Author: Juan Martín Gonzalez Cabañas – 26/06/2019
From Realpolitik to “Digitalpolitik“
In a very enlightening report by Foreign Policy magazine “the war torn the web”* describes how the war for the web will mark the competition for power in the 21st century, and how the network will increasingly be fragmented, at the same time that the Great Powers and countries exercise more and more dominion, and the governments submit it to more and more controls.
Governments currently use their influence to configure the ways in which digital businesses and markets connect us online rights. This new form of realpolitik, “digitalpolitik“, is an emerging tactical manual on how governments use their political, regulatory, military and commercial powers to project influence in global and digital markets.
A growing trend can be observed in countries, where governments rely on heavy fines and accumulation of consumer demands to condition corporations.
Calls among the major powers to develop global standards for cyberspace will be increasingly common, but consensus and the implementation of any such agenda will remain difficult to achieve, given the widely divergent positions between the United States, Europe, Russia and China on the priorities and methods necessary to govern cyberspace.
In defensive and strategic matters, this implies following the paradigm of the concepts of fourth generation wars, hybrid warfare, network warfare, where aggression tactics are also transferred to digital environments among others (cyber attacks, cyber espionage, theft and manipulation of data, campaigns of mediatic disinformation towards the population, support to insurgent groups). And it reminds us that war today does not necessarily pass through traditional battlefields.
From Geopolitics to Geotechnology**
If we follow the historical evolution of the major trends and (geo) strategies, the golden age of geopolitics, the study and praxis of the impact of geographical and territorial factors on the political action of States (especially foreign) is located in the 19th and 20th century, with the rise and fall of the great colonial empires in the two world wars, and the zealous search for territorial control over trade routes, maritime arteries, raw materials, cheap labor (including forms close to slavery / serfdom), different factors, of domination and supremacy against other States, based on a spatial/territorial conception.
Then the conception of geoeconomics will revise the concept after the second half of the 20th century until today (the category is useful to describe the current commercial war between the US and China) where States seek to increase their margin of power vis-à-vis third parties, through the use and control of strategic resources of the economy as real levers of power (economic sanctions, embargoes, commercial wars, energy strategies, currency manipulation, dumping, financial attacks, weaponization of finances etc).
Following the current trends and the statements of many analysts, specialists and spaces of ideas, and becoming aware of the importance of technology in our modern lives, we have finally entered the era of geotechnology, the competition by geopolitical entities for the technological factors as a determining factor of the world order.
The technological factors will be citing some: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, robotics, automation, the internet of things, telecommunications, software, 5G, renewable energy.
Is Virtual Reality and its digital borders the last battle for sovereignty?
Physical geo-strategic competition by territories and markets has also been transferred to the digital frontier. Countries with a nationalist, autonomist or power vocation are building their own fiber optic cables, their own Internet providers, their own production and control of contents, regulations and platforms, applications, even digital citizenships.And based on these divisions of the web, the relations of competition and cooperation will also be configured, where the web will be a true lens to see alliances and rivalries between state blocks.
What proves once again that despite the bombastic speeches on freedom and global free trade, the States in the XXI century are not willing to deliver an asset such as sovereignty on the web, and technological autonomy by enthusiastic opening slogans.
Despite the fact that globalization has covered state sovereignties with a porous layer, and proposes to revise our concepts about it, the truth is that in fact the countries are reinforcing the control measures on virtual reality, technology and the data, to compete in the last geopolitical / geostrategic dispute,the one that is played on the borders, the digital borders.
*The War torn the web report by Foreign Policy
**On Cyber-Geopolitics, conceptualized by Prof. Dr. Miguel Barrios
Juan Martin González Cabañas, Analyst at Dossier Geopolitico