“Thank you and goodbye”

so long

Britain has presented a letter to the president of the European Council officially invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty, beginning the process of withdrawal from the European Union.

This was the EU Council President Donald Tusk’s response:

The Russians call it “kombinatsiya”

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Over at the Observer, former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer John Schindler breaks down for the layman the Russian terms for the espionage operation that has engulfed President Trump and his inner circle.

As he writes, the fallout from Moscow’s spy-game shows no signs of letting up, and so it behooves us to learn a little bit about what it looks like and to understand how it works.

As the Trump administration’s Russia problem shows no sign of going away, protesting presidential tweets notwithstanding, it’s time to think about it properly. Understanding what the Kremlin’s up to helps to see the big picture. This means learning a bit of spy lingo. Espionage, like everything else, has its own culture—including special verbiage—which varies from country to country.

N7J0179 - Duckies Awards Web Badges-2Russia’s espionage culture is unique and in key ways markedly different from how Western countries approach the spy-game. It’s a product of the Soviet secret police, that brutal and cunning force, and it’s no accident that Vladimir Putin’s spies proudly call themselves Chekists today to commemorate them—just as they did in the days of the KGB. “There are no ‘former’ Chekists,” as the KGB veteran Putin has stated, and this attitude permeates his Kremlin.

From provokatsiya (provocation) to dezinformatsiya (disinformation) and aktivniyye meropriyatiya (active measures), Schindler explains the kombinatsiya (combination of techniques) that makes up the tangled ties between the 2016 election, TeamTrump, and the Kremlin.

With a former National Security Advisor (Mike Flynn), a former Trump campaign manager (Paul Manafort),  a long-time Trump confidant, personal advisor, and notorious political dirty-trickster (Roger Stone), a former Trump campaign national security aide (Carter Page), the current Attorney General (Jeff Sessions), and now a top White House advisor (Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner) all implicated in questionable contacts with and connections to Russian figures tied to the Kremlin and/or Russian intelligence agencies, Schindler’s piece is a must-read.

Trump and the truth

trump truth

The relationship has always been a little, shall we say, loose.

The president, though, is in good company, just perhaps the latest and most brazen liar to rise to a position of power and authority. Certainly not the first.

As Jonathan Swift wrote in The Examiner XIV, Sept. 11, 1710:

But although the devil be the father of lies, he seems, like other great inventors, to have lost much of his reputation, by the continual improvements that have been made upon him. Who first reduced lying into an art, and adapted it to politics, is not so clear from history, although I have made some diligent inquiries.

And this:

Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.

I came across the above quote from Swift in an article at The Atlantic, which asks a simple, but critical question: Who can tell the emperor when he has no clothes? The full piece, by Yoni Applebaum, is well worth the read. Here’s a sample:

The trouble for Trump is that, sooner or later, the truth catches up. As a real-estate developer, he could simply skip 10 floors in a building, and announce it stood 68 stories tall. As an entertainer, he could rely on the selectively edited reality of television. His audiences would willfully suspend their disbelief. “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular,” he wrote in Art of the Deal. “I call it truthful hyperbole.” And that insight helped him succeed as a candidate, too.

Take a few minutes and read the whole thing.