The Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, and the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, on 31 October signed a memorandum between the two countries to strengthen their cooperation on 5G security and development, restricting the use of the Chinese mobile technology company Huawei’s products.
“Considering that secure fifth generation wireless communications networks (5G) will be vital to both prosperity and national security in the near future, the United States and Estonia declare their desire to strengthen our cooperation on 5G,” the signed memorandum says. “Protecting communications networks from disruption or manipulation and ensuring the privacy and individual liberties of the citizens of the United States, Estonia, and other countries is of vital importance.”
In the memorandum, Estonia and the United States endorse the Prague Proposals (non-binding proposal, agreed by 30 countries in May 2019 in Prague, Czech Republic; it warns governments against relying on suppliers of 5G networks that could be susceptible to state influence – editor) “as an important step toward developing a common approach to 5G network security and ensuring a secure and vibrant communication network ecosystem.” “The Prague Proposals emphasize the need for 5G networks to be constructed based on free and fair competition, transparency, and the rule of law.”
The US suspects Huawei to be under the influence of the Chinese government
The memorandum also provides specific solutions. “A rigorous evaluation of providers and supply chains should include the following elements: suppliers should not be subject to control by a foreign government without independent judicial review; financing should be transparent, commercially-based, and follow standard best practices in procurement, investment, and contracting; ownership, partnerships, and corporate governance structures should be transparent; commitment to innovation and respect for intellectual property rights; and track record regarding respect for the rule of law; the security environment; vendor ethics malfeasance; and compliance with secure standards and industry best practices to promote a vibrant and robust supply of products and services.”
According to the Estonian newspaper, Postimees, this means that the memorandum commits Estonia to scrutinising whether any equipment manufacturer is under the influence of its home government. That’s why the use of equipment manufactured by Huawei is restricted in the US, and companies there are banned from supplying their products to the Chinese company.
The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service concluded in the spring that Huawei did not meet this criterion. In Estonia, Huawei’s largest partner is the mobile operator Elisa.
Collaborating on raising awareness of 5G security in NATO
The memorandum also states that the United States and Estonia believe that it is critical for countries to transition away from untrusted information and communications technology providers and supply chains to trusted ones. “These efforts will not only improve our national security, but also provide opportunities for private sector innovators to succeed under free and fair competition, which will benefit our digital economies.” In addition, Estonia and the United States intend to collaborate on raising awareness of the importance of 5G security among NATO allies.
According to telecompaper.com, a telecom industry news website, Poland became the first country to sign a similar memorandum with the US and also to take a similar individual approach to each issue.
The website also said Germany, Norway, Finland and several other European countries have said they are not ruling out the possibility of using Huawei technology in their 5G networks.
“The US insists the Chinese government can spy on global traffic with Huawei technology, and Washington urges European countries to follow the US lead and refrain from using Huawei technology,” the website added.
Cover: A Huawei phone (the image is illustrative/Pexels).