System, alliance, domain: a three-frame analysis of NATO's contribution to cyber stability

Joe Burton, Tim Stevens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter investigates the role played by NATO in cyber (in)stability including the implications for strategic stability of NATO’s engagement in cyberspace as an operational and political domain. Building upon a historical and theoretical understanding of alliances as stability mechanisms, it asks how stability is affected by NATO’s evolving cyber policies, strategy, agencies, posture and discourse. The chapter builds a three-frame analysis that aims to categorise and conceptualise NATO’s contribution to cyber stability across three dimensions: the stability of the international system (system stability), alliance politics (intra-alliance stability), and the stability of cyberspace (domain stability). This presents a new framework for understanding the role of alliances in cyber stability, the dynamics of which we analyse with reference to empirical examples throughout. This chapter looks at NATO’s identification of cyberspace as an operational domain, the new NATO Cyber Operations Centre, its pivot to political as well as military intervention, NATO’s role as a normative actor, and its growing relationships with non-traditional partners. Our analysis poses questions about how NATO’s pursuit of political relevance and operational dominance in cyberspace shape and influence alliance, domain and system stability, and vice versa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCyberspace and Instability
EditorsRobert Chesney, James Shires, Max Smeets
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9781399512497
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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