England confirms itself as the bridgehead of American foreign policy in Europe and follows the USA in the Huawei ban. France adopts partial restrictions, but Italy – as always – does not decide and gets lost in the “cybernetic security perimeter”.
by Andrea Monti – Professor in charge of Law and Order and Public Safety, University of Chieti-Pescara – Originally published in Italian by Formiche.net
In the now openly declared Cold War II between the USA and China, 5g is one of the battlefields where trench warfare with an early nineteenth-century flavour is fought. Armies lined up in front of each other, skirmishes, attacks and retreats of both sides, waiting – or hoping – that one of them will “give in”. And in the wait, each seeks a way to open new fronts to weaken the force displaced on the main one.
It is clear that, as in the case of the attempt to accredit the thesis of Chinese responsibility for the diffusion of the Coronavirus, also the “danger to national security” represented by Huawei is an element of propaganda more than a fact. The decision more or less abruptly taken recently by England to question the status of Huawei is not based on concrete evidence but on “claims” of the US government which justified the prohibition of the Chinese company to use American technology with the co-interest between Huawei and the Chinese military apparatus. This, according to British analysts, would compromise “national security” because Huawei would have to procure chips and design tools elsewhere, with a reduced possibility for the British authorities to control the harmlessness of the products effectively.
The script, therefore, is the same already used, precisely, in the case of the Coronavirus and analysed on the pages of Formiche.net and which can be synthesised paraphrasing the famous slogan created by McCann-Erickson for a Zanussi television ad which aired in the ’70s: “words, not facts”. In other words: unproven statements (at least publicly), an invitation to “trust”, unilateral adoption of punitive measures, triggering a chain reaction of political, economic and, God forbid, military events.
Mind, of course it is not that it is impossible to exploit technological superiority in favour of the individual interests of a country. Over time there has been news of backdoors “for institutional use” present in US telecommunications equipment and software (above all, the cases involving Microsoft – Juniper Networks and the predecessor, the Clintonian-era Clipper Chip ) widely used also on this side of the Pacific Ocean and beyond.
Realpolitik and Machtpolitik teach that the protection of national interests is not limited by “diplomatic etiquette” and that, in a Mozartian Così fa tutte, spying is done above all against “friends” well before against enemies. In purely geopolitical terms, therefore, the problem is not the “if” certain things are done, but the choice of the side a State is on.
Now, it is evident that at a strategic level, the USA has serious reasons (some obvious, such as Chinese control over the American debt, others less so, known only to insiders) to rebalance its relationship with China. It is also evident that at a tactical level, the objective is to contain the Chinese economic and technological invasion not only at home but also (at least) in Europe. Thus, it is a fair assumption that, at an operational level, alliances (with the United Kingdom) and historical (European security weaknesses) help to “scorch earth” around China.
By contrast, it is less, understandable, why a purely national interest, the American one, should automatically become relevant also for other countries and, in particular, for Italy, and why Italy should accept to support these interests without a quid pro quo.
Actually, an explanation is possible, looking at what happened to the severe threats posed by the “yellow dangers” – none of which appeared so far – that in September 2019 led to the enactment, with an emergency procedure that did not include a parliamentary overview, the Decree-Law 105/2019 then converted into Law 133/2019 on the “national perimeter of cybernetic security”.
Almost eight months after the enactment of Decree-Law 105, there is still no trace of the concrete definition of the “national perimeter of cybernetic security”, all the same, there is no evidence that the “National Evaluation and Certification Centre” has entered into operation. Furthermore, there is no trace of the procedures to notify the products and services destined to the national cybernetic perimeter. Lost are also the procedures of incident reporting to the Computer Security Incident Response Team. Indeed, the prime minister draft decree still awaits a parliamentary opinion from June 4, 2020).
However, above all, evidence has not been provided just yet of the “threats” to “national security” which justified the “necessity” and “urgency” to attribute to the Prime Minister the “shutdown power” over the telecommunications networks (a power, it worth remembering, that is immediately executive).
It is quite clear, therefore, that the “threat to national security” represented by the Chinese dominion on the 5g technology has represented little more than a rhetorical expedient to justify the immediate attribution to the President of the Council of Ministers of a power to negotiate the confrontations of the BigTech, by preventing certain products and services from being commercialised in Italy.
That this power is being used – in continuity with the USA, England and France – towards China is quite evident. It will be interesting to see, instead, whether it will also be applied to the USA and Israel, given the acceleration of national dependence on non-EU technologies caused by the pandemic and the massive digitisation program announced by the Italian government.
From the point of view of the protection of Italian national interests, the Huawei case provides a further – and worrying – insight into the consequences of our country’s technological dependence on the USA. Upon its sole will and without warning, the American government could prevent Italy (or threaten to prevent it) the use of technologies, software and devices that are widespread almost everywhere, from critical infrastructures to essential services and even in the houses of each of us. Such a decision may be unlikely, but it would be interesting to know whether the analysts of the Presidency of the Council have taken such scenarios into account.
In the world of security, the precautionary principle and the geopolitics principles are based on the observation that there are no “friends” but “allies” and that, therefore, the friends of today can be the enemies of tomorrow. Therefore, it is to be hoped that someone is analysing the problem of the technological survival – and, therefore, of the survival tout-court – of our Country.
All this, of course, while waiting for the European Union to give a sign of life.