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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1976

Back to the "Blackjack";
Hacking and the Ukraine conflict

Edited by Ilan Berman
May 20, 2015

April 27: 

Iran and Russia are moving to expand their bilateral economic relationship. 
Iran's PressTV reports Gholam-Reza Panahi, the deputy governor for currency affairs of Iran's Bank Melli, as saying that a new mechanism to transfer money into the Islamic Republic from Russia is now operational. The mechanism, PressTV reports, "enables Iranian exporters to transfer payments in rubles from their Russian clients to Iran through the Moscow-based Mir Business Bank" as a way of skirting sanctions levied against both countries by the United States. 

Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula last year was the rectification of a historical injustice, Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared. "It's not because Crimea has a strategic importance in the Black Sea region," Putin said in comments broadcast in a new documentary film and 
subsequently published by The Moscow Times. "It's because this has elements of historical justice. I believe we did the right thing and I don't regret anything." 

April 28:

Belatedly, Congressional lawmakers are seeking to penalize Russia for its infractions of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. 
According to the Washington Free Beacon, new legislation approved by the House Armed Services Committee would force the Defense Department to deploy new weapons in two years as a response to Russian violations of the INF treaty. The provision, contained in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, "directs the president, secretary of defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to evaluate and develop new U.S. and allied weapons in response to Russia's failure to explain its new intermediate range cruise missile." 

The move, members of Congress say, is a response to the Obama administration's failure to hold the Kremlin to account over its violations. "For years, we've been urging the Obama administration to get serious about Russia's violation of the INF treaty," Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on strategic forces, notes. "Its response: we're talking to Russia." "While Obama talks, Putin cheats on treaties and invades his neighbors," Rogers maintains. "We must take Russia's actions seriously, and this authorization of DOD funding does just that. The United States will not be unilaterally bound by any treaty." 

April 29:

Russia is planning renewed production of long-range military aircraft. 
According to Sputnik, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has confirmed publicly that the Kremlin plans to begin production anew on its Tu-160 "Blackjack" strategic bomber - a key element of Russia's strategic triad. "Today it is already necessary to solve the task of not only maintaining and modernizing long-range aviation, we must also produce the Tu-160 missile carrier," Shoigu has said. 

A new study by Arlington, Va.-based cyber security firm Lookingglass has pinned the blame on Moscow for escalating
cyber-activity in Ukraine. FORTUNE reports that the campaign, dubbed "Operation Armageddon," represents a "persistent" effort "to gather intelligence on its adversary, bolstering Russian war efforts." The operation is said to have been active since mid-2013, long before the formal initiation of hostilities between Moscow and Kyiv, but that its activities have waxed and waned over the course of the conflict in Ukraine. The conclusion made by Lookingglass researchers is that Ukraine's secret service, the SBU, is correct in attributing the cyber-attacks and intrusions to Russia's FSB. "We're highly confident that the claims the SBU made are accurate," the magazine cites Jason Lewis, Lookingglass' chief collections and intelligence officer, as saying. "We didn't find any evidence to the contrary to dispute those claims."

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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