Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Is there a GRU vs FSB fight underway?

This is a purely speculative analysis. It is very difficult to make guesses about why something like this happens but a few things caught my eye recently and I am wondering what it all means.

Two or so weeks ago, TASS helpfully informed the world that the head of the SVR, the FSB and the GRU had visited the US and met their counterparts as part of vital anti-terrorism cooperation [1,2].

I could not understand how exactly did they get past the sanctions regime?

It is also clear that both the FSB Chief Aleksandr Bortnikov and the SVR Chief Sergey Naryshkin met Dir Pompeo but no one can tell us who Colonel General Igor Korobov of the GRU met.

Someone in the State Department would need to issue a waiver as these people would be travelling on a diplomatic passport and that would immediately light up the sanctioned individual list at every port of entry and in the US embassy in Moscow. Rumor has it the Naryshkin and the Bortnikov paperwork went via the "proper channels" (apparently Bortnikov may not be sanctioned) but no one knows who did the Korobov paperwork [3]

I can't quite get my head around why there is so much secrecy surrounding the Korobov visit and who he met?

Even the Russians who leaked the Naryshkin/Bortnikov meeting with Dir Pompeo, don't want to tell us who Gen. Korobov met.

It seems to me that the contact with General Korobov was the most sensitive of them all.

And strangely enough I am hearing rumors floating around (one should never believe them - only know that they are there) that the GRU has planted Nastya Rybka to expose Oleg Deripaska (close to the FSB) ties to the Trump election.

I was under the impression that a vast number of GRU types (eg. Rinat Akhmenitsin) were in open contact with the Trump campaign. Given the number of videos put out by Trump friendly YouTube channels, I got the impression that the GRU was going to set up a bunch of ex-GRU-SF guys as personal security around Trump.

After watching all this I came away with the idea that this Operation Install Trump was mounted by GRU at Putin's behest because the FSB and the SVR didn't want to get mixed up in something this messy and the GRU was the only one crazy enough to do so. The complete lack of backstopping on the legends of field agents and total lack of OpSec in the use of hackers, is reminiscent of a military led operation.

An operation led by the foreign intelligence service or even a internal security agency emphasizes deniability as an outcome. The cardinal law in such operations is "Don't Get Caught". In contrast to this an operation led by an MI organization at some level de-emphasizes deniability. Even if the agent is caught in an MI operation it is still useful as it sends a message - "I am watching you, rethink your hostility". The crudeness of the illegals that carried out Operation Install Trump is understandable the GRU is not a real foreign intelligence service. An unfortunate consequence of this kind of thing is that by participating in Operation Install Trump - the GRU is badly exposed to blame for the consequences since their role is highly visible.

There could be other reasons why the GRU and FSB are tussling it out. It could be that the GRU wants to be the big boss in the RIS community. That is possible but I just don't see the GRU competing for power with either the FSB or the SVR. The GRU is historically a military objective driven entity. It has faced an extremely challenging task throughout the last three decades of keeping Russia safe when its military spending was in decline and the US military was technologically ascendant. This workload is enough to make grown men cry and the GRU investment in cyber warfare in understandable in this context - it is a cheap way to hedge against the technological superiority of the enemy. I have great difficulty imaging that GRU's military leadership would want to get mixed up handling the complexities of internal security like the FSB (even less to want to get mixed up in the arcane world of diplomacy like the SVR is).

So the only scenario in which I can think of a clash between these entities, is if the RIS community (led by the FSB - the SVR is too small an entity to play a major role in this) is now trying to wash its hands off Operation Install Trump. From Putin's perspective this makes sense, the attempt to engage Trump has failed to produce anything that truly favors Russia. The operation appears now to be driven by the sole aim of producing political fission in the US and limiting direct damage to Putin's re-election process itself.

Under such circumstances the GRU may feel that it is likely to get shafted in this strategic maneuver.
While all three branches of the RIS may have competed for a role in Operation Install Trump, but the GRU is the only one in the open with its pants down.

I feel that perhaps the GRU doesn't want to be held to account for the failures of Operation Install Trump. And to that end shining a light on the participation of the others offers a way of deflecting the blame.

The SVR's exposure (AFAICT) is that "Professor" in the UK. That dude had a fairly deep legend well backstopped when compared to others in this shitfest. There was that rumor of the TASS photographer in Trump's office (when Trump leaked information to FM Lavrov and Amb Kislyak) being an SVR illegal and the story that all those RU Ambassadors dying suddenly due to various causes is somehow linked to their knowledge of the RIS role in this operation but in any case the SVR won't be able to hurt GRU interests very much as it too small a player in the RIS community.

That leaves the FSB. With Putin recasting FSB led conflict resolution teams into his personal palace guard and paying those guys more than the RU Army, the FSB appears to be on the ascendant. The FSB exposure in all this is significant. As the Russian hacker Konstantin Kozlovsky has testified in court, he was directly guided to attack the DNC computers by Major  Dmitri Dokuchaev of the FSB. The FSB has limited its exposure by arresting him first for passing information to the CIA. There is also the matter of the xFSB general who died under mysterious circumstances.

If this story of the GRU exposing FSB ties to Operation Install Trump is true, then the GRU seems to be saying to the FSB (and the SVR)- "you will all go down with us".


At 10:27 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

i wouldn't put a lot of stock in this.......just sayin'.

At 5:03 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I am not putting any stock in it.

It is curious though how the GRU high level meeting was shielded from even minimal public review on both sides and how at a time when the TrumpRussia thing is so high up in the sky, the IC went ahead and had a high level meeting with the RIS chiefs.

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

the russians got cut to pieces when their mercenary troops attacked a us outpost in syria.

the russians say 5 died, the us says over 100 of the attackers were killed.

they tried to attack w/o air cover. an awful mistake.

the russians see syria as a conflict against the us and they attack w/o air cover? stupid is as stupid does as forest gump would say.

the barf forum is completely glossing this over and so is the russian propaganda machine. no big deal.

which makes me smile........

At 4:10 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Wonder why they thought it was okay to attack w/o air cover.

I don't understand that.

It almost feels like Putin lost control of the situation there.

that would explain its absence from RU propaganda.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

yes, the russians also aren't telling the barfites what to say either........grin

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

according to barf the russkis have sent a second a50 awacs to syria.....this is a very strong statement as to how badly they screwed up by sending an armored column against a US position w/o air cover......they won't make the same mistake again. their struggle against the US (as they see it) will grow smarter.

they believed their own propaganda and lies....a very dangerous thing to do against a determined opposition.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

the russian armored column was under the command of a cossack general now deceased. he, among others, was employed by a russian mercenary group called "wagner". this was obviously not the russian A team, but still a considerable sacrifice upon the throne of russian agitprop that the US won't fight. the US warned them 20 minutes before hand but still they kept coming. they met a 30,000 foot tall wall of lead, steel and depleted uranium.

like I said they won't make the same mistake again.

At 4:40 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I think you are on to something there.

There is a single unconfirmed report about a RUAF Stealth platform deployment in Khmeimim air base.

It could be that RUAF didn't support the Wagner people because they thought they didn't have a counter to the F-22. With the F-22 dominant in the sky, the RUAF decided to go into force conservation mode and hung Wagner out to dry.

The deployment of the Su-57 to Khmeimim would in that scenario be more of a psyops exercise aimed at reinforcing the drooping morale of the RuAF detachment in Khmeimim.


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