U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

March 25 at 6:48 PM
The U.S. government has not figured out how to deter the Russians from meddling in democratic processes, and stopping their interference in elections, both here and in Europe, is a pressing problem, the top civilian leader of the National Security Agency said.The NSA was among the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ordered a cyber-enabled influence campaign in 2016 aimed at undermining confidence in the election, harming Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping elect GOP nominee Donald Trump.“This is a challenge to the foundations of our democracy,” said NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, 58, who is retiring at the end of April, in an interview at Fort Meade, Md., the agency’s headquarters. “It’s the sanctity of our process, of evaluating and looking at candidates, and having accurate information about the candidates. So the idea that another nation-state is [interfering with that] is a pretty big deal and something we need to figure out. How do we counter that? How do we identify that it’s happening — in real-time as opposed to after the fact? And what do we do as a nation to make it stop?”The lack of answers, he said, “as an American citizen . . . gives me a lot of heartburn.”

Ledgett, known as a straight-shooting, unflappable intelligence professional, began his NSA career in 1988 teaching cryptanalysis — how to crack codes — and rose to become the agency’s top civilian leader . The NSA, with 35,000 civilian and military employees, gathers intelligence on foreign targets overseas through wiretaps and increasingly by cyberhacking. Its other mission is to secure the government computers that handle classified information and other data critical to military and intelligence activities.

Asked whether the NSA had any inkling that the Kremlin was going to orchestrate the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails last July, he demurred. “I actually don’t want to talk about that.”

At the same time, he said, what Moscow did was “no strategic surprise.” Rather, “what may have been a tactical surprise was that they would do it the way they did.”

Campaigns of propaganda and disinformation, dating back to the Soviet Union, have long been a staple of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Now, however, it is making effective use of its hacking prowess to weaponize information and combine it with its influence operations, or what intelligence officials call “active measures.”

“In general, if you’re responding to nation-state actions like that, you have to find out what are the levers that will move the nation-state actors and are you able and willing to pull those levers?” said Ledgett when asked how the United States should respond.

The Obama administration slapped economic sanctions on two Russian spy agencies involved in hacking the DNC, three companies believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Yet, intelligence officials including NSA Director Michael S. Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey said on Monday that they believe Moscow will strike again — in 2020, if not in 2018.

So should the government mull other options, such as hacking Russian officials’ emails or financial records and releasing them in a bid to embarrass or show corruption? “I think every element of national power is something we should consider,” he said. “That would probably fall under something like a covert action. But if that’s the right answer, that’s the right answer.”

Ledgett is probably most well-known for leading the agency task force that handled the fallout from the leaks of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. The disclosures prompted a national and global debate about the proper scope of government surveillance and led Congress to pass some reforms, including the outlawing of bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata.

But the disclosures also caused great upheaval in NSA’s collection efforts, hurt morale, and damaged relations with allies and with tech firms that enable court-ordered surveillance, Ledgett said. “It was a terrible time for the agency,” he said.

He oversaw the probe of the internal breach; relations with Congress, the White House, foreign governments and the press; and the effort to prevent a recurrence. “There was a bit of a narrative on the outside about this evil agency that hoovered up all the communications in the world and rooted through them for things that were interesting, and that wasn’t actually true.”

The operational hit was significant, he said. More than 1,000 foreign targets — whether a person or a group or an organization — altered or attempted to alter their means of communications as a result of the disclosures, he said. They “tried with varying degrees of success to remove themselves from our ability to see what they were doing,” he said.

The agency, which has some 200 stations worldwide, reworked capabilities including virtually all of its hacking tools. “In some cases, we had to do things very differently” to gather the same foreign intelligence as before.

Raj De, a former NSA general counsel, said Ledgett was relied on heavily by both Rogers and Rogers’s predecessor, Keith B. Alexander. “He has really been a source of steadiness for the agency,” said De, now head of the Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice at Mayer Brown, a global law firm. “What is particularly notable about Rick is his willingness to engage with all types of people, to keep an open mind.”

In December 2013, Alexander, when he was the NSA director, said that Snowden should be given no amnesty. But Ledgett told CBS’s “60 Minutes” then that “my personal view is yes, it’s worth having a conversation about.”

In his interview earlier this week, however, he said what he meant was that by engaging Snowden in conversation, the agency might have been able to learn what material had not been released and where it was.

Today, he said, there is no longer any need to talk to Snowden. “He’s past his usefulness to us.” Snowden, who is living in Moscow under a grant of asylum, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act, and Ledgett said he should not be pardoned. “I’ve always been of the idea that ‘Hey, I think he needs to face the music for what he did.’ ”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

With Trump, Russia Goes From Thursday’s Foe of U.S. to Friday’s Friend

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with President Obama in Hangzhou, China, in September.CreditAlexei Druzhinin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MOSCOW — The diatribe against the Obama administration on prime-time television by a Russian Foreign Ministry official was hardly unusual in the long history of rocky relations between the United States and Russia.

The administration “demonstrated the belief that the strongest has the right to create evil,” Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said on the Christmas Day broadcast.

From Washington’s perspective, it is the Kremlin that generally personifies evil, a point President Obama made on Thursday in punishing Russia for cyberattacks by directing new sanctions against Moscow and expelling 35 Russian diplomats. “The United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

The two statements appeared to be business as usual — each side representing enemy No. 1 for the other. By Friday that mood had been abruptly cast aside, however. President Vladimir V. Putin announced that Russia would do nothing in response to the new American measures, awaiting the next administration, prompting President-elect Donald J. Trump to call him “very smart” in a Twitter post.

Continue reading the main story

With the sitting president calling Russia a national security threat and the incoming one praising Mr. Putin, many American voters, long accustomed to being suspicious about Russia, are understandably confused and uneasy. Russia was an enemy on Friday morning, and a friend by the afternoon.

“We are in a whiplash moment right now, and I think it is unprecedented in several respects,” said Cliff Kupchan, the chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk assessment firm in Washington, and a former State Department official from the Clinton administration. “The most important one is that the baton is about to be passed from an administration with a very hard line on Russia to one that is very much more sympathetic.”

No clear agreements or even offers are on the table yet, however, bringing uncertainty. “Russia’s relations with the U.S. are currently up in the air — both sides have no clear strategy about how to move them forward,” said Aleksandr Morozov, an independent Russian political analyst.

Until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and even for years afterward, matters were more black and white. A young American diplomat stationed in Moscow named George F. Kennan established the parameters of the relationship for decades with a famous 1947 policy paper. The Soviet Union was bent on expansion, he wrote, so the main element of any United States policy had to be containment.

Thus began a long roller coaster ride for the two countries, full of periodic upswings as friends when détente was in vogue, inevitably followed by precipitous plummets as foes that left the world shuddering about the prospects of a nuclear Armageddon.

Tensions eased periodically, but it never seemed to last.

President Ronald Reagan, an implacable anti-Communist, surprised the world by reaching out to the man who turned out to be the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to begin negotiations for far-reaching arms control agreements between the two sides.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Russian Federation that emerged entered into an extended period of decline and, inevitably, friendship with the United States as a kind of junior partner.

That “junior” aspect rankled, however, particular after Mr. Obama went from seeking to reset relations to dismissing Russia as a “regional power.”

The latest crisis began in 2014, with a revolution in Ukraine that Mr. Putin labeled an American plot — he, as many Soviet leaders have, sees the hidden hand of Washington everywhere. Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and armed rebels in eastern Ukraine, prompting Western economic sanctions, which Mr. Trump has disparaged.

The last confrontation under the Obama administration between Moscow and Washington came to a head this fall after American intelligence agencies concluded that hacking by their Russian counterparts had breached national security, cracking open the computers of the Democratic National Committee to reveal emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump initially encouraged the Kremlin to hack even more, breaking with all precedents, not least the Republican tradition of painting Russia as the evil empire, as Mr. Reagan called it.

Mr. Obama waited to react until last week, and it looked as if he might leave his successor a diplomatic tempest, until Mr. Putin, long the master of the unexpected stroke, defused it.

Mr. Trump suddenly gained room to maneuver.

“Trump’s spirit is already here, and already changing Russia’s policies,” said Igor M. Bunin, the director of the Center for Political Technologies, a Moscow research institute. “This will be a great plus for future relations.”

There are still potential pitfalls, however, not least that Congress does not share an affectionate view of Mr. Putin.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, plans to open hearings on Thursday on Russia’s efforts to manipulate the presidential election. Much of the Republican establishment in Congress endorsed the new sanctions imposed against Russia, putting them at odds with Mr. Trump.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, was with Mr. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, last week to tour the Baltic States, which fear being the next target of the Russian military.

“The Russian cyberattack, and the misinformation and propaganda — they have been living with this for decades,” Ms. Klobuchar said in an interview.

American voters have heard Mr. Trump praise Russia, and some in the far right have hailed Mr. Putin as a hero for espousing conservative values. Yet old instincts die hard.

“I worry about what our relationship with other countries is going to be with a Trump presidency, if we buddy-buddy up to Russia and a leader who is not so democratic in nature,” said Alexis Matter, 35, walking through a Denver shopping mall.

In Sandy Springs, Ga., Chase Williams, 26, the manager of a pet supply store, said that Russia had fallen off the radar in recent years. His fears now were less of the old Cold War over a nuclear weapons attack than a sense that Mr. Putin could outfox the American administration.

“When I say Russia scares me, it’s not because I’m scared of them coming over here and doing something,” Mr. Williams said. “I’m scared when I see a chess player playing checkers — and we are checkers.”

Mr. Putin has made no secret of the fact that he would like to re-establish the consensus reached with the United States at the 1945 Yalta conference that carved the globe into spheres of influence.

Russia no longer has the might needed to assert its right to be a superpower, analysts say, but if nothing else, cyberattacks have underscored that you do not need nuclear weapons or a strong economy to assert global influence.

Some Russian analysts wonder what Mr. Putin can offer Mr. Trump. A former K.G.B. agent, he tends to view the world order as a series of special operations, coming from a different arena than Mr. Trump’s world of business deals. “I don’t think that Putin has a plan,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst and former media adviser to Mr. Putin. “I think that he is stunned by the number of bonus points that he has gotten.”

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad is on the verge of reasserting control over much of the country, thanks largely to Mr. Putin’s intervention. Ukraine presents some problems, but has essentially boiled down into the kind of frozen conflict that Russia uses to destabilize independent-minded neighbors. And all of the attention on the cyberattacks made Mr. Putin look strong.

In those successes, analysts see fodder for Mr. Putin to offer Mr. Trump a manner of foreign policy victory that would give the American leader something tangible to crow about at home in an arena where he lacks experience.

Russia, Iran and Turkey cut Washington out of the Syria negotiations, so Mr. Putin could bring the United States back in and forge a deal on fighting the Islamic State. Mr. Trump has stated that he wants to join forces with Russia in crushing the jihadists. Or the Kremlin could offer some sort of cyberspace deal.

“I think that Putin is in a strong position,” said Nicolai Petrov, a Russian political scientist. “He looks strong in relation to the United States and he has freedom to maneuver, and he can do what he wants to demonstrate that the United States should recognize that Russia is not a regional power but a great power that should be taken into account.”

So, for the moment, Mr. Putin appears a potential friend to Mr. Trump.

Few expect it to last, however. First of all, Mr. Trump is unpredictable. And fundamentally, the two countries are destined to be at odds, because they view the world through different lenses.

291COMMENTS

Russian policy in recent years has been trying to sow doubt and undermine public faith in Western governments. The Kremlin has relied on a variety of levers — disinformation campaigns, buying influence, cyberattacks — which many analysts expect to show up in crucial elections in the coming year in France and Germany.

“They are trying to create more of a level playing field not by raising Russia up, but through a declining West,” Mr. Kupchan said. “I don’t think Putin is out to make America great again.”

China Not Happy With Donald Trump For His Phone Call To Taiwan’s President

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

Donald Trump Speaks To Taiwan’s President, Reversing Decades Of U.S. Policy

China, the U.S. and most of the international community consider Taiwan to be a Chinese territory, not an independent nation.

12/02/2016 06:02 pm ET

President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone Friday with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan. The call was the first in more than 30 years between an American president-elect and a leader of the semi-autonomous island.

According to a readout of the call from the Trump transition team, Tsai congratulated Trump on his victory, and the two discussed “the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States.”

But the Trump team’s description of the call belies the fact that the conversation has the potential to upset three decades of relations between the United States and its most important global trading partner.

China, the United States and most of the international community consider Taiwan to be a Chinese territory. But Taiwan, with its own elected government, constitution and military, considers itself an independent nation.

In recognition of China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, the U.S. cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979. Trump’s call will likely enrage Beijing, and stands to damage U.S. relations with Chine before Trump even takes office.

“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,”  Evan Medeiros, a former Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times, which first reported the call Friday afternoon.

“Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations,” Medeiros said.

The call with Tsai is the latest in a string of conversations between Trump and foreign leaders that have left foreign policy experts and career diplomats shocked and concerned.

Earlier this week, Trump spoke with Pakistani president Nawaz Sharif and said he looked forward to visiting the country as president ― something President Barack Obama has deliberately avoided doing because of the complex, and sometimes duplicitous, security and intelligence relationship between the two countries. Trump also spoke with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, a despot and international pariah who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1989.

On Friday, Trump also spoke to Rodrigo Duterte, the newly elected president of the Philippines. Since taking office, Duterte has encouraged the extra-judicial murder of hundreds of people accused of dealing drugs, and he has suggested that journalists deserve to be assassinated.

In response to the alarm raised by Trump’s phone calls, White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday delicately urged Trump to seek out advice from career diplomats at the State Department. “President Obama benefited enormously from the advice and expertise that’s been shared by those who serve at the State Department,” he told reporters at the daily press briefing.

“I’m confident that as President-elect Trump takes office, those same State Department employees will stand ready to offer him advice as he conducts the business of the United States overseas. Hopefully he’ll take it.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) was more direct with his criticism. “What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start,” Murphy tweeted on Friday. “And if they aren’t pivots – just radical temporary deviations – allies will walk if they have no clue what we stand for. Just as bad. It’s probably time we get a Secretary of State nominee on board. Preferably w experience. Like, really really soon.”

As America Bows Out Of World Affairs China Says ‘Thank You’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST/WORLD POST)

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

President-elect Donald Trump’s “America First” policy marks an historic withdrawal from the world the United States has largely made. His administration can’t stop globalization, only diminish America’s role in governing it. For better or worse, that leaves China, the world’s second-largest economy, as the only major power with a global outlook.

In a YouTube video this week Trump rejected the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was the core of President Obama’s pivot to Asia. Economist Ed Dolan shows in charts how rejecting trade will not help, but hurt, America. He argues that the lower-skilled, less-educated and older workers who voted most heavily for Trump would almost certainly be among the losers of Trump’s trade plans. Matt Sheehan,The WorldPost’s former China correspondent, examines how Trump’s war on trade could inadvertently hurt American public higher education, which has come to rely on international students as public funding has dwindled.

Trump also announced an energy policy focusing on boosting fossil fuels, effectively signaling a withdrawal from the globally-agreed Paris accord on climate change. And, throughout the election campaign, he has sown deep doubts about America’s commitment to its worldwide web of security alliances.

An increasingly nationalistic European public, contemptuous of the European Union bureaucrats in Brussels, mired in flat growth and reeling from the crisis of a massive refugee influx, has also turned inward. Polls show that many oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Russia is absorbed in reasserting influence in the neighborhood of its historical sphere of influence.

China, meanwhile, has a decades-long strategy of opening out to the world. When the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing in 2013, he declared, “The more developed China becomes, the more open it will be. It is impossible for China to shut the door that has already been opened.” To that end China has put forward the “One Belt, One Road” strategy to revive the old Silk Road trading routes stretching from Beijing to Istanbul. It has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to fund development across the region. In the wake of the TPP’s demise, China is pressing forward with its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to further lower tariffs among 16 nations in the Asia-Pacific region. And, as Alvin Lin and Barbara Finamore  write, China is now the defacto world leader on fighting climate change as America under Trump retreats from the battle and embraces fossil fuels.

Writing from Beijing, Shi Yinhong recognizes the strategic opportunities the American retreat present to China, which he believes will embolden Xi’s foreign policy. But he also worries about the troubles China will face from a more protectionist America and Europe. Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden see the likely neglect of Africa by the Trump administration further boosting China’s influence on that continent.

Shahed Ghoreishi thinks Iran can learn something from China’s path toward prosperity. “China has been able to move forward from its revolutionary rhetoric to develop a self-image that is relevant to its population,” he writes, “Iran has yet to do so.”

Former United Nations arms inspector Scott Ritter suggests that, as a foreign policy establishment outsider, Trump could well break the logjam on nuclear disarmament, recalling how another outsider, Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, met in Reykjavik, Iceland and “flirted with the total elimination of nuclear weapons, out of a mutual recognition by both leaders that nuclear war was unwinnable.”

Turning to the American domestic scene, I argue in a short essay that the “Great Reaction” against the political correctness of ethnic and gender politics signified by Trump’s election has been long in the making, noting that as long ago as 1991 the liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. argued, “The ethnic upsurge began as a gesture of protest against the Anglo-centric culture, but today it threatens to become a counter-revolution against the original theory of America as one people, a common culture, a single nation.” If Schlesinger were alive today,” I write, “he would surely be horrified that a charlatan like Donald Trump could rise to power through divisive invective against Muslims, Mexicans and women, threatening to destroy the American republic from the reverse side of political correctness.”

Eliot Nelson warns that the “alt-right” movement that Trump has emboldened is a hate movement pure and simple, replete with Nazi-like “Hail Trump” salutes. And even President Obama, who seems more tame to Trump, has encountered some failures in his role as commander-in-chief. One agenda item Obama was not able to fulfill is closing Guantanamo Bay. Anne Richardson traces the story of one man who was wrongly imprisoned there for years.

Alex Kaufman reports that Tesla is showing what it can do by powering an entire Pacific island with renewable energy. Finally, in our Singularity series this week, we look at how we can save our history one smartphone at a time.

WHO WE ARE
EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of the WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the News Director at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Jesselyn Cook and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas BerggruenNathan GardelsArianna HuffingtonEric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look MediaJuan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera)Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).

VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS: Dawn Nakagawa

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda(Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One)Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital TimesSeung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat AzizGordon Brown,Fernando Henrique CardosoJuan Luis CebrianJack DorseyMohamed El-Erian,Francis FukuyamaFelipe GonzalezJohn GrayReid HoffmanFred HuMo IbrahimAlexei KudrinPascal LamyKishore MahbubaniAlain MincDambisa MoyoLaura TysonElon MuskPierre OmidyarRaghuram RajanNouriel RoubiniNicolas Sarkozy,Eric SchmidtGerhard SchroederPeter Schwartz, Amartya SenJeff SkollMichael SpenceJoe StiglitzLarry Summers, Wu JianminGeorge YeoFareed ZakariaErnesto ZedilloAhmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek BelkaTony BlairJacques DelorsNiall FergusonAnthony GiddensOtmar IssingMario MontiRobert MundellPeter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.

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As China Threatens: India And Japan Choose To Grow Closer With Each Other & U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

JAPAN

What to Know About Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Visit to Japan

 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Friday, commencing a three-day bilateral meeting in Japan, to discuss developing the two countries’ economic and strategic relationship.

“Japan may be on its way to becoming one of India’s most important strategic partners, some years from now,” Sanjib Baruah, an honorary research professor at India’s Center for Policy Research think-tank and professor at Bard College, tells TIME. “[But] China is the elephant in the room.”

Traditional alliances in the region are shifting, as Russia — one of India’s biggest arms suppliers — seeks stronger relationships with Pakistan and China. As the country looks to phase out its phase out its fleet of Soviet-era aircrafts, India has increasingly looked to Washington, and American defense companies for military equipment.

The meeting with Japan is indicative of a continuing pivot for India as the two countries discuss deals ranging from a highly coveted civil nuclear cooperation pact to a defense trade agreement worth more than a billion dollars.

“There is always some nervousness in Indian policy circles that the U.S. may be insufficiently appreciative of India’s desire for strategic autonomy. But with Japan there is no such baggage,” says Baruah. “In the long run I can see Japan occupying the kind of place that Russia once did in Indian foreign and defense policy.”

Here’s what you need to know about Modi’s visit to Japan.

1. Pomp and circumstance

Modi’s visit was preceded by much fanfare as 32 members of India’s military band will participate in Japan’s Self Defense Forces 2016 Marching Festival for the first time, celebrating the two countries’ efforts to developing closer strategic ties. According to The Hindustan Times, the festival, which was held in Tokyo this year, is a tradition going back more than half a century and draws audiences of more than 50,000 people. Although India’s marching band has been in Tokyo since earlier this week, the actual festival will take place from Nov. 11 to 13, during Modi’s visit. While the march is a largely symbolic overture, it sets the tone for a meeting highly anticipated in bringing the two countries together both economically, as well as strategically.

2. Search and rescue planes

The meeting will also finalize one of the first military sale’s Japan has made since lifting a 50-year-old export ban on arms sales two years ago. According to Reuters, India will buy 12 rescue water-planes from Japan, worth an estimated $1.6 billion. The deal will be included in the memorandum of understanding signed by Prime Minister Abe and Modi during the summit.

3. Civil nuclear cooperation-pact

Modi and Abe will also conclude a much-anticipated civil nuclear-cooperation pact, which would allow Japan to sell nuclear technology to India. According to the Japan Times, the pact will benefit Japanese nuclear-component manufacturers who suffered setbacks after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The deal may also mark the first time Japan has sold nuclear technology to a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Negotiations began in 2010, before either Prime Minister was elected, and the two leaders reached a memorandum of understanding in December of last year, during Abe’s visit to India. Abe’s Vice-Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama traveled to India last month to put finishing touches on the deal.

4. Focus on Regional Security

Despite the promises of the meeting, some experts see the recent U.S. election as a monkey-wrench in terms of projected gains from the bilateral talks — as much of the long-term success of the meeting will hinge on U.S. influence in the region. There is also uncertainty as to how the new U.S. administration, under President-elect Donald Trump, will respond to its alliances around the world, especially in Asia.

“With the election of Trump, the containment strategy towards China embraced by the U.S. and Japan looks uncertain at best,” Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies in Japan’s Temple University tells TIME.

Although, there has been little indication of Trump’s policies, some fear his “America First” policy speech last April, raised serious questions as to America’s future global commitment in Asia.

“The Trump factor reinforces the perception that the U.S. is a declining power in Asia, and leaders will act accordingly,” says Kingston.

Among Japan’s largest concerns is China’s increasing military presence in the South China Sea. As an island nation, with very few natural resources, the disputed waterway is Japan’s cheapest trade corridor. For this reason, China’s militarization of the sea is of great concern to Japan and one of the areas in which it seeks stronger rhetoric from India.

While India issued a joint statement with the U.S. in January, “[calling] on all parties to avoid the threat or use of force and pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means,” the country has not risked adopting stronger rhetoric against China’s actions in the contested waters.

Ahead of Modi’s meeting with Abe, China’s state-run Global Times, warned India of “great losses” should New Delhi decide to call on Beijing to respect the Hague tribunal’s arbitration ruling rebuking China’s behavior in the South China Sea. Since then, the Times of India reported, Beijing’s foreign ministry has called on New Delhi to “respect [the] legitimate concerns” of India’s northern neighbor during the Indian prime minister’s meeting with Abe.

Although India would like to check the growing influence of China in the region, “China has significant capacity to cause trouble for India in its immediate neighborhood,” says research professor Baruah. For now, it isn’t in India’s best interest to antagonize the Asian giant — especially when there is still much trepidation as to Trump’s policies and influence in the region.

“Everyone is on ‘wait and see’ mode to gauge how Trump will act, because on the campaign trail he was a loose cannon,” says Kingston.

New ISIS ‘Minister Of War’ Was Trained In U.S. Military Intelligence Procedures!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

MOSCOW — In a propaganda video released last year, an Islamic State militant wearing a black bandanna and cradling a sniper rifle made the usual grim threats against the United States. Now, there may be a new twist to his warnings.

The militant, Gulmurod Khalimov, a former police commander from Tajikistan, boasted of his extensive American military training — truthfully, it turns out. But some news accounts say he was subsequently promoted to military commander of the Islamic State.

“I was in America three times,” Mr. Khalimov said in the video, which appeared online last year. “God willing, I will come with this weapon to your cities, to your homes, and we will kill you.”

That prospect remains highly unlikely. But there is no doubt that as he rose in the ranks of a special police force in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, Mr. Khalimov received extensive taxpayer-funded military training from the United States to help counter drug-running and extremism along the border with Afghanistan.

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Now, Mr. Khalimov appears to have become the second senior commander of the Islamic State, the terrorist group he defected to last year, to have benefited from American military training provided to former Soviet states.

Mr. Khalimov’s precise rank is unclear; he could be the group’s so-called minister of war, or military commander-in-chief. In any case, the State Department, which oversaw his training, thinks he is important enough that on Aug. 30, it offered a $3 million reward for information on his whereabouts. The Islamic State’s previous military commander was killed in an airstrike earlier this year.

The State Department has been publicizing the reward in Tajikistan, where relatives or acquaintances might have salient information.

Kurt R. Rice, the department’s acting assistant director for threat investigations, told Tajik journalists in September that Mr. Khalimov’s American training made him a particular danger, but he did not elaborate on Mr. Khalimov’s role in the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“He can use this knowledge to create difficulties for our countries,” Mr. Rice said. “He’s a person who can create difficulties.” Mr. Rice’s office declined a request to interview him about Mr. Khalimov’s training, citing his travel schedule.

After the State Department announced the reward, an Iraqi news agency, Alsumaria, reported that Mr. Khalimov had been promoted to military commander for the Islamic State, replacing Omar al-Shishani, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia who was killed in the airstrike. Russian news outlets have also said Mr. Khalimov was promoted, but neither those accounts nor the Iraqi report could be independently verified.

“The U.S. putting a bounty on his head is significant,” Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, in London, said in a telephone interview. “But it’s not possible to know if he’s the strategist of military operations.”

Further muddying the picture, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist propaganda, has found no formal Islamic State announcement of Mr. Khalimov’s position, according to Adam Raisman, an analyst who studies the group’s postings.

If Mr. Khalimov was, in fact, promoted, he would be the second Islamic State commander-in-chief to have been trained in American military aid programs in the former Soviet Union. Mr. Shishani, whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, had served in the Georgian Army, which is equipped and funded by the United States as a bulwark against Russian expansion.

American military aid to Tajikistan is more narrowly focused on fighting terrorism and narcotics, because the country is a close ally of Russia. The aid has flowed even though Tajikistan is ruled by an eccentric and authoritarian president, Emomali Rakhmonov, whose police forces are often accused of abuses.

Along with jailing dissidents and using excessive force — in one case, killing 20 civilians in a paramilitary action — Mr. Rakhmonov’s police forces have been accused of more unusual human rights abuses. A provincial governor recently said that he had forcibly shaved the beards of 13,000 men suspected of sympathizing with fundamentalist Islamists.

Muhiddin Kabiri, the exiled leader of Tajikistan’s main opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Khalimov “was always against the moderate opposition” and that his police unit was known for abuses, but that the United States had turned a blind eye.

The State Department provided five training courses for Mr. Khalimov, three of them in the United States, including at least one run by the company once known as Blackwater in Baton Rouge, La. A spokesman has said the department vetted Mr. Khalimov and did not violate the Leahy Law, which prohibits the government from providing military training to foreign military units that violate human rights.

With American training programs on his résumé, Mr. Khalimov became commander of a paramilitary police force in 2013, raising alarm among human rights groups about the training even before he defected to the Islamic State.

“The U.S. military has been providing a lot of expertise and training to abusive and repressive governments in Central Asia,” Steve Swerdlow, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a telephone interview.

“Military cooperation has to be contingent on human rights,” Mr. Swerdlow said. “Tajikistan got a free pass despite the atrocious situation with human rights.”

American military training programs are generally carried out by the Defense Department but overseen by the State Department, an arrangement that broke down in Tajikistan, according to a 2015 report by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General that looked into the American response to the Tajik police operation that killed 20 civilians in 2012.

Mr. Khalimov, then a deputy commander of the special police unit, took part in that operation but still continued his American military training until 2013.

The report found that the Office of Military Cooperation, the Pentagon group that arranged training for the suspect police units, had also conducted the investigation into the killings — effectively determining that Mr. Khalimov’s training was legal — rather than the political section of the United States Embassy in Tajikistan, which should have overseen the military education programs.

The report concluded that the lack of oversight undermined “confidence that the embassy provides a full and reliable picture of local developments.”

While it is unclear exactly what training Mr. Khalimov received, a 2008 diplomatic cable from the embassy released by WikiLeaks explained what the paramilitary police and other units requested.

The groups wanted training in “mission analysis and the military decision-making process, intelligence preparation of the battlefield, direct action, raids and ambushes, special reconnaissance, close quarters combat and battle, sniper and observe operations, military operations in urban terrain.”

Swedish WWII Hero Who Saved Thousands Of Jews Died In Russian Prison In 1947

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

Sweden officially declares WWII hero Raoul Wallenberg is dead

Associated Press

Swedish authorities have formally pronounced World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg dead, 71 years after he disappeared in Hungary.

The Swedish diplomat, credited with helping at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews escape the Holocaust, is believed to have died in Soviet captivity, though the time and circumstances of his death remain unresolved.

The Swedish Tax Authority, which registers births and deaths in Sweden, confirmed a report Monday in the newspaper Expressen that Wallenberg had been pronounced dead.

Greta Friedman, woman in iconic WWII Times Square kiss photograph, dies at 92 »

Pia Gustafsson, who heads the agency’s legal department, told the AP that the decision was taken on Oct. 26 after an application from Wallenberg’s trustee.

She said the date of Wallenberg’s death was set as July 31, 1952, a date chosen by default under a rule saying a missing person who is presumed to have died should be declared dead five years after his disappearance.

Wallenberg vanished after being arrested by the Red Army in 1945. The Soviets initially denied he was in their custody, but in 1957 they said he had died of a heart attack in prison on July 17, 1947.

Mother Teresa To Be ‘Declared’ A Saint Tomorrow

(This article is courtesy of the BBC Europe news agency)

Mother Teresa: The humble sophisticate

  • 1 hour ago
  • From the sectionEurope
Mother TeresaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Mother Teresa, who died in Kolkata, India, 19 years ago, will be formally declared a Saint of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis at a Vatican ceremony on Sunday. David Willey, who has reported from Rome for the BBC during five decades, tells how he once spent an hour sitting and talking informally with the new saint in an unlikely setting, the arrivals hall at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

I immediately understood that the woman already known as the “Saint of the Slums” of Kolkata was at the same time a very humble and simple caring person and a sophisticated international traveller.

She constantly jetted around the world, visiting her Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she had founded in 1950, so I suppose it was appropriate that we should meet, not in her motherhouse near the Coliseum in Rome, or in one of her hospices for the dying in India, but amid the bustle of an airport.

We sat together in the arrivals section and she quickly had me laughing as she proudly showed off her Air India travel pass, which entitled her to a lifetime of free worldwide air travel – a gift of the Indian government.

Indian nuns from the Catholic Order of the Missionaries of CharityImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionToday there are 6,000 followers of Mother Teresa working in 139 countries

I had been trying to arrange an interview with her for months, but the nuns at her Rome headquarters kept putting me off. Finally they rang me to say she would be arriving on such-and-such a flight from India and departing an hour-and-a-half later to Canada and I could meet her for a brief talk at the airport.

She was a tiny figure and her face was already rather wizened. She was immediately recognizable as she emerged alone through the arrival doors clutching a small white cloth bag, dressed in the blue-trimmed white cotton Indian sari and veil which she had adopted as the uniform dress for members of her missionary order.

“Do you have to pick up your suitcase as you are in transit?” I asked, feeling slightly foolish for suggesting that a living saint might misplace her baggage tag.

“No,” she replied. “I carry around all my worldly possessions with me in this little bag. My personal needs are very simple!”

Before tackling more weighty metaphysical and theological matters and hearing how she devoted her life to the poorest of the poor, I decided to try to find out more about how a living saint organised her travels. I was intrigued by her Air India free travel pass.

“How do you plan ahead?” I asked, in the pre-mobile phone era.

Mother Teresa in KolkataImage copyright  IMAGES
Image caption Mother Teresa worked with the dying and destitute in Kolkata for nearly half a century

“Well I usually ring up, from a coin box at the airport, the head of state or the prime minister or Pope John Paul at the Vatican if I am in Rome – and they send a car to the airport to meet me,” she said.

By the time I met her in the late 1980’s, Mother Teresa’s sisters and affiliated brothers and fathers had already grown to become an international family of 1,800 nuns and many thousands of lay workers.

Today they number nearly 6,000 and are active in 139 countries. Her order knows practically no territorial boundaries and she was already setting up homes and hospices and recruiting in Eastern Europe long before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union.

She opened two centers in Hong Kong as early as 1983, but China has so far resisted attempts by the order to minister to their poor.

As the minutes ticked by, Mother Teresa went on to explain to me her single-minded devotion to her work of ministering to the sick, the dying and the disabled.

Pope John Paul II with Mother TeresaImage copyrightEPA
Image captionMother Teresa was a close friend of Pope John Paul II

In her own words: “Our mission was to care for the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to society and are shunned by everyone.”

Pope John Paul II had visited Mother Teresa’s hospice for the dying in Kolkata during his pilgrimage to India in 1986 and the two became close friends.

Mother Teresa frequently appeared at Vatican ceremonies at the Pope’s side until her death. Later, in record time, in 2003 she was herself created a Blessed of the Roman Catholic Church, marking her final step towards full sainthood.

Her flight to Toronto was called and we walked together to the departures hall. She disappeared behind the automatic doors, still clutching her small cloth bag and passing unrecognized, it seemed to me, among the throngs of passengers crisscrossing the transit zone.

I knew I had met a living saint; she had touched my heart, transmitted her sense of joy for life, and she had also made me laugh.

Ignorant Americans Created The Mass Murderer; President Putin

 

I’m not very proud of that title, but I do believe it to be the truth. We here on the news that President Putin has an approval rate of 86% in Russia by their countries people. A lot of our American politicians are on the south side of 20%.  If we are to believe the news programs here in the States then the Russian People are being lied to about what President Putin has been doing with Russia’s Sons and Daughters and the Russian People’s money. If what we are being told here in America is the truth this lowers President Putin to the level of George W Bush for being a liar and a War Criminal. O, by the way, we are being told that anti-American sentiment is at an all time high among the Russian People. What would President Putin’s poll numbers be if the Russian People were being told the truth about Crimea, Ukraine,  and His 200 billion dollar personal fortune our news programs say he has made himself while he cuts his staff’s salaries and puts the full weight of the International Sanctions upon his people’s backs that he himself has personally caused? But then, we are forced to understand the fact that not everything we here on the news, or the things that come out of politicians mouths isn’t always necessarily the actual real 100% truth!

 

Does your mind ever cross the thought of how someone like Mr Putin was ever able to get into power in Russia in the first place? I believe that Americans (not all of us) are a huge cause of this World Tragedy (Mr Putin coming into power and now gaining power). As you should be well aware of we have a lot of politicians,  D.C Talking Heads, Holly Wood Producers, and some Generals who love to put their mouths in front of a microphone. Soon after the Berlin Wall cam down in 1989 we started hearing derogatory comments, not so much about the Soviet Union, but a lot about the country of Russia itself. We would see and hear comments in movies and hear from the fore mentioned mouth pieces how backward the Russians were, often portraying them as less capable or as less educated as we Americans are. But, one big thing that is still being said today about Russia is how we are the only World Superpower, removing Russia and China from the former “Big Three”.

 

What we have done my friends is we have on purpose bad mouthed this Great Nation of Human Beings, we have been stomping on other Human Beings pride and shoving that stupidity in their faces. We went from being considered as a friendly nation into their perceived arch enemies once again. This arrogance, this ignorance, allowed a person like Mr Putin the opportunity to come to power in Their Nation promising to bring their swagger back. Through his arrogance, his lies, and his evil KGB Mother Russian style brain he has been successful in doing so. There was and is no excuse for how Our Nations mouth pieces have treated the Russian People since the Soviet Union split up. Any nation who has Nuclear Weapons with multiple available delivery systems is a Super Power! If a country has the ability to wipe another country off the face of the earth, they do not need to have their national pride constantly being stomped on. If we as a Nation had/would have been treating the Russian People as respected friends, Mr Putin and Communist minds like his would never have come into power in the first place in Russia. It’s not just the Russian People we have been acting ignorant toward either, if you haven’t noticed there is a Big Star rising in the Far East. Russia, China, England, France, Germany, not Super Powers? American Mouth Pieces, you say they are not Super Powers, please, quit showing the rest of the world just how stupid and ignorant you really are.

Ignorant Americans Created Mass Murderer President Putin

 

I’m not very proud of that title, but I do believe it to be the truth. We here on the news that President Putin has an approval rate of 86% in Russia by their countries people. A lot of our American politicians are on the south side of 20%.  If we are to believe the news programs here in the States then the Russian People are being lied to about what President Putin has been doing with Russia’s Sons and Daughters and the Russian People’s money. If what we are being told here in America is the truth this lowers President Putin to the level of George W Bush for being a liar and a War Criminal. O, by the way, we are being told that anti-American sentiment is at an all time high among the Russian People. What would President Putin’s poll numbers be if the Russian People were being told the truth about Crimea, Ukraine,  and His 200 billion dollar personal fortune our news programs say he has made himself while he cuts his staff’s salaries and puts the full weight of the International Sanctions upon his people’s backs that he himself has personally caused? But then, we are forced to understand the fact that not everything we here on the news, or the things that come out of politicians mouths isn’t always necessarily the actual real 100% truth!

 

Does your mind ever cross the thought of how someone like Mr Putin was ever able to get into power in Russia in the first place? I believe that Americans (not all of us) are a huge cause of this World Tragedy (Mr Putin coming into power and now gaining power). As you should be well aware of we have a lot of politicians,  D.C Talking Heads, Holly Wood Producers, and some Generals who love to put their mouths in front of a microphone. Soon after the Berlin Wall cam down in 1989 we started hearing derogatory comments, not so much about the Soviet Union, but a lot about the country of Russia itself. We would see and hear comments in movies and hear from the fore mentioned mouth pieces how backward the Russians were, often portraying them as less capable or as less educated as we Americans are. But, one big thing that is still being said today about Russia is how we are the only World Superpower, removing Russia and China from the former “Big Three”.

 

What we have done my friends is we have on purpose bad mouthed this Great Nation of Human Beings, we have been stomping on other Human Beings pride and shoving that stupidity in their faces. We went from being considered as a friendly nation into their perceived arch enemies once again. This arrogance, this ignorance, allowed a person like Mr Putin the opportunity to come to power in Their Nation promising to bring their swagger back. Through his arrogance, his lies, and his evil KGB Mother Russian style brain he has been successful in doing so. There was and is no excuse for how Our Nations mouth pieces have treated the Russian People since the Soviet Union split up. Any nation who has Nuclear Weapons with multiple available delivery systems is a Super Power! If a country has the ability to wipe another country off the face of the earth, they do not need to have their national pride constantly being stomped on. If we as a Nation had/would have been treating the Russian People as respected friends, Mr Putin and Communist minds like his would never have come into power in the first place in Russia. It’s not just the Russian People we have been acting ignorant toward either, if you haven’t noticed there is a Big Star rising in the Far East.

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