Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ukraine - intercepted phone call says a lot

Dmitry Loskutov, an aide to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin recently tweeted an intercepted cell phone call made between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.

During the call it’s made made very clear that the U.S. is taking steps to support the Ukrainian opposition. There’s a sense of urgency in the voices of both Nuland and Pyatt. Just listening to the two talk you almost get the sense that the U.S. can manipulate the opposition any way it wants and that it all could be done rather quickly.

This leaked transmission reveals so much...and it was intended to. I’m very surprised the Russians played right into it. I remember going fishing with a very accomplished championship fisherman several years back. Something he said to me stands out in my mind. He remarked how often he would cast in a certain spot to go after a fish. He’d keep casting and casting and eventually he’d get a bite. He said you’d never know it by watching a fishing competition on TV but that championship fish was the result of probably a thousand casts.

The obvious is that the U.S. doesn’t make mistakes like this. We’ve written the book on cyber warfare. It’s laughable that the State Department is claiming that they don’t have the capability to encrypt voice calls on a regular cell phone. It can be done with an app. Even low level State Department security contractors have it installed on their cell phones. Emails, texts, and audio calls are all encrypted.

So then why did this happen? It was a cast into the lake to catch a fish. Nuland might as well have been speaking directly to Vladimir Putin. She was saying these things to him specifically:
1. We’re not taking a back seat to Germany in Central Europe any more. We’re taking the lead.
2. We can manipulate this situation anyway we want and we can do it quickly.
3. You better pay attention

This was meant to tell Moscow that the U.S. is moving more aggressively on Russia’s periphery. It’s a direct move to counter Russian meddling in the greater Middle East which has been U.S. domain since the early days of the cold war. Russia’s actions in the greater middle east are more to distract the U.S. than anything strategic it wants. If the U.S. is bogged down in the Middle East they’re not focused on what’s happening in Russia’s near abroad.

With Russia focused on distracting the U.S. in the Middle East and with securing the Olympics in Sochi the U.S. and Germany decided to hit hard on Ukraine. Ukraine is strategic priority number one for Russia. Not only is it the gateway for ground troops into mainland Russia but the main source of the Russian economy runs straight through it via pipelines. If you control Ukraine you put your grip around the throat of Russia.

Putin is now distracted away from the middle east. He can’t allocate so much attention in that area if his near abroad is in jeopardy. In the end I think Ukraine probably falls under the Russian umbrella. It’s too important for Putin to let it fall to the west. It really doesn’t matter. Ukraine will be a constant thorn in Russia’s side. It’s so crucial that they have no other choice but to divert the majority of their attention to it.

The bonus to this for the U.S. is that Russia chose to leak the call. Why they did this I have no idea. It’s a testament to their distractions in the rest of the world. Releasing this call does two things. First, it legitimizes the Obama Administration’s claims that the U.S. isn’t the only nation spying on foreign heads of state. “Everyone does it.” Second, it shows the rest of Russia’s near abroad that the United States is coming back guns blazing (figuratively). Nuland was very vocal on that fact…”F**k the EU” were her words. The U.S. won’t rely on Germany and the EU to stop Russia any longer. Putin now has to chose whether to turn and face Central Europe or continue to meddle in the Middle East. He really has no choice.