This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first state visit to the United States, meeting with President Barack Obama Not only is this likely to be the most important summit between these two leaders, it’s also likely to be one where the serious fractures between both countries over cyber security will emerge.
Unlike Canada, cyber security remains a top priority for the U.S. administration—from State of the Union admonishments, to executive orders and now prosecutions of foreign nationals. Although Canadians rapidly approach what is arguably the most important federal election in decades—and one that will shape our future prosperity and collective security—not one leading candidate is talking about cyber security or the efforts of some countries to disrupt an increasingly fragile international order and economic environment.
Whereas Ukraine and ISIS, and with some merit, continue to be top Canadian political-security themes, there has been scant notice of the Obama administration’s initiative to apply sanctions to those involved in cyber breaches, which will certainly begin with China—the epicentre of the 21st-century global economy. As such, and if executed with expected vigor, it has the potential to shift the tone of the U.S.-Sino relationship, while perhaps tilting the world to heretofore unseen levels of tension.
On another matter of unequal measure within the security-policy domain, is Russia. The Putin-led “kleptocracy” is often cited in open-source media as being second only to China with respect to intellectual property theft, but mostly as a permissive environment for organized criminal cyber groups. Though, it’s often left unaccountable for the global security mayhem it routinely and directly contributes to.
On a more specific and heartbreaking note, Russia and China’s roles spoiling the United Nations Security Council’s Syrian file remains unaddressed. Reflecting an international community consensus, the council attempted to mitigate and possibly indict the Bashar al-Assad regime for the murder or displacement of millions of his own citizens.
So, what are Canadian political party strategists thinking and planning with respect to these destructive and ruthlessly pursued tragedies? What will the future government’s plan be to deal with the rise of China or Russian expansionism and their crafty application of “hybrid warfare” against Canada and its allies?
We urgently need to debate policy initiatives that will counter Russia’s application of deadly military force, as applied in Ukraine. We must curtail its use of in-country proxies to stir up conflict in places like the Baltics. We must hinder its supply of weapons and advisers to rogue or totalitarian regimes from Myanmar and Algeria, to Sri Lanka and Venezuela. We must mitigate the cyber breaches that lead to identity theft of individual Canadians. And, we must ensure enough military might to be a credible counterpoint to wherever and whenever the Russia regime assaults sovereign Western territory by probing national defenses by sea and air—including our own Arctic.
Russia’s neighbours—be it Poland, the Baltic States or the Nordic countries—are ramping up military expenditure and preparedness levels, along with convening security agency meetings with diplomats, spies and generals. Conversely, where is Canada’s clear articulation of a defence strategy, its contribution to a global security perspective, or launch of diplomatic initiatives at multilateral fora such as NATO?
In this most fractured and unpredictable global security environment, Canadians need a clear, multi-disciplined and overarching policy that will effectively address short- and long-term security objectives, with impact at home and abroad.
Given the complexities of the world today, along with Canada’s complete integration within trade partnerships, defence pacts and security agreements, the days of ad hoc responsiveness, applying disparate resources and with no end-game or founding principals, must go no further. Security and the economy are now one.
The best way to help shape that preferred end state is to begin the debate during the election campaign. The upcoming Munk debate on September 28 would be an ideal forum for the discussion of cyber security along with foreign policy.
If these issues are not discussed during the election and are left until after, our future prosperity and true security will remain uncertain—and possibly unequal in the eyes of the world’s leading nations.