02/5/21

Is Biden on the Path to Terminate Space Exploration and Space Force?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki, gave a snarky reply when asked a question about the Space Force. Psaki responded she had no idea who the Space Force point of contact was and later added that Space Force had the full support of President Biden. Exactly how would she know? Jen Psaki later had to issue a circle back tweet:

In part: WASHINGTON In a new strategic vision, Gen. James Dickinson outlines the truths and tasks U.S. Space Command must adopt in order to maintain American space supremacy.

The breezy eight-page document reaffirms the incredible value space provides to the nation’s economy and military, but warns of the growing threat posed by anti-satellite weapons being developed by China and Russia. Throughout the Trump administration’s term, officials frequently cited the development and testing of anti-satellite weapons as a justification for the establishment of both Space Command and the U.S. Space Force, blaming China and Russia for bringing to space the potential for conflict and war.

  • Space is a vital interest that is integral to the American way of life and national security.
  • Space superiority enables the joint force to rapidly transition from competition to conflict and prevail in a global, all-domain fight.
  • Space war fighters generate the combat power to win in space.
  • Space provides the war fighter a combat advantage from the ultimate high ground to the last tactical mile.

President Joe Biden is making his space policy preferences increasingly clear: America will remain grounded for the time being.

On Jan. 28, SpaceX was set to put its Starship rocket through another test in the blue skies above Texas. The objective of the test was to get the massive rocket up to 12.5 kilometers — about seven miles — above the Earth and then spin the giant rocket around so that it could make a vertical landing.The First U.S. Space Force Launch Is This Afternoon ...

Sadly, the visionary goal of getting Americans to Mars first came crashing down when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which, under the Trump administration had allowed for SpaceX to conduct their important test flights, ordered Mr. Musk to cancel the Starship prototype test.

The FAA did not cite its reasoning behind ordering the cancellation of the launch. Many have speculated that the cancellation was brought about due to safety concerns. After all, in December 2020, SpaceX did a test of the experimental rocket. The Starship prototype made it to a height of 41,000 feet. Once it reoriented itself, in order to allow for the rocket to land vertically, the great silver spacecraft promptly did a bellyflop that ended in a massive explosion.

Despite this, SpaceX learned many valuable lessons from the December failure that were to be applied to the Starship launch in January. In science, the only lasting failure occurs when one does not test a new idea or hypothesis. This axiom is especially true in the context of the new space race between the United States and China.

It’s likely that the FAA’s decision to cancel the launch is part of a wider Biden administration effort undo the Trump administration’s vibrant space policy. Plus, former President Trump’s space vision was explicitly aimed at countering advances made by China in space. It is unlikely that the Biden administration seeks to continue that policy, as the Biden team attempts to stabilize deteriorating relations with Beijing over the next few years.

Concern over Mr. Musk’s Martian intentions is likely another factor for the FAA’s cancellation of the Starship launch. Last year, Mr. Musk indicated that any future SpaceX Martian colony would not be “ruled by Earth-based laws.” The problem for Mr. Musk is that SpaceX has been awarded lucrative contracts by the Earth-based U.S. government. If SpaceX were to create a colony on Mars, because of the company’s contractual relationship with the U.S. government, Washington very much expects that colony to be an American endeavor.

Lastly, Mr. Musk has been publicly supportive of the recent “GameStonk” controversy. A group of anonymous, individual investors on Reddit decided to engage in a little activism by inflating the stock price of Gamestop, a video game retailer. Melvin Capital, a storied Wall Street investment firm, was forced into bankruptcy by this move (they took the other side of the bet, attempting to short the Gamestop stock).

The “GameStonk” event was so significant that the Biden administration is vowing to prevent something similar from happening again. Congress is even getting involved. Because of Mr. Musk’s prestige and his vocal support for the Redditors who helped to take down Melvin Capital, it is possible that the Biden administration was punishing Mr. Musk by canceling the Starship launch at the last minute.

It is not only Mr. Musk who suffers from the FAA’s cancellation of the SpaceX test flight. We, the American people — and the entire effort to beat China to Mars — suffer. The Biden administration’s decision to increase regulations on the private space launch services sector and slow down their operations, as evidenced by the recent Starship launch cancellation, will only help China in its ongoing mission to defeat America in the new space race. More here.

.Earth calling: SpaceX capsule carrying NASA crew to land ...

Musk, 49, is widely heralded for disrupting the auto industry with high-performance electric cars and upending Big Aerospace with reusable rockets.

His companies are growing: Tesla is building new factories in Berlin and in Austin, Texas, while SpaceX — which has contracts with the Air Force and NASA — is rolling out Starlink, its high-speed Internet service, to rural and remote customers across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. There’s also Boring Co., his tunnel-construction business, and Neuralink, which is testing its brain-machine interface device on monkeys and pigs and hopes to begin human trials this year. More here.

02/4/21

US Seeks Forfeiture of the Oil from IRGC Tanker

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation. The United States bears the burden of proving that the oil in question is subject to forfeiture in a civil forfeiture proceeding. Funds successfully forfeited with a connection to a state sponsor of terrorism may in whole or in part be directed to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (http://www.usvsst.com/) after the conclusion of the case.

NEW YORK – The United States filed a forfeiture complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that all oil aboard a Liberian-flagged vessel, the M/T Achilleas (Achilleas), is subject to forfeiture based on U.S. terrorism forfeiture laws. This investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York and the FBI’s Minneapolis office.

U.S. Looks to Courts to Seize 2 Million Barrels of Alleged ...

The complaint alleges a scheme involving multiple entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to covertly ship Iranian oil to a customer abroad. Participants in the scheme attempted to disguise the origin of the oil using ship-to-ship transfers, falsified documents, and other means and provided a fraudulent bill of lading to deceive the owners of the Achilleas into loading the oil in question.

The complaint alleges in part that the oil constitutes the property of, or a “source of influence” over, the IRGC and the IRGC-QF, both of which have been designated by the United States as foreign terrorist organizations. The documents allege that profits from oil sales support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad.

“This latest civil forfeiture action exemplifies the remarkable work of this multi-agency task force that works tirelessly toward furthering our shared goal of protecting the homeland from regimes that threaten our national security,” said Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh for HSI New York. “This investigation sends a message that the attempted circumvention of U.S. sanctions by the IRGC-QF will not be tolerated. HSI will continue to work with our partners and utilize the full scope of our authorities to disrupt the attempts of hostile countries and regimes to generate profits from oil sales used to support terrorism and the proliferation and delivery of weapons of mass destruction.”

“Iran uses profits from its petroleum sector to fund the malign activities of the IRGC-QF, a designated terrorist group,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office. “The FBI will continue to prioritize the enforcement of sanctions, and we applaud the efforts of our agents and partners on this investigation.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will continue working with our law enforcement partners to stem the flow of illicit oil from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Qods Force,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin. “We will use all available tools, including our jurisdiction to seize and forfeit assets located abroad, to combat funding for terrorists and those who would do harm to the United States.”

“The forfeiture complaint filed today serves as a reminder that the IRGC and IRGC-QF continue to exert significant control over the sale of Iranian oil,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the National Security Division. “As we have demonstrated in the past, the department will deploy all tools at its disposal to ensure that the IRGC and IRGC-QF cannot use profits from the sale of Iranian oil to fund terrorism and other activities that threaten the safety and security of all Americans.”

A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation. The United States bears the burden of proving that the oil in question is subject to forfeiture in a civil forfeiture proceeding. Funds successfully forfeited with a connection to a state sponsor of terrorism may in whole or in part be directed to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after the conclusion of the case.

HSI New York and the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office are leading the investigation of Iranian petroleum shipments. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael P. Grady and Brian P. Hudak of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney David Lim of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division are prosecuting the case, with support from Paralegal Specialist Brian Rickers and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section’s Program Operations Staff of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division has provided extensive assistance throughout the investigation.

02/3/21

SecDef Austin Fires all Advisory Board Members

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Dismissed were hundreds of members of 42 Pentagon advisory boards. 42 separate advisory boards. Really?

Current members being told to step down are only those appointed by the Pentagon and not those appointed by the White House or Congress. For example, four people appointed by the Pentagon to a congressionally mandated commission on stripping the names of Confederate generals from military bases will be removed but others on that panel appointed by Congress will remain.

A review of all the boards, and whether they are still needed, will now be the focus before new members are named.

The 42 advisory boards cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year and some of their work is believed to be potentially redundant, which added to the need for the review.

The action effectively removes, for now, several hundred people serving on boards who advise on everything from defense policy, science, innovation, health issues, coastal engineering, sexual misconduct, diversity, and inclusion.

WASHINGTONDefense Secretary Lloyd Austin dismissed every member of the Pentagon’s policy advisory boards Monday, ousting last-minute Trump administration nominees as well as officials appointed by previous administrations.

Lloyd Austin Confirmed As 1st Black Pentagon Chief In U.S. History :  President Biden Takes Office : NPR

By removing every member, Mr. Austin avoided selectively firing those appointed by the Trump administration. The defense chief will name new members to each of the least a dozen boards in the coming weeks.

The move was foreshadowed last week when Mr. Austin suspended the onboarding process for Trump administration nominees to Pentagon advisory boards, effectively preventing them from being seated.

Mr. Austin’s directive last week applied to Trump nominees who were still in the security clearance process. Among those who were affected then were Corey Lewandowski, former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, and David Bossie, a former Trump deputy campaign manager, both of whom had been named to the Defense Business Board, an unpaid group that advises the defense secretary and other leaders on business practices.

Because of their potential access to classified information, it can take months for someone to get through the security clearance process and formally join a board. Mr. Austin’s directive last week suspended that process.

In the last weeks of the Trump administration, then acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller named at least a dozen supporters of President Trump to various Pentagon advisory boards.

Those included retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who weeks earlier had been rejected by the Senate for consideration as the Pentagon’s top policy official, even as he served in that position since June in an acting capacity. Senators and some retired generals expressed concern over inflammatory tweets he made years ago on Islam, President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers.

The advisory boards, some of which date back to at least the 1950s, were intended to be bipartisan and offer a diversity of opinion to Pentagon leaders on potential policies.

Among those removed from policy boards by Mr. Miller were former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) and former Rep. Jane Harman (D., Calif.), a onetime senior Democrat on the House Intelligence committee.

02/1/21

Biden Leaving Troops in Afghanistan Past the May Deadline

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

For many many months, the Trump administration was negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban. Frankly, all that the Taliban has agreed to, they have violated. Trump also issued a schedule to lower troop levels in Afghanistan to only a small tight residual number in May of 2021 along with contractors. With the new possible threat(s) of the Taliban and their growing connection to al Qaeda, Biden has decided to leave troop levels in the region at the present level with an increase in Syria and possibly Iraq. All the while, Iran just hosted a Taliban leader for talks where the topic(s) are unknown. Further, Taliban officials have been meeting in Moscow with Russian officials. Those details are found here. 

President Biden also has another immediate issue before him and that is the release of a U.S. contractor that went missing in Afghanistan about a year ago. Mark Frerichs, a navy veteran went missing about a year ago while he was working as a contractor on an engineering project. It is thought he is in the custody of the Haqqani network. The U.S. State Department is offering a $5 million reward that leads to Frerichs’ return. 

So, it is rather fitting that just this week, a very old FOIA request for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld documents has been released. Frankly, the questions which were referred to at the Pentagon as ‘snowflakes’ reflects his frustration with the layers of bureaucracy within the Department of Defense and his anger at getting real answers and challenging the quality of intelligence reports. Sound familiar? It is clearly a problem that after 20+ years has not found a quality solution. Just read a few of his snowflakes and judge for your self.

Donald H. Rumsfeld - U.S. PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY

35 of the most notable items from the new collection are below from the National Archives. 

A follow-on DNSA publication covering the rest of Rumsfeld’s tenure as secretary will appear through ProQuest later in 2021.

One such snowflake was written on March 3, 2003. At 8:16 AM, Rumsfeld wrote to Senior Military Assistant LTG Bantz J. Craddock and Department of Defense General Counsel William Haynes with the subject “KSM”. He wanted to know, “Do we know where the information to find Khalid Sheikh Mohammed came from? Was it from GTMO detainees?” There is no response from either Craddock or Haynes in the DOD release to the Archive, though Rumsfeld’s question is likely a push back to the false claims made by CIA Director George Tenet that the Agency’s resort to the torture of Abu Zubaydah led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence torture report would later reveal that key intelligence on KSM as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks came from the FBI’s non-coercive, rapport-building interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.[1] This success was prior to the CIA’s contract psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, taking over the interrogation at the CIA “Detention Site Green” in Thailand, which was created to house Zubaydah in 2002.  Their approach to Zubaydah would include 83 waterboard sessions yet fail to produce any valuable intelligence.  CIA clandestine services chief Jose Rodriguez (and perhaps Gina Haspel, who would later become DCI, though CIA redactions of documents continue to obscure her role) ordered the destruction of the torture videotapes, commenting that “the heat from destoying [sic] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into public domain.”

Later on March 3, under the subject “Contingencies”, Rumsfeld wrote to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, stating, “We need to plan what we will do if Saddam Hussein is captured. We need to plan what we will do if we catch an imposter.” There is no record of Feith’s answer in the DOD release to the Archive.

Throughout Rumsfeld’s tenure, his snowflakes circulated daily through the highest levels of the Pentagon. With scant limitations on their subject matter, the all-encompassing documents are sometimes an hourly paper trail inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense during six years of tremendous consequence for U.S. foreign policy. The declassified documents also provide an account that at times contradicts DOD public statements.  For example, The Washington Post published a selection of the memos in the six-part series “The Afghanistan Papers” in September 2019 revealing that officials misled the American public about the war in Afghanistan.

The entire corpus of snowflakes also details many aspects of the day-to-day operations of the Pentagon, the modernization of the U.S. armed forces, and Rumsfeld’s personal agenda against bureaucracy. “Bureaucracy is driving people nuts,” he wrote in an April 8, 2002, memo at 7:41 AM. “If we can take two or three layers out of this place, we will be a lot better off.” In a separate April 8 letter, the secretary suggested cutting all major Pentagon programs by at least 20 percent. (The DOD budget increased by 37.54 percent between FY2001 and FY2006.) On March 11, 2002, Rumsfeld wrote to colleagues, “I am getting tired of seeing the word ‘joint’ everywhere.”

Rumsfeld, Snowflake by Snowflake - Open Source with ...

Other topics in the collection include:

  • the military budgeting process and efforts to rein in defense spending;
  • military planning, procurement, and expenditures;
  • nuclear issues – weapons, proliferation, safety;
  • decision making on military wages, benefits, tours of duty, and veterans issues;
  • military intelligence;
  • Defense Department relations with the CIA and Homeland Security;
  • Rumsfeld’s relations with the State Department and National Security Council;
  • U.S. relations with NATO;
  • U.S. military relations with Russia, former Soviet republics, and other countries;
  • Rumsfeld’s interactions with the news media, Congress, and the public;
  • Guantanamo detainees, interrogation, and torture;
  • concerns about the International Criminal Court and U.S. liability for war crimes;
  • the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists;
  • the Joint Strike Fighter program; and
  • the emergency landing of a U.S. EP-3 at Hainan Island in 2001

Donald Rumsfeld’s Snowflakes, Part 1: The Pentagon and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2001-2003 will be a critical research tool for historians and will be available through many college and research libraries. Part II, which covers the last three years of Rumsfeld’s tenure as secretary of defense from 2004 to 2006, will be published in 2021. Learn more about accessing the Digital National Security Archive through your library online and how to request a free trial here.

March 11, 2002

April 8, 2002

September 12, 2003

October 23, 2003

A few more:

October 10, 2001
Rumsfeld requests a daily report on the location of Osama bin Laden.

November 8, 2001
Rumsfeld inquires: “Why doesn’t Pakistan sever its relationship with [sic] Taliban?”

November 29, 2001
Rumsfeld accuses career employees in the OSD of undermining his decisions and working too slowly.

January 5, 2002
Rumsfeld complains to George Tenet about the CIA.

February 15, 2002
Rumsfeld directs his staff to develop a white paper on detainees and the Geneva Conventions.

March 11, 2002
Rumsfeld suggests further classification review of the already pre-reviewed Annual Report to the President and the Congress.

March 11, 2002
Rumsfeld says the DOD annual report is not conclusive or upbeat enough.

March 12, 2002
Rumsfeld recounts his conversation with Russian MoD Sergei Ivanov at a Washington Wizards basketball game.

March 14, 2002
Rumsfeld asks how to fix the requirements process.

March 16, 2002
Rumsfeld inquiries into U.S. nuclear policy.

March 26, 2002
Under the subject “Business As Usual”, Rumsfeld questions whether the Department should cut educational programs while at war.

March 28, 2002
Rumsfeld pushes to lift restrictions on contractors providing force protection.

March 28, 2002
Rumsfeld proposes a weekly meeting on Afghanistan, stating that it is “drifting”.

April 3, 2002
Rumsfeld’s thoughts on the Middle East.

April 8, 2002
Rumsfeld instructs his staff to create a list of all the major “processes” at the Pentagon and shorten them by at least 20 percent.

April 9, 2002
Rumsfeld expresses concern about a “zero defect mentality” in the promotion process.

April 12, 2002
Rumsfeld ruminates on the creation of a new Homeland Security Department.

April 15, 2002
Rumsfeld details a conversation with Henry Kissinger about the ICC.

April 15, 2002
Rumsfeld contacts Tenet about the ICC.

April 23, 2002
Rumsfeld considers possibly renegotiating a Russia-NATO arrangement.

April 23, 2002
Rumsfeld proposes using contractors to train the Afghan army.

April 23, 2002
Rumsfeld asks if a DOD chart of the PPB system is a joke, or whether it should be.

May 5, 2002
Rumsfeld tells Hank Crumpton to “speak up”.

May 22, 2002
Rumsfeld circulates a letter comparing interrogation techniques in Afghanistan to Guantanamo.

August 8, 2002
Rumsfeld questions whether it is right for pilots to use amphetamines.

August 17, 2002
Rumsfeld ruminates on the U.S. and Western Europe “stopping proliferation, reducing weapons of mass destruction and contributing to peace and stability” around the world.

August 19, 2002
Rumsfeld addresses the President, Vice President, CIA Director, and National Security Advisor on U.S. policy towards Iran and North Korea.

October 1, 2002
Rumsfeld sends handwritten notes from an interview with a detainee to Fieth.

March 3, 2003
Rumsfeld requests a contingency plan for the possibility of capturing an imposter of Saddam Hussein.

March 3, 2003
Rumsfeld contacts Tenet about the intelligence that led to capturing KSM.

March 26, 2003
Rumsfeld requests material to brief the President privately on a post-Saddam Iraq.

01/9/21

Reichstag Fire and the Rise to Total Power

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

On March 23, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, the partner piece of legislation to the February 28 Decree for the Protection of People and State. The Enabling Act assigned all legislative power to Hitler and his ministers, thus securing their ability to control the political apparatus. When President Hindenburg died in August 1934, Hitler wrote a new law that combined the offices of president and chancellor. It was sanctioned by a national plebiscite.Reichstag fire

Ex-Nazi testimony sparks fresh mystery over 1933 Reichstag fire | News | DW  | 27.07.2019

When the German parliamentary building went up in flames, Hitler harnessed the incident to seize power

Smithsonian: It was the canary in the political coal mine—a flashpoint event when Adolf Hitler played upon public and political fears to consolidate power, setting the stage for the rise of Nazi Germany. Since then, it’s become a powerful political metaphor. Whenever citizens and politicians feel threatened by executive overreach, the “Reichstag Fire” is referenced as a cautionary tale

Germany’s first experiment with liberal democracy was born of the 1919 Weimar Constitution, established after the conclusion of World War I. It called for a president elected by direct ballot, who would appoint a chancellor to introduce legislation to members of the Reichstag (who were also elected by popular vote). The president retained the power to dismiss his cabinet and the chancellor, dissolve an ineffective Reichstag, and, in cases of national emergency, invoke something known as Article 48, which gave the president dictatorial powers and the right to intervene directly in the governance of Germany’s 19 territorial states.

Following a stint in jail for his failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Hitler poured his energy into attaining power through legal channels. He rose to the head of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis), and by 1928 the group’s membership exceeded 100,000. The Nazis denounced the Weimar Republic and the “November criminals,” politicians had signed the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty forced Germany to accept responsibility for World War I, pay huge remunerations, transfer territory to their neighbors and limit the size of the military.

Despite its considerable growth, the Nazi party won only 2.6 percent of the vote in the 1928 election. But then the Great Depression hit, sending the U.S. and Europe into an economic tailspin and shooting the number of unemployed up to 6 million people in Germany (around 30 percent of the population). The sudden slump caused massive social upheaval, which the Nazis exploited to gain further political traction. By 1930, the Nazis won 18.3 percent of the Reichstag vote and became the second largest party after the Social Democrats, while the Communist party also grew to ten percent of the vote.

The economic unrest of the early 1930s meant that no single political party had a majority in the Reichstag, so fragile coalitions held the nation together. Faced with political chaos, President Paul von Hindenburg dissolved the Reichstag again and again. Frequent elections followed.

The Nazis aligned with other right-leaning factions and gradually worked their way up to 33 percent of the vote—but were unable to reach a full majority. In January 1933, Hindenburg reluctantly appointed Hitler as chancellor on the advice of Franz von Papen, a disgruntled former chancellor who believed the conservative bourgeois parties should ally with the Nazis to keep the Communists out of power. March 5 was set as the date for another series of Reichstag elections in hopes that one party might finally achieve the majority.

Meanwhile, the Nazis seized even more power, infiltrating the police and empowering ordinary party members as law enforcement officers. On February 22, Hitler used his powers as chancellor to enroll 50,000 Nazi SA men (also known as stormtroopers) as auxiliary police. Two days later, Hermann Göring, Minister of the Interior and one of Hitler’s closest compatriots, ordered a raid on Communist headquarters. Following the raid, the Nazis announced (falsely) that they’d found evidence of seditious material. They claimed the Communists were planning to attack public buildings.

On the night of February 27, around 9:00, pedestrians near the Reichstag heard the sound of breaking glass. Soon after, flames erupted from the building. It took fire engines hours to quell the fire, which destroyed the debating chamber and the Reichstag’s gilded cupola, ultimately causing over $1 million in damage. Police arrested an unemployed Dutch construction worker named Marinus van der Lubbe on the scene. The young man was found outside the building with firelighters in his possession and was panting and sweaty.

“This is a God-given signal,” Hitler told von Papen when they arrived on the scene. “If this fire, as I believe, is the work of the Communists, then we must crush out this murderous pest with an iron fist.”

A few hours later, on February 28, Hindenburg invoked Article 48 and the cabinet drew up the “Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State.” The act abolished freedom of speech, assembly, privacy and the press; legalized phone tapping and interception of correspondence; and suspended the autonomy of federated states, like Bavaria. That night around 4,000 people were arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the SA. Although the Communist party had won 17 percent of the Reichstag elections in November 1932, and the German people elected 81 Communist deputies in the March 5 elections, many were detained indefinitely after the fire. Their empty seats left the Nazis largely free to do as they wished.

Later that year, a sensational criminal trial got under way. The accused included van der Lubbe, Ernst Torgler (leader of the Communist Party in the Reichstag) and three Bulgarian Communists.

As the trial in Germany proceeded, a different kind of trial captured the public discourse. Willi Münzenberg, a German Communist, allied himself with other Communists to undertake an independent investigation of the fire. The combined research resulted in the publication of The Brown Book on the Reichstag Fire and Hitler Terror. It included early accounts of Nazi brutality, as well as an argument that van der Lubbe was a pawn of the Nazis. Hitler’s party members were the real criminals, the book argued, and they orchestrated the fire to consolidate political power. The book became a bestseller, translated into 24 languages and sold around Europe and the U.S.

12/24/20

Pelosi Refusing to Advance China Task Force Legislation Items

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Primer:

On September 25, 2015, during CCP General Secretary Xi’s state visit to the United States, President Obama and Xi gave remarks to the press in the White House Rose Garden. The two leaders announced that they had agreed “neither the U.S. nor the Chinese government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage.” Xi also pledged that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the South China Sea. Neither of these promises to the American people was made in good faith. Today, “China is using cyber-enabled theft as part of a global campaign to ‘rob, replicate, and replace’ non-Chinese companies in the global marketplace,” according to Assistant Attorney General John Demers. Meanwhile, the PRC’s military outposts in the South China Sea have been proven “capable of supporting military operations and include advanced weapon systems,” according to the Pentagon.

October 01, 2020 Congressional Record

COUNTERING THREAT OF CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Joyce) for 5 minutes. Mr. JOYCE of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, after months of hard work and collaboration, the China Task Force has released our final report, which includes more than 400 solutions to counter the growing threat of the Chinese Communist Party.

This report is the framework for combating the aggressive Chinese Communist regime. After meeting with more than 130 experts, we developed realistic and achievable solutions that take a comprehensive approach to strengthening America’s national security and holding the Chinese Government accountable. We realized that out of our 400 recommendations, 180 are legislative solutions, of which 64 percent are bipartisan and one-third have already passed either the House or the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, these are commonsense solutions that we can vote on today to strengthen our strategic position for tomorrow. As the only physician serving on the China Task Force, it was my privilege to delve into opportunities to strengthen our supply chains and ensure that Americans are never again beholden to the Chinese Government for key medicines or healthcare supplies.

On the Health and Technology Subcommittee, I led efforts to strengthen [[Page H5110]] the supply chains for medicines, semiconductors, and other vital materials. Congress has passed several provisions aimed at advancing research and the manufacturing of critical medical supplies here in the United States. We also created new reporting requirements to help us better understand international supply chains and counter vulnerabilities in the system.

To bolster our technology supply chain, I cosponsored H.R. 7178, the CHIPS Act, to increase domestic production of advanced semiconductors, which will help Americans to develop next-generation telecom technology, fully automated systems, and, importantly, new weapons systems. I also introduced the ORE Act, H.R. 7812, to incentivize the domestic production of rare earth materials, which is key to breaking the Chinese monopoly on critical supply chains. America cannot allow China to win the race to next-generation technology. We want innovative breakthroughs to happen here in this country, and the China Task Force is making progress through the legislative process. As a leader on the competitiveness committee, I focused on issues ranging from combating Chinese Communist-sponsored theft of intellectual property to exposing the influence of the Chinese in U.S. research institutions and countering the importation of illicit fentanyl.

Too often, American companies are being coerced to surrender intellectual property to the Chinese Government in order to gain entry into the Chinese marketplace. In extreme cases, we hear of outright theft by Chinese hackers and agents. The China Task Force has produced recommendations that direct the Federal Government to ramp up investigations of individuals acting as pawns of the Chinese Communist Party and enforce antitheft laws.

Our Nation has also seen wholesale efforts of the Chinese Government to steal research and gain influence at United States universities. In my own backyard, the FBI arrested a former Penn State researcher suspected of espionage. The task force has compiled provisions to increase transparency and accountability in the higher education system, and I introduced legislation to close loopholes and force the disclosure of all foreign money in our research systems. Finally, we must stop illicit fentanyl from reaching our communities and killing our neighbors.

The China Task Force has produced recommendations to stop the importation of these devastating analogues from China. In the House, I cosponsored legislation to hold foreign nations, including China, accountable if they fail to cooperate with U.S. narcotics control efforts and prosecute the production of fentanyl in their countries. I thank Senator Toomey for championing this provision in the Senate.

By implementing these solutions, we can make America safer, stronger, and better equipped to lead in the 21st century. The China Task Force final report is a framework. It is our playbook to make a difference. While our work on this report has finished, our commitment to this cause must and will continue. Phase two starts today.

The 141-page report is found here.

12/20/20

Increased Alarm Over Intrusion Into U.S. and Sandia/Los Alamos

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities expressed increased alarm Thursday about an intrusion into U.S. and other computer systems around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russian hackers. The nation’s cybersecurity agency warned of a “grave” risk to government and private networks.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in its most detailed comments yet that the intrusion had compromised federal agencies as well as “critical infrastructure” in a sophisticated attack that was hard to detect and will be difficult to undo.

CISA did not say which agencies or infrastructure had been breached or what information taken in an attack that it previously said appeared to have begun in March.

“This threat actor has demonstrated sophistication and complex tradecraft in these intrusions,” the agency said in its unusual alert. “CISA expects that removing the threat actor from compromised environments will be highly complex and challenging.”

President Donald Trump, whose administration has been criticized for eliminating a White House cybersecurity adviser and downplaying Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, has made no public statements about the breach.

President-elect Joe Biden said he would make cybersecurity a top priority of his administration, but that stronger defenses are not enough.

“We need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place,” he said. “We will do that by, among other things, imposing substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks, including in coordination with our allies and partners.”

The cybersecurity agency previously said the perpetrators had used network management software from Texas-based SolarWinds to infiltrate computer networks. Its new alert said the attackers may have used other methods, as well.

Over the weekend, amid reports that the Treasury and Commerce departments were breached, CISA directed all civilian agencies of the federal government to remove SolarWinds from their servers. The cybersecurity agencies of Britain and Ireland issued similar alerts.

A U.S. official previously told The Associated Press that Russia-based hackers were suspected, but neither CISA nor the FBI has publicly said who is believed be responsible. Asked whether Russia was behind the attack, the official said: “We believe so. We haven’t said that publicly yet because it isn’t 100% confirmed.”

Another U.S. official, speaking Thursday on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that is under investigation, said the hack was severe and extremely damaging although the administration was not yet ready to publicly blame anyone for it.

“This is looking like it’s the worst hacking case in the history of America,” the official said. “They got into everything.”

The official said the administration is working on the assumption that most, if not all, government agencies were compromised but the extent of the damage was not yet known.

This hack had nothing to do with President Trump firing Director Krebs at CISA even though the Associated Press keeps suggesting it does. But things just took a turn for the bad, bad side –>

Sandia National Laboratories – From the Manhattan Project to a National Lab Sandia

Texas A&M System part of team awarded lucrative Los Alamos National Lab  contract | The Texas Tribune

Los Alamos

The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks as part of an extensive espionage operation that has affected at least half a dozen federal agencies, officials directly familiar with the matter said.

On Thursday, DOE and NNSA officials began coordinating notifications about the breach to their congressional oversight bodies after being briefed by Rocky Campione, the chief information officer at DOE.

They found suspicious activity in networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington, the Office of Secure Transportation, and the Richland Field Office of the DOE. The hackers have been able to do more damage at FERC than the other agencies, the officials said but did not elaborate.

Federal investigators have been combing through networks in recent days to determine what hackers had been able to access and/or steal, and officials at DOE still don’t know whether the attackers were able to access anything, the people said, noting that the investigation is ongoing and they may not know the full extent of the damage “for weeks.”

Spokespeople for DOE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The attack on DOE is the clearest sign yet that the hackers were able to access the networks belonging to a core part of the U.S. national security enterprise. The hackers are believed to have gained access to the federal agencies’ networks by compromising the software company SolarWinds, which sells IT management products to hundreds of government and private-sector clients.

DOE officials were planning on Thursday to notify the House and Senate Energy committees, House and Senate Energy and Water Development subcommittees, House and Senate Armed Services committees, and the New Mexico and Washington State delegations of the breach, the officials said.

The FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged the “ongoing” cybersecurity campaign in a joint statement released on Wednesday, saying that they had only become aware of the incident in recent days.

“This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government,” the statement read.

NNSA is responsible for managing the nation’s nuclear weapons, and while it gets the least attention, it takes up the vast majority of DOE’s budget. Similarly, the Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs conduct atomic research related to both civil nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The Office of Secure Transportation is tasked with moving enriched uranium and other materials critical for maintaining the nuclear stockpile.

Hackers may have been casting too wide a net when they targeted DOE’s Richland Field Office, whose primary responsibility is overseeing the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear waste site in Washington state. During World War II and the Cold War, the U.S. produced two- thirds of its plutonium there, but the site hasn’t been active since 1971.

The attack on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may have been an effort to disrupt the nation’s bulk electric grid. FERC doesn’t directly manage any power flows, but it does store sensitive data on the grid that could be used to identify the most disruptive locations for future attacks.

12/20/20

Space Command Alarmed at Russia’s Anti-Satellite Weapons Test

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

WASHINGTON — Russia conducted its second test this year of a direct ascent anti-satellite missile test, according to a U.S. Space Command, yet again drawing sharp criticism from the U.S.

“Russia has made space a war-fighting domain by testing space-based and ground-based weapons intended to target and destroy satellites. This fact is inconsistent with Moscow’s public claims that Russia seeks to prevent conflict in space,” said Space Command head Gen. James Dickinson in a statement. “Space is critical to all nations. It is a shared interest to create the conditions for a safe, stable, and operationally sustainable space environment.”

Space Command said the direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tested is a kinetic weapon capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit. A similar anti-satellite missile test by India in March 2019 that destroyed the nation’s own satellite on orbit drew criticism from observers, who noted that the debris created from the threat could cause indirect damage to other satellites.

Russia has completed tests of its Nudol ballistic-missile system several times in recent years, including in April of this year. Nudol can be used as an anti-satellite weapon and is capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit. According to the CSIS Aerospace Security Project’s “Space Threat Assessment 2020,” Russia conducted its seventh Nudol test in 2018.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has used the development and testing of anti-satellite weapons by Russia and China as a justification for creating both Space Command and the U.S. Space Force in 2019.

“The establishment of U.S. Space Command as the nation’s unified combatant command for space and U.S. Space Force as the primary branch of the U.S. Armed Forces that present space combat and combat support capabilities to U.S. Space Command could not have been timelier. We stand ready and committed to deter aggression and defend our nation and our allies from hostile acts in space,” Dickenson said.

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller made similar comments last week as the White House released a new National Space Policy, which calls for the U.S. to defeat aggression and promote norms of behavior in space

“Our adversaries have made space a war-fighting domain, and we have to adapt our national security organizations, policies, strategies, doctrine, security classification frameworks, and capabilities for this new strategic environment. Over the last year, we have established the necessary organizations to ensure we can deter hostilities, demonstrate responsible behaviors, defeat aggression, and protect the interests of the United States and our allies.”

The White House released a new space policy directive on Dec. 16 intended to serve as a strategic roadmap for the development of space nuclear power and propulsion technologies.

Space Policy Directive (SPD) 6, titled “National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion,” discusses responsibilities and areas of cooperation among federal government agencies in the development of capabilities ranging from surface nuclear power systems to nuclear thermal propulsion, collectively known as space nuclear power and propulsion (SNPP).

“This memorandum establishes a national strategy to ensure the development and use of SNPP systems when appropriate to enable and achieve the scientific, exploration, national security, and commercial objectives of the United States,” the 12-page document states.

SPD-6 sets out three principles for the development of space nuclear systems: safety, security, and sustainability. It also describes roles and responsibilities for various agencies involved with the development, use, or oversight of such systems.

Much of the document, though, is a roadmap for the development of nuclear power and propulsion systems. It sets a goal of, by the mid-2020s, developing uranium fuel processing capabilities needed for surface power and in-space propulsion systems. By the mid to late 2020s, NASA would complete the development and testing of a surface nuclear power system for lunar missions that can be scalable for later missions to Mars.

SPD-6 calls for, by the late 2020s, establishing the “technical foundations and capabilities” needed for nuclear thermal propulsion systems. It also sets a goal of developing advanced radioisotope power systems, versions of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) long used on NASA missions, by 2030.

Many of the initiatives outlined in SPD-6 are already in progress. NASA has been working with the Department of Energy (DOE) on a project called Kilopower to develop surface nuclear reactors, including efforts to seek proposals to develop a reactor for use on the moon. NASA has also been studying nuclear thermal propulsion, an initiative backed by some in Congress who have set aside funding in NASA’s space technology program for that effort.

“We have these individual initiatives going on — nuclear thermal power, the Kilopower activities — and what we’re trying to do is pull together a common operating picture for Defense, NASA, and DOE,” said a senior administration official, speaking on background about SPD-6.

That roadmap and schedule are also intended to prioritize those activities. Surface nuclear power is needed in the nearer term to support lunar missions later in the decade, particularly to handle the two-week lunar night. Nuclear thermal propulsion, as well as alternative nuclear electric propulsion technologies, are less critical since they are primarily intended to support later missions to Mars.

“Those things are important for going to Mars,” the official said of nuclear propulsion, “but first we’re doing the moon and leveraging terrestrial capabilities and technologies to put that foothold on the moon.”

Another issue addressed in SPD-6 is the use of different types of uranium. Tests in 2018 as part of the Kilopower program used highly enriched uranium or HEU. That project, and discussions by NASA and DOE to use HEU for flight reactors, raised concerns in the nuclear nonproliferation community. They were worried that it could set a precedent for renewed production of HEU, which is also used in nuclear weapons.

SPD-6 restricts but does not prohibit, the use of HEU in space nuclear systems. “Before selecting HEU or, for fission reactor systems, any nuclear fuel other than low-enriched uranium (LEU), for any given SNPP design or mission, the sponsoring agency shall conduct a thorough technical review to assess the viability of alternative nuclear fuels,” it states.

“We want to keep those proliferation concerns foremost in our minds,” a senior administration official said. “We don’t want to necessarily rule out HEU if that’s the only way to get a mission about, but we want to be very deliberate about it.”

The policy, an official said, “sets an extremely high bar” for non-defense use of HEU on space systems, citing progress on high-assay low enriched uranium, which can provide power levels similar to HEU systems with only a modest mass penalty.

The White House released SPD-6 a week after it issued a new national space policy during a meeting of the National Space Council. That broader policy briefly addressed space nuclear power and propulsion, discussing roles for various agencies, but did not mention the roadmap or other details found in SPD-6.

Many thought the release of the national space policy would conclude the administration’s work on space policy, making SPD-6 something of a surprise. A senior administration official said work on various space policy directives and the national space policy had been slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic, but wouldn’t rule out additional announcements in the remaining five weeks of the Trump administration.

12/16/20

Canadian Armed Forces and China’s People’s Liberation Army

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

This was not a recent event, in fact, the documents confirming this winter training exercise took more than 18 months to acquire as a result of a records request. It should be noted that the Trudeau government officials were reckless by not fully redacting certain text, so the discovery was by accident really.

The documents are found here.

It is suggested to the reader to plow through the documents for context, names, dates, and locations including Wuhan (virus epicenter).

The United States raised serious concerns about having the People’s Liberation Army conduct military exercises just north of the U.S. border with a U.S. ally.

“A senior government official said Gen. Vance, on the urgings of the U.S., canceled winter exercises with the PLA and later all military interactions,” the publication added. “Gen. Vance did allow Canadian Armed Forces personnel to compete at the 2019 Military World Games held in Wuhan, China, that October.”

Michael Chong, the Conservatives’ foreign affairs critic, and James Bezan, the defense critic, slammed leftist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement for his “stunning lack of leadership.”

“That cold weather warfare that you’re referring to was just one of 18 different joint projects the Canadian armed forces had with the People’s Liberation Army in 2019 alone,” Levant said. “Canada is training one and two-star Chinese generals in our war colleges; we’re training lieutenants, and majors, commanders; we’re sending Canadians over to China; we’re bringing Chinese — I think they’re not just soldiers, I think they’re spies as well — to Canada, and I don’t know a single person in this country who knew about it, but it’s been happening, and we found out about it really by accident when the government sent me [the] freedom of information documents and forgot to black them out or maybe, frankly, someone inside the government wanted to blow the whistle on this incredibly upside-down relationship.”

“…In these memos, you can see that the Trump Administration warned Canada that this winter warfare training would transfer knowledge to China that could be used. Now, they don’t explain, would it be used to take on Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Tibetans to fight India in the Himalayas, or even to fight us? And when the military, the Canadian military, said our American allies or our allies are concerned about this, Trudeau’s staff pushed back and said, is it just the Trump Administration, or is anyone else worried about it? So, there’s an antipathy toward America that seeps through all these secret documents, and the overarching goal is to let China’s president Xi Jinping save face.” More here from DW.

Other revelations include:

  • Disgraced cabinet minister Catherine McKenna jetted to China for a three-day conference just months after the two Michaels were taken hostage.
  • Trudeau sent nearly 200 CAF personnel to Wuhan in October of 2019 to participate in the Military World Games, a propaganda bonanza for China diplomatic reports that China is using its “belt and road” negotiations to demand that countries drop human rights complaints if they want trade deals.
  • Chinese censorship of Twitter use.
  • Chinese use of a smartphone app to track Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
  • Bureaucrats bizarre protocol of referring to accused fraudster and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou as “Ms. Meng”, but refusing to even mention the two Michaels by name.
  • Bureaucrats deriding concerns about military knowledge transfer to China as figments of the “Trump Administration.”
12/10/20

Could Crimea Soon be Free of Russian Occupation/Annexation?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Just a few days ago…

Crimea | History, Map, Geography, & People | Britannica

France24: The UN General Assembly on Monday adopted a resolution urging Russia to end its “temporary occupation” of Crimea, which Moscow took over in 2014, “without delay.”

The resolution on the militarization of the peninsula of Crimea, the port of Sevastopol and parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov was adopted by 63 countries, with 17 voting against and 62 abstaining.

The resolution is non-binding but has political significance. It was put forward by 40 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and the Baltic states, as well the United States, Australia, Canada and Turkey.

The resolution “urges the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power, immediately, completely and unconditionally to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay.”

Facing the “continuing destabilization of Crimea owing to transfers by the Russian Federation of advanced weapon systems, including nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles, weapons, ammunition and military personnel to the territory of Ukraine,” the resolution called on Russia to stop all such transfers “without delay.”

Fighting between Ukrainian troops and forces backed by Russia has left more than 13,000 dead since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and pro-Russian forces in the east of Ukraine rebelled against Kiev.

At the UN Security Council, tensions between Russia and western countries over the conflict remain in sharp focus, as was shown by an informal meeting last week by Moscow on the 2015 Minsk accords between Ukraine and Russia, which were sponsored by France and Germany.

Berlin and Paris sparked Russian fury by boycotting the meeting, described by European countries as an international platform offered to the Donbass separatists, several of whom had been invited to speak by Moscow.

Analysis: Why Russia's Crimea move fails legal test - BBC News

Is Crimea Now Costing Russia More Than It Is Worth?

Paul Goble

In the euphoria that surrounded Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea six years ago, most Russians were more than willing to spend money to integrate that region into the Russian Federation. But at that time, they had little idea just how much that process would cost. Not only did that aggressive breach of international law trigger Western sanctions against Russia, but the authorities in Moscow also never gave the public an honest estimate of just how much money would need to be spent, nor for how long, even after the Kremlin proclaimed the peninsula’s absorption an accomplished fact. Were the Russian economy doing well, that might not matter; but it is not (see EDM, May 61218November 30), and the subsidies going to Crimea are, of course, unavailable to support the domestic needs of the increasingly hard-pressed Russian people in Russia proper. That contradiction could, therefore, encourage Putin to try to launch a new military advance to cover these losses.

Russian regional affairs analyst Anton Chablin points out that the recently released budget figures for 2021 show enormous spending on Crimea is set to continue. Moscow plans to channel no less than 102 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) to support 68 percent of the budget of Crimea. That figure is larger than the subsidies going to Dagestan and Chechnya: 96.7 billion rubles ($1.4 billion) and 78.8 billion rubles ($1.1 billion), respectively. When the Russian economy was somewhat healthier, Russians generally ignored those costs as the generous outlays to the country’s newest imperial possession were not considered a serious problem. But now, the situation has changed; and the numbers Chablin cites will likely lead an increasing number of Russians to ask whether Crimea is worth it. Although such a mental shift may not push Moscow to return Crimea to Ukraine, it could certainly further undermine Russian support for Putin and make it more likely he will launch some new offensive to rebuild “patriotic” fervor around himself (Akcent.site, December 7).

The first signs of popular unhappiness about this spending are likely to emerge as the State Duma (lower chamber of parliament) considers the budget, Chablin writes. Deputies almost certainly will focus on three things: 1) the growth in Moscow’s subsidies rather than the declines the Kremlin had promised in earlier years; 2) the overly optimistic predictions about tax collection made by the Russian regime in Crimea that are unlikely to be met and that will force Moscow to pay out even more than it is budgeting; and, especially offensive to many in the current environment, 3) the fact that the administration on the peninsula continues to spend ever more money on itself rather than on things like vacation resorts that might benefit average Russians (Akcent.site, December 7).

From the beginning of the annexation, independent Russian observers did point out that the direct costs associated with integrating Crimea would be far larger than and last longer than the Kremlin promised. Historian Arkady Popov, for example, said that the Kremlin’s pledge to end subsidies amounting to a trillion rubles ($160 billion) after only five or six years was absurd. Not only was that amount, in fact, more than Moscow could possibly afford—it exceeded the projected subsidies to the North Caucasus and the Russian Far East over the same period—but it was actually far less than would be needed given the collapse of the economy in Crimea since Russia occupied it (Ej.ru, September 28, 2015). And even then, there were Russians complaining that Moscow had “billions” for Crimea but no money to refurbish their decaying housing
(Forum-msk.org, March 26, 2014).

In the intervening years, various experts have attempted to put a price on Moscow’s assistance to Crimea; however, the Russian government has done what it can to obscure what it has been spending. Perhaps the best estimate came last year. It was prepared by economist Sergei Aleksashenko, who, in a book-length study, asserts that Crimea had by then cost Russia 1.5 trillion rubles ($23.5 billion). That figure, he points out in the piece, equals approximately 10,000 rubles ($160) for every man, woman and child in the Russian Federation. Or put another way, Aleksashenko continues, Moscow is now spending on Crimea 357 times the amount it is spending on the Russian Academy of Sciences, even though he concedes that a majority of Russians, as of 2019, did not think that the annexation was having a negative impact on their lives (Forbes.ru, March 24, 2019).

That passive acceptance may now be changing. For one thing, these budget figures are coming to light at a time of pandemic-induced suffering. And for another, Russians are increasingly aware of the collateral financial costs associated with Crimea that are not being counted in those base subsidy amounts. Among the largest of these associated costs, which has attracted significant attention recently, is what Moscow may be forced to spend in the coming months to ensure that the peninsula has enough drinking water (see EDM, February 26August 12). Those estimated expenses are sufficiently great that Putin might decide on an alternative solution: launching a new military campaign against Ukraine to gain control of water supplies that Crimea lost access to when Russia occupied it (see EDM, May 21). If that were to happen, what may seem like a minor budgetary dispute could reignite the military conflict between Moscow and Kyiv, with all the far-reaching consequences that would involve.