The 300-page document recently published by the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center for Excellence (NATO CCD COE) has prompted a reaction from several Russian agencies, from the Foreign and Defense ministries to the Security Council and the special services.
The document is called the “Tallinn Manual of Cyber Warfare” for a reason. The CCD COE was opened in the Estonian capital in 2008, one year after the Bronze Soldier affair and massive hacker attacks on Estonian websites. Estonia declared itself to be the first victim of an interstate cyber conflict and accused Russia as the aggressor, though proof of Moscow’s involvement has yet to be provided.
The Tallinn Manual describes, for the first time, what actions states and military alliances should take in the event of larger-scale attacks. It argues that the existing international legal rules (notably, international humanitarian law) are applicable to cyberspace. Thus, no new laws are needed, contrary to the position taken by Russia and some other states.
The Manual describes such attacks as “unlawful” if carried out in the absence of military actions. The victim state can respond to such an attack either by bringing the aggressor to account or by resorting to “commensurate counter measures.”
The authors stress that, depending on the scale and nature of the consequences (loss of life, damage or destruction of facilities), an attack in peacetime may be equated to “use of force” or an “armed attack,” entitling the victim state to defend itself, including through the use of traditional weapons.
The Manual’s biggest section is devoted to cyberattacks that accompany traditional armed conflicts. The authors believe such attacks are covered by all the provisions of humanitarian law, including the qualification of the participants and organizers of computer sabotage as combatants who may be taken prisoner or eliminated.
The Tallinn Manual met with a highly positive reaction in the West, with many American experts noting that its key ideas reflect Washington’s view that no new laws need to be created for cyberspace.
The Russian authorities — especially the military — have taken a very guarded view of the Tallinn Manual. Moscow thinks its publication marks a step toward legitimizing the concept of cyberwars. Read the entire article>>
The article was first published in Russian in Kommersant Daily.