Cyber Strategy – Different From A Shooting War

Big hack of pretty much everything in Ukraine this morning: internet, power plants, government. I wrote this post before that happened, but it applies.

The Obama administration was in an extremely difficult position after learning about Russian hacking of last year’s election. Several factors came into play: the difficulty of dealing with international cyber attacks, intransigent Republican partisanship, and the decaying relationship with Russia. I’m going to break down those factors into at least two posts.

Cyber attacks present a national security problem different from any encountered before. Lumping them into a designation of “cyberwar” projects assumptions of conventional war onto them and distorts the difficulties and possibilities. I haven’t seen much analysis of these differences and how they affect strategy. Please point me to them, if they exist. Most punditry assumes that cyber attacks can be equated to war, and numerous opinion articles have referred to the Russian hacks as a form of war. In this post, I will consider only that part of last fall’s situation. A later post will consider the political ramifications. Read More

Michael Flynn Has IDEAS!

Michael Flynn is known for thinking outside the box, and we need ideas outside the box to solve some of the world’s problems. It’s also great when an action can address more than one problem. But it also helps to know what you’re doing.

Here’s an IDEA: The United States and Russia work together to supply Middle Eastern countries with civilian nuclear power. Several of those countries have been seeking nuclear power. The United States and Russia have companies that can build the plants. That’s the deal Flynn was seeking in October 2015. Read More

Trump and Putin: Some 1980s Background

What do interviews in the 1980s and 1990s with Donald Trump tell us about his attitudes toward Russia and nuclear weapons?

The interviews are oblivious to world events taking place at that time. They are basically gossip columns by Lois Romano and William E. Geist, 1984; Ron Rosenbaum, 1987; Mark Singer, 1997. Descriptions of Trump’s lavish quarters and sycophantic workers, his expensive clothes, and his ease in getting a table at a restaurant figure prominently in the introductory paragraphs. Read More

Links – June 6, 2017

The $110 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia is fake news.

The bottleneck in Rex Tillerson’s State Department. Tillerson is depending primarily on two aides who don’t have a lot of foreign policy experience, rather than the expertise in State’s various bureaus.

Apparently Donald Trump’s insistence on absolute loyalty is part of the reason that government jobs are going unfilled. More about why those jobs are unfilled.

That Russian bank that Jared Kushner (and, btw, Carter Page) was dealing with.

The Marshall Plan turns 70 this week. Here are four reasons it was so important. Lessons for the current administration, if anyone is listening. Read More

Donald Trump, Nuclear Negotiator

One of Donald Trump’s few consistencies has been his admiration of Vladimir Putin and his unwillingness to criticize Russia. Many of his other actions, like his refusal to explicitly support NATO’s Article 5, seem to be consistent with a Kremlin line.

The big question is why. From the information publicly available, this theme seems to have surfaced around the time of his trip to Russia in 1987. That was an interesting time for Russia, too. Read More

Links – June 3, 2017

Every Russia story Donald Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline.

Watch what he does, not what he says: Trump’s words and budget for NATO.

A devastating portrait of Donald Trump.

Everyone at Vladimir Putin’s table at that RT dinner with Michael Flynn and Jill Stein, identified.

Long read on phishing and faking emails.  When emails are released, consider that some of them may be faked or modified.

What does Russia want? Basically, a sphere of control and for the West to come to its senses. Very much a case of two parties talking past each other.

The historic B-52 bomber no longer carries nuclear gravity bombs. Cruise missiles, yes. Photo from here. Read More

Reciprocity?

Tonight’s Trump-Russia news dump comes from the Washington Post, presaged earlier in the day by an article in Sputnik tweeted out by the Russian Embassy in the United States.

Last December, in response to Russian hacking of the election and harassment of American diplomats in Moscow, President Barack Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats out of the country and demanded that Russia vacate properties in Long Island and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, supposedly for rest and recreation of the Russian diplomatic corps in the United States but suspected of also functioning to gather intelligence.

That was on December 29. The next day Michael Flynn, President-elect Trump’s presumptive National Security Advisor, spent a lot of time on the phone with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. After those phonecalls, Russian President Vladimir Putin magnanimously decided against reciprocating, an unexpected move. Usually expulsion of diplomats is followed by an equal and opposite expulsion of the first country’s diplomats. But it was the Christmas season.

Earlier today, the Russian government Sputnik reminded the United States government of this principle of reciprocity. The Russian Embassy in the United States emphasized it with a tweet.

And a few hours later, Karen DeYoung and Adam Entous tell us that the United States government is indeed thinking of allowing the Russians to reoccupy the properties. Earlier, the United States had linked reoccupation to allowing the United States to build a consulate on a particular piece of land in St. Petersburg that the Russians had been blocking. But then that link was dropped.

Supposedly nothing is decided yet. It looks like Trump is willing to end part of the sanctions against the Russians for their election hacking just because he’s a nice guy. Or because the Russians were nice guys and didn’t reciprocate the expulsion.

 

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.

What Do We Know About Carter Page?

The story of Donald Trump’s Russia connections has so many players and connections that it’s hard to to follow it in any cogent way, let alone connect all the dots. A great many dots still seem to be missing.

What I find illuminating is to look carefully at details. In my scientific career, I found that the most enlightening path might start with a small piece of information seemingly out of place. I’ve been collecting information about the various players. Putting that information in chronological order seems most helpful to me. Read More