Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Ukraine’s “Right to Self Defense” in Cyberspace


There is an ongoing battle in cyberspace, the right to free speech versus the right to self-defense. There is an information war being waged in the cyber domain.

This is not a battle waged by itself, but is part of an ongoing overwhelming total offensive against Ukraine by Russia, purposefully avoiding the definition of conventional warfare so as to not be sanctioned by the UN or be accused in a court of law.  Russia is waging an unconventional military action campaign short of a conventional invasion in Donbass against Ukraine. In every other way, Russia is at war with Ukraine. Diplomatically, informationally, using special operations, encroaching airspace and sovereign waters, economically, Russia is using legal warfare (using the courts), they have stolen and confiscated oil rigs in the Black Sea, they have assassinated Ukraine citizens inside Ukraine, and they have kidnapped Ukraine citizens visiting Russia. I have called this Threshold Warfare, where Russia walks up to every “red line” and stops just short of drawing a yellow or red card, in international football (soccer) terms.

In cyberspace, there is no declared war between Russia and Ukraine, but legions of Russian hackers constantly assault Ukraine information systems and attempt to bypass Ukraine cybersecurity.

There is also an ongoing information war being waged by Russia against Ukraine. Legions of  Russian trolls are on a constant offensive against Ukraine culture, values, ethics, and morals, attempting to undermine democracy, create chaos and anarchy in Ukraine, and forcibly remove confidence in the government of Ukraine – by whatever means necessary. Any means whatsoever. Including constant fabrications of fake evidence, inciting fake outrage, and pummeling Ukraine with constant propaganda.

Ukraine, in return, is defending itself. Ukraine has the right to self-defense, but protecting against Russian propaganda and influence in the new information age is exponentially more difficult than ever before.

One of the many ways is for Ukraine to block Russian means of influencing Ukraine citizens through social media.

In return, Russia feigns innocence and says Ukraine is denying “free speech”!

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In a way this is interesting.  Russia does not attack Ukraine on its Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, not from any site associated with the Kremlin, but chooses to attack Ukraine from its Twitter account at the Russian Embassy in the UK. https://twitter.com/russianembassy Somehow it seems to believe this gives Russia plausible deniability in acting childishly and accusing Ukraine of nefarious acts on one hand, while the other hand stabs, rapes, pillages, and burns.

In the case of Russia, I believe we need to revive the archaic meaning of the word impudence.  Russia is shamelessly acting childish in a grown-up world.

impudence [im-pyuh-duh ns]

  1. the quality or state of being impudent; effrontery; insolence.
  2. impudent conduct or language.
  3. Obsolete. lack of modesty; shamelessness.

The bigger problem is their accountability, Russia is not being held accountable for their actions. If Russia was a child, it should be spanked. Russia, however, is invading countries, consuming bits and pieces of other countries, attacking their sovereignty every way possible short of declared war, killing Ukrainians, and shamelessly poking the rest of the world in the eye. When confronted, they immediately resort to saying “we have nukes”, like hiding behind their momma’s skirt.

Ignore Russia’s weak protests of free speech for Russian sites being blocked in Ukraine, they have no right.

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