Reflections from Mons: On NATO, the cyber domain and its implications

Nearly two months have passed since the YATA Denmark delegation visited Mons, Belgium, to attend NIAS 2017 Cyber Security Summit. This came as the second NIAS to be held after NATO recognized cyber as an operational domain of war in July 2016, which remained a key topic during industry and government keynote speeches. With this adaptation, cyber is commonly referred to as the fifth interdependent domain, with the remaining four being land, sea, air and space. Cyber, as of right now, is the only non-physical domain acknowledged by NATO and other member state militaries.

This raises the question of why something which is so ubiquitous should simultaneously be understood as something which stands on its own. Seemingly, it would be counterintuitive to accept cyberspace as an independent domain when operations are carried out with it in regularly in every physical domain. So what really are the merits of identifying Cyber as a domain? And how will this recognition shape how we operate in other domains? Both from a unilateral and from a NATO standpoint these questions are likely to shape the way cyber capabilities and doctrine evolve in the future.