MOSCOW. SEPTEMBER 6, 2021. PIR-PRESS. “The launch of consultations on information security was one of the concrete results of the meeting of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden in Geneva. Russia and the United States are being pushed to dialogue by the growing number of cyber threats and, especially, how this affects the military-political dimension of bilateral relations. There are also positive aspects: both countries played a crucial role in the successful conclusion of the UN negotiations on security in the field of ICT use this spring. Judging by the intensity of the meetings — it is known that at least four rounds of consultations have already taken place since June — it is clear that this direction is considered a priority in both Moscow and Washington. But the parameters of a possible deal are not yet quite obvious: each side has voiced a wide range of issues from cybercrime to attacks on military infrastructure, so the negotiators have a lot of work to do”, – consultant at the PIR Center Oleg Shakirov.
On August 31, as part of the Midweek Brainstorming Sessions, the PIR Center held a webinar on the topic “Patch for diplomatic relations: prospects for Russian-American consultations on information security”. “Patch” in this case is used as a metaphor – it means a patch or temporary code for solving specific problems, which can be implemented into the program on a permanent basis, or not.
The speaker of the webinar – Oleg Shakirov, a consultant of the PIR Center, a senior expert of the Center for Advanced Governance (CAG), an expert of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) presented his expert opinion on the possible results of the Russian-American negotiations on information security. This event continues the tradition of the PIR Center for the study of information challenges and threats to international and national security, which started 20 years ago.
At the beginning of the webinar, the founder and director of the PIR Center, Vladimir Orlov, made a welcoming speech. He noted the importance and relevance of this topic, stressing that information security issues have been one of the priorities for the organization for decades, especially against the background of the “spirit of Geneva” and the Russian-American negotiations of 2021. Also, Vladimir Orlov, mentioning his article “Everything is allowed” and a new vulnerability” on the Russian-American dialogue in the field of cybersecurity, stressed that today both sides have no restrictive framework, and we can talk not just about a new cold war, but about a real hot war in cyberspace.
Oleg Shakirov began his speech with the history of Russian-American relations on information and communication technologies, recalling the first consultations in 1996 on the settlement of issues in the field of information security, the joint statement on common security challenges at the turn of the XXI century, which was made on September 2, 1998, by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton.
Oleg Shakirov gave examples of how the “patch” metaphor can be convenient for describing bilateral agreements on information security. Russia and the United States managed to conclude agreements on narrow issues that are currently relevant, such as cooperation on the computer “problem-2000” in the late 1990s or countering Internet piracy in the 2000s. Such agreements served as a kind of “patch”: they served as an answer to specific problems, but more general questions about the rules of behavior in cyberspace remained unresolved. According to Oleg Shakirov, this experience shows that the resumption of consultations on information security after the summit in Geneva will most likely also end with the installation of a new “patch”. The parties could agree on cooperation in the fight against cybercrime, non-interference in national technical means and joint protection of critical infrastructure.
The speaker pinned some hopes on progress due to the arrival of a new administration in the United States, which is more determined to negotiate than its predecessors, and progress in the UN framework on cybersecurity in the spring of 2021. Despite the general distrust between Russia and the United States, accusations of politically motivated cyberattacks and attacks of ransomware viruses (Colonial Pipeline, JBS), efforts must be made to solve problems in the field of cybersecurity between Russia and the United States.
During the webinar, participants were able to ask questions of interest to them, in particular about the positive impact of Internet viruses on Russian-American relations, the reasons for the reluctance of American partners to engage in dialogue with Russia, Israeli cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, the role of tech giants (Facebook, Google), etc.
The topic caused active feedback from the audience. So, after Oleg Shakirov’s speech, Alexander Fedorov, a member of the Expert Council of the PIR Center, made a comment. He expressed his professional vision of the problems and prospects of bilateral relations in this area. Then Sergey Ponamarev, Associate Professor of the Engineering Academy of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, expressed a skeptical assessment of the prospects for resuming Russian-American cooperation in the field of information security in the current general situation of bilateral relations, as well as the policy consistently pursued by Washington in the field of the ISM.
The event turned out to be interesting and productive. As noted by the 1st year student of the MGIMO Master’s program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Darya Kheyrie: “Against the background of the variety of comments that flooded the expert community after the Putin-Biden summit, the PIR Center, during the webinar on cybersecurity, as always, was able to provide a balanced and in-depth analysis of the results and prospects of the Geneva meeting. Oleg Shakirov, a consultant at the PIR Center, gave all the necessary introductory notes so that any interested listener could understand what Russia and the United States are talking about, arguing and agreeing on information security issues. Moreover, the expert actively supported the discussion, leaving the audience with a sense of immersion in the topic and familiarity with the qualitative analysis of this global security problem”.
More than 45 people took part in the webinar, including the head of the Information Security Problems Group of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) RAS and Professor of the Academy of Military Sciences of the Russian Federation Natalia Romashkina, members of the Expert Council of the PIR Center Mikhail Lysenko, Alexander Fedorov and Mikhail Yakushev, member of the Council of the PIR Center and special correspondent of the Kommersant Publishing House Elena Chernenko.
The recording of the webinar is available on the PIR Center’s YouTube channel via the link, and will also be available on our educational platform Nonproliferation.World.
You can also read the 2001 monograph of the PIR Center on information challenges to national and international security. This book is the first in the domestic and foreign literature to systematically analyze a wide range of information security problems and contains some recommendations for ensuring it.