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Commentary—Reality Check for National Security

 

The election is over and I can stop looking obsessively at the statistics of who is projected to win. I can, I thought, go to bed without the agitation of a wild election cycle. And then I read – and realized– that all the election noise was drowning out the rest of my life, and we are moving toward what appears to be an armed crises.

I am old enough to remember Pearl Harbor and the heated political discussions in my home prior to the US being drawn into the war with the December 7 bombing. The war in Europe started in 1939, the Maginot Line became a myth and Hitler invaded France in the spring of 1940; the battle in the air over London was on every news reel in every movie theatre, and then Hitler turned somewhat unexpectedly on the Soviet Union. There were mixed feelings in the United States with that turn of events. The two nations Russia and the United States were not on the best political terms and one could describe their relationship as less than friendly and tense. They needed each other though in the fight against German/Italy and to a much lesser degree Japan.

The Russian leader, Joseph Stalin, was an openly oppressive, dictatorial leader who regularly used violence and deadly purges against his own people, the army he commanded and his perceived political opponents. The Russians, for their part had no great liking of America, its leaders and its refusal to accept the Soviet Union into the international community. The United States viewed the Soviet Union and its leaders as an ongoing threat to democracy. In addition, prior to 1941, both the Nazis and communists had a loud and prominent presence on the American scene. I recall one photograph, taken in the late 30s in the old Madison Square Garden. It looked more like a scene of a Hitler rally in Berlin, with the hanging swastika and the hundreds standing with Nazi straight arm salute, than a massive event in mid-town Manhattan.   Pearl Harbor changed the dynamics.

Toward the end of the war in Europe, we witnessed the rush to occupy Berlin by the Allies on one side and the Russian army from the east, both moving as quickly as possible on the German capital. These onetime allies at war were at the same moment political adversaries– that only deepened with time. The Berlin blockade by the Soviets and the American airlift to the besieged city only hastened and deepened the animosity. Words became deeds. What was clear to the least politically motivated person was the Soviet’s intent to place Eastern Europe under its domain and to spread of communism worldwide. Underneath all that was the Soviet anger that simmered for years. They claimed we did not enter the war earlier enough by not creating a second battle front against Hitler, which they attributed to the death of tens of thousands of Russians.

When the physical hostilities ended against Germany ended with the bitterly divided Berlin and Germany, the political hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union began in earnest. As Russia became the Soviet Union (and expanded its political and geographic boarders), the United States responded by being more aggressive internationally. With both side facing off, a natural product was the arms race. We called that long period the “Cold War”. When in 1949 the Soviets developed their own nuclear capability and produced their own atomic bomb, the hostility between the two escalated, impacting the comfort zone of all nations to a new low of fear.

There was another element to the arms race and the cold war and that was its economic drain on national and economic resource. This was especially true in the Soviet Union. In December 1991, after a failed August coup that was featured on the front pages of every newspaper and television news broadcast, Boris Yeltsin (the first “freely” elected president of the USSR) began the task of dissolving the USSR, and later in that month Mikael Gorbachev acknowledged its total economic collapse and the final dissolution of the empire. The Cold War came to an end.

Then two years ago we began to see a significant change in United States policy and tone along with an emboldened ex-KGB Putin, who takes no prisoners. Both countries engaged in threatening, bellicose and confrontational posture. Then words lead to an increase in military spending and expansion of military hardware.

The pentagon has green lighted a new generation of steerable smart tactical nuclear weapons. We have entered into a new arms race with China and Russia. These particular weapons are designed to support naval, land and air forces in areas close to friendly forces, and can penetrate fortified structures many feet below ground. Unlike those weapons that produce mass destruction, these bombs are designed to be carried by high-speed stealth fighter jets to hit targets precisely with limited peripheral damage. Then during the last 8 weeks, the United States Air Force in the European theatre received its largest shipment of military hardware in over 20 years. This followed the President’s 54 Billion dollars request from Congress to be spent by the military establishment, which far exceeds the present Russian spending on weapons. The United States signed off on arms exports worth $192.3 billion over the past year, a full 13 percent increase from the previous year.

Several points are clear and unmistakably strategically and tactically wrong in the President’s approach of saber rattling, arms buildup and an overt desire for a Red Square display of military might. Although the ongoing, decades old, war in the mid-East is with rockets, bombs and street to street fighting, with about the same number of US troops that the President wants on our Mexican border, the main battlefront is far different and more complex. Even though we witness how close and aggressive a Russian fighter jet came to an American surveillance plane in international airspace ; no matter how aggressive the Chinese navy has been in the South China Sea, there will be no on the ground warfare in Europe or in the Pacific.

Neither Russia nor China can match our military spending. And the battlefield has changed. We have moved from more and more bombs and jet fighters to a new and dangerous battlefront. The psychological war perfected by Putin and his hackers, espionage agents, cyber invasions and the propaganda experts of the Russian intelligence corps. Their aim is your mind, your emotional and intellectual responses. One need only look to the Russian interference in our own election of 2016 and their success in control of the mindset of a vast number of Americans.

Counter-intelligence is a cheaper form of warfare, less obvious than a new multi-million dollar plane, and in the short and longtime more effective and with real-time results. Our national dollars would be more prudently utilized in beefing-up not only our own counter-intelligence ability but those of our NATO allies. As one commentator wrote, our defense funds would be more wisely expended in place like “the Czech Republic, where Russian embassies are filled with more spies than they can count”.

We have, with the election of this president, entered into a new era of diplomacy and international confrontation. There is no public launching or fanfare with the advent of a counter-intelligence probe. There is no photograph of a new stealth bomber or aircraft carrier being launched with a counter-intelligence operation. If you want national security against an advisory as committed and proficient as China or Russia, then you meet them on their cyberspace turf and reach for the best possible form of proactive counter-intelligence security and not a paper tiger! There is no medal for second place.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary: A Look Back With a Bleak Future

Although we are in a New Year, I would like to look back. The reason seems so clear to me. The facts we face today are so stark that they portends what the future holds. Life will undoubtedly be more difficult on all fronts in the many months to come.

Trumping up a nuclear rivalry with Russia’s Putin, our new president is being goaded by a dictator who is cash poor but more than anxious to anti-up the stakes in a nuclear armament race. This bravado will create greater chances for a deadly error, and clearly the cost of this fatal game is better spent on other issues. This is especially true with a president-elect who evidences more respects WikiLeaks then our own national intelligence capability.

With a trade war on the horizon, not with Putin who does not have the stakes to come to the financial table, but with a much more powerful financial giant who has enormous assets and investment in our country — China. In the past I have written of China’s control of a segment of the U.S. economy. It would be best to partner with this foe than the one that controls Siberia. Turkey deploys more weaponry to its border with Syria to face the innocent young, old and injured that flee from its dictator. Turkey a lynch-pin in that region of a hostile world is not our friend and certainly an enemy of democracy. Today it partners more with Russia then the U.S. The mid-East and North Africa is home to 22 countries all but one is a democracy. We have just finished a year with horrific attacks on humanity in Syria and beyond. The world merely looked on. “Looking on” in unacceptable silence or, worse still, with empty words is deplorable. No animal in the wild kills with the same velocity and scope as the human. It has been said a million times fold, an animal kills to feed itself and its family. Humans kill, at times, for reasons anchored in ancient history and not present reality. How much more barbaric can we become.

I have been reading about the Reformation period in England and I am horrified not by the poverty, inequity and base cruelty that existed and was then reinforced, but that we have not come very far in man’s-inhumanity-to-man in over five hundred years. Cruelty committed beyond any definition — thru nonfeasance and malfeasance, by inaction and by action.   All committed by the hand of man.

We draw lines in the sand and then ignore our own threats. We permit others to act barbaric, as we respond with bravado rhetoric, sit on our own hands, and then shake our heads in disbelief. Tantrums (both Democratic and Republican) with no long-range thinking prevail at the highest levels of our government. And I predict, because of what I will describe below, the situation will only be worse in 2017.

The threat of violence today has escalated by waves of mass migration—uncontrolled mass migration that cumulated in 2015 and is an intensifying brewing-pot of viciousness. The number of illegal migrants reaching Europe’s border jumped sharply in the first four months of 2014, suggesting then that year’s total could be on track to overtake the 140,000 refugees who arrived during the 2011 Arab Spring. The story became far worse and more critical with time. A quick look at the past 20 years of illegal immigration have confirmed to many that unknown numbers will and are attempting to reach Britain by crossing the continent and using Calais as a staging post. This, as French authorities continue to demolish squatter camps near the Channel, as immigrants attempt to cross to the UK.

Since the American intervention in Somalia in 1992, the more developed nations have had the ability to quickly organize and put into place sufficient ground forces to overrun territory in chaos. As reported widely, the problem more than often was there was no credible group to replace the faulting government, and what ensued were frustration and anger that led to the rise of splinter groups of the defeated terrorist forces.

Europe today is experiencing its worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. In 2016, hundreds of the continent’s overtaxed, overextended border guards (of whose work we read very little) travelled to Warsaw for their yearly review. The issues—today– how do EU border guards and they management forces face its biggest challenge in two decades– with hundreds of thousands of refugees that pour over weak boarders into France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Hungary. All at the same moment, these countries are more than inept in their negligent attempts to deal with those with violence and terrorism agendas. Those who have already arrived are integrating deeper into the population and executing their deadly plan: Bastille Day in Nice and Christmas in Berlin. In December, the Islamic State claimed that it had carried out 1,034 suicide attacks in 2016. That number, as reviewed by experts, is impossible to verify, but they did agree that the total has been climbing for several years now. The number of people willing — even eager — to sacrifice for the “cause” is staggering. Mass integrated planning by the EU is now beyond merely necessary but vital across Europe.

ISIS has learned to accomplish what al Qaeda could never develop—a simple terrorism act to capture a bold print international headline: a truck, a willing driver, a mass of un-expecting citizens brought together violently can produce a killing of countless persons within seconds and without a single explosive or shot fired. To digress for a moment, as noted by Kakov Lapin in a special report to IPT News: “Hamas launched a public relations campaign in recent days, aimed at capitalizing on a deadly truck attack in Jerusalem. The campaign sheds a light on Hamas’s plans to encourage and launch jihadist atrocities, but also on its vulnerability to the arrival of ISIS as an ideology and movement.” A “movement” that is engulfing all of Western Europe, as I write this sentence.

In December, the WSJ published a magnificent in-depth analysis written by Matthew Dalton, describing the critical situation across Europe. He writes, and supports with hard facts, that the latest attacks “has laid bare multiple failings in Europe’s security apparatus, including poor cooperation between national governments, porous borders and lack of biometric data to identify people who use false identities.” This monumental indictment cannot be misconstrued to fit any positive conclusion. In early January, the WSJ again published a devastating article detailing “Belgium’s Botched Hunt for ISSI”. It can read almost as a parody of the famous film “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight”. The authors of this article describe the botching, by the Belgium police, when they had multiple chances to catch the ISIS terror cell that carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks –“and muffed every one”. Their source: a confidential report prepared for the Belgium Parliament.

Compounding these problems is the rise of Islamic State ability to strike almost at will in Europe although being beaten on the traditional battle field. At year’s end, we find security services, across Europe, overwhelmed in their ability to follow and track not merely the jihadist presence but the potential threats among the newly arrivals. Islamist groups employed, as was the general published belief, the surge of refugees to smuggle their operatives into Europe. It has been described in countless articles that most of the terrorists traveled from Syria through the Balkans and then Central Europe, moving with the hordes of refugees in the summer and fall of 2015.

To understand a crucial part of the migration and terrorism issues in Europe, one must understand the border controls in Europe and in turn to be aware of the Schengen Zone. This part of Europe is composed of 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders. This large geographic zone functions as a single country for international travel purposes and is named after the Schengen Agreement, which for a time eliminated border controls with the other Schengen members and strengthened border controls with non-Schengen countries. With the terrorist attacks and migration crisis in late 2016, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland and Sweden temporarily imposed controls on some or all of their borders with other Schengen states. Previously, in 2015, after the Paris attack, France declared a state of emergency which stepped up its boarder control measure with other Schengen states.

A quick review of the history of the Berlin attack suspect Anis Amri, who arrived in Europe in 2011, will underline the depth of the failure of European intelligence at this moment. The authorities in Italy and Germany have tried multiple times to send Amri back to Tunisia. They failed. Around the same time, he was released after four years in an Italian prison for starting a fire at a refugee shelter; he was allowed to leave Italy (with a criminal record). Nonetheless, he applied for asylum again in Germany. This “underscores the disorder of Europe’s refugee system.” Although the authorities ordered him to return to Tunisia, he headed to Germany, where he roamed freely, using a series of false identities, and sought asylum. Since the authorities don’t routinely fingerprint migrants or check their fingerprints against national criminal databases (freely discussed in the press and with what little facilities there are) he was able to travel as he desired. Evidence, however sketchy, has established that the Islamic State has sent dozens of operatives to Europe, over the past two years, and to Germany in particular. And, is simple to deduce, is that with the unraveling of ISIS strangleholds of Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, the obvious will occur–that many potential terrorists will disappear from the scene and attempt, one way or another, to enter Europe.

Aside from the security issues the humanitarian questions such as in Greece, wintry conditions have imperiled thousands of refugees in overcrowded camps, as described in the New York Times, prompting the E.U. to declare the situation “untenable.” While thousands displaced person from Mosul are in desperate need of life-saving aid, the security concerns and gloom are layer upon the humanitarian apprehensions and present a desperate picture ahead.

European security services race against time to detect the terrorist threats among the millions of refugees who arrived in recent years. But that is like closing the barn doors after the cows have fled. What is clear is that the Schengen border restraints remain sparse; the creation of “hot spots,” where officials conduct security checks of migrants, using high-speed internet connections to security databases, do not cover the porous country-side where both the migrant and terrorist can move freely and without detection. How many have arrived in the United States?

We live in a time with Western Europe in disarray both politically and socially. Their population is living in the shadows of constant and increasing terrorism. We live in a world struggling with the rise of an increasingly dark populist cloud, both at home and abroad, as we witness the plummeting of civility, diversity acceptance and truth.

For me, a defining moment was the day after the United States presidential election and one month before the first WSJ laid bare the state of the European deplorable security apparatus— helplessness to cope with its crisis of terrorism and immigration, we cancelled our trip to London and Paris.

Richard Allan,

The Editor