Relations between the U.S and the Soviet Union/Russia have been strained for decades, beginning with the cold war, closely followed by the space race, when the deepened rift was subsequently (and more recently) strengthened by Russia’s military action in Georgia and Ukraine. Politicians were quick to take sides, and movements of hatred were instilled across society. Competition between these two powerful nations has been fierce, the main topic almost always technology and its many applications.

With the internet in a constant upswing, it could be hard for younger generations in the U.S. to imagine a world without all of the amenities that newer technology yields. Without knowing the years of hard work and struggle that went into building up the highly-complex system that is known as the internet today, the various conveniences that many have grown accustomed to can be taken for granted. Due to the innate sense of pride and pressured rivalry that the “typical American” feels entitled to, at least based off my experiences and observations from growing up in the U.S., the United States has long been in competition with other nations to procure better, stronger, faster products—particularly honing in on technology. A big source of vanity revolving around technology stems from the “common knowledge” that the internet first came into being in the United States in 1969 in the form of what was called ARPANET, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, which infiltrated the rest of the world soon afterwards. This belief could be seen as a form of solace considering the outcome of the Space Race. Unfortunately for those nationalistic citizens, the truth of the matter is that Russia (or what was then known as the USSR) had produced a rudimentary but effective form of the internet we so know and love today, called OGAS. Had this Soviet internet succeeded, the online world could be much different today.

The story of the invention of OGAS begins in 1960 with the famed Soviet mathematician Victor Glushkov. The USSR had been pressured for several years to come up with a sort of computer network, and competition was intense. Victor Glushkov took matters into his own hands. Aided by his background as a mathematician and inspired by Anatoly Kitov’s work, which was rejected just a year before, Glushkov was able to design the Soviet Networking Project, finishing it in the early 1960’s. He continued to perfect his work tirelessly, and eventually proposed his design to the communist party leaders in 1970. General issues would have to be troubleshooted, he said, such as distributing functioning computers throughout the country, as the system they relied on at the moment was made up of only military networks, yet he felt that this would be possible, help improve citizen’s lives, as well as give them a leg-up in imminent wars. The communist party leaders debated long and hard, but in the end, Glushkov’s proposal fell through. A big-ticket player in this decision was the finance minister, Vasily Garbuzov, who argued that their country did not need to be rewired, that their lives were already run by technology, and that it wasn’t necessary. It has been surmised that the minister may have had some ulterior motives, most likely pertaining to his fear of becoming a less influential player in the government.

Glushkov continued his campaign for twelve years in favor of his beloved country receiving a computer network, yet the USSR had already lost the great race of internet connectivity, as the U.S. already made great leaps and bounds in that regard. Some smaller cities in Russia were eventually wired-up, but Glushkov will forever be known as the person who wasn’t able to bring the social networking project to fruition, ironic as it may be considering he had little say in the matter and devoted a significant portion of his life to achieving his goal.

Internet access was long regarded as a “privilege,” or not absolutely necessary. In the grand scheme of survival, being connected to the internet is not something that should be focused on, yet it is a reality that nowadays a good portion of our lives are played out online. Daily happenings, trials and tribulations are documented, necessities and non-essential items can be ordered, heating and cooling systems moderated… not to mention the constant communication in which many take part. Recent debate has brought up the question of whether internet accessibility could be looked at as a public utility, which brings up the topic of net neutrality and open access internet, privileges (in the eyes of some) that not many countries have made a reality. Referring back to the constant competition that the U.S. has subjected itself too, it could be said that in regards to net neutrality we’ve recently fallen behind. In a move that shocked the world, Russia set itself wholeheartedly behind net neutrality, so even though it’s citizens didn’t gain internet access until 1991, a good ten years after the Unites States, they still have a more approachable stance on internet regulation than the more “progressive” U.S.

Today, the U.S. media likes to portray Russia as a country of nefarious hackers and malware producers. This reputation wasn’t difficult to construct since cyberattacks and security breaches have been proven to have originated from Russian territory quite a few times over the past years (although the U.S is no stranger to orchestrating similar “breaches”). One of the more prolific attacks occurred when thirty-nine out of the United State’s fifty states were hacked by “trying to alter or delete voter data” during the 2016 U.S. presidential election season. These attacks did not help the slowly souring view that many have of Russia, which is a shame considering how much help we could provide to the rest of the world by working together, just under different circumstances.

As mentioned earlier, there are many reasons for the deep rift between the U.S. and Russia. Power-maneuvers and the ever-ambitious sense of pride that evidentially both countries have been blessed with do nothing to fix the seemingly worsening situation. During the last U.S election, rumors flew rampantly about Donald Trump, the current U.S president, and Vladimir Putin’s, the current “president” of Russia, “close relationship.” For many, the hope was that ties between these two countries would be strengthened, lowering the probability of a nuclear war. Recently Putin tried distancing himself from Trump, stating that they did not have a close relationship and had only ever met once. Current reasons for this ever-failing relationship stems from Russia’s military activity in Ukraine and certain problematic ties to North Korea, as well as Russia’s constant disregard of the wishes of many surrounding countries begging them to cease and desist. Rising tensions have only led to citizens of all countries beginning to feel even more antsy and unsure. Due to this delicate situation, it would take much debate and compromise to even consider slowly stitching this relationship back together. High-ranking delegates ought to spend time meeting and reviewing possible routes to take. Conflict has never been of aid to anybody and only leads to the quality of life of many civilians be severely degraded. Political issues end up causing stress on people that just want to survive, maybe even enjoy life while they can. This behavior ends up limiting the joys that humanity should have the capacity and right to experience. I issues that often end up being blown out of proportion or may have started out as trivial grievances do nothing to help this situation. Not to say that it would be possible to simply “let go” of these issues, many of which have built up over years of petty feuds mixed in with outright crimes against humanity. A helpful step could be to refocus, remember that we are all human beings needing to share this planet for centuries to come and that fighting each other does nothing to preserve the everlasting biological goal— preservation of life.

Author: Deborah Grieder

Green Meadow alumn 2017, Muhlenberg College 2021.

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