Conflict and Leadership
Digitised Realpolitik: Sovereignty, Alliances and Non-Alignment in the 21st Century
Valdai Report_Digitised Realpolitik- Sovereignty, Alliances and Non-Alignment in the 21st Century
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The world is entering a new technology cycle which empowers governments with new tools to advance their interests and creates a space for interaction between states, in which the rules have not yet been determined. At a time where the key military and strategic invention of the previous era – nuclear weapons – remains primarily a deterrent, economic and technological competition has become the main battlefield for offensive actions among the leading players.

Digital technologies are gradually filling up the niche which, in the era of bipolarity, was traditionally taken by nuclear weapons as a key strategic tool that was equally important for military leadership, economic growth and global prestige. Using a metaphor, it can be argued that the states that have formed their sovereign technology platforms have become members of a prestigious private club similar to the nuclear club.

In one fell swoop, digitalisation has narrowed the gap in the military-strategic potential of the nation states around the world which previously appeared unbridgeable. 

Now, comparatively low-cost cybernetic means can be used to infl ict albeit not critical but nonetheless signifi cant damage on a rival state. The expanded use of digital technologies in the military has thus shifted the focus in the military-technological competition between states. Another important hallmark of digital technologies is their much broader civilian use, which further blurs the line between economic competition and the arms race.

The ongoing transformations are becoming a factor in strategic planning by states. It is no coincidence that Russia’s military doctrine ranks hostile violation of Russia’s critical infrastructure by a foreign state second on the list of threats. Many countries have adopted strategic cybersecurity documents, but Russia does not have a separate document of that kind. As leading countries have begun to build their capacity in this area, they are testing new capabilities in practice, which increases the number of cyber incidents happening in an almost unchecked environment.

What will the world order look like in the new technology cycle?