Posts Tagged ‘KGB’

US agencies banned from using Russia’s Kaspersky software

September 14, 2017

Federal agencies in the US have 90 days to wipe Kaspersky software from their computers. Officials are concerned about the Russian company’s ties to the Kremlin and possible threats to national security.

Headquarters of Internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow (Getty Images/AFP/K. Kudryavtsev)

The administration of US President Donald Trump has ordered government agencies to remove products made by Russian company Kaspersky Labs from their computers.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Wednesday it was concerned that the cybersecurity firm was susceptible to pressure from Moscow and thus a potential threat to national security.

Read more: Facebook, Russia and the US elections – what you need to know

DHS said in a statement that it was “concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies,” as well as Russian laws that might compel Kaspersky to hand over information to the government.

But the makers of the popular anti-virus software have said “no credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization as the accusations are based on false allegations and inaccurate assumptions.”

US tech retailer Best Buy confirmed earlier Wednesday that it would no longer sell Kaspersky products, but has declined to give further details on the decision.

Ties between Kaspersky, Kremlin ‘alarming’

Civilian government agencies have 90 days to completely remove Kaspersky software from their computers. The products have already been banned in the Pentagon.

US congressional leaders have applauded the move. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the “strong ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are alarming and well-documented,” and asked the DHS if the company’s products were used for any critical infrastructure, such as for voting systems, banks and energy supply.

Although Kaspersky Labs was founded by a KGB-trained entrepreneur, Eugene Kaspersky, and has done work for Russian intelligence, the company has repeatedly denied carrying out espionage on behalf of President Vladimir Putin and his government.

es/cmk (AP, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/us-agencies-banned-from-using-russias-kaspersky-software/a-40500232

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Raoul Wallenberg, “The Angel of Budapest” — Again in The News During Search for Truth

September 13, 2017

AFP

© Wikimedia | A photograph from Raoul Wallenberg’s passport, June 1944.

Text by Louise NORDSTROM Stéphanie TROUILLARD

Latest update : 2017-09-13

More than 72 years after the disappearance of a young Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, his family is going to court to challenge Russia’s claims of how World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg ended his days.

The first hearing in the case is set to take place at Moscow’s Meshchansky court on September 18 and marks a major milestone in relatives and historians’ decades-long quest to unlock the mystery surrounding Wallenberg’s final days.

Between July and December 1944, Wallenberg risked his life on an almost daily basis by using his diplomatic status as Sweden’s special envoy to Budapest to issue travel documents and set up safe houses to protect the city’s persecuted Jews. Survivors and people in the young Swede’s immediate entourage have often hailed Wallenberg for his bravery, recounting, for example, how he once climbed onto the roof of an Auschwitz-bound train, handing out Swedish travel passes to the desperate hands reaching out from the windows and doors of the train – all the while dodging German bullets.

Wallenberg is also credited with dissuading a German officer from ordering a massacre in the Hungarian capital’s ghetto, which housed an estimated 70,000 people at the time.

 100,000 SOULS: THE LEGACY OF RAOUL WALLENBERG

Wallenberg, who was born into one of Sweden’s wealthiest and most influential families and had nothing to gain from his courageous acts, quickly became known as “the angel of Budapest”.

But as the war was winding down in January 1945, the 32-year-old diplomat was suddenly arrested by the Soviet Red Army along with his driver on the outskirts of the Hungarian capital and was never seen in public again.

Closed archives, censored documents

The reasons for Wallenberg’s detention have never been fully explained. Russian versions of his presumed death have been widely disputed due to the lack of hard evidence.

“We have serious doubts about the official Russian version concerning Raoul’s death,” Wallenberg’s niece Marie Dupuy told FRANCE 24 in an email, explaining why the family is suing the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, in a bid to force it to open up its archives. The archives, which house files dating from the FSB’s Soviet-era predecessor, the KGB, are believed to contain key documents related to the Wallenberg case.

“It’s become more and more obvious that there are important documents in the Russian archives,” Dupuy said.

RAOUL WALLENBERG: THE MAN WHO SAVED HUNGARY

For decades, researchers and Wallenberg family members have tried to get access to the files but documents have either been heavily censored before being handed over or not been made available at all. Although the Russian archives were opened for a brief period in the beginning of the 1990s, they were re-classified following the discovery of a ground-breaking document that showed Wallenberg had been transferred from one prison to another – confirming researchers’ convictions that there are plenty more Wallenberg files in those archives.

Prisoner No. 7

According to an official Soviet statement in 1957, Wallenberg died of a heart attack – aged just 34 – in Moscow’s Lubyanka prison on July 17, 1947. But in more recent years, former KGB officials have come forward and stated that Wallenberg was actually executed on that day. Unverified eyewitness accounts and Russian prison documents referring to a certain “Prisoner No. 7”, however, strongly indicate that this prisoner was in fact Wallenberg – and that the prisoner was still alive a full six days after the Russians claim the Swede had died. Perhaps even longer.

“For one, the chance that a generally very healthy, 34-year-old man would succumb to a sudden heart attack is exceedingly low. Secondly, Russian officials have essentially acknowledged that the alleged cause of Wallenberg’s death was almost certainly an invented version of events,” Wallenberg expert Susanne Berger, who has researched the case since the 1990s, told FRANCE 24.

“Contrary to official claims, progress in the case is possible – relevant documentation does exist,” she said. Berger is a member of The Raoul Wallenberg Research Initiative (RWI-70), the working group that filed the litigation along with Wallenberg’s family earlier this year.

“Both foreign and Russian researchers continue to work in Russia under very difficult circumstances,” Berger said.

A FRANCE 24 request for comment from the Russian authorities on the accusations they face in court went unanswered.

Motives remain to hide truth

Despite more than 70 years having passed since Wallenberg’s disappearance, Berger said there are several reasons for why Moscow might still feel compelled to keep the truth about Wallenberg’s fate under wraps.

“The Kremlin apparently feels that the revelation of the truth about historically sensitive cases like that of Raoul Wallenberg […] runs counter to its current policy of promoting only ‘useful’ history, meaning the presentation of historical events in ways that serve to reinforce President [Vladimir] Putin’s idea of a strong, powerful Russia,” she said.

“The Putin government has generally been very reluctant to reveal any information about crimes committed by the former Soviet security service [KGB], whose successor organisations and institutions remain very influential in Russian society today,” she said.

Wallenberg’s niece said that neither she, nor her family, will give up in the fight for the truth.

“I’m doing this for my grandparents and for my father, who dedicated more than 70 years to this fight, without financial aid and without the minimum help from officials. Raoul has become a symbol known the world over [for his bravery], but few things have ever been done for him.”

“I’m certain that the truth will come to light one day.”

http://www.france24.com/en/20170913-russia-world-war-ii-family-challenges-disputed-fate-swedish-wwii-hero-raoul-wallenberg-cour

Sputnik Gloats: So “Russian Hackers” Were CIA All Along?

March 8, 2017
15:27 08.03.2017(updated 17:30 08.03.2017) Get short URL
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‘Vault 7’: WikiLeaks Exposes CIA’s Global Covert Hacking Program in Largest Ever Leak (11)
WikiLeaks has published part one of Vault 7 – a massive trove of documents on the CIA. As expected, the leaks’ contents, including new details on the intelligence agency’s shocking capabilities, and important revelations about the so-called ‘Russian hack’, have riled up social media. Sputnik has collected some of the most interesting reactions.

The first part of the leak, dubbed by WikiLeaks as “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency,” comprises over 8,700 documents and files, and reveals the scale and scope of the CIA’s global hacking and tracking program.

The leak reveals that the agency has developed the means to penetrate most prominent anti-virus programs, that it has apps to turn smart televisions into recording devices, and that it has been ‘looking into’ ways to hijack computer systems in modern cars to carry out untraceable assassinations.Perhaps more than anything, social media users were freaked out by the agency’s seemingly Orwellian technical capabilities. Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower, explained just how big a deal it was that the CIA was using consumer electronics to target people.

Turning to Vault 7’s political implications, Twitter users pointed out that the revelations made in the leaks about the CIA’s capabilities in Russia make the Obama administration’s evidence-free ‘Russian election hack’ claims seem even more hypocritical.

Others still pointed to a very important detail about the CIA’s capabilities and efforts to misdirect attribution via phony digital fingerprints, accusing others (hint: Russia) of doing what they themselves may have done. Popular comments on this point were chock-full of sarcasm and memes.

Other users also noted that it was impressive, and scary, just how far the CIA had moved ahead of their Cold War-era opponents, the East German Stasi and the Soviet KGB. Those agencies were known for being fearsome and effective, but their technical capabilities were extremely primitive, and the butt of numerous jokes. The CIA, users said, is shaping up to look more and more like these agencies all the time, but with technology that’s far more advanced.

Bizarrely, in spite of these revelations, some Twitter users still rushed to defend the dominant Democratic Party and US mainstream media narrative, claiming that the WikiLeaks CIA leak was “another distraction from Trump’s ties with Russia” and that the revelations were all a ruse by “KGB Putin,” who “wants to destroy our CIA.”

Others still accused President Trump, who has yet to comment on the leaks, of being a “russian asset” (sic) for staying silent.

What do Trump’s opponents expect him to say? That the WikiLeaks CIA leak again confirms the ridiculousness of the hysterical ‘Siberian candidate’ campaign against him? Or that the surveillance behemoth built up under his predecessor has become more powerful than anyone could have possibly imagined?

As WikiLeaks continues its work, and to reveal more and more classified information, it will be sure to result in more reaction, and debate, about the inner workings of powerful and secretive government institutions, shattering many myths and illusions people may have about their governments and politicians.

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201703081051372136-cia-wikileaks-dump-twitter-reaction/

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Trump’s foreign policy looks a lot like Putin’s — Beware Your First Impressions

November 11, 2016

Reuters

By Andrew Osborn | MOSCOW

The Kremlin said on Thursday U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy approach was “phenomenally close” to that of President Vladimir Putin, giving Russia hope that tattered U.S.-Russia relations could gradually be improved.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking in New York, said he saw incredible similarities between the two men’s foreign policy ideas, and this meant there was a solid basis to start a meaningful dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

Peskov, in the United States for a chess tournament, said he was struck by how similar parts of Trump’s victory speech were to a speech Putin gave in southern Russia last month.

Both men said they would put their own country’s national interests first, but that they would be ready to develop ties with other nations, depending on how ready other countries were to deepen relations themselves.

“They (Putin and Trump) set out the same main foreign policy principles and that is incredible,” Peskov said in comments broadcast by Russian state TV’s Channel One on Thursday evening.

“It is phenomenal how close they are to one another when it comes to their conceptual approach to foreign policy. And that is probably a good basis for our moderate optimism that they will at least be able to start a dialogue to start to clear out the Augean stables in our bilateral relations.”

With Moscow and Washington now at odds over Syria, Ukraine and NATO, Peskov cautioned that it would take a long time before relations could return to a high level, however, because of how far they had been allowed to deteriorate.

“An atmosphere of mutual trust takes years to achieve,” he said. “It’s not possible to just declare that there is an atmosphere of mutual trust, especially after such serious damage was done in the last few years to our relations.”

Peskov told the TASS news agency separately that Putin was ready to be flexible when it came to mending ties which he wanted to improve, but that there was a limit to his flexibility and that he would need to see some U.S. reciprocity.

Peskov spoke after one of Russia’s most senior diplomats told the Interfax news agency earlier on Thursday that the Russian government had been in touch with members of Trump’s political team during the U.S. election campaign and knew most of his entourage.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-putin-trump-idUSKBN1352J9

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Trump Thinks He Can Make Agreemnts With Rusia

By Rob Robberson

In 2001, President George Bush issued a truly astounding appraisal of Vladimir Putin, the former KGB agent who has run Russia since replacing Boris Yeltsin in 1999. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.” Bush got it half right. Putin was absolutely committed to Russia and Russia’s interests. But trustworthy? I think Bush’s own CIA and FBI specialists would have told him to read his intelligence briefs more closely before opening his mouth.

Today’s New York Times has a fascinating story about an elaborate Russian spy ring whose job was to pose as ordinary U.S. residents while gathering intelligence on nuclear weapons, U.S. policy toward Iran, CIA activities and congressional politics among other things. But don’t stop reading there. Comrade J, a 2007 book by former Washington Post reporter Pete Early, tells the fascinating story of Sergei Tretyakov, a former KGB officer who became a top officer in the KGB’s successor agency, the SVR, after the Soviet Union collapsed. I recently read the book and couldn’t believe my eyes. This is a detailed account of activities that Russian intelligence agents conducted in the United States for years after our leaders — mainly Bush and Bill Clinton — sorely mistook the supposedly democratic Russian leadership as our friend.

Clinton guffawed and slapped Yeltsin on the back during one famous, drunken episode on stage. Bush praised Yeltsin as a straight shooter. While we diverted our attention and intelligence resources to the war on terrorism after 9/11, Russian agents enjoyed a field day in this country. All the while, the Russians were directing serious covert operations in the United States designed to undermine our foreign policy, steal our secrets, rob us blind and tuck billions of dollars in assets away in private bank accounts. Tretyakov says he defected after realizing that his work no longer served the interests of the Russian state but rather was helping corrupt leaders profit at the expense of the people.

Why should we be concerned? Take a look at who owns 10 percent of Facebook (Digital Sky Technologies), and what his connections are to Putin, Alisher Usmanov and the activities described above. Then take a look at all of the mail.ru junk email caught by your spam filter. You can thank Digital Sky Technologies for that.

We think this is just a bunch of free-enterprise-loving Russian democrats enjoying the good life and making some money by spamming and scamming their way into American computers. We should be very concerned. When America faces its next big cybersecurity crisis, we will need to ask ourselves this important question: Why did we invite our enemy into our living room? Why did we hand over access to our nation’s computer networks to a group of thugs who do not even remotely share our interests? Try looking again into Putin’s eyes, President Obama, and ask whether you see what Bush and Clinton saw. Oh, wait, I guess you already did. And the answer is on the front page of today’s New York Times.

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/opinion/2010/06/29/i-looked-the-ma

UK Spy Chief Sees Growing Threat From Russian Cyber-Attacks, Espionage

November 1, 2016

NOV. 1, 2016, 6:51 A.M. EDT

LONDON — Russia is pushing its foreign policy in increasingly aggressive ways including cyber-attacks and espionage, posing a growing threat to Britain and the rest of Europe, the head of Britain’s internal intelligence agency MI5 has said.

Andrew Parker said Russia had been a covert threat for decades, but what differed now from the Cold War era was that there were more and more methods available for it to pursue its anti-Western agenda.

Andrew Parker, Head of Britain’s MI5

“Russia increasingly seems to define itself by opposition to the West and seems to act accordingly,” he told the Guardian newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.

“It is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways, involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today.”

Parker’s interview coincided with a British government announcement on plans to invest an extra 1.9 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) in cyber security defences.

Already strained by the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent murdered in London in 2006, relations between Britain and Russia have further deteriorated over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Parker said the targets of Russia’s covert activities in Britain included military secrets, industrial projects, economic information and government and foreign policy.

On Islamic extremism, Parker said Britain’s security services had foiled 12 attack plots in the past three years, but that the threat would endure for at least a generation.

“That sort of tempo of terrorist plots and attempts is concerning and it’s enduring. Attacks in this country are higher than I have experienced in the rest of my career, and I’ve been working at MI5 for 33 years,” he said.

“The reality is that because of the investment in services like mine, the UK has got good defences. My expectation is that we will find and stop most attempts at terrorism in this country.”

The threat level is officially set at “severe”, meaning an attack is considered highly likely.

Parker broke down the threat into three components: homegrown extremists numbering about 3,000, Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq trying to incite plots against Britain, and online propaganda by IS and other extremist groups.

He added: “This is something we have to understand: it’s here to stay. It is an enduring threat and it’s at least a generational challenge for us to deal with.”

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)

Related:

 (Includes cyberspying, cybertheft)

China and Russia held joint military exercises in the pacific Ocean in 2014 — they executed similar exercises in the South China Sea during September 2016.

While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton began what was called the “U.S. pivot to Asia.” In this photo, Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. on September 5, 2012. Today Hillary Clinton is running to become the next President of the United States and China’s former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has been promoted to the number three leadership within the Chinese Communist Party. China seems to be in control of most of the South China Sea and is pressuring all U.S. allies from Japan to Australia to Singapore to ally themselves with China or face consequences. In 2012, Hillary Clinton was a big advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). After Donald trump said the TPP was not a good deal for American workers, Hillary Clinton became against the TPP.

Those were fun times, weren’t they?  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing Mrs. Clinton’s  intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. Only the Clinton State Department Used the word for “overcharge” instead of the word for ‘reset.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left her post as U.S. Secretary of State with a Russia in military resurgence. The button meant “Reset to the Soviet Union and the Cold War” to Putin’s Moscow government, we suppose. (AP Photo)

A general view shows destruction in Aleppo’s rebel-held Bustan al-Basha neighbourhood on October 6, 2016. Credit George Ourfalian, AFP

 (From Sunday, June 26, 2016)

 

The number of migrants and refugees during the Obama Administration has exceeded the total number from World War II.

Because the threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism was not addressed more forcefully from the start with a concerted campaign to eliminate them,  the number of killed, wounded and displaced has continued to rise. The citizens of Syria and other places gave up waiting for Barack Obama to end the war and, at great peril to their own lives, and the lives of their family members, they became refugees and migrants.  How much longer must the world stay in this state of upheaval?

President Obama now has the distinction of being the longest serving American president during war in the history of the United States. That’s his legacy.

 

 

U.S. Navy sailors taken prisoner by Iran, January 12, 2016

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The Epic Honey Trap: A Classic Case Shows Just How Far Moscow Will Go To Get What It Wants — It really did resemble something out of Dangerous Liaisons by way of The Lower Depths

August 1, 2016

By Michael Weiss

The French ambassador looked like an easy target, but 100 operatives were called on to get him laid, and get him recruited.

“Eh bien, Dejean, on couche.”

With that contemptuous locution, which one might translate very roughly as, “Well, De Jean, one gets laid,” with perhaps the added thought that having made one’s bed, one must lie in it, Charles De Gaulle dismissed his old friend Maurice Dejean from diplomatic service to the Fifth Republic.

It was 1964, six years after the KGB had staged one of its long-running and most elaborate honey traps in Moscow against a Western diplomat. The operation involved over 100 officers and agents of the KGB including, incognito, the head of the Second Chief Directorate, the branch responsible for domestic surveillance and the monitoring or recruitment of foreigners inside the Soviet Union.

Celebrated Russian writers, actresses, painters, and intellectuals, and not a few prostitutes were conscripted for this mission of interlocking plots and subplots, featuring Dejean’s wife and the wives of others. Even Premier Nikita Khrushchev played a role in snaring the high-value mark he himself ordered snared. It was a mission of entrapment that repeatedly risked coming undone and likely would have but for the cosmic surety of French womanizing.

Dejean had served faithfully with De Gaulle in the resistance during World War II, first in Morocco and then London. Although the two had quarreled in the Free French administration after the Allied liberation of Paris, Dejean went on to become political director at the Quai d’Orsay, the French foreign ministry.

From there, his career was largely a series of botched attempts to extricate postwar France from various folds in the Iron Curtain, a somewhat quixotic search for a “third way” between the democratic West and the totalitarian East.

Dejean served as ambassador to Prague and worked assiduously to restore Franco-Czech relations until the 1948 communist coup, which Dejean blamed (rightly) on the Soviets. He headed the French mission in Tokyo in 1950; then he was dispatched to Saigon where he watched the siege of Dien Ben Phu and its fall to communist insurgents in 1954: prelude to an engulfing conflict that would eventually lure the United States into its first disastrous war of choice.

Perhaps it was fitting, then, that Dejean’s next posting would also be his last, in Moscow, a year later. He was 56, eager to establish cultural ties and, as the haughty De Gaulle put it, not above sleeping around.

In the age of email hacking and cyber insecurity, it is easy to forget the more cunning, intimate, and human side of tradecraft, which is why over the last several months I’ve been taking slow, deep sips from KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, a book published in 1974, at a time when we knew far less than we do now about how the Cold War was being fought in the shadows and street corners and embassies of the world.

The author, John Barron, a Reader’s Digest journalist (and not the “spokesman” Donald Trump used to conjure out of thin air) , spent years accumulating first-hand accounts from Soviet defectors about the nature and style of the special services’ invigilation of the citizenry and of usually unsuspecting foreign visitors to the USSR, or foreign marks abroad.

Barron, who was himself a spook in the 1950s, was so accomplished by the end of his spadework that he frequently testified for the FBI in prominent espionage cases, explaining the patterns of Soviet surveillance and spy-running. The Dejean operation is in many ways the summa of KGB and the subject matter therein.

It all began in 1956, the year of the Hungarian Revolution, at the Moskva Hotel, with KGB Col. Leonid Kunavin instructing one of his subordinates, the dramatist Yuri Krotkov, that Dejean was the target for recruitment, given his closeness to De Gaulle and the likelihood that the latter was on his way to ruling France. “The order comes from the very top,” Kunavin said. “Nikita Sergeyevich [Khrushchev] himself wants him caught.”

The use of Krotkov as the seconded scalp-hunter was as clever as it was customary, given his bona fides in the artistic milieu of Soviet Moscow. Born in Tbilisi, he was the son of a famous Georgian painter who once did a portrait of Lavrenty Beria that Stalin’s last-appointed security chief so admired, he had copies made and hung around the security service’s Lubyanka headquarters—until, of course, Beria was purged by Khrushchev following Stalin’s death.

Even so, paternal accomplishment and connections afforded Krotkov the necessary state protections, as a writer, to advance quickly through the ranks of the nomenklatura. He relied on his friends in the NKVD, as Beria’s spy service was then known, to evict squatters who had taken over his former room in Moscow, prior to the Nazi siege, which had forced him to flee. Krotkov then worked for TASS and Radio Moscow. He became an agent of the KGB in 1946, at the age of 28.

“As a writer, intellectual, and friend of the Boris Pasternak [author of Dr. Zhivago] family, Krotkov was welcomed by foreigners in Moscow. This tall, slender man, with a handsome shock of dark brown hair and an intense, expressive face, could talk suavely in English or Russian about the arts, history, and prominent Soviet personalities. Soon he learned to exploit the hunger of visitors for communication with the Soviet people. All the while, Krotkov was instructed to look for attractive girls whom the KGB could use to tempt foreigners into trouble. He picked them primarily from among actresses he met while writing film scenarios. The KGB offered them various inducements—the promise of better roles, money, clothes, a measure of liberty and gaiety absent from normal Soviet life.”

The girls were called “swallows” and they flew solo or in formation, depending upon the needs of Krotkov and his masters in the special services. Quarters were provided to them for assignations with their foreign marks—these were “swallow’s nests”—which consisted of two adjoining rooms; one for the tryst and one for the KGB’s audio-visual squad to record everything for the inevitable blackmail and Faustian offer.

Upon their arrival in Moscow, in December 1955, Dejean and his wife Marie-Claire had already been put under extensive surveillance. Their apartment at the French embassy was bugged. Their chauffeur was a KGB informant. They didn’t go anywhere or see anyone without the KGB’s knowledge, in accordance with Second Chief Directorate policy.

“We know everything about him there is to know,” Col. Kunavin told Krotkov during their meeting at the Moskva Hotel. A day later, the colonel told Krotkov his role would be to get to know Marie-Claire. “You must gain control of her; make her ours. You must get her in bed.”

Nor were the Dejeans the only mark. The Soviets also wanted to recruit an assistant air attaché at the French embassy, Col. Louis Guibaud, who was also married and whose wife Ginette would also have to play a sexual part in Krotkov’s little cinema vérité production. Moscow’s Frank Sinatra at the time, the actor and singer Misha Orlov, would be the one to seduce Madame Guibaud.

Charles de Gaulle (L), Chief of the French Free Forces, decorates six French officers in London on November 11, 1941 during World War II. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty

Charles de Gaulle (L), Chief of the French Free Forces, decorates six French officers in London on November 11, 1941 during World War II.

“When the time comes, it all will fit together,” Kunavin said. “You’ll see; we have something special in mind. There is one thing in our favor. Dejean really is trying to do his job. He wants to get out among the people—and his wife is trying to help him. He really wants to be friends. Well, we’ll show him how friendly our girls can be.”

Orlov and another KGB operative, Boris Cherkashin, who masqueraded as a Soviet diplomat named Karelin, arranged for a not-so-chance encounter with Madame Dejean at a resort by the Black Sea. She was duly impressed with their company and, perhaps not wanting to squander the opportunity to get to know a national celebrity and fellow foreign service officer, befriended them.

The three kept running into each other again and again at state functions, furnishing the perfect pretext for the eventual introduction of the ambassador’s wife to Krotkov. This happened aboard a police motorboat, repainted and redecorated to resemble a private boat, which, after being stuffed with fine wine and gourmet cuisine, took a picnic cruise along the Khimki Reservoir. Krotkov set to work on Madame Dejean, telling her that a friend of his, an official in the Sports Administration, had lent him the craft that had actually come from the Moscow militia, while Orlov hit on Madame Guibard.

Here the set-piece recounted by Barron really did resemble something out of Dangerous Liaisons by way of The Lower Depths.

Krotkov asked Madame Dejean how she was finding the Soviet Union. Too polite to tell the truth, she answered that she was “delighted” by it as well as the graciousness of her communist hosts. Krotkov then compared Moscow unfavorably to Paris, trying to provoke her into national amour-propre, a challenge she also (diplomatically) declined by refusing to compare the two cities.

Krotkov: “Would you have me believe that you like everything you have seen?”

Madame Dejean: “I am a guest. We did not come here to criticize. We came to help our countries be friends.”

Krotkov: “And I hope you succeed. But we should be honest, and I might as well tell you that there is much in Soviet reality that I detest. As a writer, I would be interested to know if we see the same reality.”

Madame Dejean: “If you insist. One difference between France and the Soviet Union: a conversation over a glass of wine can bring a Frenchman to the verge of revolution, while your people seem willing to tolerate anything. I think it very sad when people lose their capacity to be outraged.”

Krotkov: “I can see that you and I are going to be good friends.”

By the end of the cruise, Madame Dejean had invited the entire retinue to celebrate Bastille Day at the embassy. There was just one wrinkle. Cherkashin had previously been identified by French counterintelligence in Paris as a KGB spy, so he couldn’t attend.

Krotkov and Orlov showed up, however, and finally made the acquaintance of Amb. Dejean, who was also entertaining another Soviet luminary.

“Later in the evening,” Barron writes, “Krotkov watched as Dejean and Khrushchev, the guest of honor, drank champagne and traded jokes, occasionally poking each other in the ribs amid the laughter.”

Khrushchev, who had ordered Dejean’s recruitment, must have found the evening very amusing indeed.

The only Frenchman not susceptible to the KGB’s charms, it seems, was the second target, the assistant air attaché, Col. Guibard, who gave the operatives and plants there to toast French independence a frosty reception. Guibard would require more work, Krotkov and Orlov concluded.

The next cast member to enter the plot was nicknamed “Little Napoleon.” He was Lt. Gen. Oleg Gribanov, at the time the head of the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate. He was infamous—at least internally—for crushing dissent and “counter-revolutionary” activity within the broader USSR. He had won the esteem of his superiors by helping to oversee the destruction of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the year Dejean came to Moscow. So Little Napoleon was enlisted to try to foment treason against La France.

Gribanov was given a “legend,” or back story, that made him an “important official in the Council of Ministers” named Oleg Gorbunov. He was married to a woman named Vera Andreyeva, who was in fact a KGB major. Her introduction to the Dejeans came by way of two more agents: Sergei Mikhalkov, the co-author of the Soviet national anthem, and his wife Natalia Konchalovskaya, a children’s book writer. Vera Andreyeva and Madame Dejean, who had yet to go to bed with Krotkov, became good friends.

The two couples took dinner together at the Grubanov’s supposed home, a spacious apartment in Moscow, which was really a KGB-run residence. They holidayed at a lavishly appointed log cabin in Kurkino-Mashkino, just outside the capital—actually, the dacha of Ivan Serov, the chairman of the KGB. Meanwhile, Andreyeva was tasked with keeping Madame Dejean preoccupied and out of town as often as possible, the easier to fly swallows across her husband’s line of sight.

The first to catch his interest was a French-speaking, curvy divorcee named Lydia Khovanskaya, who was repurposed as a translator and made a point of brushing her hair up against the ambassador’s face at a ballet put on just for the benefit of allowing her to entice him into an affair. A subsequent dinner at the pricy Praga Restaurant brought Lydia back into his attention; and, just in case he wasn’t interested, two more swallows—actresses—were invited along as insurance.

But Dejean was interested, as it turned out. At a later art exhibit, Lydia asked the ambassador for a ride home. Then she asked him up for coffee and to “see how an ordinary Soviet woman lives.” He came down two hours later, according to his KGB chauffeur.

Her mission accomplished, she was instructed by Kunavin to play hard to get. “Gradually build up the relationship,” he told her. “But don’t appear too available for a while.”

It would be a minor victory to let the cage descend upon Dejean when he was still just an ambassador to Moscow. The goal was to wait until he climbed the ladder from diplomat to cabinet official or national security adviser to De Gaulle, now coming into focus, in 1958, as the likely next prime minister or, indeed, president. Dejean’s recall to Paris now appeared inevitable.

Act II was an unexpected rearrangement of the dramatis personae.

Lydia had succeeded but had been miscast, according to Kunavin, because she only had an ex-husband—one well known in Paris—and this operation, to be fully realized, required an active spouse who could barge in on the ambassador and his swallow.

Lydia fashioned an excuse: She was leaving Moscow to shoot a film on location and wouldn’t return for some time. Her replacement was already known to Dejean; one of the beautiful young ingénues brought to the Praga Restaurant as backup.

Larissa Kronberg-Sobolevskaya was an unruly and flamboyant mess, overly fond of the bottle and inclined to take her clothes off without official permission. She had agreed to go along with Moscow Centre’s designs on Dejean in exchange for a permit to acquire a room in the city.

Maurice Dejean, The Epic Honey Trap: A Classic Case Shows Just How Far Moscow Will Go

Getty

French diplomat Maurice DeJean entering the Soviet Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The legend: Her husband, “Misha,” was a geologist away on assignment in Siberia. He was insanely jealous and given to fits of violence. No matter. At a lunch fixed at a former KGB colonel’s house, Dejean asked Lora to take him back to her apartment (another KGB spot). So she phoned Krotkov in a panic.

“Yuri, what should I do with him?”

“That’s a ridiculous question.”

“I’m serious. Oleg Mikhailovich [Gribanov] warned me not to do anything without permission. Nobody told me I could make a date today. The proposition just popped up at lunch, and I took advantage of it.”

“Very well, we’ll call from the apartment.”

Krotkov couldn’t find Gribanov to take orders, so he told Lora to go ahead and take Dejean to bed. The subsequent affair was even steamier than the one with Lydia, possibly because Lora went off script so much that she threatened to spoil the entire operation.

It happened during another picnic.

Dejean spent the entire meal lusting after Lora, while Krotkov watched the clock, given that the ambassador was due back at her “apartment” at 5 o’clock in order for Misha, a hulking Tatar employee of the KGB, and his “friend”—Kunavin himself, in disguise—to unexpectedly walk in on them.

Gribanov’s instructions to Misha, Kunavin and Lora: “I want you to beat the hell out of him,” meaning Dejean. “Really hurt him. Terrify him. But I warn you, if you leave one mark on his face, I’ll put you both in jail. And, Lora, the same goes for you if he is not in your apartment by five o’clock. This must go exactly according to schedule.”

Lora had other ideas. While driving back to Moscow, she ordered the car stopped and got out to swim in a nearby lake. Years later, in his memoir, Krotkov would recall frantically running up to Lora, now taking off her clothes as she splashed around, and hissing at her to get back into the damned car:

“She laughed in response and did whatever she pleased. (We made sure the ambassador didn’t hear us arguing, of course.) O, great is the power of woman! How right Lora was in everything, listening to her intuition and acting in accordance with some sixth sense. I was forced to follow her into the lake…. And so right in front of the ambassador’s eyes, she began undressing and climbing from the water in just her slip, which immediately conformed to her body, and when she came out of the water, she looked not just naked, but naked twice over. She came out of the water several times and walked around on the shore look like this. Poor Maurice!”

When Dejean and Lora finally made it back to the apartment, a telegram had been placed there, ostensibly from Misha saying that he’d be back from Siberia the next day. So Dejean and Lora undressed, this time together.

The code word for Misha’s abrupt entry was “Kiev” and as soon as Lora spoke it, the thuggish Tatar and Kunavin sprang into action, beating Dejean about the body and also smacking Lora around for theatrical effect. She screamed that the man they were on the verge of killing was the French ambassador, so Misha and Kunavin pretended to think it over. Misha decided that he’d instead call the police and Dejean would find himself in disgrace and out of a job in the embassy.

Dejean drove home in agony and terror.

In the apartment next door to Lora’s, the champagne glasses were clinking, as the actress-swallow still strutted around naked, taking her bows and chiding Misha and Kunavin for hitting her too hard. She’d earned her room with distinction.

Later, Kunavin received the Order of the Red Star, according to Barron. Krotkov was feted at an expensive feast at the Aragvi Restaurant. One KGB general referred to what had just transpired as “one of the most brilliant” operations “ever consummated by the organs of State Security.” He personally handed Krotkov a gold Doxa watch.

The same day he was beaten up, Dejean attended a dinner engagement black-and-blue under his black tie.

Gribanov/Gorbunov was at the dinner and, seeing a familiar face and someone plausibly in the Soviet Council of Ministers, Dejean approached him and confided all. Gribanov, ever the wise counselor, told him that if Misha sang, “he could make quite a scandal” given that Soviet law was on the jilted husband’s side in such circumstances.

Gribanov offered to try and help but made no promises to Dejean, being suitably downcast about the chances of plucking the Frenchman from his own misfortune. Days later, he delivered. Gribanov said that he’d convinced Misha to keep quiet “in the interests of Soviet-French relations.” The implicit understanding was that in future Dejean might have to return the favor.

But De Gaulle’s ascent had not yet led to the ambassador’s. So the KGB kept Dejean in its good graces; it even arranged to have Lydia return from her movie to take up with him again, all the while feeding every utterance and move by the incorrigible diplomat back to Moscow Centre.

For his part, Dejean relayed whatever Gribanov and his new secret-sharers intended for him to relay back to Paris, whether it be truthful or false.

Everything, in other words, had gone off beautifully, save for just one thing.

The assistant air attaché, Col. Louis Guibard, finally succumbed after a series of swallows had flitted past him and one proved irresistible. The KGB wasn’t as artful in entrapment this time, however. Plainclothes Chekists presented Guibard with photographic evidence of his indiscretion and told him he had two choices: either work for Moscow or be exposed. He opted for a third choice: suicide.

In death, he didn’t confess to what he had done, making it easier for the KGB to invent a story that he shot himself out of severe depression. But to one man, Krotkov, Guibard’s demise did not appear to be self-inflicted at all.

It was murder and it haunted the Georgian dramatist for years afterward and there was only one course of action he could conceive of to exorcise his demons.

While touring London with a delegation of Soviet writers and artists in 1963, Krotkov defected and explained what Barron calls one of the KGB’s “most massive entrapment operations since World War II.”

The British were shocked, but not nearly so much as their French counterparts. The counterintelligence official stationed at the French embassy in London flew back to Paris the same day he was briefed by MI6 about Krotkov’s tale. De Gaulle ordered an investigation and had Dejean recalled for interrogation.

The French concluded that everything Krotkov had said was true, but could not find evidence that Dejean had yet betrayed his country—he was still being cultivated at the time of the Soviet playwright’s defection, and had apparently not given up any state information. Nor did he know that Gribanov/Grubanov was a spy.

The entire plot had been uncovered just in time, before De Gaulle had had reason or chance to promote his old ally in the resistance to a more sensitive portfolio in the French government. When the pouty moralist De Gaulle pronounced his famous animadversion, he allegedly refused to shake Dejean’s hand in dismissing him.

Her Majesty’s Secret Service, meanwhile, faced its own dilemma: Should it out Krotkov’s story to humiliate the Russians, or would doing so only scandalize and antagonize the French, then still dyspeptic over Churchill’s policies toward Paris during the war, as the Soviets well appreciated and, indeed, tried to exacerbate. In the end, MI6 convinced Krotkov to keep his mouth shut, at least temporarily.

Krotkov came to the United States in 1969 to testify before the Senate about the Dejean case, by then no longer a secret. He decided to expatriate to these shores and write novels. He died, as it happens, the same year that his erstwhile victim Dejean did, in 1982.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/30/the-epic-honey-trap-a-classic-case-shows-just-how-far-moscow-will-go.html?source=TDB&via=FB_Page

“Panama Papers” Show Putin Pal Sergei Roldugin Involved in Amassing Huge Wealth

April 4, 2016

AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) – A virtuoso concert cellist who calls President Vladimir Putin a “brother”, Sergei Roldugin has flown under the radar while other close friends of the Russia leader openly amassed vast fortunes.But now the “Panama Papers” leaks have put the godfather to Putin’s eldest daughter at the head of an offshore empire worth more than $2 billion and sparked fresh speculation on the Russian leader’s personal wealth.

Vladimir Putin

Documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, analysed by Russian journalists, offer a glimpse into a web of obscure deals between Russian state companies and offshore firms owned by Roldugin that made “tens of millions of rubles per day” over the decade between 2006 and 2015.

The firms, just one of which, Sandalwood Continental, funnelled a total of $2 billion, were managed by individuals linked with Bank Rossiya, according to Novaya Gazeta, whose reporters are part of an international group of journalists poring through the 11.5 million leaked documents.

The companies clinched cheap loans and appeared to make money out of thin air by signing deals with state firms and pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation when the deals were broken off.

Among the investments made by the firms linked to Roldugin were into yachts and resorts in Russia. One ski resort was reported as the location of the wedding of Putin’s youngest daughter Yekaterina.

– ‘Like a brother’ –

Roldugin

The secretive web of Roldugin’s assets appears to be just the latest evidence of how an elite close to Putin has amassed huge fortunes through favourable deals during his time in power.

From his former judo sparring partners to ex-KGB comrades, close associates of the strongman leader have become billionaires by winning state contracts in key energy and infrastructure sectors.

Beyond his official salary, the extent of Putin’s personal wealth has never been revealed, but allegations are rife that he essentially controls the money his friends have amassed.

The United States and European Union have slapped sanctions over Ukraine against close Putin associates, including Bank Rossiya, which the US Treasury identified in March 2014 as a “personal bank” for the Kremlin elite.

Up until now, Roldugin, 64, has appeared nowhere on these lists, although he is a close confidant of the Russian leader.

In the book “First Person”, a collection of interviews published in March 2000, when most of the world had little idea of who Putin was, Roldugin takes centre stage as the Russian president’s intimate friend.

A native of Putin’s hometown Leningrad — now Saint Petersburg — he met the future Russian leader in 1977 and is the godfather of his oldest daughter Maria.

“We were not apart after that,” the musician said in one of the interviews for the book. “He is like a brother to me.”

While Putin headed into the KGB secret service, Roldugin turned to arts and rose to become a respected conductor and cellist working in Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky theatre who last year judged the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition.

A source in the cellist’s circle told Novaya Gazeta that Putin picked a modest man “he could trust without any doubt” for the job of guarding his fortune, comparing him with Prince Myshkin, the kind and simple “Idiot” protagonist of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel.

– No Russia fallout –

“Putin’s idea was to store his personal stolen cash in the most unexpected of places, with the most unexpected of individuals,” wrote protest leader Alexei Navalny, who has been looking into cronyism and suspicious state-backed deals for years.

He added that the leak from the Panama law firm revealed “not even the tip of the iceberg” of the vast capital amassed by Russia’s elite, but even this fraction is “perfectly enough for impeachment.”

In Russia, however, there is little likelihood that the revelations will rattle Putin’s firm grip on power or dent his reputation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov slammed the leaks as an attack on the Kremlin strongman designed to destabilise Russia.

Asked about Putin’s connections with Roldugin, Peskov confirmed he is still a friend of the president but insisted that “Putin has a lot of friends”.

“From the outside, Russia’s leadership already has an image that is hard to tarnish further,” said Nikolai Petrov, who lectures at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Inside Russia, public opinion is unlikely to swayed, although some of the elite “may be forced to think about themselves and their prospects.”

“The main reaction will be that it’s a special campaign against Russia,” he said.

by Maria Antonova

U.S. Has No Global Strategy

February 2, 2016

The former defense secretary on U.S. gains forfeited in Iraq, America’s rudderless foreign policy and the ‘completely unrealistic’ Donald Trump.

Robert Gates (right) and President Obama. (Associated Press) Photo by: J. Scott Applewhite

New York

Many Americans probably had misgivings when U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq in 2011, but even the most pessimistic must be surprised at how quickly things went south.

Turn on the TV news: Western Iraq, including the Sunni triangle that the U.S. once worked so hard to pacify, is in the hands of a terrorist group, Islamic State, radiating attacks as far as Paris, Jakarta and San Bernardino, Calif.

The battlefield where the U.S. spent most of its blood has become swept up into the chaos of next-door Syria. Refugees from the region are destabilizing Europe. Proxy forces, shadowy groups and national armies representing half a dozen countries are fighting on the ground and in the air. The world seems one incident away from World War III in the vacuum U.S. troops left behind—as when NATO member Turkey recently shot down a Russian jet.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates occasionally meets veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars in his travels. What their effort bought seldom comes up. “We don’t really talk about where we are today,” he says. “You have to assume it’s very painful for a Marine who lost a buddy in Fallujah to see an outfit like ISIS in charge of Fallujah again. Was the sacrifice worth it?”

Mr. Gates, along with President George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus, was a prosecutor of the troop surge, a decision unpopular even in the Pentagon to double down on the Iraq war in 2006. His 2014 memoir, “Duty,” which a New York Times reviewer called “one of the best Washington memoirs ever,” makes clear that the suffering of U.S. troops weighed more and more heavily on him as he served under President Bush and then re-upped under President Obama.

Today, if the mess in Iraq comes up, he tells those who served there, “You accomplished your mission. It was the Iraqis that squandered our victory.”

But Mr. Gates also believes the outcome could have been different if the U.S. had kept troops in place. Islamic State wouldn’t have spread its influence across the border from Syria. More important than firepower, he says, was having a four-star representative of the U.S. military present who could “bring Sunni and Kurdish and Shia leaders together, make them talk to each other. When that process disappeared, all the external brakes on Maliki”—Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Mr. Gates blames for the unraveling—“disappeared.”

In 2008 the Bush administration gritted its teeth and reached a Status of Forces Agreement with Mr. Maliki, keeping U.S. troops in place through 2011. Whether a second agreement was in the cards we may never know. “It was clear from the Bush experience that it was going to take the deep involvement of the president, really working the phones and twisting arms. And my impression is that that didn’t happen.”

Mr. Gates, 72, is making the rounds on behalf of his new book, “A Passion for Leadership,” drawing on his experience reforming large institutions, including the CIA under the first President Bush, the Pentagon and, his favorite job, as president of Texas A&M University from 2002-06.

As we settle at a table at the bar in midtown Manhattan’s London hotel, Mr. Gates, the freshly minted author of a management book, appears less than impressed with the greatest management book of all time (by its author’s own estimate), “The Art of the Deal.”

Donald Trump “brings the same skill set to leadership in the public sector that I would bring to the New York real-estate market,” he says. “The skills don’t transfer. When he talks about making other countries do things, it’s just completely unrealistic.”

Mr. Gates says he likes some of this year’s candidates, but the ones he likes aren’t getting traction. Both parties could learn from Ronald Reagan. “The country was in real trouble in 1980. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. Interest rates were in the high teens. Inflation was in the teens. But Reagan ran on a campaign of optimism—better days are coming.”

The Journal’s own reviewer said Mr. Gates’s book is one all the candidates should read. Mr. Gates himself says, “People are fed up with their daily encounters with bureaucracies. It’s just one hassle after another. The candidate who can say ‘we can fix it’ would be tapping into another deep vein of frustration.”

His book is full of cogent advice and war stories, most testifying to one of life’s less-advertised facts: The higher you go, the more power is about persuading, cajoling and stroking “people you don’t like.” Mr. Gates’s minimal high regard for Congress is evident, as it was in his earlier book, which recorded frequent revulsion at Congress’s partisan pettiness while American troops were dying in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His own upbringing in 1950s Kansas was “idyllic,” he says. His early life revolved around family, church, school and the Boy Scouts of America (an organization, incidentally, he now heads). He eventually became a grad student, specializing in Russian and Soviet history. He aimed to teach but on a lark signed up for a CIA interview. “I was amazed when they offered me a job.”

The offer was a chancy one. The agency couldn’t dispense draft deferments, but it had an arrangement with the U.S. Air Force: If he survived officer-candidate school and obtained his commission, he would eventually be seconded to the CIA. “If you failed out, you went straight to Vietnam.”

Mr. Gates’s mandatory Air Force stint took him to the “Palm Beach of missile bases,” a Minuteman facility 60 miles from the attractions of Kansas City. Responsibility came quickly, he jokes, because he was the only one who could “pronounce the names of our targets.” Later, as a young CIA analyst, he would earn a Ph.D. in his off-hours, a degree that came in handy exactly once in his career. “I think it helped tip the balance” when Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, chose him to work in the White House.

Mr. Gates has served under eight presidents. He was a protégé of both Mr. Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. Foreign-policy types would label him a “realist.”

He doesn’t believe the U.S. can solve the world’s problems, but it had better be ready to take the lead in managing them. He laments that, after the first Iraq war in 1991, the Iraqi army didn’t use the opportunity to overthrow Saddam: Instead Shiites and Kurds staged a revolt that the U.S. was not going to assist.

In supporting the second Iraq war, he gave a speech saying that if 100,000 U.S. troops were still in place after six months “we’ve made a disastrous mistake.”

Unbidden, he mentions today that, along with the entire Obama national-security team, he opposed the president’s insistence that Hosni Mubarak of Egypt step down. The White House was also unwise, he adds, to publicly insist that Bashar Assad must go after the Syrian uprising. “I don’t think presidents should commit to things that they have no idea how to make happen,” he says.

“The administration got caught up in the Arab Spring. They misread it pretty badly. There were no institutions to support the kind of reform efforts that the street demonstrators were calling for in the overthrow of these authoritarian governments.” Worse, it sent a message to friendly regimes facing potential instability: “If you have demonstrations in your capital, the U.S. will throw you under the bus. So it disconcerted the Saudis and all our Arab allies.”

Mr. Gates offers a mixed assessment of the Iran nuclear deal, but his biggest complaint is its missing corollary—the lack of a strong signal that the U.S. remains committed to Iran’s geopolitical containment. “We cut deals with the Soviets [on nuclear weapons] but at the same time pursued very aggressive policies” to counter Soviet meddling around the world. “I don’t know why we didn’t do the same things with Iran.” The result, he says, is that allies like the Saudis and Israelis now fear the U.S. is deliberately acquiescing in Iran’s emergence as the new hegemon in the region.

Mr. Gates’s up-close association with nuclear weapons early in his career, and his long professional association with the intelligence community, have not left him in any doubt about the value of either. The presence of Iran, North Korea and Vladimir Putin on the world stage shows why nuclear deterrence remains essential to keeping Americans safe.

Covert capability has proved its worth too, he says. American presidents need to understand that the capability must be maintained so the president is not “just throwing the dice” the next time a hostage rescue is called for. As to the controversial eavesdropping capabilities of the National Security Agency, he says with a laugh, “Google and Amazon know a hell of a lot more about you than NSA does, because they actually care.”

Where he faults the intelligence agencies is their record in failing to anticipate events. “The intelligence community is no better at predicting the future than a crystal ball. During the Cold War, human spies played a big, constructive role in getting us information on enemy weapons systems still in development. Where human spies provide very little help, historically, is on what the other fellow’s intentions are. Through the whole Cold War, we never had a source inside the Kremlin who could tell us what was going on inside Politburo meetings. I don’t think the Soviets had anything comparable on our side.”

Nowadays Russian President Putin, himself a former KGB operative, never tires of claiming that the U.S. is the fount of global disorder—as if Saddam’s 19-year career of making war on his neighbors and his own people was “stability,” as if the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt, Syria and Libya were stimulated by Jen Psaki’s State Department press briefings.

Mr. Gates says the real problem with U.S. policy has been the absence of any clear strategy like the one that guided the U.S. in the Cold War. “We all implicitly accepted [George] Kennan’s view that if we contained the Soviets long enough, their internal contradictions would finally lead to their collapse, even if nobody had any idea when.

“If you accept the premise that we face a generation-long period of turbulence and violence in the Middle East, the lack of an overarching strategy for how you react to a region in flames is a problem. Are there fires we should just let burn out? Who are our friends? Who should we support?”

The answers might not be the right thing to tell a Marine mourning a buddy lost in Fallujah. But if Mr. Gates’s time in the hot seat should have taught us anything, it’s that we need better answers to these questions.

Mr. Jenkins writes the Journal’s Business World column.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-u-s-has-no-global-strategy-1454108567

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Soviet lessons for Chinese purges

August 17, 2015

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By Minxin Pei 斐敏欣
Taipei Times

On Aug. 1, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) celebrated its 88th anniversary. However, the country’s 2.3 million soldiers had little to cheer about.

On the eve of the anniversary, the PLA’s former top general, Guo Boxiong (郭伯雄), was unceremoniously booted out of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and handed over to military prosecutors to face corruption charges, including allegations that he took bribes from fellow PLA officers in exchange for promotions. Guo might not be the last PLA officer to face such charges.

As Central Military Commission vice-chairman, Guo was in charge of the military’s day-to-day affairs from 2002 to 2012. His arrest followed the arrest in June last year of General Xu Caihou (徐才厚), who served on the commission from 2007 to 2012.

Guo and Xu are not the only senior officers to have fallen since their commander-in-chief, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), launched his war on corruption at the end of 2012. Based on official data, 39 generals — including Guo’s son, Rear Admiral Guo Zhenggang (郭正鋼) — have already been arrested. And if there is merit to the allegations that a large number of generals bribed Guo and Xu for their promotions, it is reasonable to assume that the most wide-ranging purge of senior PLA officers since China’s Cultural Revolution is set to continue.

That is precisely the message Xi sent to the military in a recent speech to the 16th army group, for which Xu served as political commissar in the early 1990s. After vowing to eradicate Xu’s influence, “ideologically, politically, and also in terms of organization and work style,” Xi said that disobedience to the party leadership would not be tolerated.

The army must “resolutely conform to orders from the CCP’s Central Committee and the Central Military Commission,” Xi said.

Anyone who has been watching Xi over the past two-and-a-half years could discern his goal of consolidating CCP rule in China by strengthening his personal authority, reinvigorating domestic repression and pursuing an assertive foreign policy. To achieve this goal, Xi needs to secure the PLA’s unimpeachable loyalty — and that requires the purge of unreliable or corrupt officers.

On a personal level, the PLA’s loyalty is vital to make up for Xi’s lack of an institutional power base. By contrast, when former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) became CCP general secretary following the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, he was able to rely on capable and loyal officials in Shanghai to run the bureaucracy; he then expanded his support base by co-opting other factions in the 1990s. Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), hailed from the Communist Youth League, which has alumni at all levels of the party-state.

While Xi works to build a strong power base by gradually appointing his supporters to key positions, he needs the PLA to defend his political authority in the interim. The most efficient way for Xi to secure the PLA’s loyalty is to replace its top generals — most of whom were promoted by previous presidents — with his own supporters.

It seems that the lesson from the fall of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1964 was not lost on Xi. Khrushchev was ousted in a palace coup sponsored by the KGB and blessed by the military. Had the Red Army been completely loyal to Khrushchev, the conspirators would not have succeeded.

However, Xi’s plans extend beyond his personal authority — and so do the lessons of the Soviet Union. Shortly after Xi’s assumption of power, he lamented to local officials in Guangdong, China, that when the Soviet Union collapsed, the elite had lost the will to fight. At a time when the CCP’s political monopoly is increasingly being challenged, Xi is not expected to make that mistake.

To avoid the same fate as the Soviet Union, Xi and his colleagues have reimposed ideological control and curtailed civil liberties. While the CCP has so far employed only the police and Internet censors (and now wants to embed secret policemen within all Internet companies), its long-term survival is inconceivable without a loyal PLA, especially if protests like those in Tiananmen Square in 1989 erupt again.

The final pillar of Xi’s strategy for solidifying the CCP’s authority is to replace former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) cautious foreign policy with a more muscular one. Should China have to back its aggressive tactics in, say, the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait with force, its military must not be led by venal and perfidious generals.

If Xi’s efforts to root out corruption in the PLA can accomplish these three objectives, one must grudgingly admit that it is a stroke of political genius. However, to ensure that China is in the strongest possible position, Xi must learn one more lesson from the Soviets: Purges can easily lead to excesses. Former Soviet leader Josef Stalin annihilated the Red Army’s officer corps on the eve of Nazi Germany’s invasion. Xi cannot afford to make the same mistake.

Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Project Syndicate

Putin tells Russian secret services to become the masters of the ‘modern challenges’

December 20, 2014

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, December 18, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Saturday for improvement of Moscow’s secret services to tackle “modern challenges and threats” amid his country’s standoff with the West over the Ukrainian crisis.

The call came in a letter by Putin, himself a former KGB agent, to veterans and current operatives of Russia’s security services on the day Moscow traditionally honors them.

“I stress that modern challenges and threats and emergence of new destabilizing factors require an increase in the efficiency of the whole system of domestic special services,” Putin said, according to the letter released by the Kremlin.

The key tasks for Russia’s secret operatives are to fight international terrorism and “any attempts of foreign special services to deal a blow to Russia (and) her political and economic interests,” he said.

The European Union and the United States have imposed wide-ranging economic sanctions and visa bans against Russian individuals and companies over Moscow’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in March.

The Russian economy is expected to sink into recession next year because of the sanctions and the falling price of oil, the country’s main commodity.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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