Russian President Vladimir Putin meets British PM Theresa May at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, in 2016. Reuters / Sputnik Photo Agency
- MI6 has elevated Russia to “tier one” threat status.
- The head of MI6 has told NATO its response to Russian interference in Europe and the West needs to get sharper.
- Russia has at least 700,000 security and intelligence personnel on its payrolls.
- Britain has only about 16,000 equivalent people in its special security services.
- NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force is outnumbered six to one by Russian forces.
LONDON — MI6, the secret intelligence service, has reclassified Russia as a “tier one” threat, alongside Islamic terrorism, after years of regarding the nation as a second-rung security issue. Back in 2010, Russia was not even named in the British National Security Council’s annual strategic defence and security review. In 2015, Russia was mentioned but not named specifically as a top priority. Only in 2016 was Russia once again called out — as it was during the Cold War — as a serious threat to national security, in the security review.
Alex Younger, the head of MI6, went to NATO last month to tell the joint forces that Europe and the US need to get their act together when it comes to opposing Russia, according to Edward Lucas writing in The Times.
The British people have been slow to wake up to Russia’s interference in domestic politics. For years, the Russian government has funded misinformation around the Brexit referendum, oligarchs have invested in the London property market via offshore financial vehicles, and Russian espionage services have used the UK as a location for assassinating their political opponents.
But the intelligence community has become increasingly alarmed at the boldness of Russian interventions inside Britain. Fourteen people are suspect to have been killed in Britain by Russian spiessince 2003, according to BuzzFeed.
Now MI6 will no longer stand idly by while Putin acts with a “sense of impunity,” Younger told NATO in November.
But Younger has a problem: The sheer size of the Russian security and intelligence apparatus. Britain has about 16,000 people devoted to intelligence and security. By contrast, the Russian state employs between 705,000 and 940,000 people across its various security, intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies, according to Victor Madeira, a Russia expert at the Institute for Statecraft, who testified to the House of Commons defence committee. That’s 42 times as many, for a country whose population is roughly twice the size of the UK’s.
- TOTAL Russian security agency staffing (ca 2006-2015) 705,000-940,000
- FSB: 387,000
- SVR: 13,000
- GRU: 280,000-480,000
- Special Communications and Information Service (Spetssvyaz): 53,000-120,000
- TOTAL British security agency staffing (2015): 16,586
- MI5, MI6, GCHQ: 12,080
- DI, NSS, JIO, OSCT: ~4,506
Of course, not all those people are deployed against the UK. The US remains Russia’s great enemy, Madeira told Business Insider. And many of them will be employed in low-level work, such as border guards. But even so, “you’re talking orders of magnitude [over the UK] that the number of people that Russia can deploy,” Madeira says.
For instance, Russia has a massive official propaganda budget. “The resources we have collectively in the West even since Crimea, since Ukraine, that we’ve thrown at the problem are minuscule compared to what Russia does officially and unofficially, to the tune of annual budgets anywhere from $600 million to $1 billion, the Russians spend on the RTs and the Sputniks and outlets like this,” Madeira testified.
Russia has maintained that force because of the “mindset” of the Russian state, which has a completely different conception of the post-Cold War “peace” than Western nations do. In the West, peacetime is regarded as a dividend to be celebrated, a time to relax and prosper. But inside the Russian state, which is still run largely by former Soviet intelligence officials, peace is regarded as the period you use to prepare for the next inevitable conflict.
The Russian security apparatus, in other words, is in a constant state of war preparation in way that the British government is not.
“Russia continuously conducts strategic influence operations, especially in what NATO sees as ‘peacetime’, because to Moscow that is when the foundations of wartime success are laid,” Madeira wrote to the Commons defence committee. “Recent Russian security and intelligence budgets have grown annually by an estimated 15%-20% – with spending going to operations, not infrastructure.”
“That mindset in the Russian security and intelligence services remains that way today,” he told Business Insider.
It’s not just that the spies are outnumbered, either. NATO is probably not equipped to fend off a surprise attack from Russia, the defence committee heard last year. On that panel, MP Bob Stewart asked Igor Sutyagin, of the Royal United Services Institute, if NATO was capable of reacting in time to a sudden, unprovoked military assault from Russia.
“The problem is that the NATO Very High Readiness [Joint Task] Forces are not enough to cope … the mobility, even if they will be there, they will be outnumbered six to one which is very serious,” Sutyagin said. “Secondly, the forces, even if deployed have some structural deficiencies … the Western side might be unprepared to deal with these environments.”
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The expanding federal investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election is shining new light on the central role played by one member of President Trump’s inner circle — his son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner — in reaching out to Moscow.
The latest disclosure — that even before Trump took office Kushner directed campaign foreign policy advisor Michael Flynn to try to persuade Russia to quash a United Nations resolution — is one example of numerous Kushner contacts with Moscow and meetings with Russian intermediaries now under scrutiny by investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Kushner, a 36-year-old former Manhattan real estate developer and Washington neophyte, may be key as Mueller pursues the still-unresolved mystery of whether Trump’s campaign had improper dealings with Russia, a charge that Kushner denies.
Revelations about Kushner’s Russia contacts have been dribbling out for months, forcing Kushner and other Trump aides who denied or downplayed them to repeatedly backtrack.
But with Flynn now cooperating with Mueller’s investigators, Kushner’s role in handling outreach to foreign governments for Trump is likely to get even more scrutiny from investigators. Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his own Russia contacts.
Publicly Trump insists he is not worried, telling reporters Saturday there had been “absolutely no collusion” with Moscow, but adding, “We’ll see what happens.”
In the wake of Flynn’s plea deal, Democrats on both the House and Senate intelligence committees said they wanted Kushner, who appeared in private before both panels in July, to return to answer new questions about his dealings with Russian officials and intermediaries from Moscow.
“Mike Flynn wasn’t acting as a free agent. He was acting at the behest of very senior people close to the president or the president himself,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “If Mr. Kushner was involved in that, he’d have a lot to tell us that he hasn’t told us so far.”
Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, declined to comment on Kushner’s Russia contacts.
Kushner has described himself as an overworked and inexperienced campaign aide who was “forced to make changes on the fly” when it came to Russia.
“I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so,” Kushner said after July’s closed-door meeting with investigators from the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Trump cycled through a cadre of high-level aides during the presidential campaign, but Kushner remained a trusted advisor with one particularly unassailable credential — he is family through his marriage to Trump’s older daughter, Ivanka.
After running his real estate company like a family business, Trump saw no reason to change course while campaigning or after winning the White House. Kushner joined the administration and received a vast portfolio of responsibilities, including overhauling the federal government with the newly created Office of American Innovation and pursuing a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
He has insisted that his initial failure to report his meetings with the Russians or any other foreigners on forms required for a government security clearance was not deliberate. He blamed an aide who he said had mistakenly submitted the form, known as an SF-86, before it was complete, and said that he later updated it.
As a trusted advisor, Kushner was the intermediary with foreign officials, a role that led to several contacts with Russian officials, either directly or through intermediaries.
According to court papers disclosed on Friday, Flynn was directed by a “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team — identified by a former official as Kushner — to lobby Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and officials from other foreign governments in an attempt to delay or defeat a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of Israel in December 2016.
Trump had publicly opposed the resolution, saying it “puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”
But the Trump team’s attempts to block the resolution was at odds with the position taken by the Obama administration, which still occupied the White House and planned to let the resolution pass.
The attempts to influence the vote, which a person familiar with the transition described as a collaborative endeavor by multiple high-ranking members of Trump’s team, did not succeed. Kislyak said Russia would not vote against the resolution, which passed after the United States abstained.
Earlier that month, at a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Kislyak asked Kushner whether the Trump transition office had a secure telephone line that Trump’s aides could use to talk to Russian generals about the war in Syria.
Because none was available, Kushner said he asked about using one at the Russian Embassy instead to conduct “direct discussions” with Moscow.
He said that after Kislyak, who was recalled to Moscow last summer, told him that was impossible, they agreed to follow up after the inauguration. Kushner did not explain why the Trump team did not simply ask to use a secure U.S. government line.
In contrast to Flynn, who admitted this week in court that he and Kislyak had discussed U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Kushner has said that he did not discuss lifting the sanctions.
Kushner met Kislyak in April 2016 at a foreign policy speech by Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
Kushner also held a Dec. 13 meeting with Sergey Gorkov, head of the state-owned Vnesheconombank, Russia’s national development bank. He said he took the meeting at Kislyak’s urging because Gorkov had a “direct relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian bank described the session in March as part of a new outreach to “a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies.” Kushner, by contrast, said he and Gorkov did not discuss “private business of any kind.”
In testimony to Congress last summer, Kushner also denied having any contact with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, during the campaign, according to a statement from his lawyer, and said he could not recall anyone from the campaign having such contacts.
WikiLeaks was responsible for releasing hacked emails that U.S. intelligence agencies say were obtained through Russia’s attempt to interfere with the presidential election.
But Kushner was forced to backtrack when the Atlantic magazine revealed last month that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., forwarded a message from WikiLeaks to Kushner and others.
Lowell said his client did not respond to the email and was not in touch with WikiLeaks.
“Mr. Kushner had no contacts with that organization,” he wrote in a letter last month to the Senate Judiciary Committee after the panel’s bipartisan leadership requested more documents from him.
Kushner also attended a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney introduced to Trump Jr. as “a Russian government attorney” who was part of “its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
The emails said she could provide documents that “would incriminate” Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and would be “very useful to your father.” Kushner insisted he showed up to the meeting without reading the emails about who she was and left early, calling it a “waste of time.”
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Russian propaganda on social media – Google News
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This article was originally published on November 28, 2016 and republished after reports of KT McFarland’s involvement in the Trump-Russia probe.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has filled two more top administration posts.
The incoming president has tapped Fox News analyst Kathleen “KT” McFarland to serve as deputy national security adviser, and campaign attorney Donald McGahn as White House counsel.
Trump confirmed the picks Friday in a statement from his transition team.
He cited McFarland’s “tremendous experience and innate talent,” which he said would “complement the fantastic team we are assembling.”
Trump had already tapped retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
McFarland has most recently served as a Fox News analyst. She served in various posts under former Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan.
While on Fox News McFarland has offered analysis on various issues of national security, some of which has raised an eyebrow or two over the years.
In 2012 McFarland said to, “Either bomb Iran, or let Iran get the bomb.”
In response to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, McFarland called for more racial profiling, while blaming the attacks on the failings of political correctness. Candidate Trump echoed McFarland’s sentiments in 2016 following the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, insisting that the U.S. should adapt “Israeli style” racial profiling.
In a segment with Sean Hannity on Fox News, McFarland defended waterboarding saying, “It’s not torture, but even if it is torture, it’s worth doing.”
While discussing Saudi Arabia’s support for the Iran nuclear agreement, McFarland inisted Saudi Arabia was being duplicitous, based upon her reasons that “they are Arabs, they are not going to say something to your face that will upset you… it’s not what they say, it’s what they do.”
McFarland whose national security experience goes as far back as serving on Henry Kissinger’s National Security Council Staff in the Ford administration, wrote a column in 2013 praising Vladimir Putin for his role in the Syrian conflict. She even went as far as to suggest Putin should receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
McFarland’s position does not require Senate confirmation.
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