The new Cold War has spread to the Internet, with Putin taking time out from bullying the Ukraine to warn that the Internet was under the control of the US, and that Russia mght be better off going his own way.
He has even warned Russians against using Google. Putin made his remarks in a televised interview at a journalists’ forum in St Petersburg. “Google’s web traffic goes though servers in the US. Everything is monitored there.
“You should always bear in mind that such is the reality created by the Americans. They did it,” he said in response to a young blogger’s question about US monitoring of the Internet.
Those activities have been highlighted by NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden who, in one of history’s great ironies, is sheltering in Russia from arrest in the US.
“The Internet began initially when the Internet first appeared as a special CIA project and is still being developed that way,” said Putin. “The rest is what has made it to the market and has developed to huge proportions. Nevertheless it is initially a military program, a special program, and special services are still at the centre of things.
“We must fight determinedly for our interests. And we will support it from the government side, of course.”
He was also critical of Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine. Yandex, which handles 60% of Russia’s Internet searches, operates out of the Netherlands, “not only for tax reasons but for other considerations too,” in Putin’s words. Yandex shares fell sharply after the comment. Putin has often been critical of the Internet, and wants greater government control. The Kremlin routinely blocks blogs from opposition leaders, and Putin is on record as saying he wants a Russian alternative.
He is not alone. Snowden’s revelation have prompted calls from many quarters, including from the German and Brazilian governments, for less US control over the net. As many have warned, the US Government’s surveillance practices have been vastly counterproductive – even harmful.
The monster is devouring its own children.