Russia’s digital and information isolation is growing
For more than a decade, the Russian government has systematically controlled the Internet in the country, but the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine has significantly increased Russia’s technological and online isolation from ‘unfriendly states’. Russia’s technological isolation is accelerated by internal and external factors such as the regime’s efforts to strengthen national information security and the withdrawal of multinational companies from the Russian market, as well as the economic sanctions imposed on the country.
Russia has banned international media including social media that contain information contradictory to the regime’s narrative or allow their users to criticise the Kremlin. Facebook and Instagram, which Russia blames for inciting ‘Russophobia’, have been banned, also the BBC, CNN, Deutsche Welle, other international news agencies, and major Ukrainian news websites. Following the decree signed by Putin, over the past year Russia has seized control over cross-border transfer of Russian citizens’ personal data. The regime has also obliged Russian banks and other organisations that collect biometric data to share their customers’ information with the state authorities. Furthermore, the government has banned state-controlled entities from using information protection software originating from ‘unfriendly countries’.
Russia’s international technological isolation has been further exacerbated after Western technology companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Intel suspended their operations in the country. Russian telecommunication companies no longer have access to Nokia, Ericsson, and Cisco equipment and services. The suspended export of Western software, semiconductors, quantum computing products, and advanced microchips hampers Russia’s technological development and increases the shortage of components necessary for the military industry. Western universities and think tanks have also suspended collaboration with their Russian counterparts.
Even though Russia is not among countries investing most in technological development, it regards digital technology sector as a driver for the country’s economic growth. Russia seeks to implement its programme for technological development until 2030–2035; therefore, the impact of international sanctions on the country’s technological development will be evident only in the medium and long term. With its increasing technological isolation from the West, Russia is likely to become more dependent on Chinese technology in the near term.