Cyber Defence Library

Tallinn Paper: The Role of Offensive Cyber Operations in NATO's Collective Defence

Tallinn Paper: The Role of Offensive Cyber Operations in NATO's Collective Defence

In this new Tallinn Paper, Dr. James A. Lewis, an internationally recognised expert and a frequent commentator on cyber security matters, discusses the need for NATO to embrace the notion of offensive cyber operations. Lewis follows up on the premise of the previous Tallinn Paper that offensive cyber operations are part of modern warfare, and therefore opines that NATO as a military alliance cannot turn a blind eye to the issue. This is especially so since cyber techniques are essential for the kinds of combat operations that NATO forces may carry out in the future.

The question for Lewis is whether NATO can field a credible military force without some public linkage to an offensive cyber capability. A model he recommends for NATO is that the Allies with cyber capabilities dispatch teams to support the NATO commander. The teams would operate under general instructions on what kinds of operations and targets are permissible in support of NATO military activities, but specific support action would be delegated to the purview of the NATO commander. Lewis concludes that while public acknowledgment by NATO of offensive cyber capabilities in collective defence is a politically sensitive question, it is ultimately unavoidable.