Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Russia / Strategy Ad Hoc Media Update (64)


Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Updates on Russian capabilities, and the Whelan hostage affair, and an abundance of reports on Russia’s ongoing descent. Many reports on the expected annexation of Belarus. Ukraine updates dominated by the strategic situation, and some interesting reports on new capabilities. Syria reports dominated by planned US departure. DPRK reports echo preceding weeks. Some unusually brazen threats by a serving PLA General. Many reports on the discussions between Japan and Russia on the Kuriles. Interesting developments in Europe. Some capability and history updates. Very interesting reports on Facebook and fake news. US domestic reports dominated by Gen Mattis departure, and Russia investigation.


NATO / EU / Russia Reports


New in 2019: Air Force looks for new bomb designs to fight Russia and China

A growing cohort of Air Force researchers is arguing that the service needs to undergo a munitions revolution if its to take on a peer-level adversary in open conflict.
UAWire – Belgium reviews use of smartphones by military because of Russian espionage
Belgium has restricted the use of smartphones in the army because of treat of espionage from the Russian Federation, reported by the Belgian …
Latvians Divided Over Release Of KGB Files
The Latvian National Archives has released the first batch of files from the the former Soviet secret police, the KGB. Some Latvians have welcomed the release, hoping it will shed light on the country’s dark past. But others fear some individuals could be falsely labeled as former KGB collaborators.
Radioactive Russian propaganda. How does it work in Latvian society? – To Inform is to Influence
This is a fairly good but also fairly shallow Target Audience Analysis (TAA) of Latvia. What works in Latvia may not work elsewhere because of the unique environment within Latvia. A real TAA would much more detailed, but that’s a subject for another blog. I wish I could read the entire report.  </end editorial> Сигита…
How To Stop Russian Aggression – To Inform is to Influence
Here are some of the tools used at the national level to curb, control, and ease aggressive action by Russia. These are good – but Russia, under Putin, appears to scoff at these tactics. Not offered is undermining Russian perception of power at the UN with the threat of removing Russia from the UN Security Council. It is unprecedented and would be highly effective. Russia often does not acknowledge the World Court’s decisions, so using suits brought there may or may not be effective, but it should be worth a try. Repeatedly and often. Russia might also stop their irritating lawfare suits filed against the West. Russia appears to be using covert and clandestine agents increasingly. More counterintelligence should be brought to bear on their activities, stifling both their collection and offensive activities. Increasing pressure on them should also be an option, limiting their freedom to act. Increasing pressure on Russia via cyber means should also be considered. Russia feels free to unilaterally infiltrate and steal intellectual property from others. Russian networks could be infiltrated and targeted and held hostage. Intellectual property could have macro-warloads attached and the perpetrators punished. Russia is increasingly turning to bitcoin, their bitcoin generators and storage devices could be reduced to nothingness. Every day should result in another restriction placed on Russia. Every part of every Western government should be synchronized, coordinated, and launched at reducing Russia’s aggressive compulsion. Russia can be stopped but the West needs to be willing to use new tools in new ways and continue increasing pressure. Simultaneously, the West should be in an active information war with Russia. Every false accusation, every false utterance, fake news from RT, Sputnik, and RIA Novosti should be exposed as a lie. Every fake accusation and statement by Putin, Lavrov, Peskov, and Zakharova should be evaluated and rated with a Pinnochio’s nose. There is no beating Russia into submission in the information realm, but they can be exposed, named, and shamed. </end editorial>
Russia Has Declared An Information War On The West, We Should React Proportionately – To Inform is to Influence
There is an attention-grabbing headline in the article below, but in the current legal system, there is no such thing as a ‘declaration of an information war’. Dr. Miller’s focus and his declaration are pure and should be true. I agree that we are in the middle of an information war that has actually been announced by several Russian leaders, but the threat to our national security has not yet been publicly declared. The information war being waged by Russia against the West undermines our democratic process, reduces our confidence in our government, and, as in this article, has directly undermined our faith in our health system. Dr. Miller stops short of one very damning accusation, however. He does not connect Russia’s anti-vaccine efforts to any deaths as a result of the anti-vaccine campaign in the United States. That would do two things. The Anti-Vax forces would be declared a threat to the US health care system and the connection to a death would be enough to suppress their Anti-Vax activities. The second should be a declaration by the US against Russia, that the information war waged by Russia has resulted in deaths. Currently, we have established that the Russian information war against the US and the West does present a threat to security, especially national security in several countries. Undermines the Democratic process, advertising on Facebook, for instance, may have altered the outcome of the 2016 elections Decreases confidence in the democratic election process Decreases confidence in the health care system Created division in military alliances Contributed (may have caused) Britain to leave the EU, causing a schism within an existing alliance Created animosity in NATO to support or not support Ukraine This list could extend for another page or two, but combined with physical actions like invading Crimea, invading Donbas, invading South Ossetia, and invading Abkhazia, this should illustrate clear intent by Russia to cause damage to the United States and the West. This should be cause for a new definition for a cause for war to be declared internationally – in this case against Russia. Russia has repeatedly declared the United States “their greatest enemy”, they did not mince words. How much more do you need? </end editorial>
Russia reveals new details of ‘Poseidon’ underwater nuclear drone – Defence Blog
Russian TASS news agency has revealed some new details of ‘Poseidon’ underwater nuclear drone. The ‘Poseidon’, also known under Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6 or “Kanyon” by the U.S. intelligence community, is a new Russian strategic drone propelled by a miniaturized nuclear reactor. According to the news report, the maximum speed of the ‘Poseidon’ drone will be more than 107 kt (200 km/h), the maximum depth at which it can move is more than one kilometer. For comparison, the maximum speed of modern nuclear submarines is 32 kt, torpedoes – 48 kt. The high speed of ‘Poseidon’ will be made possible is due to supercavitation, whereby a gas bubble, which envelops the torpedo at maximum speed. This minimizes water contact with the torpedo, significantly reducing drag. Also, TASS claimed that the newest Russian underwater UAV will be impossible to attack due to the peculiarities of its maneuvering. The ‘Poseidon’ is designed to create a tsunami wave up to 500 metres (1,600 ft) tall, which would contaminate a wide area on an enemy’s coast with radioactive isotopes, as well as being immune to anti-missile defence systems such as anti-ballistic missiles, laser weapons and railguns that might disable an ICBM or a SLBM.
Russia to Deploy Precision Strike Missiles in Western Atlantic
Russia is deploying long-range, precision cruise missiles to the western Atlantic that will allow Moscow to target Washington.

Russia / Russophone Reports


Russia Charges Former U.S. Marine With Espionage; Lawyer Applies For Bail

Russia has charged a retired U.S. Marine arrested in Moscow with espionage, the Interfax news agency reported, meaning he could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
American Paul Whelan charged with espionage in Russia – The Washington Post
Russian reports say that Paul Whelan was arrested in possession of classified information.
Don’t use British citizen as political pawn, Hunt warns Kremlin | News | The Times
The government is “extremely worried” about the fate of a dual British-American citizen charged with espionage in Russia, warning that he could be used in a “diplomatic chess game”.The Times revealed last night that Paul Whelan, a former US Marine arrested in Moscow last week, was a dual US-Briti
Michigan man held for spying in Russia was frequent visitor – ABC News
Get breaking national and world news, broadcast video coverage, and exclusive interviews. Find the top news online at ABC news.
The Bizarre Case Of The Ex-Marine Accused By Russia Of Spying | HuffPost Australia
Paul Whelan has reportedly been charged with espionage. Here’s what we know about him and his case so far.
Spy or Not? American Who Loves Russia Ensnared in New Cold War – The New York Times
Paul N. Whelan, now in a Moscow prison, cut a curious figure. He traveled on Russian trains, collected tea glass holders and cultivated military contacts.
U.S. Citizen Held in Moscow Not Likely a Spy – Foreign Policy
Arrest could be retaliation for U.S. conviction of Russian national in influence operation.
Russia’s FSB Says American Detained Over Suspected Spying
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) says it has detained a U.S. citizen in Moscow over suspected spying.


Vladimir Putin Pens Letter to Donald Trump, Says They Should Talk About “Extensive Agenda” Of United States and Russia
Putin also sent letters to other world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Putin tells Trump that Moscow is open for dialog – AOL News
Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Trump in a letter on Sunday that Moscow was ready for dialogue on a “wide-ranging agenda,” the Kremlin said
Czar for Life? Russia Considers Constitution Change to Keep Putin in Power – To Inform is to Influence
Why does this not surprise me? Constitutional dictator, indeed. <\end editorial> ————-—-——— ‘If there is Putin, there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia.’ BY JEREMIAH JACQUES • JANUARY 1 Russian officials discussed the idea on December 25 of revising the nation’s Constitution in a way that would allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in…
Russian State Daily Calls Ukraine Coverage of Magnitogorsk “Sheer Heresy”, Confirmation Of State Church Merger – To Inform is to Influence
A Russian state daily newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda or kp.ru, published a story calling Ukraine’s coverage of the Magnitogorsk tragedy “sheer heresy”. Perhaps the word heresy was used to imply disgust, but the actual meaning of “heresy” is something tragically different. Heresy: belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine. Does this mean the Russian church has officially merged with the Russian government? There must be a religious facet to this situation to use the word heresy. #RussiaFail Then there is an allegation where, “the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recently singled out the 77th Brigade, describing its alleged presence in Ukraine was “totally unacceptable.” First, the British 77th Brigade, Britain’s premier psychological operations and cyber brigade is not officially deployed to Ukraine. Just because the accusation has been made, it would not be the first timeZakharova has blatantly lied to make an accusation. #RussiaFail Second, and more important, with the overwhelming presence of the Russian information warfare program, wouldn’t it just make sense for anyone and everyone to help Ukraine counter Russian propaganda, disinformation, misinformation, and fake news? “Unacceptable”, to whom? Does Zakharova expect Ukraine to just roll over? If Zakharova isn’t kvetching about everything that Ukraine does, she just wouldn’t be sticking to the script now, would she? #RussiaFail Last, much has been made of the coincidence that Putin staged bombings in apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999 to cement his standing in Russia when he assumed the presidency from Boris Yeltsin. Putin’s standing as President is more widely questioned than ever, perhaps the Magnitogorsk tragedy was staged. #RussiaFail The appearance is that Russia is casting about, flailing, to find something, anything, to use against Ukraine. Expect increasingly more brutal coverage of Ukraine by Russia through the Ukraine election in March 2019. More lies, more fabricated stories, and definitely anti-Ukraine. #RussiaFail </end editorial>
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Moscow’s Behavior after Magnitogorsk Contributing to Spread of Conspiracy Thinking, Inozemtsev Says
Paul Goble Staunton, January 3 – Suggestions by some Russians that the explosion in Magnitogorsk was a terrorist act have not been stilled by official statements that there is no evidence yet to support that given that the authorities have not levelled with the population or reported fully about what has occurred, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. Instead, likely fearful that anything officials say is unlikely to be believed, the officials have made the situation worse by take actions in that city people can observe and report but not telling the population what it is doing or why, the Moscow economist and commentator says (newizv.ru/news/politics/03-01-2019/vladislav-inozemtsev-o-magnitogorske-oschuschenie-obmana-usilivaetsya). The authorities have not talked at all about the explosion in a bus shortly after the explosion in the apartment block, an explosion which killed three additional people. Nor have they explained why, according to one report, there are now more than 100 investigators in Magnitogorsk, far more than are normally deployed for a technogenic disaster. And they have not provided the kind of coverage that counters that provided by authoritative local media. (On that, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/01/was-magnitogorsk-explosion-terrorist.html.) As a result, Inozemtsev says, “the sense of another deception is growing with each hour,” raising the question: “why is this being done?” “Some ‘experts,’” he continues, “hurried to declare that we are dealing with a provocation by the siloviki,” one that follows the scenario of 1999. “Honestly,” Inozemtsev says, “I cannot allow such a version” because one must ask against whom and for what such an action of that kind would be taken now. Mobilizing against “Islamic terrorism” isn’t sufficient. Terrorist acts do happen with frequency in many countries, as for example, recently in France. “Of course,” the commentator says, “’we do not want the situation with us to be like it is in France’ has become our latest meme. But not to want is one thing, and not to repeat errors is quite another.” “And it is quite easy to see that contemporary society is more ready to unite in response to a terrorist attack than to give in to panic or begin to be suspicious of its own government.” But that requires that the government admit that terrorism is always possible and that the population should be invited to cooperate with it to fight this plague. In the US, the slogan “If you see something, say something” is posted almost everywhere. As a result, Americans are more than ready to cooperate with their government to fight terrorism. There have been murderous acts by crazy people there in recent years, but there haven’t been any real terrorist acts in some time. “In other words,” Inozemtsev says, “I do not see anything catastrophic in saying this openly. Call on people to be vigilant. Ask for their help. Give them advice about potential suspects.” And recognize that in the world as it is with relatively open borders, the danger of a terrorist attack cannot be reduced unless the government and the people work together. “The problem is not in the possibility of a terrorist act but in the desire to say nothing when it is completely clear than no one will accuse the authorities of preparing or carrying it out.” And that is “a real problem” because it shows that “the powers that be are afraid to speak the truth to people” lest the latter reject them when they do so. “The Russian people is more rational and responsible than the Kremlin thinks,” he concludes. “It deserves the truth whatever it is,” including arguments and dialogue however difficult that may be. “And if its rulers relate to the people in that way, their authority will be significantly higher.”
Russian apartment explosion: 4 dead, 68 missing – CNN
At least four people are dead and dozens missing after an explosion in an apartment building in southern Russia, state media reported.
RFE/RL To Appeal ‘Foreign Agent’ Fine In Russian Supreme Court
RFE/RL says it will appeal to the Supreme Court of Russia to throw out a 100,000-ruble ($1,440) fine imposed in July under the country’s controversial “foreign agent” law.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: 25 Russian Jokes to End a Tough 2018
Paul Goble Staunton, December 30 – Russians have always been among the leaders of the world in telling jokes and anecdotes, not only because such stories say a great deal in a few words but because they often permit a certain amount of deniability, a requirement in the increasingly repressive times of Vladimir Putin. The current period of Putin anecdotes began in 2014 with one that has become nearly universal in Russia: A Russian goes into a drug store to buy an anti-depressant. The clerk asks him for a prescription, and the Russian replies, “Isn’t a Russian passport sufficient for that?” (republic.ru/posts/92797). This year the number of jokes and anecdotes in Russia appears to have exploded, apparently a countervailing trend to economic and political decline. Many are worth recalling because of the well-known Polish explanation of why people stop telling jokes: When times are bad, the Pole says, people tell political jokes. When times get worse, they stop. Three excellent collections of Russian jokes have appeared this week (anekdot.ru/release/anekdot/year/2018/2maximonline.ru/humor/made-in-web/_article/luchshie-anekdotyi-2018-goda/ and novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/12/26/79055-282-mema-uhodyaschego-goda). Here is a selection of 25 of the best of them to end 2018: Anti-Russian sanctions are directed against certain citizens of Russia, but our counter-sanctions are directed against all citizens of Russia except for certain ones. New President Putin has taken into consideration all the mistakes of old President Putin and in place of old prime minister Medvedev has appointed new prime minister Medvedev. The Russian prostitutes’ union has announced that it will send to deputies and officials only “the most experienced and honored” members of their profession, those who have “achieved the pre-pension age of 63.” The president has declared that Russian citizens are “ready to give life for the Fatherland.” I as a conscientious citizen am ready. I have a long list of people whose life I am ready to give for the Fatherland and I’m certain that the Fatherland will benefit.” After Putin says he can nuke New York, Lavrov telephones Shoygu and asks him to spare New York because he has a daughter there. The defense minister says that other officials have also asked him to spare various foreign cities because their children are living in them. As a result, Shoygu says, he plans to target Novgorod. After all, the defense minister says, Russia has two of them. Estonia has recalled its ambassador from the German Democratic Republic. An entire generation of Russians has grown up without the benefits of seeing a pompous Kremlin funeral. Good news and bad: Putin has spoken out against restrictions on the Internet, but “this is the very same Putin who was against raising the pension age.” Banning access to the Internet isn’t enough. Russians must be prohibited from looking out the window because what they will see there will be an offense to a great power. A state in which everyone owns a gun is a different state than one in which everyone owns a television. Trump says the Crimea is Russian because everyone speaks Russian there. Apparently he hasn’t been to Brighton Beach. Putin shows a cartoon in which Russian rockets can hit any place on earth. But even a cartoon can’t show how to defeat poverty and corruption in Russia? Do you know why the police can’t arrest criminals? Because most of them outrank the man on the beat. Doctor, don’t you recognize me? A patient asks. I’m the one who sold you your medical diploma. A government consists of people who take our money, keep part for themselves, and use the rest to create problems for us. In the future, Russians will be forced to respond to the following question: “Did you or any of your close relatives during the period of pension reform belong to the Presidential Administration, the government or any other criminal group?” Putin is asked whether it might be better to raise taxes on the oligarchs than cut pensions for the elderly. He responds that he has “already raised this possibility with the oligarchs and they are against it.” What is your nationality? A Russian resident is asked. “Why do you ask?” His interlocutor says “You’ve already answered it.” The reason there isn’t enough money for pensions is not that there aren’t enough pensioners but that there are too many billionaires. ATMs in Moscow when a customer asks for his balance respond “Hold on!” The main events of 2018 – the election of a president of Russia and the holding of an Olympics without Russians. A Russian bride is asked if she agrees to live for richer or poorer, in health or sickness until death do you part. She replies “yes, no, yes, no, no.” The Kremlin carefully monitors the situation in Kyiv. It ignores that in Voronezh, Chita and Saratov. Patriotism, Russians say, “is a precise, clear and well-argued explanation of why we must live worse than others.” Russia is experiencing a demographic crisis: the number of those who can steal continues to grow but the number who can do something useful continues to fall.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: A Baker’s Dozen of ‘Only in Russia’ Stories
Paul Goble Staunton, December 27 – One of the features of the news in the waning days of the year is the appearance of stories that might not make the cut during other, busier periods. The last few days have offered numerous stories that highlight Russian realities, with at least 13 of them being worth mention here.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Cruella de Ville, Batman and Maybe Darth Vader? Costumes Some in Russian Elite Should Wear New Year’s Eve
Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – As Russians prepare to celebrate the arrival of another year, Valeriya Chupina of the URA news agency has proposed the costumes that some members of the Russian elite should wear to New Year’s Eve parties given things they have said and done in the past 12 months (ura.news/news/1052365098). Among her suggestions for which she provides pictures are: · Olga Glatskikh, the Sverdlovsk official who scandalized Russia by saying that the authorities didn’t ask Russians to be born, could only come as Cruella de Ville. · Opposition figure Aleksey Navalny, Chupina suggests, should dress as Batman. · Duma deputy Vera Ganzya who complained of hardships because she is forced to live on only 380,000 rubles (5600 US dollars) a month could come as Scrooge McDuck. · Former KPRF presidential candidate Pavel Grudilin would be best as one of the pirates of the Caribbean, where he has some of his money stashed. · Irina Yarovaya, the Duma deputy who wants to ban everything, should be dressed as the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. · Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space program, could be dressed as a spaceman given his plans to send those who design rockets into the void. · And Saratov minister Natalya Sokolova who said Russians could easily survive on 3500 rubles (50 US dollars) a month could only appear as Alice in Wonderland herself. Chuprina did not suggest a costume for Vladimir Putin: that could have landed her in jail. But those of us beyond the Russian borders can easily imagine that he should dress as Darth Vader, Ivan the Terrible, or Stalin – or perhaps in the best “hybrid” tradition of combining disparate elements from the past, in a costume no one would recognize with elements of all three.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Collectivism of Russians is a Myth, Sergey Medvedev Says
Paul Goble Staunton, January 3 – One of the most frequent claims of Russian nationalists is that the Russians are collectivist in nature, a view that is also one of the most widely accepted axioms of analysts of Russian society past and present. But Sergey Medvedev, a historian and commentator, says that the entire notion of the collectivism of Russians is a myth. In the course of a roundtable discussion at Radio Liberty he chaired (svoboda.org/a/29686963.html), Medvedev made the following points in support of his view: · First, “polls show that collectivism, ‘communalism,’ and ‘communality’ of Russians are a myth and that in fact Russians are among the greatest individualists in the world.” · Second, Russians “do not believe in collective action, often are not capable of reaching agreement with each other, and prefer to solve problems individually.” · Third, “the individualism of Russians is manifest in their low level of trust and the absence of altruism.” · Fourth, “the communalism characteristic of the Russian people in the past was suppressed by collectivization and the ensuing actions of the Soviet authorities.” · And fifth, “in recent times, there has arisen a certain demand for collective action and voluntarism but for this to happen are needed institutions and social structures” which are lacking. Those who want to argue that Russians are collectivist in nature must present evidence that contradicts all or most of these points. That is something they have not done and, in Medvedev’s view, cannot do because Russians are not as those people imagine but something quite different – and that must be taken into account by both analysts and activists.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Circassian Repatriants from Syria Ask Putin for Equal Treatment with Ukrainians in Russia
Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – Because the Duma has given Vladimir Putin the power to offer accelerated Russian citizenship to immigrants, Circassians who have fled war-torn Syria to their historical homeland in the North Caucasus have called on the Kremlin leader to give them the same rights he has already given ethnic Ukrainians who have fled their war-torn country. Putin is unlikely to do so because any additional return of Circassians to the North Caucasus could shift the ethnic balance there in ways unfavorable to Russian control, and he is likely to be justified in the eyes of many because the Circassians from Syria seldom know Russian while the Ukrainians who came fled to Russia typically do or soon learn it. Nonetheless, the way in which the Circassians are invoking the ways Moscow has been treating Ukrainians is yet another indication of the ways in which the Russian government finds itself trapped: if it treats everyone the same, it creates problems for itself now; but if it treats groups differently, it creates other and potentially larger problems in time. On December 25, the International Circassian Association appealed to Putin to include Circassians from Syria among the foreign groups having the right for obtaining Russian citizenship in an accelerated way. (Moscow first offered this right to Ukrainian residents who came to Russia in 2014.) (kommersant.ru/doc/3844097). Ukrainians in Russia can now obtain Russian citizenship almost immediately without having to wait the five to seven years normally required. That gives them access to a variety of benefits, such as maternal capital and government jobs, those without such status do not have. The 2,000 Circassians from Syria in the North Caucasus want the same rights, the ICA says. The Syrian Circassians are in an even worse plight than the Ukrainians because under Syrian law, their foreign passports have only a short period of validity; and those who carry them must return to Syria to renew them. That is expensive and difficult and those without valid passports become stateless, a category in Russia with even fewer rights. A week before the ICA made its appeal, the Duma voted to give Putin the right to decide which categories of foreigners could be offered accelerated path to citizenship. (The arrangements for Ukrainians were made without such a legal foundation.) Putin has signed the law; and the ICA feels that the time has come for Moscow to give Circassians this opportunity. Because the Russian government has not done so before, the number of Circassians in Syria seeking to return has fallen to a handful in recent months, leaving that community which arose following the Russian expulsion of Circassians to the Ottoman Empire in 1864 at increasing risk (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/329784/).
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russians More Conscious of Nationality Now than in 2013 but Less Likely to Demand Special Rights or Favor Restricting Immigration, Polls Show
Paul Goble Staunton, December 29 – Surveys conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation find that 82 percent of Russian residents say they are ethnic Russians, while five percent say they are Tatars, and two percent Ukrainians; but the most interesting findings concern Russian attitudes toward nationality, special rights for the majority nation, and restrictions on immigration. On those issues, the POF polls report significant changes since 2013. Perhaps most important, the number of residents of the Russian Federation who say they are always aware of their national identities has gone up from 60 percent five years ago to 80 percent now, likely a response to propaganda about Russia’s war in Ukraine and standoff with the West (actualcomment.ru/rossiyane-stali-bolee-tolerantnymi-1812291056.html). But if Russians have become more ethnically conscious over this period, the foundation stresses, they have less supportive of discrimination on ethnic lines. The share saying ethnic Russians should have special rights has fallen from 31 to 23 percent, those saying everyone should have equal rights rose from 63 to 71 percent, and those saying Russia benefits from multi-nationality was up from 44 to 50 percent. Those favoring restrictions on immigration from some countries meanwhile fell from 63 to 45 percent, while those opposing any restrictions on immigration rose from 27 to 43 percent. Russian media are playing these results up as an indication that Russians are becoming more tolerant. That is possible, but it is also possible that these results as so often the case reflect Russians’ saying what the authorities want them to say – and right now promoting the idea that Russians are ethnically tolerant fits with the Kremlin’s program.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Opposition Still Views Putin Regime like Dr. Watson Rather than like Sherlock Holmes, Sedov Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 28 – One of the most common mistake of opposition commentators in Russia is their effort to understand the Putin regime using their own logic, something that simply doesn’t work, for as Sherlock Holmes demonstrated, he could succeed in countering Professor Moriarity only by thinking like him, Yegor Sedov says. That ability, which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle highlighted in all his stories about the famous investigator, set Holmes apart from Dr. Waterson, who could think deductively but who could never manage to think like his most clever opponent, according to the Moscow commentator (blog.newsru.com/article/28dec2018/arhaika). The opposition in Russia must recognize that the people in power are not like them, Sedov says. Instead, they are “the results of an unnatural selection, the choice not of the best but of the worse, of people with morally outdated ways of thinking. Archaic specimens,” who can’t be understood without reference to “rites, shamanistic practices, egregory, and magic.” One cannot understand Putin or his regime without these and shouldn’t even try, the commentator says, because “it is not so important whether you believe all this or not, most likely you won’t. What is important is that they believe what they say,” be it rockets which violate physical principles or anything else. In trying to understand the Putin people, Sedov says, the best thing to do is to turn to Sir James Frazier’s classic study of myth, The Golden Bough. “There you will find everything. For example, why ‘a personage’ simply can’t mention the name of his opponent; or why they punish people for completely innocent expressions or pictures online.” Explaining such things with the concepts of political science doesn’t work; explaining them with the insights of ethnographers and anthropologists does. That is because Russia today, Sedov says, is ruled by people with archaic minds “who consciousness is full of superstitions” and who have maintained themselves to date by filling the minds of others with the same. But in a rapidly changing world, that only works so long; it will not work forever. That is something those who know something about myths, myth makers and their deaths know; it is something even those who continue to hold fast to them even are beginning to suspect, the commentator suggests.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russia’s Provinces are Moscow’s Colonies and the Struggle for Budgetary Federalism is Thus a National Liberation Movement, Shlosberg Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 28 – The just-complete budgetary process, Lev Shlosberg says, shows that “there is no federalism in Russia,” that Moscow has all the money and power, and that the provinces beyond the ring road are Moscow’s provinces, places from which the center extracts as much as it can while giving as little back as it can. Because this is the case, the Pskov Yabloko deputy and commentator says, “the struggle for budgetary federalism and federalism as such is becoming part of the national liberation movement” rather than some secondary sideshow as most commentator usually present it to the extent they talk about it at all (charter97.org/ru/news/2018/12/28/318065/). “If you live where there are few residents, then most likely there won’t be any quality work places, normal health care, education, culture, roads, airports and resorts. You will feel yourself not even in a province but in a colony” and the victims of “a real colonial policy” that is emptying out the periphery as people strive to cope with Moscow’s taking away of all resources. Shlosberg documents this imperial policy in Pskov where Moscow gets all the money and thus makes all the decisions, leading to the impoverishment and decline of the region adjoining Latvia and Estonia which are prospering because they are no longer subject to the imperial diktat of the center. His figures and description of the back and forth between Moscow and Pskov are both fascinating and important; but far more important is his suggestion that the relationship between Moscow and the regions is one of an imperial center with its colonies and the struggle for the rights of the regions is not just about federalism but about colonial liberation. To the extent regionalism is viewed in this way, it may really become the case as this writer argued two years ago that regionalism will be “the nationalism of the next Russian revolution” (http://afterempire.info/2016/12/28/regionalism/).
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Not a Single Region or Republic in Russia has Met Basic Health Care Standards, Accounting Chamber Says
Paul Goble Staunton, January 3 – Not a single federal subject in Russia has met the basic health care standards established six years ago, with some failing to meet even half of the Accounting Chamber says in a new report; and that failure is having a severely negative impact on the health, well-being and mortality of Russians in many parts of the country. Among the most troubling developments, the auditors said in a report released at the end of December,is that infant mortality rose between 2016 ad 2017 in 19 regions and in some by enormous percentages: In Adygeya, it was up 45.7 percent; in Murmansk oblast by 38.5 percent and in Nizhny Novgorod oblast by 31.8 percent (polit.ru/article/2019/01/02/healthcare/). Moreover, in many places, the Audit Chamber found that there are not even standards for treating common illnesses or ensuring that those who come down with them are provided with necessary medicines. But the worst problem and one that promises to make the current situation even worse in the future is serious underfunding of health care. And this problem is getting worse: in 2016, 52 regions were below per capita targets; a year later, 56 were. The regions have few prospects of meeting the government-established targets given that they face more than 65 billion rubles (one billion US dollars) in shortfalls in funding in the health care area. But no one should think that spending more money on health care alone will solve the problem. Vasily Vlasov, a specialist on the economics of health care at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that the shortfalls in the health care system are only compounding problems created by falling incomes. In some parts of Russia, poverty is so dire that infant mortality rates like those in Nigeria or Lesoto are what one would expect even if the health care system were radically improved. In his opinion, in fact, the possibilities for lowering infant mortality by medical facilities alone are practically “exhausted” in Russia’s regions. The Russian government does not want to recognize that because to do so would compel it to admit that its entire economic and social welfare program needs to be reformed for further improvements to be possible. The Accounting Chamber wasn’t called upon to make that point, Vlasov says; but its data beyond question support that conclusion.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Murder of Rasputin Opened the Way to Millions of Deaths, Mlechin Says
Paul Goble Staunton, December 30 – The murder of Rasputin, the monk who advised Nicholas II as a result of his work with the tsarevich’s hemophilia, was intended to stop the slide of the Russian Empire toward disaster; but instead, his killing 102 years ago today, legitimated murder for political goals and opened the way to millions of deaths, Leonid Mlechin says. Rasputin was accused of giving the tsar bad advice and taking liberties with the imperial family, and many near the throne wanted him removed for one thing or another, the Russian historian says; but killing him backfired on its perpetrators and their supporters (echo.msk.ru/blog/mlechin/2343269-echo/). Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, Prince Feliks Yusupov, and Vladimir Purishkevich were treated as national heroes by many after they killed Rasputin, Mlechin continues. The only one in the elite who got it exactly right when he observed that “no one has the right to murder.” Such actions never are self-contained. And in Russia, they led to the falling of dominos and the murder of millions of people. “The Romanov dynasty outlived Grigory Rasputin only for a short time. The monarchy fell, the Bolsheviks came to power, the Civil War began and all of Russia was drown in blood” not only during the course of that conflict but throughout the decades that followed.
The business that beat out ‘Putin’s chef’ for a Kremlin banquet contract is apparently a front company for ‘Putin’s chef’ — Meduza
For a fleeting moment, it seemed that something Kremlin-related had actually not gone Evgeny Prigozhin’s way. On December 27, the magazine RBC reported that his catering company, “Concord M,” had failed for the first time in five years to win the contract to host the annual New Year’s banquet at the Kremlin. Instead, the business went to some new, unknown company called “MSK” that had been registered just seven months earlier.
Rise of a skinhead How Russia’s white supremacists are trying build their own prison brotherhood — Meduza
In recent years, the Russian authorities have escalated their fight against nationalist organizations and ultra-right activists. Experts say the policy shift is a response to the nationalists who participated in the 2011-2012 anti-Kremlin protests and the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, where they fought on both sides. Meduza special correspondent Sasha Sulim has learned that many imprisoned Russian neo-Nazis and other far-right fanatics never abandon their efforts to unite more broadly. Some of these people even hope to create their own prison “playing card suit” — an informal movement comprising convicts who share common ideals. One of the goals of this “white suit” is to build an alliance inside the Russian prison system analogous to the Aryan Brotherhood in the United States — the white prison gang and organized crime syndicate that has terrorized American penitentiaries for the past half century.
In a special interview, the Russian National Guard’s sole food supplier addresses corruption allegations by Alexey Navalny — Meduza
Boris Vaninsky is one of the owners of the “Friendship of the Peoples” company, which earlier this year became the sole supplier of food to Russia’s National Guard. This week, he granted an interview to the television station Dozhd, where he discussed allegations by Alexey Navalny that his business intentionally overcharged the Russian government for its services. Vaninsky fielded questions from Dozhd presenters Ksenia Sobchak and Anton Zhelnov and Novaya Gazeta publisher Dmitry Muratov and investigative desk chief Roman Sheinov. According to Sobchak, the network invited representatives from Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) to join the broadcast, but they declined. Meduza summarizes Vaninsky’s main statements. Verbatim quotes are marked “like this.”
Russian Student Who Shredded Constitution To Spend New Year’s In Jail
A student who shredded the cover of the Russian Constitution in a protest inspired by British street artist Banksy has been sentenced to 12 days in jail for allegedly cursing after a court hearing.
Russian Newspaper Publishes New Year’s Messages From Jailed Activists
Imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, a Crimean native who opposed Russia’s 2014 takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula, has written in a letter to the Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta newspaper that…
Why Russia’s New Year Looks Like Christmas
 
Rescuers Search For Survivors Of Russian Apartment Blast
Rescue workers are looking for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed high-rise apartment building in the Russian city of Magnitogorsk. At least four people were killed when a section of the apartment complex came down following a suspected gas explosion. One official said as many as 50 people could be trapped in the debris.
Great-Grandson Of Revered Founder Of Islamic Teaching Killed In Ingushetia
A great-grandson of revered historic Islamic leader Sheikh Batal-haji Belkharoyev has been killed after his car was sprayed by gunfire in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Ingushetia, local law enf…
Putin Tells Trump That Russia Open To ‘Wide-Ranging’ Dialogue With U.S.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow remains open for dialogue with Washington.
UAWire – Kremlin claims United States has become one of Russia’s top three trade partners
The Russian Ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov stated that trade turnover between Russia and the United States during the last 10 months …
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Russian Internet Users Turn Thumbs Down on Putin’s New Year’s Message
Paul Goble Staunton, January 1 – Russian users of the Internet gave an overwhelmingly negative assessment of Vladimir Putin’s address to the nation, with “dislikes” outnumbering “likes” five to one on the Russia I channel website and six to one on the First Channel portal, an assessment not only of his speech but of his presidency (echo.msk.ru/news/2344415-echo.html). Criticism of the Kremlin leader and his speech also spread to other Internet platforms, including Facebook. A typical example is the comment of a Russian blogger who posts as Vitaly Oi (facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1054198951419526&id=100004882928644; reposted at ehorussia.com/new/node/17646). His words capture much that many of those critical of Putin think and feel on this Near Year’s Day: “Dear Volodya!” Oi writes. “Thank you for such a heartfelt greeting on New Year’s. Honestly, I had thought that it would be again about rockets and paradise. I was surprised and in a good way! “However, I am compelled to disappoint you. “First, there is no mention of ‘we.’ There is only you, your friends, your bureaucracy, and your ‘siloviki who for their own enrichment are trying together with the priests to push Russia back to the 16th century, and we who are trying despite all the obstacles created by your government to draft Russia into the 21st. “Second, there are no ‘essential tasks in the economy, science and technology, health care, education and culture that you and your friends, bureaucracy, and ‘siloviki’ are capable of resolving, just as you all could not create ‘an International Financial Center’ in Moscow which you promised in 2012 to create, ’25 million new high technology jobs,’ and ‘a Silicon Valley in Skolkovo.’ “No offense, but you simply aren’t capable of doing do. You and your friends, the bureaucracy and ‘the siloviki’ simply don’t know what it is to be involved with constructive work instead of dividing up the budget and the property of others for yourselves. “Third, as a result of your efforts and those of your friends, your bureaucracy and your ‘siloviki,’ we, the citizens of Russia, are becoming only ever poorer. You and your command arranged the collapse of the ruble, raised taxes, raised the pension age, and since 2014 have confiscated the pension savings of the population. With you, we feel only changes for the worse. Fourth, we will nonetheless break through ‘into the future,’ but with you, your friends, your bureaucracy and your ‘siloviki.’ You are not Russia. After you, Russia will remain and begin to develop technologically, culturally, and economically and people will become richer. But not as a result of your efforts to steal from us but in spite of them. Not the bureaucrats, nor the Orthodox Cossacks, nor the bikers, nor the priests, nor your fellow KGB officers will develop Russia, but the despised ‘creative people’ (engineers, scholars, and technological entrepreneurs) you have stolen from. ”All the same, thanks for your kind words. Be well! “Your landsman, that same ‘creative person’ who is an engineer and an honest taxpayer.”
Organizer Of Protests Against Russian Pension Reforms Severely Beaten
A Russian activist who helped organize protests against plans to raise the retirement age has been severely beaten by unknown attackers.
Death Toll From Russian Building Collapse Rises As Speculation Swirls
Nineteen people are confirmed dead from the New Year’s Eve collapse of an apartment building in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk, as rescuers continue to pull bodies from the rubble in frigid conditi…
Selling Real Estate in Russia? Are You Crazy? – The New York Times
Sellers must prove their sanity and agents kill their clients to steal their properties in Moscow’s fraud-plagued real estate market.
Exotic And Abandoned: A Russian Refuge For Wild Misfits
A Russian businessman gives refuge to exotic wild animals which have been lost or abandoned by their owners.
UAWire – Head of Russian Anti-Doping Agency to Putin: Russian sport may end up in isolation
If Russia refuses to provide the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) with the data of Russian athletes’ doping samples by December 31, Russian …
Doping: Anything short of declaring Russia non-compliant ‘a failure’- WADA committee – To Inform is to Influence
WADA had conditionally – and controversially – reinstated the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in September along with a requirement that it hand over data and samples by Dec. 31. But Russian authorities failed to provide access to the data and WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC) will now meet Jan. 14-15 to review the situation and…
National Antidoping Agencies Urge WADA To Act Now On Russia’s Missed Deadline
Sixteen national anti-doping organizations (NADOs) have called on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to take immediate action following Russia’s failure to meet a December 31 deadline to hand over…
Nyet To Cat Cafes Or ‘Contact’ Zoos: New Law Outlines Putin’s Pet Peeves
Curb your dog, don’t pet the llamas, and say goodbye to your favorite cat cafe: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that bans cruelty to animals and imposes stricter new regulations o…
Under The Radar: How A Secret Soviet Base Was Stripped Bare
It was supposed to be at the heart of a Soviet missile defense system. When it was closed, it became a gold mine for military personnel, their families, and anyone else who lived nearby.
Navalny Supporter Charged With Hooliganism In Russia’s Perm
Russian authorities have charged a supporter of Russian opposition politician and anticorruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny with hooliganism, said an activist.
Russia’s Northernmost Port Hangs On At ‘The Edge Of The Earth’
The population of Dikson, Russia’s most northerly port, has dwindled from 5,000 in the Soviet era to some 300 today. The development of shipping routes through the Russian Arctic offers some promise of renewal, but most residents see little future in this Siberian outpost.
Putin’s Russia: Icy Siberia reveals cracks in society – BBC News
Irkutsk, five time zones from Moscow, feels cut off from Russia’s decision-makers.
‘A Temple To All Faiths’ Rises In Russia
A universal temple of all religions is being built in Russia with donations left by visitors. Its spires are crowned with the symbols representing orthodox Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims.
Four People Killed In Helicopter Crash in Russian City Of Ulan-Ude
Four people, including a local entrepreneur, were killed after a helicopter crashed near the city of Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Siberian region of Buryatia, the state-run TASS news agency reports.
Former Russian Official Reportedly Extradited By France To Face Fraud Charges
Russia says France has extradited a former regional finance official to face trial on multiple counts of fraud, misuse of funds, and money laundering following a long legal battle.
Death Toll Rises To Eight In Magnitogorsk High-Rise Blast
At least eight people were killed and dozens remain unaccounted for after a suspected gas explosion triggered the collapse of a section of a high-rise apartment building in the Russian city of Magn…
Bridge collapse in Moscow’s Gorky Park amid performance of Russian national anthem (Video) | UNIAN
A wooden bridge, with dozens of people, over a skating rink in Moscow’s Gorky Park collapsed overnight January 1, 2019, amid the performance of the Russian national anthem. At least 13 people have been injured.
Pedestrian Bridge Collapses In Moscow’s Gorky Park, Injuring 13
Thirteen people were injured when a wooden pedestrian bridge collapsed during New Year’s celebrations early on January 1 in Moscow’s Gorky Park.
Russian Ride-Sharing Passenger Charged With Murdering Missing Driver
A Russian man with a reported history of violent crime has been charged with killing a woman authorities say gave him a lift arranged through a ride-sharing app.
Democracy, Prosperity, And Peace: Hopes For The New Year
We asked people to share their wishes for their countries in 2019. Respondents expressed their hopes for peace, health, happiness, and political change.

Central Asia / Caucasus Reports


Kazakh Officer Fired Over Gangland Jargon In New Year’s Message – To Inform is to Influence

 January 03, 2019 08:40 GMT By RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service ASTANA — A Kazakh police officer who proudly called the Central Asian nation’s police forces a “gang” in a New Year’s greeting has been sacked. A Kazakh Interior Ministry spokesman, Almas Sadubaev, said on Facebook on January 3 that the officer, identified as A.R. Tastaibekov, had been fired and…

Belarus Reports


Putin, Lukashenka Meet Amid Energy Dispute

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, are holding talks in the Kremlin on an energy dispute that has hurt ties between the two allies.
UAWire – President of Belarus Lukashenko congratulates Putin on the successful union of the two nations
In his New Year’s greeting to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that the union between the two nations has been successful, the press service of the Belarusian leader reported. Lukashenko noted that in the upcoming year, the two countries will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of signing the agreement on establishing the State Union. According to him, Belarus and Russia have had an uneasy path “but we can now say with confidence that the union between the two peoples has been successful”. In addition, Lukashenko expressed his conviction that hard work on observing the national interests of the two countries in the framework of the Union State, based on deep trust and respect, will give a serious impetus to developing the whole range of bilateral relations. The Belarusian leader believes that “the will of Belarusians and Russians towards unity” will serve as a solid foundation for “integration, multi-faced cooperation and formation of new common history”. In his turn, Putin congratulated Lukashenko and said that further strengthening of relations between the two countries “fully meets the interests of the brotherly peoples”. On December 28, Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree on the creation of a working group that will discuss the integration of the two states. As explained by the Kremlin, the parties “are moving towards each other” but the possible incorporation of Belarus into Russia is out of question. Last week, Lukashenko twice held talks on Moscow’s tax maneuver with Putin. The parties discussed the ways “to implement the 1999 treaty” (on the establishment of the State Union). At the same time, before the meetings, the president of Belarus suggested not to call Russia a brotherly state because Moscow “does not perceive it correctly”. “There are new people who do not accept this concept. Well, let us be partners.”
UAWire – Kremlin creates committee to oversee integration of Russia and Belarus
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree to establish a working group on the integration of Russia and Belarus, RIA Novosti reports. Medvedev also announced that Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin would chair the group. “Oreshkin will be the head of the group. It will include representatives of all the agencies, not only the government one but also from the State Duma, the Federation Council, and the Chamber of Accounts,” said Medvedev on Friday, December 28th. On Tuesday, December 25th, negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko took place in Moscow. The negotiations lasted several hours, after which the parties allegedly announced agreements on energy prices and the upcoming changes in the Russian tax legislation. The sides also agreed to meet on December 29th in Moscow. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko declared at a press conference in Minsk a few days ago that “Belarus will never become part of the Russian Federation.” Lukashenko considers it unnecessary to deploy a Russian military base in Belarus.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Belarus Already Under Russian Troll Attack Designed to Give Moscow a Base for Further Aggression
Paul Goble Staunton, January 1 – Belarus meets all three requirements as a target for a hybrid war and then use it as a base to attack other countries in a similar way, Russian commentator Yury Khristenzen says. Moreover, Belarusians say, Moscow is already conducting troll attacks on Belarus, the equivalent of advance artillery attacks in conventional war. Khristenzen’s argument is important because most analyses of the Belarusian-Russian crisis have limited themselves to discussions of what it will mean for Belarus if and when it is absorbed (and more rarely for Russia). But the real story – and the reason the West must oppose it – is that the Russian absorption of Belarus would open the door to much broader aggression. In a Kasparov commentary today, Khristenzen says there are three conditions needed for the hybrid conquest: the seizure of the information space, the existence of a transport corridor to provide logical support for forces that the attacker will deny are his, and “a low standard of living” in the victim that the attacker can exploit (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C29CAF8CB0B5). “In this regard,” the commentator continues, “Belarus is an ideal object for unleashing asymmetric wars against other states bordering it. The first two conditions are already being fulfilled, and the third can be easily fulfilled, after control of the economy of the country in fact passes into the hands of the Kremlin.” “This is a real threat,” Khristenzen says; “and therefore we will carefully follow” developments in that regard. As soon as there are signs of that, it will mean that “the Kremlin has taken a decision to unleash a new front of hybrid war against one of the bordering countries. For this, Moscow needs, besides information control, administrative control over Minsk.” According to the commentator, “this part of preparation for [a broader] war” could occur in this new year. One sign Moscow has made the decision to do just that is that “an attack of Kremlin trolls on the Internet has begun. “Just as the wars of the 20th century rarely began without artillery preparation, so conflicts in the 21st often are preceded by information preparation,” Vladimir Chudentsov says (by24.org/2018/12/30/belarus_under_kremlin_troll_attack_in_social_media/). Chudentsov, the editor-in-chief of the By24.org portal, says that “in the last several weeks,” Russian trolls on the Internet “have begun to actively prepare for this, by attempting to form among them an active pro-Russian position,” something the Russian side has been willing to make major investments in. In a transparent attempt to conceal what is going on, the “pro-Russian point of view is being advanced from accounts of users who live in Belarus itself.” That makes it appear to some as if these views are an expression of Belarusian public opinion. In fact, this is a Russian operation, financed from Moscow, and pushing Russian not Belarusian views, he says. Moscow pays these ostensibly Belarusian bloggers a pittance – six or seven rubles per item via credit card or mobile telephone transfers – but that is sufficient to attract enough to make it appear there is a groundswell of support in Belarus for union with the Russian Federation. Chudentsev says there is only one aspect of this situation which is welcome: Despite the efforts Russians are making, “Belarusians themselves are reacting to the proposal to ‘unite in a union state’ without enthusiasm, to put it mildly.” And many are responding directly to the trolls’ arguments. The editor gives numerous examples of both sides of this “debate.” But if one can be pleased by the reaction of ordinary Belarusians, Chudentsev continues, one can only regret that “the Belarusian powers that be despite their responsibility to be concerned about the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country have still not reacted to the attack of the Kremlin trolls at all.” There are laws even in Lukashenka’s Belarus that would allow them to do so. But since the authorities won’t act on them, ordinary Belarusians must take up the defense of their country against this asymmetric form of Russian aggression and do so in the first instance by not allowing themselves to fall victim to the trolls’ propaganda.
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Lukashenka Fears His Own People More than He Fears Moscow, Karbalevich Says
Paul Goble Staunton, January 2 – Alyaksandr Lukashenka demonstrated in his vacuous New Year’s address that he believes that he is the only one on whom the independence of Belarus rests and that he “fears the activity of the population much more than he fears pressure from Moscow,” according to Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich. The analyst says that it is his impression that negotiations between Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin on the future of Belarus have not gone as the Kremlin hoped. The two have not reached any significant agreement but rather remain divided on “the working group” the two have set up (belsat.eu/ru/programs/sotsiolog-lukashenko-schitaet-chto-nezavisimost-tolko-ego-delo/). “Russia is treating it as a working group on integration according to the treaty on the union state. But the Belarusian side is treating it as a group for the discussion of disputed questions in bilateral relations,” Karbalevich says. In this situation, the analyst continues, “Lukashenka is afraid to appeal to society since he considers that he is the only politician in the country” and therefore that the issue of the country’s future is his alone, one that the society should not interfere with. But that is his view and not necessarily the view of those who will be profoundly affected by what he agrees to. Belsat also interviewed economist Leonid Fridkin on Lukashenka’s New Year’s address and its meaning. He suggested that the last year and the coming one represent lost opportunities, but he pointed to an issue that seldom gets much attention especially during the course of back and forth talks with Moscow. “The main problem today in Belarus,” Fridkin says, “is not what price the country will have to pay for oil but how rapidly will occur in Belarus the stratification of the population into the richest and the poorest. This problem is much more serious than the oil maneuvers or the extinction of foreign debt.” “This is a domestic problem which is becoming a mind which is becoming ever more difficult to disarm.”
Window on Eurasia — New Series: Lukashenka Seeks to Have It Both Ways: Talks of Union State in Moscow, Belarusian Independence in Minsk
Paul Goble Staunton, January 2 – Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka appears to be trying to have it both ways: When he was in Moscow, he spoke of the union state with Russia as an accomplished fact (ria.ru/20181230/1548941013.html), but when in Minsk, he didn’t mention it (newizv.ru/news/politics/01-01-2019/lukashenko-ni-slovom-ne-skazal-o-soyuze-s-rossiey-v-novogodnem-pozdravlenii). Instead, he spoke as a national leader in his New Year’s address and said that Belarusians “must strengthen their statehood on the principles of honor and justice and thus preserve the country for our children and grandchildren” (president.gov.by/ru/news_ru/view/novogodnee-obraschenie-20194/). Telling an audience what a speaker thinks they want to hear is normal; telling two different audiences very different things even though he can be sure that they will compare the two sets of remarks is dangerous: neither is going to trust him at all. That is the trap Lukashenka has fallen in. Vladimir Putin and his regime will certainly view this as another act of deception and betrayal by Lukashenka; and Belarusians, already with good reason not to trust the dictator, will see this as another reason they shouldn’t, thus further weakening his regime and making it more likely that it will collapse in the event of any Russian move.
Spuds ‘N Speculation: Lukashenka Gifts Potatoes To Putin Amid Integration Rumors
Four bags of potatoes and a tub of lard. That’s what Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka reportedly handed over to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as a Christmas present.

 


 

Ukraine Reports

 


 

Ukraine prepared for full-scale war, says military expert – To Inform is to Influence
Kseniya Kirillova The month-long official state of martial law declared in 10 Ukrainian regions on 26 November came to an end on 26 December 2018. This was announced by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko at a meeting of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC). The lieutenant-general and former deputy chief of the Ukrainian armed forces General Staff Ihor Romanenko gave an interview with RFE/RL’s Crimean department on the declaration of martial law, along with how mainland Ukraine is threatened from the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula,
Yatsenyuk: Elected speaker of U.S. House of Representatives is ‘Ukraine’s true friend’ | UNIAN
Leader of the People’s Front Party Arseniy Yatsenyuk says Nancy Pelosi, the newly elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is “Ukraine’s true friend.” Prospects for Ukraine-U.S. cooperation were discussed at a recent meeting between Yatsenyuk and Pelosi in September 2018.
Ukrainian Military Unit Identifies Captured Soldier
A Ukrainian military unit has identified a captured soldier in a video posted by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Russian-led forces mount three attacks on Ukraine army in past day, one soldier wounded | UNIAN
Russia’s hybrid military forces mounted three attacks on Ukrainian army positions in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, in the past day, January 3, as a result of which one Ukrainian soldier was wounded. The enemy did not use proscribed weapons.
Czaputowicz: Ukraine needs special Envoy of UN Secretary-General | UNIAN
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz has offered setting up a position of Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Ukraine. The minister also suggested the U.S. and EU be included in the Normandy format of talks.
Ukraine appeals to ECHR for release of sailors captured by Russia – Emerging Europe
Ukraine’s ministry of justice has announced that will submit an inter-state application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) with regards to the continued violation of human rights in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine is demanding the release of sailors taken captive by Russia, which it believes is not respecting its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights. “It is not known whether the ECHR is going to directly state that they should be free, but this is what we will demand,” said Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Justice and Commissioner for the ECHR Ivan Leshchyna. Ukraine’s Helsinki Human Rights Union and prominent British lawyer Ben Emmerson are engaged in preparing Ukraine’s case. Hearings are scheduled to begin on February 27. The application stems from the capture of 23 members of the Ukrainian navy, as well as three boats, in the Kerch Strait on November 25, 2018.
Ukraine’s representative to UN explains why Russia blocks peacekeeping mission in Donbas
The UN Security Council will consider the issue of deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine after a relevant decision is made in the Normandy and the Minsk formats. They are blocked now since Russia hopes a pro-Russian president will win the elections in Ukraine, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN Volodymyr Yelchenko said in an interview with Ukrinform. “The decision of the UN Security Council is needed to start a real peacekeeping operation. However, first it must be at least roughly indicated in the Normandy or the Minsk format,” Yelchenko explained. As he noted, both formats, as well as talks between Volker and Surkov, are now deadlocked as the Kremlin expects a pro-Russian candidate to win the election in Ukraine in spring. “Russians will do nothing prior to the presidential election in Ukraine. I doubt they will do something after the election, but we’ll see… They are waiting for a sort of hypothetical pro-Russian president to come and change everything,” the diplomat said. According to Yelchenko, these hopes have no chance of becoming reality, since no candidate can change the course of Ukraine.
UN mission in Donbas blocked as Russia still at Security Council – To Inform is to Influence
According to Ukraine’s Representative to UN, the issue should be decided in Normandy or Minsk formats first 18:40, 3 January 2019 The deployment of the UN peacekeepers in Donbas will not be considered at the UN Security Council until the decision in Normandy or Minsk formats is ready as Ukrinform reported citing Ukraine’s Representative to UN Volodymyr Yelchenko. “We…
Law on termination of Treaty of Friendship with Russia published in Ukraine | UNIAN
Ukrainian law No. 0206 on the termination of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation was published on January 4 in a weekly bulletin issued by the parliamentary publishing house. The law is coming into force on January 5, 2019.
Nord Stream 2 kills Ukraine – Poland’s Foreign Minister | UNIAN
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz has called on the EU to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.  The pipeline is destroying the effect of sanctions imposed on Russia.


Mykola Vorobiov | Ukraine’s Top Comedian Is Running for President. And No, This Isn’t a Bad Joke
On New Year’s Eve, Ukraine’s top comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced that he will run for president. The timing of the announcement was curious: Zelenskiy’s short spot aired before President Petro Poroshenko’s annual address on the second most popular TV channel “1+1,” which belongs to Ihor Kolomoisky. The order caused many to speculate that the Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky is backing the forty-year-old comedian. In 2015, Zelenskiy starred as a Ukrainian teacher who becomes president in the popular television series “Servant of the People.” Zelenskiy plays ordinary school teacher Vasiliy Holoborodko, whose tirade against the Ukrainian authorities was captured on a secret video recorder. After Zelenskiy’s students publish the video on YouTube, the teacher becomes extremely popular and decides to leave his job and run for the presidency using crowdfunding. He wins, and Holoborodko is an honest and passionate president who doesn’t take bribes. He lives with his family in the suburbs and uses public transportation to get to work. It’s great TV but rumors began to spread that Zelenskiy might want to be the real president. No one knew if he was serious about running. And no one knew what his platform would be. Meanwhile, he refused to grant interviews and made it clear that he was working on the third series of “Servant of the People.” Meanwhile, Zelenskiy’s polling numbers grew and he began to best the incumbent and other known faces. In a November poll, he came in second at 11 percent. Only former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko scored better with 21 percent. Another poll predicted that Zelenskiy might beat Tymoshenko in the second round of the presidential election (no candidate is expected to win outright). One persistent rumor is that Tymoshenko isn’t afraid of anyone, except Zelenskiy. Even if Zelenskiy loses the presidential race, he’s a huge player in Ukraine’s politics now. Zelenskiy, Tymoshenko, and Poroshenko are likely to be the top three presidential candidates in the first round; if Zelenskiy comes in third, he will determine which candidate wins in the second round by supporting or denouncing one of them. And then there’s the fall parliamentary elections. His party has every chance to enter parliament even if he loses. The day after he made his announcement, Zelenskiy appears in a short video in snowy Kyiv asking volunteers to join his team. So far, 198,000 people have signed up. The comedian says he wants everyone, but there’s one condition: one must be new to politics. In spite of the hype, Zelenskiy’s got a reputational problem. Many connect Zelenskiy with Kolomoisky, the Ukrainian oligarch and governor of the Dnipro region in 2014-2015. After a conflict with the government, Kolomoisky moved to Israel. Kolomoisky owns the 1+1 TV channel, which airs “Servant of the People” and Zelenskiy’s talk show. Others speculate that the oligarch is supporting Zelenskiy as payback, since Poroshenko and Kolomoisky have a long-term personal conflict. In interviews, both Zelenskiy and Kolomoisky claim they are only business partners. “We don’t have slavery and I didn’t sign any contract with my blood,” Zelenskiy said. Despite these statements, many questions remain. Who will fund Zelenskiy’s campaign, including the 2.5 million hryvnias (about $90,000) registration deposit for his candidacy? What’s Zelenskiy’s political platform and who will make up his team given that only three months remain until the election? Finally, what role will the 1+1 channel play? Many Ukrainian voters are still undecided and a majority don’t trust anyone in power, which gives Zelenskiy a real chance at first, second or third place. When I spoke with ordinary voters, many compared Zelenskiy to Ronald Reagan, who was also an actor before politics. However, he had served as governor of California, while Zelenskiy is a complete novice. Once Ukrainians return from the holidays, the presidential campaign will be in full swing with almost forty candidates. On the one hand, Zelenskiy may become a serious contender by satisfying a desire of voters for new faces in politics. His readiness to build a team from those who have never been in politics may pave the way for young, professional Ukrainians to join public life. On the other hand, it would be foolish to underestimate the oligarchs, who have determined the Ukrainian political landscape over the last twenty years. This campaign will not be an exception. One thing is clear, however: Ukraine’s presidential elections will be anything but boring. Mykola Vorobiov is a Ukrainian journalist and a former Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation fellow at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) in 2017-2018.
Klimkin comments on shutting down Ukrainian polling stations at diplomatic institutions across Russia | UNIAN
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has explained the reason behind Ukraine’s recent decision to close down five of the country’s foreign polling stations earlier set up at diplomatic institutions in the Russian territory. The top diplomat says the move aims to ensure safety of Ukrainian nationals who may become victims of FSB persecution.
Aircraft designer who created An-225 Mriya beaten up in Kyiv – 112.international
A famous aircraft designer was suspected in the currency fraud
Involvement of police officers in attack at Antonov’s aircraft designer investigated – 112.international
The case is passed to the territorial department of State Investigation Bureau
The Only Way Out For Ukraine Is National Reconciliation Not Political Persecution
Ukraine needs national reconciliation and this might include bringing Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former disgraced president, into the fold.
CNBC: Ukraine’s stock market ‘world’s best performing in 2018’ | KyivPost
Ukraine’s stock market index PFTS turned out to be one of the world’s best-performing ones in 2018, according to CNBC, a business news channel, a subdivision of American-based National Broadcasting Company television network. The media outlet reported on Jan. 3 that Ukraine’s performance has increased by as much as 80.39 percent through 2018, as demonstrated by data sources provided by Refinitiv, a global financial data center formerly associated with Thompson Reuters group. PFTS’s skyrocketing output in 2018 comfortably headlined the list of the world’s fastest-growing stock markets, which also included Macedonia (+30.41 percent), Qatar (+20.87 percent), the United Arab Emirates (+11.75 percent), and Saudi Arabia (+11.75). But for many other markets 2018 wasn’t so good of a year. Venezuela, which is still struggling with its years-long severe economic downfall, saw its index collapse by 94.89 percent, running far ahead of the list’s worst performing outsiders including Argentina (-50.2 percent), Turkey (-43.35 percent), China (-28.64 percent), and Pakistan (-28.07 percent). CNBC noted that Ukraine’s rising took place in spite of the country’s additional request for aid from the European Union and NATO in 2018, as well as of the Nov. 25 incident in the Black Sea, during which Russia’s coast guard forces openly attacked three Ukrainian navy vessels cruising to the Kerch Strait and captured their total crew of 24 men. As of Jan. 3 data, the PFTS index is comprised of 556,7019 points, a slight decline by 0.47 percent since the previous close of exchange.
CNN Folds Under Pressure From Ukraine Over Report Saying Crimean City is Russian – Sputnik International
Earlier, Ukraine’s Embassy in the United States tweeted to its “friends from CNN” urging the broadcaster not to “follow Russia’s playbook” in calling Simferopol, Crimea part of Russia in a photo gallery-style story showing New Year’s celebrations around the world.
Ukrainian Navy to Engage Intl Observers for Next Kerch Strait Passage – Official – Sputnik International
KIEV (Sputnik) – The Ukrainian Navy will take international observers onboard during passage through the Kerch Strait, Yury Biryukov, an adviser to the Ukrainian president and the Ukrainian defense minister, said on Wednesday.
Ukrainians in Australia write Christmas greetings to Ukrainian political prisoners. Photos
Young Ukrainians in Australia wrote Christmas letters to Ukrainian prisoners, who are illegally held in Russia. — Ukrinform


Ukraine, NATO to continue cooperation under SALIS program
Ukraine and NATO will continue cooperation under the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) program that is meant for carrying out strategic freight flights in favor of NATO and EU member states.
Antonov continues cooperation with NATO
A new contract on strategic airlift operations within SALIS program by ANTONOV Company’s airplanes has been concluded for the next three years This was reported by the press service of the ANTONOV Company. The airplanes of Antonov Airlines, airlift subdivision of ANTONOV Company, will continue strategic airlift operations within SALIS (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) program. The correspondent contract has been concluded for the next three years – until December 31, 2021. Since January 1, 2019, ANTONOV Company will have been providing two AN-124-100s on a constant basis to perform airlift missions in the interests of countries participating in SALIS program in accordance with the contractual obligations.
Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines sign new contract under SALIS program in support of NATO – Defence Blog
Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines, one of the world’s leading operators of the heavy transport AN-124-100 Ruslan aircraft, to continue cooperation under Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) in support of NATO and European Union operations. The press service of the Antonov State Company announced on his Facebook page on 4 January that a respective contract on the use of AN-124-100 heavy transport aircraft under the SALIS program has been extended for another three years until December 31, 2021 “In accordance with the contractual obligations, starting from January 1, 2019, the Antonov State Company provides two An-24-100 Ruslan aircraft on a regular basis to carry out air transportation flights in favor of the SALIS program participants,” the press service said. NATO member countries are pooling their resources to charter special aircraft that give the Alliance the capability to transport troops, equipment and supplies across the globe. Robust strategic airlift capabilities are vital to ensure that NATO countries are able to deploy their forces and equipment rapidly to wherever they are needed. A multinational consortium of 10 countries is chartering Antonov AN-124-100 aircraft as a Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS). SALIS provides assured access to up to AN-124-100 aircraft (mission-ready in case of crisis) in support of NATO and European Union operations. The SALIS contracts provide two Antonov AN-124-100 aircraft on charter, two more on six days’ notice and another two on nine days’ notice. The consortium countries have committed to using the aircraft for a minimum of 1,600 flying hours per year. A single Antonov AN-124-100 can carry up to 120 tons of cargo. SALIS participating countries have used Antonov aircraft in the past to transport equipment to and from Afghanistan, deliver aid to the victims of the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and airlift African Union peacekeepers in and out of Darfur.


Ukraine expects lethal weapons from U.S. in 2019 – Chaly | UNIAN
Ukraine expects arms supplies, including lethal weapons, from the United States in 2019. The Strategic Partnership Commission considers military and technical, as well as security cooperation. Ukraine expects arms supplies, including lethal weapons, from the United States in 2019. “We expect further assistance in boosting our defense capabilities. These are arms supplies, including lethal weapons. This is the possibility of procuring weapons in the U.S. We are better prepared for this. We expect, and this is a good signal from Ukraine – the president tabled a motion in parliament. Changes to legislation that will allow direct arms procurement are under consideration,” Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly told the Chas-Time program of the Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service.
Saudi Arabia to begin receiving Hrim-2 ballistic missile system in 2022 – Defence Blog
The Saudi Arabia’s military is expected to receive new mobile Thunder-2 short-range ballistic missile system in 2022. Saudi Arabia is in the middle of receiving first components of the Thunder-2 ballistic missile, which has been jointly developed by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Ukrainian Yuzhnoye Design Office, to conducts first firing test in September or October 2019, a Saudi military source told Defence Blog on 3 January. “The first batch of engines, spare parts and different conventional warheads were delivered to Saudi Arabia for the first phase of the test programme,” said the source, adding that the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces is expected to have the first Thunder-2 ballistic missile system ready for use by 2022. The new Thunder-2 ballistic missile, also named Grom-2, has a range from 50 to 280 km and is designed to ensure survivability and quick deployment, as well as carrying a variety of warheads to target enemy facilities, assembly areas, artillery, and other targets behind the front lines. It is based on the Ukrainian ‘Sapsan’ mobile short-range ballistic missile system. The Thunder-2 system is equipped with two solid-propellant single-stage guided missiles with several different conventional warheads, including a cluster munitions warhead and a high explosive-fragmentation warhead. Each one is controlled throughout the entire flight path. The warheads will have semi-active and active target seeker systems. The system combines an electro-optical guidance system and radar tracker. Saudi Arabia has been reported to have covertly financed Resaerch & Development work on new missile system, to the tune of about $68 million dollars.
Saudi Arabia prepares to test “Hrim-2” TBM
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is preparing for the testing of the Thunder-2 operational missile system in the fall of 2019, whose revenues are expected to come from 2022. It is reported by the Defense Blog with a reference to a military source in Saudi Arabia. It is reported that the process of obtaining the first components of the mobile complex of short-range ballistic missiles, which was jointly developed by the King Abdulaziz Center for Scientific Research and Technologies (KACST) and the Ukrainian Design Bureau “Yuzhnoye”, for the purpose of carrying out the first tests in September-October 2019 . “The first batch of engines, spare parts and various conventional warheads was delivered to Saudi Arabia for the first phase of the test program,” the source said on January 3, adding that the kingdom’s armed forces are expecting to receive the first Thunder-2 OTRK by 2022.
Ukraine starts retrofitting Su-24 attack aircraft | UNIAN
Mykolaiv Aircraft Repair Plant “NARP” and Odesa Aircraft Plant, which are part of Ukraine’s state-run military-industrial Concern Ukroboronprom, have begun retrofitting Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft. The main task is to significantly expand the capabilities of the aircraft via installation of modern digital systems and onboard equipment. Mykolaiv Aircraft Repair Plant “NARP” and Odesa Aircraft Plant, which are part of Ukraine’s state-run military-industrial Concern Ukroboronprom, have begun retrofitting Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft. Read alsoUkroboronprom to start large-scale production of Vilkha ARS “The main task is to significantly expand the capabilities of this type of aircraft via installation of modern digital systems and advanced onboard equipment,” the Concern’s press service said in a statement on January 3. UNIAN memo. Mykolaiv Aircraft Repair Plant “NARP” is a state-run enterprise located in the Ukrainian southern city of Mykolaiv. It was founded in 1939, and was based at aircraft repair workshops of a flight school. In 2011, the enterprise was incorporated in Ukroboronprom. The plant regularly repairs aircraft for Ukraine’s Air Forces. Odesa Aircraft Plant is a state enterprise of Ukraine’s military-industrial complex. The plant is engaged in modernization, repairs and maintenance of aircraft. It was founded in 1911.
Ukrainian upgrades of Soviet fighters
In 2018, more than 50 aircraft units were delivered to the Ukrainian army, including repaired and upgraded Su-27 and MiG-29 fighters, which Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union. Until the beginning of Russian aggression, military aircraft, as well as other components of the Ukrainian army were reduced, some samples of aircraft equipment were sold abroad, some were lost, some were sent to storage. In the period up to 2014, a number of modernization of fighter technology was developed in Ukraine, and small batches were sent to the Air Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, with the onset of active military operations, this process has come to a halt and began to set certain records for four years. MiG-29 In 2018, for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, a record number of MiG-29 fighters was repaired – 7 units. In addition to major repairs, four combat vehicles were upgraded to the MiG-29MU1 level. The aforementioned works were carried out at the Enterprise State Enterprise “Lviv State Aviation Repair Plant”, which is part of the State Concern “Ukroboronprom”
Expert: Ukraine to launch deep modernization of T-64 tanks | UNIAN
Ukraine in 2019 should begin a deep modernization program for its T-64 main battle tanks, the core of the country’s tank fleet, director of Defense Express consulting company Serhiy Zgurets told UNIAN. It is necessary to ensure the tank’s ability to engage the enemy at night, equip the machine with a reliable protection system, and install a more modern engine.
Ukraine takes first repurposed H225s – To Inform is to Influence
03 JANUARY, 2019 SOURCE: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM BY: CRAIG HOYLE LONDON Airbus Helicopters delivered its first two H225s to Ukraine’s interior ministry in late December, with another pair due to be transferred “in the coming weeks”. Kiev will introduce a total of 21 “repurposed” examples of the 11t type, for use in roles including law enforcement and…

Russia / Iran / Syria / Iraq / OEF Reports


Pompeo warns Iran over plans to launch rockets into space | Fox News

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday warned Iran over plans to launch rockets into space, saying the move would violate the U.N. resolution that enshrined the Obama-era nuclear deal — the latest push by the U.S. to draw international attention to Iran’s destabilizing activity in the Middle East.
Supreme Leader’s Moves Seen As Successive Blows To Iran’s Moderates
The appointment of Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, the chief of Iran’s Judiciary, as head of an influential advisory body is seen as a blow to the moderate camp in Iran.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards plan to upgrade speed boats with stealth technology | Reuters
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Monday they plan to upgrade their speed boats in the Gulf with radar-evading stealth technology and new missile launchers as tensions rise between Tehran and Washington in the vital oil shipping route.
Iranian security forces clash with students at bus crash protest | Reuters
Security forces clashed with students in Iran on Monday in the third day of protests over a deadly bus crash, online videos showed, adding to officials’ fears that rising public unrest could threaten national security.
Revolutionary’s Daughter Says Iran’s Islamic Republic Weakened, Could Collapse
Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and an outspoken former lawmaker in her own right, is warning that the Iranian establishment could collapse.
Israeli general sees possible threat from Iraq as Iran’s clout grows | Reuters
Iran could use its growing clout in Iraq to turn it into a springboard for attacks against Israel, the chief of Israeli military intelligence said on Monday.


Russia Officially Declares Almost 70,000 Military Served In Syria – To Inform is to Influence
Russia officially declared that almost 20,000 soldiers and sailors served at any one time in Syria. Those numbers are far greater than the Russian Ministry of Defense ever implied. Notice, however, the lack of official numbers for those killed with the Russian ranks, nor the amount of Russian equipment lost. </end editorial>
Syrian troop withdraw will take four months: report | TheHill
President Trump will give the military about four months to withdraw U.S.
Graham says ‘I feel pretty good’ about Syria after lunch with Trump | Fox News
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Sunday that “I feel pretty good about where we’re headed” in Syria after suggesting that President Trump is “reconsidering” the planned pullout which had drawn bipartisan criticism and forced the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Mission Unaccomplished: The Tweet that Upended Trump’s Counterterrorism and Iran Policies – War on the Rocks
President Donald Trump backed up last week’s reckless decision to withdraw the U.S. military from Syria by claiming that the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Syria conflict: Trump ‘slowing troop withdrawal’, says Lindsey Graham – BBC News
A top Republican says the president remains determined to defeat the Islamic State group in Syria.
Syria: Assad has decisively won his brutal battle | World news | The Guardian
Trump’s decision to pull US troops out leaves the opposition stranded
With U.S. departure, Syria’s Manbij braces for upheaval | Reuters
The city of Manbij has switched control more than most places in Syria’s civil war.
Israel accuses Jordan of ‘desecration’ of its flag | TheHill
Israel is accusing Jordan of disrespect and “desecration” after a spokeswoman for the Amman government was photographed stepping on the Israeli flag. 
Boys and girls whose parents were killed or jailed fighting ISIS return to Russia | Daily Mail Online
Some of the children looked as young as three-years-old as they were checked over before boarding a flight from Baghdad International Airport to Russia.
Russia resettles 30 Russian children from war on IS in Iraq | Fox News
Russia resettled 30 children of jailed and deceased Islamic State members from Iraq, on Sunday, in a minor breakthrough to the deadlock over what to do with the foreign families to IS militants.
US refutes Syrian government’s claim of entering Manbij | Syria News | Al Jazeera
The US military calls parties to respect the ‘integrity of Manbij and the safety of its citizens’.
Syrian Forces Enter Key Northern City, As Russia Hails Move
Syrian government forces entered the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after a Kurdish-led militia said it invited Damascus to protect the town from the threat of a Turkis…
Lavrov: Russia, Turkey To Coordinate In Syria After U.S. Withdrawal
Turkey and Russia have agreed to coordinate “on the ground” in Syria following a planned U.S. troop withdrawal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said following a meeting with Turkish offi…
Syria war: Government forces ‘enter Manbij’ amid Turkey threats – BBC News
Kurds withdraw and invite Syrian forces to replace them amid fears of a Turkish attack.
UAWire – Russia warns US not to interfere in Saudi royal succession
Russia has warned the US not to attempt to interfere in the order of succession in Saudi Arabia, and has expressed its support for crown prince …
The very bad reason the military wants to stay in Syria
The president has made the right decision. Having won the war against ISIS, he does not want to lose the peace by getting into a military conflict with the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces, or with the Iranians or the Russians, or even with the Turks for that matter.
Why Trump’s withdrawal from Syria is bad for Israel — and good for Iran – Vox
It could turn a simmering conflict into something much more dangerous.
Trump gives about four months for Syria troop pull-out: NYT | USA News | Al Jazeera
US president says ‘we’re slowly sending our troops back home’ after initially ordering a rapid withdrawal.
In Yemen, Iran-aligned rebels tighten their grip through fear and intimidation – The Washington Post
A year after killing their main ally, the Houthis have consolidated their power in northern Yemen. Detentions and torture are common, victims say.
Trump Calls On Russia, Pakistan To Take More Active Role In Afghan Conflict
U.S. President Donald Trump urged other countries, specifically Russia, Pakistan, and India, to become more involved in the fighting in Afghanistan as he argued against continued long-term presence of U.S. troops in the war-torn country.
Female German ISIS ‘morality policewoman’ charged with letting ‘slave’ girl die of thirst | Daily Mail Online
The suspect, a 27-year-old German identified only as Jennifer W. was deported from Turkey to Germany in 2016. She was arrested in June and has been charged with murder and committing a war crime.
German Isis woman let ‘slave’ girl, 5, die of thirst, say prosecutors | World news | The Guardian
‘Jennifer W’ charged with war crimes in Germany after child chained outside in Iraq

DPRK / PRC / WESTPAC Reports


North Korea’s Kim Jong Un warns U.S. in New Year’s message not to test his patience with sanctions, pressure – CBS News

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with Trump into 2019, but also warns Washington not to test him
Kim Jong Un says North Korea no longer making nukes, warns US against continued use of sanctions – CNN
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un affirmed his apparent commitment to denuclearization during an annual New Year’s address Tuesday, but warned that he may need to pursue “a new way” if the United States continues to make “one-sided demands” of Pyongyang.
Kim and Trump Back at Square 1: If U.S. Keeps Sanctions, North Will Keep Nuclear Program – The New York Times
The North Korean leader’s New Year speech seemed to challenge President Trump to backtrack on the American goal of zero North Korean nuclear weapons.
North Korea Built an Alternative Financial System Using a Shadowy Network of Traders – WSJ
The Kim Jong Un regime moves millions of dollars around the world despite sanctions and pressure on international banks to curtail its activities. The hidden system is central to the country’s efforts to keep its economy afloat.
North Korea skirts sanctions through web of banks, companies: WSJ
Report describes the complex web of international companies, financial firms and individual proxies used to move money and goods in and out of sanctioned North Korea, The Wall Street Journal reports.
North Korea warns US to stop ‘meddling’ in its South Korea affairs
An editorial in the country’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper blamed the U.S. for stagnation in the relationship between North and South Korea, claiming that “the United States does not want to see the improvement and development of the inter-Korean relations.”
North Korea diplomat in Italy missing, South Korean MP says, after asylum report | Reuters
A North Korean diplomat who was until recently acting ambassador to Italy has gone missing, a South Korean member of parliament said on Thursday, after a South Korean newspaper reported he was seeking asylum in the West.
North Korea’s top diplomat in Italy defected, embarrassing Kim Jong Un | Fox News
North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy defected with his wife in November, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Thursday, striking an embarrassing blow leader Kim Jong Un and his communist regime.
September 2017 nuclear test triggers 2019 earthquake in North Korea – CNN
North Korea’s sixth nuclear test was so powerful that it’s still triggering earthquakes more than a year later.
World’s tallest empty hotel lit up with N. Korean propaganda | Fox News
The 105-story Ryugyong Hotel has long been a blot on the Pyongyang skyline.
What we learned in 2018: Averting war with North Korea – Defense One
Welcome to our podcast about the news, strategy, tech, and business trends defining the future of national security.
Russia protest Korea’s arms sales to India – Defence Blog
The Russian government launched a broadside against India’s decision to award contracts to South Korea for a self-propelled anti-aircraft defense system. According to the newspaper “The Korea JoongAng Daily“, the Indian military selected a Korean-built Biho hybrid self-propelled anti-aircraft defense system as a candidate for acquisition last October after a bidding process involving a number of foreign arms makers as part of a recent plan by New Delhi to upgrade its air defenses. The bidding was first officially announced in 2013, and the candidate weapons were evaluated throughout 2015 and tested in 2017. In the 2013 global tender, Indian Army shortlisted three companies — Hanwha Defense Systems, which offered its Hybrid Biho system, and Russian companies Almaz Antey, which offered its upgraded Tunguska system, and KBP Tula, which offer its Pantsir system. The Korean defense industry was eyeing the Indian market as a chance to move away from domestic sales to exports. The contract involves exporting 104 Biho systems, 97 ammunition carriers, 39 command vehicles, 4,928 missiles and 172,260 rounds of ammunition, bringing the contract’s total value to 2.5 to 3 trillion won. According to Hanwha Defense Systems, the 30mm twin self-propelled anti-aircraft defense system Biho demonstrates excellent engagement capability under the battlefield conditions of the mountainous Korean peninsula. It has outstanding maneuverability with a maximum speed of 60km/h. Its effective range is 3 km and it has a high firing rate of 1,200rounds/minute. The Biho have detection distance of 21km and excellent tracking and aiming capability against enemy aircraft infiltration. Also system carries 4 short-range surface-to-air missile systems with effective ranges of 5km and has two 30mm machines guns for ground engagement along with anti-aircraft engagement. Moscow, however, a traditional supplier of arms to India, apparently ordered its Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu to publicly express dissatisfaction with the decision on the sidelines of a military conference between the two countries Dec. 18. In addition, the Russian side statement that the tests were conducted unfairly and require a repeat. The Russians followed this up by sending an official request to the Indian Defense Ministry asking it to re-evaluate the bidding process.


We’ll see how frightened America is’: Admiral warns U.S. that China’s navy could sink two aircraft carriers and kill 10,000 sailors if it stands in way of Beijing’s goals in South China Sea | Daily Mail Online
Rear Admiral Luo Yuan’s comments were made in a speech on Sino-U.S. relations which he gave on December 20 in Shenzhen.
World War 3: Chinese admiral warns Beijing could SINK two US aircraft carriers | World | News | Express.co.uk
A CHINESE admiral has issued a chilling threat to the US by suggesting that Beijing could settle its disputes with Washington by sinking two American aircraft carriers.
Sinking US aircraft carriers will resolve tension in South China Sea, says Chinese admiral | Fox News
The deputy head of a Chinese military academy told an audience in Shenzhen last month that tensions in the South China Sea could be resolved by sinking a pair of U.S. aircraft carriers, reports said.
A Fleet of ‘J-20s’?: China Wants to Take Old Air Force Planes and Make Them Stealthy | The National Interest
China is working on experimental technologies to make even its older aircraft appear stealthy to most radar systems.
New Pentagon Leader Shanahan Makes Clear His Focus Is China
The former Boeing executive moved up from the No. 2 job after Pentagon chief Jim Mattis left Monday
China’s new antenna is five times the size of New York City, but some fear it could be a cancer risk | South China Morning Post
Work to build facility was 13 years in the making, but some researchers have expressed concern about exposure to extremely low frequency waves


Chinese spacecraft is first to land on dark side of the moon | Daily Mail Online
China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft has landed on the dark side of the moon, according to state media. Soon after touching down, it transmitted the first ‘close range image’s of the moon’s far side.


Is A Clash Coming Between China and Taiwan?
Tensions are escalating between Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is intensifying efforts to pressure Taiwan to accept unification with China, and the notionally pro-independence Taiwanese government, under the leadership of President Tsai Ing-wen. Xi has made unification with Taiwan increasingly important part of his agenda, while in Taiwan, support for unification is low and
Xi Jinping warns Taiwan independence is ‘a dead end’ – CNN
Xi Jinping called on Taiwan to reject independence and embrace “peaceful reunification” with China, in a conciliatory speech that nevertheless took a hard line on the self-governing island’s political sovereignty and freedoms.
China willing to use ‘force’ to absorb Taiwan if necessary – Washington Times
Chinese President Xi Jinping stated outright on Wednesday that Beijing’s goal is to absorb Taiwan and that China could use “force” to achieve the goal if necessary.


China’s disappeared: a look at who went missing in 2018
Not only dissidents and activists, but high-level officials, Marxists, foreigners and even a movie star have been whisked away to unknown destinations.
U.S. Renews Travel Advisory for China, Warning of Arbitrary Detention – The New York Times
The State Department said that possible “exit bans” could trap Americans in China.
China offers mixed reaction to Mattis’s departure | TheHill
China’s foreign ministry is offering mixed reactions to the news of Defense Secretary James Mattis’s impending departure from the Trump administration.
China court orders retrial for Canadian charged with drug smuggling – CNN
A Chinese court ordered a retrial Saturday in a case involving a Canadian convicted of drug smuggling after prosecutors claimed new evidence.
China to Retry Canadian on Drug Charge Amid Diplomatic Spat – The New York Times
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg appealed against his jail sentence in a previously obscure case. He now faces a retrial that could impose a death penalty.
China ‘releases’ Canadian teacher Sarah McIver – BBC News
Sarah McIver was one of three Canadians detained amid strained relations between Canada and China.
Chinese court orders Canadian man retried, raising possibility of death sentence – The Washington Post
China and Canada have been feuding over the respective seizures of the other country’s citizens.
As Hong Kong tightens screws on rebellion, democracy moves further out of reach – CNN
“If this is the cup I must take, I will drink with no regret.”
Congo: Internet shutdown shows how Chinese censorship tactics are spreading – CNN
As citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) pointlessly refresh their web browsers this week, they may be getting a preview of just what Chinese-crafted cyberspace rules look like.

Japan has a modest New Year’s goal—convince Russia to give up territory — Quartz
Japan and Russia still haven’t signed a post-war peace treaty because of a dispute over four small islands.
UAWire – Japanese Prime Minister promises to consider opinions of Kurils residents when Russia hands the islands over
In an interview on the TV channel Asahi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that if Russia hands over some of the Kuril islands, Japan will definitely take into account the opinion of the local residents. According to Abe, the negotiations with Russia will not initially mean a forced relocation of Russians from the islands. “It must happen in such a way that the Russians living there agree to the transition of ownership to Japan,” the Japanese prime minister explained. He noted that at present, the Kuril islands are inhabited predominantly by Russians. “Unfortunately, the former [Japanese] island inhabitants ended up in a situation where they could no longer live there,” Abe said. The Japanese leader also observed that the implementation of the joint economic activity plan by Russia and Japan will enable citizens of both countries to live and work together on the islands. On November 14 at a summit in Singapore, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to start the process of negotiating a peace treaty on the basis of the 1956 declaration. Last year, the Japanese government protested against Moscow’s renaming of five of the Kuril islands.
The Kurile Islands: Why Russia And Japan Never Made Peace After World War II
For Russia, they are the justly earned spoils of war. For Japan, the southern Kurile Islands are stolen territory, lost to Soviet aggression and Western interference. More than 70 years after the last shot was fired in World War II, the two countries remain locked in a stalemate over four wave-batte
Can Japan Lead Asia? | The National Interest
There is a feasible way for Tokyo to resume rhetorical leadership in formulating the Indo-Pacific strategy.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito begins countdown to abdication
Japanese Emperor Akihito waved to throngs of well-wishers eager to see the final New Year’s appearance of his reign Wednesday just months before he abdicates.
UAWire – Moscow: There will be no referendum in Russia on accession of Kuril Islands to Japan
There will be no referendums or polls in the Kuril Islands about incorporating the islands into Japan, member of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Anton Morozov told RIA Novosti. Earlier, in an interview with the Asahi TV channel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Japan intends to incorporate the Southern Kuril Islands. However, Japan’s position on the territorial dispute with Russia does not imply the eviction of Russians living there. “The Russian Federation has a very clear position on the issue of the Kuril Islands. This territorial dispute is not considered. We offered the Japanese side to conclude a peace treaty without any conditions. If they do not accept our offer, then it is their choice. But nobody is going to conduct any referendums or polls in the Kuril Islands,” Morozov told RIA Novosti. Abe is going to visit Russia this month, approximately on January 21. The previous meeting of the Japanese Prime Minister and the President of Russia took place on November 14 in Singapore. Following the meeting, the Japanese prime minister said that the parties agreed to speed up the negotiation process on a peace treaty based on the Soviet-Japanese Declaration of 1956. The above-mentioned declaration acknowledged the willingness of both sides to conclude a peace treaty, after which the USSR agreed to transfer the islands of Habomai and Shikotan to Japan. The document was ratified by both sides. However, Japan refused to implement it and insisted on the return of four islands, Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan and Habomai, as a condition for concluding the peace treaty.


South China Sea: Vietnam Dares What Philippines Didn’t
In the South China Sea disputes, Vietnam dares to do what the Philippines didn’t: challenge China’s mission to turn the vast waterway into its own sea.

Foreign Policy Reports


A look ahead: What’s next for Europe and Russia in 2019? – CBS News

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata on Britain’s troublesome Brexit, and Trump’s troublesome relationship with Putin
UN Security Council Gets New Members, New Presidency
Belgium, Germany, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic and South Africa are starting their two-year terms
Nikki Haley slams UNESCO as ‘corrupt and politically biased’ as US, Israel officially quit UN agency | Fox News
The U.S. and Israel has offcially quit the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday night, ciiting anti-Israeli bias. 


The United Kingdom is on life support – CNN
Brexit has shone a light on the fact that the foundations holding up the UK had been crumbling for some time.
Brexit may only have a ’50-50′ chance of actually happening, according to a senior politician | Business Insider
The chances of Brexit happening on March 29 will be significantly reduced if MPs vote against Theresa May’s deal next month.
U.K. plans to build two new military bases in Caribbean and Asia – Defence Blog
U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson announced plans to build two new military bases in the Caribbean and southeast Asia, according to theSunday Telegraph. Citing an interview with Gavin Williamson, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the plans are part of an effort to make the U.K. “a true global player” by increasing the country’s role on the international stage after it leaves the European Union. It also marks a shift from the so-called 1968 East of Suez strategy in which the U.K. withdrew from military bases in southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf, the minister told the paper. The Defense Secretary also downplayed the significance of his announcement that 3.500 troops were being put on standby, describing it as “good sensible planning to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible”. Mr Williamson said that Brexit would allow the U.K. to change the 1960s policy of withdrawal from regions “east of Suez”. “I am very much looking at how can we get as much of our resources forward based, actually creating a deterrent but also taking a British presence,” he said. “We are looking at those opportunities not just in the Far East but also in the Caribbean as well.” The defense secretary also claimed that recent research showed the British underestimated the potential for UK global influence.
Do Army ‘snowflakes’ posters work? – BBC News
Young people in London are bemused as a UK army campaign seeks “snowflakes” and “phone zombies”.
British Army wants ‘millennials’, ‘snowflakes’, ‘phone zombies’ to pick up rifles and defend country | Fox News
Calling all “Binge Gamers”, “Snowflakes” and “Selfie Addicts” – lay down your controllers, stop being outraged over everything and put that photo upload on hold – instead, you should join the British Army?


Germany Suffering Information War, Doxing, Not Hacker Attacks – To Inform is to Influence
Germany is aflame in a huge information disclosure, the release of contact information for a huge part of Germany, including Angela Merkel. But journalists do not appear to be savvy and are calling it a hacker attack. Okay, girls and boys, today’s lesson is on what happened a long time ago, long before this information was released. Months and months ago, exploits in Microsoft Office products, mostly Outlook, allowed hackers entry into personal accounts. The reporting is unclear, but it appears as if the information was copied until at least October 2018. That was still not a “hacker attack”, it was hackers snooping and pooping and stealing all the private information they could. Then they sat back and analyzed what they had. Now they are doxing a bunch of politicians, releasing their contact information. The information was released one week ago, by a tweet on Twitter, but reporters did not realize its implications until Thursday evening, 3 January 2019. Affected are, inter alia, the parliamentary groups of CDU / CSU, SPD, Greens, Left and FDP. Datasets of the AfD have not yet been published. In addition there are data from the party headquarters, the EU parliament, the state and district associations of CDU, CSU, SPD, Greens, Left and FDP. The affected parties were informed on Thursday. The Bild article goes on to say Angela Merkel and a large number of other politicians were affected Then, strangely, Bild reported that 33 reporters were affected.
Germany picks up two thorny defense and diplomacy assignments in 2019
Can Berlin hold the West together? The new year could turn out to be a major test.
Merkel pitches Germany as leader of the free world — Quartz
“Openness, tolerance, and respect, these are values that have made our country strong.”
German Bundeswehr assumes presidency in NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force – 112.international
Germany and its Armed Forces, Bundeswehr, assumed the chairmanship in the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). Deutsche Welle reported that, quoting German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. The German official claimed that by assuming this leadership, Germany makes a sizeable contribution to the entire Alliance’s security. Von der Leyen admitted that Bundeswehr’s new role is another quite important impetus for the comprehensive modernization of the country’s armed forces. The NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force was created in the first half of 2015, as the response to the Russian aggression in Ukraine. This force makes an important component of the NATO strategy to deter Russia. The advance teams of the VJTF are supposed to be deployed in any destination necessary over the 72 hours-long-period. The presidency in NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force lasts for one year. In 2018, the leadership belonged to Italy. In 2020, it will be handed over to Poland.
Germany has big plans for UN Security Council seat | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.01.2019
Germany is once again occupying a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. How does it plan to use it — and what is the country’s current involvement in UN missions?
DW: Germany has big plans for UN Security Council seat | UNIAN
Germany has big plans for the UN Security Council seat it took up on January 1, 2019. Germany is once again occupying a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Nazi murder rate far higher than thought and only declined when there was ‘no one left to kill’
The Nazi murder rate during the height of the Holocaust was almost three times higher than previously thought, and only declined because there was &quot;no one left to kill&quot;, a disturbing new study has found.
Holocaust death camps: 15,000 murdered per day in Aug.-Oct. 1942
The killing only stopped when there was no one left to murder: From August to October 1942, 1.2 million Jews were slain in the Nazi death camps.


Hungary removes statue of anti-Soviet hero – media | UNIAN
The Hungarian authorities last week quietly removed a much-loved statue of Imre Nagy, hero of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising, from a square in central Budapest. The statue has long been a focal point for Hungarian patriots. The Hungarian authorities last week quietly removed a much-loved statue of Imre Nagy, hero of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising, from a square in central Budapest. The Nagy statue is being moved to Jaszai Mari Square, a northern location away from the parliament building, the BBC reports. Some critics accuse Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government of revising the country’s history. A monument to the victims of a short-lived communist regime in 1919 will replace the Nagy statue. Imre Nagy was hanged in 1958 for his role in the uprising. A pro-reform communist, he had sought to free Hungary of hardline communist rule, but in 1956 the revolt was crushed by Soviet tanks. Pro-Moscow hardliners were reinstalled in power. The statue was erected in 1996 at Martyrs’ Square.
Romania to take over EU presidency amid fears for rule of law | World news | The Guardian
Bucharest accused of seeking to reverse democratic reforms as it takes charge of rotating presidency
Romania, Fighting the E.U., Prepares to Lead It at ‘Crucial Moment’ – The New York Times
The government has turned to Euroskeptic rhetoric to defend its stance on anticorruption legislation, even as it is scheduled to take its turn in the presidency of the bloc as Brexit looms.
Romania slams EU for treating it as ‘second-rate’ country | Fox News
Romanian officials on Monday slammed European Union officials for treating it as “a second-rate” country as it prepares to take over the EU’s rotating presidency.
Juncker’s fears over Romania’s ability to lead EU – ‘I have some doubts’ | Politics | News | Express.co.uk
EUROPEAN Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has expressed “doubts” over Romania’s capability to properly lead the EU Council as the nation prepares to take over the bloc’s rotating presidency for the very first time.
‘Yellow Vest’ Leader Eric Drouet Arrested
Eric Drouet, detained by French police and placed in custody Wednesday for organizing a central Paris protest without declaring it, according to a source at the prosecutors office


Nikki Haley praises Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro after he targets LGBT on 1st day in office | Salon.com
In her final days as United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley tweets praise for Brazil’s new far right president
Brazil’s President Open To Possibility Of U.S. Military Base, Expresses Russia Concerns
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he is open to the possibility of the United States some day opening a military base in the South American country and added that Brazil was concerned about Russia’s ties to Venezuela.
Cuba’s Castro blasts United States on 60th anniversary of revolution | Reuters
On the 60th anniversary of Cuba’s revolution, ruling Communist Party leader Raul Castro blasted the Trump administration for returning to an outdated path of confrontation with the island nation and of intervening in Latin America.

Capability / Strategy / History Publications


Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter: Analysis from former British technical liaison – YouTube

Here’s what the battlefield tech industry predicts for 2019
C4ISRNET asked industry leaders what trends they expect to see in 2019. This is what they said.
First KC-46 delivery stalled by Mattis’ departure
The Air Force will have to wait a little longer for its new tanker.
Israel received Kolchuga-M passive radar system from Ukraine – Defence Blog
Israel’s company Airsom Ltd. has received Ukrainian-made Kolchuga-M passive radar system, according to ImportGenius website. According to the import/export tracking website ImportGenius, Israel has received new-generation long-range passive radar complex, called the Kolchuga-M. The notice by the ImportGenius said that in March 2018, a subsidiary of the State Company “Ukrspetsexport” State Enterprise “Ukroboronservis” sold to the Israeli company Airsom Ltd. (P.O.B. 32307 Tel-Aviv 6132201, 5 Kineret St. Bnei-Brak) passive radar system Kolchuga-M. The Kolchuga is a passive electronic support measures makes it possible to spot ground and surface targets and trace their movement within a radius of 600 km and air targets at the 10 km altitude – up to 800 km, which makes an effective early warning air defense system. The notice by the ImportGenius The Kolchuga station is equipped with five meter-, decimeter-, and centimeter-range aerials, which provide for high radio sensitivity within a 110dB/W – 155 dB/W swath, depending on the frequency. According to the GlobalSecurity.org, the 800-km detection range has been achieved only by the Ukrainian Kolchuga. The best the U.S. AWACS can do is 600 km, while the ground-based complexes Vera (Czech Republic) and Vega (Russia) can reach out up to 400 km – half what the Ukrainian complex can reach. The Kolchuga’s lower limit of the working frequency range is 130MHz and is the lowest of all analogs. For the AWACS it is 2,000 MHz, for the Vera it is 850MHz, for the Vega it is 200MHz. The Kolchuga mobile passive electronic long-range monitoring radar system could be used during exercises of the Israeli Air Force.
U.S. Army buys 50 improved Sentinel radars – Defence Blog
The U.S. Army has ordered 50 additional AN/MPQ 64A3 Enhanced Sentinel A3 radars, the Pentagon said on Friday. The deal, announced by the U.S. Department of Defense on 28 December, is covers procurement of 50 Enhanced Sentinel A3 radars and associated spares. Also noted that the contract is worth more than $51 million. “Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, Fullerton, California, was awarded a $51,901,116 firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of 50 Enhanced Sentinel A3 radars and associated spares,” – the Pentagon’s source said. Work will be performed in Fullerton, California, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 30, 2022. The AN/MPQ 64A3 Enhanced Sentinel Radar is a 3D radar used to alert and queue Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) weapons to the locations of hostile targets approaching their front line forces. Sentinel is the only 360-degree coverage air defense radar in the Army’s current inventory and features a 3 DX Band phased array antenna that provides an instrumented range of 75 kilometers. The Enhanced Sentinel Radar also has a modernized Radar Control Terminal (RCT) with a Linux-based RCT operating system, adding an Ethernet router for integration with the IAMD architecture. This will integrate the Identification Friend or Foe Mode V capability to prevent fratricide and the need to replace obsolete processor cards.
New in 2019: The Army and Marines will test-fire next-gen weapon prototypes this summer
New methods of firing a completely different bullet will be on display at the test fire.
Slovakia buys 25 Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers – Defence Blog
The Slovak Ministry of Defence (MoD) is acquiring a 25 Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers, according to a local media report. Deliveries of a first four 155 mm self-propelled howitzers for the Slovak armed forces are scheduled for the July 2020, another five by the end of the same year, eight more howitzer until the end of 2021 and the last eight artillery systems by the end of 2022. The contract, announced by the Slovak MoD, is worth more than $206 million (EUR175 million) and includes crew training, spare parts, ammunition. The Zuzana 2 is an advanced wheeled 155mm self-propelled gun-howitzer with automatic loading of ammunition developed by KONŠTRUKTA-Defence. The 155 mm self-propelled howitzer is mounted on a TATRA 8×8 special chassis. The chassis offers enhanced mobility and long range. The artillery system is a new version of the 155mm / 45 calibre Zuzana self-propelled howitzer which entered into service with the Slovak Army in 1998. The Slovak armed forces currently field 16 ShKH Zuzana 155 mm SPHs with a 45 calibre-length barrel.
New Device Helps Fighter Pilots Pee at 30,000 Feet
Bathroom breaks in fighter jets just got a whole lot easier.


Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » Industrial Electrification and the Technological Illiteracy of the US Army Air Corps Tactical School 1920-1940
Chicago Boyz
Finally declassified: Swedish pilots awarded US Air Medals for saving SR-71 spy plane
In June 1987, four Swedish airmen risked their lives to save an SR-71 and the aircrew, the U.S. announced this year after the mission was declassified.
AF Historical Fndtn on Twitter: “1967:OPERATION BOLO. F-4s from the 8th TFW shoot down seven North Vietnamese MiG-21s in a sweep mission over the Red River valley, setting a one-day aerial victory record. Col Robin Olds becomes the only
 
USAF ace with aerial victories in both World War II and the Vietnam War.… https://t.co/yNE8LHTeLI”
 
Flight Of The Concordski
When the Tupolev Tu-144 successfully took to the air on December 31, 1968, it gave the Soviet Union bragging rights as the first to put a supersonic airliner into flight, beating its Western compet…

IW/EW/IO/Cyber/Social Media Reports


US Spies Want to Know How to Spot Compromised AI – Defense One

What if you were training an AI, and an adversary slipped a few altered images into its study set?
Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ call often real – Washington Times
Fake news appears to be everywhere and, contrary to denials by TV news anchors and White House correspondents, media watchdogs say the problem is real.
We’re All Spies, Now—And Not Even Trump Can Hide From Our Prying Eyes
Amateur plane-spotters tracked Air Force One as it secretly made its way to Iraq, demonstrating the power of readily-available tools to reveal covert military operations.
Fakescape: Czech Game Fights ‘Fake News’
Czech students have developed a game to teach teenagers how to distinguish between reliable sources and disinformation. It’s being played at schools across the country, as part of wider efforts to combat “fake news.”
Instagram Was a Bigger Target for Russian Hackers than Facebook, New Report Says – To Inform is to Influence
Though Russian election-meddling received the most attention when it came to Facebook and Twitter (including speculation that new, more advanced Twitter chatbots could mark a new chapter in cyber-propaganda), recent reports from the US Senate Intelligence Committee has revealed that Russian propaganda on Instagram may have had a much bigger impact than anyone expected, even though Facebook…
Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech – The New York Times
Under fire for stirring up distrust and violence, the social network has vowed to police its users. But leaked documents raise serious questions about its approach.
Facebook has an ever-changing secret rulebook for political speech
Facebook is attempting to tackle misinformation and hate that its platform has enabled with a massive, byzantine and secret document of rules packed…

US Domestic Policy Reports


Big shakeup coming to Senate Armed Services

Changing eight seats on the Senate Armed Services Committee — long seen as a powerful pulpit on national security issues — is an unusual level of upheaval.
White House considering Jim Webb as Mattis replacement: report | TheHill
The Trump administration is considering Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia and Navy secretary under former President Reagan, as the next Defense secretary,
Jim Webb emerges as candidate for Defense secretary – POLITICO
The former Democratic senator may be the kind of foreign policy iconoclast Trump is looking for.
Five challenges awaiting Mattis’ successor | TheHill
Patrick Shanahan, who will become acting Defense secretary on Jan. 1, will immediately find himself with a full plate of challenges.
‘You’re not some p-ssy sitting on the sidelines’ & other Mattis-isms: Secretary of Defense edition
Mattis brought characteristics he’s well known during his time as secretary of defense.
After shock of Mattis resignation, another narrative emerges – CNNPolitics
Gen. James Mattis’ resignation triggered an outpouring of anxiety and anger and a steady stream of kudos for the 68-year-old, but as the shock of his departure begins to ebb, another narrative about the “warrior monk” is emerging.
Shanahan poised to rewire the Pentagon with Mattis out
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan could suddenly find himself in the spotlight, following Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ announced departure.
Patrick Shanahan nixes two-star general as Pentagon spokesman
One of acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s first acts since taking over from Jim Mattis Jan. 1 was to overturn Mattis’ decision to have an active-duty two-star Marine general serve as the Pentagon’s on-camera spokesman.
Goodbye Mattis, Goodbye Syria, Hello 2019 – Defense One
Dramatic shifts abound as Trump puts US military’s war plans in doubt, Democrats resurge in Congress, and the Pentagon gets a new boss.
Trump: I “Essentially” Fired Mattis Over Lack Of “Results” In Afghanistan | Video | RealClearPolitics
At his first cabinet meeting of 2019, President Trump said he fired Defense Secretary James Mattis because he did a “not so good” job on the war in Afghanistan. “President Obama fired him — and essentially so did I,” Trump said. “We want results.”
Trump says he ‘essentially’ fired Mattis (who actually resigned in protest) – CNNPolitics
President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday he “essentially” fired his former Pentagon chief James Mattis, despite a resignation letter in which Mattis wrote he was departing because he didn’t share Trump’s worldview.
Trump Says Mattis Resignation Was ‘Essentially’ a Firing, Escalating His New Front Against Military Critics – The New York Times
“What’s he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good,” Mr. Trump said of his former defense secretary. “I’m not happy with what he’s done in Afghanistan, and I shouldn’t be happy.”
Here’s what happened when the Pentagon took Mattis’ photo off the official SecDef Facebook page
New year. New you. New secretary of defense.
Majority of Americans Aren’t Confident in Donald Trump’s Ability to Lead the Military, Poll Shows
Trump isn’t the commander in chief many Americans are looking for, according to a new survey.
‘A Very Clever Move’: Ret. Army Col. Defends Trump’s Decision to Withdraw from Syria | Fox News Insider
Army Col. Douglas MacGregor (Ret.) on Wednesday defended President Trump’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria.
Navy SEAL To Plead Not Guilty To War Crimes, Including Killing ISIS Teen : NPR
Nineteen-year-veteran Edward Gallagher will stand trial for alleged war crimes he committed in while serving in Iraq, including premeditated murder. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
An Officer Grades The Army Staff College And Its Leadership
I have spent the past year being graded, evaluated, and assessed as a student at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC). After graduating and reflecting over the past year, I will now grade, evaluate, and assess CGSC.
Can Silicon Valley Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Pentagon? – Foreign Policy
Palmer Luckey, the 26-year-old founder of Oculus VR, is leading the charge to get tech companies and the Defense Department on the same page.
Ukrainian Il-76 Airlifter That Was Tracked Across U.S. Delivered Radar Asset To Utah Air Base – The Drive
A radar from Ukraine would allow American personnel to assess how much of a threat it, or similar systems that potential enemies use, might pose.
Ukrainian Il-76 airlifter conducted secret flight to Salt Lake City – Defence Blog
Ilyushin -76 cargo plane of the Ukrainian Air Force conducted mystery flight to Salt Lake City in USA, according to a report published on The War Zone website on 3 January. Citing online plane trackers, the Ukrainian Air Force Il-76 plane was on the ground in Salt Lake City before 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 3, 2019, after traveled from Melitopol to Ottawa/Macdonald–Cartier International Airport. Also, Joseph Trevithick from The War Zone website, has noticed that Ukrainian military aircraft was showing up as 737 airliner with the registration UR-IVK, which belongs to Ukranian airline Dniproavia. But it is worth noting that Dniproavia does not fly any routes to the United States at all and a 737 from that airline would be a very long way from home. The Twitter account @CivMilAir also noted that this could be an error with the tracking software or an issue with the aircraft’s transponder—one made by mistake or otherwise.


CIA Chief Pushes For More Spies Abroad; Surveillance Makes That Harder : NPR
CIA Director Gina Haspel wants more undercover officers overseas. But in an age of universal surveillance, instant online searches and social media profiles, staying below the radar is a challenge.
‘Right To Be There’? Afghan Officials, Observers Dispute Trump’s View Of Soviet Occupation
Current and former Afghan officials and observers of events in the war-torn country are criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the Soviet Union was “right” to invade in 1979.
Trump Ends 2018 by Rewarding Putin for a Year of Misbehavior
In many ways, the Trump administration has been a disappointment for Russia — but the U.S. troop withdrawals are quickly making up for it.
Trump defends Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan – CNNPolitics
During his freewheeling, 90-minute cabinet meeting Wednesday, President Donald Trump briefly argued that the Soviet Union “was right” to invade Afghanistan in 1979 because “terrorists were going into Russia,” a head-scratching aside that was widely criticized as historically inaccurate.
Trump defends the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for some reason
If presidents could be impeached for ignorance, Donald Trump just merited impeachment for endorsing the Soviet Union’s brutal 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.


Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts to an Oligarch | Time
A TIME investigation reveals ex-spy Victor Boyarkin was a key link between former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Identity of Russian ex-spy who served as Manafort’s main foreign contact during 2016 election revealed | Business Insider
One of Paul Manafort’s Russian contacts has been revealed as ex-spy Victor Boyarkin, who acted as a direct link between Manafort and wealthy Russian-Ukrainian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Paul Manafort pressured by Russians to pay back debt while Trump’s campaign chair, Time magazine says – CNNPolitics
Paul Manafort was pressured by a former Russian associate to pay back millions he owed during the time he was running Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new report from Time magazine.
Donald Trump: Paul Manafort ‘worked with ex-Russian spy while running campaign for White House’ | The Independent
Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman was working with a former Russian spy during the US presidential race over debts he owed to a Kremlin-linked oligarch, it has been claimed. 
Manafort and a Russian oligarch worked in the Mediterranean to sway another election: NYT reporter
New Documents Suggest The Steele Dossier Was A Setup For Trump
After nearly two years since the Steele dossier was published, it remains the cornerstone of the case for collusion. It has also prompted other operations.


Australia tried its own government ‘shutdown’ in 1975. The queen’s man in Sydney was not amused, and it never happened again. – The Washington Post
Another such shutdown is highly unlikely, an Australian researcher said, because “the outcry would simply be too big.”
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