Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Russia

Russia Lays Claim to Champagne

Not the region (yet). The word.

 

The law has sparked controversy and the renowned winemaker Moet-Hennessy said Monday it was suspending champagne shipments to Russia. The law that was adopted on Friday allows the term to used only for “Russian champagne.”

Biden Freezes Defense Aid to Ukraine on Eve of Russian Summit

The world is getting more dangerous.

In an interview prior to the Biden-Putin summit announcement, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper told the Washington Examiner that the Pentagon was providing a wide range of military assistance to Ukraine.

 

“We are working to ensure Ukraine, in particular, has the resilience it needs to defend itself against acts of Russian aggression, and here we have a very comprehensive training and equipment program,” Cooper said.

 

At the time, the Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia official described assistance including Javelin anti-tank missiles, counter-artillery radars, grenade launchers, and Humvees.

 

Asked if the Russian troop buildup prompted additional military assistance, Cooper said security assistance conversations were ongoing.

 

“We always talk about Ukraine’s requirements, and we’re always evaluating what they need and what the threat environment is,” she said. “It’s a very active and dynamic conversation and continues as such.”

 

Kuleba said talk needs to turn into actual military assistance, something Biden reportedly rescinded ahead of the Putin summit.

 

“Talking is important. However, talking becomes irrelevant when it’s not followed by actions,” the foreign minister said.

Biden Sets Back Russia Policy With Multiple Blunders

Ouch. When senior administration officials are walking back the President’s statements within minutes, it’s bad.

The White House clarified Sunday that President Joe Biden isn’t doing any ‘swaps’ of cyber criminals with Moscow – after Biden appeared to take at face value a proposal floated by Vladimir Putin to extradite any U.S. ransom hackers to Russia in exchange for sending any Russian hackers to the U.S.

 

Biden entertained an idea Putin floated in a TV interview that aired Sunday about extraditing ‘criminals’ who engaged in ransom hacking against either the U.S. or Russia when he was asked about it at a press conference.

 

[…]

 

Biden said he had been briefed on the idea in flight, and called it a potential sign of ‘progress’ – only to have his security advisor later note the U.S. already holds hackers to account.

 

[…]

The quick walk back was an illustration of the type of situation the White House may be trying to avoid by keeping Biden out of a joint press conference with Putin where the Russian former KGB officer might try to steer the event to his advantage.

 

Biden at the presser explained why he did not want to hold a side-by-side presser with the Russian strongman.

 

‘This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other,’ Biden said at the end of the G7 summit.

 

‘It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship with Russia. We are not looking for conflict. We are looking to resolve those actions which we think are inconsistent with international norms,’ he said.

Biden To Meet With Putin

I suppose he needed some private time to pay homage.

Joe Biden will meet Vladimir Putin next month in Geneva, the White House confirmed on Tuesday.

 

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said in a statement: “President Biden will meet with President Putin in Geneva on 16 June. The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship.”

The summit will take place shortly after Biden travels to the UK for the G7 summit in Cornwall. It will be his first in-person meeting with Putin since taking office.

 

Biden proposed a summit in a call with Putin in April, as his administration prepared to levy sanctions against Russian officials for the second time in three months.

Russian Hit Men Linked to Arms Depot Explosion… Allegedly

The KGB Cold Warrior continues his old ways. But the war is getting hotter.

Two Russian men suspected of carrying out the 2018 Salisbury poisonings are being linked to an explosion at an arms depot in the Czech Republic.

Evidence links the 2014 explosion, and an attempted poisoning in Bulgaria, to a unit of Russian military intelligence – the GRU – the BBC has learnt.

 

European intelligence agencies believe the GRU’s Unit 29155 is tasked with sabotage, subversion and assassination.

 

The Russian government said the claims were unfounded and absurd.

Czech authorities say they are expelling 18 Russian diplomats believed to be intelligence operatives in retaliation for the explosion, which killed two people.

Biden Escalates Relations with Russia

What’s the end game here? Is this a foreign policy stratagem (perhaps not a bad one) or just bumbling? Where is Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken?

Russia has recalled its ambassador to the U.S. in a dramatic escalation in the fraught relations between the two powers – after President Joe Biden referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a ‘killer.’

 

The moves comes after the White House has spent weeks telegraphing a tougher posture toward Russia under a Biden administration – and Moscow has once again bristled at accusations that it serves as a ‘malign’ influence in global affairs.

 

Fueling the rising tensions is a startling new assessment by U.S. intelligence that lays out Russia’s campaign to influence the 2020 elections – on the heels of the Treasury Department slapping sanctions on officials as retaliation for the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny with a chemical agent. Among those hit with sanctions was the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the FSB.

 

The extraordinary move by Moscow – undertaken by nations wishing to send a serious diplomatic signal – came after Biden not only ripped into Putin but vowed the Russian strongman would ‘pay a price.’

Russia Underreported COVID Deaths

I know. I’m shocked too. Next thing you know we’ll find out that China is giving fake statistics too.

Russian officials acknowledged on Monday that the nation’s COVID-19 death toll is in fact more than three times what had been previously reported, after months of President Vladimir Putin holding up the supposedly low fatality rate as a marker of the country’s success in battling the pandemic.

 

As The Guardian reported, the state-run statistics agency Rosstat said the total number of deaths between January and November from all causes had jumped by 229,700 when compared with the previous year.

 

“More than 81 percent of this increase in mortality over this period is due to COVID,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, which would indicated a death toll of more than 186,000 Russians, The Guardian reported. The update means Russia has the third-highest number of fatalities in the world, surpassed only by the U.S. and Brazil.

 

Russian officials have so far confirmed more than 3 million cases and only 55,265 deaths, The Guardian noted, a number far lower than other large impacted countries.

Russia Threatens U.S. Spy Satellite

One wonders how often this happens.

A top Space Force official has lashed out at Russia for trailing a US spy satellite with two spacecraft.

Gen John Raymond, the chief of space operations for America’s newly-minted Space Force, said the two Russian satellites began pursuing the multi-billion dollar US satellite in November and have at times flown within 100 miles it.

‘This is unusual and disturbing behavior and has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space,’ Raymond said in a statement to Business Insider.

‘The United States finds these recent activities to be concerning and do not reflect the behavior of a responsible spacefaring nation.’

The US has raised concerns about the matter to Moscow through diplomatic channels, Raymond told Time magazine, which first reported the stalking on Monday.

The confrontation marks the first time the US military has publicly identified a direct threat to a specific American satellite by an adversary.

Putin Thanks Trump

This is curious.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has thanked US counterpart Donald Trump for intelligence that helped foil “acts of terrorism” on Russian soil, according to a Kremlin statement.

Mr Putin and Mr Trump spoke on the phone on Sunday, it said.

The Kremlin said the information came via intelligence services, but it provided no further details.

Russian media is reporting the discovery of a plot to attack St Petersburg over the New Year period.

Tass news agency says two Russian nationals have been arrested and plans to attack a mass gathering were seized, according to a spokesperson from the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency.

Russia Escalates War on Ukraine

There’s still a war going on in Europe and Russia is being… well… Russia.

Russia has fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the Crimean Peninsula in a major escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Two gunboats and a tug were captured by Russian forces. A number of Ukrainian crew members were injured.

Each country blames the other for the incident. On Monday Ukrainian MPs are due to vote on declaring martial law.

The crisis began when Russia accused the Ukrainian ships of illegally entering its waters.

The Russians placed a tanker under a bridge in the Kerch Strait – the only access to the Sea of Azov, which is shared between the two countries.

Russian jets fly over the bridge, and a tanker is seen under the huge arch of the bridge. Photo: 25 November 2018Image copyrightPHOTOSHOT
Image captionA tanker under the bridge shut all navigation from and into the Sea of Azov

During a meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, President Petro Poroshenko described the Russian actions as “unprovoked and crazy”.

Russia Warns of New Arms Race

Let’s be clear… the only reason it isn’t a race now is because America hasn’t been racing. That hasn’t stopped Russia from running down the track. Russia is now upset because America is lacing up our cleats.

Russia says it will be forced to ‘respond in kind’ if America pulls out of a key nuclear weapons treaty and begins developing new missiles.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke out after Donald Trump threatened to quit the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty on Saturday, accusing Russia of violating it.

If the US and Russia make good on their threats, it would mark the first nuclear arms race between world superpowers since the end of the Cold War.

Peskov’s comments came as National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Russian security chiefs in Moscow on Monday, ahead of talks with Putin on Tuesday.

Red China Balks at Sanctions Against Moscow

Remember that these are sanctions that the Democrats supported. Will they stand by Trump now?

China has told the US to withdraw sanctions on its military over purchases of Russian jets and missiles or “bear the consequences”.

The US says China has contravened US sanctions on Moscow introduced over Russian actions in Ukraine and alleged interference in US politics.

China recently bought 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles.

Beijing has not joined in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the US and its Western allies since 2014.

Its forces took part in giant Russian war games held earlier this month.

Strange Russian Satellite

Hmmm

But now the U.S. is voicing concerns and claiming that threat is very real — pointing in particular to a Russian satellite’s “very abnormal behavior.”

The satellite, launched in October 2017, has displayed behavior “inconsistent with anything seen before from” the kind of satellite Russia has said it is, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance Yleem D.S. Poblete.

Instead, without saying it outright, Poblete implied that the object could be a weapon, but said the U.S. cannot know for sure.

“We don’t know for certain what it is, and there is no way to verify it,” Poblete said yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Conference on Disarmament. Poblete was speaking before the international body for negotiating arms control to express the U.S.’s “serious concerns” about Russia’s push to launch weapons in space, especially anti-satellite weapons that can target satellites that the U.S. relies on for business, scientific and military purposes.

Russia Appoints Steven Segal

Wait… what?

Washington (CNN)Russia appointed actor Steven Seagal as a “special representative” on US-Russian humanitarian ties, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in statement on its official Facebook page Saturday.

According to the statement, the action star’s role will be to promote US-Russia relations “in the humanitarian sphere,” adding that the role will include collaboration “in the sphere of culture, public and youth exchanges.”

Russian Spy Uncovered

Yikes.

US counter-intelligence investigators discovered a suspected Russian spy had been working undetected in the heart of the American embassy in Moscow for more than a decade, the Guardian has learned.

The Russian national had been hired by the US Secret Service and is understood to have had access to the agency’s intranet and email systems, which gave her a potential window into highly confidential material including the schedules of the president and vice-president.

The woman had been working for the Secret Service for years before she came under suspicion in 2016 during a routine security sweep conducted by two investigators from the US Department of State’s Regional Security Office (RSO).

The Guardian has been told the RSO sounded the alarm in January 2017, but the Secret Service did not launch a full-scale inquiry of its own. Instead it decided to let her go quietly months later, possibly to contain any potential embarrassment.

An intelligence source told the Guardian the woman was dismissed last summer after the state department revoked her security clearance. The dismissal came shortly before a round of expulsions of US personnel demanded by the Kremlin after Washington imposed more sanctions on the country.

Trump Swings and Misses

This was not a good day for American foreign policy.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

Of course, we don’t know what was accomplished in private yet, but the public outcome of Trump’s meeting with Putin left a lot to be desired.

Obama Administration Failed to Counter Russian Intrusion Into American Elections

Another Obama failure.

WASHINGTON — The Obama White House’s chief cyber official testified Wednesday that proposals he was developing to counter Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential election were put on a “back burner” after he was ordered to “stand down” his efforts in the summer of 2016.

The comments by Michael Daniel, who served as White House “cyber security coordinator” between 2012 and January of last year, provided his first public confirmation of a much-discussed passage in the book, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” co-written by this reporter and David Corn, that detailed his thwarted efforts to respond to the Russian attack.

They came during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing into how the Obama administration dealt with Russian cyber and information warfare attacks in 2016, an issue that has become one of the more politically sensitive subjects in the panel’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and any links to the Trump campaign.

The view that the Obama administration failed to adequately piece together intelligence about the Russian campaign and develop a forceful response has clearly gained traction with the intelligence committee. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the ranking Democrat on the panel, said in an opening statement that “we were caught flat-footed at the outset and our collective response was inadequate to meet Russia’s escalation.”

That conclusion was reinforced Wednesday by another witness, Victoria Nuland, who served as assistant secretary of state for Europe during the Obama administration. She told the panel that she had been briefed as early as December 2015 about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee — long before senior DNC officials were aware of it — and that the intrusion had all the hallmarks of a Russian operation.

Russia Launches Counterattack

From their keyboards.

(Reuters) – The United States and Britain on Monday accused Russia of launching cyber attacks on computer routers, firewalls and other networking equipment used by government agencies, businesses and critical infrastructure operators around the globe.

Washington and London issued a joint alert saying the campaign by Russian government-backed hackers was intended to advance spying, intellectual property theft and other “malicious” activities and could be escalated to launch offensive attacks.

It followed a series of warnings by Western governments that Moscow is behind a string of cyber attacks. The United States, Britain and other nations in February accused Russia of releasing the “NotPetya” virus, which in 2017 crippled parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged computers across the globe, costing companies billions of dollars.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Russia’s embassy in London issued a statement citing British accusations of cyber threats from Moscow as “striking examples of a reckless, provocative and unfounded policy against Russia.”

Putin Wins

Shocking, I know.

It was the victory rally he never doubted he’d join. Two hours after the last polling stations in western Russia closed, Vladimir Putin strode on stage beneath the Kremlin walls to declare his re-election.

With a broad smile, he thanked the country for what he called “a vote of confidence” and promised to work for the future of a great nation. He then led the crowd of loyal, flag waving fans braving the freezing cold in a chant of “Russia! Russia!”

This was an election with eight candidates but one clear winner from the very start.

Russia’s most popular opposition politician Alexei Navalny had been excluded and a communist candidate was vilified by state-run media.

The society-girl-turned-activist Ksenia Sobchak ran her entire campaign on the basis she would lose.

The Bear Strikes Again

It appears that Putin is just sending out assassins to murder people all over the world.

An exiled critic of Vladimir Putin died from ‘compression to the neck’ at his London home, Scotland Yard announced today, as detectives revealed they are treating his death as murder.

Nikolai Glushkov, 68, was found dead by his daughter, Natalia, at his suburban home in New Malden, south London on Monday night – just eight days after the nerve agent attack on spy Sergei Skripal.

Mr Glushkov was one of the last surviving members of an ill-fated circle of Russian exiles – led by Putin’s enemy Boris Berezovsky – who have died in suspicious circumstances.

The announcement of the murder probe comes amid mounting tensions between the Whitehall and the Kremlin over the shocking chemical weapons attack in Salisbury.

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