Rasmussen Outlines Cyber Progress, Urges Defense Investment
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, June 4, 2013 NATO will form quick-reaction cyber defense teams to protect its own networks and aid allies who come under attack, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said here today.
In a news conference following the first meeting NATO’s defense ministers have conducted on cyber, Rasmussen noted that cyberattacks are growing more common, more complex and more dangerous.
“They come without warning, from anywhere in the world. And they can have devastating consequences,” he said.
NATO already is confronting the threat, he said, noting the alliance dealt with more than 2,500 “significant cases” of cyberattack last year alone.
“Despite the increasing sophistication of these attacks, our security has not been compromised,” Rasmussen added. Today, he said, ministers agreed to approach cyber defense as an alliance.
“We are all closely connected,” he said. “So an attack on one ally, if not dealt with quickly and effectively, can affect us all. Cyber defense is only as effective as the weakest link in the chain. By working together, we strengthen the chain.”
By October, he said, cyber quick-reaction teams should be fully operational. While those teams will focus primarily on protecting NATO’s networks, they also may respond to attacks on individual members states that who request NATO’s assistance, he said.
“Cyberattacks do not stop at national borders,” he noted. “Our defenses should not, either.”
Further cyber defense options will be discussed at the next NATO defense ministerial conference in October, he said.
Rasmussen said the defense ministers today also discussed defense spending, and how to ensure the alliance has all the capabilities it needs to face current and developing threats.
“Defense budgets are falling, and the cost of modern capabilities is rising,” the secretary general said. “There is an imbalance between what we have and what we need, with significant shortfalls in some areas, such as air-to-air refueling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”
There is likewise an imbalance in the costs borne by alliance members, Rasmussen said.
“These are challenges we are addressing, but we need to do more,” he said. “There is a lower limit for what we can spend on defense, and in some cases, we have now reached it.”
To reverse that trend, he said, allies must hold the line on defense spending and look to increase it as their economies recover.
“We must make the best use of the money we have, through better, smarter cooperation,” Rasmussen said. “And European countries must do more to relieve the unequal burden which is currently being carried by the United States.”
Some European countries are increasing their spending despite the financial crisis, he noted, and others have committed to do so. “Today, a number of ministers expressed their interest in further multinational projects, to fill some of the gaps we face,” he added. “These are steps in the right direction, and I welcome them.”
NATO defense ministers will meet again tomorrow, when the focus will be on Resolute Support, the “train, advise and assist” operation that will replace NATO’s International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan.