Defence against foreign influence – a value-based approach to define and assess harm, and to direct defence measures

FFI-Report 2019

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Torbjørn Kveberg Vårin Alme Sverre Diesen
How can states defend themselves against foreign influence? Western states’ need for a defence against foreign influence is not new, but it has become more pressing over the past decade. Many will claim Strategic Communication is the answer, but major disagreements remain as to what that is and ought to be. This report details an alternative approach to defence that clearly articulates what it is, and why it contributes to a meaningful defence against foreign influence. To detail this approach the report looks deeper at what it means to defend against foreign influence, and then investigates how to defend against foreign influence. The report identifies three tasks for defence that any such concept must address: • Define what constitutes harm. • Assess what foreign influence harms. • Describe the objective of defence measures. The report assumes the purpose of defence is to protect state security, which means state security is central to define what constitutes harm. The report therefore proposes that states take stock of their essential state security interests. A relational model of power is used to hold this information in a manner that is meaningful when considering the threat from foreign influence. This leads to an overview of essential state security interests, where each is expressed (ideally) as a behaviour that is desired from a specific actor. A simple example would be «State A offers and provides military support». The report offers suggestions for how governments can map their interests, and how these can be expressed and illustrated in accordance with a relational model of power. The overview of state security essentials describes what states value most, which is why the report calls it a value-based approach to defence. With respect to the three tasks above, foreign influence activities that have undesirable effects on these state security essentials are considered harmful. The objective of defence measures is to alleviate that harm. Government practitioners using the approach must therefore select a set of possible foreign influence activities, and assess whether and why they harm any state security essential. The report provides a method called «set generation» to aid in this process. The report recommends that the value-based approach be further refined and tested.

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