[At-Large] Ukraine, .RU, and internet governance
roberto_gaetano at hotmail.com
Tue Mar 15 10:08:45 UTC 2022
My thanks to Antony for having moved the discussion to a different level.
Let me start by saying that the current invasion of Ukraine is part of a larger war, that has started long time ago and will not finish when the weapons in Ukraine will be silent again.
I do not believe that Putin invaded Ukraine to protect russian-speaking communities: language, like race or religion, has been too often just the excuse - or the way to try to gather consensus when the real motives would not have emotionally involved people - for war. The issue here is that Putin considers extremely dangerous for the survival of his regime to have a former Soviet Republic choosing a democratic form of government, and being able to achieve good results. This can in time give “bad” ideas to folks internally, and he has to avoid this at all cost. In support of my belief I can mention the russian-speaking Ukrainians who have taken position against the invasion, obliging Putin even to kidnap a russian-speaking mayor and replace him with a puppet.
This confrontation between democracy and absolutism translates, in Internet terms, to the struggle between folks who see the Internet as open, interoperable, with governance mechanisms open to multiple stakeholders, and those who want the Internet to be controlled by a central authority, without checks and balances. We, on this list, have different opinions on how the current Internet has achieved its multi-stakeholder governance model, but I cannot believe that any of us see the centralised model as an alternative. Therefore, while dissenting on details, we are all on the same side of this war.
I fully agree with Antony that life will not be back to “normal” when the war in Ukraine will be over. Of course, we could not sit down and discuss as if nothing had happened, as if no red line had been crossed. Whatever solution will be found, hopefully via negotiation and without further victims, I do not believe that, even if Ukraine signs an agreement with Russia, the “western world” can drop the sanctions against Putin. If Ukraine is only an episode of a bigger fight, closing the episode does not end the fight, in particular now that we have seen that the confrontation has escalated, and can be escalated by Putting again at any moment, to an unacceptable level, in violation of international law and making Putin a war criminal. I imagine that folks in Moldavia, the Baltic Republics, Poland, even Finland, are now wondering who could be the next if we do not give a clear sign that we cannot forget what has happened and that we are decided to prevent this from happening again.
In my opinion there are at least two things that we must do. At the Internet level, make sure that we never violate the basic principles, as once they have been compromised once, the door will be open for other actions. At the wider level, we have to be ready to pay a price for our fight for democracy - this will not be the first time, and regretfully unlikely to be the last time. I believe that in Western Europe we must accept things like having colder temperatures in our homes in winter and less air conditioning in summer if that means to stop financing a regime that might even be using that money for weapons that can be used against us. Continuing with sanctions will make us less comfortable, but this is the necessary price to pay.
> On 14.03.2022, at 22:12, Antony Van Couvering via At-Large <at-large at atlarge-lists.icann.org> wrote:
> On Mar 14, 2022, at 06:48, Alan Levin <alan at futureperfect.co.za> wrote:
>> I suggest that Antony and Evan and all the others that want to block Russia.... go and fight,
> In the fight against apartheid, did you suggest that all those against the racist state should fight or shut up? It’s an unhelpful comment.
> I do not doubt the sincerity or good intentions of those with whom I disagree; I should have hoped that a discussion here would not devolve into personal attacks.
> I am not sure that blocking .RU is the answer, but I am certainly not satisfied with the reasons given not to do it, because they assume a world order that is in tatters and is unlikely to be reconstituted as before.
> Roberto suggests that we need to look at what the internet looks like after this is all over. That is exactly right and from that perspective I’d like to offer a few thoughts.
> - When we think about what we want the internet to look like when this is all over, we should realize that it’s not going to be over for a LONG time. It’s not as if we can convene a conference in the near future and calmly discuss the unfortunate incident in Ukraine as if it were a accident-prone road needing a few more lights and signs. This war is going to get much more horrific; there is a non-zero chance that Putin will use battlefield nuclear weapons; and the Ukrainian people will continue a costly, bloody guerrilla war until they force the Russians to withdraw. So our new world order is going to be forged in fire, not at a collegial colloquium at a pleasant vacation resort. Every day we will be asked to confront hard choices. The real world is about to burst into our cosy conference room and it’s going to get messy.
> - Therefore, it will soon be impossible to be “apolitical” or “neutral” in the way it has been heretofore understood. Putin has made it so. Supranational bodies will find it harder to ignore political malfeasance and state-sponsored murder. Harder to justify conferences at exclusive resorts in repressive countries; harder to have have friendly relations with representatives of these countries; harder to allow them to block reforms.
> - Internet institutions will need to recognize that the right to a free internet is one of several human rights, not a stand-alone right that be casually uncoupled from others. People will need to choose sides because it is no longer tenable to pretend that bad actions are not important so long as we all parrot the same idealistic rhetoric. Today, mentioning human rights to a representative of a repressive state at ICANN is the equivalent of farting loudly at the dinner table, but Putin has changed all that.
> - The greatest threat to an open, interoperable internet are repressive regimes — not the ITU, not new gTLDs, not the trademark lobby, not spam, not any of the familiar hobby horses. Putin and his ilk cannot be ignored if an open internet is the goal. Internet policy-making bodies can no longer ignore these realities if they hope to be taken seriously.
> I certainly don’t know the answers, but I believe that these are some of the things we will need to consider. “Business as usual” is now off the table for ICANN and IANA no matter how much they try to delay or deny these new realities.
> Thank you in advance for a serious discussion, because this is a serious topic. The helpful way to think about a crisis is to recognize that it’s one of the few opportunities we have a make real changes.
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