Blinken presents the foundations of U.S. cyber diplomacy

"It’s not enough to highlight the horrors of techno-authoritarianism, to point to what countries like China and Russia are doing," he said. "We need the United States and we need its partners to remain the world’s innovative leaders and standard setters" 

Blinken presents the foundations of U.S. cyber diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken speaking at the summit on Tuesday. Photo: Jim Watson/Pool via REUTERS

"Diplomacy will also be essential to mitigating risks, from preventing cyber attacks that target our businesses, to regulating technology that threatens our privacy, to defending our democratic values and way of life," said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday at a summit of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI). In his speech, Blinken focused on the unique diplomatic role of the State Department in terms of international activity in cyberspace. 

"It’s not enough to highlight the horrors of techno-authoritarianism, to point to what countries like China and Russia are doing," he said. "We need the United States and we need its partners to remain the world’s innovative leaders and standard setters, to ensure that universal rights and democratic values remain at the center of all the innovation that’s to come," he said, adding "In short, democracies have to pass the tech test together.  And diplomacy, I believe, has a big role to play in that."

Blinken said that reducing the national security risks posed by malicious cyber activities and emerging technologies "is the most basic thing our diplomacy has to do." In his speech, he also addressed collective action such as global support of the U.S. conclusion that Russia was behind the attack on SolarWinds, and the reaffirmation by NATO that a cyberattack on one of the member countries could trigger Article V of the alliance's charter that an attack on one is an attack on all.     

"Ransomware and other cyber crimes affect all of us," he said. "One in four Americans has been the victim of a cyber crime, at a cost of more than $4 billion every single year. That’s a direct threat to the safety, to the well-being of our people, and so it’s at the top of our diplomatic agenda," said Blinken. In a direct message to Russia, he added that "Countries that harbor cyber criminals have a responsibility to take action. If they don’t, we will."   

Blinken also addressed the topic of China in his speech. He said the U.S. must ensure "that our leadership in the fierce strategic technology competition that’s now underway not only continues but grows and strengthens. We know China is determined to become the world’s technology leader. And they have a well-resourced and comprehensive plan to achieve those ambitions," said Blinken, laying out a number of ways of action: establishment of flexible and secure supply chains, defense of information technologies and new industries, taking a fresh look at tools such as export controls and investment screening, and investment in high-quality manpower in the U.S.     

The other issues that Blinken said require global cooperation include combined defense of the principle of the open and secure internet; setting transparent technological standards and creating norms for emerging technologies; turning technology into a tool for democracy that will help eliminate the threats against it; and increasing cooperation between the U.S. and its allies that share similar values.  

In conclusion, Blinken said "For the Biden-Harris administration, this is not a standalone diplomatic issue.  It’s not just another line of effort.  We’re weaving cyber and technology diplomacy into our work across the board.  Nothing is more consequential to our competitiveness, to our security, and ultimately, to our democracy." 

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