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Gunboat capitalism The Kremlin’s Internet Commissioner says Russia needs its military to challenge US technological leadership

Source: Kommersant
Photo: Yuri Martyanov / Kommersant

The Kremlin's Internet Commissioner, Dmitry Marinichev, declared at a recent meeting with Russia's Civic Chamber and scientists that Moscow's only two options in the global technology market are military confrontation with the United States or submission to the existing US hegemony. Given Russia's "historical ambitions" and unique status as the only nation on Earth capable of threatening the United States militarily, Marinichev says becoming a US vassal state is inconceivable for Russia. Meduza recaps his controversial comments.

America is monopolistic and hegemonic. Marinichev says the United States has strengthened its role as the world's leader in technology over the past 20 years, thanks largely to its "monopoly power" in the global market. "The United States hands out technologies to other countries like tinker toys. And all the other countries begin to compete for who can make the best car, or the best airplane. The key, most crucial components in every Chinese product are controlled by the United States," Marinichev explained.

Marinichev argues that Russia has two options: challenging the US or accepting a subordinate role in a world market dominated by America. The former option requires pressing into new markets with active or passive military actions on territory within Washington's sphere of influence. The latter route, which Marinichev says is most common among nations, would mean "coming to terms with a vassal position in the global market of labor, information, and technology." He then rules out this second option, saying it goes against Russians' "historical ambitions, knowledge, and capabilities."

Russia can't improve its market position without thinking outside the box. Marinichev's comments about Russian technology needing to establish itself better in foreign markets came in the context of a discussion about "import-substitution," which Moscow has pursued amidst Western sanctions over Russia's intervention in Ukraine. Marinichev warned that IT specialists trained in Russia on government funding will nonetheless "pray to find a job in a Western company" and move abroad at the first opportunity. The industry's problems, he argues, are bigger and have to do with America's global technological hegemony.

These are just ideas, not a call to action, but mark these words. Marinichev has criticized news coverage of his Civil Chamber remarks, saying that Kommersant reporter Aleksandr Chernykh took his words out of context. Writing on Facebook, Marinichev said he was only airing various "ideas," not advocating a course of action. In his Facebook post, however, he reiterates many of the same themes present in his earlier statements, including his belief that Russia cannot accept a "conciliatory position" relative to the United States, when it comes to the global technology market.

On Facebook, Marinichev also addressed China's rising technological role, stressing that it still doesn't have "absolute technological independence from the US." Militarily, Marinichev insists that Russia is unique in the world. "It's important to understand," he explains, "China does not today present a military threat to the United States. An economic threat maybe, but probably not really. Russia does present a military threat. And accepting a subordinate status today is out of the question, given our historical realities."

Who is this guy? The Kremlin's position of Internet Commissioner appeared in the summer of 2014. Dmitry Marinichev is the first and, so far, the only person to hold this job. Before taking on this role, he was the founder and CEO of Radius Group, a company that distributes and integrates engineering and IT systems.

“We can sell technology to other countries only when we have a military presence [in those countries]—when other countries have no alternative but to buy a product from us,” Marinichev said.

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