“Digitalisation – Cyber – Internet”: The Role of the Digital in International Politics


The role of digital technologies in international politics touches on all questions of foreign policy and security relating to information and communication technologies. The focus of this dossier is not just on the governance of technologies, but also broader foreign policy questions affected by digitalisation. Addressing the entirety of the field requires not only technological insight but also necessitates a broad spectrum of economic, political and sociological expertise. While the uniqueness of the phenomenon is often stressed, there are parallels to governance challenges in other globalised areas such as environment and migration.

Interest in digitalisation in foreign policy and security has grown apace in recent years. But even the terminology is still in flux. Sometimes the word “cyber” is used, elsewhere “digitalisation” or “internet”. Moreover, terms like “cyber-security” and “global internet governance” are subject to different interpretations. While “cyber-security strategies” were initially restricted very tightly to the classical realm of security, in Germany and Europe today they are very much more broadly defined and designate far more than merely the security of the technical infrastructure. This broadness of usage also applies to the term “cyber”, which as a prefix often serves to indicate a connection to digital technologies. “Internet governance” is sometimes restricted to the technical administration of the internet architecture, while others understand it to encompass comprehensive national and international regulation of the digital sphere. All of these topics are relevant to and have implications for foreign policy and security. However it is crucial to question the terms used and agree on definitions.

The dossier seeks to offer orientation in this complex field, which extends from international law and due diligence in cyberspace to regulation of algorithms, freedom of speech and infrastructure politics. “Digital foreign policy” examines the bilateral and multilateral contexts and the relevant actors and their strategies. “Cyber-security”, “Politics and Society” and “Law/Human Rights” provide overviews of the challenges in the respective fields. Each section includes a compilation of relevant current publications by SWP authors.

Introductory texts translated by Meredith Dale.


Annegret Bendiek, Raphael Bossong, Matthias Schulze

The EU’s Revised Cybersecurity Strategy

Half-Hearted Progress on Far-Reaching Challenges

SWP Comment 2017/C 47, November 2017, 7 Pages
Matthias Schulze

Encryption under Threat

As states across the globe weaken cyber-security, Germany should oppose the trend

SWP Comment 2017/C 31, August 2017, 4 Pages
Raphael Bossong, Ben Wagner

A Typology of Cybersecurity and Public-Private Partnerships in the Context of the EU

In: Crime, Law and Social Change, April 2017, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 265–288
Annegret Bendiek

Due Diligence in Cyberspace

Guidelines for International and European Cyber Policy and Cybersecurity Policy

SWP Research Paper 2016/RP 07, May 2016, 33 Pages
Annegret Bendiek, Christoph Berlich, Tobias Metzger

European Cyber Foreign and Security Policy through Digital Integration

in: European Cybersecurity Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2015, pp. 23-30
Annegret Bendiek, Tobias Metzger

Deterrence theory in the cyber-century

Lessons from a state-of-the-art literature review

Working Papers RD EU/Europe, 2015/ 02, May 2015, 20 Pages
Ben Wagner, Patricia Mundus

Multistakeholder Governance and Nodal Authority – Understanding Internet Exchange Points

In: NoC Internet Governance Case Studies Series, Centre for Internet and Human Rights, January 2015

SWP Comments

Günther Maihold
Colombia’s Peace and Venezuela’s Turmoil

An Emerging Regional Crisis Landscape in South America

Ioannis N. Grigoriadis
Cyprus After Elections

Recapturing the Crans Montana Momentum for Peace Negotiations

SWP Research Papers

Susanne Dröge, Harro van Asselt, Kasturi Das, Michael Mehling
Mobilising Trade Policy for Climate Action under the Paris Agreement

Options for the European Union

Marianne Beisheim, Anne Ellersiek
Partnerships for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Transformative, Inclusive and Accountable?