Hawks propose a Chinese-style plan to isolate Russian internet

The Bell

What happened

Russian lawmakers have started working on the Kremlin’s long held dream of an isolated internet along the lines of the system used in China. The official reason for this is fear that during a conflict with the U.S., servers allowing internet access in Russia could be shut down.

  • Legislation has been prepared by a group of lawmakers headed by Andrei Klishas, who earlier this week proposed (Rus) fining people who show online “disrespect” to the authorities. The other key figure in the proposal is Andrei Lugovoi, the former security officer suspected of poisoning Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
  • “In a situation where [Russia is] aggressively surrounded and the U.S. makes statements about Russian cyberattacks we have to be able to provide security for the internet in Russia if the U.S. restricts access to the servers,” Lugovoi told The Bell. He stressed that this did not mean blocking foreign internet traffic in Russia.
  • The creation of an independent internet has long been a dream of the Russian authorities. The first ‘stress tests’ for a situation in which the U.S. shut out Russia from the internet were carried out in 2014. These exercises, run by the Communications Ministry, showed that Russia’s internet is vulnerable. And overcoming this vulnerability by building a mechanism to isolate Russia from the global internet is not something that has been achieved in the four years since then. Lugovoi told The Bell it won’t cost operators any money to do this — but they will need to re-tune their equipment.

Why the world should care

While the proposal by Lugovoi and Klishas seems unsophisticated, it is yet another reminder of how hawks in the Russian elite see the internet. And they have not given up on creating a system that will replicate in Russia what China has so successfully implemented for itself.

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