High Tech, Low Take? The Strategic Impact of Disruptive Technologies


By Antonio Missiroli

The digital technologies that are dramatically changing our daily lives have also far-reaching implications for our security and defence policies. Their development and use are fundamentally different from the past as they stem primarily from the private commercial sector, are easily accessible and poorly regulated at international level. Cleverly combined, they can be ‘weaponised’ and thus inflict considerable damage and generate disruption across the board – on civilians and critical infrastructure as well as military assets and capabilities. Their spread and use have created new spaces and opportunities for hostile activity and are changing the global balance of power, not only between states but also inside and across them.  

In this context, the West risks losing the technological edge it has enjoyed for decades to the benefit of illiberal forces and splitting internally between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. While efforts are now underway in both NATO and the EU to tackle those risks collectively, challenges remain – in terms of adopting forward-looking strategies, selecting priorities, allocating adequate resources, partnering (both across borders and with private actors), and implementing agreed policies. 

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