In response to alleged Russian interference in US elections, the US backed a new international doctrine
The suspected Russian cyber-attack in November that put the US midterm elections in the global spotlight broke through a chokepoint: the door of cyber deterrence. As the US pointed the finger at a resurgent Russia in this case, its Nato allies rallied behind what has become known as the “offender doctrine”, passed by the Pentagon and approved by the US House of Representatives.
The doctrine allows the US to track foreign cyber attacks before they get to another country, and make use of the military where appropriate.
“Deterrence through prevention – just like tactical nuclear weapons or salvo tank attacks – keeps power balances balanced and out of conflict,” a joint explanatory note from the Pentagon and State Department says.
It says it “does not protect all outcomes … however, it does effectively deter the most aggressive actors.”
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The US military has previously pushed for closer relationships with allied militaries, to coordinate battlefield action and ensure there are no Chinese – or Russian – helicopters flying over the skies of disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Now, the Pentagon is looking at building trust with allies against “malign actors”, or foreign military forces that might undermine regional stability or threaten US national security.
The Pentagon initiative is part of an emerging international context of fear about state-sponsored cyber attacks, in response to reports of interference in US elections and geopolitical intrigues.
“The United States is leading the response to all cyber issues and Russia is certainly the poster child for a number of those we’re looking at,” US defence secretary Jim Mattis said this week.
“We have proposals of what we’re prepared to do with our allies to build trust and collaboration,” he said.
China reacted angrily on Wednesday, calling for more cooperation between the US and the People’s Liberation Army.