Friday, March 17, 2023

17: Russia

RETIRED U.S. GENERALS, ADMIRALS TAKE TOP JOBS WITH SAUDI CROWN PRINCE Hundreds of veterans have taken lucrative foreign jobs that U.S. officials approved — but fought to keep secret ....... More than 500 retired U.S. military personnel — including scores of generals and admirals — have taken lucrative jobs since 2015 working for foreign governments, mostly in countries known for human rights abuses and political repression In Saudi Arabia, for example, 15 retired U.S. generals and admirals have worked as paid consultants for the Defense Ministry since 2016. The ministry is led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler ........ Saudi Arabia’s paid advisers have included retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, a national security adviser to President Barack Obama, and retired Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who led the National Security Agency under Obama and President George W. Bush ....... Most of the retired U.S. personnel have worked as civilian contractors for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Persian Gulf monarchies, playing a critical, though largely invisible, role in upgrading their militaries. ........ With shared intelligence, aerial refueling and other support from the U.S. government and contractors, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have intervened in Yemen’s civil war to disastrous effect, triggering a global humanitarian crisis and killing thousands of civilians Foreign governments have long advanced their interests in Washington by paying Americans as lobbyists, lawyers, political consultants, think tank analysts and public relations advisers. But the hiring of retired U.S. military personnel for their expertise and political clout has accelerated over the past decade as oil-rich gulf monarchies have splurged on defense spending and strengthened their security partnerships with the Pentagon........ foreign governments pay handsomely for U.S. military talent, with salary and benefit packages reaching six and, sometimes, seven figures — far more than what most American service members earn while on active duty. At the top of the scale, active four-star generals earn $203,698 a year in basic pay........ In comparison, the government of Australia has given consulting deals worth more than $10 million to several former senior U.S. Navy officials.......... A consulting firm owned by six retired Pentagon officials and military officers negotiated a $23.6 million contract with Qatar ........ In Azerbaijan, a retired U.S. Air Force general was offered a consulting gig at a rate of $5,000 a day........ Retired generals and admirals command the most money, but former enlisted personnel can also collect hefty foreign paychecks on top of their U.S. military pensions ........ Saudi Arabia hired a former Navy SEAL to work as a special operations adviser for $258,000 a year. The UAE gave annual compensation packages worth more than $200,000 to helicopter pilots and $120,000 to aircraft mechanics. In Indonesia, a government-owned mining firm employed a retired U.S. Marine master sergeant as a transportation consultant at a rate of $500 a day, plus living expenses. ........ Many U.S. generals and admirals have profited from connections built during wartime by later working for Middle Eastern countries where they were once stationed. Records show that a few American officers even negotiated jobs with foreign governments while they were still on active duty......... Under federal law, retired U.S. military personnel — generally defined as those who served at least 20 years in uniform and are entitled to a pension — are restricted from receiving anything of value from foreign governments that could compromise their sworn allegiance to the United States........ The law applies to military retirees because they can be recalled to active duty at any time. In 1977, Congress delegated the authority to approve veterans’ foreign work to the Pentagon and State Department........ But The Post investigation found that approval is almost automatic. Of the more than 500 requests submitted since 2015, about 95 percent were granted........ scores of retirees on LinkedIn who say they have taken military contracting jobs in the Persian Gulf, but for whom there is no record of federal approval........ There is no criminal penalty for violating the law. Enforcement is almost nonexistent. The Defense Department can withhold retirement pay from those who ignore the rules. But the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which administers military payrolls, has docked the pensions of “fewer than five” people ......... Flynn collected $449,807 from Russian and Turkish interests in 2015, one year after he retired from the Army, but failed to clear his work with U.S. officials ........ Flynn’s unauthorized work for foreign governments came to light after he was photographed sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a 2015 gala in Moscow celebrating the 10th anniversary of Russia Today, or RT, a propaganda arm of the Kremlin. RT paid Flynn $38,557 to travel to Moscow and speak at the event.......... Flynn’s work for Russia helped prompt Congress to pass legislation in 2019 and 2020 requiring the Pentagon to submit annual reports to lawmakers about retired generals and admirals who work for foreign powers. Since then, the Pentagon has complied, but its reports include only a few lines of information and do not name the generals and admirals......... nations that the U.S. government categorizes as “foreign adversaries,” such as China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba or Venezuela........ Almost two-thirds of the jobs taken by U.S. veterans have been in the Middle East and North Africa, where governments pay top dollar for American military expertise honed by two decades of war and counterterrorism operations in the Arab world.......... 25 retirees from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps were granted permission to take jobs in Saudi Arabia. Most were high-ranking officers who received job offers to serve as consultants to the Saudi Defense Ministry. Since 2015, the ministry has been ruled by Prince Mohammed, whose leadership has upended the status quo in the Middle East....... Two months after Mohammed became defense minister at age 29, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of regional forces — with intelligence, refueling and logistical support from the United States — that intervened militarily in Yemen’s civil war. The move further destabilized the kingdom’s much poorer neighbor, and an estimated 375,000 people have died in the fighting or of hunger.......... A prominent beneficiary of Mohammed’s reign has been 78-year-old James L. Jones, the retired general who served as Obama’s national security adviser and had been commandant of the Marine Corps. Jones owns two Virginia-based consulting firms — Ironhand Security LLC and Jones Group International LLC — that have held contracts to advise the Saudi Defense Ministry.......... Saudi Arabia spends more on its military than any other nonnuclear power in the world. In 2021, its defense budget exceeded $50 billion — roughly the same as in Britain, a country with nuclear arms.......... To carry out the project, Jones assembled a team of about a dozen former senior Pentagon officials, including William S. Cohen, who served as secretary of defense in the Clinton administration. A spokesman for Cohen said he worked on the team for about a year......... the Saudis pay their consultants generously. Four lower-ranking retired officers working for Jones — two Marine colonels, an Army colonel and a Navy captain — earned salaries ranging from $200,000 to $300,000 to advise the Saudi Defense Ministry.......... Jones’s companies continue to advise the Saudis on how to reorganize their military command structure so that the armed forces can operate jointly instead of as separate fiefdoms, documents show. Traditionally, the primary mission of the Saudi military and security services has been to guarantee the protection and survival of the al-Saud family, with different princes controlling different branches as competing power centers......... Saudi Arabia buys more U.S. weapons than any other country in the world by far. More than 200 active-duty American troops are stationed in Saudi Arabia as trainers and advisers........ Another high-profile senior officer who has done business with Saudi Arabia is Keith Alexander, 70, who served as director of the National Security Agency as well as the first head of the U.S. Cyber Command........ In July 2018, Alexander’s consulting firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, signed a partnership agreement with the Saudis to develop a new institution: the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Cyber Security........ Qahtani also oversaw a network of computer hacking and surveillance operations that targeted the crown prince’s critics and enemies around the world, including Khashoggi......... Many U.S. companies ceased doing business with Saudi Arabia in the weeks after Khashoggi’s murder, including lobbyists and public relations firms that had represented the kingdom in Washington......... He said his companies now hold four Saudi contracts and employ 53 Americans in Riyadh. Of those, eight are retired generals and admirals, and 32 are lower-ranking military retirees. “Libya is a nut case,” he said. “Their government is ineffective. Their military is ineffective. … Their military is basically a ragtag group of militias.” ......... One of the few cases denied by the State Department concerned a retired Navy commander who landed a $291,000-a-year job with Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), a state-owned arms supplier, as its director for weapons systems.......... Carter’s annual compensation was even more lucrative: $514,200 in salary and living expenses, plus a yearly bonus worth up to $330,000......... SAMI announced his hiring on Sept. 4, 2019, almost a full year before he received tentative approval from the Navy......... Under federal law, the Defense Department can force retirees to pay back any foreign money they receive before their applications are approved. But there is no evidence the armed forces have ever imposed penalties in such cases. ......... many military retirees take foreign jobs or gifts without notifying the U.S. government at all......... Other generals have moved to Saudi Arabia for employment after they were forced to retire from the U.S. military for misconduct........ Adultery is a punishable offense under military law, and Army officials said Haight’s sexual escapades put him at risk of blackmail......... The distinction between state-controlled firms and independent ones is often blurry in nondemocratic countries, especially absolute monarchies such as Saudi Arabia, where the royal family dominates commerce and there is little transparency in the business sector.

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General disorder: Another four-star tries to cash in Old generals don’t fade away, they move in the bright light of day from the Pentagon into lucrative contracts with defense companies, think tanks and foreign governments........ The revolving door between military/defense industry/wonkism/lobbyist is usually not much of a problem for the D.C. crowd as long as the paperwork is filed before the stars are traded for cufflinks.

JOHN ALLEN, the retired Marine Corps four-star and president of the Brookings Institution think tank Allen, along with RICHARD OLSON, former U.S. ambassador to the UAE and Pakistan, and IMAAD ZUBERI, a business executive hatched a plan to work for the Qatari government to lobby the Trump administration to back Qatar, or at least end the embargoes......... a year before Allen was named president of the Brookings Institution in 2017, an organization to which Qatar donated $14.8 million in 2013, a big check that again shines a bright light on where some think tanks receive their funding......... Former Defense Secretary and Centcom commander JAMES MATTIS worked as a military adviser for the United Arab Emirates in 2015 prior to becoming former President DONALD TRUMP’s first of four SecDefs. Mattis, who retired as a four-star Marine general in 2013 ........ advising foreign governments is usually a lucrative business for retired military officers, either before or during their almost inevitable defense industry or think tank sinecures........ No list is complete, of course, without mentioning retired three-star Army Gen. MIKE FLYNN, who before he led the charge for Q-inspired conspiracy theories, was Trump’s national security adviser and a decorated, if controversial, three-star general. While working on the Trump campaign, Flynn was being paid by the Turkish government. Flynn didn’t register his foreign work that took place throughout the 2016 presidential campaign with the U.S. government until after Trump fired him in February 2017.

‘Hunting rifles’ — really? China ships assault weapons and body armor to Russia Customs data obtained by POLITICO reveals direct shipments of Chinese assault rifles, as well as drone shipments and body armor routed via Turkey and the UAE........  China is considering sending weapons to Russia’s military, a move that could alter the nature of the fighting on the ground in Ukraine, tipping it in Russia’s favor....... “China did not create the crisis. It is not a party to the crisis, and has not provided weapons to either side of the conflict,” said embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu......... Although Western sanctions have hampered Moscow’s ability to import everything from microchips to tear gas, Russia’s still able to buy supplies that support its war effort from “friendly” countries that aren’t following the West’s new rules, like China or the Gulf countries........ In cases where the Kremlin craves specific technology only produced in say the U.S., EU or Japan, there are wily ways for Moscow to evade sanctions, which include buying equipment from middlemen located in countries with cordial trade relations with both the West and Russia......... Russia managed to import almost 80 tons of body armor worth around $10 million in December last year ...... China recently presented a 12-point peace proposal for the war in Ukraine, though it was criticized by western leaders for its ambiguity and for its lack of details about the need for the withdrawal of Russian troops.

U.S. dismisses China’s Ukraine peace proposal as an attempt to distract The proposal itself falls short of what Beijing had promised. ....... “There are 12 points in the Chinese plan. If they were serious about the first one, sovereignty, then this war could end tomorrow," said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. ........ China’s 12-point “Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis,” published Thursday, asserts vague support for “sovereignty,” “ceasing hostilities” and “resuming peace talks,” without specific proposals on achieving those goals. ....... it is talking up Russia’s false narrative about the war ....... it mostly restates Beijing’s existing positions on the war by linking it to the Kremlin’s “legitimate security concerns.” ....... Beijing’s peace proposal “doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine ....... The EU would consider China’s proposals “against the backdrop that China has taken sides,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Beijing helped earn that distrust by abstaining from a United Nations’ resolution on Thursday demanding that Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine. .......... it calls for Kyiv and Moscow to “exercise restraint” and says it supports “promoting talks for peace.” The Chinese government also distances itself from leading such efforts by limiting its participation to a hands-off “constructive role.” ...... China can now market the plan in the global south as proof of Beijing’s dedication to peace and tell the U.S. and its allies “It’s your job to convince the Ukrainians [to stop fighting] — our mission here is accomplished” ........ The document’s publication means “China gets a PR victory upfront without doing anything” .

China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis Equal and uniform application of international law should be promoted, while double standards must be rejected. ........ Ceasing hostilities. Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control. All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire.  .......... Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis. ........ help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation. ........ Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought. The threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed. Nuclear proliferation must be prevented and nuclear crisis avoided. China opposes the research, development and use of chemical and biological weapons by any country under any circumstances. ........... Facilitating grain exports. All parties need to implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative signed by Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the UN fully and effectively in a balanced manner, and support the UN in playing an important role in this regard. The cooperation initiative on global food security proposed by China provides a feasible solution to the global food crisis. ........ Stopping unilateral sanctions. Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems. China opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council. Relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction” against other countries, so as to do their share in deescalating the Ukraine crisis and create conditions for developing countries to grow their economies and better the lives of their people. .......... All parties should earnestly maintain the existing world economic system and oppose using the world economy as a tool or weapon for political purposes. Joint efforts are needed to mitigate the spillovers of the crisis and prevent it from disrupting international cooperation in energy, finance, food trade and transportation and undermining the global economic recovery. ....... The international community needs to take measures to support post-conflict reconstruction in conflict zones. China stands ready to provide assistance and play a constructive role in this endeavor.

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