Information operations · Information Warfare

Russia / Strategy Ad Hoc Media Update (63)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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A very busy last week of 2018. EU extends sanctions on Russia. UK intent to reconstitute lost capabilities. In Russia, the best fitting label is “creeping destabilization continues”, which suggests more high-risk behaviors, while speculation about Russia after the Vozhd continues. Armenia may be drifting quietly away from Russia. Much speculation on the manner in which Russia will attempt to annex Belarus.

Many reports on Syria – the US withdrawal, the Russian/Syrian move into the vacuum, the Turkish offensive against the Kurds, and not surprisingly, an Israeli AF raid against Iranian targets in Damascus, evading the S-300PM2 GARGOYLE / SA-20B battery.

China topics also very active, but mostly focused on Huawei and the economic conflict. Interesting reports on Nordstream, UK, Germany, France, and Hungary.

Finally, US reports dealing substantially with the DoD leadership change, Russia investigation, and Space Force / Air Force planning and problems.


 

NATO / EU / Russia Reports

 


 

EU Formally Extends Sanctions Against Russia For Six Months – To Inform is to Influence
December 21, 2018 17:10 GMT By RFE/RL BRUSSELS — The European Union has formally extended economic sanctions against Russia, first imposed more than four years ago for Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula. The European Council said on December 21 that the measures would remain in place for another six months, until July 2019. The council, which is the grouping of the governments of 28 EU member countries, said it had adopted its decision unanimously. EU leaders had agreed on the extension last week to do so, and also considered imposing more sanctions over Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships off Crimea, but in the end, opted not to. The measures target Russia’s banking, energy, and defense sectors. Earlier this week, EU diplomats agreed to impose asset freezes and visa bans on five Russians whom the EU believe are responsible for the March poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. The five are believed to be Russian military intelligence agents.
Britain eyes a more lethal force in newly revealed defense modernization review
Britain is to rebuild weapon stockpiles, strengthen Joint Forces Command and earmark cash to rapidly innovate as part of a long-awaited defense modernization review.
NATO Allies Fearful About Departure of ‘Trusted’ Mattis  
Four-star general’s exit not altogether a surprise for NATO allies, but it has unnerved them
World War 3 fears as US steps up SECRET giant drone missions to Russian exclave | World | News | Express.co.uk
A GIANT US Air Force drone has been stepping up secret surveillance missions on strategically important Russian ports in the Baltic Sea.
Raytheon wins $693 million production contract for Sweden’s Patriot
U.S. company Raytheon has won a $692.9 million U.S. Army contract to produce Sweden’s Patriot™ Integrated Air and Missile Defense System including spare parts, support and training. Previously announced by the Department of Defense, the contract calls for Raytheon to build and deliver an undisclosed quantity of Patriot fire units and GEM-T interceptor missiles. “Sweden’s Patriot procurement will provide joint training opportunities for the Swedish and U.S. armed forces, and enhance military interoperability,” said Tom Laliberty, vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business. “Patriot is continually modernized, providing Sweden the world’s most advanced and capable air and missile defense system.” Patriot is the backbone of Europe’s defense against advanced aircraft, drones, and ballistic and cruise missiles. Fifteen other nations depend on Patriot to protect their citizens and armed forces, including the U.S. and six other European nations: Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Romania and Poland.

Russia / Russophone Reports

 


 

Where’s Putin’s Mojo?
Early in a six-year term, Vladimir Putin appears to have a lock on power. But Russia’s actions abroad have come at a cost, compounding some challenges at home.
Where’s Putin’s Mojo? – To Inform is to Influence
December 28, 2018 14:45 GMT By Steve Gutterman He’s been in power for as long as many Russians can remember. He carried the last presidential election with nearly 77 percent of the vote. And his country commands such attention abroad that its cartoon about a little girl and her bear buddy has been cast by some…
Russia After Putin: Where’s the Vision of Something Better? – Bloomberg
Opposition leaders shouldn’t give up on the idea of integrating Russia into Europe.
Russian military issue Christmas warning with 2019 calendar of soldiers and long-range missiles | Daily Mail Online
The calendar shows various examples of Russia’s military might with threatening messages about how far the country’s missiles can travel and images of soldiers pointing guns.
Putin Signs Law Softening Punishment For ‘Likes,’ Reposts, And Memes
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that will soften the punishment for some hate crimes amid concerns over prison terms handed down to people for “liking” or reposting memes on the I…
Putin Endorses Law Establishing Jail Time For Luring Minors Into Protests
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law establishing punishment for people deemed by courts to have involved minors in unauthorized protests, rallies, and demonstrations.
List Of BBC Correspondents Working In Russia Leaked Online
A list of BBC correspondents working in Russia has been leaked online after Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, said it was checking the legality of the BBC World News channel’s Russian operati…
Window on Eurasia — New Series: A Very Dangerous Development: Unregistered Group Attacking Tatar Language Taken Seriously
Paul Goble Staunton, December 14 – In what appears to be a case of Vladimir Putin’s “hybrid” war tactics applied to domestic affairs within the Russian Federation a group styling itself as the Parents’ Community of Tatarstan which is opposed to Tatar language training in schools is being taken seriously by officials even though it is completely anonymous and unregistered. The existence of such a group is a violation of the law at least to the extent that it expects to be taken seriously by the authorities, but it is potentially extremely useful for the Kremlin because like “’the little green men’” in Crimea, this group offers the regime plausible deniability for actions intended to go beyond what the Russian regime says it is doing. Only if this group is exposed as illegal and the authorities’ treatment of it as otherwise as a violation of the law is there a chance that Moscow will not use this tactic elsewhere. If it is not, what is taking place today against Tatar language instruction can be expected to occur in other non-Russian republics in the coming weeks or months. On the IdelReal portal today, journalist Ramazan Alpaut describes this case, unusual now but a reflection of the general approach of the Putin regime of advancing its goals under false pretenses or at least by institutions which the Russian government can claim it has nothing to do with (idelreal.org/a/29636916.html). In an article entitled “The Community of Anonymous Parents: A Secret Organization Declares War on Tatar,” the journalist says that the Parents’ Community of Tatarstan does not have any of the attributes or registration that social organizations are supposed to. Nonetheless, it is “successfully flooding” the Tatarstan procuracy and the latter is doing what it wants. This “community,” Alpaut continues, “was formed out of the Committee of Russian-Speaking Parents of Tataria in October 2017 – that is after Putin declared that the study of non-Russian languages must be voluntary even though the study of Russian is to remain compulsory for all. The group then launched attacks on any study of Tatar in Tatarstan, demanding that the authorities in Kazan investigate each of its complaints. But the Parents’ Community had no right to do that: it is not registered as an NGO, and therefore does not have the right to interact with the authorities as it has been doing. Moreover, all its letters and appeals to the Procuracy of the Republic of Tatarstan were anonymous. No names or contact information was given. And when Alpaut tried to track them down, those who answered the phone refused to answer any of his questions as soon as they knew what he was trying to find out. Pavel Chikov, the head of the Agora Human Rights Group says that “such behavior by a public organization violates Russian law.” That law allows groups to operate “without registration,” he says, “but this does not mean that there is no charter, no leader, no administration and no internal documentation.” All of that is required because “any individual can have an interest in these documents. They must be accessible for society. That I, there must be some contact information.” That is required by law” and “refusal to provide this information is illegal,” Chikov says. If these conditions are not met, he continues, the group cannot be considered a public organization. And that means this: “it does not have the right to appeal to any law enforcement organs with demand for checking legality or other things.” That officials in Tatarstan are ignoring these legal requirements and accepting complaints from this group suggests that Kazan fears who is behind it, yet another indication that it is a kind of “hybrid” attack on the republic.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Idel-Ural Activists Call on Bashkortostan to Recover Orenburg Corridor in Upcoming Border Talks
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – The Free Idel-Ural Movement is calling on Bashkortostan to seek the return of the Kuvandyk and Gaysk districts of Orenburg Oblast in upcoming border talks between Ufa and Orenburg. Not only are those districts mostly populated by Tatars and Bashkirts, but their recovery would restore to Bashkortostan an external border with Kazakhstan. Until 1925, the Bashkir ASSR and the Kazakh ASSR had such a common border, but the Soviet authorities changed it so that there would be a predominantly Russian region, Orenburg, between the two Turkic republics, lest they cooperate too closely or Bashkortostan and the Idel-Ural republics use such an external border to argue they should be raised to union republic status. Such a status, of course, would have meant that they would have been given state independence when the USSR disintegrated in 1991, and consequently, discussions about what some call “the Orenburg corridor” have been a regular feature in Bashkir and Tatar media since that time. That has only intensified since Ufa announced plans to demarcate its borders. (For background on the Orenburg corridor and Russian fears about what it would mean if Bashkortostan were able to recover it and have direct access to Kazakhstan, see this author’s two articles at jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/ and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/03/moscow-analyst-denounces-kazakh.html march 2018.) The Free Idel-Ural Movement which the Russian authorities have repressed to the point that most of its leaders are now in exile has now made a direct appeal to Radi Khabirov, the head of Bashkortostan, to seek the recovery of what it describes as Bashkir territory. Ramazan Alpaut of IdelReal posts the appeal on that portal (idelreal.org/a/29679136.html). According to the Free Idel-Ural Movement, “even now a significant percent of the population [of this region] consists of Bashkirs and Tatars. Unfortunately, in Oreburg, conditions for the preservation and development of Bashkir culture are in fact lacking. It is thus important that the new borders of the Republic of Bashkortostan not only include as much as possible the areas where Bashkirs live but also make possible the strengthening of economic and humanitarian ties between the fraternal peoples of Bashkortostan and Kazakhstan.”
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kremlin Isn’t Sending Mixed Signals but Rather Refocusing Its Concerns, Karyagin Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 20 – Over the last several weeks, political analyst Mikhail Karyagin says, government-controlled media appear to have been putting out mixed signals about whether the regime is going to liberalize or increase repression, but this represents not a loss of central control but rather a shift in the concerns and intentions of the regime. Several recent moves by the authorities suggest a move to “a thaw,” he says, such as the inclusion of more liberal people in the Presidential Human Rights Council, the reduction in the number of Russians incarcerated, and the partial decriminalization of laws on handling extremism cases (actualcomment.ru/na-vstrechnykh-kursakh-1812191532.html). But other regime moves, against the Internet and young people, Karyagin says, point in the opposite direction, suggesting not a thaw but a new wave of repression. These include ever greater restrictions on and moves against the Internet and new laws restricting the participation of young people in demonstrations and youth culture more generally. According to the analyst, it is a mistake to draw sweeping conclusions from either of these trends. Instead, he argues, it reflects where “the authorities see the greatest potential” now as opposed to the past. If earlier the regime was concerned about one set of problems, now it is focused on another. The regime now sees the greatest danger not in liberal writers but rather in young people and the Internet, two spheres which it feels it has not established the necessary level of control. But “the paradox of the situation is that young people and the Internet are phenomena which on the whole are hard to control.” “Young people are always inclined to protest and opposition, and the Internet as a result of its decentralized structure has no one “switch” which the government can turn off in order to establish central control over that space, as the case of blocking Telegram showed yet again,” Karyagin continues. And he concludes: “Of course, this doesn’t mean that the authorities will stop their efforts to affect these spheres. Instead, it is obvious that the battle for the Internet and young people will be one of the main trends of 2019 and the entire period of the transit of power.”
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Immigration Now Failing to Compensate for Russia’s Excess of Deaths over Births
Paul Goble Staunton, December 20 – For the first time in a decade, the influx of immigrants into Russia during the first ten months of 2018 has failed to compensate for the excess of deaths over births among permanent residents of the country, according to the Russian government’s statistics agency (gks.ru/free_doc/doc_2018/info/oper-11-2018.pdf). Rosstat reports that during this period, the natural decline of the indigenous population was 180,500 while net migration amounted to only 101,800, a pattern that means that migrants compensated for natural decline by only 56.4 percent. And the pattern was widespread: Only 22 of the more than 80 federal subjects showed natural growth in their populations. That means that the total population of the country declined by 78,700 over this period, the first time that has happened since 2008. Nikita Mkrtchyan, a demographer at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, says that there is every reason to believe that this trend will continue (rbc.ru/economics/20/12/2018/5c1b70829a7947f16ebceb04). “In 2018, after a lengthy interval was renewed the decline of the population in Russia, and even positive changes which could occur in the last quarter of this year will not lead to a different result.” In-migration has just fallen too far: It is down by 43 percent compared to the same period in 2017. The decline in migration from Ukraine was 74 percent, from Uzbekistan 70 percent, and from Kyrgyzstan 40 percent. “The CIS countries are the basic donors of migrants for Russia, but this resource is exhausting itself.” Now people from Ukraine and Moldova try to go to Western Europe rather than Russia. The reason is that “the competitive possibilities of Russia in comparison with the countries of the European Union is weak.” Consequently, people are going there when they can. The chief reason for natural population decline in Russia remains the falling birthrate. In the first 10 months of this year, there were 66,000 fewer births than in the same period a year earlier. Efforts to promote more births have failed to compensate for the declining size of the prime child-bearing cohort. “The contraction of the total number of the population of the country means that the number of Russians of working age will fall, and the number of elderly citizens will rise. The first will put a brake on economic development, BKS economist Vladimir Tikhomirov says, noting that there is already a labor shortage in many areas. He also notes that the worsening economic situation is playing “not the last role” in these trends. “The real incomes of Russians have contracted over the course of the last four years.” This trend isn’t likely to change soon.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russians Now Want Personal Freedoms but Not of Democracy or Good Relations with the West, Tikhonova Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 19 – Russian attitudes on the proper relationship between the state and the individual have undergone a fundamental shift over the last two decades, Natalya Tikhonova says; and “for the first time in the history of the country, the interests of the state have ceased to dominate the interests of the individual or of social groups.” This shift is likely to give rise to a new model of state and society relations, the sociologist at the Higher School of Economics says; but it will not be one that resemble Western models of the kind promoted by many human rights activists in Russia today. Instead, it will be a uniquely Russian kind. Tikhonova reports her research in an article, “The Relationship of the Interests of the State and of Human Rights in the Eyes of Russians: An Empirical Analysis” (in Russian), Polis, no. 5 (2018): 134-139 at publications.hse.ru/articles/224695560 that has now been summarized at iq.hse.ru/news/229629574.html. The relationship between human rights and the state shifted for Russians “not so long ago.” Until about 2010, for them, it corresponded to “the norms of traditional society: the state was the instrument for the realization for the interests of the people, the interests of the people were higher than those of the individual, and citizens” owed loyalty and submission to the state. But a competing model emerged in the 1990s and gathered steam about a decade ago with society increasingly divided into two groups as far as this issue was concerned, Tikhonova says. In the first were the traditionalists, with 60 percent of the population giving the state priority over the individual and 51 percent ready to agree to limits on individual freedoms. In the second was “an alternative.” Those in this group said that “the individual did not have the right to expect kindness from the powers that be but can struggle for his own interests in spite of the opinion of the majority.” Seventy-seven percent of this group agreed with that, and 55 percent allowed for strikes, meetings and so on as a means. This second group and its norms did not predominate, Tikhonova says, “but the number of those holding them in comparison with the 1990s had significantly increased, and the share of supporters of ‘an all-powerful’ state had contracted.” Then in the mid-2010s, she says, this shift accelerated with neither position being predominant. Instead, about 20 percent held the two extreme positions, with some 60 percent in between. Among the young the shift toward the individual over the state was greatest; among the elderly, the least, as one would expect, Tikhonova says. But because the latter are passing from the scene and the former becoming more important, the overall shift in the future is clear. It turns out, however, that this set of attitudes among the young does not give primacy to political rights and democratic values but rather to other values: “For them economic freedoms are more important,” they have little interest in politics, they view the opposition as it currently operates with suspicion, and “they are not oriented toward the West.” “All this says,” Tikhonova concludes, “that the Western variant of the modernization of society will not be massively supported in Russia and our country will need to search for its own path. What it will be is an open question; but in any case, in the new model of the interrelationship of the state and the individual will be required a significant expansion of the legitimate forms of struggle of individuals and social groups for their rights.”
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia Can be Free Only If It Ceases to Be a Single State with Its Current Borders, Yakovenko Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 19 – While attending the Sixth Free Russia Forum in Vilnius, Russian commentator Igor Yakovenko said that there are several possible paths by which Russia would have the chance to be a free country, all of which presuppose “the liquidation of the Putin regime” (sobkorr.org/infopovod/5C1944435E361.html). That will eventually happen as Vladimir Putin will not be in power forever, Yakovenko says; but his departure will not by itself allow Russia to be free. According to him, “Russia will be free if it ceases to exist in its current borders.” That too is “inevitable because the preservation of Russia in these borders sooner or later will lead to the rebirth of the empire.” What is most important, he says, is that “Russia must cease to exist as a single state. In that case there is a chance that freedom will exist in one part of Russia or another.” Once that happens, Yakovenko says, others will be drawn to that “because freedom is a good thing.” Yakovenko’s observation about Russia now is especially important to this author because it echoes an observation he made in 1987 about the Soviet Union when I wrote that a liberalized Russia “might be possible” but that “a significantly liberalized Soviet Union” with its imperial possessions was almost certainly “a contradiction in terms.” (See, Paul A. Goble, “Gorbachev and the Soviet Nationality Problem,” in Maurice Friedberg and Heyward Isham, eds., Soviet Society Under Gorbachev (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1987), pp. 76-100 at p. 99.)
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Declining Trust in Government at All Levels Becoming Problem in Majority of Federal Subjects, Grashchenkov Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – Vladimir Putin has made maintaining trust in the central and regional governments a new measure of the success of governors and directed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to personally monitor this. But Ilya Grashchenkov says that declining trust in both is becoming a problem “in more than 50 percent” of the country’s federal subjects. The head of the Moscow Center for Regional Politics says that this trend must be worrisome to the center but that evaluating the situation in regions with regard to trust is going to be hard. For example, he asks, how is Moscow going to rate governors who oppose the center but are effective managers in all other respects? (club-rf.ru/opinions/1440). That is the case with communist Sergey Levchenko in Irkutsk Oblast and it may be the case elsewhere. If they are rated successful in all other areas, what is Moscow going to do when it turns out that the population shows declining trust in the center but not in the regional heads? (The opposite situation is easier, of course, but still requires careful handling.) And even if the governor is a member of the party of power, his success within his region may not translate into higher ratings of trust in the center. Instead, Grashchenkov suggests, it may have the opposite effect by highlighting what an official can do and what Moscow quite clearly is not. The regional expert says he fully understands that the authorities in Moscow want to measure whether the governor controls domestic affairs in his region and whether he is active or simply sitting and doing nothing. “But my view,” Grashchenkov says, “is that it is impossible to do so without differentiating the regions.” That is because “they are all different.” Treating them as if they were all the same won’t work, especially given that they include everything from “the little Jewish Autonomous District” to “big Moscow.” The trend the analyst points to is confirmed by figures from Tatarstan obtained in polls by the experts’ council at the Kazan Federal University. They show that support (not just trust) in Vladimir Putin has fallen from 85 percent a year ago to only 57 percent now (idelreal.org/a/29669912.html). These polls also show a collapse in support for United Russia, with its backers falling from 68.5 percent to 49.2 percent while backing for the KPRF has risen from 12.9 percent to 26.9 percent. Meanwhile, support for the republic president Rustam Minnikhanov rose slightly, while concerns about social problems increased dramatically.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia Needs to Revive Cossack Military Settlements, Sivkov Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 21 – Russia can’t afford to create irregular forces in the form of private military companies (PMCs) to provide territorial defense around the entire periphery of the country, Konstantin Sivkov says; and consequently, it should move to revive “real Cossacks” with real military settlements to perform that task. Writing in the influential Voyenno-Promyslenny kuryer, the prominent Moscow military analyst says that Moscow needs to address the increasing requirement that its forces include irregular units for use abroad and at home with the latter being responsible for both domestic security and defense against irregular aggression (vpk-news.ru/articles/46915). PMCs are the obvious form for irregular forces to be used abroad, Sivkov suggests; but because of their high cost, the Russian government cannot afford to have them play a major role in domestic defense. Consequently, it must look elsewhere. The most obvious candidates for that are territorial defense units including Cossacks. If Moscow chooses to go in that direction, Sivkov says, it would mean “the restoration in Russia of a real Cossackry, a specific warrior people who would become a reliable support for the state and government under the most critical conditions;” and these could play both defensive and hybrid aggressive roles. Such settlements have a long and storied history in tsarist times. Sometimes they were referred to as stanitsas, at others as forts, and in still a third as lines. In general, they were organized by the state so that Cossacks could provide defense or the basis of expansion along the borders of the Russian Empire. (For background on this phenomenon, see in particular Philip Longworth’s The Cossacks (London, 1971).
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow May Soon Face a New Kind of Unification Drive by Russia’s Muslims from Below
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – Despite its preference for single power verticals in all things, the Kremlin has avoided promoting one among Russia’s Muslims, having concluded that competition among the various trends and administrative structures within that group give the civil authorities the best chance to control it. Because Islam has no clergy as such and therefore no clerical hierarchies such as those the tsars, commissars and now Russian officials have tried to create in the form of various Muslim Spiritual Directorates (MSD), none of which are canonical within Islam, most Muslims in Russia agree with that kind of diversity. But Islam by its nature is fundamentally different from Christianity, and mullahs and muftis are hardly the only sources of authority within it, there is another kind of unity that far more Muslims favor: the unity of the ulema or learned specialists who issue rulings known as fetwas on issues of concern to the faithful. This week that impulse was on public view at the Bolgar Islamic Academy when a conference of ulema from various parts of the Islamic community of Russia discussed the possibility of convening an all-Russian congress of the ulema that would presumably create a more permanent institution (dumrt.ru/ru/news/news_21433.html and slamdag.ru/news/2018-12-22/delegaciya-iz-dagestana-prinyala-uchastie-v-obsuzhdenii-voprosov-sozdaniya). Speaking to the group, Tatarstan Mufti Kamil khazrat Samigullin said that such a step was needed to “raise the status of the ulema in Russia,” given the fact that in the Muslim community such legal scholars have received far less attention than the heads of the more than 80 MSDs that have sprung up across the country. He was supported by other speakers as well. Were such a body to emerge, it would constitute a double challenge to the Kremlin. On the one hand, it would likely coordinate the issuance of fetwas thus allowing the Muslims of Russia to speak with a united voice of many issues, including those that the state has a vested interest in. And on the other, it would undermine the importance of the various MSDs by creating an alternative body that is canonical within Islam and that could thus challenge these institutions which were established and, in most cases, continue to function as a form of state control over the faithful.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Will New Details on Killings of Gays in Chechnya Make Kadyrov Toxic Even for Putin?
Paul Goble Staunton, December 24 – The Kremlin has consistently defended Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov against all criticism, but new details on the murders of gays in his secret prisons could make him too toxic for the Russian authorities to do so. Indeed, Kadyrov’s own suggestion that he’d like to conclude his political career may set the stage for his departure. In April 2017, Moscow’s Novaya gazeta broke the story about the arrest and torture of gays in “secret prisons” in Chechnya. That attracted enormous attention but little real action inside the Russian Federation as Moscow continued to defend its janissary against the charges. But two developments in the last few days may change that. First, on December 20, the OSCE released a report by Graz Professor Wolfgang Benedek providing what it describes as “incontrovertible” evidence of these crimes and calling for Kadyrov to be brought to the Hague on charges of violating the human rights of the population under his control (lenta.ru/news/2018/12/21/gaaga/). And today, Elena Milashina of Novaya gazeta has published a follow-on story which documents the murder of two gays held in his jails, and refers to the scandal as “Chechen-gate,” an indication the stakes have been raised for Kadyrov and his patron Vladimir Putin (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/12/23/79043-tayna-za-zheleznoy-dveryu). Her 2800-word article, which includes both the testimony of others who were incarcerated with the two murder victims and grizzly photographs of what was done to them, is certain to attract more attention not only in Europe where concerns about Kadyrov’s homophobic policy are already high but also in Russia itself. And consequently, Kadyrov who has survived despite all his other crimes may be brought down by this because if Putin tries to defend him this time around, the Kremlin leader may find himself even more isolated from people of good will not only in the West but in his own country as well.
Russian Court Releases Jailed Russian Activist Who Faces New Charge
A court in Russia has canceled the pretrial arrest of an opposition activist who finished his 4 1/2-year prison term on December 2 but was remanded in custody after he was charged with disrupting p…
Kashin and Navalny are at each other’s throats over Zolotov’s sausages — Meduza
Columnist Oleg Kashin and anti-corruption activist and politician Alexey Navalny are at each other’s throats this week, following Kashin’s latest op-ed in Republic, where he speculates that Russia’s Federal Security Service leaked data from its investigation into corruption at the National Guard to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Kashin says Navalny might have received this information anonymously, meaning that even he might be unaware about its origins, and the data could have come from anyone in the government: from a frustrated secretary at the Federal Antimonopoly Service to the very head of the FSB, perhaps wishing to “fight in silence.”
Russian state television gets YouTube to block Navalny’s broadcast of Putin’s press conference because the video includes a question from one of its reporters — Meduza
The Russian state-owned television network Pervyi Kanal got YouTube to block Alexey Navalny’s archived live broadcast of Vladimir Putin’s end-of-the-year press conference, which aired on Navalny Live! on December 20 with simultaneous commentary from policy experts on Navalny’s team. The Russian broadcaster reportedly argued that it owns the exclusive rights to the face and voice of anchor Marina Kim, who appeared briefly in the broadcast, when she asked President Putin a question during the four-hour event. (Her question occurs at 3 hours, 21 minutes, 55 seconds into Navalny’s broadcast.)
Someone set fire to a hospital outside Moscow, hours after Navalny published an investigative report about corruption at the clinic — Meduza
In the town of Yegoryevsk, outside Moscow, someone set fire to the front door of the Central District Hospital, hours after Alexey Navalny’s live YouTube channel aired an investigative report about the facility.
IT specialists find some of the same privacy violations on the website of Russia’s media censor that got Alexey Navalny’s voting project blocked — Meduza
Earlier this week, a court in Moscow sided with Russia’s media censor and blocked a website operated by opposition politician Alexey Navalny, ruling that 2019.vote violated Russia’s privacy regulations and abused Google Analytics and Yandex Metrics. Officials say Navalny’s team should have notified users when collecting any personal information, obtained their consent, and provided them with a “published document that states a privacy policy.” Moscow Tagansky District Court judge Olga Sinelnikova ruled that user data legally needs to be stored on servers in Russia, and determined that “Smart Vote” prompts users to share their bank account information to purchase merchandise without disclosing how it handles the information.
Yandex now censors Telegram.org search results for users in Russia — Meduza
Yandex has stopped showing search results to Internet users in Russia that link to the official website of the instant messenger Telegram, https://telegram.org. The newsletter The Bell was the first media outlet to notice the new policy.
Head of Russia’s ‘anti-extremism’ federal police department resigns, after ex-wife allegedly reveals undeclared real estate in Europe — Meduza
On December 26, Russia’s Interior Ministry confirmed what the magazine RBC reported two weeks earlier: Timur Valiulin, the head of the ministry’s ”Center E” Anti-Extremism Department, has resigned. One source told the magazine RBC that Valiulin was forced out after his ex-wife revealed that he owned undeclared real estate in Bulgaria and Italy between 2010 and 2012.
Federal officials open investigation into reported abduction and torture of Amnesty International researcher in Ingushetia — Meduza
According to the Committee Against Torture, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation on December 3 into the October abduction of Amnesty International researcher and opposition activist Oleg Kozlovsky, who says Ingush anti-extremist police officers detained him, undressed him, beat him, and threatened him with blackmail and rape, if he refused to cooperate. Kozlovsky says he was even subjected to a ”mock execution” in a field, before he was dumped at a local airport and told to forget what had happened, or else his children would be murdered.
Sochi journalist sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly blackmailing federal lawmaker — Meduza
A year after police arrested journalist Alexander Valov, a court in Sochi has sentenced him to six years in prison for allegedly blackmailing State Duma deputy Yuri Napso. Prosecutors say Valov demanded in June 2016 that the federal lawmaker pay him 300,000 rubles ($4,325) immediately and as much as 20,000 rubles ($285) every month afterwards to stop him from publishing negative stories on his website, BlogSochi.
Allegations Of ‘Systematic’ Torture At Russian Prison Under Investigation
A rights group in Russia says that authorities are investigating allegations of “systematic” beatings and torture at a second prison in the Yaroslavl region.
Life Inside Moscow’s Notorious Butyrka Prison
Moscow’s notorious Butyrka prison is slated to be shut down within two years. One former inmate describes life on the inside of the Russian capital’s oldest and largest detention facility.
Officials Find ‘Slave Labor’ At Russian Prison Where Pussy Riot Member Was Held
Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) has asked prosecutors to open a criminal case into allegations of slave-labor conditions among female convicts at a prison in Mordovia.
Russian Investigators Determined Two Men Were Shot In The Head At Chechen ‘Prison For Gays’
According to documents from Russia’s Investigative Committee obtained by the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, two Chechen men who were killed in 2017 in a Chechen “prison for gays” were shot in the head at close range.
WADA To Retrieve Data From Moscow Anti-Doping Lab Next Week
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) says it will send a team next week to retrieve data from a Moscow anti-doping laboratory, a key requirement for the full reinstatement of the Russian anti-doping…
Russian Reporter Sentenced To Six Years In Prison For ‘Extortion’
A court in Russia has sentenced blog editor Aleksandr Valov to six years in prison after finding him guilty of extortion, a charge the journalist denies.
Tortured Past: On Russian Memorial, Victims And Perpetrators Of Stalin’s Purges Stand Side By Side
A renowned Russian linguist is among the thousands of victims of Stalin’s purges featured on a new Moscow memorial. His Soviet secret-police interrogator made the list as well.
Man Detonates Grenade In Russia, Killing Himself
Russia media reports say a man detonated a grenade in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk on December 27, killing himself and wounding three people.
Car-Wash Clash Lands Russian Traffic Cops In Hot Water
Two Russian traffic police officers in the Siberian region of Buryatia have been charged with violent behavior and abuse of power after CCTV videos showing them beating a car wash director were pos…
The Loyal Dog Of Novosibirsk
A dog owner abandoned his pet at a bus stop in Russia’s Novosibirsk region. Many months later, the dog remained in the same spot, waiting in the cold for his owner to return.
Russian-U.S. Space Cooperation Falls Back To Earth
Space cooperation, one of the final frontiers of partnership between Moscow and Washington, appears to be losing oxygen.
Russian Law Enforcement Examining Samples From Soyuz Spacecraft Hole
Russia’s Roskosmos space agency has turned over to law enforcement agents samples taken from a mysterious hole in a Soyuz capsule docked at the International Space Station (ISS).
Kalmyks In Russia Mark 75th Anniversary Of Deadly Stalin-Era Deportation
Russia’s Republic of Kalmykia has marked the 75th anniversary of the start of mass deportations of Kalmyks to Siberia by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Rebuilding Russia’s ‘Red Zion’
Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region suffered from mass emigration to Israel in the 1990s, but efforts are underway to restore its identity.
Lasers Help Find The ‘Voice’ Of Siberia’s Church Bells
Two experts are using laser technology to help restore the once-familiar echo of church bells across Siberia.

Central Asia / Caucasus Reports

 


 

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Armenians Call for Russian Base at Gyumri to Be Shut Down
Paul Goble Staunton, December 26 – Approximately two dozen activists of the European Party of Armenia organized a demonstration yesterday in front of the Russian embassy in Yerevan demanding that the Russian base at Gyumri be shut down and the Russian soldier charged with murdering an Armenian woman earlier this month be handed over to the Armenian authorities. A smaller group of activists from the Communist Party of Armenia staged a counter-demonstration in support of the continued operation of the Russian base. Tensions have been on the rise since the murder of Dzhuletta Gukasyan by a Russian soldier on December 4 and Armenia’s return of the Russian accused to the base (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/329625/). (Yerevan officials said they had no choice given the provisions of the basing agreement with Moscow, but Armenian lawyers disagreed, asserting that the soldier should have been kept in detention in an Armenian facility before his trial and arguing that his return was an insult to Armenian sovereignty (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/329485/).) This is not the first such case involving attacks by Russian soldiers on Armenian civilians. For background, see kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/255581/windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/01/gyumri-events-could-spark-new-war-over.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/01/moscow-agrees-to-try-gyumri-killer-in.html). But what makes this protest more serious is that it comes in the wake of the Armenian revolution that brought a new and less pro-Russian government to power in Yerevan, one that has everything to gain by taking a tough line in defense of Armenian sovereignty and everything to lose by appearing to kowtow to Moscow. Indeed, Kavkaz Uzel reports, the demonstrators not only prepared a letter for the Russian ambassador, who did not come out to meet with them, but also a memorandum for the Armenian government demanding that it change its approach to Russia more broadly. Narine Mkrtchyan of the National Press Club said that Armenians have always been told that their country cannot exist without Russia. But that “stereotype,” she insisted, harms the interests of Armenia while benefitting Russia. Yerevan must make the review of its relations a major part of its upcoming agenda. Up to now, “Armenia has always put the interests of Russia above its own, voting in international forums on this or that issue” depending on what Moscow wants, Mkrtchyan says. That must change. Armenia has its own interests and is quite capable of defending them. “If Russia does not change its policy and Armenia does not become more demanding, protest attitudes in the country will grow and radical steps are not excluded. The murder in Gyumri is apolitical issue, and calls … not to politicize it are at a minimum strange. We are forming the political agenda of a new Armenia and this question must become one of the most important.” Another activist, film director Tigran Khzmalyan said that Yerevan must take the initiatve and leave Moscow-dominated structures like the Eurasian Economic Community and the Organization for the Collective Security Treaty. Being a member of them has only isolated Armenia from the rest of the world. And he concludes that those who say Moscow will give Karabakh to Azerbaijan if Armenia doesn’t do what it is told are wrong. A long time ago, “our army solved the Karabakh issue.” Moscow can’t decide to take an action against the Armenian people and the Armenian army.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan to Introduce Common ‘Silk Road’ Visa for Foreigners
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – The governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have reached an agreement to introduce a common visa for foreigners who want to visit or work in either, a development that officials in the region hope will expand to other Central Asian states and that they see as an analogue to the Shengen visa in Europe fergananews.com/news/30331). Ulugbek Kasymkhodzhayev, the deputy chairman of Uzbekistan’s state tourism agency, says that the system ought to begin to work in February. “The Silk Visa project,” he says, has been agreed by all the relevant agencies of the two countries and only “technical details” remain to be worked out (inform.kz/ru/central-noaziatskiy-variant-shengena-zarabotaet-v-sleduyuschem-godu_a3479606). Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have already expressed an interest in joining the group, he adds, noting that Tashkent plans to seek the inclusion of Azerbaijan and Turkey as well. At one level, of course, this is simply the result of Uzbekistan’s drive to expand its foreign contacts after the passing of Islam Karimov. But on another, it promises to become the basis for more serious changes, including the expansion of contacts on the basis of the Silk Road project, the promotion of Central Asian cooperation and pan-Turkic ideas, and the further demise of the former Soviet space by the creation of yet another alternative grouping within it. As such, it is no small thing, however minor it may appear at first glance.
Georgia’s First Woman President Sworn In Amid Opposition Protests
Salome Zurabishvili has been sworn into office as Georgia’s first woman president amid continued denunciations by the opposition that her election was rigged.
U.S. Extends Sanctions On Russian Prosecutor’s Son, Daughter Of Late Uzbek President
The White House has extended financial and travel restrictions on government-linked people from Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, under a U.S. law aimed at human rights abusers and corrupt officials worldwide.
Legendary Kabardian Horses Galloping To Comeback
In danger of disappearing 30 years ago, the fabled Kabardian horses native to Russia’s North Caucasus region have made a comeback that extends to Western Europe.

Belarus Reports

 


 

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin Could Create a ‘Veishnoria’ as Part of a Hybrid Belarusian Anschluss, Ilchenko Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 26 – Many are suggesting that Vladimir Putin may absorb Belarus all at once, but in fact, Sergey Ilchenko says, he may adopt a “hybrid” approach, one that would extend over a lengthy period of time during which Belarus would have its own flag and seat at the UN and possibly a new but unrecognized pro-European enclave named Veishnoria. Veishnoria, of course, refers to an imaginary enemy country that Moscow came up with during Zapad military exercises in the summer of 2017. It supposedly existed in the western part of Belarus and even had its own flag (rus.err.ee/618830/vydumannaja-dlja-uchenij-zapad-2017-strana-vejshnorija-zazhila-svoej-zhiznju-i-nabiraet-opolchenie). In an unexpected and unintended development, many Belarusians quickly identified with the idea because Veishnoria stood in opposition to both Putin and Lukashenko, and a song in its defense by a Belarusian band went viral (belsat.eu/ru/opinions/vejshnoriya-eto-novorossiya-naoborot/and charter97.org/ru/news/2017/9/15/262941/). In Delovaya stolitsa today, the Ukrainian commentator argues that there are compelling reasons why Putin is interested in a Belarusian Anschluss now, why Alyaksandr Lukashenka does not have the means to resist and why Putin has an interest in a go-slow annexation rather than a snap one (dsnews.ua/world/lyudoeda-lyudoed-priglashaet-na-obed-pochemu-putin-reshil-doest-26122018220000). Lukashenka needs Russian aid and Putin needs a victory, Ilchenko says. Given that Putin has all the cards in the game, Lukashenka can only play for time much as he has done for the last decade. But the question naturally arises: why is Putin moving just now, putting Lukashenka at the greatest disadvantage he has ever been? There are many reasons, the Kyiv commentator says. First of all, “the swallowing o Belarus and the dividing up of Belarusian property will somewhat help the Russian budget which has been seriously suffering from sanctions. Second, this will distract the West from Ukrainian problems. Third, Russia’s image is now so low another sin won’t harm” Putin with the West. And fourth and perhaps most important, Belarus is unlikely to offer the kind of resistance that would prevent Putin from achieving his goals, especially if he adopts the Veishnoria stratagem which would allow opponents of unity with Russia a play to withdraw to and complicate the position of the West. Putin could even allow Veishnoria to leave Belarus and acquire “unrecognized independence,” thus creating any number of problems within the EU and setting the stage for some kind of deals: We’ll recognize Veishnoria, Putin could say; and you will recognize Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the DNR and LNR. What one needs to remember, Ilchenko says, is that Moscow doesn’t need or care about the form of its absorption of Belarus: “Moscow needs Belarus as such” but one that won’t keep presenting it with Lukashenka’s efforts at cleverness or double-dealing. And so it can move slowly by effectively to control the situation even without changing many of the names. Moscow has a sufficient network of agents in Belarus to overcome any resistance. Lukashenka can’t count on his own security agencies and he can’t count on the population whom he has offended repeatedly over two decades. And if Lukashenka tries to resist, he can be pushed aside or a Maidan-like protest movement can be cooked up to justify Russian action. According to Ilchenko, Putin benefits in this situation from a slower hybrid annexation. Doing it all at once would not allow him the freedom of maneuver he wants. He would be “much more interested” in creating a situation on the border of the EU with an unrecognized enclave and then see how Brussels would react.
UAWire – Kremlin: Russian government lost trust in Belarus 
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that the Russian Federation has lost trust in Belarus.  According to him, this is due to the fact …
Russia has lost its trust in Belarus, Vice Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Silounanov
On the eve of Lukashenka said that Russia regards Belarus not as a brotherly state, but as a “key external partner”. Russia fulfilled all its agreements with Belarus, provided it with hidden subsidies and direct loans, but the Union State wants only unilateral benefits from the Russian Federation. This was stated by First Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister of Russia Anton Siluanov, reports Tsensor. NET with reference to ” Gordon “. Read on “Tsensor.NET”: Putin approved the military doctrine of the Union State, which includes the Russian Federation and Belarus “We say: it is impossible to be one-sided, you can have one-sided motherhood, you are our neighbor, our ally under a union treaty, but lately, trust has been lost,” said Silouanov. According to the deputy prime minister, in Russia through Belarus there are sanctioned products and excisable goods – “low-grade cigarettes”. According to the official website of the Kremlin, today in Moscow, the presidents of Russia and Belarus hold talks on bilateral relations and the prospect of further advancement of integration processes. The Union State of Belarus and Russia was founded in 1996. On December 15, 2018, the Nasha Niva newspaper reported that President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko held a meeting with the country’s top leadership on Russia’s pressure and the independence of the state . On December 16, Lukashenka’s press secretary Natalia Eysmont noted that the Belarusian president had not held a meeting on the issue of the independence of the country. On December 17, the press secretary of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, said that the question of uniting Russia and Belarus into a single state is not on the agenda. On December 24, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that Russia regards Belarus as an external partner, not a brotherly state. Джерело: https://censor.net.ua/ua/n3103967
Remarks by Belarusian Leader Upstage Sensitive Kremlin Talks
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he no longer considers Russia a ‘brotherly nation’
Lukashenka, Putin Meet In Moscow To Discuss Energy Pricing
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that focused on energy pricing, trade, and other bilateral issues.
Russia’s Putin and Belarus’ Lukashenko Will Meet on 25 December – To Inform is to Influence
According to many reports, energy and the associated Russian tax maneuvers are the sole points of contention between Russian and Belarus. According to the same Jamestown report, the issues were resolved in September 2018. According to TASS: Moscow and Minsk have been negotiating the mechanism of compensating the shortfall in budget revenues due to Russia’s tax maneuver in the oil sector that envisions a gradual slash of export duties on oil and petroleum products to zero for the Belarusian side since the beginning of November. Minsk confirms president’s plans to visit Moscow on December 25 This has caused a huge trade deficit for Belarus, hence the focus. The issue of a de facto Russian takeover has been talked about lately, but Belarus is desperately trying to remain neutral. According to the same report, it is all up to the Kremlin. “We see that Russia just does not want to comply with international standards. And all European countries start to realize that the case is the aggressor which will yield only under power pressure,” Macierewicz said. While the West and Russia are flexing muscles, the Belarusian authorities will continue to cling to a relatively neutral position, experts say. However, Lukashenka’s room for multi-vector manoeuvre is growing narrow. </end editorial>
Take it or leave it! Putin presses for Belarus absorption – LB.ua news portal
Take it or leave it! Putin presses for Belarus absorption. The Kremlin has issued an unambiguous ultimatum to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka: either total integration or no more subsidies to the Belarusian economy. However, relations between Moscow and Minsk are unlikely to face a rapid escalation of tension. Russian President Vladimir Putin is obviously preparing not a blitzkrieg but a long siege of Belarus.  Political – LB.ua news portal. Latest from Ukraine and the world today
UAWire – Putin invites Lukashenko to lunch for a private chat
Vladimir Putin has invited Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who arrived recently in Moscow, to a meal without any delegations from the …
Negotiations of Putin, Lukashenko lasted almost four hours – 112.international
The President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko have finished the negotiations in Kremlin, which lasted almost four hours as TASS reported. “At first, Lukashenko and Putin have listened to the speeches of the officials; then Putin invited the Belarusian leader to “working New Year’s Eve dinner”. The talks continued behind the closed doors,” the message said.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Having Undermined Belarusian Sovereignty, Lukashenka Casts Himself as Its Defender, Portnikov Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 20 – Both Moscow and Minsk benefit from talk about Russia’s plan to annex Belarus, Moscow because it creates the illusion that Vladimir Putin’s much-ballyhooed Russian world is still on the march and Minsk because it creates another illusion that only Alyaksandr Lukashenka is capable of keeping the country separate, Vitaly Portnikov says. Again and again, the Ukrainian analyst says, whenever Moscow seeks concessions from Minsk in exchange for aid, Lukashenka begins to talk about the need to defend the sovereignty of Belarus. But his “defense” of his country with each passing year looks ever more “unconvincing” (graniru.org/opinion/portnikov/m.274376.html). That is because “Lukashenka always has played against sovereignty,” given that the “history of his rule is the sad history of how an ignorant Soviet-style dictator for decades has destroyed the statehood of his own country” and put “his unhappy people” in ever more desperate straits. “When Lukashenka came to power, his country had all the attributes of classical post-Soviet statehood,” Portnikov says. “Lukashenka deprived Belarus of all that he could – its coat of arms, its flag, its hymn, its native language and its parliamentary system. Even the country’s independence day was sacrificed,” replaced with the day of Minsk’s liberation from the Nazis.” There is no equivalent of such an attack on state sovereignty anywhere else in the entire former Soviet space, the Ukrainian analyst continues. Russian propagandists without any response from Lukashenka continue to use the Soviet imperial name for the republic, Belorussia, rather than its real name Belarus; and their line on Ukraine, the West and much else is echoed by Lukashenka more consistently than even most Russians do. His population is cowed by his security services and its brains washed by Russian television. The only thing that Lukashenka cares about is to ensure that all of them view him as necessary. Russia helps him do that by implying its about to annex Belarus. If Moscow stopped threatening the country, its irreplaceable leader would soon be replaced.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s Russia Loses Another ‘Fraternal’ Country – Lukashenka’s Belarus
Paul Goble Staunton, December 25 – In yet another indication that Vladimir Putin is driving away even those countries in the post-Soviet space that he assumes are inevitably on his side, Alyaksandr Lukashenka says that he will cease to call Russia “a fraternal state” because that is now how Russia sees things. The two countries, the Belarusian leader said yesterday, remain “partners;” but in the Russian political lexicon, that is a much more distant and variable relationship than the former (president.gov.by/ru/news_ru/view/soveschanie-po-aktualnym-voprosam-sotrudnichestva-s-rossiej-20124/). Tensions between Moscow and Minsk have been rising of late, with Belarusians expressing their commitment to remain independent of Russia regardless of their need for subsidies from Moscow and Russians expressing anger that Minsk insist on such independence given that the two countries are at least nominally part of a “union state.”
Belarus Court Cancels Opposition Spokeswoman’s Expulsion
A court in Minsk has reversed a decision to expel the press secretary of an opposition party in Belarus.
Will Russia be able to swallow Belarus – world news
Amid the latest disagreements between Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, Russia-Belarus tensions became quite visible. Russia’s top officials are becoming increasingly insisting in their statements calling for further creation of the so-called “Union State” that would comprise the two states. As Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev noted, Moscow is ready to move along this path, including to “create a single emission center, a single customs agency, [unified] courts, and an Accounts Chamber.” However, Belarus leader Lukashenko is apparently not amazed.

Transnistria / Moldova Reports

 


 

UAWire – Moldovan President Dodon counts on Russian peacekeepers to ensure stability in Transnistria
Moldovan President Igor Dodon wrote on Facebook after a meeting with the President of unrecognized Transnistria, Vadim Krasnoselsky that he …

Ukraine Reports

 


 

Ukraine Crisis Media Center: Ukraine’s top five wins in 2018 – To Inform is to Influence
Ukraine’s top five wins in 2018 2018 was not an easy year for Ukraine. The war in the east of the country is on for the fifth year, Crimea’s annexed status did not change, dozens of Ukrainian political prisoners are held in Russian jails and an unprecedented escalation happened in the Azov Sea. The year…
For A Propaganda Factory, Donetsk News Agency Fails Badly – To Inform is to Influence
I post here an example of pro-Russian propaganda and logic or lack thereof.   Notice the headline, which twists the meaning of Ukraine’s action of declaring, and then allowing martial law to expire. “Martial law expiration doesn’t mean Ukraine cannot attack – Basurin” Let’s examine the headline’s logic in four different ways. The following headling contains…

Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports

 


 

Amb Frederic C. Hof | Pushing the Kremlin Line on Syria
In an interview during the evening of December 20, 2018 with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Stephen Miller (adviser to US President Donald Trump) offered the following piece of commentary: “ISIS is the enemy of Russia, ISIS is the enemy of Assad, ISIS is the enemy of Turkey. Are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation, spilling American blood to fight the enemies of all those countries?” One-for-three isn’t bad in baseball, but to claim ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) is the enemy of Russia and the Assad regime is to parrot the Kremlin’s false propaganda line. Were Miller better prepared he might have added Iran to the ISIS faux enemies list. Or perhaps the deletion was deliberate. But even as is, the Miller statement must not be the position of the United States. The ISIS fake caliphate and the Assad crime family have had a mainly live-and-let-live relationship ever since the successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq—the recipient of longstanding Assad regime support—established itself in Syria east of the Euphrates River in 2013. ISIS in its heyday and Assad on the ropes needed one another desperately. ISIS relied on regime war crimes—inflicted disproportionately on Sunni Muslims—to recruit disaffected and dysfunctional youth to its ranks from around the world. Assad needed the flamboyant and highly publicized violence of ISIS to portray himself as the relatively civilized alternative. The main target of both ISIS and Assad was any Syrian posing a third way alternative to two viciously criminal and collaborative entities. None of the above is a state secret. But even if it were, the intelligence community would happily brief Mr. Miller and his boss on the mutually profitable relationship between ISIS and the Assad regime. Indeed, that community could do much more. It could detail Russia’s nearly total avoidance of ISIS as a military target during the entire length of its military intervention in Syria, starting in September 2015. It would tell Mr. Miller that Russia has instead targeted the real opposition—unarmed and armed—to its client Assad. And if this White House finds the American intelligence community not credible, it could consult with the Department of Defense and learn that the anti-ISIS military campaign has been waged almost entirely by an international coalition led by the United States and featuring a Syrian Kurdish militia ground force. Just as is the case with other normally collaborative criminal organizations, the Assad regime and ISIS have sometimes come to blows over money. They have squabbled over oil and antiquities. But the relationship of these loathsome entities has, in the main, been profoundly collaborative. The Kremlin, of course, has labeled all non-regime Syrian parties—even the endlessly courageous White Helmet civil defense organization—as extremists and terrorists. It, the regime, ISIS, Iran, and al-Qaeda elements have targeted those parties relentlessly. All this is known in detail by senior American officials. All of it should be known by President Trump and Mr. Miller. So why are the latter two adopting Kremlin talking points? Conventional wisdom suggests that legal and political difficulties are inspiring the president to re-focus the nation’s attention on campaign promises centered on ending overseas military commitments and building a wall along the border with Mexico. Conventional wisdom is usually correct; it may well be so this time. And yet the president’s snap decision to undo nearly five years of military effort in Syria by failing to complete and seal the victory over ISIS produces echoes of the disastrous July 2018 Helsinki Summit. There President Trump adopted the Kremlin line by praising Russia’s “cooperation” against ISIS: an utter falsehood. Was Mr. Trump trying to change the subject then? Or did he find himself fully in synch with the Kremlin’s objectives in Syria? Post-Helsinki the president found his desire to leave Syria to Russia and Assad complicated by one salient fact: Iran’s Syrian presence as the principal prop holding aloft the Assad scarecrow. And Iran in Syria is a major threat to the security of Israel. No doubt Putin—eager to see Americans gone from eastern Syria—sought to assure the president in Helsinki that Russia would secure Israel from Iran in the west. Senior administration officials, seeking to fill presidential pockets thoroughly picked in Helsinki, built a list of Syria-related objectives and a strategy centered on facilitating Iran’s eventual exit from Syria. President Trump now wishes, in effect, to return to Helsinki and do what the Russians had hoped he would do: evacuate eastern Syria and let Iranian-commanded militias swarm over areas liberated at great cost from ISIS to reestablish an Assad brand that is catnip for Islamist extremists. Vladimir Putin has applauded his friend “Donald’s” decision. Well he should. If the decision is implemented it will be a breathtaking victory for Moscow, Tehran, Assad, and ultimately ISIS or ISIS 2.0. It is perhaps no wonder that Mr. Miller excluded Iran from his list of supposed ISIS enemies to be set free to finish off the fake caliphate. It may not have been a simple mistake. He should know that if his boss’ decision is not walked-back, Iran will be the biggest winner, courtesy of President Donald Trump. And it will be only a matter of time before undisciplined, Iranian-led foreign fighters and revenge-seeking Assad regime operatives manage to midwife in eastern Syria either the resurrection of ISIS in its current form or in the shape of something even more impressively lethal than that which remains alive and breathing militarily. Russia, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis has suggested, is no friend of the United States. Signing on to its Syria endgame does not protect Americans or serve American interests. Ambassador Frederic C. Hof is Bard College’s Diplomat in Residence and a nonresident senior fellow of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Trump’s Syria plan is Obama 2.0 | TheHill
Barack Obama’s rush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq ensured the revival of the Islamic State.
Richard Haass: Iran Is The Most Likely Setting For A Major New War In 2019 | Video | RealClearPolitics
Council on Foreign Relations president and author of “A World In Disarray” Richard Haass warns MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ that despite U.S. troops withdrawing from Syria and victory against ISIS, the Middle East is still the most dangerous flashpoint in the world: RICHARD HAASS: One of the basic laws of the Middle East is things have to get worse before they get even worse. I think we’re going to see that. If I were going to place a bet on 2019, where there could well be a serious new war in the world, it wouldn’t be North Korea, it wouldn’t be the South China Sea. You never know what Mr. Putin will do in Ukraine, but I would bet on Iran, whether it is Israel vis-a-vis Iran or it is the Saudis doing something, perhaps hoping to change the conversation so we don’t see Saudi Arabia simply as the murderer of a journalist, but we see them as a necessary partner against Iran, or Iran will do something because of the pressure they’re feeling on sanctions. That is the space I would watch. Even if I’m wrong and that doesn’t happen, I think over the next couple of years, we have to imagine there will be the reconstitution of terrorism. Syria will never become a normal country again. We could see increased fighting there. Sooner or later, I think the possibility of other countries thinking of nuclear weapons, countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, I wouldn’t rule that out. So again, I don’t think anyone lost money betting against the Middle East. I would think that almost all the trend lines are bad right now so rather than seeing the Middle East somehow, having been exhausted moving towards peace or anything like that. I think you are looking at a part of the world where borders count for very little. Where there is no serious negotiation. Where countries are beginning to break down from within and if you are not worried about this part of the world, you are not paying attention. And what happens there won’t say there. It ain’t Las Vegas. The bad things when they happen in the Middle East have a way of spreading around the world.
Syria faces brittle future, dominated by Russia and Iran | World News, The Indian Express
Now, with the U.S. troop withdrawal and the demise of the insurgency against President Bashar Assad, Iran and Russia will be even freer to flex their power in Syria.
Pentagon Withdrawal Order For U.S. Troops From Syria ‘Signed’
The Pentagon has said the order for the withdrawal U.S. troops from Syria has been signed following President Donald Trump’s December 19 announcement setting out plans for a full pullout, U.S. me…
Defense Secretary James Mattis signs Syria withdrawal orders, official says | Fox News
Outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has signed orders to pull all American troops out of Syria in the coming weeks, a senior defense official told Fox News on Sunday. 
Bolton’s Hawkish Syria Plan Backfired, Pushing Trump to Get Out
The national security adviser expanded U.S. goals in Syria to challenge Iran. But Trump wasn’t on board, senior officials say, and Turkey took an opportunity to push the U.S. out.
Khashoggi editor: Please spare me the ‘Mattis stands up for US values’ takes | TheHill
The editor of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s at The Washington Post on Thursday blasted outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying he was part of administration efforts to “downplay” CIA evidence linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed b
Syria sends reinforcements east after Trump’s pullout plan | Fox News
Syrian troops have sent reinforcements to the eastern province of Deir el-Zour close to an enclave controlled by the Islamic State group and along the front with U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters, a war monitor and pro-government pages on social media said Saturday.
Trump Defends Syria Pullout After U.S. Envoy’s Protest Resignation
U.S. President Donald Trump again defended his decision to withdraw troops from Syria, saying on Twitter that they were initially only going to be there for three months but have remained for years.
Trump is making the same mistakes in Syria that Obama did in the Middle East – The Washington Post
And this time, the consequences will be worse.
Trump may be damaging US credibility with Syria withdrawal: Experts
U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement this week that he intends to withdraw all American troops out of Syria risks dealing a serious blow to his country’s credibility as an ally and partner, former national security officials and regional experts warned.
The New York Times has a consistent position on Syria: The opposite of whatever Trump wants
Groucho Marx had a song that could be the anthem of the New York Times editorial page “Whatever it is, I’m against it!”
U.S. Allies on Trump: ‘It Used to Be Russia That Was Unpredictable’
In the Middle East, officials see Russia ascendant, Iran on the rise, an Islamic State that has survived—and Trump calls this victory?
Trump call with Turkey’s Erdogan led to pullout from Syria – AOL News
Officials say the president’s decision was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over strong objections.
‘You know what? It’s yours’: Trump reportedly threw his hands up on Syria during phone call with the Turkish president | Business Insider
Capping off what has been a tumultuous week for the Trump administration are reports from multiple outlets that offer some clues as to why President Donald Trump made his decision to pull US troops out of Syria that prompted Defence Secretary James Mattis to resign.
U.S. envoy in fight against Islamic State quits after Syria pullout | Reuters
A top U.S. envoy leading a global coalition fighting Islamic State has quit over President Donald Trump’s decision this week to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, a source familiar with the matter said on Saturday.


The U.S.troop pullout from Syria is “a dream come true for the Iranians” – The Washington Post
Iran will now be able to exert its influence more widely in Syria, leaving Israel wondering whether it can count on Washington for support in the event of war.
Let down by U.S., Syrian Kurdish leaders look to Russia and Assad | Reuters
Alarmed by a U.S. decision to leave Syria, Kurdish leaders who run much of the north are urging Russia and its ally Damascus to send forces to shield the border from the threat of a Turkish offensive.
Kurds seek Assad’s help to fend off Turkish offensive | World | The Times
Kurdish militias have asked President Assad’s forces to enter territory they control to defend against an imminent Turkish offensive in northern Syria.It marks a major turning point in the conflict as President Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria forces a realignment of alliances b
Syria army enters Kurdish-held Manbij: state media | Syria News | Al Jazeera
Reported troop entry into Manbij comes after Kurdish YPG asked for government help in preventing a ‘Turkish invasion’.
Russia warns Turkey to stay out of Syria and let Assad take back areas | Daily Mail Online
The Kremlin’s Foreign Ministry said it expects territory in Syria to be handed to Assad’s forces after US president Donald Trump announced a pullout from the country last week.
Turkey masses tanks on the Syrian border as the US prepares to leave | Daily Mail Online
Tanks, armoured troop carriers and soldiers are gathering along Turkey’s southern border as they prepare to move into Syria as soon as US troops leave following Trump’s shock announcement.
Turkey says the US just agreed to more of its demands regarding Syria
Turkey’s foreign minister said Tuesday the U.S. had agreed to complete its previously established “roadmap” to remove all Kurdish militia fighters from the Northern Syrian town of Manbij before U.S. forces clear out.
Wesley Clark on Trump’s Syria withdrawal: ‘Did Erdogan blackmail the president?’ | TheHill
Wesley Clark, the former commander of NATO’s forces, on Monday questioned whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blackmailed President Trump into his decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria.
Trump told Turkey’s Erdogan in call about Syria: ‘It’s all yours. We are done.’ – CNNPolitics
US President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the US was “done” with Syria as the pair discussed the possible withdrawal of US forces from the country.
Trump’s ‘Very Soon’ Withdrawal From Syria Is Exactly What Many Troops Feared – Defense One
What the president said is exactly what some special operations forces worried would happen — under President Hillary Clinton.
Trump says Erdogan will ‘eradicate’ ISIL in Syria | News | Al Jazeera
US president says leaders discussed ‘slow and highly coordinated’ withdrawal of US troops and ISIL in phone call.
U.S.-led Coalition Has Been Fighting Hundreds of ISIS Militants in Syria Despite Trump Claiming Group Was Defeated
“ISIS presents a very real threat to the long-term stability in this region and our mission remains the same, the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said Major General Christopher Ghika, Operation Inherent Resolve deputy commander.


Iran Guards hold war games as U.S. carrier enters Gulf | Reuters
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards launched war games in the Gulf on Saturday, state television reported, after a U.S. aircraft carrier entered the waterway amid rising tension with Washington over reimposed U.S. sanctions.
Iran executes businessman dubbed ‘Sultan of Bitumen’ – BBC News
Hamidreza Baqeri Darmani is the latest businessman to be convicted in an anti-corruption drive.
Iran executes businessman for economic crimes: state TV | News | Al Jazeera
Hamidreza Baqeri-Dermani was executed for offences including bribery and fraud, state television reports.


UAWire – Russia calls Israel’s air strikes on Iranian military bases ‘a flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty’
In a statement published on Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, the Kremlin stated that the attacks by Israeli warplanes in the vicinity of Damascus are a “flagrant violation of the sovereignty” of Syria, as well as the provisions of the UN resolution. “We are extremely concerned about both the fact of the strikes and the way they were carried out. This is a flagrant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and the provisions of UN Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1701, ” the statement reads. The Ministry added that air strikes were carried out from behind the civilian planes. In September, Syria’s anti-aircraft systems, while trying to repel the Israel air force attack, shot down the Russian IL-20. As a result, 15 Russian soldiers were killed. The Russian Defense Ministry laid the responsibility for the incident on Israel. The ministry claimed that the Israeli fighter jets had put the Russian plane under attack. On the night of December 26, the Israeli Air Force launched a missile attack on military installations near Damascus from Lebanese territory. According to Al Arabiya news channel, Israeli aircraft were able to destroy at least three warehouses with “Iranian weapons”. According to Syrian state agency SANA, one warehouse was destroyed, three soldiers of the Syrian army were injured. The Russian Defense Ministry said that Israeli aircraft had struck when civilian aircraft were landing in Damascus and Beirut airports. In order not to strike the civilian aircraft, the Syrian military had to limit the use of air defense. According to the ministry, the Israeli air Force used six F-16 fighters and launched 16 controlled air bombs, 14 of which were shot down by the Syrian air defense Forces.
Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffs Russian condemnation of Syria strikes
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday promised to continue airstrikes against Iranian forces in Syria, despite Russian opposition.
Syria military says Israel strikes hit Damascus weapons depot – BBC News
Israel has not confirmed the strikes in Syria, but says its air defences fired on a Syrian missile.
Netanyahu: Israel Able To Contain Iran In Syria After U.S. Pullout
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull all American troops out of Syria will not stop Israel’s efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a…
UAWire – Israel strikes Iranian military bases in Syria
According Syrian sources, Israeli aircraft entered Lebanese airspace at low altitude and then carried a missile attack on military facilities near Damascus. At least three Syrian soldiers were injured during the attack. The Syrian state agency SANA confirmed that the air attack was carried out by the Israeli Air Force. According to SANA, some of the missiles were intercepted, but several Syrian soldiers were injured. SANA, citing a source in the Syrian Army, reports that air defense responded to the missile strikes which were carried out from Lebanese territory. According to SANA, most of the missiles were destroyed. Al-Arabia TV channel also reported that the attack was carried out by Israel. According to the TV channel, the Israeli air Force managed to destroy at least three warehouses with “Iranian weapons”. SANA, in turn, claims that the missiles destroyed only one warehouse and that three soldiers of the Syrian army were injured. Al-Arabia reported that the missile attack was conducted from Lebanese airspace and that the wreckage of Syrian air defense missiles fell in the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Earlier, on December 25, the Lebanese national News agency reported, with a reference to an army spokesman, that Israeli warplanes were flying over the territory of southern Lebanon, in the area of the city of Tyre. The agency stated that the Israeli warplanes were flying at extremely low altitude and were launching aerostats. The purpose of the aerostats was not specified. The Israeli authorities have not yet commented on the reports of Israel’s involvement in the air attack on Syria. However, on the evening of December 25, the Israeli army press service reported on Twitter that the air defense systems had been activated in northern Israel after an anti-aircraft missile was launched from Syrian territory.
Despite the presence of the S-300, Israel launched a new air strike in Syria
Israeli military aircraft bombarded the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus on the evening of December 25, 2018. In response, Syrian soldiers fired on Israeli aircraft, but none of the missiles hit the target and were shot down over Israeli territory, the Israeli Defense Forces said on Twitter. According to the release of the Syrian government news agency SANA, three soldiers were injured as a result of the Israeli air strike. According to unofficial sources, the attack was directed to an Iranian military aircraft landing at Damascus airport on the eve of a cargo for the Lebanese group Hizballah and Iranian high-ranking officials on board. Video of air defense systems near Damascus: https://twitter.com/AmichaiStein1/status/1077783633941925888?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
Warplanes over Lebanon fire missiles towards Damascus, Syria – YouTube
Daily Mail Published on Dec 26, 2018 Hezbollah officials had just boarded a plane bound for Iran when Israel carried out airstrikes against multiple targets around Damascus, leaving them injured, according to security sources. Observer groups say 22 Israeli missiles were fired at multiple military targets around Damascus used by Iran and Hezbollah. Syria said an arms dump was struck by one of the missiles, injuring three soldiers, while Israeli media said military headquarters, army outposts and air defences were also struck. Israel has not officially acknowledged that any airstrikes took place.
The Latest: Israeli official says Israel carried out strike – ABC News
Get breaking national and world news, broadcast video coverage, and exclusive interviews. Find the top news online at ABC news.
Netanyahu, under pressure, dissolves Israeli parliament and calls for new elections in April – Los Angeles Times
Monday’s move comes after the ruling coalition appeared to come up short on votes needed to pass a contentious piece of court-ordered legislation.
Popular former military chief jumps into politics in Israel | Fox News
A popular former Israeli military chief jumped into the political fray Thursday, announcing he would run for office in the upcoming election and instantly injected perhaps the strongest challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lengthy rule.
Israeli ex-general, polling closest to Netanyahu, joins 2019 election race | Reuters
A former Israeli armed forces chief who opinion polls show poses the toughest challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid for reelection next year formally established a political party on Thursday.
Iranian FM Takes Flak For Claiming Tehran Has Never Called For Destruction Of Israel
Iran’s foreign minister has been accused of distorting comments by the founder of the Islamic republic by stating that no Iranian official has ever called for the destruction of Israel.


Resurgent Al-Qaeda plan new series of spectacular attacks against airliners and airports | Daily Mail Online
Security Minister Ben Wallace said that Al-Qaeda are planning the attacks on airports and airliners, and even plan to use explosive-packed drones to take down targets.
‘Resurgent’ al Qaeda looking to target Europe, minister warns – CNN
Terror group al Qaeda is “resurgent” and looking to carry out attacks on passenger planes in Europe, UK Security Minister Ben Wallace has warned.
Anger, control, Russia: Three reasons why the Saudi crown prince fired his foreign minister
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s demotion of foreign minister and former ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, is a clear riposte to America. Adel is a trusted U.S. partner for dealings with the Sunni kingdom.
Saudi king shakes up government in wake of Khashoggi killing – CNN
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered a government reshuffle on Thursday, appointing a new foreign minister and refreshing other top posts, after the global fallout over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
India Takes Over Iran’s Strategic Chabahar Port
India has formally taken over operations at Iran’s strategic Chabahar Port, a move that could have significant geopolitical ramifications in the region.
Pakistani Foreign Minister In Moscow For Security Consultations
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has traveled to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

 


 

DPRK / PRC / WESTPAC Reports

 


 

North Korea: Kim Jong-un ON BRINK as public TURNS AGAINST leader | World | News | Express.co.uk
NORTH Korean people are increasingly turning against despot leader Kim Jong Un following a desperate attempt by the reclusive nation’s government to venerate the leader that has left its people even more cynical of him.
North Korea and Russia issue separate warnings about nuclear arms ahead of the new year | Salon.com
“If, God forbid, something like [nuclear war] were to happen, it would lead to the end of all civilization”
Otto Warmbier’s parents seek $1 billion from North Korea, alleging torture | Fox News
North Korea must pay $501 million to Otto Warmbier’s parents, judge rules | Fox News
An American judge has ruled that Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime must pay $501 million to the parents of Otto Warmbier after their son died following his time spent in captivity there.
North Korea defector hack: Personal data of almost 1,000 leaked – BBC News
A personal computer at a resettlement centre in South Korea was found to have been infected.
Mystery hacker steals data on 1,000 North Korean defectors in South | Reuters
The personal information of nearly 1,000 North Koreans who defected to South Korea has been leaked after unknown hackers got access to a resettlement agency’s database, the South Korean Unification Ministry said on Friday.


How arrest of Chinese ‘princess’ exposes regime’s world domination plot | Fox News
Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 6 led to immediate blowback.
Huawei is a spy agency of the Chinese Communist Party, expert says | Daily Mail Online
‘Huawei is much more than an innocent manufacturer of smartphones. It is a spy agency of the Chinese Communist Party,’ China expert Steven W. Mosher said in a Saturday column.
‘Malign way’: Britain’s Defence Secretary sounds warning on Huawei
May’s government has singled out Australia and the United States as leading against the threat the Chinese network equipment company poses.
China accuses Britain, E.U. of hypocrisy over Canada detentions after Huawei exec’s arrest
China accused Britain and the European Union of hypocrisy on Monday for expressing concern about China’s detention of two Canadian citizens but not a senior Chinese executive arrested in Canada.
Canada demands China release Canadians for the first time | Fox News
Canada moved away from diplomatic caution on Friday and made is first formal demand for China to immediately release two Canadians who have been detained in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a top Chinese tech executive.
China to try Canadian on drugs charges: state media | Canada News | Al Jazeera
Detention of fourth Canadian in recent weeks could further test already difficult relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
Trump eyes ban of Huawei, ZTE products: report | TheHill
President Trump is weighing an executive order to be signed as early as January to declare a national emergency and ban U.S.


White House advisor Navarro says ‘China is trying to steal our future’
President Trump’s hard-line advisor Peter Navarro added to doubts of a U.S.-China trade agreement happening in the next three months.
Tariffs Should Target Chinese Lawlessness, Not the Trade Deficit – WSJ
Beijing’s strategy is to steal technology from American and other Western companies.
China to Step Up Efforts to Halt Economic Downturn Amid Trade Tussle – WSJ
China will boost efforts to arrest an economic downturn while easing off its push to restrain debt, in a shift that could help Beijing withstand short-term shocks from the trade conflict with Washington but add to longer-term risks.
China calls US arrogant and selfish after hacking indictment – ABC News
The U.S. has charged two Chinese citizens with stealing trade secrets.
What happens next after China’s alleged theft of American business secrets
The indictment has sparked calls for the U.S. to be more aggressive in cyberspace and take more defensive measures, with more attention likely to be cast on machine learning techniques meant to stifle Beijing’s tactics.
China denies ‘slanderous’ economic espionage charges from U.S., allies | Reuters
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday it resolutely opposed “slanderous” accusations from the United States and other allies criticizing China for economic espionage, urging Washington to withdraw its accusations.
China is finding new ways to hurt U.S. businesses – POLITICO
Tougher regulations, surprise inspections and other bureaucratic moves are hampering U.S. exports amid the trade war.
How China is finding new ways to use red tape to tie up US firms during the trade war | South China Morning Post
As well as tariffs, US companies are facing unofficial barriers such as surprise inspections, increased costs and extra bureaucratic hurdles


China’s Jiangnan shipyard grows radically in size amid military buildup – CNN
One of China’s most prominent harbors for naval shipbuilding has rapidly expanded in the past decade, new satellite images show, amid a massive military modernization push by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Chinese spy chief given life sentence for helping fugitive tycoon | World | The Times
A former Chinese spy chief has been sentenced to life in prison after a secret trial found him guilty of corruption charges centering around his support of an exiled tycoon.Ma Jian, 62, formerly a vice minister of state security, did not contest the verdict as it was read out in a court in the nor
China says discusses with Pakistan ‘new changes’ in Afghanistan situation | Reuters
Senior Chinese and Pakistani diplomats discussed on Tuesday “new changes” to the situation in Afghanistan, China’s foreign ministry said, amid plans by the United States to withdraw about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops based in the country.
Wang Quanzhang: Beijing puts human rights lawyer on trial day after Christmas – CNN
A high-profile Chinese human rights lawyer detained more than three years ago faced trial Wednesday, the latest prominent detainee sent to court by the ruling Communist Party over the Christmas period.
Chinese Lawyer’s Secret Trial Spotlights Murky Justice System – Bloomberg
China’s closed-door trial of a prominent rights lawyer Wednesday underscores concerns about the country’s murky justice system, at a time when diplomats and foreign executives are focused on the fate of two Canadian nationals.
Poet fears for his people as China ‘Sinicizes’ religion | Fox News
Cui Haoxin is too young to remember the days of his people’s oppression under Mao Zedong.


Putin Playing Chess With Japanese Islands With Words – To Inform is to Influence
If you think Vladimir Putin and Russia are focusing only on Ukraine, the US, and Europe, think again. He’s targeting everybody. Russian President Vladimir Putin may return Japanese islands seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II, but only if the Japanese kick Americans off already existing bases on Japanese territories. That is his starting point in the negotiations. The list of American facilities in Japan is very extensive, Putin wants them all gone. In all practicality, Japan will refuse to kick out existing Americans but will not allow US bases to be established on the two islands that may be returned soon. Russia will also demand “payments” for maintaining the islands for 70 years. But Japan wants the islands back. “Abe appears to have a “two islands first” strategy, which means seeking the return of the Habomai and Shikotan islands first and leaving the remaining two for future talks.” Putin specifically cited Okinawa in his 20 December press conference. Putin cited U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture as an example over which Japan has little authority. “The Okinawa governor is opposed to some decisions related to improving and expanding the base,” he said. “But he cannot do anything about it. There have been opinion polls and protests demanding the withdrawal of this base. (But) there are plans to improve and expand it, and it is happening despite the fact that everybody is against it.” Putin apparently had in mind the controversial relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture. Land reclamation work began recently in the sea off Henoko for the new base, despite fierce opposition from the current and previous Okinawa governors. Again, Putin is pitting an American ally against the US, seeking to take advantage over an existing schism. This is where strategic communications and diplomacy overlap and Putin is seeking to push a wedge between Japan and the US. Japan’s strategic purchases of American weapons systems was also cited by Putin. Putin also showed concern over the Japanese government’s plan to purchase the U.S.-made Aegis Ashore land-based ballistic missile defense system. “We do not consider this to be defensive weapons. This is part of the U.S. strategic nuclear potential placed outside,” he said. Furthermore, Putin impugned Japan’s ‘sovereign capabilities’. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 20 cast doubts on Japan’s ability to reject establishment of U.S. military bases on islands off eastern Hokkaido if Russia were to return them to Japan. “Now, about Japan’s ability to take part in this decision-making. To us, this is an unclear, closed issue. We do not understand the level of Japan’s sovereignty in making such decisions,” Putin said in his annual year-end news conference. “We do not know what will happen after the peace treaty is concluded (and the islands are returned). But without an answer to this question, it will be very difficult to make any crucial decisions.” Putin made those remarks in response to questions from Kyodo News service on the islands and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. This is a flagrant fabrication by Putin. The US would never force an American military facility on Japan. This statement was obviously intended to infuriate Japan. Russia and Japan will be discussing the issue further in 2019. In the meantime, expect the Russian media to highlight past American problems in Japan and expound on real, hyper-inflated, and fabricated propaganda to push Japan towards abandoning American bases. </end editorial>

Foreign Policy Reports

 


 

Pioneering Spirit vessel starts laying Nord Stream pipeline in Finland – 112.international
Pioneering Spirit pipelaying vessel joined the flotilla to lay Nord Stream-2 pipeline, reads the message on the website of Nord Stream-2. The vessel will continue installation of the natural gas pipeline following pipelay vessel Solitaire, which started construction in Finland in September. Solitaire has moved to the southern part of the Swedish EEZ, where it will start construction of the 510-kilometer section there for the next few months.


Brexit Is Destroying Britain’s Constitution – Foreign Policy
Two events last week changed the Brexit game. On Monday, the European Court of Justice ruled that the United Kingdom could unilaterally cancel its decision to leave the European Union before signing a withdrawal agreement. Then on Wednesday, Conservative members of parliament called a vote of no confidence in their leader Theresa May (who leads the party as well as being prime minister)—and lost. They only mustered 117 votes to unseat her, while she secured the backing of 200 Conservative MPs. According to Tory party rules, she now can’t be challenged for another year: Instead of deposing her, they’ve given her a year of magical leading. The first development strengthened remainers, and the second gave the prime minister vital breathing space that could theoretically be used to advance their agenda. But despite the fervent hopes of remainers, nothing that happened last week makes an “exit from Brexit” more likely. Instead, Brexit compromises conceivably capable of bridging the country’s divides, such as the “Norway plus” option proposed by moderate Conservative MP Nick Boles, are now harder than ever to reach. Meanwhile, Britain is teetering more wildly than ever on the edge of an outright constitutional crisis. Britain is teetering more wildly than ever on the edge of an outright constitutional crisis. Lacking a written constitution, Britain has always relied on what we might call “alternating majoritarianism” for political stability. One party gets in and is allowed free rein to do what it wants. The fact that the British public generally has taken a dim view of parties it considered too extreme has generally forced these supposedly all-powerful majority parties away from their members’ views and toward the political center. And under Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system, centrist third parties face structural hurdles that prevent them from making headway. That system is now broken. It relied on the big Conservative and Labour parties being able to win “working majorities” that limited MPs’ ability to rebel against their party lines. There’s no point in 10 or 15 MPs rebelling when a government has a majority of 50. All it achieves is to damage the rebels’ prospects of promotion. But that system has been fatally undermined from multiple directions.
‘Damaged’ Drone Found Near Gatwick; Arrested Couple Are Freed Without Charge – The New York Times
The drone was being forensically examined, and a police chief said two people held for questioning were “no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick.”
UK police arrest man and woman over Gatwick drone disruption | Reuters
Police have arrested a man and a woman after rogue drone operators crippled London’s Gatwick Airport for three days by repeatedly flying onto the airfield, sparking a major security response.
Gatwick drones: Two arrested over flight disruption – BBC News
A man and a woman are being questioned as inquiries continue into drone use that grounded flights.
How elite SBS ‘X’ unit rescued crew of cargo ship from iron bar-wielding stowaways | Daily Mail Online
A dozen heavily armed Special Boat Service commandos abseiled from a helicopter on to a cargo ship in a daring mission to end a hostage drama in the English Channel.
British Forces Storm Cargo Ship After Stowaways Threaten Crew – The New York Times
Four people were taken into custody after the operation off the coast of southeast England. No one was injured.


German army ‘could recruit EU citizens’ – BBC News
The chief of defence says employing EU citizens is an option to fill shortages in expert posts.
German army floats plan to recruit foreigners | Reuters
Struggling to fill its ranks, Germany’s military is drawing up plans to recruit nationals from other European countries as part of a drive to beef up the armed forces.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow Won’t Even Discuss German Art Looted by Soviets in 1945 Until Sanctions End
Paul Goble Staunton, December 22 – Berlin has renewed its calls to Moscow to return art that Soviet forces seized in Germany at the end of World War II and took back to the former USSR. But Mikhail Shvydkoy, Putin’s special representative for cultural cooperation, says there is no basis for even talking about that until the sanctions regime against Russia is lifted. Moscow returned four objects earlier this year, but the German side is seeking the return of thousands of others, including Heinrich Schliemann’s Trojan horde and numerous gold items some more than a thousand years old (rg.ru/2018/12/20/shvydkoj-rasskazal-ob-obmene-kulturnymi-cennostiami-mezhdu-rf-i-germaniej.html). In the past, the Russian government has been at least willing to talk about the status of these objects, but now, it has decided to roll this issue into its campaign against Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea and stop talking altogether. Shvydkoy noted this week that when he was culture minister (2000 to 2004), there was “a lively dialogue on this theme. We discussed everything which could be returned within the framework of existing laws and what things could be returned on an exchange basis.” But there cannot be any such talks now. “For the renewal of this process,” the presidential representative said, “an atmosphere of trust, which unfortunately does not exist today is need. I speak about this with regret,” Shvydkoy added, “because relations with Germany in the area of science and culture are extremely fruitful.” But “under current conditions, when Russia is under a European sanctions regime, when there is no real atmosphere of trust between countries, to conduct such a conversation is senseless.”


How France’s ‘yellow vests’ will cause EU a huge headache in 2019 | World | News | Express.co.uk
FRANCE is considered a bastion of stability amongst European Union countries but Emmanuel Macron is scrambling to quell a growing revolt against his leadership that only threatens to continue into 2019.
Macron on brink: Yellow vest protestors prepare to MARCH ON VERSAILLES | World | News | Express.co.uk
YELLOW vest protesters are preparing to take their fight to Versailles, a symbol of French state power, in an effort to make their voices heard.
A Russian bank gave Marine Le Pen’s party a loan. Then weird things began happening. – The Washington Post
A 9.4 million-euro loan from a now-defunct bank pulled the French far right into Russia’s shadowy finance world.
What a loan to Le Pen tells us about Russian foreign influence campaigns – YouTube
Washington Post Published on Dec 27, 2018 The Post’s Paul Sonne explains how a Russian bank ended up giving a loan to French far-right politician Marine Le Pen and what happened next. Read more: https://wapo.st/2BToGU3. Subscribe to The Washington Post on YouTube: http://bit.ly/2qiJ4dy


Protesters in Hungary reject Orban’s nationalist government | Fox News
Thousands of people marched in anti-government protests Friday in Budapest, upset over labor law changes, increasing corruption and limits on academic freedom under Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government.
What Is Hungary’s ‘Slave Law,’ and Why Has It Provoked Opposition? – The New York Times
Viktor Orban’s government has faced a united opposition and unusually sustained street protests after it increased the cap for overtime to 400 hours a year.
Thousands of Hungarians join latest rally against Orban’s ‘slave law’ | World news | The Guardian
One of labour reforms allows employers to ask staff to work up to 400 hours per year of overtime


Interpol keeps despots’ dissidents close – POLITICO
Autocratic regimes are abusing the system to hunt critics abroad.
George Soros: Billionaire philanthropist the far right loves to hate – CNN
When the Financial Times pronounced Wednesday that the philanthropist George Soros was its “Person of the Year,” Twitter ignited with partisan congratulation and animosity.
Venezuela Navy Interrupts Oil Exploration Off Guyana – The New York Times
A ship contracted by Exxon Mobil suspended operations after it was approached by a Venezuelan navy vessel in a renewal of a century-old border dispute.

Capability / Strategy / History Publications

 


 

Introducing China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter (And All Of Its Deadly Missiles) | The National Interest
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force made waves at the 2018 Zhuhai Airshow with the latest showing of their flagship fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20.
Heading into F-35 operational tests, threat of delays loom
The F-35 operational test plan doesn’t leave much margin for re-testing or flight cancellations.
Israeli-built wings for new F-35 will make jets invisible to radar | The Jerusalem post
The production line, which will last around 20 years, is expected to generate revenues of over $2.5 billion during the next 10-15 years.
US Air Force Is Waiting a Year for Parts That It Could 3D-Print – Defense One
Its chief weapons buyer is mulling licensing arrangements to allow third-party manufacture.
Boeing Is Pitching the US a New F-15, Using Its Super Hornet Game Plan – Defense One
The company convinced the Trump administration to buy advanced F/A-18 jets. Can it do the same with the the F-15?
Lockheed Pitching F-22/F-35 Hybrid to US Air Force – Defense One
With a Raptor’s body and the JSF’s brain, the new jet would aim to answer the next decade’s Russian and Chinese threats.
Check Out This Shot Of An F-35 Flying Through The Star Wars Canyon Generating Shock Wave Light Distortion – The Aviationist
Last week, some F-35A Lightning jets out of Edwards Air Force Base, California, were using the canyon for some advanced training. This shot, was taken during that training. Although Death Valley and the immediate vicinity are famous for being dry, arid desert, there is enough moisture left in the air to be squeezed out by the aerodynamics of some aircraft to form vapor such as the vortices from this Lightning II’s wingtips. While the jet wash and heat wave from the exhaust are obvious and common in many photographs, there is also a subtle change. There is distortion at the belly of the fighter (right side of the photo) which almost appears to be that of a camera being zoomed out during the shot. However, if this were the case, the effect would be seen throughout the entire image which it’s not. In this case, the distortion that our friend and renowned photographer Jim Mumaw caught in this cool photograph is actually caused by the shock waves around the 5th generation aircraft.
This Shot Of An Aggressors F-16 In The Star Wars Canyon Shows The Difference Between Heat And Shock Wave Distortion – The Aviationist
Here’s another stunner. The image in this post was taken on Dec. 20, 2018, by photographer Christopher McGreevy and shows an Aggressors F-16C (AF86-0299) belonging to the 64th Aggressors Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, flying through the famous Jedi Transition, aka “Star Wars Canyon”. The shot is extremely interesting especially if we compare it to the one we have posted a few days ago of an F-35A flying the same low level segment through the Panamint Valley region of Death Valley National Park.
Start of US Air Force’s light-attack plane competition pushed back until next year
Those wondering if the Air Force will start a new program of record will have to wait a little longer.
Why DARPA thinks air assets will be the last to get laser weapons
Issues related to weight and cooling may slow down the deployment of directed energy onto Air Force platforms.
Russia’s Carnivora is designed for a drone-eat-drone world
Russia’s new counterdrone vehicle is designed to operate in denied environments.


Project Maven Overseer Will Lead Pentagon’s New AI Center – Defense One
DOD rewards three-star with the lead on its new AI-development center.
US Army Narrows Search For Light Tank to Two Companies – Defense One
General Dynamics and BAE Systems will each build 12 prototypes of an up-to-40-ton armored vehicle.
Technology Is Making Warfare in Cities Even Deadlier – Defense One
From airports to undergrounds, new weapons and brutal tactics will make things worse for urban dwellers.
Hungary’s artillery: state of the art
Tear and oblivion – as before yesterday, one could briefly describe the artillery of our restless neighbor – Hungary. The only type of barrel arts systems is a 152-mm D-20 howitzers. There are 308 such howitzers in the lists, but only one division is in the ranks – 101th in the 25th Infantry Brigade (city of Tata). The second unit of the Hungarian SS – the 5th Infantry Brigade in Debrecen – has no artillery. Also on the lists are 65 MRZV BM-21, but they are all mothballed. Means of direct support of infantry – Fifty 82-mm automatic mortars “Vasylok” (Magyars made them under license). I did not receive any information regarding the plans for upgrading Hungary’s artillery park. But, from yesterday everything has changed – the Ministry of Defense of Hungary signed a contract with the concern “Kraus-Maffia Vehmann” for the supply of a large batch of armored vehicles. Along with the 44 new Leopard 2A7 + tanks and 12 used Leopard 2a4 (which are planned to be used only as training), our troubled neighbor buys and 24 SAU PzH 2000 – new, and not with a second-hand, such as Lithuania or Croatia.


Navy Clunkers: Introducing the 5 Worst Aircraft Carriers Ever to Sail | The National Interest
Carriers as clunkers. 
The German sub sank 76 years ago. Now its story is being revealed in eerie fluorescent detail. – The Washington Post
A laser scan reveals a sunken German U-boat off the Outer Banks in eerie fluorescent detail. Resting on the bottom in 700 feet of water, it entombs dozens of German sailors.
Nazi Commando Otto Skorzeny Continued His Life of Intrigue After the War | War Is Boring

IW/EW/IO/Cyber/Social Media Reports

 


 

How the European Union was stymied by phishing
Chinese government hackers using basic phishing methods were able to infiltrate the European Union’s communication network, possibly for years, according to a Dec. 19 report by Area 1.
Report Describes Thousands of Hacked EU Diplomatic Cables
Messages included discussion of Trump administration policies and its relations with the EU and China
Hackers Infiltrated Thousands of EU Diplomatic Cables Over Several Years: Report – The Daily Beast
Secret communications reveal concerns about Trump, Russia, China, and Iran.
Hacked European Cables Reveal a World of Anxiety About Trump, Russia and Iran – The New York Times
The cables quote China’s president calling America a bully, show concerns about Russian nuclear weapons in Crimea and detail the White House walking back President Trump’s words.
Audit finds cyber vulnerabilities in US missile defense system
A Defense Department Inspector General report raises more questions about the military’s shoddy cybersecurity.
How the new acting Pentagon chief views cybersecurity
Comments from Patrick Shanahan, who will take over as acting secretary of defense Jan. 1, give insight into his cybersecurity priorities amid growing national security challenges.


Passive Information Warfare, A Prime Example – To Inform is to Influence
I read the below Censor.net.ua article and was rocked, shaken to my core.  1/3 of Russians believe Russia can fight with a neighboring country, I interpret that to mean Ukraine. 1/5 believe Russia is ready to fight the US or NATO.   I am fairly hawkish, which actually isn’t that much, but this is practically the polar…
Alliance for Securing Democracy: 21 December 2018 Securing Democracy Dispatch – To Inform is to Influence
Dear readers, we will resume our newsletter after the holidays, on January 7, 2019. As the year comes to a close, please consider donating to the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD). Your financial support is critical to our efforts to defend democracy around the world against authoritarian interference. We wish you a happy and safe holiday break and New Year.
U.S. ambassador accuses a leading German newsmagazine of anti-American bias
The U.S. ambassador to Germany accused Der Spiegel newsmagazine of anti-American bias after a reporter admitted to fabricating details in stories.
Writer touted by CNN as ‘Journalist of the Year’ forced to resign for fabricating stories | Fox News
The German magazine Der Spiegel revealed Wednesday that one of its top award-winning journalists fabricated many of his articles, inventing characters, sources, and their quotes “on a grand scale” for many years.
Der Spiegel Fires Award-Winning Writer, Citing Fabrication on ‘Grand Scale’ – The New York Times
Claas Relotius, a writer for the German magazine Der Spiegel, was fired after he admitted inventing quotations and characters in at least 14 articles.
Der Spiegel ‘fake news’ reporter could face charges – BBC News
Der Spiegel is to file a criminal complaint against its rogue reporter Claas Relotius.

US Domestic Policy Reports

 


 

Trump Declares End To U.S. ‘Policeman’ Role During Surprise Visits To Troops In Iraq, Germany
President Donald Trump greeted U.S. troops at an armed forces base in Germany after making an unannounced visit to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, his first presidential visit to service members in a troubled region.
Trump pulling out of Syria. Might Afghanistan be next?
Against the advice of many in his own administration, President Donald Trump is pulling U.S. troops out of Syria. Could a withdrawal from Afghanistan be far behind?
Mattis is out, and Blackwater is back: ‘We are coming’
Mattis’ resignation may revive plans to privatize the Afghanistan war.
Trump laments media focus on pullouts from ‘Never Ending Wars’ in Syria, Afghanistan | Fox News
Just days after signing a sweeping criminal justice reform package and an $867 billion farm bill into law, President Trump on Sunday lamented the intense media focus on his decision to remove troops from what he called the “Never Ending Wars” in Syria and Afghanistan.


READ: James Mattis’ resignation letter – CNNPolitics
Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned Thursday, a day after President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw troops from Syria became public.
Read Defense Secretary Mattis’ resignation letter
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will step down at the end of February.
Jim Mattis’ resignation letter is an absolutely stunning rejection of Trumpism – CNNPolitics
Lots of Cabinet officials — and I mean LOTS — have either resigned or been fired by President Donald Trump in his first 20 months in office. But no one has quit in quite the same way as Defense Secretary James Mattis did Thursday night.
Mattis was ‘livid’ before Trump meeting – YouTube
CNN Published on Dec 20, 2018 Two defense officials tell CNN that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis went to the White House to discuss Syria, and that Mattis was upset and “livid” after reading reports this morning about US local allies in Syria being targeted by Turkey following a withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
U.S. Defense Chief Mattis To Leave, Says Views Not Fully ‘Aligned’ With Trump
U.S. Defense Chief Jim Mattis will be leaving his post early next year, saying in his resignation letter that his views are not fully “aligned” with President Donald Trump and citing policies t…
Mattis Resigns Over Disagreements with Trump – Defense One
In two-page resignation letter, defense secretary cites need to treat allies with respect, potential adversaries with resolve.
Mattis out: Defense secretary says his views no longer aligned with Trump
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will retire
Trump takes parting shot at Mattis and his view of U.S. allies | Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday criticized departing Defense Secretary James Mattis and his view of alliances, saying the Pentagon chief failed to recognize the true costs of America’s military support around the world.
Trump: I gave Mattis ‘second chance’ – POLITICO
The president also appeared to jab back at his Defense secretary’s resignation letter.
Five possible successors to Mattis | TheHill
President Trump may find it difficult to replace Defense Secretary James Mattis following the Pentagon chief’s resignation this past week.
Trump Kicks Mattis Out Early, Names Shanahan Acting Defense Secretary – Defense One
The abrupt decision comes amid a growing crescendo of criticism of the president’s snap decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
Trump, Angry Over Mattis’s Rebuke, Removes Him 2 Months Early – The New York Times
Mr. Trump, in a Twitter post, said that Patrick M. Shanahan, Mr. Mattis’s deputy, would serve as the acting defense secretary.
Lawmakers tell Trump his decision to pull troops out of Syria is a ‘costly mistake’
Both Republicans and Democrats criticized the move, saying it ignores advice from military and intelligence leaders.
Trump move to pull US troops from Syria opens way to turmoil
The United States’ Kurdish allies had been gearing up for a new fight for weeks, digging trenches and defense tunnels in northeastern Syria in preparation for an offensive Turkey’s president warned was imminent.
James Mattis exit offers chance for ‘Trump do-over’ at Pentagon, insiders say – Washington Times
One group of Washington operatives not sorry to see Defense Secretary James Mattis leave is the Trump supporters who feel locked out of Pentagon jobs.
The Pentagon’s Getting More Secretive — and It’s Hurting National Security – Defense One
Trump’s DoD is rolling back the kind of basic transparency that prevents waste and fraud, enables Congressional oversight, and promotes public trust.
Trump: ‘Everybody and his uncle’ and ‘her aunt’ wants Matiss’s job | TheHill
President Trump said Wednesday that “everyone and their uncle” wants outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis’s job, before quickly adding “and her aunt” so he “won’t be criticized.”
After Mattis, Trump needs a very different kind of defense secretary | Fox News
James Mattis was an outstanding combat commander, but the president needs a strong advocate for his policies to be the next defense secretary.
The Loyal Soldier Reached His Limit | RealClearPolitics
During the past year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has sometimes seemed to be running the Pentagon with clenched teeth. He kept quiet when President Trump made decisions that Mattis thought were…
Why Donald Trump Needs a Realist Secretary of Defense | The National Interest
The president needs help uprooting a Washington foreign-policy establishment that has mindlessly kept the U.S. military involved in unnecessary wars across the globe. The next top military leader must share this goal.
Mattis sends last Christmas message to troops before resigning | Fox News
Outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis wished a Merry Christmas “to all you lads and lasses holding the line in 2018” in one of his final messages to America’s troops before his departure from the Trump administration.
Mattis was a deeply flawed defense secretary – The Washington Post
The recent fawning evaluations are hard to square with his record.
China ‘appreciated’ outgoing US defense chief Mattis – CNN
China’s Defense Ministry has praised outgoing US Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying Beijing “highly appreciated” his attitude during his time in the post.
How Patrick Shanahan, the New Acting Secretary of Defense, Won Over the White House | The New Yorker
Nicholas Schmidle writes about how Patrick Shanahan, the New Acting Secretary of Defense, won the confidence of President Donald Trump. Last February, Patrick Shanahan, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who will take over the Pentagon on January 1st, following James Mattis’s resignation and rebuke of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, flew across the country to deliver the keynote address at a defense conference in San Diego. Shanahan, who has a broad forehead and a patch of butterscotch hair, was a longtime Boeing executive, and he was wearing a limited-edition Breitling watch that he’d received for helping the company get its 787 Dreamliner into production. “It’s good to be able to rub elbows with industry,” he said. “Spent thirty years doing that.” Shanahan, whom I accompanied on the trip, was not among Mattis’s top picks for deputy. He was initially considered to run the Pentagon office in charge of acquisition, technology, and logistics. “That’s his strength—procurement,” a former senior defense official told me. “It’s what he knows.” Foreign policy? Not so much. At Shanahan’s confirmation hearing, Senator John McCain scolded him for first giving a mush-mouthed answer as to whether he supported arming Ukraine with lethal defense weapons. “Inexplicably, you said you’d have to look at the issue,” McCain said. “Not a good beginning…. Do not do that again.” Shanahan’s confirmation ultimately went through, however, and he and Mattis forged a partnership. “He wanted me to be the down-and-in person,” Shanahan said to the crowd in San Diego. “He’s the up and out. So he does White House, military operations, and all the interactions with the allies and partners.” (Or the stuff “to prevent World War III,” as Bob Woodward quotes Mattis saying in “Fear,” his book about the Trump White House.) Mattis asked Shanahan to reform how the department conducted business while also leading a “modernization” initiative. Summarizing his leadership philosophy, Shanahan said, “You have to work on the business and not in the business.” But reforming the Pentagon proved daunting. In San Diego, Shanahan compared the task to “breaking the Gordian knot” and evoked the metaphor’s origin. “Many of you know the legend of Alexander the Great. I’m not Alexander the Great,” he said. “Maybe Secretary Mattis is. But I think the metaphor applies to the Pentagon. If we want to solve problems there, we need to break them into pieces to make them more manageable.” And so Shanahan fulfilled his duties, not so much Mattis’s understudy or strategist as his accountant.
Patrick Shanahan: Who is the defense contractor Trump picked to take over the Pentagon? | Salon.com
Is the fox guarding the henhouse?


Wake up. America’s military isn’t invincible. – The Washington Post
As we sit too idly by, Russia, China and North Korea are racing to modernize their forces.
The Divide Between Silicon Valley and Washington Is a National-Security Threat – To Inform is to Influence
Civil-military gap, knowledge gap, training gap, memory gap …. and the national security imperative of closing them. Closing the gap between technology leaders and policy makers will require a radically different approach from the defense establishment. DEC 13, 2018   Amy Zegart, Contributing editor at The Atlantic  Kevin Childs, Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force…
The U.S. Air Force Is Headed for a Crash: Too Many Old Planes, Not Enough Cash
Most people replace their cars every six years, but the Air Force might hold on to a fighter jet for nearly half a century.
Pentagon To Request $1.2 Billion for New Boeing F-15 Fighters | Bloomberg Government
Roxana Tiron Plans will be revealed in official budget request on Feb. 4 Decision said to come from Pentagon leaders, not Air Force The Pentagon is planning to request $1.2 billion for 12 Boeing F-15 X fighter aircraft—the newest version of the decades-old jet—in its fiscal year 2020 budget request, according to two people familiar with the decision who asked not to be named because it’s not yet official. The decision to buy the newest kind of F-15 aircraft, so far only sold to U.S. allies, comes from the Pentagon’s top leadership, including with some prodding from Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan, and not the Air Force, which would be flying the planes, the two people said. Shanahan, a former Boeing Co. executive, recused himself from any decisions related to Boeing when he was confirmed by the Senate. But an administration official, who asked not to be named, said Shanahan doesn’t make decisions on Boeing programs. The official wouldn’t confirm the budget request, and none of the budget decisions are final until the Pentagon submits its request on Feb. 4. The reason for buying the F-15X aircraft would be to start replacing the F-15 C variants for the Air National Guard, which have become to expensive to overhaul, one of the people said. Production of the C variants ended in the 1980, said Richard Aboulafia, an expert on military aircraft and vice president of the Teal Group, a consulting firm. Boeing builds the F-15 in St. Louis, where it also builds the Super Hornets, an aircraft that has benefited from congressional largesse over the last several years. Boeing has kept the F-15 design current, said Aboulafia. Class By Itself “They have been able to do that because of sales to Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that the planes have new systems and sensors. “The F-15 is kind of in a class by itself in range and performance,” Aboulafia said. It’s faster, carries a lot more and can go a lot farther than the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the newest and the most expensive Pentagon program, The F-35 is, however, stealthy, which the F-15 isn’t, Aboulafia said. The decision to buy the newest version of the F-15 may not sit well with F-35 supporters within the Pentagon and in Congress because it would essentially compete for funding. F-15C, -D, and -E models participated in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, according to information on Boeing’s website. The F-15 notched 32 of 36 U.S. Air Force air-to-air victories and struck Iraqi ground targets. F-15s served in Bosnia in 1994 and downed three Serbian MiG-29 fighters in Operation Allied Force in 1999. They enforced no-fly zones over Iraq in the 1990s. Eagles also hit Afghan targets in Operation Enduring Freedom, and the F-15E version performed air-to-ground missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Boeing declined to comment on Pentagon budget deliberations.
Deptula: If the US pulls troops out of Syria, ISIS will declare victory and have more opportunity to recruit members | Fox News Video
Retired Airforce Lt. General David Deptula says the U.S. mission in Syria was to prevent ISIS from having a safe place to grow and they have not been defeated yet.
How Much Will the Space Force Cost? | Center for Strategic and International Studies
The proposed creation of a new military service for space, known as the Space Force, is likely to be a hotly debated issue in the FY 2020 legislative cycle. One of the central questions about this proposal is how much it will cost and what the overall size and scope of the Space Force will be. This brief provides rough estimates for the number of military and civilian personnel, the number and locations of bases, the budget lines that would transfer to the new organization, and the additional personnel and headquarters organization that would be needed for the new military service.
Will the Space Force sit under the Department of the Air Force? The Pentagon finally has an answer.
President Donald Trump has been briefed on the way forward.
Trump’s new Space Force to reside under Department of the Air Force
The new service will be overseen by the newly created undersecretary of the Air Force for the Space Force and a Space Force chief of staff, who will sit on the Joint Chiefs.
Trump plans to create unified US Space Command
The move is separate from Trump’s goal of creating a
U.S. Air Force releases details of large-scale Joint Forcible Entry exercise – Defence Blog
The U.S. Air Force released details of this year large-scale airdrop and land mobility exercise, called the Joint Forcible Entry. The Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) exercise is an annual large-scale airdrop and land mobility mission that simulates a contested battlefield scenario as a way of training units for the dangerous airdrop situations that can occur while deployed. The massive aerial formation consists of more than 99 aircraft, including C-130 Hercules, C-130 J’s, and C-17 Globemasters, from all over the country. The planes meet up in the air at different points, dropping scores of paratroopers and military combat equipment over a drop zone near Nellis. “The Joint Forcible Entry is one of the most important capabilities the United States has within its armed forces,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Reich, the director of operations for the 156th Airlift Squadron of the 145th Airlift Wing. “It’s also one of the most difficult and complicated, [as it] consists of large multi-element formations and airdrop operations, command and control integration, blue force integration, complex threat mitigation, and semi-prepared dirt runway operations.” As one of the most challenging and complex missions of the year, JFE integrates decisive action while demonstrating crisis response and global mobility. According to the U.S. Army, JFE exercises train the global response force, and demonstrate their readiness to deploy within hours and fight globally. The objective of this exercise is to integrate Army airborne and land operations, with joint air support, and special operations against an opposing enemy force.
Pentagon Needs Better System to Track Fraudulent Spending – Defense One
The incoming Congress should tie defense budgets to accounting improvements.
Civilians Are Cheaper Than Contractors for Most Defense Jobs, Internal Report Finds – Defense One
Contractors are particularly more expensive in the capital and Southeastern regions, according to a report obtained exclusively by Government Executive.
Pentagon Began Clampdown on Senior Leaders’ Public Speaking Months Ago, Memos Reveal – Defense One
DOD says it’s to save money and time. Critics say it’s to avoid conflict with the president.
The Navy’s Terrible Accident Record Is Now Hidden From Public View – Defense One
The latest incidence of a government agency quietly removing data from its website demonstrates the dangers of an ever-changing internet.


Trump will likely win reelection in 2020 | TheHill
Assuming Donald Trump runs for reelection, he is the favorite to win.
Trump Gets Into Holiday Spirit by Settling Scores on Twitter
After scrapping plans to travel to Florida because of the government shutdown caused by his demands for border wall funding.
Trump calls aides ‘f****** idiots’ as presidency risks spinning out of control | The Independent
When President Donald Trump grows frustrated with advisers during meetings, which is not an uncommon occurrence, he sits back in his chair, crosses his arms and scowls. Often he erupts. “Freaking idiots!” he calls his aides. Except he uses a more pungent word than “freaking.”
Dow plunges in worst Christmas Eve for stocks in history as Trump blames Fed
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 650 points Monday — the worst Christmas Eve trading session in the country’s history, according to experts — after eyebrow-raising comments by the treasury secretary, an escalating trade with China, and amid an economic slowdown. Stocks are negative
Castro: Trump not behaving like he’s fit for office | TheHill
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said Sunday that President Trump is “not behaving like he’s fit for office.”
Media’s ‘19th nervous breakdown,’ as Trump fulfills another campaign promise | TheHill
How many times can the news media falsely and hysterically sound the apocalypse alarm?
Trump admin to lift sanctions on firms owned by Russian oligarch Deripaska | TheHill
The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that it would lift financial sanctions on Deripaska’s aluminum company, United Co. Rusal, in 30 days after Deripaska agreed to signficantly reduce his ownership.
Trump Security Adviser To Be Sentenced For Lying About Talks With Russian Diplomat
Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing is the latest chapter in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing legal drama, a drama that has inched closer to President Donald Trump himself.
Mueller releases Flynn files showing FBI doubts over ‘lying,’ tensions over interview | Fox News
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team on Friday released key documents relating to the FBI’s questioning of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, confirming agents did not believe at the time Flynn intentionally lied to them — though he was later charged with making false statements in that interview.
Russia Investigations: Collusion Case Looks Weaker Amid Focus On Cohen : NPR
This week in the Russia investigations: Headlines and courtroom action are coming thick and fast in the final weeks of the year, but a core “collusion” case remains unproven.
Michael Flynn Biz Partner Bijan Kian Charged in Scheme to Send Cleric Back to Turkey
He is accused of trying to get cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited from the U.S. to Turkey.
Two ex-associates of Michael Flynn charged with illegal lobbying for Turkey | Fox News
Two ex-business associates of former national security adviser Michael Flynn have been charged over alleged illegal lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government in the United States and making false statements to the FBI, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.
Jonathan Turley: Judge surprises Flynn at sentencing hearing – Here’s what to expect next | Fox News
One could well understand if President Trump’s fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was a tad confused Tuesday at his sentencing hearing on his guilty plea to a single count of making false statements to federal investigators.
Michael Flynn Sentencing: Washington Owes Him an Apology – Bloomberg
One year after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, there is still no evidence that he is a traitor.
Michael Flynn’s sentencing delayed by judge after dramatic hearing for ex-national security adviser | Fox News
A federal judge delayed sentencing once again for former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday, pushing off the case after a dramatic hearing.  
Judge asks prosecutors: Could Flynn have been charged with treason? – YouTube
CNN Published on Dec 18, 2018 President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn expected to be sentenced Tuesday by a federal judge. But after almost two dramatic hours in a courtroom discussing his crimes, he asked to postpone his sentencing for several months so he can have more of an opportunity to cooperate in federal investigations and attempt to mitigate the judge’s disgust with his actions.
Two ex-business associates of Michael Flynn charged in plot centered on Turkish cleric – ABC News
Former Michael Flynn associates Bijan Kian and Kamil Alptekin are accused of illegally lobbying for the Turkey government to expel political rival Fethullah Gulen.
Former business associate pleaded not guilty – CNNPolitics
A former business associate of ex-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn who was indicted by the Justice Department on charges of trying to influence American politicians to seek the extradition of a Turkish cleric pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Michael Flynn sentencing delayed: Why Judge Sullivan has leeway – The Washington Post
A federal judge rejected Mueller’s sentence recommendation.
Trump attorney general choice, William Barr, on Mueller probe: Report
U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, William Barr, said in a memo earlier this year that part of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is “fatally misconceived,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Trump’s Attorney General Pick Criticized an Aspect of Mueller Probe in Memo to Justice Department – WSJ
William Barr, President Trump’s attorney general pick, has criticized Robert Mueller’s inquiry into potential obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump, saying in a June memo to the Justice Department that it is based on a “fatally misconceived” theory.
BuzzFeed Wins Defamation Lawsuit Filed by Executive Named in Trump Dossier – The New York Times
A federal judge ruled in favor of the news site, which took a risk in publishing the unverified document on alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Federal judge deals setback to BuzzFeed in Russia dossier lawsuit – POLITICO
The judge that Aleksej Gubarev is not a public figure for purposes of the defamation suit he filed last year.
Rusal Names New Chairman As Part Of Deal To End U.S. Sanctions
Russian aluminum giant Rusal says Jean-Pierre Thomas has been elected by the board of directors as the company’s new chairman as part of restructuring moves made in exchange for the lifting of U….