Foreign Press Review (13.03-19.03)

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Last week former acting CIA director Michael Morell expressed doubts on the Trump dossier and Trump associates’ contacts with Moscow. But these doubts were predictably not resonant as on Wednesday the US Department of Justice charged four men, including two Russian intelligence officers, with masterminding a hacking criminal conspiracy in 2014 when 500 million Yahoo user accounts had been hacked. It is worth noting that one of the officers was reportedly arrested in Moscow for state treason in December since Russian counterintelligence accused him of passing secret information to CIA. The US current indictment includes economic espionage, wire fraud, trade secret theft and also targets two outsource hackers, who were allegedly hired to steal necessary data in exchange for exploiting the same tools to make money. Officially the case is unrelated to the DNC hacking or the ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the recent US presidential elections. American experts believe that the indictment is just an attempt to deter possible cyberattacks in the future as anyway there is no extradition agreement between Moscow and Washington.

However, the timing signals that American authorities clearly understand that the charges will add fuel to the fire of a battle between Donald Trump and his opponents and will limit US president’s ability to initiate détente in Russia-US relations. The Kremlin’s reaction can hardly be characterized as harsh since Russia bashing has become a usual part of internal political games in America. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized that Moscow have repeatedly denied any official involvement in unlawful activities in cyberspace. The situation seems even more complicated given the recent WikiLeaks revelations that CIA has the tools for “misdirecting attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints”. So by these false digital flags it can shift blame on other states. Somebody could respond that it is just another conspiracy theory but today US citizens live in the age of almost official Trump-Russia conspiracy with the American media constantly aggravating the situation by unsubstantiated accusations. Therefore, it is not surprising that people have doubts about the current charges. The telling example of neo-McCarthyism is Senator John McCain’s words. On Wednesday he claimed that “the senator from Kentucky [Rand Paul] is now working for Vladimir Putin” after Rand Paul had blocked an attempt to vote on Montenegro’s NATO membership.

Besides, last week witnessed the third anniversary of a referendum in Crimea when people had voted for joining Russia. Unfortunately, the western media still lacks thorough analysis of that time events and continues to resemble an echo-chamber rather than serious analytical outlets. Once again instead of trying to rethink the situation they offered only bright epithets (such as “illegal annexation”, “brutal Russian aggression” or “democratic legitimate government in Kiev”) to their readers. Meanwhile, Ukrainian government continues to deepen the existing cleavages in the country claiming cutting off all transport connections with the breakaway regions of Donbass. This clearly shows that it still does not understand the reasons of the Crimean vote and people’s desire to leave Ukraine. Western reaction to the blockade has not followed despite it does not comply with the Minsk agreements.

Russia-US relations

Putin’s rise to power

By Tricia Escobedo

CNN

13.03.17

You’ve heard the allegations. And, if the US spy community is right, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the world’s most powerful person is Vladimir Putin.

CNN’s Special Report On Putin Uses Media Echo Chamber To Attack Trump

By Paul J. Saunders

The Federalist

17.03.17

‘The Most Powerful Man in the World’ offers little expertise, choosing instead to cherrypick interviews and history to prove a political point.

When ‘Disinformation’ Is Truth

By Robert Parry

Consortiumnews.com

13.03.17

Democrats and liberals have climbed into bed with the neocons to push the “Russia-did-it” conspiracy theory as a way to “get Trump,” but this New McCarthyism has grave dangers.

Russian Agents Were Behind Yahoo Hack, U.S. Says

By Vindu Goel and Eric Lichtblau

The New York Times

15.03.17

The Justice Department charged two Russian intelligence officers on Wednesday with directing a sweeping criminal conspiracy that stole data on 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014, deepening the rift between American and Russian authorities on cybersecurity.

While Neo-McCarthyism Spreads, US-Russian Détente May Be Unfolding

 By Stephen F. Cohen

The Nation

15.03.17

“Kremlin-puppet” allegations against Trump are said to have crippled Trump’s ability to initiate cooperative relations with Moscow—but have they?

Trump adviser Flynn paid by multiple Russia-related entities, new records show

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger

The Washington Post

16.03.17

Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign as national security adviser amid controversy over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador, collected nearly $68,000 in fees and expenses from Russia-related entities in 2015, a higher amount than was previously known, according to newly released documents.

Putin Has Made Gains from the Turmoil He Has Caused Trump

By Maxim Trudolyubov

Newsweek

16.03.17

Hacking the U.S election and Trump’s unforced errors give Russia a boost.

What Russian Hackers Teach About America’s Spies

By Marcy Wheeler

The Atlantic

17.03.17

A close read of the sensational Yahoo indictment.

Russia-West relations

Did Putin Try To Influence The Dutch Elections Through Erdogan?

By Melik Kaylan

Forbes

16.03.17

In short, we are watching the unravelling of Nato via Putin’s machinations.

The Road to a Free Europe Goes Through Moscow

By James Kirchick

Politico

17.03.17

The Kremlin wants to destroy the trans-Atlantic alliance. Does Trump want to save it?

Putin’s French Gambit Backfires as Presidential Leaders Fade

By Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov

Bloomberg

17.03.17

Polls show Russia critic Macron defeating Fillon, Le Pen.

Russia-NATO relations

Russia’s violation of a nuclear treaty is a direct threat to Europe’s security

By Senator Ben Cardin

The Guardian

15.03.17

Russia has been systematically undermining the security arrangements that peacefully ended the Cold War. This puts Europe in danger.

Where Will Putin Strike Next? Ukraine? Georgia? Belarus?

By Pavel K. Baev

Newsweek

16.03.17

Russia’s president thinks Donald Trump is not ready to meet a sudden challenge.

Russia and the Middle East

Russia expands in the Middle East as America’s ‘honest broker’ role fades

The Conversation

16.03.17

The Russians are back, if they’d ever gone away.

Russia-Ukraine relations

6 Policies Trump Should Pursue to Block Putin in Ukraine

By Michael Carpenter

Foreign Policy

15.03.17

The national security professionals in the current administration must develop a coherent strategy for supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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