—–ON THE AGENDA—–
ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY: UKRAINE CEASE FIRE FOR SCHOOL YEAR’S START
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine starting on August 23 at the beginning of the school year and got unanimous support from Russia, Germany, France, and the United States.” According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “The proposal was made late on August 22 in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancelor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who all voiced their strong support for a lasting cease-fire to allow children in eastern Ukraine to attend school, the Kremlin and Poroshenko’s press service said after the call. The cease-fire will be announced on August 23,” so today, “according to the Kremlin and Poroshenko’s press service.” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty reports, “Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in Ukraine, had earlier expressed his support for the proposal in comments to the Baltic News Service as he visited Lithuania on August 22. Volker is due to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on August 23.” Let’s see how long it holds, but worth noting that Russia is willing to concede a public relations victory of sorts to Ukraine in allowing for the announcement to say it was Poroshenko’s proposal. TRUMPISTAN WATCH for now gives it one week maximum, but let us see. Cynicism is easy but often the best course when dealing with Russia. And let’s wait for the Russian propaganda wheels to start turning.
RUSSIA-FRIENDLY ICELANDIC BANK WANTED TO INVEST IN TRUMP PROJECTS
Talking Points Memo reports when the Panama Papers story broke last year, reporters “recognized a familiar name cropping up: the FL Group, a now-defunct Icelandic bank that in 2013 had been accused in a lawsuit of developing a scheme, ultimately never realized, to avoid $250 million in taxes on a $2 billion investment in real estate projects, many of them tied to President Donald Trump.” According to Talking Points Memo, “The bank began as a holding company for two airlines based in the little Nordic nation, Flugfélag Íslands and Loftleiðir—hence the name—until 2005, when it became its own financial institution with a surprisingly large number of Russian clients. After that, the firm became the leading equity fund in Iceland”. Talking Points Memo reports, “The Icelandic bank managed to seal a 2007 deal to invest $50 million with the developer Bayrock Group,” which helped develop Trump Soho and is tied to Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif, Trump business partners with dubious mob ties. According to Talking Points Memo, “Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, the wealthiest man in Iceland, claimed FL had been infiltrated and taken over by pro-Russian interests”. Talking Points Memo adds, “Another bank owned in large part by FL, Kaupthing, had made loans to Alexander Shnaider, the Russian-Canadian billionaire who financed the failed Trump Tower in Toronto, which he used to buy a yacht.” Talking Points Memo adds, “Ultimately, Bayrock never got that $2 billion. The global financial crisis, which eventually sunk both Kaupthing and FL Group, exposed the banks to scrutiny by regulators and law enforcement officers who aren’t usually privy to the inner workings of the financial system without a search warrant. Now that the companies had to declare bankruptcy, they had to open their books; almost as soon as they did, though, the loan books were shut.” Most likely another vehicle was found as there are many Icelandic-style fronts elsewhere, notably in Cyprus, Latvia and Panama, to name three of the more popular destinations for Russian money laundering.
From Talking Points Memo.
SENATE WANTS TRUMP TO DECLARE WIKILEAKS HOSTILE SPY SERVICE
The Daily Beast reports, “If the Senate intelligence committee gets its way, America’s spy agencies will have to release a flood of information about Russian threats to the U.S.—the kind of threats that Donald Trump may not want made public.” Additionally, “The committee also wants Congress to declare WikiLeaks a ‘non-state hostile intelligence service,’ which would open Julian Assange and the pro-transparency organization – which most of the U.S. government considers a handmaiden of Russian intelligence – to new levels of surveillance.” There are a host of other provisions as well including blocking any effort to establish cyber-cooperation with Russia, increased notification to Congress of the movements of known Russian operatives inside the U.S., and perhaps most critically for WikiLeaks, declaring the group a “hostile spy service” would have the effect of “opening WikiLeaks up to even more extensive surveillance,” on a level that “would allow the intelligence community to collect against them the same way they collect against al-Qaeda”. Many on the left who worship the group and those on the far right that came to embrace it as candidate Trump did will likely cry foul, so it will be critical to show evidence and remind the public for just how long WikiLeaks was tolerated and provide a timeline of when and how it flipped, if possible. There are also, as Senator Ron Wyden points out, concerns “that the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets”. As The Hill notes Wyden was “the only senator to vote against the 2017 intelligence authorization bill in the Intelligence Committee,” as a result of the use of this phrase. TRUMPISTAN WATCH understands both sides of this one and Wyden’s forethought is not without appreciation in light of the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
WARNINGS FROM WHITE HOUSE CYBERSECURITY CZAR
CBS News reports, “Rob Joyce, the Trump administration’s cybersecurity coordinator, said Tuesday the U.S. is lacking 300,000 cybersecurity experts needed to defend the country.” According to CBS News, Joyce also had a warning for the public about using software from Kaspersky Lab. U.S. officials believe the company has ties to the Kremlin — and the federal government has vowed not to use its products.” Nor should you! So there.
From CBS News.
NAVY TO REVIEW WHETHER HACKING CONTRIBUTED TO 2 ACCIDENTS
The New York Post reports, “The Navy will investigate whether two US destroyers were hacked before they collided with merchant ships in a pair of recent crashes, according to a top Navy admiral.” Citing a tweet by Admiral John Richardson, the head of the U.S. Navy, that reads, “2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indication right now… but review will consider all possibilities,” The New York Post recalls the recent crash of the U.S.S. John McCain near Singapore which has left 5 injured and 10 missing “was the second time a US destroyer ran into a commercial ship in recent months.”
From The New York Post.
THREE RUSSIANS SANCTIONED FOR NORTH KOREA TIES
The Los Angeles Times reports, “The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed a new round of economic sanctions on Russian and Chinese companies and individuals who it said are working with North Korea.” The Los Angeles Times adds, “Three Russians who run a company that exports oil to North Korea,” were targeted.
From The Los Angeles Times.
U.S. SENDS FIRST SHIPMENT OF COAL TO UKRAINE
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “The United States sent its first shipment of anthracite coal to Ukraine from the U.S. port Baltimore on August 22 under a deal designed to increase Ukraine’s energy security.” According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Pennsylvania-based XCoal Energy and Resources signed a contract with Ukrainian state energy company Centerenergo on July 31 to provide 700,000 tons of anthracite coal in the next few months.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds, “The first shipment of 62,000 tons is expected to arrive in Odesa’s Yuzhnyy port in three weeks.” Lithuania just received its first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. as well. This is energy politics hardball if ever there was such a thing.
DANISH AIR FORCE POSTS VIDEOS OF INTERCEPTING RUSSIAN BOMBERS
The Moscow Times reports, “The Danish Air Force posted a video to its official Facebook page on Tuesday showing two of its military jets intercepting a Russian Tu-95 bomber over the Baltic Sea.” The video itself is must see viewing and provides a real sense of Russia’s provocative activities. According to The Moscow Times, “The Danish pilots escorted the bomber over international waters near the Island of Bornholm between Poland and Sweden, the post said. The Danish military did not specify when the recording was made.”
From The Moscow Times.
FUSION GPS’ GLENN SIMPSON ON THE HILL FOR HOURS, HANDS OVER DOCS
The AP reports, “The co-founder of a Washington opposition research firm,” Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, “that produced a dossier of salacious allegations involving President Donald Trump met for hours with congressional investigators Tuesday in a closed-door appearance that stretched into the evening.” The AP notes the session lasted much longer than the one with princeling son-in-law Jared Kushner. Fox News reports, “Fusion GPS has given the Senate committee over 40,000 documents.” Simpson was on the Hill yesterday to testify before the Senate judiciary committee.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
TRUMP DIDN’T CALL OUT RUSSIA IN AFGHANISTAN TELEPROMPTER READING
The Washington Post reports, “President Trump delivered a sharp warning to Pakistan on Monday, saying he intends to hold its leaders to account for harboring militant groups responsible for perpetuating instability across the border in Afghanistan.” The Washington Post adds, “He declined, however, to similarly admonish three other regional powers which the United States views as complicit in undermining progress there: Russia, Iran and to a lesser extent China”. The Washington Post reports, “Since April, not long after he declared America’s longest war a stalemate, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, has voiced concern about Moscow’s apparent effort to arm the Taliban. Those weapons include medium and heavy machine guns, officials have said, used to cut down Afghan troops in multiple southern provinces, including areas where U.S. military advisers and Special Operations forces are deployed.” According to The Washington Post, “U.S. officials have said that any country shipping weapons into Afghanistan would be in violation of international law,” if you can square that circle. The Washington Post adds, “Defense Secretary Jim Mattis vowed to engage the Russians through diplomatic channels,” however, “Russia has denied working with the Taliban, saying its interactions with the fundamentalist group that once ruled Afghanistan have been focused on encouraging it to make peace.” In July, CNN published video that appeared to contradict that. On Monday, The New York Times ran a long profile on the so-called “eighth man,” Rinat Akhmetshin, at the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials including then campaign manager Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and princeling son-in-law Jared Kushner. The profile heavily suggested Akhmetshin might have assisted Russian intelligence in recent years in Afghanistan.
From The Washington Post.
MAJORITY OF AMERICANS DON’T THINK OF RUSSIA AS A FRIEND
CNN reports, “a new survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows that the American people are not interested in improving relations with Russia,” and that, “A majority of Americans (53%) say the United States should actively work to limit Russia’s power, rather than have Washington undertake friendly engagement with the Kremlin (43%).” According to CNN, “this is a reversal from last year, when just 39% favored limiting Russian power and 56% said cooperation was the better course.” What a difference a year makes!
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
DIRECTOR OF POSTPONED “NUREYEV” BOLSHOI BALLET DETAINED
The New York Times reports, “The Russian authorities have detained an acclaimed theater director,” Kiril Serebrennikov, “on suspicion of embezzling more than $1 million in government funds”. The detention of Serebrennikov is “renewing fears of a crackdown on artists in the country,” The New York Times notes. Recall, “In July, the Bolshoi Theater postponed a much anticipated ballet, directed by Mr. Serebrennikov, that depicted the life of the dance legend Rudolf Nureyev and that touched on themes of homosexuality and AIDS. The reaction in the news media and in cultural circles was that the government had frowned on a ballet celebrating a gay man who had fled the Soviet Union.” Nureyev fled the Soviet Union defecting at the Paris airport shouting, “I want to be free!” as he did so. The BBC notes, “Serebrennikov is a vocal critic of censorship in the arts in Russia.”
RUSSIA PAYS OFF REMAINING SOVIET DEBTS
Meduza reports, “The Russian Finance Ministry says it’s transferred $125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina, meaning that Moscow has now finally paid off all its Soviet debts.” Time to accumulate new ones! Meduza notes, “Russia owed the money to Bosnia and Herzegovina because the USSR never finished paying Yugoslavia for its supply of consumer goods,” because it was maybe the only socialist country with any design sense. According to Meduza, “Russia completely settled its debts with the other Yugoslav republics — Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Macedonia — between 2011 and 2016.” Meduza reports, “The Russian government’s current foreign debt is $51.3 billion.”
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