by ATA Secretary General during the NATO Days in Ostrava, Czech Republic in the Panel Discussion “Increasing Resilience – Following NATO Summit’s Recommendation To Countering Hybrid Threats”.
Presentation titled “Resilience As A Key Emerging Concept In NATO: Experience And Outlooks”,
16 September 2016.
Dobre Rano, it is both an honour and a pleasure to be here (to je jak ctí a potěšením být tady).
First, I would like to express my gratitude to Zbynek Pavlacik and Petr Zlatohlavek for extending the warm invitation.
I would like to arrive at the Q+A as quickly as possible, so I will make my remarks as brief as possible.
My speech today will concentrate on four aspects: defining resilience, explaining its importance, NATO’s position on resilience, and why it is of growing relevance to Europe and the Czech Republic.
What Is Resilience?
Simply put, resilience is the ability to resist attacks and recover from attacks quickly.
How Does NATO Define Resilience & Why Is It Important?
Put in NATO terms, resilience is defined as the government’s ability to function no matter the circumstances.
It is important because of the rise in hybrid warfare over the last several years.
As the concept of resilience was engrained in the strategy of the Cold War, it was always part of the responsibility of an Allied nation to ensure that it was able to function regardless of whether it found itself under a nuclear attack, military invasion or natural disaster. What’s important to note is that resilience is nothing new, what’s new is that we are not prepared for it anymore.
As a result, NATO uses what’s called the Civil Emergency Planning Committee which has created seven levels by which resilience preparedness can be measured. Those being:
- Continuity of Government – Can the people in power continue to project authority and rule of law even while under attack?
- Energy Supply – Can the country avoid falling under an unbearable economic and financial pressure?
- Ability to Handle Population Movement – Can a country maintain support, humanitarian supplies and continuity to its nationals, migrants or refugees if circumstances drive peoples from their homes?
- Water and Food Resources – Can a country provide safe drinking water and enough food to its people in a time of crisis?
- Ability to Deal With Mass Casualties – How long can a country keep up its fight before casualties mount to an intolerable level?
- Civil Transportation Systems – Are things such as airports, seaports, bridges, road systems able to sustain themselves long enough for reinforcements to arrive?
- Resilience to Civil Communications Systems – Can people maintain their communication lines and stay in contact with each other in order to ensure all of the above?
Now, a certain grading in each of these 7 points were a pre-requisite for joining NATO during the Cold War, however after the Cold War, the resilience of all NATO countries started to decline, while at the same time, the threat of hybrid warfare became more advanced. Meaning, we got spoiled by peace and became more vulnerable while the enemies of democracy became stronger and more persistent.
As a result, this summer’s Warsaw Summit brought resilience into the fore front, calling on governments to prepare, deter, and defend against hybrid warfare threats.
What Is NATO Doing About It?
NATO is now beginning to plan how to strengthen and implement resilience.
Under the Washington Treaty, Article 3 states that each member must create arrangements, policies, legislation, procedures, and collect resources to become resilient.
As every state is responsible for their own military and civilian infrastructure, a joint effort between the EU and NATO could make better measures to strengthen resilience. This is done by providing nations with a minimum standard of resilience and guidelines through which to achieve them, putting a performance ranking value on the seven levels of resilience preparedness.
So what was the impact of the Warsaw Summit declarations on this. Simply put, Warsaw put the civilian aspect front and center for the first time in history and encouraged investment in this area while making resilience a key component of defense planning.
To do so, NATO’s Civil Emergency Planning Committee is currently in talks with creating a deployable expert team that will be made up of joint NATO & EU experts that will go to each NATO member country to provide this evaluation and consultation on the seven key points of resilience I mentioned earlier and develop best practices.
NATO will provide a full assessment of where each nation stands which will be completed and distributed among the nations in 2018.
How Is This Relevant To The Czechs?
The Czech Republic has a strong connection between national and civil communication already, serving as a good example of a country that can more easily adopt resilience measures.
In order to get a stronger understanding of why resilience building is important to the Czech Republic, I will compare the Czech Republic with its immediate V4 neighbours (Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland). Within the comparison, I will explain the vulnerabilities and strengths of the Czech Republic.
Some of the fundamental concepts from the seven levels of preparedness and nation-specific concerns include economic growth, cyber vulnerability, vulnerability to terrorism, military strength, energy dependence on Russia and vulnerability to foreign intelligence gathering.
Regarding Economic Growth
To begin, in the second quarter of 2016, all Visegrad countries except for Hungary had a growth by .90%, a rise from 2014, but fall from 2015. For Czech Republic they are expected to grow their economy by 2.5% this year. This means greater potential for foreign direct investment, which can attract and amplify the existing threat of economic infiltration from both China and Russia in terms of sector dominance through purchasing majority stakes in key infrastructures and resources thus creating dependence on non-democratic economic players.
Looking to cyber and infiltrated use of propaganda from foreign agencies, all V4 countries are at risk.
In 2015, 79.7% of Czech Republic’s population were internet users, compared to 76.1% in Hungary, 67.5% in Poland, and 83.1% in Slovakia. A high population of internet users exposes the country more to potential information leaks and hybrid activities. We saw how devastating this could be when we witnessed the cyber-attacks against Estonia a few years ago.
According to a study conducted by the Prague Security Studies Institute, Austria, Hungary, Germany, and the Czech Republic are the most susceptible to intelligence infiltration by Russia.
Vulnerability to Terrorism
Due to its location and politics, the Czech Republic has a medium exposure to a terrorist attack. Whereas, Slovenia and Poland have a lower exposure rank.
Although the Czech Republic ranked #30 in the top 35 most powerful militaries in the world in 2014, it remains one of the lower spenders within the Alliance at 1% of its GDP.
However its engagements and training operations are increasing with Czech Republic recently hosting the NATO training exercise for Joint Terminal Attack Controllers or JTACs, consisting of highly trained service members who direct combat aircraft and call in air support when needed.
Energy Dependence on Russia
Despite the European Union’s sanctions on Russia, V4 countries are largely dependent upon Russian energy. Russia exports a large quantity of energy to Visegrad countries.
With the most recent statistics I was able to validate, which are from 2014, Poland receives approximately 91% of its foreign energy imports from Russia, Slovakia 98%, Hungary 86%, and the Czech Republic 73%. Given Russia’s obvious influence in the energy sector and continued pattern of blackmailing countries through its energy supply, this is undoubtedly the region’s biggest vulnerability if Russia decides to turn off the gas.
And Finally, Vulnerability to Foreign Intelligence Gathering and Propaganda
A recent study by the Security Information Service (BIS), Czech Republic’s domestic intelligence agency found that Russian intelligence services were the most active foreign agency within this country with China being second.
It said that, last year, Russia concentrated on “information operations” with six goals.
The first was “weakening the strength of Czech media”. This consisted of covert infiltration of Czech media and the internet, massive production of Russian propaganda and disinformation controlled by the state.
Second, “strengthening the information resistance of the Russian audience which consisted of promoting prefabricated disinformation from Czech sources for the Russian audience”.
Third, “exerting influence on the perceptions and thoughts of the Czech audience, weakening society’s will for resistance or confrontation. This was done by an information and disinformation overload of the audience, relativisation of truth and objectivity and promoting the motto ‘everyone is lying’.
Fourth, “creating or promoting inter-societal and inter-political tensions in the Czech Republic. This was done by the foundation of puppet organisations, covert and open support of populist or extremist subjects”.
Fifth, was “disrupting the coherence and readiness of NATO and the EU through attempts to disrupt Czech-Polish relations, disinformation and alarming rumours defaming the US and NATO, disinformation creating a virtual threat of a war with Russia”.
Finally, “damaging the reputation of Ukraine and isolating the country internationally. This was done by involving Czech citizens and organisations in influence operations covertly led in Ukraine or against it by Russia”.
The BIS also warned that, while Russia’s current operations centre around the Ukraine and Syria conflicts, “the infrastructure created for achieving these goals” is now a permanent feature in Czech life.
It said boldly that “these activities pose a threat to the Czech Republic, EU and Nato” and that the “infrastructure” can be “used to destabilise or manipulate Czech society or its political environment at any time, if Russia wishes to do so”.
This activity shows Russia’s ability to enter Czech Republic’s information centres and produce disinformation within the state and exert adverse influence. As a result, the Czech Republic is considered highly vulnerable to Russian propaganda and outside influence on the information infrastructure.
So What Does This All Mean For The Future….
In order to be resilient enough to cope with the threats of today and tomorrow, we must pull up our boot straps and be honest with ourselves that we got soft, that we have key weaknesses and vulnerabilities that must be addressed through more investment of financial and political capital, civil society engagement and a stronger alignment with NATO and EU solidarity.
The reasons why are simple:
We cannot withstand hybrid attacks if we don’t repair our civilian infrastructures and this will require more money.
We cannot confront disinformation and propaganda without engaging directly with our civil society so this will require talking more with our citizens to increase our promotion of transatlantic values.
We cannot project power and influence that pushes back foreign interference without engaging more on the international stage in a coordinated effort of Allied solidarity.
Only by taking these steps can we enhance our resilience.