Nuclear Deterrence and Non-Proliferation with William Alberque

On 04 December 2020, we had the pleasure to organize an event on nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation together with the Berlin scholarship holders’ group 05 of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation. For this we had Mr. William Alberque as guest, the Director of the NATO WMD Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Centre, the leading expert on NATO’s non-proliferation policy.

Mr. Alberque, or William, as he introduced himself, started with the basics and explained to us that, in principle, any plan to prevent a confrontation or to reduce the number of weapons in conflict can be considered arms control. It does not matter whether these efforts are bilateral, multilateral, or transnational, or whether they are legally or politically binding. Funnily enough, there is even unilateral arms control. 

The basis for arms control is always a shared interest to avoid unintentional conflict and/or ruinous arms races. Arms control is usually based on three components: military significancereciprocity and verifiability, and aims to detect and avert military cheating.
NATO’s key considerations regarding arms control are: Security (arms control must increase security for all), stability (arms control must prevent surprise attacks), and verifiability (arms control must provide effective and reliable means to check compliance). Thus, arms control, together with deterrence, is the tandem that protects the NATO territory. 

Arms control has been around as long as there have been weapons to protect against. However, the history of arms control in modern times can probably be started with the Quebec Agreement 1943. The Cold War made arms control immensely important and today, NATO and Mr. Alberque are still fighting with full force to get potential conflicting parties around the table to prevent conflict.

After a brief historical overview, Mr. Alberque went on to discuss NATO’s current role in arms control, which it fulfills with many committees. Although there is a special focus on Russia and China, arms control for NATO, of course, also means to get in touch with many other countries and actors to make dialogue possible.

After Mr. Alberque’s presentation there was plenty of time for Q&As, which resulted in an interesting discussion.
We would like to thank Mr. Alberque and our audience very much for their participation and are happy to say that Mr. Alberque has agreed to be available for further

Disinformation as a Security Risk with Dr. Nad’a Kovalcikova

On Wednesday, 27 May 2020, the HSSC hosted an online session on Disinformation as a Security Risk with Dr. Nad’a Kovalcikova. Dr. Kovalcikova is a program manager at the Alliance for Securing Democracy in GMF (The German Marshall Fund of the United States) in Brussels. She is an expert in analyzing information operations and efforts to counter disinformation and threats to democracy.

As a security threat, disinformation is used to undermine democracies by spreading divisive narratives. There are five tools of interference:
  1. Information Operations: coordinated use of social or traditional media to achieve a strategic objective, including the insertion or amplification of false, misleading, or divisive narratives to manipulate public debate
  2.  Cyber ​​Attacks: the probing and penetration of computer networks to cripple critical infrastructure
  3. Political and Social Subversion: the backing of politicians and groups, often at the extremes of the political spectrum inside another country through financial, covert, or subversive means
  4. Strategic Economic Coercion:   the exploitation of national resources and commercial activity as leverage over another country’s government to weaken it and force a change in policy
  5.  Malign Finance: the facilitation of financial activity involving illicit proceeds or in furtherance of other illicit ends
Our session with Dr. Kovalcikova focused on information operations and how they are a threat
to security. She used the COVID-19 pandemic as a clear and ongoing example of how information can be used to trigger citizens to distrust their government and to cause physical harm to essential infrastructures. Concerning the current pandemic, people are oversaturated with information – from the news, from social media, from friends and family members. When governments fail at proactive communication to their citizens, they make the general population easy targets for disinformation campaigns.
Dr. Kovalcikova looked at the lack of affirmative information surrounding the source, the spread, and the treatment of COVID-19 in more detail. The lack of transparency has allowed numerous conspiracy theories to surface and spread, one of them being that 5G is the source of COVID-19 and is also responsible for the rapid spread of the virus. This conspiracy was a twist of a previous conspiracy claiming that 5G is bad for the health. Then, in March, a video went viral that showed a supposed doctor claiming 5G poisoned cells, forcing them to excrete waste and that waste became known as COVID-19. While most people knew (and know) the impossibility of this, enough people believed this conspiracy theory to burn down cell phone towers, not only 5G, but also 4G, and 3G. This caused damage to critical infrastructure and further broke communication lines. Disinformation is more than just fake news. It can have dangerous effects, especially during this current pandemic.
Dr. Kovalcikova closed her presentation by sharing two open-source tools that we can all use to track information operations of authoritarian actors trying to undermine democratic institutions and processes. These tools are provided by the Alliance for Securing Democracy housed at the German Marshall Fund of the United States:
  1. Authoritarian Interference Tracker: This tool exposes foreign interference activities in over 40
    transatlantic countries. 
  2.  Hamilton 2.0 dashboard: This tool is useful for monitoring narratives and topics promoted by
    Russia, China and Iran’s government official accounts or state-backed media outlets across
    different social media platforms.
Following her presentation, Dr. Kovalcikova opened the floor for discussion between her and

the students participating in the session.

An important question from a student was on what us “normal” people can do to counter this disinformation narrative. Dr. Kovalcikova responded that it’s challenging for the ordinary person to counter   disinformation on a grand scale. The best thing we can do is build our own resiliency towards
manipulated information, whether through education, media literacy programs or digital tools, including those built into social media platforms. We need to verify original sources of information and share trusted info with our families and friends. [A tool that can be used to help filter disinformation is  Newsguard, which rates media outlets and warns users of trending.
We should have a “critical open
mind, “meaning that there is no need to doubt everything, but “if something sounds off, it usually 
has something off.”
If you are interested in articles written by Dr. Nad’a Kovalcikova, please visit

Right-Wing Extremism and Social Media with Dr. Daniel Koehler

On 6 May 2020, the Hertie School Security Club held an online session on right-wing extremism and social media with Dr. Daniel Koehler, an expert in terrorism, radicalization, and de-radicalization. Dr. Koehler began the meeting with a presentation and then opened up the “floor” for questions from the audience.

Dr. Koehler pointed to the essential factors that social media plays in the radicalization process. It allows for a sense of anonymity and gives individuals the feeling that they are part of a more significant global movement. Social media has also made it easy for people to connect with the insiders of extremist groups. They gain access by sharing brutal videos, memes, and posts, rather than having to prove themselves through in-person acts of violence.

That being said, radicalization cannot be done through online means alone. The combination of online and offline actions allows for the rapid spread of extremism. In his presentation, Dr. Koehler highlighted the Christchurch attack in New Zealand. The attacker used both online and offline actions to spread his ideology. Copycats were then seen in the U.S., Norway, and Germany using the same ideals.

Dr. Koehler indicated that the best way to fight online extremists is to combat them before they hit a critical level, or if possible, to get them to turn against each other. This would not be an easy feat, requiring legal backing to infiltrate these groups and creating ideological struggles between them. Dr. Koehler described this as cyberwarfare and stated that government backing is essential for a successful countermovement.

During the Q&A, Dr. Koehler revealed the mainstream media’s role in expanding extremism, as well as what actions the average person could take to combat radicalization. In an ideal world, journalists would be focused on truthful and high-quality reporting. Their goal would be to inform the public of ongoing attacks and specific threats. Instead, journalism tends to focus on getting views and likes by publishing the most shocking news. Most of the time, they end up sharing radical propaganda in ways that make it easier for viewers to connect with extremist groups. Extremist groups have become experts in manipulating media sources to share their propaganda.

As for personally combatting radical groups, Dr. Koehler’s advice was clear: within our own circles, simply block those who share intolerant content and report those who publish illegal posts. Whenever possible, educate peers and challenge them to have a clear understanding of their values. We cannot delete extremism from the internet, but we can try to push it to the corner and limit its reach within our own circles.

Mentoring with Mr. Lorenz Meyer-Minnemann (NATO)

On March 29th, the Hertie School Security Club had the pleasure to welcome Mr. Lorenz Meyer-Minnemann to its first official mentoring session with members of the club. Mr. Meyer-Minnemann is the Executive Coordinator and First Deputy Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General of NATO and thus part of NATO’s senior management team. After graduating from Kings College in London, Mr. Meyer-Minnemann found his way to NATO through an internship. He remained within the organization and worked his way up to the senior level. Now he advises Secretary General Stoltenberg and is also responsible for the recruitment of key NATO leaders.

In the mentoring session students were given Mr. Meyer-Minnemann’s 10 key career insights, which he considers to be particularly important:

(1) Don’t obsess over career plans. Having a career goal is good, but you shouldn’t be blind to other, spontaneously arising, opportunities. Enjoy the journey!

(2) Everything you do in a professional setting is a job interview. Perform every task as if it was of the utmost importance. Maintain a consistently high working level. Also remember to maintain your networks, not only with people who are currently influential, but also with your colleagues and peers. You never know which positions they might hold in the future.

(3) Keep your ego in check. Search where you can contribute with your abilities rather than disrupt with your ego. Smart and well-lead organizations will identify those who want to make a difference. And big presumptuous egos are never liked.

(4) If your performance is not recognized, it may be due to the organization, but also to you. Always consider both possibilities.

(5) Reflect on yourself! Learning never ends. Be self-reflective and look for friends who can honestly reflect on your strengths and weaknesses.

(6) Respect hierarchy in a hierarchical organization. This does not mean that you always have to agree with your superiors, but be aware of your place and participate in the progress of the organization.

(7) Be humble but not intimidated. Understand that everyone starts small at the beginning and that everyone can grow. If you have made it to your position, there is a reason for that!

(8) Be sure that what you do is what you are interested in. Only those who are really interested in their work do it really well.

(9) Maintain distance between your professional and personal self. You are not your job and your job does not define your self-worth. Power can be given to you, but also be taken away. Create a clear separation between your personal and professional happiness. Everybody gets professionally rejected at some point. This however should not throw your personal life off course.

(10) Be a good person! People with a kind heart and emotional intelligence are not only good for any organization, but also good for our world.

Finally, he reminded us to be critical. These tips have helped him in advancing his career and stem from his personal experience, but do of course not reflect the absolute truth. We never stop learning and anyone can be a good teacher!

We thank Mr. Meyer-Minnemann very much for these personal insights and his advice. We are sure that these key insights have inspired many of the participants.

We also look forward to hosting further mentoring sessions and sharing our experiences with our audience!

Post Munich Security Conference: Discussion at the Hertie School

Event hosted by: Hertie School

Event location: Hertie School

Event date: February 17, 2020

The restlessness of the West was a common theme held in the Post Munich Security Conference Event at the Hertie School of Governance. Various speakers discussed multiple topics concerning the western world ranging from China’s control in communication networks to Climate change while also taking questions from the audience. While questions were answered frequently with recaps of what had transpired within the Security conference, the speakers often gave their own thoughts on the subjects not discussed in Munich. Whether it was giving their perspectives on the issue or offering a solution, the diversity of the speakers’ ideas allowed the audience to gain a broader perspective on the subjects that were tackled.

Relations with the United States were thoroughly discussed, especially regarding growing tensions between the European Union and that what might be good for the United States might not be the best for Europe. Furthermore, there was a notion that the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit relations with the EU created another layer of division within the West and a new set of interests for Europe to consider regarding international security goals.

One of the most important subjects raised in this event was what even constituted the West in the first place. The speakers noted for all the talk about the West winning or declining; there was little consensus as to what the West was made of. Ideas of it being based on geography, a set of values, or even race were discussed, although thankfully no one appeared to suggest it was based on the latter. Regardless, it is evident that the European Union has to consider multiple perspectives in its challenges with International Security, as the divisions within the EU must be overcome before newer divisions such as with the USA and UK arise.