Category Archives: Signs of the Times

War Notes, Monday Threefer: Hackers Attacking Russia; Ukraine’s female minesweepers; and Sketches from Ukraine’s “International Legion”

Washington Post: Hacking Russia was off-limits. The Ukraine war made it a free-for-all.

Experts anticipated a Moscow-led cyber-assault; instead, unprecedented attacks by hacktivists and criminals have wreaked havoc in Russia.

By Joseph Menn — May 1, 2022

For more than a decade, U.S. cybersecurity experts have warned about Russian hacking that increasingly uses the labor power of financially motivated criminal gangs to achieve political goals, such as strategically leaking campaign emails.

Prolific ransomware groups in the last year and a half have shut down pandemic-battered hospitals, the key fuel conduit Colonial Pipeline and schools; published sensitive documents from corporate victims; and, in one case, pledged to step up attacks on American infrastructure if Russian technology was hobbled in retribution for the invasion of Ukraine.

Yet the third month of war finds Russia, not the United States, struggling under an unprecedented hacking wave that entwines government activity, political voluntarism and criminal action.

Digital assailants have plundered the country’s personal financial data, defaced websites and handed decades of government emails to anti-secrecy activists abroad. One recent survey showed more passwords and other sensitive data from Russia were dumped onto the open Web in March than information from any other country.
The published documents include a cache from a regional office of media regulator Roskomnadzor that revealed the topics its analysts were most concerned about on social media — including antimilitarism and drug legalization — and that it was filing reports to the FSB federal intelligence service, which has been arresting some who complain about government policies. Continue reading War Notes, Monday Threefer: Hackers Attacking Russia; Ukraine’s female minesweepers; and Sketches from Ukraine’s “International Legion”

Gwynne Dyer

 

Western powers step up assistance for a confident but battered Ukraine

Two months ago, when Russian tanks first rolled into Ukraine, every message from Washington or Nato about the invasion included a prominent passage saying what the western alliance would not do.

It would not send Nato troops to help Ukraine. It would give Ukraine some ‘defensive’ weapons but no ‘offensive’ ones, e.g., anti-tank missiles but no tanks.

It would, in other words, allow Ukraine to lose, but only slowly.

And under no circumstances would it do anything that gave Russia reason to fear that it might face military action by Nato.

an journalist and long-time commentator on international affairs.

OPINION: Two months ago, when Russian tanks first rolled into Ukraine, every message from Washington or Nato about the invasion included a prominent passage saying what the western alliance would not do.

It would not send Nato troops to help Ukraine. It would give Ukraine some ‘defensive’ weapons but no ‘offensive’ ones, e.g., anti-tank missiles but no tanks.

It would, in other words, allow Ukraine to lose, but only slowly.

And under no circumstances would it do anything that gave Russia reason to fear that it might face military action by Nato.

How things have changed!

In the past two weeks the United States has declared that some $2 billion worth of state-of-the-art weapons are on the way to Ukraine, including ‘Switchblade’ combat drones and self-propelled howitzers.

Even Germany (which originally offered Ukraine nothing but 5,000 helmets) is sending modern anti-aircraft guns.

Rhetorically, the sky is the limit. In a press briefing at the Polish border last Monday after a quick visit to Kyiv, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said: “We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”

It wasn’t even like Joe Biden’s slip of the tongue last month about regime change in Moscow.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was also on the Kyiv trip, chimed in to back Austin up: “I think the Secretary said it very well.” The official US goal is now to reduce Russia to a state so weak that it cannot credibly threaten Ukraine, and keep it there.

This presupposes, of course, that Russia has already suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of the Ukrainian army in the current war. It also implicitly assumes that the devastating economic sanctions that NATO and other countries have placed on Russia will continue after the war ends.

Continue reading Gwynne Dyer

Hair On Fire Report: Right Wing Ex-Judge Calls Out 2024 GOP Election Plot

By J. Michael Luttig — CNN-Wed April 27, 2022

[Emphasis added.]

(CNN) Nearly a year and a half later, surprisingly few understand what January 6 was all about.

Fewer still understand why former President Donald Trump and Republicans persist in their long-disproven claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Much less why they are obsessed about making the 2024 race a referendum on the “stolen” election of 2020, which even they know was not stolen.

January 6 was never about a stolen election or even about actual voting fraud. It was always and only about an election that Trump lost fair and square, under legislatively promulgated election rules in a handful of swing states that he and other Republicans contend were unlawfully changed by state election officials and state courts to expand the right and opportunity to vote, largely in response to the Covid pandemic.

The Republicans’ mystifying claim to this day that Trump did, or would have, received more votes than Joe Biden in 2020 were it not for actual voting fraud, is but the shiny object that Republicans have tauntingly and disingenuously dangled before the American public for almost a year and a half now to distract attention from their far more ambitious objective.

Continue reading Hair On Fire Report: Right Wing Ex-Judge Calls Out 2024 GOP Election Plot

A Statement on Musk & Twitter

After extensive research and deliberation, this blogger has reached a definite conclusion about the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, to wit:

Furthermore:

So now Elon Musk has bought Twitter.
Let some scream & howl, I’m not bitter;
He’ll tweet in his cars,
Then fly them to Mars;
I’ll stay right at home & just titter.

 

 

 

 

Could Belarus Be the Next Stage of the Ukraine War?

The Guardian: Putin has ignited a new anti-colonial struggle. This time, Moscow is the target

Belarusian exiles watch events in Ukraine with fear but also hope. Could they too fight back?

History is teetering on an edge. No one knows which way it will go. Maybe the Russian empire, the last and most terrible of the European empires, will fall.

Or maybe it will absorb the hit and survive as it has survived and expanded since the 17th century. You’d be a fool to bet against it. The graveyards of Eurasia are full of those who did.

And yet the breathtaking heroism of the Ukrainian resistance and the insane self-delusion of the Putinist regime are allowing Russia’s opponents from Syria to Central Asia, and from Georgia to Moldova, to ask that most revolutionary of questions: “What if?”

What if the empire falls? What if structures that have endured and enslaved for centuries can be blown apart like the creaking trucks in a Russian munitions convoy?

Talking to the men and women engaged in what is – if only the global left could see it – the great anticolonial struggle of our times, you hear them moving through the stages of revolutionary commitment. From peaceful protest to jail sentences to the realisation that civil disobedience will never be enough.

Lives are transformed as the stakes are raised. The story of Timur Mitskievich echoes the anticolonial protests of the 20th century. In 2020, he was a teenager in Minsk when the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, rigged the presidential election as he had crushed every challenge to his rule since he came to power in 1994. Supporters of the opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya took to the streets in the largest popular demonstrations in Belarus’s history.

The paradox of civil disobedience is that non-violent tactics work only against regimes that, however oppressive the protesters think them, are not so oppressive they cannot be persuaded to change. For all their crimes and prejudices, the British imperial authorities in India in the 1940s and the US government of the 1960s had to listen to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Lukashenko did not listen to his opponents. He terrorised them. He didn’t have to worry about bad publicity when he controlled the media. Nor need he concern himself with the reaction of the “international community” after Vladimir Putin said he would maintain the dictator in power if he gave up what little remained of Belarusian independence. His country became a Russian colony again, which it had been almost continuously since the Russian empire seized control in 1795.

The 17-year old Mitskievich joined the protests. The police beat him so badly doctors put him into a medically induced coma. While he was out, his mother died, leaving nine orphaned children.

Peaceful disobedience works only against regimes with a capacity for feeling shame and the Belarusian and Russian regimes have no shame.

Belarus, like Ukraine before 2014, is a country parochial westerners barely thought about. If its name registers today, it is as Russia’s base for its failed assault on Kyiv. In the glib 1990s, liberal democracy’s triumph was assumed to be so inevitable we called Belarus “Europe’s last dictatorship”. Look at its weirdness, we said. It still clung on to Soviet-style rule, an error that history would surely correct as the ideals of free markets and free societies marched on.

Instead of being an anachronism, Belarus was a model for the future. While it became a Russian client state, Russia became a supersize Belarus, as Putin removed the limited freedoms he had allowed Russian citizens in the 2000s and aped Lukashenko’s dictatorship.

To Belarus’s exiled opposition, Ukraine’s war is their war and a Ukrainian victory would open up the prospect of radical change across territories Russia intimidates and controls. The Ukrainian war has made clear, if clarity were needed, how Russian nationalists view eastern Slavs with the impertinence to reject them.

Russian official media explained that Ukrainians (and by extension) Belarusians were really Russians. If they rejected Russian identity and said they had their own cultures and histories that existed before the Russian empire, they proved only that they were “Nazis”. No form of human life could be lower. The Russian state had a duty to kill them or send them to labour camps; to take their children from them and crush their country and their culture.

When I spoke last week to Tsikhanouskaya’s senior adviser Franak Viačorka, in exile in Poland, he said revolution was the only viable option now. He spoke the language of an officer in an underground war rather than a politician trying to negotiate a settlement. The Lukashenko regime was the “collaborationist state”. The activists who sabotaged Belarusian railway lines, to stop Russian troops and armour reaching Ukraine, were “resistance cells”.

Even in Soviet times Moscow “recognised the existence of Belarus and Ukrainian nations”, Viačorka said. Putin was bringing a “new form of fascism” that denied their very being. The Belarusian opposition was fighting it with covert action. It was attempting to drive the army away from its subservience to Lukashenko and Putin. In Belarus, as in so many other countries, hope depended on a Ukrainian victory offering the “chance to get out of Russian sphere of influence”.

Well, we’ve learned better than to be optimists in the years since the fin de siècle’s silly season. We expect brute power to prevail now. The Russian armed forces are undoubtedly corrupt and inept. But you can see the empire winning, as it has always won, by throwing recruits into battle without a thought for their lives and terrorising civilians. For its part, western intelligence is not predicting a swift Ukrainian victory but a hard, grinding war whose outcome is uncertain.

For all that, there is in the air, if not optimism, then a plausible question. What if the partial collapse of the Russian empire in the 1990s is followed by decisive defeat in the 2020s? What if the whole rotten structure falls?

The doctors released Mitskievich from hospital. He is now fighting in Ukraine in the Belarusian version of the International Brigades of the Spanish civil war. He is one of thousands of Belarusians who volunteered to join the Kastuś Kalinoŭski Battalion, named after the leader of an uprising against the Russian empire in 1863. The battalion has seen action in the battles around Irpin. One day, its members will return to Belarus with highly portable military skills. They will have questions of their own.

Nick Cohen is an Observer columnist