Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on technology and security in the context of maintaining international peace and security
We thank briefers for their statements.
Digital technology transformed the world and became an integral part of its economic, political, and social processes. There were hopes that this technology would become the driver of economic and social progress, facilitate communication, help humanity step over to a new digital stage of development.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, information and communication technologies (ICTs) helped people not lose their jobs, and held together our world that was getting increasingly more disconnected due to quarantine and self-isolation measures. Services that states provides to the population, as well as the work of hospitals, banks and broader financial sector, schools and other critical institutions are now almost fully dependent on ICTs. It will not be an overstatement if we say that today humanity is more dependent on ICTs than ever before in its history. However, hopes that ICTs would serve as an absolute power of good never came true. For that, we should not blame the technology itself, but rather the fact that it got to be used for achieving geopolitical goals and imposing hegemonies – now also online.
Manipulation of information has assumed menacing proportions in recent years. A whole army of pseudo-investigators from among NGOs has emerged, who churn out biased “investigations” at the behest of Western governments. In fact, they create and replicate numerous fakes and unconfirmed data from open-sources that are used to besmirch any country that falls in disfavor of the West. “White Helmets” and “Bellingcat” are the notorious examples of that. They “made their mark” by blatant manipulations in the interests if Western propaganda on such issues of Syrian chemical file, MH17, and many other high-profile topics. Experts “caught them by the hand” not once, pointing at the incompetence of their narrative that has nothing to do with independent journalist investigations and violates all their basic principles.
There is a new emerging trend that raises our deepest concern – fighting on this information battlefield is not simply detached from reality, but actually seeks to distort or completely replace it. Truth is being ousted out by an intense flow of ideologically-charged infospam, so that the audience has no single chance of having an objective view of current affairs.
Here is a flagrant case to illustrate this. By order of their governments, Western media propelled a story about deaths of civilians in Bucha, of which Russian military were accused. They downplayed all objective facts and evidence, while hyping up clear fakes. But ultimately, once confronted with firm facts, even Western media recognized that civilians in Bucha had not died of gunshots, but of injuries caused by artillery projectiles of an outdated type that UAF used to bombard the town. Now they replicate new fakes, designed to shift focus from obvious responsibility of Ukrainian troops for the provocation in Bucha, as well as the provocation in Kramatorsk, which Western media prefer not to recall now, after clear evidence of Ukraine’s involvement has been discovered.
The work of collective Western “Ministry of Truth” has reached its climax in recent months. It started an unprecedentedly huge and intense campaign of disinformation and manipulation of public opinion that is aimed against Russia. Western media, who never had objectiveness among their strong sides, now have completely turned into a speaker mainstreaming coarse state propaganda and a “fake factory”.
IT giants who monopolized the area of social networks and video hostings are no better. Digital platforms “threw off their masks” for good. Now they do not conceal political bias and block any accounts where content does not meet the West-dictated agenda.
Corporation Meta openly authorized at its platforms all hate speech and calls to violence against Russians.
States that call themselves a “community of democracies” in fact are building a cyber-totalitarianism. They want a world where them and them only will control all information flows and define what is or is not true, and what the audience should see and read. They label any alternative viewpoint as “disinformation and propaganda” right away, while disregarding all inconvenient facts. They shut down Russian TV channels, expel Russian journalists, block access to Russian websites. Is this what you call free access to information? We hope this is what the organizers of this meeting meant under “limiting access to the open Internet in the name of security”.
Russophobic information campaign targets different areas, i.a. those that have nothing to do with politics – education, culture, sports. It constitutes a gross violation of a fundamental principle of unacceptability of ethnicity-based discrimination.
Apart from information aggression that is aimed at people’s minds, there is a campaign that seeks to damage ICT infrastructure by means of cyberattacks.
Lately, Kiev announced establishment of a cyber army and admitted to having launched cyberattacks against Russian and Belarusian facilities. Kiev's Western sponsors made no attempt to stop them. On the contrary, they purposefully nurture this army of hackers without any second thoughts as to possible consequences. As we know, NATO cyber exercise Locked Shields (where UAF took part) practiced corresponding tasks.
In April, Washington promised 10 million dollars to anyone who could justify the version about alleged involvement of Russian intelligence in cyberattacks on the United States. Our repeated calls to address these issues through relevant inter-agency channels were ignored.
Western governments purposefully engage hacker groups and even ordinary users in organization of cyberattacks. They upload to the public domain special tools and guidelines that should help to launch software attacks. On social media, they are campaigning for hacker attacks against Russian infrastructure.
Against this backdrop, we were not surprised to learn that Ukrainian-born Nina Jankowicz was appointed head of the so-called Disinformation Governance Board (established on 27 April 2022) of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Ms.Jankowicz is well known as a leader of information campaign whitewashing neo-Nazism in Ukraine and spreasing information regarding so-called Russiagate that never existed. As turned out lately, she had done this following a direct order of D.Trump’s opponent in presidential race H.Clinton. This blatant cynicism raised a scandal even in the United States itself. Ms.Jankowicz had to resign, and the project was put on hold. But we do not doubt that it will be revived in one form or another, because our Western colleagues seem to be running out of diplomatic methods. What they have left is only fakes and disinformation.
Today Ukraine is being pumped up with conventional weapons. But in parallel to this we also see uncontrolled distribution of cyber arms and related know-how regarding its usage. A huge number of people develop practical skills in this area. According to president Zelensky, his “cyberarmy” consists of more than 300,000 “fighters”. Colleagues, you are creating uncontrollable cyber troops that will master their skills in Ukraine by attacking Russia, but will not stop at that. It is not a regular army, and experts are well aware that hacker activity is very hard to track and curb, and its sources are not easy to identify. Hackers whom you mobilized will spread throughout the world, i.a. posing threat to civilian population of Western states.
The West is militarizing digital domain, which multiplies a threat of a direct armed confrontation – all the more so as the Kiev regime is actively learning from Western “handbooks” and mastering provocations in information space, which can have even more devastating consequences. Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure can entail real large-scale casualties. To say nothing of risks of so-called misperception in case of false-flag attacks, that are much easier to organize online than in real world. In such case, risks of unintended escalation and mutual cyber strikes will grow exponentially.
Reckless actions of the Kiev regime can lead to a full-fledged cyber confrontation, where other states will also be involved. NATO has already extended the right to collective self-defense under its Chapter 5 to the information space. Responsibility for this escalation would fully rest upon Western states, who encourage Kiev’s irresponsible behavior.
If faced with such a threat, we will definitely push back against any attempts to undermine Russia's information security. Once again, I call you to think of the danger of dragging the world into a cyber confrontation, that is no less dangerous than usage of WMDs. We have been trying to prevent such a scenario for more than 2 decades already.
Let me remind you that Russia first raised the issue of international information security (IIS) at the United Nations back in 1998 and had it included in the agenda on a permanent basis. It was us who insisted on creating negotiations platforms at the United Nations – first for experts, and then platforms that were open for all member states. At every stage, we had to withstand powerful counteraction of Western colleagues who were assuring us that they would figure it all out without the United Nations. The world knows too well how they normally figure things out without the UN.
Our goal is to make all states take upon themselves international obligations to not use ICTs for military purposes. We demand to demilitarize information space. For all these years, we have proposed drafts of a concrete international document – a universal concept for ensuring IIS. On behalf of SCO, we proposed a draft set of rules of responsible behavior of states in this area.
What about our Western colleagues? For all these years, they have been enhancing their offensive cyber capacity and developing rules for using it. Suffice it to mention the cynical “Tallinn Manuals” on usage of international law in the information space, that provides a detailed elaboration of “humane” methods of cyberwarfare.
So who of us has been preparing for a cyberwar? Russia that called to prohibit the use of ICTs for military-political purposes and stands ready to assume corresponding obligations or Western states who repeatedly rejected all those initiatives in order to retain discretion in information space?
Digital domain must not turn into an arena for geopolitical confrontation. This is an existential issue for humanity. Professional dialogue, aimed at elaboration of concrete practical solutions, is more demanded today than ever before. It is our duty to maintain this communication regardless of “political weather”. We call for a de-politicized discussion on all aspects of IIS to be held at a specialized platform under the auspices of UNGA – Open-Ended Working Group on IIS. We proceed from the understanding that this meeting of the Council in no way substitutes for the OEWG.