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Last Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin came forward with an ambitious and unexpected initiative, proposing the US authorities to resume cooperation in international information security.
At the same time, President Putin called the emergence of a large-scale digital confrontation a major strategic challenge of our age. In his opinion, the key players in this area – Russia and the United States – have a special responsibility for preventing it. In this regard, the Russian leader has once again addressed Washington with a proposal to approve a comprehensive program of practical measures to reset relations in information and communication technologies, which would include four focal points.
First, a restoration of a high-level regular interagency dialogue on key issues of international information security. Second, continuous and effective communication channels by means of nuclear risk reduction centers and computer incident response teams. Third, an intergovernmental deal to prevent mishaps in the infosphere. And finally, an exchange of guarantees for non-interfering in each other's domestic affairs, including election processes.
According to the Russian leader, these measures would "significantly contribute to ensuring global peace in the information space."
It is worth pointing out here that the moment for publishing such a high-profile proposal of the Kremlin seems not really auspicious, at first glimpse: after all, the United States is going to have presidential and other elections in five weeks. And it is far from certain that the current Trump administration will retain power. However, the very message of the Russian President's proposal is that the entire country is addressed, not just the head of the White House. Moreover, the name of Donald Trump hasn't got a single mention in Putin's address. Apparently, whatever the outcome of the imminent November elections, Moscow hopes to resume the dialogue with Washington in cyberspace interaction, which began seven years ago and was later interrupted by the American side for a number of reasons.
It is worth reminding that in June 2013, Vladimir Putin and then US leader Barack Obama signed a package of intergovernmental agreements on confidence-building measures in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT). Moscow thought this would mark the beginning of fruitful cooperation between the two countries in this area. However, in 2014, Crimea was brought into the fold of Russia, and the US authorities accused the Kremlin first of "annexation and aggression" and later of allegedly interfering in the 2016 election. After that, the US froze almost all the contacts with Russia, including cyber security cooperation. As a result, Russian-American relations have fallen to an all-time low.
It is critical to underscore that the Russian President in his statement "once again" appeals to the United States with a cooperation revival proposal. And it is in no way fortuitous: Moscow has repeatedly submitted all the four points of his program for Washington's consideration over the past few years. But the US authorities either rejected them or simply did not take them seriously, preferring to use sanctions. This time, the Kremlin assembled its ideas and presented them as an integrate ICT cooperation program.
Besides, Vladimir Putin's statement contains an urgent call to the United States "to give the green light to a Russian-US professional expert dialogue on international information security issues, without making it a hostage of our political disagreements." The suggested measures, the Russian leader emphasizes, "are aimed at enhancing trust between our countries and ensuring the security and prosperity of our peoples."
The US authorities have yet to respond to Russia's initiative. As revealed by the media, they were notified about it in advance. However, judging by the past experience, prospects are slim for a positive response from Washington. Moscow is certainly aware of this, but still holds out hope for the prudence of the American authorities, who should apprehend the importance of the Russian side's proposals for stability in the world as a whole.