Clash of Threat Perceptions: In Nuclear and Cyber Paradigms
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Similar to the discovery of fission, the advent of the Internet led to the dual-use nature of cyber technology. One path is the `peaceful, commercial' use of the technology; the other is the `weapons' path. As with nuclear technology, states quickly capitalized on cyber advancements in order to weaponize the technology. Despite the many dangers associated with cyber aggression, a treaty to curb the potential cyber war between nations has not yet materialized in the international arena. Even during the height of the Cold War, bilateral cooperation between the United States and the former Soviet Union gave birth to one of the most successful multilateral treaties the world has ever seen, the NPT. Today, conversely, cooperation between the United States and the Russian Federation, as well as the United States and People's Republic of China, on the subject of international cyber legislation is fairly limited. This could be because during the advent of nuclear weapons, both the United States and the former Soviet Union perceived other states acquiring nuclear weapons as a direct <italic>external</italic> threat to their power and, possibly even existence, forcing them to cooperate. However, cyber technology creates threats from two fronts: <italic>external</italic> and <italic>internal</italic>. Aside from the ability to attack another state's networks, cyber weapons have the ability to challenge the existing authoritarian governments in a form of massive mobilization and information campaigns aimed against the regime through social media and other tools. This poses a dilemma for authoritarian state leaders who may be more concerned about <italic>internal</italic> challengers over <italic>external</italic> challengers. Thus, it is possible that the real reason for the lack of cooperation between states is the fact that the powerful states on the international area cannot find a <italic>common threat</italic> in the cyber paradigm due to the fundamental difference in their regime construction. It is my hypothesis that the biggest hurdle to an NPT type cyber treaty is the different types of threats each paradigm presents. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to address the question of how states balance <italic>internal</italic> and <italic>external</italic> threats, and how that differs by regime type.