President Joe Biden hosted the first-ever in-person summit of the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, colloquially known as the “Quad,” on Sept. 24, during which the group hailed its efforts to improve the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific amid rising assertiveness by the Chinese regime in the region.
Senior Biden administration officials on Thursday announced that the group would be creating new working groups to tackle issues related to space and global supply chains security, as well as coordinating on vital cybersecurity projects.
“This convening of democratic partners who share a world view and have a common vision for the future is coming together to take on key challenges of our age,” Biden said during a press conference at the White House before the summit. “We are four major democracies with a long history of cooperation. We know how to get things done and we are up to the challenge.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said the Quad “will play the role of a force for global good.”
The prime minister’s words came as the strengthening ties and increasing influence of the Quad caused tensions with Beijing, where mounting animosity from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has led to a series of disinformation campaigns designed to lower international confidence in the forum.
Countering CCP Threats
Senior Biden administration officials said on Sept. 23 that the Quad would establish a working group on space issues and a “very high-level group” to address specific capabilities and technologies designed to reinforce cyber resiliency against attack, possibly in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State.
Such efforts have become increasingly important for international security, analysts say, as the CCP attempts to reach nuclear parity with the United States, continues its development of anti-satellite weapons, and engages in acts of cyber espionage.
“We have a robust cybersecurity effort underway with the State Department that’s going to be enhanced at the leader level,” a senior Biden administration official said in a press call regarding the Quad.
“We’re going to try to take steps to bolster critical infrastructure resilience against cyber threats—something that’s plagued all four of our countries.”
John Mills, former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense, said that the increased focus on securing critical infrastructure would be a welcome addition to the efforts of the Quad both domestically and internationally.
“That’s good news,” Mills told The Epoch Times. “Critical infrastructure is where we have to get better.”
Mills noted that information sharing efforts, joint training and exercises, and critical infrastructure security were integral to the security of the international community in the wake of multiple recent cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure including natural gas and agriculture.
Specifically, Mills hoped that the announced initiatives would result in India and Australia joining in the annual Locked Shields cybersecurity exercise hosted by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Estonia.
“Japan already has an elevated status in Locked Shields,” Mills said. “We should ensure that India and Australia also participate.”
For now, what shape the high-level work on cybersecurity takes is unclear, but it could include top cyber officials in the administration such as national cyber director Chris Inglis, National Security Agency cybersecurity director Rob Joyce, and deputy national security advisor for cyber & emerging tech Anne Neuberger.
In all, Mills hoped that the efforts would mark a strengthening of effective diplomacy on the part of the United States.
“What international partners love and expect is U.S. leadership, not lecturing,” Mills said. “They want tangible, actionable manifestations of our agreements. They don’t want abstract talking down to.”
Free and Open Indo-Pacific
While China was not specifically mentioned by the leaders, it loomed large in their opening statement, particularly in the Quad’s emphasis on ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific—a region where Beijing has been flexing its military and economic might.
“This event demonstrates the strong solidarity between our four nations and our unwavering commitment to the vision of a free and open Pacific,” said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasized that the four countries are “liberal democracies that believe in a world order that favors freedom.”
The leaders’ words underscored previous observations that the multilateral nature of the Quad’s work was necessary for the success of democratic nations everywhere, and that the international character of the dialogue was itself an alternative vision to the CCP’s sovereignty-oriented diplomacy.
Casey Fleming, CEO of strategic risk and intelligence firm BlackOps Partners, told The Epoch Times that the summit was a crucial first step toward fortifying all democratic nations against cyber threats from the CCP and others.
“The Quad Leaders Summit is an excellent beginning,” Fleming said. “But it must also work to immediately include all democratic countries to respond effectively to the strategy of unrestricted hybrid warfare used by our adversaries.”
“It is imperative for all democracies to align against the existing strategic alliance between China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea against the democratic nations of the world,” Fleming said. “The Quad’s high-level working groups must expand to coordinate on all facets of cybersecurity, strategy, risk, innovation, and intellectual property protection.”
A global alliance of democratic nations against dictatorship may be some ways off, but Biden and his counterparts in the Quad have signaled that such a broad-reaching coalition may be in the cards yet.
During a joint statement leading up to the summit, Biden and Morrison underscored that their work was intended as a universal message of solidarity for the world.
“Our partnership is in line with all the other democracies in the world,” Biden said.
“And we got a lot of work to do.”