Putin's Adviser Says Russia Must Be Ready To Disconnect Itself From The Global Internet
from the death-of-"death-of-geography" dept
Back in November, we wrote about Russia’s surprising move to enforce an older data localization law that requires all Internet companies to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian soil. At the time, that seemed to be just another example of Vladimir Putin’s desire to keep a close eye on everything that was happening in Russia. But a comment from his Internet adviser, German Klimenko, hints that there could be another motive: to make it easier for Russia to cut itself off from the global Internet during a crisis, as The Washington Post reports:
Klimenko pointed out that Western powers had cut Crimea off from Google and Microsoft services after the peninsula was annexed from Ukraine by Russia (the companies were complying with U.S. sanctions on Crimea imposed after Russia’s takeover). He suggested that showed why it was necessary for the Russian Internet to work on its own.
“There is a high probability of ‘tectonic shifts’ in our relations with the West,” said Klimenko. “Therefore, our task is to adjust the Russian segment of the Internet to protect themselves from such scenarios.” He added that “critical infrastructure” should be on Russian territory, “so no one could turn it off.”
Klimenko’s comments were made before the US announced its response to claims of Russian interference in the presidential election process. His analysis of “tectonic shifts” in US-Russia relations now looks rather prescient, although US threats to hack back made it a relatively easy prediction. And even though his call for Russia to ensure its critical infrastructure cannot be “turned off” by anyone — in particular by the US — may be grandstanding to a certain extent, it is not infeasible.
The Chinese have consciously made their own segment of the Internet quite independent, with strict controls on how data enters or leaves the country. Techdirt reported earlier that Russia was increasingly looking to China for both inspiration and technological assistance; maybe Klimenko’s comments are another sign of an alignment between the two countries in the digital realm.