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A Roadmap: National Security Under President Donald Trump

Obama made national security as partisan as everything else he touched—don’t repeat that mistake

Dear President-Elect Trump: Congratulations on a winning a hard-fought campaign. I haven’t always been your biggest fan (I wasn’t your opponent’s either) but you will soon enter the Oval Office facing more diverse security challenges, in more corners of the globe, than perhaps any of your predecessors. You’ll need help.

The world you’re about to encounter as our commander-in-chief is more dangerous and discombobulated than any new president has encountered in many decades. Your bumbling predecessor hasn’t exactly done you many favo

Russia: You made being friends with Russia a cornerstone of your campaign. You’re about to find out how tricky that will be in practice. Washington and Moscow have deeply embedded strategic interests that aren’t necessarily compatible, beyond platitudes. Vladimir Putin wants to shake your hand but he will not be charmed out of defending his country’s vital interests. President Obama’s denial and timidity together comprised one of the main causes of the West’s current problems with Russia. Putin runs a country that, aside from its several thousand nuclear weapons, is in economic and demographic decline: it’s hardly more than Mexico with ICBMs. Yet Russia can still cause enormous damage to the international system. Putin is a cunning operator thanks to his KGB background. We can partner with Russia on some issues but never mistake partnership for genuine friendship: Moscow doesn’t do that.rs either. Let’s walk through some must-dos, with a healthy dose of geopolitical reality.

Europe/NATO: Our NATO allies never had much faith in your predecessor and during your campaign you scared the hell out of them. The Atlantic Alliance isn’t in good shape, and it’s facing a real enemy for the first time in a quarter-century. Unless you want to dismantle NATO—which would be very unwise, strategically—there’s hard work to be done. Military spending by NATO members, beyond a few outliers, still lags below the notionally required two percent of GDP. You need to get our partners to ante up; try to be tactful, they dislike you already. Moreover, unless you can seriously charm Putin, limited NATO deployments in Eastern Europe may be the start, not the end-state, of what the Alliance must do to deter Russian adventurism. Make clear to our allies that we are behind them, that you understand Article 5, but they need to meet their alliance commitments too. Drop talk of NATO expansion—it’s not going to happen and just feeds the Russian agitprop machine. Finland and Sweden are different, they’re welcome, but that’s as far as that should go right now.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Media Bites on Trump’s Kremlin Ties, but Clinton’s Are Long-Standing and Deep

Donald Trump isn’t the only presidential nominee this year with ties to Russian intelligence—but the mainstream media won’t tell you that

Right now, on the eve of our election, Democrats are engaging in public efforts to expose Kremlin espionage in America with a passion that official Washington hasn’t shown on this issue since the early years of the Cold War. Press reports are aflutter with rumors of Russian moles while members of Congress are hurling accusations of collusion with Moscow with reckless abandon. All that’s missing is Senator Joe McCarthy—and some Democrats are doing their best to channel him too.

As someone who’s long urged Americans to get serious about counterintelligence, particularly regarding the oversized spy threat we face from Russia, this is welcome news. Kremlin efforts to meddle in our election have concentrated minds which previously had paid zero attention to such dark arts. When you go after their presidential nominee, Democrats suddenly get very interested.

However, that excitement needs to be properly channeled into serious inquiries, not rumor-mongering and spy-mania. Let it be said that there certainly are counterintelligence concerns about Donald Trump which require resolution. His slavish public devotion to the Kremlin line on numerous issues is a concern I’ve raised more than once, as is his unwillingness to criticize Vladimir Putin.

Then there are the disturbing Russian linkages of key members of Team Trump, past and present, from Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn to Roger Stone and Carter Page. Longstanding rumors of Russian money bankrolling the Trump Organization—not necessarily from legitimate sources—should be resolved, but can’t be since Trump refuses to release his tax returns and insists on keeping his murky finances from public scrutiny.

That said, nobody acquainted with Russian intelligence and its spycraft is suggesting that Trump is anything like a mole. Someone as erratic as Trump, prone to public outbursts, would never be deemed suitable for long-term clandestine work by the Russians—or any competent intelligence service. However, there is reason to believe that Moscow considers him an agent of influence, to use Kremlin-speak. That special category of operative was defined by the KGB as:

Read the rest at The Observer …

EmailGate Has Already Destroyed Clinton, Inc.

No matter what happens on November 8, Hillary’s email antics have irreversibly sabotaged a political dynasty

With our presidential election less than a week away, Hillary Clinton is playing defense, blaming everyone but herself for the political disaster that is enveloping her campaign. Sidetracked by the news that the FBI is reexamining her emails as secretary of state, the Democratic nominee has decided to attack the Bureau and its director, James Comey.

Herself and through her usual surrogates, Hillary has painted the FBI as a rogue agency that’s out to get her. Top Democrats have accused Comey of siding with Vladimir Putin, while others have alleged that Republicans and the FBI are colluding with the Kremlin to deprive Clinton of victory on November 8. It all smacks of desperation with more than a whiff of McCarthyism.

This is a risky move, to put it mildly. The FBI is a storied force, America’s secret police, and whatever its mistakes during its long history, it’s not viewed by most citizens as more corrupt than, say, our nation’s political class. Rather the contrary. “I wouldn’t attack him,” explained Ed Rendell, the former Democratic National Committee chair, commenting on his party’s current anti-Comey tirade, and reflecting a common sense that seems to be lacking on Team Clinton right now.

Not to mention that Clintonistas are demonstrating their usual double standards here. Take the infamous Watergate scandal, which was Hillary’s political debut, as she worked as a young staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee, investigating the imbroglio which took down President Richard Nixon. Watergate hit the press and became a sensation because Mark Felt secretly told reporters from The Washington Post about it.

Felt was the number-two official at the FBI and he leaked to the press out of personal vendetta—he wanted to get President Nixon for not making him the Bureau’s director. Felt decided to depose the president because he was angry at him. This was rank interference by the FBI in our politics, de facto a coup instigated by a senior secret police official, but Watergate is still lionized by Democrats, who seem to find nothing wrong with Felt’s outrageous behavior.

Read the rest at The Observer …

McCarthyism 2.0 Has Infected the Democrats

Detecting nefarious Kremlin plots lurking behind every Republican bush is dangerous for democracy

“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” stated President Obama acidly, publicly mocking Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia was America’s “Number One geopolitical foe.” The former Massachusetts governor, who had won the Republican presidential nomination, criticized the Obama White House’s “reset” with Russia, which Romney felt had failed, only encouraging Kremlin bad behavior.

In response, Romney was jeered—first by President Obama in a debate on October 22, 2012, then by leading Democrats and their mainstream media echo chamber, which roundly assailed the GOP nominee for allegedly being mired in laughable Old Think. Didn’t Romney, that square, know it’s the 21st century and Obama will “have more flexibility” with Moscow after his reelection?

That was four years ago, almost exactly. It’s time now to admit that Mitt Romney was right and Barack Obama was wrong. The president’s “flexibility” with Russia has meant outsourcing America’s Middle East policy to the Kremlin, while giving Moscow a free hand to steal Crimea and invade Ukraine, plus intimidate Eastern Europe with nuclear saber-rattling. Calling all this a needless geopolitical disaster is charitable.

Nevertheless, four years on, the very same people who assailed Romney’s realism about Russia are hard at work detecting Kremlin plots everywhere, trying to steal the presidential election from Hillary Clinton. Somehow, Vladimir Putin has mysteriously transformed from being a guy we can deal with, no sort of threat, to the devilish figure secretly tearing America apart. What on earth is going on here?

Read the rest at The Observer …

Carlos Danger Reopens EmailGate and Team Clinton Trembles

Newly incriminating Clinton emails may have been found during the FBI’s investigation into the sexting habits of former NY Congressman Anthony Weiner

Just 11 days before our presidential election, the explosive issue of EmailGate is back in the news, thanks to James Comey, the FBI director who less than four months ago gave Hillary Clinton a pass on her illegal use of email and a personal server when the Democratic nominee was secretary of state.

After weeks of damaging revelations care of Wikileaks about just how much the Clinton camp knew about EmailGate for years, and tried to downplay its significance in the media, Comey today sent a letter to the chairmen of the relevant Congressional committees—including, significantly, the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees—that blows EmailGate wide open all over again. He says:

“In previous congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.

In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.

Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.”

Having taken Comey to task for his serious mishandling of the FBI’s year-long EmailGate investigation—particularly how his account of what the Bureau discovered made Hillary’s guilt clear, but he still declined to ask the Department of Justice to seek prosecution—he deserves some credit for due diligence here. It requires some political fortitude to do this practically on an election’s eve.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Putin’s Support for Europe’s Far-Right Just Turned Lethal

This week’s cop-killing by a Hungarian neo-Nazi reveals the Kremlin’s hidden hand

Western intelligence has known for some time that Vladimir Putin bankrolls significant elements of Europe’s far-right. Just as the KGB clandestinely supported Western left-wing radicals and terrorists during the Cold War, today the ideological tables have turned and now the Kremlin is backing militant right-wingers, who share much of Putinism’s nationalist and traditionalist worldview.

This is going on in numerous NATO countries, and one of the most prominent is Hungary, which possesses a powerful far-right political movement which boasts a militant and dangerous fringe. On Wednesday, in the village of Bőny in northwest Hungary, close to the border with Slovakia, officers from the National Bureau of Investigation, Hungary’s FBI, attempted to execute a search on an apartment that was believed to contain illegal weapons.

The weapons were reported to be in the hands of István Győrkös, a longtime far-right activist who was well known to the authorities for his radicalism. Involved in Hungary’s neo-Nazi scene since the waning days of Communist rule in the late 1980s, Győrkös had participated in a wide array of ultra-nationalist antics, some of them violent. Despite his advanced age of 75, police considered Győrkös to be potentially dangerous. Back in the early 1990s he spent a year in prison for disturbing the peace and possessing illegal weapons. More recently, he had run training camps around Bőny for neo-Nazis from both Hungary and Germany, where illegal weapons had been used, according to locals.

When police officers approached his door, Győrkös opened fire with an assault rifle, shooting two policemen at close range. One was wounded in the chest while the second, Péter Pálvölgyi, a 46-year-old major, was shot in the head and died almost immediately. Győrkös was eventually taken into custody with a gunshot to the back that penetrated his stomach. He is in the hospital and reported to be in stable condition.

Read the rest at The Observer

Syria’s Civil War Is Over—Russia Won

It’s time to accept the painful reality of Syria’s fratricide

It’s not every day an American presidential candidate flatly says his opponent will cause World War Three. But Donald Trump did just that yesterday, accusing Hillary Clinton of recklessly seeking confrontation with Russia over Syria—where, he claims, the Democratic nominee is insufficiently worried about the Islamic State.

“What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria,” Trump stated in Florida at his Trump National Doral golf resort. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton.” He then hinted at possible nuclear Armageddon caused by Hillary’s recklessness.

That’s strong stuff, even for Trump, and it’s impossible to miss that, yet again, the GOP nominee is parroting the Kremlin’s foreign policy line, essentially verbatim. That Washington is fighting the wrong people in Syria is a standard Russian trope. According to Vladimir Putin, the Americans are supporting terrorists in Syria at the expense of the country’s government, led by Bashar al-Assad, who happens to be Moscow’s client. In recent months, the Kremlin has breathed fire, issuing warning after warning to Washington to stay away from further involvement in that country’s awful civil war, which has raged for more than five years now.

Earlier this month, Russia’s defense ministry, which has reinforced its air defenses in Syria with very modern S-300 and S-400 missiles—although ISIS has no airplanes—bluntly informed the Pentagon that any efforts by the U.S. Air Force to bomb targets in Syria without Moscow’s approval will be met with force, without delay or hesitation.

Read the rest at The Observer …