Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Internet Connectivity As A Geopolitical Tool

A lot of people are wondering what Western countries can do about Russian's invasion of Ukraine. One option I haven't seen anyone suggest is to disconnect Russia from the Internet. There are lots of ways this could be done, but the simplest would be for participating countries to compel their exchanges to drop packets sourced from Russian ISPs.

This tactic has several advantages. It's asymmetric --- hurts Russia a lot more than the rest of the world, because not many services used internationally are based in Russia. It's nonviolent. It can be implemented quickly and cheaply and reversed just as quickly. It's quite severe. It distributes pain over most of the population.

This may not be the right tactic for this situation, but it's a realistic option against most modern countries (other than the USA, for obvious reasons).

If used, it would have the side effect of encouraging people to stop depending on services outside their own country, which I think is no bad thing.

9 comments:

  1. What about :
    - Net neutrality
    - The morality of directly affecting the population instead of the government
    - The fact you mention about USA position

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Net neutrality is a fine principle but like most principles, it doesn't trump all other principles.

      There's very little that can be done to directly target the government. To some extent people have to be held responsible for the government they have.

      The USA's immunity from this technique just means that other means need to be used to pressure the USA. The fact it doesn't always work doesn't mean it should never be used.

      Delete
  2. David: can you suggest a tool to discourage a country that does not affect its population?

    The main problem I see is that it cuts Russians off from communication with the rest of the world. People don't want to think of themselves as the Bad Guys and I think that popular opinion is the strongest weapon that Ukraine has right now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately I think people's powers of rationalization are strong enough that it's relatively easy for a government to persuade the people they're all Good Guys together ... with or without Internet access.

      Delete
  3. I see several problems with this:

    * Users in Russia would be unable to apply critical security updates, opening them up to increased risk of hacker activity locally
    * Russian translation and localization would likely falter, particularly of open source projects to the detriment of Russian-speaking users outside of Russia. Particularly noticeable if the blockage were retained for a long time.
    * International financial services would likely be greatly impacted. This could imperil livelihoods of Russians
    * It gives political cover for Russia to do an embargo-busting move such as halting all gas exports, which is most certainly going to break any resolve Europe has of maintaining such sanctions.

    I don't think Russia could be persuaded to change its mind on this issue by such a passive effect as an internet shutdown: for Russia, Ukraine is one of the crown jewels in its sphere of influence. Thus the motive for the invasion is ultimately fueled by nationalistic self-worth; shutting down the internet would only fuel those nationalistic forces further. The people most affected by such a shutdown are those who are already least likely to support the government, so it's not clear it would be able to fatally weaken the government in terms of political opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  4. > If used, it would have the side effect of encouraging people to stop depending on services outside their own country, which I think is no bad thing.

    Why should it matter what country a service I’m using is in? Reducing the impact of distance and political boundaries is precisely what I find great about the Internet. I can live in London on work with people in California and New Zealand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because it would reduce the concentration of power in Silicon Valley.

      Delete
  5. I agree with David, why would the Russian people have to suffer?
    And why are you even believing Russia is to blame here.

    Don't you know the Ukraine was plunged into chaos by U.S. and E.U. funded snipers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spin your conspiracy theories however you like, it's Russian troops in Ukraine, not any other country's.

      Delete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.