Russia-Ukraine Conflict: A Severely Underrated “Clash of Tech Giants”

Since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the resurgence of global nationalism has accelerated. Global technological behemoths that initially insisted on “technology without borders” and reaped the benefits of globalisation have progressively come under criticism from a wide range of observers. Some academics have warned that multinational technological firms should be wary of becoming the “new Leviathan” that empowers globalists, while others argue that these enormous corporations are new forms of monopolies that require robust state oversight. Whatever your point of view, there appears to be a conflict between tech behemoths and nation-states.

Flags of the Russia and Ukraine on the black background. Political conflicts between nations” by focusonmore.comis licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A severe military confrontation erupted between Russia and Ukraine in February 2022, fueled by many factors such as NATO’s eastward expansion, territorial issues, and ethnic conflicts. At the same time, the “Digital Cold War” between Russia and Western countries erupted on the Internet. The most notable occurred when European and American technological behemoths “declared war” on Russia, either actively or passively participating in this digital geopolitical warfare.

TOPSHOT-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT” by Christopher DunstanBurgh is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

“Computational propaganda is the use of automation, algorithms and big data analysis to manipulate public life” (Woolley and Howard, 2017). Faced with a robust sanctions onslaught launched by technological behemoths reliant on technology and digital power systems, Russia lacks the ability to respond and has nearly lost “territory” on the global Internet platform. The “digital cold war” caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict demolished the concept of “technology without borders” and significantly altered the composition and operation of international political power. Technology behemoths have shed the shroud of “commercial freedom” and are increasingly acting in international disputes and wars as a geopolitical force. Their incredible destructive potential has transformed the public’s understanding of commercial firms’ power bounds to some extent. Cognition. The Russia-Ukraine conflict’s “digital space front” has exacerbated the fracturing of the global digital geospace system. The shifting role of technology behemoths has facilitated the creation of new non-state actors, who will almost certainly have a significant impact on the altering of the worldwide political scene.

With the progress of civilization and the advancement of technology, any person living in the digital age can plainly recognise the enormous power that technological behemoths have in economic and social activities. Following the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, people found that technological behemoths that provide easy digital services on a daily basis can now engage in “Game of Thrones” like a country. The New York Times published a widely circulated story titled “War in Ukraine Tests the Power of Tech Giants” on February 28, 2022, in which the author stated: “For some of the world’s largest technology companies, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has become a defining geopolitical moment.” Their platforms have become the focal point of a parallel information war, with data and services serving as critical linkages in the conflict.”

This passage highlights two new aspects of geo-conflicts exposed by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. First, from the standpoint of the battlefield, digital space is becoming as significant as geographical space. “In the face of war, modern technology is the best response to tanks, rockets and missiles.” After Russia and Ukraine opened fire, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov wrote to major European and American IT businesses. content in the open letter. The Internet platform created by technology giants has become the primary position for Russia and Ukraine to compete for the right to speak in the war, shape the legitimacy of their actions, and win support from the international community; digital services provided by technology giants such as maps, communications, and payments have also become an important platform for maintaining national security during wartime.

Administrator Power and Vice Prime Minister Fedorov have a conversation” by USAID_IMAGES is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Second, from the standpoint of the war’s primary protagonists, technological behemoths, as non-state actors, already wield geopolitical clout comparable to state actors. Technology titans have adopted a clear political stance in this geopolitical confrontation. For example, Apple and Google have ceased operations in Russia, Facebook has banned Russian official media accounts in order to counter Russia’s “war propaganda,” and space exploration technology businesses should refrain from entering the Russian market. Starlink, a satellite communications service, was launched for Ukraine at the request of Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister to assure uninterrupted Internet connectivity in Ukraine during the war. Furthermore, technological behemoths cut off various digital services in the Russian market, as well as chip supply and technical assistance. Participation in various forms of sanctions against Russia has had a significant influence on Russia’s internal economy and social stability. This was crucial in determining the trajectory of the war and bolstering Western sanctions against Russia in all sectors.

UA Support Forces Starlink 01” by Support Forces of Ukraine Command is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

With the widespread adoption of digital technology throughout society, society’s favourable perception of technological titans has gradually shifted. Scholars were paying attention to the alteration and reshaping of the international political and economic order caused by the rise of the influence of technology giants well before the commencement of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. From October to November 2021, a heated argument raged on the website of the US “Foreign Policy” magazine regarding whether technological behemoths could alter the geopolitical landscape.In an article titled “The Moment of Technological Polarisation: How Technology Giants Reshape the Global Order,” Ian Bremmer, chairman of the Eurasia Group, pointed out that a small number of technology giants have actually become equivalent to the state, and these for-profit companies control Internal codes, servers, and rules reconstruct the world structure that was originally dominated by the government.

Stephen Walt, a Harvard University professor, presented a counter-argument in an article titled “Tech Giants Will Not Reshape the Global Order.” He believes that digital behemoths have little in common with the trust groups that once dominated the oil, railroad, and other industries. The distinction is that it is a “new type of monopoly” that requires regulation by sovereign power. While the state can legitimately use force, tech titans cannot detach themselves from physical space, and their dominance in the digital environment cannot provide the most basic assurances for the actual world and inhabitants. “When there are trade-offs between security, political authority and technological innovation, governments (and society) may abandon technological innovation to a certain extent to protect security and political power.” (Walt, 2021) Governments are rapidly expanding their sovereignty into the digital sphere, and technology businesses are not immune. The limited development environment is becoming obsolete. To prevent giant technological corporations’ capital interests from undermining sovereign interests, the state can utilise legal regulations, economic fines, and other ways. He believes that in the future, technology behemoths will continue to function inside the political and institutional framework established by the national government, and that the country will play a critical role in shaping the future.

The crisis between Russia and Ukraine has heralded a new era of “technological polarisation” in geopolitics. Technology behemoths have morphed into the “Silicon Valley Legion,” and “neutral” technology systems and digital infrastructure have emerged as a new economic weapon. On the one hand, the strategic power demonstrated by technology behemoths in the Russia-Ukraine conflict will result in a more decentralised power structure and more diverse actors in future international political and economic fields; on the other hand, as governments of various countries gradually shift towards digitalization, The unrestrained development environment of technology giants is vanishing and being replaced by a more standardised network environment as sovereignty in space is extended and various techniques such as legal norms and economic sanctions are used. As national governance systems around the world shift towards intelligence and platforms, digital behemoths led by private capital must also make deliberate forays into the public usage, management, and oversight of large-scale platforms.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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