Tag: Russia

Georgian government kowtows to Russia by trying to kill off fiber optic cables

By undermining Georgia’s fiber optics connectivity with the world, the Georgian government is playing to Russia and to domestic cronyism.

Vladimir Putin wearing a suit and tie

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In July, the parliament in Tbilisi passed a brainchild of the Kremlin-sympathetic ruling Georgian Dream party, legislation allowing the government to appoint special overseers to telecommunications companies. The government claims the overseers are necessary to ensure that critical infrastructure is protected and the rule of law upheld. The reality is that these overseers are designed to ensure that only those sympathetic to the government’s interests can operate. It’s part of a broader pattern. Funded and secretly led by the James Bond villain figure of Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian Dream party has pared back the young democracy’s improving relations with the West. Instead, Ivanishvili has moved to consolidate power, defer to Russia, and destroy dissenting voices.

The oligarch’s latest strike against democracy came this week, when his government used its July legislation to appoint a special overseer to the company Caucasus Online. That company earned Ivanishvili’s ire with its 2019 sale of a 49% share of ownership to a foreign multinational investment firm. That sale had excited Western observers, who saw it as an opportunity for Georgia to expand its attractiveness to international investors and Western governments. But the government has sought to reverse the sale.

The overseer’s appointment appears particularly designed to kill off Caucasus Online’s attempt to extend a transnational fiber optic cable network. Already operating a 1,200-kilometer cable running across the Black Sea from Georgia to Bulgaria, the company wants to expand that footprint. If, however, the overseer obstructs the company from securing necessary investors, Georgia will have to rely on Russian cables for its high-speed internet connectivity. That dependence on Russia for an increasingly critical element of economic and security infrastructure would give Vladimir Putin enormous long-term influence over Tbilisi’s decisions.

This blackmail influence is something that Ivanishvili is apparently quite comfortable with. Ivanishvili’s government has been supplicant in the face of even the worst Russian excesses. Earlier this year, for example, Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov was caught sending assassins into Georgia to execute journalists. Tbilisi’s response to Putin’s favorite strongman was far from resolute. Oh, and Putin is now meddling in the upcoming Georgian elections, naturally.

The secondary effects of the government’s crackdown here will also be catastrophic. After all, if foreign investors see that their billions might easily end up lost thanks to laws rushed through parliament, they’re going to be less inclined to take risks on Georgia. This, of course, might be just what Ivanishvili wants. In the absence of foreign competitors, his personal cronyist power over the economy will only grow.

In short, this is a sad week for Georgia and for those who seek its more prosperous and democratic future.

Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Foreign Policy, Republic of Georgia, Communications, Internet, Russia

Original Author: Tom Rogan

Original Location: Georgian government kowtows to Russia by trying to kill off fiber optic cables

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Trump Makes America More Like Russia Every Day

Russian spies have undermined America for nearly a century. Their goals during and after the cold war were the same: Subvert the United States, sabotage its power, poison the body politic. They used the weapons of political warfare: deception, disinformation, espionage.

Their American agents held positions of power and authority. They infiltrated the Justice Department, the State Department, and all of America’s national-security agencies. Turncoats at the FBI and the CIA gave the Russians keys to the kingdom of American intelligence. Their treason went undetected for many years. A Nazi-hunting congressman, Samuel Dickstein of New York, became a Kremlin spy in 1937. His work stayed secret for six decades.

Four years ago, the KGB veteran Vladimir Putin pulled off the greatest coup of political warfare since the Trojan Horse: He helped put Donald Trump in the White House. Ever since, Trump has been a priceless asset for the Russians, a point man for their war on American democracy. It’s no secret that Trump echoes Russia’s political propaganda, stands with Putin against American spies and soldiers, and undermines the pillars of American national security. No secret that he tried to erase the evidence of Russia’s attacks on the last presidential election. Now he’s trying to drown out warnings that they’ll attack the next one.

The mystery is why.

I’m not saying Putin pays him. No one has a grainy photo of Trump pocketing Kremlin gold. But there are many kinds of secret agents in the annals of political warfare. Some were compromised by money troubles or blackmailed over sex. Some served their cause without comprehending Russia’s goals—they were poleznyye duraki, useful idiots. Some were in thrall to Russia’s authoritarian ideology. And most served Russia without ever being recruited. They volunteered.

Trump serves Putin in a very specific way. He’s an agent of influence.

That’s someone in a position of authority who’s under the sway of a hostile government. Someone who can use their power to influence public opinion or make political decisions that benefit whoever manipulates them. That’s how American intelligence defines it. The Russians, who first perfected the concept, see it a little differently. To them, an agent of influence doesn’t have to be controlled, recruited, or paid. They just have to be useful.

Leon Panetta, who ran the CIA and the Pentagon under President Obama, has no doubt about it. He told me that, by any definition, “Trump, for all intents and purposes, acts as an agent of influence of Russia.”

I’ve interviewed veteran American spies, spymasters, and spy-catchers all summer for a podcast called Whirlwind, based on my new book, The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare: 1945-2020. Almost all concur with Panetta. But they have other theories as well. There’s the useful idiot scenario. Or maybe it’s money: the Russians might have kompromat—compromising information—about Trump’s finances. And some think it might be worse than that.

All agreed with Fiona Hill, who served under Trump as the National Security Council’s director for Russia,

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