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28 July 2016


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In simple terms, because Ukraine as it is now, is "the wrong side".


You should excuse bth he has to stick to the party line however ludicrous.

Old Microbiologist

I am with you all the way. It, of course, goes much further. There are ongoing US-manufactured destabilization events unfolding all around Russia. Then you have the economic attacks via sanctions and trade which have arguably crippled Russia. On top of that you have these insipid attacks via things like SWIFT bank transfers, IMF, World Bank and idiocy such as attempting to ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the Olympics. Russia senses these attacks on all fronts and was unfortunately caught early being unprepared. During the Soviet Union Russia was 100% self sufficient but as mentioned in other comments under Yeltsin's "privatization" programs an awful lot of that industry was sold or closed. Now Russia has had to start from scratch replacements for things not available in Russia and yet still has a budget surplus (unlike the US with a near $20 trillion deficit). They have created alternates to SWIFT, VISA/Mastercard, the IMF and even the G8.

The Crimea debacle was a clear attempt to kick Russia out of their base in Sevastopol which was brilliantly countered. However, the cost has been enormous. Little commented on is that Ukraine under US leadership has cut off water, gas, and electricity to the peninsula and blocked all traffic to the mainland. Russia is nearing the completion of the bridge to Crimea from Russia and water/power are already being delivered. This is a huge effort which shows the dedication to their control of Crimea.

Then they have undertaken to directly thwart the anti-Assad US-led coalition in Syria and have hoisted the US on its own petard. It hasn't been easy nor cheap and all of this has been happening simultaneously. On top of all of this we have buildups on the Russian borders so Putin also has to upgrade his military to counter any potential EU/NATO/US invasion of Russia. The aggression has all been one sided but delusional citizens in the US see our aggression as defensive as bizarre as that is. Outside the US people see US aggression for what it is and are not fooled into believing that we are trying to help anyone except the rich plutocrats. The immigrant invasion of Europe is seen as a US caused problem for these continuous insane wars that never end nor apparently have any actual purpose.

If Clinton takes over for Obama it will only mean continued escalation by the US against any country resisting a unipolar world. There are a lot more than Russia and China resisting US hegemony and that attacks, subtle as they are, continue unabated. If Trump dials that back this can only be a good thing for world peace. The neocons apparently are betting the farm on Hillary. Good, I pray they lose and are cleansed permanently from the US political landscape. Personally, I see a win by Clinton as the end of mankind.

Peter Reichard

Have always thought Russians and Americans were more like each other than either of us were like Europeans. Both a little crude, crazy, traditionally religious and musical with big countries created from an expanding frontier and thinking big in terms of infrastructure and vehicles. We ought to be natural allies as we were in the nineteenth century in opposition to the British Empire and again in World War 2. Russia, a land power in the heart of the world island in balance with the US, an ocean power on the other side of the planet with mutual respect could create a stable multi-polar world.

David Habakkuk

Bill Herschel,

With a situation which is changing so rapidly as the present, assessments of Russian ‘intentions’ are very difficult.

However, before making conjectures about what the Russian authorities might do in the future, it is prudent to start by trying to make as accurate assessment as we can of what they have, and have not, done up until now.

If indeed the GRU are responsible for supplying WikiLeaks with the DNC materials, that would represent a very major ‘escalation’ in ‘political warfare’.

At the moment, however, while it is perfectly possible that either they, or the SVR or FSB – whose ‘patch’ this would more normally be – are responsible, the available evidence is a mess.

In relation to ‘Debka File’, the Colonel’s injunction to assess source and content separately applies in spades.

So without simply accepting it, one should also not simply dismiss claims made in a recent piece on their site entitled ‘The DNC e-mails were not hacked by Russian GRU.’

(See http://app.debka.com/n/article/25570/The-DNC-emails-were-not-hacked-by-Russian-GRU .)

Their conclusion:

‘The true identity of the hacker that sent the cat among the Democratic party pigeons, at the most damaging moment for Hillary Clinton, remains the subject of conjecture for lack of firm proof. The leading suspects may well be one or more of her party opponents.’

What ‘DebkaFile’ point to is a central tension in the claims by ‘CrowdStrike’ and others.

On one hand, according to the conventional wisdom – recycled on SST by ‘herb’ – the hacks into the DNC networks are likely to have required much more than the capabilities of a solitary hacker, but were the product of the kind of sophisticated operation which points to a state agency.

On the other, apparently this very sophisticated operation could be cracked by ‘CrowdStrike’ in two hours – and had left obvious signatures.

A more general claim is made in the ‘DebkaFile’ piece on which people better informed than myself may have a view:

‘Russia’s cyber warfare system is still mostly a “black hole” for the West. Although it is highly effective, very little is known about its methods of operation, organizational structures, scale of cooperation with counterparts in other countries, and the tools and resources at its disposal.

“Had any branch of Russian intelligence been responsible for the hacking the Democratic party’s servers, no obvious signatures, such as the terms ‘Fancy Bear, and ‘Cozy Bear’ that were discovered, would have been left behind for investigators to find.”

In exchanges in response to the analysis by ‘TTG’, who clearly has an extensive familiarity with this whole field, ‘herb’ linked to a widely-quoted analysis by Professor Thomas Rits of King’s College, London. A cybersecurity expert to whom I linked, Jeffrey Carr, has now produced a detailed critique of Rits, under the title ‘Can Facts Slow the DNC Breach Runaway Train?’

(See https://medium.com/@jeffreycarr/can-facts-slow-the-dnc-breach-runaway-train-lets-try-14040ac68a55#.97f9cvodc .)

At the end of the piece are links to his two earlier articles, ‘Faith-Based Attribution’ and ‘The DNC Breach and the Hijacking of Common Sense’, which I would most strongly recommend to anyone interested in the problems of attributing responsibility for the hack.

The three pieces by Carr produce, in my view, highly cogent support for the scepticism expressed by ‘DebkaFile’ about the notion that ‘CrowdStrike’ had actually established that either the GRU, or the FSB/SVR, had hacked the DNC servers.

Of course, this does not mean that one can discount the possibility that Russian state authorities had hacked into them. It would seem to me extremely probable that some of them had.

However, the ‘CrowdStrike’ report is smelling to me more and more of an ‘information operation’ aimed at ‘damage limitation’.

A key reason for this is that the report, and discussion of this, obfuscates an absolutely central problem. Even if the company had, within two hours, identified penetration operations by the GRU and the FSB/SVR, this would quite clearly not establish beyond reasonable doubt that the only possible suspect in relation to the handing over of the materials to WikiLeaks was either or both of these agencies.

One could only assert this with confidence, if CrowdStrike could guarantee 1. that they were able to identify all possible successful hackings into the system over the relevant period, and 2. that they could rule out the possibility that successful hacks had been made by people who could have obtained the relevant materials and handed them over to WikiLeaks.

The question of whether they were said anything to the DNC about how they had ruled out these possibilities has barely been discussed in the MSM coverage.

But this also brings us to the question of what ‘Guccifer 2.0’ is attempting to hide. That at the minimum he is not quite what he portrays himself as being is evident.

That said, any one of a multitude of plausible hypotheses about his role – including, incidentally, the possibility that he is actually acting on behalf of Americans who want to see Hillary Clinton exposed – suggests he would be to a greater or lesser extent ‘making smoke’.

What the observations of ‘TTG’ and Sam Peralta suggested was that the self-portrait by ‘Guccifer 2.0’ of himself as a particularly brilliant hacker obscures the actual situation.

When I put their observations to a software engineer acquaintance who is well versed in the technicalities, he strongly agreed, and elaborated on some of the technical issues.

A key problem seems to be that, for a range of reasons, crucial networks go on using old software. Keeping old software secure, in the face of constantly evolving threats, requires relevant expertise and hard work. Commonly it doesn’t get it – and it seems that the DNC servers were a pretty easy target.

But in relation to hacking into such systems, what counts is not sheer brilliance. It is a combination of thorough technical knowledge and sheer persistence and hard graft.

Now it may well be the case that the claims by ‘Guccifer 2.0’ about his own brilliance are simply a case of vainglory. However, it may also be possible that both ‘CrowdStrike’ and he have a disguised common interest in obscuring the fact that the range of people who had the technical competence to hack into the DNC servers was great.

By the same token, the range of people who had a motive to hack into these servers and were in a position to employ people with the relevant technical competence may also have been very considerable.

This has all kinds of implications. For one thing, if the suggestion that the hacking required the capabilities of a state organisation is false, then the obvious way for a state organisation to preserve ‘deniability’ would be to get hold of competent individuals, using systems and approaches which had not been used in previous hacks.

What is not obvious is why such any competent intelligence organisation should leave the kind of easily accessible ‘metadata’ on documents which are supposed to establish that ‘Guccifer 2.0’ is a front for the GRU. It is not clear to me whether the documents in question have been subjected to critical examination by competent – and independent – analysts.

However, if the 'metadata' really can be shown to exist, I think the comment by Carr about the use of the name of Dzerzhinsky is to the point:

“OK. Raise your hand if you think that a GRU or FSB officer would add Iron Felix’s name to the metadata of a stolen document before he released it to the world while pretending to be a Romanian hacker. Someone clearly had a wicked sense of humor.”

In his most recent piece, Carr links to remarks from a 1968 paper by Sherman Kent, founder of the analytical tradition in the CIA, entitled ‘Estimates and Influence.’

(See https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/sherman-kent-and-the-board-of-national-estimates-collected-essays/4estimates.html .)

In it, Kent used the metaphor of ‘pyramid’. Good intelligence assessment starts off with a ‘base’ of reliably ascertainable fact – on the basis of which it may be possible to construct a structure which ends up with a definite ‘apex’, but may not.

The reverse method is to start with a desired ‘apex’ and then attempt to construct a ‘pyramid’ which will support it. As Kent puts it:

“There it floats, a simple assertion screaming for a rationale. This, then, is worked out from the top down. The difficulty of the maneuver comes to a climax when the last stage in the perverse downward deduction must be joined up smoothly and naturally with the reality of the base. This operation requires a very considerable skill, particularly where there is a rich supply of factual base-material. Without an artfully contrived joint, the whole structure can be made to proclaim its bastardy, to the chagrin of its progenitor.”

Of course, one can simply fabricate large elements of the ‘base’.

As the release of ‘hacked’ material seems likely to continue, establishing a reliable ‘base’ on which we can begin to build a structure leading to a credible ‘apex’ seems a matter of some moment.

A key part of it, obviously, is working out what kinds of people might have had a motive.

In relation to Putin, I think one needs to keep in mind both that he may very much want to avoid seeing a new Clinton Presidency – for reasons with which I have every sympathy. Equally, however, there are strong ‘downsides’ in using this kind of means to prevent it, and if they are involved, it will have been through means preserving ‘deniability.’

The ‘metadata’ claims, however, make me think that the suggestion by ‘DebkaFile’ that people should be looking closer to home should be taken seriously.


David Habakkuk

Perhaps the Russians have a vast trove of collected SIGINT materials and are indifferent to a US reaction to that possession. After all, what can we really do about it? Hack them? not much of a deterrent since we are probably already doing that and they know it. pl

David Habakkuk


‘NATO should have made clear that Ukraine would not become part of NATO.’

It is clear from the publicly available record that in private conversations NATO officials made clear to their Russian counterparts that the intention was that Ukraine should become part of the Alliance.

It is also clear that the Russians did the equivalent of putting up the kind of ‘Idiot Boards’ that used to be used for senile actors who could not say their lines to make them grasp the likely consequences.

See 2008 telegram ‘Nyet Means Nyet: Russia’s NATO Enlargement Redlines’ sent by the then U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, William J. Burns, back to Washington, which was released by WikiLeaks in 2014, at
https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08MOSCOW265_a.html .


"Are you saying that Russia should have just let NATO take over Sevastopol and the rest of the Crimea and rule the Black Sea? And let NATO advance practically unopposed to Rostov by ceding the Donbass? " None of that was going to happen. One clear indicator was the hostile action toward Ukrainian ships that were in port at anchor adjacent to the Russian fleet. You should not believe your own propaganda. It degrades the conversation


jld shouldn't you be monitoring The Saker for your daily instructions?


If you mean Putin consolidating power, he has done quite well. But what other paths were closed off; one might be better cooperation in the ME by Russia and the West against Islamic terrorism which will haunt us for years. Also a great missed opportunity overshadowed by a needless conflict in Ukraine which has many fathers but stemmed fundamentally from a grass roots rebellion against a Kremlin-backed thug. Also a great swath of the Russian economy, particularly civilian manufacturing and science and technology, as well as eastern Europe has suffered needlessly through lost opportunity through trade with Russia which will persist for the rest of this decade. And hardening of relations between east and west across a dozen countries that were once quite open to economic and cultural ties linking modern Europe have been restrained by fear of the bear. And we see huge chunks of Asia moving back to a strong man form of government. Nato was about to unwind into irrelevance. That too was a missed opportunity. Enough poor statesmanship to go around - not 1930s bad but close.


In terms of pork and poultry Russia produces 100% of that and, which did surprise me, even exports turkey. Beef--about 80% covered. Most of what Russia consumes in food stuff is home grown or made. Exceptions are some luxury food items and things like well-aged cheeses. Russian food stores can give any best US or European grocery chain a run for their money. Variety is excellent and most of it affordable. Per salmon, as far as I know it is both farm-raised and wild. What are the proportions, I don't know. I can, however, testify to the fact that, say, in Troitsky supermarket you can buy alive strelyad' (sturgeon). What Russia lacks, of course, is a good bourbon;-) But you can buy a bottle of Jack pretty much anywhere and it will be about the same price as it is in most US places (with the exception of California where you can buy this stuff cheap). Russians do love good whiskey. Even down to earth, run-of-the-mill convenience grocery chain such as Pyatyorochka sells good whiskey.

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

It would be a matter of some surprise to me if the Russians did not have a ‘vast trove of collected SIGINT materials.’

As to their view of the anticipated reactions, while I am only guessing, I doubt that ‘indifferent’ is the relevant word.

Particularly as Putin has always known that his country’s position has very major weaknesses, his ‘modus operandi’ has in general been to try to avoid irreparable breaches.

In relation to the Clintons, however, it seems to me highly likely that he and others may very well think that trying to keep doors open with them is a waste of time. I suspect that Putin would very much want to avoid a Hillary presidency, while although Trump is a ‘wild card’, he cannot be worse for them and might quite conceivably be very much better.

So there would then a purely pragmatic question, which is essentially to do with whether the – predictable – ‘Red baiting redux’ response to the discovery of the hacking would work in Hillary’s favour, or not.

As I lack adequate ‘feel’ for American politics, I cannot judge. But my ignorant hunch is that a very great deal of the anti-Trump ‘propaganda’ may backfire, as that of the ‘Remain’ camp did here.

My reservations relate to the fact that I am deeply sceptical as to the accuracy, and also the integrity, of the ‘CrowdStrike’ account.
It stinks of disinformation.

From what I understand, the state of the DNC server was rather akin to that of a house with the door left unlocked. So the kind of operation described by 'CrowdStrike' looks rather like of a burglar confronting an open door, who used elaborate methods leaving fingerprints all over the windows.

What I think has been ‘cooked up’ is a bogus story, part of the purpose of which is to obscure the negligent approach to security of the DNC. An ancillary purpose however may be to obscure the fact that a very much larger number of people may have been inside the server.

So I was emphatically not trying to turn the claims which have been made on their head, and suggest that it is unlikely that WikiLeaks have been fed this material by Russian state sources.

What I do think however is that other possibilities need also to be considered.

It would be helpful to be clear as to whether the ‘metadata’ actually exist, or have been forged. The suggestion that the name of Dzherzinsky was used suggests to me that whoever had the idea was not Russian.

Someone with more knowledge of what the organisation that notorious Pole created did to Russian military intelligence, and the consequences that had in 1941, might have chosen a different name.


That is generally true. There are a lot of similarities. And I remember the end of Cold War extremely well, when the relations warmed up and the danger of nuclear exchange faded. In Russia, at that time, this was precisely the idea what you described but, as Pat Buchanan wrote several days ago "The inability to adapt was seen when our Cold War adversary extended a hand in friendship, and the War Party slapped it away."

Bill H

Apologies, Colonel. Sometimes sarcasm is not done for amusement but as an expression of disgust. The Borg's constant drumbeat of fear against Russia does not amuse me in the least, especially when they then use their "superior mode" to criticise their opponent for "promoting fear."

Bill H

Actually, there's another Bill H at Ian Welsh's place, who isn't me, although I do comment there as well. Creates confusion at times. I don't usually indulge in that mode, but did here for some reason. Yes, I should have more clearly identified it as snark, but I thought the content would betray it as such. I know full well that Russia's ambution of empire is Borgist nonsense.

Bill H

Yes. I will know better next time. I am properly chastized.


Ah! But unfortunately I have been fired for insubordination:

GF a dit...
Here's a sober analysis of the coup attempt:

Répondre 17 July 2016 at 12:24 PM

jld a écrit en réponse à GF...
No, it's ludicrous bordering on retarded, The Saker has turned to a 110% pro-Russian propaganda machine which is probably not even well received in Russia proper.
As in the French saying "plus royaliste que le Roi".


Give me a break. It's obvious to anyone that the West is not serious about fighting islamic terrorism. Ever since they got the USSR bogged down in Afghanistan they have been supporting the jihadis. They still think that they can nurture this particular monster and direct it against their enemies, even as the monster turns on them.


You forget that literally the day before the coup in Ukraine, Russia signed up to a peace agreement which would have seen early elections and a peaceful transition of power. The agreement was also signed by some representatives of EU countries. The Russians only took action when that agreement was torn up the very next day and a coup took place. Even then, they took only the bare minimum action short of rolling over completely and handing over Ukraine and Crimea to NATO gift wrapped.


"were not the events in Crimea a replay of the events in Kosovo?" - Not quite. Crimea joined the Russian Federation with barely a shot fired. Kosovo was ripped away from Serbia with much bloodshed.

Trey N

"None of that was going to happen."

So tell me, all-knowing one, how you are *absolutely, positively, 100% without-a-doubt CERTAIN* that "None of that was going to happen" ???

If you're that omniscient, you must be making billions in the stock market!

Lacking your God-like abilities, the leaders of Russia decided to take the actions necessary to protect their country's vital interests from all possible perceived threats -- and they would have been criminally negligent if they had failed to do so. Your "gross miscalculations" allegation implies that they should have simply ignored the possible (highly likely) threat of Ukraine joining NATO, with Sevastopol then becoming a NATO naval base. All I can say to that is, it's a helluva good thing for whatever country you live in that you're not in charge of defending its vital interests!

As far as degrading the conversation: you are the proverbial person who has entered a battle of wits unarmed....


"for the sardonic amusement of spoiled, naughty, children."

I seem to be one of those.

That said, I don't really grasp the full context of Post Soviet Conflicts:

versus EU "cum" NATO expansions eastward.

On the other hand the latter seems to be driven exactly by what Bill H suggested in his own sardonic way. Nitwit comment. ;)

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

Another relevant post of which I have just become aware.

In his demolition of the report on ‘Vice News’ by the King’s College, London Professor, Thomas Rid, Jeffrey Carr pointed to the abundant evidence that cybercriminals in Russia have very sophisticated technologies and techniques indeed, and spend enormous resources improving them.

An excerpt:

‘Russia’s Ministry of Communication reported that Russian cybercriminals are re-investing 40% of the millions of dollars that they earn each year in improving their technology and techniques as they continue to target the world’s banking system. Kaspersky Lab estimated earnings for one 20 member group at $1 billion over a three year period.

‘A common (and erroneous) rationale for placing the blame of a network breach on a nation state is that independent hacker groups either don’t have the resources or that stolen data doesn’t have financial value. These recent reports by Kaspersky Lab and Russian Ministry of Communication make it clear that money is no object when it comes to these independent groups, and that sophisticated tools and encryption methods are constantly improved upon, just as they would be at any successful commercial enterprise or government agency.’

So much for the ‘conventional wisdom’ recycled by ‘Herb’, according to which only a ‘state sponsored’ hacker could have penetrated the DNC network.

And then, yesterday, ‘Vice News’ produces another report, by one Ben Makuch, entitled ‘Russian freelance hackers may be behind the DNC attack.’

(See https://news.vice.com/article/russian-freelancers-may-be-behind-the-dnc-hack .)

This picks up on the question of sophisticated cybercriminal networks in Russia, and makes a lot of claims about their possible relationships with Russian state agencies.

Certainly, if I was running an investigative television programme, and had a couple of competent researchers (those were the days!), these are angles which I would be exploring.

But one really cannot have it both ways. One can argue that the earlier ‘Vice News’ report is correct, and ‘CrowdStrike’ proved beyond reasonable doubt that the hack which obtained the materials supplied to WikiLeaks could only have come from a Russian state agency.

Alternatively, one can argue, as the new ‘Vice News’ report does, that the hack would have been well within the capabilities of a range of highly sophisticated Russian cybercriminal organisations, and that it is possible that these were collaborating with elements in the Russian security services.

One simply cannot argue both cases at the same time. They contradict each other.

And if you tell me that organisations who are investing millions – or actually, billions – to enable them to loot Western banks undetected could not devise a system of penetrating the DNC servers which was not susceptible of being uncovered by ‘CrowdStrike’ in two hours – what am I expected to say?

Quite clearly, we in ‘Oceania’ have reached the perfection of ‘Ingsoc’.

One doesn’t need the ‘memory hole’ of ‘Room 101’. No – or at least very few – contemporary MSM journalists would even notice a contradiction in what ‘Miniluv’ tells them, even if – as with these ‘Vice News’ reports – it is glaringly apparent.

Now, if a little bird came to me, and told me a story like:

A ‘software engineer’ working for a Russian ‘cybercriminal organisation’ had a drink with an old college mate working for the FSB, and said to him:

‘Look, we’ve got the Ministry of Communications on our backs. As it happens, we set one of our trainees to hack the DNC servers, without being observed, as an exercise, and he turned up a lot of juicy stuff. (He’s not really top class, but with such an easy target ...

‘Suppose we just passed all the stuff onto WikiLeaks – you’ll never be traced – and you can tell the Ministry to get off our backs?’

Complete fiction on my part, certainly: but at least, not utterly implausible.


David Habakkuk

IMO there would not be any long lasting effect on US/Russian relations from a disclosure of Russian government agency. Remember the Merkel phone intercepts affair. OTOH it could be private hackers. pl

Old Microbiologist

David, Very nicely put together.

Colonel, Good point. Especially when viewed in the light that the US was the first country to actively attack another (Iran) with cyber warfare thus opening Pandora's box. The paradox is we claim to hold the moral high ground. The truth is everyone is actively attempting to gather any and all the intel they can all the time. This smacks of disinformation to me. Hopefully, we will get to see the 30,000 emails soon then the fun can really begin.

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