For years, Poland has warned that Russia poses a threat to Europe. That message appears to be finally sinking in — but only at a moment when the threat itself is changing. Russia is increasingly using the internet in an attempt to influence political events in other countries, and that “cyber warfare” has people worried.
According to Grzegorz Małecki, Director of the Cybersecurity Programs at the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, the war in eastern Ukraine has helped the West realize the true extent of Russia’s influence.
“Due to these tragic events in Ukraine, the West understood that the situation is much more complicated than they had thought earlier and realized that Poles hadn't exaggerated in this area, in these questions in the past,” Małecki says.
Małecki believes that cyberspace, and the proliferation of disinformation in particular, is one of the most dangerous areas when it comes to Russian influence. “Russian intelligence services, which follow a very well-established traditional way of influencing in the sphere of [the] mind, of awareness, of Western societies… especially in Poland also you can see this disinformation,” Małecki told Hromadske.
Hromadske sat down with Grzegorz Małecki, Director of Cybersecurity Programs at the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, at the this year’s Warsaw Security Forum to talk about the cyber threat.
My first question will be about the most important security threats in Poland.
The most important threats now as in the long term, especially in the stability from the east, in general generated by Russia as a complex set of threats and different aspects: political, economic, military issue.
Photo credit: HROMADSKE
What about Poland at NATO? What do we see? Is it a kind of reinforcement of the cooperation between Poland and NATO in recent years? How would you comment on that?
I think it's a very essential issue for us. This is very vital. Even this visible strengthening of our relations and especially building awareness within NATO about threats from the east of Europe, from Russia. It’s very important for us because we were trying to do that during the last 20 years without any effects. But I think that the decisive moment was the beginning of the war in Ukraine. So I think that due to these tragic events in Ukraine, the west understood that the situation is much more complicated than they had thought earlier and realized that Poles hadn't exaggerated in this area, in these questions in the past.
What about the direction of Polish society. Do you think that most of the Polish population is aware of the threats coming from the east, mainly from Russia?
I think yes. I think that it's a common sense common understanding of course, especially having in mind 50 years of occupation of Russians in Poland. So these questions are very important for people and well understood.
Photo credit: HROMADSKE
You are talking about this Russian threat. What are the concrete forms Russia influences or tries to influence Poland. I mean economic or military issues, what are the concrete masses they use in Poland?
I think that in the whole range of aspects, of areas because the main goal of Russians is to make instability in the whole European sphere, especially making many conflicts between—provoking, enhancing conflicts between EU member-states. And also creating conflicts within the countries, especially making existing problems between different spheres, different circles, different sectors of the societies much bigger and bigger. So it's one point. The other is the main important areas of influence is energetic security, especially in this area, I think. The other is cyberspace. Nowadays, thanks to the development of technology in the cyberspace, all services, all intelligence, all security sectors have new tools to do the job using these tools. Also, Russian intelligence services which follow a very well-established traditional way of influencing in the sphere of mind, of awareness, of Western societies. So nowadays, it's one of the most dangerous areas of the influential of Russians. It’s changing way of thinking, influencing the decisions of Western society, especially in Poland also you can see this disinformation. But what is important, Russians know very well our societies, Western societies, Polish societies and they use different things in different countries having in mind specific of the society. So they are masters in this field because they made it through the whole 20th century. But now they have in their hand new tools much more powerful than in the in the past.
You published, with your colleague from the Israel, a very interesting report on cybersecurity. Why is cybersecurity important and how can Poland use Israel’s experience?
Cybersecurity is very important for the one main reason because cyberspace is present in all fields of human activities now. It’s absolutely transversal issue so it appears in all areas of activities of the people. So organizing, building a good system of managing of this cyberspace to make cyberspace secure, is one of the most important goals for the government now. Why we think the Israelis case example is good for us because they, in very short periods, almost ten years, they made tremendous progress in building such a cybersecurity ecosystem. Why? Because they were forced by the circumstances were they are living. So they have very well experienced, they have many good cases, good examples with which we can use in building such a system in Poland. So for that reason, it's reasonable to use well-trained… developed cases then invent it on our own. So that's a reason I think we should follow this good examples; we have to know it profoundly to be able to adapt it.
/Interview by Tetyana Ogarkova
/Text by Sofia Fedeczko