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Tag: Russia

Hacking the new world order

Thursday, 11 February, 2016 1 Comment

“Hackers used malware to penetrate the defenses of a Russian regional bank and move the ruble-dollar rate more than 15 percent in minutes.” So begins a recent Bloomberg story about a group of Russian hackers who infected Energobank in Kazan with the Corkow Trojan this time last year and placed more than $500 million in orders.

Hacked This is scary stuff, indeed, and hardly a day goes by now without some similar tale of nefarious hacking making the headlines. A lot of what’s going on is simply opportunistic crime being carried out by thieves equipped with keyboards as opposed to knives, but there’s a global dimension as well and this is what Adam Segal, Director of Cyberspace and Digital Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, addresses in his forthcoming book, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age. Snippet:

This new age of spying is more than a national security concern. Since much cyber-espionage targets commercial secrets, it poses a persistent threat to America’s economic strength. Many countries are snooping. The US Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX) names France, Israel, and Russia, among others, as states collecting economic information and technology from American companies. During the 1980s and ’90s, the business class seats on Air France planes were allegedly bugged. While the airline has long denied the allegations, French intelligence officials have been forthright about the strategic importance of industrial espionage. As Pierre Marion, former director of France’s Directorate-General for External Security, said with regard to spying on the US, “In economics, we are competitors, not allies.”

Historians looking for a date on which to pin the start of the Cyber World War might yet settle upon 2009, the year in which the Stuxnet virus was launched into an Iranian nuclear facility. The disclosure of the Sony Pictures hacking scandal in November 2014 is another historical milestone. Both reveal the geopolitical aspect of hacking and its potential impact on security, business and personal data. The Hacked World Order is timely reading and a useful guide to the dangers that lurk along the infobahn.

Note: “Trolls, Hackers and Extremists — The Fight for a Safe and Open Web” is the title of a discussion at the Munich Security Conference this evening.


Occupied: Cold horror

Sunday, 22 November, 2015 0 Comments

Present: Norway supplies 30 percent of the European Union’s natural gas imports and 10 percent of its crude oil imports. Future: The US is no longer a member of NATO, fossil fuel reserves are running low and a new Norwegian Prime Minister has decided that his country will switch from oil and gas to alternative energy options. Faced with this crisis, Brussels turns to Moscow for muscle and thus Okkupert (Occupied) begins.

Conceived by Jo Nesbø, the best-selling Oslo-based writer, Occupied is the most expensive TV series ever produced in Norwegian and it is excellent. The scenery is cold, the colours are cold, the occupiers are cold and the horror is cold. With winter at hand, Occupied forces us to ask ourselves what we would tolerate to stay warm. The dismemberment of Ukraine? By the way, Nesbø had the idea long before Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, but the story reveals the unease that many of Russia’s neighbors feel. It’s cold up north. Occupied is now showing on Arte, the Franco-German TV network.


Helmut Schmidt

Wednesday, 11 November, 2015 1 Comment

The man who died yesterday aged 96, was West Germany’s fifth chancellor, and its most talented and competent post-war leader. Helmut Schmidt faced down the leftist terror of the Baader-Meinhof gang and he stood up to Russian imperial bullying at a time when most Germans favoured appeasment. “Intolerant of fools, he had the common German didactic and omniscient tendencies in full measure, along with frankness,” writes Dan van der Vat in the Guardian. In its obituary, the Telegraph highlights his Anglophilia: “To a modern German chancellor, he once remarked, the two most important newspapers were The New York Times and The Financial Times.” British novelist, Robert Harris, sums up the man’s arrogance and wit in this tweet:

Helmut Schmidt


Robert Conquest RIP

Wednesday, 5 August, 2015 0 Comments

“There was an old bastard named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That old bastard Stalin did ten in.”

Robert Conquest, born 15 July 1917, died 3 August 2015.

“Of his many works on the subject, perhaps the most important was The Great Terror, published in 1968 and detailing the full enormity of what Stalin had done to the Russian people in the 1930s and 1940s. The Mexican writer Octavio Paz paid the most succinct tribute to this book when he said in 1972 that The Great Terror had ‘closed the debate’ about Stalinism.”

That’s a snippet from the Telegraph obituary for the late Robert Conquest, who died yesterday aged 98. In the foreword to The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, Conquest noted: “By the deeds that are recalled here, it was not 20 people per word, but 20 people per letter in this book who were killed.” And this was the ideology that was idealized by the Left?


Georgi Derluguian’s recast of Russia in 2001

Tuesday, 4 August, 2015 0 Comments

“If Putin emerges as even a moderately successful ruler, the likely outcome over the next ten years will be a protectionist, semi-authoritarian, inescapably corrupt but somewhat better-off Russia, helping to police the remnants of an unstable former empire. The West has every reason to look to it for assistance in keeping this part of the world under the lid. Naturally, whatever else endures on either side of the Oxus, it is unlikely to be freedom.”

Prophetic words, indeed, and all the more impressive when one considers that they were written in the late autumn of 2001 by Georgi Derluguian. His “Recasting Russia” appeared in the New Left Review. Here’s another valuable snippet:

“The Russian state faces perhaps uniquely acute dilemmas today, not simply because of its abrupt shrinkage in size, but because its major assets and traditional orientations have been devalued. Capitalism in its globalized mode is antithetical to the mercantilist bureaucratic empires that specialized in maximizing military might and geopolitical throw-weight—the very pursuits in which Russian and Soviet rulers have been enmeshed for centuries.”

Those who where such enthusiastic proponents of the failed “reset” should consider a realistic “recast”.


Russia vetoes UN resolution on MH17 crash tribunal

Wednesday, 29 July, 2015 0 Comments

This just in: Russia has vetoed a United Nations draft resolution seeking to set up an international criminal tribunal into the MH17 air tragedy in Ukraine. With this veto, Russia has now declared itself to be an international thug.

In the bad old days of the Soviet Union there was only one “truth”. Today, in the frightening Putin era, there are several “truths”.

The young Ukrainian journalist Tetiana Matychak is the editor-in-chief of Stopfake.org, which exposes Russian propaganda und lies. But it isn’t an easy task as Moscow doesn’t broadcast one message anymore but several different ones. Now, there are numerous versions of each Kremlin story, and that’s how it was with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Initially, the plane crashed mysteriously. Then, it was shot down by Ukrainian forces, or the Americans, or there was a bomb on board. Readers and viewers end up confused because the latest version of the story calls the previous one into question.

The ultimate Russian goal is clear: There is no truth.


The fog of war

Monday, 15 June, 2015 0 Comments

“Hope!” is the motto of the the Ukraine pavilion at la Biennale di Venezia. And hope is needed when one reads about what’s happening on the front lines of this brutal war being waged by Russia on its neighbour. In the midst of the destruction and despair, photographer Yevgenia Belorusets portrays the miners of Krasnoarmeysk, who live and work within the war zone. They haven’t been paid since October but they carry on, hoping that the nightmare will end.

Ukraine miner

“I suppose I live in a country that has stepped on its own toes. But now it is going through a war. The neighbouring state punishes it for its essence, for its uncertainty, which is so valuable to me. Hope? Ukraine has always had more of it than you would expect. It is rationality lurking around every corner and maybe that will save us once again.” Yevgenia Belorusets


FIFA officials were “Russia’s people”

Friday, 5 June, 2015 0 Comments

The FIFA scandal is breaking news, as they say, so anything published on 29 May looks decidedly old by now. Still, Putin and the FIFA scandal by Kadri Liik for the European Council on Foreign Relations offers useful background and insight on how corruption has become “a constituent pillar of the system” in FIFA/Russia: “If a free press in the West is a means by which societies can control their elites and rulers, then in Russia corruption is the means by which the Kremlin can control the elites as well as societies. It is used in an almost institutionalized manner.”

And this brings us to Blatter and Putin, two sides of a very bent coin. Snippet:

“This system explains why Putin reacted to the FIFA scandal as he did. It is hard to say whether Russia bribed FIFA; however it is evident that an implicit but very clear mutual understanding was established between Russia’s and FIFA’s leadership. So for the purposes of the situation, FIFA officials were ‘Russia’s people,’ and Western authorities had launched an attack on them. For Putin, that means effectively an attack on Russia — an attempt to impose alien rules if not exactly within Russia’s jurisdictional boundaries, then at least in the sphere where rules established by Russia carry the day.”

The FIFA scandal is much bigger than football. It is now about international relations. Putin was unable to save Sepp Blatter and that sends a chilling message to those who want to believe that America no longer carries a big stick. You know all that Kremlin guff that gushes out of the Russia Today sewer? It sounds far less convincing now.


Boris Nemtsov and the tyrant

Sunday, 1 March, 2015 0 Comments

In his final interview, hours before he was shot dead on Friday night, Boris Nemtsov said that he was a patriot, but one who regarded the Russian flag as a “symbol of freedom” from Soviet tyranny. Vladimir Putin has revived that tyranny by creating an atmosphere of hatred, driven by an hysterical propaganda offensive that portrays opponents as traitors. Boris Nemtsov, who “died in the streets”, just outside the Kremlin, is the latest victim of the evil that W. H. Auden so brilliantly depicted during a former age of tyranny. It is a tragedy that Russia is again ruled by such wickedness.

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

The Tyrant


And the Oscar for best foreign-language film…

Sunday, 22 February, 2015 0 Comments

… goes to Leviathan. Well, that’s what we hope. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film exudes contempt for modern Russia. Its story of corruption and cruelty is an indictment of the entire system. A win for Leviathan tonight in Los Angeles will be a black eye for the Putin regime and a victory for creativity. How the characters in the film feel about their country’s perverted history in captured is one of the film’s best scenes: a picnic with some local policemen, lots of bottles of vodka, semi-automatic weapons and an array of Soviet-era portraits — Brezhnev, Lenin, Andropov… the entire gallery of thugs.

Vladimir Medinsky, the Russian Minister of Culture, has called for new guidelines to ban films like Leviathan, which “defile” Russia and her culture.” Leviathan is a glorious defiling; a film that reviles what it loves with grief-stricken rage.


Russian word of the day: maskirovka

Monday, 9 February, 2015 0 Comments

The contours of the European response to Putin’s aggression are emerging and at this stage one can say that the strategy for the Minsk talks seems to be based on a zero-leverage approach. Athens is threatening to block new sanctions against Russia and Berlin to striving to prevent new defence aid reaching Ukraine. Grim.

Moscow, on the other hand, is deploying maskirovka: deception and propaganda. And it is winning on both fronts. Maskirovka is the trademark of Russian warfare and the word, which translates as “something masked,” was made flesh last year in the form of masked unmarked soldiers in green army uniforms carrying Russian military equipment. Those who dreamed of perpetual peace and prosperity in Europe got a rude awakening when the little green men popped up in Crimea and Ukraine. Maskirovka had arrived, and it won’t go away if all that greets it is appeasement. Before sitting down with Putin on Wednesday, Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande should brush up on the central components of maskirovka:

Dezinformatsia: disinformation
Kamufliazh: camouflage
Demonstrativnye manevry: manoeuvres intended to deceive
Skrytie: concealment
Imitatsia: the use of decoys

maskirovka in action