Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
A poor week for Russian propaganda, with Bellingcat burning yet another GRU operator. More nuclear saber-rattling – the Vozhd talks LOW nuke doctrine, while the Federation Council insists nuclear doctrine be further changed. IISS on sub-threshold war. Makarkin on Russia’s self-isolation. Another Levada poll shows the Vozhd’s approval continuing to slide. Inozemtsev believes Russia’s slide into the abyss has bottomed out. Nalgin and Lapin on public fears of 1991 redux. FSO (Federal Guard Service) practicing heliborne VIP extractions from Kremlin compound, while the Russian NatGuard deploys non-lethal laser anti-personnel weapons with deafening and blinding effects. Two essays on Russian IO. More on Col-Gen Korobov, and the GRU in Montenegro.
In the UK, more CCTV footage of GRU operators released, while Det-Sgt Bailey talks to media.
More threats from Tehran. Updates on Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.
VLADIMIR Putin says he will be ready and prepared to fire a nuclear weapon, if Russia is subject to an incoming missile attack.
Participants in the round table of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee have advised the Russian Security Council to update its conditions for the use of nuclear weapons, Deutsche Welle reports, citing the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “The interdepartmental commission of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on military security proposes that the following matters be considered: the drafting of a new version of ‘Basis of the Russian Federation’s policy in the area of nuclear deterrence’, including the definition of the conditions of the Russian Federation’s transition to use of nuclear weapons, and deciding on response actions when an enemy uses hypersonic weapons or other types of strategic nuclear weaponry,” the decision states. The round table participants also consider it necessary to work on a draft of “The national military strategy of the Russian Federation”. In response to questions from members of the international Valdai Club, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow will only use nuclear weapons if it is convinced that a potential aggressor is going to attack. Putin also said that, in the event of a nuclear war, Russians will go to heaven, but everyone else will “just die”. At the time, CNN reported that Russia had been upgrading its nuclear bunkers in Kaliningrad. In March, Putin devoted a significant portion of his annual address to the Federal Assembly to a presentation of Russia’s new weapons. He said that Russia has created and successfully tested a new nuclear-powered cruise missile which has “unlimited range and an unpredictable flight trajectory”. During his speech, Putin showed a 3D video of the launch of a Sarmat ballistic missile, which is equipped with a system to bypass anti-missile defenses. The Russian president accused the US of setting up anti-missile defense systems throughout the world, and said that the Russian defense industry is not “staying in one place”, and is inventing ways to bypass these systems.
VLADIMIR Putin’s Russia, alongside China and Iran, are purposely testing the West’s patience with different forms of aggression, ranging from proxy wars to cyberwarfare, a comprehensive survey published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank has indicated.
Strategic Survey 2018 outlines the wide array of challenges faced by the international rules-based order, and shows that great-power competition is becoming more prevalent and complex. Strategic Survey 2018 outlines the wide array of challenges faced by the international rules-based order, and shows that great-power competition is becoming more prevalent and complex. Key themes of this year’s Strategic Survey include the concept of ‘tolerance warfare’, the growing phenomenon of non-Western states testing the tolerance of the US and its allies for different forms of aggression. The rise of tolerance warfare has heightened geopolitical uncertainty: responses to cyber attacks, for instance, are still in development, while some other forms of tolerance warfare have no obvious counter. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman has accumulated unprecedented authority within his country and set the course for domestic reform and a more assertive regional posture. It portends change across the region and contributes to increasing regional rivalry with Iran. In Latin America, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa there are numerous states suffering a crisis of domestic legitimacy, either as a result of corruption revelations, low-growth, inequality or some combination of factors. This feeds insecurity and instability and is upsetting regional diplomatic balances. Internationally, there is an increasingly discernible ideological edge to great-power rivalry. Western states’ approach to the norms of international conduct and the right of the international community to interfere in the domestic affairs of states are facing sustained pushback from others that are determined to more strictly uphold principles of non-interference, while carving out exceptions for themselves. This is entwined with the ongoing process of evolution in the institutions and norms of the global order.
Paul Goble Staunton, November 22 – Moscow analyst Aleksey Makarkin says that Putin’s Russia is now isolated from other members of the international community on three levels: personal, financial-economic and the government as a participant in that community. Addressing any one of them will not necessarily lead to immediate changes in the other two. On the Bunin&Co. telegram channel, the vice president of the Moscow Center for Political Technology says that the first of these isolating developments consists of “sanctions against specific officials and businessmen” that have made any relations with them “toxic” (t.me/BuninCo/1374). “The Americans are prepared to lift sanctions toward only those persons dialogue with which at a certain moment corresponds to the interests of the US,” as when Washington allowed Dmitry Rogozin to come to the US to discuss joint efforts in space. But as for the others, they are now beyond the pale. The second isolating factor are financial and economic sanctions against Russian corporations or entire sectors of the Russian economy, which make it very difficult if not impossible to complete current projects or to develop the Russian economy in the future. They thus mean that Russia will fall further and further behind the West. And the third “isolating” factor is the way in which the international community is treating Russia as an outcast state. There are two recent examples of this, Makarkin says: the voting down of the Russian candidate to head Interpol and the expansion of the ability of the anti-chemical weapons organization to take action on its own rather than refer that to the UN. Both of those actions and others as well, the Moscow analyst suggests, were directed at Russia as a state and designed to limit its ability to respond. In the case of the chemical weapons change, which is by far the more indicative of the current situation, Russia will not be able to rely on its veto in the UN Security Council as it has in the past.
A leading independent Russian pollster says the electoral rating of President Vladimir Putin has fallen under 60 percent for the first time in five years.
Paul Goble Staunton, November 22 – Sixty-one percent of Russians polled by the Levada Center say that Vladimir Putin is responsible for the problems Russia now faces, up from 55 percent a year ago and the highest figure since such questions began to be asked a decade ago in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. An additional 22 percent say that Putin is at least in part responsible for the problems, and taken together that means 83 percent of Russians now blame him in whole or in part for Russia’s current difficulties, a figure remarkably close to the 86 percent the Kremlin has long claimed support him (levada.ru/2018/11/22/19281/). Only ten percent say that the Kremlin leader has done all he can and that if his efforts have not been enough, it is because of the corrupt bureaucracy, while another six percent say he has acted entirely correctly but has been defeated by objective realities in Russia and the world today (levada.ru/2018/11/22/19281/). These findings have triggered a variety of commentaries, some alarmist, others not. But the overall tone is captured by one on the Newsru portal. It simply declares that Putin “is ceasing to be the good tsar surrounded by bad boyars,” a fundamental shift in Russian public opinion (newsru.com/russia/22nov2018/responsible.html).
Paul Goble Staunton, November 22 – Unlike in the case of earlier crises when Vladimir Putin made concessions to society or took moves to try to improve the situation in the country and for himself, now, Vladislav Inozemtsev says, the Kremlin leader this time is not making any fundamental changes on the economy or in politics. Instead, the Russian economist says, Putin has made it clear that he doesn’t intend to change course: “taxes will continue to grow … and unpopular candidates will continue to be advanced into powerful posts.” According to Inozemtsev, there are five major reasons for Putin’s decision to hold the line (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/173041). First of all, Putin is convinced that the Russian population is “not a people but an amorphous mass that has along ago ceased to feel its own status as a subject of politics. And he is right if one compares the moves against the pension reform with the events in France in 1995.” Consequently, “popularity ratings mean nothing” for the Kremlin leader. Second, Inozemtsev continues, Putin clearly is hoping for a miracle of the kind that he has often benefited from. He doesn’t have any ideas or plans for addressing the situation and so he pays visits to his spiritual advisor rather than convening experts who might be able to give him good advice. Third, Putin is under the spell of the so-called “methodologists headed by Sergey Kiriyenko” who engage in role playing, suggesting that one first considers how one got into a crisis and then how one gets out. “We are today observing the first phase of that process, and for the time being it looks to be under control,” with any “real crisis still far away.” Fourth, Putin clearly recognizes that foreign pressure is about at its limits. “The West does not see any reason to sacrifice its interests in order to undermine the stability of [his] regime,” especially given opposition in the population to doing so. Consequently, Putin doesn’t expect any new radical moves, like the exclusion of Russia from SWIFT or an embargo. And fifth, Putin understands perfectly well that “for him now, the main threat comes not from his subjects but from the bureaucracy,” which continues to insist on being “’paid for loyalty’” however little money there may be in the system, something that requires that he continue to extract ever more funds from the population. All these factors mean that Putin will try to stay the course, something he is likely to be able to do because while things will get worse according to various measures, Inozemtsev says, there is no clear indication that the country is moving toward “any revolutionary changes” that would threaten Putin’s rule. The Russian economist argues that the system Putin has established is unlikely to collapse in the immediate future. “On the one hand, the economy has shown itself to be much more stable than many expected.” And “on the other, we live in a state which has been seized by a mafia who have no path back to normalcy.” They will thus keep together to resist to the end. Consequently, “Putin’s obvious calm relative to the situation both in the country and int eh world has several bases and not one of them can be considered without foundation.” His regime thus has “a sufficiently firm” basis to at least make it “extremely probable” that its creator will be able to remain in power for his lifetime. But what will this mean for Russia? Inozemtsev asks rhetorically. Many are focusing on the possibility that it will break up or at least lose significant territories, but according to the economist, people should be focusing their attention elsewhere, both to underlying problems and the nature of elite succession in Russia historically. At present, he says, the Putin elite is in a position to guarantee its survival for quite a long time, but that does not mean that its successors will want or be able to keep that system in place. Instead, as Russian history repeatedly shows, its members are likely to shift in a radically different direction to try to address the problems their predecessors have left this. Such a shift can happen with amazing speed, Inozemtsev says. “How much time passed between that of the first Crimean War and the Great Reforms? From ‘the doctors’ plot’ to Khrushchev’s thaw? Or from Andropov’s attempts to ‘tighten the screws’ to the apotheosis of perestroika?” “Russia develops according to the principle of ‘the pendulum’ in which the more it swings out of balance in one direction, the more strongly it returns in the opposite one” in a relatively short time. Consequently, after the Putin regime collapses or is succeeded by another, things are likely to change in radical ways. Many people are paralyzed by fears of this or that development: that is exactly what Putin wants. But Inozemtsev concludes that the more he considers the existing situation, the more convinced he is of the following: things aren’t going to get a great deal worse in the future than they are now. And as a result, “just as any path from the North Pole leads to the south, so any variant of the collapse of the existing regime will mean a change for the better.”
Paul Goble Staunton, November 21 – The Russian commentariat ever more frequently features apocalyptic predictions about the rapidly approaching end of Russia, with some like MGIMO professor Valery Solovey suggesting that the situation in Russia today is very much like that in the Soviet Union in 1990-1991 and that the results will be similar. But two Moscow bloggers, A.Nalgin and Ivan Lapin argue there are three fundamental differences between 1990-1991 and today as far as Russia is concerned that make such prophecies extremely doubtful if not excluded altogether even if the country is suffering real and serious problems (publizist.ru/blogs/4796/28055/- and a-nalgin.livejournal.com/1607894.html). “First,” they write, “in present-day Russia there is neither a real opposition, systemic or extra-systemic nor even a bureaucratic fronde.” Thirty years ago, there was “an alternative leader” in the person of Boris Yeltsin who enjoyed enormous support in the population and in the bureaucracy, including that of the CPSU. There is no one equivalent now. “Second, in the Russian Federation today, regional separatism both at the official and popular level is tightly controlled. The artificially unleased in the media Chechen-Ingush conflict is more like an everyday argument than something which recalls the separation of the Baltic which legally was formed in March 1990.” Moreover, the two write, “there is nothing similar to the itner-ethnic fire in Karabakh and so on.” What is perhaps most striking is that “the region which was the most separatist in the 1990s – Chechnya – is today Moscow’s best friend.” And “third, the attitudes of present-day Russians and Soviet citizens then are very strongly distinguished one from the other.” Soviet citizens really had come to conclude that they couldn’t continue to live as they had been, but while “doom and apathy with a touch of anger” dominates Russian feelings now, almost all are afraid of another 1991. That fear “outweighs everything,” they write, and means that the apocalyptic predictions of some like Solovey should be dismissed at least for now. “The Russian kettle” may continue to “simmer” for some time, but the temperature will have to go up considerably before anyone should be talking about the end of Russia.
Two mysterious helicopters were spotted leaving the Kremlin and flying over Moscow city center On 22 November. Russia’s mysterious helicopters were caught on camera by a passer-by near the Moscow Kremlin. A video posted on Russian social media shows two upgraded Mi-8 transport helicopters taking off from a helipad located inside the Kremlin citadel’s walls and flying away. This area is normally a no-fly zone. The helicopters are reportedly were snapped with a number of sensors and radars and jam-proof communications equipment. One of the helicopters seemed to be carrying a very strange cargo. It turns out that helicopter carried soldiers of special forces using a tactical extraction platform suspended from the helicopter. A similar system is used as a dedicated tool in military extraction or rescue operations, typically when helicopters cannot land. The design of the platform and the rope give a great in-flight stability: (no pitching nor gyratory effect). According to local media reports, the authorities made no official announcements about any kind of flights over the Kremlin today, and the identity of the helicopters’ passengers and the nature of the cargo remain a mystery as well. However, experts reported that these were exercises of the Federal Guard Service of the Russian Federation (FSO). Members of special forces and crews of helicopter practiced the method evacuation of the high-ranking office-holders of the State in case of a possible threat of attack. The helicopter lifts vertically from an evacuation zone in the territory of the Kremlin in central Moscow until the rope and personnel are clear of obstructions, then proceeds in forwarding flight to a secure insert zone. At the same time, the soldiers of special forces are ready to join the battle after landing.
The Russian National Guard will soon have laser weapons at its disposal. According to a report by Open Media and RBC based on current state procurements, the Russian Guard is purchasing laser emitters which can deafen and blind people. The non-lethal systems will be mounted on GAZelle vehicles and colored “mouse-gray” at the client’s request. The laser emitters can create “acoustic pressure” which exceeds the human pain threshold. At 10 meters, the volume is an ear-splitting 135 dB. In addition, the systems create a powerful luminous flux which can temporarily blind a human. The Moscow-based firm ASB Plus has been contracted to supply the National Guard with this special equipment, according to the Kontur. Focus database. The firm belongs Mikhail Antselevich, a doctor of technical sciences and author of the monograph “Methods and means to protect important state facilities from terrorism”. In 2010, Antselevich and his colleague Grigory Shcherbakov patented a “manner and device of acoustic effect on offenders”. Its description states that the invention was created to fight against rodents, but can also be used in “systems to physically protect facilities from offenders” due to the fact that it “creates painful sensations in the human hearing organs”. While laser emitters are a new thing for the Russian National Guard, the service has already been using acoustic weapons to disperse crowds for two years. Between 2016 and 2018, according to the state procurements website, the National Guard bought 128 sets of the “Whisper” system from Antselevich’s company. According to the documentation, these systems “create an arresting effect when used on violators of public order through remote formation of infra-low frequency waves”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it is too early to comment on how the acquisition of laser equipment will affect the government’s treatment of unsanctioned protest participants. “Let us first hear the opinion of the Russian Guard. This is still a question which concerns this department,” he said.
The Russian National Guard bought two vehicles equipped with a whole array of non-lethal crowd-control measures, including laser emitters. That’s right: the agency created in 2016, led by a man who recently challenged anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny to a fist fight, and described in the media as “a kind of Praetorian Guard” — will now have lasers to disperse groups of protesters.
Frustrated with the stalled effort to legalize private military companies, a group of Russian mercenaries and military veterans is asking the International Criminal Court to prosecute Russia’s PMC organizers and facilitators for war crimes. Evgeny Shabaev, the chairman of the All-Russian Officers’ Assembly, told Radio Svoboda on November 19 that the initiative has the support of 357 delegates from 52 regions across the country, representing 18 different social groups.
November 9, 2018 This paper is based upon Ukraine’s experience of facing Russian information warfare, placed into a global context. For the international audience, this document may be useful because it explains how Ukrainian experts have come up with solutions to problems which Ukraine began to face earlier than many other countries in the world…
Apologies to the New York Times and the EU Disinformation Team for changing the title, but what they are describing is Russian Information Warfare and not Fake News. Fake news is generated by Russian Information Warfare, as is propaganda and a whole slew of techniques used by paid Russian trolls. Much, if not most, of Russian-generated fake news, is initially broadcast on State Media, such as Sputnik, RT, and RIA Novosti. From there, the fake news is rebroadcast through a series of proxy sites, tweets, and comments on social media sites. The “Big Lie” and denials are usually generated by Putin, Lavrov, Peskov, and Zakharova. The New York Times, however, did not include the Russian cardinal rule of information warfare: promote Russian national interests. This accounts for much of the confusing information, disinformation, and fake news generated by Russia and their proxies. By sowing division, by undermining Western defense alliances, by creating chaos in Western societies by exploiting existing faults, this raises Russia’s relative prominence. Yes, Russian experts openly predict and plant that seed into fertile minds in the West that the US will divide by 2010, that NATO is disintegrating, that the EU is corrupt, and other relatively big lies, it is just psychological warfare on a grand scale. </end editorial>
The head of Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, has died from illness, according to officials in Moscow.
Russia has drawn up a bill aimed at preventing leaks of personal information from state agencies, a move that follows publication of details of Russians allegedly involved in covert intelligence op…
Russia has drawn up draft legislation aimed at stopping leaks of personal information from state agencies, a step that follows publication of details of Russians allegedly involved in clandestine intelligence operations abroad.
Igor Korobov knew a lot about GRU operations, including poisoning of the Skripals
RIA Novosti: “Igor Korobov, the head of Russia’s Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU), died “after a long and serious illness.” Head of Russian military intelligence GRU dead ‘after long and serious illness’ RT The head of the GRU, Igor Korobov, dies. TASS (Russian) Igor Korobov, Head of the Main Directorate, Dead tvzvezda.ru General Korobov fell ill after getting his…
The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider say they have identified a second Russian GRU military intelligence officer allegedly involved in a 2016 coup attempt in Montenegro.
A joint investigation between Bellingcat and The Insider has identified a second GRU officer, who was involved in the 2016 Montenegro coup. Bellingcat’s findings add important and intriguing details to GRU’s modus operandi in undercover operations, including use of sham business operations, and add to the understanding of GRU’s covert operatives’ world.
Russian citizen Vladimir Popov, who was placed on the international wanted list after organizing an attempted coup in Montenegro, has been identified as Vladimir Moiseev, an agent of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), as reported by the investigative group Bellingcat and The Insider on November 22. The journalists’ investigation materials show that 38 year-old Moiseev, after graduating from the Tyumen High Military Engineering Command School, was trained between 2006 and 2009 in combat unit 48427 in Moscow, which is part of the GRU special forces. He acquired his second identity – Vladimir Popov – in 2009, and has used it regularly while traveling to Europe as a “photojournalist” and a “maritime insurance agent”. His travels have taken him to the Balkans, the Caucasus and Turkey. Moiseev-Popov has repeatedly aroused the suspicion of the local law enforcement authorities of various countries. For example, this happened in 2014 in Moldova, which was preparing to sign an association agreement with the EU at the time. “According to local intelligence, GRU employees planned to organize a riot in Moldova according to the Ukrainian scenario, relying on local militarized groups trained in Rostov,” the investigation materials state. In October 2016, traveling as Popov, Moiseev went to Serbia, where it is believed he prepared for the coup in Montenegro. It was then that counterintelligence managed to photograph him meeting with his GRU colleague Eduard Shirokov, who was later identified as Eduard Shishmakov. In 2016, Montenegro initiated a criminal case surrounding the coup attempt. The investigation believes that the conspirators plotted to seize the parliament building on election day (October 17, 2016) and to detain or kill Prime Minister Milo Đukanović and bring the pro-Russian party “Democratic Front” into power, all in order to prevent the country from joining NATO. When the coup failed, 20 people who had been seen carrying various firearms were arrested. On October 24, three Russian citizens were arrested in Serbia. The were found in possession of forged Montenegrin police documents, €122,000 in cash, and equipment for encrypted communication. Following a visit by Nikolay Patrushev, head of Russia’s Security Council, to Belgrade, Serbia handed the arrested Russians over to Moscow. Montenegro has placed Eduard Shirokov and Vladimir Popov on the Interpol wanted list.
Police in Britain have released more video of the two suspects they believe poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March.
British police on Thursday released more video footage of the two suspects they believe poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March.
The hero police officer poisoned by Novichok in the bungled assassination of ex-KGB colonel Sergei Skripal has revealed he was “petrified” to learn he had been exposed to the deadly toxin.
In his first interview since being poisoned by Novichok, Det Sgt Nick Bailey says he fears for the future.
Daily Mail Published on Nov 22, 2018 Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey (left) has told of the ’emotional battering’ he has suffered after he became an accidental victim of the attempt to kill former spy Sergei Skripal. Mr Bailey, who was left fighting for his life after visiting the Skripal home in Salisbury in March, said tonight: ‘We lost everything.’ The latest revelations came as police released new CCTV footage of the two suspects in Salisbury, warning there could still be hazardous materials in the city. Speaking to BBC’s Panorama programme tonight he revealed how his whole body was ‘juddering’ and was ‘dripping with sweat’ after he was poisoned in the Salisbury novichok attack. Inset: A specially made model of the counterfeit ‘Nina Ricci’ perfume bottle.
Iran has said that U.S. bases in Afghanistan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf are within range of its missiles, according to a report.
IRAN has stoked World War 3 fears after a top commander warned US aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles.
November 20, 2018 WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating nine targets in an international network through which the Iranian regime, working with Russian companies, provides millions of barrels of oil to the Syrian government. The Assad regime, in turn, facilitates the movement of hundreds of…
Washington continues to claim Ankara as “strategic partner.” Let’s stop pretending it is.
Top EU officials rebuked Turkey on Thursday over its arrests of journalists and academics and the long pre-trial detention of a Kurdish politician, holding a forthright press conference with Turkey’s foreign minister in Ankara that quickly turned tense.
President says "maybe the world" should be held accountable for journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death
Al Jazeera profiles the 15 men who travelled to Istanbul to allegedly carry out Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
Al Jazeera English Published on Nov 22, 2018 A Turkish news website says the CIA has a recording of a phone call in which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave instructions to “silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible”. Donald Trump says a CIA assessment does not conclude that Prince Mohammad ordered the murder. Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley reports from Istanbul.
The family of Matthew Hedges, said to be unwell and having panic attacks, are seeking clemency.
Facing the United Arab Emirates’ conviction and life sentence against British academic Matthew Hedges, President Trump should support the British government and pressure the UAE and its primary ally, Saudi Arabia, to pardon and release Hedges.