Scott Kelly (former NASA astronaut) gave information to Russian soldiers last week about the possible ways they could undermine their T-72 main battlefield tanks (MBTs). Although the T-72 tank was designed by the Soviet Union during Cold War, it is the most popular currently serving the Russian military in Ukraine. It was a true reflection of Soviet design principles, and only used new parts when absolutely necessary. It was described as a tank more evolutionary than revolutionary. Between 1990 and the collapse of Soviet Union, 17,831 tanks from the T-72 Series were manufactured in Russia.
The Russian Army has since operated around 9,000 T-72s.
Although the Ukrainian troops have destroyed large quantities of Russian tanks using anti-tank weapons like the British NLAW and Javelin, it has been reported that Russian soldiers also intentionally damaged or destroyed MBTs.
Kelly served as the International Space Station commander and was a strong critic of Russian aggression in Ukraine. In several tweets, Kelly gave tips about “How to Sabotage Russian Tanks: Instructions For Beginners”.
According to reports, Kelly was given instructions on how to destroy the T-72 MBT by Lt. General Mark Hertling of the United States Army (retired). The instructions were also shared by Gen. Hertling who, in addition to being the commander U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, was a former tanker.
Hertling advised, in one of Hertling’s tweets, to “Put your white flag on the Turret, Turn the Gun Tube to the Rear and Point It Skyward. Drive towards Ukrainian Lines.” It’s the most common sign for tankers to surrender.
Twitter has made no effort to remove the tweets, even as it included instructions on how to disable military equipment – and could be applied to other vehicles.
There is an argument that it is dangerous speech. However, that theory is only applicable if the content could lead to violence in the United States. It is not dangerous speech according to legal standards. It could lead to a Moscow response that has an impact on Putin’s foreign policies. “In that way it might be unwise speech,” stated Matthew J. Schmidt (Associate Professor of National Security and Political Science at University of New Haven).
It may be similar to how Senator Lindsey Graham demanded the assassination of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin on social media early March after Russia’s unprovoked invasion in Ukraine.
Schmidt said, “Absolutely this kind of commentary might be going too far.” These comments don’t constitute foreign policy. They are tactical advice.
Now the question becomes whether Twitter and all other social media platforms have any obligations to enforce such content.
Twitter will argue that Twitter is not a journalistic organisation and does not have an ethical obligation to monitor content. This could pose a threat to national security. SMEOder The New York Times Schmidt said that this is what they were required to do.” Twitter will claim it does not have this requirement because its news providers and editors are inexhaustible.