Showing posts with label espionage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label espionage. Show all posts

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Что Делать? What To Do?

Что Делать? Is the title of one of Lenin's books. "What is to be done?" is one way to translate the phrase. I like the simpler and more direct "what to do?"

I offer the following list of things to do:

I: Military

1. What Russia has done in Ukraine is an act of war. Recognize Russia's belligerent status. Ask Turkey to close the Turkish Straits to transit by Russian warships under the Montreux Convention. [By the way, we have to ask politely, since we never adhered to the convention and therefore do not have the rights of a signatory. Why not initiate discussion with Turkey to seek status as a signatory?]

2. While Ukraine is not a member of NATO, she has been granted membership in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Let's send an allied mission to Ukraine to assess their defense needs.

3. Reactivate discussions with Ukraine concerning transfer of warships from our reserve fleet to Ukraine. Include mine warfare vessels in the discussion.

4. Investigate modernizing Ukraine's Air Force and Air Defense.

5. Schedule friendly warship visits to NATO allies in the Black Sea: Bulgaria and Romania, and possibly Ukraine.

II. Economics

1. Don't threaten to withdraw from the G-8 conference in Sochi - withdraw! Now! Withdrawing from a conference may sound like a weak sanction. Not nearly as weak as threatening someday to think about doing it. Just do it!

2. Freeze Russian assets! Now! We can always unfreeze them later;

Getting Ukraine's economic house in order is probably the most urgent task. But it must be done in a way that improves the lives of ordinary citizens and builds Ukraine's productive capacity for the future. Here are some ideas set forth by economists Gorodnichenko and Roland:

"Although it is only a few days after the successful February revolution and the country is still in a state of flux, a new government is needed to deal with emergency economic measures.
  • The country is days away from facing a $2bln payment to international bondholders.
  • The provisional Ukrainian government does not have the necessary legitimacy to make all the changes demanded by the Maidan protesters.
The new government is inheriting a political system and a government administration that are in need of fundamental change. Because of this weakness, the new government needs to focus on a set of emergency measures that are both urgent and immediately feasible. In the long run, establishing a well-functioning democracy necessitates a new constitution and a popular referendum on a constitution, but that takes time. What must be done now? What needs to be changed in the long run?
  • First, the Ukrainian currency Hryvnya should be switched to a float and it should depreciate significantly.
The current-account deficit (about 10% of GDP) is clearly unsustainable. This should stimulate the economy and preserve precious foreign currency reserves. Barriers to export should be removed.
  • Second, the banking system badly needs liquidity and capital.
Raising these in the international financial market has become nearly impossible. The government should inject capital (for example, use a program similar to the TARP in the US). The Central bank should provide liquidity. Some form of temporary capital controls and temporary limits on withdraws of deposits appear unavoidable given the current ongoing bank run (deposits fell by a third in the last few weeks and are falling further on a daily basis). Banks should “reopen” after the infusions of capital and liquidity.
Third, the government must immediately present a plan to address fiscal imbalances over a period of several years.

Given the deeply depressed state of the economy, now is not the time to implement deep budget cuts. But fiscal authorities can still lay out a budget plan for a gradual decline in deficits to restore confidence in the long-run solvency of the Ukrainian government. Stricter monitoring of spending to minimize corruption and waste of public functions must be implemented immediately to make the eventual fiscal consolidation less painful and restore confidence.
  • Fourth, external payments are a heavy burden on the collapsing Ukrainian economy.
One step is to bring in the IMF as well as other donors (EU, USA, etc.) to bridge the short-term gap in foreign currency reserves.
These funds are essential to avoid a drastic immediate fiscal contraction in the immediate future. They are necessary to enable authorities to inject capital into Ukrainian banks. The amount of required support is likely to be in tens of billions of dollars. Moreover, a restructuring of some of Ukrainian debt is necessary to avoid outright default.
  • Most of Ukraine’s external debt was accumulated under the previous corrupt regime.
  • The new leaders have little moral obligation to commit to reimburse that debt, and creditors have little moral standing to demand repayment: they knew who they lent to.
On the other hand, the amount of Ukraine’s external debt is not that high, and costs of defaulting – exclusion of Ukraine from the bond market for five years or so – are not-zero.
Ukraine badly needs immediate breathing space to introduce reforms and relieve the burden imposed by the Yanukovych government. The main risk here is that the absence of primary fiscal surplus makes an immediate fiscal consolidation or monetization of spending unavoidable in case of outright default. But Ukraine had a nearly zero inflation rate for two year. Some inflation could be a stimulating force if it can be kept under control later on. The new provisional government of Ukraine must weigh the costs and benefits of these scenarios. But right now, it should not exclude the option of default if external support is not coming. An external default would then not alienate Ukraine from the international community, despite the short run disorder it might create.
  • Fifth, a possible trade war with Russia and increased energy prices are looming.
Ukraine should prepare to obtain energy from alternative sources (including reversing the gas flow to get energy from the West).
  • Sixth, some people and businesses will be hit very hard.
The government should prepare short-term relief for all those likely to fall into temporary poverty: guaranteed minimum food, heating, electricity and water, all supplied on a lump-sum basis.
  • Last and not least, the EU and Ukraine should sign the association agreement.
This will anchor economic and political forces toward reforms and growth as well as provide credibility to the new government.

These emergency economic  measures will not address the need for fundamental long-term change. Once there is a legitimate government, elected on the basis of a Constitution approved by referendum, fundamental long term reforms can be implemented. These include a fundamental overhaul of government administration to root out corruption, fiscal decentralization to give more power to the regions, regulatory reform to break up monopolies, opening up entry to foreign firms and small private business, and securing a stable supply of energy by exploiting Ukraine’s large reserve of shale gas.
The need to act fast now does not mean one should not also begin in the necessary process of constitutional change. The people of Ukraine demand it. Ukraine had two revolutions in the last ten years. Both expressed people’s discontent with the status quo and aspirations for democracy. It needs to build a consolidated and participatory democracy. There will likely not be a third chance."

III Political

- Hold elections soon, with credible international observers.

- Convene a constituent assembly and  draft and ratify a new constitution as soon as possible.

Lots to do and not much time to do it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

More On Communications Intelligence

I realize my previous post on communications intelligence might have been a bit much for some readers. My excuse is that I was personally fascinated with the case of Stanley Johnston revealing through the Chicago Tribune that the US knew in advance where and when the Japanese would attack Midway. How Johnston may have learned of this remains a bit speculative.

What I find equally interesting is that Johnston, who was embarked as a journalist aboard USS Lexington (CV-2) during the battle of the Coral Sea, seems not to have been aware of the role played by communications intelligence in that battle. How did the US fleet know to be where they were at the time they were in order to engage the Japanese?

Johnston's book, Queen Of The Flattops, about the last days and eventual loss of Lexington remains a masterpiece of war coverage.

Two movies about the war in the Pacific provide some information about the role of communications intelligence: "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "Midway." My favorite is Tora! Tora! Tora!

A recent series on public television, "Bletchley Circle," touches on the special skills of the (mostly women) who worked on breaking German codes during WWII.

Two works by Alexander Solzhenitsyn are of interest. In August, 1914, Solzhenitsyn describes the utter disaster of the Russian army at the Battle of Tannenberg, largely due to administrative incompetence in delivering radio code books to the field in time for the attack. As a result, Russian forces could only communicate with each other in the clear. The Germans knew every Russian move in advance. Whether the code books would have been effective had they been distributed is another question.

During the Winter War of 1939 between Finland and the Soviet Union, it is said that Finnish forces intercepted encrypted Soviet radio communications, transmitted the intercepts to Swedish experts at Uppsala University. The intercepts were decrypted and the information sent back to Finland. This intelligence enabled Finnish ski troops to operate with devastating effectiveness against Soviet units.

The other related book by Solzhenitsyn is First Circle. That book describes the work of Soviet convicts in developing technical means of voice recognition to identify a dissident from a recording.

These efforts were all forerunners of today's cyberwar.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

John le Carre: Interview And Portrait

There are no heroes in John le Carre's novels. At least no heroic ones. Just human beings. Survivors, for the most part, dissembling when necessary. Faithful to the truth when convenient.

Today's New York Times Magazine on line publishes an interview and portrait of le Carre by Dwight Garner.

I won't try to summarize. The whole article is well worth reading.

After The Spy Who Came In From The Cold appeared as a movie, I read the book. Complex characters. Moral ambiguity. Le Carre's world wasn't divided into "good guys" and "bad guy," but his novels exude an old fashioned morality where personal loyalties override patriotism. And there is no treason more invidious than the violation of that loyalty.

I was hooked on le Carre's books with that first reading.