Keir Giles’ wrote a good paper that you really should read on the Russian view of the information warfare/operations (cyber warfare) legality. This is a fairly neglected aspect of information warfare studies and is completely ignored by cyber warfare experts in the West, who consider the Western view to be the sole view. It is because they are largely WEIRD. The West is largely in introspection around diversity, where diversity now means that everyone has the same values, shares same culture and is working towards the same goals in the similar fashion. Indeed, that’s not diversity at all.

Cyberspace, cyber war and international law

US and allies (EU, Australia, NZ, …) share the view that ‘that existing international law and international commitments are suficient to regulate cyber conlict.’ The Tallinn Manual and other widely accepted legal view on international and customary law assumes that this view is universal.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. China, Russia and others with similar approach to information security (where the term includes propaganda, control over information flow by the government, etc.) disagree with the idea that the current international laws are sufficient.

This position may be surprising, but it is a rational position from Russian and Chinese perspective. Both Russia and China feel threatened in the current environment. Threatened by the lack of clearly defined rules, laws and treaties that would show what is and isn’t allowed.

Both China and Russia are sticklers for rules: rules present lines that are not meant to be crossed. Rules also present opportunities. Opportunities to find loopholes, opportunities to follow the letter of the rule whilst blowing raspberries at the spirit of the rule. Opportunities to dance on the line whilst never actually crossing it.

In short: the west is happy with slight uncertainties and fluid state of customary law because they are all singing from the same song-sheet. China and Russia want to have a fresh set of rules that are specific for cyberspace: this way they will have the certainty and the ability to continue with their merry ways without actually breaking any rules.

Tags: cyber, cybercrime, cybercrime convention, cyberwar, Russia, cyber conflict