CEPA

Washington D.C. – The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) is honored to announce its new Distinguished Fellow, Admiral (Ret.) James G. Foggo III.

Admiral Foggo’s remarkable career within the U.S. Navy and the transatlantic Alliance brings years of leadership, expertise, and insight to CEPA’s Transatlantic Defense and Security initiative.

In September 2020, Foggo retired from his positions as Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa and Commander of Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy. Throughout his tenure, he helped strengthen the Alliance’s posture in all strategic directions, enhancing naval cooperation and interoperability across Europe. Prior to this, Foggo served as Commander of U.S. 6th Fleet and NATO’s Naval Striking and Support Forces, working with allies and partners to respond to emerging security threats in the North Atlantic, Arctic, Black Sea, Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa.

“I have served overseas five times in my 39-year career in the United States Navy.  I am a staunch Trans-Atlanticist and a firm believer in the value of the NATO Alliance. We are Stronger Together!”

In addition to his numerous deployments at sea, Foggo has worked with the Joint Staff (J5) for Western Europe and the Balkans, European Command (EUCOM), and the U.S. Navy Staff. His intimate knowledge of the transatlantic relationship and European security environment will be invaluable to CEPA’s efforts to foster deeper cooperation between the United States and Europe.

Dr. Alina Polyakova, President and CEO, explained, “With his deep expertise, exemplary leadership, and passion for Atlanticism, Admiral Foggo embodies CEPA’s core mission. We are honored to have him join our team at this critical time for the transatlantic community.”

Foggo will contribute to CEPA’s projects on Black Sea and Nordic-Baltic regional security, as well as strategic work on NATO’s future. As a dedicated mentor and advocate for inclusivity, Admiral Foggo will also support CEPA’s efforts to cultivate the next generation of transatlantic leaders.

“Admiral Foggo represents the best of the Alliance,” said Lauren M. Speranza, Director of CEPA’s Transatlantic Defense and Security Program. “There is no one better to bring the maritime understanding of Europe and the Alliance to CEPA. His distinguished experience across the Atlantic, Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean Seas will bring tremendous value to our transatlantic security work.”

Foggo’s awards include the Meritorious Service Cross (Canada), Commander of the Cross of Saint George (Portugal); Commander of the Order of Merit (Italian Republic); Knight of the Legion of Honor (France); Knight of the National Order of Merit (France); Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and NATO Meritorious Service Medal. A 1981 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Foggo is also an Olmsted Scholar and Moreau Scholar. He earned a Master of Public Administration at Harvard University and a Diplome d’Etudes Approfondies in Defense and Strategic Studies from the University of Strasbourg, France.

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CEPA

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October 8, 2020

Central Asia Is Not Short of Attention

The five countries of this region — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — comprise a quarter of the ex-Soviet population and have twice the economic output of Ukraine. Central Asia has been and still is a prize. While Russia has not annexed territory in the region, economic multilateralism such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), established in 2014, mask Russia’s geopolitical consolidation project.

China is competing hard too. Last year Chinese purchases accounted for 50bn cubic meters of natural gas from Central Asia, about 60% of the region’s total exports, and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investment in the region topped $136bn across 261 projects. While China lacks Russia’s historical and cultural legacy in Central Asia, it makes up for it in ambition. China’s willingness to operate according to different standards than many western firms also gives it an edge working with the region’s strong and centralized leadership.

Rather than lose their sovereignty to either of these powerful neighbors, Central Asian nations call on China to balance Russia, and the U.S. and Europe to balance both.

As China and Russia ratcheted up their engagement of the region, the U.S. presence waned. In 2014 the United States closed its air force base in Kyrgyzstan, the last of several in the region used for operations in Afghanistan. Then after the 2016 election, the Trump administration’s insular focus accelerated American retrenchment.

These days, as temperatures rise between the United States and Russia and China, the region seems to be getting some practical attention from policy-makers in Washington, DC. In December, the taxpayer-funded U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) launched an alternative to state-directed investments by authoritarian regimes. In February, the Department of State’s 2020 Strategy for Central Asia highlighted a renewed focus on regional stability through business and trade.

Through regional economic cooperation, the United States can demonstrate the benefits of an energetic and uncorrupted American alternative to Putin’s status quo and China’s debt diplomacy traps. The contrast will be instructive for all concerned.

This is not a charity project. Central Asia’s geostrategic benefits to U.S. interests are wide-ranging. Turkmenistan holds the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world, investment led by Chevron and ExxonMobil in Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil field nears $40 billion, and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan provided America airbases.

Increasing American influence in the region requires creativity and nimbleness. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted recently in Foreign Affairs that the United States “needs to get a lot smarter about using economic tools to win over other countries” — exactly what the DFC is designed to do. Efforts involving Russian and Chinese partners such as joint investment funds and free-trade zones are vulnerable to their sabotage. To be successful, the United States needs independent, local allies.

Uzbekistan is a good candidate. It is Central Asia’s most populous country with a large and diversifying economy, and since the election of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in late 2016, has also become less repressive. The potential democratic transformation of a large Muslim country has geostrategic implications. Uzbekistan has not joined the EEU, retaining flexibility in pursuing an independent economic relationship with American interests. The DFC’s Chief Executive, Adam Boehler, made a timely first visit to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, in June.

Kazakhstan is also important. It claims Russia’s longest border, the world’s ninth-largest landmass, and vast oil and gas deposits. Having applied economic reforms consistently since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan’s state apparatus is easier for western businesses to navigate than Uzbekistan’s nascent one.

Practical opportunities abound in both countries. For example, Uzbekistan recently embarked on reforms in the housing and construction sector. By 2021, according to the president, all government-funded construction projects must adhere to international building standards. Last year Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev allocated almost $4bn in part to develop housing and infrastructure and establish a government company to support citizens’ repayments of mortgage loans.

The United States could demonstrate the superiority of its design and construction capabilities over Russian and Chinese rivals. Joint U.S.–Uzbek and U.S.–Kazakh manufacturing initiatives, especially for sophisticated building components, could turn a profit while amplifying those countries’ export capabilities.

Central Asia’s demographics are promising too. The median age is only 28, 12 years younger than Russia and 10 years younger than China. An improved U.S. image among the youthful population will resonate with their Russian and Chinese counterparts.

The decision to postpone this month’s 2020 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit over coronavirus concerns provides an unexpected opening for the United States. The SCO, a Eurasian political alliance established in 2001, counts China, Russia, and four of the five Central Asian countries among its members. The DFC should use this break in SCO continuity symbolically — offer quick and attractive alternatives to Russian and Chinese investment in Central Asia in the vacuum of the usual annual media blitz. The region is starved for fresh options, and amidst the confusion wrought by covid-19, America can smartly increase its strategic presence.

Michael Sellman is co-Chief Executive of the real estate firm CGC.

Photo: By xusenru via Needpix.

Michael Sellman

July 29, 2020

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

The Three Seas Initiative needs to be bolder and bigger.

The more you worry about China, the more you should care about international groupings that seek to counter its influence. But with less than a month to go before the Three Seas Summit in Tallinn (on October 19, postponed from June because of the pandemic), few clues have emerged about the agenda or participants.The 12-country Three Seas Initiative (3SI) started in 2015 to promote north-south ties between the Baltic Sea, the Adriatic and the Black Sea. Communism’s legacy is still evident in the region’s infrastructure: too rickety, and mostly running on the east-west axis. It would take $1.16trn to bring digital, energy and transport connectivity up to western levels.

But the grouping’s implicit aim, backed by the United States and the European Union, is to compete with the 17+1. Launched by China in 2012, this currently brings 17 countries together to bid for infrastructure projects under the tutelage of the party-state in Beijing. Many see it as a vector for political and diplomatic influence too.

The groupings overlap, but not neatly. Austria is in the 3SI but not the 17+1. The eleven other 3SI members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) are also in the 17 +1, but it also includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, and a new member, Greece.The 3SI got off to a good start, with notably high-profile summits in Warsaw in 2017 and Bucharest in 2018, but Ljubljana in 2019 was a flop. So hopes were high when the Estonians took over. In February the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, promised up to $1bn in funding to the new $520m 3SI Investment Fund.

Then came the pandemic and the postponement. Nothing much seemed to be happening. But officials in Tallinn were busy behind the scenes. The presidents of Germany, Poland and Bulgaria are expected to attend, at least virtually. So too may Pompeo himself (perhaps giving some more details of that $1bn). A heavyweight EU figure is penciled in too; the EU digital commissioner Margrethe Vestager would be a good choice, given Estonia’s emphasis on “smart connectivity” as a summit theme.

High on the agenda will be the location of next summit. An international conference would make a nice springboard for Bulgarian president Rumen Radev’s re-election campaign, which may be why he is planning to make time in his schedule for the Tallinn meeting. Whether the Bulgarian government would want to pay for the party is another question.

That underlines the importance of the 3SI working in future on an intergovernmental basis, rather than as a rotating presidential-level talking shop (most heads of state in the region have only modest executive powers). It needs a permanent secretariat to keep momentum. Estonia set up a small team but has no desire to keep doing the job. Hungary has shown some signs of interest, perhaps hoping to repair the reputational damage caused by its enthusiastic hosting of a murky Kremlin-affiliated development bank. Poland or Romania would be stronger candidates.

Strategy needs to be bolder. North-south connectivity should involve Ukraine. Getting ready to help Belarus when the regime falls should be a priority. Chinese influence is strongest in the Western Balkans — just where the 3SI’s footprint is smallest. The investment fund’s projects can range to neighboring countries but there is no appetite for new members.

The 17+1 summit in April was postponed, but China will be back next year, trying to bolster and expand its influence in the region. To counter that effectively, the 3SI needs to be more sharply focused, and above all bigger.

 

WP Post Author

Edward Lucas

See author's posts

September 21, 2020

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

A transatlantic digital agenda should be top priority for the new Administration. And it’s up to Europe to make the case.

Inbox is a CEPA series on priorities for the next administration – and its allies.

With Joseph Biden now de facto President-Elect, Europeans are for the most part breathing a sigh of relief. Congratulating Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the “trans-Atlantic friendship” indispensable. Norbert Röttgen, head of Germany’s foreign affairs committee and candidate for Chancellor, called the election a “moment of relief and joy,” but later added that a Biden presidency won’t solve Europe’s problems. Others, like French President Emmanuel Macron, emphasized how much work needs to be done.

Though Germany was frequently a target for President Trump’s ire, the European Union as a whole often came under fire too, with Trump at least once going so far as to call it a “foe.” For many in the EU, therefore, a Biden administration presents a chance to restart the relationship. To be sure, Biden himself has said that restoring stability to the transatlantic alliance is important. But Europeans would be wise to not take a more welcome and open approach from a Biden White House for granted: the new administration will have a long list of priorities.

With the Senate potentially remaining in Republican hands, implementing ambitious domestic policy will not be straightforward. The good news is that in foreign policy, American presidents have a comparatively free hand. Biden comes into the presidency with almost fifty years of experience and a known set of views on these matters. The outlines of his agenda are clear: climate change, democracy promotion, and China.

Europe will have to find ways to make itself a valuable partner to the United States on these top priority issues. But it also has an opportunity to lead on tech policy — an issue that is often overlooked but where Europe has taken a decisive leadership role already. Establishing a digital domain rooted in democratic values and principles should be a top priority for a reinvigorated transatlantic alliance. And Europe should work to bring the US along with its ambitious agenda.

Getting technology right will affect many other outcomes. How democracies are able to harness emerging and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing will also shape the relationship with China and our ability to better address the disruptive effects of climate change. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has said that this will be Europe’s digital decade. But for that ambition to become reality, Europe will have to work closely with the United States, which is still the global leader in innovation, to ensure that democracies can keep a competitive edge over China’s growing digital authoritarianism.

Unlike in other foreign policy areas, where the Biden campaign has elaborated concrete proposals, priorities on digital issues, emerging technology, and broader tech policy remain more ambiguous. This is an opportunity for Europe. The EU plans to unveil omnibus legislation to regulate everything from data use to e-commerce to harmful online content by the end of the year. This regulatory effort will have profound consequences for many US tech companies, some of which have lobbied extensively against some of the proposed provisions. The Europeans will also likely double down on a vision of “digital sovereignty,” which, some fear, would contribute to a fragmented “splinternet,” an outcome that ultimately benefits both Russia’s and China’s vision for control over information in the online space. Recent European court rulings have already put data sharing between Europe and the US at risk. Some of these EU-driven efforts could deepen divisions in the alliance, rather than building closer collaboration. For these reasons, the EU should focus on getting the incoming administration on board with a transatlantic digital agenda that the US can get behind rather than going at it alone.

With many priorities competing for policymakers’ attention, it will be easy to dismiss finding a common tech policy as something best left for the future. Not so. We have already seen how technologies can simultaneously contribute to and undermine democracies, from empowering activists to organize against authoritarian regimes, to allowing autocracies to spread disinformation abroad on social media while surveilling citizenry at home through facial recognition technology. And there is much more to come.

Europe has an opportunity to lead the transatlantic community on the digital agenda. It should seize it.

 

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Credit: President Obama White House Archives

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Alina Polyakova

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November 9, 2020

CEPA StratCom

The CEPA StratCom Program is an innovative, on-the-ground effort to counter disinformation through analytical and high-impact tools

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The Vanishing Act
Anna ?dre explores how a Facebook post about an alleged plan to demolish a WWII memorial birthed a disinfo campaign to foment tension in Latvia.

Russian Influence in Romania
CEPA Fellow-in-Residence Corina Rebegea examines the Kremlin’s influence toolbox utilized in Romania.

Moscow’s Anti-NATO Deception
Moscow’s disinformation seeks to popularize false images of the West in the West.

Propaganda attack from the sea?
In 2019, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Agency’s annual report identified Russian sailing ships as tools in the Kremlin’s on-going propaganda campaigns. The annual Tallinn Maritime Days is one of the targets for this propaganda.

The Georgian conflict: was Tbilisi an exception?
Propastop examines the recent protests in Georgia over Russia’s continuing interference, and how it could affect other countries in Europe.

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Russia is not going away. We need a strategy

This is no time to worry about Russia. Ukraine is fighting for its own survival and for freedom everywhere. All efforts should therefore go on raising money for humanitarian relief, educating foreign public opinion, pressing Western governments to supply arms and munitions, and in other acts of solidarity.

That argument is tempting. But it is wrong. Ukraine’s torment is largely the result of Western strategic failure. First, we misunderstood the Soviet collapse. Then we missed the stench of imperialism and authoritarianism hanging over the supposedly democratic and friendly new Russian state. We also ignored (chiefly because of greed) the corruption and gangsterism. Our approach was based on wishful thinking and implemented with stunning complacency.

Western countries should not make that mistake again. We need to set goals and priorities. We need to work out what sacrifices and risks we are prepared to take over the coming months, years, and decades. We should have done this in 1991. We should not delay further.

The shorthand term for our goal should be decolonization. Rather than narrowly focussing on “regime change” or the personality of Vladimir Putin, all outside countries dealing with Russia should hold this long-term aim in mind. Russia will be at peace with itself and its neighbors only once it ditches its imperial mindset, with its dire effects on both the state’s relations with its own people and on its treatment of its neighbors. Repression at home and aggression abroad stem from the same approach, which prizes power and glory over legality, liberty, dignity, and consent.

This wrenching transformation may come through economic weakness (as in post-war Britain), from military setbacks (France), or because of catastrophic defeat (Germany after 1945). The top priority, for now, should therefore be securing Ukraine’s military victory against the Kremlin’s invasion. If Putin can walk away from the war with territorial gains, he will claim vindication and the imperial war machine will be stronger, not weaker.

But our strategy must have other elements too.

One is to create surrogate structures abroad to compete with the Kremlin’s cultural, ideological, and ecclesiastical hegemony. Some of the most distinguished academics dealing with Russia, such as the historians Timothy Snyder and Alexander Etkind, are trying to establish a new East European University where Russians and Belarusians can teach, research, and study freely. As Russia’s academic life withers under the scrutiny of the FSB, this would be a powerful counterweight.

Another immediate priority is an alternative canonical authority for Russian-speaking Orthodox Christians who have broken with the Moscow Patriarchate. Dissident parishes in Lithuania and elsewhere are already looking for a new home. The obvious choice would be the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople (Istanbul in secular toponomy). This has already aroused Moscow’s ire with its welcome to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. During the Cold War, the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile was a useful competitor to the KGB-dominated church inside the Soviet Union. We need something similar now.

But the new Russian diaspora presents opportunities and difficulties. These new émigrés may be cross about the war, but they are not necessarily allies in the decolonization cause (Georgians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and others have plenty of stories of the new arrivals’ blithely unconscious imperialism). Though the brain drain clearly weakens the Russian economy, emigration is also a safety valve for the Kremlin. The easier we make it for Russians to live abroad, the less likely they are to go home and topple the regime. Yet if they feel harshly treated, their self-pity will intensify nationalist sentiment.

Such moral and strategic dilemmas abound. All the more reason to start grappling with them now.

 

Photo: Members of the local Russian diaspora in Krakow join the global anti-war demonstration of all free Russians and protest against the war with Ukraine at the Adam Mickiewicz monument in the Main Square in Krakow. On Sunday, June 12, 2022, in Krakow, Poland. Credit: Artur Widak/NurPhoto

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Edward Lucas

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June 19, 2022

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

European telecom operators are once again knocking on doors in the halls of governments seeking relief from Big Tech for the costs of building and operating their networks.   

Telecom operators cite what they say is an imbalance in revenue between operators themselves and the over-the-top (OTT) Internet service providers such as Netflix, Meta, and Google. Previously rebuffed, this time they may have found allies in Europe’s Digital Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton.  

US and European leaders should tackle the issue at their upcoming May 15-16 Trade and Technology Council in Paris. Although both sides seek to avoid a conflict in their pursuit of pushing back Russian military and digital aggression, the US must present its concerns on this potential discriminatory tax on its biggest industries. It should do so now, not later, before Brussels proposes legislation. In the past, Washington has spoken out too late in the legislative process about its concerns about European tech proposals to have an impact.  

The idea of cost-sharing between communications providers has its roots in the revenue settlements system used for old-fashioned voice analog telephone networks.  Under this traditional telco regime, governments negotiated rates via the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).   

Before the Internet, most telecom operators were public monopolies. It made sense for governments to set the terms and conditions for interconnection.  Circuit-switched technology allowed for easy origination and destination location identification, making it straightforward to split the costs based on the ITU established rates. 

The Internet overturned this equation. Voice traffic moved online to messaging apps. Seeking to recover lost funds, some governments and incumbent telcos, initially in the developing world, pushed for the development of an Internet cost-sharing model.  Their argument was simple: data-hungry Internet companies providing video streaming and sharing consumed a disproportionate share of Internet traffic and should pay extra for it.  

The policy was misguided then, and it is misguided today. Buttressed by economic analysis performed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States, European countries, and other like-minded allies argued against applying the old telecom charging model to the Internet. It is impossible to simply split costs in a system where traffic routing is dynamic. 

Europe’s operators, now privately owned, lobbied hard. Heading into the 2012 ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications, the European Telecommunications Networks Operators (ETNO) pushed for a new treaty provision to establish an Internet sending party pays system. Instead of commercially negotiated contracts, OTT Internet providers would pay network operators relative to the content they sent using the telecom operator’s networks.   

The US and the various European national governments rejected the idea. European national telco regulators (BEREC) argued it risked “shifting the balance of negotiating leverage between market participants and inducing an abuse of market power by telecoms carriers in relation to terminating traffic (much as occurred historically in traditional telephony).” Even then European Commissioner Neelie Kroes argued against the idea, reminding ETNO that it was the Internet services that drove customer demand. 

A decade later, ETNO, is pushing once again for government intervention.  While the basic standards of Internet routing remain the same, there is no technological driver for the shift.  What’s changed is the politics. Brussels seems determined to reign in Big Tech and ETNO thinks they now have a receptive audience. On May 2, it released a study arguing that Meta, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Netflix accounted for over 56 percent of all global data traffic last year and that an annual contribution from them of €20 billion to network costs could give a €72 billion boost to the EU economy.  

Instead of rejecting this old-fashioned argument, leading European politicians expressed sympathy.  Commissioner Vestager expressed a willingness to examine issues of fairness related to telecom network development. Commissioner Breton promised to propose a new law mandating revenue sharing. 

Will Europe’s national telecom regulators cede authority to the EU’s intergovernmental bureaucracy in an area they have covered for decades?  Interestingly, no member of BEREC has come out in support.  With most OTT providers targeted by ETNO being US companies, what will be the Biden Administration’s response?  If Europe forces US tech to pay telco fees, the policy might spread globally. The ITU might take it up again means to facilitate revenue transfers to the developing world, echoing the old telephone system. 

Let’s hope that for the sake of innovation and global connectivity, decision-makers see through this latest ETNO ploy and say no to a return to the outdated regulation of the 1980s. Some things are better off remaining in the past. 

Fiona M. Alexander is both a Distinguished Policy Strategist in Residence in the School of International Service and a Distinguished Fellow at the Internet Governance Lab at American University in Washington. She is a former Department of Commerce official, specializing in technology policy.

 

Credit: Mario Caruso via Unsplash.

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Fiona Alexander

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May 12, 2022

Bandwidth is an online journal covering crucial topics surrounding transatlantic cooperation on tech policy. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

May 9 – Victory Day

Like so much else, the May 9 celebrations have been soured by Vladimir Putin’s ambitions. 

For decades, May 9 in Russia –Victory Day – was the day a whole country celebrated the heroism of the Soviet people, who had paid such an enormous price to end World War II. The holiday was always bitter-sweet, and the contradictory emotions of commemorating those lost with the joy of survival because of their sacrifice were inseparable. At least 27 million had died, possibly many more. 

“A holiday with tears in the eyes” and “never again”, those most well-known of all Russian phrases, were the basic elements of the mood for much of the post-war period. However, about a decade ago the meaning of the Victory Day and the Great Patriotic War — Russia’s name for World War II — started to change. The past began to blur with the present, and “never again” was transformed into something truly sinister; “We can do it again.”

The official Soviet narrative of the Great Patriotic War was elaborated in the Brezhnev era from 1964-82. Not only did it provide the Soviet system with legitimacy, but it also helped consolidate the official collective identity of the Soviet people. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the resultant traumas for a post-imperial state, the war became a foundational myth and a core of Russian identity. The country’s first post-Soviet President, Boris Yeltsin, turned the Victory Day parade into an annual tradition, but it was Vladimir Putin who, in 2008, made it an annual event featuring military hardware to showcase Russia’s military strength.

Over time, the Great Patriotic War has therefore changed from a celebration of a past, near-superhuman national effort into a political event, useful for the present.

The Russian state consistently made efforts to blur the language associated with Great Patriotic War. Back in 2005 Nashi (Ours), a government-supported youth movement was launched. Its declared goal was to fight all forms of fascism in Russia (which according to the official narrative was primarily composed of the liberal opposition, nationalists, and any group believed to be under US influence). Nashi activists frame themselves as the descendants of those who saved the country from fascism during World War II. The same genealogy was invoked in 2013 by the Ukrainian Party of Regions — a pro-Yanukovich and pro-Russia Ukrainian party popular in the Eastern part of Ukraine. 

Memory and symbolism of the Great Patriotic War became dramatically redefined in 2014. In his Crimean speech of that year, Putin claimed that the Euromaidan revolution was led by “neo-Nazis, Russophobes, and antisemites” and that Russia had saved Crimea’s population from the “ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II”. The 2014 Victory Day celebration was probably the first in Soviet and Russian history, when the slogans “We can do it again” replaced “never again.”

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 15.31.47

The war became a useful political tool loaded with enormous moral energy. In 2014, the law on the “rehabilitation of Nazism”, which had existed since 1996, was modified to include the “dissemination of incorrect information about the actions of the armies of the anti-fascist coalition.” Alexey Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, was fined more than $11,000 for “offending a veteran” in 2021. In a way he was lucky: according to the newly amended version of the law, signed by Putin after Navalny was accused, he could have been imprisoned for up to five years.

From that time on, politicians beat furiously on the drum of the Great Patriotic War in order to frame and justify aggression in Ukraine. Pro-Ukrainian forces are now routinely demonized in the Russian media as “fascists” and “neo-Nazis,” intent on erasing the historical memory of the Soviet victory and perpetrating genocide against Russian and Jewish minorities. At the same time, for many Donbas residents who joined anti-Ukrainian government armed groups, the idea that the Donbas conflict is a repetition of the Great Patriotic War became the main lens through which to understand the events of 2013-2014. They believed they had fought against the successors of the Banderites, now backed by the US and the West rather than the Nazis.

Finally, the Great Patriotic War became the main reference point for a moral justification for Russian second and biggest invasion of Ukraine on February 24. “Denazification”, a clear reference to World War II, was an official goal of the war, as announced by Putin himself. Rather than claiming that Russia was saving Crimea from fascists, this time the whole of Ukraine was to be “liberated.”

Since then, the regime’s contorted language has begun to collapse under the weight of its own illogicalities: “fascists” became the common term for anybody who criticized Putin’s decision, within Russia or beyond. Even Israel was described as Nazi for its support for Ukraine (causing a bizarre and self-defeating row with a government that had been trying hard to remain on relatively good terms.)

The chasm between Russian rhetoric and reality was best illustrated in Mariupol, the Ukrainian port city reduced almost to rubble by its liberation. The new authorities unveiled a new landmark, the statue of a “Grandmother with a Soviet flag”, who was lauded as “a living symbol of the continuity of generations, of the continuity of the battle against Nazism and fascism.” Anna Ivanova did indeed exist and did indeed greet Ukrainian troops with a Soviet flag, thinking they were Russian. But it is also true that Mrs. Ivanova’s house was destroyed by the Russian army and that she is now a refugee being cared for by Ukrainians.

There is a bitter irony in the re-purposing of the Great Patriotic War and Victory Day to serve Putin’s military ambitions. These were the most important and unifying symbols, not only for Russians but for others who once lived in the Soviet Union. They are now drained and completely redefined, their old meaning lost.

Russia, which always prided itself on defeating fascism in the middle of the 20th century has become fascist itself. Compared to the price Ukraine has paid in death and destruction, the cost to Russia seems far lower: merely the loss of the treasured memories, and the family stories connecting the generations, that have become contaminated forever, poisoned by Putin’s war.

Dr. Natalia Savelyeva is a Resident Fellow at the Future Russia Initiative with the Democratic Resilience Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). She is a sociologist who has studied at universities in Russia and the US, specializing in research on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

 

Photo: Vladimir Putin attended the military parade marking the 76th anniversary of the Victory in the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War. May 2021. Credit: Kremlin.ru.

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Natalia Savelyeva

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May 6, 2022

Europe’s Edge is an online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

When he came to power, Vladimir Putin ignored the Internet. After discovering its power, he has tried to control it. Now, as he wages war in Ukraine, he wants to suppress it. He must not succeed.

As Russia sends tanks and soldiers to take over Ukraine, it is also dispatching censors and regulators to strangle the Internet. In this special series by the Center for European Policy Analysis, The New Iron Curtain, Senior Fellows Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan argue that both invasions are linked and represent the culmination of more than a decade-long trend to throttle the free and open flow of information in Russia.

In 2009, Google decided it wanted to become number one in Russia.

Local tech star Yandex dominated the search engine market. Yandex was fast to market, bringing maps and other features to Russians well before the Silicon Valley giant. If Google improved its Russian offering, it figured that Yandex could be vanquished. Google hired Russian engineers. It added local content. It signed a deal with local social network Mail.ru.

The effort proved fruitless. Under political pressure, the Mail.ru partnership fell apart. It soon became clear that Google could stay a relevant number two in the Russian search market, but never be allowed to become number one.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 upset this arrangement. In addition to sending troops into the Ukrainian territory, the Kremlin launched an offensive against Silicon Valley platforms. On May 16, 2014, a Roskomnadzor spokesperson, Maxim Ksenzov, attacked Twitter in an interview with Izvestia, the largest pro-Kremlin daily newspaper. “We can tomorrow block Twitter or Facebook in Russia,” Ksenzov said. “It will take a few minutes. We do not see this as a big risk.”

Yet Roskomnador held off. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev opposed a full Twitter shutdown.  Instead, starting in 2014, the Kremlin experimented with several tactics trying to force global platforms to cooperate.

On July 4, 2014, the Duma passed a law prohibiting the storage of Russian personal data anywhere but in Russia. Global platforms were required to relocate their servers to Russia by September 1, 2015.  Google, Twitter, and Facebook sent high-ranking representatives to Moscow. Although details of their talks were kept secret, all three quietly sabotaged the law. Russian courts doled out fines for noncompliance, but they were too small to force a change.

The Kremlin kept increasing pressure. Of the three platforms, Google felt the most pain. Evgeny Prigozhin, a businessman close to the Kremlin, hired private security officers to spy on its Russian Director of Government Affairs, Marina Zhunich. An antitrust case targeted the Google-owned mobile phone operating system Android, which dominated the Russian market.  It was resolved only after Google agreed to replace its search engine with Yandex on all Russian mobile devices.

Twitter came next.  In March 2021, Roskomnadzor slowed traffic to the website. It demanded that Twitter take down content the Kremlin considered “harmful,”  in particular posts calling on children to take part in the pro-Navalny demonstrations. The slowdown affected every Russian mobile phone and half of laptops and tablets.

The operation was far from surgical. In addition to Twitter, Roskomnadzor accidentally shut down the Kremlin’s website, as well as other government sites.

Western platforms continued to resist. Google refused, for example, to delete videos posted on YouTube by opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The Kremlin responded by increasing fines, imposing a total of $120 million on firms accused of defying censors.

Under such pressure, Western tech’s resistance crumbled. When Twitter’s traffic was slowed in 2021, it acceded to requests to take down “illegal content.” Roskomnadzor announced that Twitter had acceded to 91 percent of its requests for takedowns.

Apple turned off its Private Relay service, designed to encrypt all traffic leaving a user’s device, like an iPhone or an iPad, so that it couldn’t be read if intercepted. Apple had already switched the service off in authoritarian countries such as Saudi Arabia. Now it was Russia’s turn. Silicon Valley took the Twitter slowdown as a sign that the Russian authorities no longer feared a domestic backlash from blocking Western sites.

While upping its attacks on foreign platforms, Roskomnadzor promoted local Russian replacements. Russia’s tech industry is one of the country’s fastest-growing sectors, benefiting from one of the world’s largest engineering communities. To help local tech firms, lawmakers required the pre-installation of many Russian-made apps, starting in 2019.  Yandex and Mail.ru  own the bulk of Kremlin-required apps. This includes a browser, a cloud computing service, a maps application, a search engine, an instant messenger, and two social networks.

The goal was straightforward: when Russians witnessed something extraordinary – and decided to share the news, video footage, or pictures online – they would post to Russian-made platforms, under strict control of the country’s censors. Starting in 2017, most Russian social media and online services were added to the ‘Register of information distributors’ and required to provide access to the FSB intelligence agency.

For Western firms, the crackdown’s climax came in September 2020, when the Kremlin demanded the removal from Apple and Google app stores of Alexei Navalny’s Smart Voting App.  The Smart Voting app selected candidates with the best prospects of beating representatives of Putin’s United Russia party.

Old-fashioned intimidation was deployed. FSB agents visited the home of Google’s top executive in Moscow to deliver a frightening ultimatum: take down the app within 24 hours or go to prison, according to the Washington Post. Although Google moved the woman to a hotel, the agents showed up at her room to repeat their warning. Within hours, the Smart Voting app was gone.  Apple’s “main representative in Moscow faced a similarly harrowing sequence,” the Post reported.

After invading Ukraine, the Kremlin blocked Twitter and Facebook traffic. A Russian prosecutor branded Meta (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram) as an extremist organization. By all indications, the Kremlin will keep upping the pressure on foreign platforms and websites until they are chased out of Russia. As of today, YouTube remains the only major Silicon Valley network still available.

The Kremlin’s censorship extended beyond Silicon Valley. It blocked international media including ВВС, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Liberty as well as independent Russian media including Meduza, Mediazona, Doxa, Echo Moskvy, and TV Rain. The list grows daily. Our own website, Agentura.ru, was blocked on March 18 after we broke a story about purges in the FSB in the wake of their intelligence failures around the Ukraine invasion.

The results of this massive blocking are mixed: Russians, outraged by the introduction of such total censorship, have rushed to install VPN services.   Attempts to replace international apps with Russian counterparts are faltering. With their online surveillance and censorship apparatus struggling, Russian authorities are turning to traditional means of suppressing information  On March 4, the Duma adopted a new law making it a criminal offense punishable by up to 15 years in jail to spread fakes about military operations, to discredit the armed forces, or to support sanctions against Russia.

During the three days after the law was imposed, police detained 60 people. The majority were journalists. Terrified, almost all independent Russian journalists have ceased covering the war.

Russia’s rhetoric about the Sovereign Internet represents an attempt to justify nationwide censorship. Despite Russia’s strong tradition of high-quality technical education, foreign help has been required to build Russia’s surveillance and censorship apparatus.

Western policy should focus on improving export controls on technologies that could strengthen this censorship and surveillance. Global platforms led by Google, Facebook, and Twitter, should remain available for Russians to share uncensored news and political developments. Western powers should make it a priority to keep global platforms available in Russia.

When he came to power, Vladimir Putin ignored the Internet. After discovering its power, he has tried to control it. Now, as he wages war in Ukraine, he wants to suppress it. He must not succeed.

Andrei Soldatov is a nonresident senior fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis. A Russian investigative journalist, co-founder, and editor of Agentura.ru, a watchdog of the Russian secret services’ activities, he has been covering security services and terrorism issues since 1999. 

Irina Borogan is a nonresident senior fellow with the Center for European Policy Analysis. Irina is a Russian investigative journalist, co-founder, and deputy editor of Agentura.ru, a watchdog of the Russian secret services’ activities.

Photo: RYAZAN, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 17, 2020: A live TV broadcast of the 16th annual end-of-year news conference by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at a home appliances store. Credit: Alexander Ryumin/TASS

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Andrei Soldatov

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Irina Borogan

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April 13, 2022

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Photo: The logo of Russia's state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, is reflected in a laptop screen in this picture illustration taken February 12, 2019. Credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov.

A New Iron Curtain: Russia’s Sovereign Internet

As Russia sends tanks and soldiers to take over Ukraine, it is also dispatching censors and regulators to strangle the Internet. In this CEPA special series, Senior Fellows Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan argue that both invasions are linked and represent the culmination of a more than a decade-long trend to throttle the free and open flow of information in Russia.

READ MORE

Photo: The logo of Russia’s state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, is reflected in a laptop screen in this picture illustration taken February 12, 2019. Credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov.

Bandwidth is an online journal covering crucial topics surrounding transatlantic cooperation on tech policy. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.