NATO summit communiqué compares repeat cyberattacks to armed attacks — and stops short saying the one-in-all-in rule will always apply

A communiqué issued at the conclusion of the NATO summit has called for China to observe the laws of cyberspace, and set out new standards by which members of the alliance will consider cyberattacks.

The new standard refers to Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty, as it declares that an attack on a single NATO member is considered an act of violence against all members and worthy of retaliation.

The 30-country alliance’s new communiqué, issued after its Monday summit, states that Article 5 can apply to cyberattacks.

The communiqué reads:

NATO said it is willing to “employ the full range of capabilities at all times to actively deter, defend against, and counter the full spectrum of cyber threats, including those conducted as part of hybrid campaigns, in accordance with international law.”

The document treats both Russia and China as threats. Russia earns 63 mentions and is labelled as “aggressive”. China is mentioned ten times, and its behaviour is described as “assertive” and “presenting systemic challenges”. The document vows to engage China to defend Alliance security interests, referring specifically to China’s cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns and actions in the space domain, among others.

One day earlier, the G7 issued the Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué calling upon Russia to “identify, disrupt, and hold to account those within its borders who conduct ransomware attacks, abuse virtual currency to launder ransoms, and other cybercrimes.” The G7 communique also called out China for human rights violations, specifically those related to Xinjiang and the Uyghur population and freedom violations in Hong Kong.

Director of China’s Central Commission Office for Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi, denied the accusations of human rights violations over the phone to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, claiming that “some anti-China forces are trying to stir up one after another sinister waves to smear China.”

China’s not the only country unhappy with some details of this weekend’s multilateral summit. Guest Country India refused to sign the first copy of the G7 and Guest Countries: 2021 Open Societies Statement as it denounced internet shutdowns as a violation of freedom of expression. India later accepted a revised version condemning only “politically motivated internet shutdowns”.

India has in the past denied internet services to Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim-majority Indian State that it stripped of semi-autonomous status in 2019, on security grounds. The nation has also ordered shutdowns during protests by farmers, citing the likelihood of violence at such events. Both shutdowns have been widely interpreted as politically-motivated attempts to stymie dissenting voices. ®

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