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 ...

Leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful economies met for the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, last week to discuss a wide range of multilateral issues, including international trade, climate change, and international security. This was also a chance for U.S. President Donald Trump to meet face to ...

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the two had discussed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. After Putin denied any Russian involvement, Tillerson said Trump “is ...

In his readout of the two hour and 15 minute meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump repeatedly brought up Russian meddling in the U.S. election during the meeting. In his words, the two leaders had “a very ...

After weeks of anticipation, U.S. President Donald Trump finally met face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. The relationship between the two leaders has been characterized by lofty praise and suggestions of cooperation on the fight against ISIS. The relationship between ...

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 ...

It was good to see President Donald Trump acknowledge on Twitter recently that the Russians did indeed conduct cyber attacks and influence operations against the United States during last year’s presidential elections.  In his inimitable style, Trump unsurprisingly made the acknowledgement while criticizing the Obama administration for knowing of the ...

Russians are fond of their aphorism, v chuzhoi monastir so svoim ustavom, ne khodyat – “No-one goes to another monastery with their own charter," the Russian equivalent to “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Soviet leaders and their Russian successors have sought to exploit Russians' appreciation for their special historical ...

Showtime claimed its four-part documentary of Oliver Stone interviews with Vladimir Putin provided “unparalleled access” to the Russian ruler and “intimate insight into his personal and professional lives.” The timing of the show was certainly appealing, considering the intense media focus on Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately, ...

Donald Trump entered the presidency committed to improving U.S. ties with Russia, but less than three months into his term, the President says the relationship is at “an all-time low.” Trump’s comments come in the wake of last week's U.S. missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base in response to ...

The Russian effort to influence the 2016 election will remain front-and-center as the House and Senate Intelligence Committee continue their probe and the FBI moves forward on its investigation. The issue is likely to weigh on the Trump Administration for some time to come. In this regard, the Russian use ...

Vladimir Putin is portrayed in the West as the master manipulator in foreign policy, creating turmoil in U.S. and European elections and outfoxing his rivals in the Ukraine and Syria. In domestic politics, he is portrayed as a brutal but cunning tyrant, crushing dissent and murdering his harshest critics, yet ...

An explosion in the St. Petersburg metro on Monday tore open a subway car, killing at least 14 people and leaving dozens injured. Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has called it a terrorist act, and the perpetrator has been identified as Kyrgyzstan native Akbarzhon Dzhalilov. His motive remains unknown. Despite ...

On Sunday, March 26, widespread protests broke out in more than 80 cities in the Russian Federation, apparently in response to the government's inability or unwillingness to deal with the problem of endemic corruption. Estimates of the numbers of protesters vary, with the opposition claiming that more than 30,000 participated ...

The Kyrgyz state security service identified Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, a 22-year-old Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan, as the assailant behind Monday’s explosion in the St. Petersburg metro. Russian investigators later confirmed the identification and said Dzhalilov planted a second bomb at the Ploshchad Vosstaniya station that did not explode. Authorities said ...

Monday’s explosion in a St. Petersburg metro car, which killed at least 14 people and left dozens injured, was described by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as an act of terror. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself said it is “too ...

Vladimir Putin is smiling because he thrives on chaos, particularly in the camp of the “Main Enemy,” a term the Soviet and Russian intelligence services have long used to refer to the United States.  He is surely happy as he sees any indication of American uncertainty, irresolution, or confusion as, ...

As the House Intelligence Committee gathers on Monday to hold its first public hearing into Russian interference in the 2016 election, experts say this marks an important opportunity to begin explaining the complexities of the Kremlin’s actions to the American people — as long as it doesn’t devolve into partisan ...

I’ve covered many political scandals over the past 50 years, including Watergate, Iran-contra, and the Clinton impeachment, but the past few weeks have convinced me this country may be on the verge of one that may top them all. None of them involved a president as unprepared as Donald J. ...

President Donald Trump has never shown much interest in foreign policy issues.  The few consistent themes he has supported are to defeat ISIS, restructure trade deals, and radically improve relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  While it is easy to understand the interest in destroying ISIS, and his thoughts on trade ...

Even before the release of the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions regarding Russian hacking and involvement in the U.S. presidential elections, before President-elect Donald Trump got his classified briefing on the report from the heads of the U.S. Intelligence Community, before all the reactions to the report, ...

In 2000, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, then a relative unknown outside of Russia, visited Japan.  Part of his trip included a visit to the Kodokan, the historic Judo school founded by Jigoro Kano. Putin participated in a demonstration, showing off his martial arts skills with a young Japanese student, who ...

Donald Trump will take office at the lowest point in Washington’s relations with Moscow since the end of the Cold War.  He has consistently talked about the need to establish a better relationship with Mr. Putin.  Can he do that in a way that serves American interests? The key to ...

In his first news conference since July, President-elect Donald Trump revealed he now agrees with the unanimous verdict of the U.S. intelligence community: Russia was behind the hack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC). "I think it was Russia," he said (though he later caveated “but you know what, it could ...

As Donald Trump prepares to take office, one of his earliest—and most important— foreign policy decisions will be how to move forward with the United States’ bilateral relationship with Russia. Will he pursue something along the lines of Obama’s reset or take a firmer stance? Given the president-elect’s opaque statements ...

Noon on January 20th provides an excellent opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to give President-Elect Donald Trump the perfect inauguration gift - Edward Snowden. A reminder: Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, has been living in Russia as a guest of the Government there after he stole and ...

Let there be no mistake, President Vladimir Putin believes Russia's military intervention has been an unqualified success. As with the annexation of Crimea, now almost three years ago, the West's efforts to thwart or diminish Putin's strategic initiatives have failed abjectly. Sanctions have had no effect in mitigating Russia's actions ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Network Member Rob Richer, former Associate Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA, about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a ceasefire in Syria that went into effect on Thursday night. Richer explained that just as previous ceasefire agreements fell apart, it is unlikely that ...

Butch Cassidy graphically demonstrated that there ain’t no rules in a knife fight.  Well, so far, there ain’t no rules in cyberspace or precious few at least.  Establishing those rules and practices may take years, as it did for nuclear weapons or cold war spying.  The U.S. response to the ...

Editor’s Note: Over the coming days, The Cipher Brief presents some of our most incisive coverage on key issues of 2016 and a look ahead at what is yet to come in 2017. Just before Christmas, Russian President Vladimir Putin strode onstage to field more than four hours of questions ...

After the fall of Aleppo, few would deny the influence that Russian President Vladimir Putin now wields in Syria and the Middle East - but this was not always the case. This February 18 article from the Former Head of Security at Goldman Sachs, Rob Dannenberg, offers a glimpse into ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a leader known for his unpredictability, may have met his match: the new President of the United States, Donald Trump. Until now, Mr. Putin knew who he was dealing with. Republicans or Democrats, the U.S. presidents he has encountered supported principles of the Western liberal democratic ...

New presidents often think they can redefine relations with Russia. But will Washington ever get along with Moscow if the Kremlin does not share Western internationalist values? In this article from December 7, Cipher Brief experts John Sipher and Steven Hall, both former members of the CIA's Senior Intelligence Service, ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the stage for a marathon end-of-year press conference on Friday, declaring Russian’s military might, denying accusations of hacking in the U.S. elections, and addressing concerns over a new nuclear arms race. At the annual event, just shy of four hours in length this year, ...

President Barack Obama says the U.S. will respond to the Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. In an interview with NPR on Friday, Obama said, "I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections ... we need to take action. ...

When asked by The Cipher Brief about how both allies and adversaries might view President-elect Donald Trump’s early, contentious relationship with the CIA, former Acting Director of the CIA John McLaughlin remarked, “They are already scratching their heads bald about what is going on here, so I don’t think we ...

In the recent past, every new U.S. administration has attempted to improve relations with Russia to address mutual security threats such as combating terrorism. Both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama sought to repair damaged relations with Russia early in their administrations, but, unfortunately, their hopes were eventually ...

Naiveté is never a good way to approach foreign policy challenges.  However, it seems that every new Presidential Administration has a tendency to place hope over experience in dealing with Russia.  President George W. Bush tried to look into Putin’s soul, President Barack Obama tried a re-set, and it seems ...

As 2016 draws to a close and along with it the presidency of Barack Obama, it is perhaps time to reflect on the relationship with Russia during the eight years of his presidency and consider what might have been different.  It is fair to say relations between the United States ...

Just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. president-elect Donald Trump spoke for the first time since the election, Russia launched a major offensive across Syria on Tuesday after weeks of relative quiet. With the transition between President Barack Obama and Trump now underway, Russia experts and former intelligence ...

The relationship between Russia and the United States has always been and will always be complicated.  In the U.S. and the West in general, hope seems always to spring eternal.  The thinking, boiled down to its essence, goes something like this:  if we just keep trying, if we just keep ...

A potential Trump Presidency provides both opportunities and challenges for Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Putin’s strategic goals are to weaken the U.S., diminish U.S. influence in Europe, solidify hard and soft control over the nations on Russia’s periphery, and eliminate economic sanctions. As a former KGB officer, Putin’s primary ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Mark Kelton, former Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Counterintelligence at the CIA, about the possible ceasefire deal in Syria. According to Kelton, Russia ended up with the “better of the deal” and Moscow will continue to conduct military operations in Syria until ...

“The important thing to know about an assassination,” Eric Ambler wrote in A Coffin for Dimitrios, “is not who fired the shot, but who paid for the bullet.” I was reminded of that line as I read retired British High Court Judge Robert Owen’s report on the 2006 murder of ...