U.S.-Spain Summit Aims to Promote Tech Advancement in Nations That Don't 'Diminish Freedom’

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The first U.S.-Spain Cybersecurity Seminar emphasized a transatlantic partnership against cybercrimes, set against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The United States held a technological summit with Spanish experts on Monday that focused on fostering a new cybersecurity partnership during the inaugural Spain-U.S. Cybersecurity Seminar.

Confirmed in remarks from Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman in Madrid, alongside Spanish Secretary of State Angeles Moreno Bau, the seminar focused on bolstering digital security and tech policy across several issue areas, particularly in light of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. 

“The digital technology revolution is happening all around us—but too many governments haven’t been keeping pace,” Sherman said. “We need to invest in innovation in the United States, in Spain and in other like-minded democracies—so the tools and technologies of the future are built to expand opportunity, not diminish freedom.”

Sherman’s comments were laden with reference to the conflict in Ukraine, and how strategic cybersecurity partnerships are critical to promote national security interest across all nations. 

She also added that more cyberattacks from foreign adversaries are likely following Ukraine’s invasion.

“We need to work together to promote a global framework for how nations behave in cyberspace—to promote lasting peace, and prevent further conflict,” Sherman said. “We need to hold malicious cyber actors—whether state-sponsored or private—accountable for their actions, because cyberattacks are not victimless crimes.”

Moreno Bao echoed these sentiments on Twitter, writing that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine highlights the strength of U.S.-Spanish relations. 

“The meeting has served to strengthen the collaboration between Spain and the U.S., two leading countries in a key area for international security,” she wrote. 

The seminar between American and Spanish officials focused on discussions between public and private sector leaders on emerging technology, cybersecurity and digital policy, among other topics. 

While national security interest stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict loomed over the seminar, experts think that a U.S.-Spain partnership will target other cybercrime groups and work to support law enforcement. 

“In Spain…there's a lot of interesting cooperation on cybercrime, ransomware in particular,” Trey Herr, the director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security told Nextgov. “So the US has been making this concerted push to build a coalition of states–––Spain included––to try and find more aggressive investigative techniques and partnerships to go after these groups.”

Herr added that Spain’s proximity to the Mediterranean and Africa is also a geographically strategic advantage, as some cyber criminals will flee towards these countries to evade sanctions, particularly around holiday travel.

Liv Rowley, the assistant director at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, added that narcotics are often trafficked through Spain, and the new U.S. partnership could help reduce the flow of illegal drugs. 

Simultaneously, Sherman placed a major emphasis on working alongside Spain to advance NATO goals in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

“As a staunch NATO Ally and EU member state, Spain’s leadership is key to the transatlantic effort—really, the global effort—to impose severe, coordinated costs and consequences for President Putin’s war of choice, and to urge an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine,” she said. 

Herr expects Spain and the U.S.’s cybersecurity goals to address both law enforcement and military agendas, although much about the focus of a transatlantic collaboration remains to be seen. 

“I’d be interested to see in the rhetoric in the next year, per se, especially coming out of Ukraine, you know what these two states are talking about,” he said. “How much of it's about going after ransomware operators, especially as they start to scatter out of Russia? How much of it's about enabling cyber capabilities for future NATO operations, be it peacekeeping or active combat operations?”