Dr. Kenneth Dekleva served as a Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist (including 5 years at the U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russian Federation) with the U.S. Dept. of State during 2002-2016, and is currently Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Psychiatry-Medicine Integration, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.  OPINION -- In Russia, bad things ...

The Cipher Brief continues it's coverage on Russia this week in light of the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  We tapped Cipher Brief Expert Michael Sulick who served as director of CIA’s National Clandestine Service, for his thoughts on Putin's Playbook for the West.  While at CIA, Sulick also served ...

OPINION -- Taken together, the protests underway in Belarus and the poisoning of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny — by what German doctors now say was the nerve agent Novichok — tap into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to avoid more serious challenges to his control and his regime. It is ...

(The Cipher Brief 2020 Threat Conference will host an interactive session on this topic during The Cipher Brief Threat Conference September 13-15. Find details in the conference agenda.) Western governments have accused the Russian Federation of attempting, abetting, and orchestrating the assassinations of political enemies since the mid-1990s, the most ...

Last week, a former Army Green Beret captain was indicted, accused of providing national defense information to Russia in what appeared to be a spying operation that began in 1996.  Prosecutors say Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins was recruited by members of Russia’s military intelligence agency (GRU).  Debbins went on to ...

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in a coma after doctors at the German hospital where he is being treated say he was poisoned.  Last week, a former Army Green Beret captain was accused of spying for Russia in a relationship that allegedly began decades ago.  The Cipher Brief tapped ...

Cipher Brief Expert Ambassador Joseph DeTrani is former Director of the National Counterproliferation Center.  The views are the authors and not any government agency or department. OPINION -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, who just received popular support to remain in power until 2036, is on a crusade to ensure that ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Created in 2014, the Wagner Group is a Russian private military company that maintains close ties to the Kremlin and which has reportedly been active in a number of conflict zones, from Ukraine to Libya and beyond. The Wagner Group has diversified its funding streams ...

Long-time BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera recently published a new book, Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories and the Hunt for Putin’s Spies.    The book explores the explosive story of Russia’s espionage efforts against the United States and the West and provides riveting details about ten Russian sleeper ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike on Thursday in a development that threatens to drastically escalate the conflict in Syria. In an effort to pressure European countries, Erdogan suggested that Turkey would open its border to millions of Syrian refugees and provide ...

On the sidelines of last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down to talk.  Lavrov left the meeting saying he felt “a more constructive approach” regarding US-Russia dialogue that was said to focus on strategic dialogue and arms control. ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Deputy Director for Counterintelligence, Mark Kelton wrote for The Cipher Brief back in 2017 that, The Man in the Kremlin Must be Smiling, saying that “Vladimir Putin is smiling because he thrives on chaos, particularly in the camp of the “Main Enemy,” a term the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is continuing his ironclad grip on power through newly introduced changes to the Russian constitution. In mid-January, Russia’s Parliament rubber stamped the appointment of Mikhail Mishustin as the next Prime Minister, though he is widely considered to be a puppet ...

Rob Dannenberg is a 24-year veteran of the CIA, where he served in several senior leadership positions, including chief of operations for the Counterterrorism Center, chief of the Central Eurasia Division and chief of the CIA’s Information Operations Center.  Dannenberg is now an independent consultant and speaker on geopolitical and ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkish President Erdogan recently suggested that Ankara might intervene militarily in Libya if requested by the government in Tripoli. A Turkish intervention to support the Government of National Accord would put Ankara in direct odds with Russia, as Moscow continues to back strongman Khalifa Haftar. ...

Cipher Brief expert Robert Dannenberg is a 24-year veteran of the CIA, where he served in several senior leadership positions, including chief of operations for the Counterterrorism Center, chief of the Central Eurasia Division and chief of the CIA’s Information Operations Center.  Post CIA, he worked as Chief of Global ...

This week, Russia test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new nuclear submarine, as Facebook says Moscow is stepping up its efforts to spread disinformation in Africa.  That’s just this week.  Going back a few more days, U.S. and British officials say Russian hackers piggy-backed on an Iranian spy operation ...

The U.S. has issued new economic sanctions against seven individuals linked to a Russian internet troll factory.  The sanctions were announced Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling them a warning to foreigners seeking to interfere in U.S. elections. The U.S. Government is bolstering its efforts to defend voting ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Emigres, and Agents Abroad By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan Reviewed by Joseph W. Augustyn Joseph W. Augustyn is a 28 year-year veteran of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and once served as the Director of the Defector Resettlement ...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week in Russia. The talks are expected to focus on the situation in Venezuela as opposition leaders Juan Guaido continues efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro.  State Department officials said ...

Thursday’s expected summit between DPRK Chairman Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia follows on the heels of President Donald Trump’s second summit with the North Korean leader in Vietnam that ended without an agreement between the two leaders on denuclearization. Kim may have achieved a ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s ruling AKP party is asking for a full recount in the mayoral election in Istanbul, making accusations of ‘wide-spread crimes.’ Defeats for the AKP in the nation-wide elections demonstrate that despite Erdogan’s attempt to consolidate power, there remains a very credible political opposition across ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Vladimir Putin has consolidated Russian power in Moscow’s near abroad and traditional sphere of influence. The Kremlin has also made moves to increase the country’s influence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. More recently, Russia has expanded its reach to Latin America ...

BOOK REVIEW: Putin's World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest By Angela Stent Reviewed by Cipher Brief expert, Michael Sulick Vladimir Putin, enormously popular in Russia yet reviled in the West, avidly courting, and courted, by other nations, has become one of the most studied – and most ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On January 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin received a warm welcome during an official state visit to Serbia. Serbia is seeking to join the EU, but its conflict with Kosovo is blocking its membership. Russia strongly supports Serbia and its Putin-esque leader, President Aleksandar Vucic. ...

A recent poll conducted by a Russian polling group, suggests that domestic trust in Vladimir Putin is at its lowest level in more than a decade. Still, it’s important to remember that those numbers might not matter so much to Putin himself, since winning a landslide election last year - ...

The U.S. is calling for more rigorous enforcement of sanctions against Russia after Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats on Sunday, claiming the ships had ‘illegally’ entered its waters.  Russia has been using Ukraine as a provocation point for some time, so will the tougher enforcement of ...

OPINION -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has managed to wage a global charm offensive, even while supporting a number of actions that have drawn world criticism, including the GRU-sponsored attempted assassination (using a nerve agent, Novichok) of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, the GRU-sponsored hacking of web ...

OPINION -- President Donald Trump’s recent threat to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) provides another false justification for adding to a needless, nuclear arms race that is already underway. Yes, the United States has a right to protest the fact that the Russians are breaking limitations ...

By Mark Urban Reviewed by Cipher Brief Expert and former Chief of Station, CIA Dan Hoffman The Skripal Files, Henry Holt & Company, 2018 BBC Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban’s latest book is a gripping real-life spy thriller, which details the career and near death of Russian Military Intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergey ...

“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 ...

In a press conference on Monday, President Donald Trump reiterated his view that meeting with other world leaders is important, and again characterized his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “great”.  While details of that meeting still haven’t been widely shared, the President noted four areas where he ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s repeated message that Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons requires him to have better relations with Vladimir Putin, should encourage China to sharply increase the size of its strategic nuclear forces. That’s the message in an article entitled, “China can learn from Trump’s Russia stance,” carried in ...

As most of the President’s men and women in senior roles re-iterated and even provided more detail about the Russian threat to U.S. national security in the days following the Helsinki summit, the President tasked his national security advisor to extend an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Station Chief Dan Hoffman was in Helsinki filing question and answer dispatches for Cipher Brief members. Here’s a look at his post-summit brief: The Cipher Brief: Presidents Trump and Putin met for a little over two hours on Monday.  We’re told that aides were not ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Jill Dougherty, Global Fellow at The Wilson Center and CNN's former Moscow Bureau Chief, about what Putin will be able to take away from this summit. The Cipher Brief:  Tell me a little bit about how this summit is being reported on in Russia? Dougherty:  ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Station Chief Dan Hoffman is on the ground in Helsinki filing question and answer dispatches for Cipher Brief members.  He has deep expertise in the region and speaks fluent Finnish. Here’s a look at his first dispatch, hours before the summit is set to ...

UPDATED: As U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin emerge from their summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in which no aides were allowed in the meeting, The Cipher Brief takes an analytical look at the U.S. - Russian relationship under Putin.  Cipher Brief Expert Rob Dannenberg breaks down what we have ...

Two conditions are clear as the U.S. and Russian Presidents prepare meet in Helsinki. First, U.S.-Russian relations are arguably at their lowest point since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. To make matters worse, it is possible that relations have not hit rock ...

As a former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, I’m worried about the upcoming summit between the Chekist former KGB officer, President Vladimir Putin, and the former real estate businessman and reality show personality, President Donald Trump. My concerns center around the fact that Russia has much to gain, ...

Bottom Line: Moscow’s increasingly assertive military activity in Eastern Europe and the Middle East seeks to project the power of a resurgent Russia in relation to a retreating United States, while concealing its economic and political fragility at home. In doing so, the Kremlin walks a fine line between escalation ...

In a provocative new essay, Vladislav Surkov, a top aide to President Vladimir Putin, says Russia is ending a centuries-long quest to join the West and preparing for "100 years (200? 300?) of geopolitical solitude." If Russia goes this way it will be because of unwise policies, not a Western cold shoulder. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel ...

Russian influence operations were thrust into the public limelight in the West in 2017 with the findings of the U.S. Intelligence Community that Russia did in fact, interfere with U.S. Elections. The resulting attention did not deter the Kremlin; on the contrary – it takes pride in it. From the ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. Cipher Brief expert, CIA veteran and Russia hand Steve Hall looks ahead to U.S. relations with Moscow, as Russia gears up for ...

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Funny, that. The Soviet and Russian intelligence services have been doing exactly the same thing against us for decades, but this time it finally worked. Why? As most Americans are aware ...

The military withdrawal from Syria that President Vladimir Putin touts is less than it seems. The stakes are high because leaders in Moscow see the intervention as crucial to their nation’s status as a global power. Moscow faces a dilemma, but there is a way out, if it will only see ...

Speaking to the Russian Federal Assembly in March 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his country’s annexation of Crimea and forcefully presented his national security strategy to gain the upper hand in Russia’s rivalry with the United States. He blamed the U.S. for seeking regime change through “color revolutions” and the ...

In an otherwise forgettable February 2017 interview, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly asked Donald Trump how he could respect Russian President Vladimir Putin, who O’Reilly labeled as a “killer.” Trump shockingly defended Putin by commenting, “There are a lot of killers. We have killers. Well, you think our country is so ...

Over the last few months, Taliban orchestrated attacks have wreaked havoc across Afghanistan on a near-daily basis, leading to mounting deaths tolls for Afghan and U.S. forces as well as for Afghan citizens. To make matters worse, earlier this year, reports began to circulate in the U.S. that Russia is ...

A Trump administration “cover up” is underway. I am not talking about the concealing of activities related to the criminal investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence or the firing of FBI Director James Comey – although given Sunday's public disclosure of an additional Trump campaign ...