The Rising Neo-Nationalism

With Steven Bannon being named Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor in the upcoming Trump Administration, his ties to neo-nationalist and neo-fascist movements are getting some press and being downplayed or ignored in other places. And while I’m planning on doing a more detailed post about the linkages between these groups, their receipt of patronage from Vladimir Putin as part of his revanchist strategy against the West (the US, the EU, NATO, liberal democracy), I think it is important to pay attention to sort of the Ur-neo-nationalist of the late 20th/early 21st Century. Dr. Jasmin Mujanovic (h/t: Dr. Sarah Kendzior) does just that for us in a tweet storm:

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As Veterans Day Comes to an End

As Veterans Day comes to an end, here is the Old Guard with a 21 Gun Salute and Taps.

Updated at 12:25 AM EST

Per Omnes in comments the Dropkick Murphy’s The Green Fields of France:

And to Terry (my ASO) and Gregg and Mike and Nichole and Paula – rest well.

The Maskirovka Slips VII: Dogs that Catch Cars Edition


Earlier BettyC asked who was going to keep attention on the reported Russian interference in US politics? We are! Among others.

A couple of interesting things regarding Russia’s influence operations against America have flown close to or under the radar over the past several days for obvious reasons. The first is that Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister announced yesterday that, indeed, Russia had been in touch with the Trump Campaign.


The statement came from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who said in an interview with the state-run Interfax news agency that “there were contacts” with the Trump team.

“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Ryabkov said.


Speaking to Bloomberg News, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said staffers at the Russian Embassy in Washington met with members of Trump’s campaign — meetings she described as “normal practice.” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign refused similar requests for meetings, Zakharova told the agency.

Asked later for clarification, a Foreign Ministry official declined to elaborate on Ryabkov’s remarks but said standard diplomacy called for “contact with the leaders in the campaign” on matters such as clarifying statements by the candidate or conveying interview requests from Russian journalists. The ministry official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

A Clinton campaign official who was asked to comment on Zakharova’s statement answered with a one-word email: “false.”

The Trump Campaign, of course, denied it:

Ryabkov provided no further details, and his remarks drew a swift denial from Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks, who said the campaign had “no contact with Russian officials” before Tuesday’s election.

This comes on the heels of reporting over the weekend that got almost no coverage (other than the actual reporting and a few tweets) that US counterintelligence (CI) officials have, indeed, opened a counterintelligence investigation into the activities of now President Elect Trump’s campaign in regard to potential illegal ties to Russia and Russian officials.

Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community have confirmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was granted, a FISA court warrant in October, giving counter-intelligence permission to examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.

Contrary to earlier reporting in the New York Times, which cited FBI sources as saying that the agency did not believe that the private server in Donald Trump’s Trump Tower which was connected to a Russian bank had any nefarious purpose, the FBI’s counter-intelligence arm, sources say, re-drew an earlier FISA court request around possible financial and banking offenses related to the server. The first request, which, sources say, named Trump, was denied back in June, but the second was drawn more narrowly and was granted in October after evidence was presented of a server, possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank. While the Times story speaks of metadata, sources suggest that a FISA warrant was granted to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern US persons.

The FBI agents who talked to the New York Times, and rubbished the ground-breaking stories of Slate ( Franklin Foer) and Mother Jones (David Corn) may not have known about the FISA warrant, sources say, because the counter-intelligence and criminal sides of the FBI often work independently of each other employing the principle of ‘compartmentalization’.

As former FBI Special Agent for Counterintelligence Naveed Jamali states in reply to MSNBC anchor, Daily Beast contributor, and national treasure for actually knowing how to conduct and actually conducting real, investigative journalistic interviews Joy Ann Reid:

Special Agent Jamali’s point is well taken: these investigations are conducted partially by a compartmentalized group of FBI special agents and analysts to cover the domestic, US side of evidence collection working in concert with a group of counterintelligence officers from the US Intelligence Community that focus on the international/foreign component of counterintelligence. They run silent and they run deep. And they have a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act(FISA) warrant from the FISA Court for the Trump campaign. This is not going to go away easily.

In other Russian maskirovka and kompromat developments it appears that buyer’s remorse has already set in at the Kremlin. The Guardian reports that:

Alexei Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s liberal Echo of Moscow radio, said that while some in the Kremlin were probably celebrating, other “more serious” people realised there were unpredictable times ahead.

“Putin doesn’t like unpredictability and Trump is the definition of unpredictability,” he said. “They celebrated Brexit and then Boris Johnson became foreign secretary and they thought, ‘Oh God, what is this?’”

The Moscow Times also reports (h/t: Josh Marshall) that:

Across Russia, Donald Trump’s election as United States president has been hailed as a victory for Moscow. Given the country’s affinity for the American president-elect, the celebration should be going strong only a day later.

But it appears the honeymoon is coming to a swift end.

“We are not experiencing any euphoria,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Nov. 10. “[We’ve had] very diverse experiences doing business with U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democrat.”


The Kremlin anticipated squaring off against Hillary Clinton, says Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the National Strategy Institute.

“Putin is, of course, a winner here,” he says. “Not because Trump won, but because it proved the U.S. establishment does not control its own country.” But the “defeat of Obama’s platform” is a fleeting victory for Putin: “No one knows what Trump’s real policies toward Russia will be.”

Others are less sure Russia can cooperate with the United States.

“The U.S. is in a bit of a stupor, a crisis. There’s a great deal of uncertainty,” says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Russia in Global Affairs journal. “It’s better to see what’s going to happen and not take initiative first.”

Pavel Sharikov, a scholar in the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of American and Canadian Studies, believes setting reasonable expectations will be important. He emphasizes that, even if Trump’s policy preferences are amenable to Moscow, the new president will still face opposition from Russia hawks within his party.

But Belkovsky insists the ball is in Kremlin’s court. In the next four years, relations will depend on Russia’s actions.

“Russia, not America, inspired the conflict in Ukraine, regardless of what Putin says about that,” he says. And, if faced with challenge from the Kremlin, “any American president will protect America’s interests – even Trump.”

As someone wrote the other night, quoting Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock in The Amok Time:

After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.

Putin may be learning this now given how amok these times seem.

Finally, former Obama Administration Department of Justice Communications Director Matthew Miller reminds us that everyone that the Trump transition team tries to bring into the new administration will have to complete a Security Form (SF) 86. Its 127 pages of fun, fun, fun, but if the reporting from Heat Street is correct, it may be fraught with danger for potential members of the new administration.

Section 19 – Foreign Contacts:

A foreign national is defined as any person who is not a citizen or national of the U.S.

Do you have, or have you had, close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven (7) years with whom you, or your spouse, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation? Include associates as well as relatives, not previously listed in Section 18.

Section 20A – Foreign Activities Have you, your spouse, cohabitant, or dependent children EVER had any foreign financial interests (such as stocks, property, investments, bank accounts, ownership of corporate entities, corporate interests or businesses) in which you or they have direct control or direct ownership? (Exclude financial interests in companies or diversified mutual funds that are publicly traded on a U.S. exchange.)

It gets better from there, so click across and take a look. I can tell you from personal experience with the periodic review for my clearances that there is no give in the system in the post Snowden and post Martin security breach era. It also doesn’t help that Congress has shorted the funding for the clearance investigators, so they’re short staffed. The background investigators, adjudicators, and special security officers are not known for having much of a sense of humor, especially that last group! They all take the penalty of perjury thing very, very seriously!

Stay Frosty!

A Day Late, But Not Forgotten

Two important anniversaries happened yesterday that we should still remark on, even a day late, amid all the hubub. The actual events happened 51 years apart, but both took place, or at least started, in Germany. On November 9th 1938 the series of attacks and pogroms known as Kristallnacht occurred in Germany and German annexed Austria and the Sudetenland part of what was then Czechoslovakia.

The other was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

These two events – one of humanity lost and at its most depraved and the other of humanity’s desire for freedom and liberty – are important reminders in uncertain times.

We Hold the Line

As you all know, I try to stay out of domestic politics in my writing here, except where the foreign policy stuff that I focus on – such as the maskirovka series – crosses the boundaries. I also don’t think that despite my staying out of the domestic politics arena here there are too many of you wondering how I view domestic or foreign policy. So I want to focus a moment on where things go from here. What has to happen, what needs to happen going forward is that we need to hold the line.

We need to hold the line because America is an ideal, a set of ideas, that don’t belong to any of us specifically. Rather we hold them in trust for each other. If we give up on the ideal, if we refuse to continue to fight for it, then we have no reason to hold the line. Now is the time to hold that line. Now is the time to dig in and, amazingly enough be conservative – conserve and preserve as much of the status quo as possible. To stand and yell stop! We do this by holding everyone’s feet to the fire regarding that ideal. Ideas can’t be killed. Signals can’t be stopped. Unless we stop believing in them and transmitting them.

Bernard Fall, the epitome of the scholar-soldier and one of my professional forebears, gave a lecture entitled Theories of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency at the US Naval War College in 1964. Fall recognized that the key center of gravity in the Vietnam War was ideas. It wasn’t physical terrain, it wasn’t infrastructure – it was ideas. The key to being successful in preserving America the ideal is to take Fall to heart and actually keep putting forward better ideas. This is not a new concept, but the failure to grasp it has often led to strategic failure despite tactical success. Bernard Fall referred to this as Civic Action and explained it as:

Civic action is not the construction of privies or the distribution of anti-malaria sprays. One can’t fight an ideology; one can’t fight a militant doctrine with better privies. Yet this is done constantly. One side says, “land reform,” and the other side says, “better culverts.” One side says, “We are going to kill all those nasty village chiefs and landlords.” The other side says, “Yes, but look, we want to give you prize pigs to improve your strain.” These arguments just do not match. Simple but adequate appeals will have to be found sooner or later.

While I think many of us would agree that the ideas put forward by Secretary Clinton, even though they weren’t perfect, were, overall, the better ideas in this specific election, they weren’t received as such. And I think we all agree that we really don’t know what President Elect Trump’s ideas really are given how all over the map he and his surrogates have been over the course of the now completed campaign. What needs to be done, to fully embrace Fall’s strategic wisdom, is to figure out how to change the frequency, so to speak, so that better ideas are not only transmitted, but received. Right now that means holding fast to the understanding that America is a set of ideas, an ideal. And that those ideas, that ideal are worth fighting for within the political arena. That is the challenge for all Americans – liberal or conservative – who were concerned with Trump’s candidacy and are concerned with the potential coming Trump Administration. America has come through many dark periods bloodied, but unbowed. Now, as then, is the time to plant our feet, yell stop, take the political punch, and hold the line. We hold the line for our friends, families, for those we agree with and those we don’t, and for those yet to come who we hold America as an ideal for in trust.

I’m not a big believer in indispensable people or Nations, but right now – for good or for bad – a significant portion of the world depends on us. Not only are our own, but many other states and societies have their people in harms way, in contact with ISIL and other reactionary forces, and if we go to pieces we do none of them any good. Right now a lot of states and societies in Europe, as well as in Australia and Israel, are grappling with similar societal divisions, rancor, and acrimony. How we handle this transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration and how we hold the line to preserve the American ideal signals to them how to hold their own lines. Whether its in Germany or France, which are the next two European states up in this fight against reactionary nationalism and xenophobic isolationism. Or Montenegro that just fought off a coup believed to be supported by Russia. Or the people of Turkey who are themselves seeing a consolidation of power and authority within the hands of an increasingly autocratic and dictatorial Erdogan. And for our allies and partners in Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia who are worried about Russian aims and expansionism. Falling upon each other and tearing ourselves apart will not do us or them any good.

As I put in a comment last night: my service, whether as a term appointed civil servant or a contractor, is to the Constitution and through it to the American people. This is the case for every single national security professional I have ever met – uniformed or civilian, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. We serve an ideal and a set of ideas on behalf of all Americans. An electoral majority of those Americans chose to elect Donald Trump as the next President. They’ve chosen to give him unified Republican control over the Federal legislature. If you disagree, if you think this is a mistake you have to respect these electoral outcomes if you ever expect, even if its a fool’s expectation, that your preferred electoral outcomes will be respected when they occur. For good, bad, or otherwise Donald Trump is our next President and he has, for now, unified GOP control over the Federal legislature. Now is the time to hold to the ideal of America. The ideas that are America. You want a more perfect union? Hold the line. You want to provide for the general welfare? Hold the line.