Tag Archives: russia

The US & Russia: Cyber-cooperation against common foes

Summary: Two experts, Emilio Iasiello (cybersecurity) and Matt Epstein (Russia) analyze a rare bit of good news about global security. Despite the powerful political forces in both nations benefiting from the revived cold war, Obama and Putin have sought common cause in the face of the great 21st century challenge of cybersecurity. Note the bias. They mention Russia’s cyberstrikes, but omits mention the US and Israel launched Stuxnet — the cyberwar Pearl Harbor.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Obama and Putin agree

The U.S. and Russia Re-Engage in Cyber Cooperation

By Emilio Iasiello and Matthew Epstein
Posted at Dead Drop (of the LookingGlass Cyber Threat Intelligence Group)
18 April 2016. Posted with his gracious permission.

In late March 2016, the governments of the Russian Federation and the United States agreed to resume their discussions on cyber security cooperation, progress that had been threatened after the commencement of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, and western imposition of sanctions against Russia.  As part of this re-engagement to be held in Geneva this week, the two governments intend on accelerating the agreements in cyber defense first set forth in their 2013 talks.  Following up on this, in April, Russia reached out to the United States for additional assistance in combating Internet crimes, although no details have been offered as of this writing.

In 2013, Russia and the United States had come to consensus on certain areas designed to increase transparency and reduce misunderstanding that could inadvertently impact relations between the two governments, and in turn, build greater trust and foster better cooperation in cyberspace.  These areas include:

  • Facilitating closer working relationship between national computer emergency response teams.
  • Using the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers to quickly and reliably contact the appropriate authorities to reduce misperception and escalation due to cyber-related incidents; however, early indications are that national centers specifically created to address the reduction of IT threats will be established for this purpose. These centers have already been using during Russian preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • Creating a direct White House-Kremlin hotline to directly manage a crisis as a result of a cyber incident.

Russia has a similar plan already in place with China, a signed pact in which both governments have agreed not to carry cyber attacks against each other, as well to jointly prevent the use of technology for terrorist purposes and interference in internal affairs that might destabilize internal political and socio-economical situations of both countries.  The pact solidifies both governments’ views as to their perceptions of the threats in the digital domain to their respective national interests, which are in contrast and serve as a counterbalance to the U.S.’ as well as several other Western nations, positions.

While it’s highly unlikely that the Russian/U.S. talks will address the same issues as covered in the China pact, it is nonetheless a positive development in continued confidence-building measures between the two cyber powers, particularly given the tenuousness of the current geopolitical climate.

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Stratfor: Cracks appear in Putin’s Kremlin as the stress on Russia grows

Summary: We tend to see the complex politics of America but assume Putin rules a simple autocracy. Here Stratfor describes the fragile Russian state, under incredible pressure from the collapse of oil prices — while a struggle appears to have begun to control its future.

Stratfor

The Kremlin’s Cracks Are All-Too Familiar

Stratfor, 27 February 2016

Summary

February 27 marks the anniversary of the assassination of Russian opposition heavyweight Boris Nemtsov. His killing sparked two weeks of intrigue in Russia’s top political circles, laying bare previously obscured Kremlin infighting and putting President Vladimir Putin’s continued control in question. The dispute, which went far beyond the death of one opposition leader or even broad factional competition, was in fact a struggle over who controls Russia’s future. In this it mirrored a three-year period of division in the early 1920s that ended in a leadership transition and set the trajectory of the Soviet Union.

Analysis

Struggles among the Kremlin elite are as old as the fortified stone citadel itself. The name Kremlin literally means “fortress inside a city,” a potent metaphor for the murky elite power struggles at the heart of Russia’s bustling government system. For the past decade, the Putin government has been divided into four camps: the powerful Federal Security Services (FSB), the so-called liberal reformists, the hawkish non-FSB security circles and a circle of those who are loyal to Putin alone.

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The hidden truth about Putin’s threat to nuke Turkey in Syria

Summary: Are there any limits to our gullibility? Why have clickbait and wild rumors come to dominate the news? A hot new story raises these questions. A possible answer reveals much about America and the decay of our democracy. {Second of two posts today.}

Ignorance is a choice

A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.

— From Robert Parry’s “Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?” in Consortium News. Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the AP and Newsweek, and wrote Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq (2005) and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ (1999).

It is an exciting story, and might even be true. Bu why would anybody take it seriously with such weak sourcing? We would, in an America where the Outer Party (its managers and professional) read for entertainment, not entertainment.  Zero Hedge, Pat Lang, Naked Capitalism and many others uncritically repeated this story.

I’ve been reporting on this kind of fun rumor since the FM website was created. Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web (resolved here), Robert Fisk’s story about a conspiracy to wreck the US dollarAmerica’s biological attack on the Ukraine arm, The North Pole is now a lake! (Are you afraid yet?), and the secret reason why The Government Stopped Reporting Lake Mead Water Levels. Even better are the recurring stories, such as the countless false rumors from Debkafile, Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons will kill us soon stories, plus the  annual Iran will have the bomb in 5 years stories.

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Stratfor: Russia’s economy burns; they have no good options.

Summary: As Obama’s military requests vast new sums to defend against Russia, Stratfor examines Russia’s crashing economy — and its few options for recovery. Russia is largest casualty of the financial world war begun by the Saudi Princes (bet on them to win). While this great conflict burns the US military dances away to its own delusional but profitable tune.

Stratfor

Russia Has Few Options for Turning Its Economy Around

Stratfor, 5 February 2016

Forecast

  • The Central Bank of Russia will try to reduce high inflation and encourage growth to counter the economy’s rapid deterioration.
  • However, the bank probably will not be able to rely on its biggest tool — the interest rate — to do so, instead turning to less effective means that will have little impact on inflation.
  • While the central bank’s efforts to reform the banking sector will not yield many immediate gains, they could spur growth in the long run by encouraging investment in Russian businesses.
  • Meanwhile, the Kremlin will use its limited resources to prop up Russia’s most important sectors, including agriculture and the military.
  • Still, unrest will likely grow throughout the year as inflation continues to put pressure on the Russian people.

Analysis

Low oil prices have thrown a wrench in many of the world’s economies, but perhaps nowhere more so than Russia. Depressed energy prices have sent the value of the Russian ruble tumbling and inflation soaring, and much of the Russian population is struggling to make ends meet.

The Central Bank of Russia, under pressure to find a solution to the country’s deepening economic crisis, is exploring all of the monetary policy options at its disposal. But the bank will find that its primary tool for combating the inflation wreaking havoc on the Russian economy — adjusting the country’s key interest rate — may be difficult to actually use under the current circumstances. As a result, bank officials will likely be forced to turn to secondary, less effective measures to keep the Russian economy from sliding even further into disrepair.

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Stratfor looks at the Caucasus: A Crucible for Conflict

Summary: Stratfor looks at the Caucasus, where some of Europe’s fault lines cross. These border regions are often unstable, and have birthed many of Europe’s wars. The Caucasus nations are heating up, with no signs of resolution in sight.

Stratfor

The Caucasus: A Crucible for Eurasian Powers

Stratfor, 31 December 2015

Summary

Where the boundaries of Europe and Asia meet, a relatively new arena has emerged in the competition between Russia and the West: the Caucasus. The region, which comprises Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, rests outside mainland Europe and is surrounded by regional powers. A wave of separatist movements since the fall of the Soviet Union has played an influential role in how the Caucasus countries view Russia, which has consistently lent its support to disputed territories.

In the coming decades, the Caucasus will continue to be an important battleground for Russia and the West as other regional powers like Turkey and Iran are drawn into the competition for influence. And as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan align more closely with their chosen sides, all signs point to a Western-backed alliance gaining ground.

Analysis

Where the boundaries of Europe and Asia meet, a relatively new arena has emerged in the competition between Russia and the West: the Caucasus. The region, which comprises Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, rests outside mainland Europe and is surrounded by regional powers. A wave of separatist movements since the fall of the Soviet Union has played an influential role in how the Caucasus countries view Russia, which has consistently lent its support to disputed territories.

In the coming decades, the Caucasus will continue to be an important battleground for Russia and the West as other regional powers like Turkey and Iran are drawn into the competition for influence. And as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan align more closely with their chosen sides, all signs point to a Western-backed alliance gaining ground.

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The first financial world war has begun, over oil. Bet on the Saudi Princes to win.

Summary: We have not begun a new era of low oil prices, fruits of new tech and a beneficent Fate. Low oil prices are the wreckage of an ongoing war — a financial war waged by the Saudi Princes for control of the world oil markets. We can predict who will win but only guess at the effects.

It's an Oil World

Nukes made conventional interstate war among great powers as obsolete as jousting. But war is protean, always assuming new forms. Fourth generation warfare is one form, as non-state actors use asymmetric tactics to defeat larger and better financed state forces. We might be in the midst of the first financial world war, waged by the Saudi Princes for control of the world oil market. The outcome seems likely to reshape the world, inflicting massive damage on nations relying on oil income — with Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, Iraq, and Iran among the notable casualties. A major victory by the Saudis — making them leader of a stronger OPEC — might reshape the Middle East and the world more than our 14-years of wars since 9/11.

To understand this new age of war I recommend reading Unrestricted Warfare, published in 1999 by Qiao Liang (乔良) and Wang Xiangsui (王湘穗), Colonels in the air force of the People’s Liberation Army. They describe the 1997 attack on the currencies of Southeast Asia by George Soros and other hedge funds as the first financial war. Here’s a key excerpt…

“When people begin to lean toward and rejoice in the reduced use of military force to resolve conflicts, war will be reborn in another form and in another arena, becoming an instrument of enormous power.

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Did NATO betray Russia, breaking the deal to stay out of Eastern Europe?

Summary:  The news that “NATO invites Montenegro to join alliance, defying Russia” has sparked return (again) of stories that the US broke its deal with the Soviet Union to stay out of Eastern Europe. These accusations by Putin and other Russian leaders frame and poison relations with the West. Here are the facts.

Trust broken

Putin’s claims of perfidious behavior by the West show his understanding that the moral high ground is, as so often the case, of value. His most vehement accusations are that the NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe violates agreements made in 1989 and 1990. In his February 2007 speech to the Munich Security Conference he said…

“And we have the right to ask: against whom is this [NATO] expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? … I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr. Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: ‘the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.” Where are these guarantees?”

In his March 2014 speech justifying Russia’s annexation of Crimea (we’re bad, so he’s bad)…

“{Western leaders} have lied to us many times, made decisions behind our backs, placed before us an accomplished fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the east, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders.”

Many on the US Left take Putin’s claims seriously, an example of the Left’s long affection for tyrants (shared, of course, by the US Right). These claims have have only a weak basis in fact. The last years of the Soviet Union were marked by remarkably hasty and poorly thought-out actions by its leaders. Their reliance on a vague verbal agreement — between Secretary of State James Baker and the USSR’s Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze — was poor statecraft (but by no means their worst errors).

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