Category Archives: Russia

Dave Zirin on Olympic Firsts, Treatment of Russian Athletes and Brazil’s Future

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation and author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy, who discusses some of the biggest issues surrounding the 2016 Olympics in Rio. You can view part one of this interview here(Democracy Now!)

Ukrainian and Russian Elite Benefit From New Flare-Ups at the Border

Jaisal Noor speaks to Moscow-based political economist Aleksandr Buzgalin about how recent border confrontations distract from domestic policies as a source of internal social problems. (The Real News)

Deutsche Bank’s $10-Billion Scandal

Ed Caesar reports for the New Yorker:

The bank, beset by scandals and mismanagement, is in a precarious state.Almost every weekday between the fall of 2011 and early 2015, a Russian broker named Igor Volkovcalled the equities desk of Deutsche Bank’s Moscow headquarters. Volkov would speak to a sales trader—often, a young woman named Dina Maksutova—and ask her to place two trades simultaneously. In one, he would use Russian rubles to buy a blue-chip Russian stock, such as Lukoil, for a Russian company that he represented. Usually, the order was for about ten million dollars’ worth of the stock. In the second trade, Volkov—acting on behalf of a different company, which typically was registered in an offshore territory, such as the British Virgin Islands—would sell the same Russian stock, in the same quantity, in London, in exchange for dollars, pounds, or euros. Both the Russian company and the offshore company had the same owner. Deutsche Bank was helping the client to buy and sell to himself.

At first glance, the trades appeared banal, even pointless. Deutsche Bank earned a small commission for executing the buy and sell orders, but in financial terms the clients finished roughly where they began. To inspect the trades individually, however, was like standing too close to an Impressionist painting—you saw the brushstrokes and missed the lilies. These transactions had nothing to do with pursuing profit. They were a way to expatriate money. Because the Russian company and the offshore company both belonged to the same owner, these ordinary-seeming trades had an alchemical purpose: to turn rubles that were stuck in Russia into dollars stashed outside Russia. On the Moscow markets, this sleight of hand had a nickname: konvert, which means “envelope” and echoes the English verb “convert.” In the English-language media, the scheme has become known as “mirror trading.”

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Evidence Points to Another Snowden at the NSA

James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, writes for Reuters:

In the summer of 1972, state-of-the-art campaign spying consisted of amateur burglars, armed with duct tape and microphones, penetrating the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Today, amateur burglars have been replaced by cyberspies, who penetrated the DNC armed with computers and sophisticated hacking tools.

Where the Watergate burglars came away empty-handed and in handcuffs, the modern- day cyber thieves walked away with tens of thousands of sensitive political documents and are still unidentified.

Now, in the latest twist, hacking tools themselves, likely stolen from the National Security Agency, are on the digital auction block. Once again, the usual suspects start with Russia – though there seems little evidence backing up the accusation.

In addition, if Russia had stolen the hacking tools, it would be senseless to publicize the theft, let alone put them up for sale. It would be like a safecracker stealing the combination to a bank vault and putting it on Facebook. Once revealed, companies and governments would patch their firewalls, just as the bank would change its combination.

A more logical explanation could also be insider theft. If that’s the case, it’s one more reason to question the usefulness of an agency that secretly collects private information on millions of Americans but can’t keep its most valuable data from being stolen, or as it appears in this case, being used against us.

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The Kremlin Opens to the World as Putin Orders Greater Access

Howard Amos reports for The Moscow Times:

For much of the Soviet period, Moscow’s Kremlin was heavily guarded and shrouded in mystery. Few people apart from high-ranking officials or foreign dignitaries ever got the chance to pass through the gates built into the towers along its redbrick walls. The rare visitors that made it inside were struck by its “terrifying emptiness.”

Some restrictions were lifted with the fall of the Soviet Union. But a set of eight new decrees signed by President Vladimir Putin earlier this month means previously off-limit areas of the seat of Russian political power are likely be opened to the public in 2017.

“The Kremlin has been sacred, closed, secret and locked for most of the last 150 years,” says Catherine Merridale, a British author who has written a history of the buildings and their inhabitants. “Opening up the Kremlin has a huge psychological impact.”

The decision by Putin is expected to be popular among ordinary Russians and is likely to fuel an increase in the number of tourists visiting the already busy site, which is the official residence of the Russian president.

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Trump’s ‘Extreme Vetting’ Test for Immigrants, His Position on NATO and Russia and his Campaign Head’s $13m Scandal in Ukraine

Amy Goodman speaks to Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine, Phyllis Bennis, author of Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror and Linda Sarsour, director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change. They join Amy Goodman to talk about a  number of issues including Donald Trump’s vow to institute “extreme vetting” of visa applicants, his position on NATO and Russia, and his campaign head’s $13 million scandal in Ukraine. (Democracy Now!)

Democrats’ Tactic of Accusing Critics of Kremlin Allegiance Has Long, Ugly History

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, meets U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her arrival at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel,Pool)A frequent weapon for Democrats in the 2016 election is to publicly malign those they regard as critics and adversaries as Russia sympathizers, Putin stooges, or outright agents of the Kremlin. To put it mildly, this is not a new tactic in U.S. political discourse, and it’s worth placing it in historical context. That’s particularly true given how many people have now been targeted with this attack.

Strongly insinuating that the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has nefarious, possibly treasonous allegiances to Moscow has migrated from Clinton-loyal pundits into the principal theme of the Clinton campaign itself. “The depth of Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin is revealing itself by the day,” her website announced yesterday, and vital “questions” must be answered “about Trump’s cozy relationship with Russia.” The Clinton campaign this weekend released a 1-minute video that, over and over, insinuates Trump’s disloyalty in the form of “questions” – complete with menacing pictures of Red Square. Democrats cheered wildly, and really have not stopped cheering, ever since the ex-Acting CIA Director (who, undisclosed by the NYT, now works for a Clinton operative) went to The New York Times to claim “that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

But this smear tactic extends far beyond Trump. It is now used to vilify anyone perceived to be an impediment to Clinton’s victory. When WikiLeaks published thousands of DNC emails shortly before the Democratic Convention, which ultimately forced the resignation of four top officials, it was instantly asserted that it was The Russians who gave them those emails (even though The Washington Post cited an intelligence official as saying that “the intelligence community . . . has not reached a conclusion about who passed the emails to WikiLeaks” and “We have not drawn any evidentiary connection to any Russian intelligence service and WikiLeaks — none”). Democrats not only treated this evidence-free conspiracy theory as Truth, but – following the Clinton campaign – proceeded to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin operation.

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The Time Is Ripe for Détente, 2.0

Jefrey Taylor writes for The Atlantic:

On July 20, Donald Trump shocked the Western politico-military establishment when he told The New York Times that the United States would protect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the three formerly Soviet Baltic countries that joined NATO in 2004, from a Russian attack only if they have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” In one fell stroke, Trump proposed to jettison the alliance’s foundational Article 5, which guarantees collective defense, in favor of some impromptu financial calculus. Then, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention two days later, he declared NATO “obsolete” for failing to “properly cover terror,” adding that “many member countries [are] not paying their fair share [into the alliance]. As usual, the United States has been picking up the cost.”

Trump’s various offenses aside, on his latter point, there can be no doubt: of NATO’s 28 member states, only five spend the recommended 2 percent or more of their GDP per year on defense; Estonia is the sole Baltic country to meet the 2-percent benchmark.* The United States, meanwhile, covers 72.2 percent of NATO’s budget. Though even President Barack Obama has complained about NATO’s European “free riders”—given that the EU’s GDP may exceed that of the United States, the critique seems reasonable—Trump, by suggesting that a future U.S. president may, amid a hypothetical crisis of unprecedented magnitude, evaluate treaty obligations by consulting the alliance’s balance sheet alone is unprecedented. Add to that Trump’s apparent personal affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusations from Democrats (even if they turn out to be groundless) that his business interests might predispose him to act in Russia’s interests, and his invitation (possibly proffered sarcastically) that Russia intervene in the U.S. presidential campaign by ferreting out Hillary Clinton’s illegally deleted emails, and you end up with a media maelstrom of his own making.

Yet the very questions Trump has raised about relations between Washington and Moscow—whether a de facto new Cold War is inevitable, and whether there’s any way out of this potentially catastrophic standoff—are worth asking. The ensuing debate would demand serious consideration by policymakers, a willingness to see matters from the Russian perspective, and, given the stakes, the involvement of the American public. After all, during the Cold War, public sentiment about the Soviet Union, and, by extension, the likelihood of nuclear war, influenced national politics in ways scarcely imaginable these days. Present circumstances require a similar reexamination now.

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Biden Urges Ukraine President to Avoid Escalating Tensions With Russia

Reuters reports:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for three slain Baton Rouge police officers at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan BachmanU.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke by phone on Friday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and urged him “to do his part” to avoid escalating tensions with Russia, the White House said.

Biden noted that the United States has urged the Russian side to do the same, the White House said in a statement. Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of trying to provoke a conflict over Crimea, which Moscow seized and annexed in 2014.

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We Should Be Shocked, Shocked, at Reports of Russian Interference in US Elections

William Greider writes for The Nation:

NSA_headquarters_ap_imgThe Clinton political team is sputtering in righteous indignation over Russia’s supposed cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee and the leak of the DNC’s embarrassing e-mails. Their outrage was further inflamed by Donald Trump’s wicked suggestion that Czar Putin should do more of this mischievous hacking.

How dare Moscow tamper with our sacred elections in the home of the brave, land of the free! Republicans suspect Trump may have violated national-security laws. Perhaps the FBI should investigate.

Does anyone remember that America’s techno-spies at the National Security Agency were listening to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls? Or that the CIA frequently interferes, sometimes quite brutally, in the politics of other nations? The agency says it no longer assassinates popular leaders it doesn’t like. But it still picks leaders for people in lesser countries—often tinpot dictators in uniforms—or wrecks their fragile economy if they resist.

Cyber espionage is a serious threat, no question. But who is the villain? When the US Treasury secretary pressured Beijing to stop its relentless invasions of US government and industry computers, the People’s Dailyshoved back. Washington, it said, is the “real ‘hacking empire.’”

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Russian News May Be Biased – But So Is Much Western Media

Dr. Piers Robinson writes for The Guardian:

As tensions continue to escalate with Russia, increasing attention is being paid in western media to what are frequently described as the “propaganda” activities of Vladimir Putin’s regime. The Sun headlines“Putin’s glamorous propaganda girls who front a new UK-based news agency ‘that aims to destabilise Britain’” in reference to the recent establishment of Sputnik News in Edinburgh, while the Mail describes how “Vladimir Putin is waging a propaganda war on the UK”.

Most recently in the Times, a study by an MPhil student at the University of Oxford, Monica Richter, is reported to confirm that people who watch the 24-hour English-language news channel Russia Today (RT) are more likely to hold anti-western views. The tone of the Times article is clear: RT uses unqualified and “obscure” experts, is frequently sanctioned by Ofcom for bias and failure to remain impartial and, worst of all, actually seems to be “turning viewers against the west”. Perhaps the intended subtext of this particular news story is to warn people off watching non-western media for fear of betraying their home country in some way.

Whatever the accuracy, or lack thereof, of RT and whatever its actual impact on western audiences, one of the problems with these kinds of arguments is that they fall straight into the trap of presenting media that are aligned with official adversaries as inherently propagandistic and deceitful, while the output of “our” media is presumed to be objective and truthful. Moreover, the impression given is that our governments engage in truthful “public relations”, “strategic communication” and “public diplomacy” while the Russians lie through “propaganda”.

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The World’s Best Cyber Army Doesn’t Belong to Russia

James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory, writes for Reuters:

A National Security Agency data gathering facility in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, December 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

[…] Unlike the Defense Department’s Pentagon, the headquarters of the cyberspies fills an entire secret city. Located in Fort Meade, Maryland, halfway between Washington and Baltimore, Maryland, NSA’s headquarters consists of scores of heavily guarded buildings. The site even boasts its own police force and post office.

And it is about to grow considerably bigger, now that the NSA cyberspies have merged with the cyberwarriors of U.S. Cyber Command, which controls its own Cyber Army, Cyber Navy, Cyber Air Force and Cyber Marine Corps, all armed with state-of-the-art cyberweapons. In charge of it all is a four-star admiral, Michael S. Rogers.

Now under construction inside NSA’s secret city, Cyber Command’s new $3.2- billion headquarters is to include 14 buildings, 11 parking garages and an enormous cyberbrain — a 600,000-square-foot, $896.5-million supercomputer facility that will eat up an enormous amount of power, about 60 megawatts. This is enough electricity to power a city of more than 40,000 homes.

In 2014, for a cover story in Wired and a PBS documentary, I spent three days in Moscow with Snowden, whose last NSA job was as a contract cyberwarrior. I was also granted rare access to his archive of documents. “Cyber Command itself has always been branded in a sort of misleading way from its very inception,” Snowden told me. “It’s an attack agency. … It’s all about computer-network attack and computer-network exploitation at Cyber Command.”

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On Eve of Olympics, Top Investigator Details Secret Efforts to Undermine Russian Doping Probe

David Epstein reports for Pro Publica:

In a blistering public critique on the eve of the Olympics, the former chief investigator for the World Anti-Doping Agency claims his efforts to investigate Russian doping were repeatedly delayed by WADA’s president, who preferred to privately settle matters with Russian officials.

Jack Robertson, who left the agency in January, said he was forced to leak information to the media in order to pressure WADA president Sir Craig Reedie to act and, even then, he says, the agency sat on credible allegations that suggested Russian doping extended far beyond track and field.

Ultimately, Robertson says, the investigation delays have allowed the president of the International Olympic Committee — who has reportedly been supported by Vladimir Putin — to claim that the committee didn’t have enough time to determine whether it should ban all Russian teams. The result is that Russia may still have one of the largest delegations in Rio.

In a wide-ranging Q&A, Robertson, speaking publicly at length for the first time, reserved his harshest criticisms for Reedie, a former elite badminton player and chair of the British Olympic Committee. Reedie also holds the potentially conflicting role of vice president of the IOC. (WADA gets a large chunk of its funding from the IOC.) The revelations of systemic Russian doping are an enormous embarrassment for the IOC, as well as a diplomatic problem, since the IOC president and Putin are, according to The Guardian, “the unlikely Olympic power couple.”

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Dangerous Propaganda: Network Close To NATO Military Leader Fueled Ukraine Conflict

Christoph Schult and Klaus Wiegrefe report for SPIEGEL:

[…] The newly leaked emails reveal a clandestine network of Western agitators around the NATO military chief, whose presence fueled the conflict in Ukraine. Many allies found in Breedlove’s alarmist public statements about alleged large Russian troop movements cause for concern early on. Earlier this year, the general was assuring the world that US European Command was “deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary.”

The emails document for the first time the questionable sources from whom Breedlove was getting his information. He had exaggerated Russian activities in eastern Ukraine with the overt goal of delivering weapons to Kiev.

The general and his likeminded colleagues perceived US President Barack Obama, the commander-in-chief of all American forces, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel as obstacles. Obama and Merkel were being “politically naive & counter-productive” in their calls for de-escalation, according to Phillip Karber, a central figure in Breedlove’s network who was feeding information from Ukraine to the general.

[…] Breedlove sought counsel from some very prominent people, his emails show. Among them were Wesley Clark, Breedlove’s predecessor at NATO, Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Kiev.

One name that kept popping up was Phillip Karber, an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC and president of the Potomac Foundation, a conservative think tank founded by the former defense contractor BDM. By its own account, the foundation has helped eastern European countries prepare their accession into NATO. Now the Ukrainian parliament and the government in Kiev were asking Karber for help.

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Trump, Putin and the New Cold War: Stephen F. Cohen on CNN

Russia Scholar and contributing editor at The Nation Stephen F. Cohen was recently on CNN’s ‘Smerconish’ to talk about Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and the new Cold War. (CNN)

U.S. Media’s Coverage of Donald Trump: Interview with Adam Johnson

Scott Horton speaks to Adam Johnson, a regular contributor to both AlterNet and Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), about the U.S. media’s repeated vilification of Donald Trump (in words and images), and the implications that Trump is Vladimir Putin’s puppet president in waiting. (Scott Horton Show)

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE…

Trump, Putin and the DNC Hack: Interview with Jeffrey Carr

Scott Horton recently spoke to Jeffrey Carr, a cyber intelligence expert and CEO of Taia Global, Inc., about his fact-checking of Josh Marshall’s TalkingPointsMemo article that claims a close alliance between Trump and Putin, and why the individuals blaming Russia for the DNC email hack are more motivated by politics than solid evidence. (Scott Horton Show)

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW…

The U.S. Has Been Meddling In Other Countries’ Elections For A Century, It Doesn’t Feel Good

Ryan Grim and Arthur Delany write for The Huffington Post:

[…] Meddling in foreign politics is a great American pastime, and one that Clinton has some familiarity with. For more than 100 years, without any significant break, the U.S. has been doing whatever it can to influence the outcome of elections ― up to and including assassinating politicians it has found unfriendly.

The Clinton camp disagrees that whatever happened in Honduras is on the same level as what Russia is up to. “There’s simply no equivalency here,” said Clinton spokesperson Jesse Lehrich. Which is true: the U.S. has meddled in far more foreign elections than vice versa.

The U.S. penchant for meddling in Latin American politics is something Sanders and Clinton disagreed sharply about in a March debate. “I think the United States should be working with governments around the world, not get involved in regime change,” Sanders said. “And all of these actions, by the way, in Latin America, brought forth a lot of very strong anti-American sentiments.”

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Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails

Ashley Parker reports for The New York Times:

Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power’s cyberspying on a secretary of state’s correspondence.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras during a press conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which American intelligence agencies have told the White House they have “high confidence” was the work of the Russian government.

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If Russian Intelligence Did Hack the DNC, the NSA Would Know, Snowden Says

Robert Mackey writes for The Intercept:

[…] Since very few of us are cybersecurity experts, and the Iraq debacle is a reminder of how dangerous it can be to put blind faith in experts whose claims might reinforce our own political positions, there is also the question of who we can trust to provide reliable evidence.

One expert in the field, who is well aware of the evidence-gathering capabilities of the U.S. government, is Edward Snowden, the former Central Intelligence Agency technician and National Security Agency whistleblower who exposed the extent of mass surveillance and has been given temporary asylum in Russia.

“If Russia hacked the #DNC, they should be condemned for it,” Snowden wrote on Twitter on Monday, with a link to a 2015 report on the U.S. government’s response to the hacking of Sony Pictures. In that case, he noted, “the FBI presented evidence” for its conclusion that North Korea was responsible for the hacking and subsequent release of internal emails. (The FBI is now investigating the breach of the DNC’s network, which officials told the Daily Beast they first made the committee aware of in April.)

What’s more, Snowden added, the NSA has tools that should make it possible to trace the source of the hack. Even though the Director of National Intelligence usually opposes making such evidence public, he argued, this is a case in which the agency should do so, if only to discourage future attacks.

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All Signs Point to Russia Being Behind the DNC Hack

Thomas Rid writes for VICE Motherboard:

The forensic evidence linking the DNC breach to known Russian operations is very strong. On June 20, two competing cybersecurity companies, Mandiant (part of FireEye) and Fidelis, confirmed CrowdStrike’s initial findings that Russian intelligence indeed hacked Clinton’s campaign. The forensic evidence that links network breaches to known groups is solid: used and reused tools, methods, infrastructure, even unique encryption keys. For example: in late March the attackers registered a domain with a typo—misdepatrment[.]com—to look suspiciously like the company hired by the DNC to manage its network, MIS Department. They then linked this deceptive domain to a long-known APT 28 so-called X-Tunnel command-and-control IP address, 45.32.129[.]185.

One of the strongest pieces of evidence linking GRU to the DNC hack is the equivalent of identical fingerprints found in two burglarized buildings: a reused command-and-control address—176.31.112[.]10—that was hard coded in a piece of malware found both in the German parliament as well as on the DNC’s servers. Russian military intelligence was identified by the German domestic security agency BfV as the actor responsible for the Bundestag breach. The infrastructure behind the fake MIS Department domain was also linked to the Berlin intrusion through at least one other element, a shared SSL certificate.

The evidence linking the Guccifer 2.0 account to the same Russian operators is not as solid, yet a deception operation—a GRU false flag, in technical jargon—is still highly likely. Intelligence operatives and cybersecurity professionals long knew that such false flags were becoming more common. One noteworthy example was the sabotage of France’s TV5 Monde station on 9/10 April 2015, initially claimed by the mysterious “CyberCaliphate,” a group allegedly linked to ISIS. Then, in June, the French authorities suspected the same infamous APT 28 group behind the TV5 Monde breach, in preparation since January of that year. But the DNC deception is the most detailed and most significant case study so far. The technical details are as remarkable as its strategic context.

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Did Russia Really Hack the DNC to Support Trump?

Paul D. Shinkman reports for U.S. News & World Report:

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Forum for Strategic Initiatives July 21, 2016 in Mosow, Russia. The recent hacks of the Democratic National Committee computer system and subsequent leak of its emails fits within a tidy narrative: Russian President Vladimir Putin is pleased with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s friendly rhetoric toward Moscow and offered him a political boost.

Hillary Clinton‘s representatives were quick to apply this logic as a partial explanation for a scandal that undercut the process that confirmed the former secretary of state as her party’s presumed presidential nominee just days before the Democratic National Convention was set to begin.

[…] And it could be true. Russia’s hackers, both governmental and otherwise, are among the world’s best. Implicated in June in two separate attacks on the DNC computer network, Russian government-backed cyberthieves could have been in a position to forward the tens of thousands of Democratic Party emails they retrieved to WikiLeaks, which distributed the documents online over the weekend. Some, however, believe the most obvious answer may not be the right one when dealing with Russia.

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The Hawks’ Election Strategy: Pushing a New Cold War

David Bromwich writes for The National Interest:

Image: “Bulgarian forces fire from a mobile mortar platform in a BMP-23 infantry fighting vehicle during Exercise Platinum Lion 16-4 aboard Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 13, 2016. This multi-national exercise brings together eight NATO and partner nations for a live-fire exercise aimed to strengthen regional defense in Eastern Europe. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kelly L. Street, 2D MARDIV COMCAM/Released)”[…] The hope is that Mrs. Clinton will put the Cold War accusation of Trump at the heart of her election campaign. The language and logical processes of these articles are shoddy, their texture is pure tabloid, and they are full of words like “stooge” and “patsy,” which the earlier writings of these opinion makers would not lead one to expect. The design calls for Mrs. Clinton to run against Trump and Putin—and to forge the closest possible linkage between the two names in the public mind—on a foreign-policy platform already signaled in such documents as the letter by fifty-one anonymous State Department workers pleading for heavier US military action against the government of Syria. Indeed, the Trump-is-Putin amalgam now defines the propaganda wing of a larger policy that was laid out in a document whose drafters were willing to sign their names: the war-party liberal and neoconservative blueprint for “Extending American Power,” published by the Center for a New American Security. Many of the people involved in these proposals are known advisers of Mrs. Clinton; and if she heeds what they are saying, her anti-Putin course is clear. Push Iran and Russia out of Syria and Iraq, take up the NATO burden in Eastern Europe, and give bigger and deadlier weapons to Ukraine.

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Vladimir Putin and Thomas Bach: The Unlikely Olympic Power Couple

Owen Gibson reports for The Guardian:

When Thomas Bach became president of the International Olympic Committee in 2013, the German lawyer who had spent a lifetime networking and politicking towards that very moment had a neat analogy up his sleeve. “The role of the IOC president is being the conductor of the worldwide orchestra of the members,” he said. “He is the conductor of a fascinating orchestra with the members who have so many strengths and you have to allow them to play the instrument they prefer and get them in harmony.”

In the wake of the IOC’s muddled, confusing and chaotic decision over which Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in Rio next month, Bach is still playing to his orchestra but most of the rest of the world is finding the result a discordant mess. Even in Russia, where there was widespread relief at avoiding the blanket ban the World Anti-Doping Agency had called for, there was criticism of inconsistencies in the IOC’s decision.

When Bach exited the auditorium in the Buenos Aires Hilton having been anointed president, a position he had targeted for decades, a phone was thrust into his hand and the first person to offer his congratulations was Vladimir Putin. As international sporting federations began the task of working out which athletes can be deemed “clean”, attention has inevitably turned to Bach’s relationship with the Russian president.

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Whether Or Not Russians Hacked DNC Means Nothing Concerning How Newsworthy The Details Are

Mike Masnick writes for Techdirt:

As you almost certainly know by now, on Friday Wikileaks released a bunch of hacked DNC emails just before the Democratic Presidential convention kicked off. While Wikileaks hasn’t quite said where it got the emails, speculation among many quickly pointed to Russian state sponsored hackers. That’s because of the revelation last month of two sets of hackers breaching the DNC’s computer system and swiping (at the very least) opposition research on Donald Trump. Various cybersecurity research firms, starting with CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC to investigate, pointed the finger at the Russians.

Of course, whether or not you believe that may depend on how credible you find the big cybersecurity firms like CrowdStrike, FireEye and Mandiant (the big names that always pop up in situations like this). For what it’s worth, these guys have something of a vested interest in playing up the threat of big hacks from nation-state level hackers. For a good analysis of why this finger-pointing may be less than credible, I recommend two articles by Jeffrey Carr, one noting that these firms come from a history of “faith-based attribution” whereby they are never held accountable for being wrong — and another highlighting serious questions about the designation of Russia as being responsible for this particular hack (he notes that some of the research appeared to come pre-arrived at that conclusion, and then ignored any evidence to the contrary).

Still, the claim that the data came from the Russians has become something of a story itself. And, of course, who did the hack and got the info is absolutely a news story. But it’s an entirely separate one from whether or not the leaked emails contain anything useful or newsworthy. And yet, because this is the peak of political silly season, some are freaking out and claiming that anyone reporting on these emails “has been played” by Putin and Russia. Leaving aside the fact that people like to claim that Russia’s behind all sorts of politicians that some don’t like, that should be entirely unrelated to whether or not the story is worth covering.

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Does Trump Have a Subversive Partnership With Putin’s Propaganda Machine?

Jeff Stein reports for Newsweek:

The opponent wields a “firehose of falsehood” with “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.” He “entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience” with exaggerations and unfounded rumors. His technique is entirely new, confounding decades of conventional wisdom that says effective political messages should stay close to the truth.

Donald Trump? No, Vladimir Putin, who has piloted “a remarkable evolution in Russia’s approach to propaganda,” according to a new study from RAND, a think tank based in Santa Monica, California, which has been supplying the Pentagon and CIA with ideas since 1948. Despite ignoring past principles of propaganda, RAND says, Putin has “enjoyed some success” in his main goal: undermining Western unity, and specifically its military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.

His success stories: The rise of Moscow-backed right-wing “populist” movements in Europe, along with Western disunity over Ukraine, Turkey, Syria and how to deal with Syrian refugees. And now Donald Trump?

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U.S. Media Blames Putin Conspiracy for Homegrown Trump Phenomenon

Adam Johnson writes for AlterNet:

Donald Trump is the media’s favorite excuse to bash Official U.S. Enemies. His Rorschach politics that shift almost weekly allows overworked writers to project onto Trump whatever traits they need to make an analogy stick (and deadline met).

Over the past year Trump has been Nicolas MaduroJoseph Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Saddam Hussein, an African dictator,Bashar al-Assad, Bernie Sanders, Fidel Castro, Ayatollah Khomeini, Hugo Chavez(a dozen times!), Mao Zedong, a Chinese communist (present day), a Chinese communist (1980s), Caligula, Rodrigo Duterte, Jeremy Corbyn, Pinochet, Norse god LokiBrexit, Napoleon, Barry Goldwater, Mussolini, Nero, Andrew Jackson,Voldemort, Groucho Marx, Adolf Hitler, Moqtada al-Sadr, Joseph Goebbels, L. Ron Hubbard, King George III, Richard Nixon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Basically the entire cast of Game of Thrones, Batman vs. Superman, and Donald Trump himself. Twice.

The Daily Beast alone has accused Trump of simultaneously being a communist, a fascist, an Iraqi Shia cleric, an Iranian Shia cleric, a Republican president from the ’70s, a Russian president from the present, a Roman emperor, and a cult leader.

Put simply, Trump is whomever we need him to be.

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Will Trump Policy Unravel Traditional Neocons?

Sharmini Peries speaks to economist Michael Hudson who says Donald Trump’s divergence from the conventional Republican platform is generating indignant punditry from neocons and neoliberals alike. (The Real News)

One Russian Security Agency Raids Another, in Rare Sign of Dysfunction

Andrew E. Kramer reports for The New York Times:

Russia’s main domestic intelligence service raided the Moscow headquarters of an investigative agency on Tuesday, in a rare sign of dysfunction in the country’s domestic security services.

The raid, recalling the rivalries and infighting of the immediate post-Soviet period, played out on a main street in the capital, New Arbat, and ended with arrests of three senior prosecutors.

Agents of the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the main successor to the Soviet K.G.B., searched the offices of the Investigative Committee, the powerful branch of the prosecutor’s office that deals with politically hued crimes.

The raid was all the more baffling because the two agencies are generally viewed as operating in lock step to repress political dissent, crack down on organized crime and pursue other high-profile cases in the capital.

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Jonathan Pie: Mr Angry of TV comedy severs links with RT

Vanessa Thorpe reports for The Observer:

[…] Jonathan Pie, the foul-mouthed creation of actor Tom Walker, has become an internet sensation since the success of his short comic films in which his television journalist melts down on screen once he is “off air”. Pie rails against hypocrisy in politics and in television newsrooms and is disillusioned with both his job and the ethics of Westminster.

But Walker told the Observer he is to cut ties with his controversial television network, RT, formerly Russia Today. The news channel is owned by the Russian state and is often criticised for operating as a propaganda tool for Vladimir Putin. Walker said that, while he was grateful for the platform RT had given Jonathan Pie, he was now ready to move on.

“When I started out I had various offers and, funnily enough, RT were the ones that offered me total artistic control, which I really wanted,” Walker said. “I was perhaps a little naive, as I did not know about RT before, but it was important to me that I would not be controlled, although I had more lucrative offers.”

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