TRUMP MET WITH POROSHENKO, LEADER OF (NOT “THE”) UKRAINE
USA Today reports, “The Trump administration greeted his Ukrainian counterpart at the White House with the announcement of a new set of sanctions on Russia”. The Washington Post however adds, “As President Trump greeted his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, on Tuesday at the White House, he made an unfortunate slip. ‘It’s a great honor to be with President Proshenko of the Ukraine,’ Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, ‘a place that we’ve all been very much involved in.’” They keep doing such a fine job of briefing the orange one because “the” Ukraine is actually enormously insulting; the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was once occupied and part of the Soviet Union whereas Ukraine is an independent and sovereign nation. But if that is the worst that happened, fine. Obama made the same mistake in 2014 just like Obama deported more people than any president before him, but we do not talk about that because the narrative can be indifferent to truth.
FRESH RUSSIAN SANCTIONS
Foreign Policy reports, “The Trump administration slapped additional sanctions on dozens of individuals and companies tied to Russia’s slow-burning proxy war in Ukraine on Tuesday.” Foreign Policy adds, “The sanctions target 38 new individuals and organizations U.S. officials say are responsible for tightening the Kremlin’s grip over eastern Ukraine,” including, “Sergey Nazarov, the deputy chief of Russia’s economic development ministry, who is allegedly involved in bankrolling and supplying Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine; “Wolf” Holding of Security Structures, an organization that provides martial arts and tactical military training to pro-Kremlin fighters in eastern Ukraine and affiliated with an infamous pro-Putin biker gang known as the “Night Wolves”; and IFD Kapital, a multibillion-dollar private equity firm that invested in hotel complexes in Crimea.” Still not enough as long as the Russian puppet squats in the White House, it is however an encouraging sign that he is a mere figurehead entertaining the masses with a reality freak show while power rests elsewhere.
From Foreign Policy.
PRIVATE RUSSIAN SESSIONS GETS PRIVATE COUNSEL FOR RUSSIA PROBE
The AP report, “A Washington lawyer,” Chuck Cooper, “has confirmed that he’s representing Attorney General Jeff Sessions but is not offering any more specifics.” This is interesting because as the Attorney General private Russian Jeff Sessions, who met a few times last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and failed to disclose it, is technically the nation’s most prominent lawyer.
From the AP.
ACTIVE MEASURES WATCH: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
The Hill reports, “Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) threatened to block President Trump’s nominee for deputy secretary of Defense after being unsatisfied with his answers on how to respond to Russian aggression.” The Hill notes, “The hearing for [Patrick] Shanahan, until this month an executive at defense contractor Boeing, has been delayed as he worked to untangle from his financial obligations.” McCain effectively hectored Shanahan until he heard what he wanted which was Shanahan supported “providing lethal weapons to the Ukrainians,” after initially suggesting he had no opinion and needed to study classified assessments he currently does not have access to. Shanahan also waffled on how and whether to counter Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
From The Hill.
BALTIC AIRSPACE ENCOUNTERS
Reuters, citing the not reliable Russian state-run TASS, reports, “A plane carrying Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was buzzed by a NATO F-16 fighter jet as it flew over the Baltic Sea, but was chased away by a Russian military jet”. Shoigu is visiting Kaliningrad, BBC World Service reported within the hour. But before such reports emerged, BBC reports, “A Russian jet flew within 5ft (1.5m) of a US reconnaissance plane’s wing tip over the Baltic Sea on Monday” it was reported yesterday. Perhaps the Shoigu claim is Russia covering its tracks because never trust anything the Kremlin says until they deny it?
FLYNN MAY BE COOPERATING WITH THE FBI
CNN reports, “Democrats believe Flynn could be cooperating with FBI,” noting “He’s been looking for immunity for some time,” in the words of Senate intelligence committee co-chair Senator Mark Warner. CNN adds, “House Democrats have demanded documents from Flynn about the information and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer Monday that Flynn appears to have been responsive.” In the same interview, Whitehouse first raised the prospect that Flynn may be cooperating with the FBI.
SENATE INTEL COMMITTEE SEEKING MORE DOCUMENTS FROM FLYNN
CNN reports, “The leaders of the Senate Russia investigation are probing for more information from former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a process that is ongoing as he provides additional documents in response to their subpoenas.” According to CNN, “Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the investigation, said they planned to discuss more what they were looking for in the second batch of documents they are seeking from Flynn.” “Where there were gaps, we still haven’t gotten that full (production) from them,” Warner said.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
SENATOR CARDIN: STUMBLING INTO TOTAL WAR
Yesterday TRUMPISTAN WATCH carried news items of how we are stumbling into total war in two places, Syria and the Baltic Sea, but today POLITICO Magazine brings us an interview with Senator Ben Cardin and even more potential locales for the next great war to turn from hybrid warm to total conventional war hot. POLITICO Magazine reports, “Syria, North Korea, the South China Sea, Ukraine—Cardin, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sees problems that could get out of hand all over the planet. And he hasn’t seen any kind of a plan or hint of a plan for any of them from an administration that worries him both for its understaffing and for being run by a president he says acts in ways that are ‘very irrational, against U.S. interests and unpredictable.’” Anyone wishing to complain TRUMPISTAN WATCH is “negative” (as opposed to a realist antidote to all the bullshit insta-inspo and meaningless celebrity-backed drivel our culture feeds us) can go knock on Senator Cardin’s door to complain. POLITICO Magazine notes, “He has faith in Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and speaks with them frequently,” and “When Cardin names people who temper his anxiety about Trump’s behavior, he leaves Secretary of State Rex Tillerson off the list.” TRUMPISTAN WATCH will substitute “faith” with confidence in Mattis and McMaster’s ability to conduct successful military operations in numerous theaters if it comes to that and a belief they work for this country not Russia or their coffers, not so of Tillerson.
From POLITICO Magazine.
MEET THE HEAD OF RUSSIA’S SECURITY COUNCIL: NIKOLAI PATRUSHEV
POLITICO has a feature focused on the outsized role the head of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, is set to play in the Balkans because as Mark Galeotti, a Prague-based expert on the Russia and its mafia, notes, “Russia has been increasingly becoming an ‘adhocracy,’ where individuals get tasked with responsibilities that may or may not fit with their formal remit”. Galeotti adds, “Patrushev is definitely one of those people who think Russia is in an existential struggle for its survival.” As far as personal background, “Patrushev joined the Soviet Union’s KGB in 1974 and is believed to have first met Putin — also a former intelligence officer — in the early 1990s. After 10 years as head of the FSB, the domestic successor agency to the KGB, he moved in 2008 to the Security Council”. POLITICO notes, “he is known to have been one of the small group of advisers close to Putin intimately involved in the planning of the annexation the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014.” Patrushev is concerned the U.S. seeks to disrupt Russia’s monopoly on its natural resources, which is probably true, but he seems to think theft of state assets is patriotic. Ten years ago, TRUMPISTAN WATCH interviewed Patrushev’s one time boss in KGB Counter-intelligence, KGB General Oleg Kalugin, for Foreign Policy and while it did not quite make it into the published interview in favor of an illustrative anecdote to make the point, Kalugin said over and over, “Patrushev’s only desire was to punish”.
POWER GRID HACKS ARE COMING
WIRED has a long, well reported cover story on how Ukraine is the laboratory for hacking infrastructure attacks, reporting, “how the intrusion had started with a phishing email impersonating a message from the Ukrainian parliament. A malicious Word attachment had silently run a script on the victims’ machines, planting the BlackEnergy infection. From that foothold, it appeared, the hackers had spread through the power companies’ networks”. The result was black outs lasting hours in large parts of a nation. Of course, “”all signs indicated that the hackers were Russian”. WIRED notes in this Christmas Day 2015 “operation, the attackers had taken another step, bombarding the company’s call centers with fake phone calls—possibly to delay any warnings of the power outage from customers or simply to add another layer of chaos and humiliation.” Later, hackers hit a “list of casualties: Ukraine’s pension fund, the country’s treasury, its seaport authority, its ministries of infrastructure, defense, and finance. The hackers again hit Ukraine’s railway company, this time knocking out its online booking system for days, right in the midst of the holiday travel season.” America, coming soon! When that happens – not if – you will not even be able to watch reality TV. The struggle is real. Sad! Must read.
The Hill reports, “At 36 percent, Trump’s approval rating is his lowest in CBS News polls since he became president.” How low can it go? Lower yet, into single digits. According to The Hill, “One-third of Americans now say his approach to the investigations has made their opinion of him worse, pollsters found.” TRUMPISTAN WATCH finds he is always knocking from below, further evidence he is a Russian puppet because that is sort of their modus operandi, knocking from below. Curiously, “The poll also found 40 percent of Republicans now think it is at least somewhat likely the Trump campaign had improper contact with Russia, up from 25 percent in March,” which is as much a statement about the efficacy of mass media, especially television, as a communication tool than it is some light suddenly flickering on in people’s heads, because partisan politics triumphs in that, “just one in five Republicans, however, thinks the investigation into Russian election meddling is a critical security matter”. See, no wakening lights, just a slow reconciliation of mass media messages with what TRUMPISTAN WATCH will politely term “personal truth”. After all, people are lemmings just waiting for leadership and if it is off a cliff, no matter, no pain until hitting the bottom, right?
From The Hill.
The Washington Post reports, “At a time when public anger over government corruption has led to Russia’s most widespread protests in years, fewer than half of Russians are confident in President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to rein in crooked officials,” however “A whopping 87 percent of those surveyed said they trust Putin to represent their country’s interests on the global stage.” In Russia, they have a de facto intelligence government with a reality show in the front room with a leader who represents Russian interests on the world stage. In America, we have a de facto military government with a reality show in the front room with a leader who also represents Russian interests on the world stage. The biggest difference between the two nations these days is therefore in our basic freedoms and luxuries and the cost of corruption – if we could afford their officials instead of having the world’s cheapest public officials, maybe they would represent American interests on the world stage?
From The Washington Post.
PUTIN PUNKS OLIVER STONE WITH U.S. FORCES FOOTAGE
BuzzFeed reports, “The Russian president told the venerable auteur,” too polite for what left wing Kremlin hack Oliver Stone, whose son has a show on Russian state-run RT, has become, “that the footage on his phone was the Russian air force kicking ass. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.)” According to BuzzFeed, in the third episode of Stone’s hagiographic “The Putin Interviews” which aired last week on Showtime in the U.S., “Putin shows Stone footage of what he says is ‘the work of our air force’ against militants in Syria.” But guess what? It is not Russia kicking ass but rather “the video Stone was shown looked an awful lot like footage, posted in 2013, of an apparent 2009 US strike against the Taliban in Afghanistan”. According to Riga-based Russian opposition site Meduza, “‘the pilots’ conversations are dubbed over in Russian,’ which is just next-level putting-your-name-on-something-you-didn’t-do.” BuzzFeed calls it “an A+ forgery”. Russia, just like a real superpower! Of course being called out on bullshit is something Putin regularly dispatches his spokesman Dmitry Peskov to cover his tracks and lie so Peskov called the claim “nonsense”. However never believe something until the Kremlin denies it. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes Stone has not commented. He got paid and his son is employed – what does he care? It is not like he has any scruples or morals left.
From BuzzFeed and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
PRO-PUTIN BOTS TAKE OVER RUSSIAN TWITTER
The Washington Post reports, “Bots airing pro-Kremlin views have flooded the Russian-language portion of the social media platform Twitter, in what researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute say is an effort to scuttle political discussion and opposition coordination in Russia.” Surprise! That is what happened in 2016 on Twitter in America in support of the orange lunatic traitor trash now squatting in the White House and all the hate speech he represents, just how Russia likes things. A new study by the Computational Propaganda Research Project housed at the Oxford Internet Institute claims pro-Putin bots account for up to 45 percent of tweets about politics in Russia. The Washington Post notes, “Once seen as a tool of democratization and protest, like as, for instance, during the Arab Spring, it has increasingly become a weapon wielded by established political actors and authoritarian regimes” such as the Russian-backed one in Washington. Evgeny Morozov warned us of this in The Net Delusion years ago but such pessimism was not welcome and found no place in the discourse of tech evangelists who fail to see even now that we are on the road to tyranny thanks in large part to technology.
From The Washington Post.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
WHO IS PAYING FOR PAMELA ANDERSON’S VEGAN POP UP IN FRANCE?
One guess: Russia. The Times of London reports Pamela Anderson “is setting up a vegan restaurant on the Côte d’Azur this summer and has invited Emmanuel Macron to come along to discuss a subject close to her heart: Julian Assange. The French president is being recruited to persuade the British prime minister, whoever that may be, to arrange safe passage for the Wikileaks founder out of his London embassy bolthole to the apparent security of Ecuador.” Macron who faced his own hacking attack originating in Russia when he was running for President seems unlikely to partake in the Kremlin’s version of kabuki theater, at least in this way, but the headlines celebrity fuels are all too real. Just one question: how much?
From The Times of London.
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