"Why is Putin at war again? Because he keeps winning" (& How deep has Chinese intelligence penetrated Israel?)

February 25, 2022

I attach a variety of articles (all but one from today) that you may find of interest. I extracted a few paragraphs from them first, for those who don't have time to read the pieces in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

CONTENTS

1. "Why Is Putin at War Again? Because He Keeps Winning" (By Chris Miller, New York Times, Feb. 25, 2022)
2. "After Ukraine, officials fear Putin will move to curb Israel's Syria operations" (By Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz, Feb. 25, 2022)
3. "Gergiev must condemn Russian attack to continue to perform at La Scala says mayor" (Italian news agency, Feb. 25, 2022)
4. "How deep has Chinese intelligence penetrated Israel?" (By Amos Harel, Haaretz, Feb. 25, 2022)
5. "NSO Never Engaged in Illegal Mass Surveillance" (By Shalev Hulio, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25, 2022)
6. "Queens Jewish leader slams AOC for suggesting Israel 'cages' Palestinian kids" (New York Post, Feb. 21, 2022)

 

SHORT EXTRACTS

* Chris Miller: "There is no world leader today with a better track record when it comes to using military power than President Putin of Russia. Whether against Georgia in 2008, Ukraine in 2014, or in Syria since 2015, the Russian military has repeatedly converted battlefield success into political victories. Russia's rearmament over the past decade and a half has been unmatched by a comparable increase in Western capabilities. So it is no surprise why Russia feels emboldened to use its military power while the West stands by. Russia's past three wars are textbook examples of how to use military force in limited ways to achieve political goals."

 

* Yaniv Kubovich: Israel has been trying to avoid any statements or actions that may upset Russia, so much so that senior defense officials were asked not to publicly comment on the situation in Ukraine. The defense establishment's main concern the obstruction of the delicate Israeli-Russian ties on Syria, where the Israeli military has been reportedly operating regularly against Iran-backed forces, namely Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Israeli officials also assess that Russia may decide to transfer more advanced weapons to Syria and other countries in the region with the aim of generating revenues from big arms deals, while also creating a new balance of terror vis-a-vis Western military forces in the Middle East (and against Israel)...

The latest development in Ukraine may also bring Russia closer to Iran at a sensitive time, according to the Israeli assessment. Negotiations in Vienna between Tehran and world power on Iran's nuclear program near a conclusion, diplomats involved in the talks have said in recent days.

 

* Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said conductor Valery Gergiev, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, must condemn the attack on Ukraine if he wants to continue his collaboration with Teatro alla Scala, where he is currently directing Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame.

 

* Amos Harel: "Israel is seen by China as a leading technological power. Israel's advanced capabilities in elite technology, cyber, medicine, agriculture and more have the potential to contribute technologically to almost every aspect of China's build-up plans ... Consequently, alongside the overt and agreed-upon activity, it is likely that China's intelligence agencies are working in Israel to attain its objectives in espionage efforts, as well as in other countries of value to it. As in the United States, it cannot be ruled out that government ministries, defense industries and civilian companies in Israel have been attacked in the service of China's intelligence objectives...

Last August a coordinated cyberattack from China was uncovered on dozens of private and governmental bodies in Israel.

China is not an enemy, and Israel's economic ties with that country are of great importance. However, its methods of operation pose a considerable challenge to Israel, "as an attractive target and a source of advanced technology."

 

* NSO CEO Shalev Hulio:

In recent weeks, a media story dubbed "the Pegasus Affair" by the Israeli news outlet Calcalist has riveted Israelis. The report alleges that the Israeli police used a technological tool called Pegasus to infiltrate phones without a warrant, essentially conducting mass surveillance of high-profile politicians, opposition leaders and activists without proper legal authority. Earlier this week, Deputy Attorney General Amit Marari, along with Shin Bet and Mossad representatives, found no evidence of wrongdoing after conducting an investigation into the allegations. Shortly after, Calcalist announced it was investigating its own reporting.

For the past several years my company, NSO, the creator of Pegasus, has been bashed through irresponsible headlines and inaccurate, incomplete and unsubstantiated reporting [by papers including he New York Times and The Guardian].

 

* The head of a major Jewish advocacy group in Queens is slamming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for suggesting that Israel cages Palestinian children.

"I don't believe that a child should be in a cage on our border, and I don't believe a child should be in a cage in the West Bank," AOC said in a videotaped remark in Texas.

Michael Nussbaum, president of the Queens Jewish Community Council, says Ocasio-Cortez was spewing an unfounded smear against Israel.


ARTICLES

WHY IS PUTIN AT WAR AGAIN? BECAUSE HE KEEPS WINNING

Why Is Putin at War Again? Because He Keeps Winning
By Chris Miller
New York Times
Feb. 25, 2022

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/opinion/putin-war-russia-military.html

There is no world leader today with a better track record when it comes to using military power than President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Whether against Georgia in 2008, Ukraine in 2014, or in Syria since 2015, the Russian military has repeatedly converted battlefield success into political victories. Russia's rearmament over the past decade and a half has been unmatched by a comparable increase in Western capabilities. So it is no surprise why Russia feels emboldened to use its military power while the West stands by.

Russia's past three wars are textbook examples of how to use military force in limited ways to achieve political goals. The invasion of Georgia in 2008 lasted five days but forced that country into humiliating political concessions. In Ukraine in 2014, regular Russian military units were deployed at scale for a few weeks, but this proved enough to force Kyiv to sign a painful peace deal. When Russia intervened in Syria in 2015, some Western analysts predicted a disaster along the lines of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which began in 1979 and ended, after a decade of quagmire, in retreat. Instead, that Syria's civil war served as a testing ground for Russia's most advanced weaponry.

For the past decade, Americans have come to believe that Russia's strength lies in hybrid tactics -- cyber-warfare, misinformation campaigns, covert operations -- and its ability to meddle in other countries' domestic politics. Yet as we have searched for Russian phantoms behind every misinformed Facebook post, Russia has replaced the poorly equipped army it inherited from the Soviet Union with a modern fighting force, featuring everything from new missiles to advanced electronic warfare systems. Today, the threat to Europe's security is not hybrid warfare but hard power, visible in the cruise missiles that have struck across Ukraine.

"We are 50 percent plus of global G.D.P.," Jake Sullivan, President Biden's national security adviser, argued recently, contrasting this to Russia's unimpressive 3 percent share of the world's economic output. However, economies don't fight wars; militaries do. America's economic power was tested when Mr. Biden threatened tough sanctions if Russia were to invade Ukraine; Mr. Putin did so anyway, betting that hard power would carry the day.

There's still no doubt that America's military has better trained soldiers and more capable systems in aggregate. However, what matters is not theoretical military matchups but the ability to use force for specific aims. Russia has developed precisely the capabilities needed to rebuild its influence in Eastern Europe. The United States, meanwhile, has watched its room for maneuver in the region steadily shrinking, hemmed in by Russian antiaircraft systems and cyber and electronic warfare threats.

Letting the military balance in Europe shift in Russia's favor was a choice. The United States has itself partly to blame. Even after Russia's first attacks on Ukraine in 2014, America's reinforcements on the continent were only enough to slow the rate of improvement in Russia's position. The Biden administration has presided over military spending cuts once inflation is considered. America's roughly $700 billion defense budget may look impressive, but Russia has the advantage of paying less for soldiers' salaries and for domestically produced equipment. Adjusting for these differences, Russia's defense budget has grown far more rapidly than America's over the past two decades. European allies have even more to answer for: Germany and other European countries must wake up from the fantasy that peace is their birthright. They used to have serious fighting power. It is time to rebuild it.

It may be that, in trying to swallow all of Ukraine, Mr. Putin has finally overstepped. A long occupation of Ukraine would stretch Russia's capabilities, especially because its military advantages will be less significant if the conflict shifts into Ukraine's populous cities. However, we should not simply assume that Ukraine will become Putin's Afghanistan or his Iraq because other leaders have made their own errors. Mr. Putin could simply choose to destroy Ukraine and leave the West to pick up the pieces. Such a dismembered, dysfunctional Ukraine could well suit his interests. Russia's recent wars have been carefully calculated and limited in cost. There's no guarantee that this conflict won't be, too.

The U.S. strategy of making public intelligence about Russia's military buildup around Ukraine was clever, but Mr. Putin has called our bluff. It was once popular to mock the Russian president for his 19th-century worldview, but his use of military power to bolster Russia's influence has worked in the 21st century, too. The West's assumption that the arc of history naturally bends in its direction is looking naive. So, too, is the decision to let our military advantage slip. Soft power and economic influence are fine capabilities to have, but they cannot stop Russian armor as it rolls toward Kyiv.

(Chris Miller is an assistant professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.)

 

AFTER UKRAINE, OFFICIALS FEAR PUTIN WILL MOVE TO CURB ISRAEL'S SYRIA OPERATIONS

After Ukraine, officials fear Putin will move to curb Israel's Syria operations
By Yaniv Kubovich
Haaretz
Feb. 25, 2022

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-after-ukraine-officials-fear-putin-will-move-to-curb-israel-s-syria-operations-1.10635064

Israeli officials have been closely following Russia's advance on Ukraine, as well as the West's response to it, fearing they could have serious implications on Israel's efforts to keep Iran and its regional proxies in check.

Israel has been trying to avoid any statements or actions that may upset Russia, so much so that senior defense officials were asked not to publicly comment on the situation in Ukraine. The defense establishment's main concern the obstruction of the delicate Israeli-Russian ties on Syria, where the Israeli military has been reportedly operating regularly against Iran-backed forces, namely Lebanese group Hezbollah.

In terms of military power, Israeli defense officials understand Russia clearly has the upper hand, but from an economic standpoint, President Vladimir Putin may end the war bruised and humiliated after being subjected to harsh sanctions.

Under these circumstances, Putin is more likely to change his policy on Israel's operations in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. In a bid to regain his standing, Putin could move to limit Israel's ability to act against Iranian entrenchment in the framework of the deconfliction mechanism between Israel and Russia in Syria.

Israeli officials also assess that Russia may decide to transfer more advanced weapons to Syria and other countries in the region with the aim of generating revenues from big arms deals, while also creating a new balance of terror vis-a-vis Western military forces in the Middle East.

Another concern for Israel is that Russia may employ advanced systems for disrupting GPS guidance systems and other electronic warfare measures and cyberattacks to disrupt NATO or Western operations in the Mediterranean, senior officials said. This could also restrict the Israeli military's freedom of action or disrupt military and civilian technology in Israel.

While there has been no change in Russia's policy as of yet, senior officials say that might change in the near future. A Russian statement on Friday reiterating that Moscow doesn't recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which were annexed after the 1967 Six-Day War, could be a sign of an impending shift in Putin's approach to Israel's military activity in Syria.

The latest development in Ukraine may also bring Russia closer to Iran at a sensitive time, according to the Israeli assessment. Negotiations in Vienna between Tehran and world power on Iran's nuclear program near a conclusion, diplomats involved in the talks have said in recent days.

Until recently, Israel believed that Russia was not interested in seeing a more substantial Iranian presence in Syria -- a critical gateway to the Mediterranean in Putin's view -- where Moscow wants to play a key part in the country's reconstruction after more than a decade of war.

Now, defense officials say they are concerned that as part of the attempt to bring Iran closer to Russia, Putin will grant Tehran more freedom to operate in Syria -- much more than Israel would like to see.

 

GERGIEV MUST CONDEMN RUSSIAN ATTACK TO CONTINUE TO PERFORM AT LA SCALA SAYS MAYOR

Gergiev must condemn Russian attack to continue to perform at La Scala says Milan mayor
ANSA Italian news agency
Feb. 25, 2022

https://www.ansa.it/english/news/2022/02/24/ukraine-gergiev-must-condemn-russian-attack-says-sala_b103e6b9-c70c-4090-9b75-910106ddf590.html

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said conductor Valery Gergiev, a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, must condemn the attack on Ukraine if he wants to continue his collaboration with Teatro alla Scala, where he is currently directing Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame.

"We have at the Scala (theater) 'Pique Dame' directed by Maestro Valery Gergiev who has repeatedly declared that he is close to Putin", Sala said. "We have been asking him, with the theater's superintendent, to take a clear position against this invasion and, if he will not do it, we will be forced to end this collaboration", said the mayor, commenting the latest events in Ukraine during a debate with the former center-right mayoral candidate in Milan and municipal councilor, Luca Bernardo.

"We must intervene when faced with these situations", he concluded.

 

HOW DEEP HAS CHINESE INTELLIGENCE PENETRATED ISRAEL?

How deep has Chinese intelligence penetrated Israel?
By Amos Harel
Haaretz
Feb. 25, 2022

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-how-deep-has-chinese-intelligence-penetrated-israel-1.10633942

To what extent has Chinese intelligence penetrated Israel in the realm of industrial-technological espionage or for purposes of exerting influence? When senior figures in the defense establishment are asked this question, an uneasy silence usually follows. The sensitivity is clear. Israel has for years been navigating between the desire to strengthen its relations with China and fear of angering the United States, which still considers China its major rival (notwithstanding the current crisis with Moscow).

Netanyahu, as prime minister, pushed hard to promote technological transactions with the vast Chinese market. But in his last years in office, and even more so in the Naftali Bennett era, Israel has been compelled to curb this progress in light of American objections. Flagrant examples of this tendency were the American veto of Israeli deals with China to acquire a fifth-generation cellular infrastructure, and the upgrading of the Israeli governmental mechanism for supervising foreign investments (at the request of Washington, which is still not satisfied).

Until about a year ago, Nir Ben Moshe was in charge of security in the defense establishment (Malmab, Hebrew acronym for "director of security of the defense establishment") and dealt intensively with the issue of Chinese penetration of Israel. So an article by Ben Moshe about Chinese espionage on the website of the Institute for National Security Studies is of special interest. Ben Moshe adds a number of presumptions and reservations to his exceptional text, but the reader can probably forgo them. This is the rare case of one who truly knows.

"Israel," he writes, "is seen by China as a leading technological power. Israel's advanced capabilities in elite technology, cyber, medicine, agriculture and more have the potential to contribute technologically to almost every aspect of China's build-up plans ... Consequently, alongside the overt and agreed-upon activity, it is likely that China's intelligence agencies are working in Israel to attain its objectives in espionage efforts, as well as in other countries of value to it. As in the United States, it cannot be ruled out that government ministries, defense industries and civilian companies in Israel have been attacked in the service of China's intelligence objectives.

"It is also likely that a substantial focus of interest in the eyes of Chinese intelligence is the complex system of relations between Israel and its ally, the United States. The security establishment and the IDF are likely a target of said Chinese intelligence efforts, both in themselves and considering their deep connections with their counterparts in the United States."

Israel, he notes, "is quite exposed to cyberattacks that aim to steal knowledge. This is due to the extensive use of computers and digital information, alongside well-established communications infrastructure in Israel, as well as the relative ease of attaining remote access, with little risk to attackers." Ben Moshe recalls that last August a coordinated cyberattack from China was uncovered on dozens of private and governmental bodies in Israel.

China, he sums up, is not an enemy, and Israel's economic ties with that country are of great importance. However, its methods of operation pose a considerable challenge to Israel, "as an attractive target and a source of advanced technology. There are few real public indications of Chinese espionage in Israel, but it is likely that the intelligence community in Israel sees a broader and deeper picture... The intelligence threat to the military-industrial system, with an emphasis on its relations with the United States, is especially significant... A first essential step for coping with the challenge is increasing awareness of the risk and its implications," he sums up.

 

"NSO NEVER ENGAGED IN ILLEGAL MASS SURVEILLANCE"

NSO Never Engaged in Illegal Mass Surveillance
The media has called it the 'Pegasus Affair.' Yet government investigations have found no evidence of wrongdoing by my company.
By Shalev Hulio
Wall Street Journal
Feb. 25, 2022

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-pegasus-affair-debunked-nso-group-israel-government-investigation-media-wrong-cyber-intelligence-11645742835

Herzliya, Israel -- In recent weeks, a media story dubbed "the Pegasus Affair" by the Israeli news outlet Calcalist has riveted Israelis. The report alleges that the Israeli police used a technological tool called Pegasus to infiltrate phones without a warrant, essentially conducting mass surveillance of high-profile politicians, opposition leaders and activists without proper legal authority. Earlier this week, Deputy Attorney General Amit Marari, along with Shin Bet and Mossad representatives, found no evidence of wrongdoing after conducting an investigation into the allegations. Shortly after, Calcalist announced it was investigating its own reporting.

For the past several years my company, NSO, the creator of Pegasus, has been bashed through irresponsible headlines and inaccurate, incomplete and unsubstantiated reporting. It has all been part of a well-orchestrated campaign by advocacy organizations that use politically motivated sources to produce "reports" designed to shame our employees and put NSO, and Israel's entire cyber industry, out of business.

We have patiently responded to hundreds of media inquiries over the past few years, walking reporters through our due-diligence program, pointing to the company's Transparency and Responsibility Report, and stating that while the company is restricted in what it can say because of confidentiality and national-security issues, many of these allegations are false and some are contractually and technically impossible. The allegation that our products were used on President Emmanuel Macron, Jeff Bezos and Jamal Khashoggi is untrue.

Advocacy organizations like Amnesty International have joined forces with some in the media to produce reports making allegations that rely on evidence and data that NSO could have used to verify or refute their claims. Unfortunately that evidence and data was never provided. NSO has cooperated repeatedly with governmental investigations, such as the recent Israeli Ministry of Justice inquiry. Governmental investigations are the legitimate venues to determine misuse and promptly publicize any findings to maintain public confidence. In these instances NSO has been able to learn from various findings and reports and improve its technological safeguards, customer vetting process, and ability to investigate potential misuses by customers. We will continue to cooperate with any governmental inquiry, probe or investigation to find the truth.

NSO was the first cyberintelligence company founded in Israel. Many other successful companies followed. It was the first regulated cyberintelligence company and the first to adopt the United Nations Guiding Principles for maintaining human rights. It was the first company to terminate contracts once suspicion of misuse of its technologies arose, even when it meant losing tens of millions of dollars. Pegasus is sold only to vetted agencies of governments allied with the U.S. and Israel, and NSO has refused to sell its product to some 90 countries owing to human-rights concerns.

Cyberintelligence solutions are powerful, and strict regulation, enforcement and technical mechanisms are needed to ensure government agencies use these technologies appropriately and responsibly. There is a fine line between keeping the public safe and maintaining the right of privacy. We are eager to educate the public and policy makers about the importance of cyberintelligence in the daily fight against crime and terrorism in an age when evildoers easily can plot on encrypted platforms.

I am proud of our company and its work to address the critical need for cyberintelligence technology. Tools like Pegasus save lives by thwarting terrorist attacks, aiding in the capture of pedophiles, ISIS and al Qaeda members, human traffickers and drug lords. The public should understand that governments and law enforcement agencies use NSO technology to keep them safe.

Cyberintelligence is a complicated and sensitive issue. There is no current alternative to collect valuable evidence from encrypted platforms. We can't leave law enforcement blind and incapable of fighting crime. These challenges require the 21st-century solutions NSO provides.

(Mr. Hulio is CEO of NSO Group)

 

QUEENS JEWISH LEADER SLAMS AOC FOR SUGGESTING ISRAEL 'CAGES' PALESTINIAN KIDS

Queens Jewish leader slams AOC for suggesting Israel 'cages' Palestinian kids
By Carl Campanile
New York Post
Feb. 21, 2022

https://nypost.com/2022/02/20/queens-jewish-leader-slams-aoc-for-suggesting-israel-cages-palestinian-kids/

The head of a major Jewish advocacy group in Queens is slamming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for suggesting that Israel cages Palestinian children.

Ocasio-Cortez made her controversial comments during a Democratic Socialists of America event in Austin, Texas, last week, when she also stumped for local House candidates Greg Casar and Jessica Cisneros.

"I don't believe that a child should be in a cage on our border, and I don't believe a child should be in a cage in the West Bank," AOC said in a videotaped remark after being heckled by pro-Palestinian protesters.

Michael Nussbaum, president of the Queens Jewish Community Council, says Ocasio-Cortez was spewing an unfounded smear against Israel.

The congresswoman represents parts of Queens and The Bronx.

"The Queens Jewish community is concerned when a local elected official makes spurious and reckless suggestions aimed at Israel," Nussbaum said in a statement provided to The Post.

"Bombastic suggestions and lies are dangerous when spewed by sitting politicians anywhere on the political spectrum. When the far left mimics the far right in lies and exaggerations, democracy and dialogue suffers."

AOC's Texas trip has become a public-relations headache for her -- and not just over what she said.

The Post exclusively reported over the weekend that the self-proclaimed socialist who is down with working-class folks was spotted flying first class on her plane trip back to New York.

As for AOC's comments in Texas, Nussbaum said her words do matter because she is the face of the Democratic Socialists of America, the left-leaning political group that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel

The DSA supports the BDS movement in terms of "ending [Israel's] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194."

Supporters of Israel said the BDS movement seeks to dismantle the Jewish State.

Ocasio also said during her speeches in Austin, "With media, with all this stuff, Palestine is basically a banned word. It's censored. We don't talk about it. No one knows about it.

"Thank you for bringing it up, honestly, because we shouldn't have to tiptoe around these things. We should be able to talk about it. And we shouldn't allow people's humanity to be censored,'' she said.

"I want to be unequivocal, we are here to stand up for the rights of Palestinians and Palestinian children. One hundred percent. Don't get it twisted. Because disinformation is not the vibe.

"Believing in the basic human dignity and the ability for a person to not be jailed or beaten for who they are, it does not mean that you are bigoted against any other community," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And we gotta call that for what it is."

Nussbaum said AOC's inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric appeals to Jew hatred.

"AOC is always asking for the `other side' to understand her positions and that of the DSA and the BDS followers who wish to eliminate Israel from the Middle East map," he said.

"If you wish to have a real discussion, the Queens Jewish Community Council is willing to engage you in an honest and open conversation,'' he added, addressing AOC. "We will defend Israel, you will have to defend the indefensible... lies and distortions that spew hate and anti-Semitism.

"Enough is enough. At some point, people need to be held accountable for their political lies."

During a subsequent Post interview, Nussbaum said he's baffled by AOC's smearing of Israel because she is "brilliant and smart" and should know better.

He credited her with making an effort recently to have a dialogue with Jewish leaders in the borough.

"But I'm disappointed in the comments she made in Texas. This is not an isolated incident. It's a continuation," Nussbaum said.

A representative for Ocasio-Cortez issued a statement defending her "cage" remark.

"The Congresswoman was referring to reports issued by the Human Rights Watch and others that have found an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000," said Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman Lauren Hitt.

"Independent monitors have documented that these children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture -- specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15."

AOC's "cage" comment is just the most recent in which she's attacked Israel and expressed sympathy toward Palestinians.

She criticized US funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense-missile system to destroy Palestinian-fired rockets aimed at the Jewish State. The congresswoman also has criticized President Biden's comments backing Israel's right to defend itself from Palestinian or other enemy attacks.

Longtime Jewish activist and former CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld complained that influential Jewish lawmakers in Congress are giving AOC and other critics of Israel a pass for sticking it to the Jewish State.

 

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