“The concept of plausible denial had an undeniable flavor of wishful thinking about it”, wrote CIA veteran William Hood in his book on Soviet military intelligence (GRU)[1] officer and CIA spy, Pyotr S. Popov. Hood might just as well have been commenting on the risk calculus of Russian President Vladimir ...

A United Nations report delivered to the Security Council last month offered a stark reminder that al Qaeda remains a serious threat around the world.  The report suggested that the de-centralized terrorist network is stronger than ISIS in countries like Yemen and Somalia.      The report was issued just before ...

German prosecutors have charged an Iranian diplomat with conspiracy to murder after counterterrorism officials say they averted a planned terrorist attack near Paris last month.    Prosecutors say the 46-year-old Vienna-based diplomat is part of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. The plot is described as bold and far-reaching.  Cipher ...

Background:  The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) is responsible for all of NATO’s military operations.  The senior role has traditionally been held by an American, who usually serves a dual-hatted role as SACEUR as well as Commander of U.S. European Command.  The Command structure also includes a Supreme Allied Commander, ...

The word ‘resignation’ is being used here in London - not, for once, about the actual or potential departure of yet another of our ministers, but to describe Britain’s reaction to the US decision to pull out of the Iran deal. Many people on this side of the Atlantic, right ...

In a speech before Parliament, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” Russia was behind a “military grade” nerve agent attack—an assassination attempt—on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. “Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use ...

BRUSSELS – European officials are still going through the stages of grief, more than a year after President Donald Trump was elected, stuck somewhere between anger and denial. They took out their frustrations over the latest Trump tariff moves on the few administration officials who braved the German Marshall Fund’s ...

Russia continues to wage hybrid warfare across Europe and the United States, and—for the most part—the West has been slow to respond, leaving some to ask – did the first Cold War ever really end, before this new conflict began? Former CIA and NSA chief Gen. (ret.) Michael Hayden joined ...

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany succeeded in her reelection bid in September of this year, but her party’s ability to govern at all now stands in question, which could spell the weakening of Germany’s regional influence. Merkel’s party did not win enough seats to form a government, so is negotiating ...

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been held together under two separate entities ever since the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995 ended the civil war and created the present-day country: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, made up of Bosniaks and Croats, and Republika Srpska, home to the country’s Serbs. But the ...

NATO allies have agreed to sweeping restructuring to speed response to any danger – with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and continued expansionism in mind. “We have seen a much more assertive Russia,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference on Wednesday, following a morning meeting ...

The Cipher Brief asked Marc Gafarot, a public affairs consultant and specialist in secessionist movements who is based in Barcelona, to comment after Spain’s central government fired Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont on Friday, dissolving the parliament and government for declaring independence, and setting new elections for December. Puigdemont’s government had ...

Over the weekend, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy responded to the independence referendum, which the Catalonian government held on October 1, with an announcement that his government would invoke Article 155 to depose the current regional government and impose direct rule until new elections can be held in six months. ...

The crisis in Catalonia is reaching a decision point as the Spanish senate gets ready to vote on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s proposal to use Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution for the first time in its 40-year history to impose direct rule on the region. The proposal from Rajoy’s ...

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced this weekend that his government would invoke Article 155 to depose the current regional government and impose direct rule over Catalonia until new elections can be held in six months. On Friday, the Spanish senate will vote on this response to the Catalonian independence ...

Since its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has waged a robust disinformation and influence campaign in the Balkans. Over the past few years, the Russians have steadily ramped up their activity in southeast Europe, analysts told The Cipher Brief. The West does not have “coherent ...

Germany’s national elections on Sunday will go down in history as the event that, for the first time since WWII, brought a far-right, anti-immigrant, and, according to some, ‘neo-Nazi’ political party into the country’s national decision-making body – the federal parliament. The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) came in third behind ...

Just a few days away from the German federal election, a widely held opinion is that Germany has been spared from interference by Moscow. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the main advocate of the current EU sanctions on Russia, is widely expected to remain in power come September 25th. Moreover, hypothetically ...

With the Zapad 2017 military exercise, Russia “overplayed their hand” and the country’s “credibility is in tatters,” U.S. Army Europe commander Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said Thursday. “Nobody considers them the masters of the information space, which maybe a year ago everybody was talking about how great and clever they were. ...

The problem of Islamist radicalization presents a grim challenge to France, and the forces that drive young people to join violent extremist groups remain poorly understood. Far more than the United States, the circumstances that drive average people to become violent affect a far larger proportion of the population. Often, ...

There can be no doubt that over the past ten years, Russia has honed its active measures operations – or covert action in U.S. intelligence parlance – into strategic tools to be taken seriously. A great deal of time and effort has been focused on the specific methodologies used by ...

In less than a week, on September 24th, the German public will vote in the country’s general elections – not only to determine who will sit in the country’s parliament, known as the Bundestag, but also who will become – or remain – Chancellor. As the economic and political European ...

Russia has shown it is both willing and capable of using cyber capabilities to interfere in the West's democratic elections. With the German elections coming up on September 24th, it is likely Russia will again – much like the United States and France – seek to sow confusion and distrust ...

This morning’s detonation of an improvised explosive device onboard the London Tube has once again pushed the issue of online terrorist recruitment to the forefront of public debate. With manuals on how to build homemade explosives and radicalization sermons and videos readily available online, preventing individuals from gaining access to ...

In an incident the British government has called a terrorist attack, a bomb detonated at Parsons Green tube station Friday morning. 29 people were injured; ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group’s Amaq news agency released a statement saying “the bombing of the IED in the London ...

A bomb exploded on a London subway train Friday morning injuring at least 29 people, most of them suffering flash burns from the blast, none life-threatening. London authorities are calling the bombing at Parson Green Tube station a terrorist attack, the latest in a wave to hit the United Kingdom ...

One of Russia’s largest military exercises begins today – and it’s targeted toward the West. Zapad, which literally means “West” in Russian, is a recurrent exercise held in Russia’s western and central districts. The last one was in 2013, just a year before Russia invaded Crimea. This year’s exercise could ...

Zapad 2017, the week-long joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise beginning September 14, has raised concerns in the West over its size and intent. Some say there will be more than 100,000 troops participating. Belarus has said only 12,700 will be involved – just under the 13,000 limit, at which point a ...

Defense and military experts from around the world have been anxiously watching the preparation phase for the mid-September Zapad 17 exercise in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia, and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, essentially a war rehearsal. Russia is expected to mobilize nearly 100,000 troops and showcase some newly ...

Beginning Thursday, as many as 100,000 Russian and Belarusian troops will launch major military exercises along the border of three NATO countries. Russia’s upcoming Zapad military exercise, which will simulate a response to an attempted overthrow of the Belarusian government by an insurgency unfriendly to Russia, has European countries and ...

Spanish authorities said Friday the deadly attacks in Barcelona and a seaside town are linked and long-planned by a terrorist cell. While several people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, the driver who plowed through pedestrians on Las Ramblas is still at large and police are searching for other suspects. ...

Thursday’s attack in Barcelona - and possibly today’s attack in Finland - are yet more tragic examples of how common objects such as vehicles and knives can be used as weapons by terrorists to generate an overarching sense of fear and inflict mass casualties. Western authorities and intelligence agencies have ...

Spanish authorities said Friday the deadly attacks in Barcelona and a seaside town are linked and long-planned by a terrorist cell. While several people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, the driver who plowed through pedestrians on Las Ramblas is still at large and police are searching for other suspects. ...

In the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain, Spanish authorities and partner nations’ intelligence services will be working to uncover as many details as possible about the plot and the perpetrators. How do intelligence agencies and police forces cooperate in a fast developing situation such as Thursday’s ...

Terrorists used a car to mow down pedestrians on Thursday in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas district, killing over a dozen people and leaving many more injured in a violent attack claimed by ISIS. The deadly incident in Spain marks the latest example of terrorists driving vehicles into a crowd to attack, ...

Another deadly terrorist attack hit the streets of Europe Thursday, leaving at least 13 people dead and dozens injured. A van drove through a pedestrian mall in the Las Ramblas district of Barcelona, Spain, a popular area frequented by tourists. Though ISIS has claimed this attack publicly, questions remain: why ...

With Britain leaving the EU, concerns about U.S. President Donald Trump's commitment to Europe, and an increasingly aggressive Russia, Europeans – especially the French and Germans – are bolstering their own defenses. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Jeffrey Rathke, Deputy Director of the Europe Program at the Center ...

With Britain leaving the EU, concern from Europeans about U.S. President Donald Trump's commitment to Europe, and an increasingly aggressive Russia, Europeans are looking to bolster their own defenses. France and Germany are the two countries most equipped to lead Europe in the defense and security sphere, and have been ...

Germany is emerging as a major defense player in Europe. With the UK leaving the EU, Germany and France are now leading Europe’s efforts to secure the continent. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Stephen Szabo, a senior fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, about Franco-German ...

Russia has increased its meddling in European countries outside the former Soviet bloc recently. Moscow’s support for populist parties – including France’s National Front, Italy’s Five Star Movement, and Britain’s UK Independence Party – has shown tangible results. During the French presidential election this year, for example, centrist candidate – ...

Russia interfered in France’s recent presidential elections, supporting far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and is likely to meddle in Germany’s upcoming federal elections in September. Beyond these countries, there is speculation that Russia has close ties with the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) and also maintains ties with some of ...

Gone are the times when the Italian Communist Party preserved its political and strategic autonomy when competing in domestic politics, while supporting the Soviet Union in international politics. Firmly in the Western camp, all Italian governments over the past few decades were happy enough to be members of the two ...

President Donald Trump immediately brought up the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election during his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, according to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey ...

The President of the United States Donald Trump visited Warsaw, the capital of Poland, on Thursday, the president’s first trip to the Central-Eastern Europe (CEE) since his inauguration. The visit took place on the eve of the G20 summit. Choosing Poland as his first stop was not a coincidence and ...

With Britain leaving the European Union, a surge in support for populist and anti-EU parties across the continent, and an uncertain United States that seems to be pulling away from Europe, France and Germany – under centrist French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – look increasingly like ...

Will French President Emmanuel Macron be able to work with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to restore a fracturing European Union to a position of strength? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Steven Kramer, a former policy advisor to the U.S. State Department from 1996 to 2002; Kramer said the ...

French President Emmanuel Macron clinched a major win in the country’s recent parliamentary elections, and as Germany looks toward federal elections in September, Chancellor Angela Merkel has a good shot at being reelected for a fourth term. With Britain leaving the European Union and the U.S. somewhat disengaging from the ...

After British snap elections last Thursday, attention has turned back to Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK, which began this week. Headline issues include the so-called exit fee that London is being asked to pay Brussels, as well as immigration issues and the status of EU citizens already ...

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dropped in to briefly meet President Donald Trump on Tuesday, a low-key visit that comes weeks before the U.S. leader’s expected sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin and as fighting flares in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian armed forces. Experts told The Cipher Brief ...

French President Emmanuel Macron clinched a parliamentary majority on Sunday, when his en Marche party won more than 300 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, giving the pro-EU, centrist president a strong mandate to pursue his vision for the country. What Macron’s defense and security policies will look ...