The Rise of Middle Powers in Establishing Cyber Norms Amidst Geopolitical Tensions

The Rise of Middle Powers in Establishing Cyber Norms Amidst Geopolitical Tensions

In the rapidly evolving domain of cyber warfare, a quiet yet significant shift in the global power balance is taking shape. Traditionally dominated by superpowers, the conversation around establishing norms and engaging in cybersecurity is beginning to see a new category of influence: middle powers.

13 February 2024
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Geopolitical cyber warfare has typically been the arena of larger states wielding their technological prowess to assert dominance or defend national interests. However, with escalating global tensions and the proliferation of technological capabilities, a new trend is emerging: middle powers are increasingly positioning themselves as arbiters and contributors in the establishment of cyber norms and protocols. This shift offers a fresh perspective on international cyber diplomacy and a potential pathway to a more balanced cyber power dynamic.

What's Changing?

The geopolitical landscape of cyber warfare is witnessing a convergence of factors that are creating space for middle powers to assert influence:

  • With anticipated advancements in AI and cybersecurity by 2024, nations worldwide are grappling with the complexities of cyber defense and offense. Institutions both in the private and public sector are embracing AI and ML integration to bolster their cybersecurity solutions, as noted by ITSecurityWire.
  • Foreign Affairs Magazine underscores the potential role of middle powers in providing political and technical support in cybersecurity, suggesting the value of their expertise in an environment strained by superpower tensions.
  • Global events, such as the disruptions in the Red Sea shipping routes, highlight the interconnectedness of geopolitical actions and cyber threats, as per the observations from Lubes'N'Greases and The Telegraph.
  • Emerging alliances like BRICS may foster cross-border coordination that aligns cybersecurity efforts among member states, as suggested by Henley & Partners.

Why is this Important?

The positioning of middle powers in the geopolitics of cyber warfare is significant because:

It reflects a potential de-escalation of cyber conflicts monopolized by superpowers, as middle powers could act as neutral arbiters, akin to a security forum proposed by Foreign Affairs Magazine.

This trend could lead to more inclusive and democratic processes for establishing international cyber norms and standards, in turn reducing the risk of polarized cyber conflict escalations.

As the cyber landscape becomes increasingly complex, the specialized knowledge held by certain middle powers could be crucial in addressing sophisticated threats and enabling collective defense mechanisms.


As middle powers assume a more prominent role in cybersecurity discourse, several implications emerge:

  • Industries may need to adapt to a new set of international cyber regulations and standards endorsed by an expanded cadre of national actors.
  • Businesses will likely benefit from more consistent cyber policies, which could lower the barriers to international trade and digital transactions, particularly in regions that collaborate within alliances like BRICS.
  • There could be increased opportunity for cybersecurity firms and tech startups in these middle power nations as the demand for robust defense capabilities rises.
  • Equipped with negotiating leverage, middle powers could influence global economic and security agendas, compelling traditional superpowers to reconsider their cyber strategies.


Strategic planners and policymakers may consider asking:

  • How might the involvement of middle powers in establishing cyber norms shift the current balance of power in international relations?
  • In what ways can industries prepare for potential changes in the cybersecurity regulatory environment?
  • What opportunities exist for collaboration and partnership with middle power nations in the realm of cybersecurity?
  • How will the geopolitical strategies of superpowers evolve in response to this emerging trend of middle power activism in cyber warfare?


The evolution of geopolitical cyber warfare is poised to take a compelling turn as middle powers emerge as significant players in the discourse on cyber defense and strategic operations. This trend, buoyed by technological advancements and shifting global alliances, augurs a more multifaceted and perhaps balanced future for the governance of cyberspace. For industries, governments, and societies at large, attuning to this development is critical in navigating the next wave of global cybersecurity challenges.


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