Response of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cooperation on Information Security Andrey Krutskikh to TASS' Question Concerning the State of International Dialogue in This Sphere
Question: In the context of the recent developments caused by the deterioration of the international information security (IIS) situation, including the recent large-scale hacker attacks, could you provide comments on the general state of international cooperation in this field?
Answer: We are deeply concerned about these trends. Nearly every week the world is faced with new computer attacks. We believe that this challenge calls for an urgent response from the international community. But unfortunately, so far the dialogue on the issue has progressed in a less effective way than is desired.
On 23 June 2017 the UN Group of Governmental Experts on International Information Security (GGE) chaired by the Federal Republic of Germany completed its work at a regular session. The GGE was expected to adopt a final report at its concluding meeting, as had been the case earlier, in 2010, 2013, and 2015. But the Group failed to reach a consensus.
The reason lies in the fundamental political disagreements among the participants concerning their visions of the future of the global information space and the principles by which it will be regulated.
Russia stands for the maintenance of peace in the information space and the prevention of an information "arms race." We regard the inadmissibility of the use of force both in the virtual and real world as an absolute truth. Under no circumstances should the information space become yet another battlefield.
We strongly believe that a just and equitable world order that would accommodate the interests of all states irrespectively of their technological capacities should be ensured in this area. The IIS system should guarantee equal security for all and serve to protect the most vulnerable players, instead of turning them into a target for the stronger ones.
In this regard, during the discussion within the GGE, the Russian side advocated the idea of necessity of conflict prevention in the digital field and its demilitarization as well as the establishment of principles of the non-use of force, respect for state sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs of other states, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. To these ends, we suggested that the Group should prepare and recommend for adoption by the UN General Assembly universal rules of responsible behavior of states in the information space reflecting these principles. In this context, the Russian representative within the GGE, in cooperation with BRICS partners and other states, including developing ones, has repeatedly introduced substantive proposals and contributions to the Group.
Unfortunately, the peace-oriented concept suggested by Russia has come in conflict with the position of certain countries that seek to impose on the whole world their own game rules in the information space, which would only serve their own interests.
Building on their technological advantages, they seek to secure "the right of the strongest" in the information space and provide an international legal basis for their "free hand" behavior. To this end, they have attempted to adopt within the UN format the decisions of the NATO Summit in Warsaw declaring cyberspace a new warzone.
This policy is being followed up with an attempt to "tailor" certain norms of international law, including its humanitarian aspects, in order to make it possible to use force in the digital field. At the same time, the need for a careful consideration of essential issues related to the specific nature of information and communication techonolgies is being completely ignored. This includes, in particular, attribution of computer attacks.
We believe that this approach, as well as the hastely manner in which it is being advanced, is indicative of the one and only thing: states that support it try to provide a legal "cover up" for every case when they use force.
We are particularly concerned about the fact that the concept of forceful and military countermeasures in the digital field, which, among other things, implies the imposition of sanctions and punishment of "undesirable" countries bypassing the existing mechanisms, including the UN Security Council, is being imposed on the world, and that the idea already agreed upon in previous GGE that any charges against states for carrying out cyberattacks should be proven, is being revised in all possible ways.
We believe that such an approach puts in jeopardy the security interests of other countries and is fundamentally in contradiction with the objective of ensuring peace in the information space.
Besides, in order to rid the discussion on IIS of the "inconvenient" opinion of the developing states, a course has been adopted aimed at discrediting the role of the key and the only universal negotiation platform – the UN – in dealing with IIS issues.
The final draft report submitted for consideration to the GGE by the German Chair reflected these exact approaches unacceptable to Russia, so we did not support it. In unison with us many other members of the Group – our BRICS and CIS partners, as well as a whole number of other states, including developing ones, spoke against the adoption of that version of the report.
However, we are convinced that such an outcome of the Group's work does not mean that this track is no longer effective. The history of the GGE has already seen breaks when a USA representative vetoed one of the draft reports (decisions within the Group are made by consensus). Despite that, three substantive reports in a row were adopted subsequently.
But the emerging tendencies that could be traced in the course of the Group's discussion are alarming. Instead of agreeing within the United Nations on joint practical steps to address the threats in the IIS sphere, attempts are made to undermine the work on this track and to "grab the bigger piece of the pie."
Russia remains determined to constructively address the issues of ensuring IIS in a bilateral and multilateral format. We are firmly convinced that, given the current circumstances, a refusal to pursue the dialogue on this topic may lead to damaging consequences. Against the background of increasing challenges in the IIS sphere, we need to jointly elaborate and adopt within the UN framework universal rules of responsible behavior of states in the information sphere as soon as possible. Draft rules were already drawn up by the SCO and presented to the United Nations in January 2015 as an official document. The work to negotiate the rules of behavior is an urgent necessity for all countries, and it has to become a priority of the international IIS agenda.
The idea to adopt an international convention on ensuring IIS also has not been removed from it. A draft concept of such document was prepared by the Russian side and presented at the 2nd International Meeting of High Representatives for Security Issues (Yekaterinburg, 21-22 September 2011).
Specific practical steps to fight cybercrime are equally urgent. In May 2017, at the 8th International Meeting of High Representatives for Security Issues (Varaksino, Tver region, 23-25 May) and on the margins of the 26th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Russia presented a draft UN universal convention on cooperation in combating information crimes.
We are open to dialogue on these issues with all interested states.