The House Foreign Affairs Committee is focusing on reported intelligence that Russia placed bounties on the lives of US troops in Afghanistan. The committee is expected to hold a hearing on Thursday titled, “Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops: Why Hasn’t the Administration Responded?”  On Friday, the committee will address the ...

Bottom Line: Russia is accused of funding Taliban contract killings of US troops in Afghanistan. US military officials made limited accusations of Russian arms support for the Taliban in 2018, a turnaround from the heyday of US-Russian cooperation in Afghanistan 2009-2014. Recent reporting by The New York Times that intelligence ...

OPINION -- On 27 June, The New York Times reported Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers. The paper cited anonymous sources placing blame on Russia’s GRU, which has a long history of subversion, sabotage and assassination.  As expected, there was significant outcry in Washington.  House ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West by Catherine Belton Reviewed by John Sipher Reviewer and Cipher Brief Expert John Sipher retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, which included serving in Moscow and running the ...

Global markets responded on Monday to fears of a second-wave of coronavirus infections and one of the industries feeling the pressure is the gas and oil market.  This comes as Reuters cites multiple sources saying that Saudi Aramco is cutting July crude supplies to at least five buyers in Asia. ...

  Bottom Line up Front Iran’s apparent drawdown of its military presence in Syria likely reflects Tehran’s calculation that the regime of President Bashar Al Assad is secure. Both Russia and the Assad regime maintain a dedicated interest in limiting Iran’s influence in post-conflict Syria. Israeli defense officials believe that ...

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for ...

  Bottom Line Up Front In both Syria and Libya, Russia has relied on a combination of mercenaries, weapons sales to proxies and clients, and an aggressive disinformation campaign to grow its influence. While Russia remains frustrated with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, few expect Moscow to abandon Damascus anytime soon, ...

OPINION -- This past March and April, US Naval Forces attached to Central Command carried out live fire exercises in the North Persian Gulf’s international waters near Iran, using Army Apache helicopters and AC-130 gunships to practice defense against threats from swarming Iranian speedboats. Such a US exercise was underway ...

The Cipher Brief Threat Conference has been re-scheduled for September 13-15, 2020.  This special series of national security briefings has been launched to keep our public-private threat conference community together and engaged on the issues that matter until we can safely gather again. Conference speaker Christopher Costa is a former ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The United States is looking to consolidate and expand its presence in the eastern provinces of Deir al-Zour and al-Hasakah, yet reconstituting a more robust military posture in Syria will not be without its challenges. In an effort to try to get back into Deir ...

  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 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The April agreement among major oil producers to reduce global oil production has failed to stabilize world oil prices. Market stability will depend heavily on the abatement of the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. oil production is falling primarily due to high costs and high debt loads ...

  On April 6, 2020, the U.S. State Department announced the designation of the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and three of its senior leaders pursuant to Executive Order 13224. RIM’s designation, a precedential action taken by the U.S. Department of State, represents the first white supremacist group to be placed ...

  Bottom Line Up Front A Saudi effort to regain dominance over world oil production is weakening regional economic powers at a time of crisis over the COVID-19 pandemic. The dramatic drop in oil prices might render the Persian Gulf countries less able to provide funds to poorer regional governments ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The spread of coronavirus is compounding the well-known problems faced by Middle East governments and societies. The coronavirus crisis could become particularly acute in conflict-ravaged countries where governance is already weak or absent. The decision by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to try to ...

  Bottom Line Up Front It was only a matter of time before Russia looked to spread disinformation surrounding the coronavirus, a global pandemic that is crippling nations’ health care systems and economies. Russia has been presented with new fault lines to target as a result of the pandemic including ...

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 Protests in Colombia, South America’s oldest democracy, have been relatively under reported upon in the international media. The protesters are motivated by a desire to achieve economic and social justice for segments of Colombian society that have long been ignored. There is some evidence that ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories and the Hunt for Putin’s Spies by Gordon Corera Reviewed by Joseph Augustyn Joseph Augustyn is a 28-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service and once headed the CIA’s Defector Resettlement Program For five years, from 2013-2018, the American television viewing ...

  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 ...

OPINION -- President Trump, this past week, has shown that he is just as serious today about undercutting the intelligence community’s January 6, 2017, conclusion that Vladimir Putin’s directed activities which helped him win the White House in 2016, as he was back then. Trump’s continuing sensitivity was reflected in ...

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. ...

OPINION -- President Trump is actively trying to excise the criminal fallout from investigations into Moscow’s 2016 covert support for his presidential election and have his attorney general, Bill Barr, control any similar investigations into Russian activities that might involve the 2020 presidential election. Trump’s suppression efforts come at the ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe By George Beebe Reviewed by Michael Sulick Cipher Brief Expert Michael Sulick served as director of CIA’s National Clandestine Service and is currently a consultant on counterintelligence and global risk assessment. While at CIA, Sulick also ...

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 ...

Cipher Brief Expert Robert Eatinger is former Deputy General Counsel and Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired Captain from the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corp with a combined 30 years of active duty and reserve service. EXPERT OPINION -- China seeks to challenge US technological supremacy ...

  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 Turkey has intervened in Libya’s internecine civil war in an effort to prop up the increasingly beleaguered Government of National Accord (GNA). A recent Russian-Turkish initiative seems to have produced a conditional cease-fire, though it remains to be seen how durable the cessation of hostilities ...

Cipher Brief Expert Mark Kelton is a retired senior Central Intelligence Agency executive who retired in 2015 with 34 years of experience in intelligence operations.  He led the Intelligence investigation for the CIA into Edward Snowden's activities once he fled the U.S. in 2013. Speaking in 1978, journalist David Frost wryly ...

OPINION -- The Trump administration’s new attempt to open strategic nuclear talks with China “ASAP,” as mentioned in a State Department tweet last Friday, focuses on the wrong subject. Any talks about strategic deterrence among nations should be dealing first with the future of cyber warfare and weaponry rather than ...

  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 ...

BOOK REVIEW: Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II By Henry Hemming  Reviewed by Jason U. Manosevitz The reviewer is an Intelligence Community officer with 16 years of experience analyzing military and political issues in East Asia ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On December 4, Germany officially declared Russia was suspected in a brazen assassination in Berlin last August. German authorities believe Vadim Krasikov, currently in custody, is the killer of an ethnic Chechen Georgian national known as Zelimkhan Khangoshvili. This would be the first known Moscow-ordered ...

  Bottom Line Up Front In response to France’s plans to overhaul the country’s pension system, protesters took to the streets last week in growing signs of nationwide unrest. The scale and intensity of the protests pose a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron, who struggled to quell the ‘Yellow Vests’ ...

A date for Washington-Moscow nuclear arms control discussions could emerge from today’s Washington meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov -- first with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and, if all goes well, later with President Trump. From Trump’s point of view, raising the long-awaited possibility of extending the current ...

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established in April 1949 with the goal of deterring Soviet expansionism and to move European nations closer to the United States in a collective defense posture that would prevent another World War.  12 nations initially signed on. As you can imagine, all of ...

As NATO members meet in London this week, The Cipher Brief tapped former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) to help cut through some of the rhetoric and understand the Alliance’s strategic importance today to both the U.S. and its allies. The Cipher Brief:  What's your ...

Bottom Line Up Front NATO countries gathered this week to celebrate the alliance’s 70th anniversary amidst growing uncertainty over the institution’s future. In a recent interview, French President Emmanuel Macron lamented that ‘what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.’ NATO has been criticized as an anachronism, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Senior U.S. officials have inexplicably parroted statements echoing the Kremlin’s talking points that Russia was a victim of a Ukrainian smear campaign. In a display of remarkably careless operations security, American government officials regularly communicated on unsecured lines in heavily-monitored counter-intelligence environments with little concern ...

OPINION -- Donald Trump as president displays weakness toward those he envies as strong foreign leaders, while he acts like a bully toward leaders he considers less powerful than himself.  Those contrasting natures were on full display last Wednesday. At the same time Trump was offering unwarranted concessions to Turkish ...

   Bottom Line Up Front Russia has extended its global disinformation campaign to Africa, where it seeks to promote pro-Russian and anti-Western attitudes through propaganda. After each disinformation campaign, Moscow assesses its efforts and then tweaks tactics accordingly, adapting to new countermeasures as necessary. This campaign was centered in and ...

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 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Earlier in the week, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, where the two leaders negotiated the contours of a post-American Syria. While Moscow is one of the clear winners of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, there ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Facebook recently announced that it identified and disabled Russian and Iranian disinformation campaigns operating on its platform. The proliferation of bots, fake accounts, and malign disinformation campaigns by state and non-state actors alike is expected to increase significantly in the run up to the 2020 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As the United States continues its hasty withdrawal from Syria, Russia has consolidated immense leverage in the country. Acting as Assad’s air force, Russia has helped to reverse the regime’s territorial losses, committing war crimes by targeting civilians and hospitals. Given the recent U.S. withdrawal ...

REVIEW: Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It by Richard Stengel Reviewed by Cindy L. Otis Cindy L. Otis served in the CIA as a military analyst, intelligence briefer, and manager in the Directorate of Intelligence. While at the CIA, ...

OPINION -- President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the small contingent of United States troops remaining in Syria is a disaster on multiple levels. It illustrates not only his reckless instincts on foreign policy but also the near-total absence of a process for making momentous decisions in his administration. For process, Trump’s style ...