Russia's Neighbors Join Forces to Protect Europe From Cyber War

Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz arrives at the final day of NATO Saber Strike exercises in Orzysz, Poland, on June 16. Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Two of Russia's neighbors, Poland and Finland, have struck a deal to cooperate in fighting cyber threats, as Russia's shadow looms large over Europe's northeastern Baltic region.

The countries' defense ministers met in the Finnish capital of Helsinki on Wednesday to strike a deal that calls for exchanging information and pooling togther their technology. The deal is significant in large part because Finland is one of the last neutral states in Europe and has the longest land border with Russia on the continent. In addition to Finland, only Sweden and Russia are not members of NATO in the Baltic region, the security of which is at the heart of the new deal.

"This agreement is of special importance to all Baltic Sea countries, but also the entire European Union," Poland's defense minister, Antoni Macierewicz, said at the document's signing in Helsinki, Polish public broadcaster Polskie Radio reports.

Finland's defense minister, Jussi Niinistö, noted that his country and Poland face similar challenges in the Baltic region. Without specifically mentioning Russia, Macierewicz agreed, saying the deal "maps out the main threats and dangers facing Finland, Poland, the eastern flank [of NATO] and the whole of Europe today."

The Polish defense minister declared that "the new historical situation" that Europe finds itself in makes it necessary that those who "share the values of the West" stick together.

According to NATO, cyberattacks on the alliance's networks skyrocketed last year, as the alliance made cyberspace one of its domains of war. Collective cyber defense is now an aspiration of the alliance, having initially started to change the definition of what constitutes an attack on a member state to include cyber means in 2014.

Earlier this year, Russia announced it has upgraded its cyber and so-called hybrid war capabilities since the end of the Cold War, as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow's "information troops" were in fact involved in " intelligent, effective propaganda."

Shoigu did not give examples, but the admission followed repeated accusations of meddling in other countries' internal affairs, including the U.S. presidential election—which Russia denies.