Why Russia and China Think We're Fighting Cyberwar Now

Thanks to the Team Cymru news feed for pointing me to Emerging Cyberthreats and Russian Views on Information Warfare and Information Operations by Roland Heickerö of the Swedish Defence Research Agency. I found this content in pages 23-24, "Differences and similarities between Russian, US and Chinese views on IW," to be really interesting:

In order to understand the Russian view in a wider context, a comparison has been made with Russia’s most important competitors – the USA and China – and their approach to information operations...

All three countries agree on the important role information has in today’s conflicts. Over time its importance will grow. The USA has influenced the mindsets of the others, especially regarding ideas about information superiority and information dominance, as well as command and control warfare. Information adds a new dimension to warfare and IW weapons could be used offensively and defensively to protect a country’s own information resources and systems.

Russia and China take a broader view of the essence of information warfare than the USA in the sense that in their approach covers both peacetime and wartime situations, while the US definition is more narrow and related to times of crisis or conflict.

The Chinese view is based on four parameters: pre-emptive strike capability, asymmetric warfare (inferior versus superior), high-tech local war and people’s war. In some documents the term ‘unlimited warfare’ has been mentioned as being a core part of a Chinese view of IW, but the term is disputed by several analysts.

The Chinese concept originates from Sun Tzu’s 36 stratagems, described in his Art of War from 500 BC. One of the most important key factors in the Chinese concept is deception.

The [Chinese] IW perspective covers a long period of time and is not limited to a specific moment, period or conflict. Chinese experts criticize the US doctrine for being much too technology-driven and for not considering the strategic dimension sufficiently.

Moreover it [American doctrine] is too focused on the information and information system of the opponent and does not consider the softer, psychological factors. In the Chinese conceptual framework, cognitive elements are added, such as the opponent’s will and capability to fight. It has a clear political dimension. According to Sun Tzu:

‘To win the war without the fight is the greatest victory’.

In the Chinese approach IO is a component of IW, contrary to the US view. For American experts IO is a way to fight while the Chinese think that IW is the fight itself and is ongoing on many different levels and dimensions over the years.

The Russian view is more closely related to the Chinese where the information-psychological impact of IW is concerned, as well as in the idea that IW is conducted in both peacetime, in the prelude to a conflict, and in wartime and more or less constantly; and on the strategic level as well as the operational and tactical.

I couldn't agree more with this. Here's the Cliff Notes summary:

  • US cyberwar doctrine is too narrow, focused on technology and on information itself, ignoring the will of the population, and confined to "crisis or conflict" over short periods of time. Americans also think cyberwar is a "way to fight."

  • Russian and especially Chinese cyberwar doctrine is more expansive, including the will of the population, and is constant and enduring, happening during what others call "peacetime." The Chinese especially think cyberwar is "the fight itself."

This is why I believe the US is fighting a cyberwar now. The Russians and Chinese would agree with me, but other Americans probably don't.


Anonymous said…
I have reached the conclusion that "APT" [AKA CHINA] is their version of MAD. Call it Asymmetrical MAD, we have bunches of nukes that can reach them, they have a few nukes that can reach our west coast.
Anonymous said…
The impression I get from the paper is that there is a difference in "posture". There is also a major difficiency in awareness among the American population. And there may be political aversion to making reference to America being in yet another "war". Perhaps a call to patriotism is in order in the US. A call to serve in a civilian or military capacity in the realm of cyberspace. In other words, don't frame the conversation in terms of war. Frame it in terms of serving one's country. Americans are "war weary". But I would venture to say that there is no shortage of patriotism and the desire to express it in some way.

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