The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policy, nor is it involved in reporting or editing articles in the newspaper or elsewhere on bangordailynews.com.
Anastassia Fedyk is an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Yuriy Gorodnichenko is a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. James Hodson is CEO of the AI for Good Foundation. They are co-founders of Ukrainian Economist. They wrote this piece for the Los Angeles Times.
Over the past few months, Western observers have watched Russia systematically disrupt Ukrainians’ access to electricity, heating and technology by targeting civilian power and communications infrastructure. This is an all-out war against the people of Ukraine.
This targeted disruption is made possible by Western technology running on Western-designed equipment, core operating systems, and network software. A damning report by the Yermak-McFaul International Sanctions Russia Task Force revealed that most of the technological systems that enable Russia to continue targeting civilians come from allies in Ukraine.
Microsoft, Google, Cloudflare, Oracle, IBM, AutoCAD, and others have made public statements announcing that they are “exiting the Russian market” — but it’s not enough to simply stop selling new devices without shutting down existing phones and operating systems.
Many vendors continue to allow their products to be used to help manage servers, monitor networks, secure data, build artificial intelligence and other capabilities that clearly have the potential to be used for military purposes. These technologies are critical to Putin’s ability to disrupt Ukraine’s digital and physical infrastructure.
Western technology companies operate in Russia under Russian government regulations. Relatively docile Google has a long history of coordinating with the Russian government’s communications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, and is effectively the only major U.S. messaging platform still allowed to operate within Russia. It tries to operate its messaging platform in a delicately balanced way to comply with the implicit rules of the Russian government. But now Android devices are being used on the battlefield to communicate and coordinate attacks.
The era of delicate balance is long gone. After 10 months of war, Russians are not standing up to the Putin regime’s killing spree, even as they pay an increasing price for it. Many people rejoice over the devastation Ukraine has wrought. There is little hope of getting the Russians to stop their aggression. All that’s left is hindering their ability to continue.
If Ukrainians face harsh winters with limited heat and power, the least the West can do is stop Russian aggression using Western-produced technology, even as they strive to build “invulnerability points” to provide refuge for the most vulnerable.
What is needed are more comprehensive IT sanctions covering military enabling technologies, cyber enabling technologies, and information warfare enabling technologies.
Block IT services and access to prevent further military use.
The West must restrict Russian access to cloud computing resources and cloud-based data, such as commercial satellite imagery and GIS systems, and terminate all licensing and access to IT service providers such as Microsoft, Google (Cloud and Android), SAP, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and dozens of other companies. It is impossible to identify all potential military uses of such technology and should therefore be discouraged across the board. The same goes for manufacturing equipment and industrial technology provided by Western companies, which can be accessed remotely or rely on international connections and communications.
Block Russia’s use of networks and cyber-related technologies for secure communications.
We should block access to software and related devices used for secure digital communications, web monitoring, proxy networks, VPNs, and other similar services that allow remote use of digital resources. This would include blocking access to services such as Cloudflare, as well as access to patches/updates for security vulnerabilities in critical network software and operating systems.
Make social platforms more accountable by requiring disclosure of content consumption data by region, language, and source.
Requires social media, digital ad networks, and content sharing platforms to perform rigorous checks before allowing paid content to be shared and before allowing content to reach audiences greater than 10,000 accounts. Any platform that distributes news-like content should report key consumption metrics so that the reach of pro-Russian versus independent news sources in each region and language can be easily determined.
Implement stricter controls on technology transfers to Russian companies and nationals working in Western countries.
There are still examples of Russian companies supplying equipment to Western governments and infrastructure. Increased oversight of these companies is critical to better protecting national security and the West’s industrial and technological base. Russian nationals working in the relevant technology field are subject to the “deemed export” provisions applicable to non-U.S. nationals working in any export-controlled technology.
Russia will continue its aggression using every available avenue. The first step is to prevent Western technology from operating in Russia until attacks on civilians and infrastructure cease and the Russians are held accountable for the crimes committed.