our partners in Ukraine and Georgia are only too familiar with such tactics. But this is happening right across our Alliance. It is happening here in Britain. Before taking up this post I was the UK’s Security Minister for over three years. I got to see into the shadows and see the daily attacks on our societies that many do not. Cyber attacks, disinformation, assassination, corruption. All prosecuted on our open and liberal societies.
T"he urgent question is, therefore, how can we individually and, as importantly, collectively respond?
"It starts with investment. Investment in both our conventional forces ... and in those new capabilities needed to address the challenges that lie ahead. In this context, I welcome the news that Canadian and European Allies will be increasing their defence investment by US$ 400 billion by 2024, which represents significant progress towards our shared pledge to spend two percent of GDP on defence.
"And I’m proud that the UK has been taking a lead in NATO. Not only have we consistently spent two percent of our GDP on defence, but we were the first Ally to offer our offensive cyber capabilities to the Alliance.
"NATO is now looking at the ways in which new and emerging technologies will continue to change the threat landscape, from hypersonic missiles….to quantum computing, potentially rendering current encryption obsolete. We must understand these challenges are what we face today and we must adapt accordingly. And we must constantly be on the hunt for the next great geopolitical disruptors, such as demographic shifts or climate change, or the next technological advancement that changes the game completely.
"Maintaining our technological edge is the only way we can avoid obsolescence and deliver on our most important pledge – keeping our people safe.
"(Tomorrow will see Nato agreeing a plan for)... response to emerging and disruptive technologies; recognising two new operational domains in space and cyber-space; and developing plans to confront and deter hybrid tactics of the kind I have been speaking about."
And tomorrow (Wednesday 4th), the primeminister is scheduled to echo these sentiments, when it is intended he will tell Nato leaders: "As allies and friends, we must never shy away from discussing new realities, particularly NATO’s response to emerging threats like hybrid warfare and disruptive technologies including space and cyber."
Addendum: After the event the primeminister reported: "We discussed cyber, the challenges of what is going on in cyberspace, the asymmetric warfare and threats that we collectively face, the need for us to engage together in looking at the challenges from space and working together to develop a policy on space."