Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Another Former Russian Intelligence Officer Poisoned in the UK (25)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

We are witnessing history being made and morphing right in front of us. Russia has managed to give the rest of the world a reason to unify. The potential of this unification is amazing. Many nations are taking action, regardless if merely symbolic, to hold Russia accountable. Russia is being publicly recognized as a rogue state, on par with North Korea – which is about as low as you can go. The Russian Foreign Ministry and leadership is blustering and the world knows it.

Simultaneously, as the Nemtsova article aptly points out, Putin has the external enemy he needs to galvanize domestic propaganda and support.  

Depending on the goal, we stand on the brink of several possibilities.  If the goal is to weaken Putin, oust him, or push for regime change, the Western story must be seen as credible and not propaganda. This is the same as if the goal is gaining recognition by the Russian people of the massive propaganda and disinformation machine that is their state-sponsored media. The measurements of the effectiveness of these campaigns would be almost incremental but must be measured and determined. To penetrate and win in the Russian information sphere would take a massive effort but must be attempted.

If the goal is inoculating and protecting the West from Russian disinformation influence, we must take action now. There are a large number of actions which must be taken and many which should be. Any delays will directly impact the midterm elections of 2018 and may affect the 2020 election here in the US.

</end editorial>

Russia ramps up expulsion campaign and continues with propaganda effort. Nemtsova analysis and opinion canvassing are very good – this is indeed a circus orchestrated by Russia for“zombified” domestic audiences, centered on the notion of victimhood and persecution by the West. Eltchaninoff, Shunkman and Heath stating the obvious.

A most interesting NBC report on White House interactions with Putin – the Russians have played a very very foolish game with POTUS from the outset, and will eventually regret the outcome.

Very interesting interview with Amb Huntsman in Moscow. Multiple reports on UK inquiry to deal with Russian money laundering in the UK – Luce is right that Russia’s influence campaign in the West was lubricated by shortsighted greed for Russian cash. UK activists planning legal action to move soccer competition out of Russia.

Multiple reports on the Skripals – Yulia is now eating and drinking, Col Skripal remains on the critical list.

Anna Nemtsova | The More the West Pressures Putin Over Spy Poisoning, the More Russia Believes Him

Ordinary Russians believe that Britain has provided no hard proof that Russia ordered the hit on ex-spy Sergei Skripal—and they see Putin as the target of Western aggression. …. Fewer than 20 percent of Russians travel abroad; the rest experience the world as described on Russian television. Nizhny Novgorod residents Tamara and Aleksei Trifonov were trying to understand the Skripal poisoning case. “As far as I understood, London did not present any hardcore proof—so it means Putin is right, the West jumps to conclusions, that Russia is guilty of everything,” Aleksei, a manager of a local car service, told The Daily Beast. “Look, I wonder if ordinary Americans realize that we expect the world to come over to our hometown of Nizhny Novgorod for the World Cup. I trust Putin, he wouldn’t risk spoiling relations with the West before these expensive games.” Tamara Trifonova was also skeptical. “The relations with Europe and America do not really matter to us, but we are convinced that Russia is innocent, that Putin is not an idiot to order a murder right before the presidential election,” Tamara, a housewife, added to the conversation. “He would not be cutting off the branch that he sits on.”

Russia Lashes Back at U.S., Expelling Dozens of Diplomats – WSJ

Russia will expel U.S. and European diplomats and close the U.S. consulate general in St. Petersburg in response to measures taken against Russia over its alleged role in the poisoning of a former double agent in England.

Russia Ramps up Diplomatic Clash, Expels More UK Diplomats | World News | US News

PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — U.S. consulate staff in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, are preparing to wind up operations after the Russian government ordered the consulate’s closure.

Russia orders Britain to further reduce number of diplomats in Moscow | The Leader

The Russian foreign ministry has ordered Britain to reduce the number of diplomats in Moscow down to the same amount that Russia has in London as the row over the attempted assassination of a Russian spy in Salisbury continues. The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok. A number of British allies have also ejected Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity following the attack. So far, more than 150 Russian diplomats, some of whom are suspected spies, have been ordered to return home by countries including the US, Germany, France and Canada. The Russian Embassy said on Friday it “insists” on the right to see Ms Skripal, 33, after it emerged on Thursday that she was improving rapidly.

Russia summons Western ambassadors over Skripal poisoning row

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday it was summoning ambassadors from Western countries who had taken “unfriendly” steps over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and informing them of Moscow’s retaliatory measures.

Russia to Expel 60 U.S. Diplomats; Tensions Are Worst in Decades – The New York Times

The move was in retaliation for the expulsion of diplomats by Britain, the United States and their allies. The U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg will be closed.

Russian Embassy Outraged at UK Media’s One-Sided Coverage of Skripal Case – Sputnik International

The Russian embassy in London has expressed bewilderment over how British media is handling the case of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, particularly its remarkable fidelity to a single unproven version of the incident.

Russian spy: How big is the Kremlin’s diplomatic network? – BBC News

Russia is losing more than 140 envoys, but it remains one of the world’s diplomatic powerhouses.

What Really Went on at Russia’s Seattle Consulate? – POLITICO Magazine

The closure of the facility could limit military and tech-industry espionage—and leaves Russia with no diplomatic presence on the West Coast.

Russian ambassador calls Washington a “toxic atmosphere” – Axios

“It seems to me that atmosphere in Washington is poisoned — it’s a toxic atmosphere,” he said. “It depends upon us to decide whether we are in Cold War or not. But … I don’t remember such [a] bad shape of our relations.” — Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie

Russian ambassador pleads for help as US officials refuse to meet | World | News |

THE Russian ambassador to the United States is finding it extremely difficult to meet with government officials, who are looking to distant themselves from the Kremlin, as tensions grow between the two countries.

Russian ambassador pleads for help in securing Washington meetings – POLITICO

Anatoly Antonov has been rebuffed by US government officials who are reluctant to be seen as friendly toward the Kremlin.

Russia’s diplomatic expulsions speak to Vladimir Putin’s fear

In turn, the Russian leader’s assassination antics have given him an utter “blowback” failure. In intelligence circles, blowback refers to an operation in which a mission causes far more harm to those carrying it out than those they targeted. Consider that Skripal and his daughter weren’t killed (although he might still die), and Putin has made himself more of an international pariah than ever before. The exigent question now is what follows? I think one of two things. Either Putin will escalate further by attempting to kill another defector or, perhaps, by escalating his harassment of U.S. persons in Russia. Alternatively, he may back off and hope to get the World Cup concluded without further problems. If he chooses the latter, then we can move on (although the British must crack down on Russian organized crime-Kremlin money in London). That said, if Putin does decide to escalate, the U.S. should play him at his own game. So if he targets U.S. persons, for example, the FBI should start breaking into U.S.-based Russian diplomatic residences and leaving their windows open and slashing the tires on Russian diplomatic cars. That positioning of strength, oddly enough, is the surest way to speak to Putin in language he understands and thus put the former KGB colonel back in his box.

Why This Is Not a New Cold War

Contemporary politics is full of false analogies, and the return of the Cold War seems to be one of them.

Michel Eltchaninoff | Putin’s Secret Plan—Divide And Conquer Europe | Newsweek

Putin dreams of a continent on its knees—dominated by a new conservative leader. Vladimir Putin’s ideology is a conservative message, addressed not only to Russian-speakers but to all European citizens. For the Kremlin, it’s a closed case: Europe is in a state of economic decline and moral decadence. Putin believes that hostility towards Islam and the protests linked to same-sex marriage in France are of profound significance. From this a fantastical picture emerges, whereby a small group of ultra-modernists, inspired by American-style theories, are apparently surreptitiously seeking to impose reforms on the population that would lead to major anthropological changes, not least the suppression of reproduction. For Putin, this represents an important stage in the war of civilizations, and it is vital that Europe should be helped to remain faithful to its Christian roots and traditional values. In the spring of 2014, he claimed to have warned his ‘friends’ of the rise of populism in Europe, which he attributed to permissiveness with regard to immigration and gay rights: “I have been telling my friends in Europe for years that if you continue like that, without taking into account the mood of the population in your own countries, then nationalism will rise inexorably. And that was what happened.”

 John Heath | The West Needs to Understand Putin’s Plan So That They Can Combat It | The Market Mogul

What is not clear is his strategy. He will go from hosting Olympic games one moment to annexing regions the next. This lack of understanding makes combatting Putin like grasping mist; the harder you try to pin him down the more easily he slips through your fingers. Like all dictators, Putin aims to cling to power. To win the support of the Russian people, they need to see him as a strong man. By exerting Russia’s influence on the geopolitical stage, either through soft power or by military intervention, he will succeed in creating the right persona. The West is not powerless though. By being vigilant, adaptable and resilient western nations will be able to react to Putin. The current lack of international leadership may make this harder to do. Political paralysis and division within western nations make it easy for Putin to take the initiative, allowing him to choose places of confrontation on his terms. The recent poisoning of the Skripals appears to have briefly rallied the West against Russia and this could signal increased defiance against Russia. However, if increased resistance leads to a confrontation between two nuclear superpowers, the situation could become lead to a reversion to Cold War politics.

Paul D. Shinkman | Deterring Russia Has Reshaped the West | Best Countries | US News

The show of unity with Britain following a chemical attack in Salisbury has fundamentally altered the way the West is working to offset Vladimir Putin. “We need to react in such a manner that you can feel it,” says Vesa Hakkinen, director for current affairs communications with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland, which expelled one Russian diplomat. “We need to say out loud that this is not business as usual.” The U.S. and other Western powers have historically relied on Finland – which has purposefully not joined NATO – as a bridge to Moscow. Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917 and retains close ties with it as a partner for regional issues and trade, which Hakkinen says is still important. “We like to keep the channels open, and that’s still the case. But nevertheless we stand where we stand, and we stand in the alliance of our friendly neighbors, the EU and the U.S., and other countries which share our values,” Hakkinen told U.S. News on Tuesday. “We don’t want to be any neutral tone between two camps – we are clearly on the side where we showed yesterday.” Many diplomats and military officers from nations along Russia’s border believe the West should have taken a much harder stance against Moscow sooner, particularly following Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia. These countries continue to advocate for practical cooperation, like in the flow of commerce as well as protecting coastlines and border crossings – though those, too, have presented an opportunity for more benign forms of reported Russian aggression, like the periodic appearance of thousands of foreign refugees at its borders with Norway and Finland starting in 2015. “Whatever they say, who would be able to trust them anymore? This is the problem. They have blown the trust that has ever existed,” says Gints Jegermanis, press secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Latvia, which expelled one Russian diplomat and one private citizen. He adds that his government is still prepared to work with Russia on practical issues. “Western countries should finally realize: Russia is not to be trusted. Russia needs to change its behavior in order to make some positive steps.”

Election Victory Glow Fades As Putin Faces 2 Major Issues : NPR

Russians are angry about a mall fire in Siberia that killed 64 people. And, the U.S. and other countries expelled Russian diplomats after an ex-Russian spy in Britain was exposed to a nerve agent.

Trump tells aides not to talk publicly about Russia policy moves

But Trump, irked by Putin’s nuclear buildup, told him last week: “If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win.” WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s national security advisers spent months trying to convince him to sign off on a plan to supply new U.S. weapons to Ukraine to aid in the country’s fight against Russian-backed separatists, according to multiple senior administration officials. Yet when the president finally authorized the major policy shift, he told his aides not to publicly tout his decision, officials said. Doing so, Trump argued, might agitate Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the officials. “He doesn’t want us to bring it up,” one White House official said. “It is not something he wants to talk about.” The White House declined to comment. Officials said the increasingly puzzling divide between Trump’s policy decisions and public posture on Russia stems from his continued hope for warmer relations with Putin and stubborn refusal to be seen as appeasing the media or critics who question his silence or kind words for the Russian leader. Behind the scenes, however, Trump has recently taken a sharper tone on Putin, administration officials said, but the shift seems more a reaction to the Russian leader challenging the president’s strength than a new belief that he’s an adversary. Putin’s claim earlier this month that Russia has new nuclear-capable weapons that could hit the U.S., a threat he underscored with video simulating an attack, “really got under the president’s skin,” one official said. So much so that after hearing Putin’s speech, Trump called the leaders of France, Germany and the U.K. to say the Russian leader sounded dangerous, so the four of them needed to stick together, according to a White House official familiar with the calls.

Trump Told Putin ‘I’ll Win’ If Russia Starts Arms Race: Sources – NBC4 Washington

President Donald Trump’s national security advisers spent months trying to convince him to sign off on a plan to supply new U.S. weapons to Ukraine to aid in the country’s fight against Russian-backed…

Trump to Putin: ‘If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win’: report | TheHill

President Trump reportedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call last week that if the two Cold War foes were to reignite the arms race, the U.S. would come out on top.

Report: Trump More Hawkish Privately After Putin’s Nuke Boast |

NBC News reported Thursday that President Donald Trump’s public posture toward Russian President Vladimir Putin contrasts sharply with a growing private hawkish tone after the Kremlin leader challenged him with recent claims of new nuclear weapons.

Irked Trump Reportedly Warned Putin: We’d Win The Arms Race

“If you want to have an arms race, we can do that,” Trump told the Russian leader, according to NBC News.

Trump told Putin ‘I’ll win’ in an arms race: Report

“If you want to have an arms race, we can do that, but I’ll win,” Trump warned Russian President Vladimir Putin.

State Department: Russia Not Justified in Retaliating After Expulsions

The State Department responded swiftly to an announcement by the Kremlin that Russia will retaliate for the expulsions of Russian diplomats from the U.S., Britain and other countries. Moscow announced Thursday it is expelling 60 U.S. diplomats and closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters that is not justified and the U.S. reserves the right to respond. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from the State Department.

White House Rips Russia for Expelling US Diplomats |

Russia’s expelling of 60 American diplomats marked a further deterioration in the United States-Russia relationship, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday.

US: Russia should not be acting like victim – News – NHK WORLD – English

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert has criticized Russia’s announcement that it will expel 60 US diplomats as a retaliatory measure. She said on Thursday Russia should not be acting like a victim in the suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. The United States and European countries had expelled Russian diplomats for Moscow’s alleged involvement in the case. Nauert warned that Russia’s actions would lead to further confrontation with the West. She indicated that the US is reviewing the details of the Russian action and will respond accordingly. She added the US reserves the right to respond to Russia’s actions. Nauert said the US wants to build good relations with Russia, but it is clear that Russia is not interested in a dialogue on issues that matter to the US and Russia.

VOA Interview: US Ambassador Says Russia Must Change Behavior

Jon Huntsman braced for the Kremlin to respond to expulsions of Russian diplomats by two dozen Western countries

Russia ‘a beast from the deep sea’ with ‘lots of tentacles,’ US State Department says – Daily Sabah

Russia remains a country that is interested in meddling in other countries’ affairs, particularly elections, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather…

Boris Johnson: Russia must ‘wake-up’ to ‘global wave of revulsion’ | Metro News

Boris Johnson says Russia needs to ‘wake-up’ to the ‘global wave of revulsion’ over the Salisbury nerve agent attack. The foreign secretary praised friends and allies who surprised Moscow with…

Theresa May has shown Putin that the West can still unite | The Spectator

After Britain voted to leave the European Union, there was much mistaken talk about how it might also move away from its allies. Boris Titov, one of…

Britain launches inquiry into money-laundering with focus on property

British lawmakers launched a new inquiry into money-laundering, sanctions and economic crime on Thursday, with a particular focus on properties bought with so-called “dirty money”, amid growing tensions with Russia.

Dirty Money in U.K. Property to Be Investigated by Lawmakers – Bloomberg

British lawmakers opened an investigation into economic crime, citing estimates that more than 4 billion pounds ($5.6 billion) of property in the U.K. has been purchased with “suspicious wealth.”

Hitting Putin where it hurts – Chicago Tribune

Western nations are expelling more than 130 Russian diplomats as punishment for the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.

If we want to stop Putin, we need to go after his sources of money (Opinion) – CNN

Josh Campbell and Robert Baer write that expelling Russian diplomats will make the work of the intelligence community that much harder — and the potential opportunity to impose costs that much more difficult.

Edward Luce | Russia and the west’s moral bankruptcy | Financial Times

Vladimir Putin’s wealth extraction machine could not operate without our connivance

Legal bid launched to stop Vladimir Putin’s Russia hosting World Cup as tensions mount over Salisbury nerve agent attack – Mirror Online

Activists and campaigners warn it could be dangerous for travelling fans and fear Putin could exploit the event as part of his propaganda war against the West

The Latest: Germany still “ready for dialogue” with Russia

PETERSBURG, Russia — The Latest on the fallout from the Russian ex-spy poisoning (all times local): 6:50 p.m. German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass says his country remains “ready for dialogue” with Russia — but is underlining that expelling four Russian diplomats was the right thing to do. Maas says Friday that Russia had expelled four German embassy staff in retaliation. He said the tit-for-tat move was “not surprising.” He says “we did not take the decision on expelling the Russian diplomats lightly.” The minister says Germany’s reaction to the poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer in London “was a necessary and appropriate political signal, out of solidarity with Great Britain and because Russian has refused any clarification of the matter.” Maas said, nonetheless, Germany was ready to “work for a constructive future between our countries.” 6:25 p.m. Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it has informed ambassadors of most of the countries that ordered expulsion of Russian diplomats that an equal number of their diplomats have been declared persona non grata. A ministry statement Friday said the ambassadors were from 23 of the countries that are expelling Russians in connection with the poisoning in Britain of a former Russian double agent and his daughter. Russia on Thursday announced it was expelling 60 US diplomats and closing the consulate in St. Petersburg in retaliation for Washington’s moves. The countries informed Friday of expulsions were Australia, Albania, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Finland, France, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Estonia.

Analysis: Why did Israel not condemn Russian assassination attempt in Britain?

Israeli analysts explain the government’s reasons for not joining Western countries in expelling Russian diplomats in the aftermath of recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News Many Western countries ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats as punishment for its alleged poison gas assassination attempt on a former Russian spy last month in Britain. Israel did not follow the lead from London and Washington, even declining to name “Russia” while issuing a general condemnation of the alleged Russian action. The targets, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, remain in critical condition.

The Latest: Bulgaria won’t expel Russian diplomats | The Sun Herald

Bulgaria’s prime minister says his country won’t expel Russian diplomats as a response to the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy in Britain.

Old ties with Russia weigh on Bulgarian decision in spy poisoning case

Bulgaria, which has a strong pro-Russian lobby in government, needs more time to decide whether to follow NATO and EU allies in expelling Russian diplomats over a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy, its deputy prime minister said on Thursday.

Russian ambassador’s Oscar performance: PM – 9News

Malcolm Turnbull says Russia’s ambassador should apply for an Oscar after his animated response to two Russian spies being kicked out of the country. The diplomats have five days to leave Australia, in a show of solidarity with the UK over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Russian ambassador Grigory Logvinov gave an hour-long press conference on Wednesday, calling questions about spies “funny” and saying reporters had watched too many Hollywood movies. “I think he’ll be applying for an Oscar, don’t you think? He didn’t persuade anybody,” Mr Turnbull told reporters on Thursday. “It was a very lengthy performance, and all of the histrionics aside, the fact of the matter is this: chemical weapons were used in an attempt to murder a person … on British soil.” Vladimir Putin is deciding how to retaliate after Australia kicked out two Russian spies from the embassy in Canberra and more than 100 others were expelled from countries around the world. “The final decision is taken by President of the Russian Federation,” Mr Logvinov told reporters on Wednesday.

Georgia Expels Russian Diplomat, Joining Dozens Of Countries

Georgia has decided to expel a Russian diplomat, joining dozens of countries in a response to the nerve-agent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.

Russian retaliation part of perilous pas de deux whose end is unclear | World news | The Guardian

Response to US expulsions may be symmetrical but does not mean Skripal crisis is being contained

To Russia, With No Love Lost: 27 Nations Tell Over 150 ‘Spies’ to Go |

An unprecedented wave of diplomatic expulsions swept the globe Tuesday, with 27 countries acting in concert to order 138 Russians to pack their bags and return to mother Russia.

Russian spy’s daughter ‘is eating and drinking’ after miracle recovery from Novichok poisoning… a day after her family said she had ‘1% chance’ | Daily Mail Online

Doctors said Yulia Skripal was ‘improving rapidly’ after exposure to Novichok. Sources have verified Yulia, 33, is both conscious and talking, the BBC reports. The development could prove key to the investigation into the poisoning . Her father, ex-spy Sergei Skripal, remains in a critical but stable condition .

Poisoned Russian spy’s family ‘overjoyed’ daughter Yulia Skripal is ‘conscious and talking’ after nerve agent attack – Mirror Online

Yulia’s health is said to have improved ‘rapidly’ countering fears she may never recover from the nerve agent attack earlier this month

Nerve agent attack: Condition of spy’s daughter Yulia Skripal ‘improving rapidly’

Yulia Skripal is showing encouraging signs of improvement, while her father is still in a critical condition in hospital. Yulia Skripal The daughter of the Russian spy targeted in the Salisbury nerve agent attack is understood to be eating and drinking in hospital. Yulia Skripal is no longer in a critical condition and is “improving rapidly”, according to Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust. The Trust said that the 33-year-old had responded well to treatment but her father Sergei, 66, remains in a critical but stable condition. As Ms Skripal continues her recovery, the authorities will be hopeful that she might be able to give a vital insight into the moments leading up to the attack.

Russian Ex-Spy’s Daughter ‘Improving Rapidly’

British health officials say the daughter of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is no longer in critical condition and is “improving rapidly,” weeks after a March 4 nerve-agent attack in an English …

Hopes rise as Yulia Skripal is taken off critical list | News | The Times

The daughter of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is improving rapidly and her life is no longer in danger after the Salisbury poison attack. Yulia Skripal’s condition was described as stable by the Salisbury NHS Foundation yesterday. Initially it was feared that she would not survive ha

Spy Poisoning: Yulia Skripal Is Out of Critical Condition | Time

Yulia Skripal is conscious and talking nearly one month after a nerve agent attack hospitalized her and her father, ex-spy Sergei Skripal

Daughter of poisoned Russian ex-spy ‘recovering’ | Euronews

Yulia Skripal is “improving rapidly” and no longer in a critical condition, hospital says.