Paul Manafort in Ukraine’s 2010 Election

Back in 2010, a couple of things seemed strange to me about the Ukrainian election. Yulia Tymoshenko came across as much more corrupt and autocratic than I had recalled. At the same time, Victor Yanukovych had greatly upgraded his image from unimaginative apparatchik.

I don’t follow Ukraine as closely as I do the Baltic states, so I figured that I had missed some things about Tymoshenko and that maybe Yanukovych was transcending his origins. This week I learned that those impressions were a result of Paul Manafort’s work with Yanukovych’s campaign. Read More

Links – March 30, 2018

Three similar op-eds about the unified expulsions of Russian diplomats, from Kadri Liik, Shashank Joshi, and Mark Galeotti. Bottom line: In the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Vladimir Putin has supplied the last straw so that other world leaders will not tolerate his attempts at deniability, which are no longer plausible.

One of the reasons that this broad rebuke has a good chance to influence Russia is that Putin would like to rebrand Russia as a great power, but he’s having difficulty doing so. Read More

Links – March 23, 2018

How Trump has split with his administration on Russian meddling. And now he’s congratulated Vladimir Putin on his electoral “win,” against the advice of his national security staff. Apparently now he is planning to meet Putin, but it’s always hard to know for sure.

The secret Russian military labs that deal with nerve agents. I am seeing a number of contradictory articles with interviews of former Soviet scientists said to have worked on the Novichok agents. The articles contradict each other to some degree. I won’t post them until I can figure out more about which (if any) to believe. Frequently asked questions about the Salisbury poisoning. An article from an expert I feel is reliable.

Long article on Ivan Ilyin, whom Putin likes to quote.

Nice takedown of a fear-mongering New York Times article on hacking and the power grid. I think part of the reason for clickbait articles like that is that too many reporters turn off their brains when confronted with anything that looks like it might involve math.

Why not start the North Korean talks by dealing with nuclear safety?  Jon Wolfsthal suggests that planning for negotiations develop some goals and expectations. This would be an obvious thing that did not need to be said in an alternate universe. The dirty secret of nuclear arms in Korea in the early 1960s. There were over half as many nuclear weapons in South Korea as the US has deployed overall today.

Very cool schematic of the SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. An August 2016 article about SCL and CA. And an article from December 2015.

The Security and Exchange Commission has charged Elizabeth Holmes with massive fraud in Theranos Corporation. Here are her seven biggest lies.

It looks like Israel is trumpeting its 2007 bombing of a nuclear reactor site in Syria to encourage those who would like to believe that the many hardened sites in Iran and North Korea, locations unknown, could be as easily taken out. That’s not true, but look for this to be used as an example by people like John Bolton and Mark Dubowitz. Top photo is of the reactor building before the bombing and after the bombing and site clearing of the debris.

The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This week is the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. This NIE was part of its justification.

 

Kazakhstan Moves To Latin Alphabet

Kazakhstan will now officially use the Latin alphabet rather than Cyrillic. They have been moving toward the change for some time. I can recall quite a few signs in the Latin alphabet from the early 2000s.

Part of the reason is to establish Kazakhstan more firmly as independent from Russia. When Vladimir Putin grabbed Crimea from Ukraine and started a war in the Donbas, Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev took notice. There is a significant Russian ethnic population in northern Kazakhstan.

Nazarbayev ruled Kazakhstan as a part of the Soviet Union. He is inclined to dictatorial ways, but he has helped Kazakhstan develop as an independent country and is an acute policitician.

As Estonia Passes 100, Tallinn has Successfully Integrated Nearly 90 Percent of Its Ethnic Russians, Experts Say

Russia has gotten a lot of mileage out of claims about ethnic Russians in the Baltic States. Those claims become less true with every passing year. Paul Goble reports that most ethnic Russians in Estonia are now loyal to Estonia, even if they speak only Russian.

That’s consistent with what I saw in the early 2000s. Many ethnic Russians who were uninterested in Estonian citizenship were older people who wanted to stay where they had always lived and did not care about voting or a passport to travel. They are dying off now, and more and more ethnic Russians have grown up in a free Estonia, part of the European Union.

Links – March 4, 2018

National Security Pros, It’s Time to Talk About Right-Wing Extremism.

Russia cancels talks with US. This just after Vladimir Putin displays his, um, nukes. Twelve-year-old boys are in charge of at least three nations’ nuclear arsenals.

Reactions to Putin’s “state of the nation” speech. More about the weapons mentioned in that speech. Yet more from Jeffrey Lewis. I take Putin’s claims with a grain of salt. Russia has claimed weapons that never went into production. I suspect significant exaggeration in his claims of testing. But we have to keep open the possibility that the weapons are real, if not yet ready for use. Read More

Stephen Walt Agrees With Me

On the Nuclear Posture Review. He goes on about more aspects of it than I did yesterday, but his conclusions in that area are very similar to mine.

Moreover, I find the elaborate scenarios that nuclear strategists dream up to justify new weapons to be both militarily and politically unrealistic. They tend to assume that complex military operations will go off without a hitch the very first time they are attempted (and in the crucible of a nuclear crisis), and they further assume that political leaders in the real world would be willing to order the slaughter of millions for something less than existential stakes. My main concern has been that some gullible politician would actually believe that one of these elaborate scenarios would actually work and might therefore be tempted to try it. Just as bad: An adversary might think the United States thought it could win such a war and might decide it had no choice but to try to hit it first.

I also find the obsession with matching capabilities at every rung of some hypothetical “escalation ladder” to be slightly absurd. Is it realistic to think that U.S. leaders defending vital interests against a possible Russian threat would be stymied because they didn’t have a capability that exactly mirrored whatever Russia had or was threatening to do? Would a top advisor really say to the president: “Oh dear, sir, Russia just threatened to attack with a nuclear weapon with a yield of 7.2 kilotons. We have lots of 5-kiloton bombs and lots of 11-kiloton bombs all ready to go, but if we use the little one, they’ll think we’re wimps, and if we use the big one, then the onus of escalation will be on us. I guess they’ve got us over the whing-whang, sir, and we’ll just have to do whatever Putin says. If only we had built more 7.2 kiloton bombs than they did!

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Levels of Deterrence

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) mentions some variant of “deter” 279 times. Deterrence is supposedly what today’s nuclear arsenals are about. The idea is that we have enough nuclear weapons so that if an enemy attacked us, we could still destroy them. That standoff, established after the nearly world-ending Cuban Missile Crisis, seems to have worked. Or it’s possible that the reason for no nuclear war in the past 56 years is that nations recognize that destroying the world is in nobody’s interests. Read More

Links – February 20, 2018

North Korea is upping its cyber attacks. Washington Post. Guardian. Photo from Washington Post.

The indictment of 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s statement about the indictment. Rosenstein’s letter appointing Robert Mueller Special Counsel.

The world after Trump: How the system can endure. We need to be thinking of how we will mend our institutions after the damage Trump and his people are doing. This is not all bad. Our systems are resilient, and there will be opportunities to improve on what we had before. The United States and Europe. Read More