German Klimenko, President Putin’s advisor on Internet development issues, said in a televised interview broadcast on Monday that Russia is now technically prepared to weather being shut off from the World Wide Web.
Klimenko says Russians would continue living “well and normally,” in the event that Western countries “declare another ‘Crimean isolation’ war against Russia,” though he admits that Internet users with data stored abroad (in violation of Russian Internet laws!) would “probably experience some difficulties.”
Klimenko argued that Moscow’s Internet regulatory practices, which have become far stricter under Putin’s third presidential term, are only mirroring global trends. “Extreme options like in North Korea or Cuba aren’t what we choose,” he explained.
There are two major reasons Moscow wants the power to corral its Internet infrastructure: (1) the government genuinely fears that Western sanctions or Western intelligence agencies might try to isolate or disable Russia’s Internet connectivity (possibly even by accident, like when the NSA allegedly shut off Syria’s Internet in November 2012); and (2) Moscow itself might want to sever Russia’s Internet connectivity in the event of a severe political crisis, to slow the flow of information.