EDITORIAL: Russia, Obama and the Internet

EDITORIAL

Russia, Obama and the Internet

For years now, Russia has been weaponizing the Internet using a two-track approach.  First, Russia has been seeking to excercise totalitarian control over its domestic Internet by generating content and harassing independent publishers and ISPs, even going so far as to prosecute bloggers and commenters. Ultimately, once the Runet is brought to heel, the proud KGB spies  who rule the Kremlin plans to use it to further brainwash the lemming-like population just as it is doing today with the TV networks and major newspapers that it seized years ago. Second, Russia has been developing its capacity to attack the Internet resources of foreign countries.  Russia has actually waged open “cyber war” against Estonia and Georgia when those two former Soviet states dared to defy the Kremlin’s demands.

As if all this weren’t enough, Russia’s extreme poverty (the average worker earns less than $3/hour while the cost of Interet access is comparable to that in the West) serves as yet one more barrier to the population’s use of this valuble resource. As we reported in our last issue, many Russians have no chance to get near the Internet, even in large cities, and this means that the claim that the Internet’s relative freedom can offset the total lack of objectivity in print and television media is utter nonsense.

Now, the Obama administratration has created a new cabinet-level position devoted to Internet security, and it is pressing for dramatically higher levels of worldwide response to cyber terrorism.  Putin’s Russia, of course, stands in the way — just as it has stood in the way as the world has sought to demand justice and democracy in places like Iran and North Korea.

Where terrorism-loving Iran is concerned, Russia demands “negotiation” rather than sanctions.  As far as Internet security is concerned, Russia wants an international treaty rather than aggressive efforts at investigation and enforcement of state-sponsored terrorism.

These policies are perfectly consistent, of course.  Being a cyber terrorist itself, Russia naturally sides with other nations who want to use terrorism as a foreign policy tool.  A treaty only works if you can prove a nation state lies behind acts of cyber terror, and it’s far more difficult prove that than to prove traditional acts of war.  That means Russia could use the treaty as a shield to further protect itself from regulation.  What’s more, Russia is attempting to use the proposed treaty as a Trojan Horse, embedding provisions which would legitimize state-sponsored censorship of the Internet in the name of attacking terrorism.  This is exactly what Russia has done with its so-called “Law Against Extremism” — a statute that was supposed to attack terrorism but which was in fact only used to persecute political opponents of the regime.

This may prove to be the acid test for the new Obama regime where Russia is concerned: Will Obama stay the course, or will he allow Russia to derail the administration’s efforts with the distraction of a treaty?  Will he stand up for Internet freedom, or will he allow the neo-Soviet KGB regime to wipe out that last bastion of real information?  Obama will be addressing a college graduating class while he’s in Moscow a week from now; if he really believes the creed he professes, he will use that opportunity to speak to the new generation about the need to protect electronic resources from totalitarian encroachment. If he doesn’t, history will judge him harshly indeed.

7 responses to “EDITORIAL: Russia, Obama and the Internet

  1. You wrote that the cost of internet in Russia is comparable to that in the West. I would simply add that this depends on where you happen to be. In Moscow and some of the larger cities (where you have some competition) prices are comparable, but in other cities or regions where you have monopolies, in my experience the internet was a lot more expensive than what you would pay in other countries. Perhaps this has changed in the past year or two, but I have my doubts.

  2. Michel,

    Your assumption is correct. I lived in one of the largest regional cities until two months ago and the internet connection was equally priced to the West (sometimes less but not always) but offered comparatively slower speeds. You can get lan connections but they are usually charged by the megabyte and can get expensive quickly. Reliability is another problem.

    One thing I’d have to say, though, is that just about everyone I knew has internet there, but I tended to run with the better crowds. Still, they’re paying a lot more for what they get than the West does.

    And for those who usually defend Russia, yes, I know, there might be SOMEplace that is good in Russia that I don’t know about it, so save me the grief. I’m telling you what I know firsthand and feel that it is probably quite consistent across the country. Добрый день!

  3. and at the same time the average income in Russia is much lower than in the West and the incomes within Russia differ radically as well… So you have internet prices that go up as you leave the bigger cities and incomes that go down at the same time.

    • Exactly, which helps to explain why so few people are online in Russia compared to Europe and North America. It is still too expensive for many people in most of Russia.

  4. It would be better for Obama to deliver a lecture on the US Patriot Act when in Moscow.
    Welcome to Nazi USA!

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    In your barbaric ignorance, you don’t seem to recognize the inherent contradition in your hysterically stupid comment. Obama was just elected to replace George Bush and reverse his policies. Russia hasn’t had such an election since it became “democratic.” Rather, Yeltsin “won” a rigged election and then handed power to hand-picked successor, who did the same. The fact that you think the USA is less democratic than Russia only goes to show how fully totalitarian Russia really has become, not that difficult with only lemming-like “citizens” such as yourself to govern.

    • Welcome to USA when he comes to Russia? Are you advocating the annexation of Russia by the US?

      Rts! Where’s your ideological purity? Quick, quick, think of a no-brain, no-truth slogan!

  5. Asehpe

    I meant present mentality of American “patriots”, not geography.

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