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​Though NATO continues to debate whether it should develop an offensive cyber capability, former Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow said Tuesday, it would be foolish not to do so. A decision has to be taken “in the next year or two,” Vershbow told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., but “NATO would be tying one hand behind its back if it denied itself that option.” Right now, NATO is focused merely on “defending its networks,” Vershbow said, and member states are unilaterally encouraged to work on “their own resiliency” toward cyber attacks. In the context of Russia’s cyber interference with the US election and those in other NATO countries, Vershbow said there’s “always a tendency to downplay these things,” but “they’re not just ‘shenanigans’” of elections but something more sinister. Russia is financing “extremist parties” and using “disinformation” to attack NATO countries. Collectively, this approach “crosses new lines” of acceptability, Vershbow said.