Edward Snowden interview – the edited transcript [The Boston marathon bombing excerpt]

The whistleblower speaks to Alan Rusbridger and Ewen MacAskill about life in Russia, the NSA culture, his time there and the future of communication
Alan Rusbridger and Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian | 18 July 2014

The Boston marathon bombing

Despite the fact that the communications of everybody in America were currently being intercepted, they didn’t catch the Boston bombers, despite the fact that the Russian intelligence service specifically warned the FBI that these individuals were known to be associated with Islamic terror groups.

We didn’t actually fully investigate them, we just made a cursory visit and went back to all of our keyboards looking at everybody’s emails and text messages.

The question of the Boston bombings is not what kind of mass surveillance do we put the whole of society under to prevent every possible perceivable crime that might happen in future, the question is why didn’t we follow up when … we were specifically warned about these individuals, and they then later turned out to be a real threat. What we have learned in case studies of terrorism over the last decade … is that almost every terrorist act that is uncovered, almost everyone who’s convicted, successfully prosecuted, put in jail, every plot that is disrupted, is not a product of mass surveillance, it’s not a product of the kind of indiscriminate surveillance we see today. They’re all products of targeted surveillance, traditional surveillance, the kind of boots on the ground, investigate and learn, done by real investigators interviewing real people and following specifically justified leads that occurred as a process of investigation. No single terrorist act, including the Boston bombs, was ever caught as a result of mass surveillance in the United States. And those numbers are similar around the world as I understand it.

It seems reasonable to expect when we have clear evidence that these programs are ineffective, we should take resources out of ineffective mass surveillance programs and re-allocate them toward the sort of traditional targeted surveillance that’s been shown to be effective for hundreds of years.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/-sp-edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-interview-transcript

 

 

Ed Snowden Sides With Russia On FBI Intelligence About Boston Marathon Bombings
Michael B Kelley
Business Insider | Jul. 20, 2014

Edward Snowden says that U.S. surveillance failed to stop the men suspected of planting bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon even though Russia provided them with intelligence.

"Despite the fact that the communications of everybody in America were currently being intercepted, they didn’t catch the Boston bombers, despite the fact that the Russian intelligence service specifically warned the FBI that these individuals were known to be associated with Islamic terror groups," Snowden told The Guardian.

"We didn’t actually fully investigate them, we just made a cursory visit and went back to all of our keyboards looking at everybody’s emails and text messages."

The FBI would sharply disagree with that assessment, citing a review of how intelligence and law enforcement agencies could have thwarted the bombings.

According to an FBI inspector general report, the Russians told the FBI in 2011 that one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” and that Mr. Tsarnaev “had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”

But after the initial intel sharing, the Russians declined several requests for additional information about Tsarnaev.

“They found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and based on everything that was available the F.B.I. did all that it could,” a senior American official briefed on the review told The New York Times.

Tsarnaev, who died in a firefight with police, and his brother, Dzhokhar, who will face trial, are believed to be the sole suspects in the attack that killed three people and injured more than 200 near the marathon’s finish line on April 15, 2013.

“Had they known what the Russians knew they probably would have been able to do more under our investigative guidelines, but would they have uncovered the plot? That’s very hard to say,” one senior official told the Times.

Given Snowden’s position as a former NSA systems administrator who stole up to 1.7 million NSA documents, gave about 200,000 of them to journalists, and subsequently ended up under the protection of Russia’s security services after flying to Moscow, his views on world events are relevant.

In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, the 31-year-old American appears to have sided with Moscow’s point of view.

http://www.businessinsider.com/ed-snowden-on-the-boston-marathon-bombings-2014-7#ixzz388w9w8V5

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Russia’s Military Tells A Very Different Story About What Happened To MH17

Michael B Kelley and Brett LoGiurato
Business Insider | Jul. 21, 2014

Russia is taking a different line than most of the world regarding the Malaysian passenger plane shot down Thursday.

Ukraine and the West have presented a mountain of evidence indicating that pro-Russian separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a Russian-supplied Buk missile system.

In a statement on Monday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense began laying the case for blame on the West.

It claims it saw MH17 detour from its route at the same time a Ukrainian warplane flew overhead and a U.S. satellite flew over Ukraine. And it said Ukraine had four SA-11 Buk missile systems on the ground in separatist territory.

The ministry claimed that Russia has not delivered any SA-11 BUK missile systems to separatists in Ukraine "or any other weapons."

The U.S., on the other hand, asserts that it has "detected an increasing amount of heavy weaponry to separatist fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine," in addition to gathering "information indicating that Russia is providing training to separatist fighters at a facility in southwest Russia, and this effort included training on air defense systems."

Russia’s Defense Ministry also said the military has not detected the launch of any missiles near MH17’s flight path, and asked the U.S. to share images "if they have them."

The Russians also demanded an explanation from Ukraine’s government, saying a Ukrainian warplane flew within two to three miles of MH17. It somewhat pointed the finger at Kiev, saying that Ukraine had surface-to-air missiles near separatist-controlled areas at the time of the crash.

In a late-night statement issued Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged other countries that have pointed the finger at Russia to not "use the tragedy to pursue their own political goals." He repeated his blame of Ukraine, saying the tragedy could have been avoided if Ukraine’s military had not increased the scope of operations against pro-Russian separatists in late June.

The Russian military took accusations a bit further Monday, hinting at some strange speculations. The spokesman asked: "Is it a coincidence that the time of the MH17 crash is the same as a U.S. satellite flew over Ukraine?"

Basically, Russia is suggesting that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter plane shot down MH17.

But, as The Interpreter notes, a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet with no ordinance can only fly as high as 23,000, while MH17 was cruising at about 33,000 feet.

"By this logic, even if the Su-25 was flying directly under MH17 it would be at least 3 kilometers way," The Interpreter notes. "How does that fit with the claims that the Russian government is making?"

298 Dead

On July 17, Malaysia Flight MH17 went down in the town of Torez, located in separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.

Russia immediately held Ukraine’s government responsible, while evidence mounted that Russian separatists mistook the civilian passenger plane for a Ukrainian military aircraft.

The West has so far said that pro-Russian separatists are to blame for both shooting down the plane and for subsequently disrupting the international investigation. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went on all five Sunday-morning talk shows and laid out the evidence in a prosecutorial style.

Kerry said Ukraine did not have a missile system in the vicinity of the crash.

The U.S. State Department has pointed the finger at Moscow for weeks for meddling in Ukraine, citing a major flow of weapons from Russia to southeastern Ukraine over the past month, including "150 vehicles with armed personnel carrier, multiple rocket launchers, tanks, artillery."

"We also know to a certainty that the social media immediately afterwards saw reports of separatists bragging about knocking down a plane, and then the so-called defense minister, self-appointed of the People’s Republic of Donetsk, Igor Strelkov, posted a social media report bragging about the shoot-down of a transport plane – at which point when it became clear it was civilian, they pulled down that particular report," Kerry said.

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http://www.businessinsider.com/russias-story-about-mh17-2014-7

Friend of accused Boston bomber found guilty of obstructing justice

Reuters | 07-22-2014

A friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber has been found guilty of obstructing the probe of the deadly blasts by removing a backpack containing empty fireworks shells from the suspect’s dormitory room.

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The friend, Kazakh exchange student Azamat Tazhayakov, was found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice for going to suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s room three days after the April 15, 2013 attack and removing the backpack.

The jury on Monday (US time) found Tazhayakov not guilty of similar charges involving a laptop computer.

Juror Daniel Antonino told reporters the jury believed the laptop had been taken "because it was valuable, plain and simple," and not to influence the investigation.

Tazhayakov’s mother broke down in tears when the verdict was read, while the defendant, dressed in a dark suit and tie, sat quietly in the dock.

Prosecutors charged that Tazhayakov, fellow Kazakh exchange student Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, removed evidence from Tsarnaev’s room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth after realising their friend was a bombing suspect.

Tazhayakov could face up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction of justice count and up to five years on the conspiracy count.

He will be sentenced on October 16, US district judge Douglas Woodlock said.

Two other friends and the accused bomber still to face trial

Kadyrbayev is awaiting trial on the same charges later this year, while Phillipos faces the lesser charge of lying to investigators.

None of the three men was charged in relation to the bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others, making it the largest mass-casualty attack on US soil since September 11, 2001.

Accused bomber Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on charges that carry the death penalty.

During six days of testimony at the US district court in Boston, jurors heard FBI agents testify that Tazhayakov told them he had been present when the items were removed and later watched a garbage truck haul away the backpack.

Tazhayakov’s attorneys had said their client never touched the backpack or laptop, contending that Kadyrbayev did so and later dropped the backpack into a dumpster.

One former federal prosecutor said Monday’s verdict could raise the stakes for Kadyrbayev’s attorneys.

"It doesn’t bode well for the next defendant," said Walter Prince, of the law firm Prince Lobel Tye, noting that Tazhayakov’s decision not to testify in his own defence during the trial may prompt Kadyrbayev’s lawyers to put him on the stand.

"Otherwise the jury is left with just the FBI’s version of what occurred," he said.

Kadyrbayev has already taken the stand in a pre-trial hearing where his lawyers sought to have statements he made to the FBI thrown out, on the basis that the statements were involuntary.

They said the statements were made after heavily-armed agents had ordered Kadyrbayev out of his New Bedford, Massachusetts, home.

The judge declined to rule on that request but rejected a similar pitch from Tazhayakov’s lawyers.

STOLYPIN: MH17 as metaphor for Russia

Mark Galeotti of New York University
Business New Europe | July 21, 2014

There is still much that is unclear about the tragic shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, and much that will probably never be known. Nonetheless, it does seem most probable it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile operated by insurgents that was either provided by Russia or else stolen from Ukrainian army stocks and maintained and prepared for action with Russian expertise. Understandably, anger at Moscow is mounting, even though there is no evidence that the rebels either realized they were shooting down a civilian airliner or were acting under the direct orders of the Kremlin.

Of course, on one level that is irrelevant. Moscow has engineered a state of civil war in eastern Ukraine and provided undisciplined and often thuggish rebels with advanced weaponry; it can hardly fail to be regarded as having blood on its hands. Nonetheless, there is a poignant irony to the fact that having got away with many acts clearly dictated by Moscow, from assassinations abroad to annexing Crimea, the Russian government faces its toughest foreign policy challenge yet from something for which it only created the conditions.

This highlights another irony of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. For all his unquestioned mastery of the Kremlin, his “tsar redux” personal style of leadership, and his commitment to the “power vertical,” one must question just how much real control he has over the execution of his policies, both at home and abroad.

Sometimes, this is deliberate. In the case of eastern Ukraine, Russia’s campaign to stir up chaos in order to put pressure on Kyiv was precisely intended as war on the quiet and on the cheap. Not anticipating that it would last as long as it has, and in the process acquire its own momentum, Moscow opted simply to arm, protect and encourage local and imported proxies.

What seemed a cynically efficient strategy has proven to be problematic. Unable or unwilling to compromise in the early weeks and months, Kyiv has regained its nerve and purpose and mustered its security forces. Slavyansk has fallen and, without more extensive (and more obvious) Russian support, then Kyiv is probably able to crush the insurgency militarily, albeit not without serious loss of life on every side.

Take me to your leader

Meanwhile, who is in charge of the insurgency? The “defense minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Igor Girkin — who goes by the nom de guerre Strelkov — was a Russian intelligence officer and likely still is, but he also appears at least to a degree to have gone native and has openly criticized Moscow for not supporting the rebellion more. Even if Strelkov and the rest of the DPR leadership were brought to heel though, it is not at all clear how much real power they have over the various field commanders.

According to intercepted telephone conversations released by the Ukrainian Security Service — unconfirmed but highly plausible — the decision to shoot down MH17 was taken by the commander of a Cossack unit on his own authority. This was reported to the DPR command after the fact.

Not only do units and commanders in the rebellion have considerable military autonomy, they (ab)use their positions — their firepower and the capacity to kill, beat and threaten with impunity — for personal or political gain. Cases of institutionalized looting (unlike the individual cases which have been punished with draconian ferocity), shakedowns at checkpoints and the settling of old scores are numerous.

Meanwhile, commanders and interests are at odds. The feud between Strelkov and Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, has become public knowledge. Meanwhile there are suggestions that the powerful oligarch Rinat Akhmetov has made deals with field commanders to keep his business interests safe. There are also divisions between those eager to see a “Novorossiya” joining the Russian Federation, and those instead simply looking for what they consider a more equitable status within Ukraine.

No one within the insurgency is challenging the DPR leadership. But they need to work with the field commanders and often simply don’t fully know exactly what is going on, on the ground — as with MH17.

Furthermore, with little real central control and no evidence that Moscow can call the shots, how can a meaningful peace be reached, even if Kyiv is minded to talk terms? The only way it could be done is if the DPR leadership — and/or Moscow —can either broker a consensus or else in effect fight a civil war within a civil war and force a deal on the field commanders.

In short, the eastern Ukrainian insurgency holds up — in its own bloody and toxic way — a mirror to wider processes within Russia itself.

Turning a blind eye

No one within the elite is challenging Putin, and when he wants he is able to sweep away anyone he pleases. But he also depends on that elite and working with them often means turning a blind eye to inefficiencies and corruption simply to maintain that working relationship. There is, in effect, an unspoken etiquette, a sense of the acceptable levels of nepotism, sloth and graft.

From time to time, an especially egregious violator of these norms will be chosen as an example. One such was the Dagestani power-broker, Makhachkala mayor Said Amirov — known as “Said the Deathless” for surviving perhaps 15 assassination attempts — who was convicted in July for orchestrating the murder of a rival. However, it speaks volumes that to arrest Amirov the Kremlin had to send in special forces from Moscow, unwilling to rely on the local police, and spirit him away to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

More often, though, the clans, factions and opportunists of the elite are doing their best to enrich and advance themselves by any means available, short of arousing the Kremlin’s ire. That often involves keeping their deals secret (there is a reason why the Kremlin is so keen on extending its financial monitoring structures), moving assets out of Russia and thus the government’s reach (ditto), and even manipulating the central leadership to their own ends. When the security agencies fight over turf, budgets and precedence, for example, they tend to do so by presenting themselves to the Kremlin as the most loyal and the most useful, all in the name of institutional gain.

Putin has shown an awareness of the debilitating impact of endemic corruption, factionalism and inefficiency. However, he has also built a system of power that depends on keeping the elites happy and supportive by granting them limited but extensive license to embezzle. Just as the hands-off approach in Ukraine seemed tremendously successful until it suddenly didn’t, so too the social contract at home. With capital flight increasing, the budget under severe pressure and the first hints of quiet discontent within the elite, Putin may well find himself wanting to turn the rhetoric of the disciplined, centralized power vertical into a reality. But can he do so without fighting a (political) war with his own elite?

Mark Galeotti is Professor of Global Affairs at the SCPS Center for Global Affairs, New York University, who writes the blog In Moscow’s Shadows.

http://www.bne.eu/content/stolypin-mh17-metaphor-russia

Why ‘Reset’ Failed: Diplomacy with Rogues Rarely Works

Michael Rubin
World Affairs Journal | July/August 2014

Meeting her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for the first time as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton famously presented him with a red, plastic “reset” button. “We want to reset our relationship and so we will do it together,” she explained, adding, “We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” “You got it wrong,” Lavrov responded.

The problem, in hindsight, was less a botched translation than it was a misunderstanding of the Russian mind. Like too many presidents and secretaries of state before them, President Obama and Secretary Clinton assumed that the problems hampering relations lay more with their predecessors than with America’s adversaries. Obama and Clinton were more willing to blame President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for what Obama caricatured as knee-jerk hostility to diplomacy with Russia than President Vladimir Putin himself. Putin took full advantage of this mistake.

Obama has made diplomacy with adversaries a cornerstone of his foreign policy. “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them . . . is ridiculous,” he declared in July 2007, soon after launching his presidential campaign, promising that, if elected, he would sit down with any adversary that was willing. As secretary of state, Clinton embraced the same philosophy. “You don’t make peace with your friends. You have to be willing to engage with your enemies,” she explained.

Many Republicans agreed. Former Secretary of State James Baker dismissed criticism from some Republican circles that America sacrificed its principles when it engaged enemies. Citing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s World War II cooperation with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, he declared, “Talking to hostile states . . . is not appeasement. It is good foreign policy.” Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration, agreed. “We ought to have enough confidence in our ability as diplomats to go eye to eye with people—even though we disagree in the strongest possible way—and come away without losing anything.” Nicholas Burns, a top diplomat during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, agreed too. “We will be no worse off if we try diplomacy and fail,” he told a 2009 Senate hearing examining Obama’s diplomatic outreach.

The idea that diplomacy with rogue regimes is cost-free is a relatively new idea, one that may sound good in the abstract but is less durable in reality. Policymakers often advocate diplomacy with rogue rulers and even terrorist groups because other options seem unattractive. As our recent experience in Afghanistan and Iraq shows, war extracts a tremendous price not only in terms of blood and treasure but in terms of national morale as well. The American public is exhausted by these conflicts and wondering if their price was worth paying.

In such a situation, grasping at sanctions is perhaps understandable as well, particularly when more war seems to be the only alternative, but they are hardly a sure thing. Few dictators care about the discomfort of their citizenry. Saddam Hussein may have charged that half a million children were dead because of sanctions—revealed as a vulgar propaganda claim by the liberation of Iraq—but in fact he cared little about the deprivations sanctions caused the Iraqi people. Even when effective—against apartheid-era South Africa, for instance—sanctions are at best slow. When they are too narrow, targeting only a handful of individuals involved in Iran’s nuclear program, for example, or Russian businessmen benefiting from Putin’s kleptocracy, they are ineffective. To sanction two dozen individuals in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the diplomatic equivalent of double-secret probation in Animal House—a response that mostly just makes those imposing it feel good. Just because military and economic coercion come at a high price does not mean diplomacy is a panacea. While diplomacy with Brussels or Burundi or Brunei (i.e., the kind of partners who uphold the norms of diplomacy) might be the bread-and-butter of statecraft, talking to rogues is different.

Barack Obama might have been a relative foreign policy novice when he entered the Oval Office, but not so Hillary Clinton when she became his secretary of state. It was during the administration of Clinton’s husband, in which she was an active participant, that top strategists popularized the concept of “rogue regime.” With war fears on the Korean Peninsula, nuclear proliferation in the Persian Gulf, and terrorism beginning to stir across the globe, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin raised the specter, in 1993, of “a handful of nuclear devices in the hands of rogue states or even terrorist groups.” Secretary of State Warren Christopher repeatedly referred to Iran and Iraq as rogue regimes in a Georgetown University address later that year. Clinton himself described Iran and Libya as “rogue states” during a 1994 Brussels sojourn. Both William Perry, who succeeded Aspin, and William Cohen, who succeeded Perry, spoke about rogues’ imperviousness to traditional deterrence.

Anthony Lake, Clinton’s national security adviser, sought to tie all these themes together in “Confronting Backlash States,” an article in the March/April 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs. Examining five rogue regimes—Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya—he found what they had in common was “aggressive and defiant” behavior, a resistance to globalization, domination “by cliques that control power through coercion” and “suppress basic human rights and promote radical ideologies,” and, most importantly, “a chronic inability to engage constructively with the outside world.” Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s second-term secretary of state, elaborated: “Dealing with the rogue states is one of the great challenges of our time . . . because they are there with the sole purpose of destroying the system.”

Russia may have been too weakened to go rogue in the 1990s, but with the economy rescued by a quintupling of oil prices and a leader in the Kremlin steeped in Soviet statecraft (which was itself quite obstinate), Russia today arguably fits this bill.

Whether in Moscow, Tehran, Damascus, or Pyongyang, rogues view the outstretched hand of American presidents with disdain. That is not to say they are unwilling to talk, but American administrations, especially Obama’s, consistently confuse dialogue with sincerity. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani bragged in 2005 that the key to Iranian success against the United States was to lull Americans into complacency and then do the unexpected. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, an aide to former President Mohammad Khatami, also bragged about such deception. “We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building,” he explained, “and a covert policy, which was continuation of the [nuclear] activities.” Nor are the Iranians the only ones who practice this strategy. The Taliban, likewise, were willing to sit down with American officials on more than thirty occasions between 1995 and 2000, promising repeatedly both to close terror training camps and detain Osama bin Laden.

Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union was also perfectly willing to engage. It understood and sought to take advantage of the fact that American policymakers saw agreements as sacrosanct. While Western diplomats might understand agreements as symbols of conflict resolution, rogues just as easily see deals as a tactic of asymmetric warfare, tying opponents’ hands or encouraging them to let down their guard while maximizing the strength of their own position. Indeed, that was exactly the finding of the CIA’s Team B analysts examining Soviet negotiating behavior in a report released in the last days of the Ford administration.

While revisionists have since questioned Team B’s findings, the broader Soviet track record exemplified consistent deceit. (It was in this culture of strategic Soviet deception and zero-sum struggles for dominance that Putin, then a young KGB recruit, learned statecraft.) The greater the enthusiasm for dialogue with Moscow, the greater the Russian temptation to cheat. Donald Rumsfeld recalls how, after Ford lost his bid for reelection, he was briefing Jimmy Carter and his national security team. Carter excitedly said that he had an “unprecedented” communication from the Soviet Union expressing interest in new arms-control talks. The subsequent Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT-II) were so one-sided in Moscow’s favor that even the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to ratify the deal.

Concerns expressed on the Senate floor at that time, however, went beyond Carter’s bizarre refusal to address European concerns by including Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the deal. Rather, for many senators, the problem was growing evidence of Soviet cheating on its diplomatic commitments. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, reports persisted that the Soviet Union was using chemical and biological weaponry in Laos, Cambodia, and Afghanistan, in violation of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Tribesmen in Laos described colored gas emerging from bombs or rockets that exploded at treetop level. Dutch journalists filmed a Soviet helicopter dropping canisters emitting a yellow cloud on a village outside of Jalalabad, in Afghanistan. The American intelligence community was able to collect tissue samples, blood, and urine from refugees exposed to the “Yellow Rain,” and in February 1982, a special national intelligence estimate concluded that the Soviets were mass-producing and weaponizing a toxin. Many academics and diplomats pushed back on publicity about the new information for fear that President Reagan would abandon talks on new treaties in the face of incontrovertible proof of Soviet deception. Yellow rain was not a biological or chemical weapon, they argued somewhat risibly, but rather a naturally occurring mixture of pollen and bee feces, never mind the fact that it appeared only on battlefields.

Soviet cheating was more a rule than the exception. In early 1980, reports surfaced of an “outbreak of disease” in Sverdlovsk, today’s Yekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains. American intelligence suspected an anthrax outbreak emanating from a suspected biological weapons facility. The Soviets blamed tainted meat. American assessments, however, suggested the disease was spread by inhalation rather than consumption. Witnesses reported a military quarantine, and satellite imagery showed that a building in the suspect complex was abandoned after the incident. Nevertheless, the desire to talk at any price led diplomats, and even some intelligence analysts, to bury evidence of Soviet guilt. In the end, it was the Soviet press who undercut the American denial, exposing the cover-up in 1990. Two years later, President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged that the Soviet Union had maintained an offensive biological weapons program.

Nor was the Biological Weapons Convention the only agreement Soviet officials violated. In 1983, an American spy satellite detected a Soviet radar complex near Krasnoyarsk, in the middle of Siberia. Its configuration suggested a military purpose, and its sheer size underlined the scale of Soviet subterfuge of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Arms Control Association dismissed Krasnoyarsk as insignificant and the Federation of American Scientists suggested that suspicion was unfounded, but Reagan thought otherwise. “No violations of a treaty can be considered to be a minor matter, nor can there be confidence in agreements if a country can pick and choose which provisions of an agreement it will comply with,” he explained. Even those willing to excuse Soviet cheating had difficulty finding a credible non-military purpose for the Krasnoyarsk complex. In 1989, after years of denying accusations, the Soviets finally admitted that the radar violated the ABM Treaty.

Just as Carter pushed ahead with SALT-II despite evidence of Soviet deceit, so Obama’s enthusiasm for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (“New START”) has apparently led his administration to bury reports of Russian cheating. Senators balked, for example, at the nomination of Brian McKeon, a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s staff, to a senior Pentagon post because of suspicion that McKeon had buried reports that Russia had been violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty so as to remove an impediment to the New START ratification. In effect, getting Putin’s signature on a treaty trumped concerns that the Russians were unwilling to abide by what he signed.

American policymakers, under the influence no doubt of fashionable multiculturalism, also seem to forget that different people can think in different ways. While the US often sees diplomacy as a search for compromise, regimes in Russia, Iran, and North Korea tend to see it as a zero-sum game for influence.

Obama sought Russian cooperation in Syria, for example, to resolve a horrendous human rights tragedy, but for Putin, the only question was how to achieve an outcome that diminished American influence. After forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently used chemical weapons to kill fourteen hundred civilians in a suburb of Damascus, Putin brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to forfeit his chemical weapons, not as a humanitarian gesture, but as a way of derailing American military action that might have benefited anti-Assad forces. Months later, Assad’s compliance with the Russia-brokered agreement petered out. Reports and video of a new chemical weapons strike in Kfar Zita, near Hama, on April 11, 2014, underscore Putin’s diplomatic cynicism.

It is ironic that while Americans take pride in their supposed multiculturalism, rogues often use American naïveté against broader US interests. North Koreans have mastered the art of bluster in pursuit of American conciliation, while the Iranian government often demands apologies not to bury the past, but to set the stage for reparation. Putin has consistently feigned grievance to extract concession. Claiming that Russia was being unfairly targeted, he convinced Obama to renege on a commitment to base an anti-ballistic missile project in the Czech Republic and Poland; at the same time, as subsequent revelations showed, he was simultaneously cheating on his INF obligations and upgrading his own military forces. Blinded by his own mantra that the Cold War is over, Obama chided Mitt Romney, his 2012 Republican challenger, for identifying Russia as a strategic threat, largely because it contradicted his naive tendency to take Putin’s assurances of non-competition at face value, even as the former KGB operative was planning Russia’s resurgence.

Rogues also exploit the US tendency, as Jeane Kirkpatrick famously said, to blame America first. Many American diplomats and analysts suggest that Putin was pushed into “defensive aggression” in Georgia and Ukraine by encouragement of those countries’ efforts to tie themselves to Europe, and by NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe and the Baltics. Their subtext might be called Reconciliation Lost. Putin happily encourages such diplomatic illusions because they obscure his realpolitik. Russia’s invasion and annexation of first Georgia and then the Crimea were not spontaneous acts in reaction to Georgian assertiveness or Ukraine’s fatal attraction for association with the West. Russian special forces, known as Spetsnaz, executed a carefully planned seizure of airports, ports, and key buildings. They could be there for months, if not years. This represents an active strategy, not an outburst of aggrieved amour-propre.

Too often, American officials and diplomats give greater credence to what they hear at the bargaining table than to what adversaries say to their own people. Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat was particularly good at talking out of both sides of his mouth, speaking peace with Bill Clinton, but preaching violence in Arabic to his constituents. The Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has promised “heroic flexibility” in nuclear negotiations to an external audience, only to explain to his constituents the following day that this meant a change in tactics, not policy. Russian officials might talk cooperation and diplomacy abroad, but at home they celebrate domination.

Putin is a modern-day Machiavelli, unapologetic about saying and doing whatever is necessary to regain the glory and respect he believes the Soviet Union enjoyed. With his tireless efforts to engage and pour emollients on fundamental disagreements, Obama has acted as a modern-day Chamberlain. Simply declaring the Cold War over does not make it so unless both parties seek a new beginning. Obama sincerely wants peace, but so long as Putin seeks the restoration of an imperial Russian past, peace will never occur. Hitting the reset button should not mean allowing an opponent to use diplomacy to wage war by other means.

Michael Rubin is the author of the new book Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes.

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/why-%E2%80%98reset%E2%80%99-failed-diplomacy-rogues-rarely-works