Sri Lanka Going Mad Max

Sri Lanka Is “Grinding to a Halt” Amid Fuel Shortage, Inflation & Austerity, Prompting Mass Protests


Calling up Putin for some Fuel Imports was a nice touch and a dark harbinger of things to come for Europe and over populated Asia.


Espionage Files: How Putin Weaponized Wiki-Leaks


Evidence suggests that a Russian intelligence group was the source of the most recent Wikileaks intel dump, which was aimed to influence the U.S. election.

Close your eyes and imagine that a hacking group backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin broke into the email system of a major U.S. political party. The group stole thousands of sensitive messages and then published them through an obliging third party in a way that was strategically timed to influence the United States presidential election. Now open your eyes, because that’s what just happened.

On Friday, Wikileaks published 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. They reveal, among other things,thuggish infighting, a push by a top DNC official to use Bernie Sanders’ religious convictions against him in the South, and attempts to strong-arm media outlets. In other words, they reveal the Washington campaign monster for what it is.

But leave aside the purported content of the Wikileaks data dump (to which numerous other outlets have devoted considerable attention) and consider the source. Considerable evidence shows that the Wikileaks dump was an orchestrated act by the Russian government, working through proxies, to undermine Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.

“This has all the hallmarks of tradecraft. The only rationale to release such data from the Russian bulletproof host was to empower one candidate against another. The Cold War is alive and well,” Tom Kellermann, the CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures told Defense One.

Here’s the timeline: On June 14, cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, under contract with the DNC, announced in a blog post that two separate Russian intelligence groups had gained access to the DNC network. One group, FANCY BEAR or APT 28, gained access in April. The other, COZY BEAR, (also called Cozy Duke and APT 29) first breached the network in the summer of 2015.

Cybersecurity company FireEye first discovered APT 29 in 2014 and was quick to point out a clear Kremlin connection. “We suspect the Russian government sponsors the group because of the organizations it targets and the data it steals. Additionally, APT29 appeared to cease operations on Russian holidays, and their work hours seem to align with the UTC +3 time zone, which contains cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg,” they wrote in their report on the group. Other U.S. officials have said that the group looks like it has sponsorship from the Russian government due in large part to the level of sophistication behind the group’s attacks.

Read the Remainder at Defense One

Modern Crime: “PutinFellas”


 Putin’s Kleptocracy and the Russian Nationalized Mafia

As deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s, Vladimir Putin spent a lot of time with gangsters.

He collaborated with the infamous Tambov and Malyshev organized crime groups to gain control of St. Petersburg’s gambling industry.

He used his office to help launder mafia money and to arrange foreign travel for known mobsters.

And security for the Ozero dacha cooperative he co-founded with some of his former KGB pals was provided by a company run by the Tambov gang, whom Putin also helped secure a monopoly over the city’s fuel distribution network.

Putin was, in fact, an important liaison between the local government and the criminal underworld, Karen Dawisha writes in her highly acclaimed bookPutin’s Kleptocracy.

And when he moved into the Kremlin, Putin put his old mafia contacts to use as key tools of Russian statecraft.

“A significant part of Russian organised crime is organised directly from the offices of the Kremlin,” the International Business Times quoted Ben Emmerson, a prominent British attorney who represents the family of slain Russian defector Aleksandr Litvinenko, as saying.

Likewise, Russian organized crime expert Mark Galeotti noted in a recent lecture at the Hudson Institute that Putin’s Russia is “not so much a mafia state as a state with a nationalized mafia.”

Read the Remainder at Radio Free Europe

Sweet Mother Russia: Putin’s “Gangster Rules”

Location Russia. Green pin on the map.

Looking at some of the recent headlines in the news, you might almost feel as if you stepped back into a surreal time when the Cold War was not over and we lived with the constant threat that a war full of icy rhetoric could become hot with bullets and bombs.

Putin, that lovable New/Old Soviet Man, is telling America to stuff the Monroe Doctrine, which takes a bit of intestinal fortitude to defend anyway, and like it. Apparently Argentina needs some long range bombers and the Russians need some food. With oil prices down, the Russians are a bit cash strapped, so the exchange could be one of simple virtues.

I am not buying it.

Vladimir casually announced that Russia was so terrified of invasion during the Ukrainian crisis that he gave preparation orders for their nuclear weapons. Wait, what? Well that escalated quickly. No foreplay, no short strokes, just straight to nuclear fire and death.

I might have been convinced that the last 26 years between the fall of the Soviet Union and today had not happened.

Firstly, I am a bit tired of the idea that meanies are always out to get the Russians. The last time they were invaded was 1940 and that ended with them on the winning side. Stalin, to those who do not know, was not a nice guy. He killed more Russians than the Germans did.

Somehow the idea of always being invaded is the first thing on the Russian brain, that or cheap vodka, but enough is enough already. Maybe we need to allow them access to the VA Behavioral Health services for their national PTSD?

I understand the idea that Putin and, through his propaganda machine, the Russian people wish to return to the world stage as a strong nation with global importance. They have been on the sidelines working on internal issues and now they want to be seen as a world power again. Great, I get it, but nuclear death threats from jump-street are how wars get started.

The bombers to the Argentineans are an example. The Russians attack the credibility of the British claim to the Falkland Islands, which they have already fought over back in the 80’s, while using the same example to support their own take over in Crimea as if there was some rational connection in value.

In one stroke, Putin ratchets up the tension by attacking the credibility of the British claim while arming their enemies to that claim. But they are willing to threaten the Danes with nuclear weapons as well if the Danish join in the NATO missile defense system.

Gangster rules, I can threaten whoever I want but you cannot threaten me back? Again, time warp back to the 70’s and 80’s.

We cannot gain real traction against the Islamic State because we are also against the Syrian government who happens to be a former Soviet and now Russian proxy. We cannot take action without stirring up the Russians.

Iran presents us with the same problem. Somehow we are the Great Satan while the Russians are bosom buddies. We cannot take serious military steps toward Iran without upsetting the Russians.

The crowning glory in all this is the great peacemaker. That guy that got the Nobel Prize just for getting elected, you know, Obama.

With Obama in the White House, the Russians really have nothing to fear. Obama will not meet with the NATO chief, it might stir up trouble. Obama abandons Ukraine, it might stir up Russia. Abandoning Ukraine seems to be a habit with us, Bush I and II both left Ukraine to languish at the Russian door.

While Realpolitik explains some behavior, Obama has taken it to new heights. Remember his little open mic conversation with the Russians in his first term?

In Yemen, the vaunted White House plan has failed, the government has fallen. Yemen is set to become the next jewel in the Islamic State Caliphate. It is almost as if it was planned to happen that way.

The only pattern I can see from all this is that it will get worse. The Obama administration is incapable of handling the situation. For all his executive actions against his own nation, he is a rules merchant and an academic lawyer. When confronted by something he cannot use his time honored tactics to deal with, he folds.

We are still in Afghanistan; he said we would be out. We are out of Iraq, oh wait, no we are not. There appears to be no principle, ally, or value that he will hesitate to sacrifice so long as he does not have to be held to the results. In all the issues of his presidency, someone else was always at fault.

We are now in the run up for 2016. How do we choose a President out of all the potential candidates? Whoever we pick is going to have to deal with a world in which the Cold War may be back on again or even a bit warmer.

We are fast approaching the point of no return in some areas. If we continue to let Putin get away with his madness and we don’t call him on it now, it is going to be very much harder to force him to back off later. We run the risk of sliding into war because we reach a point where we cannot back away and Putin has gotten so aggressive that he cannot either.

Understand the simple process, it takes more force to stop something that is already in motion than it does to deflect it, or to prevent it from starting at all. Putin is already in motion stopping him is going to get much more dangerous since nothing has been done at this point to make the effort. Sanctions do not hurt him and he, in the Soviet model, could not give a damn about individual lives.

Which is why his justification about the nuclear weapons being possibly needed to defend the Crimea is so ludicrous, Mr. Putin said: “We were ready to do this … (Crimea) is our historical territory. Russian people live there. They were in danger. We cannot abandon them.”

His mentor coined the best phrase ever spoken to describe the Soviet view of the common man:

 “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” –Joseph Stalin

Putin couldn’t give a damn about the Russians in the Crimea. He wanted the Black Sea Ports.  The current SHAPE commander certainly thinks there is potential for Russian aggression. But no one back home seems to be listening to him.  I hope people start listening soon; we need to make sure we have someone who is willing to stand by our friends and allies, if we have any left by 2016.

Read the Original at Havok Journal


Russian Hybrid Warfare and Other Dark Arts


Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, hybrid warfare has become conversational short form in the West for describing Moscow’s sneaky ways of fighting war. If there’s one thing you’ve learned over the past two years about Russia, it’s that it uses hybrid warfare, a dangerous Kremlin innovation the West must learn to grapple with. In two short years, the word has mutated from describing how Moscow was fighting its war in Ukraine to incorporating all the various elements of Russian influence and national power. The term continues to evolve, spawning iterations like “multi-vector hybrid warfare” in Europe. Hybrid warfare has become the Frankenstein of the field of Russia military analysis; it has taken on a life of its own and there is no obvious way to contain it.

In trying to separate hybrid warfare from the classical bins of conventional or irregular war, I prefer to use Frank Hoffman’s definition, “a tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, and criminal behavior in the same time and battlespace to obtain [a group’s] political objectives.” There are other definitions out there, but you will find they are not being applied correctly to analysis of Russian tactics. Unfortunately, what Russian hybrid warfare is, and how it works, varies dramatically depending on what article, report, or PowerPoint brief you are reading. The more we have talked about it, the less we understand it as a useful concept or framework for looking at Russian actions.

What’s wrong with a little hybrid warfare?

If you torture hybrid warfare long enough it will tell you anything, and torture it we have. The term now covers every type of discernible Russian activity, from propaganda to conventional warfare, and most that exists in between. What exactly does Russian hybrid warfare do, and how does it work? The short answer in the Russia-watcher community is everything. The church of Russian hybrid warfare has a broad and influential following these days, but finds few worshippers among experts who study the Russian military. There’s a reason for that: Many don’t believe it exists as described. I’m not the first to point out the problems with applying this lens to Russian tactics , and I have criticized itelsewhere, but in this piece I hope to offer a fresh perspective on why the national security establishment continues to do itself a disservice by thinking about Russia through a hybrid warfare lens.

My purpose here is not to engage in an esoteric disagreement over military terms and definitions. It matters less what we call it if there is a common and useful understanding of the subject. The trouble is that thanks to narratives surrounding hybrid warfare, we lack a shared knowledge of how Russia fights and what happened on the battlefields of Ukraine. Without a common understanding of the facts here, the United States cannot hope to successfully counter or deter Moscow elsewhere. It would be one thing for such notions to dominate the world of punditry, but the references to Russia’s dark hybrid arts permeate the conversation among U.S. policymakers and leading generals alike. I have nothing against hybrid warfare as a concept, but in the case of Russia, it has become more of a handicap than an enabler for our decision-makers and military leaders.

Read the Remainder at War on the Rocks