9:27 AM 11/16/2017 – Balance of Power: Russian Election Meddling Fears Invade Europe

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Balance of Power: Russian Election Meddling Fears Invade Europe
 

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The Russia scandal has ricocheted back across the pond. And it’s dragging Silicon Valley’s giants along with it.

Spurred on by Prime Minister Theresa May’s threat to retaliate against Russian interference, a parliamentary committee wants to grill executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter. The committee, following similar inquiries by U.S. lawmakers, is investigating whether Russians are using American internet companies to sway British elections, including last year’s Brexit vote.

On Monday, May told the Kremlin, “We know what you were doing, and you will not succeed.” The warning exposed Europe’s growing alarm as Russian fighter jets probe its airspace and Russian bots steer its political debates. Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal made a similar allegation this week, saying Russian servers had been used to fuel online propaganda during the Catalan crisis.

May’s remarks – dismissed by Russia as “irresponsible” – drew an uncomfortable contrast with U.S. President Donald Trump. Only a day earlier, Trump had repeated his desire for a “friendly posture” toward Russia, even after one of his top intelligence officials reaffirmed findings the country interfered in last year’s presidential election.

Allegations of Russian meddling promise to keep reverberating back and forth across the Atlantic.

May speaking about Russia during the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall, in the City of London.

Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

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Global Headlines

Dead tax bill walking | House Republican leaders insist they have the votes to pass legislation today to revise the U.S. tax code. Yet the bill would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate, where unfolding drama could trigger a sequence of events that would parallel Congress’s failed Obamacare repeal effort. Trump plans to meet with House Republicans to rally support ahead of today’s vote.

Mugabe’s defiance | Plans by Zimbabwe’s new military rulers to quickly name a transitional administration have hit a roadblock — President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to resign. The soldiers who took power early yesterday insist they haven’t staged a coup and want the nonagenarian leader, who’s under house arrest, to gracefully end his 37-year rule so they can restore constitutional order.

India reforms take back seat | With a nationwide tax rolled out across India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to shift his focus from economic reforms to winning elections. Modi faces about a dozen state-level contests over the next year and then reelection in 2019. That means less structural reforms, and more focus on populist policies that resonate with voters.

Trudeau’s vulnerability | Canada may be on a roll, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t getting much credit. A Nanos Research poll conducted for Bloomberg found just 25 percent of Canadians see him as good economic manager. Instead they seem focused on the national deficit. If the Liberals can’t make headway after creating high expectations, they risk “political turbulence,” the pollster said.

Europe’s latest separatist threat | Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik wants to pull his faction out of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s power-sharing arrangement, a deal that has kept the country together since the 1995 peace accord ended Europe’s deadliest conflict following World War II. Misha Savic and Gordana Filipovic look at the “silent break-up” of one of the region’s poorest countries.

And finally… Grace Mugabe — known in Zimbabwe as “Gucci Grace” — isn’t the only political spouse whose extravagant lifestyle is drawing attention of late. Louise Linton, the wife of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has once again caused a stir for appearing to flaunt her wealth. Dressed head-to-toe in black couture, Linton was photographed yesterday alongside her husband holding a sheet of dollar bills.

Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing seeing production of the new $1 bills with his signature.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

— With assistance by Kathleen Hunter, and Iain Marlow

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The officer’s actual employer was an invisible entity back in LondonSIS, the Secret Intelligence Service. The officer was …. Instead, from out of country, he examined the dark intersection between organized crime and the Russian state. Very often  

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Balance of Power: Russian Election Meddling Fears Invade Europe
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Spurred on by Prime Minister Theresa May’s threat to retaliate against Russian interference, a parliamentary committee wants to grill executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter. The committee, following similar inquiries by U.S. lawmakers, is and more »

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The FBI is investigating an alleged kidnapping scheme involving ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Donald Trump Jr. was in direct contact with Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign. And author and scholar Yascha Mounk, our special guest this week while both Tamara and Susan are away, breaks down the breakdown in democracy. Plus, I’ve got your holiday gift wrapping needs covered. And Yascha joins the #BabyCannonSociety.

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Just Security: The Early Edition: November 16, 2017
 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

TRUMP ASIA TRIP

America is back, Trump said yesterday following his 12-day tour of Asia, claiming that the days of the U.S. being taken advantage of are over and saying that his efforts to drum up support for putting pressure on North Korea were successful. Sabrina Siddiqui and Julian Borger report at the Guardian.

Americas renewed confidence and standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now, Trump claimed yesterday, providing a positive assessment of his Asia trip and referred to his previous trip to Saudi Arabia, his tough talk with N.A.T.O. allies, and lauded his close personal relationships with leaders across the world. Michael D. Shear reports at the New York Times.

Trump blamed the naïve thinking and misguided judgment of previous administrations for neglecting a wide-range of issues in Asia, from the North Korean threat to trade relationships. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.

China and Japan have seemingly warmed their relations at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) summit at the weekend, apparently moving closer over concerns about the U.S.s role in Southeast Asia. Motoko Rich and Jane Perlez explain at the New York Times, providing an overview of the relationship and referring to Trumps recent trip to Asia.

The two U.C.L.A. basketball players who were detained in China thanked Trump for intervening in their case and helping to bring them back to the U.S., Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.

Despite Trumps comments, the White House seemingly did not achieve any major diplomatic wins during the Asia trip, Cristiano Lima explains at POLITICO.

NORTH KOREA

China reiterated its support for a freeze-for-freeze deal to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula today, contradicting Trump, who said yesterday that the Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed with him that we would not accept a so-called freeze-for-freeze agreement which calls for a suspension of North Koreas nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles tests in return for the U.S. and South Korea suspending their annual joint military exercises. Simon Denyer reports at the Washington Post.

It is unlikely that the visit by a Chinese special envoy to North Korea tomorrow would lead to a breakthrough in the crisis on the Peninsula, observers have warned, saying that the focus of the meetings would likely be on improving relations between the two countries rather than on the nuclear weapons program. Ben Westcott reports at CNN.

Singapore has suspended trade relations with North Korea according to a customs notice obtained today, demonstrating the increasing international efforts to isolate the Pyongyang regime. Reutersreports.

Japan has been considering plans to deal with a sudden influx of North Korean evacuees should a crisis break out on the Peninsula, a Japanese newspaper reported today, Reuters reports.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

Top lawmakers have expressed concern about Secretary of State Rex Tillersons management of the State Department, with Senators from both parties saying that Tillersons reorganization may impact the ability to fulfil the U.S.s foreign policy aims. Robbie Gramer reports at Foreign Policy.

The C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo has emerged as the favorite to replace Tillerson as Secretary of State, Pompeo and Trump have a warm relationship and are more in tune with each others foreign policy concerns. Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni report at POLITICO.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) has requested documents relating to Trumps son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and his potential involvement in the firing of former F.B.I. Director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Feinstein made the request in a letter yesterday ahead of the committees questioning of Kushner. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

The former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele said that he believes 70% to 90% of the contents of the dossier connecting the Trump campaign and Russia is accurate, according to a quote from Steele in an upcoming book. Steele was commissioned by the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S. to compile the controversial dossier, Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Special counsel Robert Mueller may have flipped the Turkey-based businessman Reza Zarrab in his investigation into Flynn, Zarrab is set to face trial for his alleged role in gold-for-gas deals between Turkey and Iran but speculation that he has cooperated with federal prosecutors has arisen following Zarrabs secret removal from a federal prison earlier month and it is unclear where he is currently being held. Earlier this year, Flynn disclosed that he had been a paid agent of Turkey once he had resigned as Trumps national security adviser due to his interactions with Russia. Katie Zavadski reports at The Daily Beast.

The State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were aware of the Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign, which started with the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014, however the State Department was unable to deal with the scale of the Russian efforts. Rick Stengel, the former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, explains at POLITICO Magazine.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGY

Russia is seeking to undermine the international system. That much is clear, the head of the U.K. governments National Cyber Security Center Ciaran Martin said yesterday, saying that the agency has responded to over 600 significant incidents in the last year, and making the comments after the British Prime Minister Theresa May singled out Russia as a threat to western democracies. Jenny Gross and Wiktor Szary report at the Wall Street Journal.

The rules on disclosing cybersecurity flaws were publicly released by the White House yesterday, the publication comes following years of criticism of a lack of transparency over the federal agencies assessment of the balance between disclosure and retention. Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post.

LEBANON

The French President Emmanuel Macron extended an invitation to the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family yesterday amid concerns that Hariri has been held in Saudi Arabia against his will following his unexpected resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Nov. 4 via a televised announcement, Alissa J. Rubin and Anne Barnard report at the New York Times, explaining that the invitation has raised further questions over Hariris status and the possibility that he could be being eased out to exile in France.

Macron invited Hariri a day after meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia have denied holding Hariri against his will or coercing him into resigning as Prime Minister. In his resignation speech, Hariri cited threats to his life and the role of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon and the region as the reason for his decision, the BBC reports.

Hariri has accepted Macrons invitation, the AP reports.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tomorrow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said today, Reuters reporting.

Frances attempts to solve the crisis caused by Hariris resignation carries risks as France has not yet received assurances from Riyadh about Hariris freedom of movement and speech, analysts have said. Jillian Kestler-DAmours explains at Al Jazeera.

SYRIA

Turkey, Russia and Iran are scheduled to hold a summit on Nov. 22 to discuss developments in Syria in the Russian coastal city of Sochi, Reuters reports.

The Syrian army and Russian jets have stepped up their air strikes and shelling of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region near the capital of Damascus, residents and a war monitor said yesterday, the increased military power coming after Free Syrian Army rebels launched an attack on an army complex in northeastern Damascus on Tuesday. Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports at Reuters.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu today accused the Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia of being more concerned with capturing territory than combating the Islamic State group, Reuters reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on November 12. Separately, partner forces conducted one strike against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

RUSSIA

The likely targets of a Russian bill targeting international media organizations include Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and CNN, the Russian parliaments lower house yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation allowing authorities to designate foreign media as a foreign agent and the move was in retaliation to the U.S. Justice Departments requirement that the Russian state-funded R.T. television channel register as a foreign agent. Andrew Roth reports at the Washington Post.

Russia restructured more than £3bn it is owed by Venezuela yesterday, throwing the Venezuelan government a lifeline amid a crisis that President Nicolás Maduro has blamed on U.S. sanctions. James Marson and Kejal Vyas report at the Wall Street Journal.

MYANMAR

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for an independent investigation into the reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmars security forces in a press conference with the Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, adding that the U.S. government was still assessing whether the violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state amounted to ethnic cleansing. Niharika Mandhana reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch accused Myanmar security forces of widespread sexual violence and rape of women and girls in the Rakhine state in a report published today. Reuters reports.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) avoided referring to Chinas creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea in a statement delivered by the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on behalf of his fellow heads of state yesterday, the omission reflecting Chinas influence on A.S.E.A.N. and the region. Jim Gomez reports at the AP.

China and the Philippines have agreed to avoid violence in the dispute over the South China Sea in a joint statement carried by Chinas Xinhua news agency today which reaffirmed the importance of peace and engaging in dialogue. Reuters reports.

SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabias blockade of Yemens ports is an attempt to try and starve Yemen into submission, the kingdom must realize that the world is finally taking notice of its actions in the Yemen civil war and Congress and the U.N. must keep pressing all parties for a political solution. The New York Times editorial board writes, referring to the blockade that began on Nov. 5 in response to a ballistic missile that was fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels at the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans efforts to reform the kingdom are necessary but also impossible, Kamel Daoud writes at the New York Times, charting the rise of the Wahhabi ideology, Saudi Arabias relationship with the ideology, and offers an analysis of the Crown Princes actions and the impact of his proposed reforms on Islamists outside the kingdom.

URANIUM ONE DEAL

Republican congressional investigators began their efforts to secure information about an Obama-era nuclear deal with Russia yesterday, writing letters to the F.B.I., Justice Department, Treasury Department and intelligence agencies. John Solomon reports at the Hill.

It would send a signal that were going to be like some dictatorship if the President directs the Justice Department to investigate the uranium deal, the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday, adding that she would not be concerned if a special counsel were appointed or if she faced indictments because I know theres no basis to it. Brent D. Griffiths reports at POLITICO.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

House Democrats introduced five articles of impeachment against President Trump yesterday, however the representatives have acknowledged that the efforts would not be successful while Republicans control both houses of Congress. Maegan Vazquez reports at CNN.

The Justice Department aims to release a report into the alleged misconduct by then-F.B.I. Director James Comey in late winter or early spring, the Justice Department Inspector General said yesterday, the review includes an investigation of Comeys actions during the presidential campaign, leaks by the F.B.I. and the investigation into Hillary Clintons private email use. Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.

The F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe gave the investigation into Hillary Clintons email use a special status, documents released yesterday reveal, however F.B.I. officials refused to answer what was meant by this status. John Solomon reports at the Hill.

Live updates of the Zimbabwean military takeover and the ousting of President Robert Mugabe are provided at the BBC.

The self-styled Libyan National Army launched air strikes against Islamic State militants in their stronghold of Sirte yesterday, a commander with the force said yesterday, Reuters reporting.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would reduce U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it stops making payments that, lawmakers described, reward violent crimes. Reuters reports.

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Russia aims to restrict foreign press
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US intelligence officials accuse the Kremlin of using Russian media organisations it finances to influence US voters, and this week Washington required Russian state broadcaster RT to register a US-based affiliate company as a foreign agent. The 
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Russia: Kremlin tightens stranglehold on foreign media with more repressive legislationAmnesty Internationalall 115 news articles »

Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews
 

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That, however, is something the ZOA has seemed unwilling to do, on the theory that Bannon is a self-declared, and possibly even sincere, supporter of the Jewish state. On Sunday he called himself a “Christian Zionist,” and praised Israel as “one of the greatest nations on earth and the foundation of the Judeo-Christian West.”

But just as there are anti-Zionist Jews, there are also anti-Semitic Zionists. The Nazis initially endorsed the idea of getting German Jews to shove off to Mandated Palestine. Spencer calls himself a “white Zionist,” on the factitious theory that Israel is the sort of ethno-nationalist state he’d like to see America become.

Simply put, support for Israel is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being a friend to Jews. (Richard Nixon, who was nothing if not an ally of Israel in its time of need, was known to tell aides that “most Jews are disloyal” and that “you can’t trust the bastards.”) That distinction may not trouble the right-wing ZOA audience that gave Bannon a standing ovation, but it should profoundly alarm all Jews who call themselves pro-Israel.

Why? Two reasons. Unlike Nixon, whose anti-Semitism seems to have been of a knee-jerk and atavistic variety, Bannon’s alt-right views — his opposition to free trade, a liberal immigration policy, “international bankers,” “corporatist global media” — are consonant with a sinister worldview that always finds a way to get back to a certain class of rootless cosmopolitans. His is not a personal bigotry so much as it is an ideological obsession. Its potential for destructiveness is that much greater.

The second reason is that political support for Israel is too important to tarnish through association with the likes of Bannon or European kindred spirits such as Holland’s Geert Wilders or Hungary’s Viktor Orban. Israel is not a latter-day Crusader kingdom holding out against a 21st-century Mahometan horde. It is a small democracy trying to uphold a set of liberal values against autocrats and religious fanatics sworn to its destruction. Zionists love Israel because of the way in which it brings together the values of individual freedom and Jewish civilization, not because of some blood and soil nationalism.

If Israel is going to retain mainstream political support, it cannot allow itself to become the pet cause of right-wing bigots and conspiracy theorists. That requires putting serious distance between Bannon and every pro-Israel organization, to say nothing of the Israeli government itself, by refusing to provide a platform for him and his ilk. Personal and national reputations alike always depend on the company one keeps. Not every would-be supporter deserves consideration as a friend.

That thought may have dawned on Sheldon Adelson, who skipped Sunday’s dinner and seems belatedly to have realized — too late for much comfort — how destructive Bannon and his brand of arsonist politics have become to the Republican Party and the causes it used to champion. The thought needs to dawn, too, on right-of-center Jews who have become so attuned to dangers from the woke-left that they have tuned out dangers from the alt-right.

Anti-Semitism is both the socialism of fools and the conservatism of creeps. If the past century holds a lesson for Jews, it’s to beware every form of illiberalism, including the illiberalism of those who purport to be on our side. Repair of the world may not the central teaching of Judaism. But it’s always wise to stay far from those who wish to tear it asunder.

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A Star on Washingtons Ice With a No. 1 Fan at the Kremlin
 

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This month, Mr. Ovechkin announced the creation of a “civic movement” he has called “#putinteam,” a demonstration of support for Mr. Putin, his most powerful admirer, months before the country’s election next year. (The two are close enough that Mr. Putin called Mr. Ovechkin at his wedding reception last summer, and gifted him a premium tea set.)

“Let’s come together,” Mr. Ovechkin wrote, in Russian, in an Instagram post publicizing the new group, attaching a photograph of the two embracing in lily-white shirts, “and show the world a strong and united Russia!”

Mr. Ovechkin, 32, insists the idea was his, unconnected to the Russian leader or his allies. “Putin’s Team is Putin’s Team,” Mr. Ovechkin said in the interview. “It is just for people who support the country, and basically it’s a simple thing.”

But experts in Russian politics, where star athletes are often deployed for popular cover, are exceedingly skeptical. News reports in Russia have linked the campaign to a major public relations firm, which is said to have devised “Putin Team” before securing the blessing of the president’s orbit. (The firm has denied this.) And while Mr. Putin’s electoral prospects are hardly in doubt, the backing of prominent athletes is viewed as helpful in projecting mass popularity at home and abroad.

American officials say they believe Mr. Ovechkin is most likely being used for precisely this sort of hearts-and-minds campaign aimed at garnering good will for Mr. Putin, whether or not Mr. Ovechkin is particularly conscious of this. The matter is not the highest of priorities for intelligence and law enforcement officials, who both laughed when first asked about “Putin Team.” Mr. Ovechkin is too recognizable, one official noted, to effectively traffic in proper espionage.

The Kremlin itself has cheered Mr. Ovechkin’s decision conspicuously, reminding the public that he is “a very famous Russian, a successful Russian.”

“We know that he holds our president in high regard,” Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters this month.

Evgeny Minchenko, a top political consultant in Russia with close Kremlin connections, said the group could help combat “a mythology that Putin is in fact not popular and that his rating is inflated.”

Mr. Minchenko added that the support of figures like Mr. Ovechkin could coax “apolitical youth” to the polls.

But the “Putin Team” effort has added a James Bond-level plot flourish to a political moment teeming with them: a local celebrity — subsisting in an era when once-outlandish notions of Russian dark arts have proved credible — making good on his status as the American resident Mr. Putin might well value most, excepting the one in the White House.

“Russia spy or something?” Mr. Ovechkin asked, when reminded of an ESPN commercial years ago in which he was playfully cast as a foreign agent.

Well?

He smiled and said nothing.

For American fans, Mr. Ovechkin’s embrace of Mr. Putin has already proved uncomfortable, forcing some to reconcile their idol’s support for a government seen as hostile to national interests with Mr. Ovechkin’s image as an affable regional man-child.

He has played Whac-a-Mole at an amusement park in Maryland in his “Russian Army” T-shirt, tailgated at a Redskins game and dressed as a prison inmate at a Halloween party at Mari Vanna restaurant in downtown Washington. In his younger days, he was known to appoint himself both DJ and bartender behind the counter at Russia House on Connecticut Avenue, where, occasionally he left a piece of himself on the premises.

“He came in with all his teeth,” began one story from Aaron McGovern, an owner of the lounge, recalling a particularly rowdy evening. Mr. Ovechkin, he said, had popped out a filler tooth and left it in a white hooded sweatshirt that was later stolen.

As a rookie in 2005, knowing little English, Mr. Ovechkin greeted Capitals staff members, one by one, with a single phrase he had memorized and only vaguely understood: “Hi, I’m Alex. I’m so happy. Hi, I’m Alex. I’m so happy.”

Now, as one of the best players in the world, Mr. Ovechkin is a nontrivial piece of Washington’s economy: The Capitals said that ticket revenues had increased 167 percent over the past decade, as Mr. Ovechkin tugged the team to greater success. The franchise’s value has roughly quadrupled in the same period, according to Forbes.

Inside the Capitals arena, his No. 8 jersey fills the stands.

“If he could beat the Penguins, I’d give him a pretty long leash,” said George Schick, an Ovechkin fan and Putin skeptic, wearing the player’s uniform during a recent game.

He paused for a moment. “Crushing the dissidents in Russia is pretty not cool,” Mr. Schick allowed.

For years, Mr. Ovechkin, known as “Ovi” in Washington and “Sasha” in Moscow, has appeared alongside Mr. Putin in a series of Kremlin-promoted scenes of alpha bonding. They have skated together in an exhibition game against student players and have taken in a tournament of the martial art sambo, developed in the 1920s to improve the hand-to-hand combat skills of the Red Army.

The men share a zeal for shirtlessness — the president on horseback, the player on the dance floor at his own wedding reception — and a thirst for expressive celebration. After teammates poured champagne into a world championship trophy in 2014, it was Mr. Ovechkin who stepped in to lift the cup high enough for Mr. Putin to drink from it.

In June, Mr. Ovechkin appeared in the audience for the president’s call-in show, his presence enshrined with a photograph on the Kremlin website.

In July, he acquired the matrimonial tea set from Mr. Putin, which he said he had not yet found the time to use.

The president’s bond with Mr. Ovechkin has not been lost on less famous Russian hockey players.

“He never called me like Ovi,” Evgeni Malkin, a standout for the Pittsburgh Penguins, said of Mr. Putin last week after a loss to Mr. Ovechkin’s Capitals. “He’s too busy to call to me.”

Friends have described Mr. Ovechkin as a politically oblivious figure with uncomplicated tastes and ambitions, gravitating toward borscht, video games and a meticulous training regimen. He could not be bothered, they suggested, with geopolitical scheming.

“He’s still a big kid,” said Pete Kalamoutsos, a club owner who has known Mr. Ovechkin since his rookie season.

In the interview, Mr. Ovechkin made a version of this argument himself. Hockey players, he said, had little instinct for politics.

“We’re not that smart,” he said. “We just stay away from that and just do our job.”

He also suggested that his contact with Mr. Putin should not be overstated, estimating that they had not spoken since the summer and clarifying that he did not have a cellphone number for the president. “It would be nice, though,” he added.

Of course, staying in Mr. Putin’s good graces has its advantages in Russia, where retired athletes have often assumed post-career roles in his extended circle. For Mr. Putin — whose country hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and has been ensnared recently in a state-sponsored doping scandal — sports have been emphasized as an expression of patriotism and national greatness.

Though many hockey players living in the United States have boosted Mr. Putin through the years, Mr. Ovechkin’s dedication has been particularly notable. He courted criticism in 2014 after an Instagram post that appeared to express support for Mr. Putin’s actions in Ukraine, though Mr. Ovechkin again said then that he was not trying to make a political statement.

Such explanations, fans said, had become more difficult to accept.

“I think a lot of people tried to kind of compartmentalize it and focus on the hockey part of Ovi,” said Ian Oland, a founder of a website, RMNB, that intimately covers the Capitals. “It was kind of something you could overlook.”

Mr. Oland’s site takes its name from a quotation uttered by Mr. Ovechkin in 2006, after his rapid recovery from an injury:

“Russian machine never breaks.”

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Russian General Denies He’s Behind the US Election Plot – Daily Beast
 

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Daily Beast
Russian General Denies He’s Behind the US Election Plot
Daily Beast
MOSCOWThe Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) is the Kremlin’s think tank. Managed by former officials of theRussian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), it draws up guidelines for President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, and last year 

Russian General Denies He’s Behind the U.S. Election Plot
 

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MOSCOW—The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) is the Kremlin’s think tank. Managed by former officials of  the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), it draws up guidelines for President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, and last year it was watching the American elections very closely.

Indeed, according to a Reuters report in April, during the 2016 campaign that took Donald Trump to the White House the RISS produced and distributed around the Russian government two documents: one a framework advising Putin how to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential vote in Trump’s favor, and the other a strategy to discredit the elections if Trump failed.

This week in an exclusive interview The Daily Beast spoke with Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov, who was in charge of RISS until January 2017—which is to say during the entire period in question last year. He denied the allegations in the Reuters report and gave his own interpretation of what led Russia and the United States to their current state of conflict.

“The American intelligence services are a machine that is always working,  constantly making up anti-Russian cases,” Reshetnikov told The Daily Beast.

The general perception is that Moscow is defending itself against U.S. aggression, a view strengthened after brief encounters between Putin and Trump at an Asian economic summit in Vietnam. Those produced an accord about fighting the so-called Islamic State in Syria by largely accepting Russia’s strategy and dominance there, but there was no relief from past sanctions against Russia and against Putin’s inner circle, or new ones that are due to kick in.

In August, Trump reluctantly signed a bill that was passed overwhelmingly by Congress imposing heavy sanctions on Iran and North Korea as well as Russia. It effectively ties Trump’s hands, preventing him from waiving any of the measures against Putin without Congressional approval.

“The American intelligence services are a machine that is always working,  constantly making up anti-Russian cases”

— Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov

Some in Moscow argue that Putin’s advisers in the secret services and the ministry of foreign affairs have grown too “old-fashioned,” perhaps too genteel. (One thinks of suave Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister.) Others see the failure of Russia’s diplomatic push as simply one more example of the U.S. demonizing Russia for all kinds of ulterior motives.

RISS expert Anna Glazova says that relations between the two countries are worse than during the Cold War between the Soviets and the United States. The RISS expert says that U.S. accusations leveled against Russia are cover for economic competition, which is the real reason to implement sanctions “against our country,” as Glazova put it on the RISS website this week.

In 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea, a strategic peninsula that had been part of Ukraine, the Group of 7 economic powers, led by the United States, decided to implement three stages of economic sanctions. The goal was to stop Russia from funding, arming, and supplying weapons to Ukrainian rebels in the east of the country. The first stage limited cooperation with Russia, the second was meant to stop any help with technologies for Russia, and the third, the worst part, was to limit the development of certain sectors of the Russian economy.

Then additional sanctions were imposed by the Obama administration last year to punish Russia for its interference in the American elections. Previously, in 2012, the U.S. imposed sanctions targeting members of Putin’s inner circle believed responsible for massive corruption and, specifically, the death in prison of whistleblowing accountant Sergei Magnitsky.

The RISS analyst, Glazova, did not mention any of the reasons behind the U.S. economic sanctions. Instead, she insisted they are “an attempt to push our energy companies off the world’s market.” And since Russia’s greatest source of income is the sale of oil and natural gas, that would be disastrous, but low energy prices already have been at least as hurtful to Russian prosperity as the sanctions.

It is important to understand this line of defensive thinking at RISS, one of the key institutions advising the Kremlin.

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“It is a very influential center,” Sergei Markov, a member of the Public Chamber of Russia’s parliament and an adviser to the presidential administration, told The Daily Beast. “I once passed a recommendation on an important issue to the country’s leadership through RISS and all my suggestions were heard and implemented.”

The Reuters report in April said the RISS gave recommendations to the Kremlin—a game plan—on how to affect the U.S. presidential elections. If true, those policy papers could be a key element for the investigations related to Russian meddling in the U.S. elections that are being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and committees of the U.S. Congress.

“Curiously, President Trump has been the main voice in the United States casting doubt.”

It should be noted that those investigations are focused on the question of Trump campaign team complicity or conspiracy with Russian operatives, not the question of whether there was Russian interference. Of that there seems to be little doubt. The U.S. intelligence community concluded last year that Russians carried out a massive effort to affect the outcome and credibility of the American elections, and that this was done on Putin’s orders. Those findings were made public in January.

Curiously, President Trump has been the main voice in the United States casting doubt on these conclusions, although it is often difficult to determine what he actually means. As the New York Timesreported Saturday, after Trump’s brief meetings with Putin he called accusations of Russian meddling a politically motivated “hit job” that interfered with important cooperation between Moscow and Washington on life-or-death issues.

“Every time [Putin] sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”

The leaders of the intelligence agencies that came to the conclusions about Russian meddling published in January were “political hacks,” he said.

But, as much as Trump might want the core conclusions about Russian efforts to subvert American democracy to have changed, they have not. This, even as evidence mounts that some of his campaign advisors and his relatives, including son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, were in direct contact with Russian agents or proxies.

On Sunday, pressed for a clarification, Trump said he backed the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence agencies “as currently led, by fine people.” As to whether he believed Putin’s claim there was no Russian interference in the elections, Trump said, “What he believes, he believes.”

The Reuters report in April about the RISS policy papers was not based on the documents themselves, but on interviews with “three current and four former U.S. officials.”

According to the report, the U.S. intelligence services had obtained two documents prepared by the RISS. One of them was “a strategy paper written last June [2016] that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals,” according to the report. It advised the Russian leadership to launch a massive propaganda campaign on social media and in the Kremlin-controlled mass media to encourage Americans to vote for Trump, considered a candidate who would be friendlier to Russia than Barack Obama had been or Hillary Clinton would be.

“As President Putin said, is ‘the dog’s barking but the caravan’s walking.’”

— Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov

The second document drafted in October 2016 warned that Hillary Clinton was most likely going to win the election, so the focus should shift to discrediting Clinton’s legitimacy, raising questions of voter fraud that would undermine her presidency.

Lt. Gen. Reshetnikov, the former head of RISS, dismissed the Reuters report when he talked to The Daily Beast on Monday of this week.

“I was the RISS director until January, and I definitely never signed any of the described papers,” he said. “All documents passed to the very top of the country’s leadership are marked, ‘classified as secret,’ they could not be circulating in public.” Washington was just listening “to some information passed to them by their Moscow spooks,” Reshetnikov said.

He denied having anything to do with the army of trolls agitating for Trump on social media last year.

“It could be that some one or two former RISS employees, freelancers, had written some recommendations to the leadership, which, if they were circulating in public were not very serious,” Reshetnikov said. “Besides, somebody in the U.S. said the recommendations were 30 pages long. I do not remember anything as long as that. We tried to write short notes, since we realized that the management did not have enough time to read what we wrote.”

Before President Putin appointed Reshetnikov as the director of RISS in 2009, the general was the head of the information-analytical department of the SVR and the number one Kremlin adviser on foreign policy. He had been part of the foreign intelligence service since 1976.

Reshetnikov and his colleagues worked on themes for Putin’s key speeches at international events, including the memorable speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, when the Russian president criticized Washington’s behavior as the only center of global authority and suggested the world develop a multi-polar system that would allow other centers of economic and political influence to grow stronger.

It was also in 2007 that Putin decided to oblige all independent and foreign-funded NGOs to register as “foreign agents.”

Reshetnikov blamed the current tensions between Russia and United States on Washington. “The Cold War between Russia and the USA that lasted for decades in Soviet times has never ended,” Reshetnikov said. “The main problem is that the USA proclaims itself responsible for the New World Order while, as President Putin said in his speech in Munich, Russia rejects that concept.”

This is fundamental, according to Reshetnikov.  “Especially under Obama, Washington wanted to downgrade Russia to the level of a second-rate regional power.”

“The Cold War between Russia and the USA that lasted for decades in Soviet times has never ended”

— Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov

But now, “Russia is growing more powerful in its own concept of multipolar world, defending its sovereign spiritual power, while the U.S. suffers from ideological crises,” said Reshetnikov.

He said that the RISS was a powerful institution with at least 200 employees working under his management, focusing on both closed and open sources to analyze the current Cold War situation.

Reshetnikov blamed Washington for constantly offending Russia, for NATO expansion into countries neighboring Russia, for bringing anti-missile systems to Europe, for not cooperating in Syria.

“The American intelligence services are a machine that is always working,  constantly making up anti-Russian cases such as the Magnitsky case or some reason to ban Russian Olympic athletes, but they will not have enough power to keep pressing Russia all over the perimeter,” said the intelligence veteran. In his view, Russia has plenty of reason to look for revenge.

“The war is obvious: the U.S. implemented sanctions against Russia, and put pressure on Europe to back up the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine, but our response, as President Putin said, is ‘the dog’s barking but the caravan’s walking.’ We’ll proceed with our strategy and that will be our way to give them a blow in their teeth.”

“Russia is growing more powerful … while the U.S. suffers from ideological crises”

— Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov

The economic sanctions against Russia would be lifted if the Kremlin decided to withdraw military advisers and equipment from Eastern Ukraine, but there is no sign that’s going to happen.

As Kremlin advisor Markov put it, “I am convinced, that the sanctions will be lifted, as soon as we liberate Odessa and Kharkov from the neo-Nazi Ukrainian regime.”

The former RISS head Reshetnikov says that he has never had any illusions about Donald Trump.

“I always knew that he was not free, that he was very limited in his actions, bound hand and foot,” Reshetnikov told The Daily Beast. The Russians had hoped for a very upbeat encounter at the economic summit, but, “Trump has to avoid positive meetings like the one planned in Vietnam because he is half of a president,” said Reshetnikov. “So we need to wait for two to six month and see how this difficult situation develops.”

On that score there is little doubt what at least half of Trump would like to do. Over the weekend he blamed “haters and fools” for thwarting the good relationship he wants to have with Putin, and he didn’t mean Russian haters and fools.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is contemplating retaliation after the U.S. Department of Justice proclaimed the Kremlin-backed TV network RT, formerly Russia Today “a foreign agent.” Moscow wants to punish the U.S. media working in Russia for turning the U.S. public against it.

An excerpt from ‘Collusion’ – MSNBC
 

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MSNBC
An excerpt from ‘Collusion’
MSNBC
The officer’s actual employer was an invisible entity back in LondonSIS, the Secret Intelligence Service. The officer was …. Instead, from out of country, he examined the dark intersection between organized crime and the Russian state. Very often  

An excerpt from ‘Collusion’ | MSNBC
 

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 The End of History Not

1990–2016

Moscow–London–Washington, D.C.

The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.

—Vladimir Putin, on the breakup of the USSR

Moscow, summer 1991. Mikhail Gorbachev was in power. Official relations with the West may have softened, but the KGB still assumed all Western embassy workers were spooks.

The KGB goons assigned to them were easy to spot. They had a method. Sometimes they pursued targets on foot, sometime in cars. The officers charged with keeping tabs on Western diplomats were never subtle.

One of their specialities was breaking into Moscow apartments. The owners were away, of course. The KGB team would leave a series of clues—stolen shoes, women’s tights knotted together, cigarette butts stomped out and left demonstratively on the floor. Or a surprise turd in the toilet, waiting in grim ambush.

The message, crudely put, was this: We are the masters here! We can do what the fuck we please!

The KGB kept watch on all foreigners, especially American and British ones. The UK mission in Moscow was under close observation. The embassy was in a magnificent mansion built in the 1890s by a rich sugar merchant, on the south bank of the Moskva River. It looks directly across to the Soviet Kremlin. The view was dreamy: a grand palace, gold church domes, and medieval spires topped with revolutionary red stars.

One of those whom it routinely surveilled was a twenty-seven-year-old diplomat, newly married to his wife, Laura, on his first foreign posting, and working as a second secretary in the chancery division.

In this case, the KGB’s suspicions were right.

The “diplomat” was a British intelligence officer. His workplace was a grand affair: chandeliers, reception rooms with mahogany paneling, gilt-framed portraits of the Queen and other royals hanging on the walls. His desk was in the embassy library, surrounded by ancient books. Three colleagues were neighbors. The officer’s actual employer was an invisible entity back in London—SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service.

The officer was Christopher Steele. Steele arrived in Moscow via the usual establishment route for upwardly mobile British spies: the University of Cambridge. Cambridge had produced some of MI6’s most talented Cold War officers. A few of them—it turned out to great embarrassment—had secret second jobs with the KGB. The joke inside M16 was that only those who had never visited the Soviet Union would wish to defect.

Steele studied social and political sciences at Girton College. His views were center-left; he and his elder sister were the first generation of his family to go to university. Steele’s paternal grandfather was a miner from Pontypridd, in south Wales; his great-uncle died in a pit accident. These were the years of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose implacable opposition to the striking coal workers killed the industry. Steele wrote for the student newspaper, Varsity. He became president of the Cambridge Union, a debating society dominated by well-heeled and well-connected young men and women.

It’s unclear who recruited Steele. Traditionally, certain Cambridge tutors were rumored to identify promising SIS candidates. Whatever the route, Steele’s timing was good. After three years at MI6, Steele was sent to the Soviet Union in April 1990, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the communist bloc across Eastern Europe.

It was a tumultuous time. Steele had a front-row seat to history. Seventy years after the Bolshevik revolution, the red empire was crumbling. The Baltic states had revolted against Soviet power; their own national authorities were governing in parallel with Moscow. The Soviet Russian republic had elected a democratic president—Boris Yeltsin. There were lines; food was scarce.

There was still much to enjoy. Like other expatriates, the Steeles visited the Izmailovsky craft market, next to an imperial park where Peter the Great’s father, Tsar Alexei, had established a model farm. Here you could buy lacquered boxes, patchwork quilts, fur hats, and Soviet kitsch. Steele acquired samovars, carpets from central Asia, a papier-mâché Stalin mask, and the Tolstoy doll set—price $150—that adorned his later office.

Much of the Soviet Union was off-limits to diplomats. Steele was the embassy’s “internal traveler” and visited newly accessible cities. One of them was Samara, a wartime Soviet capital. There, he became the first foreigner to see Stalin’s underground bunker. Instead of Lenin, he found dusty portraits of Peter the Great and the imperial commander Mikhail Kutuzov—proof, seemingly, that Stalin was more nationalist than Marxist.

On the weekends, Steele took part in soccer matches with a group of expats in a Russian league. In one game, he played against the legendary Soviet Union striker Oleh Blokhin, who scored from the halfway mark.

The atmosphere was optimistic. It appeared to Steele that the country was shifting markedly in the right direction. Citizens once terrified of interacting with outsiders were ready to talk. The KGB, however, found nothing to celebrate in the USSR’s tilt toward freedom and reform. That August, seven apparatchiks staged a coup while Gorbachev was vacationing in Crimea.

Most of the British embassy was away. Steele was home and in his second-floor apartment in Gruzinsky Pereulok. He left the apartment block, turned right, and walked ten minutes into town. Crowds had gathered outside the White House, the seat of government; thus far the army hadn’t moved against them.

From fifty yards away, Steele watched as a snowy-haired man in a suit climbed on a tank and—reading from notes brushed by the wind—denounced the coup as cynical and illegal. This was a defiant Yeltsin. Steele listened as Yeltsin urged a general strike. And, fist clenched, told his supporters to remain strong.

The coup failed, and a weakened Gorbachev survived. The putschists—the leading group in all the main Soviet state and party institutions—were arrested. In the West, and in the United States in particular, many concluded that Washington had won the Cold War. And that, after decades of ideological struggle, liberal democracy had triumphed.

Steele knew better. Three days after the coup, surveillance on him resumed. Steele’s colleagues in Hungary and Czechoslovakia reported that after revolutions there the secret police vanished, never to come back. But here were the same KGB guys, with the same familiar faces. They went back to their old routines of bugging, apartment break-ins, and harassing.

The regime changed. The system didn’t.

By the time Steele left Moscow in April 1993, the Soviet Union had gone. A new country led by Yeltsin had replaced it: the Russian Federation. The KGB had been dissolved.

But its officers hadn’t exactly disappeared. They loathed the United States still. And were merely biding their time.

One midranking former KGB spy unhappy about this state of affairs was Vladimir Putin. Putin had missed perestroika and glasnost, Gorbachev’s reformist ideas, and had returned from provincial East Germany and Dresden. Putin was now carving out a political career in the new St. Petersburg. He mourned the lost USSR. Its disappearance was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.”

A post-communist spy agency, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, had taken over the KGB’s main functions. Back home, Steele would soon move into MI6’s new purpose-built office— a large, striking postmodern pile of a building overlooking the River Thames. This gaudy Babylonian temple was hard to miss; in 1994, the government acknowledged MI6’s existence. Staff called it Vauxhall Cross. The FSB would become its bitter adversary.

From London Steele continued to work on the new Russia. He was ambitious, keen to succeed, and keen to be seen to succeed. He was part of an SIS team.

And perhaps less posh than some of his upper-class peers. Steele’s family was blue-collar. His father, Perris, and mother, Janet, from London, met when they worked at the UK Meteorological Office. Dad was forecaster to the military and Royal Air Force. The family lived on army bases in Aden, where Steele was born, on the Shetland Islands, and—twice—on Cyprus.

Steele now moved in a small world of Kremlin specialists. There were conferences and seminars in university towns like Oxford; contacts to be made; émigrés to be met, lunched, charmed. In 1998 he got another posting—to the British embassy in Paris. He had a family: two sons and then a daughter, born in France, where Steele was officially “First Secretary Financial.”

At this point his career hit a bump. In 1999 a list of MI6 officers was leaked online. Steele was one of them. He appeared next to Andrew Stafford and Geoffrey Tantum as “Christopher David Steele, 90 Moscow; dob 1964.” His future business partner, Christopher Burrows, was blown, too. Burrows’s entry reads: “82 East Berlin, 87 Bonn, 93 Athens, dob 1958.”

The breach wasn’t Steele’s fault, but it had unfortunate consequences. As an exposed British officer he couldn’t go back to Russia.

In Moscow the spies were staging a comeback. In 1998 Putin became FSB chief, followed by prime minister and, in 2000, president. By 2002, when Steele left Paris, Putin had consolidated his grip. Most of Russia’s genuine political opposition had been wiped out, from parliament, public life, and the evening news.

The idea that Russia might slowly turn into a democracy or that history, as Francis Fukuyama put it, might be ending had proved a late-century fantasy. Rather, the United States’ traditional nuclear-armed adversary was moving in an authoritarian direction.

At first George W. Bush and Tony Blair viewed Putin as a respectable ally in the war against terror. Russia’s leader remained an enigma. As Steele knew better than most, obtaining information from inside the presidential administration was hard.

One former member of the U.S. National Security Council described Putin as a “black box.” “The Brits had slightly better assets than us. We had nothing. No human intelligence,” the source said. And, with the focus on fighting Islamists, Russia was downgraded on the list of U.S.-UK intelligence priorities.

By 2006 Steele held a senior post at MI6’s Russia desk in London. There were ominous signs that Putin was taking Russia in an aggressive direction. The number of hostile Russian agents in the United Kingdom grew, surpassing Cold War levels. Steele tracked a new campaign of subversion and covert influence.

And then the two FSB assassins put a mini-nuclear poison in Litvinenko’s teapot. It was an audacious operation, and a sign of things to come. One reason MI6 picked Steele to investigate was that—unlike colleagues who had known the victim—he wasn’t emotionally involved. Steele’s gloomy view of Russia—that under Putin it was not only domestically repressive but also internationally reckless and revisionist—looked about right. Steele briefed government ministers. Some got it. Others couldn’t believe Russian spies would carry out murder and mayhem on the streets of London.

All told, Steele spent twenty-two years as a British intelligence officer. There were some high points—he saw his years in Moscow as formative—and some low ones. Two of the diplomats with whom he shared a Moscow office, Tim Barrow and David Manning, went on to become ambassadors to the EU and the United States. But Steele didn’t quite rise to the top, in what was a highly competitive service. Espionage might sound exciting, but the civil servant salary was ordinary. And in 2009 there was personal tragedy, when his wife died at age forty-three after a period of illness.

That same year Steele left MI6 and set up Orbis. Making the transition from government to the private sector wasn’t easy. Steele and Burrows were now pursuing the same intelligence matters as before but without any of the support and peer review they had in their previous jobs. MI6’s security branch would often ask an officer to go back to a source, or redraft a report, or remark, “We think it’s interesting. We’d like to have more on this.” This kept up quality and objectivity.

Steele and Burrows, by contrast, were out on their own, where success depended more on one’s own wits. There was no more internal challenge. The people they had to please were corporate clients. The pay was considerably better.

The shabby environs of Victoria were a long way away from Washington and its bitterly contested U.S. presidential election. So how did Steele come to be commissioned in the first place to research Trump and produce his devastating dossier?

At the same moment Steele said good-bye to official spying, another figure was embarking on a new career in the crowded field of private business intelligence. His name was Glenn Simpson. He was a former journalist.

Simpson was an alluring figure: a large, tall, angular, bearlike person, who slotted himself easily onto a bar stool and enjoyed a beer or two. He was a good-humored social companion who spoke in a nasal drawl. Behind small oval glasses was a twinkling intelligence. He excelled at what he did.

Simpson had been an illustrious Wall Street Journal correspondent. Based in Washington and Brussels, he had specialized in post-Soviet murk. He didn’t speak Russian or visit the Russian Federation. This was deemed too dangerous. Instead, from out of country, he examined the dark intersection between organized crime and the Russian state. Very often that meant the same thing.

One of Simpson’s subjects was Semion Mogilevich, a Ukrainian-Russian mafia don and one of the FBI’s ten most wanted individuals. Mogilevich, it was alleged, was behind a mysterious intermediary company, RosUkrEnergo (RUE), that imported Siberian natural gas into Ukraine. The profits were measured in billions of dollars.

Mogilevich wasn’t someone a reporter might meet; he was more myth than man. He lived in Moscow—or was it Budapest? Seemingly, the Russian state and FSB harbored him. Simpson talked to U.S. investigators. Over years, he built up a portfolio of contacts in Hungary, Israel, Cyprus. At home he knew individuals inside the Department of Justice—in particular its Organized Crime and Racketeering Section—the U.S. Treasury, and elsewhere.

By 2009 Simpson decided to quit journalism, at a time when the media industry was in all sorts of financial trouble. He cofounded his own commercial research and political intelligence firm, based in Washington, D.C. Its name was Fusion GPS. Its website gave little away. It didn’t even list an address or the downtown loft from where a team of analysts worked.

Fusion’s research would be similar to what he had done before. That meant investigating difficult corruption cases or the business activities of post-Soviet figures. There would still be a public interest dimension, only this time private clients would pay. Fusion was very good at what it did and—Simpson admitted—expensive.

In 2009 Simpson met Steele. They knew some of the same FBI people and shared expertise on Russia. Fusion and Orbis began a professional partnership. The Washington- and London-based firms worked for oligarchs litigating against other oligarchs. This might involve asset tracing—identifying large sums concealed behind layers of offshore companies.

Later that year Steele embarked on a separate and sensitive new assignment that drew on his knowledge of covert Russian techniques. And of soccer: in Moscow he had played defense as a fullback. The client was the English Football Association, the FA. England was bidding to host the 2018 soccer World Cup. England’s main rival was Russia. There were joint bids, too, from Spain and Portugal, and the Netherlands and Belgium. His brief was to investigate the eight other bidding nations, with a particular focus on Russia.

It was rumored that the FSB had carried out a major influence operation, ahead of a vote in Zurich by the executive committee of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. A second vote was to take place at the same time for the 2022 World Cup. One of the countries bidding was the desert emirate of Qatar.

According to Steele, Putin was a reluctant backer of Russia’s World Cup bid and only became engaged from mid-2010, when it appeared Moscow might lose. Putin then summoned a group of oligarchs. He instructed them to do whatever was necessary to achieve victory, including striking personal deals with FIFA voters.

Putin’s method, Steele said, was unseen. “Nothing was writ-ten down. Don’t expect me or anyone to produce a piece of paper saying please X bribe Y with this amount in this way. He’s not going to do this.” He added: “Putin is an ex- intelligence officer. Everything he does has to be deniable.” The oligarchs were brought in to disguise the Kremlin’s controlling role, Steele said, according to The Sunday Times.

Steele “lit the fuse” of something bigger, as one friend put it.

Steele discovered that FIFA corruption was global. It was a stunning conspiracy. He took the unusual step of briefing an American contact in Rome, the head of the FBI’s Eurasia and Serious Crime Division. This led to a probe by U.S. federal prosecutors. And to the arrest in 2015 of seven FIFA officials, allegedly connected to $150 million in kickbacks, paid on TV deals stretching from Latin America to the Caribbean. The United States indicted fourteen individuals.

By this point, of course, Russia had won its bid to host the World Cup. England—the country that invented soccer—scraped just two votes.

The episode burnished Steele’s reputation inside the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI. Here was a pro, a well-connected Brit, who understood Russian espionage and its subterranean tricks. Steele was regarded as credible.

Between 2014 and 2016, Steele authored more than a hundred reports on Russia and Ukraine. These were written for a private client but shared widely within the State Department and sent up to Secretary of State John Kerry and to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who was in charge of the U.S. response to the Ukraine crisis. Many of Steele’s secret sources were the same sources who would supply information on Trump.

One former State Department envoy during the Obama administration said he read dozens of Steele’s reports on Russia. The envoy said that on Russia, Steele was “as good as the CIA or anyone.”

Steele’s professional reputation inside U.S. agencies would prove important the next time he discovered alarming material, and lit the fuse again.

______________________________________________________________________________

Excerpted from Collusion by Luke Harding. Copyright © 2017 by Luke Harding. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

New details reveal Donald Trump Jr is even more of a Russian puppet than his father
 

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Earlier this week it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr spent the general election coordinating with Russian puppet cyberterrorist outfit WikiLeaks. It may be the most damning revelation in the Trump-Russia scandal to date, as it reveals that Junior’s in-person meeting with Kremlin representatives was just the start of the collaboration, not the end. New evidence today reveals that WikiLeaks and Trump Jr did indeed coordinate their strategic efforts during the election.

Donald Trump Jr and WikiLeaks conspired to try to sabotage an anti-Trump website called PutinTrump.org. during the election. The coordination went as far as WikiLeaks asking Junior what he knew about the site, and giving him the password to the site, according to a new Mother Jones report (link). This took place in September of 2016, which was months after Trump Jr’s only known in-person meeting with Kremlin representatives.

Based on the timeframe that’s been established this week for the communications between WikiLeaks and Trump Jr, it’s highly unlikely that their coordinated attack on PutinTrump.org was the only incident of its kind. Now that investigators and journalists know what they’re looking for, it could be fairly easy to continue fleshing out the full timeline.

It’s worth keeping in mind that this is merely what the media has publicly uncovered to date. We still don’t know what other information or evidence Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team may have privately uncovered when it comes to Donald Trump Jr’s communications and coordination with Russia, aimed at altering the outcome of the election.

The post New details reveal Donald Trump Jr is even more of a Russian puppet than his father appeared first on Palmer Report.

Russia Mother Jones
 

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Today’s Headlines and Commentary
 

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Zimbabwes military put President Robert Mugabe under house arrest as soldiers occupied government and media offices, Reuters reported. A military spokesperson said the dramatic seizure of power is aimed at stopping criminals close to the president. The takeover appears to be in response to the 93-year old Mugabes attempts to position his wife as his successor. Reporting from the New York Times suggests that former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwawho Mugabe fired earlier this weekis the militarys preferred replacement for Mugabe.

The prime ministers of Britain and Spain said Russian groups had interfered in their electoral systems, the Washington Post reported. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy accused Russia of sponsoring an army of fake accounts to spread misinformation during the Catalan independence referendum. Britains leader Theresa May said Russia used state-run media to undermine free societies. Separately, Britains top cybersecurity official said Russia carried out a coordinated campaign to hack British telecommunications, energy and media firms in the last year, according to the Times.

China will send a high-level envoy to North Korea in a move that will likely put pressure on Pyongyang to limit its nuclear program, the Times reported. Chinese state-run media said the envoy would probably deliver a message to Kim Jong-Un that urges nuclear talks. The announcement of the envoy came days after President Donald Trump discussed North Korea with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting in Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pushed Myanmars leaders to investigate and end violence against Rohingya Muslims, according to the Times. Speaking from Naypyidaw, Myanmars capital, Tillerson said there were the credible reports of widespread atrocities that the countrys security forces had committed against the Rohingya. Tillerson suggested that targeted economic sanctions may be an appropriate response to what the UN has called a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.

The House of Representatives passed the joint congressional version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018, Politico reported. Representatives voted 365-70 for the $700 billion spending bill. The NDAAs fiscal allocation exceeds the Budget Control Acts $549 billion cap on defense expenditures. The Senate is expected to take up and pass the measure after Thanksgiving.

Lebanons president accused Saudi Arabia of holding Saad Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister who resigned last week, as a hostage, Reuters reported. President Michel Aoun said it was not acceptable for Saudi Arabia to hold Hariri against his will for unknown reasons. Aoun has previously said he would not formally recognize Hariris resignation unless the latter returns to Lebanon. On Wednesday, Hariri promised to return within two days.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security shared technical information about a North Korean cyber intrusion campaign targeting the aerospace, telecommunications and financial industries, Reuters reported. In an alert, the agencies said North Korean hackers used a type of malware that granted them access to protected systems and shared files. The agencies report also included IP addresses linked to the hackers.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Robert Chesney summarized the 2018 NDAAs provisions on cybersecurity.

Sarah Grant summarized the military commission proceedings at the Nov. 7 hearing in U.S. v. al-Nashiri.

Shannon Togawa Mercer live blogged Attorney General Jeff Sessions testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

J. Dana Stuster discussed the connections of Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salmans power play to conflicts across the Middle East.

Garrett Hinck posted the video and testimony from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing on the president’s authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

Alan Rozenshtein analyzed how a bill making tech companies liable for sex trafficking on their platforms could signal a change in online platforms legal responsibility for user content.

Stewart Baker shared the Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring discussions with Nicholas Weaver about the re-emerging encryption debate and with Michael Sulmeyer about the NDAA.

Evelyn Douek overviewed the European Unions efforts to fight fake news.

Vincent Vitkowsky reviewed Jeremy Rabkin and John Yoos book on emerging weapons and the law of war.

Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview between Benjamin Wittes and Cass Sunstein on Sunsteins book Impeachment: A Citizens Guide.

 

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

theresa may on putin and russia – Google Search
 

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Theresa May accuses Vladimir Putin of election meddling

BBC NewsNov 13, 2017
Theresa May has launched her strongest attack on Russia yet, accusing Moscow of meddling in elections and carrying out cyber espionage.
Theresa May warns Russia over election meddling and vows to …
InternationalThe IndependentNov 13, 2017

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Bloomberg

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This is How Grown-Ups Deal With Putin

New York Times16 hours ago
Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday warning that Russia is threatening “the international … He is not going to raise human rights with Putin.

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‘We know what you’re doing,’ Theresa May tells Russia – video

The GuardianNov 13, 2017
Theresa May says on Monday the government would maintain its commitment to protecting Europe after Brexit as she accused Russia of …

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Russia used a network of 150000 Twitter accounts to meddle in Brexit

Business Insider7 hours ago
Theresa May told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Britain “knows” … LONDON — Twitter accounts based in Russia posted 45,000 tweets …

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Russia is meddling in western politics as it has nothing to lose

The Guardian2 hours ago
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump talk at a summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, … Theresa May’s speech at London’s Guildhall this Monday included a …

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Evening Standard

Theresa May Shows Trump How To Call Out Putin On Fake News

MediaPost CommunicationsNov 14, 2017
Theresa May Shows Trump How To Call Out Putin On Fake News … The Russians are trying to interfere in our politics and infrastructure to …
Russia is meddling in western politics as it has nothing to lose – The Guardian
 

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The Guardian
Russia is meddling in western politics as it has nothing to lose
The Guardian
It is doubtful that the Russian authorities in 2016 genuinely banked on getting Trump elected. But the disruption and discrediting of American politics were definite objectives. The Russians succeeded too well for their own good. The role they played and more »

The Early Edition: November 15, 2017
 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday and maintained that he had always told the truth about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying that he had no recollection of a campaign round-table at which the aide George Papadopoulos was present until he saw the news reports and added that he had pushed back against the aides suggestion of a meeting between Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Matt Apuzzo and Nicholas Fandos report at the New York Times.

Sessions addressed the apparent discrepancies between his recent recollections and his previous testimonies about Trump-Russia connections. Democrats on the committee questioned Sessions on his interactions with Papadopoulos and the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, who had testified before the House Intelligence Committee over a week ago and said that he had told Sessions of his plan to travel to Moscow in 2016. Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horowitz report at the Washington Post.

The four key points from Sessions hearing are provided by Amber Phillips at the Washington Post.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked Sessions about the dossier alleging connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, Jordan drawing attention to the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (D.N.C.) partially funding the dossier, the F.B.I.s apparent payment of the author of the document the former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele and the apparent cooperation between the Democratic Party and the federal government to secure a warrant to spy on Trump campaign officials; Sessions responded that the apparent connections were not enough basis to appoint a special counsel. Aaron Blake explains at the Washington Post, saying that the Attorney Generals comments would probably irk the president.

The F.B.I. is scrutinizing more than 60 money transfers the Russian foreign ministry sent to embassies around the world to finance election campaign of 2016, it is not clear how the funds were used by the embassies and the Russian embassy and foreign ministry have denounced the story. Jason Leopold, Anthony Cormier and Jessica Garrison reveal at BuzzFeed News.

The co-founder of opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S., Glenn Simpson, appeared before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday in a closed session, the firm was behind the controversial Steele dossier and a lawyer for Simpson criticized the Trump administration for its attempts to discredit Fusion G.P.S., Olivia Beavers reports at the Hill.

Russias lower house unanimously voted in favor of legislation allowing the government to designate international media outlets as foreign agents today, making the move after the Russian state-funded R.T. television channel complied with a request from the U.S. Justice Department to register as a foreign agent. Vladimir Isachenkov reports at the AP.

Did Sessions changing testimony amount to perjury? Jan Wolfe provides an analysis at Reuters.

Republicans on the Judiciary committee attempted to deflect from the Russia investigations and Sessions hearing was dominated by his inability to recall events that one would think most people would, the New York Times editorial board writes, asking what else are you forgetting, Mr. Attorney General?

Its hard to overstate the mind-blowing stupidity of Donald Trump Jr.s posts on Twitter about his communications with WikiLeaks, an organization that was affiliated with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election, Jill Filipovic writes at CNN.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

The Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed that he had directed Justice Department prosecutors to evaluate the concerns raised by Republicans about Clinton, an Obama-era uranium deal with Russia and other issues in his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

A decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Clinton-related issues would shatter post-Watergate norms and would suggest that the Justice Department has been further politicized and weaponized by the Trump administration. To date, Sessions has largely resisted Republican pressure to appoint a special counsel, but he has been put in a difficult position, Peter Baker explains at the New York Times.

The demands for Clintons prosecution are profoundly inappropriate and degrading to democracy, the Justice Department must commit to the rule of law in the face of the political pressure from the president and his allies, the Washington Post editorial board writes.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGY

Around one-sixth of U.S. government computers have been using software produced by the Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, the assistant secretary for cyber-security and communications at the Department for Homeland Security (D.H.S.) Jeannette Manfra said yesterday, adding that federal agencies have until Dec. 12 to remove the software which has been connected to Russian intelligence operations. Paul Sonne reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The Trump administration is expected to publicly release revised rules on disclosing cyber security flaws today, according to an anonymous officials, the rules intend to aid agencies in weighing the balance between maintaining secrecy and the need to warn manufacturers about possible breaches. Dustin Volz reports at Reuters.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May and the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy separately claimed that Russian operatives had intervened in European elections, May accused Russia of attempting to sow discord through online and media campaigns, and Rajoy said that Russian bots spread fake news about Spain during Catalonias independence referendum last month. William Booth and Michael Birnbaum report at the Washington Post.

The chief of Britains National Cyber Security Center warned yesterday that Russian hackers have tried to carry out cyber-attacks in the U.K. in a summary of a speech to be delivered today, making the comments following a speech by Theresa May targeting Russia for its interference. David D. Kirkpatrick reports at the New York Times.

Theresa May offered the appropriate response to Putin and Russias interference in western democracies, an approach that sharply contrasts with President Trump. Andrew Rosenthal writes at the New York Times.

NORTH KOREA

China will send a special envoy to North Korea and reopen a channel of dialogue with Pyongyang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced today, a week after Trump visited China and urged President Xi Jinping to exert more pressure on North Korea; however it is unclear how much Pyongyangs nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program will feature in discussions. Simon Denyer reports at the Washington Post.

He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people, North Koreas state Rodong Sinmun newspaper said today about President Trump, responding the insults Trump leveled at the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The AFP reports.

A war with North Korea would end in a nuclear holocaust, the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned yesterday, making the comments at the last day of the A.S.E.A.N. summit and following Trumps 12-day tour of Asia. Al Jazeera reports.

The U.N. General Assemblys Human Rights Committee approved a resolution condemning North Korea for serious human rights violations yesterday and its decision to divert resources from civilians to developing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

YEMEN

The Trump administration unfroze Yemens central bank funds yesterday, allowing the Saudi-backed Yemeni administration to service its debt and resume salary payments, the measure forms part of U.S. efforts to counter Irans influence in Yemen and the region. Katrina Manson reports at the Financial Times.

The Saudi-led coalition bombed an airport in Yemens capital of Sanaa yesterday, according to Yemeni officials, the capital is held by the Houthi rebels and the U.N. stated that most of the airport remained intact and would not impact humanitarian operations. Ahmed Al-Haj reports at the AP.

Houthi officials claimed that the attack on the airport was intended to disrupt humanitarian efforts and said that the air strike destroyed a radio navigation system crucial for coordinating aid shipments. Al Jazeera reports.

SAUDI ARABIA

The Lebanese President Michel Aoun said today that Saudi Arabia have detained the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, adding that the action was in violation of the Vienna agreements and human rights law. Hariri unexpectedly resigned on Nov. 4 from the Saudi capital of Riyadh in a televised announcement, Reuters reports.

Saudi Arabia is set to be the second country to acquire a T.H.A.A.D. anti-missile defense system from the U.S. defense company Lockheed Martin, a senior executive of the company said yesterday, the announcement coming amid increased Saudi-Iran tensions and a ballistic missile that was launched at the capital of Riyadh by Yemens Houthi rebels on Nov. 4. Aya Batrawy reports at the AP.

Saudi Arabias Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans approach to domestic and foreign affairs has led to debate around the region about his motivations, with some analysts believing that his bold actions including the ongoing Yemen war, an escalating in tension with Iran, and an intervention in Lebanese politics reflect his conviction that he has the support of President Trump. Ben Hubbard and David D. Kirkpatrick provide an analysis at the New York Times.

SYRIA

The Syrian Kurdish P.Y.D. political party today welcomed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis comments earlier this week saying that the U.S. forces should play a longer-term role in Syria, even after the Islamic State group has been defeated. Reuters reports.

The Turkish foreign ministry said yesterday that the U.S. Defense Departments approach to an agreement between the Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia and Islamic State militants was appalling, saying that the agreement for the Islamic State militants to withdraw from the city of Raqqa, which was reported by the BBC at the weekend, was extremely troubling. Reuters reports.

The bombing of a Syrian market in the rebel-held town of Atareb earlier this week shows that Turkey, Russia and Iran are not effective guarantors of de-escalation zones, at least 61 people were killed by a series of airstrikes according to Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue volunteers. Philip Issa reports at the AP.

The Russian defense ministry appeared to rely on photographs from a video game to provide irrefutable evidence that the U.S. cooperated with Islamic State militants in a series of tweets yesterday, the ministry deleted the tweets once the origins of the evidence were thrown into question and blamed the incident on a civilian employee. Shaun Walker reports at the Guardian.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on November 12. Separately, partner forces conducted one strike against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Zimbabwean military have deployed tanks on the streets of the capital Harare in an apparent coup against President Robert Mugabe, the military have denied that they are staging a military takeover and claimed that Mugabe was safe. The CNN provide rolling coverage of the situation.

Debate over President Trumps ability to authorize an unprovoked nuclear attack has caused division among senators, a session on authorization was held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Karoun Demirjian explains at the Washington Post.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Myanmars leader Aung San Suu Kyi today and said that the U.S. would consider evidence based sanctions against individuals responsible for violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Esther Htusan reports at the AP.

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a nearly $700bn defense policy bill, Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (I.C.T.Y.) is set to give its verdict on the former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic who has been accused of war crimes, Daria Sito-Sucic reports at Reuters.

A U.S.-funded media outlet has been started a campaign to counter the Islamic State groups recruitment in Central Asia, Jessica Donati and Nathan Hodge report at the Wall Street Journal.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmed Trumps nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) yesterday, Kirstjen Nielsen is a cybersecurity expert and served under White House Chief of Staff John Kelly when he led the D.H.S., Morgan Chalfant reports at the Hill.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a blistering attack on Trumps nominee to be the general counsel of the Department of Transportation, saying yesterday that Steven Bradburys attempts to justify torture during the Bush administration should disbar him from consideration. Andrew Desiderio reports at The Daily Beast.

The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte praised China today for its critical role in the campaign against Islamic State-affiliated militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, comments that may not be well-received by the U.S. and Australia who support the operation from its early stages. Karen Lema and Martin Perry report at Reuters.

Trumps 12-day adulation tour of Asia was closer to a pilgrimage than a projection of power, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post, saying that the president failed to articulate U.S. policy, failed to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and gave space for China to expand its influence in the region and the world.

Read on Just Security »

Donald Trump: We will be reciprocal – Google Search
 

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Trump’s Guns-and-Butter Gambit

U.S. News & World Report17 hours ago
… any Indo-Pacific nation that wants to be our partner and that will abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade,” Trump said. “What we will …
Trump, Xi Offer Asia Business Leaders Divergent Paths
In-DepthVoice of AmericaNov 10, 2017

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Trump Declares Trade ‘Rules Have Changed’ as Asia Trip Concludes

BloombergNov 14, 2017
President Donald Trump ended his swing through Asia, hailing progress … “The United States has to be treated fairly and in a reciprocal fashion. … “We can‘t have trade deficits of $30, $40, $50 billion; $300 billion in the case …
Trump returns home from Asia with few clear wins
In-DepthPolitico18 hours ago
Trump leaves PH, skips East Asia leaders summit
InternationalABS-CBN NewsNov 14, 2017

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Mike Flynn – Google News: Ex-Trump aide Mike Flynn says Gulen kidnap allegations ‘false’ – BBC News
 

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Ex-Trump aide Mike Flynn says Gulen kidnap allegations ‘false’
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Reports that former top White House aide Michael Flynn was part of a plot to help forcibly remove a Muslim cleric to Turkey are “false”, his lawyer says. Robert Kelner said claims that the ex-national security adviser and his son had met Turkish 
WSJ: Mueller probes Flynn role in plot to deliver cleric to TurkeyCNN
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s Ties To The Special Counsel InvestigationNPR
Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential TransitionNBCNews.com
MSNBC –Newsweek –Wall Street Journal –NBCNews.com
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 Mike Flynn – Google News

This is How Grown-Ups Deal With Putin
 

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As a candidate, Trump blamed President Barack Obama for the annexation of Crimea and even hinted he might recognize the seizure. “I’m going to take a look at it,” Trump said on ABC in August 2016. “But, you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.”

The Kremlin, you may recall, also said the people of Hungary and Czechoslovakia wanted Soviet tanks to crush their democracy movements a half-century ago and that it was invited into Afghanistan.

Far from denouncing Putin’s continuous assaults on human rights and free speech in Russia, Trump has praised him as being a better leader than Obama.

And he gave a pass to the world’s autocrats in his United Nations speech this fall, telling them “you should always put your countries first.”

“The nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition,” Trump said, just the sort of message that dictators like Putin have been wanting to hear from the United States for decades.

So much for being the leader of the free world.

Contrast Trump’s behavior not just with May’s, but also that of Ronald Reagan, who was viscerally opposed to Communism and entered office determined to bring down the Soviet empire.

Reagan came to believe that Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to contract, not expand, Soviet power. But he never lost sight of the Russian threat to the West and kept up the pressure even as he developed a relationship with Gorbachev aimed at keeping the world safe from Russia, not at keeping Russia safe from the world.

Reagan and Gorbachev came tantalizing close in 1986 to agreeing on nuclear disarmament. Trump wants to have more nuclear weapons and has threatened to use them.

Trump studiously avoids talking about human rights in Russia (and Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, among others).

In February, when Bill O’Reilly pointed out to Trump that Putin is “a killer,” the president replied: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

(Note to Trump: Look up the phrase “false equivalence” during a commercial break on “Fox & Friends.”)

In October, Trump’s administration waived human rights requirements and approved the sale of $5 billion sale of fighter planes to Bahrain.

Asked about this disturbing trend on Nov. 2, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said: ““How much does it help to yell about these problems?”

A lot, actually, like when Reagan went to Berlin and yelled: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Continue reading the main story


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