Southern California

International Review
Volume 6, Number 2 • Fall 2016

Southern California International Review
scir.org

Staff
Editor-in-Chief:
SarahBelle Selig
Editors:
Reid Thom
Katie McDowell
Anna Lipscomb

Anna Merzi
Samuel Miller

The Southern California International Review (SCIR) is a bi-annual print
and online journal of interdisciplinary scholarship in the field of international studies generously funded by the School of International Relations
at the University of Southern California (USC). In particular, SCIR would
like to thank the Robert L. Friedheim Fund and the USC SIR Alumni Fund.
Founded in 2011, the journal seeks to foster and enhance discussion between
theoretical and policy-oriented research regarding significant global issues.
SCIR is managed completely by students and also provides undergraduates
with valuable experience in the fields of editing and graphic design.

Copyright © 2016 Southern California International Review.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form without the express written consent of the Southern California International
Review.
Views expressed in this journal are solely those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily
represent those of the editorial board, faculty advisors, or the University of Southern California.

ISSN: 1545-2611

In the wake of a calamitous year on the international stage in the form of
Brexit, the United States election, and the threat posed by terrorist groups
such as the Islamic State, it is clear that our global community faces an
unprecedented sense of divisiveness.
This edition is dedicated to those around the world who strive to promote
national and global unity to build a better future.

Contents

1.

Applying Jus Ad Bellum in Cyberspace
The Use of Force, Armed Attacks, and the Right of Self-Defence
Sophie Barnett

10

2.

Disaggregating the Coercive Apparatus
The Competing Branches of Parallel Security Institutions in Egypt and Tunisia
Arvin Anoop

22

3.

Operation Hashtag
The Use of Twitter in the Battle Between the Islamic States and the United
States
Benjamin Friedman

38

4.

Trouble with the Neighbors
The Baltic States’ Perspective on Security After the Annexation of Crimea
Girard Bucello IV

52

Editor’s Note:
Dear Reader,
It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the twelfth edition of the Southern California
International Review (SCIR). This semester’s issue continues our mission of providing a
platform for undergraduate scholars of international affairs to deliver their work to a larger,
global audience.
We were incredibly fortunate to have over sixty articles to select from for this issue. Our editors
spent staunch hours poring over submissions from all across the country and throughout
the world. Of the many impressive submissions, the following four were outstanding for
their original and unique ideas. As you read this journal, you will understand why.
In the creation of this issue, the SCIR is extremely appreciative of the support of the University
of Southern California’s School of International Relations. Director Wayne Sandholtz,
Associate Director Linda Cole, and the rest of the faculty and staff give us the guidance we
need to steadily grow. I also extend our thanks to Ms. Robin Friedheim for her generous
scholarship that provides the foundation upon which our endeavor thrives.
As our globalized world attempts to maneuver new security threats, it is imperative that we
maintain our hard-won unity. This theme resonates throughout this edition. The first article
addresses the inability of our international law structure to manage the unique risks posed by
cyber attacks. The subsequent article investigates how opposition between different elements
of the security sector have affected key regions of the Arab Spring. In the third article,
the U.S. government’s online capabilities are called into question specifically regarding the
Islamic State’s use of Twitter for recruitment. Finally, the fourth article comments on the the
Baltic states’ security positions in regards to Russia, NATO, and the EU. Throughout these
articles, an understanding prevails: as our world faces ever-increasing divisiveness, we must
continue to work towards a future of connectedness to ensure global security.
I would like to thank you, the reader, since without you, we are nothing. Remember, this
journal is just one part of a much larger dialogue. I invite you to read on, and I hope that it
fosters discoveries of your own.
Please read, ponder, explore and enjoy.
Warm regards,
SarahBelle Selig
Editor-in-Chief

Applying Jus Ad Bellum in Cyberspace

The Use of Force, Armed Attacks, and the Right of Self-Defense
Sophie Barnett

This paper addresses the lack of an international legal structure for cyber attack analysis. By
default, scholars apply the framework of jus ad bellum to analyze cyber attacks, a principle
that examines justifications for entering armed conflict. This paper attempts to discover the
obstructions to the application of specific principles of the United Nations Charter to cyberspace. After identifying major discrepancies between cyber and traditional attacks and investigating several areas that inhibit the application of law to cyber attacks, this paper concludes
that distinct characteristics of cyberspace, such as anonymity, allow these attacks to evade the
simple application of law.

Introduction

Despite the potential for cyber attacks to disrupt international peace and security,
there is no specific international legal structure for analyzing them. Consequently, scholars apply the framework of jus ad bellum to cyber attacks, which refers to “international
dispositions regarding the justification for entering an armed conflict”, but the discussion
is subject to varying interpretations.1 Specifically, Articles 2(4) and 51 of the United Nations (UN) Charter of Rights and Freedoms governing the prohibition on the use of force
and right to self-defense comprise the current framework for cyber attacks. This paper
examines the application of these provisions to the field of cyber security in three sections.
First, it identifies the unique characteristics of cyber attacks that distinguish them from
traditional attacks. Second, it explores existing literature on the legality of cyber attacks
and adopts Michael Schmitt’s criteria that a cyber attack constitutes the use of force when
its consequences sufficiently resemble the consequences of more traditional warfare
tactics. Third, it identifies four areas challenging the applicability of these laws to cyber
attacks, namely: state responsibility, anticipatory self-defense, the principles of necessity
and proportionality, and espionage. This paper argues that while Articles 2(4) and 51 can
be interpreted to include cyber attacks, the unique characteristics of cyberspace, such as
its anonymity and unpredictability, undermine simple application.

1  Titiriga Remus, “Cyber-attacks and International law of armed conflicts; a “jus ad bellum” perspective,” Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology 8, no. 3 (2013): 179.

Sophie Barnett is a junior at the University of Toronto specializing in International
Relations and European Union Studies.

Applying Jus Ad Bellum in Cyberspace

11

Nature of Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks are defined as attempts by computer hackers to damage or destroy
a computer network or system.2 By virtue of their highly sophisticated programming,
cyber attacks differ from traditional attacks in four ways. First, they are often indirect,
making it difficult to establish the origin and immediate consequences of the attack.3
Second, the intangible nature of both targets and weapons challenges the characterization
of the attack as a use of force.4 Third, the locus of the attack – targeted data residing on an
information server – challenges traditional notions of border violations.5 Fourth, cyber attacks do not necessarily result in irreversible physical destruction and instead may simply
neutralize, shut down, or intangibly “break” a system.6

These factors may explain the development of cyber attacks as a desirable
alternative to traditional military aggression for state and non-state actors. Furthermore,
due to the connection between civilian and military computer systems and the ease with
which anyone with a networked internet system can launch them, cyber attacks know no
borders and have the potential to seriously disrupt or cause harm to public and private
infrastructure alike. They constantly threaten government, corporate, and private systems
worldwide and challenge international security, public safety, and economic stability.7 Due
to the anonymity and unpredictability of cyber attacks, prevention is difficult. Yet despite
the potential severity of impact comparable to traditional uses of force, cyber attacks are
not explicitly governed under international law and must be judged under the framework
of jus ad bellum.

Interpreting Jus Ad Bellum

Drafted with traditional armed conflict in mind, the language of Articles 2(4)
and 51 can be broadly interpreted to include cyber attacks. This section establishes how
cyber attacks can be included under these provisions by analyzing the Charter, examples,
and case law.

The Prohibition on the Use of Force

The prohibition on the use of force is a fundamental principle of international
law.8 Article 2(4) of the UN Charter holds that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political
2  Michael N. Schmitt, “Computer Network Attack and the Use of Force in International Law: Thoughts on a Normative Framework,” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 37, no. 3 (1999): 888.
3  Heather Harrison Dinniss, Cyber Warfare and the Laws of War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 65.
4  Ibid., 67.
5  Ibid., 70.
6  Ibid., 72.
7  Michael N. Schmitt, “Cyber Operations and the Jus Ad Bellum Revisited,” Villanova Law Review 56, no. 3 (2011): 571.
8  John H. Currie et al., International Law: Doctrine, Practice, and Theory (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2014), 843.

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independence of any state.”9 As a customary rule of international law, this prohibition
extends to all states, regardless of UN membership.10 Furthermore, conventional use of jus
ad bellum refers to acts of states. Therefore, jus ad bellum does not apply to cyber attacks
mobilized by non-state actors.

Although not defined in international law, the “use of force” under Article 2(4)
clearly includes armed force and excludes political or economic coercion.11;12 The major
difference between armed force and political or economic coercion is the former’s physically destructive capabilities. Given that traditional force is instrument-based and causes
physical destruction, fatality, or injury, it is conceivable that a cyber attack causing such
damage will be considered a use of force under Article 2(4).13 The 2010 Stuxnet virus may
be the clearest example of a cyber attack qualifying as a use of force.14 The virus, which
targeted Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, caused Iran to replace 1,000 of the 9,000 IR-1 centrifuges at the facility.15

Cases in which an attack causes no physical damage, the classification of an
operation as a use of force is the subject of debate between expansionist and restrictive
approaches. The expansionist approach holds that a destructive outcome does not have to
cause physical destruction of property.16 Hence, a cyber operation that interfered with the
functioning of a computer system such that it was considered “broken” would constitute
armed force. In this light, the Denial of Service attacks against Georgian websites in 2008
during the Russo-Georgian War, which were designed to shut down computer networks
by overwhelming them with useless traffic, would qualify.17 Although the attacks caused
no physical damage, they caused massive disruption.

The restrictive approach would suggest that the Denial of Service attacks more
closely resemble political or economic coercion in the respect that physical destruction is
lacking. This suggests that cyber attacks are outside the jurisdiction of Article 2(4). Proponents of this approach interpret Article 2(4) literally and contend that anything other
than traditional armed force must be excluded and tolerated as “peaceful alternatives to

9  U.N. Charter art. 2, 4.
10  Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), 1986 I.C.J. Rep 14 at
213.
11  Whether it is armed force is considered below in the discussion of Article 51.
12 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 41.
13  Cordula Droege, “Get off my cloud: cyber warfare, international humanitarian law, and the protection of civilians,” International Review of the Red Cross 94, no. 886 (2012): 546.
14 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 57.
15  Atika Shubert, “Cyber warfare: A different way to attack Iran’s reactors,” CNN.com, last modified November 8, 2011.
16  Remus, “Cyber-attacks,” 182.
17 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 101.

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a full blown war.”18;19 Therefore, under this approach cyber attacks do not constitute a use
of force, notwithstanding their detrimental impact and substantial threat to international
security.20

Schmitt, an international legal scholar on “use of force” issues, reconciles these
approaches by asserting that cyber attacks must fit into a traditional, consequence-based
frame of reference to qualify as armed force. Every operation falls somewhere on a
continuum between armed force and political or economic coercion.21 Schmitt’s criteria
for placement along the continuum include the severity of the damage, the immediacy of
consequential harm, the directness of connection between the armed force and its consequences, the crossing of an international border, the ability to evaluate or discern the act’s
physical consequences, and the legality of the act under domestic and international law
(that violence is presumptively illegal, whereas political or economic coercion is not).22
While the immediacy and violated border criteria are less relevant to cyber attacks, the remaining criteria are useful for identifying breaches of Article 2(4).23 Schmitt’s criteria have
created a satisfactory balance and been generally accepted in recent years.24 His approach
provides the most fruitful basis for analyzing jus ad bellum in the context of cyber attacks,
allowing a fuller consideration of Article 2(4) and its application.

The Right to Self-Defense

An exception to Article 2(4) exists if an armed attack is launched against a state,
thus triggering that state’s right to exercise the use of force in self-defense. Article 51 of
the Charter – also a customary rule of international law – recognizes the “inherent right
of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the
United Nations.”25;26 Since “armed attack” is not defined in the Charter, it is the court’s
responsibility to explore the term’s breadth and whether it includes cyber attacks.

In Nicaragua v. USA, the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) distinguished
armed attacks from armed force by holding that the former must achieve a minimum
level of severity to constitute a grave use of force, thereby transcending the equivalent of a
“mere frontier incident.”27;28 This implies that not all uses of force will constitute an armed
18  Remus, “Cyber-attacks,” 181.
19 Ibid.
20  Ibid., 182.
21  Schmitt, “Computer Network Attack,” 915.
22  Ibid., 914.
23 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 64.
24  Remus, “Cyber-attacks,” 183.
25  Nicaragua v. United States at 200.
26  U.N. Charter art. 51.
27  Nicaragua v. United States, 191.
28  Ibid., 195.

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attack, creating situations in which a state may be the target of force but is unable to
respond in self-defense under international law.29 In the context of cyber attacks, the issue
is whether an attack has caused damage at the magnitude envisioned by the ICJ. Furthermore, it has yet to be determined if inflicting damage through sophisticated programming
constitutes an “armed attack.” However, as a means of causing destruction, courts are
likely to recognize cyber weaponry as arms within the meaning of “armed attack.”

It may also be the case that cyber attacks come as a series of events that only cumulatively meet the threshold for an armed attack.30 For example, if Stuxnet had occurred
as a series of attacks rather than a single use of force, it would likely have qualified as an
armed attack.31 In Nicaragua v. USA, DRC v. Uganda, and Oil Platforms the ICJ demonstrated a willingness to consider an accumulation of events as constituting an armed
attack.32 Thus, a liberal interpretation of “armed attack” potentially encompasses a statesponsored cyber attack, thus triggering the application of Article 51.

Further Problems in Applying Jus Ad Bellum

While Articles 2(4) and 51 can be interpreted to include cyber attacks, they are
tailored to address traditional attacks. Thus, issues concerning state responsibility, anticipatory self-defense, the principles of necessity and proportionality, and espionage may
arise when applying the laws to the unique characteristics of cyber attacks.

State Responsibility

Although Article 51 does not explicitly hold that the attacker must be a state
actor, further rulings by the ICJ have held that its application is triggered exclusively by
acts of states.33 However, attributing cyber attacks to states is one of the most significant
challenges to claiming the right to self-defense. In Oil Platforms, the ICJ held that a state
invoking the right to self-defense must prove not only that an armed attack occurred, but
that it was an act of state.34 Article 11 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on
State Responsibility for Internationally Wrongful Acts maintains that a state may “adopt”
the conduct of a nonstate actor.35 This adoption is generally established using the effective
control test applied by the ICJ in Nicaragua v. USA, which creates a standard of complete
29  Remus, “Cyber-attacks,” 188.
30 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 96.
31  Ibid., 57.
32  Nicaragua v. United States at 231. See also Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America), 2003 I.C.J.
Rep 16 at 64. Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda), 2005 I.C.J. Rep 168
at 146-301.
33  Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 2004 I.C.J. Rep
126 at 139-142. See also Nicaragua v. United States at 195.
34  Oil Platforms, 57.
35  G.A. Res. 56/85, annex, Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts at 11 (Jan. 28, 2002).

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dependence and control between a state and an armed group to the extent that the group
may legitimately be considered as a state-sponsored actor.36 While technically applicable
to cyber attacks, this link is relatively difficult to prove.

For example, while hackers and Russian state organs were believed to have
coordinated the 2008 cyber attacks against Georgia, there was no clear proof of Russia’s
responsibility.37 Similarly, the devastating 2007 cyber attacks against Estonia that may have
emanated from Russia following Estonia’s movement of a Soviet World War II memorial
could not be definitively attributed to Russia. Thus, even if the attacks had constituted an
armed attack, Estonia could not have successfully invoked self-defense.38

The increased use of botnets – networks of compromised computers jointly
controlled without the owners’ knowledge – also renders it difficult to distinguish between
attacks originating from a specific address and those utilizing a compromised computer.39
In the Estonian attack, Russia claimed the few computers that were successfully traced
back to its institutions had been compromised.40 According to Schmitt, the fact that a cyber attack “originates from a governmental cyber infrastructure is not sufficient evidence
for attributing the operation to that state.”41 Instead, it merely indicates that the state is
somehow associated with that operation.

Establishing a sufficient link between a cyber attack and a state is also difficult
when attacks are launched by loosely connected individuals alongside traditional state
action. For example, Russia’s action in South Ossetia during the 2008 Russo-Georgian
War was supported by patriotic civilians who “participated” in the conflict by launching
cyber attacks against Georgia without Russian authorization.42 While it did not meet the
threshold and did not constitute an armed group, this event highlights the problem in
determining state responsibility when a state is unaware of cyber attacks occurring within
its territory or by its citizens. As Heather Dinniss – author of Cyber Warfare and Laws of
War – has stated, a state must knowingly allow its territory to be used for such action if
attribution is to be established.43

Timely attribution is also fundamental to a successful claim of self-defense.44 This
36  Nicaragua v. United States of America, 115.
37 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 101.
38  Schmitt, “Jus Ad Bellum Revisited,” 578.
39 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 66.
40 Ibid.
41  Michael N. Schmitt, ed., Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2013), 34.
42  Eric Kodar, “Applying the Law of Armed Conflict to Cyber Attacks: From the Martens Clause to Additional Protocol I,”
ENDC Proceedings 15 (2012): 126.
43 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 98.
44 Ibid.

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follows from the principle of necessity. Due to the anonymity and sophistication of cyber
attacks, it often takes more time to identify the perpetrator compared to the relative speed
of identifying the source of traditional attacks. In Oil Platforms, the ICJ held that a victim
state must refrain from mobilizing a forcible response until hard evidence linking the
armed attack to a state is established.45 An immediate and forceful response based on unfounded suspicions may undoubtedly increase hostilities. Furthermore, while the appropriate time for response is inherently contextual, the longer the delay, the greater the risk
of a situation escalating into a matter of international politics rather than being addressed
by an adjudication under established international legal principles.

Currently, international law has the capacity to classify a cyber attack as an
armed attack if the attack is attributed to a state. However, the rules for determining when
the attack may be attributed to a state do not apply smoothly.

Anticipatory Self-Defense

When a state’s right to self-defense is triggered, the response is subject to strict
criteria before qualifying as a legitimate use of force. The act must be anticipatory rather
than pre-emptive. Preemptive self-defense is considered contrary to international law,
and the right to self-defense is only triggered if an armed attack has already occurred.46
Article 51 explicitly uses the phrase “if an armed attack occurs,” thereby rejecting claims
of self-defense that precede the actual use of force.47;48 This was recognized following the
2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, when the Bush administration claimed its invasion
was a necessary response to Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction program.49 The UN
rejected this claim, holding that it does “not favour the … reinterpretation of Article 51.”50

The challenge of establishing the right to self-defense lies in applying the criteria
for anticipatory self-defense to a cyber attack. Anticipatory self-defense implies that if an
armed attack is imminent, the victim state may intercept the attack rather than await its
launch.51 For cyber attacks, an intrusion into a network may be discovered prior to the
network’s destruction. For example, malware often features a type of “backdoor payload”
that allows an attacker to control a computer and others connected to it.52 In this case, the
victim state could enter or destroy the computer system launching the attack.53 However,
45  Oil Platforms, 61.
46  Currie et al., International Law, 901.
47  U.N. Charter art. 51.
48  Remus, “Cyber-attacks,” 186.
49  Currie et al., International Law, 903.
50  U.N Secretary-General, A more secure world: Our shared responsibility, U.N. Doc. A/59/565 at 192 (Dec. 2, 2004).
51  Currie et al., International Law, 901.
52 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 89.
53  Remus, “Cyber-attacks,” 186.

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identifying an intrusion as the first step of an armed attack will depend on the information
available, and analysis may lead to inconclusive results. Furthermore, it is unclear how the
condition that cyber attack is imminent is interpreted, and if a state can legitimately attack
or enter foreign computers to prevent a cyber attack.

Principles of Necessity and Proportionality

In Nicaragua v. USA, the ICJ upheld the consensus of the 1837 Caroline Incident,
which established that an act of self-defense must be both necessary and proportional to
the armed attack.54 Necessity implies that acting in self-defense must be essential for the
protection of the state and its interests. Specifically, the use of force must be crucial to
repel the attack and alternate remedies must have previously been exhausted.55 Necessity
also highlights the principle that acts of self-defense must occur within a timely manner. As previously noted, this may prove challenging for cyber acts of self-defense, where
establishing the origin of the attack is difficult and time-consuming. This problem is not
addressed under existing law.

Proportionality requires balancing the response to an attack against the objective
of ending it.56 The action cannot be retaliatory or punitive and does not have to employ
the same method of weaponry used by the attacking state.57 Therefore, proportionality
may permit the use of traditional force against a cyber attack. Dinniss gives the example
of a victim state physically bombing the attacking computer, assuming the cyber attack
launched from that computer was serious enough to justify the bombing.58

Espionage

As previously discussed, a cyber operation without a physically destructive
outcome does not constitute a use of force. However, these operations may still be permitted in armed conflict if constituted as espionage, which is legal under international law.59
Although the Law of Armed Conflict considers espionage to be distinct from the use of
force, cyber espionage challenges this assumption.60 For example, undetected cyber intelligence gathering – while not a use of force – may be the first step in the planning of a
future attack.61 In such a situation, the victim state would only be able to retaliate through
54  Nicaragua v. United States, 194.
55 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 102.
56  Ibid., 104.
57  James Lewis, “A Note on the Laws of War in Cyberspace,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, last modified April
25, 2010.
58 Dinniss, Cyber Warfare, 104.
59  Anna Wortham, “Should Cyber Exploitation Ever Constitute a Demonstration of Hostile Intent That May Violate UN Charter Provisions Prohibiting the Threat or Use of Force?” Federal Communications Law Journal 64, no. 3 (2012): 652.
60 Ibid.
61  Remus, “Cyber-attacks,” 188.

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Sophie Barnett

counter-espionage or means other than force, thus perpetuating the conflict.62 Accordingly, cyber espionage carries the potential for significant harm that falls outside of Article
2(4), demonstrating another failure of existing law to apply to cyber aggression.63

Conclusion

Although no cyber attack to date has met the conditions to constitute an armed
attack, with technological evolution it is conceivable that cyber attacks will reach the necessary threshold in the future. However, the existing law governing jus ad bellum does not
satisfactorily address the unique characteristics of cyber attacks and is subject to a great
degree of interpretation. Consequently, states may manipulate the interpretations of jus ad
bellum and its application to cyber attacks to serve national interests. Thus, if international law is to govern cyber attacks adequately within the meaning of jus ad bellum, it must
be subject to further jurisprudential development.

62 Ibid.
63 Ibid.

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Deibert, Ronald J. Black Code: Surveillance, Privacy, and the Dark Side of the Internet.
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Dinniss, Heather Harrison. Cyber Warfare and the Laws of War. Cambridge: Cambridge
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Droege, Cordula. “Get Off My Cloud: Cyber Warfare, International Humanitarian Law, and
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G.A. Res. 56/85, annex, Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (Jan. 28,
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Kodar, Eric. “Applying the Law of Armed Conflict to Cyber Attacks: From the Martens
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Remus, Titiriga. “Cyber-Attacks and International Law of Armed Conflicts; a “Jus Ad Bellum” Perspective.” Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology 8, no. 3
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———. “Computer Network Attack and the Use of Force in International Law: Thoughts
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———. “Cyber Operations and the Jus Ad Bellum Revisited,” Villanova Law Review 56, no.
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———. “Wired Warfare: Computer Network Attack and Jus in Bello,” International Review
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———. “Rewired Warfare: Rethinking the Law of Cyber Attack.” International Review of
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Shubert, Atika. “Cyber Warfare: A Different Way to Attack Iran’s Reactors.” CNN.com, Last
modified November 8, 2011. http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/08/tech/iran-stuxnet/.
U.N. Charter art. 2, 4.
U.N. Charter art. 51.
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Force?” Federal Communications Law Journal 64, no. 3 (2012): 643-660. http://www.
repository.law.indiana.edu/fclj/vol64/iss3/8.

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Disaggregating the Coercive Apparatus:

The Competing Branches of Parallel Security Institutions in Egypt and
Tunisia
Arvin Anoop

The Arab Spring revolutionary movement has resulted in differential outcomes across the Middle East, from stability in Tunisia and the resurgence of strongman rule in Egypt, to bloody
civil wars in Libya and Syria. This paper explores two of the Arab Spring’s primary locations,
Egypt and Tunisia, and attempts to further deconstruct traditional theories that have connected the decisions of the security sector to varying outcomes of the Spring. The paper rejects
the oversimplified treatment of the security sector as a singular unit and instead disaggregates
it in order to analyze conflict among members. Ultimately, the security sector’s internal rift
between Interior Ministry forces and the military, coupled with the right timing, is critical to
explaining the differential outcomes in Egypt and Tunisia.

Introduction

“Our revolution is your revolution,” yelled General Rachid Ammar to more than
1,000 demonstrators in the Tunis public square, reinforcing the military’s deviation from
allegiance to the government.1 Yet on the same day as newspapers broke the news about the
army’s shifted loyalties, they noted the “marauding” and “violence” of the police, another
element of the coercive apparatus.2 Similar events transpired in Egypt a month later. In
2011, the coercive apparatus, so often associated with the “robustness of authoritarianism,”
imploded, pitting interior security forces under the Ministry of the Interior on one side and
the army on the other.3 This fracture seriously challenges the idea of conceptualizing security sectors as a singular “coercive apparatus” and suggests a need to reevaluate their distinct
identities.
In particular, scholars generally agree that security institutions make decisions
based on calculated, strategic interests; in the Arab Spring, the interests of the interior
1  David D. Kirkpatrick, “Chief of Tunisian Army Pledges His Support for ‘the Revolution,” The New York Times, January 24,
2011, accessed February 22, 2015.
2 Ibid.
3  Eva Bellin, “Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring,” Comparative Politics 44 (2012): 127–49.

Arvin Anoop is a junior at Yale University pursuing a double major in
Chemistry and Global Affairs.

Disaggregating the Coercive Apparatus

23

forces and the military did not converge.4,5,6 In the following pages, the paper traces the
historic power dynamic between the two most important branches of the security apparatus
and then considers the key differences in interests that caused the split at the time of the
protests. The ultimate claim is that age-old competition and hostility between the interior
forces and the army made the army’s defection more probable. When the regime showed
weakness, the army took advantage of the opportunity to defect.

Literature Review

This paper aims to reject the impression of a homogenous security apparatus. In
fact, literature establishes that Arab regimes deliberately constructed parallel militaries to
counterweight the regular armed forces, which they saw as sources of potential coups, an
act described as coup-proofing.7,8 In the past, coup-proofing has manifested in the form of
dual militaries (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia), excessive influence of the military in the country
(Yemen, Syria), or serious underdevelopment (Libya).9 In order to become the desired
“army to watch the army,” these forces had to become another military rather than a paramilitary force, reporting directly to the regime leader through some chain other than the
regular defense ministry.10,11 After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States of
America many Arab states, including Egypt and Tunisia, invested heavily in the “militarization” of the police under the Ministry of the Interior in order for the police to become a
suitable alternative to the armed forces.12,13 Given these trends, it is possible to see at least
some similarity in the characters and military capabilities of the two security forces. Both
could have acted in the same repressive manner in 2011 in Egypt and Tunisia yet only one
chose to do so, emphasizing a difference in strategic interests that surpassed any similarity
in organization or capability.

Lessons can also be learned from literature on civil-military relations. Historically, dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad, Habib Bourghiba,
4  Zoltan Barany, “Comparing Arab Revolts: The Role of the Military,” Journal of Democracy 22 (2011): 31.
5  Barry Rubin, “The Military in Contemporary Middle East Politics,” Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal 5, no.
3 (2001).
6  Kirkpatrick, “Chief.”
7  James T. Quinlivan, “Coup-proofing,” International Security 24, no. 2 (1999): 131.
8  Laurence Louër, “Sectarianism and coup-proofing strategies in Bahrain,” Journal of Strategic Studies 36, no. 2 (2013): 245260.
9  Philippe Droz-Vincent, “From fighting formal wars to maintaining civil peace?” International Journal of Middle East Studies
43, no. 3 (2011): 392-394.
10  Steffen Hertog, “Rentier militaries in the gulf states: The price of coup-proofing,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43, no. 3 (2011): 400-402.
11  Quinlivan, 141.
12  Yezid Sayigh, “Agencies of coercion: Armies and internal security forces,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43,
no. 3 (2011): 403-405.
13  Kirkpatrick, “Chief.”

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and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali have sold themselves as civilian leaders. They asserted their
sovereignty over the armed forces, politically marginalizing the latter.14 Some scholars
have described this as “extensive distancing of Tunisia and Egypt’s militaries from politics
by their autocratic presidents.” By denying army input in the policy-making processes,
autocracies assembled “securitocratic” systems based on “pervasive intervention of internal security agencies in all aspects of civil life.”15 In both Tunisia and Egypt, the military
had rarely been called upon to participate actively in repressing political activity.16 The
day-to-day policing and repression was left to the Interior Ministry and its police force.17
In general, both coup-proofing and civil-military relations literature underline the distrust
that regimes like Egypt and Tunisia had for their militaries; this attitude influenced the
decision-making of the army.

While coup-proofing allegedly protects against ousting attempts from within the
coercive apparatus, it does not prepare for attempts from outside, like the Arab Spring.
Yet, coup-proofing still had a profound influence on the events that unfolded in 2011.
Coup-proofing addresses from a different lens a problem affirmed by Eva Bellin, Zoltan
Barany and Hicham Bou Nassif: “the coercive apparatus begs for disaggregation.”18 To
unravel the calculus of defection and loyalty, the degree to which the “guys with guns” are
divided must first be established.19 Bou Nassif points to two possible divisional methods: a
horizontal view differentiating the military from the security establishment and a vertical
view separating the elite officers from the rank-and-file.20 This paper focuses primarily on
the horizontal breakdown of the apparatus but acknowledges the rich insights that a vertical analysis might offer.

Case Selection

The cases of Egypt and Tunisia were chosen based on three criteria. First, the coercive machineries are more clearly defined and divided between the Interior Ministry’s
police and the nation’s army. Due to the opaque nature of these institutions, information
is difficult to obtain and cases like Libya with its many local militias, Saudi Arabia with
its royal divisions, and Bahrain with its outsourced mercenaries defy consistent analysis.
Second, the Arab countries selected followed a similar trajectory whereby the military was
14 Ibid.
15  Yezid Sayigh,“Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. October 27,
2011, accessed February 22, 2015.
16  Risa Brooks, “Abandoned at the palace: Why the Tunisian military defected from the Ben Ali regime in January 2011,”
Journal of Strategic Studies 36, no. 2 (2013): 205-220.
17  Brooks, 212.
18  Bellin, 130.
19  Barany, 29.
20  Hicham Bout Nassif, “A military besieged: The armed forces, the police, and the party in bin ali's tunisia, 1987-2011,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47, no. 1 (2015): 65.

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called in when the head of state realized that the Interior Ministry had failed to “stem the
uprising.”21 This condition enables a consideration of the military’s direct response to the
security sector’s ‘call for help’ and a valuation of its vested interests relative to the security
regime’s interests. Finally, the homogeneity of both countries’ populations means that sectarian divides do not skew the decision-making calculus.
In the case of Bahrain, various security wings remained on the same side and
fulfilled different repression functions.22 It has often been argued that defection did not occur because of the Sunni army’s loyalty to the Sunni royal family.23 Hence, by substantially
varying the conditions under which security forces chose to repress, sectarian cases cannot
be compared with cases like Egypt and Tunisia. This paper aims to infer why two distinct
wings of the same coercive apparatus made different defection decisions under similar conditions.

The Relationship between the Military and Internal Security Agencies

The clash of interests between the army and the Interior Ministry illustrates how
a legacy of distrust split the military and internal organizations. The split pitted the two institutions on opposing sides: the regime that chose to associate itself with the internal agencies; and the military, whose split with the internal agencies also represented a split with the
regime. In some cases, the regime deliberately orchestrated a rift, for instance via resource
distribution. In other cases, the regime retroactively chose to side with the internal agencies. Ultimately, this decision progressively widened the ministry-military gulf, rendering
the military’s defection more probable than that of the police, and set the scene for defection when the decision became mandatory, which is considered in the following section.

Competition for Resources

In both Egypt and Tunisia, the Interior Ministry and military have continually
fought each other for limited state financial resources. In Tunisia, the “security establishment… had long viewed the military as its competitor for state financial resources,” especially because of the oscillation and uncertainty of the regime’s budget allocation.24 Despite
President Bourghiba’s lack of enthusiasm for the armed forces, he allocated more funds to
the military than to the police during his presidency.25 As Table 1 demonstrates, the division of money between the Interior Ministry and the military fluctuated substantially. Generally, both institutions experienced increases and decreases in parallel but the Ministry’s
21  Hazem Kandil, Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt (London: Verso, 2012), 226.
22  Louër, “Sectarianism and coup-proofing strategies,” 245-260.
23  Terence Lee, “Defect or defend: military responses to popular protests in authoritarian Asia,” Johns Hopkins University
Press, 2014 (Baltimore: Project MUSE, 2015).
24  Nassif, 70.
25 Ibid.

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budget increased at a much higher rate and absorbed decreases more resiliently. It may be
argued that this allocation was not anomalous since the Tunisian military was smaller and
tasked with limited roles, such as disaster relief and border patrol.26 However, regardless
of justification, the military felt disillusioned by the lack of resources, considering itself
“disadvantaged vis-à-vis the civilian bureaucracy” as early as 1980; and the disadvantage
worsened during President Ben Ali’s reign.27

Table 1 Distribution of defense budget under Ben Ali28

26  Brooks, 210.
27  Souhayr Belhassen, “La Reve de l’Uniforme,” Jeune Afrique, No. 1043 (1980): 182.
28  Nassif, 75.

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The Tunisian military felt it had not received sufficient material to carry out its mandate and needed more basic amenities such as sleeping bags for its troops.29,30 This competition for funding had a robust influence on the army’s decision-making particularly because
the military saw saw the competing “civilian bureaucracy,” police force, and the oligarchs in
support of the president as corrupt.
Like its counterpart, the Egyptian armed forces faced “intense competition over
resources and institutional turf battles.”31 Scholars have further argued that it was during
Mubarak’s tenure that Egypt decisively evolved from a military to a police state.32 More specifically, the armed forces’ “contempt for the Interior Ministry and its associated police and
security agencies deepened during the last decade of Mubarak’s rule.” Analysis of defense
budgets in Egypt reveals similar patterns to those in Tunisia, illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Trends in defense budget spending in Egypt

From 2005 to 2012 the Interior Ministry’s budget increased tremendously while
the military’s budget staggered after initial increases even if it was always higher in absolute
terms. The relative budget increases underscored an increasing political preference for a
stronger Interior Ministry relative to the army. On the other hand, the Interior Ministry
29 
30 
31 
32 

L. B. Ware, “The role of the Tunisian military in the post-bourguiba era,” Middle East Journal 39, no. 1 (1985): 27-27.
Nassif, 73.
Yezid Sayigh, Above the state: The officers' republic in Egypt, 2012.
Kandil, Kindle Locations 4492-4493.

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was largely assimilated into the “widening circle” of economic activities associated with
Gamal Mubarak and the neoliberal policies he promoted.33 This economic competition
had noticeable bearing on the military’s calculus; by the late 1990s, Gamal Mubarak, the
man expected to succeed Hosni Mubarak, and his circle of “businessmen” and “police and
security forces… [they] relied extensively on” “began to threaten the military’s stake in the
economy.”34

A History of Distrust and Political Friction

The nature of coup-proofing and police militarization encouraged paranoia and
skepticism between the Internal Ministry and the army, which made collision almost inevitable. In Tunisia, an epochal example of this is the Barakat Al-Sahil affair.35 In May 1991,
Minister of the Interior ‘Abd Allah Qallal revealed that the police had uncovered a coup plot.
This was soon accompanied by a humiliating confession by Army Captain Ahmad ‘Amara,
who confirmed that a conspiracy to impose “Sharia Law and Iranian-style theocracy” had
been manufactured at Barakat al-Sahil, a village near the coastal town of Hammamet. This
national spectacle is a perfect example of controversial coup-proofing in action: a heavily
militarized police monitored the activities of an apolitical military and punished its inappropriate actions to keep the regime safe. 113 officers, 82 noncommissioned officers, and 49
soldiers (all from the army, navy and air force) were detained because of their involvement
in the alleged coup.36 Several of these officers held senior positions (21 were Majors, 45
were Captains, and 37 were Lieutenants). Moreover, there is compelling evidence that they
were tortured at the Ministry of Interior rather than taken to the Ministry of Defense, the
customary institution responsible for their disciplining Nassif summarizes the polarizing
effects of this event: “Through the Barakat al-Sahil affair, the RCD machinery and the security establishment humiliated the officer corps and, by extension, the entire armed forces.”
37
The affair convinced Ben Ali that the “true pillars of the regime” were “the party and the
security establishment” and bolstered the latter. In fact, the affair explains the anomalous
9.7% versus 5.9% budget split in 1992. The affair exemplifies the unavoidable tensions that
often fester in parallel security systems. Events like these not only heightened the army’s
animosity towards the police apparatus, but also made them view the regime, the party, and
the police as an aggregate hostile group.
In Egypt, the specific incidents were different but the outcomes similar. Under
Mubarak, the Interior Ministry became “a terrifying bureaucratic empire” with 34 depart33 Sayigh, Above the State, 22
34  Sara Salem, "The Egyptian Military and the 2011 Revolution," The Egyptian Military and the 2011 Revolution, September 6,
2013, accessed February 22, 2015.
35  Nassif, 70.
36  Ibid., 71.
37 Ibid.

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ments. By 2002, the Ministry represented 21 percent of state employment and had 25 officers for every 1000 citizens, a ratio greater than the Soviet Union’s.38 At the time of the
2011 uprising, the Ministry was estimated to have 1.5 to 1.7 million personnel on its payroll,
including up to 850,000 policemen and 300,000 to 400,000 civilian informants.39 Recent
figures estimate the size of entire military at just 450,000 in the same year.40 The numbers
themselves speak to the high potential of inter-institutional crises. The Officers’ Republic in
Egypt describes the apparent penetration of the military “deep into the state apparatus,” but
this did not imbue the military with an “exceptional political role.”41 One crucial event here
was the shaming of Abu Ghazala, a particularly popular general with both the public and
the army. Ghazala, who had served in the 1948 and 1956 wars, often criticized the police’s
“draconian methods” and was believed by many to be Mubarak’s “natural successor.”42,43,44
However, under Ghazala, the military’s growing involvement in Egypt’s industrial and
agricultural sectors “offset… [a] diminishing role in politics.” In 1991, Mubarak abruptly
replaced Ghazala with the sycophantic Tantawi, because Ghazala was more popular than
Mubarak and a threatening political rival. In April 1993, the Ministry jumped on the opportunity to reduce Ghazla’s chances of re-entering civilian politics by claiming he was involved
in the scandalous Lucy Artin affair, an explosive case of sex, bribery, and political abuse that
tarnished Ghazala’s image as devout and professional. Over the years, it became clear to the
military that “they were serving a regime that had marginalized their leaders and undermined their corporate interests in the name of professional subordination” at a time when
they were promised institutional sovereignty.45

The Independent Relationships of each Organ with the Regime and the Masses

There are factors that influenced the security system and military differently other
than inter-institutional relationships. It has already been established that the agency-army
skirmish disenchanted the military but benefited the security forces. However, each organ also had independent relationships, which produced independent strategic interests.
Crucial relationships included internal cohesion in relation to the masses and post-revolt
survival in relation to the regime. Internal cohesion and regime dependence made military
defection both more necessary and a more viable option, in comparison to the military.
38  Kandil, Kindle Locations 4376-4379.
39  "Brief: Missed Opportunity: The Politics of Police Reform in Egypt and Tunisia," Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, March 7, 2015, accessed April 22, 2015.
40  "Egypt's Military: Key Facts," CNN, February 15, 2011, accessed February 22, 2015.
41 Sayigh, Above the State, 12.
42  Kandil, Kindle Location 3954.
43  Ibid., 3981.
44  "Military in Politics."
45  Kandil, Kindle Location 4318.

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Internal Cohesion and Subordinate Loyalty

Several authors have advanced the idea that Arab militaries, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, were particularly concerned about internal cohesion and loyalty of their
subordinates.46,47 Internal cohesion was a concern for the Ministry as well. In fact, common arguments like empathy with the protesting masses or political grievances against the
regime could apply to riot police as well as to soldiers. In Tunisia, police officers worked
more than 12 hours a day, earning less than the wages of a bus driver.48 In Egypt too, they
were “ill-fed, poorly lodged, sleep-deprived and donned wretched uniforms.”49 The lowerranking police did not share the economic privileges of those in higher ranks – similar to
the common soldier. Moreover, Egypt had already faced a historic mutiny from the Central
Security Forces in 1986 for similar socioeconomic grievances against the regime. It was the
perspective of the lower-ranking officers that put the entire structure in disarray, since they
composed the majority of the police force.

Each organ’s leadership considered the extent of loyalty among its lower-ranking
members when deciding whether to defect or repress. They discovered different conclusions, discussed below, which made internal cohesion a far more pressing factor for the
army than for the police force. Both differences can be understood in terms of the organ’s
interactions with the popular masses.

Figure 2 Public opinion about political institutions in Tunisia
46  Droz-Vincent, 23.
47  Sayigh, "Agencies of Coercion," 10.
48  Yezid Sayigh, "Reconstructing the Police State in Egypt," Carnegie Middle East Center, August 22, 2013, accessed February
28, 2015.
49  Kandil, Kindle Location 4346.

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Figure 3 Public level of trust in political institutions in Tunisia

First, the army and the police varied vastly in terms of public support and popularity.50 Whether before or after the revolution, in both Tunisia and Egypt, more than 70%
of the public viewed the military favorably whereas only about 40% viewed the police favorably, as shown in Figures 2 and 3. The army is the more popular institution in both countries. Moreover, years of police brutality and Interior Ministry humiliation were a driving
force behind the Arab Spring.51 This suggests that if the police and security agencies defected, it is unlikely that the general public would have embraced them. In ways, defection
was a zero-sum game: the potential losses involved in staying loyal to the Ministry were less
than the risks of defection, which included losing one’s already meager economic livelihood
and potential rejection and outrage from the public.

Second, police brutality was not new to the Interior Ministry, as previously mentioned. In Tunisia, security forces resorted to “increasingly brutal tactics and indiscriminate uses of force.” In Egypt, police brutality was never limited to the regime’s political
opponents.52 Kandil best summarizes this situation’s relevance: “police torture transcended
the boundaries of frequent practices to become standard behavior… automatically applied

50  "Chapter 2. Views Toward Key Leaders, Groups, and Institutions," Pew Research Centers Global Attitudes Project RSS, April
25, 2011, accessed March 22, 2015.
51  "The Roots and Causes of the 2011 Arab Uprisings," Arab Studies Quarterly 35, no. 2 (2013): 184-206.
52  Hertog, "Rentier militaries in the gulf states," 400-402.

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without effort or reflection… violence had become second nature.”53 The highly “results
driven” security establishment also mistreated and abused fellow officers, establishing clear
penalties if results were not achieved.54,55

Cases of military crackdown against civilians were less frequent. “The armed forces, by contrast, stayed out of the business of squelching domestic dissent.” It is possible
that several desensitized police officers treated the Arab Spring repression as usual business
while others considering defection were deterred by the consequences. In the armies, such
mistreatment and penalties were not common and pro-revolution sympathies seemed to
exist in the higher ranks from the start.56
To summarize, the army elites – already frustrated by a legacy of disagreement
with the regime and Ministry structures realized that their subordinates could feasibly defect because violent crackdown had few precedents and public admiration meant defection
could seem attractive. On the other hand, the Ministry felt the opposite about its own subordinates who only stood to lose if they defected and were seemingly desensitized to the
brutality of the revolution.

Dependence on the Regime and Self-Sufficiency

Military and security agencies considered the extent of their own dependency on
the regime and their ability to exist without it. This dependence could be assessed in a political and economic sense. A major structural reason for the Interior Ministry’s dependency
on the regime was the “high degree of centralization,” whereby the security sector received
all its resources from the central or national government.57 Politically, the people associated the Ministry with the ‘dirty work’ of the regime.58 Economic dependence holds true for
the army to a large extent in both Tunisia and Egypt. However, both militaries had worked
around this; as long as the armies had alternative resources, they could absorb the risks
and losses associated with the regime’s downfall, an outcome that was favorable in aforementioned ways. In Tunisia, the army and its senior leaders “did not depend on Ben Ali for
resources or access to power, which lessened their investment in sustaining him office.”59
This is not to suggest that the Tunisian military could survive without the central government’s financing. Instead, this suggests that the army was not the benefactor of any special
resources or privileges due to its association with the regime. The army’s allotted budget was
53  Kandil, Kindle Locations 4416-4418.
54  Sayigh, "Reconstructing the police state."
55  Borzou Daragahi, "A Tunisian State Police Officer Shares Harrowing inside View," Los Angeles Times, February 03, 2011,
accessed March 13, 2015.
56  Kandil, 226.
57  Sayigh, "Reconstructing the Police State."
58  Sharon Erickson Nepstad, "Mutiny and Nonviolence in the Arab Spring: Exploring Military Defections and Loyalty in
Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria," Journal of Peace Research 50, no. 3 (2013): 337-49.
59  Brooks, 216.

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guaranteed under the constitution. Moreover, partly due to the army’s popularity, General
Ammar saw potential to be “de facto the key power broker in the country.” Tunisian military
personnel subsequently “participated in the arrest of key officials” and defended the interim
government from “threats posed by Ben Ali loyalists.”60 By assuming a position against the
security services and getting involved in political spearheading, the Tunisian military could
also solve the problem of economic competition with the Ministry.

Egypt’s military stood on the opposite end of the dependency spectrum. Regardless of its relation to the state, the Egyptian army was an avid proponent of self-sufficiency,
or al-iktifa’a al- thati, and expanding the meaning of national security to economic and
social welfare.61 The Egyptian military’s economic empire can be dated to the time of Abu
Ghazallah. The army continued to invest in agriculture, food production, and land reclamation, producing “everything from flat screen televisions and pasta to refrigerators and cars…
in over 35 factories.” By one estimate, the military commands up to 40% of the Egyptian
economy.62,63 Although threatened by the rise of Gamal and the acquisition of its lucrative
businesses facilitated by Mubarak, the military’s economic establishment remained fairly
independent and resilient as it stood in 2011. Moreover, the Egyptian military, unlike Tunisia’s, received $1.3 billion from the US, covering about 80% of its military procurement.64
Similar to the Tunisian military, the Egyptian army hoped to leverage its public trust to
assume the role as arbiter of the revolution. Conversely, the entrenchment of the Interior
Ministry and police was reinforced by the immediate aftermath of the revolts. The police
felt an “initial sense of shock and retreat” and the “sector [initially] fell into the shadows.”65

On the Brink: Timeliness of the defection

It is of concern as to why the defectors did not defect earlier. The military’s decision making was influenced by its historic forced subordination in relation to the Ministry
so the Interior forces saw the relationship as favorable. However, at the point of defection,
the protests had generated favorable circumstances as the interior security forces were at
their weakest, the probability of regime collapse was highest, and subsequent risks associated with defection were lowest.

Kandil describes the Egyption military as “an army that had been subdued by its
two other ruling partners rolled confidently into the streets.”66 The authoritarian regime
60  Ibid., 215.
61  Hillel Frisch, "Guns and Butter in the Egyptian Army," Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal 5, no. 2 (2001):
1-12.
62  Gelvin, 2012.
63  Hammer, 2011.
64  Florence Gaub, "Arab Military Spending: Behind the Figures," April 27, 2014, accessed March 15, 2015.
65  Sayigh, "The Politics of Police Reform."
66  Kandil, 226.

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and police force were dependent on the army at that point in the revolution, so “the police
cautiously deployed its forces but stayed away from hot spots, preferring to let the military handle the situation.”67 On the other hand, the military acted with intelligent, political
foresight. The Tunisian army, for example, “deployed to the cities… and stood by while
security forces used extreme tactics… including live ammunition” and “tried to calm… by
interposing themselves between the protesters and police.”68 By capitalizing on the unique
‘breaking point’ of the regime, the army “enhance[ed] its social position” and “avoid[ed] the
disdain Tunisians heaped on the police.”69 With their list of grievances, the timing and circumstances provided the military with a strategic opportunity and emboldened the group
to defect.

Conclusion

The general impression that the security forces, both police and military, of states
affected by the Arab Spring were homogenous and interest aligned must be altered. It is
evident that the coercive apparatus in the two countries where the Arab Spring caused
perhaps the most rupture were not only internally heterogeneous in structure but also
in strategic interests and decision-making calculi. Defection also does not always occur
when the factors mentioned in this paper are present - historical periods and high pressure "breaking points" are significant as wel -pressure ‘breaking points’ are significant as
well.

67  Ibid., 227.
68  Brooks, 211.
69  Ibid., 212.

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Kirkpatrick, David D. “Chief of Tunisian Army Pledges His Support for ‘the Revolution’.”
The New York Times. January 24, 2011. Accessed February 22, 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/25/world/africa/25tunis.html?_r=0
Lee, Terence. "Defect or defend: military responses to popular protests in authoritarian
Asia," Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. (Baltimore, Md. : Project MUSE, 2015).
Louër, Laurence. "Sectarianism and coup-proofing strategies in Bahrain." Journal of Strategic Studies 36, no. 2 (2013): 245-260.
“Military in Politics.” Global Security. Accessed February 22, 2015. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/egypt/politics-military.htm.
Nassif, Hicham Bout. "A military besieged: The armed forces, the police, and the party in
bin ‘ali’s tunisia, 1987-2011." International Journal of Middle East Studies 47, no. 1
(2015): 65.
Nepstad, Sharon Erickson. “Mutiny and Nonviolence in the Arab Spring: Exploring Military Defections and Loyalty in Egypt, Bahrain, and Syria.” Journal of Peace Research
50, no. 3 (2013): 337-49.
Quinlivan, James T. "Coup-proofing." International Security 24, no. 2 (1999): 131.
Rubin, Barry. “The Military in Contemporary Middle East Politics,” MJ Vol. 5, No. 3.
Salem, Sara. “The Egyptian Military and the 2011 Revolution.” The Egyptian Military and
the 2011 Revolution. September 6, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2015. http://www.
jadaliyya.com/pages/index/14023/the-egyptian-military-and-the-2011-revolution-.
Sayigh, Yezid. “Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.” Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace. October 27, 2011. Accessed February 22, 2015. http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/index.cfm?fa=show&article=45839&solr_hilite
———. “Reconstructing the Police State in Egypt.” Carnegie Middle East Center. August
22, 2013. Accessed February 28, 2015. http://carnegie-mec.org/2013/08/22/reconstructing-police-state-in-egypt.
———. "Agencies of coercion: Armies and internal security forces." International Journal
of Middle East Studies 43, no. 3 (2011): 403-405.
“The Roots and Causes of the 2011 Arab Uprisings.” Arab Studies Quarterly 35, no. 2
(2013): 184-206.
Ware, L. B. "The role of the tunisian military in the post-bourguiba era." Middle East Journal 39, no. 1 (1985): 27-27.

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Disaggregating the Coercive Apparatus

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Operation Hashtag:

The Use of Twitter in the Battle between the Islamic State and the
United States
Benjamin Friedman

The Islamic State is a Salafi Jihadist militant group that currently occupies expansive territory in the Middle East and has inspired fear in the West. The group is known for its bloody
and violent tactics; however, its most potent weapon is propaganda. Thousands of fighters
have joined IS ranks after being exposed to and interacting with IS supporters online. IS
sympathizers have proven particularly adept at using Twitter – an American-developed
social media platform – to attract recruits. As attention to the threat IS poses to the neoliberal world order swells, the United States government has placed an emphasis on countering
radical messages online, yielding little success so far.

Introduction

The effort against the Islamic State (IS) is being waged on more than just the
battlefield. Twitter, a popular social networking site that connects nearly one billion users,
has transformed everything from interpersonal communication and corporate branding
to extremist propaganda.1 IS has leveraged the young medium to target specific audiences,
foster deep personal connections, and create Jihadist micro-communities. IS is among the
most feared organizations in the modern international system, and it owes its success in
part to the thousands of fighters it has recruited online.

Counterterror experts have harshly criticized the response to this online crisis.
Critics claim that the ill-conceived attempts at counter-propaganda by the United States
have been both ineffective and harmful. These experts explain that Twitter feuds with IS
users have embarrassed the U.S. government and increased IS sympathizers’ belief in IS
legitimacy. Furthermore, the suspension of IS Twitter accounts may serve to push IS communications to less visible means and speed up the radicalization process.

Following an overview of IS’ background and past involvement with the United
States is an analysis of the size and scope of IS’ presence and capability on Twitter, which
1  Eric Sherman, “Many Twitter users don’t tweet, finds report,” CBS News, Apr 14, 2014, accessed Dec 10, 2015.

Ben Friedman is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying Political
Science and Communication.

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39

can be mapped via sophisticated data mining techniques. This paper then analyzes content
of IS “tweets” and other messages that offer a window into the radicalization process being
used with potential new members of the organization. Interviews with government officials then give insight into the failings of defense institutions in combating the problems
raised by IS’ Twitter usage.

The second section of this paper briefly details the development and goals of the
Islamic State from its inception through its current state. This section will also discuss
how corporate entities like Twitter use messaging to promote their brand and interact
with customers. The third section analyzes IS’ messaging strategy and its gamification of
Twitter feed features to increase exposure. Finally, this paper details the U.S. government’s
attempts and failures to address the IS social media problem and offers potential policy
remedies.

Background

IS developed out of the remnants of the Al Qaeda organization in Iraq and Syria.
Al-Qaeda was founded in 2004 as an affiliate of the terrorist organization established by
Osama Bin Laden. By 2011 when U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the group had
been decimated by American soldiers and local militias. Their numbers shrank to 700 as
they were pushed to deserts far west of Baghdad. The group was then being led by a cleric
named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who proved to be a capable military leader when it became
necessary for his organization.

Meanwhile, what began as civil unrest in neighboring Syria had become a fullfledged war by the spring of 2011. Protesters inspired by the Arab Spring took up arms
against the quasi-Shia Assad government, leading to large areas of anarchic territory
populated by Sunnis. Baghdadi saw this instability as an opportunity for growth of alQaeda and deployed forces to Syria. Facing little resistance, the group was able to operate
and recruit freely. With financial support from individuals in Sunni Gulf states, it became
a formidable fighting force. Al-Qaeda conquered territory and imposed a harsh brand of
order, rife with beheadings and sexual slavery. The group’s numbers swelled. By 2013, they
occupied large areas of Syria and had declared themselves an Islamic State.

In Iraq, Sunni-Shia relations were in a state of crisis. Without U.S. forces in
the country to keep him in check, Shia Prime Minister Jawad al-Maliki enacted a series
of anti-Sunni policies. He systematically expelled Sunni officials from government and
arrested thousands of Sunnis on the street. This led to mass protests against the Maliki
government. Maliki responded with force, ordering the execution of protesters in Ramadi.
It was only a matter of time until IS rose in Iraq as Sunnis began to realize the extent of

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Benjamin Friedman

their political exclusion and joined the organization.2

IS swept through the western Iraqi province of Anbar, growing stronger with the
help of sympathetic Sunnis. They took the city of Fallujah, the site of the bloodiest battle
of the Iraq War no more than a decade before. They subsequently overran Ramadi, Mosul,
and Tikrit, all with little-to-no resistance due to apathetic and poorly organized Iraqi
forces. In the blink of an eye, IS transcended century-old borders and became one of the
most influential groups in the Middle East.3 IS leader Baghdadi declared himself a Caliph
and his empire a Caliphate, an Islamic religious state that recognizes no political borders.
The organization’s military capability steadily surpassed that of comparable guerilla terror
groups and became a pervasive threat.

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s neglect of the Sunni population had created a massive problem. In August 2014, the U.S. began airstrikes against IS under the condition that
Maliki step down. Maliki resigned on August 14, 2014.

IS’ capacity to undertake extreme violence has increased despite modest territorial progress in the last year. On November 13, 2015, IS actors carried out a series of
terrorist attacks in Paris, France that killed 130 civilians. Security forces were able to intervene before intended follow-up attacks throughout Europe occurred. In addition to these
attacks and numerous IS-inspired suicide bombings and shootings in the Middle East, IS
affiliated groups are appearing in countries such as Libya and Yemen. Many Western powers are questioning whether containing IS to Syria and Iraq is a plausible defense strategy,
and some are advocating for a full-fledged military intervention.4

As the conflict with IS heats up on the ground, another battle is being fought in
the social media arena, namely on Twitter. Launched in 2006 by Jack Dorsey and partners, Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to communicate through 140
character-limited messages and links to other multimedia.5 Twitter has many functions,
including news consumption, social communication, the ability to follow celebrities, and
micro-blogging. But one of the most profound ways Twitter has changed the world is the
dispersion of persuasive messages. Both corporate America and IS have used Twitter to
communicate to audiences at scales not possible before the popularization of social media.

One major advantage of Twitter is that organizations can target very specific audiences. Before Twitter, the most popular way to reach consumers was through mass mediums such as television and newspapers, known as old media. Advertisers did not have
specific, big data about the audience they were marketing to and had to create messages
that were widely palatable. With Twitter, institutions can learn a lot about their audience
2 
3 
4 
5 

“The Rise of ISIS,” Produced by Martin Smith and Linda Hirsch (2014; Frontline PBS), Video.
“FPI Interactive Timeline of ISIS Activities in Iraq,” The Foreign Policy Initiative, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
“Paris attacks: Who were the attackers?” BBC, Dec 9, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
“Twitter Usage/Company Facts,” Twitter, accessed Dec 10, 2015.

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and can tailor messages to specific groups. Each user has a profile on Twitter that shows
the other user accounts they follow and “retweet,” a reposting of a “tweet” from another
user. Companies can also cross-reference Twitter users’ other social media accounts to
paint a clearer picture of their audience. They can single out which users will receive what
messages based on individual attributes.

Another benefit of Twitter is the capacity for personal communication. Old
media only allowed for a one-way flow of information, from message producer to message receiver. With Twitter, organizations can have open dialogues with users in order to
develop connections on a personal level. Social media consultants encourage companies
to treat audiences like human beings, not sales targets.6

Thirdly – and maybe most importantly – Twitter has made consumers an organization’s best promoters. For decades, the gold standard of advertising was word of mouth
marketing (WOMM), in which customers tell other people how much they like a business,
product, or service. Not only is WOMM free of cost, but also potential consumers are
far more likely to be influenced by information coming from a trusted peer rather than
a faceless organization.7 Twitter has become an echo chamber for corporations through
the mechanism of “retweets.” Companies that successfully harness this power can create
dedicated online communities that spread their message to people that they could never
reach otherwise.8

The Islamic State’s Use of Twitter

There are an estimated 46,000 to 70,000 Twitter accounts used by IS supporters
as of December 2014. Each account has an average of 1,000 followers and “tweets” 7.3
times per day. The majority of users are located within IS controlled territory or contested
territory, and 24% selected English or French as their profile’s primary language.9

Despite these indications of IS’ powerful influence in the Muslim community,
a Gallup poll found that 90% of respondents in primarily Muslim countries condemned
the killing of noncombatants on religious and humanitarian grounds.10 Furthermore, tips
from the American Muslim community compose the largest source of information in preventing terrorist plots on U.S. soil.11 Therefore, IS must target a select group of potential
symphatizers as opposed to mass marketing, and Twitter has proven indispensable for this
6  Sujan Patel, “How Businesses Should Be Using Social Media in 2015,” Forbes, Jun 24, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
7  “Word-of Mouth Adversting,” Entrepeneur, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
8  Mary J. Culnan et al., “How Large U.S. Companies Can Use Twitter and Other Social Media to Gain Business Value,” MIS
Quarterly Executive 9 no. 4 (2012): 243.
9  J.M. Berger, Jonathan Morgan, “The ISIS Twitter Census,” The Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World,
no. 20 (2015): 27-32.
10 Fawaz Gerges, “Al-Qaida today: A movement at a crossroads,” OpenDemocracy, May 14, 2009, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
11 “Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the West,” Gallup, 2011, accessed Dec 10, 2015.

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Benjamin Friedman

selective targeting.

IS sympathizers on Twitter frequently follow and interact with Muslim-oriented
social media accounts in search of receptive audiences. Recognizing this fact, IS accounts
scourge these pages for potential new converts. For instance, IS accounts have been
known to message followers of the U.K. group CAGE, an organization dedicated to freeing
Muslim prisoners. Mohammed Emwazi, known as the Islamic State militant “Jihadi John,”
was a member of the CAGE. These accounts also target members of the Islamic Thinkers Society (a New York organization previously linked to Al Qaeda), followers of the
“Authentic Tauheed” (an account run by a radical English-speaking cleric), and accounts
associated with the al-Muhajiroun network (another group advocating freeing Muslim
prisoners). When exploring these accounts, IS recruiters are able to single out users who
are most likely to be persuaded by IS propaganda and contact them directly.12

IS accounts also respond to Twitter users who seek out information about the
group. One startling anecdote of a would-be IS bride depicts a young Christian woman
who grew curious about the group after hearing about the execution of American journalist James Foley. She contacted IS users on Twitter and quickly became entangled in a
Jihadi social network that preached a perverted version of Islam.13 Her story is far from
unique, as a recent report on Americans arrested for charges relating to IS found that 40%
were Muslim converts.14

In past years, IS messaging has flourished by “hijacking” popular hashtags to
increase exposure. IS accounts would include trending hashtags to draw the attention of
users who were looking for other information on Twitter’s search feature.15 Twitter has
largely been able to put a stop to this technique, but the proliferation of Jihadi-related
hashtags remains.

IS propaganda via Twitter takes many forms. The al-Hayat Media Center, thought
to be run by German rapper turned IS videographer, Abu Talha Al Almani, has created a
series of slick and well produced IS promotional clips. The videos use editing techniques
and special effects that render them nearly indistinguishable from Hollywood movie trailers.16 IS Twitter accounts also employ photographs, battlefield reports, written essays, and
audio recordings to spread their ideology.

According to the Quilliam Foundation’s content analysis of IS Tweets during the 2015 Islamic month of Shawwal, IS relies on six bedrock principles in terms of
subject matter: brutality, mercy, belonging, victimhood, war, and utopia. By far, the larg12  J.M. Berger, “The Islamic State’s Recruitment Strategy,” CTC Sentinal 8, no. 10 (2015): 19-23.
13  Rukmni Callimachi, “ISIS and the Lonely Young American,” New York Times, June 27, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
14  Eric Schmitt, “ISIS Followers in U.S.are Diverse and Young,” New York Times, Dec 1, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
15  Pamela Geller, “ISIS Fighters, Supporters Hijack #BaltimoreRiots Twitter Hashtag, Discuss Race Issues, Urge Attacks On
Policemen,” PamelaGeller.com, April 28, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
16  Olivia Becker, “ISIS Has a Really Slick and Sophisticated Media Department,” Vice, July 12, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.

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est amount of content was related to creating an Islamic utopia, which accounted for a
majority of the messages studied. Another third was related to military victory. Contrary
to many experts’ beliefs, only 2% of messages’ main focus was the brutality of IS attacks.
To Western audiences, IS wants to project itself as the righteous Islamic Caliphate and devotes a large portion of their messaging to show their good governance and religious piety.
One infamous video shows IS fighters distributing candy to smiling children. Likewise,
military victory is emphasized to prove that they are the chosen society and that their
strength continues to increase. Some have even accused IS of fabricating military raids to
claim their victory on social media.17

However, to understand the process of radicalization, one must look beyond
simple marketing techniques. An al-Qaeda recruiting manual called A Course in the Art
of Recruiting recovered by the U.S. military in 2009 offers detailed insight into how Jihadist organizations convince followers to take up their cause. The manual lays out an intricate five-step, one-year program that recommends recruiters to “listen to [the recruit’s]
conversation carefully” and “share his joys and sadness.” The handbook gives a list of tapes
and lectures that preach a radical interpretation of Islam as well as sources that recruiters
must avoid. The entire program is built on personal trust, and recommends that the recruiter does not even bring up the concept of Jihad until the candidate is “at a high level of
faith.”18 The time and effort that these organizations put forth to acquire followers proves
the extent to which one must be manipulated in order to become radicalized. In the words
of former recruiter Mubin Shaikh, “Extremists are made, not born.”19

IS has developed the virtual radicalization technique beyond that of any other
organization. They have been able to form deep personal connections on the web and
create micro-communities that foster committed followers. Recruiters interact around
the clock with recruits, often sending 60 total “tweets” per day. One woman’s retelling of
almost joining IS includes an online community of several dozen recruiters that inundated her with Twitter messages at all hours of the day. The recruiters spoke to her about
everything from gardening tips to the radical interpretations of Islam, as well as sent gifts
to her home.20 Recruiters encourage followers to isolate themselves from others and from
mainstream Islamic influence. Eventually, interactions shift from Twitter to more private
mediums such as encrypted applications or the deep web. This shift allows recruiters to
further isolate their targets and keep information secret.

17 
18 
19 
20 

Charlie Winter, “Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate,’” Quiliam Foundation, Oct 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015: 17-30.
Abu Amru Al Qa’idy, “A Course in The Art of Recruiting,” July, 2010, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
Kate Torgovnick May, “Extremists are made, not born,” TED, May 28, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
Callimachi, 2015.

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These methods have proved fruitful for IS, particularly in the U.S., where online
recruiting has become a greater threat than offline recruiting. Previously, recruiters
pushed their followers to travel to an IS-controlled territory or a group supporting IS in
Europe. But recently fewer Americans have left the country to fight with IS in Syria or
Iraq. Instead, defense officials believe that IS is encouraging recruits to perform attacks
on their native American and European soil. On December 2, 2015, an attack on a facility
for individuals with developmental disabilities killed 14 and injured 21 civilians in San
Bernardino, California. The attackers were not actively encouraged by IS, but they were
inspired by the organization and pledged their allegiance to IS over social media.21 If IS
continues to operate undeterred online, many believe that this type of attack will become
more prevalent in the U.S. and its allies.

The United States Fires Back

The U.S. has employed numerous tools to counter IS’ social media presence, but
there is little indication that any of them have been successful. IS has proven capable of
adapting its online tactics to meet the challenges of outside forces. The State Department
is re-evaluating its approach after having admitted the flaws of its original initiatives.

One strategy that Twitter has used itself is the suspension of IS accounts. Leadership at Twitter claims to have suspended over 2,000 IS-linked accounts per week since
the beginning of 2015, including one day in which 10,000 accounts were banned.22 The
suspension campaign has been linked to a major decrease in IS “tweets” and “retweets,”
but there is reason to doubt this plan’s effectiveness.

The decline in IS “tweets” comes primarily from widely followed accounts that
post propaganda intended for mass audiences.23 While suspending these accounts may
limit the organization’s ability to increase its name recognition, conventional news sources’
coverage of IS continues to inadvertently bring more attention to the organization.
Smaller accounts that partake in direct contact with potential recruits have been deleted
in troves, but IS users often quickly create new accounts to continue their activity. One
user has reportedly been suspended 122 times and is now suspected to be on his 123rd
account.24 Furthermore, IS Twitter activity is a useful source of intelligence for defense
officials. Accounts often spread otherwise esoteric information about the inner workings
of IS, as well as allow the U.S. to identify both foreign and domestic supporters of IS. But
perhaps the greatest risk of suspending IS accounts is the transfer of communication to
21  Faith Carmini, “San Bernardino shootings: What we know — and don’t know,” CNN, Dec 6, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
22  Rick Gladstone, “Twitter Says It Suspended 10,000 ISIS-Linked Accounts in One Day,” New York Times, April 9, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
23  Berger and Morgan, 2015: 58-59.
24  Gladstone, 2015.

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insular networks. IS thrives off of isolating recruits from the pull of mainstream society,
and eliminating IS supporters from broad-based communication networks may serve only
to push them into private communication where there is no outside influence. Although
data is still being gathered, experts are concerned that Twitter suspensions are unwittingly
accelerating the radicalization process.25

Despite being disadvantageous in select situations, the suspension of IS linked
accounts has its benefits and should be part of a wider strategy. Unfortunately, critics have
said that the other components of the U.S.’ game plan have lacked efficacy. The Center for
Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was founded in 2011 to combat alQaeda and affiliated groups’ propaganda.26 Since then, the CSCC has been widely viewed
as an embarrassment to the Obama administration and has been ridiculed by everything
from the Defense Department to late night television.27 Under the direction of former
Diplomat Alberto Fernandez, who left the organization in 2015, the CSCC launched a
number of campaigns to combat IS propaganda. Most received little notoriety, but the
infamous “Run, do not walk, to ISIS Land” video was met with widespread condemnation.

Inspired by Monty Python skits of the Crusades, Fernandez created a mock IS
recruiting video that used actual clips from IS sources. The aim was to deter potential IS
recruits from traveling to Iraq and Syria by using irony, but critics claim that the video
could easily be perceived as actual recruiting material. It shows a series of gory clips,
including prisoners being shot and suicide bombers detonating themselves, coupled with
text that claims new recruits can learn skills such as “blowing up mosques” and “crucifying Muslims.”28 Critics of the video point out that this is the exact type of content that IS
includes in its own media. Additionally, the video depicts IS’ success on the battlefield,
which is central to the group’s pitch. The video has come under fire from State Department officials, CIA agents, think tanks, and others. As Rita Katz of the counter-terrorism
organization SITE Intelligence Group said, “It’s better to not do anything than to do what
they’re doing.”29

Additionally, Fernandez’s practice of “Tweeting at terrorists” was considered
problematic. IS linked accounts would typically reply to CSCC “tweets” with provocative
and anti-U.S. messages. The CSCC could have simply deleted the replies, but often decided
to respond instead. In one instance, an IS linked account “tweeted” gruesome images
from the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal with a message about the U.S. committing atrocities.
25  Berger and Morgan, 2015: 59-61.
26  “Center for Strategic Communications,” State Deparment, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
27  John Oliver, “Ironic Propoganda,” HBO, Sep 9, 2014, Video.
28  “Welcome to Islamic State Land,” The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication, Video.
29  Greg Miller and Scott Higham, “In a Propaganda War Against ISIS, the U.S. Tried to Play by the Enemy’s rules,” Washington
Post, May 8, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.

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The CSCC replied with a message saying, “US troops are punished for misconduct, #ISIS
fighters are rewarded.” IS supporters jumped on the opportunity to debate the scandal,
and the State Department quickly found itself in a feud dozens of “tweets” long. This was a
disastrous outcome for two reasons: it gave notoriety to IS accounts whose “tweets” would
otherwise have been irrelevant, and it gave credence to the narrative that IS represents the
Muslim fight against the West. In some respects, the CSCC lost the Twitter feud, as the
overwhelming number of IS Tweets may have reinforced pro-IS attitudes among potential
supporters.30

Fernandez officially retired from the organization in February 2015. Recently,
an expert panel’s unpublished review of the Center criticized its methods and questioned
“whether the U.S. government should be involved in overt messaging at all.” Although the
State Department pledged to continue the program, it has conceded that the CSCC needs
major reconditioning moving forward.31 There are a few simple techniques that experts
have identified to counter IS media, and they would be worthwhile to try before giving up
on the CSCC.

First, the U.S. must continue to prove that it is not at war with Islam. IS thrives
off of claims that it is the defender of Islam against the West; while few Muslims believe
this claim, the U.S. needs an online presence to combat the echo chambers that repeat it.32
Clamping down on Islamophobic political rhetoric should be a priority, as recent comments by President-elect Donald Trump have produced fodder for IS recruiting material
that thrives off of framing the U.S. as an aggressor against Islam.33

The U.S. should also amplify the voices of those who suffered from the actions
of IS. There are IS defectors who say that IS is “far from the principles of Islam,” as well
as groups victimized by IS that can give firsthand accounts of their suffering. The State
Department has little credibility with potential extremists, but the personal experience of
ex-IS recruits may be more trustworthy.34

IS has far surpassed the U.S. in both their volume and intimacy of Twitter posts.
The CSCC is criminally underfunded, and former director Alberto Fernandez believes
that he could have matched IS’ reach if he had the proper support. Despite his sometimes
flawed tactics, he is correct in saying that the State Department must increase its message

30  Rita Katz, “The State Department’s Twitter War With ISIS Is Embarrassing,” Time, Sept 14 2014, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
31  Greg Miller, “Panel casts Doubt on U.S. propoganda efforts against ISIS,” Washington Post, Dec 2, 2015, accessed Dec 10,
2015.
32  Kamran Bokhari and William McCants, “Experts weigh in (part 3): Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda?,”
Brookings Institute, June 29, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
33  “Hilary Clinton: ‘Shameless’ Trump Playing Right Into ISIS’ Hands,” Real Clear Politics, Dec 8, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.
34  Nicholas A. Glavin, “Counter ISIS’ Narratives on Social Media,” New York Times, Dec 7, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.

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output and strive to make the interpersonal connections that IS is adept at forming over
social media.35

Conclusion

The Islamic State is utilizing Western media as a forum of recruitment and brand
development. IS is exploiting Twitter’s broad capabilities and the current United States initiatives have proven unfit to deal with the situation. Although the U.S. is losing the battle
for Twitter with the Islamic State, there are still solutions on the table that must be tried in
order to deescalate the crisis and avoid total war.

35  Alberto Fernandez and William McCants, “Experts weigh in (part 2): Can the United States counter ISIS propaganda?”
Brookings Institute, June 19, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015.

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2015, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/markaz/posts/2015/06/19-us-counter-messaging-isis-fernandez

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“FPI Interactive Timeline of ISIS Activities in Iraq,” The Foreign Policy Initiative, accessed
Dec 10, 2015, http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/iraq-timeline
Geller, Pamela. “ISIS Fighters, Supporters Hijack #BaltimoreRiots Twitter Hashtag, Discuss
Race Issues, Urge Attacks On Policemen,” PamelaGeller.com, April 28, 2015, accessed
Dec 10, 2015, http://pamelageller.com/2015/04/isis-fighters-supporters-hijack-baltimoreriots-twitter-hashtag-discuss-race-issues-urge-attacks-on-policemen.html/
Gerges, Fawaz. “Al-Qaida today: A movement at a crossroads,” OpenDemocracy, May 14,
2009, accessed Dec 10, 2015, https://www.opendemocracy.net/article/al-qaida-todaythe-fate-of-a-movement
Gladstone, Rick. “Twitter Says It Suspended 10,000 ISIS-Linked Accounts in One Day.” New
York Times, April 9, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/10/
world/middleeast/twitter-says-it-suspended-10000-isis-linked-accounts-in-one-day.
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Glavin, Nicholas. “Counter ISIS’ Narratives on Social Media,” New York Times, Dec 7, 2015,
accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/12/06/how-canamerica-counter-the-appeal-of-isis/counter-isis-narratives-on-social-media
“Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the West,” Gallup, 2011, accessed
Dec 10, 2015, http://www.gallup.com/poll/157082/islamophobia-understanding-antimuslim-sentiment-west.aspx
“Hilary Clinton: ‘Shamless’ Trump Playing Right Into ISIS’ Hands,” Real Clear Politics, Dec
8, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/12/08/
hillary_clinton_shameless_trump_playing_right_into_isis_hands.html
Katz, Rita. “The State Department’s Twitter War With ISIS Is Embarrassing.” Time, Sept 14
2014, accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://time.com/3387065/isis-twitter-war-state-department/
Miller, Greg, Scott Higham. “In a Propaganda War Against ISIS, the U.S. Tried to Play by
the Enemy’s rules.” Washington Post, May 8, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015, https://www.
washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-a-propaganda-war-us-tried-to-playby-the-enemys-rules/2015/05/08/6eb6b732-e52f-11e4-81ea-0649268f729e_story.html
Miller, Greg. “Panel casts Doubt on U.S. propoganda efforts against ISIS.” Washington Post,
Dec 2, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/panel-casts-doubt-on-us-propaganda-efforts-against-isis/2015/12/02/ab7f9a14-9851-11e5-94f0-9eeaff906ef3_story.html

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Benjamin Friedman

Oliver, John. “Ironic Propoganda,” HBO, Sep 9, 2014, Video, https://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=o3VDDbh5dXw
“Paris attacks: Who were the attackers?” BBC, Dec 9, 2015, accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://
www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34832512
Patel, Sujan. “How Businesses Should Be Using Social Media in 2015.” Forbes, Jun 24, 2015,
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Schmitt, Eric.“ISIS Followers in U.S.are Diverse and Young,” New York Times, Dec 1, 2015,
accessed Dec 10, 2015, “http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/us/politics/56-arrestsin-us-this-year-related-to-isis-study-says.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage
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Sherman, Eric. “Many Twitter users don't tweet, finds report.” CBS News, Apr 14, 2014, accessed Dec 10, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/many-twitter-users-dont-tweetfinds-report/
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Trouble With The Neighbors:

The Baltic States’ Perspective on Security After the Russian
Annexation of Crimea
Girard Bucello IV
The Russian Federation’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula has broad implications
beyond Ukraine. This paper assesses the perspective of the three Baltic countries on their
security environment after the annexation of Crimea. The research begins by briefly assessing the security history of these countries. It then analyzes government documents, official
statements, publications, and interviews with scholars and policymakers to determine how
recent Russian behavior has affected the perspective of the Baltic states on Russia, the EU,
and NATO. This paper finds that the annexation of Crimea vindicated most policymakers’
opinions of Russia as a paranoid and aggressive neighbor. It further emphasizes the military,
economic, and ideological importance of the EU and NATO, especially considering Russia’s
recent aggressive behavior.

Introduction

The three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia occupy a unique political,
cultural, and geographic position as the Eastern frontier of the European security community. Located on the doorstep of Russia, these states are currently the only former Soviet
republics to accede to both the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 marked a major shift in Europe’s
security environment. This paper analyzes the Baltic perspective of this event. The contemporary assessment of the Baltic states’ participation and their role in Europe’s security
architecture is fairly unified. They view NATO as an instrument of collective defense and
an alliance of shared values, rather than one forged purely out of military necessity. The
Baltic states hold similar views on the EU, in that they recognize the security benefits of
membership to a community of European states. However, their emphasis on the security
dimension is not necessarily the main priority of the other EU member-states, which often
focus more on the economic benefits of membership.

The Baltic states are unified in their assessment of Russia’s geopolitical strategy
and Russia’s general intentions in the region. They perceive Russia as a state seeking to
reconstitute a sphere of influence that encompasses its immediate neighbors, especially
Soviet successor states. They also believe that Russia views NATO as a threat to its secu-

Girard Bucello IV graduated in 2016 from the University of Mary
Washington with a degree in International Affairs.

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53

rity; their view was partially vindicated by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and ongoing operations in Eastern Ukraine. Nonetheless, the Baltic states differ in their assessments of the
gravity of the Russian threat posed to them in the near future and what the nature of any
such threat may be. These differences exist at both the state level and social level within a
range of professional and public factions.

This paper analyzes statements, articles, and interviews with scholars and policymakers in the Baltic states to understand their respective views towards the EU and
NATO. Furthermore, this paper examines the Baltic states’ roles in these institutions and
the threat posed by Russia towards the institutions as a whole and against specific states.
The paper is comprised of two sections. The first is an assessment of the European security
architecture, which will be further divided into subsections on NATO and the EU. The
second is an assessment of Russian behavior, which will be divided into subsections on
Russian intentions and strategy and on how threats from Russia would likely arise.

Baltic Perspectives on the European Security Architecture

To begin, it is imperative to address both the European security architecture and
the Baltic states’ roles in and perception of the aforementioned institutions. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact at the end of the Cold War left NATO as the security guarantor of
much of Western and Central Europe. After the Cold War, the alliance engaged in political
and military outreach to non-NATO nations within Europe and performed collective security functions outside of the European region. Meanwhile, the establishment of the EU
had clear political and economic benefits for its member-states.1 Tangible security benefits
include the creation of the European Police Office (Europol) and the European Defence
Agency (EDA), which is tasked with fostering defense cooperation and improvements in
and among EU member-states. Despite these benefits, the EU does not function primarily
as a defensive alliance. Rather, most people would argue the benefits are economic with
the removal of trade barriers and restrictions on the movement of labor and capital.

Baltic Perspective on NATO and their Participation in the Alliance

The three Baltic states have major security concerns with regards to Russia. The
relative military weakness of these states underlies these concerns, which are rooted in
their assessments of Russian intention. There are significant gaps between the individual
military capacities of the Baltic states and what would be required of them in the event of
a Russian attack. Therefore, they view NATO as a means through which to resolve these
capacity gaps. Martin Hurt, the deputy director for the International Center for Defence
and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn, said:
1  “Mission,” European Defence Agency, 2014.

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Girard Bucello IV

You join NATO, and you bring whatever assets you have. It was evident that the Baltic
states didn’t have, and would never have, all capabilities, but […] I think that’s something that goes for every ally. Probably not the U.S., but most of the others have capability gaps for which other allies need to step in and cover them. Thus, that’s the whole
essence of NATO. I mean, if everybody were able to defend themselves, then NATO
wouldn’t exist.2

Kalev Stoicescu, a research fellow at ICDS, echoed these sentiments, stating
that only the nuclear states in the alliance had the military strength to defend themselves
independently of NATO. She added that membership in the alliance has enhanced Baltic
security beyond expectations.3 These notions are explicitly stated at the policy-making
level, as the defense principles of all three Baltic States note the importance of NATO’s
ability to augment their defense capabilities.4 There is a recognition at an official level that
certain capabilities are unobtainable for the Baltic states, yet are integral to their defense.
The Baltic states rely on NATO to provide these capabilities.

Beyond the explicit hard power implications of NATO membership, the Baltic
states also note the ideological and moral dimensions of alliance participation. While
discussing the alliance’s enlargement, the Estonian National Security Concept of 2010
states that NATO expansion “has widened the area based on common democratic values,
thus reinforcing European security.”5 In 2001, the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
produced a fact sheet promoting NATO accession in which it declared two of its main reasons for seeking membership: Latvia’s European identity and its respect for democracy.6
Moreover, the publication argues, “the reason for NATO’s existence is the defence of certain territories and common values—democracy and the market economy. Purely military
considerations about which countries are entitled to be ‘defensible’ and which are supposedly ‘indefensible’ should not determine which nations can thereby enjoy the security and
stability that NATO membership brings.”7 Security may be the overriding factor in the
Baltic states’ decisions to seek NATO membership, but ideological and moral concerns are
significant as well because they help states distinguish their identities and principles.

One must be careful not to dismiss the policy implications of these statements.
There is evidence to indicate that these beliefs penetrate the decision-making process of
2  Hurt, interview by author.
3  Kalev Stoicescu, interview by author, digital recording, October 29, 2015.
4  Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, “The State Defence Concept,” May 10, 2012.
5  “National Security Concept of Estonia,” May 12, 2010.
6  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, “Latvia in NATO” (Izglîtîba, 2001).
7 Ibid.

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the Baltics states and that they motivated Baltic accession to the alliance. Stoicescu contends that shared core values underpin the modern alliance. He argues, “NATO has proven that it is not simply a military alliance, but it is a political alliance too, and it is a bond
between that glues the transatlantic community together.”8 Closely linked with shared
values are shared identities between states. Professor Karmo Tüür, an Estonian scholar on
Baltic-Russian relations, in discussing the national identities of the three Baltic countries,
argues that, “it is not so much about who we but who we are not. We are not Russia. This
comes first.”9 Under this logic, NATO membership serves to act as a codification of a nonRussian identity. Hurt approached Estonian national identity in a distinct way than Tüür.
Rather than frame Estonia’s accession to NATO as turning its back on Russia, he argues,
“I think that it was a way of trying to join the Western community… I think we wanted to
join the democratic club of free countries. That was the purpose.”10

As research across the Baltic states suggests, there is clear evidence that NATO
membership for the three Baltic republics stems from both security concerns regarding
their Russian neighbor and a belief in the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian national identities as European. NATO membership offers security guarantees to the Baltic states that
improve their present defense capabilities and affirms their European identity. These two
concepts are not mutually exclusive. The concept of national sovereignty in all three Baltic
states is firmly rooted in their security and national identity alike. The Russian occupation
of the Crimean Peninsula further entrenched the Baltic states’ view of their identities as
European, compelling them to seek security by aligning not with their Eastern neighbors,
but rather with their Western ones. Therefore, identity and security cannot be viewed or
examined in isolation from each other.

Baltic Perspective on the EU and their Participation in the Union

The Baltic states generally accept that membership in both NATO and the EU
maximizes the external political and military benefits of both. This view of essential dual
membership stems from a recognition that membership in one without the other would
result in security gaps. In discussing the European security community, Boyka Stefanova,
a professor of European politics at the University of Texas - San Antonio, writes, “A particular security organisation (NATO) is the main security provider, and in Europe’s case
the security institution is not coterminous with the actual network of most transaction
flows (in the EU).”11 In other words, for the Baltic states, the primary advantage of NATO
membership is security while the primary advantage of EU membership is economic in
8  Stoicescu, interview by author.
9  Karmo Tüür, interview by author, digital recording, October 29, 2015.
10  Hurt, interview by author.
11  Boyka Stefanova, “The Baltic States’ Accession to NATO and the European Union: An Extension of the European Security
Community?” Journal of International Relations and Development 5, no. 2 (2002): 163.

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Girard Bucello IV

nature. While this view is largely shared amongst the public in all three Baltic states, it is
not as prevalent at policy-making levels.
Just as NATO serves as the primary security guarantor for the Baltic region, so too does
the EU serve a significant– yet distinct – security role. Hurt observes:
When other countries join the EU… it’s much about economic growth and so on, to
be part of a single market. I think that, if you look at the Baltic states… there was another reason, and that was to become a member of the club so that we could say that
we’re together with our neighbors and friends, and we left our enemy behind us. Now,
the economic growth and… the other benefits from joining the EU are also there, and
they’re important, but I think that we also saw a security dimension that many countries
had not really seen who want to join the EU—especially, the further you go from Russia,
the more you see the other reasons for joining the EU.12

The State Defense Concept of Latvia also explicitly references the EU’s security
functions in the Solidarity Clause, stating that “the EU for Latvia is an additional instrument for strengthening national security and defence.”13 Additionally, the Baltic states
view the EU as a means to integrate non-NATO states whose security is still intertwined
with and integral to the entirety of the Baltic region including the Scandinavian countries.14 Therefore, the Baltic states perceive that the provision for the common welfare of
EU states creates incentives for EU members to enhance the security of other memberstates. The EU does fill a crucial security role that NATO does not address, but this tends
to focus largely on matters that could be classified as internal security—and even here, the
Union acts largely in a support role for its member-states.

Despite the Baltic states’ belief in a designated security role for the EU, they do
not ascribe the same weight to the EU’s perceived security functions as they do to NATO.
A number of those at the decision-making level have historically seen EU membership
as insufficient to guarantee their security, and it is evident that there is a gap between the
rhetoric on the EU’s security role and the value that policymakers in the Baltic states assign to it. The reasons behind this arise from the differences in how the security roles of
NATO and the EU have materialized. For instance, NATO members routinely train and
cooperate in preparation for Article V territorial defense missions, something for which
there is no analogous EU program.

The Baltic states draw clear distinctions between the benefits of EU and NATO
membership, assessing the NATO alliance as the primary guarantor of their security. Their
12  Hurt, interview by author.
13  Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, “The State Defence Concept.”
14  Stoicescu, interview by author.

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assessment of the EU as an essential element of the security of Europe —and, by extension, the Baltic region—separates them from their European counterparts. The confluence
of security concerns and shared ideals between member-states motivated the accession
of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the EU just as it motivated their pursuit of NATO
membership. This theory coincides with the frequent rhetoric surrounding the EU that
describes it as a project of common European values.

Baltic Perspective on the Russian Federation

Positive characterizations of Russia’s motives by the three Baltic states are hard
to find; most generally depict their neighbor as a paranoid state engaged in patterns of
deceptive and destabilizing behavior. Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
stated that Russia’s recent attempts to block nations from freely joining NATO and the EU,
by force or otherwise, threaten international principles granting nations a right to choose
their alliances.15 He proceeds to liken Russia to Nazi Germany’s aggressive behavior prior
to the onset of WWII. The Lithuanian government has disseminated a preparedness guide
for civilians and military personnel alike, should open conflict arise.16 Lithuanian Defense
Minister Juozas Olekas declared that the guide’s production was motivated by Russia’s behavior, stating, “when Russia started its aggression in Ukraine, our citizens here in Lithuania understood that our neighbor is not friendly.”17 Even if the Lithuanian government
does not predict a high likelihood of war with Russia, the guide still characterizes Russia
as a threat to Lithuania. While Hurt shies away from the Nazi imagery invoked by Ilves, he
argues that there was never a period of time in which the Baltic political leadership entertained the notion of cooperation with Russia. He observes, “there was no thinking in the
Baltic states that Russia… since 1991 is a friendly nation, comparable with Germany and
Portugal and Norway and all those other democratic states.”18 The strong, consistent distrust of Russia’s intentions, even in the immediate post-Cold War environment, indicates a
belief that Russia is intrinsically opposed to cooperation.

Policymakers in the Baltic tend to view Russia’s assessment of NATO intentions
as paranoid. Russia recently made its assessment explicitly clear when President Vladimir
Putin signed a document identifying the alliance and its expansion as a threat to Russian
security.19 Russia has often perceived the alliance’s expansion as a provocation towards
Russia and President Putin has strongly insinuated that Russia will strike first in the face
15  “Hard and Soft Security: Rethinking Defense in an Era of Hybrid War,” (CEPA Forum 2015, Washington, D.C., October 1,
2015).
16  Ministry of National Defence, “Guide to active resistance,” 2014.
17  Andrius Kuncina and Daisy Sindelar, “Wary of Russian Aggression, Vilnius Creates How-To Manual For Dealing With
Foreign Invasion,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 19, 2015.
18  Hurt, interview by author.
19  “Russia Security Paper Designates Nato as Threat,” BBC News, December 31, 2015.

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of inevitable conflict.20 Russia’s mistrust, combined with a haste to consider worst-case
scenarios and contentious regional foreign policy, is a trait that many in the Baltic states
believe may lead to a dangerous confrontation.

Closely linked to the characterization of Russia as paranoid is Russia’s own belief
that it is mistreated by the West. The prevailing belief among the Baltic states is that Russia
feels maligned by NATO and that Russia’s standing in the world is denigrated by Western
nations. Tüür argues, “Russia actually and really [believes] that they are mistreated, that
the West humiliates them… but now they have real options to fight back, to stand up from
their knees.”21 There is also a consistent Russian narrative that NATO has broken promises made in the immediate post-Cold War aftermath through its enlargement policy. Mary
Elise Sarotte writes, “Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive actions in Georgia in
2008 and Ukraine in 2014 were fueled in part by his ongoing resentment about what he
sees as the West's broken pact over NATO expansion.”22 This evidence supports the Baltic
states’ impression that Russia considers itself to be betrayed or otherwise maligned by the
West.

Varied Perspectives on the Nature of the Threat Posed by Russia
Potential Forms of Aggression

Russia’s annexation of Crimea made use of “hybrid warfare,” which is characterized by the use of conventional military assets in unconventional manners. Dr. Pauli
Järvenpää, a scholar for ICDS, notes that hybrid warfare is not simply the application of
military force or covert methods of coercive force, but rather the application of the two in
concert.23 Russian soldiers did participate in the initial actions that spurred the independence referendum. Armed gunmen established roadblocks and positioned themselves at
or near critical government and civil infrastructure, significantly undercutting the control
of local Ukrainian authorities; many considered these forces to be Russian soldiers without identifying insignia.24 Järvenpää offers a potential strategy should a similar situation
arise in the Baltic region, stating “the [Nordic-Baltic-Poland] countries, allied and nonallied alike, would benefit from jointly designing and executing complex ‘comprehensive
security’ or ‘total defense’ plans that would bring together these countries’ civilian and
military authorities to work and integrate their separate efforts into a common response
plan.”25
20 
21 
22 
23 
24 
25 

Stoicescu, interview by author.
Tüür, interview by author.
Mary Elise Sarotte, “A Broken Promise?” Foreign Affairs 93, no. 5 (October 2014).
“Frontline Allies: War and Change in Central Europe” (Center for European Policy Analysis, November 2015).
“Putin Reveals Secrets of Russia’s Crimea Takeover Plot.”
“Frontline Allies.”

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This is not the only mechanism by which Russia might attack the Baltic states
that policymakers in the region fear. Analysts and military planners have openly expressed
concerns that Russia may use military exercises as cover for the movement of large numbers of combat-ready forces into the Baltic States. Hurt argues that it is rational to predict
that Russia would use snap drills as cover for a surprise attack and does not view this
technique as mutually exclusive with the use of hybrid warfare.26 Thus, policymakers in
the Baltic must consider the aforementioned potential forms of aggression as dangerous in
equal measure.

Russia has previously threatened a number of its neighbors in cyberspace,
including the Baltic states. In 2007, Estonian websites experienced a crippling attack after
the Estonian government relocated a Soviet-era monument against the wishes of its ethnic
Russian population. The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which flooded the
target websites with overwhelming requests for information from numerous malicious
servers, severely affected government, financial, and media websites.27 Analysts concluded
that the Russian government was not at fault due to the crude nature of the attack.28 Nevertheless, the Estonian government found the Kremlin responsible, citing that Estonian
investigators had traced the attacks back to locations in Russia with ties to the Putin
administration. The government also cited obstinacy from the Russian Public Prosecutor’s
Office when Estonia requested legal cooperation on its behalf.29 Even if Putin’s administration was not directly responsible for the DDoS operation, the attack underscored the
vulnerability of the Baltic states to a Russian attack. A year later, the Russo-Georgian
War emphasized this vulnerability when a wave of cyberattacks directed against Georgia
struck critical websites as hostilities increased.30 As was the case in Estonia, Russia denied
responsibility. The nature of cyber warfare allows the Kremlin to deny involvement in an
attack, rendering retaliation difficult.

Russia has also historically taken advantage of its neighbors’ dependence on
natural gas, a fact not lost on policymakers in the Baltic. Europe saw a particularly salient
example of this in late 2005 and early 2006, when the Russian state-owned company
Gazprom accused Ukraine of siphoning natural gas intended for Central and Western
Europe and more than quadrupled the price of gas that they charged Ukraine, from $50 to
$230 per 1000 cubic meters.31 When Ukraine denied the charges and refused to pay the
inflated rates, Gazprom halted gas shipments to Ukraine, which left Ukraine and the rest
26 
27 
28 
29 
30 
31 

Hurt, interview by author.
Shaun Waterman, “Analysis: Who Cyber Smacked Estonia?” United Press International, June 11, 2007.
Waterman, “Who Cyber Smacked Estonia?”
Crandall, “Soft Security Threats and Small States,” 36.
John Markoff, “Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks,” New York Times, August 12, 2008.
“Ukraine ‘Stealing Europe’s Gas’,” BBC, January 2, 2006.

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of Europe without Russian natural gas during a particularly frigid winter.32 Ukraine had
ultimately little choice but to accept Gazprom’s terms in order to resume normal imports.
Episodes such as the 2006 Ukraine gas crisis underscore the security dimensions of energy
dependence. Rojas Masiulis, Lithuania’s Minister of Energy, stated bluntly in remarks
delivered in Washington, D.C., “Energy is being used as a political weapon.”33 In particular, the Baltic states are extremely exposed to supply disruptions. None of the three Baltic
countries have their own natural gas deposits; moreover, as of 2014, all three imported
natural gas from Gazprom exclusively.34 An EU-led stress test gauged the ability of member-states to cope with a complete cessation of Russian transport of natural gas. In such an
instance, all of the Baltic countries would only be able to cope with the disruption for one
week before the crisis would necessitate government intervention to mitigate the damage.35 Estonia would be among the countries hardest hit; assuming a lack of cooperation
among EU member-states to address a shortfall, supplies of natural gas in Estonia would
last only five days.36 The particular vulnerability of the Baltic countries and their complete dependence on Russia for access to natural gas indicates the importance of energy
security.

Potential Vulnerabilities

Policymakers and analysts must not only consider how Russia might attack, but
also where. A number of analysts consider the greatest vulnerability to lie just south of
Lithuania, where only a 41 miles stretch of Polish land connects the Baltic states to their
NATO allies. Russia and its ally Belarus could take advantage of this narrow strip and cut
off a land route.37 Many analysts are wary of a possible threat closer to home: the heavy
presence of Russian minorities in Latvia and Estonia. Although a quick assessment of the
ethnic composition of the three countries might lead one to conclude that both Latvia and
Estonia are more likely to suffer from the sort of hybrid takeover due to their large Russian populations, not all ethnic Russians in these countries identify more with Russia than
their own states. Those in Latvia, for example, are more inclined to be disillusioned with
the government in Riga and express greater enthusiasm for Moscow. Residents of the Es32 Ibid.
33  “Empowering Diversification: What’s Next for U.S. Gas and Crude Exports” (CEPA Forum 2015, Washington, D.C., October
1, 2015).
34  European Commission, “Estonia,” 2014 Country Reports (European Commission, n.d.);
European Commission, “Latvia,” 2014 Country Reports (European Commission, n.d.);
European Commission, “Lithuania,” 2014 Country Reports (European Commission, n.d.).
35  European Commission, “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the Short
Term Resilience of the European Gas System: Preparedness for a Possible Disruption of Supplies from the East during the Fall
and Winter of 2014/2015” (Brussels: European Commission, October 16, 2014).
36  Ibid., 17.
37  Norman Einstein, “Baltic Sea Map,” Political map, (May 25, 2006).

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tonian border city of Narva, while they may not consider themselves to be truly Estonian,
have developed a unique regional identity and are less sympathetic to the Russian government.38 Whether they identify with Russia or not, Russia still uses the grievances of ethnic
Russians, albeit greatly inflated, as a justification for their actions.

Some analysts argue that the threat against the Baltic region is small when compared to threats against Russia’s other neighbors. Tüür argues that there are “easier targets
and… higher priorities” where Russia would be more likely to apply any military force.39
Still, all of the three Baltic states’ Defense Concepts establish that their likelihood of war
with Russia is low, but present.40 They all admit this possibility, but do not agree on the
form of the threat and where it will materialize.

Analysis & Conclusion

The Baltic republics are largely unified in their views of the European security
architecture and the roles they play in it. All share the belief that both NATO and the EU
serve critical security functions for their respective countries. They affirm that NATO
– while first and foremost an instrument of collective defense – is an alliance of shared
European values and an embodiment of a Euro-Atlantic identity; that NATO serves as
the principal guarantor of their security; and that the EU’s internal security functions fill
gaps in the European security architecture unaddressed by NATO, namely hybrid warfare
tactics. The Baltic states also share an assessment of Russia’s worldview, which they characterize as a paranoid, zero-sum vision of the international political environment. Furthermore, they assess this view to be dangerous for their region and for the European security
community in general because it increases the possibility of conflict. Discrepancies in
assessments arise over the likelihood of a concrete Russian threat and the potential form
of such a threat.

The cohesion between the three Baltic republics regarding their role in NATO
and the EU continues to serve as a solid foundation upon which their relations with both
institutions and their member-states can develop. The concurrence of their visions for
both organizations strengthens prospects for consensus-building and the political will to
be active contributors, rather than passive participants. Similarly, the relative unity in their
assessment of Russia’s intentions and general security posture guides Lithuanian, Latvian,
and Estonian defense and security planning, fostering cohesion among themselves and
their NATO allies. There is also general agreement over the likelihood of a specific Russian
threat against the Baltic states: low, yet not absent. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have
38  Tüür, interview by author.
39 Ibid.
40  “National Security Concept of Estonia,”; Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, “The State Defence Concept,”;
Parliament of Lithuania, “National Security Strategy.”

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planned accordingly on the basis of this assessment, ensuring preparedness without needlessly expending resources on their defense.

Speculation on the specifics of a Russian threat against the Baltic states is far
more varied. This is not cause for concern on its own, as it fosters a more holistic consideration of the scenarios the three Baltic republics may face. However, if the divergence in
opinions leads to a divergence in defense planning between the Baltic states or between
the region and NATO, this might harm the defensibility of the Baltic region. Further
research is required to determine whether the trend in the Baltic states is towards a divergence or convergence of defense planning. However, current trends indicate that the cohesiveness of the three Baltic republics significantly outweighs areas in which they deviate
from each other. When coupled with the Baltics states’ healthy and enthusiastic working
relationship with both NATO and the EU, this offers a positive prognosis for the defense
posture of the Baltic states.

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