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Reference:

Russian-American Relations in the Field of International Information Security

Yanikeeva Inna Olegovna

ORCID: 0000-0001-9590-5301

PhD student, Department of World Political Processes, Moscow State Institute of International Relations

142302, Moscow region, Chekhov-2

yanikeeva93@mail.ru

 

 

DOI:

10.25136/2409-8671.2022.4.38897

EDN:

JKNPZX

Review date:

07-10-2022


Publish date:

30-12-2022


Abstract: The article provides the results of a study to identify the specifics of Russian-American relations in the field of international information security (IIS) and the potential for its development in the digital environment in the 21st century. The author considers such aspects of the topic as the approach of Russia and the United States in the field of ensuring IIS; Russian-American relations in the field of IIS. Particular attention is paid to the consideration of the specifics of Russian-American relations on IIS issues, as well as to the extent to which they have an impact on modern international security in the period from 1998 to the present. The main conclusion of the study is that the IIS is an important component of bilateral relations between Russia and the United States, and the nature of relations on this issue has an impact on the international system, but it has a certain autonomy being inscribed in a broader geopolitical context. The author's special contribution to the study of the topic is the use of the case study method to identify the role of cyber sanctions within the IIS in general and Russian-American relations in particular. The novelty of the study lies in conducting a comprehensive analysis of the issues of IIS in the context of modern bilateral relations between Russia and the United States and the trends of the international system, including the study of the impact of new information and communication technologies on modern international security and strategic stability.


Keywords:

international information security, digital environment, cyber threats, Russian-American relations, Russia and the USA, cyber attacks, cyber conflict, cyber sanctions, information security, cyber security

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The modern information space is characterized by an arms race between States, which creates the danger of an unintended escalation of cyber incidents up to an armed conflict between the great Powers. Historically, technological innovations or geopolitical dynamics have prompted States to agree on confidence-building measures or create arms control systems to protect against unintended conflict and escalation of tensions. However, at present there are still no uniform binding international norms of warfare and confidence-building measures in the field of responsible behavior of states in the digital environment, not to mention a system of control over cyber weapons.

Today, information security is becoming an important factor not only in bilateral relations between Russia and the United States, but also in strategic stability in general. Information influence influences the dynamics of modern wars and conflicts, and information potential is the most important component of the combined power of states. Under these conditions, global security and strategic stability significantly depend on the nature of Russian-American relations, as two superpowers, on international information security (IIB) issues. Due to the fact that an accidental or deliberate cyberattack can lead to an escalation of international tension up to a full-scale military conflict, ensuring the IIB is one of the key factors that directly affects strategic stability in general. In addition, currently no country can independently protect its territory from all types of cyber threats.

Against the background of a huge number of studies devoted to digital issues over the past ten years, both in the USA, the EU, and in Russia, today such publications are unsystematic and mostly narrow in the aspects under consideration. Thus, a limited number of studies touch upon cyber-sanctions issues that have become the subject of separate consideration by the author, usually preference is given to the study of sanctions as a whole. Of interest is also the approach used by the author to consider the problems through the prism of a realistic paradigm, which allows an objective analysis of the reasons for the lack of comprehensive interaction between Russia and the United States on digital topics.

The formulation of the problem in the formulation proposed by the author has not been reflected in scientific publications until recently.

The study was an attempt to find possible answers to the following research question. What is the specificity of Russian-American relations on the issues of the IIB and to what extent do they have an impact on modern international security?

It seems that international information security is an important component of bilateral relations between Russia and the United States, and the nature of relations on this issue has an impact within the international system as a whole, but being inscribed in a broader geopolitical context, it has a certain autonomy. The vulnerability of States in the digital environment dictates the need for international cooperation aimed at de-escalating contradictions and developing confidence-building measures, and largely follows the logic of bilateral cooperation on strategic stability issues that developed during the Cold War, which assumed the existence of interaction in conditions of mutual distrust. In turn, unilateral US cyber sanctions have a negative impact on Russian-American relations, as well as on the IIB, preventing the de-escalation of international tensions in the digital environment. The development of a mechanism for cyber sanctions at the UN level can contribute to the suppression and deterrence of inappropriate behavior in the digital environment. In the current international situation, the UN Security Council can be a leading institution in maintaining the IIB, in particular, recalling obligations related to the rules of conduct in the digital environment, or introducing cyber sanctions.

The purpose of the article is to present the results of a study to identify the specifics of Russian-American cooperation in the field of IIB provision and the potential for its development in the digital environment.

The study used a comparative method to compare Russian and American strategies in the digital environment, to highlight the common and special approaches of the two states, as well as to analyze the changes that have occurred in the relations between the two states since 1998; a critical analysis of texts to study the changes in Russian-American relations, changes in their positions on issues in the field of IIB, the evolution of the priorities of states, the understanding of argumentation. The author also used the case study method to analyze the role of cyber sanctions in international relations [52]. From the standpoint of this method, unilateral cyber sanctions are a deviant case, since they are fundamentally different from international restrictive measures (a multilateral mechanism of cyber sanctions at the UN level, which would have the highest legitimacy, has not been developed, and unilateral restrictive cyber measures with significantly less legitimacy are already being used). The use of unilateral restrictive cyber measures deviates in a negative direction from the norms of international law due to the lack of a solution to the attribution problem and the extraterritoriality of American unilateral cyber measures.

Review of the bibliography on the topicTheoretical works and empirical studies of foreign, in particular, American, European and Russian authors on issues of ensuring both national information security and the IIB in general were studied.

There are three main groups of authors:

- those who study the threats of the IIB [1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 18, 19, 26, 28, 31, 37, 39, 41, 42, 43, 48, 57, 60, 64, 74, 81];

- those who study the subjects and objects of the IIB [19, 23, 29,30, 40, 49, 65];

- those who focus their attention in scientific papers on international cooperation in the field of IIB provision [3, 4, 10, 14, 21, 22, 24, 29, 33, 45, 50, 53, 58, 66, 69].

Russian and American political scientists recognize the fact that the transnational nature of threats in the digital environment necessitates international cooperation, but at the same time approaches to building it differ. American political scientists, unlike Russian experts, do not focus on the importance of adopting international norms, in particular at such venues as the UN. At the same time, in general, the problems of cooperation in the field of IIB security attract less attention compared to the analysis of cyber threats.

Most of the studies of Russian political scientists engaged in the analysis of the IIB from the standpoint of the science of international relations are devoted to the military-political aspects of the IIB, while the problems of international political aspects of countering cyberterrorism and cybercrime remain poorly studied, with the exception of a number of works [25, 20]. In the American scientific literature, these problems are also poorly studied, and a large number of works by American authors are devoted to the use of ICT for military and political purposes [38, 47, 59, 70, 75, 78, 79, 80, 82].

In the context of information security, a special place is occupied by the problems of ensuring the security of critical infrastructure, which are studied by A. Kononov, A. Korotkov and others [11, 12]. Among the works of American experts, one of the most authoritative is the annual textbook on the protection of critical infrastructures (CI) [55]. The research is of a technical nature. Political scientists study the organizational as well as the legal basis for ensuring the security of CI.

To understand the specifics of Russian-American interaction and trends in modern international relations, as well as the basics of conducting international negotiations, the studies of such experts as M. Lebedev, T. Shakleina, J. Nye, R. Sokolsky and E. Rumer, and others are of interest [15, 34, 35, 67, 72, 76]. The authors analyze the most pressing problems faced by Russia and the United States, including in the negotiation process.

Within the framework of the study, the works of authors who analyze the modern international system were also of interest, for example, the works of M. Lebedeva, M. Harkevich, J. Mearsheimer, M. Finnemore and many others [16, 17, 32, 51, 61, 62]. The authors investigate the specifics of the actors of states and the peculiarities of their participation in the modern world economy and politics. In this context, of particular interest are the works of researchers who focus on the role of ICT, digitalization in world politics, for example, the works of such authors as A. Krutskikh, E. Zinoviev, J. Rosenau [7, 13, 71].

Of particular value are also studies in the field of strategic stability studies by such authors as I. Istomin, D. Trenin, E. Colby and M. Gerson, R. Jervis and others [8, 27, 44, 56, 73].

The analysis of the experts' work demonstrated that, given the theoretical depth, thoroughness, versatility of the scientific research already conducted, recognizing the contribution of all these experts, as well as other Russian and foreign authors to the development of the theory and practice of security in the digital environment, the specifics of Russian-American cooperation in the field of IIB, the potential for the development of bilateral cooperation in this area in the period from 1998 to 2022, the possibilities and ways of overcoming Russian-American contradictions in the digital environment have not been comprehensively investigated by either Russian or American political scientists. In addition, the analysis of cyber sanctions and their consequences in the scientific works of American and Russian political scientists is presented insignificantly and this gap was intended to fill the conducted research [63, 68].

The approach of Russia and the United States in the field of ensuring the IIBAccording to the results of the analysis of the regulatory legal framework of Russia in the field of ensuring the IIB, it was revealed that Russia proceeds from the need to demilitarize the information space and develop mandatory rules of conduct for all states (Foreign Policy Concepts, National Security Concepts, National Security Strategies, Foreign Policy Doctrines, Information Security Doctrines, fundamentals of state policy, documents on the digital economy, federal laws).

This implies the conclusion of an international agreement on the basis of which all States would refuse to create means of information influence and carry out any aggressive actions in the digital environment.

At the same time, it was revealed that Russia's proposals to develop an international agreement that would regulate the IIB correspond to the interests of a large number of countries, which confirms the broad international support for Russian initiatives at the UN level, as well as in other international organizations. It is also important to note that Russia advocates that the development of any universal agreements, as well as the coordination of ways to resolve the problems existing in the digital environment, remain the prerogative of states with exclusive sovereignty in this area.

One of the main national interests of Russia in the field of the IIB is the development of interstate cooperation to prevent and resolve interstate conflicts in the global information space, the development of the negotiation process and increasing the effectiveness of interstate cooperation to jointly counter challenges and threats in the digital environment, promoting the formation of the IIB system aimed at countering threats to the use of ICT in order to violate strategic stability, strengthening the equal strategic partnership in the digital environment, protection of the sovereignty of the Russian Federation in the information space.

In turn, according to the results of the study of the American regulatory framework, it was determined that the basis of American cyber policy is the goal of achieving and maintaining its superiority in the digital environment, which serves as a global strategy of U.S. leadership (National strategies, Doctrines, Directives, executive orders, Cyber Strategies). Information and cyberspace were recognized as a theater of military operations, and cyber operations were separated from information operations into an independent type of activity.

The US foreign policy approach is aimed at preserving Internet governance mechanisms and limiting the development of the international legal framework, including issues related to the digital environment, to non-binding documents. To do this, at the international level, they are promoting initiatives aimed at limiting the development of the international regulatory framework regulating activities in the digital environment to non-binding documents. The rejection by the United States of binding international rules in the digital environment is largely due to their technological superiority in this area. In this regard, they strive to maintain maximum freedom of action in the digital environment. However, the US recognizes the impossibility of ensuring the security of the digital environment on its own. In this regard, cooperation with partner states on the issues of ensuring the IIB is an important component of the US national cyber strategy, in particular in cases when Washington is faced with a serious cyber threat that it cannot cope with on its own. In this context, it is important to recall that, faced with serious cyber threats to the American critical infrastructure (CI), such as encryption viruses, the United States took the initiative to conclude a bilateral agreement with Russia on countering the use of encryption viruses by hackers in 2021. At the same time, as soon as the United States reaches its goals, they tend to withdraw from agreements, working groups, which was demonstrated in the spring of 2022.

Russian-American cooperation in the field of IIB securityRussian-American relations have two dimensions: global (developing norms of responsible behavior of states in the digital environment at the international level) and bilateral (strengthening trust between Russia and the United States).

The second dimension is currently frozen due to the events in Ukraine.

Currently, both States are increasing their cyber potential, which contributes to the militarization of the digital environment and can become a significant factor undermining international security and strategic stability.

In the conditions of non-compliance by the United States with the terms of the concluded treaties and withdrawal from them, in particular, in the field of arms control, as well as from working groups, for example, the Russian-American working group in the field of security in the digital environment, the shutdown of the work of Russia and the United States on cybercrime and countering cybercriminals, it can be assumed that in There is no reason to expect significant, positive progress in the digital environment in the near future, given the absence of legally binding agreements in the field of ensuring the IIB both in the bilateral format and at the UN level.

In the medium and long term, the development of legal regulatory mechanisms in the field of ensuring the IIB is possible, first of all, within the framework of areas of common interest: ensuring strategic stability, of which the IIB is an important factor, including countering cybercriminals, combating cyberterrorism, and ensuring the security of CI. Russia and the United States should be able to clearly communicate under what conditions a cyberattack will trigger a response and at what level, which will increase the effectiveness of states to take a deterrent position and report it. Objective factors contribute to the rapprochement of the positions of the two states, which in the future will allow us to conclude agreements in certain areas and creates the necessary conditions for further joint work on a comprehensive binding agreement in the field of ensuring the IIB. In addition, it is important to note that the Russian-American constructive and productive study of issues in the field of ensuring the IIB will contribute to increasing the level of trust between the two states and forming the basis for the future universal regime of ensuring the IIB, which will have a positive impact on international security and strategic stability.

Due to the fact that the positions on issues of ensuring security in the digital environment of the United States and Russia can be characterized as the most opposite, the consensus on digital issues between the two states can be a significant breakthrough in the field of ensuring the IIB. Perhaps it is in the context of arms control that it will be possible to agree on common rules for the use of cyber potential.

It is important to resume the strategic dialogue between Russia and the United States on cooperation in cyberspace, despite the international situation, in order to prevent further destruction of the architecture of strategic stability in connection with the active development of offensive cyber weapons and the expansion of its scope, as well as to create a system of guarantees to prevent operations in the digital environment to solve military-political tasks.

At the same time, it is important to note that a new phenomenon is unilateral American cyber sanctions, which have a negative impact on US relations with Russia, damaging Russia's image [36]. They have a negative impact on the IIB, preventing the de-escalation of international tensions in the digital environment. The existing restrictive cyber measures do not contribute to the successful counteraction of cyber threats, despite the fact that at the level of the UN Security Council (UNSC) they have the potential to become an effective tool to counter them.

The factor of strategic stability inevitably plays a significant role in the cyber war between Russia and the United States. At the same time, the absence of serious cyber attacks on the KI of both countries indicates that information security acts as a factor of strategic stability in bilateral relations between Russia and the United States and within the international system as a whole. At the same time, only mutual perception of the balance of threats in this area can establish the "balance of fear" necessary for international interaction, while it turns out to be inscribed in a broader geopolitical context, having a certain autonomy.

The study demonstrated that the approaches of Russia and the United States differ significantly in terms of regulating activities in the digital environment.

Russia proceeds from the need to demilitarize the information space and develop rules of conduct binding on all states, which implies the conclusion of an international agreement on the basis of which all states will refuse to create means of information influence and carry out any aggressive actions in the digital environment. In this context, it is important to note the increased number of cyber attacks against Russia in 2022 and the intensification of hybrid warfare on the world stage, part of which is the information space in general and cyberspace in particular. So, since the beginning of 2022, Western countries have repeatedly increased the number of cyber attacks on Russia up to a million per week. After the start of a special military operation in Ukraine, the hacker movement "Apopumoi" declared a "cyberwar" of Russia, carrying out DDoS attacks on a number of Russian government websites (Distributed Denial of Secrets, the attack is carried out simultaneously from a large number of computers). In turn, the United States did not contribute to countering cyber attacks, despite the bilateral agreements concluded with Russia in 2021, and also withdrew from the working group in the field of security in the digital environment, refused further joint discussion of the security of CI facilities, stopped joint work on cybercrimes and countering cybercriminals. In addition, the United States participated in cyber operations against Russia in connection with the situation in Ukraine (according to the head of the US Cyber Command, P. Nakasone). Despite this, Russia is currently still ready for an equal, professional and non-politicized dialogue with the United States on a wide range of topical issues of security in the digital environment and keeps open channels for practical interaction. In addition, the United States rejected the Russian proposal to deanonymize the Internet and forced its allies not to support the Russian initiative to adopt an international legally binding document regulating the activities of states in the information space. It is important to note that due to the unilateral and destructive position of the collective West, the overall level of information security in the world is decreasing.

In turn, the United States is aimed at achieving and maintaining its superiority, preserving freedom of action in the digital environment, which serves as a global strategy of state leadership. To do this, they are promoting initiatives at the international level aimed at limiting the development of an international regulatory framework that would regulate the activities of countries in the digital environment to non-binding documents. At the same time, faced with serious cyber threats to the American AI, such as encryption viruses, the United States took the initiative to conclude a bilateral agreement with Russia on countering the use of encryption viruses by hackers in 2021. This indicates that, as long as Washington does not face any serious cyber threat that it cannot cope with on its own, it will strive to maintain its leading position in the digital environment and not limit itself to legal obligations. At the same time, as soon as the United States reaches its goals, they tend to withdraw from agreements, working groups, which was demonstrated in the spring of 2022.

Within the framework of the conducted research, the specifics of Russian-American cooperation in the field of IIB in the period from 1998 to 2022 were revealed. Thus, after a long period of negotiations, Russia and the United States concluded "Agreements on confidence-building measures in the use of ICT" in 2013. Their main goal was to create communication lines and exchange information about incidents in the digital environment. However, since 2014, the agreements reached have lost their force due to the events in Ukraine. A similar situation occurred in 2022 in connection with the events in Ukraine, the Russian-American agreements reached in 2021 were violated by the United States, which unilaterally withdrew from the established working group in the field of security in the digital environment, refused to further discuss issues of ensuring the security of CI facilities, and also stopped joint work to investigate cybercrimes and counter cybercriminals. These events have demonstrated that the strategic context inevitably plays a significant role in the cyber war between Russia and the United States. At the same time, the absence of serious cyber attacks on the CI in 2022 (despite the increase in their number in general) of the two states indicates that information security acts as a factor of strategic stability both in Russian-American relations and within the international system as a whole. Thus, the mutual perception of the balance of threats in this area establishes the "balance of fear" necessary for international interaction, while being inscribed in a broader geopolitical context, but having a certain autonomy.

Currently, there is a crisis in the sphere of arms control and the destabilization of the strategic stability system. In these circumstances, the absence of agreements, in particular, on acceptable behavior in the digital environment carries significant risks. It seems important and urgent to resume the dialogue between Russia and the United States on the issue of interaction in the digital environment on mutually beneficial grounds, when cybersecurity will be linked to strategic stability, preventing the erosion of the architecture of strategic stability due to the development of cyber offensive weapons and the expansion of their scope; creating a system of guarantees to prevent cyber operations to solve any military-political tasks; developing the mechanism of cyber sanctions at the UN Security Council level, so that states could not violate the agreements reached during negotiations at any level, and if this happens, serious legal consequences would follow at the UN level.

It seems that joint opposition to threats in the digital environment and the conclusion of a bilateral cyber agreement are possible in the long term. This is due to the presence of a common understanding of threats, as well as the lack of a real alternative to working together. The main obstacle to an agreement on the regulation of cyber conflict may be the opposition of the United States in order to use strategic advantages in the digital environment. The analysis demonstrated that the United States is ready to implement initiatives only in specific areas of ensuring security in the digital environment.

The system of strategic stability will be tested for strength by cyber threats, an increase in the number of which we are now seeing. At the same time, for the resumption of bilateral dialogue, it is important to restore the necessary level of trust on the issue of interaction between Russia and the United States in the digital environment. Currently, the biggest difficulty that will be important to overcome is to resume Russian-American cooperation on mutually beneficial grounds, when cybersecurity becomes linked to strategic stability.

It seems important to preserve the digital environment as a space for dialogue, since this is the only way to guarantee international security and strategic stability. At the same time, States should take the lead and have equal rights in this process.

In addition, it is possible and important to develop a mechanism of cyber sanctions at the UN level, which can be used to prevent and deter inappropriate behavior, thereby supporting and strengthening confidence-building measures in the digital environment, and ending the existing unilateral restrictive cyber measures. The UN Security Council can be a leading institution in supporting the IIB, in particular, with regard to obligations related to the rules of conduct in the digital environment, Internet regulation issues, as well as the introduction of international cyber sanctions.

Summing up, it is important to note that, firstly, the approaches of Russia and the United States differ significantly in terms of regulating activities in the digital environment. Russia proceeds from the need to demilitarize the information space and develop mandatory rules of conduct for all states, while the United States aims to achieve and maintain its superiority in the digital environment by promoting initiatives aimed at limiting the development of an international regulatory framework that would regulate the activities of countries in the digital environment to non-binding documents.

Secondly, as long as Washington does not face any serious cyber threat that it cannot cope with on its own, it will strive to maintain its leading position in the digital environment and not limit itself to legal obligations, and achieving its goals, they tend to withdraw from agreements, working groups, which was demonstrated in the spring of 2022.

Thirdly, it was revealed that the strategic context inevitably plays a significant role in the cyber war between Russia and the United States. At the same time, the absence of serious cyber attacks on the critical infrastructure of both countries in 2022 indicates that information security acts as a factor of strategic stability both in Russian-American relations and within the international system as a whole. Thus, the mutual perception of the balance of threats in this area establishes the "balance of fear" necessary for international interaction, while being inscribed in a broader geopolitical context, but having a certain autonomy.

Fourth, joint opposition to threats in the digital environment and the conclusion of a bilateral cyber agreement are important and possible in the long term, due to the presence of a common understanding of threats, as well as the lack of a real alternative to working together. Due to the fact that the positions on security issues in the digital environment of the United States and Russia can be characterized as the most opposite, the consensus on digital issues between Moscow and Washington can be a significant breakthrough in ensuring the IIB. Perhaps it is in the context of arms control that it will be possible to agree on common rules for the use of cyber potential.

Fifth, it is important to preserve the digital environment as a space for dialogue, because this is the only way to guarantee international security and strategic stability. At the same time, States should take the lead and have equal rights in this process.

It seems expedient to further conduct research on the development of a mutually acceptable terminological apparatus for harmonizing the approaches of Russia and the United States in the digital environment, as well as to work out in detail every aspect of digital issues on which it is possible in the near future to come to mutually acceptable agreements and consolidate them in a legally binding agreement to ensure international security and strategic stability.



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