Congratulations, it’s a cyber norm!2 minutes read

“Russia creates conditions in which liberal democracies are forced to debate about the introduction of censorship for the sake of national security and sovereignty (Barandiy, 2018).”

Due to the biases which emerge from legal determinism influenced by analogical reasoning, the cyber policy community often ends up ignoring the actual cases of normative behavior in cyberspace. Okay, if not normative behavior then at least a semblance of some kind of customary law.

We often tend to rush at deriving biased assessments and foregone conclusions around international law before even laying a foundation that could interpret the emerging behavioral dynamics of nation states — the tacit or explicit bargaining taking place.

Over the last two decades — for good or bad (…mostly bad) — Russia takes the credit for leading the most persistent attempt at codifying an international relations taxonomy for “information security” and “cyber sovereignty” — whatever the terms imply.

A witty and insidious playbook has emerged, carving a doctrinal structure that is now influencing even the liberal democracies — or it could just be the bias of hindsight.

While the West invested heavily in signals intelligence, Russia put an equal focus on statecraft in a very classical sense — filing appeals before the United Nations, submitting dull policy memorandums, and fostering coalitions of the fearful, clueless and misinformed.

The paradoxical, dichotomous and flawed cognitive structures floated by it are now calcifying into concrete international policy frameworks — largely led by faux-democracies and authoritarian regimes fearing internal instability and color revolutions.

If one goes by Joe Nye’s axiom of soft power — commanding change, controlling agendas, and establishing preferences — then Russia’s attempt neatly fits into the more subversive, over-the-horizon second and third options.

This is my realization after reading Behind the digital curtain – A look inside the Russian Information War against the West.