The Russian government accused Human Rights Center Memorial, the country’s leading human rights organization, of plotting against the regime. The brazen accusation came in mid-November after three and a half years of the Kremlin’s staggering crackdown on critics of the government. Memorial has been a target all along, but this ...

There are several considerations to keep in mind when assessing the sustainability of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership: his sense of paranoia, his nostalgia for the influence Russia used to hold globally as a superpower, and his desire for “stability” in Russia.  Significantly, the popularity of these aspects of Putin’s ...

To say the relationship is frosty would probably be an understatement.  Formal meetings between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are few and far between, and when they do happen, both men appear tense and uncomfortable.   Most of their contact comes at the sidelines of international gatherings ...

Last month, our Network weighed in on the situation in Syria, making the case for increased American involvement in the conflict. One of our contributors, Rob Dannenberg, a former head of security for Goldman Sachs, explained Putin’s decision to intervene in Syria. This month, we pick up that conversation with ...

A fifty-year veteran of American intelligence recently told me how once, as a young officer, he had blurted out that a situation he had been reporting on was so bad that it could hardly get any worse.  One of his mentors quietly stared at him and then observed, "It can ...

A fifty-year veteran of American intelligence recently told me how once, as a young officer, he had blurted out that a situation he had been reporting on was so bad that it could hardly get any worse.  One of his mentors quietly stared at him and then observed, "It can ...

The recent infusion of Russian weapons and other military materiel into Syria has gotten the chattering class in Washington in a tizzy. "Inside-the-Beltway" policy experts, as a chorus, are now calling for the U.S. and other Western powers to include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any talks about a non-military ...

There has been no shortage of speculation about the motives behind Russia’s recent military deployment to Syria following the September 28 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. Most of the commentary, however, has failed to ...

The global oil industry is going through a lesson in Economics 101:  When supply increases, prices go down.  Crude oil prices are currently hovering around $45 per barrel, a 65 percent reduction from a summer 2014 peak at over $100 per barrel.  A surplus in crude oil supply has kept ...

In the seven months since arriving on the throne, new Saudi King Salman has brought fundamental changes to the Saudi power line-up and to succession politics.  Beneath the surface of the royal shake up, however, Saudi Arabia is also having to contend with trends in the global oil market that ...

Global oil markets are in flux.  Significant price swings—from triple digits to double digits, back and forth, over the past decade—are an indication of a systemic imbalance.  In a sector with few ready substitutes, this introduces new risks and heightens security concerns, with ramifications worldwide for the oil industry, oil ...

The business and geopolitical history of the 20th century was written in oil…black gold…Texas tea. Indeed, the need to secure abundant energy supplies has been an essential plot line of international relations ever since the Industrial Revolution. Some historians argue, for example, that the expansion of the British Empire was ...

CIPHER SNAPSHOT: President Barack Obama recently visited the Arctic region to bring attention to the effects climate change is already having in Alaska. The president also addressed a State Department conference with members of the Artic Council, whose members include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United ...

President Obama’s visit earlier this month to Alaska focused attention on the Arctic region’s growing geopolitical and geo-economic importance, not to mention its ecological significance during a period of climate change. Although Obama’s visit and the sail-by of Chinese naval ships drew lots of immediate attention, the significance of the ...

As the ice continues to melt at the top of the world, climate change is altering more than global weather patterns. The opening up of Arctic waters as summer sea ice continues a thirty-year retreat trend could cut a third off distances between North-West Europe and the Far East. With ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Dr. James Henderson of the Oxford Institute to get his thoughts on the energy potential of the Arctic.  The Cipher Brief: What are your thoughts on the energy potential of the Arctic?  James Henderson: The potential resource base of hydrocarbons in the Arctic is very ...

President Barack Obama toured Alaska this week to bring more attention to the effects climate change has had on the Arctic region. President Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Arctic, addressed the U.S.’s role in climate change, saying “the United States recognizes our role in creating this ...

President Barack Obama will be the first sitting U.S. President to visit Alaska’s Arctic region when he begins a three day trip to the state on Monday to discuss an aggressive response to climate change. “I’m looking forward to talking with Alaskans about how we can work together to make ...

For years, when I was asked to describe the intensity of the relationship between a CIA handler and his/her foreign sources, I would often refer to a seminal spy case handled on the streets of Moscow in the early 1980s.  I told the story of an agent whose efforts to ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Rob Richer, the CIA's former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, to talk about the evolution of espionage and the value of human intelligence. TCB: Does Hoffman’s book, the Tolkachev story, bring you back to the good old days of the Cold War? RR: First of ...

In March 2014, when the Obama administration first invoked economic sanctions against Russia, no one knew how long they would last. The White House was betting the pressure of sanctions would change Vladimir Putin’s mind about annexing Crimea and deploying Russian military forces there. A year and a half later, ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin at the Aspen Security Forum in July to discuss the Russian security threat.  McLaughlin assessed that near-term improvements in US-Russia relations are unliklely. TCB: I would love to get your perspective on the complexity of today’s threat environment, ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Robert Dannenberg, former Managing Director and Head of the Office of Global Security for Goldman Sachs, about the business climate in Russia. Dannenberg, who also worked at CIA for 24 years, discussed key challenges facing Western firms. TCB: Companies that operate in frontier markets like ...