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Russia’s spy services identified as ‘the most active espionage organizations’ in the Czech Republic

Counterintelligence

From RIA Novosti:  Russian “special services” are the most active foreign espionage organizations in the Czech Republic, the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) said on Wednesday.

The BIS 2011 report states that Russian spies work under different covers, mainly at Russian diplomatic missions, and in numbers that are utterly unjustified given the current status of Czech-Russian relations… .

One of their main targets was the energy sector, in particular, the tender for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant, BIS said.

From the Czech Security Information Service (BIS):  Based on evaluation of the degree of security risks, in 2011 the priorities of the BIS in the area of counterespionage were intelligence services of the Russian Federation and, in the area of economic and scientific-technical espionage, also the intelligence services of the People’s Republic of China.

Intelligence Services of the Russian Federation

In 2011 the Russian Federation continued in its long-term efforts to maintain a high representation of intelligence officers working under the cover of membership in the Russian diplomatic mission in the Czech Republic.The intelligence services of the Russian Federation are not the only intelligence services of foreign countries present on Czech territory, but in 2011 they were again the most active espionage organizations in the country. A continuing phenomenon was also the major presence (completely unjustified in view of Czech-Russian relations, and not reciprocated) of Russian intelligence officers on Czech territory under various covers. Russian officials openly abuse the disproportion between the size of the Czech diplomatic mission in Russia and the Russian mission in the Czech Republic, and via various forms of political pressure and reciprocal measures force the Czech Republic to accept members of the Russian intelligence services as diplomats.

In 2011 the intensity of activities of Russian intelligence officers and diplomacy aimed at gaining direct monitoring and control of the activities of Russian immigrants in the Czech Republic noticeably weakened. However, Russian intelligence units continue to focus on the community of immigrants from the Caucasus region in our country… .

Intelligence Services of the People’s Republic of China

Based on experience from the year 2011, officers of Chinese intelligence services operating in the Czech Republic pose no direct threat to Czech citizens. In their conduct they endeavour to remain within the confines of their diplomatic cover. Their activities are aimed at finding potential targets: persons, companies, and technologies. A real, direct risk threatens individuals during trips to China, or in case of contact with a third party (such as a commercial company) that is Czech but latently represents Chinese interests (purchase of technology, investments, etc.).  (graphic: Russia Today)

U.S., Russia, Norway in Joint Naval Drills

Admiral Chabanenko Udaloy II class destroyer of the Russian Navy

From RIA Novosti:  U.S., Russian and Norwegian naval forces are holding joint firing exercises in the Norwegian Sea, a Russian Navy official said on Wedensday.

From UPI:  Taking part in the drills are the U.S. Navy’s Farragut guided missile destroyer, Russia’s Admiral Chabanenko Udaloy II class destroyer and Norway’s MS Nordkapp frigate.

From Arctic-info:  In the first phase, crews used elements of joint manoeuvring and communications. It is also likely that the marines of the Northern Fleet, along with a division of the U.S. Navy SEALs will conduct inspections of a conditional intruder.

The second phase of the exercise will focus on the joint rescue operations in the Arctic.

The Northern Eagle 2012 naval exercise will be held in four districts in the Norwegian and Barents Seas, and will end on 25 August putting in at Severomorsk. The exercises are being conducted in the Arctic region for the fourth time. Traditionally, their goal is to develop cooperation with foreign navies to counter terrorism, piracy, and implement salvage operations.  (photo: Denis Voroshilov/RIA Novosti)

Belarus sacks foreign minister after teddy bear row

Former Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov

From Reuters:  Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko sacked his foreign minister weeks after a diplomatic row with Sweden and the European Union over a pro-democracy stunt in which hundreds of teddy bears were air-dropped over the country.

Lukashenko’s office on Monday announced the dismissal of Sergei Martynov, who had held the post since 2003, without providing any reasons for the decision. Lukashenko named Vladimir Makei, previously his chief of staff, as the country’s new foreign minister.

Earlier this month, Belarus expelled Sweden’s ambassador after a plane chartered by a Swedish public relations firm dropped about 800 toy bears over the authoritarian country in July, each carrying a message urging the former Soviet republic to show greater respect for human rights.

Lukashenko sacked two generals, including the head of air defense, and told the incoming border guards chief to use weapons if necessary to shoot down any future foreign intruders into Belarussian air space.

From ABC News:  Vladimir Makei, the head of the presidential administration, replaces Sergei Martynov, who had been foreign minister for nine years… .

Makei, however, is also on the list of 243 Belarusians targeted by EU travel bans and asset freezes.  (photo: WSN)

Is there a NATO consensus on the future of the Arctic?

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, June 2, 2012

From Marten Lindberg, ISN:  Will an increased NATO presence in the Arctic alter the politics of this region for the worse? Some observers assert there are reasonable grounds for fearing a “NATO-Russia standoff” in the Arctic. Relations were especially tense in 2007 after Russiaplanted its flag on the ocean floor beneath the North Pole. The Canadian foreign minister,Peter MacKay, famously stated “This isn’t the 15th century. You can’t go around the world and just plant flags and say: ‘We’re claiming this territory’”. NATO’s combined response came with the then Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s reminder that NATO has a deep historical commitment to the High North… .

However, the most important reason for why a schism between the NATO and Russia seems unlikely is because there is no common ground within the Alliance as to what role it should play in the Arctic.

For all of NATO’s attempts to coordinate military capabilities, there is no consensus on how these forces should be deployed. Canada famously vetoed the Alliance’s first attempt (in 2009) to enact an Arctic policy and was likely to be behind the decision to make no mention of the Arctic at the recent Chicago summit. By contrast, Norway is a keen advocate of NATO consolidating its influence in the high north. Indeed, the United States, Denmark, and presumably the three remaining Scandinavian states, also support increased NATO engagement, providing this is limited to responding to natural disasters.  This would, in turn, keep the Alliance in line with declarations made at the 2010 Lisbon Summit, where NATO declared that its Arctic policies would set aside its traditional role as a force projector and deterrent to instead assuming burdens of monitoring sustainable development and political stability without linking it explicitly to security.

Taken at face value, therefore, NATO’s current thinking and stance over the high north is perhaps far less confrontational than the blogosphere suggests.  (photo: Reuters)

NATO and China Meet in Gulf of Aden

Rear Admiral Zhou Xuming and Commodore Ben Bekkering onboard NATOs counter piracy flagship, HNLMS Rotterdam

From Allied Command Operations:  Yesterday, NATO and China met in the Gulf of Aden, where Commodore Ben Bekkering welcomed his Chinese counterpart Rear Admiral Zhou Xuming onboard NATO’s counter piracy flagship, HNLMS Rotterdam.

"International cooperation is the key to success”, explains Bekkering. "With so many navies - NATO, EUNAVFOR, CMF and individual nations, unity by coordination is vital. This meeting, between two of the major contributors of the counter piracy effort is just one of the coordination tools. An important tool though, where we were able to truly exchange views and thoughts.”

After informative briefings from both Task Forces, the delegations engaged in an open discussion on the subject of counter piracy. The briefings clearly underlined the impressive track record the Chinese convoy escort holds: nearly 5000 ships in almost 500 convoys have been safely escorted in recent years, without a single attack. Another topic discussed was the recent disruption of a hijacked Pakistani dhow. It allowed an exchange of experiences in the search and disruption of pirated dhows.

An extensive tour completed the visit. RADM Xuming was genuinely impressed by the joint and combined aspect of the flagship with 350 crewmembers, from all services and from 8 countries, manning an array of capabilities, from surgical medical teams to Cougar-helicopters. Before disembarking RADM Xuming stated: “This has been a very beneficial visit. The discussions deepen our mutual understanding. I have invited Commodore Bekkering to my flagship to maintain momentum of our cooperation and coordination.” An invitation Commodore Bekkering readily accepted.  (photo: Maritime Command Northwood)

Complexity in the Caucaus: Regional rivals cooperating in peacekeeping missions

Armenian soldiers returning from Afghanistan

From Mark P. Hertling, Foreign Policy:  European Command’s strategy of Theater Security Cooperation — and USAREUR’s contribution as part of that strategy in training and exercising with the militaries and engaging with military and political leaders — is bearing significant results. The four nations that make up “the GAAT” are integrating forces in NATO out of theater and peacekeeping operations in places like Afghanistan and Kosovo, and the potential for peaceful management of the region’s substantial security challenges is improving.

Georgia has participated in ISAF since 2005 and has provided a caveat-free battalion under U.S. command since 2010. This contribution is set to double in October of this year. The Georgian military leadership is now requesting USAREUR’s support to train a brigade-sized command and control element for their increasingly capable and dramatically more professional force. Armenia has recently volunteered to send forces to the continuing Kosovo peacekeeping operation under U.S. command, after their partnership deployment with Greece ended due to the fiscal crisis in that country. Even while engaged in the poorly-named “frozen conflict” of Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K), both Armenia and Azerbaijan deploy company-sized elements to Afghanistan, under German and Turkish commands, respectively. Indeed, the fact that Azerbaijan and Armenia have both created brigade-sized peacekeeping and NATO-compatible units is an extremely positive development. Remarkably, both nations have developed these forces as a distinct military branch for the express purpose of participating in multinational operations. These units, which are specifically non-aligned with operations in N-K conflict, are largely manned by professional soldiers, not conscripts, and are led by English-speaking, western-trained officers. At a glance during my visit, they also appear better trained than line forces occupying positions along the NK line-of-contact.

The infusion of values and the concept of a “profession of arms” are taking hold in the younger elements of the Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani officer corps, who are often trained in the west through the Individual Military Education and Training (IMET) program. The differences between these younger leaders — many of whom have already taken command in key positions — and the older Soviet-trained generals are palpable. In Georgia, for example, the Chief of the Army is exceedingly young, but in two years of engagement I have watched him grow into a mature and dedicated leader of his relatively small Army. The younger Battalion and Brigade Commanders in Armenia and Azerbaijan — many of whom received education at the Army’s War College at Carlisle or at Leavenworth — also exhibit a professional character found in more advanced security forces. Several of these Armies are also focusing on growing a professional NCO corps; this is one of the more significant signs of emerging and quantifiable progress. The younger, visionary political leaders know these aspects of a professional force are critical for further democratization and inclusion in European and NATO organizations… .

The forward presence of U.S. forces in various parts of the world is critical to an expansion of security cooperation and partner capacity building. Our forward presence in Europe eliminates the tyranny of distance, and it significantly enables realistic training and exercises with security forces of all different nations. But more than that, our presence builds trust; something that rotational forces cannot do to the same degree as those who share the continent. All these factors are necessary elements in reassuring political and military officials that there is a peaceful solution to regional tensions, and that other security challenges are best met working closely — and daily — with regional allies. Forward presence reinforces the reality that the United States is a committed partner in maintaining regional security.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is the current Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, where he is responsible for training U.S. Army Soldiers and units for Contingency and Full Spectrum Operations, enhancing Theater Security Cooperation, and Building Partner Capacity with 51 allied nations that are part of the European area of operation. (photo:Asbarez.com)

Poland’s desire for own missile defense system linked to uncertainty over U.S. alliance

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, June 1, 2012

From Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire:  Poland’s recently expressed interest in acquiring an independent capability to counter theater-level missile attacks has much to do with insecurities over whether the United States, with all of its competing priorities, can reliably be counted on to defend Polish interests, according to issue experts and former diplomats.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski earlier this month said the desired antimissile system should be separate from the next-generation U.S. missile interceptors his country is slated to receive around 2018 under the Obama administration’s “phased adaptive approach” for European missile defense.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe said  his sense from speaking to contacts in the country is “there is a feeling that Poland needs to go more its own way and look after itself and be more European-related as opposed to seeing the United States as an ally who is there through thick and thin… .”

“I just think there is a lot of Polish concern as to how reliable and how consistent the United States is going to be in the next several years,” Ashe, Washington’s top envoy to Warsaw from 2004 to 2009, said in a telephone interview from Knoxville, Tenn. “They want to have a system in place in which they are charge… .”

oland’s existing air defenses consist of Soviet-era anti-aircraft systems that are now several decades old and will have to be retired by 2020, according to an assessment by military analyst Artur Bilski published last week by the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita. “They are not worth much, because they cannot counter currently popular ballistic and cruise missiles,” he wrote… .

Bilski said he believes Warsaw’s desire for its own missile interceptors might have crystallized after President Obama in late March made an unguarded comment to then-Russian PresidentDmitry Medvedev that he would have more “flexibility” in responding to Kremlin demands for a compromise on European missile defense after the November U.S. presidential election.

Obama was picked up by a live microphone saying, “it’s important for him [then-incoming President Vladimir Putin] to give me space. …This is my last election. After my election I [will] have more flexibility.”

Bilski claimed the U.S. president essentially told Medvedev “that the Americans could opt out even of the new version of the missile defense shield proposed to the Poles and Europeans and trade it for cooperation with Russia.”  (photo: AP)

Obama warns Assad not to cross ‘red line’ on chemical weapons

President Barack Obama speaking to the press in the White House, August 20, 2012

From Barack Obama, the White House:    I have indicated repeatedly that President al-Assad has lost legitimacy, that he needs to step down.  So far, he hasn’t gotten the message, and instead has double downed in violence on his own people.  The international community has sent a clear message that rather than drag his country into civil war he should move in the direction of a political transition.  But at this point, the likelihood of a soft landing seems pretty distant.

What we’ve said is, number one, we want to make sure we’re providing humanitarian assistance, and we’ve done that to the tune of $82 million, I believe, so far.  And we’ll probably end up doing a little more because we want to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of refugees that are fleeing the mayhem, that they don’t end up creating — or being in a terrible situation, or also destabilizing some of Syria’s neighbors.

The second thing we’ve done is we said that we would provide, in consultation with the international community, some assistance to the opposition in thinking about how would a political transition take place, and what are the principles that should be upheld in terms of looking out for minority rights and human rights.  And that consultation is taking place.

I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation.  But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical.  That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel.  It concerns us.  We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.  That would change my calculus.  That would change my equation.

Excerpt from remarks by the President to the White House press corps.   (photo: Getty)

Obama to ‘reach out’ to Karzai over Afghan attacks against US troops

Obama is "deeply concerned" about "green on blue" attacks by Afghans against NATO personnel

From CNN Security Clearance:  President Obama is “deeply concerned” about the growing number of deadly attacks on U.S. forces by Afghan security forces, and plans to contact the Afghan president to discuss taking tougher actions, he said Monday.

"I’ll be reaching out to President (HamidKarzai," Obama told reporters at the White House, adding, "We’ve got to make sure that we’re on top of this."

Obama spoke Monday with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The top U.S. military official is in Afghanistan for meetings with coalition and Afghan leaders, including Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO forces, and Afghan Army Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, Dempsey’s counterpart in the country.

There has been some success, including better counterintelligence, Obama said. “But obviously we’re going to have to do more.”

"And hopefully over the next several weeks we’ll start seeing better progress on this front," he added.

An incident Sunday brought the death toll in attacks by Afghan military and police personnel this year to 40, according to U.S. military officials.

Twenty-three of those killed were Americans, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

The NATO death toll in what the military is now calling “insider attacks” is already higher than it was last year, according to statistics compiled by the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said Friday that 39 people had been killed in these attacks in 2012. That was before Sunday’s attack killed one ISAF service member… .

Officials are examining the vetting process for Afghan soldiers and police “and investigating where it failed,” a Defense Department statement said.

All troops at NATO headquarters and all bases across the country have been ordered to carry loaded weapons around the clock, CNN learned Friday.  (photo: CNN)

French Foreign Minister: Syria’s Leader Low on Cash

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, August 16, 2012

From Inti Landauro, the Wall Street Journal:  Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime is running out of cash to face the insurgency in the country and France plans to discuss with Russia ways to reduce Syrian government funding, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabiussaid Monday.

The Syrian government has enough money to hold out for only a few months without the support of Russia and Iran as the repression costs about €1 billion ($1.23 billion) a month, Mr. Fabius said in an interview with French radio station RTL… .

"We are trying to tighten the pressure on his neck," Mr. Fabius said… .

France, which currently holds the Security Council presidency, has called for a meeting of foreign ministers on Aug. 30 in New York to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

The French government would be ready for any kind of intervention in Syria so long as there is a clear international mandate either from the U.N. or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Mr. Fabius said, reiterating the official French position.  (photo: Getty)

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