2 Weaponizing Cyberspace Truman to ban nuclear weapons, and the Americans were not taking us seriously, in 1949 everything changed and they started talking to us on an equal footing. I’m warning you: we are at the verge of having “something” in the information arena, which will allow us to talk to the Americans as equals.2 To this American author, the statement seemed both startling in its own right and also reminiscent of an account related to U.S. audiences near the outset of the Cold War. Soviet rocket scientist Grigori Tokaev escaped to the West in 1947, and among his accounts was an example of how Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin intended to use the technical skills he seized, in the Soviet Union’s version of Operation Paperclip. One of the ultra-futuristic Nazi concepts, advocated by Eugen Sänger, had been for an extremely long-range plane that could extend its range by skipping across the top of the Earth’s atmosphere, perhaps flying far enough to bomb New York City. Stalin’s reaction to the concept was reputed to be: “We need aircraft of the Sänger type. If we have such an aircraft, it will be easier to talk to Truman. We may be able to quiet him down.”3 Modern Russian leaders have chronically felt themselves besieged by hostile forces. Episodes like marginal foreign participation in Russia’s civil war and especially the cataclysmic fighting on the Nazi-Soviet front dur- ing World War II have reinforced a presumption that Russia is continually outmatched and surrounded by adversaries. This does not alter the fact that Russian actions have themselves fomented distrust, and interventions such as what occurred during Russia’s civil war were shaped in part by the Bolsheviks’ avowed intent to subvert and overthrow all existing gov- ernmental, economic, social, and religious institutions in existence. Pre- dictably, this perception has coincided with extensive efforts to develop asymmetrical tools with which to deter foreign powers the practice is then to use these instruments to ward off retaliation or escalation arising in reaction to Russia’s own aggrandizing initiatives. Atomic and other mass destruction weapons fit into this context, as does Stalin’s brief bemuse- ment about an orbital or semi-orbital aerospace bomber, as does a range of cyber activities spanning from sophisticated hacks on targeted infrastruc- ture to the trolling encouragement of ethnic or economic unrest. It is useful to recognize that Russia’s ideas, notably including its con- cepts relating to national sovereignty, are at odds with those held in West- ern countries.4 Analysts have suggested that Russian strategists believe that “the only way to fill the gap in international security” with dispa- rate conflict zones on the globe “is to reinforce multipolarity.”5 A multi- polar world offers significant advantages to a country that is incapable of reaching the top tier in areas such as population or economic strength, but which has honed information operations capabilities. Injecting conflicting messages into the domestic discourse of other countries provides a per- verse equalizing-by-cutting function.
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