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The neutrality of Austria in the age of cyberspace and the digital revolution
Material posted: Publication date: 12-04-2018

The development of information technology has changed the world. States are increasingly trying to use cyberspace to achieve their goals. Reflection of cyber attacks, protection of information, countering misinformation are vital issues in cybersecurity that require immediate solutions. How the digital revolution might affect the neutrality of Austria?

Modern processes of globalization have led to the fact that Austria is now becoming harder and harder to maintain a policy of neutrality. Economic problems and numerous external threats to push Austria to work closely with military units, which runs counter to fundamental principles of neutrality.

Austria also seek to develop in the field of cybersecurity. Austria adopted two important doctrinal document: "the security Strategy of Austria" in 2013 and "Military-strategic concept of" 2017. In these documents Austria pays special attention to development of cyber defense. Prevention of cyber warfare, counter-hacks and the protection of information space – a priority. But Austria does not have the resources to implement these tasks. Therefore, Austria has to resort to the help of NATO. Austria and NATO hold joint exercises and training in the field of cybersecurity. In addition, NATO, Austria in personnel training and military personnel, and also helps to standardize the mechanisms and institutions that would help Austria to effectively use information technology. Thus, the neutrality of Austria acquires the connotation of conditionality. Austria continued integration with international organizations in all spheres of state activity.

In 2009, the Centre of excellence in the field of cyber defense, NATO invited to Tallinn 19 international experts to conduct an analysis of how existing international law can be applied to the conduct of war in cyberspace. Thus, in 2013 appeared the Tallinn manual on the conduct of cyber warfare (The Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare). This guide is not a normative official document of the Center of excellence in the field of cyber defense, NATO (NATO CCD COE). The Tallinn manual is a compilation of the recommendations and the point of view of Western experts on how the state can respond and influence cyberactivist. The main provisions of the Tallinn manual:

  • the state has the right to exercise control over cyberspace on its sovereign territory and to defend against cyber attacks (including international law) that aim at undermining state sovereignty;
  • States do not have the right to take action in cyberspace, the aim of which is illegal impact on other States (damage to individuals and damage to any objects);
  • the state has the right to apply retaliatory measures against illegal transactions in cyberspace. Responses can be applied both in cyberspace and in the physical world, but on the condition that the cyber attack resulted in casualties or caused serious damage to essential facilities. In addition, the response against cyber-terrorists is applicable even in the territory of another state;
  • cyber warfare can be equated to a military conflict, if they led to an armed clash and war crimes;
  • actions in cyberspace directed against civilian installations and persons, which do not cause harm to health and life, is not prohibited.

We can say that NATO is trying to create a legal instrument that would regulate the conflicts in cyberspace. But while the Tallinn manual is not regulated and is only a recommendation. NATO continues to develop this idea and in 2017, came out expanded the Tallinn manual 2.0 (The 2.0 is the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations). This edition complements existing items, but the main provisions remained unchanged.

You should pay attention to a small change in the title. In the first edition the title was "the Tallinn manual on the conduct of cyber warfare", and the second they changed the name to "the Tallinn manual on cyber operations". This change shows that the Tallinn manual may be adapted as a prototype of international law in cyberspace and in the future may be the basis of such a right.

With regard to Austria, cooperation with NATO may bring to the positive development of Austria in the field of cyber defense. The Tallinn manual indicates that NATO is going to position itself as a "trendsetter" in cyberspace (although no official documents have not yet appeared). Therefore, Austria's profitable now to establish relations with NATO in order to assure himself of a high degree of training in the field of cybersecurity, as well as to ensure that the institutions and mechanisms of cyberspace corresponds to the standard that is dictated by NATO.

Thus, Austria will continue the integration of military units and more decisions are taken by external influences. Perhaps because of this, Austrian neutrality in the future finally exhausted itself.

Dusaev Alex


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