Samuel Bendett, an adviser at the CNA Corporation and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the announcement shows that the Russian government is eager to address what it sees as a strategic vulnerability: reliance on Western IT. “The larger context is Russia’s dependence as a nation on imported/foreign hi-tech and the perceived vulnerabilities that Russia sees in such technology use. With so many government, public, and private-sector nodes using such foreign tech, the Russian government is seeking to impose a measure of control over how Internet communication over this technology is conducted,” Bendett said. “In the event of what the government sees as outside influence affecting RuNet, the state can act — hence the annual exercise.”
RuNet isn’t expected to improve the online experience for Russian people or companies. It’s all about control, making the country more technologically independent, and reducing the Putin regime’s vulnerability to popular uprising.
“The Russian government, particularly since seeing the role social media played in the Arab Spring, has wanted over the last decade to exert tight control over the online information space within Russia’s borders,” said Justin Sherman, a cybersecurity policy fellow at New America who studies internet governance and digital authoritarianism. “Free information flows are a threat to regime stability, and they need to be controlled, the narrative goes.”