Concepts of Cyberdeterrence and Digital Security Dilemma in the US Academic Literature


The global information space is conceptualized as a new battlefield, both in the research literature and in the strategic planning documents of states. In such analytical environment, there is a growing tendency to analyze international processes in the global information space from the standpoint of the theory of political realism, based on the ideas emerged in the “nuclear era”. One of the most developed theoretical concepts of realism is deterrence theory, which is aimed to overcome the limitations of the security dilemma. American political scientist R. Jervis was one of the founders of the both theoretical concepts, which were later revised by contemporary authors in relation to cyberspace. Contemporary researchers, including D. Nye and M. Libicki, as well as a number of other authors, argue that the deterrence strategy, by analogy with nuclear deterrence, is applicable to cyber weapons. In particular, they propose new term “cyber deterrence” (cyber-deterrence). Such conceptual constructions influence practical politics. According to the National Security Strategy of 2017, the United States is seeking implement a deterrence in cyberspace. The purpose of the article is to analyze the applicability of the cyber-deterrence concept to cyberspace in the US academic discourse based on the characteristics of the digital “security dilemma”. The article shows that cyber deterrence, by analogy with the nuclear one, can only exacerbate the security dilemma in digital space. Digital security dilemma is different from the security dilemma that exists in relation to other types of weapons, due to the specifics of information technologies whose offensive use is more effective rather than defensive, as well as the significant role of non-state actors, especially business. Thus, methodologically, this article proceeds from the fact that modern information and communication technologies are not inherently neutral, but have a certain set of characteristics that determine their military use and, as a result, affect modern international security. Under these conditions, the development of norms of responsible behavior of states in the global information space is considered as one of the tools to deter conflict in cyber space. 


information and communication technologies; cyber security; digital security dilemma; cyber-deterrence.

Authors: Elena Zinovieva

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