Tag Archives: Putin

March 25, 2017

Mosul’s children were shouting beneath the rubble. Nobody came

Coalition bombs buried more than a hundred people in the ruins of three houses and raised fresh questions about US rules of engagement

 

By the time rescuers finally arrived no one was left alive. For almost a week desperate neighbours had scraped through the rubble, searching for as many as 150 people who lay buried after three homes in a west Mosul suburb were destroyed by coalition airstrikes.

The full picture of the carnage continued to emerge on Friday, when at least 20 bodies were recovered. Dozens more are thought to remain buried in what could turn out to be the single most deadly incident for civilians in the war against Islamic State (Isis).

Rescuers at the scene in the suburb of Mosul Jadida said they had driven the 250 miles from Baghdad but had not been able to enter the area until Wednesday, five days after airstrikes hit the houses where local residents had been sheltering from fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and Isis.

Neighbours said at least 80 bodies had been recovered from one house alone, where people had been encouraged by local elders to take shelter. Rescuers were continuing to dig through the ruins, and the remains of two other houses nearby, which had also been pulverised in attacks that were described as “relentless and horrifying”.

The US military said it was launching an investigation. Cololnel Joseph Scrocca, from the US-led command in Baghdad, said “the coalition has opened a formal civilian casualty credibility assessment on this allegation” from Mosul.

The destruction took place in a district that was last week a frontline in the battle for Mosul. Locals said militants had positioned a sniper on the roof of the home that had sheltered the largest number of people. It has raised fresh questions about rules of engagement in the war against the terror group, after two recent US airstrikes in Syria resulted in at least 90 casualties, nearly all of them thought to be civilian.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/24/mosuls-children-were-shouting-under-the-rubble-nobody-came

Was Westminster terrorist guided by a mastermind? Killer’s phone was STILL connected to another on Whatsapp when he died raising fears he was taking instructions

  • Khalid Masood murdered four and injured at least 29 in Westminster attack
  • Jihadist Masood, 52, drove 4×4 into pedestrians along Westminster Bridge 
  • MailOnline revealed that Massod was on Whatsapp minutes before the attack
  • Police are now focusing their investigation on the killer’s online communications
  • However WhatsApp messages  are visible only to the person who has sent them and the individuals that were meant to receive

The Westminster attacker’s online communications have now become the core of the investigation around the terror raid with security forces keen to ascertain if he was receiving instructions from a jihadist master moments before he unleashed carnage.

Khalid Massod was on WhatsApp at 2.37pm on Wednesday, approximately two minutes before ploughing into people on Westminster Bridge and four minutes before he was shot dead by armed officers outside the Palaces of Westminster, the MailOnline exclusively revealed yesterday.

Now, Masood’s messages with others on the encrypted messaging service have prompted police to up their search for jihadist associates of the killer.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4348392/Was-Masood-guided-terror-mastermind-WhatsApp.html#ixzz4cL3OI0rb

Saudi embassy confirms UK attacker had been in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi Embassy statement released late Friday said that Khalid Masood taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009.

The embassy said that he had a work visa. It said he returned for six days in March 2015 on a trip booked through an approved travel agent.

The Saudi Embassy said that he wasn’t tracked by the country’s security services and didn’t have a criminal record there.

Before taking the name Masood, he was known as Adrian Elms. He was known for having a violent temper in England and had been convicted at least twice for violent crimes.

Masood drove his rented SUV across the crowded Westminster Bridge on Wednesday, striking pedestrians. Then he jumped out and attacked police officer Keith Palmer, who was guarding Parliament, fatally stabbing him before being shot dead by police.

In all, he killed four people and left more than two dozen hospitalized, including some with what have been described as catastrophic injuries. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/25/saudi-embassy-confirms-uk-attacker-had-been-in-saudi-arabia.html

Thousands attend funeral of slain Hamas terrorist as group vows revenge

Organization claims Israeli agents assassinated Mazen Faqha, in an attempt to ‘wage clandestine war’ against it

 

Thousands attended the funeral of a top Hamas terrorist in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, as leaders of the terror group continued to blame Israel for his killing and threatened retribution.

Mazen Faqha, a Hamas official freed as part of the 2011 deal to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and deported to Gaza, was assassinated on Friday evening by unknown gunme.

A Hamas official quoted by Army Radio said Israel was “trying to force a new model of a clandestine war on Hamas, as it has failed in the open war model.” He said Hamas would know how to respond to such tactics.

Khalil al-Haya, Hamas’s deputy chief in the Gaza Strip, said at the funeral that Israel “will bear responsibility for the killing.” On Friday al-Haya said that only the Jewish state would have had something to gain from the death.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/thousands-attend-funeral-of-slain-hamas-terrorist-as-group-vows-revenge/

Syria said threatening to fire Scud missiles at Israel

Assad regime says attacks by IDF on Syrian targets will be met with counter strikes on military bases, Haifa port

The Syrian leadership has sent messages to Israel warning that any further strikes by the IDF on targets within Syria’s borders would be met with Scud rockets fired deep into the Jewish state, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Diyar reported Saturday.

The Assad regime conveyed the message to Israel via Russian mediators, the report said.

According to the report, Syria warned that Israeli strikes on Syrian military targets would be met with the firing of Scud missiles capable of carrying half a ton of explosives at IDF bases, while an attack on civilian targets would see Syria launching a counter strike on the Haifa port and the petrochemical plants in the area.

The report warned that Syria has over 800 Scud missiles and that Syria would not issue any warnings before the missile strikes because Israel does not warn before it hits.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syria-threatens-to-fire-scud-missiles-at-israel-report/

 

Two charged over arms supply to French airport attacker

Remanded suspects indicted for weapons possession and ‘association with terrorist criminals’ in connection with attack on Paris airport

March 25, 2017, 2:31 pm

PARIS — French anti-terrorism judges have charged two men suspected of involvement in supplying a weapon to the gunman killed at Paris’s Orly airport after attacking soldiers, a judicial source said Saturday.

The suspects, aged 30 and 43, were charged Friday for “association with terrorist criminals” over the March 18 attack and are being held in custody, the source said.

The younger one was also charged with arms possession related to a terror plot. They are both from the Paris area and lived close to the assailant, Ziyed Ben Belgacem, according to a preliminary investigation.

Ben Belgacem, 39, was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he attacked the capital’s second busiest airport, according to judicial sources.

Ben Belgacem, born in France to Tunisian parents, grabbed a soldier on patrol at Orly’s southern terminal and put a gun to her head and seized her rifle, saying he wanted to “die for Allah.”

His father insisted his son — who had spent time in prison for armed robbery and drug-dealing — was not an extremist.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/two-charged-over-arms-supply-to-french-airport-attacker/

Flynn, Turkish officials talked about removal of Erdogan foe from US, former CIA boss says

Retired Army Lt. Mike Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, met last summer with top Turkish officials to discuss removing the cleric Turkey blamed for last year’s failed coup and delivering him to Ankara, a former Central Intelligence Agency director told The Wall Street Journal.

James Woolsey said the meeting occurred in September inside the Essex House hotel in New York. Woolsey told the paper that he arrived in the middle of the conversation, but said the basic idea was a “covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” The group as reportedly refering to Fethullah Gulen.

Woolsey told the paper he found the conversation startling and possibly illegal. But he did not say anything because there were no specifics. Woolsey said he notified Vice President Biden through a mutual friend.

People briefed on the meeting told The Journal that the ideas were raised hypothetically. Woolsey, who served under President Clinton, told The Journal that the conversation “seemed to be naïve.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/24/flynn-turkish-officials-talked-about-removal-erdogan-foe-from-us-former-cia-boss-says.html

Putin meets French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at Kremlin

Putin meets with Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin

  • French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has sought closer ties with Russia
  • Vladimir Putin spokesman: Russia isn’t trying to influence upcoming French election

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the “great importance” of ties between his country and France as he met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin on Friday, Russian state-run news agency Tass reported.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Russia was not seeking to influence the upcoming French election but had the right to communicate with French politicians.

Russia had no intention of “interfering in anyone’s internal business or electoral processes,” Peskov said.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/24/europe/putin-le-pen-kremlin/

Russia denies supplying Taliban after Scaparrotti claim

Moscow rejects NATO commander’s remark that it is ‘perhaps’ aiding the Taliban in fighting against US and allied forces.

Russia’s foreign ministry has dismissed a US general’s allegations that it may be supplying Taliban fighters in Afghanistan as “fabrications”.

Curtis Scaparrotti, the top US general in Europe, said on Thursday that he had witnessed Russia’s influence grow in many regions, including in Afghanistan.

In a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Scaparrotti, who is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, said Moscow was “perhaps” supplying the Taliban in fighting against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/russia-denies-supplying-taliban-scaparrotti-claim-170324173505618.html

Iran TARGETS weapons at US warships that scramble deadly helicopters in FIERCE stand-off

ALARM are ringing in Washington after American warships were “harassed” by “aggressive” Iranian forces – who trained their weapons against the vessels.

The incident was condemned by US security forces who said Iran had been acting increasingly provocatively and unpredictably in recent months.Despite being in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, the American ships were aggressively approached by members of the Iranian Navy on Tuesday.

Iranian forces trained their weapons on the US flotilla, which was made up of five ships and included the huge aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/783548/iran-usa-navy-military-warships-strait-of-hormuz

US-backed Syrian fighters reach IS-held dam in north Syria

U.S.-backed Syrian fighters reached a major dam held by the Islamic State group in northern Syria Friday as Syria’s U.N. ambassador said hundreds of American personnel are “invading my country,” insisting that any effort to liberate the city of Raqqa — the de facto capital of the Islamic State group — should be done in coordination with the Damascus government.

The push toward the Tishrin Dam came three days after U.S. aircraft ferried Syrian Kurdish fighters and allies behind IS lines to spearhead a major ground assault on the IS-held town of Tabqa where the dam is located. Tabqa is west of the city of Raqqa.

IS has been pounded in Syria in recent months with attacks against the extremists from three fronts, the U.S.-backed fighters, Turkish troops and their allies near the border with Turkey, and government forces in the northern province of Aleppo.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said government forces captured late Friday the town of Deir Hafer, the last IS stronghold in Aleppo province, after troops stormed the town under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/french-defense-chief-battle-syrias-raqqa-days-46344501

Muqtada al-Sadr threatens to boycott Iraq elections

Powerful Shia leader demands changes to electoral law at Baghdad demonstration attended by thousands of supporters.

Influential religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr has told thousands of supporters in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, that he will boycott upcoming elections unless the country’s electoral law is changed.

Supporters of the Shia cleric have repeatedly rallied for changes to the law and the country’s electoral committee, which is dominated by affiliates of powerful political parties.

If “the law remains … this means that we will order a boycott of the elections,” Sadr said in remarks televised at Friday’s demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Iraq is set to hold holding provincial elections later this year, and parliamentary elections in 2018.

Sadr, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, did not specify the specific changes he wants to take place, but the current law has been criticised as being biased towards large political parties over smaller ones.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/muqtada-al-sadr-threatens-boycott-iraq-elections-170324152533689.html

Central Congo militia decapitates 40 police officers in ambush

Militia fighters in central Democratic Republic of Congo decapitated about 40 police officers in an ambush, local officials said on Saturday, the deadliest attack on security forces since an insurrection in the region began last August.

The Kamuina Nsapu militants attacked the police on Friday as they drove from Tshikapa to Kananga. The militia members stole arms and vehicles, Francois Kalamba, speaker of the Kasai provincial assembly, told Reuters.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-violence-idUSKBN16W0HN

 

Turkey threatens again to take actions regarding Cyprus’ natural gas

Turkey has condemned Cyprus’ research for natural gas in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

“These contacts clearly demonstrate yet again how the Greek Cypriot Administration disregards, in its unilateral pursuit of hydrocarbon-related activities, the inalienable rights on natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, the co-owners of the Island,” the statement reads, about meetings President Nicos Anastasiades had with natural gas companies in the US on March 22.

Ankara has also condemned the fact contracts were signed in the Republic of Cyprus for exploration of the EEZ, and that the Greek Cypriot side “is still not able to grasp the win-win-based potential for economic cooperation that can ensue on the Island and in the Eastern Mediterranean from a comprehensive settlement, towards which the Turkish Cypriot side and turkey have been expending intensive efforts.”

http://www.tornosnews.gr/en/tourism-businesses/new-investments/24162-turkey-threatens-again-to-take-actions-regarding-cyprus%E2%80%99-natural-gas.html

Cyber Firm Rewrites Part of Disputed Russian Hacking Report

U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has revised and retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign. The shift followed a VOA report that the company misrepresented data published by an influential British think tank.

In December, CrowdStrike said it found evidence that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, contributing to heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists.

VOA reported Tuesday that the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which publishes an annual reference estimating the strength of world armed forces, disavowed the CrowdStrike report and said it had never been contacted by the company.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has stated that the combat losses and hacking never happened.

CrowdStrike was first to link hacks of Democratic Party computers to Russian actors last year, but some cybersecurity experts have questioned its evidence. The company has come under fire from some Republicans who say charges of Kremlin meddling in the election are overblown.

After CrowdStrike released its Ukraine report, company co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch claimed it provided added evidence of Russian election interference. In both hacks, he said, the company found malware used by “Fancy Bear,” a group with ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

http://www.newdelhitimes.com/cyber-firm-rewrites-part-of-disputed-russian-hacking-report123/

Serbia says no to NATO on alliance’s airstrikes anniversary

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s prime minister pledged on Friday that the Balkan country will never join NATO or any other military alliance as Serbia marked the 18th anniversary of the start of NATO airstrikes that stopped its crackdown in Kosovo.

Aleksandar Vucic spoke at a ceremony near a railway bridge in southern Serbia where the Western military alliance’s missiles struck a passenger train, killing at least 28 people and injuring dozens.

“We will never be part of the alliance which killed our children, nor of any other alliance,” Vucic said. “They wanted to destroy and humiliate small Serbia and kill its children.”

Anti-NATO sentiments run high in Serbia since the 78-day bombing in 1999 over a bloody crackdown by Serbian forces against Kosovo Albanian separatists. Serbian officials claim that more than 2,000 people were killed in the airstrikes while independent estimates put that figure at about 800, mostly soldiers and police.

Some 10,000 people died and 1,660 are still missing from the 1998-1999 Kosovo war that ended with the NATO intervention and the withdrawal of Serbian troops from its former, majority ethnic Albanian-populated province. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia doesn’t recognize.

Although it is a member of a NATO outreach program and is formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has lately been boosting its military cooperation with Russia, which has agreed to deliver fighter jets, tanks and anti-aircraft systems.

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/serbia-says-no-to-nato-on-alliances-airstrikes-anniversary

N. Korea invents ‘quantum code communication’ tech: Naenara

Quantum communication system would make hacking or eavesdropping more difficult

North Korea claims it has invented a system for secure quantum-cryptographic communications, according to a report from the state-run Naenara news outlet published on Friday.

Quantum cryptography leverages the intrinsic properties of quantum theory to secure communications against outside interference or hacking.

“The scientists of Kim Il Sung University have succeeded in developing a quantum code communications technology, which makes it possible to open up a bright prospect for blocking various kinds of hacking and wiretapping from their sources by taking hold of its core technologies,” the Naenara report claims.

The article adds that DPRK scientists have solved “all the problems” associated with the technology, having designed bespoke circuits, and go on to say they can securely encode “all communications concerning images, sound and documents.”

“I’m guessing they are talking about quantum key distribution.  These systems are used to establish the cryptographic keys between two parties,” Dr Matthew Rose-Clarke, former Ph.D. researcher at CERN told NK News.

https://www.nknews.org/2017/03/n-korea-invents-quantum-code-communication-tech-naenara/

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February 28, 2017

‘Dress up like a Jew and make sure you have plenty of weapons under your coat’: ISIS fanatics issue chilling call to ‘terrorise’ Jewish people in the West

  • Chilling post urges ISIS supporters to ‘dress up like a Jew’ and launch attacks
  • Terror group’s supporters were advised to conceal weapons in their clothes
  • ISIS-linked Telegram channel also gives a list of possible targets in Britain
  • Also uses a picture of Amedy Coulibaly who attacked a Jewish shop in Paris

ISIS fanatics have issued a chilling call for fellow extremists to ‘terrorise’ Jewish communities in the West.

Brainwashed supporters were advised to ‘dress up like a Jew’ and conceal weapons under their coats before ‘unleashing the pain of the Muslims’ on their victims.

The terrifying call to arms emerged on an ISIS-linked Telegram channel called Lone Mujahid – a chat room where aspiring terrorists are encourage to carry out ‘lone-wolf’-style attacks.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4267184/Chilling-ISIS-post-calls-attacks-Jews-West.html#ixzz4Zz34G9RI

Syria war: Russia and China veto sanctions

Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons.

It is the seventh time Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to protect the Syrian government.

China has also vetoed six security council resolutions on Syria since the civil war began in 2011.

Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under an agreement negotiated between Russia and the US.

The Syrian government has previously denied carrying out chemical attacks.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39116854

 

Is this proof US forces’ deadly new drone can take out targets with astonishing accuracy? Images reveal how Al Qaeda leader was killed in his car – but the vehicle remained largely intact

  • Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdulrahman was reportedly killed on Sunday night
  • Pictures of drone attack show killing was carried out with enormous accuracy
  • Suggestions a new smaller drone is now being used in remote air combat
  • Instead of 25lbs of explosives, drones carry charges of a 40mm grenade
  • It would mean less innocent casualties on the ground caused by drone strikes 
  • Egyptian-born Abdulrahman was known by nom de guerre Abu al-Khayr al-Masri
  •  He was released from an Iranian jail in 2015 and headed for Syria 

Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdulrahman, who had been deputy to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was thought to have been killed on Sunday night in a drone attack on a car.

However, unlike previous bombings carried out by drones which usually result in catastrophic damage not to mention leaving the shell of a burned out car, in Sunday’s attack the vehicle appeared relatively unscathed.

It could mean that a new type of ultra-accurate drone is being used to ensure killing are carried out with both pinpoint accuracy all while reducing the amount of collateral damage.

Could a new type of drone be responsible for the killing of Al-Qaeda's second in command?

Could a new type of drone be responsible for the killing of Al-Qaeda’s second in command?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4265870/Images-Syrian-strike-new-kind-drone-exist.html#ixzz4Zz3K6B1L

India To Deploy Israeli SPYDER Air Defence Missile System Near Pakistan Border

Our Bureau

Israeli SPYDER air defence missile system

The Indian Air Force is in the process of deploying Israeli SPYDER air defence missile system on the western borders that it shares with Pakistan in the coming weeks.

The air force aims to boost its readiness to strike down any aerial threat from Pakistan, India Today reported today.

The deployment will help in tackling any aircraft, cruise missile, surveillance plane or drone that tries to violate our airspace, a defense official said.

The induction process for the country’s air force was delayed more than three years due to lack of availability of Czech manufactured Tatra trucks on which the missiles were to be carried.

The SPYDER (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) is a low-level, quick reaction missile (LLQRM) to neutralise hostile targets up to 15 km away and at heights between 20 and 9,000 metres. The system provides fast reaction air defence protection against enemy aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

http://www.defenseworld.net/news/18568/India_To_Deploy_Israeli_SPYDER_Air_Defence_Missile_System_Near_Pakistan_Border#.WLYCfpArJD8

 

Attacks on Top Trump Adviser Gorka a Product of Obama Admin Holdovers, Targeted Leaks

Support for Gorka not waning in Trump White House in light of media attacks

Images via AP and Flickr user Ariel Dovas

BY:
February 27, 2017 12:00 pm

Obama administration holdovers and loyalists are waging a leak-driven media campaign against a senior counter-terrorism adviser hand-picked by President Donald Trump, with the aim of undermining the Trump administration’s national security apparatus, according to multiple senior White House officials and sources close to the administration.

Sebastian Gorka, a longtime national security expert profiled by senior editor Bill Gertz in today’s Free Beacon, has been the subject of multiple leaks and negative stories portraying him as a bigot as part of a campaign similar to the one that brought down former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Senior White House officials dismissed the media narratives and said Gorka is well liked and respected by Trump’s innermost crowd. Several of these sources would only speak on background because they were not authorized to discuss internal White House workings. They also expressed growing concern about leaks from within the administration that are aimed at undermining Trump’s senior advisers.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/attacks-top-trump-adviser-gorka-product-obama-admin-holdovers-targeted-leaks/

N. Korea has ‘1000s of tons of chemical weapons’ scattered across country – Seoul

N. Korea has ‘1000s of tons of chemical weapons’ scattered across country – Seoul
South Korea’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, has warned that the North has “thousands of tons of chemical weapons” across the country and called to suspend Pyongyang from the UN.

Yun Byung-se has called for invoking a chemical weapons convention in light of the assassination that killed the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Malaysia.

North Korea is reported to have not just grams but thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons including VX all over the country…the recent assassination is a wake-up call to all of us to North Korea’s chemical weapons capability and its intent to actually use them,” the minister said as quoted by Reuters.

He also warned that within North Korea’s stockpile is VX, the nerve agent which is believed to have killed Kim’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport earlier this month.

The statement made at a UN disarmament conference in Geneva comes after Seoul signed a land swap deal with retail giant Lotte, which will allow South Korea to host the controversial US THAAD missile system. Both Seoul and Washington say the system is a defensive measure against Pyongyang.

https://www.rt.com/news/378867-korea-chemical-weapons-measures/

Fury in Berlin as Ankara reportedly arrests Die Welt journalist for ‘terrorism propaganda’

Fury in Berlin as Ankara reportedly arrests Die Welt journalist for ‘terrorism propaganda’
Die Welt’s Deniz Yucel, who has both Turkish and German citizenship, has been arrested in Turkey on charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “inciting violence,” according to a court witness. The news has sparked a harsh reaction from Germany.

Two weeks ago, Yucel was detained after reporting on emails allegedly from the private account of Turkey’s energy minister, Berat Albayrak, who is also President Erdogan’s son-in-law, which had been released by a leftist hacker collective.

The leak has been linked to a huge scandal that began months ago, when WikiLeaks said that the emails proved Albayrak’s connections to Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] oil trade.

The 57,000 emails from 2000-2016 tied Albayrak to staffing and salary questions at Powertrans, a company with a monopoly on providing road and rail logistics for oil being transported from Kurdistan. In 2014-2015, Powertrans was also linked to IS-produced oil coming from Syria. Though there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the allegations, Albayrak denied having any links to Powertrans anyway.

A court witness told Reuters that the correspondent was jailed pending trial on Monday, becoming the first German reporter to be detained since the July coup and the ensuing crackdown on media.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed the detention as “disproportionate,” “bitter and disappointing,” while German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel went a step further, saying the journalist’s arrest exposes the differences between the two countries’ positions on freedom of the press in a “glaring light.”

https://www.rt.com/news/378876-turkey-arrest-german-journalist/

Samsung Group chief charged with bribery, corporate nerve center dismantled

By Se Young Lee and Ju-min Park | SEOUL
South Korean prosecutors charged Samsung Group [SARG.UL] chief Jay Y. Lee with bribery and embezzlement on Tuesday as the top conglomerate announced the dismantling of its corporate strategy office, the latest developments in a graft scandal that has rocked the country.

Jay Y. Lee, 48, was arrested on Feb. 17 over his alleged role in the corruption scandal involving impeached President Park Geun-hye, dealing a fresh blow to the standard-bearer for Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The special prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday, the last day of its investigation, that it had charged Lee, third-generation leader of the tech giant “chaebol”, and four other executives with bribery and embezzlement.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-politics-idUSKBN1670G2

Did China Just Make ALL Stealth Fighters (Think the F-22 and F-35) Obsolete?

Could Beijing’s quantum radar technology render stealth aircraft obsolete?

While theoretically, if such a radar existed, it would be able to detect and track stealth aircraft with impunity, but it is unclear if China truly mastered such technology. The Chinese defense industry has claimed a breakthrough in mastering quantum radar technology, but Western defense industry officials said that such a system is not likely to exist outside a laboratory. Even then, the quantum radars would be difficult to build and test reliably even in a lab environment. Indeed, it is likely that networked low-frequency radars—which can also detect and track fighter-sized stealth aircraft—are more likely to be a more pragmatic development.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/did-china-just-make-all-stealth-fighters-think-the-f-22-f-35-19608

$400bn F-35 can only hit ‘stationary or slow moving objects’ new report reveals as military bosses claim fighter jet could battle ISIS in the Middle East ‘in a few years’

  • Fifth-generation fighter has been plagued with issues 
  • $400bn development schedule has stretched to 15 years
  • Report claims it won’t be ready to even begin full combat testing until 2019

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been hailed as the ‘most expensive weapon in history’, costing $400bn.

However, according to Aviation Week, the plane’s laser targeting system has one slight flaw – it can only target stationary or slow moving objects.

‘Despite being among the most technologically advanced low-observable warplanes on the planet, the Lockheed Martin F-35 has one significant shortcoming,’ it wrote.

‘The Joint Strike Fighter cannot strike moving ground targets using the targeting system and weapons loadout delivered in its final combat Lightning II configuration, Block 3F.’

The jet has gone through dozens of updates to its software, with the Block 3F being the most recent.

 

Google Fixes Ultra Sneaky Gmail Phishing Trick

Google has countered to a “highly effective” phishing scam that in recent months impacted users of its Gmail email service.

Scammers had been tricking people into divulging their passwords by directing them to lookalike login pages that tripped no alarms in the victim’s web browser. Security researchers at WordFence, a company that makes security tools for WordPress sites, last month warned that the phishing effort was “having a wide impact, even on experienced technical users.”

No longer. Google has responded to the problem with an update to its Chrome browser. In the new version, released earlier this month, the browser’s address bar warns people when they have been served a page that uses the phishing trick.

http://fortune.com/2017/02/27/google-gmail-chrome-fix-phishing/

Russia’s fifth-gen fighter blitz

February 27, 2017 (Photo Credit: SERGEY VENYAVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

MOSCOW — Russia is moving aggressively on another traditional patron of U.S. arms exports: the United Arab Emirates. Rather than cheap small arms and land-based platforms, Russian companies appear to have identified a market opportunity: relatively cost-effective alternatives to Western fifth-generation fighters.

The head of Russia’s largest defense conglomerate Rostec, Sergey Chemezov, told reporters at the IDEX show in Abu Dabi this week that Rostec would partner with the UAE Defense Ministry to develop a light fifth-generation fighter jet based on the MiG-29. Development is slated to begin in 2018, and production should launch seven to eight years after that.

“It takes quite a long period of time to develop,” Chemezov told Defense News in an exclusive interview. “We anticipate local production here in [UAE], for the needs of [UAE].”

Russia-backed rebels issue ultimatum to Ukraine

Ukraine-run businesses to be seized in Donetsk and Luhansk if blockade does not end, say Russia-backed rebel leaders.Separatists in eastern Ukraine have threatened to take control of Ukraine-run businesses in rebel-held areas if the Kiev government does not end a rail blockade that had halted coal supplies.

The ultimatum came on Monday, a month since a group of Ukrainian legislators and army veterans started blocking some rail traffic in eastern regions.

The blockade is opposed by the Ukrainian government, as it prevents coal produced in the rebel-held territory from reaching power plants and the steel industry in the rest of the country, whose exports are a keystone of Ukraine’s economy.

In a joint statement, leaders of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) said on Monday the blockade had caused many businesses to suffer in rebel-held areas and that it went against the spirit of the 2015 Minsk peace agreement.

Alexander Zakharchenko, of the DNR, and the LNR’s Igor Plotnitsky said: “We are forced to announce that if, by midnight on Wednesday, the blockade is not taken down, we will introduce a system of external management on all companies registered in Ukraine’s jurisdiction that operate in the DNR and LNR.”

They also said they would stop selling coal to Ukraine and send future coal supplies to Russia or elsewhere.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/02/russia-backed-rebels-issue-ultimatum-ukraine-170227172545227.html

Russia’s Mysterious Cyber Treason Case Just Got Even Sketchier

Late last year, top cybersecurity investigators from a private firm and Russian intelligence were arrested in dramatic fashion. One was dragged out of a meeting with a bag over his head. All were disappeared. Details were scare at the time, but revelations from a new Reuters report now only complicate what we know.

In December, Ruslan Stoyanov, head of the computer incidents investigation team at Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, was arrested with no explanation from Russian law enforcement. Along with Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev, Stoyanov was charged with treason. Reports indicated that the suspects would be tried in a “secret military tribunal.”

According to a Reuters source, the treason charges are related to accusations made by a Russian businessman named Pavel Vrublevsky seven years ago. In 2010, Vrublevsky, founder of internet payment firm ChronoPay, reported the suspects to authorities. He claimed that they had passed state secrets to American firms including Verisign, a company that specializes in domain name services and internet security, which then turned them over to US intelligence. Reuters reports the accusations were never investigated.

A spokesperson from Verisign, the only American firm identified, denied that it had been given any secret information. The company does have an iDefense unit that gathers information on cybercrime and supplies dossiers to US intelligence, but the spokesperson insisted that it does not deal in classified information. “Nothing like the arrangement as described by Pavel Vrublevsky ever took place,” said Kimberly Zenz, a former analyst at Verisign’s iDefense unit.

http://gizmodo.com/russias-mysterious-cyber-treason-case-just-got-even-ske-1792786218

PUTIN AND ERDOGAN COZY UP TO DIVIDE SYRIA

Something big and important must be at the heart of a relationship in which both sides are able to overcome the pain they repeatedly inflict on each other. Russia and Turkey, historically adversaries and newly active allies, are one such case.

While the United States is sending conflicting signals about its Syria policy, Russia, Turkey and Iran are negotiating a pragmatic framework of coexistence in the region, which is torn by international and sectarian conflicts.

Russia and Turkey in particular seem to have found a way of pursuing larger goals while agreeing to disagree on the many diverging interests that will always keep the two countries apart.

The two countries’ mutual history is rough. They clashed incessantly and waged war on each other once every quarter century when they were still empires. Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey ended up on opposite sides of the Cold War divide.

http://www.newsweek.com/putin-and-erdogan-cosy-divide-syria-561814

Iraq army seizes key Mosul bridge in ISIS battle

While all five bridges linking the government-held eastern Mosul to the western part have been destroyed, the takeover of the fourth bridge will allow Iraqi forces to lay a ramp over the broken part and open a supply route from east.

“The Rapid Response Forces of the Iraqi Federal Police completely liberated al-Jawsaq neighborhood and control the fourth bridge… Iraqi flags are now raised on buildings, and heavy casualties were inflicted on ISIS,” Lt. Gen. Abdel Amir Rasheed Yarallah of the Joint Operations Command said Monday.

Asian imports of Iranian oil rise nearly 70 percent year/year in January

By Osamu Tsukimori | TOKYO

Imports of Iranian crude by Asia’s four main buyers of the oil rose about two-thirds in January from a year ago when levels were lower as Western sanctions on Tehran had only just been lifted.

Iran’s top four Asian buyers – China, India, South Korea and Japan – imported 1.64 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up 67.6 percent on a year earlier, government and ship-tracking data showed.

http://in.reuters.com/article/asia-iran-crude-idINKBN1670Q3

Airbus faces battle on two fronts over call for A400M aid

By Tim Hepher | PARIS

Airbus (AIR.PA) faces tough negotiations on two fronts as it seeks new relief from European governments and engine makers for losses on its troubled A400M military transporter plane.

The planemaker called last week for new talks with European governments to ease “heavy penalties” for delays to the troop and armored vehicle carrier, after taking a fresh 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) charge for Europe’s largest defense project.

It has also appointed a new program manager for the A400M as part of a broader reshuffle and is set to beef up the management of its military aircraft business with a new deputy, industry sources said. Airbus declined to comment.

The 20-billion-euro project has been beset by political wrangling since its inception more than a decade ago. By citing a new ‘crisis’ and calling for ministerial talks, Airbus seems to be repeating tactics that led to a previous 3.5 billion euro bailout in 2010.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-airbus-a400m-idUSKBN1661WR

Massive Azerbaijani Attack on Artsakh Rebuffed

STEPANAKERT, Artsakh (ArmRadio)—The Azerbaijani launched an offensive toward Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic positions on February 25 using various weaponry in the southeastern (Martuni) and eastern (Akna) directions of the Artsakh/Azerbaijani border, also known as the line of contact, twice at 3am and 4am, the Artsakh Defense Ministry reported.

The Artsakh armed forces did not have any casualties, while Azerbaijan lost five servicemen in the neutral zone.

“The attempt was a complete failure,” the Ministry said, adding that, as the Azeri side tried to ascribe its actions to the Armenian side.

http://asbarez.com/160559/massive-azerbaijani-attack-on-artsakh-rebuffed/

Cyber attackers target Singapore Defence Ministry, but no secrets found

Cyber attackers have stolen basic personal data from about 850 Singapore national servicemen and employees in a possible attempt to access official secrets, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry detected the breach this month in the I-net system that allows internet surfing using dedicated computer terminals on defense ministry and Singapore Armed Forces premises, the ministry said in a statement.

No classified military information was stored on I-net, the ministry said.

“The attack on I-net appeared to be targeted and carefully planned,” it said.

“The real purpose may have been to gain access to official secrets, but this was prevented by the physical separation of I-net from our internal systems.”

http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-defence-idUKKBN1670O3

SINGAPORE MILITARY HACK ‘PROBABLY STATE SPONSORED’

Breach of defence ministry’s ‘I-net’ system stole identity card information, telephone numbers and dates of birth of 850 people

BY BHAVAN JAIPRAGAS

The Singaporean military’s dedicated web access system was breached this month by hackers thought to be hunting for official secrets, the government said on Tuesday.

Investigations into the breach of the Ministry of Defence’s “I-net” system – which is detached from computers dealing with classified information – found the personal information of about 850 people had been stolen, the ministry said.

One analyst said there was a “high probability” that the hack was state sponsored.

The I-net system is air-gapped, meaning that computers linked to it do not have access to a separate system that handles the digital exchange of classified information.

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2074806/singapore-military-hack-probably-state-sponsored

Inside The Insane Coup Russian Spies Dressed As Cops Tried To Launch

 JACOB BOJESSON
Foreign Correspondent

A Russian intelligence official will reportedly face indictment for plotting a coup to stop Montenegro from joining NATO by assassinating its prime minister.

Eduard Sismakov, an officer with the GRU military service, allegedly ran a network of Serbian and Russian nationalists and paramilitaries who tried to disrupt the Montenegrin election Oct. 16. The plan was to break into the Montenegro Parliament, kill Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and put pro-Russian parties in power.

Milivoje Katnic, Montenegro’s special prosecutor, told The Telegraph that a group of plotters were placed among protestors outside the parliament building as the election results were announced. The group was supposed to force its way inside the building at an appointed sign. Another group, dressed in police uniforms, would then open fire against the protestors “so that citizens would think that the official police are shooting at them.” The eventual goal was to kill Djukanovic inside the building.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/02/27/inside-the-insane-coup-russian-spies-dressed-as-cops-tried-to-launch/#ixzz4ZzCzTe1A

Singapore firm denies link to North Korean front company

Pan Systems’ office in Ubi. Managing director Louis Low categorically denied any links with North Korean front company Glocom and said that while Pan Systems sold electronic goods in the North Korean market from 1996 to 2007, the business dealings were all “above board”.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Pan Systems MD refutes report and says his firm began pulling out from N. Korea from 2007 after UN scanctions

Singapore-based firm Pan Systems had no connection to Glocom, the North Korean front company that violated United Nations sanctions by selling battlefield radio equipment, claims its managing director, Mr Louis Low.

His denial comes after a report by Reuters yesterday, citing a UN report drafted for the Security Council, which said Glocom was operated by the Pyongyang branch of Pan Systems.

The report also said the North Korean branch of Pan Systems made use of bank accounts, front companies and agents in China and Malaysia to trade in radio components and accessories.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/spore-firm-denies-link-to-n-korean-front-company

Army deploys more than 100 MRAPs to South Korea

The Army is deploying more than 100 MRAPs to South Korea by the end of February to boost troop protection capabilities as tensions rise on the divided peninsula.

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES

SEOUL, South Korea — The Army is sending more than 100 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to South Korea to boost troop protection capabilities as tensions rise on the divided peninsula.

The decision is a reversal after a 2012 feasibility study found that MRAPs — famous for saving countless lives from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan — weren’t suitable for maneuver battalions in South Korea.

The 8th Army says it began fielding MRAPs and smaller versions known as M-ATVs in late December and was on track to complete the deployment to multiple locations by the end of February.

http://www.stripes.com/news/army-deploys-more-than-100-mraps-to-south-korea-1.456284#.WLV8W5DytD8

 

China secures its ‘biggest’ military export order for new UAV system

28 February 2017

China announced on 27 February that its Wing Loong II UAV had completed its maiden flight. Source: Via Sina.com.cn

China has secured an international contract for its Wing Loong II strike-capable reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), marking another milestone in the country’s bid to become a major military exporter.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported on 28 February said the deal represented the “biggest overseas purchase order in the history of Chinese [UAV] foreign military sales”. The identity of the customer and the size and value of the contract were not disclosed.

http://www.janes.com/article/68308/china-secures-its-biggest-military-export-order-for-new-uav-system

 

China conducts seabed surveys in Japan’s EEZ without consent / JCG finds 63 cases over 5 years

The Yomiuri Shimbun

China conducted a total of 63 seabed surveys inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the East China Sea and elsewhere without consent over the five years from 2012 to 2016, according to a survey by the Japan Coast Guard.

China has made an application to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS, see below) for extending its continental shelf to areas inside Japan’s EEZ. China apparently has been increasing its research activities aiming to expand its maritime interests.

A country’s territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometers) offshore. An EEZ refers to the area of sea beyond that, extending up to 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers) offshore. Foreign ships can freely pass through EEZs.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003548134

Japan to strengthen rules to prevent technology leaks

Much tougher fines, investment restrictions sought to tighten net

A Tokyo Electron plant in Miyagi Prefecture is seen here. Cutting-edge semiconductors are among the technologies that the Japanese government seeks to protect.

TOKYO — Japan looks to bolster regulations on the export of advanced technology that could be diverted to military use, seeking to keep sensitive information and materials away from other countries and help domestic companies retain their edge.

Government permission is required to export cutting-edge materials or technology such as carbon fiber — which can be used in aircraft and centrifuges — and power-amplifying semiconductors. Current law provides for penalties of 5 million yen to 10 million yen ($44,300 to $88,600) for both individuals and companies.

One proposed revision imposes fines of up to 30 million yen on individuals who leak technology related to weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weaponry, and 20 million yen for leaks related to conventional arms such as handguns or land mines. The caps for businesses would rise to 1 billion yen and 700 million yen, respectively.

http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Japan-to-strengthen-rules-to-prevent-technology-leaks

 

Counterfeiters, hackers cost U.S. up to $600 billion a year

MONDAY, FEB. 27, 2017, 4:47 P.M.

WASHINGTON – Counterfeit goods, software piracy and the theft of trade secrets cost the American economy as much as $600 billion a year, a private watchdog says.

In a report out Monday, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property says the annual losses range from about $225 billion to $600 billion. The theft of trade secrets alone costs the United States between $180 billion and $540 billion annually. Counterfeit goods cost the United States $29 billion to $41 billion annual; pirated software costs an additional $18 billion a year.

The findings echo those of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which in 2015 pegged the annual cost of economic espionage by computer hacking at $400 billion.

The commission labels China the world’s No. 1 culprit. Including Hong Kong, China accounts for 87 percent of counterfeit goods seized entering the United States. The report says the Chinese government encourages intellectual property theft.

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/feb/27/counterfeiters-hackers-cost-us-up-to-600-billion-a/

 

 

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February 16, 2017

Hezbollah chief threatens Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor

Terror chief Nasrallah boasts that decision to move ammonia tank from Haifa was due to ‘our threat to target it’

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday boasted that his rockets can reach Israel’s nuclear reactor in the southern city of Dimona, and said he would turn Israel’s reported nuclear arsenal against it.

Nasrallah, who had previously threatened to target an ammonia tank in Haifa, claimed credit for an Israeli court decision to shut down that facility this week and said he would do the same with the nuclear reactor.

“I call upon the Israeli not only to evacuate the Ammonia tank from Haifa, but also to dismantle Dimona nuclear facility,” Nasrallah said at a rally, warning that he would target Dimona too. “The Israeli nuclear weapon that represents a threat to the entire region, we will turn it into a threat to Israel,” he claimed.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-chief-threatens-israels-dimona-nuclear-reactor/North Korea killing: man and second woman held over death of Kim Jong-nam

Tillerson Forced to Stay at Sanitarium in German Village for G-20

February 16, 2017, 12:47 PM EST
  • Russian foreign minister asks why reporters were ushered away
  • Secretary of State is in ‘listening mode,’ official says

On his first trip abroad as U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson was forced to stay at a sanitarium in a German village known for its hot springs, 30 minutes from where other world leaders gathered. Diplomatic security agents mingled in the parking lot with elderly people in wheelchairs arriving for spa treatments.

Tillerson, the former head of Exxon Mobil Corp., was at the sanitarium because Bonn’s hotels were all booked by the time he confirmed his attendance at this week’s Group of 20 meeting. Counterparts including U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had to make a trek out to meet him.

The unusual diplomatic debut continued during an awkward encounter with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. After Lavrov delivered some perfunctory opening remarks alongside Tillerson, U.S. aides quickly ushered reporters from the room. “Why did they shush them out?” Lavrov asked.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-16/tillerson-s-sanatorium-lodgings-signal-uneven-start-as-diplomat

 

The US military is sending the big guns to South Korea after Kim Jong-un’s latest stunts

Days after North Korea tested a new, dangerous missile type and allegedly engaged agents to assassinate Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Malaysia, the US plans to send the big guns to the Pacific in a massive show of force.

The USS Carl Vinson has been making its way to the Pacific, and it will be joined by the world’s most lethal combat plane, the F-22s, a nuclear-powered submarine, and possibly B-1 and B-2 nuclear-capable bombers.

“The two sides have agreed to send such weapons as the F-22 stealth fighter and a nuclear-powered submarine to the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises in March,” a defense officialtold South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

http://www.businessinsider.com/f-22-nuclear-submarine-to-south-korea-2017-2

 

Two more suspects held in Malaysia as South Korean spy chief says apparent assassination was ordered by Kim Jong-un

The suspects were picked up separately on Wednesday and Thursday. The female suspects were identified using surveillance footage from Kuala Lumpur International airport, where Kim Jong-nam fell ill on Monday morning before dying on the way to the hospital.

The Malaysian inspector general said the second female suspect had been identified as Siti Aishah, an Indonesian national. Her birthday was given as 11 February 1992, and place of birth as Serang, Indonesia. It is not clear if her passport was genuine.

Police official Abdul Samah said officers had also detained a Malaysian man, who is believed to be the boyfriend of the second female suspect.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/16/north-korea-killing-second-woman-held-over-death-of-kim-jong-nam

DID ‘CARELESS’ FACEBOOK USE LEAD TO KIM JONG-NAM’S DEATH?

Kim Jong-Nam’s ‘careless’ use of Facebook and emails may have led to his assassination, it has been reported.

The 46-year-old half-brother of Kim Jong-un, poisoned to death by two female operatives in Kuala Lumpur, posted numerous pictures of himself online along with comments.

His Facebook page was under the name ‘Kim Chol’, the same name used on the passport he had in his possession when he died on Monday.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4230524/Kim-Jong-seen-time-half-brother-s-death.html

Defence group Cobham takes huge writedown and warns it cannot forecast 2017 performance

Shares in Cobham have crashed after the beleaguered defence group issued another profit warning, saying it will take millions of pounds of goodwill charges, while revealing it cannot yet give guidance on how it will perform in 2017.

Cobham, which provides communications equipment, control systems and services to the defence industry, will take a £574m impairment on problems across several of its units.

It will also take a £150m charge on spiralling costs related to its contract to develop a mid-air refuelling tanker for Boeing.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/02/16/defence-group-cobham-takes-huge-writedown-warns-cannot-forecast/

US intelligence officials are ‘keeping SECRETS from Donald Trump out of fear they could be compromised or leaked’ after the president found out

  • The new report comes after Trump attacked intelligence officials for leaking 
  • Current and former officials said some sensitive information is being held back 
  • It is reportedly being done because they fear that it could be ‘compromised’ 
  • Part of the reasoning is reported links between Trump’s team and the Kremlin 

Donald Trump is having sensitive information withheld from him by US intelligence officials and spies, according to a new report.

The report, published by the Wall Street Journal, claims the reason behind not telling the president the whole truth is that officials fear the information could be leaked or compromised after it got to him.

The Journal cited multiple current and former officials with knowledge of the alleged withholding of information.

In response to the report, a White House spokesman told the newspaper: ‘There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4229730/Intelligence-officials-withholding-information-Trump.html#ixzz4YqsmjetV

Former Google CEO admits criminals were NOT taken into consideration when the internet was built in the 1970s

  • Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, was speaking at a conference this week
  • He said that ‘it didn’t occur to us that there were going to be criminals’
  • This year alone, there have been countless examples of hacking and data breaches, including attacks on PlayStation, Netflix and Amazon 

When the internet was first built in the 1970s, it was seen as one of the greatest innovations of our time.

But Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet and former CEO of Google, has suggested that the initial build of the net may have missed a trick.

Speaking at a security conference this week, Schmidt said that internet security is still an ongoing issue because ‘it didn’t occur to us that there were going to be criminals.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4230552/Internet-not-created-criminals-mind.html#ixzz4Yqt45tvj

Iran Warns Trump Against Disclosing Secret Iran Deal Documents

Iran claims disclosure threatens deal

Alaeddin Boroujerdi

Alaeddin Boroujerdi / AP

BY:
February 15, 2017 4:50 pm

Senior Iranian officials are warning the Trump administration about disclosing secret deals related to the nuclear deal that have long been hidden from the public by the Obama administration, according to recent comments that prompted pushback from senior sources on Capitol Hill.

Iran’s warning comes on the heels of a Washington Free Beacon report disclosing that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had been pushed out of office partly due to his intention to release these sensitive documents to the American public.

Leading lawmakers in Congress launched multiple investigations last year into the Obama administration’s efforts to keep these documents secret and out of public view. Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter said that the Trump White House is working on ways to publicize this information despite warnings from Iran

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/iran-warns-trump-disclosing-secret-iran-deal-documents/

U.S. Army depicted Hillary Clinton as insider threat in cyber security training

– The Washington Times – Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The U.S. Army depicted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as an insider threat in a Powerpoint presentation to soldiers on cyber security.

A photograph of Mrs. Clinton, who lost the Nov. 8 presidential race, is depicted along with two murderers, two leakers of classified information and one who mishandled secrets.

Mrs. Clinton, as secretary of State, exclusively used a home-based server to handle all her government emails, instead of a more secure state.gov address. Some contained highly classified information and the FBI said the server was vulnerable to foreign intrusion. She was not charged.

The others depicted: Food Hood assassin Maj. Nidal Hassan, Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, major leakers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus. He provided classified logs to his biographer and girlfriend.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/15/army-depicted-hillary-clinton-insider-threat-cyber/

Putin: NATO keeps trying to draw Russia into confrontation, meddle in internal affairs1.2K

NATO is constantly trying to draw Russia into a confrontation, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said. He added that members of the alliance continue to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs.

The accusations came as Putin addressed senior members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB on Thursday. The president said that over the past years the global security situation “has not improved, but on the contrary, many existing threats have only become more serious.”

NATO with its “newly-declared official mission to deter Russia” is one such threat, Putin said.

“This is the goal behind the expansion of this military bloc. It happened before, but now they have found a new justification which they believe to be serious,” Putin said.

“In fact, they are constantly provoking us, trying to drag us into a confrontation,” Putin stated, adding that NATO members “are continuing their efforts to interfere in our domestic affairs with the goal of destabilizing social and political order in Russia proper.”

https://www.rt.com/news/377538-nato-russia-confrontation-meddling/

NATO members must boost defense spending, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis says

BRUSSELS — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday issued a sharp ultimatum to NATO Wednesday, telling allies they must start increasing defense spending by year’s end or the Trump administration will “moderate its commitment” to them.

He did not detail what the United States might do if NATO members failed to fall in line.

Echoing a demand made repeatedly by President Trump, Mattis said NATO must adopt a plan this year that sets milestone dates for governments to meet a military funding goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nato-defense-spending-pentagon-chief-jim-mattis/

Italy: Democratic Party Could Soon Fracture

 

A major split could soon take place in Italy’s Democratic Party over disagreements about the ambitions of former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, La Stampa reported Feb. 16. Renzi, who recently stepped down as party head to trigger new leadership elections in a bid to shore up intraparty support, wants Italy to hold new parliamentary elections, possibly by this summer. A faction of members opposed to this plan has now surfaced. This group wants the government led by current Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to finish its mandate and hold elections in early 2018. According to leading members from this group, the faction has reached an agreement to create a new political party to the left of the Democratic Party, if Renzi refuses to agree to its position. With the Democratic Party set to hold a party summit over the coming weekend, things could quickly come to a head. The creation of a new, farther left party would lead to an even more fragmented parliament in Italy.

https://www.stratfor.com/situation-report/italy-democratic-party-could-soon-fracture

 

US pledges more support to Turkey’s Syria operation

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued assurances that the U.S.-led coalition will provide more support to Turkey’s Euphrates Shield Operation during his first meeting with his Turkish counterpart Fikri Işık late on Feb. 15 on the margins of a NATO summit in Brussels, according to Turkish officials.

Işık, meanwhile, repeated Ankara’s long-standing demand from the U.S. to cease its cooperation with Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) elements in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a Turkish Defense Ministry official stated.

“Anti-terror operations cannot succeed in this way. One terrorist organization cannot be preferred over another one,” Işık reportedly said, referring to the fight against the ISIL.

Turkey sees the PYD and its military wing, the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), as terrorist organizations due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

At the NATO meeting in Brussels, Işık also met counterparts from Spain, Italy, the U.K. and France.

Meanwhile, a Syrian Kurdish leader said that Syrian Kurdish forces and their allies expect continued U.S. support for their war against ISIL in northern Syria and will fight Turkish forces if they advance towards Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-pledges-more-support-to-turkeys-syria-operation.aspx?pageID=238&nid=109815&NewsCatID=352

The Pentagon said it wouldn’t use depleted uranium rounds against ISIS. Months later it did. Thousands of times.


An A-10 Thunderbolt II. (Justin Connaher/ U.S. Air Force)
Months after the Pentagon said it wouldn’t use a controversial type of armor-piercing ammunition that has been blamed for long-term health complications, U.S. aircraft fired thousands of the rounds during two high-profile air raids in Syria in November 2015, the Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday.The use of the ammunition, a 30mm depleted-uranium bullet called PGU-14, was first reported by a joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy investigation on Tuesday. The roughly 5,265 rounds of the munition were fired from multiple A-10 ground attack aircraft on Nov 16, 2015, and Nov. 22, 2015, in airstrikes in Syria’s eastern desert that targeted the Islamic State’s oil supply during Operation Tidal Wave II, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

When loaded with depleted-uranium bullets the A-10’s fired what is called a “combat-mix,” meaning the aircraft’s cannon fires five depleted-uranium rounds to one high explosive incendiary bullet.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/02/16/the-pentagon-said-it-wouldnt-use-depleted-uranium-rounds-against-isis-months-later-it-did-5265-times/?utm_term=.1eab0a586ff5

Boeing Machinists in South Carolina reject unionization

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Production workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant have rejected an effort to unionize, maintaining Southern reluctance toward unionization and setting up a picture-perfect stop for President Trump, who visits the facilities this week.

CBS Charleston affiliate WCSC-TV cites Boeing officials as saying 74 percent of the votes cast Wednesday were against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Officials say there were 2097 votes for no and 731 votes for yes.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/boeing-machinists-in-south-carolina-reject-unionization/

  • What is commonly called the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” is, in fact, the “Arab-Israel conflict.”
  • Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank in 1950, and from that time Palestinian nationalism has been deadly for the Kingdom.
  • “I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror… to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts…. A Palestinian state will never be created by terror — it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempts to preserve the status quo.” — President George W. Bush, 2002.
  • “There’s no way a deal can be made if they’re not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and important country.” — President Donald J. Trump, 2017.
  • The burden, then, is on the Arab states and the Palestinianshttps://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9953/arab-israel-conflict

Deutsche Bank examined Trump’s account for Russia links

Bank looked for evidence of whether loans to president were underpinned by guarantees from Moscow, Guardian learns

The scandal-hit bank that loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to Donald Trumphas conducted a close internal examination of the US president’s personal account to gauge whether there are any suspicious connections to Russia, the Guardian has learned.

Deutsche Bank, which is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and is facing intense regulatory scrutiny, was looking for evidence of whether recent loans to Trump, which were struck in highly unusual circumstances, may have been underpinned by financial guarantees from Moscow.

The Guardian has also learned that the president’s immediate family are Deutsche clients. The bank examined accounts held by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, her husband, Jared Kushner, who serves as a White House adviser, and Kushner’s mother.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/16/deutsche-bank-examined-trump-account-for-russia-links

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top military officer will try to reopen a military dialogue with his Russian counterpart on Thursday amid tensions over Russia’s harassment of American warships, stepped-up fighting in eastern Ukraine and accusations that Moscow has violated a landmark arms control accord.

The meeting between Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, will take place in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Turkish forces bombard final IS bastion in Syria, killing 24 civilians

Turkish bombardment of an Islamic State (IS) group-held town in Syria has killed 24 civilians, a monitor said on Thursday, but Turkey’s army said only “terrorists” died in the operation.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead in air strikes and shelling on the town of Al-Bab in the last 24 hours included 11 children.

Turkey’s army, quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency, said it had killed 15 “terrorists” in air strikes, artillery fire and clashes.

Al-Bab is IS’s final stronghold in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo and has come under fierce attack by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels in recent months.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/Turkish-forces-bombard-final-IS-bastion-in-Syria-killing-24-civilians/article17312040.ece

Turkey says U.S. not insisting on Kurdish role in Raqqa operation

Turkey’s defense minister said on Thursday the new U.S. administration has a more flexible approach to Syria and is not insisting on the Kurdish YPG militia being involved in the operation to drive Islamic State from its Raqqa stronghold.

U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the YPG, has caused tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which views the Kurdish militia as an extension of militants fighting on its own soil.

“If we want the Raqqa operation to be successful, then it should be carried out with Arab forces in the region and not the YPG,” Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik told reporters in Brussels.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-idUSKBN15V1EM

NATO rules out military operations in Syria

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:20 P.M.) – The North American Treaty Organization (NATO) has ruled out military operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

With its largest member, the United States (U.S.), currently conducting field operations alongside the Kurdish-led “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) and “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) in northern Syria, rumors surfaced about possible NATO participation.

However, the NATO Secretary General believes there is no need for his organization’s participation in this six year long conflict

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/nato-rules-military-operations-syria/

India and Russia seek to revive stalled helicopter venture

Reuters

BENGALURU: India and Russia are nearing a joint venture to make light helicopters in India, reviving a plan announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015.

India needs to replace hundreds of ageing utility helicopters deployed along its Himalayan border with China as well as in Jammu and Kashmir region.

This means an initial order of 200 Kamov-226 helicopters, of which 140 will be built in India as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s drive to build a domestic defence industrial base and cut imports, is expected to be increased.

And final documents relating to the $1 billion Kamov deal involving Russian Helicopters, Rosoboronexport and India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has been submitted to Putin, HAL’s chief T Suvarna Raju, told reporters on Wednesday.

NATO survival will depend on Germany

Europe is $100 billion short of strategic autonomy. Berlin could close that gap.

The United States will meet its commitments in Europe but NATO’s European members have to step up on their defense spending — that’s the message U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis will try to hammer home when he meets with European counterparts in Brussels.

What we’re not likely to hear is that the answer to the alliance’s spending woes largely hinges on just one country: Germany.

http://www.politico.eu/article/nato-survival-will-depend-on-germany/

The parliamentary panel is investigating alleged eavesdropping in Germany by the U.S. National Security Agency and its relationship with German counterparts. The inquiry was launched a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of secret U.S. eavesdropping programs in 2013.

Reports later in 2013 that the NSA listened in on German government phones, including Merkel’s, prompted a diplomatic spat between Berlin and Washington that for a time soured otherwise good relations with the Obama administration.

Germany’s Merkel testifies on alleged US eavesdropping

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February 11, 2017

Report: 72 convicted of terrorism from ‘Trump 7’ mostly Muslim countries

Merkel offers cash handouts worth millions of pounds for migrants to return home in an embarrassing U-turn

  • The German chancellor agreed measures to speed up deportation
  • An estimated 450,000 rejected migrants are set to be sent home
  • Scheme includes £76million of cash incentives to leave voluntarily

Angela Merkel will offer cash handouts worth millions of pounds for migrants to leave Germany in an effort to silence criticism of her ‘open-door’ border policy.

In a highly-embarrassing U-turn over the ill-fated plan, which saw 1.2million migrants flock to the country, Mrs Merkel has now vowed to send many of them home.

The German chancellor agreed a package of measures to speed up the deportation process for an estimated 450,000 migrants who have been rejected asylum.

Current measures have left officials struggling to deport those whose asylum requests are rejected, largely because they come from areas deemed to be safe, unlike war-torn countries such as Syria

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4213978/Merkel-offers-cash-handouts-migrants-leave.html#ixzz4YQAgLLkz

Iran allowing Syria-bound Russian planes to use airspace-report

Iran has again allowed Russian planes to use its airspace during recent operations in Syria, a senior Iranian security official was quoted as saying on Saturday.

In August, Russian aircraft for the first time used an Iranian air base to conduct strikes in Syria. The Russian military said its fighters had completed their tasks, but left open the possibility of using the Hamadan base again if circumstances warranted.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-russia-iran-idUSKBN15Q0CR

Tsipras hits back at IMF, Germany over debt impasse

Athens (AFP) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Saturday warned the International Monetary Fund and EU economic powerhouse Germany to stop playing with fire over his country’s debt problems.

Opening a meeting of his far-left Syriza party, Tsipras said he was confident a solution over repayments would be found, despite talks between Greece and its creditors ending in Brussels with no breakthrough on Friday.

Months of feuding with the IMF has rattled markets and raised fears of a new debt crisis, with Athens resisting pressure to cut public services any more than has already been agreed with creditors.

The Greek premier urged a change of course from the IMF.

Putin planning to send 100K troops to Baltic border for drills?.

ALEXEI NIKOLSKY
Baltic nations are increasingly worried that Russian war games set for this autumn will see President Vladimir Putin send as many as 100,000 troops to Belarus’ border with Lithuania and Poland — the very edge of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence with eastern Europe.

The U.S. Navy Needs a New Fighter (And Russia and China Are to Blame)

A new naval future fleet architecture study from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) suggests that the United States Navy will need to develop a dedicated air superiority fighter to counter Russian and Chinese advances.

“Counter-air operations will require low observable manned fighters with an unrefueled combat radius of more than 500 nm,” the CSBA report states. “These characteristics will keep refueling aircraft out of range of enemy air defenses while enabling the fighters to reach and engage bombers in a dynamic environment inside the enemy’s air defense envelope.”

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter—which are not dedicated air superiority fighters—would not be suitable to defeat advanced adversary air defenses or enemy aircraft such as the Chengdu J-20 or other Chinese fifth-generation warplanes.  …

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-us-navy-needs-new-fighter-russia-china-are-blame-19409

‘We need bigger ships’: Polish security agency wants new fleet to counter ‘Russian threat’

Poland’s National Security Bureau, the BBN, has unveiled a new development plan for the country’s fleet. It envisages defending against a “Russian threat” – with ships capable of operating far from native shores.

In a report published Friday, titled “The Strategic Concept Of Maritime Safety of the Republic of Poland,” the BBN states that “Polish seafaring interests are located all over the world’s maritime arena.” The authors recommend building up the Polish navy so that it may have a limited, but global, ability to project power that may be consistently demonstrated far from its territorial waters, working together with allied fleets.

https://www.rt.com/news/377020-poland-fleet-strike-russia-report/

Army Cyber Accelerates; Electronic Warfare Lags

Army is ahead of schedule building cyber teams — but its equally essential electronic warfare branch is lagging badly. Like a fiddler crab, one arm is much more developed than the other. While effective in the current fight against Daesh (aka ISIL), this unbalanced force would be at a severe disadvantage in future Multi-Domain Battles the Army envisions against a sophisticated adversary such as Russia, which excels in both cyber and electronic warfare.

EXCLUSIVE: House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs Committee Members Compromised By Rogue IT Staff

 

Three brothers who managed office information technology for members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and other lawmakers were abruptly relieved of their duties on suspicion that they accessed congressional computers without permission.

Imran Awan with Bill Clinton / Facebook Imran Awan with Bill Clinton / Facebook

Brothers Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan were barred from computer networks at the House of Representatives Thursday, The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has learned.

Three members of the intelligence panel and five members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs were among the dozens of members who employed the suspects on a shared basis. The two committees deal with many of the nation’s most sensitive issues and documents, including those related to the war on terrorism.

House staffers under criminal investigation still employed

Multiple Democratic lawmakers have yet to cut ties with House staffers under criminal investigation for wide-ranging equipment and data theft.

Imran Awan, a longtime House staffer who worked for more than two dozen Democrats since 2004, is still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, though his access to the House IT network has been blocked since last week.

“At this time we are continuing to gather information from House officials and will determine the best approach to move forward once we have reviewed that information,” David Damron, communications director for Wasserman Schultz, said in an email when asked by POLITICO if Awan was still working for the Florida Democrat.

Wasserman Schultz declined to comment, referring POLITICO to the statement when asked follow-up questions Monday night.

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/house-staff-criminal-investigation-234714

Pentagon Not Providing US MANPADS to ‘Any Group in Syria’ After Obama’s Waiver

The Department of Defense (DoD) has not supplied Syrian rebels with US man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, the department’s spokesperson Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Sputnik on Friday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — In December, then-US President Barack Obama waived legal restrictions outlined in the US Arms Export Control Act to allow arms supply for the moderate Syrian opposition.

“DoD only provides weapons to the Syrian Arab Coalition, the Arab element of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” Rankine-Galloway said.

“DoD has not provided US MANPADS to any group in Syria.”

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201702101050556642-pentagon-manpads-syria/

Turkey asks 16 countries to extradite 28 Gülenist suspects

ANADOLU AGENCY
ANKARA

The Justice Ministry has requested the extradition of 28 Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) suspects residing in 16 countries including FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen and other senior figures, according to Turkish judicial sources.

Turkey asks 16 countries to extradite 28 Gülenist suspects

FETÖ’s U.S.-based ringleader is the mastermind behind the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt as stated by the government.

The defeated putsch left at least 248 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.

Since July 19, 2016, Turkey has been officially asking the U.S. to extradite Gülen.

Turkey has also requested the extradition of Emre Uslu from the U.S., a FETÖ former police officer and columnist who is charged with espionage, being a member of an armed terrorist group and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government.

Report: Flynn aide forced out of National Security Council after CIA denies security clearance

A top aide to National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was denied clearance for a high-level security clearance by the Central Intelligence Agency, putting an end to the aide’s tenure on the National Security Council, according to a report.

The report said Robin Townley, senior director for Africa and a top deputy of Flynn’s, found out Friday that the CIA had shot down his request for an elite security clearance that is required to serve on the NSC, escalating tensions between Flynn and the intelligence community.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/report-flynn-aide-forced-out-of-national-security-council-after-cia-denies-security-clearance/article/2614583

Italy’s defense-industry chief attacks F-35 ‘broken promises’

February 10, 2017 (Photo Credit: Andy Wolfe/U.S. Navy)
ROME — The head of Italy’s association of defense firms has launched a blistering attack on the U.S. and Lockheed Martin, accusing them of breaking promises made to Italy about workshare on the F-35 program.

Guido Crosetto, the head of Italian aerospace and defense industry association AIAD, said the U.S. “had not honored promises” made since Italy joined the program, hurting Italian firms as well as threatening the livelihood of Italy’s fledgling F-35 maintenance center.

US Lawmakers Question Military Preparedness For Korean Conflict

On Wednesday US lawmakers met to discuss Washington’s preparedness to deal with a potential military conflict in the Korean peninsula, and how the US can project strength in one part of the world without losing influence in others.

During a meeting of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, assistant Marine Corps commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said, “I can tell you today we cannot do two things simultaneously. One of the stressing ones for us is Korea, we could not do that at all if we still had commitments elsewhere in the world — Europe, Africa or the Middle East…And I think our enemies know that.”

https://sputniknews.com/military/201702111050566159-lawmakers-discern-us-prepared-korea/

 

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Big Flap in the Black Sea

Russian Jet scrambles and Flies Within 3 Meters of US Spy Plane

by Stephen Bryen

A Russian Su-27 scrambled when a P-8 Poseidon spy plane flew near the Russian coast while a military exercise was taking place on September 7th.  According to the Russians, the incident lasted 19 minutes, the US plane did not have its transponder on, and the Russians needed to convince the American aircraft to turn away, which it eventually did.

p-8

P-8 Poseidon

The Pentagon said the Russians acted in an unsafe and unprofessional manner –in other words the Russians endangered the lives of the American crew.

Incidents involving Russian and NATO aircraft, both with transponders on and off, have been going on for some time.  It seems these events correspond fairly closely to when one side or the other wants to send some harsh message to the other.

But flying in this area on spying missions is pretty risky, especially with no identification or prior notice.

A P-8 is a modified Boeing 737 that is built to fly low and slow and is capable of identifying underwater targets, particularly submarines.  Since the Russian fleet in the Black Sea was in the midst of an exercise, this would be a good time to practice against a wealth of targets.

On the other hand, as the Russians emphasized, they had invited foreign observers, including the NATO countries, to watch the exercise.  It was not a secret.  The US chose to use spy equipment instead of attending the exercise itself.

The US policy is to isolate the Russians.  So far, along with an embargo that the Europeans put in place, the isolation strategy has done some harm to Russia’s economy and probably stimulated the Russians to behave more aggressively than normally.  What else the strategy has achieved is anyone’s guess.

In the bigger picture the Russians are playing for two prizes.  One of them is a deal that would recognize their annexation of Crimea and some settlement of the Ukraine especially regarding the Donetsk and Luhansk separatists, but also the matter of the orientation of the Ukraine government which is anti-Russian at present.  The Russians have helped keep this mess boiling for some time, but eventually either there will be a political deal or possibly a broader war that will draw in Russian forces.   The Obama administration, soon to be out of office, has little ability or inclination to do much about the Ukraine, even though there are rumblings in Europe, especially Germany, that a solution should be found.

The other prize is a deal on Syria, which the Russians want if the terms are right.  While the administration appears to have de-emphasized its demand that the Assad government had to go before any deal could be reached, so far none of that has translated into any progress on a solution.  Complicating the matter is the presence of foreign troops on Syrian soil including Russian, Iranian, Lebanese (in the form of Hezbollah), US and a sprinkling of others.  There are also lots of foreign fighters (mostly Islamist terrorists). Also there is the interest of bordering countries including Jordan and Israel.  Israel is expecting trouble on the Golan Heights.

President Obama and President Putin tried to sort out at least a cease fire agreement during the G-8 Summit in China, but it did not happen.  In fact, the tension between the two leaders was noticeable. Obama accused Putin of interfering in the upcoming US elections and of cyber spying while, at the same time, trying for some kind of accommodation on Syria.

Thus the latest demonstration of mutual angst in the Black Sea should come as no surprise.  Neither side can be excused for this incident which was easily avoidable, unnecessary and dangerous.

 

 

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Why Russia Is Pulling Out of Syria?

 It is a Tactical Move With A Strategic Rationale

by Stephen Bryen***

The big question is why Russia is pulling out of Syria? Is it because Russia is out of money and the Syrian operation is hurting? Or is something else going on.

There is no doubt Russia’s economy is suffering. Even without sanctions, Russia would be having a hard time since oil prices crashed. Oil and gas exports account for a whopping 68% of Russia’s export earnings, and oil and gas income supports Russia’s currency, its banking, and Russia’s ability to finance government, social and military operations.

Putin

Vladimir Putin President of Russia (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

But the fact of the matter is that the Syrian operation is not as costly as it might seem at first glance.

The equipment, munitions and salaries of Russian personnel were paid for before the Russian Air Force was dispatched to Syria. While it will cost money to replace equipment and renew stocks of weapons, all in all the impact on Russia’s current budget is minimal. One reason for this is that Russia has not been continually engaged in military operations so it has a reasonable stockpile of munitions, decent equipment and ancillary supplies including fuel. Compare that to the United States. We have been fighting wars continuously since 1990 -the time of the First Gulf War. In short for over a quarter of a century the United States has been engaged in war-related activity, meaning that for the US to sustain its operations it has needed special appropriations (called Supplementals) to finance these operations. Aside from the two Chechnya wars (1994-1996 and 1999-2009) the other significant conflicts that have engaged Russian forces was the brief Russian-Georgian conflict (7 to 12 August 2008) and the Russian military semi-engagement in the Ukraine war (2014 to date). The Ukraine battle has been relatively slow rolling and Russia always denies its troops are engaged there. The Chechnya wars were far more significant and costly but it was a war entirely on Russian soil. Syria is the first important example of Russian military forces operating on a large scale and far from Russia’s territory.

It is hard to see that Russia’s pull out is caused by a budget crisis. A good case can be made that Russia’s decision is much more based on political developments. As Russia will retain its bases in Syria, redeployment in case of any emergency is not only possible, but it can happen in a few days. One of the things the US military learned is that Russia can rapidly move its air force and heavy equipment. It has the necessary transport and it knows how to set up quickly and coordinate intelligence with military operations.

Russian television and press is emphasizing that the renewed self-confidence of the Syrian regime has sparked a strong interest among many of the combatant groups to seek a political solution, which Russia is backing. Putin has said from the start that he wanted a political solution, but not with terrorists. He has put a great deal of pressure on the insurgents in Syria, backing them into a corner. The proof of this, of course, is the escalation of refugees fleeing Syria. If the rebel held areas were really secure, people would not run. The fact that they are running and running at an extremely high rate means that the rebels are losing control and either face annihilation or need some political agreement. Russia, for its part, wants a political agreement so it can play peacemaker and demonstrate that it is a responsible international player.

By the same token, Russia is not wedded to President Assad of Syria or even to an Alawite-Sh’ia solution. In fact, there is reason to believe that the Russians and the Saudi Arabians have been talking and may have found something that approximates a modus vivendi regarding Syria.

Saudi Arabia’s big dream of a Sunni caliphate under Saudi leadership and control has met up with the reality that so far at least all the Saudis have done is create a threat of a radical Sunni Islamic movement that could easily engulf the Saudi regime. For years the Saudi strategy was to pay off the radicals and keep them occupied killing infidels elsewhere. But there is always a moment when the dog bites the hand that feeds it, and for the Saudis -preoccupied with Iran and the loss of its influence in Yemen (where it is fighting its own war), it may be better to make a deal. Adding to Saudi nervousness is the US-Iran agreement that has put billions at the disposal of the Iranian government which will help Iran modernize its weapons and what seems like America’s shift in alliances away from Saudi Arabia.

For sure Russia would like to capitalize on American geostrategic errors. It would also like to restore its position in Europe and avoid a potential revitalization of NATO, as unlikely as that may seem since Europe is a big customer for Russian oil and gas, and in the long term critical to Gazprom’s ambitions.

Putin’s withdrawal, therefore, can be seen as a tactical move in the framework of what seems to be a strategic objective that, if successful, will strengthen Russia’s economy and give it time to continue the reconstruction of its military capabilities. As a tactical move it makes sense and is very appealing to Europe, which wants the refugee flow to stop, and to the players in the Middle East that need to contain the religious-ideological struggle that threatens to consume them.

__________________________

***Dr. Stephen Bryen is author of the new book, Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers (Transaction Publishers).

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Putin’s Options in Syria: What Will Russia Decide?

by Stephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen

Russia’s options in Syria are poor. While Vladimir Putin intervened to save his client Assad and Russian access to warm-water ports, it is beginning to look as if air power won’t do the job for Russia any more than it will for the U.S. – and the Russians are using much higher volumes. In addition, it appears that Russia will suffer now from pushback, the first incident of which might have been the jetliner downed over the Sinai.

Azaz Syria Civil War Rages (courtesy Voice of America)

Azaz Syria Civil War Rages
(courtesy Voice of America)

What can Putin do? Cutting a deal with Saudi Arabia may be the least of several not-very-good options.

Putin’s Goal

Putin’s goal was initially to stave off the imminent collapse of the Syrian regime.  Assad’s army was suffering from large-scale defections, and Iran and Hezbollah were proving to be less than capable foot soldiers. (As a reminder, the Iranians were poor soldiers in the field during the Iran-Iraq war and consequently turned to asymmetric warfare in the late 1980s.) The Russians have hinted that Iran made repeated requests for intervention.  Syria likely asked for help and – minimally – approved and facilitated Russian aircraft, pilots and support personnel coming into the country.

The Russian intervention brought a greater degree of professionalism to the fight.  Russian pilots are more skilled than their Syrian counterparts and more proactive.  But while the Russians have taken over the air war, there was no opposition by Russia to two recent Israeli air strikes (one at the Damascus airport) presumed to be against warehouses of long-range missiles from Iran destined for Hezbollah.

This suggests that the Russians differentiate between their geostrategic objectives and Iranian objectives that prioritize building up rocket forces against Israel.  Right now the Russians need the Iranians and Hezbollah to do the dirty work on the ground; but the Russians don’t need them to stir up Israel.  Israel’s Prime Minister has been it absolutely clear: Israel will not stand by when its security is threatened, and while it has no interest in intervening in Syria (other than providing humanitarian assistance at the border), it will take action against Hezbollah, Iran or Syria whenever they introduce weapons that threaten Israel, or carry out an attack that crosses into Israeli territory for any reason.

Putin’s options look something like this:

Option 1.  Stay the course and protect the Assad government against both the non-ISIS Jihadis and ISIS. This would be consistent with Putin’s public statements that Assad is the legitimate governing authority in Syria and the government had to be preserved. While the U.S. preferred to think that meant “preserved from ISIS,” the fact is that both ISIS and non-ISIS jihadists want Assad out and he fights both. Since a real defeat or capitulation of either group is unlikely, Option 1 amounts to staying and fighting at some level for a long time.

Option 2. Make a deal with the United States and the Europeans.  Putin has been trying to make a deal from the beginning – having clearly said Assad’s presence in the long term is not mandatory.  Recently this has evolved into a modified offer: a transitional government with Assad or a replacement for 18 months, followed by an election.  The recent G-20 Summit featured important talks that seem to be heading toward a compromise that would lead to an 18-month transition, but without any agreement on the fate of Assad.

“Coalition Airstrike on ISIL position in Kobane” by Voice of America News: Scott Bobb reports from the Suruç, Turkey/ Kobane, Syrian border; “Turkish Border

The biggest problem with Option 2 is that the actual combatants don’t want the deal. Non-ISIS Jihadists have flatly rejected it, and there is no reason to think they will change their minds. ISIS, of course, wouldn’t deign to comment. So, while it might be possible to force Assad out, it would have little impact on the fighting except insofar as it means the Iranians and Hezbollah are unlikely to stay.  Russia may hang onto its bases on the Mediterranean coast. This would amount to a Sunni victory and a Shiite defeat, but it would enhance the position of ISIS – to the dismay of the U.S. and its Sunni allies.

Option 3.  Create two Syrian states: a Jihadi state and an Alawite one. Such a partition could be very attractive since the possibility of reaching any compromise between Sunni and Alawite factions appears out of the question. This is a variation on Option 2 and has the same flaw: ISIS. An expansion of the ISIS “caliphate” is not in the interest of any of the external players, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan or the United States.

Banking on the non-ISIS Jihadis to secure Syria from ISIS AFTER partition is conceivable, though not likely. Non-ISIS Jihadis are, first and foremost, anti-Assad and anti-Shiite. Secondarily, they are a lesser fighting force than ISIS. Pressure from Saudi Arabia, the key to their funding, and training and equipment from the U.S. and Sunni allies, along with Russian bombing confined to ISIS might produce a force prepared to wrest its portion of Syria from ISIS.

Guarantees are crucial in this situation, and the U.S. is ill placed to offer any.

For all the caveats, however, Putin could be very interested in Option 3.  There are some signs that a Russian-Sunni realignment could be in the works.

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, has held highly productive meetings with Putin in Sochi on the Black Sea.  A number of agreements were reached for oil, military purchasing, investment, counter-terrorism and the upgrading of political relations.

Egypt is buying the Mistral ships from France that the Russians had previously ordered, but the delivery of which was blocked over the European Ukraine sanctions.  France compensated the Russians for the ships, and the Egyptian purchase is underwritten by Saudi Arabia. In addition, it is likely that Egypt will buy Russian Kamov helicopters for the Mistral, again backed by Saudi funding.

“Владивосток – Saint-Nazaire décembre 2014” by Ludovic Péron – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons –
Mistral class originally for Russia

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, is planning a visit to Moscow before the end of the year and of course he was present at the G-20 Summit, as was Putin, Cameron and Obama.

There are many reasons for the shift in attitude by the conservative Arab countries, starting with their attitude toward and fear of Iran.  With weak and unsure U.S. leadership, Saudi Arabia, the emirates and Kuwait need an insurance policy and it seems Russia could be one for them.  The Russians have signaled their interest in improving strategic cooperation, and Russia’s economic interests are well served by arms deals.

If the current talks, in which the U.S. and Russia are the key players, fail to result in a deal, the next best thing for Russia is to try and sort out the mess with the Saudis and the other conservative Arab states.  The groundwork appears to be underway and, with the right confluence of characters and interests, Option 3 may start to look achievable.

___________________________

Stephen Bryen is a former Defense Department official and strategy expert; Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director at the Jewish Policy Center

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Mush for Brains –How Putin Sees America

by Stephen Bryen

I am not a Kremlinologist, and Kremlinology sort of went out of fashion with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But I always enjoyed the speculation that Kremlin-watchers were so good at. Who lined up on top of the reviewing stand in Red Square during military parades; who was missing; who said what to whom? These and countless other outward signs were diagnosed and re-diagnosed ad nauseam, but sometimes the Kremlin-watchers got it right.

Should we be doing that again now? There is clearly something big going on in Russia. Is Putin listening to the hard-line faction, or is he (or was he) trying to promote a different option?

Putin took himself to New York not just to tell the UN what he intended to do in Syria, but more importantly to make a case to Obama about what both of them should do. Obama rejected Putin’s appeal, and matters continue to deteriorate since then. The US accuses the Russians of bombing the CIA’s allies (among them plenty of radical Islamists) instead of bombing ISIS. The US drops 50 tons of weapons to the anti-Assad forces, poking a finger in Russia’s nose. The Russians send up their jets and buzz around American aircraft, not to mention violating Turkey’s air-space to make sure that Erdogan gets it and understands he is on the Russia hit list. And Putin calls in the Turkish ambassador for a two-hour lecture which ends in an expletive deleted type message to Erdogan, the gist of which is (as reported in the Russian press) “… tell your dictator president he can go to hell along with his ISIS terrorist[s] and I shall make Syria .. nothing [less than] a Big Stalingrad, for Erdogan and his Saudi allies are no [less] vicious than Adolf Hitler.”

For a long time the Russians have thought that the initiative in Syria to topple Assad is under the direction of the CIA, and that the US was not only pushing a program supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to overthrow Assad, but they were secretly in bed with ISIS. Why, Putin has repeatedly asked, has the United States not really bombed ISIS’s main targets in Syria?

Checkpoint at Damscasus' edge; the capital is ringed by restive towns. Jan. 14, 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)

Checkpoint at Damscasus’ edge; the capital is ringed by restive towns. Jan. 14, 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)

Indeed, the US posture is dauntingly confusing. The US has been supporting radical Islamic movements in Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Syria, and probably elsewhere. Most of the time CIA personnel are implicated in these operations, and Putin has hinted they know all about it. Why would America, threatened by al-Qaeda, ISIS and a host of other like-minded Islamic terrorists, do this? What is Washington’s game and, for that matter, the CIA’s game?

It would seem this is the core of the debate among Russian security experts. How do you explain America’s strange behavior, not really wanting to preserve the security system that emerged after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and trying to undermine Russia’s interests in Libya and Syria? On a purely local level, why is the US providing TOW missiles (through its Turkish and Jordanian cut outs, but likely from Saudi stockpiles) to the Syrian opposition, which is Islamist and filled up with foreigners including Chechens? On an even more local level, why did the United States cynically allow the Boston Marathon bombings to happen, even though Russia gave America three clear warnings and pinpointed the prospective Boston bombers?

The Russians have been sorely disappointed before. During the Chechen wars, the US sided with the Chechens and criticized Russia’s heavy-handed tactics. Yet, in the Russian view, America’s tactics in the two Iraq wars and in Afghanistan have been just as brutal if not more so? And the enemy of both has been one and the same.

So the contretemps in the Kremlin is how to make sense out of what appears crazy, counterproductive, and dangerous to both sides. Is the United States so anti-Russian and do America’s leaders still have such a Cold War mentality that they are willing to sacrifice the existing security system in Europe and the Middle East? For what? Surely the Americans know that Russia still has only a small army and could hardly threaten Europe or the United States. So why the extreme anti-Russian stand of American leaders and politicians?

One suspects that Putin couldn’t anymore figure it out than anyone else in Russia or the United States, but his hard-liners and military advisors are very uncomfortable. If the terrorists win in Syria, will Russia once again have to face severe trouble on its own territory? Will Russia lose face if Syria became an Islamic State? What about Iran? If it goes out of control, and Iranian rhetoric has alarmed Israel’s generals some of them pushing for action against Iran, the Russians will quickly find themselves out of the Middle East and unable to pursue military, political and economic objectives including, most importantly, oil exports.

If anything the last weeks have temporarily reinforced the hard-liners in the Russian government. For how long is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, Putin’s exasperation grows mightily. He now says that his Western partners, meaning the US and most specifically Obama, have “mush for brains.”

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Has Putin Blundered in Iran?

By EllsworthSK (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By EllsworthSK (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

By Stephen Bryen

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia may have finally blundered in his latest move supplying Antey 2500s, an upgraded version of the air and missile defense S-300 system to Iran.

The Antey is a capable, mobile air defense missile system and can fire two types of missiles known respectively as the SA-12A Gladiator and the SA-12B Giant (NATO terminology).

Iran obviously wants the Antey system to protect its nuclear weapons program, especially its large underground facilities including Fordow and Parchin. Fordow is one of Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facilities; Parchin is a military complex that produces conventional weapons and is used for testing implosion devices for nuclear weapons.

Iran will also need to protect its long range missile bases because it is likely that Iran is moving in the direction of mounting nuclear warheads on missiles.

Clearly neither Putin nor the Iranians have any expectation that the Iran nuclear deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, leading to the obvious conclusion that Iran will need to protect its nuclear assets from an attack either from Israel, Saudi Arabia or the United States.

Many thought that Israel and Russia had reached a tacit agreement a few years ago whereby Russia would not supply any advanced air defense system to Iran. In turn Israel would not supply weapons to Ukraine. It is, therefore, far from surprising that in Putin’s comments on the missile deal he went out of his way to warn Israel not to supply weapons to Ukraine.

This is not the first time that the Russians have played roulette with Israel. On a number of occasions the Russians supplied missiles to Syria (some destined for Hezbollah) and these shipments were destroyed by Israel. The Russians never openly complained about the Israeli countermeasures.

Putin’s decision to send missiles to Iran is not a cost-free exercise for Russia. While Putin has been energetically exploiting the vacuum in US leadership and the weakness of NATO, he should know that this is a finite problem. The infamous American “sleeping Giant” will awaken, and the Russians will pay a price for their adventurism.

In the short term, Russian credibility as an arbiter in any brokered deal with Iran on nuclear weapons has now gone from positive to strongly negative. Taken in measure with Russian military operations in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to former Russian Republics such as Latvia and extreme nervousness in Poland, the Russian “forward” posture could expose rather quickly the limited capability of Russia’s armed forces. Even in the Ukraine the Russian “separatists” and the Russian army behind them has not been nearly as successful as Putin must have hoped. Somehow the Ukrainians have rallied and at least are holding their own against a much better equipped opposition supported by a logistics chain and intelligence gathering system far more sophisticated than anything in the hands of Ukraine.

So far neither Europe or America has provided military equipment to Ukraine. Israel too has been hands off. But if the Saudis, for example, understand that Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine isn’t much different than Russia’s support of aggression from Iran in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, the Saudis may put the Ukraine on their “must help” list. There is virtually nothing the Russians could do about Saudi support to Ukraine and it would confer on Saudi Arabia substantial leverage over the Russians vis a vis Iran. The under-the-table relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel could assure the right pipeline, the right planning and the right intelligence support to bolster the Ukrainians.

In short, Russia has stuck its nose out pretty far, and backtracking won’t be either easy or pleasant.

There are already signs of rebellion inside Russia. The erosion of the economy and the loss of life of Russian soldiers seconded to the “separatists” in Ukraine does not sit well with the majority of Russians. Are er at the start of a repeat of Afghanistan in Ukraine? It is foolish to believe that the Russian people are really behind Putin’s aggression: in fact, all the signs point in the reverse direction. The murder of Putin’s top political challenger Boris Nemtsov, the crackdown on journalists, and other repressive actions inside Russia are signs of a frightened leadership, not a confident one. Everything suggests Putin is in increasing trouble. His recent disappearance for reasons still unexplained suggest that he is living on borrowed time.

Most of all, there is very little concrete reason for Putin to support the radical regime in Iran, anymore than there is any reason for Obama to do so. One of the modern mysteries is how two world leaders could bet so much on such a repressive and dangerous regime. It is especially tragic for the United States that could have easily and purposefully supported the Iranian opposition that could have led to a pro-Western government.

In strategic terms, Russian supply of missiles to Iran and Russian support for Syria and the parallel Iranian military intervention in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq (with a new one developing in Yemen) does not make Iran safe for Russia. In fact it is a pit that will suck up Russian resources with no discernible return on investment. If the only purpose of Russia’s game is to give the United States a black eye and damage America’s prestige in the Middle East, the Russians need not have bothered. Washington is doing a more than competent job of it all by itself.

While Russia is desperate for money and will do almost anything to get it, supplying missiles to Iran combined with her other aggressive activities in the end will bleed Russia’s economy even more and set back any progress to the normalization of Russia in the world community. Once again the Russians will have squandered their wealth and resources in unprofitable and dangerous ventures.  Finally Putin has stumbled and his missile deal is the capstone of a series of blunders that in the end will chase him from office.

CLIMBING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN

Twenty four hours after the above article was written Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper, carried the following headline: “Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says ‘a political and legal decision’ needs to be reached before the missiles can be shipped.” He added that the missiles would not be shipped “anytime soon.”
So the Putin has found out that he went too far and has intelligently backed away with an appropriate face saving gesture
.

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Lenin is in Poland

by Stephen Bryen

There is an old and rather awful joke that goes like this. The Russian Revolution has succeeded and the Communists are now in Power. Lenin is feeling very good about his great success and thinks there is a chance to convince some other countries to go Communist. He decides to go to Poland.

Meanwhile the Kremlin wants to honor the momentous occasion and commission a painting celebrating Lenin’s trip. The day arrives to unveil the painting and all of official Moscow has assembled. But alas, when the shroud over the painting is dropped there is a picture of a man in bed with a woman.

“What’s this exclaim the top Russian leaders? This,” the painter says, “is a painting of Trotsky, in bed with Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife.” And the painter explains, the title of the picture is “Lenin is in Poland.”

Today Lenin, in the form of Putin, is in the Ukraine, somewhere he surely does not belong. No one would dare to make a painting honoring the occasion.

Meanwhile the Western allies are in some turmoil. The Europeans are threatening more sanctions unless Putin pulls his forces out and wholeheartedly supports a peace effort (whatever that means). The United States is threatening to arm Ukraine with lethal weapons, as if there is some other kind of weapon useful to the Ukrainian military.

The country is in a mess. Ukraine is no match for Russia’s army, who are better trained and well equipped; there is not much chance that the Ukrainians can prevail without outside help.

Technically Ukraine is not a NATO problem because the Ukraine was never admitted to NATO membership. In fact the Ukraine’s bid for such membership was one of the contributing causes (but not the only one) to the Russian-sponsored war that is enveloping the country.

What is worse, NATO is far from having a single mind about the subject of Ukraine. Right now Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are taking the lead as European leaders, not necessarily as NATO leaders, arguing for a cease fire and a peace process. Their chance for success is very small.

NATO itself is not what it used to be. NATO is a collective security system which was organized as the Soviet Union turned Eastern Europe into Communist puppet states under Communist Russia’s full control. The NATO idea and part of the Treaty agreement is that any attack on a NATO member can be met by collective force. But for NATO to act, all members must agree. When the United States asked NATO to join it after 9/11 to take down the Taliban, NATO could not agree. Keeping in mind that it was the same European states that pressured America into entering the war in Bosnia, NATO’s refusal to use collective defense on behalf of one of its members, in fact its most important member, was an especially rude slap in the face.

NATO also is paltry as a military operation. Many of the NATO countries reduced their armed forces after the collapse of the Soviet Union and major armor units were disbanded with land war equipment either sold or scrapped. Today NATO countries have an ability to launch a fight against the Taliban, but no ability to win the fight. That is the real reason Obama is pulling the US out of Afghanistan.  The British are doing the same and most of the others are only providing humanitarian aid.

Years ago in a meeting in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over problems in Lebanon one of the Senators asked Dr. Henry Kissinger about French insistence to have a role in the affair. Where is their Navy, opined Kissinger, or their Army? Without a military capability and willingness to commit it, Kissinger had no interest or regard for the participation of the French, even though years ago they ran Lebanon for the League of Nations under a Mandate (1923-1946).

Today we have a rather parallel situation. Neither Germany nor France will commit one single soldier to any fight in the Ukraine. So their intervention with Putin lacks credibility. Putin’s only conceivable interest compelling his attention is European sanctions, but he has cards of his own he can play if he wants (like cutting off natural gas supplies to Germany or threatening other countries such as Poland or Estonia). For this reason Europe cannot risk war, and neither can the United States, because our country, like the rest of NATO, is woefully unprepared. Had America delivered on its promises to the Ukraine years earlier, after Ukraine got rid of Backfire bombers and other strategic assets, the situation today might have been different. But it isn’t and no one knows how to change history or make hindsight into a constructive tool.

There is also the problem that the NATO partners, aside from the bombastic statements by President Obama and Vice President Biden on Ukraine, do not see eye to eye. Greece has a new leftist leader friendly to the Kremlin. Will Greece be willing to vote for more sanctions on the Russians? From the Greek point of view they already have enough sanctions laid on themselves by European bankers. Or will Italy want to get into this quagmire, with Russia an important trading nation? Or for that matter will the Germans back up Mrs. Merkel?  Russia is a very important trading partner for Germany, the source of a significant flow of energy, and trades important raw materials in exchange for German manufactured goods. Merkel’s flexibility has to be extremely limited and her political future is far from assured.  Loss of jobs may well trump applying sanctions.

AS a result, these are not happy times either for Europe, for the United States, and certainly for the Ukrainian people who have been treated to a tap dance by the West’s leaders in place of a functional alliance. There is only so much of this sort of thing before things turn even more tragic.

Interestingly, despite the fissures and extreme problems with NATO, all the Western players are marching around and around without getting to some core issues that must be addressed for the future. At risk today is not only NATO survival, but peace in Europe. Putin is not Hitler, notwithstanding the rhetoric that has been coming from the United Kingdom. But Putin is an aggressive minded Russian leader who is filling a vacuum. He already learned he could get away with aggression in Georgia. And now he is taking advantage because he knows NATO has mutated into a paper tiger.

We need to wake up.  We don’t want Putin in Poland.

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