Summary of “How Britain let Russia hide its dirty money”

The embarrassing truth is that, although I have written about Russia and its neighbours for two decades, during which I have increasingly specialised in analysing corruption, it had never really occurred to me to ascertain precisely how much stolen Russian money had found a home in the UK, or to chart exactly where it had ended up.
One way to begin investigating exactly how much Russian money there is in Britain – and how much of it is dirty – is to look at the official data.
Russian money that moves through another jurisdiction before arriving in Britain isn’t counted as Russian and, since the overwhelming majority of money that enters and leaves Russia does so via tax havens such as Cyprus and the Bahamas, this means the official figures reflect only a small portion of the money the MPs were interested in.
“Guselnikov believes that politicians’ sudden panic about Russian money in Britain is misplaced. When we met in his office in a grand terraced house on Grosvenor Square, he began by pointing out that Russian money had less influence over British business than people think.”I can’t recall any big enterprise controlled by Russians, or any big company.
Guselnikov said banks had become more stringent in their checks on the provenance of money in the last few years, so it was unlikely that significant flows of dirty money were entering the UK from Russia any more.
Why was Britain the only country that declined to act on the information Browder provided? His conclusion was that too many influential people – lawyers, bankers, accountants, property developers – were dependent on dirty Russian money for their livelihoods.
This is one of the problems with trying to ascertain the volume of dirty Russian money in London: how far back do we go? Do the fees Midland Bank received for banking Soviet money in the 1950s still count as Russian cash, and if so, are they dirty? Does the commission the estate agent earned by selling those flats in Kensington in the early 1990s count as dirty money? And what about the £800m that Russians paid for government bonds in return for golden visas? Or the $41,000 of Magnitsky money that was spent on a wedding dress in London? How many times does money have to circulate in the economy before we decide it’s not dirty any more?
We don’t know how much dirty money there is in the UK, nor do we know exactly where it is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio”

“If you were an ambitious young Foreign Service officer after 9/11, you wanted to get sent to some reconstruction team in Afghanistan or Iraq,” says Andrew Weiss, who worked on Russia at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and now runs the Russia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The longtime Russia hand Stephen Sestanovich, a veteran of the Reagan and Clinton administrations, says there are two kinds of Russia hands – those who came to Russia through political science and those who came to it through literature.
Fried, who served in every administration from Carter to Obama, also thinks there are two kinds of Russia hands, though he draws a different dividing line: There are those, like himself, who “Put Russia in context, held up against the light of outside standards and consequences.” These people tend to be tough on Russia.
There are two kinds of Russia hands, or maybe there are six kinds of Russia hands, or maybe there is an infinite variety of Russia hands.
The decision on NATO was essentially made by early 1994, but it would take some years before the first countries joined the alliance, and in the meantime, relations between Russia and the United States steadily declined: Russia was angered by the NATO bombing of Bosnian Serb positions in 1995, by the American insistence that the Russians stop the sale of nuclear technology to Iran and especially by the 1999 NATO bombing – just a few weeks after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland finally joined the alliance – of Belgrade.
The main Russia hand in the Bush White House was Thomas Graham, a quiet, intense, scholarly former State Department official who was described by a colleague as “the smartest Russia hand ever produced by the Foreign Service.
If you come to energy, Russia is obviously an important player in global energy markets, but Russia is not the most important player in global energy markets.
The absence of nuance on the Russia question – the embrace of Russia as America’s new-old supervillain – is probably best understood as a symptom of that sickness.

The orginal article.

Summary of “After a week of Russian propaganda, I was questioning everything”

Like its sister outlet RT, Sputnik is a Russian government-funded media outlet, widely seen by Russia experts as a vehicle to disseminate disinformation for the Kremlin, and, like its space-dwelling namesake, to make the West look bad. While RT is television, Sputnik lives on the radio, a wire service and website.
Today, Sputnik operates in 34 countries in more than 30 languages, including, as of this past summer, on an FM station in Washington, D.C. When Sputnik launched stateside, the investigations into Russia’s supposed interference in the U.S. election were accelerating, and the media outlet was greeted with critical coverage.
Because its provider is now a foreign agent, Sputnik is now required to disclose that it is funded by the Russian government.
Over the last month, questioning the chemical attack in Douma dominated the news at Sputnik.
While at Sputnik’s offices, I also sat down with Mindia Gavasheli, a Russian national who runs Sputnik’s D.C. newsroom.
When I sat down with Lee Stranahan, the former Breitbart reporter, who calls himself a “Political futurist,” he shrugged off the idea that Sputnik was Russian propaganda by employing some whataboutism of his own.
“When you work for Sputnik, you get called a traitor and a Putin puppet But why does no one bring up the coup we fomented?” he said, referring to Russian allegations that the U.S. fomented a coup in Ukraine.
As one last attempt to better understand Sputnik, I put myself on a weeklong Sputnik media diet.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia”

Organised crime truly began to come into its own in a Russia that itself was becoming more organised.
The challenge posed by Russian organised crime is a formidable one – and not just at home.
The Kremlin does not control organised crime in Russia, nor is it controlled by it.
There is a very high level of corruption in Russia, which provides a conducive environment for organised crime.
The assumption is that the money was not all his, but rather that he was the holder of the common fund of a gang of oboroten, or “Werewolves”, as organised crime groups within police ranks are often known.
When asked about how he felt about working in organised crime, he airily waved the suggestion away: “It’s all business, just business.”
A key characteristic of organised crime in today’s Russia is the depth of its interconnectedness with the legitimate economy.
For more sophisticated purposes, not least assassinations, organised crime gangs looked to sportsmen and martial artists – many of the first gangs came from sports clubs, such as the weightlifters and wrestlers who formed Moscow’s Lyubertsy gang – or to current and former police and military personnel.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Quiet Rivalry Between China and Russia”

China lost part of this region to Russia only in the 19th century, when the Qing dynasty was in its death throes, and the rest in the 20th century.
At the same time, China is vanquishing Russia in Central Asia.
China pumps Kazakh oil to Europe and also to China through a pipeline, and the Chinese transport natural gas from Turkmenistan to western China.
Russia is not only losing out to China in its far east and Central Asia, but in Europe, too.
China and Russia refer to their relationship as a “Comprehensive strategic partnership,” in which Russia supplies oil to China and the two countries hold joint military exercises.
Trade is lopsided in China’s favor; the fall in energy prices has made China considerably less dependent on Russia.
These deeper geopolitical realities mean China and Russia will be only allies of convenience.
Because the contest between China and Russia is largely determined by their geographical proximity and therefore must persist, America will have the greater possibility to maneuver, hardening or softening its position toward each power as the situation demands.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Ever Happened to the Russian Revolution?”

The czar and the upper strata of Russian society insist that the country stay in the war, for the sake of national honor, and for their allies, some of whom have lent Russia money.
Russian ideas are the most exhilarating, Russian thought the freest, Russian art the most exuberant; Russian food and drink are to me the best, and Russians themselves are, perhaps, the most interesting human beings that exist.
The February Revolution happened in the snow, but in swampy Russia, the glorious October Revolution happened in the mud.
In 1967, a New York Times editorial titled “Russia’s Next Half-Century” congratulated the Soviet Union for becoming “One of the world’s foremost economic, scientific, and military powers.” The Times said it looked forward to a prosperous future for the country, but added, “Russia’s leaders, surveying the changes of fifty hectic years, surely understand that the vision of a monolithic, uniform world-whether Communist or capitalist-is a fantasy.”
“Expectations were high. But everyone also remembers the rest of the ’90s, the years that followed, which were quite terrible. Therefore we became less excited about romantic images of revolution. Two years after Yeltsin stood on the tank, he ordered tanks to fire at the Parliament building, to resolve the constitutional crisis brought on by those trying to overthrow him. As Putin himself said, ‘In Russia we have over-fulfilled our plans in revolutions.'”.
Nicholas not only ruled Russia, he not only signified Russia, he was Russia.
In order to stay in power Lenin had prostrated Russia before Germany with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, by which Russia renounced claims on vast amounts of territory including the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine.
Before his early death, from a series of strokes, in 1924, the person of Lenin had become interchangeable with revolutionary Russia, just as the czars had been Russia before the revolution.

The orginal article.

Summary of “These Cigarette Smugglers Are On The Frontlines Of Russia’s Spy Wars”

Three different investigators from two institutions – the Police and Border Guard Board and the Tax and Custom Board, which investigates smuggling – told BuzzFeed News that they hadn’t seen any effort from the Russian side to stop and catch smugglers along the border for years now.
“Little did they know that drinking and smuggling were the least of Romanov’s secrets. He had been a spy working for the FSB for 20 years.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Romanov said he was buying used Western cars from Germany and Finland at the time and selling them in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim republic that would fight two separatist wars in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The border guards didn’t arrest Romanov for drunk driving that spring day, though he was forced to give them a statement.
Someone stood watch at Romanov’s house, which was off the only road to the border.
Romanov moved back to his house, halfway between the Russian border and the first border guard station in Estonia.
One thing Romanov refused to talk about was his life as a Russian spy.
When asked again – “Can you publicly admit to the fact of having been a spy?” – Romanov took another puff of his cigarette.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Poll On Russia, Trump Actions: Republicans And Democrats Deeply Divided”

Seventy-three percent of Republicans say Trump himself has done nothing wrong, with 15 percent saying he has done something unethical but not illegal, and just 4 percent say he has done something illegal.
Forty-one percent of Democrats believe Trump himself has done something illegal, and 39 percent say he has done something unethical but not illegal.
Thirty-two percent of independents say Trump has done nothing wrong, while 31 percent say he has done something unethical but not illegal and 27 percent believe he has done something illegal.
Among Republicans, 62 percent think the Trump campaign’s associates did nothing wrong, while 17 percent think they did something unethical but not illegal and 7 percent think something illegal happened.
Fifty-nine percent of Democrats believe associates of the Trump campaign did something illegal, while 26 percent say they did something unethical but not illegal and just 8 percent say nothing wrong happened.
Among independents a 36 percent plurality think the Trump campaign’s associates did something illegal in relation to Russia, while 30 percent believe something unethical but not illegal occurred.
Democrats are split on that question, with 46 percent of them saying the U.S. should build better relationships with Russia, while 44 percent believe Russia should be treated as a threat.
Forty-two percent of Americans think Trump is a more effective leader than Putin, whom Trump has often praised.

The orginal article.

Summary of “I thought nothing in Russia could shock me. Then I went to a television broadcast”

It takes a lot to shock me in Russia, after 45 years of studying it.
On “Russia day”, 12 June, thousands of people protested in central Moscow against Vladimir Putin and his kleptocratic clique.
You might have been holding a Russian flag, you might have been chanting “Russia without Putin”, or you might just have been watching, or even – in one case – explaining to an interviewer why you supported Putin nothing protected you.
My job as in-house “Expert” was to lead the discussions and help the participants get a feel for Putin’s Russia.
Back in Moscow we were invited by Anatoly Kuzichev, the host of a political talk show, to sit in the studio during a live broadcast on state television’s Channel One.
Nominally the topic under discussion was the anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of the USSR on 22 June 1941 – but this was just a pretext for a hate session against Ukraine, Poland, and anyone who dared to criticise Russia.
The Russian writer Nikolai Gogol once described Russia as a troika – a three-horse carriage – admired by all the world as it thundered by.
These days Russia woos like a gangster, not a lover.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Under pressure, Western tech firms bow to Russian demands to share cyber secrets”

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW Western technology companies, including Cisco, IBM and SAP, are acceding to demands by Moscow for access to closely guarded product security secrets, at a time when Russia has been accused of a growing number of cyber attacks on the West, a Reuters investigation has found.
Russian authorities are asking Western tech companies to allow them to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting the products to be imported and sold in the country.
From their side, companies say they are under pressure to acquiesce to the demands from Russian regulators or risk being shut out of a lucrative market.
The reviews are also conducted by the Federal Service for Technical and Export Control, a Russian defense agency tasked with countering cyber espionage and protecting state secrets.
Moscow’s source code requests have mushroomed in scope since U.S.-Russia relations went into a tailspin following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, according to eight current and former U.S. officials, four company executives, three U.S. trade attorneys and Russian regulatory documents.
Roszel Thomsen, an attorney who helps U.S. tech companies navigate Russia import laws, said the firms must balance the dangers of revealing source code to Russian security services against possible lost sales.
The reviews often takes place in secure facilities known as “Clean rooms.” Several of the Russian companies that conduct the testing for Western tech companies on behalf of Russian regulators have current or previous links to the Russian military, according to their websites.
Echelon, a Moscow-based technology testing company, is one of several independent FSB-accredited testing centers that Western companies can hire to help obtain FSB approval for their products.

The orginal article.