Western governments recently attributed to Russia a massive cyber-attack against Georgia. In this and other situations, the brazenness of the attack was seemingly a goal in itself. But Russia is not the only cyber threat. Structural political incentives for better security practices and international solidarity and assistance are needed
They have large amounts of private data, their internal communications are highly sensitive, they have a lot of power, they don’t seem to take cybersecurity seriously. How do we move forward?
Originally published on balcanicaucaso.org
In early 2019, the European Union’s Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) released a set of recommendations for EU-wide election cybersecurity . They focused mainly on three aspects: online disinformation, threats to the digital infrastructure that is used to manage the voting process, and concerns about the cybersecurity of political organisations and political practitioners.
As of early 2019, policy-makers looking for pragmatic and forward-thinking approaches to meaningful engagement with de facto states in the EU’s neighbourhood should keep as their point of reference Thomas de Waal’s recently published book “ Uncertain Ground: Engaging With Europe’s De Facto States and Breakaway Territories”. He argues in favour of a “more sophisticated rules of engagement within a framework of non-recognition”, suggesting that the international community should “be prepared to engage more directly with de facto authorities on a give-and-take principle,” and further presents a number of specific recommendations on issues such as higher education, health, minority rights, and trade (in a previous commentary for ISPI, I have similarly argued in favour of a pragmatic, nuanced approach to increased engagement focusing on human rights and trade).
I have analysed Transnistrian online media 18 months after Vadim Krasnoselski came to power. I found clear evidence of selective removal of “unpleasant” old news items, but no evidence of mass dismissal of journalists.
In Transnistria – a de facto independent state located within the internationally recognised borders of Moldova – in the aftermath of the December 2016 presidential vote, the risk of increased tensions seemed to be particularly high, as Vadim Krasnoselski – who won the vote – had threatened to jail the incumbent Shevchuk on live TV during a pre-electoral debate, and people in top positions close to Shevchuk knew they had a lot to lose from an unfavourable electoral outcome.
My PhD thesis - What is the effect of non-recognition? The external relations of de facto states in the post-Soviet space - is now online and can be downloaded freely.
Aware of the limited allure of a 300-pages pdf file, I decided to outline here some key outcomes (not necessarily the conclusions), as well as some additional thoughts.
1. Non-recognition is the symptom, not the cause First, a one-paragraph summary of my conclusions.
In spite of their contested nature, de facto states in the post-Soviet space engage in substantive external relations across a number of sectors, well beyond the dominant relationship they have with their patron. In recent years, confidence building programmes sponsored by the European Union have represented a venue for interactions between local actors in de facto states and the outside world. Such assistance – including capacity building projects and relatively small initiatives aimed at enhancing the social infrastructure in the health and education sector – contributes to the welfare of the local population and is welcomed by de facto authorities.