Thursday, June 30, 2016

Moscow’s Ideas on Info ‘Security’ Threaten Both Russians and the West, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 30 – The draft Doctrine on Information Security posted this week on the website of the Russian Security Council ( contains provisions which threaten not only the citizens of the Russian Federation but also Russia’s neighbors and Western countries, according to Vadim Shtepa.

            In an analysis of the draft document, the Karelian regionalist who has been forced to leave his homeland and settle in Estonia says that the document shows that Moscow plans not to develop a “contemporary” state but rather wants to assume the role of “’a besieged fortress’” that must oppose “all possible enemies” (

            The draftis filled with contradictions because it contains language talking about the defense of the constitutional rights of Russians and language that suggests some Russians are a threat to the state just as much as outside powers and that the state must defend itself against both.  “It is significant,” Shtepa continues, that it lists “certain ‘internal threats’ in first place.”

            The draft’s formulation of this task is especially disturbing. The document says that the state must ensure “the stable functioning of the information infrastructure of the Russian Federation … in peace time, in a period of immediate threat of aggression, and in wartime as well.”

            It doesn’t specify who the enemies are but does say that “certain ‘leading foreign countries’” are among them because using information technologies they are having “’a negative influence’” on Russia and other countries. Indeed, the draft says that they are “undermining the sovereignty and violating the territorial integrity of other states.’”

            One might think that they were talking in the first instance about Russia’s own actions in Ukraine, “but no, for [the authors of this doctrine], Russia is only a victim.” And it is “indicative,” Shtepa says, that this doctrine was published at the same time that the Duma was passing the punitive Yarovaya package of legislation.

            But there are even more fundamental problems with Russia’s draft information security doctrine, he continues.  The draft specifies that Russia remains overly dependent on Western information technology and that to ensure its security it must overcome that by whatever means are possible.

            But the means it identifies won’t help it to do that. Instead, the doctrine specifies that “the development and perfection of the system of the information security of the Russian Federation will be achieved by the path of strengthening the vertical and the centralization of administration of the forces of information security.”

            Such a formulation shows, Shtepa argues, that the authors of Russia’s new doctrine do not understand what they are talking about. As various Western authors have made clear, “an information society thinks in network categories which are distinguished in principle from the former centralized ‘verticals.’”

            The principles of an information society were laid out 20 years ago in the Declaration about the Independence of Cyberspace” drawn up by John Perry Barlow. Unfortunately, Shtepa says, in Russia today, “this text certainly would be called ‘extremist’” because of its call for freedom on the net.

            To make his points, Shtepa cites the recent remark of Umberto Eco who said that he had looked through some neo-Nazi sites and sites opposing them and found that if one used only the algorithm of counting references to Nazis, the one and the other would both be identified as ideological threats.

            “But Russian ‘warriors against extremism’ operate precisely on such primitive logic and launch court cases for ‘the propaganda of fascism’ against those who publish anti-fascist caricatures.” That reflects their preference for television with its “one-way” delivery of information.

            “The Internet, on the other hand,” Shtepa points out, “with its interactive network connections and multiple identities looks ‘extremist’ to them not out of any opposition ideas it may contain but by its very structure.”  That makes Moscow’s pursuit of its idea of information security a danger for everyone who relies on that medium and that message.

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