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Is Russia Distracting From Its Own ‘Killer Robots’ By Focusing On West?



Russia’s state-funded international network

“The UK will oppose a preemptive ban on ‘killer robots’, despite widespread calls in the UN to prohibit the use of ‘murder machines’.”

...fails to note Russia's own position

In an August 22 story entitled, “Britain Fights for Right to Field ‘Killer Robots’ in Direct Defiance of UN,” Russia’s state-funded international network RT criticized London for opposing a pre-emptive ban on “killer robots,” as autonomous machines driven by artificial intelligence are known.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense explained that London believes existing international law is sufficient to curb such battlefield weapons without human control.

The RT story cited experts in the field, including Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk and Google DeepMind’s Mustafa Suleyman, who wrote an appeal to the UN cautioning that the robots could become “weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

In 2014, RT reported that the UN had “sounded the alarm” on “killer robots,” but focused only on U.S. strikes on Yemen that killed civilians, omitting any discussion of Russia’s position on the issue.

In 2015, RT published a similar story, singling out the UK and US for “blocking a UN ban” on the “killer robots” although at that time, only five UN members -- Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt, Ecuador, and the Vatican – had actually endorsed a UN ban.

In fact, Russia itself has not signed a petition as 19 other countries now have, calling for a ban on "lethal autonomous weapons."

And RT fails to mention Russia's own development of such robots, a fact noted by U.S. media and human rights organizations.

In reporting the “killer robot” debate at the UN in 2014, the Verge said “China and Russia did not take strong stands” and cited Russia’s own development of a robot that could gun down trespassers at ballistics military bases.

Human Rights Watch pointed out in its own campaign this year against the autonomous weapons that Russia itself was developing them.

The National Interest reported in March 2017, that the Russian military has been “steadily advancing” the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in “well-documented” domestic and international military engagements, pointing out that President Vladimir Putin himself called for their development for the military.

In April 2017, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin posted a video on Twitter of FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) robots shooting at a target range, with the caption "Russian fighting robots -- guys with iron will."

Mashable raised an eyebrow at the space robot's power to shoot handguns, but Rogozin then explained on Facebook that its creators were using the target practice to study "fine motor skills" and "the algorithms of decision-making". Russia was "not creating a Terminator, but artificial intelligence that will be of great practical significance in various fields,” Rogozin countered.

Said Mashable: "Yah. Sure. Because double fisting lethal hand cannons is the ‘perfect’ way to show how well a robot could, for example, delicately repair a faulty component on a space module."