Russia Expels Western Diplomats Then Announces High Tech Weapons

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

“U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman has been summoned to our ministry, where my deputy Sergei Ryabkov is briefing him on the tit-for-tat steps against the U.S.,” Lavrov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

“They include the expulsion of the same number of diplomats and our decision to withdraw consent to the work of the Consulate General in St. Petersburg.” More here.


Robotics, artificial intelligence, and a willingness to strike the enemy’s non-military targets will figure in the country’s future strategies.

The U.S. military isn’t alone in its plans to pour money into drones, ground robots, and artificially intelligent assistants for command and control. Russia, too, will be increasing investment in these areas, as well as space and information warfare, Russian Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov told members of the Russian Military Academy of the General Staff last Saturday. In the event of war, Russia would consider economic and non-military government targets fair game, he said.

The comments are yet another sign that the militaries of the United States and Russia are coming more and more to resemble one another in key ways — at least in terms of hyping future capabilities. The chief of the General Staff said the Russian military is already developing new drones that could perform strike as well as reconnaissance missions. On the defensive side, the military is investing in counter-drone tech and electromagnetic warfare kits for individual troops.

The Russians are building an “automated reconnaissance and strike system,” he said, describing an AI-drive system that sounds a bit like the Maven and Data to Decision projects that the United States Air Force is pursuing. The goal, according to Gerasimov, was to cut down on the time between reconnaissance for target collection and strike by a factor of 2.5, and to improve the accuracy of strike by a factor of two. The Russian government is developing new, high-precision strike weapons for the same purpose. “In the future, precision weapons, including advanced hypersonics, will allow for the transfer the fundamental parts of strategic deterrence to non-nuclear weapons,” he said.

Sam Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, says the moves signal that the Russian military is trying to push fighting further away from its borders, thus growing the area to which it can deny access, or at least appear to do so. “Russia’s current force composition is aiming at short-range, short-duration conflict where its forces can overwhelm the adversary close to Russian borders. The new technology Gerasimov discusses would allow Russia to conduct deep-strikes within enemy territory, thus ‘pushing’ the actual fighting far from Russian borders and Russian vulnerability to Western precision-guided weapons,” he said.

What would Gerasimov hit with those weapons? In his talk, the Russian general said that enemy economic and non-military aspects of government could be on the list of potential targets. “The objects of the economy and the state administration of the enemy will be subject to immediate destruction, in addition to the traditional spheres of armed struggle, the information sphere and space will be actively involved,” he told the audience.

Says Bendett, “the use of such technologies is especially important given the type of war Moscow intends to fight. Gerasimov stated that potential adversary’s economic targets, as well as government’s ability to govern, will be fair game. Striking deep into enemy territory can be accomplished more easily by unmanned systems—whether armed with EW, various sensors or strike components … All this also depends on the Russian military-industrial complex’s ability to properly marshal the needed resources in an organized fashion in order to field this technology.”

One other explanation for the tough talk: Russia is hardly an even match for the United States in terms of either military spending or capability. The recently announced $61 billion increase in the U.S. military budget over last year’s budget (bringing the total to $700 billion) is greater than the entire Russian military budget, which sits around $46 billion. That number represents about 2.86 percent of Russian GDP. In December, Putin said that the government would “reduce” future expenditures.

“Gerasimov is, like anyone in a senior military post, a lobbyist as much as a soldier, and at a time when the Russian defense budget is going to continue to shrink, he is doing what he can both to maintain it as high as possible and also to tilt procurement away from older-fashioned metalwork — which is really a way for the Kremlin to subsidise the defence industries rather than what the military want — and towards advanced communications, reconnaissance and targeting capabilities,” said Mark Galeotti, the head of the Center for European Security at UMV, the Institute of International Relations, Prague.

According to Bendett, Russian government leaders are “hedging against impending geopolitical and economic uncertainty by trying to keep their military budget within certain parameters. The [Ministry of Defense] has been talking repeatedly about the rising share of new military tech in service of the Russian military, slowly phasing out older systems in favor of new ones. So the high-tech approach that Gerasimov outlined — space-based weapons, ‘military robots’ — is the next evolutionary stage in Russian military’s evolution to a more high-tech, sophisticated forces capable of rapid strike.”

Gerasimov also took a moment to denounce what he claimed were Western attempts to destabilize the Russian government through information and influence warfare and other subtle tactics. The charge may strike Western audiences as brazenly hypocritical given the Kremlin’s on-going attempts to sow misinformation to global audiences through social media, email theft and propaganda campaigns. But it’s an old talking point for Gerasimov.

Said UMV’s Galeotti: “At a time when the Kremlin is demonstrably worried about what it sees as Western ‘gibridnaya voina‘ [or hybrid war] being waged against it — we don’t have to accept their premises to acknowledge that the Russians genuinely believe this — he is staking out the military’s claims to being relevant in this age. And his answer, as in his infamous 2013 article, and as played out in the first stage of Zapad [the major wargame Russia executed in Belarus last summer] is that the military will deploy massive firepower to smash any foreign incursions meant to instigate risings against Moscow.”


U.S. Caps Money at 25% of UN Peacekeeping

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

For the most part, peacekeepers do not achieve the standards of their home country for military or humanitarian positions, so they are dispatched to the United Nations.

Conflicts where peacekeepers are deployed are also near countries at the top of the list.

The UN’s peacekeepers currently have operations in Western Sahara, Central African Rebpublic, Mali, Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Abyei, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Liberia and India and Pakistan.

China’s peacekeepers will form part of the “Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System”, a rapid-deployment standby force.

Its move to become one of the largest forces in the UN’s peacekeepers indicates its growing presence on the world stage, while also saying that China is a responsible power.

The UN’s current peacekeeping budget stands at £5.25bn, and its force has been implemented in 69 missions over the past 68 years. Click here to see the personnel donations from listed countries.

US: Won’t pay over 25 percent of UN peacekeeping anymore

UNITED NATIONS — The United States will no longer shoulder more than a quarter of the multibillion-dollar costs of the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations, Washington’s envoy said Wednesday.

“Peacekeeping is a shared responsibility,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said at a Security Council debate on peacekeeping reform. “All of us have a role to play, and all of us must step up.”

The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the U.N.’s 15 peacekeeping missions worldwide. Washington is paying about 28.5 percent of this year’s $7.3 billion peacekeeping budget, though Haley said U.S. law is supposed to cap the contribution at 25 percent.

The second-biggest contributor, China, pays a bit over 10 percent.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has complained before that the budget and Washington’s share are too high and pressed to cut this year’s budget. It is $570 million below last year’s, a smaller decrease than the U.S. wanted.

“We’re only getting started,” Haley said when the cut was approved in June. It followed a $400 million trim the prior year, before Trump’s administration.

Haley said Wednesday that the U.S. will work to make sure cuts in its portion are done “in a fair and sensible manner that protects U.N. peacekeeping.”

The General Assembly sets the budget and respective contributions by vote. Spokesmen for Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declined to comment on Haley’s remarks, noting that the 193 U.N. member states will decide the budget.

Drawing over 105,000 troops, police and other personnel from countries around the world, the peacekeeping missions operate in places from Haiti to parts of India and Pakistan. Most are in African countries. The biggest is in Congo, where the Security Council agreed just Tuesday to keep the 16,000-troop force in place for another year.

Some missions have been credited with helping to protect civilians and restore stability, but others have been criticized for corruption and ineffectiveness.

In Mali, where 13,000 peacekeepers have been deployed since 2013, residents in a northern region still “don’t feel safe and secure,” Malian women’s rights activist Fatimata Toure told the Security Council on Wednesday. She said violence remains pervasive in her section of a country that plunged into turmoil after a March 2012 coup created a security vacuum.

“We have still not felt (the peacekeeping mission) deliver on its protection-of-civilians mandate,” though it has helped in some other ways, Toure said. “We feel, as civilians, that we’ve been abandoned, left to our fate.”

Peacekeeping also has been clouded by allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. An Associated Press investigative series last year uncovered roughly 2,000 claims of such conduct by peacekeepers and other U.N. personnel around the world during a 12-year period.

Maintaining peace has become increasingly deadly work. Some 59 peacekeepers were killed through “malicious acts” last year, compared to 34 in 2016, Guterres said Wednesday. A U.N. report in January blamed many of the deaths on inaction in the field and “a deficit of leadership” from the world body’s headquarters to remote locations.

Guterres said Wednesday that the U.N. is improving peacekeepers’ training, has appointed a victims’ rights advocate for victims of sexual abuse and is reviewing all peacekeeping operations.

Still, he said, more needs to be done to strengthen peacekeeping forces and ensure they are deployed in tandem with political efforts, not instead of them. They also shouldn’t be overloaded with unrealistic expectations, he said.

“Lives and credibility are being lost,” he said. “A peacekeeping operation is not an army or a counterterrorist force or a humanitarian agency.”

Representatives from many countries also stressed a need for more focused, better prepared peacekeeping missions and more robust political peace processes.

The U.N., its member states and countries that host peacekeeping missions all “need to shoulder our responsibilities,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country arranged the debate as this month’s Security Council president.


China’s Global Kidnapping Program May Already Be Occurring In The U.S.

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Most Americans never stop to think what other humans suffer under communist regimes. And if you listen to politicians and the media, you would think the Chinese are our best friends. They aren’t. They are our enemies and always will be. Why? Because of communism and make no mistake, Xi’s regime is communist.

Now, our intelligence officials fear that China’s global campaign of kidnapping citizens that they want to repatriate for one reason or another has reached our borders. I would wager a guess that it happened long ago, we just haven’t been paying attention. These people are brought back to China where they may face arrest and imprisonment on political and corruption charges. Beijing admits that Chinese officials are doing this. They aren’t trying to hide it. They have repatriated more than 3,000 people “who had escaped overseas” since late 2012, Xinhua reports. What they call repatriation is often coercion or kidnapping. They threaten these people and their families. It’s the communist way.

In one example cited in an excellent report by Foreign Policy, a Chinese-Canadian billionaire named Xiao was snatched from his hotel in Hong Kong in 2017 and was loaded after probably being sedated into a wheelchair and rolled out through the lobby with a sheet covering his head. Similar stories have also come out of Australia, a U.S. intelligence partner, including one about a man who was allegedly drugged by Chinese security forces and transported back to the mainland on a state-owned shipping vessel.

An initial police report filed by a family member was quickly withdrawn and Xiao later issued a statement denying that he had been kidnapped. More than one year later, he remains in mainland China and though he hasn’t been charged with any crime, his businesses, under government direction, are expected to sell almost $24 billion in investments, which will reportedly be used to repay state banks.

Chinese nationals who are here in the U.S. legally have also started to disappear under suspicious circumstances. The only difference here is that these individuals are not high-profile targets. They are just normal people. “There were multiple reports of people observing Chinese intelligence operatives materializing around the schools or residences of the missing people,” one intelligence official said. “One theory was that they were strong-arming them in person, saying, ‘We’re here. Your flight back to China is tomorrow.'” The official stressed that there is still a difference between “kicking in a door and taking a guy forcefully away and saying, ‘Come with us or we’ll kill your family in Inner Mongolia.'” Still, in one case involving a Chinese graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, there was “evidence of this person being taken against their will.” And no one notices or says a word.

The kidnappings happen all over the world and follow the same pattern. Either the person is threatened and goes with Chinese intelligence agents, or they are forcibly kidnapped. When they are in China, they disavow being kidnapped and their assets usually are seized by the Chinese government. Some of these Chinese nationals are in fact, nationals of other countries. Powerful businessmen, ex-Chinese Communist Party officials, dissidents and activists have all been targeted as part of what Western intelligence officials say appears to be a large-scale campaign.

These cases of forced repatriation appear to show just how seriously the Communist Party takes its assertion that anyone it regards as a national — no matter where they live, work, or study — is subject to its authority. The kidnappings have begun to occur in the territory of core U.S. allies, including some of the Five Eyes intelligence partners (the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom). The Chinese have become emboldened like the Russians, believing no one will do anything of substance to stop them. It appears that the forced repatriations started in earnest in 2004.

In 2014, Beijing formally announced that it was expanding its anti-corruption campaign, known as Skynet or Fox Hunt, to target officials living abroad. In mainland China, the use of kidnapping and illegal detention has become such a standard part of the Communist Party’s disciplinary procedures that it even has a name, shuanggui. In order to isolate suspects in corruption cases — which are often intertwined with fights among party factions — security officials seize them, hold them in undisclosed locations and torture them to extract quick confessions. The use of shuanggui has increased sharply since Chinese President Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption drive.

About five years ago, U.S. intelligence noticed that Chinese people began ‘disappearing’ in the United States. The number of suspicious disappearances at the time was small — fewer than six, one former senior intelligence official said.

China has formal legal channels to retrieve “economic fugitives.” According to a former senior U.S. law enforcement official, Chinese officials about three years ago gave their American counterparts a list of U.S.-based individuals they wanted deported to China. The list, which numbered nearly 200 people and included 15 to 20 individuals in the Los Angeles area alone, tended to “trump up” charges in many cases, says the law enforcement official. China and the United States do not have an extradition treaty, but in 2015, the Department of Homeland Security agreed to enhance cooperation with China on deportation of U.S.-based fugitives.

The CIA and the State Department referred questions about alleged cases of forced repatriation to the Justice Department. The DOJ released a brief statement on the matter: “The U.S. Department of Justice will not allow the United States to become a safe haven for criminals,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to Foreign Policy. “The Department will assist other countries if evidence of criminality is presented, but will not accept unilateral law enforcement activity by another country on our territory.”

The Chinese government alternates between vague threats and appeals to consider family. “The phrasing they use — either to force you back or to get you to give information when you’re back — is, ‘It would be best for your father if you did this,’ or ‘Don’t you want the best thing for your father?’” the person says. Often, the Chinese government operatives will also try to appeal to the person’s patriotism. “They’ll say, ‘You’re Chinese, don’t you want to help the motherland?’ And when they want to intimidate or bully you, they say, ‘You’re too American, you don’t understand how things work in China.’” If that doesn’t do the trick, they get rougher. “With most people, threats and imprisonment were enough,” the person says, “but with the really hard men, they tortured, or threatened to torture, the wives and relatives.”

China is flexing its muscles across the planet militarily and economically. They also feel it is their right to go after Chinese nationals no matter what country they are in or whether they are a citizen or not. Their intelligence agents are little better than the Gestapo was and they are feared just as much. Under Xi, it has gotten much worse and he’s just begun to use his power as the new Chinese dictator for life.


A Volatile And Mixed Day

By: Kent Engelke | Capitol Securities

Markets were again mixed yesterday in a very volatile session. Megacap tech shares slumped again falling about 0.85%. The biggest losers were Amazon and Netflix with the former shedding $53 billion in value. The Dow was essentially unchanged.

The Trump administration is considering leveling antitrust or anticompetition sanctions on Amazon. Some have opined the President is playing politics.

My comment is cynical… what administration has not played politics? President Obama was the master especially as it relates to the financials. President Clinton almost ruined the tobacco industry.

Amazon has bragged about being a “disrupter,” doing everything under the guise of benefiting the consumer. Wall Street and government have followed along. The former under the simple premise for fees and performance, living in a Janusian world that profits and valuations do not matter.

The latter because it is all about politics and to heck with the small businessman. It is easier to control one large organization versus hundreds of smaller companies.

The Trump administration was elected on a populist basis, espousing economic nationalism and the common person. The President is doing what he stated he would do.

Last week, I referenced Commerce Department statistics that only 10% of retail sales are conducted on an on-ine platform, platforms that include Walmart and Target. The Commerce Department also stated that online sales grew by 9% in 2017, double the 4% rate of overall retail sales.

In my view, the cards are stacked in favor of Amazon for a myriad of reasons and the populist President is attempting to level the playing field.

I have written a gazillion times about the “crowdedness” of several popular trades opining who will buy when selling commences? Some are “shocked” about the damage in a sector that was viewed as impervious to all laws of gravity, government and fairness. In my view, the damage is just beginning.

Algorithmic traders trade on momentum and may exacerbate selling pressure given their penchant for speed over capitalization. Indexers and ETFs may accentuate the selling, the inverse of the past three years.

Typically, great volatility — defined as big losses followed by big gains — are a sign of a major top. The “buy on dip” mentality becomes exhausted. Recent trading patterns of the mega-sized technology shares are similar to those of eighteen years ago. In that era, buyers gave in and the NASDAQ imploded about 80% in about two years while the typical stock greatly outperformed.

Will history repeat itself?

What happens today? Most markets are closed tomorrow for Good Friday.

Last night the foreign markets were up. London was up 0.39%, Paris was up 0.56% and Frankfurt was up 0.79%. China was up 1.22%, Japan was up 0.61%and Hang Sang was up 0.24%.

The Dow should open nominally higher. The 10-year is up 3/32 to yield 2.77%.