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The Geographical Lynchpin: Great Power Jockeying in the Caspian

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Zbigniew Brzezinkski defined “Eurasia” as one of the most important geopolitical concepts. He observed, “Ever since the continents started interacting politically, some five hundred years ago, Eurasia has been the center of world power. A power that dominates “Eurasia” would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions.

A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over “Eurasia” would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in “Eurasia”, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. “Eurasia” accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.”               

In the Western sense, when political scientists talk about “Eurasia”, they generally mean Russia. Russia has been marginalized at the edge of a Western-dominated political and economic system and in recent years has begun to stress a geopolitics that puts Russia at the center of a number of axes: European-Asian, Christian-Muslim-Buddhist, Mediterranean-Indian, Slavic-Turkic, and so on. A strategy towards Eurasia is paramount in deterring any Russian aggression in Eurasia. Russia is one of three states running interference against American objectives in Eurasia, the other two being Iran and China. Russia poses the biggest threat against American objectives in the region due mainly to a supposed historical security imperative to control the Eurasian landmass. However, this explanation doesn’t fully fit the evidence. Russia does not act the way it does based on centuries-old habits. Instead the strategy lies in the much newer habit of senior Russian policymakers who belonged to the all-Union elite before 1991 and have the tendency to see the post-Soviet Eurasian states as though they were still Soviet Socialist Republics, that is, still largely geopolitically beholden to the power of Russia.

Probably the biggest and often most overlooked region in Eurasia is the Caspian Sea. If the U.S is to have a grand strategy to deal with Russia and an emboldened Iran, policymakers in Washington cannot ignore the Caspian region for the sake of convenience. The Caspian Sea is important for many reasons and beyond a doubt Russia and Iran are the two biggest actors in the region. Furthermore, China has invested heavily in a number of infrastructure projects in Central Asia and Moscow is keeping a close eye on Beijing’s motives in the region and views Beijing as a potential competitor for influence in the region in the same way Russia sees Iran. They are Russian partners, but partners with a tinge of rivalry and tension.

The United States has four primary goals in the Caspian region: assisting the Caspian in becoming a stable and secure transit and production zone for energy resources; checking Russian and Iranian meddling in the region so the countries in the region are stable, sovereign, and self-governing; keeping radical Islam out; and resolving the frozen conflicts in the region because Moscow exerts most of its influence through these conflicts. However, even with these interests, U.S. engagement in the region remains minimal. Due to the proximity of the Caspian Sea, out of the five Caspian littoral states of Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, it is easy to see how the regional powers of Iran and Russia are able to exert significant influence in the region. Even Turkey, who is not a Caspian littoral country, is able to exert significant influence. What are China’s motives in the region and how do they compare to those of Iran and Russia?

China is always looking for new economic and energy opportunities and that is the main motivation behind its presence in the region. However, as the country becomes increasingly embedded in the Caspian region, the U.S. can expect Beijing to exert considerable influence in the future. Beijing is investing billions of dollars in projects, not only to upgrade and modernize rail networks, pipelines, and roads, but also to encourage cultural exchanges-all with the goal of maximizing Chinese influence in the region. Iran, Russia, and China, in their quest for dominance in the region, are increasingly marginalizing Western influence.

For the most part the actions of these three “quasi-adversarial” states are individualistic. The goals of Moscow in the Caspian today and for the foreseeable future are the following: marginalize Western influence in the region; integrate the countries in the region into Russian-backed organizations; discourage outside investment in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan that could facilitate the flow of oil and gas to Western markets by bypassing Russia; increase economic activity with the other Caspian states; and maintain regional hegemony over Iran. Iran is less active here than it is elsewhere in the Middle East but Tehran is not idle in terms of activity in the Caspian region. Tehran’s policy toward the region relies on three things: more financial resources; less dependency on Russia; and more confidence on the international stage. Now that Iran and the U.S. have reached a compromise on a nuclear deal in Vienna, Iran will have the resources to increase its influence in the Caspian region. Also this will mean less dependency on Russia for support, undermining Russia’s interest in the region.

Without a doubt, Russia has a more visible presence in the Caspian region. Russia has the strongest navy and military activity in Caspian waters tends to reflect its strength. Russia participates in virtually every military drill and operation there and much of the equipment used is made by Moscow. The strategic importance and hydrocarbon interest of the Caspian Sea brings all nations involved into semi-tense conflict with each other. As the interest of the countries involved diverge, so too do their naval strategies. Caspian Sea states can and will lead to imminent conflict but the states will also always try to maintain stability as best they can because they understand that instability could invite external intervention-something none of them want. Luke Coffey, an expert from the Heritage Foundation, offers a list of steps that America can take to safeguard its political, economic and security interests in the region. He states the U.S. should:

  • Show a more visible presence in the region
  • Support a peaceful and speedy resolution of Caspian Sea ownership
  • Strike a balance between promoting human rights and safeguarding other U.S. strategic interests
  • Offer political support for the construction of the TAPI
  • Offer political support for the construction of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline and the Southern Gas Corridor project
  • Encourage Caspian countries to diversify their economies
  • Encourage countries in the region to stay away from Russian-dominated organizations
  • Promote economic freedom in the region
  • Engage more with Azerbaijan
  • Help regional countries to improve their security and defense capabilities
  • Counter the rise of Islamist extremist in the region
  • Monitor the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia’s close ties with Russia
  • Discourage Europe from becoming dependent on Iranian oil and gas
  • Provide military and security assistance to all deserving allies in the region

As implied, Russia and Iran have the most influence in the region. Beijing, in its quest for economic and energy opportunities in the region, will soon have considerable influence in the region given its growing status in the world. Russia and Iran have different priorities but both share the same goal of reducing the influence of the West. The Caspian region has been, is, and will continue to be an area of geopolitical importance and competition. If the U.S. is to have a grand strategy to deal with a resurgent Russia and an emboldened Iran and to improve Europe’s energy security, policymakers in Washington must recognize that the geographical lynchpin of this future hinges in the Caspian.

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Transnational Crimes in the Maritime Realm

Zaeem Hassan Mehmood

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Maritime trafficking routes closely follow the commercial shipping lanes. The modalities, technologies and strategies put into place by criminals are often times more sophisticated in caliber than those used in regulated trade. The vast expanses of the sea, the complexity of the maritime transportation system, the immense volume of cargo transferred at each port, and the limited capacity for inspections of cargo creates opportunity for criminals. Seaborne trade in the maritime realm follows a defined set of “sea lines of communication” based on currents and weather. Because of the robustness of shipping and mass amounts of cargo moved, traffickers utilize the same shipping industry routes with great effect. Shipping and sea lanes tend to offer anonymity for criminals, whereas their activities can be hidden behind legitimate industries. Criminal activity, especially illicit trade in narcotics, humans, and weapons, has become so extensive that it is difficult according to various studies to rule out implications of states and corporations in the criminal enterprise.

Individuals from various nationalities, followed by multiple vessels flagged to different states, adds the UN Drug Trade Report 2019, are used in the networks which transit the waters of various states and call at different ports before reaching their final destination. Despite the abundance of laws designed to combat illicit trafficking and an apparent impetus to stop specific types of crime, government’s remains only marginally successful in preventing the global flow of illegal goods due to the overwhelming volume and complexity of the markets for illicit trade. Working in tandem, the maritime forces nevertheless have made successful efforts to disrupt the illicit supply chains as a result of sea-based security operations; cooperation and collaboration between law enforcement organizations.

Nevertheless, legal complexity arises as the high seas “fall outside the jurisdiction of any single state” under the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The ocean space is to be collectively policed by all states governed by principles of Freedom of navigation. Piracy and the illicit trafficking of narcotics, humans, and weapons comprise the main varieties of transnational crime. UNCLOS addresses these matter of concern in the realm of the sea, where various articles provide guidance in order to curb or limit the threats. Article 110 expounds the customary rule that warships may “approach and visit” on the high seas “any ship that is suspected of piracy, human trafficking, unauthorized broadcasting; and is without nationality”; or, “is flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag.” Article 111 addresses the right of “hot pursuit”, allowing warships of one state to follow a vessel through the different maritime zones of the ship if based on “reasonable grounds,” it is suspected of illegal activity.

Narcotics Trafficking

UNCLOS under Article 108 empowers states to cooperate and offer assistance to suppress drug trafficking by other state-flagged vessels. Traditionally, drug traffickers used overland routes, but since last two decades, they have shifted transportation into the “Indo-Pacific Ocean”. The majority of this trafficking has proliferated in the littoral regions, and often within territorial waters. In the latter years, advancement in technologies, providing for larger ships have allowed traffickers to move further into the sea to capitalize “blue water” areas, outside the 12-nautical mile mark and at times further than the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of any country. It is a documented fact that U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs, also according to various studies the source and transit zones of drug trafficking between South America and the U.S despite high patrols on the border.

Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea

Piracy has been one of the most ancient forms of maritime crime that is treated rigorously under the provisions of UNCLOS. Article 101 defines piracy as “any illegal act of violence or detention, any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or private aircraft on the high seas against another ship or aircraft, outside the jurisdiction of any state.” The latter parts highlights an important aspect that piracy is a type of transnational crime conducted by non-state actors in international waters. Article 105 of UNCLOS grants everystate the authority to seize any vessel, associated property and to arrest any persons engaged in piracy. Domestic courts of the state conducting the seizure have the mandate prosecute the pirates under domestic law and determine what to do with the vessels; however, to date the courts remain inadequate or unsupported in many places.

Piracy became a security issue of international concern since the last decade and half, primarily in the Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea largely due to weak patrolling and sea blindness by the littoral states of the region. However, to an extent order at sea has been maintained with the presence Combined Task Force-151(CTF-151), focused on counter-piracy, and Combined Task Force-150 (CTF-150) to combat illicit activities at sea. Supported by several U.N. Security Council Resolutions, these task forces have “engaged with regional partners to build capacity and improve capabilities to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation.” 

Piracy in the Asia-Pacific remains a matter of concern, however most of the incidents are underreported and those reported are of such small scale that they cloud the assessment of major piracy events. In the region, although piracy has been contained in the eastern region of Africa whereas it has proliferated in the western Africa around the Gulf of Guinea. This subject-matter experts conclude is a result of an increased trafficking in narcotics from Latin America, along with the various other illicit elements involving illegal fishing and human trafficking. The increased in piracy is a reminder for states that piracy remains a persistent and widespread challenge to maritime security. The recent activities in Somalia and Yemen foreshadow a resurgence of piracy in the region, encouraged by trafficking of light weapons and small arms, along with non-state actor’s unprecedented access to ship monitoring, tracking devices, and use of unmanned systems and long range communications.

Conclusion

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) identifies only certain types of transnational crime that affect maritime security, but there are many varieties and combinations of criminal activity that affect security and safety from the high seas to internal waters. Domestic laws however need be brought in line with international law, and cooperative partnerships between the states, law enforcement, and militaries to combat illicit activity needs to transcend the morass of politics that are often a hurdle in the way of more comprehensive legal regimes. It is recommended that information and intelligence sharing, along with TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) need to be employed by the maritime forces to ensure freedom of the seas. UNCLOS provides a strong framework and multilateral efforts to deter criminal activity at sea for a more secure, safer operating environment for all. However, it is the difficulty in effective prosecution and applying of an equitable punishment to the culprits, involved in piracy, human trafficking and illicit drugs that must serve as a reminder to all states that much awaits for an all-inclusive solution.

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Fighting Corporate Espionage by a Counterintelligence Agent

Bob Budahl

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Corporate executives must bear the responsibility of today’s evolving corporate world entering into a global community where not only are the exposures to such a wide market area lucrative to an already thriving business, but also to a grave danger of the companies’ trade and technology secrets, systems, financial accounts and much more. No longer is “Security” to the facility and personnel all that is required. Many foreign countries and interests take short cuts to becoming competitive through the theft of trade secrets, products and overt and covert espionage of all sorts. Some of these entities are now facing a growing challenge from United States corporations with safeguarding of commercial information, proprietary information, and economic factors.

Many of the tactics utilized in private sector counterintelligence have much in common with the secrets and information the government does its best to safeguard from theft of foreign governments or non-traditional actor threats. The FBI estimates U.S. Corporations lose over $100 billion annually. There are open and legal methods of collection open that are harmful and a good counterintelligence program should target this as well as illegal activities such as electronic eavesdropping, hacking, etc. Passive counterintelligence tries to curtail what a collector may do through countermeasures, and awareness training. Active counterintelligence will prove beneficial to identify and detect a threat, and will conduct operations including eliminating threats or ongoing targeting. A mitigation policy should be of avail. After an attack it may raise shareholder concern which needs to be quelled quickly. Quick realization of a threat and implementing action promptly and efficiently can stop immeasurable damage.

The leaders in the private sector need to be proactive and realize that it is no longer only local threats they face. The threats can be global and may not only be an economic threat but also a threat to national security. In the U.S. private sector ties to the Defense, Intelligence and other government entities can be vast with a great deal of interplay and interconnectedness. Also, corporations do not employ many of the safeguards put in place by the defense and other government departments. Compartmentation, clearance, and many operations taken for granted in the government aren’t serving the corporate structures well-being at all or as well as it should be. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996, Title 18, Sections 1831 and 1832 of the U.S. Code covers economic espionage and also if they are considered trade theft prosecutions.

Where once economic espionage meant directly infiltrating a company or recruiting an employee within the corporation our biggest challenge today is cyber espionage. In reality secrets and information are stolen often and not even known they were taken. And a much less chance of apprehension. Cybercrimes operate in a stealth mode in many ways, but in a contrast way can be identified and detected and countered with effective counterintelligence methods. The U.S. economy has changed over the past 20 years. “Intellectual capital rather than physical assets now represent the bulk of a U.S. corporation’s value.”

With the growth of cybercrimes including corporate espionage some tips for safeguarding and thwarting foreign hostile intrusions include

Conduct real-time monitoring of networks and retaining access records

Software tools for content mgt., data loss prevention, network forensics

Encrypt data on servers

Utilize multi-factor authentication measures such as biometrics, PINS, passwords

Mobility policy in which measures are developed to oversee which connections can and cannot be made to corporate systems

Limits on social networking

Establish contingency plans

Many others

When deciding to emplace a counterintelligence program to safeguard a corporation the first stepis to conduct a risk assessment by assessing vulnerabilities and estimating the consequences of losing critical assets. This should be headed up by a board member or senior executive.

Then move to step two in which groundwork is laid for establishing a corporate counterintelligence program. Hire a manager dedicated to counterintelligence. Hook up the company’s security, intelligence assurance, general counsel and HR departments. Develop liaison with government law and intelligence. Ensure centralized management of the counterintelligence program. And have legal counsel provide guidance on the counterintelligence program actions.

Identify the Capabilities needed

Threat awareness and training

Analysis, Reporting and Response

Suspicious activity reporting

Counterintelligence Audit

Counterintelligence Investigations.

Liaison

Implement the Counterintelligence Program

A basic counterintelligence program description will look something like this: PM (Program Manager) interplay such as:

PM develops and implements CI program

PM oversees a centralized CI Program office

PM maintains insight into all corporate elements

PM is responsible for liaison with US Government

Security officers responsible for tactical CI

PM provides CI guidance through training programs

Also be aware that not only high tech companies are targeted since the targeted information they seek may be deemed important by who is doing the shopping.

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Where does allegiance lie?

Bob Budahl

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Dongfan “Greg” Chung who is a native of China and a naturalized U.S. Citizen had “secret” security clearance while working with Rockwell and Boeing Corporations on the Space Shuttle project. He had retired in 2002 but returned a year later as a contractor until fall 2006. The government proved Chung committed espionage by taking and concealing Boeing secrets regarding the Delta IV rocket and also the Space Shuttle. He did this for the People’s Republic of China. He was convicted on charges of acting as an agent of the PRC as well as economic espionage.

The investigation of a different engineer working within the U.S is what led to Chung’s investigation and resulting conviction. He was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.

The Chinese had sent letters requesting information as far back as 1979. In correspondence with the PRC Chung expressed his wishes to help the PRC modernize. He also sent 24 manuals related to the important B-1 Bomberfrom Rockwell Corporation which was very damaging.

Travel trips to the People’s Republic of China occurred on multiple occasions to lecture but he also met with government officials. In letters from his handlers they use his wife Rebecca and Chi Mak to transmit information. In the fall of 2006 FBI and NASA agents searched his home and discovered more than 250,000 documents from Boeing, Rockwell and others which were secret.

The Shuttle Drawing System or “SDS” that Rockwell and Boeing engineers created held information regarding performing processes regarding the Space Shuttle. The engineers need a password and authorization to be able to access this system and files. This is a clear case that defensive counterintelligence measures could have prevented printing, concealment and removal of documents from the workplace. One great example of offensive counterespionage was the search of Chung’s trash which led to much revealing evidence.Also his extensive travel to the PRC was an indicator that his scope of activities while in the PRC were above speaking engagements, seminars, teaching, personal. The authorities did conduct offensive counterintelligence to the best of their abilities once it learned via the other agent implicated in similar dealings with the PRC.

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