Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Salisbury CW Attack / Syria / Iran / Russia Ad Hoc Update (192)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Piontkovsky suggests there is enough evidence to conclude that the Chekist regime believes it could win a nuclear war against the West, although this alleged delusion may equally so be yet another play at the  “madman strategy”.  Russia has a new propaganda play, blameshifting the death of Magnitsky to Browder, and producing a lot of Western media coverage. Lavrov blameshifts Russian meddling in the Balkans on the West. Finland objects to GPS jamming. Sanctions cost Russia 6% of its GDP. Russia attempts to shut down the OneWeb satellite broadband project, to prevent uncontrolled Internet access in Russia. Seven reports on Russia’s descent. NATO PA briefed on Russia’s covert support for Islamo-terrorist movements, including ISIS. Reports that Russia is negotiating to sell the occupied Kurile Islands / Northern Territories back to Japan. Very nice commentary by Chapple on a culture obsessed with war.

Bellingcat report on FSB penetration of UK Visa processing systems, using an insider, and backdoor entry.

Updates on Iran, Turkey, and the Saudis.


Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin Believes Moscow Can Win a Nuclear War, Piontkovsky Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 17 – Since the dawn of the nuclear age, senior leaders in Moscow have debated whether their country can fight and win a world war, Andrey Piontkovsky says. Some like Lavrenty Beria and Georgy Malenkov did not believe Russia could, but Nikita Khrushchev and now Vladimir Putin believe that Moscow could be victorious in such a conflict. Soviet leaders since that time have defined winning as gaining an expansion of the zone of exclusive control they received at Yalta after World War II, the Russian analyst says. Russian leaders now define it as “a return of the Yalta zone of control that has been lost and a demonstration of NATO’s ineffectiveness” (http://kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5BEF2845504AC). Consequently, Piontkovsky argues, when Khrushchev defeated his rivals for supreme power, he also enshrined the idea that Moscow could fight and win a nuclear war, leading to his own adventurism in 1962 and to the nuclear sabre rattling increasingly characteristic of Vladimir Putin and his regime. “Since 2014,” he writes, “Russia has been living in a state which represents an exceptional danger for itself and for the surrounding world.” As in the periods around the death of Stalin and at the end of Khrushchev’s reign, “the present-day Russian leadership is convinced of its capacity to win a worldwide nuclear war.” And make no mistake, Piontkovsky says. They mean a nuclear war because the men in the Kremlin are very well aware that they don’t have sufficient forces of other kinds to win such a conflict. They no longer buy into the ideas of mutually assured destruction, and they aren’t playing nuclear chess: they are engaged in nuclear blackmail. There is thus good reason to believe, as US Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently put it, that Moscow is“an existential threat to the US,” a conclusion he said he had reached after “some Russians warned him personally that they would be ready to apply nuclear weapons in the case of a conflict in the Baltic region” (http://news.err.ee/860764/woodward-in-baltic-war-russia-willing-to-use-nuclear-weapons-against-nato). “At all levels – experts, propagandists, and officials – Moscow already for four years has posed to the West its version of Hitler’s question from the 1930s: ‘Are you ready to die for Narva (Danzig)?’” Will you invoke Article 5 of the NATO Charter when Russia’s “little green men” move into the Baltic countries? Russians today certainly believe and from Piontkovsky’s perspective with complete justification that the current US president Donald Trump would not respond to a Russian move in the Baltics by invoking Article 5 even though the three countries are full members of the Western alliance. The Russians may be right about Trump, he says; but they are wrong about the West. After two years of the Trump administration, “the psychological decisiveness and military readiness of NATO and the US to defend the Baltic countries from a Russian aggressor who is threatening to use nuclear weapons are significantly greater now than two years ago.” “Action gives birth to counter action,” Piontkovsky observes. “The military-political establishment of the US is consolidated in its attitude toward the Kremlin regime as never before.” And the Russian people, various surveys show, want not a broader war with the West but some kind of détente. A calm and rational Russian leader would thus take action to soothe the West and meet his own people at least half way; but, as Piontkovsky has written before, Putin is neither calm nor entirely rational. He reacts emotionally and even erratically. That makes his belief in the winnability of nuclear war so disturbing. If the Kremlin leader feels he has been pushed into a corner, he may decide to go for broke, setting the stage for disaster not just for others but for himself and his system as well. In this situation, Piontkovsky says, there might be hope from an unexpected source — a convinced Putinist who agrees with Beria and Malenkov rather than Khrushchev and Putin. After all, the Russian commentator says, Claus von Stauffenberg who organized the assassination attempt against Hitler and then was executed for his role in that regard was “a convinced Nazi.” Today, the German count is celebrated as a hero of the resistance to the German dictator.

Andrei Piontkovsky | Do Russians want nuclear war? | Kasparov.ru

Andrei Piontkovsky: the situation in Russia itself is gradually and irreversibly changing update: 11/17/2018 (15:46) External The policy of the USSR / Russia in the nuclear age was determined by the answer of the rulers of the country to themselves one question: can they win a world war from the United States and its allies? The “gain” in the USSR was understood to mean the unlimited expansion of the zone of exclusive domination of the USSR, obtained in Yalta following the 2nd World War. In Russia, “victory over the West” is conceived as the return of the lost Yalta control zone and thus demonstration of the failure of the NATO bloc as an instrument of the collective security of its member countries. At different times, the answer to this fateful question was different and often it was the subject of a dramatic domestic political struggle. Tov. Stalin began the test of exploring the borders of his “zone” as early as August 16, 1945. In his letter to US President Truman, he, by the way, asked him to go to meet his “modest wish”: the occupation by the Soviet troops of Fr. Hokkaido, not provided by the Yalta deal. Truman answered Uncle Joe on August 18 very clearly and intelligibly. More Stalin did not appeal to him with modest wishes, but for several years he treated Truman himself very attentively – he left Iran, stopped helping Greek partisans, stopped making territorial claims to Turkey. A very rational politician, ready to retreat where it was necessary. But in Eastern Europe, he got up anything, breaking these countries through the knee, and Truman was not very worried. Both sides complied with the unwritten convention and Stalin understood perfectly well that he could not yet expand his “Animal farm” (socialist camp) by force. With the mastery of the atomic bomb Comrade. Stalin began to lean towards a positive response to the key Russian question. The Korean War was his first open US military challenge. The winter of 52-53 is one of the most mysterious and dramatic episodes of Soviet history. Many documents of that era remain closed, if they are not destroyed at all. But the version of the triple plan of an aging and losing leader (the Third World War, the Jewish pogrom and the next tough sweep of party comrades) is becoming more and more convincing. The comrades in that fight were literally not for life, but were ahead of the sovereign of the half-world to death; the pogrom, in any case, was abolished in its extreme forms, but in the central Russian question they seriously disagreed. Beria and Malenkov, the main beneficiaries of the coup, who headed (one de facto, another de jure) the new government, gave a negative answer to the question of “victory”, moreover, they denied the very meaning of the battle for this “victory”. In his 100 days in the Kremlin, Beria not only released a million prisoners from the Soviet camps, but almost managed to release an entire GDR from the Yalta “zone” by agreeing to a united demilitarized Germany. At the decisive moment of their struggle for power with Khrushchev, Malenkov faltered, finding in his reception room marshals and generals armed to the teeth, led by Zhukov himself, and passed on a like-minded person. But remaining almost two years as the nominal Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, from time to time he timidly tried to promote their common intentions. His high point was a speech at a meeting with “voters” on March 12, 1954, in which he declared that there would be no winners in World War III. The massive use of nuclear weapons will lead to the death of world civilization. Malenkov actually formulated the doctrine of mutual guaranteed destruction. But the First Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, Khrushchev, sharply condemned Malenkov’s statement as anti-Party and anti-Marxist. How will this not be winners ?! Not true! We are not afraid of war! We will win in any war! Let the instigators of war know: we will not stand up for the price. Realizing these party installations, Marshal Zhukov, on September 14, 1954, drove 50 thousand souls through the radioactive ashes of military exercises on the theme “Breakthrough of the prepared tactical defense of the enemy with the use of atomic weapons”, in practice “proving” the possibility of a Soviet victory in nuclear war.

Woodward: In Baltic war, Russia willing to use nuclear weapons against NATO | News | ERR

Russia privately warned US Secretary of Defense James Mattis that if there were a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use small tactical nuclear weapons against NATO, US journalist Bob Woodward writes in his new book. Woodward does not say which representative of Russia said this to Mattis or in what context. He nevertheless writes, however, that Mattis considers Russia a threat to the existence of the United States. The journalist does not state what US President Donald Trump thinks of Mattis’ vision. Russian military doctrine foresees that nuclear weapons can be used to a limited extent when fending off an attack carried out with conventional weaponry. Woodward’s book “Fear” focuses on Trump’s election campaign in the 2016 presidential elections and his current term of office thus far.

UAWire – Lavrov: West has decided to use Balkans as bridgehead against Russia

The West is trying to implement the next step in the anti-Russian script by pressurizing the countries of the Balkan peninsula and demanding that the countries in the region “make a choice: [you are] either with Moscow or with Washington and Brussels”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an interview with the Siberian Telegraph, the full text of which was published on the Foreign Ministry website. “The impression is developing that the lessons of the Ukrainian tragedy in the West have not been learned. Today they are making persistent attempts to turn the Balkans into yet another bridgehead against Russia. The countries in the region are being insistently required to make a choice: [you are] either with Moscow, or with Washington and Brussels,” Lavrov claims. The minister said that Belgrade is being pressurized in order to “bring an end to the mutually beneficial collaboration” with Russia, but that the “Serbian brothers are firmly opposing it”. He emphasized that one of the areas in which Russia and Serbia collaborate is the energy sphere: “Leading Russian companies, including PAO Gazprom, are in close contact with our Serbian partners, and have great collaborative plans”. Talking about the situation with Kosovo, Lavrov said that Russia will consider any resolution which is acceptable to Serbia. “Our position on Kosovo is well known, it is based on international law – first and foremost, UN Security Council resolution 1244. We will consistently provide our Serbian brothers comprehensive assistance in the efforts aimed at asserting Serbia’s legitimate interests – both along the bilateral line and in international organizations,” the Foreign Minister said.

Moscow accuses Bill Browder of poisoning Sergey Magnitsky, as Russia is expected to win Interpol’s next presidency — Meduza

The Russian Attorney General’s Office announced on Monday that it is investigating financier and economist Bill Browder as a suspect in the death of Sergey Magnitsky, who died in November 2009, after 11 months in pretrial detention. Russian officials believe Magnitsky and several other “Browder criminal associates” might have been poisoned secretly with certain “chemicals containing aluminum compounds.” Prosecutors say Oleg Lurye, a journalist imprisoned on extortion charges who shared a pretrial detention cell with Magnitsky, apparently endorses their theory. The Russian Attorney General’s Office announced on Monday that it is investigating financier and economist Bill Browder as a suspect in the death of Sergey Magnitsky, who died in November 2009, after 11 months in pretrial detention. Russian officials believe Magnitsky and several other “Browder criminal associates” might have been poisoned secretly with certain “chemicals containing aluminum compounds.” Prosecutors say Oleg Lurye, a journalist imprisoned on extortion charges who shared a pretrial detention cell with Magnitsky, apparently endorses their theory. The Attorney General’s Office is also accusing Browder of involvement in the deaths of businessman and whistle-blower Alexander Perepilichny and three men Russian officials claim helped Browder “facilitate tax fraud and help transfer the proceeds to a network of global bank accounts,” according to The Guardian: Octai Gasanov, Valery Kurochkin, Sergey Korobeinikov. In an effort to add Browder to international wanted lists and seize his assets abroad, Moscow has opened an organized crime case against him, arguing that companies in Cyprus, Latvia, and Switzerland have been created to cash and launder hundreds of millions of dollars for Browder.

Russia Seeks Help From U.S. as It Presses New Browder Charges – Bloomberg

Russia levied new charges against U.S.-born investor and Kremlin critic Bill Browder, stepping up a quest that has gotten little traction in the West with a call to the U.S. to investigate claims shareholders in his fund used illegal profits from Russia to fund contributions to the Democratic Party.

Russia accuses Kremlin critic Browder of ordering lawyer’s murder | Reuters

Russian prosecutors said on Monday they suspected Kremlin critic Bill Browder of ordering the murder of a lawyer whose memory he has championed, but he dismissed the accusation as a cynical ploy to tar him for lobbying for sanctions on Moscow.

Russia opens criminal investigation into Putin foe Bill Browder

Russia announced Monday it has launched a criminal investigation into William Browder, the British financier who fought to expose corruption within the Russian government.

Russian Prosecutor: Financier Browder ‘Suspected’ Of Involvement In Magnitsky’s Death

The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office has leveled new accusations at British-American financier Bill Browder, saying he is now suspected of involvement in the death of Russian whistle-blower Serg…

Appointment of Russian rep as Interpol head will allow Kremlin to expand persecution of political opponents – Avakov

The possible appointment of a Russian representative to the presidency of Interpol will allow the Kremlin to expand the practice of using Interpol tools to persecute political opponents of the Russian regime, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has said.

Interpol Meets To Select New President, Discuss Accepting New Members

Police chiefs from around the world are in Dubai for Interpol’s general assembly to select a new president after the international police agency’s previous one was detained in China.

Finland Summons Russian Envoy Over Blocked GPS Signals

Russian Ambassador to Finland Pavel Kuznetsov has been summoned to a meeting with Finnish State Secretary Matti Anttonen on November 19 over the disruption of Finland’s global positioning system (G…

Russian Ambassador to Finland Summoned Over GPS Disruption 

Finnish foreign ministry says disruption of Finland’s GPS signal during recent NATO war games came from Russian territory

Here’s One Measure That Shows Sanctions on Russia are Working – Bloomberg

Sanctions may have knocked as much as 6 percent off Russia’s economy over the past four years and the drag isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.

Sanctions Play ‘Key Role’ In Russia’s Economic Underperformance

Western sanctions have played an important factor leading to the underperformance of the Russian economy over the past four years, a new study indicates.

Russia’s Security Agency Pulls Ambitious Satellite Internet Venture Back To Earth

With billions in investment, U.S.-based OneWeb has counted on using Russian-built rockets, and Russia’s launch facilities, to bring Internet service to remote corners of the world. Roskosmos has co…

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Economic Crisis Now, Not ‘Wild 1990s,’ Behind Russia’s Demographic Decline, Nikolayev Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 16 – The Russian government likes to blame the demographic problems the country is facing today on the wild 1990s, Igor Nikolayev says, a charge that contains some truth but that allows the current rulers to avoid taking responsibility for what is a far more significant cause: the current economic crisis. The constant references of officials “to events of 25 and 30 years ago,” the economist says, represent “a clear sign of the inability of the authorities to take responsibility on themselves for all that is occurring in the country” (mk.ru/economics/2018/11/16/rossiya-vymiraet-vlasti-nazvali-neozhidannuyu-prichinu-demograficheskogo-krizisa.html). It is true, he acknowledges, that the depressed birthrates in the difficult 1990s are having an echo now because there are fewer women in prime child-bearing age cohorts. But if everything else were equal, Russia would not be experiencing the demographic problems that it clearly is. Almost all of them have to do with the economy, Nikolayev argues. With incomes falling, people are putting off having children or not having them at all. With spending on medical care declining, more people are dying earlier than they otherwise would. And with the economy in a tailspin, fewer immigrants are coming to Russia to work. If the powers that be find it difficult to recognize all this, he continues, then Russians need “to do it for them.” They can start by pointing out a fundamental error in the logic of those at the top of the political pyramid. People there believe that economic problems in the 1990s had a bad impact on demography, but they don’t admit that the same thing is true now. Moreover, the Russian government acts as if demographic problems, be they boosting the birthrate, reducing mortality or attracting immigrants can be achieved by campaigns rather than by continuing and interconnected policies that are based on an understanding that what happens in one sector affects what happens in another. If one reads the government’s strategy documents, Nikolayev argues, he or she will find many good things such as a commitment to rely on natural increases rather than immigrants for demographic growth. But almost immediately, the reader will discover that there is no clear roadmap and that the attention of officials to these issues is only occasional rather than constant. Unless all that changes and unless the government admits to itself and to the Russian people that it bears responsibility for the current problems and will work to correct them, first by boosting economic growth to the extent it can and then by addressing specific demographic issues, the situation will only get worse. And then 25 or 30 years from now, some future Russian government will blame the problems it faces – and they will be worse than the ones confronting the country now – entirely on the situation in 2018, thus continuing a vicious circle of government irresponsibility and demographic decline.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Paper Puts Up and Takes Down Article Saying Disintegration of Russia is ‘Inevitable’

Paul Goble Staunton, November 16 – There are some things no one in Russia must say or even think. Perhaps the most important of these is the idea that the Russian Federation will disintegrate just as the Soviet Union and all other empires have. But the Kremlin hasn’t managed to keep the idea out of the newspapers or to eliminate it by taking it off line when it does appear. Today, Ukraine’s Gordon news agency reported that “Moskovsky komsomolets had taken down from its site an article about the inevitable disintegration of Russia.” At 0324, the Moscow paper put up a story declaring that “A former Putin advisor considers that the disintegration of Russia is inevitable.” That is an entirely “natural process” as far as “multi-national empires” are concerned. The article was on the newspaper’s website for eight hours and attracted more than 207,000 page-views. But then it was taken down (gordonua.com/blogs/illarionov/moskovskiy-komsomolec-udalil-s-sayta-statyu-o-neizbezhnom-raspade-rossii-509821.html). By taking this action, of course, the Moscow paper and its Kremlin bosses have only called more attention to the article than it might have otherwise received; and it has certainly not eliminated the article from the Internet because on the web almost nothing ever goes away completely. Below is the text of the article which remains online at irnet.ru/2018/11/16/byvshiy-sovetnik-putina-schitaet-chto-raspad-rossii-neizbezhen.html:FormerPutin Advisor Considers the Disintegration of Russia Inevitable In the opinion of the former advisor of the President of the Russian Federation (2000-2005) Andrey Illarionov who at present is on an employee of the Cato Institute (US), Russia will not be able to avoid the tragic processes which are natural for all multi-national empires. The beginning stage of the disintegration of the empire, Illarionov considers, could be observed at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1917-1918. “Then a partial reconquest and reoccupation of some territories occurred. Another sage in this imperial disintegration took place at the start of the 1990s. Then again was carried out a partial reconquest,” Glavred quotes him as saying. The third stage is certain; it will be accompanied by the separation of certain non-Russian ethnic territories from the present-day Russian Federation, the economist and political figure notes. “Such processes are usually accompanied by tragedies and blood. However, it is impossible to stop such tectonic forces of universal history.” In Illarionov’s opinion, the disintegration of Russia will reduce military pressure on Ukraine depending on who will be sitting in the Kremlin. If the leader of Russia will be a responsible figure, then it is not impossible that democratic Ukraine will help Russia navigate this process in a way that will be less horrific for Russia itself as well as for the newly formed states.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: De-Putinization Likely to Resemble De-Stalinization in All Too Many Ways, Eidman Suggests

Paul Goble Staunton, November 16 – Many Russians and others are wondering who will succeed Vladimir Putin, but Igor Eidman asks a larger and perhaps even more important question: how will Russian “de-Putinize” once the dictator is gone. His answer comes in the form of an imaginative description of what attacks on the then-former leader of the Kremlin will be like. And he suggests in a brief comment that many of the same trends that informed the de-Stalinization campaign of Nikita Khrushchev after 1956 will be repeated once Putin has left the scene. His description of what “a new 20th congress” will be like is given below (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2119562401440061&id=100001589654713). At this meeting, the Russian sociologist who works as a commentator for Deutsche Welle says, “a politician will declare with indignation that Putin’s bloody aggression has brought Russia into conflict with ‘fraternal Ukraine’ and that this crime will never be forgiven. A diplomat will add that the former president got into a fight with the civilized world and left the country isolated.” Another official will point out that “Putin created a corrupt system in which all those who accepted office could not avoid stealing. A police chief will declare that the Putin administration compelled the force structures to harass and break up peaceful demonstrations and persecute political activists. A general will say that Putin violated the law by dispatching the military to costly secret wars.” And a judge will say that “in Putin’s times, the indepence of the judicial system was destroyed.” “A representative of the special services will complain that Putin cost the country numerous valuable agents by forcing them to engage in risky murders abroad. A priest will say that Putin’s war against Ukraine has led to a new schism in the Orthodox church. And a television personality will declare that the Presidential Administration controlled his every word and forced him to lie all the time.” At this post-Putin meeting, “an oligarch will complain that Putin’s aggressive policy meant that Western partners stopped dealing with him and that his property abroad was confiscated. Others will explain how under Putin, the authorities compelled him to falsify the results of election.” And “all present will feel that they are Putin’s real victims and express regret that nothing could be done. “And then perhaps in a departure from Khrushchev’s script, some young representative of the new democratic power will arise in the stands and announce that everyone who has spoken will be subject to lustration.” That didn’t happen 60 years ago; perhaps, Eidman suggests, one can hope that it will sometime in the near future. The big question, he implies, is whether the young man will get his way — or whether he will be arrested by all those who claimed to be Putin’s victims lest they became victims of a new democracy.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: No Genuinely Pro-Russian Parties Exist in Former Soviet Republics, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 16 – There are no genuinely pro-Russian parties in any of the non-Russian former Soviet republics or occupied Baltic countries, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say. There are parties which will cooperate with Moscow when they believe it is in their interest; but at most, they are prepared to be partners rather than part of any expanded “Russian world.” Elections in the former non-Russian union republics, the editors say in a lead article today, are typically presented as being a battle between nationalist and centrist parties, on the one hand, with “so-called pro-Russian ones,” on the other. But in fact that is not really the case (ng.ru/editorial/2018-11-15/2_7440_red.html). Instead, those that some call “pro-Russian” are only slightly more prepared than the others to partner with Moscow when it suits their interests; “but they will never be part of any project of ‘the Russian world.’” Belarus may be “an exception,” but in that country, there aren’t any real parties let alone real elections. Some in Russia hope that the newly-formed Opposition Platform in Ukraine will be pro-Russian, but to do so is a mistake. Its members are not Russia’s friends: “they will develop relations with Moscow but only while they continue their course toward the European Union and the US,” the independent Moscow paper says. Russians make a similar mistake about the Socialist Party in Moldova headed by president Igor Dodon. But the party and the president there cooperate with Moscow only when they think it is in their interests. And the socialists have made it clear that they intend to pursue ties with the European Union “and have asked to be called ‘pro-Moldovan.’” The Georgian political universe is filled with anti-Russian parties and no pro-Russian ones. Armenia is also very different from what some in Moscow imagine. Any party there will declare its readiness to cooperate with the Russian Federation. “However, it will at the same time continue to develop cooperation with the US and NATO.” There are no serious pro-Russian groups in Estonia or Lithuania, and in Latvia, the Harmony Party is led by someone nationalists have accused of being pro-Russian but who has shown his true colors by opposing demonstrations in that Baltic republic in defense of Russian-language schools. And in the countries of Central Asia, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say, there are no pro-Russian politicians. Instead, there are political figures who are ready to give priority to relations with Moscow if and only if they see in this the promotion of their own national interests. In sum, hardly an indication that any “Russian world” is going to emerge anywhere.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Wants to Rehabilitate Another Soviet Crime – the Invasion of Afghanistan

Paul Goble Staunton, November 16 – The ruling United Russia Party wants to revise the negative views many Russians have about the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and show them that it was a positive move, something important, Duma deputy Dmitry Sablin says, “not only for veterans of the Afghan war but for all of us, for our common memory.” Such a revision, Moscow commentator Yevgeny Trifonov says, would be entirely consistent with Vladimir Putin’s efforts to promote Russian history as a string of unalloyed successes, but it would be both absurd and downright dangerous for the government to decide to do so (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5BED8FE880553). Such a step would be absurd because, in his words, “the Afghan war of 1979-1989 was unique in that the introduction of Soviet forces was absolutely senseless, absolutely unjustified from any point of view, and absolutely inexplicable” even for those who have studied it in any detail. And it would be dangerous, Trifonov suggests, because it could easily become a precedent for recognizing as “just” de-kulakization during collectivization, the terror famine and the terror of 1937 because some would argue “this is important for the veterans of the NKVD” and its officers. The seizure of Afghanistan did not have any military importance, the commentator continues. Nor did it have any political significance. And attempts to justify it ideologically at the time as assistance to “a fraternal Marxist-Leninist regime” only called attention to how absurd and internally consistent that idea was in this case. That regime asked Moscow to intervene and for months Moscow refused; but finally, it gave in, invaded and killed the Afghan leader who asked for assistance, Trifonov says. “Such crimes in the 20th century were committed only by putschists in underdeveloped countries, but they killed their own presidents and not foreign ones.” According to the Moscow commentator, “it is impossible to understand why the Soviet leadership threw forces into Afghanistan to support an absolutely unpopular regime,” especially since the Soviet Union “did not have the resources to secure the construction int his backward country of anything like a contemporary economy and social milieu.” After ten years, the loss of more than 15,000 of its own troops, and the deaths and forced migration of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, the Soviet forces left “without having achieved anything.” Now, however, the Putin regime wants all this to be recognized as “a just war” and something Russians should be proud of, a position as absurd and dangerous as the original idea.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russians’ Faith in ‘Good Tsar’ Undercuts Their Faith in Themselves, Milin Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 17 – Most Russians still believe that the state has an existence independent of its officials and capable of magically transforming the situation if at the top there is “a good tsar” who can be counted on despite everything to put things in order as those expressing this faith want, according to commentator Dmitry Milin. Some on the left want that leader to be “’a new Stalin’” who will “correct everything” while others on the right want a new Lee Kuan Yew or “even a Pinochet” who will “correct everything” but in a different direction, he continues (newizv.ru/article/general/16-11-2018/dmitriy-milin-vera-v-gosudarstvo-podryvaet-glavnoe-veru-v-sebya). “Many believe,” Milin argues, “that the state has some kind of independent subjecthood, separate from the interests of those who work for it,” many of whom are thieves or worse, and that this state as manifested in its leader who is viewed as “a good tsar” has the ability to “foresee the future” and “the ability to achieve transformations.” But that isn’t so, he says. “The state is only the collection of officials and who make it up and whose qualities are well known to all who encounter them in their daily life.” Unfortunately, believing the state capable of transforming everything “undercuts what is most important – faith in oneself and one’s ability to change one’s own life and those around him.” Despite what many Russians believe, Milin continues, there simply aren’t any “brilliant politicians” capable of promoting change “without mass social support and the main thing, the active and constructive participation of a significant part of society to change something.” One would like to ask the believers in the all-powerful and good state the following: “’Do you believe that all these selfish officials and siloviki will suddenly be transformed and begin to work not for their own ‘pockets’ but for your good?’” And do you think that it would be possible to replace all of the officials so the good tsar could do that? Milin says he anticipates that those asked that question would respond with one of their own: “’Won’t a couple or three million honest people be found who can replace all these bureaucrats and siloviki?’” The answer is that such people exist but if they are all moved into the government, the rest of the country will suffer. Given that, he continues, the only way forward is to reduce the size of the government by reducing its role in the economy and society so that others can do the right thing independently of the government. That would allow taxes to be cut and entrepreneurs and others to achieve more and receive more for their efforts. But for that transformation to happen, Milin says, Russians must stop waiting for the state to solve all their problems and realize that the only people who can are those who they see each morning in the mirror. Those people “can change the world for the better. The state in the form of its bureaucrats and siloviki can’t.” In such a Russia, workers, engineers and scholars capable of doing something will be paid more than siloviki and bureaucrats who can’t. And that will mean that “Russia will return but not as a state dangerous to the entire world but a peaceful one with ‘soft power’ and a powerful economy, like the EU or China.” The best graduates of the best schools will become engineers or doctors or scholars; they won’t pursue jobs in the government because those jobs won’t continue to pay more than those in other sectors. But of course, that will be in the future. As for now, the situation is not promising at all, Milin concludes.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Unpopularity Spreading into General Population, Posing a Test for the System, Shelin Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 17 – Vladimir Putin is increasingly unpopular not only among opposition figures but in the Russian population at large, Sergey Shelin says, and expressions of this by ordinary people are becoming a serious test for the system because “the regime can’t allow a large number of people disapproving of the leader.” The recent scandal in Krasnoyarsk Kray where a student wrote “Putin is a thief” on a blackboard is telling, the Rosbalt commentator says, not only because the teacher responded with the suggestion that in Soviet times, such expressions would lead to an execution, but also because it shows how unpopular Putin now is (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2018/11/16/1747005.html). Perhaps even more significant is the bemused reaction of most Russians. After all, Shelin continues, one could not find “one in a million officials” who hasn’t said the same thing or told negative anecdotes about the leadership just as was the case in Soviet times under Khrushchev and even under Stalin. All of this taken together, he suggests, is “a sign of a new social phenomenon which promises to become massive.” In tsarist times, it was called “insulting majesty” and severely punished. It was punished as well in Soviet times. And officials even know are certainly pondering how to punish it especially given how widespread this trend has become. “Anti-Putin statements … are nothing new. But for two decades, they were almost the monopoly of professional opposition figures, members of the intelligentsia, mostly far from young and most often living in the capitals.” Youths in the provinces weren’t given to making such remarks. But now it turns out they are. “Here is why: the popularity of Vladimir Putin has fallen now to historical lows,” Shelin continues; and it has done so remarkably quickly, something obvious “to the unaided eye” and confirmed by polls, including several recent ones by the Public Opinion Foundation which isn’t given to running down Putin (bd.fom.ru/pdf/d452018.pdf). In its latest survey, that polling agency found that the share of those who trust Putin “without qualifications” had fallen from 43 percent in March to 25 percent now, while the share who “distrust him without qualifications” had risen from seven percent to 17 percent – not a majority but no longer something marginal either. According to the pollsters, there remains “only one age group in which almost all praise the leader and approve his work – those who are over 60.” That explains the divide between the Krasnoyarsk teacher and her students. But among young people (aged 18 to 30), the positive for Putin figure was only 39 percent while the negative was 18 percent. By Western standards, Shelin says, “Putin’s position remains strong.” But the Kremlin expects criticism only in limited amounts and only from the usual suspects, not from the provinces and not from those it has long expected will either support the regime or at least refrain from criticizing it. If the Russian powers that be were rational, they would either ignore such comments or change policies in directions that would make it less likely that people would express them, Shelin says. But if they act as they are accustomed to and use repression against those, he suggests, the Russian people will respond by expressing their lack of trust even more boldly.

Ukraine presented report on Russia’s ties with terrorists at NATO PA – 112.international

Ukraine has presented the report on the ties of the Russian Federation with the Islamic terrorist organizations to the partners during the session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) as Iryna Fryz, the Chairman of the Permanent Delegation of Ukraine to NATO PA reported on Facebook. “We drew special attention to the ties of Kremlin and Taliban and the proves of the supply of the weapons and material resources. Taliban is the topic for the separate report of the Parliamentary Assembly and it is tabled for this session,” the message said. Related: Euro-MP urges EU member state to leave Interpol if Russia heads it Besides, the report contains the evidence of the fact that the Russian special services encourage the radical Islamists to leave the territory of Russia, including, the payment of the flights, for the participation in the combat actions outside of the state, particularly Syria, at the side of the Islamic State. “Moreover, a lot of former Iraqi Baathists who made the core of the military and political elite at the time of Hussein, and then the top of the ISIS, were trained and Soviet KGB. There are a lot of interesting facts, testimony and evidence of such cooperation in the report,” the message said.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Will Selling the Kuriles to Japan Open a New Era of Border Changes for Russia?

Paul Goble Staunton, November 18 – Two days ago, the Rosbalt news agency reported that Moscow is discussing the possible sale to Japan of at least a portion of the disputed Kurile Islands (the Northern Territories, in Japanese parlance) and is “preparing public opinion for such a decision” (rosbalt.ru/like/2018/11/16/1747037.html). That announcement has sparked an emotional outcry among many Russians who view any loss of Russian-controlled territory as an act of treason, but it has also led to some more thoughtful discussions of what such a decision says about the nature of Kremlin thinking and what it may mean for the future of Eurasia. Two of these discussions are especially intriguing. In the first, Igor Eidman, a Russian sociologist who writes commentaries of Deutsche Welle, says the idea of selling the Kuriles to Japan reflects “the main leitmotif of the policy of Russia’s ruling oligarchy – the monetarization of the resources it controls” (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=2121065507956417&id=100001589654713). Its operating principle, he continues, is that “’everything is for sale,’ that everything must be transformed into money” and that money must go into the pockets of the oligarchs, typically to be held in offshore accounts. First, the oligarchs took over government agencies to pump money out of Russia and more recently they have been selling off Russia’s natural resources. “Not so long ago, they began to literally monetarize the blood” of Russians prepared to serve their interests in so called “private military companies,” men who have been sold off as “cannon fodder to Syria, Libya, and the Central African Republic. With that, it might have seemed that “’all that could be betrayed and sold had been’ … but no, one valuable resource hadn’t yet been monetarized – vast Russian territories. It is time to sell them.” And Putin will be willing to do so for what many will see at cheap prices, Eidman continues. “The sale of territories under its control is absolutely in the logic of the Russian bureaucracy accustomed as it is to enrich itself by any means possible. Apparently, the first steps in this direction have already been done. Under Putin, no fewer than 337 square kilometers have been handed over to China. Probably still larger deals are ahead.” According to Eidman, “the appetites of the ruling oligarchy are growing; new assets have to be put on the market” to satisfy them. “And the most valuable of these is the enormous territory of Russia itself.” So much for patriotism when money is concerned. And in the second of these commentaries, Aleksey Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy, says that unlike many skeptics, he is convinced that Putin is ready under definite conditions and under the cover of a specific sauce” to return some or all of the Kuriles to Japan (echo.msk.ru/programs/observation/2316456-echo/). Some argue that having annexed Crimea with the one hand, Putin can hardly give away the Kuriles with the other, but Venediktov says that is to misunderstand the situation, even if returning the Kuriles to Japan will help Moscow escape “the blockade” it has faced since the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula. Putin doesn’t view the two places linked in any broader sense, the editor suggests, because for him “Crime is ‘genetically ours,’” something whose return to Ukraine cannot even be contemplated. But the two events do reflect Putin’s “model of the world,” a model based on the Yalta-Potsdam” one set up at the end of World War II. According to that model, Venediktov continues, “each great power,” the US and the USSR then, now Russia, the US, China and the EU, is to be responsible “for order in its sector.” That could open the way to more changes of borders in Eurasia, changes that in Putin’s mind he has the right to make and no one else has the right to object to.

Amos Chapple | The Art Of Russia’s Wars | RFE/RL

Before the carnage of battle could be captured with cameras, war was memorialized by the stroke of the artist’s brush.

bellingcat – Spies Without Borders – How the FSB Infiltrated the International Visa System – bellingcat

November 16, 2018 By Bellingcat Investigation Team One of the unanswered questions lingering after Bellingcat’s unmasking of the identities of suspects in the botched-up poisoning of Sergey and Yulia Skripal, is how two (or, likely, more) undercover GRU officers were able to obtain visas to travel to the UK. Securing a visa to the UK – as to most of EU destinations – is not a trivial procedure. A single-entry visitor visa is relatively straightforward to procure – it requires either an invitation from a UK resident or business, or a pre-arranged tourist trip.

Russia ‘sought access to UK visa issuing system’ – BBC News

An IT expert says he was asked to provide back door access to the system issuing visas for Russians.

Russian intelligence used blackmail to try hacking UK visa system | News | DW | 16.11.2018

A Russian IT expert was threatened by FSB agents and forced to use his position to provide information on a firm that processes UK visas, according to investigative group Bellingcat and Russia’s The Insider website.

Russian spies infiltrated UK visa process so undercover GRU agents could enter Britain and poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal, investigation finds

The Federal Security Service (FSB) are said to have recruited an unidentified Russian IT specialist employed at the visa-processing service used by the UK and Switzerland

Report: Russia Has Access to UK Visa Processing

MOSCOW — Investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider are suggesting that Russian intelligence has infiltrated the computer infrastructure of a company that processes British visa applications. The investigation, published Friday, aims to show how two suspected Russian military intelligence agents, who have been charged with poisoning a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury, may have obtained British visas. The Insider and Bellingcat said they interviewed the former chief technical officer of a company that processes visa applications for several consulates in Moscow, including that of Britain. The man, who fled Russia last year and applied for asylum in the United States, said he had been coerced to work with agents of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, who revealed to him that they had access to the British visa center’s CCTV cameras and had a diagram of the center’s computer network. The two outlets say they have obtained the man’s deposition to the U.S. authorities but have decided against publishing the man’s name, for his own safety. The Insider and Bellingcat, however, did not demonstrate a clear link between the alleged efforts of Russian intelligence to penetrate the visa processing system and Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, who have been charged with poisoning Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March this year. The man also said that FSB officers told him in spring 2016 that they were going to send two people to Britain and asked for his assistance with the visa applications. The timing points to the first reported trip to Britain of the two men, who traveled under the names of Alexander Petrov and Anatoly Boshirov. The man, however, said he told the FSB that there was no way he could influence the decision-making on visa applications. The man said he was coerced to sign an agreement to collaborate with the FSB after one of its officers threatened to jail his mother, and was asked to create a “backdoor” to the computer network. He said he sabotaged those efforts before he fled Russia in early 2017. In September, British intelligence released surveillance images of the agents of Russian military intelligence GRU accused of the March nerve agent attack on double agent Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. Bellingcat and The Insider quickly exposed the agents’ real names and the media, including The Associated Press, were able to corroborate their real identities. The visa application processing company, TLSContact, and the British Home Office were not immediately available for comment.

How Russia’s spies allegedly strong-armed their way into a UK visa before Skripal’s poisoning | Business Insider

Russian intelligence agents intimidated a tech specialist as early as 2016 into hacking the UK’s visa enrollment system to secure tourist visas before the poisoning of Sergei Skripal this March, a new report says.

Russia may have hacked British visa system to gain documents for Skripal poisoning agents

Russia may have hacked the British visa system to gain documents for the agents who attempted to assassinate the Skripals, an investigation has claimed.

Russia Tried to Hack U.K. Visa System Before Skripal Poisoning: Whistleblower – The Daily Beast

The Russian Security Service allegedly threatened to jail the man’s family if he didn’t help them break into the system.

BBC: Russia ‘sought access to UK visa issuing system’ | UNIAN

A Russian IT specialist claims that he was asked by the Russian Security Service to provide back door access to the system issuing visas for Russians to travel to Britain. It is impossible to verify all of a TLScontact employee’s claims but Western security sources say they are consistent with the behaviour and activity they would expect from the FSB.

Iranian jobs go as U.S. sanctions start to bite | Reuters

Tamnoush, an Iranian company that makes fizzy drinks, has shut down its production line after 16 years and laid off dozens of workers. It was facing massive losses as U.S. sanctions pushed up the price of imported raw materials.

Migrants from Iran showing up on England’s Dover coast – ABC News

British authorities say they found nine suspected migrants from Iran.

Suspected Iranian migrants found on Kent coast after crossing channel in inflatable boat | The Independent

Nine people, thought to be migrants from Iran, have been found along the coast at Folkestone after arriving in the UK in an inflatable boat. Kent Police said they were called at 6.54am on Sunday to reports of concerns for people in a boat just off the coast of Dover. The Home Office confirmed that the Border Force responded and found the group in a small vessel which had landed close to Folkestone Harbour.

Turkey knocks US support for YPG as ‘big mistake’ | TheHill

Turkey’s foreign minister said late Saturday that the U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia is a “big mistake” ahead of a discussion with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Trump Says Extraditing Turkish Cleric Fethullah Gulen Is ‘Not Under Consideration’ : NPR

News outlets had reported that the White House was looking to placate Turkey to ease pressure on the Saudis, after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Trump administration denies exploring extradition of Erdoğan foe for Turkey | TheHill

Members of the Trump administration are pushing back on a report that the White House was seeking ways to extradite a critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan in an effort to get Turkey to ease pressure on Saudi Arabia o

Turkey: Jamal Khashoggi’s body maybe carried through Istanbul’s airport – Vox

Turkey’s defense minister tells Halifax audience that Jamal Khashogi’s dismembered body possibly carried through Istanbul airport by 18-man team.

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination – The Washington Post

Audio recordings, intercepted phone calls and other intelligence link Mohammed bin Salman to killing that Saudis say was conducted by rogue elements.

CIA Concludes Saudi Journalist Was Killed on Crown Prince’s Order – WSJ

The CIA has concluded that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was carried out under the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. President Trump said he expected to receive a briefing on Saturday.

Saudis Deny Reported CIA Conclusion That Crown Prince Ordered Khashoggi Assassination : NPR

The CIA found “nothing of this scale, an operation like this, could possibly have happened without the crown prince knowing about it and authorizing it,” The Washington Post’s Shane Harris told NPR.

State Department says reports about ‘final conclusion’ on Khashoggi ‘are inaccurate’ | Fox News

The State Department on Saturday insisted that the U.S. had not yet reached a determination regarding the death of writer and activist Jamal Khashoggi, adding that there are “numerous unanswered questions.”

Trump says ‘full report’ on Khashoggi murder in next two days | Saudi Arabia News | Al Jazeera

US President Donald Trump says his administration’s report will include information on ‘who did it’.

Trump says report on Khashoggi death expected in a few days | Fox News

US has a secret recording of the murder of Washington Post columnist, Trump says – YouTube

ABC News Published on Nov 18, 2018 The president confirmed the tape, following reports that the CIA concluded Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince ordered the killing inside its consulate in Turkey.

Democrats Are Planning To Target The Arms Sales Trump Loves | HuffPost Australia

Their new House majority is discussing ways to have more debates that could block deals, an aide and an activist told HuffPost.

Trump: Pakistan Has Not Done ‘A Damn Thing For Us’

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Pakistan of not doing “a damn thing for us” and defended his administration’s decision to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Islamabad.

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