Saturday, March 01, 2014


Shattering the Shatterproof

Russian NightWolves Mark Their Territory

... But that was not enough to calm the region’s ethnic Russians, nor certainly to calm the Night Wolves. “We have one goal here,” Zaldostanov tells TIME on Friday night, a few hours after arriving in Sevastopol. “We are here to defend our country, or at least the parts of it that remains ours. We will defend it from the fascists who have come to power. So let it be known to all of them. Wherever we are, wherever the Night Wolves are, that should be considered Russia.” In his view, “Russia” would include a swathe of Ukraine reaching far beyond the Crimea. On Saturday morning, the Night Wolves are organizing a massive motorcycle column that will ride from the northeast of Ukraine all the way along its eastern edge, covering nearly all of the Russian-speaking regions of the country. By evening, they will end up in Crimea, where they plan to deliver various supplies, including “means of self-defense,” to the ethnic Russian militias on the peninsula. Although Zaldostanov declined to elaborate on what these items would be, he said “they will be enough to make the Russian people here believe that the motherland has not forgotten them.”...

Read more: Ukraine: Russia Ups the Ante in Crimea |\

-bth: an article well worth reading in full. I think the path driven by this gang will define the outer border of Putin's move into the Ukraine. Time will tell but I don't think much time will lapse before events unfold.

Ukraine 2012 election results by party

Putin asks parliament to use military in Ukraine - AP

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin asked parliament Saturday for permission to use the country's military in Ukraine, moving to formalize troop deployments that Ukrainian officials have described as an ongoing invasion of the strategic region of Crimea. Putin's motion loosely refers to the "territory of Ukraine" rather than specifically to Crimea, raising the possibility that Moscow could use military force in other Russian-speaking provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine where many oppose the new authorities in Kiev. Pro-Russian protests were reported in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Odessa. Ukrainian officials and some Western diplomats said that a Russian military intervention is already well underway after heavily armed gunmen in unmarked military uniforms seized control of local government buildings, airports and other strategic facilities in Crimea in recent days.... -bth: Note the request is for the Ukraine and not just Crimea.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Robot Swarm: A Flock Of Drones That Fly Autonomously - NPR

Nightwatch assessment of Crimea and Russia 2/26/14 - What to watch for

....Comment and note to new military analysts: As a general rule, during a crisis when the forces that might be deployed during that crisis start to train, that is more than an exercise, it is a rehearsal. If the training includes distribution of live ammunition, assembly of civilian transportation assets, evacuation of civilians and positioning of fuel and food stocks, then it is not a rehearsal, but a preparation for military action, under cover of an exercise.

The cost and extent of the distortion to civilian normality to generate combat power distinguish exercises from a movement of the forces to full combat readiness. Full combat readiness places heavy extra demands on civilian support that is not required when the forces are at constant combat readiness and in garrison.

Open sources are not likely to report fuel, food and transportation movements that enable a large military operation. If live ammunition is distributed to the forces, this so-called "exercise" is no bluff.
With this exercise, President Putin has multiplied his options in ways not available to European leaders.

Crimea. The Supreme Council of Crimea will discuss the regional political situation after the change of power in Kyiv. (The Supreme Council is the parliament of Crimea. Crimea is an autonomous republic within Ukraine.)

A large crowd of Crimean Tatars and others opposed to separatism gathered outside the Crimean parliament on 26 February and broke through a police barricade, forcing parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov to postpone or cancel an extraordinary session.
Comment: One news service reported the parliament intended to discuss independence from Ukraine. Clashes, real or contrived, create conditions for local leaders to call for outside protection. The Soviets were masters at creating various ploys to justify intervention by force.....

-bth: Nightwatch is a superb analysis worth reading daily in full.

Syrian Web Censorship Techniques Revealed -MIT Tech Review

... he data comes from seven Blue Coat SG-9000 proxies that Syrian authorities were using to monitor, filter and block traffic within the country. These devices are usually placed between a monitored network and the internet backbone, where they are capable of intercepting traffic transparently without anybody noticing.
Blue Coat SG-9000 proxies perform essentially three functions. When they receive a request from a client, they can serve the original content, they can serve up a result from a stored cache or they can deny the request.

The Syrian logs show exactly what the proxies did over a period of nine days in July and August 2011. Because of the huge size of the dataset (600GB), Chaabane and co conduct much of their analysis on a randomly chosen sample consisting of about 32 million requests, roughly 4% of the total.

Their analysis of this data reveals some surprising facts. It turns out the Syrians were censoring only a small fraction of the traffic, less than 1 per cent. “The vast majority of requests is either allowed (93.28%) or denied due to network errors (5.37%),” say Chaabane and co.

But this 1 per cent shows exactly how Syrian authorities conducted censorship at that time. “We found that censorship is based on four main criteria: URL-based filtering, keyword-based filtering, destination IP address, and a custom category-based censorship,” say Chaabane and co.

The Syrians concentrated their URL-based filtering on instant messaging software such as Skype, which is heavily edited. And much of the blocked keywords and domains relate to political news content as well as video sharing and censorship-circumvention technologies.

Israel features strongly in the logs. “Israeli-related content is heavily censored as the keyword Israel, the .il domain, and some Israeli subnets are blocked,” say Chaabane and co.

Social media is also an interesting example. Following the Arab Spring in 2010, the Syrian authorities decided to allow access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in February 2011, fearing the possibility of unrest if they censored it wholesale.

The logs show that censorship of social networking sites is relatively light touched–most traffic on networks like Facebook and Twitter is allowed unless it contains blacklisted words, such as ‘proxy’. Also, a few specific pages are blocked such as the “Syrian Revolution” Facebook page.

Overall, this is a fascinating study that provides the first detailed insight into state-sponsored censorship on the web. At least as it was operated in 2011....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Partitioning of Iraq: Will the Country Remain on the Map? Anton VESELOV | 26.02.2014 | 00:00 - Strategic Culture Foundation

"....Today practically all the conditions have been created for the transformation of Iraq into a federative state with dozens of provinces grouped into 3-4 autonomous territories (tentatively Shiite, Kurdish and Sunnite ones) on the basis of tribal connections, religious affinity and economic interests, with severe restriction of the powers of the Center.

Outwardly such a program seems difficult to implement; in order to legislatively formalize such decisions there will need to be parliamentary conciliatory commissions, committees, secondary legislation, etc., to say nothing of amendments to the country's constitution. However, if one looks at the matter more attentively, the thought arises that perhaps that is the common interest of the key players who are influencing developments.

The West, headed by the United States, as well as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and obviously Israel, have an interest in keeping Iraq from ever again rising to the position of a powerful regional state; they need it to remain a manageable supplier of high-quality petroleum with minimal costs for extraction and export, and also to serve as a bargaining chip in resolving problems of another order.

Most likely the future state structure of Iraq and the country's fate are being decided now not in Baghdad, but in back room negotiations between «very interested parties»... There have been many examples in the history of the Middle East where states appeared or disappeared from the political map during a game of bridge, and the borders between them were drawn with an ordinary ruler. In spite of all the technological achievements of the past decades, in geopolitics and geo-economics little has changed since then."

-bth: this is an article worth reading in full about Iraq though it is Russian in origin and has that perspective. Increasingly it looks like a migration to a federation sometime after April elections?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

$3,000 hike slated for military family grocery bills - CNN

A military family could see grocery bills go up by $3,000 a year under the latest Pentagon budget proposal. Grocery stores for military families, also called commissaries, will be able to offer fewer savings over the next three years as the Department of Defense would slash most of the taxpayer subsidies that prop up these stores, according to the plan released Monday. Each year, $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars go to 178 commissaries nationwide and 67 located overseas. The Department of Defense plans to slash $1 billion of those subsidies, mostly affecting the U.S. stores. ...

-bth: so basically it will function as a retrograde tax impacting disproportionately those in lower income brackets on bases and the retired. 

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations - Greenwald

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world,” including “information ops (influence or disruption).” Latest release from Greenwald. The problem with this is that governments are likely using it against its own citizens. No doubt political parties and adversaries are using it against each other now.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Forget Kiev. The Real Fight Will Be for Crimea

Amid the numerous reports of events in Ukraine in recent days, observers have largely overlooked the situation in Crimea. But I am convinced that the Black Sea peninsula could become the center of major events in the near future....

Demonstrators in Crimea have been toting signs reading "Putin is our president" and "Russia, we have been abandoned, take us back!" Late Sunday in the city of Kerch, someone took down the Ukrainian flag above the city administration building and hoisted the Russian flag in its place. At the same time, armored vehicles from the Russian military base in Sevastopol blocked all entrances to the city — essentially protecting it — after local authorities refused to recognize the new Ukrainian government. What's more, a throng of 20,000 demonstrators spontaneously appointed a local businessman and Russian national to head the city. He immediately announced his refusal to transfer local tax revenues to Kiev and claimed personal authority over the city's police force.

Now that President Vladimir Putin is no longer tied up with the Olympics, I have no doubt he will use the "interests of Russians" in Crimea as a pretext for supporting the separatist movement there, just as he did with South Ossetia in 2008. Putin does not even need to send troops to Crimea; they are already there, in accordance with a bilateral agreement with Ukraine. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko had planned to cancel that agreement, but his successor, recently impeached President Viktor Yanukovych, extended it....

bth: this is an editorial from the Moscow Times which is worth reading in full and may explain events about to unfold.