Geopolitics and the Internet The Hill
It’s no secret that America’s ARPANET, the direct ancestor of today’s Internet, created as part of America’s response to the Soviet Union At the height of the Cold War, and therefore geopolitics, has been in the genes of the ‘network of networks’ since its inception. It is also no secret that three decades after its commercialization, the Internet has become a major, if not the primary, domain of geopolitical rivalry, competition, espionage, sabotage, and even war.
The main superpowers in Internet geopolitical tensions today, the US, the EU and China…, followed by Russia and India, have been on display for more than a decade (and on Russia vs. the EU and the US in our headlines for the past month. unlike the geopolitical rivalry of European empires of past centuries and the wars that took place across the oceans, in Africa, in Asia, and in the Americas, the main geopolitical superpowers are easy to identify, while alliances between minor Internet powers shift and neutral states are common.
The goals of today’s Internet superpowers, however, are a mix of 18th Concepts of control over territories and populations in the 21st centurySt perceptions of the century of control over the control technologies and information economies of other countries. However, Ukraine, Taiwan and even Snowden’s revelations are vivid reminders that 18.th Centuries-old notions of control over territory and population have never been far from the top.
The starting point for any investigation of the geopolitics of the Internet must be its origins in the United States, and as a result the fact that the 1,000-mile strip from Seattle to San Diego includes almost all of the Internet’s basic infrastructure, almost all of it. led by the Americans. This clearly makes the US the internet superpower of superpowers. No great power can claim any 21St or even 18th geopolitical goals of the century, without taking this fact into account. And they’re doing it in a variety of ways, from regulating America’s Internet infrastructure giants to blocking them and replacing them with domestic substitutes.
From this international vantage point, putting aside for a moment domestic American concerns about the regulation of Internet infrastructure, from economic fairness to privacy, it is clear that it is in America’s international interest to alter the Internet’s balance of power as little as possible. There are several likely scenarios in which American dominance in this domain would increase from today, which would theoretically make the US the main proponent of the Internet status quo.
Another starting point is the simple fact that there are approximately 4.5 billion global Internet users 6 percent (250 million) are Americans, while about 17 percent (760 million) are Chinese; about 9 percent (400 million) are Europeans. about 9 percent (400 million) are Indians, and about 2 percent (100 million) are Russians. Japan and Brazil are also in the Russian championship.
How each of these Internet superpowers expresses their geopolitical rivalry with the dominant country, the United States, varies over time and between them. The oldest is probably Europe. European competition with America in the Internet domain probably dates back half a century to de Gaulle-era decisions to create European alternatives to America’s effective monopolies in such imperative technologies as commercial aircraft, atomic bombs, missiles, and computers. This led, among others, to such European “informatics” initiatives as the French computer network of the 1980s, often called Minitel.
As it became clear in the mid-1990s that America’s open Internet would replace all of Europe’s closed computer networks, European strategy shifted toward accepting the inevitability of the Internet as a global domain and regulating and eventually taxing America’s Internet giants. At the same time, Europe has sought to nurture European alternatives to American Internet giants, as it did in the aerospace industry in decades past.
China has chosen a different path. Having developed rapidly during the 21st centurySt century, a decade after the establishment of American dominance of the Internet, and with a historical suspicion of American geopolitical motives, China’s path has been characterized more by massive state-sponsored investment in Internet services and the exclusion of American Internet infrastructure giants than by it. there was a simple regulation. As a result, with a few notable exceptions, today little Chinese Internet users rely heavily on American Internet companies for their Internet experience. From that base, China has made it clear that it intends to expand its own Internet technologies and services to other countries and populations around the world.
Realizing that it lacks the financial resources of both the EU and China, Russia has sought to use Internet technology niches where it has strengths and to form alliances with other countries for international cooperation. limit, restrict, regulate and control America’s internet supremacy. With international ties dating back to the Soviet Union, and fueled by suspicions of America’s Internet political/military motives fueled by the Snowden revelations, Russia has vociferously sought to build international coalitions to reduce American Internet geopolitical dominance. while quietly building internet bridges that could be lifted to reduce Russia’s dependence on US internet giants.
Exactly when, where, and how India will express its geopolitical interests on the Internet remains unclear, and is perhaps the Internet’s biggest unanswered geopolitical question.
Most countries simply followed long-standing political alliances or habits. Periodically, some countries have skillfully shifted their support between Chinese, American, European and even Russian superpower approaches, sometimes seeming to support several different Internet superpowers at the same time.
While these internet geopolitical struggles rarely get the media attention that political/military or even economic/financial struggles do, they are no less important and can have a major impact on the daily lives of people everywhere. No matter how much publicity Internet geopolitics gets, because the stakes are so high, it’s only going to get more tense for the foreseeable future.
Roger Cocetti provides consulting and advisory services in Washington, DC He was a senior executive at Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) from 1981 to 1994. He also directed Internet public policy for IBM from 1994 to 2000, and later served as Senior Vice President and Chief Policy Officer. for Group Policy Director at VeriSign and CompTIA. During the Bush and Obama administrations, he served on the State Department’s International Communications and Information Policy Advisory Committee, testified numerous times on Internet policy issues, and served on advisory committees to the FTC and various UN agencies. He is an author Handbook of Cellular Satellite Communications.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.