Frontpage Articles

Newsbud Exclusive – After Nuland, “Nuland”: A. Wess Mitchell Nominated to Direct the U.S. European & Eurasian Affairs

When the assistant U.S. secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland resigned her position on January 20, 2017, all those who wanted to see the return to a more stable political order in Europe and the decline of Russophobia or Kremlinoia (as I call it) breathed a sigh of relief. She was perceived by many as the main political instigator of the whole series of the covert efforts to remove and replace top European government officials who did not uncritically accept the principles of Anglo-American geopolitics.

Nuland was best known publicly for her involvement in the Kiev coup against the legitimately elected government of the president Victor Yanukovych. At that time, she was secretly recorded directing the personal make-up of the future Ukrainian government, while, infamously, at one point, referring to the European Union with an expletive.[1]

I have written extensively on Nuland’s intellectual and professional biography and specifically focused on her imperial pro-consul activities in the Balkans in my article “Victoria Nuland & the Balkans” published by BFP in April 2015.[2] At that time, it seemed as if Nuland was on a sure path to becoming the next U.S. secretary of state, because a Democrat (i.e. her long-time ally Hillary Clinton) was greatly favored to win the presidency.

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Newsbud Exclusive – “From the Atlantic to the Pacific”: Vladimir Putin & the Current State of Eurasian Integrations

At the May 15, 2017 roundtable meeting of the political leaders participating in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ international summit in Beijing, the Russian president Vladimir Putin proclaimed the famous Eurasianist political formula – “from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” To emphasize it even more strongly, he ended his plenary address with it.[1] There is therefore no possibility for misunderstanding or misinterpretation: Putin (yet again) publicly challenged the Atlanticist geopolitical agenda, first codified by the British Empire in the late 19th century and then implemented by the U.S. after the end of the Second World War.

The leaders of 30 states were present at the meeting. The round table format emphasized mutual respect and the equality of status. However, while other leaders were seated according to the alphabetical order of their countries’ names, Putin and the Chinese president Xi Jinping were seated next to each other. The presidents of Argentina, Belarus, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Philippines, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as well as the prime ministers of Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia, Spain, and Sri Lanka took part in the meeting.[2] The heads of the U.N., the IMF, and the World Bank were also there. This is particularly interesting because the latter two organizations, the IMF and the World Bank, have historically played a leading role in globalizing the Atlanticist agenda.

It could be that Christine Lagarde of the IMF and Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank were invited as the stand-ins for the U.S. interests. In contrast to Russia, the long-term diplomatic strategy of the host of the summit, China, has been to avoid openly confronting the Atlanticists, though, on the practical level, it is clear that the Chinese initiatives proposed in the context of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ framework directly threaten the foundations of the Anglo-American geopolitical vision for Eurasia. Obviously, the strategic U.S.-China confrontation with enormous global implications is only being pushed off into the future. However, the interests of Russia and especially the president Putin, who has been under the tremendous pressure of the Western mass media demonization in recent years, is to try to precipitate the confrontation, to make it bubble up to the surface of public international discourse and, by getting China on his side, use it to further the Russian regional political and economic interests in East-Central Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Though he served as a foreign intelligence officer in Europe, and not in Asia, during the Cold War, Putin appears to possess an intricate understanding of the political cultures of the East and the ways of conducting effective diplomatic missions there. This can be seen, for instance, in his plenary address at the summit, in which he skillfully linked the Chinese ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy to the Russian-sponsored Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This organization, which came into being in January 2015, and, at this time, includes the former Soviet states of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan (with the possible addition of Moldova as an associate member in October 2017), is a Russian-led effort to resurrect the economies of scale that made the Soviet Union such a formidable adversary to the West. Indeed, the Soviet Union came closest to embodying the Eurasianist geopolitical ideal of an integrated continental landmass “from the Atlantic to the Pacific” during the late 1940s and early 1950s when it developed extensive political, economic, and military ties with the newly Communist China. In my opinion, Putin’s aim is to reach this level of intensive cross-border cooperation between the two countries again.

If we take into consideration the exponentially rising tensions on the Korean peninsula at the present time, I think it is particularly pertinent to note that the Sino-Soviet cooperation peaked during the Korean war in the 1950s. Does this mean that another war in the same location would produce the same results? Can it be the case that some Russian military and intelligence circles take this historical parallel seriously? Would the attack of the U.S. and its allies on North Korea (even if it is just a “surgical” strike against the North Korean missile testing sites and laboratories or a sabotage mission by the U.S. special forces) draw China more closely into the Russia’s already well-articulated anti-Atlanticist geopolitical enterprise? If the answers to these questions are affirmative, then it would be in the Russian long-term national security interest to keep the North Korea-U.S. tensions high rather than to work toward their relaxation.

At the same time, it is reasonable to expect that the deeper U.S. military and intelligence entanglements in Asia would take its resources and personnel away from the NATO-led militarization efforts in Eastern Europe. Even the key U.S. European NATO allies might get drawn into the Korean conflict, thus essentially being prevented from ramping-up their military and intelligence activities on Russia’s western borders.

These activities, including the extensive hybrid warfare and counterintelligence programs, have been proliferating with the lightning speed across Europe in recent months. Consider, for instance, the recent NATO-sponsored conference in Prague where 160 “government specialists” from 27 states discussed how to counter the alleged Russian threat to Western democracies and “European values.”[3] The conference revolved around the bizarrely Russo-phobic report drawn up by the “Kremlin Watch Program” of the Czech European Values Think-Tank which describes itself as “a non-governmental policy institute defending liberal democracy.”[4] The 20-page report entitled A Framework Guide to Tools for Countering Hostile Foreign Electoral Interference is a compilation of biased news reporting, half-truths, allegations, rumors, and plain fiction that, unfortunately, has become the new normal in the Western dealing with Russia.[5]

The Current Context

Indeed, throughout history, with the exceptions of the medieval Mongolian conquests and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 (which was engineered by Great Britain), Russia has been much more vulnerable to the attacks from the West than from the East. This is why the expansion of NATO continues to be Russia’s number one geopolitical concern. Although the Trump administration had a chance to block Montenegro’s NATO membership and thus send a signal to the Russians that it was ready to make a deal on this, for them, extremely sensitive national security issue and stabilize the European political scene, it did not do so. Trump behaved no differently than Hillary Clinton would, if she got elected president. This created a wave of disappointment in the Russian elite circles that I think will be difficult to counteract in the coming period. It is likely that the Plan B will be put into action by the Russian foreign-policy makers, which probably includes some kind of covert (hybrid) retaliation against the U.S. interests elsewhere. That elsewhere, in my opinion, can easily be the Korean peninsula, considering Russia’s decades-long extensive and close ties with North Korea. In fact, just a few days ago, Russia and North Korea launched a new ferry line connecting the most important Russian Far Eastern port of Vladivostok with the North Korean port of Rajin.[6]

At the same time, I also think that Putin appears ready to give diplomacy and peace one more chance and seems to want to be assigned the role of the mediator by the international community. This is quite apparent in his replies to journalists after the summit in Beijing.[7] Of course, his mediation could only proceed under the terms favorable to the Russian vital national interests. The gradual removal of the U.S./EU economic sanctions and the recognition of Crimea as a part of Russia (in the long run) are no doubt included in what Putin wants to see as a compensation for his involvement.

This is hardly palatable to many European leaders who increasingly seek to build up their sinking domestic legitimacy on the basis of valiantly opposing the alleged Russian threat to “freedom and democracy.” They have just started playing the Russian card to distract their populations from the multiplying economic and social problems linked to rising unemployment and ethnic/religious animosities and do not plan on giving it up so quickly. The military-intelligence apparatus and their contractors are also gleefully rubbing their hands, anticipating the tremendous increase in the defense and security spending. The peace dividend is always a bad news for those who feed off war.

No wonder, then, that conflict rather than cooperation appears much more likely. The fact that Putin also has a presidential election coming up in March 2018 may make some NATO military-intelligence circles believe that he is politically vulnerable and would be forced to compromise in the end. In my opinion, this assumption is mistaken, but level-headedness concerning Russia, rather than ideological fanaticism, has never been among the character traits of NATO leadership and so it is hardly surprising that they would block any road to peace, even though a slight chance for it (with strings attached, as I stated above) still exists.

During the Beijing summit, Putin intentionally contrasted the positive prospects of Eurasian integrations “to promote steady development, increase citizens’ incomes and improve education and health care” with the instability, uncertainty, and unpredictability in other regions of the world, including the EU and the U.S. He stated that in the U.S. “an intense internal political struggle continues, creating a nervous atmosphere in both politics and the economy,” while in Europe, “everyone is waiting to see what happens with Brexit, the process and its results … and individual countries have many issues to address.”[8] In other words, according to Putin, the long-time masterminds and exporters of instability and chaos have now become the victims of their own doings. It would hardly be the first time in history.

All spiritual teachings agree that what goes around, comes around. What is needed is a new beginning and a new karma.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54496

[2] http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5188

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/15/nato-stages-summit-to-counter-alleged-russian-interference-in-elections

[4] http://www.europeanvalues.net/o-nas/nase-poslani/

[5] The Kremlin Watch Report can be found at this link: http://www.europeanvalues.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/35-measures-in-15-steps-for-enhancing-the-resilience-of-the-democratic-electoral-process-1-1.pdf

[6] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-russia-ferry-idUSKCN18E2AA

[7] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54499

[8] Ibid.

Newsbud Exclusive – The North Korean Connection of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov

Andrei Karlov was the Russian ambassador to Turkey. He was assassinated by the Turkish off-duty police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas on December 19, 2016 while opening a photograph exhibition in Turkey's capital Ankara.[1] Altintas was later killed in the exchange of fire with the Turkish police.

The Russian president Vladimir Putin called the assassination "an assault on Russia and Russian-Turkish relations ... [possibly] by destructive elements ... who found their way into social structures, including the law enforcement and the army." At the same time, Putin expressed his belief that it would not damage the Russian-Turkish ties because "we realize [their] importance and will make every effort to deepen them."[2]

The similar sentiment was expressed by Putin's Turkish counterpart, the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stated that "this is a provocation aimed at destroying the process of the normalization of relations between Turkey and Russia."[3]

And, indeed, there was no downturn in the relations between the two countries after the tragic incident. Turkey immediately made several symbolic steps to honor the memory of the murdered diplomat by, for instance, naming after him the Ankara street where the Russian embassy is located and the modern art center where he was killed. The Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated at the time that Karlov's death was "a sad loss for both Turkey and Russia" and that he "felt joy" that the street naming initiative was speedily "implemented."[4]

Karlov was also honored in Russia by posthumously being awarded the title of the Hero of the Russian Federation and by having a postage stamp issued in his honor.[5] In addition, the MGIMO, the most prestigious university in Russia run by the Russian ministry of foreign affairs, which Karlov attended, established a scholarship fund in his name, while a high school in Moscow which he graduated from in 1971 was named after him.[6]

However, even though almost six months have passed since Karlov's assassination, the investigation into the bigger picture surrounding the crime or, as the Russians officially refer to it, “the terrorist act” seems not to have made much progress. The Russian media, based on Turkish sources, reported that four people have been detained so far, two of whom are police officers.[7] Curiously, one of the other two suspects appears to be a Russian woman, identified only as Ekaterina B. Little is known about her except that she reportedly exchanged phone calls and social media messages with Altintas in the weeks preceding the assassination.[8] There are, however, some reports circulating in the semi-tabloid U.S. and British press that she might have been "planted by Western intelligence services."[9]

Another twist in the story is that the Turkish authorities have recently asked for the assistance of the FBI in order to hack into Altintas's iPhone and also to restore the emails deleted from his Gmail account.[10] Ironically, considering the long history of FBI's anti-Russian counterintelligence operations, the Russian side reportedly agreed to it. The Russian law enforcement official is quoted as saying that if "Turkish counterparts consider it necessary to seek assistance from the FBI, which may provide quick help in the investigation of this serious crime, it means that they need it to establish the truth. We believe this is expedient."[11] There is no information as to whether the FBI has so far contributed anything to the investigation or even whether it will do so in the future. For one thing, with the sudden (but not unexpected) departure of the director James Comey, it is likely that the FBI will be embroiled in the internal factionalist disputes for some time to come.

The North Korean Connection

In my opinion, however, there is another angle to the Karlov story that has not been explored at all. As I have pointed out, everybody, including Putin and Erdogan, linked the assassination of Karlov to his involvement in the re-establishment of the Russian-Turkish ties after the Turkish fighter jets shot down the Russian military plane in November 2015. And, indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that, at that time, Russia and Turkey were on the edge of a major military conflict. There is no doubt in my mind that Karlov, being one of the most experienced diplomats in the Russian ministry of foreign affairs, contributed greatly to the lessening of tensions between the two countries and the search for the peaceful and dignified way out of the serious crisis. His efforts bore fruit and this could hardly endear him to those in Brussels and Washington who wanted Russia and Turkey to come to blows.

And yet, I think that while this animosity definitely played a significant part in the nefarious plan to assassinate Karlov, there is also something else. I argue that the existence of this "something” contributed to his death. The assassination of an ambassador is a very rare event in the history of the Russian diplomacy. Karlov was the first Russian ambassador to be murdered abroad since the 1920s.

In my opinion, this "something" is related to the fact that Karlov spent most of his diplomatic career, that is to say, more than twenty years of his life, on the Korean peninsula, and, most importantly, in North Korea. He was stationed in the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang from 1976 to 1981 and from 1984 to 1990 and, then, worked in the Russian Embassy in Seoul, South Korea from 1992 to 1997.[12] Most importantly, he returned to North Korea as the Russian ambassador in 2001 and remained until 2006.

The fullest account of Karlov's time in North Korea is found in the recent exclusive interview that Karlov's wife Marina gave to the Russian monthly investigative intelligence magazine Sovershenno Sekretno [Top Secret].[13] She points out that Karlov intended to write his memoirs after completing the assignment in Turkey. The most prominent part in the memoirs would have been the time spent in North Korea.

In fact, according to Marina Karlova, her husband considered North Korea “his second homeland.” He spoke Korean language fluently and was one of the rare foreign friends of the reclusive North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il. According to Karlova, they spent many evenings with Kim and his closest associates (presumably also his son and successor Kim Jong-un), dining together and signing Russian/Soviet songs.[14] Kim Jong-il spoke Russian and knew many Russian/Soviet songs by heart. He appears to have really liked Karlov and it is not far-fetched to suppose that Karlov became his confidant on international affairs, including the nuclear technology issues. After Karlov’s request, Kim allowed the construction of the first Russian Orthodox church building in North Korea. This is no small feat to accomplish in the country where the public expression of religious feelings is openly discouraged.

According to Karlova, it was the intense diplomatic efforts of her husband that led to the relaxation of tensions between North Korea on one side and South Korea, Japan and the U.S. on the other in the early years of the 21st century. Just as now, the world was then also on the brink of a major confrontation. It appears that Karlov was able not only to defuse the danger, but to substantially improve the Russian international standing and credibility on this issue. Russia was included as one of the key states monitoring the North-South relations and this was several years before the evident Russian return to the Great Power politics. In fact, it could easily be that Karlov forged ahead with the ambitious Russian foreign policy agenda on the Korean peninsula, even without the explicit approval of the Kremlin and based on his personal friendship with Kim.

It is worth recalling that, in those years, the Russian president Putin was not willing to confront the Atlanticist geopolitical projects as openly and vigorously as he has been doing since he returned to the presidency for the third time in 2012. In my opinion, it can even be said that, thanks to Karlov, the Russians seemed to have become a closer ally to the North Koreans than the Chinese. I am sure that this was well understood (and extremely disliked) in the aggressively anti-Russian circles in the West. This may, in fact, be that “something” that precipitated the decision to assassinate Karlov.

The Karlov’s legacy in the Russian-North Korean relations must not be underestimated. His closest associate and friend in the Russian embassy in North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, is now the Russian ambassador there. Matsegora was quoted by the New York Times as saying "he [Karlov] is no more and half of me, too, is no more."[15] Can there be a more poignant sign of deep respect and close friendship?

In his official statement on the website of the Russian embassy in North Korea, Matsegora mourns the loss of his friend and states that so many current Russian-North Korean political, economic, and social linkages have been established by Karlov. Importantly, Matsegora also says that he had frequently kept in touch with Karlov, while Karlov was in Turkey, in order to consult with him on the present and future challenges confronting North Korea.[16] In other words, up until the day he was murdered, Karlov was still a very important diplomatic player in the Russian overt and covert dealings with North Korea. Moreover, Karlov's only son Gennady, a graduate of MGIMO just like his father, worked in the consular section of the embassy in Pyongyang while his father was in Ankara. There is every reason to suppose that he was also receiving the instructions from his father.

An Alternative Hypothesis?

Taking into consideration all that has been said above, the following hypothesis should be pondered. If there is in the West (in the U.S.-NATO leadership) a political-military-intelligence faction that wants to go to war against North Korea, then all those who could stop this war would need to be preemptively eliminated in one way or another. Andrei Karlov was the person who had demonstrated that he could be the force for peace in the North-South relations, while also being a powerful and vocal advocate for the Russian influence on the Korean peninsula. It is plausible that this, and not the Russian-Turkish disputes, played the role of the factor precipitating his assassination. As one of the key theorists of the Anglo-American school of geopolitics, Nicholas Spykman, has written: "... strategy must consider the whole world as a unit and must think of all fronts in relation to each other."[17]

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & Commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

Please support Newsbud, a 100% people funded media. We have launched our Kickstarter Phase 3 Campaign, please click on the Kickstarter link below & make a pledge today.

NOTES

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-38369962

[2] https://sputniknews.com/politics/201612231048920106-putin-ties-murder-russia-turkey/

[3] https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/erdogan-putin-agree-that-assassination-of-karlov-was-to-ruin-relations/

[4] https://sputniknews.com/world/201701111049483386-ankara-ambassador-street/

[5] https://www.gazeta.ru/social/news/2017/02/10/n_9671867.shtml

[6] https://russian.rt.com/russia/news/343573-mgimo-stipendii-posol ; http://sch648.mskobr.ru/common_edu/osnovnoe_i_srednee_obrazovanie/announcements/gbou_shkola_648_prisvoeno_imya_geroya_rossijskoj_federacii_andreya_gennad_evicha_karlova/

[7] https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201702151050711709-russian-ambassador-turkey-suspect-investigation/

[8] https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703061051299177-embassy-detention-ankara-ambassador/

[9] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4073828/Assassin-gunned-Kremlin-s-ambassador-Turkey-sexual-relationship-Russian-woman-planted-Western-secret-services.html

[10] https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703091051417341-ankara-assassination-karlov-us-ambassador/

[11] https://sputniknews.com/politics/201703071051335907-turkey-karlov-murder-fbi/

[12] http://www.turkey.mid.ru/rus/amb.html

[13] Sovershenno Sekretno, April 1, 2017, pp. 9-13.

[14] Ibid., p. 13.

[15] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/world/europe/andrey-karlov-wiki.html?_r=0

[16] http://www.rusembdprk.ru/ru/posolstvo/privetstvennoe-slovo-posla

[17] Nicholas Spykman. The Geography of the Peace. New York: Archon Books, 1944, p.

Newsbud Exclusive- KGB Swallows: Russian Intelligence & The “Honey Trap”

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On April 24, 2017, the Russian media reported that the Soviet actress Larisa Kronberg passed away in Moscow at the age of 88. She was the last living protagonist of one of the most successful Soviet counterintelligence operations during the Cold War: the secret recruitment of the French ambassador to the Soviet Union, Maurice Dejean, a leader in the French Resistance during the Second World War and a personal friend of the French president Charles De Gaulle.[1]

The Steamy Moscow Nights

Every intelligence agency keeps track of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of potential high-level recruits. Soon after Dejean's arrival to Moscow in 1955, the KGB took notice of Dejean's proclivity for extra-marital affairs with much younger women. The general Oleg Gribanov, the head of the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, whom many noted experts and historians, including the U.S. scholar Edward Jay Epstein, consider the grand master of Cold War counterintelligence, devised a plan on how to use Dejean's weakness against him and in favor of the USSR foreign policy interests.[2]

In his book Deception, Epstein claimed that the long-time CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton had thought of Gribanov as his main Soviet antagonist.[3] Their relations seemed to partake something of that epic fictional struggle between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. In the end, Angleton was fired by the CIA leadership, which had no patience for his multi-layered and complex counterintelligence tactics, without ever convincingly defeating Gribanov.

Gribanov's plan involved using the so-called "honey trap" or "a swallow" (in KGB terminology), a beautiful woman who would sexually compromise Dejean and then, under the threat of a public revelation, he would have no way out except to cooperate with the KGB agenda. It is likely that Larisa Kronberg was chosen because she was one of the most beautiful Soviet actresses at the time and was known in France because she received an award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in the 1954 Soviet film "A Big Family."

Introduced to each other by mutual friends, Dejean and Kronberg began spending a lot of time together, and when, sometime in 1958, Dejean's wife was out of Russia, Gribanov decided it was the time to close the trap by catching Dejean and Kronberg in flagranti.[4] According to the account that was later published by the KGB defector Yuri Korotkov, who took part in the operation, two KGB officers, one playing the part of Kronberg's jealous husband and the other the part of a witness, broke into the apartment where Dejean and Kronberg were having sex and made an angry scene.[5] The "husband" threatened that he would report Dejean to the Soviet police, but, in accordance with the KGB scenario, Dejean was allowed to escape from the apartment and get to the French embassy. It was also arranged that on the same evening Dejean would have a scheduled meeting with Gribanov who was presented to him as the adviser to the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev and whom, predictably, he asked for help. The rest, of course, is history.

The Russian sources claim that while under the KGB control, Dejean was successful in stoking de Gaulle's animosity toward NATO which ultimately led to the French withdrawal from the NATO military command in 1966 and the removal of NATO Headquarters from Paris to Brussels. When Korotkov's account became known in the West in 1964, Dejean resigned his position in Moscow, but seems not to have suffered any further sanctions in France.[6]

In my opinion, this was so because he was far from being the only pro-Soviet political figure in France of the 1960s. It could also be that the extent of his betrayal was judged to be negligible, or was already known to the French authorities even before Korotkov's defection. It is worth remembering that the defection of a KGB major Anatoly Golytsin in December 1961 led to many revelations concerning the KGB penetration of the Western military, security, and diplomatic structures. Dejean could have been one of those KGB sources uncovered by Golytsin. In the end, even after his resignation, Dejean did not drop out of de Gaulle’s circle of friends and later he directed the association for the French-Soviet cooperation until his death in 1982.

On the other hand, it is not clear how Kronberg became involved with the KGB and why she accepted to play the role of "a swallow." The Russian media reports that as the reward for the successful Dejean operation, she received a golden Swiss watch with diamonds. In addition, it appears that Dejean was not her only "target." Her friend Tatyana Konyuhova stated that for Lori [that is how close friends called Kronberg] "life was like a game."[7] Perhaps she worked for the KGB not only for monetary rewards and privileges, but also for adventure and thrills. Be that as it may, she took her secrets to the grave.

The Case of Katia Zatuliveter

The most recent case where the "honey trap" was allegedly used by the Russian intelligence took place in Great Britain in 2010. It involved a young Russian woman, Katia Zatuliveter, who worked as an intern for the long-time member of the British Parliament, Mike Hancock. According to the allegations, Zatuliveter used her romantic involvement with Hancock, who was 40 years older, to get access to confidential British government documents and pass them on to the Russian embassy in London. One of the best-known KGB defectors, Oleg Gordievsky, who, together with the top British historian of intelligence Christopher Andrew published a 700-page book on the KGB in the early1990s,[8] claimed at the time that Zatuliveter was "the strongest and most useful KGB agent for the last 30 years."[9]

However, the British domestic intelligence agency MI5, which pushed for Zatuliveter's deportation from Britain, failed to prove the case against her before an immigration tribunal. After a court battle that lasted almost a year, Zatuliveter was cleared of the espionage charges and allowed to stay in Britain until the expiration of her visa.[10] Zatuliveter's lawyer Tessa Gregory described the MI5 case as "built entirely on speculation, prejudice, and conjecture." It is curious that after calling the case "amateur and poorly researched," Gregory also added that it "compared very unfavorably to the professional counterespionage efforts conducted by the FBI in recent years."[11] Why would the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community be mentioned in this context? Perhaps because they had something to do with Zatuliveter's release.

In any case, Zatuliveter left Britain not long after the tribunal decision. She settled in Moscow and, interestingly, began to get involved in the Russian political opposition circles. She appeared on the Russian opposition TV broadcasts, calling for "free and fair elections" and openly criticizing the Russian government.[12] Was she "turned" by the U.S. intelligence while in the British custody?

The Western media also kept up with her anti-Putin activities in Russia. Not long before the 2012 Russian presidential election, she was quoted as saying that Putin's "time is over, he is out of touch."[13] However, Putin won the election with 64 percent of the vote.

In early 2012, Zatuliveter also began publishing a blog on the popular Russian blogging site snob.ru. Her first blog posts discussed her life in Britain, and, in one of them, she complained about her book manuscript being rejected by the Western publishers.[14] This may cast some shadow on her hypothetical cooperation with the Western intelligence. Interestingly, Zatuliveter also claimed that she worked for the Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny's 2013 campaign for the mayor of Moscow,[15] and yet, in a 2012 interview, she stated that she did not like Navalny because "Russia cannot have a nationalist in charge."[16] What made her change her mind? Could it be the outside players?

As Zatuliveter started to be become more integrated into the Moscow life, she began blogging about her new projects, such as running a publishing company. Curiously, one of her later blog posts was the invitation for the presentation of the Russian translation of Keith Melton's 2009 book Spycraft: The Secret History of CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda.[17] Once again, what could be the cause of Zatuliveter's enthusiasm about the U.S. intelligence community and its spycraft?

Zatuliveter's latest blog post was published on May 15, 2016.[18] It dealt with one of the projects organized by the youth travel group "Altourism," which she founded recently.[19] "Altourism" organizes what Zatuliveter calls the "trips with meaning." These trips are based on the idea of a group of young Moscow professionals going to some provincial town or village in Russia and helping local activists work on the project that is meaningful for both.

For instance, Zatuliveter and her associates helped a group of activists in Smolensk set up a plant-gathering and tea-making enterprise. Zatuliveter even gave a talk about this innovative type of tourism at a TEDx event in Moscow in August 2016.[20] This is the kind of the event that typically attracts the pro-Western, liberal crowd and is potentially sponsored by the Western intelligence structures.

On surface, the kind of work that Zatuliveter does now may seem far removed from the grand geopolitical designs of the U.S. intelligence community. However, travelling across Russia and working with local activists, who are more likely than not to have a negative disposition toward the central government, is not without a long-term potential for regime change. It is no doubt the kind of work that can be conceptualized as "westernizing" and whose ultimate purpose, as has been the case since the 18th century, is to corrode the Russian historical tradition of the strong state, currently embodied in the presidency of Vladimir Putin. This is why I am convinced that Zatuliveter will not be out of the Western media spotlight for too long. And the new book that, I am sure, she is writing about the "Russia of small towns" will no doubt get a publisher. Some 21st century Frederick A. Praeger, of course.[21]

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] https://rg.ru/2017/04/24/umerla-zvezda-devushki-s-gitaroj-i-agent-kgb-aktrisa-larisa-kronberg.html

[2] https://www.kp.ru/daily/26673.7/3694971/

[3] Edward Jay Epstein. Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

[4] https://www.kp.ru/daily/26673.7/3694971/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://www.eg.ru/daily/cadr/66167/

[8] Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990.

[9] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2052827/Katia-Zatuliveter-best-KGB-agent-30-years-claims-colonel.html

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/8923568/Katia-Zatuliveter-from-Russia-with-love-but-strictly-no-spying.html

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydvkMIUY3N4

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVIVPviT0fE

[13] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9121083/Katya-Zatuliveter-interview-Russian-wrongly-accused-of-spying-on-Britain-on-why-she-is-campaigning-against-Putin.html

[14] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/blog/45077

[15] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/about

[16] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9121083/Katya-Zatuliveter-interview-Russian-wrongly-accused-of-spying-on-Britain-on-why-she-is-campaigning-against-Putin.html

[17] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/blog/57611

[18] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/blog/108407

[19] http://www.altourism.ru/8

[20] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jaBiaDlEEc

[21] https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol46no1/article08.html

Newsbud Exclusive- Western Kremlinoia & the Rise of Eurasia

Highlights from the 6th International Security Conference in Moscow

In what has already become a tradition, the Russian ministry of defense organized its annual international security conference in Moscow on April 26 and 27, 2017. This conference is the Russian government answer to the annual Munich security conference, the high-level gathering of veteran Cold Warriors and advocates of the Atlanticist geopolitical agenda.

In recent years, the Munich conference has become quite extensively infected by a serious case of Russo-phobia and Kremlinoia (the word I coined, defined as a paranoid attitude toward the Kremlin), so that it is no wonder that the Russians have decided to set up their own venue for expert security and military discussions and exchange of ideas. I have no doubt that they had invited most of the Munich crowd, but the list of speakers shows that none of them showed up. It is a proven fact that in the Atlanticist vision of the world, Munich and Moscow cannot come together as partners of equal strength. However, the absence of the Atlanticists was more than made up by the heavy presence of the top Eurasian military and security officials. The arrogant self-isolationism of the Western powers was once again on full display for everybody to see.

The Guests

According to the Russian ministry of defense organizers, the main focus of the conference was on the challenges to global and regional security in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Considering the recent Russian geopolitical discourse, it is not surprising that the first on the list of topics was international terrorism, but other topics, such as cyber security, were discussed as well.[1]

In my opinion, the overall goal of the conference was to discuss the new frameworks of international cooperation that may or, more importantly, may not include the participation of the Western powers. The prominence of the Eurasianist, non-Western standpoint was underscored by plenary speeches given by the top officials of the key regional political and military organizations in Eurasia: Rashid Alimov, the secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Valery Semerikov, the acting secretary of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).[2] It is worth recalling that the CSTO is the Russian-led equivalent of NATO military alliance, while the SCO is jointly run by Russia and China in close collaboration with India, Pakistan, and Iran. The defense ministers of all three states were present at the conference and gave plenary speeches. Out of the three, the speech of the Iranian defense minister Hossein Dehghan has had the most views on Youtube so far, but it is curiously missing from the English version of the conference site.[3] Perhaps that is because, in his speech, Dehghan sharply criticized Israel and the U.S., accusing the U.S. of “world fascism” and claiming that, together with Great Britain and Saudi Arabia, it has built up and supported terrorist networks in the Middle East and Central Asia.[4]

On the other hand, it is also important to note that the highest official of any EU or NATO member state giving a plenary speech at the conference was the director of the Greek defense minister's office, Theologos Symeonidis.[5] Not even the Greek defense minister was present, notwithstanding the historical and cultural ties between Greece and Russia. This is a clear indication that NATO and EU boycotted the Moscow conference. The only non-Eurasian officials at the plenary sessions were the U.N. under-secretary-general Jeffrey Feltman who delivered the greetings of the U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres and the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Lamberto Zannier.

The only American in the plenary sessions (if we exclude Feltman who was there as the representative of the U.N.) was Thomas Graham, the managing director of Kissinger Associates, the person that many who hoped for the U.S.-Russia detente thought the U.S. president Donald Trump would choose for the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Trump, however, left them bitterly disappointed by choosing a typical U.S. foreign policy establishment war hawk, Jon Huntsman, the chairman of the most vocal and powerful Atlanticist think tank in the world, the Atlantic Council. And so, the writing is on the wall: there will most likely be no relaxation of tensions between the two nuclear (super) powers any time soon. In fact, since Trump moved into the Oval Office, several new crises flared up between the U.S. and Russia, in the Middle East, in the Balkans, in the Arctic, and in the Pacific.

The Hosts

The top Russian officials, however, still speak as if they did not give up on the possibility of a détente with the U.S. In his speech at the conference, the Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu stated that he would very much welcome the cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition in Syria. According to Shoigu, the common goals in Syria could easily be agreed on: the fight against ISIS, delivery of humanitarian aid, demining, and the new Syrian constitution.[6] However, he also stressed that the other side seemed not to be willing to cooperate with Russia. NATO continued to push its geopolitical agenda in Europe, militarizing Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Arctic, while the U.S. was integrating Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and Spain in the system of the continental and sea-based missile defense. Shoigu referred to both of these processes as serious threats to political stability in Europe and stated that Russia would respond in an adequate manner. He called on the Western politicians to stop scaring their populations with the Russian threat (Kremlinoia) and begin negotiating with Russia (and other non-Western powers) a new global security architecture.

The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who spoke after Shoigu, developed the idea of a new global security order even further. He described the potential for an “equal and indivisible” security space from Vancouver to Vladivostok based on mutual respect and partnership.[7] However, for this to become a political reality, according to Lavrov, “hegemonism and double standards” as the modes of functioning in international affairs need to be abandoned. This critique was clearly directed at the U.S. and, in fact, Lavrov explicitly mentioned the U.S. attack on the al-Shariat military base in Syria and the positioning of the U.S. THAAD missiles on the Korean peninsula as the examples of hegemonic activities that have destabilized the global system and make the outbreak of violent crises much more likely. Lavrov was one of the many speakers at the conference who invoked the concept of a polycentric (multi-polar) world order and implied that those in the Washington/Brussels establishments who appeared willing to use force to stop it from unfolding were engaged in a very dangerous and futile endeavor.

The conference was opened by Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council and the ex-chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Patrushev has been one of the closest associates of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he has known since the 1970s when they were both young KGB officers. In an exclusive article for Newsbud, published in December 2016, I presented the case as to why I thought Patrushev would replace Dmitry Medvedev as the next Russian prime minister. I argued that Putin would push out the remaining liberals from the government (as being too much in favor of the neoliberal economic model and the weak state framework) and fill their positions with the strong-state-oriented siloviks (the veterans of the military, police, and intelligence services).[8] And now, while Medvedev was nowhere to be seen at the conference (even though two of his most important ministers delivered their speeches), it was Patrushev who not only opened the conference (the task typically reserved for the prime minister), but he also read out the congratulatory telegram from Putin. This is definitely yet another clear sign that Medvedev’s political star is waning and that he is on the way out, just as I anticipated in my article months ago.

Though he is no doubt one of the most powerful people in Russia, Patrushev is a surprisingly uncharismatic speaker. Still, in his 8-minute speech, he warned the West (though not mentioning any states in particular) not to use the cover of the fight against terrorism and cybercrime in order to put pressure on and destabilize sovereign governments.[9] Patrushev stated that the evils of terrorism, organized crime, and cybercrime (including hacking) could be successfully defeated only under a collective international framework, such as that of the U.N. The principle of non-interference in domestic affairs must be respected at all times. Patrushev stressed that Russia would be supportive of multilateral frameworks, but that it would also know how to defend itself unilaterally, if attacked.

Conclusion

The Moscow security conference has definitely become the most important security forum in Eurasia. The fact that no Western states were represented at the ministerial level is a symptom of their geopolitical autism and Kremlinoia. In the mid-to-long term, this attitude can be extremely damaging to the prospects for the Western economic prosperity, especially as the balance of global power is shifting toward Eurasia. It would be wise for the West to abandon the extreme versions of Atlanticist ideology, disband NATO, and start working out a common security architecture with the rising powers of the East. Instead of being shunned and accused of imaginary crimes, Russia could play the useful role of a mediator, the conferences such as this one being a great venue. Kissinger’s main associate Thomas Graham already has a front row seat and that is hardly an accident.

# # # #

Professor Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] The program of the conference (in both Russian and English) can be found at this link: http://mil.ru/files/morf/6_MCIS_booklet.pdf

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnqxlXZm61Y ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvk-g3CaBbk

[3] Compare the Russian version which includes the link to the Iranian defense minister’s speech http://mil.ru/mcis/appearance.htm with the English version that does not http://eng.mil.ru/en/mcis/speeches.htm

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeRbGt8h8qo&feature=youtu.be

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlLwdw8A2yQ

[6] For a video with English translation, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sb6Z2RTziXY

[7] For a video with English translation, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-2_T77730E

[8] https://www.newsbud.com/2016/11/21/newsbud-exclusive-will-nikolai-patrushev-be-the-new-prime-minister-of-russia/

[9] For a video with English translation, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQglBTNbGUQ

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Newsbud Exclusive- Putin’s Instructions to the FSB, 2015-2017: An Analysis

Every year in February or March, the Russian president Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Security Service (FSB) Board. He uses this occasion to evaluate the FSB work during the previous year and to chart the priorities for the future.

In the three-part investigative article published by Newsbud earlier this year, I have analyzed the 2016 FSB public releases, as published on the FSB official website, in order to assess the FSB activities in the fields of counterespionage, counter-terrorism, cyber defense, and other law enforcement matters.[1] In this article, I will extend my analysis by discussing the president Putin's view of the role and mission of the FSB as presented in his three latest annual addresses, in 2015, 2016, and 2017. I believe that this analysis will shed important light on the main concerns of the Russian foreign policy as well as demonstrate in what ways (if any) they have changed over this period of time.

The 2015 Annual Address

In 2015, Putin addressed the FSB Board on March 26.[2] The photos from the event show that Putin was accompanied by both the present and former FSB chiefs, Alexander Bortnikov and Nikolai Patrushev. In fact, it was Patrushev who succeed Putin as the FSB chief in 1999. All three come from the 1970s Andropov's KGB milieu and have known one another for a long time. There has been very little variation in the leadership of the Russian intelligence community in the last twenty years.

Putin began his address by referring to what he called "a state coup" in Ukraine. He stated that the way Russia reacted to it caused "outright irritation" in the West. According to Putin, the West had devised and put in place a long-term geopolitical strategy based on "the deterrence of Russia." This involved putting a great deal of pressure on Russia from the outside as well as trying to destabilize it internally. Putin declared that "this does not work with Russia; it never had and never will." Thus Putin sent a clear message that Russia would not bow down to the Western foreign policy grand designs. Russia would use all means at its disposal to defend its territorial integrity and internal political and economic stability.

Putin directly accused the U.S. of "toppling the foundation" of the post-Cold War international order by unilaterally withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. He stated that the expansion of NATO sought to create a nuclear disparity in Europe in favor of the West and that Russia would not allow it. According to Putin, the only way to clip the wings of the Western triumphalism was for Russia "to become stronger." The FSB had a significant role to play in this strategic endeavor, especially with regard to the counterintelligence component of its work.

Putin stated that the Western intelligence services had stepped up their operations against the Russian targets both inside and outside Russia. He cautioned that the foreign funding transformed many Russian non-governmental organizations into the covert outlets of Western intelligence geared toward destabilizing the 2016 parliamentary and the 2018 presidential elections. He stated that while the Russian government was open for constructive criticism and a dialogue with the opposition, it was "pointless" to engage in discussions with "those who are operating on orders from the outside in the interests of some other country rather than their own." Thus Putin explicitly directed the FSB to be on the lookout for the enemies from within. In fact, he provided the concrete number of the exposed spies and traitors during 2014: 52 foreign officers and 290 Russian agents.

Another important area of work for the FSB, according to Putin, was combating terrorism. He praised the FSB for lowering the number of terrorist incidents and crimes 2.6 times since 2013 and 9 times in the preceding five-year period. Putin remarked that the Islamic State had been training terrorists in Syria for use in the future terrorist attacks on the Russian soil. He implied that something had to be done about it. And, indeed, Russia began its military intervention in Syria in September 2015, about six months after his FSB address.

Putin pointed to cyberspace as a very important domain for ensuring the protection and defense of the Russian national interests. He stated that Russian state institutions and organizations had experienced and successfully "curtailed" more than 74 million attacks in 2014. At the same time, the law enforcement agencies identified 25,000 illegal publications resources on the internet and closed down 1,500 extremist websites. According to Putin, the guiding idea was the insistence on law and order, and not censorship.

Lastly, Putin spoke about the increase in salaries and pension benefits for the FSB personnel. He also promised to improve the existing housing situation and emphasized that the Russian government had invested in the construction of 65 apartment buildings with 5,200 apartments for the needs of the FSB officers and their families.

It is indicative of Putin's high esteem for the FSB that he ended his address by thanking the FSB officers for their "service that the country needs so much."

The 2016 Annual Address

In 2016, Putin addressed the FSB Board earlier than in 2015, on February 26.[3] He was again accompanied by Bortnikov and Patrushev. Judging from the photographs of the event, he wore the same necktie as the previous year.

Putin began his 2016 address in a more conciliatory tone toward the U.S. than in 2015. He emphasized the February 22 adoption of the joint U.S.-Russia statement on the cease-fire in Syria and the beginning of the intra-Syrian peace negotiations. However, the optimism about the U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria was short-lived as the cease-fire failed soon after it was supposed to begin.[4]

Putin stated that the Russian military intervention in Syria, which began in September 2015, was motivated by the interest to stop terrorists in Syria before they attempted to enter the Russian territory. Its rationale was the defense of the Russian national security goals. He rejected the Western media claims that the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe was exacerbated by the intervention. He pointed to the fact that, for example, so many refugees on the Macedonian border were from Afghanistan and then asked a rhetorical question - "what have Russia's operations in Syria got to do with them?"

Just as in 2015, Putin stressed that Russia was ceaselessly targeted by the operations of the Western intelligence services. He stated that the FSB counterintelligence put a stop to the activities of more than 400 foreign officers and their Russian agents, 23 of whom faced criminal prosecution. It is interesting that, in contrast to 2015, in 2016, Putin did not state specifically how many of them were foreign officers and how many were Russian agents.

Another difference from 2015 is that, in 2016, Putin spoke of the FSB work against organized crime and noted that 98 groups were put under arrest, involving more than 2,200 individuals. He also urged the FSB officers to be vigilant against corruption and abuse of power in state procurement and defense industry, which frequently involve "large sums and enormous resources."

Putin noted that cyberspace remained the domain of Russia's highest concern. He stated that during 2015 there were 24 million cyberattacks against state institutions and organizations and that 1,600 extremist websites were shut down. While the number of the closed websites remained almost at the same level as in 2014, the number of cyberattacks was radically reduced, from 74 million to 24 million. Putin did not explain the factors behind such a dramatic change. Perhaps this is some kind of a typo or a misreading.

Lastly, Putin raised the issue of the FSB housing. He stated that the construction of 98 apartment buildings was completed and that 7,300 apartments were made available for the FSB officers and their families. There was no mention of any salary increases.

The 2017 Annual Address

In 2017, Putin addressed the FSB Board even earlier than in 2016, on February 16.[5] He was accompanied by the same people as in 2015 and 2016, but his necktie was different. For the first time, the Kremlin official website provided the video of his address.

Putin began by praising the FSB for positive results in all areas of activity, especially stressing "a series of successful counterintelligence operations." He noted that the global situation was not improving and that, in fact, threats to Russian national security were becoming "more acute."

Putin pointed out that the July 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw produced a declaration which singled out Russia as "the main threat to the alliance for the first time since 1989." He stated that NATO accelerated its efforts to contain Russia by expanding the reach of its strategic and conventional weapons.

Putin was very explicit about the NATO intentions: "They are provoking us and are trying to draw us into confrontation." This kind of language was missing from his 2016 address, which shows that the Russia-NATO relations had seriously deteriorated in the meantime.

Putin accused the Ukrainian government of trying to break up the Minsk Accords and impose its agenda in the Donbas by the use of force. He warned that the official Kiev also spoke of "organizing sabotage and terrorism" on the Russian territory.

Overall, however, Putin stated that the terrorist incidents and crimes had been reduced. According to him, the FSB prevented 45 terrorist-related crimes in 2016, including 16 planned attacks. This is more than was acknowledged by the FSB public press releases.[6]

In contrast to 2016, in 2017, just like in 2015, Putin provided the concrete number of the exposed

spies and traitors: 53 foreign officers and 386 Russian agents. While the number of foreign officers remained constant, the number of discovered Russian agents increased by almost 30 percent in two years.

In addition, Putin asked the FSB to work in close cooperation with the SVR in guarding the Russian diplomats abroad, in light of the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov. He also stressed the need of collaborating with the partners from the Shanghai Security Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the United Nations.

Putin noted that it was clear that the long-term, successful fight to root out international terrorism required "restoring dialogue" with the U.S. and NATO intelligence structures, but that it was not "Russia's fault" that they remained intensely hostile.

In terms of the cyberspace issues, Putin stated that the number of cyberattacks on Russian state institutions and organizations tripled from 2015 to 2016, but did not provide exact numbers as in his previous annual addresses. He also did not say how many extremist websites were shut down.

Putin urged the FSB to continue its campaign against corruption and state funds embezzlement in connection to defense and infrastructure projects because the "public expects greater results" and "regrettably, we still see many cases [of such illegal activities]." However, he made no mention of either the salary increase or the FSB housing issue as in earlier years. It appears that the current state of the Russian government finances allows no further investment in the security apparatus and this may spell trouble in the years to come.

Conclusion  

The comparative analysis of Putin's three annual addresses to the FSB Board shows little variation in the Russian foreign policy orientation and the main issues of concern. The emphasis on the inhospitable international environment in which Russia finds itself is ever present as is the stress on the valiant efforts the Russian intelligence community is making to defend Russia's right to an autonomous voice in international politics.

Putin is clear that Russia seeks partners in the international community but only among those who will treat it with equality and respect. Neither he nor the FSB feel intimidated by NATO's war-mongering or by U.S./NATO spies and agents of influence. While it appears that the number of the Russians who spy on their country keeps growing, it is interesting that the number of exposed foreign officers remains constant. Whether this is by design or by coincidence is difficult to tell.

In my opinion, there is a sense of increasing frustration in the top Russian leadership that the overall global situation is not getting better. The more this kind of global instability is allowed to run unchecked, the more difficult it will be to contain the forces of war and social chaos and preserve world peace. The fact that the main responsibility for this state of affairs falls on the corrupt Western neoliberal elite will be of little consolation if there is a nuclear war.

# # # #

Professor Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/12/28/newsbud-exclusive-security-threats-to-russia-the-analysis-of-the-2016-fsb-press-releases-part-1-counterespionage/ ; http://www.newsbud.com/2017/01/05/security-threats-to-russia-the-analysis-of-the-2016-fsb-press-releases-part-2-counter-terrorism/ ; http://www.newsbud.com/2017/01/12/security-threats-to-russia-the-analysis-of-the-2016-fsb-press-releases-part-3-hacking-other-challenges/

[2] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/49006

[3] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/51397

[4] https://www.rt.com/news/334303-31-ceasefire-violations-syria/ ; http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35861376

[5] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53883

[6] http://www.newsbud.com/2017/01/05/security-threats-to-russia-the-analysis-of-the-2016-fsb-press-releases-part-2-counter-terrorism/

Newsbud Exclusive – Montenegro’s NATO Nightmare: Wall Street Journal & Fake NATO News

On February 8, 2017, Wall Street Journal aired an interview with its “border lands" columnist Sohrab Ahmari under the title “Montenegro’s NATO Dreams.”[1] This interview is problematic on so many levels, starting with the title itself, that it fully deserves the tag of ‘fake news.’

Nothing in what Ahmari says is objective and impartial. It is all derived from the Atlanticist ideological vision in which NATO figures as the defender of Western democratic civilization against the supposedly barbaric hordes of the East. This is an old Orientalist/racist narrative dressed up to fit contemporary political discourse. It is both ironic and tragic that the person originally from the East engages in such a discourse and perpetuates the colonizing grasp of the West.

Ahmari’s statements show that he is not interested in the facts on the ground in Montenegro, but only in furthering NATO propaganda about it. He appears ignorant of the complexities of the political scene in Montenegro and takes for granted the statements of Montenegrin government officials known for their decades-long abuse of power, defamation of political opponents, and outright lies.

Ahmari also seems to be confused about the Balkan Yugoslav heritage. His expertise on the Balkans is evidently poor and one wonders what qualifies him to comment on the region. Considering how he deals with Montenegro, I shudder to think about what he says about other “border lands" and feel sorry for the WSJ readership who believe they are getting a truthful account of the situation. His journalistic professionalism and loyalty to the deep state ideological agenda are equivalent to that of the TASS agency reporters during the days of the Soviet Union.

Ahmari is interviewed by Mary Kissel, WSJ Editorial Board member, who asks him precisely the kinds of questions designed to promote the false NATO-Montenegro narrative. This narrative paints the rosy picture of Montenegro's welcoming NATO with open arms and bouquets of flowers, whereas the majority of Montenegrins are either against NATO membership or are indifferent to it.[2] Not even the most of those who support NATO membership are very enthusiastic about it, but instead see it as a “lesser evil.”

Nobody in Montenegro “dreams” about NATO, since everybody knows full well that NATO bombs killed Montenegrin citizens, including children, during the NATO air attacks against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999. Nobody, except evidently the editors and journalists at WSJ, have such morbid fantasies.

The Interview

Kissel begins the interview with the claim that “Montenegro wants to join NATO.” This claim is misleading, to say the least. While it is true that the ruling political elite wants to join, no referendum has been held and the people of Montenegro have not stated their own geopolitical preferences. Therefore, we still do not know for a fact whether “Montenegro” wants to join or not, unless, of course, we take the opinions of the corrupt politicians at the top of the power pyramid to represent the whole country.

This is exactly what Ahmari does in his replies to Kissel. And yet, he presents himself as democratic. Indeed, in doing so, he reveals an important truth about the Atlanticist modus operandi – the concept of democracy serves them only for empty moralizing, but, as soon as its norms contradict their geopolitical agenda, it is hypocritically and quickly disposed of.

Ahmari states that Montenegro was "the second to last Yugoslav republic to gain independence." This is a factually false statement. Montenegro was the last Yugoslav republic to become independent. Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, was never a Yugoslav republic and its independence is still not officially recognized by the United Nations. Not even all NATO member states recognize Kosovo's independence. But why would Ahmari care for historical facts when he has a propaganda job to do? The "border lands" columnist Ahmari needs to play WSJ's fake NATO news game if he wants to pay his London rent and put food on his kitchen table.

Ahmari continues his narrative in the same alternate (ideological) reality vein with little concern for the facts on the ground. He refers to NATO as "the Western alliance," as if there are no countries in the West, which are not a part of NATO. In Ahmari's ideological fantasy, neither Switzerland nor Ireland, neither Finland, Sweden, nor Austria exist. With his Atlanticist lenses on, Ahmari makes a laughable geographer. And this would be rather funny, if it was not actually very dangerous because it reveals a fundamentalist mindset which insists on putting the sign of equivalence between a corrupt military alliance and the West as a whole. The defense of NATO's survival thus becomes the defense of the West itself. This is precisely the core false narrative that is being promoted by the NATO's agents of influence in the mass media and the academia. As if the West could not develop and flourish without NATO.

The Atlanticist Candidate, Mr. Radiator

Talking more specifically about Montenegro, Ahmari mentions his recent conversation with the current prime minister of Montenegro, Duško Marković, who assured him that everything was on track for a very quick Montenegrin accession to NATO. However, what Ahmari does not mention, though it is critically important for understanding Marković's political profile, is that Marković was the chief of the Montenegrin secret police (the Agency for National Security) for a decade and his abuses of the rights of the Montenegrin citizens could be documented in as many volumes as there are in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In Montenegro, Marković is known as Mr. Radiator because he apparently stole all the central heating radiators from his apartment when he moved from the Montenegrin town of Mojkovac to the capital Podgorica. In any genuine democracy, Marković would hardly have a chance to talk to journalists, even if they were "border lands" columnists, because he would be behind bars for a very long time. However, for Ahmari and his editors at WSJ, Marković and his cabinet of thieves are the pillars of democracy, rule of law, and human rights. In fact, Ahmari states explicitly that Montenegro under Marković and his predecessor and party boss, the long-time authoritarian leader Milo Djukanović, satisfied all NATO standards for membership.

Of course, since Ahmari visited Montenegro, he is well aware that Marković's government is considered illegitimate by the opposition parties, which have boycotted the country's parliament since the parliamentary elections in October 2016.[3] Marković and his cronies are held in power by the tiniest of all majorities, since they control only 42 deputies in the 81-member Parliament.

At the same time that Ahmari is intentionally suppressing the facts of the deep political crisis in Montenegro, he is more than willing to spin the tall tales of the supposedly Russian-sponsored coup d'état on the election day, which I debunked as a false NATO narrative in one of my earlier Newsbud articles.[4] Ahmari does this in order to turn the question of the Montenegrin NATO membership into another instance of the new Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.

Ahmari is not alone in this. In fact, the same narrative is constantly being repeated by the CFR and Atlantic Council officials and certain members of the U.S. Congress, such as the senator John McCain.[5] However, the opposition of the Montenegrin population to NATO has much deeper roots and precedes in time the current U.S.-Russia tensions, which have essentially been the product of the expansionist neocon foreign policy under the George W. Bush and Obama presidential administrations. Ahmari and other Atlanticists are hypocritically instrumentalizing the Montenegrin issue in order to score points for their anti-Russian ideological and geopolitical agenda.

After Ahmari presents the completely fabricated story of the Russian intelligence-attempted covert intervention in Montenegro, even Kissel seems incredulous and says revealingly "Vow, you can't make this up". However, she does not care to probe deeper, but quickly moves on to the question about the Trump administration’s attitude toward NATO expansion.

In his response, Ahmari cites the story from Politico, which, as I have argued in another Newsbud article, is just one more media outlet, similar to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, set up by the Atlanticist lobby in tandem with the U.S. intelligence structures to promote and justify the continued U.S. global hegemony and, more recently, to flood Europe with anti-Russian and, particularly, anti-Putin propaganda.[6] According to Politico’s anonymous source, cited by Ahmari, the new Trump administration, after some initial hesitation, will give the green light for the rapid Senate confirmation of the NATO protocol with Montenegro, which has the status of an international treaty and has to be approved by the two-thirds of the senators.

However, this appears not to be enough for Ahmari, and so he sends out an implicit warning to both the president Trump and his (former) national security adviser Michael Flynn that if they do not act quickly on this issue, the speculations about their “pro-Russian instincts” (Ahmari’s phrase) will receive additional confirmation. In other words, what Ahmari is implying that though the Russians may have been unsuccessful in Montenegro, they have succeeded in the U.S.! The almost non-existent Montenegrin counterintelligence did a better job against the FSB and the GRU than the combined forces of the CIA, FBI, and NSA. “Vow, you can’t make this up” - I am made speechless by Ahmari’s reasoning and cannot but repeat Kissel’s earlier statement.

The Battle Rages On

This is not to say that the efforts of Ahmari and other Atlanticists in the mainstream media, such as the WSJ, WaPo, and NYT, should be underestimated. Far from it. The NATO planners and strategists may have been temporarily knocked down by the unexpectedness of Trump’s victory, but there is already plenty of evidence that they are back on their feet. The recently intensified attacks of the Ukrainian army in the Donbass, the obstructions of the pro-NATO government in Moldova against the recently elected president Igor Dodon, the “accidental” killing of the Turkish soldiers in Syria by the Russian military aircraft, the successful campaign to force Michael Flynn’s resignation, all point to another heavy and dangerous offensive by the Atlanticists. They know well that it is “all or nothing” struggle. The problem, however, is that their “all” means World War 3.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & Commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.wsj.com/video/opinion-journal-montenegros-nato-dreams/8DA036BB-9B8F-4013-9893-1D23C07BDB2E.html

[2] http://www.dan.co.me/?nivo=3&rubrika=Politika&datum=2015-06-24&clanak=497939

[3] http://balkans.aljazeera.net/vijesti/crnogorska-opozicija-prekid-bojkota-samo-uz-datum-novih-izbora

[4] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/12/12/newsbud-exclusive-the-coup-that-never-was-a-false-nato-intelligence-narrative-in-montenegro/

[5] http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/1/statement-by-senator-john-mccain-on-phone-call-with-prime-minister-of-montenegro

[6] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/06/27/newsbud-exclusive-the-travels-of-nato-chief-jens-stoltenberg-an-analysis/

 

Newsbud Exclusive – CIA, the Golitsyn-Nosenko Affair & the Russian TV Series ‘Traitors’

Whether or not there was in fact any Russian “hacking” of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it is not possible to deny the ineptness and incompetence of the CIA in dealing with this issue. The public statements of its leading figures as well as the declassified reports released to the public so far have only further discredited the CIA leadership in the eyes of objective observers and impartial intelligence specialists. Any student in the top 25 percent of my classes could have written a segment on the RT TV channel included in the recent report. And I am sure that he or she would have used more recent sources than the fall of 2012.[1]

It is mind-boggling to think that the U.S. taxpayers have been subsidizing this kind of shoddy work with tens of billions of dollars every year. How many hospitals and schools could have been built and how many people could have obtained decent health care and received university scholarships on this money! There is no doubt in my mind that all those responsible for this tragic waste of money and other resources must be fired and replaced by conscientious individuals whose expertise will rise above political opportunism.

This is not the first time that the CIA has proven to be woefully inadequate to protect the key national security interests of the U.S. In fact, it appears that its biggest and most damaging failure took place in the 1950s when the formidable Soviet intelligence agency, the KGB, penetrated it by recruiting an insider who was never discovered. It all went downhill from then on.

The Golitsyn-Nosenko Affair

The issue of an undiscovered KGB spy in the top echelons of the CIA represented the crux of the infamous Golitsyn-Nosenko affair which pitted different departments within the CIA against one another in the 1960s and severely impacted the work of the agency for years. On one side, there was the long-time CIA counter-intelligence chief James Jesus Angleton and the CIA Soviet section officers Tennent (Pete) Bagley and David Murphy. On the other, there was the CIA chief William Colby and the CIA officers Bruce Solie and John Hart.

The context as well as both the prologue and the epilogue to the affair are described in detail in Pete Bagley’s 2007 book Spy Wars.[2] It essentially came down to the question of which KGB defector was to be trusted: Anatoly Golitsyn or Yuri Nosenko.

Golitsyn was the first of the two to defect to the West, already in December 1961. His key message was that the KGB penetrated the leadership of all Western intelligence agencies. Not only the CIA, but also the MI-5 & 6 and the French DGSE. Though this claim may sound incredible, the subsequent escape to Russia of Kim Philby, who was one step removed from being the head of MI-6 and was the key liaison between the MI-6 and the CIA in the late 1940s, and the resignation of the MI-5 chief Roger Hollis in the mid-1960s demonstrated that Bagley and Angleton were far from being paranoid (as they were slandered by their opponents) in taking the side of Golitsyn.

However, that was not all Golitsyn claimed. He also insisted that all the defectors coming after him would be KGB plants sent to confuse and disorient the CIA and distract it from searching for a mole in its midst. This mole had been passing the KGB the valuable information with the potential to expose and damage most CIA operations in Europe and elsewhere, including the recruitment efforts within the Soviet Union.

The first KGB defector who came after Golitsyn was Nosenko. He first contacted the CIA in May 1962 in Geneva (where he was handled by Bagley), but decided to return to the Soviet Union. Then, in January 1964, Nosenko re-appeared in Geneva and turned himself over to the CIA.

The basic difference between Golitsyn’s and Nosenko’s claims was that while Golitsyn claimed that the Western intelligence agencies were penetrated, Nosenko claimed that they were not, that everything was fine, and that there was no reason to worry. That was precisely what Golitsyn claimed that any subsequent defector, a KGB plant, would do.

Golitsyn's claim was the reason why Angleton had Nosenko confined for years in a special CIA prison and subjected to constant interrogations. However, Nosenko never admitted that he was a KGB plant, though his stories, according to Bagley, were absurdly inconsistent and incoherent. In Bagley’s opinion, Nosenko might have been a perfect Manchurian candidate. Peter Deriabin, another KGB officer who defected in the 1950s, concurred with Bagley’s judgment and his statement is included in Bagley’s book as an appendix.

Yet, with the new CIA leadership taking charge, Nosenko was rehabilitated, received a CIA pension, and began working as a CIA consultant. In 2008, a month before he died at age 81, he was presented with a letter of then-CIA director Michael Hayden which praised his service for the U.S. and implied that he was a bona fide defector.[3] On the other hand, Bagley, greatly disappointed, left the CIA in 1973, and Angleton was discredited (in another scandal) and forced to resign in 1975.

Bagley died in 2014 at age 88 soon after publishing a book entitled Spymaster based on the recollections of Sergey Kondrashev, a former high-level KGB official, who was familiar with the massive KGB Cold War deception operations against the West.[4] The Russian intelligence refused to allow Kondrashev to publish the book, but since he died in 2007, Bagley published it in the U.S. with the permission of Kondrashev’s family. Obviously, there are things in the book that today’s Russian intelligence apparatus would rather keep from becoming public knowledge. As with every intelligence agency in the world, this is always the issue of sources and methods.

And so, the mystery of what the KGB was really up to with Golitsyn and Nosenko continues to this day. However, in my opinion, the recently aired Russian TV series ‘Traitors’ adds a new and important twist to the story. In a round-about, indirect way, which is how all intelligence public statements and declassified products must be interpreted, it gives enough hints to make me conclude that Bagley and Angleton may have been right after all.

The Russian TV Series ‘Traitors’

The Russian TV station Zvezda [meaning the star], owned by the Russian military, produced this documentary TV series for three seasons starting in 2014.[5] It aired 24 episodes in total, eight in each season. They can all be found and viewed on Youtube.[6] The episodes covered 24 individuals declared traitors by the leadership of the Soviet Union, from the 1920s to the 1980s. There was even one American, Elizabeth Bentley, known as the “queen of Red espionage,” who, in the late 1940s, revealed to the FBI the network of the Soviet spies she organized on the territory of the U.S.[7] She was the only woman included.

The entire series was hosted by the ex-KGB officer Andrey Lugovoy who is sought by the British government to stand trial for the fatal polonium poisoning of the Russian intelligence defector Alexander Litvinenko in London. At this time, Lugovoy is a member of the Russian Duma [the lower house of the Parliament] representing the pro-government Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR) led by the virulent Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Quite recently, on January 9, 2017, Lugovoy was added to the list of the Russian citizens under U.S. sanctions.[8]

The Russian audiences appear to enjoy having former spies host documentary programs on TV. Anna Chapman, who was arrested for spying by the FBI in 2010 and, together with nine other so-called Illegals, exchanged for four U.S. spies imprisoned in Russia, also had her own show on REN TV. The title of her show was “The Secrets of the World. The Riddles of the Cosmos.”[9]

The 24 “traitors” covered by the TV Zvezda series included Anatoly Golitsyn and Yuri Nosenko. The episodes about them were aired in the second season of the series. I watched both episodes closely in order to test the following hypothesis: if Golitsyn was a genuine defector and Nosenko was a plant, then the presentation and treatment of Golitsyn will be more negative and harsher than the treatment of Nosenko. In fact, as I will explain in detail below, this is precisely what I found.

The episode on Golitsyn was aired first.[10] From the very beginning, the episode sought to present Golitsyn as somebody not to be trusted. It reported, for instance, that he was not liked by his co-workers and that his nickname was “the hunchback.” The KGB veterans interviewed in the episode also expressed distinctly negative opinions about him. The retired KGB general Alexander Duhanin, for instance, claimed that Golitsyn did not have access to any significant information, but claimed to know a lot in order to get more money and privileges from the Western intelligence services. He emphasized the alleged Golitsyn’s love of luxury and the heightened sense of self-importance. The episode even went so far as to say that Golitsyn was diagnosed as a paranoid personality with pathological symptoms by the chief CIA psychologist, John Gittinger. This, by the way, is directly contradicted by Bagley who, in his book, claimed that it was Nosenko who was diagnosed by Gittinger, and not Golitsyn.[11]

In fact, Bagley in particular singled out Oleg Nechiporenko, former KGB officer now turned historian of the Russian intelligence, as somebody who was especially eager to extol Nosenko’s genuineness as a defector and demean Golitsyn.[12] Bagley suspected that this was a part of the enduring KGB/SVR plan to hide the Cold War penetration of the CIA. Nechiporenko’s appearance in the episode confirmed Bagley’s claims made years earlier. His statements did indeed represent the character assassination of both Golitsyn and Angleton.

Even Edward Jay Epstein, a well-known U.S. journalist and intelligence community researcher, who was a friend of Bagley and wrote a preface to Bagley’s last book, did not seem convincing in his defense of Golitsyn. This, I suspect, was the result of selective presentation of his statements by the episode’s producers.

In the end, the viewer is left with the impression that Golitsyn was an extremely successful but psychologically unstable con artist who fooled the Western intelligence community in order to get rich and did not provide them with any secret intelligence worth the money he received. However, the episode admitted that Golitsyn was nevertheless sentenced to death in absentia by the KGB and that his only daughter Katya died suddenly, supposedly of drug overdose, in Rome in the 1970s. Golitsyn himself passed away recently, but neither the time of his death nor the place of burial are known, which is another difference between him and Nosenko.

Although the episode on Nosenko had pretty much the same cast of interviewees, their reactions to Nosenko were very different from their reactions to Golitsyn. Their attitude toward Nosenko was much more upbeat: Nosenko was not “the hunchback,” but the son of Stalin’s favorite government minister. Such a positive attitude was particularly surprising, considering that they also claimed that Nosenko caused grave damage to the KGB foreign operations and that the damage was more extensive in scope than that caused by Golitsyn.

Nechiporenko, for instance, claimed that approximately 300 to 400 Soviet intelligence agents were recalled to Moscow due to being exposed by Nosenko’s revelations, the claim which was already debunked by Bagley's book.[13] He also stated that Angleton convinced Bagley that Nosenko was a KGB plant, whereas Bagley in detail described how he came to this conclusion on his own, after months and months of interrogating Nosenko. How could Nechiporenko know better than Bagley what the latter himself went through?

Moreover, Nechiporenko directly stated that Nosenko could not have been a double agent, whereas the general Duhanin ridiculed and caricatured the CIA interrogation process. They seemed to be defending Nosenko, which was paradoxical if he had caused as much damage to the KGB as they claimed he had. It was as if it was more significant to them that Nosenko was victimized by the CIA than that he gave away very important Soviet secrets. Should they not be content that the person who betrayed them had to suffer the consequences of his misdeed, even if by their opponents’ hand? There is only one condition under which they should not: if Nosenko worked for them.

In fact, this is precisely the conclusion that one comes away with, if one compares Bagley’s account of the Golitsyn-Nosenko affair and the account presented by Lugavoy and TV Zvezda. By embracing Nosenko with open arms (he even lectured at Langley) and smearing Bagley and Angleton, the CIA chose to trust the wrong guy and therefore utterly failed in counterintelligence work. It is likely that many of its problems today stem from the repetition of this same basic pattern. It would not be inconceivable that even right now there is a Russian mole in its midst whom it cannot ferret out because it has consistently refused to learn the lessons of the past.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://stmedia.startribune.com/documents/1russia010717.pdf

[2] Tennent H. Bagley. Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries, and Deadly Games. New Haven, NJ: Yale, 2007.

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/28/us/28nosenko.html

[4] Tennent H. Bagley. Spymaster: Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013.

[5] http://tvzvezda.ru/schedule/filmsonline/content/201409301945-kbdj.htm/

[6]

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q29cD5C5gWc

[8] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20170109.aspx

[9] https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_r67RjmWlFz2OBjFTBKx4ywJDXE67GCF

[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6BS85sdBps&list=PLcRxMIXa98X-fY9Nvo1N3SOMP7ajzxWPa&index=7

[11] Bagley, Spy Wars, p. 190.

[12] Bagley, Spy Wars, pp. 211-212.

[13] Bagley, Spy Wars, p. 209-212.

Security Threats to Russia: The Analysis of the 2016 FSB Press Releases (Part 3 – Hacking & Other Challenges)

This is the third and last article in the investigative series in which I analyzed the 2016 press releases published on the official FSB website. In the previous two articles, I covered the FSB counterespionage and counter-terrorist operations during 2016.[1] These operations were the subject of more than one third of the FSB press releases. This means that they consumed a great deal of attention, time, and resources of the Russian domestic law enforcement and counterintelligence community. It is safe to conclude that espionage and terrorism are considered the primary threats to Russia’s national security.

However, there are several other types of illegal activity that were occasionally covered in the press releases and that can also be used as tools to undermine political stability and economic well-being in Russia. They involve cybercrime and cyberattacks (hacking), and arms and narcotics trafficking. In this article, I will discuss in detail the FSB press releases dealing with these types of law-breaking activities.

Cybercrime and Cyberattacks (Hacking)

The first 2016 press release concerning cybercrime activities, popularly known as hacking, was published by the FSB on June 1.[2] It reported that during the massive law-enforcement operation taking place simultaneously in 15 regions of Russia, the FSB, in cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Interior and the National Guard, arrested close to 50 people, suspected of being members of a hackers’ group. The group allegedly stole more than 1 billion 700 million rubles ($27 million) from various Russian banks. The FSB recovered some of the stolen money, in addition to seizing a large number of false bank documents, credit cards, and computers.

It is important to note that this was one of the first operations conducted with the participation of the Russian National Guard which was established in April 2016. Just two months after its formation, it is evident that the National Guard proved very efficient in fulfilling its duties. The press release, for instance, stated that the arrested individuals were brought to Moscow on the aircraft operated by the National Guard.

The number of arrested individuals and their geographical dispersion throughout Russia shows that the problem of hacking in Russia is quite acute. This can perhaps open another line of inquiry related to the unproven accusations by the U.S. intelligence community of the Russian hacking of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. In other words, even if there is a Russian “trace” behind the hacking, perhaps it is not the doing of the Russian government? Could it not be that the hackers worked for their own private benefit or out of ideological beliefs, or were hired by the anti-Putin Russian oligarchs based in the West in order to strengthen the anti-Putin climate in the U.S. political life and make economic sanctions harsher and military confrontation more likely? This would of course depend on the expectation that the Trump administration will not be able to change anything substantial in this respect, which yet remains to be seen. However, judging from the pre-election statements, Tramp’s VP Mike Pence already appears to have taken the side of the anti-Putin hawks.[3]

The FSB press release published on July 30 dealt more specifically with the issue of cyberattacks and cyber-espionage.[4] In fact, it reported that the FSB specialists were able to uncover an especially damaging virus program infiltrated into the network of more than 20 organizations on the territory of Russia. These organizations included the Russian government, military, and academic institutions and even the sectors of the Russian military-industrial complex.

The FSB did not comment as to where this malicious software could have come from. It just stated that it resembled the software found in other cyberattacks around the world. In my opinion, the description of the way that the virus infected the victims’ computers and the damage it caused resembled very much the hacks perpetrated in the U.S., both on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and on Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta. Considering the timing of the release (the end of July), just after the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was over and the full extent of the U.S. hacks became publicly known, it definitely raises several very significant questions.

First, was this massive hacking of the Russian “critical infrastructure” a retaliation by the U.S. intelligence agencies for the DNC and Podesta hacks allegedly perpetrated by the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU)? And if so, will the hacked emails and information be made publicly available? Will be we soon be reading the embarrassing details of the Russian government and military officials’ undercover dealings?

Or, alternatively, was this perhaps done by a third party which also hacked the DNC and Podesta? Following in the footsteps of the James Bond classic “From Russia, with Love,” is there perhaps a secret (criminal) network which uses the rogue elements of different intelligence communities to amplify the confrontation between the U.S. and Russia? To get the U.S. to blame Russia and, likewise, Russia to blame the U.S. for criminal deeds actually perpetrated by this hidden network. This of course is a mere speculation. But the coincidence of the almost simultaneous cyber-attacks cannot be denied.

The third and last 2016 press release dealing with cybercrime was published by the FSB on December 2.[5] This press release warned the Russian institutions and the Russian public that unnamed foreign intelligence agencies were preparing massive cyberattacks, starting on December 5, with the goal of destabilizing the Russian financial infrastructure and creating social and political chaos. The release was fairly specific as to where the cyberthreat was supposed to come from. It claimed that the servers and command posts for this attack were located on the territory of the Netherlands and belonged to the Ukrainian hosting company “BlazingFast.” The attack was supposed be initiated via social media with the large number of provocative posts regarding the imminent collapse of the Russian financial system and was supposed to take place simultaneously all across Russia (in “several dozen” Russian cities).

Either the FSB successfully neutralized the threat or it was a false alarm, in any case, not much happened. The Russian financial system preserved its stability and in fact was strengthened as 2016 ended, because of the increase in the price of oil. However, the ties between the Dutch milieu and the aggressive Ukrainian anti-Russian cyber propaganda and hacking efforts were publicly revealed. This perhaps has something to do with the tragic fate of MH-17, the Malaysia Airline Boeing 777-200ER, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which crashed in Ukraine in July 2014 under still disputed circumstances with most passengers onboard being Dutch citizens.

Arms and Narcotics Trafficking

The first 2016 press release concerning arms trafficking was published by the FSB on February 1.[6] It reported that the FSB arrested 3 individuals suspected of arms trafficking in the city of Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtian republic in the central Russia. According to the release, the arrested individuals were in charge of a criminal organization which "regularly" supplied the neighboring regions of the central Russia and Siberia with illegal weapons. At the moment of arrest, the FSB seized an automatic grenade launcher AGS-17 and more than 100 other automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The FSB did not specify who was purchasing these weapons and whether these individuals were also arrested. There was also no mention of whether the weapons were intended for terrorist activity, though it is difficult to imagine what else they could have been needed for, especially in the case of a grenade launcher.

About two and a half months later, on April 18, the FSB published another press release concerning arms trafficking.[7] It reported that 7 individuals, arrested in the city of Bryansk in the Russian central federal district, were suspected of illegal weapons smuggling. Several automatic weapons and revolvers, a great deal of ammunition as well as about a dozen grenades were seized. The report did not link up the arrested group with any act of terrorism, either planned or already performed.

The next FSB press release concerning arms trafficking, published on June 20, was longer than most because it elaborated on the on-going FSB operations, in tandem with the Ministry of Interior, directed toward discovering and closing down the network of illegal weapons manufacturies throughout Russia.[8] According to the release, a particular problem in this respect represents the activation of deactivated and self-made weapons (in Russian language, they are known under the acronym MMG) because they are very difficult to trace after being used in a criminal or terrorist act. The release noted that these types of weapons were used in several high-level assassinations, such as the assassinations of ex-deputy prime minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and B. A. Kantemirov, a parliamentarian from the Kabardino-Balkarian republic. It also emphasized that their presence in Russia had substantially increased since the beginning of the violent conflict in Ukraine.

In addition, the release stated that in the period from 2014 to 2016, the FSB closed down about 100 illegal manufacturies and seized more than 3,500 different weapons. The release specifically mentioned that, in June 2016, 14 individuals were arrested in three different regions in Russia. They were all charged under Article 222 of the Russian Criminal Code, dealing with the illegal possession and/or trafficking of weapons.

According to the press release published on August 30, the FSB’s Russia-wide sweep for weapons traffickers and illegal manufacturies was also successful in the Far East.[9] The FSB arrested 7 individuals in the city of Vladivostok involved in the illegal making and trafficking of weapons. It seized close to 30 automatic weapons as well as a large quantity of grenades and ammunition. All arrested individuals were charged under Article 222 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Two months later, on October 25, there was another FSB press release concerning its activities against weapons traffickers and illegal manufacturies.[10] This time, the region of Tver in the central Russia was the focus of the FSB activities. The FSB arrested a group of individuals (not mentioned how many), suspected of running a weapons trafficking and manufacturing network. At the same time, the FSB conducted further operations throughout Russia. Altogether, it seized more than 250 automatic, semi-automatic and other weapons, a great number of grenades and various ammunition, and about 20 kilograms of explosives. It also closed down 8 illegal manufacturies. The press release did not make any indications that these weapons were intended for terrorists, though, as I pointed out above, this cannot be ruled out.

The last 2016 FSB press release dealing with arms trafficking was published on December 12.[11] It reported a large-scale FSB operation in the western and central regions of Russia focused on weapons traffickers and illegal manufacturies. 3 individuals were arrested and close to 100 different weapons were seized, including one grenade launcher. In the car belonging to one of the arrested individuals, the FSB found four 80mm grenades from the time of the World War II, which were subsequently destroyed. The release did not say what the intended purpose of these grenades was.

During the entire 2016, there was only one FSB press release dealing specifically with the trafficking of narcotics. It was published on November 17 and mentioned several FSB anti-narcotics operations.[12] One of the operations took place on the territory of the Moscow region in October 2016. 2 individuals were arrested and more than 100 kilograms of synthetic narcotics and 1,900 liters of liquid narcotics were seized. The narcotics-making lab was also discovered and shut down.

Another operation, conducted in 2014, which led to the arrest of 6 individuals and the seizure of 400 kilograms of narcotics with the market value of 400-800 million rubles [$6-12 million], resulted in the sentencing of the arrested individuals to 6 years in prison in May 2016. The release described in detail the modus operandi of these individuals. They never met in person, communicated only via the Internet using fake identities, and distributed the narcotics and money through the system of dead drops. Evidently, catching them was quite an accomplishment.

The FSB concluded the press release by noting that in the preceding two-year period, it seized more than 7,000 kilograms of various narcotics.

Conclusion

Both cybercrime and arms trafficking appear to be serious challenges to Russia’s national security. As I pointed out, foreign cyberattacks against the Russian “critical” infrastructure are on the rise. The sources of these attacks are not always specified, but they seem to be connected to the anti-Russian and anti-Putin forces in the West. They may be a part of the U.S. intelligence community’s strategy of retaliation (or offensive projection of power) against Russia. There is also a (remote) possibility that they are the work of a third party wanting to ratchet up the tensions, even to the point of military confrontation, between Russia and the U.S.

I have no doubt that we will see more of these types of attacks, with rapidly increasing severity, in the coming period. I therefore expect the FSB press releases in 2017 to cover this issue more extensively.

Judging by the number of the 2016 press releases concerning arms trafficking and illegal weapons manufacturing, this is clearly a major problem for the Russian internal political stability. The FSB, in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and the newly-formed National Guard, appear to be regularly conducting large-scale sweeps throughout the country. They have had a great deal of success, but much more needs to be done. It is especially important to prevent the possible linkages of arms traffickers and illegal weapons manufacturies to terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State and other radical groups which have their followers and agents of influence inside Russia. On the other hand, narcotics trafficking appears to be less of a problem for the Russian security apparatus or, at least, it was so during 2016, according to the FSB press releases.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/12/28/newsbud-exclusive-security-threats-to-russia-the-analysis-of-the-2016-fsb-press-releases-part-1-counterespionage/ ; http://www.newsbud.com/2017/01/05/security-threats-to-russia-the-analysis-of-the-2016-fsb-press-releases-part-2-counter-terrorism/

[2]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437717%40fsbMessage.html

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/16/politics/mike-pence-donald-trump-russia-hacking/index.html

[4]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437870%40fsbMessage.html

[5]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10438041%40fsbMessage.html

[6]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437666%40fsbMessage.html

[7]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437706%40fsbMessage.html

[8]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437720%40fsbMessage.html

[9]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437876%40fsbMessage.html

[10]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437888%40fsbMessage.html

[11]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10438047%40fsbMessage.html

[12]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10438042%40fsbMessage.html

 

Security Threats to Russia: The Analysis of the 2016 FSB Press Releases (Part 2 – Counter-Terrorism)

This is the second article in the three-article investigative series in which I analyze the 2016 press releases published on the official FSB website.[1] As I already pointed out in the first article, in the period from January until the last week of December, there have been 52 press releases in total.[2] Eight of them dealt with the issue of counterespionage and I discussed them in detail in the first article. Now I will turn my attention to the releases that dealt with counter-terrorist and counter-extremist operations conducted by the FSB in 2016, including those that directly concerned the activities of the Islamic State operatives. All in all, there are 10 press releases of this type, seven of which focus, more or less specifically, on the Islamic State (banned in Russia; in Russian press, the designation is written in quotation marks – the “Islamic State”).

The Islamic State Operatives in Russia in 2016

The first FSB press release dealing with the arrest of the IS operatives in Russia was published on February 8. It reported that 7 members of the group, which included both Russian citizens and the citizens of Central Asian ex-Soviet republics, were arrested in Ekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia located in the Urals.[3] The head of the group, according to the release, arrived from Turkey and, under his direction, the group allegedly planned terrorist attacks in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the region around Ekaterinburg. The FSB seized a large quantity of self-made explosive devices, weapons, ammunition as well as “extremist” materials and books. In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that, after committing terrorist acts, the group intended to escape to the territory held by the Islamic State in Syria. They were all charged under Articles 205, 222, and 222.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (dealing with terrorism and illegal possession of weapons and explosive devices).

Ten days later, on February 18, there was another FSB press release dealing with the alleged IS operatives. This time, 14 individuals were arrested in the Moscow region.[4] They were suspected of making false documents and passports for the IS operatives entering Russia as well as for the Russian and other ex-Soviet republics’ citizens recruited to fight on behalf of IS in Syria. In addition, the FSB reported that many fake identification cards, passports, stamps, and printing equipment were also seized. This appears to have been a significant blow to the subversive activities of the IS operatives in Russia.

It is not clear whether the arrests in Ekaterinburg and Moscow were operationally connected, but there is no doubt that these FSB actions were a part of the large-scale counter-terrorist effort spearheaded by the Russian government to coincide with its increasing military involvement in Syria. In fact, one of the main reasons frequently cited by the Russian officials to justify the military intervention in Syria on the side of the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad has been precisely that without confronting and rooting out the IS terrorists in Syria, so many of them would turn into a clear and present danger for Russia itself.[5]

The third FSB press release dealing with the IS operatives was published on April 8. The release reported the arrest of 5 “radical Islamists” in the town of Pallasovka in the Volgograd [formerly Stalingrad] oblast in southern Russia.[6] They were members of the so-called Pallasovka’s Jamaat organized with the aim of recruiting the fighters for the Islamic State in Syria. The FSB also seized a large quantity of ammunition and explosive materials. According to the release, those arrested were charged under the articles of the Russian Criminal Code dealing with terrorism and illegal possession of weapons.

The fourth FSB press release, published on July 29, reported that the high military court in the city of Tver, near Moscow, convicted four individuals - G. Atahanov, G. Zhumaev, D. Kalmadinov and A. Kohorov - of serious crimes connected to the activities of the Islamic State and sentenced Atahanov to thirty and the rest to twenty-eight years in a maximum security penal colony.[7] More specifically, the group was convicted of the recruitment and transport of terrorist fighters to Syria, the murder of a family in the Moscow region "in order to confirm their loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State" (which sounds like something from Dostoyevski's novel The Possessed), and the production and distribution of counterfeit currency in central Russia.

All individuals were the citizens of one Central Asian state (not named). According to the release, Atahanov was sentenced to a longer prison term because he acted as the leader of the group and also had an international search warrant on the charges of terrorist activity on the foreign soil. This is the only FSB press release in 2016 which reported the court conviction and sentencing of the IS operatives.

The fifth FSB press release dealing specifically with the Islamic State was published more than six months later, on December 15. According to the release, the FSB arrested 2 “associates” of the Islamic State in the Kirov region near the city of Samara in southern Russia.[8] Born in 1992 and 1995, the two were the citizens of an unnamed Central Asian state and worked in the furniture business. They used their business as a cover for obtaining legal status for some of their compatriots in Russia, one of which, presumably, recruited them for the IS.

In searching their living quarters, the FSB found a self-made explosive device carrying one kilogram of TNT. It appears that the device was constructed out of the materials accessible in the open market. The press release noted that the investigation was still in progress. It did not report anything on where and when the device was supposed to be detonated. Typically, the targets of terrorist attacks in Russia have been big regional centers, such as, for instance, Volgograd in December 2013.[9]

On the same day, the FSB published another press release, this one dealing with the arrests in Moscow. It reported that 4 individuals, the citizens of Tajikistan and Moldova, have been arrested under the charges of being members of a "terrorist-subversive" group which planned a series of terrorist acts in Moscow and the Moscow region.[10] The group functioned under the direct command of an Islamic State representative, who, according to the release, is a Tajik citizen living in Turkey. The FSB also seized weapons, ammunition, and self-made explosive devices. As I argue in more detail later in the article, it is very likely that this arrest came about as the result of close collaboration between the Russian and Turkish intelligence agencies.

The seventh and last FSB press release concerning the Islamic State was published on December 29, just as I was writing this article. It reported the arrest of a group of 7 secret followers of the Islamic State in the Russian republic of Dagestan.[11] The group was suspected of planning a series of terrorist acts in Moscow under the direction of one of the Islamic State leaders based in Syria. It appears that these acts were to be committed as acts of revenge for the Russian military intervention in Syria. According to the release, the FSB also seized a large quantity of weapons, ammunition, and self-made explosive devices.

The Non-ISIS Terrorist Operatives in Russia in 2016

The first FSB press release dealing with the terrorist operatives not specifically named as belonging to the Islamic State was published on May 4. The release reported the arrest of a group of the citizens of the Central Asian states (it was not noted which) in Moscow.[12] The group allegedly planned a series of terrorist acts in Moscow during the May 1 holidays  (International Labor Day, celebrated in Russia as a state holiday). According to the release, the group was directed by the organizations active on the territories of Syria and Turkey.

It is very curious that Turkey is mentioned in this context. The FSB published this press release several weeks before the public learned about the beginning of the Russian-Turkish reconciliation process in late June. However, it stands to reason that the rapprochement began somewhat earlier and that perhaps the Turkish intelligence informed the FSB of the existence of this group. This may be the reason why the Islamic State is not specifically mentioned: the arrested group may have had ties with some other anti-Russian terrorist organization active in Turkey. This unnamed organization, if it is in fact based in Turkey, may also have had something to do with the recent assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov. I am sure that these leads will be thoroughly scrutinized by the Russian and Turkish investigators searching for the planners of this brutal murder.

Just two days later, on May 6, another press release reported that the FSB stopped a planned terrorist act on public transport (the same model as in Volgograd) scheduled to take place during the May 1 holidays in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.[13] Once again, the arrested group consisted of the citizens of the Central Asian states (left unnamed). Although the report did not say so, it appears reasonable to conclude that this group was connected to the Moscow group arrested two days earlier. This means that its foreign mentors were likely the same organizations active in Syria and Turkey and that these arrests were also the fruit of the collaboration between the Russian and Turkish intelligence agencies.

On August 11, the FSB published a press release dealing with the international Islamic internet organization "Rohnamo ba sui davlati islomi," which in translation from the Tajik language means "a guide to the Islamic state."[14] The FSB arrested several members of this organization in the coordinated activities in three regions in the Urals - the Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, and Tyumen regions. According to the press release, the "Rohnamo" has more than 100,000 members in Russia, the Central Asian states, and the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Egypt) and its aim is to collect financial resources and recruit fighters for the Islamic State and other similar organizations.

The FSB raided 27 residences of the members of the "Rohnamo" and seized a great quantity of weapons, ammunition, explosives as well as computers, cell phones, and credit cards. This appears to have been an operation of major scale which will no doubt have a court epilogue sometime soon.

Conclusion: FSB Counter-Terrorist Activities in 2016

Putting the first and second article of this investigative series side by side, we come to an interesting conclusion. It appears, generally speaking, that most spies who enter Russia come from the former Western Soviet republics (Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine), while most terrorists come from the former Southern Soviet republics (the Central Asian states, Tajikistan in particular). This perhaps has something to do with the political systems in the countries in question. The Central Asian states appear to be more corrupt and disorderly and more easily penetrable by the "terrorist" ideology and its foreign sponsors than the states in the West. Ukraine is here the only exception, but it is also a country that has a war raging on its territory which should explain most of the nefarious undertakings of its quasi-legitimate government.

What is also noticeable is that there is definitely an increase in the activities of the Islamic State operatives since the early months of 2016. This is no doubt a direct result of the defeats that the IS has suffered in Syria at the hands of the Russian-coordinated anti-terrorist military campaign there. The desire to exact revenge appears to be the top IS motivation. What is encouraging, however, is that, judging from the scope of the arrests and the biographies of the individuals arrested, the FSB seems to have established a solid line of communication with the Turkish intelligence agencies, which was not the case in the past. This is why we may expect that even more terrorist attacks intended for the Russian soil will be thwarted on time. The only winning long-term counter-terrorist strategy in the Middle East is the institutionalized military and intelligence collaboration of Russia, Turkey, and Iran.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/12/28/newsbud-exclusive-security-threats-to-russia-the-analysis-of-the-2016-fsb-press-releases-part-1-counterespionage/

[2] As I was writing this article, the FSB published two more press releases. The first one was published on December 26 and dealt with the crash of the Russian military plane TU-154 near Sochi. The second press release was published on December 29 and concerned the operatives of the Islamic State. This press release will be covered in the article.

[3]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437667%40fsbMessage.html

[4]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437685%40fsbMessage.html

[5] https://news.vice.com/article/why-the-hell-did-russia-intervene-in-syria

[6]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437703%40fsbMessage.html

[7]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437868%40fsbMessage.html

[8]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10438046%40fsbMessage.html

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/world/europe/volgograd-attacks.html?_r=0

[10]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10438045%40fsbMessage.html

[11]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10438055%40fsbMessage.html

[12]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437709%40fsbMessage.html

[13]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437708%40fsbMessage.html

[14]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437871%40fsbMessage.html

 

Newsbud Exclusive- Security Threats to Russia: The Analysis of the 2016 FSB Press Releases (Part 1 – Counterespionage)

Introduction

Within a few hours of the brutal assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov in Ankara, the Russian president Vladimir Putin convened his inner national security team: the foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, the SVR (Russian foreign intelligence agency) director Sergey Naryshkin, and the FSB (Russian domestic law enforcement and counterintelligence agency) director Alexander Bortnikov.[1] The absence of the prime minister Dmitry Medvedev is easy to explain and I have done so at length in one of my earlier article.[2] In a nutshell, Medvedev is no longer considered an important player in the Russian political hierarchy and will soon be replaced.

However, the absence of the defense minister Sergey Shoigu is puzzling. Should not the GRU (Russian military intelligence agency) be also involved in developing a firm response to what is undoubtedly a shocking and unexpected blow to the Russian diplomatic and security establishment? Or is it perhaps the case that it was the GRU operatives who failed in their mission to warn their civilian counterparts on the imminence of a threat to the ambassador? It has barely been a year since the GRU itself suddenly lost its chief, general Igor Sergun, under what some have claimed were mysterious circumstances in the Middle East, though the official narrative insists that he died in Moscow.[3]

During the (old) Cold War, the number of the GRU Western spies and defectors outnumbered those from the KGB and the information they revealed was much more useful and less subject to ambiguity and suspicion. For instance, the documents passed on to the CIA by the GRU colonel Oleg Penkovsky in the early 1960s helped the U.S. prevail over the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, Penkovsky was soon caught, convicted of being a traitor, and executed. The then chief of the GRU, general Mikhail Shalin, was fired and replaced by the KGB chief Ivan Serov.[4]

Yet, it seems to me highly improbable that, at this time, Putin would harbor any doubts about the GRU or Shoigu himself. The reason for Shoigu’s absence is most likely of a technical nature. Perhaps he happened not to be in Moscow on the night of the meeting. Or he was already dispatched to the Middle East in order to organize the counter-strike operations on the spot. In any case, it is clear that the Russian response will be fierce. The public statement released after the meeting included a direct warning that the fight against terrorism will be “stepped up, which the criminals will find out firsthand.”[5]

According to the recent speech by one of the meeting’s participants, FSB director Alexander Bortnikov, given at the December 2016 session of the Russian National Antiterrorism Committee, FSB detected a great deal of increase in the terrorist and extremist activity in Russia during 2016.[6] For instance, compared to 2015, the number of terrorist and extremist internet sites doubled to approximately 26,000. These sites propagated radical jihadist ideas and sought to recruit fighters for the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in the Middle East and beyond. Bortnikov stated that FSB arrested 34 alleged recruiters, prevented 86 individuals from leaving Russia and joining the terror networks, and froze about 2,000 bank accounts of those with ties to these networks.

With respect to more serious matters, Bortnikov said that the Russian special forces killed 129 terrorists and prevented at least 42 terrorist attacks on the Russian soil in 2016. This shows the extent to which the Russian home front itself has turned into an increasingly militarized battlefield. It is being constantly tested for vulnerabilities and weak spots by the actual terrorist operatives as well as by their financiers and agenda-setters located in the states geopolitically opposed to Russia, though they have had much less success than in the 1990s. The Russian home front is also subject to intelligence collection and agent recruitment activities by the hostile intelligence services.

In order to examine in more detail the 2016 FSB operations mentioned by Bortnikov, I have analyzed the 2016 press releases published on the official FSB website.[7] From January until the last week of December, there have been 52 press releases in total. The highest number of releases has concerned the successful counterespionage operations (8 releases) and the counter-terrorist and counter-extremist operations (10 releases), some of which directly concern the Islamic State operatives (4 releases). The rest of press releases have dealt with the anti-corruption and anti-hacking operations as well as a variety of technical matters and meeting announcements.

In this article, which is the first in the three-article investigative series, I will look closely at the press releases dealing with counterespionage. In the second article of the series, I will examine the press releases dealing with counter-terrorism, and in the third article of the series, I will look at the rest of the press releases.

The Case of Yuri Ivanchenko

The first 2016 press release dealing with counterespionage was published on March 31. It stated that on March 26, the FSB arrested Lt. Colonel Yuri Ivanchenko, an operative of the counterintelligence department of the Ukrainian National Security Agency (SBU).[8] Ivanchenko entered Russia under the pretense of visiting relatives, but his arrival was expected by the FSB, which implies that it has successfully penetrated the Ukrainian service. In fact, the press release claims that Ivanchenko’s visit was a part of a bigger plot concocted by the SBU and the CIA (which, according to the release, supervises the SBU in its anti-Russian activities) with the intention of entrapping the FSB operatives in Kiev. Ivanchenko, who already offered his services in 2014, was supposed to convince the FSB of his credibility and establish a network of dead-drops in Kiev by the way of which he would pass the supposedly secret documents to the FSB. At some point, the SBU and the CIA operatives would burst onto the scene and arrest the FSB operative(s) picking up the documents. The information would be passed on to the state-controlled media with the expectation of making an international scandal aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community. However, as is clear, nothing came out of it.

Upon Ivanchenko’s arrest, the FSB allowed him to contact the personnel of the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow. After brief consultations, he was expelled from Russia and banned from entering it ever again. The question which, of course, was not addressed in the press release, but which we could speculate on, considering how quickly he was released, is the following: did Ivanchenko become a double agent or was he, perhaps, one all along? This will no doubt be the main worry of the SBU and their supervisors and mentors at the CIA.

The Case of Arstidas Tamoshaitis

The second 2016 press release dealing with counterespionage was published just a week after the first one, on April 6. It dealt with the court case against the operative of the military intelligence of the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense Arstidas Tamoshaitis who was accused of espionage.[9] Tamoshaitis was arrested in Moscow on May 19, 2015 in the act of receiving secret documents from a Russian citizen (not named in the press release). He lived in Moscow as an Illegal (an undercover foreign agent with false identity). The press release noted that on March 17, the Moscow City Court found Tamoshaitis guilty under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (dealing with espionage) and sentenced him to 12 years in a maximum-security prison. As is also typically the case in the situations like this in the EU and the U.S., the prominent diplomatic representative of the government under suspicion for spying (Lithuania) was present in court during the sentencing. It is interesting that it took the FSB almost three weeks to publicize the court decision with an official press release.

The Case of Yevgeny Mataitis

Just a week went by and there was another FSB press release dealing with counterespionage on April 13. This press release also dealt with a court case, but this time against the Russian citizen, Reserve Navy Captain Yevgeny Mataitis who was accused of espionage for the benefit of the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense.[10] Though he was tried by the Kaliningrad City Court (more than a thousand kilometers from Moscow), Mataitis could conceivably have been that Russian citizen who passed on the secret documents to Timoshaitis.[11] Mataitis was accused of being recruited by the Lithuanians in 2009 in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and of providing the Lithuanian military intelligence with the Russian military secrets, including top secret materials, in exchange for monthly payments during the period of six years. In the course of the investigation, he fully confessed his guilt (no doubt revealing all he knew about the “other” side). The court stripped Mataitis of his military rank, fined him 200,000 rubles ($3,500) and sentenced him to 13 years in a maximum-security prison. During the Soviet KGB days, the treason of this magnitude would quite certainly result in execution. However, since the mid-1990s, Russia has established a moratorium on death penalty and the last execution took place in 1996.[12]

The Case of Arsen Mardaleishvili

About a month after the Mataitis case, on May 13, the FSB published a press release reporting the arrest of the resident (non-citizen) of Estonia, Arsen Mardaleishvili (with the obviously Georgian last name) in St. Petersburg on the charges of espionage.[13] The press release alleged that Mardaleishvili was caught collecting secret information about the state of the Russian military on behalf of the intelligence department within the Estonian Ministry of Interior. The charges against Mardaleishvili were brought under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (also applied in the case of Tamoshaitis, the Lithuanian operative). The effort to uncover his possible accomplices on the Russian side was ongoing.

The Case of Artem Shestakov

For the next two months, there were no FSB press releases dealing with counterespionage. Then, in mid-summer, on July 18, the FSB published a press release on the arrest of the Ukrainian citizen Artem Shestakov who worked as a translator for the Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine.[14] According to the press release, Shestakov was recruited by the Ukrainian National Security Agency (SBU) under the codename “Svarog” in the summer of 2015. Due to the nature of his OSCE position, he frequently travelled to the so-called Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) and collected various types of political, economic, and military information which he would later pass on to the SBU in Kiev.

In the fall of 2015, Shestakov was “taken over” by the Ukrainian military intelligence agency (GUR) and began supplying it with the information dealing specifically with various official and unofficial military groups in the LPR in order to assist it in the planning and execution of subversive covert activities and assassinations. The FSB claims that the information provided by Shestakov enabled the Ukranian intelligence operatives to track and eventually assassinate one of the leaders of the Cossack movement Pavel Dremov.[15] In addition, Shestakov was also in charge of helping Ukrainian intelligence operatives penetrate other international organizations active in the Donbass region.

The fact that after having discovered all this about Shestakov, the FSB let him go free (by expelling him to Ukraine) leaves no doubt in my mind that he told them all that he knew and thus caused a serious damage to the present and future intelligence operations of both the Kiev government and its NATO allies (including the U.S.) in Ukraine, Russia and beyond.

The Case of Roman Sushchenko

It could easily be that the first victim of Shestakov’s revelations was Colonel Roman Sushchenko, an operative of the Ukrainian military intelligence agency (GUR) whose arrest in Moscow was described in the press release on October 3.[16] Sushchenko was accused of collecting top secret materials on the Russian military and the newly-formed Russian National Guard. He was charged under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (also applied in the cases of Tamoshaitis and Mardaleishvili). According to the press release, the investigation is still ongoing. There is no doubt that Sushchenko had informant(s) from within the Russian military whose identity is now being ascertained by the FSB. I expect that the Sushchenko case will be the subject of other FSB press releases in the future.

The Case of the Ukrainian Subversives

This case could potentially also be linked to Shestakov's revelations. On November 11, the FSB published a press release on the arrest of a group of the operatives of the Ukrainian military intelligence agency (GUR), described as the subversive-terrorist group, whose plans allegedly included the destruction of critical civilian and military infrastructure objects in the Crimea.[17] The group was arrested in Sevastopol with a large amount of weapons, ammunition, explosive and communication devices, and a set of maps with the coordinates of the targeted objects.

The case of the subversives (also referred to in the media as the saboteurs) captured a lot of international attention.[18] However, at this time, many questions still remain unanswered, especially as to how such a well-armed group could slip through the Crimean border unnoticed. Of course, it is true that the FSB might have let them enter the Crimea under its close surveillance in order to catch their probable internal accomplices. The investigation is ongoing, while, predictably, the Kiev government denied any complicity and rejected all allegations. The press release did not state under what charges the group was being held.

The Case of Leonid Parhomenko

The last 2016 press release dealing with counterespionage was published on November 22. It dealt with the arrest of Reserve Navy Captain Leonid Parhomenko, employed by the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.[19] Parhomenko was charged under Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (the same charges were applied in the case of his fellow navy officer turned spy Mataitis). He was allegedly an asset of the Ukrainian military intelligence agency (GUR) and collected and passed on information concerning the activities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Considering that the arrest of Parhomenko took place less than two weeks after the arrest of the group of the alleged GUR subversives also in Sevastopol, it seems very likely that these two events are connected. It could easily be that one of the inside sources of the GUR group was Parhomenko himself. It is doubtful that he is the only one, and so I expect that this story will unfold with further arrests in 2017.

Conclusion: FSB Counterespionage in 2016

All in all, according to its press releases, the FSB dealt with eight counterespionage cases this year. The most striking thing to note about all of them is the absence of the intelligence operatives of other Great Powers. For instance, there are no cases concerning the U.S. or Western European or Chinese operatives. Perhaps they are hiding well, or the FSB is not publicly disclosing when they are caught and expelled. Or, what I think is the most likely is that the globally powerful intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and the MI-6, are using the operatives of their satellite intelligence agencies in the former Soviet republics to do the work for them. This is very convenient because if and when they get caught, these (supervisory) intelligence agencies can play dumb. In intelligence terminology, it is called plausible deniability.

And, indeed, the Lithuanian, Estonian, and Ukrainian intelligence agencies whose operatives were arrested by the FSB and charged with espionage all function under the U.S. intelligence umbrella. It thus remains as true as during the (old) Cold War that, in the matters of espionage, U.S. is the main security threat to Russia.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53500

[2] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/11/21/newsbud-exclusive-will-nikolai-patrushev-be-the-new-prime-minister-of-russia/

[3] https://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical-diary/mysterious-death-raises-questions-russia

[4] The entire account of this episode can be found in Tennent H. Bagley. Spy Wars: Moles, Mysteries, and Deadly Games. New Haven, NJ: Yale, 2007.

[5] http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53500

[6] https://sputniknews.com/russia/201612131048485093-extremist-online-russia/

[7] http://www.fsb.ru/

[8]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437700%40fsbMessage.html

[9]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437702%40fsbMessage.htm

[10]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437704%40fsbMessage.html

[11] http://graniru.org/Society/Law/m.250301.html

[12] https://lenta.ru/news/2009/11/19/death/

[13]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437714%40fsbMessage.html

[14]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437736%40fsbMessage.html

[15] http://www.fort-russ.com/2015/12/naf-commander-pavel-dremov-assassinated.html

[16]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437880%40fsbMessage.html

[17]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10437879%40fsbMessage.html

[18] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-crimea-russia-idUSKBN1350LX

[19]http://www.fsb.ru/fsb/press/message/single.htm%21id%3D10438043%40fsbMessage.html

The Paris-Berlin-Moscow Axis: Shattering the Power of the Atlanticist Narrative in EU

Russia’s French Connection & The Rapid Withering Away of NATO in the Foreseeable Future

In 1959, in the midst of the (old) Cold War, the French president Charles de Gaulle gave a speech in which he spoke of his vision of Europe, stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals.[1] This vision of Europe included Russia. It was in clear conflict with the so-called Atlanticist vision, which was grounded in Europe (without Russia) institutionally tied to the U.S. and Canada.

The Atlanticist vision had its military arm, NATO, and its intelligence arm, the CIA and the MI-6. This was no secret to de Gaulle and he acted accordingly. He took France out of NATO, while, at the same time, trying to emancipate the French intelligence agencies from the U.S. tutelage. He was partially successful, but the French society paid dearly for that success. In the early 1960s, it was devastated by the Algerian war for independence and in the late 1960s, especially in 1968, it was repeatedly wrecked by strikes, revolts, and acts of terrorism.

With de Gaulle’s exit from politics, considering that there were no other politicians of his stature, France began a slow but sure return to the Atlanticist orbit. The last act of diplomatic rebellion against the Atlanticist vision was the president Jacques Chirac’s decision not to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.[2] France was thus not a part of George W. Bush’s imperial “coalition of the willing.” However, already the next French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, brought France back into NATO and then engineered NATO intervention and destruction of Libya. As for Chirac, he soon received a payback for his anti-Atlanticist efforts. He was investigated for corruption and almost ended up spending his political retirement in jail.[3]

In 2012, François Hollande was elected president by the French public, in part, as a protest against Sarkozy’s obvious subservience to the Atlanticist agenda. There were other presidential candidates who wanted even firmer and deeper separation from the U.S-imposed policy directives, but they were disposed of in various ways. For instance, Hollande’s biggest rival and the most outspoken critic of the U.S. meddling in the European affairs, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose sexual proclivities were familiar to those in the know, was caught allegedly assaulting a New York hotel maid and was promptly discredited.[4] It is also important to remember that the French political scene is no stranger to the suspicious suicides of former high-level officials.[5]

Hollande’s Geopolitical Zigzag

With the eruption of the Ukrainian crisis in early 2014, the most serious breach in the E.U.-Russia relations since the end of the (old) Cold War, Hollande tried to mediate between the Kiev government and Moscow. He met with the Russian president Vladimir Putin at the end of 2014 when Putin was being shunned by all other European and U.S. leaders.[6] In addition, together with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, Hollande provided a diplomatic setting for Putin and the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to agree to the so-called Minsk Accords, a formal road-map on how to resolve the conflict. He even began to speak of the necessity of lifting the anti-Russian economic sanctions.[7]

And, then, disasters began to strike. The Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015, the terrorist attacks in the center of Paris in November 2015, the Nice massacre in July 2016, etc. Dozens of French and foreign citizens were killed, hundreds were wounded, millions were scared and traumatized. As a result, Hollande quickly got back on the Atlanticist train.

As a prodigal son forced to return “home,” in order to prove his loyalty to the Atlanticist military-intelligence complex, Hollande had to take upon himself the role of the most vocal European anti-Russian spokesperson. In his newly acquired Russo-phobia, he even exceeded Angela Merkel whom many consider the former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s political twin in Europe.[8]

In mid-October 2016, Hollande effectively cancelled Putin’s scheduled visit to France by signaling that he might not meet with him.[9] His statements on the Russian military activities in Syria became as fiercely confrontational as if there were plagiarized from the reports of the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council, or the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He accused the Russian military of committing “war crimes” in Aleppo and hence being subject to international prosecution.[10] As though the tensions of the new Cold War in Europe were not already serious enough, he personally added more oil to the propagandistic fire.

Only the nefarious meddling of the Atlanticist lobby could have caused such a radical shift in Hollande’s public statements. Hollande from January 2015 would not even say hello to Hollande from December 2016 if they met on the street. This cannot but lead to Hollande’s tremendous inner psychological turmoil, and even a clear-cut case of depression, as I was told by some informed observers of the French domestic politics.

This can perhaps explain Hollande’s sudden announcement that he would not run for the presidency in the next year’s election that surprised so many on both sides of the Atlantic.[11] But could it also be that Hollande felt the pangs of guilt for abandoning the path of the French foreign policy autonomy charted by de Gaulle? This path was widely approved by the French voters and one of the main reasons he won the presidency. Perhaps, in the end, he came to the conclusion that Russo-phobia pressed on him by his Atlanticist handlers as an electoral trump card was actually a road leading to political self-destruction. He obviously did not want go down the Hillary route, who appears not to be able to confront her own failures honestly and keeps blaming the Russians (and Putin) for her electoral defeat.[12]

The Presidential Hopefuls

Historically speaking, in France, as I emphasized when I referred to de Gaulle’s vision of Europe, Russia is perceived much more positively than is the case in the U.S. In the U.S., the 19th century historical tradition of cooperating with Russia (the most notable instance being the tsarist Russia’s assistance to Lincoln during the Civil War)[13] has been almost completely excised from academic discourse and popular consciousness, whereas in the capital of France, for instance, there is even a metro station in the city center bearing the name of Stalingrad. This is something that one has trouble finding even in Russia today, though the political legacy of Stalin is being evaluated in more positive light than at any time since Stalin’s death (murder) in 1953.[14] The marches of the largest opposition party in Russia, the Communist party, for instance, as a rule, include carrying Stalin’s portraits, and sometimes even the portrait of Stalin’s NKVD (secret police) chief Lavrenty Beria can also be seen. This, however, is not the official policy of the Russian government.

Among the known contenders for the French presidency in 2017, most are calling for the strengthening of political and economic cooperation with Russia, which – as a necessary condition – includes the lifting of the anti-Russian economic sanctions. This view is far from being limited to the political outliers as was the case when the sanctions were imposed in 2014. At that time, only Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the French Communists, took a public stand against them. Le Pen, for instance, openly called the sanctions “stupid” and counter-productive.[15]

Now it is even the mainstream political candidates, such as a Gaullist François Fillon, seen by many observers as being the most likely winner of the election, who take a firm stand against the sanctions. Fillon, for instance, recently called them “inept and strategically devastating for our farmers.”[16] The fact that he is being simultaneously cast in a negative light by the Economist, the Financial Times, and POLITICO is the sign that the Atlanticist lobby is very concerned that the enthusiasm for the sanctions as well as the consensus on aggressive Russo-phobia in Europe is melting as fast as snow in July.[17] “Langley, we have a problem.” And the phone keeps ringing and ringing.

In addition, the recent visit to Paris by Kirill I, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, demonstrated the extent to which there is a wide-spread respect and appreciation for the Russian culture in France. Kirill was in Paris to consecrate the new Russian Orthodox cathedral and the Russian Spiritual and Cultural Center in the most prestigious part of the city.[18] He not only met with the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo and the Roman Catholic archbishop, André Vingt-Trois, required by the diplomatic protocol, but, surprisingly, also with the president Hollande. The meeting took place behind the closed doors and there was no official statement for the media.[19] Who knows, perhaps, Hollande asked the patriarch for forgiveness and spiritual guidance and, no doubt, received it.

Even though the presidential election is still several months away (it will take place on April 23, 2017) and Hollande’s party still does not have an official candidate, it is already clear that whoever gets elected will likely abandon the Atlanticist geopolitical vision and assume the Gaullist tradition of independent French foreign policy. This means that the Paris-Moscow axis will once again rise from the ashes.

This state of affairs will also greatly affect the relations between Russia and the EU in general and is likely to strengthen the anti-Merkel forces in Germany, which is scheduled to have parliamentary elections in the Fall. The Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis, even as a long-term approximation, would definitively shatter the power of the Atlanticist narrative in Europe and lead to the rapid withering away of NATO in the foreseeable future.

# # # #

Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud-BFP Analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.eho.com.hr/news/on-23-november-1959-in-a-speech-in-strasbourg-de-gaulle-announced-his-vision-for-europe/9341.aspx . It is curious, but not surprising that this speech cannot be found on the English website of the Foundation Charles de Gaulle, http://www.charles-de-gaulle.com/l-homme-du-verbe/speeches.html .

[2] http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/11/15/bush-chirac-and-the-war-in-iraq/

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-16194089

[4] Apparently, the maid Nafiassatou Diallo has since opened her own restaurant in the Bronx. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2938500/Maid-paid-1-5-million-Dominique-Strauss-Kahn-drop-rape-allegations-runs-New-York-restaurant.html

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/france-seeks-reasons-for-ex-pms-suicide-beregovoys-death-raises-doubts-on-a-french-obsession-writes-2320663.html

[6] https://www.sott.net/article/289949-The-Putin-Hollande-meeting-Why-was-Putin-in-such-a-good-mood

[7] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30679176

[8] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/11/27/newsbud-exclusive-the-disastrous-track-record-of-the-new-leader-of-the-free-world/

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/vladimir-putin-declines-french-offer-of-syria-only-talks-in-paris

[10] http://www.thelocal.fr/20161010/syria-aleppo-hollande-warns-putin-those-behind-war-crimes-will-pay

[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/01/world/europe/president-francois-hollande-of-france-says-he-will-not-run-for-re-election.html?_r=0

[12] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clinton-blames-putins-personal-grudge-against-her-for-election-interference/2016/12/16/12f36250-c3be-11e6-8422-eac61c0ef74d_story.html

[13] http://www.voltairenet.org/article169488.html

[14] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bap--mSCME ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocn03eXLVCU

[15] https://sputniknews.com/voiceofrussia/news/2014_07_09/Sanctions-against-Russia-are-stupidity-contributing-to-creation-of-hostile-climate-Marine-Le-Pen-3053/

[16] https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-11-21/vladimir-putin-is-winning-the-french-election

[17] http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21711030-fran-ois-fillons-win-bodes-ill-eu-sanctions-frances-election-shows-europes-line-against ; https://www.ft.com/content/8832b0ea-b33b-11e6-9c37-5787335499a0 ; http://www.politico.eu/article/west-provoked-russia-says-former-french-pm-francois-fillon/

[18] http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13466

[19] http://www.pravmir.com/patriarch-kirill-meets-french-president/

Newsbud Exclusive – The Coup That Never Was: A False NATO Intelligence Narrative in Montenegro

There is an old anecdote about the different types of intelligence agencies. It says that a mediocre intelligence agency is protecting the government from the coup, a good intelligence agency is participating in the coup, while the best intelligence agency is organizing it. Mind you, the government in question is not the foreign government, but one's own.

However, if we examine the intelligence agencies of the Balkan states, set up after the break-up of the Yugoslav Socialist Federation, we will quickly see that we cannot even talk about mediocre intelligence agencies. These agencies have thoroughly been made into the puppets of foreign intelligence networks. For all practical intents and purposes, they do not exist as sovereign entities, but as mere transmission belts of what their foreign mentors want them to do.

The foreign mentors in question are the intelligence agencies of NATO countries, especially the CIA and the MI-6, even though the French, German, and Turkish intelligence agencies have also been active. Since the end of the Cold War, the Russian intelligence agencies, the SVR (the CIA equivalent), the FSB (the FBI equivalent), and the GRU (the DIA equivalent) have only recently begun to have their influence felt. Of course, this is far from saying that their operatives were not present before.  However, it is only since Putin's consolidation of the Russian state that these intelligence agencies have started to demonstrate their independence from the West. In the early to mid-1990s, the Russian intelligence community was forced by then-president Boris Yeltsin to play an inferior role within the CIA-led team, especially regarding the developments in the Balkans. This led to the massive wave of resignations and retirements among KGB officers, many of whom Putin later re-instated. There are indications that in this period the GRU was less infiltrated by the NATO agents of influence (and spies) and therefore less susceptible to Western pressures. As a result, the GRU was able to re-bound much more quickly after Putin's re-orientation of the Russian foreign and military policy and project its power beyond the Russian borders. There is no doubt that the success of the Russian interventions in both Syria and Ukraine has to do in large part with the work of the GRU operatives.

This is the reason why at this time the GRU (rather than the SVR or the FSB) is targeted as the main adversary by the NATO-controlled intelligence agencies in the so-called Western Balkans and the allegations of its involvement are used to discredit Russia as a disruptive, malevolent actor in the eyes of the general population. The case in point is the carefully planned and engineered NATO intelligence-media operation, involving several NATO intelligence agencies, including the pro-NATO Ukrainian SBU, to accuse the alleged GRU operatives of allegedly planning a violent regime-change coup on October 16, 2016, the day of the parliamentary elections in Montenegro.

The GRU Agents in Montenegro?

As I have explained in detail in an earlier article,[1] the deeply unpopular government of the long-time authoritarian leader and NATO-favorite prime minister Milo Djukanović would have had to concede the election victory to the opposition had it not been for the arrest of a group of alleged anti-government plotters during the election day. This classic police and intelligence fabrication was used to intimidate opposition voters from turning out to vote and for pressuring the EU leadership into quickly recognizing the election results. Enveloped in the anti-Russian hysteria, the EU was all too eager to accept the false narrative of the Russian-organized destabilization effort, which was opportunistically constructed by Djukanović and his NATO mentors, and, in this way, legitimize the rigged and fraudulent election process.

In an interview after the elections, Djukanović claimed that the ultimate aim of the alleged coup plotters was not only the violent regime change, but also his assassination. He directly accused certain Russian groups for providing the plotters with logistical and financial support.[2] The official Moscow denied all Djukanović's claims as unfounded.[3] However, this did not stop Djukanović and other pro-NATO politicians and media organizations both in Montenegro and beyond from further unfolding the false narrative.

Already in early November, the Montenegrin chief special prosecutor Milivoje Katnić, a member of the corrupt Djukanović's ruling elite, claimed that even though the alleged coup plotters were Serbian citizens (and most were released without being charged just a few days after the arrest), the coup attempt was actually organized and financed by "Russian nationalists" based in Belgrade.[4] He claimed that these "Russian nationalists," who were kept under surveillance by the Serbian intelligence agency (BIA), left for Russia in a hurry after the arrest of the alleged plotters. The NATO-controlled media in Serbia later claimed that some Russian "spies" were indeed deported by the Serbian government.[5] However, the Russian ambassador in Serbia Alexander Chepurin denied that anything of the sort took place and stated that it was already common knowledge what powers (and intelligence agencies) had always stood behind the planning and execution of regime change projects.[6] This was a diplomatic way of putting the ball back into the NATO court.

The confirmation of the direct involvement of NATO intelligence agencies and their puppets in non-NATO countries came from a FB post by Taras Berezovets, a pro-NATO Ukrainian political analyst and a graduate of the Royal College of Defense Studies in the U.K. Berezovets wrote that the alleged plotters were exposed thanks to the activities of the Ukrainian intelligence agency (SBU) in cooperation with the U.S. intelligence operatives.[7] He claimed that the plotters included a group of the Serbian militants who fought in the Donbass on the side of the rebels and were on the radar of the Ukrainian intelligence for years. Berezovets characterized their arrest and the prevention of the coup against Djukanović as "a victory of the Ukrainian counter-intelligence over the Russian intelligence" far away from home. The Russian government-financed news agency Sputnik covered Berezovets' post in the story with the title "Dreaming is not Prohibited."[8]

A Criminal as an Intelligence Operative

However, it is true that Aleksandar Sindjelić, accused by the Montenegrin chief special prosecutor Katnić of being the alleged plotters' leader and the main liaison with the alleged Russian coup organizers and financiers, took part in the rebel fighting in Ukraine. What is not clear, and this is of utmost importance, is who in fact Sindjelić has been working for: the Russian military intelligence (GRU), or the NATO-controlled personnel within the Serbian and Montenegrin intelligence apparatus.

Just like a typical patsy, Sindjelić is a murky character to the extreme.[9] According to the Serbian tabloid press, he murdered two fellow soldiers during the mandatory draft training in 1999. He served his prison sentence in both Serbian and Montenegrin prisons (this was before Serbia and Montenegro became independent states), but was let out earlier under unexplained circumstances. According to one of his acquaintances from that period, Sindjelić boasted that he became an undercover intelligence operative and was granted a false identity.[10] This fits well with the documented history of the Montenegrin intelligence agency's recruiting jailed criminals and murderers for dirty jobs in foreign countries going back to the days of the infamous Yugoslav intelligence agency (UDBA).[11]

That Sindjelić is a Montenegrin NATO-directed operative and not an agent of the Russian GRU is further confirmed by two subsequent events. First, when the chief special prosecutor Katnić accused Sindjelić of being the leader of the alleged coup, Sindjelić was in Belgrade and conceivably could have escaped to Russia (just as his financiers are alleged to have done). Instead, he decided to surrender and voluntarily came to Montenegro.[12] Secondly, after Sindjelić spent no more than a couple weeks in a Montenegrin jail, Katnić announced that Sindjelić agreed to be an informant for the prosecution. He also modified his initial charges against Sindjelić and now claimed that Sindjelić was not a leader, but a mere rank-and-file member of the alleged plotters' group.[13] Subsequently, Sindjelić was freed from jail under the obligation to return when the trial begins. Would any country in the world let an individual charged with taking part in a violent coup with the intent to assassinate the head of government go free like this, unless the coup itself was a fabrication by that very same government and its political and intelligence allies?

This, however, is not to say that we will soon see the winding down of the false narrative. This is far from being the final act, even though Djukanović apparently obtained what he wanted: his political party was able to form the new government and continue pushing from the top down the deeply unpopular accession to NATO without a national referendum. Yet this is not good enough for his NATO intelligence mentors. They want Djukanović to keep Montenegro as an open anti-Russian front in the new Cold War. This is why Katnić, while effectively exonerating Sindjelić, directly named two Russian citizens, Eduard Vladimirovich Shirokov and Vladimir Nikolaevich Popov, and accused them of organizing and financing the alleged coup.[14]

It is Shirokov and Popov who are alleged to be the GRU agents. At this time, there is no evidence to either confirm or deny that allegation. However, even if, in fact, it turns out that they were the GRU agents based in Serbia, it is more than likely, taking into consideration Sindjelić's profile presented above, that they were egged on and entrapped by him rather than the other way round. In any case, the already severe political tensions between Montenegro and Russia, gleefully provoked by NATO intelligence agencies, at the great detriment of the vast majority of the Montenegrin citizens, are bound to increase in the coming period.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/11/11/newsbud-exclusive-the-2016-balkan-spy-war-nato-cia-on-the-offensive/

[2] http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/dukanovic-rusija-da-kaze-ko-su-nacionalisti-df-pokusao-da-me-ubije-911157

[3] http://www.blic.rs/vesti/svet/kremlj-kategorican-nismo-umesani-u-zaveru-protiv-mila-djukanovica/tv9w1ty

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37890683

[5] http://www.danas.rs/politika.56.html?news_id=330824

[6]http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/index.php?yyyy=2016&mm=11&dd=27&nav_category=167&nav_id=1203740

[7] https://www.facebook.com/taras.berezovets/posts/1462758053754192

[8] https://rs-lat.sputniknews.com/regioni/201611021108705733-Crna-Gora-Ukrajina/

[9]http://www.monitor.co.me/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7280:puistika-vlada-politiari-policajci-kriminalci-saradnici&catid=5070:broj-1362&Itemid=6439

[10] Ibid.

[11]http://www.montenegrina.net/pages/pages1/istorija/cg_od_1990/tajni_ratovi_u_tajnoj_policiji.htm

[12] http://www.pcnen.com/portal/2016/11/03/advokat-sindelic-dosao-u-crnu-goru-i-predao-se/

[13] http://www.rtvbn.com/3842095/sindjelic-na-slobodi-cuvaju-ga-policajci

[14] http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/amp/sindjelic-dokazi-puc/28132478.html

 

Newsbud Exclusive- How to Keep Lying With a Straight Face: NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg at Oxford

In light of the recent setbacks plaguing the Atlanticist project in Europe, the most visible of which so far have been the referendum victory of the pro-Brexit forces in the U.K. and the election of a pro-Russian president in Bulgaria, it has apparently been decided at NATO headquarters (and seconded by the Washington NATO overseers) that the top NATO bureaucrats have to take a more active part in the public relations (propaganda) campaigns. As a result, the recent three-day visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to London was planned in such a way as to include an opportunity to address a less restrictive audience than the usual diplomatic and military crowd. The venue chosen was the Oxford Union Society, one of the oldest debating societies in the world with a tradition of inviting well-known personalities from all walks of life to address its members.[1]

The problem with giving NATO chief Stoltenberg a more prominent public speaking role is that he is an uncharismatic, boring speaker, a muddled thinker, and his command of English language is not particularly good. All these failings were in full evidence during his address to the Oxford Union Society on November 24, 2016.

In addition to that and, more importantly, Stoltenberg's address was a heavy brew of typical NATO misinformation, disinformation, partial truths, and outright lies.[2] As a specimen par excellence of NATO grand narrative, the address, in my opinion, deserves to be deconstructed in detail and exposed for what it is: a dangerous rhetorical weapon for amplifying false consciousness and taking the world in the wrong direction - toward chaos, misery and war, and not toward stability, prosperity, and peace as Stoltenberg claimed.

NATO As Defender of Liberty and Democracy

Stoltenberg did not waste time in stating the claim that represents the cornerstone of NATO's self-understanding. Already in the first minute of his speech, he asserted that NATO's “core value is to defend open and free societies.” If one presents oneself as the defender of openness and freedom , than by definition one's opponents become the attackers of these values. They are depicted as coming from the dark side, as the enemies of freedom and openness, no matter who they are and what they really stand for. In other words, if you criticize NATO, you are considered a trouble-maker and a wrecker of the one and only, superior Western civilization (whatever that is). In spreading such empty, moralizing labels and scorning the public right to impartial information, Western mass media outlets, owned by a handful of gigantic corporations linked to the military-industrial-intelligence complex, play an indispensable role.

One look at the domestic and foreign policies of NATO member states since NATO's founding in 1949 is enough to locate a mountain of evidence disputing Stoltenberg's claim – from the post-WWII colonial wars to more recent interventions in the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East.

However, neither Stoltenberg nor other NATO high officials are interested in getting 'real' facts. They take their own self-serving interpretations as facts. Reality for them is only what fits their geopolitical agenda. Day is night and white is black, if needed. Their mode of being was majestically described by George Orwell in his dystopian novel “1984.”

After commenting on NATO's valiant role in defending liberty and fair play in the world, Stoltenberg was awarded with an applause from the audience right away. Obviously, they liked what they were being told: NATO as the best and the brightest, as the force for Good (with a capital G), all these claims aroused the pleasures of collective narcissism. For many people, it is warmer and more comfortable in the cave of prejudices than in the harsh sun of objectivity and truth. As a professional politician and a son of a professional politician, Stoltenberg knows this quite well, and so he plunged on with his misleading, but feel-good narrative.

Continuing his address after the applause, Stoltenberg gave a brief presentation of NATO activities since the collapse of its Cold War nemesis, the Warsaw pact. He claimed that NATO found its reason for being in the 1990s in the existence of serious political instability alongside the borders of its member states. The fact that this instability was caused by the geopolitical agenda of the leading NATO member states themselves was conveniently brushed aside by Stoltenberg. According to him, instability just happened out of the blue and NATO, as a military equivalent of Mother Theresa, was called on to give a helping hand, which, due to the goodness of its humanitarian impulses, it could not refuse to do. In technical terms, this was called “projecting stability” and, according to Stoltenberg, this is precisely what NATO did in the Balkans.

Stoltenberg's account of NATO's brutal 78-day bombing of a sovereign country, in violation of both the U.N. Charter and the U.S. Constitution, consists of these words: “We went into Kosovo to preserve [sic!], or to end the war and to preserve the peace and stability in the Balkans.” Not a word about the responsibility for hundreds of civilians killed and wounded and millions of dollars in property destruction. Obviously, Stoltenberg thinks that this kind of “collateral damage” is justifiable on the road to “freedom and openness.” But whose freedom and openness for whom? Most likely, only for the U.S. military at the Bondsteel military base which sprang up just a few months after NATO troops entered Kosovo. As for ordinary citizens in the Balkans, the severe political crisis caused by NATO intervention is far from being resolved even more than 15 years later. At this time, the entire region is once again on the edge of a violent confrontation. This is yet another proof that NATO militarism, grounded in the dictates of force and deceit, can offer no workable models for long-term, sustainable peace and prosperity.

Stoltenberg's mention of the NATO regime-change operation in Libya, which led to the total destruction of the country's infrastructure and turned Libya into a safe haven for terrorists, was even more egregious in its falsity. According to him, NATO only “conducted air strikes in Libya.” No more than that. And nobody from the Oxford audience asked him either about followed next, or what was going in Libya today.

In fact, Stoltenberg's narrative is so divorced from the actual reality on the ground that, at one point, he himself was forced to admit indirectly the total failure of NATO undertakings. Referring to the present time, he stated that NATO continues “to project stability beyond [its] borders with actually more instability, more violence close to NATO borders.” So what did NATO really accomplish in the 25 years of its post-Cold War existence, if the instability and violence are “actually” getting more extensive and damaging?

Since it is truly hard to find any genuine NATO accomplishments, it can be stated with no hesitation that NATO has proven to be the tremendous waste of taxpayers' hard-earned income. What is even worse is that the price tag is going to get even bigger. Stoltenberg trumpeted as a very “good news” the fact that more and more countries in Europe will be pressured by the U.S. and NATO leadership into spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on the military. So instead of building schools and hospitals and extending social security net for the needy, Europeans will get more unnecessary planes, tanks, and missiles, while the executives and lobbyists of the giant U.S. defense department contractors such as Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, and Raytheon will laugh all the way to the bank.

Blame It All on Russia

All this massive profit windfall for the U.S. and West European military-industrial-intelligence complex has been justified by the supposed threat of a “more assertive” Russia. That is how Stoltenberg characterized recent Russian foreign policy moves. Several times he mentioned the “illegal” Russian actions in Crimea as the main reason for considering the Russian behavior as a threat to peace and stability in Europe.

It is of course not surprising that Stoltenberg failed to find similarities between the Russian actions in Crimea and the NATO actions in Kosovo. NATO made a precedent of annulling the principle of non-interference in the domestic matters of a sovereign state, and if anything, Russia just followed suit. Since for Stoltenberg NATO can do no wrong, he kept silent on what preceded the Russian “takeover” of Crimea. The Crimean story is much too complicated to be dismissed and discredited under the simplistic label of  “illegitimate annexation.”

But, as I said previously, Stoltenberg is not interested in presenting the facts or understanding the complex histories of traumatized regions. His job is what the Communist organizers used to call “agit-prop” - agitation and propaganda. His goal is to sway those who waver, the undecided ones who see that their quality of life is declining, that their children will be worse off that they are, and are full of anger and rage about it. It is their emotions that Stoltenberg wants to capture and direct toward the convenient outside enemy. He needs their votes for the bloated military and intelligence budgets that the whole cast of corrupt Western politicians and their corporate sponsors have come to depend on to keep up their luxurious life-style.

NATO's Agents of Influence

When Stoltenberg was asked by a member of the audience whether he thought that perhaps NATO also contributed to the present tensions with Russia by expanding to the Russian borders, Stoltenberg replied that it was “not, in a way, NATO that has expanded, it is Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, that has [sic!] applied for membership because they want to become members through democratic processes and should we tell them no...” In other words, NATO was a passive actor being pulled by the sleeve and, due to its humanitarian impulses (the same ones that made it bomb the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), it just could not refuse the teary-eyed requests.

This account is of course infantile. In reality, NATO and the Western intelligence agencies have invested millions of dollars in order to bring to political power the networks of pliable political elites whose job it was to get their countries to become an integral part of the Atlanticist geopolitical agenda. The push to join NATO came from the outside, but it was transmitted through the NATO's domestic agents of influence to make it look as if it was the expression of the will of the people of a given country.

However, out of twelve East-Central European countries that joined NATO after 1991, only two – Hungary and Slovenia – organized national referenda on the membership issue. In both cases, the opponents of NATO were seriously marginalized and discriminated against by the sitting pro-NATO governments.[3] There was absolutely no commitment on the part of NATO to insure that people expressed their opinion in an atmosphere free of fear and tension. The most recent example of that is the multi-million dollar NATO propaganda campaign in Montenegro about which I have written extensively over the years.[4]

This is why it can be said that Stoltenberg revealed the full extent of his hypocrisy when he stated that “it's violating everything I believe in” not to show “the respect for people to decide their own destiny and their own future.” Neither he nor his predecessors in the position of NATO Secretary General ever demonstrated any respect or care for the foreign policy choices of ordinary people. Their only concern has been to keep the money flowing to their sponsors in the U.S. and West European military-industrial-intelligence complex by engineering the political conditions requiring ever-new weapons contracts.

At the end of his address, Stoltenberg received a long applause from the Oxford audience. The fact that his self-serving, simplistic, and deceitful narrative found such a positive reception at the place as intellectually distinguished as Oxford University means that the hard times are in store not only for truth, but even for “plain facts” and basic common sense, in contemporary Western society.

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.oxford-union.org/about_us

[2] http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_137882.htm

[3] http://mnmne.org/pokret-za-neutralnost-i-petras-ocekuju-izvinjenje-garcevica/

[4] http://www.newsbud.com/2015/06/25/bfp-exclusive-the-breakdown-in-natos-balkan-expansion-strategy-the-case-of-montenegro/

Newsbud Exclusive- Will Nikolai Patrushev be the New Prime Minister of Russia?

Why would Putin conduct the purge at this time & if the purge of Medvedev does indeed take place, who will be his replacement?

With the recent arrest of the Russian economy minister Aleksey Ulyukaev by the FSB, the Russian equivalent of the FBI, the president Vladimir Putin's purge of the liberal faction within the Kremlin nomenklatura is now in the full public view.[1] This faction is headed by the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev who succeeded Putin as

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the president from 2008 to 2012. It now appears that Medvedev is in danger of losing his position and perhaps, just like Ulyukaev, his freedom as well. In fact, the last month's sudden cancellation of Medvedev's trip to Serbia,[2] which at this time is the only (and hence very significant) official Russian ally in East-Central Europe, demonstrates that his authority is already seriously eroded.

Therefore, there are two questions that require a thorough investigation. First, why would Putin conduct the purge at this time (or at all)? And, secondly, if the purge of Medvedev does indeed take place, who will be his replacement?

The Russian Liberals' Fault

We first need to define what it means to be a liberal in the Russian government today. The designation does not refer to political positions (like in the U.S.) as much as it highlights the approach to the economy. Liberals in Russia are those who believe that the role of the state should be minimized and that private, corporate ownership is the best way to run the economy. They are also advocates of Russia's full-fledged participation in the international economic system dominated by the so-called Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Obviously, this means a commitment to the so-called free trade and opposition to any policy of tariffs and import substitution.

The liberals were politically dominant in Russia during Boris Yeltsin's two-term presidency in the 1990s. Those who brought Putin to power in the late 1990s (the intelligence and military networks) made an uneasy compromise with the liberals, which lasted throughout Putin's first two presidential terms (2000-2008). The liberals even seemed in ascendance after Medvedev replaced Putin at the helm.

However, soon afterwards, in August 2008, a surprise military attack by the Georgian troops, heavily assisted by NATO and the U.S., on the rebellious enclave of South Ossetia defended by the Russian "peace-keepers" took place. Consequently, the Russian military directly intervened and the Georgians were pushed back. That was the first time since the end of the Cold War that the Russian military crossed the borders of Russia. This created a pattern that will later be repeated in Ukraine, Syria, and no doubt in other places in the future. The genie was out of the bottle.

This was the beginning of the end for the Russian liberals who counted on honest and friendly relations with the West and believed in the existence of a fair playing field for Russia in the global economy. It became clear that the West would allow nothing of the sort. No wonder then that Putin, who initially was ambivalent about running again, returned as the president in 2012.

In the late 2013, the conflict in Ukraine flared up. The U.S.-engineered coup in Kiev, the annexation of Crimea (or the re-unification, as the Russians call it), the rebellion in Donbass, the U.S. and the EU economic sanctions, all followed in quick succession. There was now no going back. The liberal road proved to be a blind alley.

The parliamentary elections in September 2016 put the last nail in the liberals' coffin. Though Medvedev is a nominal leader of the ruling United Russia party which won two-thirds of the seats, it is clear to all that the real leader is Putin. This is why it will come as no surprise when we soon read in the Russian press that Medvedev no longer heads the party.

Putin is now embarked on a different, non-liberal economic road for Russia. He plans to orient Russia toward building up regional economic and political alliances with its neighbors in East and Central Asia. The Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (in which China is a member), the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the BRICS grouping, will all be strengthened at the expense of the Bretton Woods institutions mentioned earlier and supported by the liberals. This is why liberals will increasingly be pushed out, with some of the most prominent ones arrested in order to send the waves of fear through their ranks.

The ordinary Russian people have no pity for the liberals because they know well the extent to which liberal politicians and their business cronies got rich abusing governmental power for private gain. The recently arrested Ulyukaev is the case in point. Most liberal politicians can easily move to the West - their apartments, yachts, and bank accounts are waiting for them. This is why the majority of the population will support Putin's purge, even though the purge will be far from democratic and may at times turn violent.

The New KGB Aristocracy

Putin will replace the purged liberals by his trusted allies from the intelligence and military structures. One of them Sergey Naryshkin, the former president of the Russian Parliament, has been appointed to the position of the chief of the Russian external intelligence agency (SVR) immediately after the elections results were in. I have discussed Naryshkin's appointment in detail in an earlier article,[3] but what is important to keep in mind here is that by appointing a long-time friend and fellow intelligence operative, Putin has cut off any possibility of the liberal insiders at the top leaking national security information to the West. In other words, Putin has built up another layer of protection around the future Russian military and intelligence agenda. In my opinion, he demonstrated that he had no trust left in the West and that he was getting the country ready for a possible military confrontation.

It is precisely this trend that I see continuing, regardless of the fact that, unexpectedly for many, Donald Trump, and not Hillary Clinton, was elected to be the next. U.S. president. In fact, those in the pro-Clinton defeated faction of the U.S. establishment, including the CIA and the Pentagon, who have built their careers and made their fortunes on the gospel of Russophobia, may precipitate a serious incident in Europe and blame it on the Russians, thus presenting Trump with a fait accompli when he gets inaugurated. The Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius, who calls Russia "not a super-power, but a super-problem," has already started the tour of NATO member states claiming to his interlocutors that Russia might use the U.S. presidential transition period to "test" Europe.[4] This statement has to be taken seriously because NATO has a long history of blaming the consequences of its own subversive activities on its opponents. One needs only to think of the Operation Gladio.

This is why I think that, parallel with his efforts to develop a detente relations with the U.S. under Trump, Putin will bring in more personal loyalists into the highest offices of the Russian government. Considering the power of the U.S./NATO lobby working against it, the chances of an authentic detente (unfortunately) do not look very good and Putin knows that he must not make a misstep. He may not have another chance.

In this kind of game with very high stakes, Medvedev, who was already criticized by Putin over his lukewarm reaction prior and during NATO intervention in Libya,[5] is simply not reliable enough. In my opinion, this is why Putin will replace him with Nikolai Patrushev, the current secretary of the Russian National Security Council and essentially Putin's national security advisor.

Patrushev is one of the top members of the so-called KGB aristocracy of whose mission to lead Russia he himself spoke in an interview more than 15 years ago at the time when Russia was in the midst of the Chechnya crisis that dangerously threatened its very foundations.[6] Such an early mention of this powerful group, which later came to yield tremendous power in the Russian political life, shows that Patrushev was one of its main driving forces.

Nikolai Patrushev's Political Profile

Over the years, Nikolai Patrushev has been even closer to Putin than Naryshkin. They are almost the same age and their friendship goes back to the 1970s KGB days in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). In the late 1990s, Patrushev's rise closely followed Putin's. It is very significant that it was Patrushev who succeeded Putin as the head of the FSB and held this position for nine years (1999-2008), which is longer than anybody since the Communist Yuri Andropov who was the KGB head from 1967 until 1982 and then became the leader of the Soviet Union (that is, the general secretary of the central committee of the Soviet Communist party).

This analogy may not be accidental. After all, in 2006, there was some speculation that Patrushev would succeed Putin.[7] However, the position went to Medvedev, a member of the liberal camp and not a KGB aristocrat. I believe that now the political tide has turned.

In his interviews with various Russian newspapers, Patrushev, who has a doctorate in law, reveals himself as a serious scholar of the post-WWII global politics. He is a strong critic of the U.S. foreign policy claiming that the U.S. involvement in the world is bent on regime change and state fragmentation.[8] He blames the U.S. for the break-up of Yugoslavia, the numerous so-called color revolutions, the putsch in Ukraine, and the carnage in the Middle East. In fact, he asserts that the wars of the Yugoslav succession were nothing else but the testing ground for the ongoing efforts to break up the former Soviet Republics, including Russia itself.[9] In all of this, he discerns a malicious Western anti-Russian prejudice that is grounded in the historical push for the control of the Eastern territories and resources. This puts Patrushev firmly in the tradition of the Russian Eurasianists. As a result, if chosen by Putin to be the next prime minister, he can be expected to formulate and oversee a very hawkish foreign and national security policy.

I think the odds of Putin making this decision sometime soon are high. In the difficult weeks and months ahead, he needs to stabilize the Kremlin and get it ready for likely provocations both inside the country and on its borders. Patrushev has proven that he can accomplish any tasks entrusted to him with flying colors while, at the same time, being absolutely loyal to Putin. Even though outwardly Putin will no doubt give both Trump and peace a chance, in the inner corridors of the Kremlin, Lubynka, and Yasenevo, preparations for a defensive war will continue unabated. Putin will allow no repetition of either 1941 or 1991. And neither will Patrushev.

# #  # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/world/europe/russia-alexei-ulyukayev-detained.html?_r=0

[2] http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2016&mm=09&dd=13&nav_id=99191

[3] http://www.newsbud.com/2016/10/05/why-did-the-russian-spies-get-a-new-boss/

[4] http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thehouse/ahead-of-trump-presidency-nato-braces-itself-for-possible-russian-test-1.3853585

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704355304576214803505330690

[6] http://www.kp.ru/daily/22458/7028/

[7] http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/russian/russia/newsid_4941000/4941998.stm

[8] https://rg.ru/2015/09/15/patrushev-site.html

[9] https://rg.ru/2014/10/15/patrushev.html