US global networks
Nowadays, we are used to associating the word ‘networking’ with social media on the Internet. However, even social networking is a broader phenomenon than internet applications. First and foremost, it is about social interaction among different population groups.
Research on the politics of networks is thought to have first emerged in 1950, in relation to the interaction of certain interest groups with the US government. Initially, these policies were associated with relatively small and stable groups of corporate actors immersed in regular interactions around a set of rules and laws in a particular sector.
Such strong and institutionalised links between these actors gave rise to the term ‘sub-government’ or ‘iron triangle’ in relation to them. All US domestic and foreign policy is built on the active dynamics of these “iron triangles”.
Fritz Schapf develops this theme by describing the politics of networks as acting in the “shadow of the hierarchy”. Such networks are involved in negotiation and decision-making, but only within the framework of legislation. If the regulations do not allow for such actions, a shadow infrastructure with a criminal and corrupt nature is likely to develop.[i]
In addition, the creation of shadow networks could have been part of some secret agreements by Washington and its satellites, such as in the case of Operation Condor in Latin America.
In the countries of this region, “Plan Condor” was a US-backed strategy to counter the spread of left-wing ideas by targeting activists in six countries. Through coordination between governments, their respective intelligence services and the FBI, the identification and prosecution of left-wing activists became transnational.
The founding act was signed in 1975 in Santiago by the intelligence services of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay and was later joined by Brazil. The participating military powers exchanged valuable information on “saboteurs” in their countries, revealing their locations and identities.
The aim was to eradicate any trace of left-wing, communist and Marxist ideology. During this time, the U.S. government, through the CIA, also provided technology and expertise.
In fact, it was a network throughout the region that constantly evolved throughout the 1970s. Latin American dictatorships, at the behest of the US, were not simply responding to what they saw as significant political threats to their power.
Instead, they carried out active and systematic abductions, torture, killings and disappearances of political, social, trade union and student activists, and with them the eradication of left-wing political thought across the region. The methods used by Condor operatives included some of the worst state terror tactics known in modern history.[ii]
And all of this at the instigation and direct instruction of the US.
Having extensive experience in creating and managing such networks, since the 1990s, i.e. after the disappearance of the bipolar world order and the beginning of globalisation, the US began to establish its networks all over the world. The emergence of new means of communication facilitated this process.
Pew Research noted that “participants who saw globalisation as an opportunity rather than a threat also spoke of the personal forms of international community made possible by advances in communication technology.
For some, this seemed an alternative to a sense of local or national solidarity weakened by global forces. The speed and ubiquity of social media was described as enabling instant communication ‘around the world’ and creating the possibility of a ‘global community’ that could provide ‘support when something happens around the world’.[iii]
This is how the phenomenon of mutual development and influence networks emerged – as actively developing means of communication and as political or quasi-political structures. Washington, by exploiting these means, was on the one hand trying to establish long-term strategic political influence. And on the other hand, to have financial and economic control over as many sectors as possible.
As such, networks can have different configurations, such as omni-channel, where each node in the network is interconnected with the others. Or in the form of a star, where all information and resources pass through one point.[iv] This is the form that has been most beneficial for the US to control the passage of all information through its filters.
On the example of the U.S. State Department, we can see how various projects to create networks of global influence are implemented.
We read on their official website: “EducationUSA is a network of the US Department of State consisting of more than 430 international student counselling centres in more than 175 countries and territories. The network promotes higher education in the United States to students worldwide by offering accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date information on educational opportunities at accredited higher education institutions in the United States.
EducationUSA also serves the U.S. higher education community to help school leaders achieve their goals of recruiting and internationalizing campuses. EducationUSA is your official source of information about higher education in the United States.”[v]
Actually, this is a project better known as brain drain, as many international students, if they are competent and employable enough, immediately try to recruit for further employment in the US.
But there are also other networks for those who came to the US under some programmes (these could be journalists, local government or business representatives). For example, Alumni is “an exclusive online community for anyone who has participated in and completed an exchange programme funded or sponsored by the US government. Join more than 500,000 fellow alumni in this community to network, build on skills learned during the exchange and get inspired.”[vi]
The US Agency for Global Media is an international network that links six entities, such as Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Office of Cuban Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Broadcasting Networks Middle East and the Open Technology Foundation.[vii]
They all perform the interrelated tasks of disinformation, propaganda, inciting speeches against governments and imposing an American way of life.
A number of US think tanks working for the government and defence sector are directly involved in network analysis to examine current trends.
The RAND Center for Applied Network Analysis promotes the use of formal network analysis of individuals, organisations and systems across the RAND research spectrum. Questions explored there include: “What relationships matter for policy outcomes?” and “How do relationships create communities?”
Network methods look at systems holistically rather than focusing on individual characteristics to provide comprehensive information and solutions to important policy questions.
The Centre’s website states that “our researchers are experts in fields such as policy analysis, mathematics, behavioural and social sciences, medicine, physics, statistics and engineering, bringing a vital interdisciplinary spirit to their work.”[viii]
And the interests are quite broad, ranging from US drug use and social learning models to social media extremism propaganda to attempts to reduce Russian media influence and mapping out detailed business structures in South Asia in order to counter the rise of Chinese influence in the region.
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments conducts a thorough analysis regarding the development of US military and political strategies (both global and regional, with reliance on networks of partners) at an appropriate cost.[ix]
If we look at the infrastructure of the US military, we find that it is a complex network. It is not just the Internet itself, which grew out of the Pentagon and was originally envisaged as a backup communications channel in case of nuclear war. The US military bases themselves, scattered all over the world, are also a network of installations, military airfields and ports, warehouses and special centres with various equipment.
The U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy itself is based on networks. A recent study by the Federation of American Scientists states, “Under this revised nuclear posture, the credibility of the United States’ deterrence will be largely assured by the survivability of its nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) infrastructure, because a devastating attack on the US NC3 could prevent the president from ordering retaliatory strikes from US nuclear submarines. Thus, upgraded NC3 systems, combined with the adoption of safeguards and support measures for the NC3, would help reinforce the conditions under which the United States could forego damage-limiting nuclear strikes.
Such an investment would help build confidence in the United States’ deterrence because, as long as an adversary is not confident in its ability to destroy every American nuclear submarine or disable the American NC3 network, a stable deterrence relationship would theoretically remain in place. Under this revised posture, any attempted first strike against US strategic nuclear forces would likely still leave most of the US submarine force with ballistic missiles relatively unharmed and ready to launch.”[x]
One may also recall the US Sonic Observation System Underwater Surveillance Network (SOSUS), which has undergone significant improvements since the 1960s, and the listening stations detected unwanted mechanical tones during the first sea trials of the submarine Thresher. This prompted the US Navy to abandon these tones for all its future submarines, while the USSR did not attempt a Soviet version of SOSUS and therefore used submarine designs where it failed to eliminate unwanted effects until the early 1980s.
Another example shows that Boeing’s combat command and control systems relied on a redundant matrix of hardened underground cables connecting launch pads and launch control centres. The General Electric configuration, on the other hand, used a single-core network of hardened buried cables with a medium-frequency radio to provide command, control and monitoring of the system. Both communications systems also required their own unique training programmes for maintenance personnel and launch crews, as well as a separate supply chain.
There are indirect networks, with the U.S. behind them. Notably, in 2001, NATO launched a networking computer project for academic institutions in the Caucasus and Central Asia called the Virtual Silk Road. When the first intra-network communication from Turkmenistan was received in August 2003, NATO declared its academic program successful.[xi]
While supplying equipment to post-Soviet countries, NATO specialists were also making connections on the ground, conducting propaganda and collecting various kinds of information. Needless to say, it is certain that all equipment had Trojan horses and backdoors for remote surveillance and infiltration. And, if necessary, to infect computers with viruses and then use them as a local node. Until now, we cannot be certain that there are no computer systems infected with NATO viruses.
Now consider the financial sector and business issues from the prism of US interests.
On the whole, an appeal to reflexive social practices in business management, according to the American authors, has proved fruitful, especially where legal concepts of the network phenomenon need to be developed in accordance with the motivation of the participants.
Taking normative benchmarks, in particular efficiency considerations, as a starting point, legal studies of remittance systems and other networks in the private sector have sought to analyse and reconcile the innovative category of ‘network contracting’.
Other studies of symbiotic contracts, inspired by institutional economics, have successfully demonstrated increased efficiency in networking and therefore advocate their legal institutionalisation. Economic studies of network effects and their various legal implications also provide a clearer understanding.[xii]
For this reason there is a great deal of interest in network theories among modern economists.
The SWIFT banking system is also a network. SWIFT, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a secure system that helps cross-border payments, allowing international trade to flow more smoothly. The system is used in more than 200 countries.
But since it is actually controlled by the US, it has been easy for them to disconnect Russia’s banking system from this network, making it impossible for Russian citizens to use their bank cards abroad.
In general, the US financial system is formulated as a means of engaging global institutional investors in the development and use of the large amounts of liquidity they control. The so-called Wall Street Consensus now reflects, or at least refracts, the rise of asset manager capitalism and the expansion of shadow banking, especially since the global financial crisis of 2008.
Researcher Elias Alamy believes that to understand the modus operandi of Wall Street, i.e. global capital, headquartered in the US, one must look at capitalist transformations outside the realm of money and finance. He believes that Wall Street’s heavy emphasis on infrastructure is no accident.
A number of commentators argue that we have entered a “logistics age” in which the optimisation of capital flows has become distinctly strategic. With the acceleration of the deployment of the New International Division of Labour we are also witnessing a major shift in the centre of gravity of the global capitalist economy from the North Atlantic to the Pacific, which requires enormous infrastructure requirements to mediate this new pattern of uneven geographical development.
Consequently, the return of spatial planning and a new emphasis on large-scale connectivity infrastructure (such as ports, canals, railways and integrated logistics linkages) in development policies and practices to integrate remote territories, facilitate capital inflows and facilitate the strategic engagement of firms with global value chains.[xiii]
He finds it useful to see financialisation as a form of expression of the innate capitalist tendency of capital to reduce human lives and worlds to economic resources and monetary abstractions through privatisation, commodification and marketisation, as part of its irresistible impulse to increase value.
And all of this is nothing less than network marketing, where the manipulation of consumer tastes works in the interests of multinational corporations and the banking sector. However, when it comes to geopolitics, it is important for Washington to drag its partners and satellites into various treaty commitments, alliances and alliances.
Under Donald Trump’s rule, the US launched the Clean Network programme, which, according to the official presentation, “represented the administration’s comprehensive approach to protect national assets, including the privacy of citizens and the most sensitive information of companies, from aggressive intrusions by malicious actors such as the Chinese Communist Party.
The Clean Net eliminates the long-term threat to data privacy, security, human rights and principled cooperation posed to the free world by authoritarian malevolent actors. The Clean Net is based on internationally recognised standards of digital trust. It represents the implementation of a multi-year, whole-of-government, long-term strategy based on a coalition of trusted partners and informed by the rapidly changing technology and economics of global markets.”[xiv]
Both US technology corporations and foreign governments and companies have joined the programme.
It is true that US partners are often prevented from doing business the way they want and are almost accused of unacceptable actions. At bilateral summits between the EU and the US, officials from Washington expressed concerns about the Ericsson and Nokia 5G “duopoly”. In response, their European counterparts said that Big Tech had become overly dominant in a host of important sectors.
The EU Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, which bring together search engines, shopping and booking sites, operating systems and a host of other services, did not please US diplomats.
Despite de facto monopolies in search engines, social networks, operating systems and certain internet software, US lobbyists believe that the internet giants operate in well-functioning markets.
Meanwhile, the US Innovation and Competition Act provides billions in subsidies, potentially inconsistent with WTO requirements to create domestic alternatives and eliminate market dominance by European and Korean players.[xv]
Biden’s main foreign policy priority is also networked: “to consolidate its network of alliances in an attempt to maintain US dominance in forcing the West to confront China”. For Chinese state media commentators, for example, the G7 summit communiqué was “the most systematic condemnation of China and interference in the country by major Western powers”.
The US Build Back Better World initiative, “based on values, high standards and transparent infrastructure partnerships led by major democracies,” signals “the US intention to maintain hegemony in the world in the post COVID era.” Washington is “politically exploiting” weaker allies in NATO, where “the US wants to create a narrative that equates its own hegemony with the West’s collective strategic advantage.[xvi]
As we can see, the US has quite a lot of experience in constructing a variety of political networks. All of them are instruments of influence and manipulation. To get rid of them, it is necessary not only to dismantle the nodes of these networks and disconnect them from various communities (business, media, ethnic groups, political organizations, etc.), but also to create networks of its own that could serve as a more attractive alternative. Especially when it comes to the need to constantly broadcast their own ideas to the external environment.
[ii] Lucía Cholakian Herrera. The Condor Trials: Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America (Review). July 29, 2022. https://nacla.org/condor-trials-transnational-repression-and-human-right…
[iii] In U.S. and UK, Globalization Leaves Some Feeling ‘Left Behind’ or ‘Swept Up’ https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/10/05/in-u-s-and-uk-globalizatio…
[x] Matt Korda. Siloed Thinking: A Closer Look at the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. FAS, March 16, 2021. р. 34. https://man.fas.org/eprint/siloed-thinking.pdf
[xii] Marc Amstutz and Gunther Teubner. Networks. Legal Issues of Multilateral Cooperation. Hart Publishing, 2009. p. 12. https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/networks-legal-issues-of-mult…
[xiii] The Geopolitics of Financialisation and Development: Interview with Ilias Alami. OCTOBER 19, 2021 https://developingeconomics.org/2021/10/19/the-geopolitics-of-financiali…
[xv] Hosuk Lee-Makiyama. National Insecurity: Transatlantic Distress over Market Concentration. November 2021. https://ecipe.org/blog/transatlantic-market-concentration/
[xvi] See-Won Byun. Chinese Views of Hegemony and Multilateralism in the Biden Era. July 7, 2021 https://theasanforum.org/chinese-views-of-hegemony-and-multilateralism-i…