Digital Authoritarianism and Russia's War Against Ukraine: How Sanctions-induced Infrastructural Disruptions are Reshaping Russia's Repressive Capacities
- SAIS Review of International Affairs
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 42, Number 2, Summer-Fall 2022
- pp. 21-43
- Additional Information
Advances in digital technology are fundamentally reshaping the nature and dynamics of control mechanisms in authoritarian states. While there has been a surge in research on the strategies autocracies use to enhance control over the internet, scholarship on "digital authoritarianism" insufficiently acknowledges the concentration of power in increasingly integrated digital infrastructures and the transnational dependencies this has given rise to. In this article we argue that authoritarian states' dependence on foreign digital technologies and services can shape and constrain their capacity to control, surveil, and repress domestically. To illustrate our argument, we examine how Russia's war against Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia in response have influenced its domestic repressive capacities. Assessing the period February-September 2022, we find that the war has had an ambiguous effect, both providing enhanced capacity for digital authoritarianism and undermining the future integrity of the digital infrastructures on which this repressive apparatus relies on.