U.S. and Russia: Cooperation and Confrontation

Moscow and Washington work together on Sochi threats while battling fiercely over Ukraine.

Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick of the United States Olympic team carries his country’s flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
National Journal
Michael Hirsh
Feb. 7, 2014, 10:21 a.m.

In an odd jux­ta­pos­i­tion of events high­light­ing the com­plex re­la­tion­ship between Wash­ing­ton and Mo­scow, U.S. and Rus­si­an of­fi­cials this week found them­selves pledging in­tel­li­gence co­oper­a­tion on the Olympics in So­chi while ac­cus­ing each oth­er of skulldug­gery in Cold War-style lan­guage over the polit­ic­al tur­moil in Ukraine.

The al­leged hi­jack­ing of a Ukrain­i­an air­liner overnight by a pas­sen­ger who re­portedly wanted to fly to So­chi, fol­low­ing soon after an angry ex­change between the two cap­it­als over demon­stra­tions in Ukraine, only made the mix of con­front­a­tion and co­oper­a­tion more con­fus­ing.  

Earli­er in the week, two seni­or U.S. spokespeople ac­cused Rus­sia of double-deal­ing after a Rus­si­an of­fi­cial tweeted about an em­bar­rass­ing au­dio re­cord­ing of voices that closely re­sembled those of U.S. As­sist­ant Sec­ret­ary of State Vic­tor­ia Nu­land and U.S. Am­bas­sad­or to Ukraine Geof­frey Py­att. The two ap­peared to be dis­cuss­ing their deep in­volve­ment in do­mest­ic Ukrain­i­an polit­ics. At one point the voice that sounds like Nu­land’s re­marks, “Fuck the EU,” re­fer­ring to the European Uni­on, which U.S. of­fi­cials be­lieve has been tim­id in its re­sponse to pro-West­ern demon­stra­tions in Kiev.

Both White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney and State De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Jen Psaki de­nounced Mo­scow for pub­li­ciz­ing the au­dio, which was pos­ted to You­Tube. “I would say that since the video was first noted and tweeted out by the Rus­si­an gov­ern­ment, I think it says something about Rus­sia’s role,” Car­ney said, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. In her press brief­ing, Psaki called the in­cid­ent “a new low in Rus­si­an trade­craft in terms of pub­li­ciz­ing and post­ing this.”

Rus­si­an of­fi­cials denied any in­volve­ment, but among the first to tweet the au­dio re­cord­ing was an aide to Rus­si­an Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Ro­goz­in named Dmitry Loskutov, who mes­saged: “Sort of con­tro­ver­sial judg­ment from As­sist­ant Sec­ret­ary of State Vic­tor­ia Nu­land speak­ing about the EU.”

Mean­while, however, oth­er U.S. of­fi­cials were say­ing that the United States and Rus­sia were work­ing fairly well to­geth­er on So­chi-re­lated threat traffic. In con­gres­sion­al testi­mony this week, Mat­thew Olsen, the dir­ect­or of the Na­tion­al Coun­terter­ror­ism Cen­ter, said, “We are shar­ing in­form­a­tion with the Rus­si­ans. They are shar­ing in­form­a­tion with us. There’s al­ways more we could do in that re­gard, but as of right now, I would char­ac­ter­ize that level of shar­ing as good.”

A seni­or U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial told Na­tion­al Journ­al on Fri­day af­ter­noon that it was not yet clear wheth­er the pas­sen­ger who al­legedly tried to hi­jack the plane to So­chi was part of a ter­ror­ist plot or simply dis­turbed. “We’re still flesh­ing out the de­tails,” he said, cit­ing sev­er­al re­ports that the pas­sen­ger might have been drunk.

Ac­cord­ing to news re­ports, a Pe­gas­us Air­lines plane landed at an Istan­bul air­port overnight after a pas­sen­ger “said that there was a bomb on board” and in­sisted that the plane go to So­chi, where the Olympic Games are just get­ting star­ted. Ac­cord­ing to an ac­count by Turk­ish Trans­port­a­tion Min­istry of­fi­cial Habip Soluk on CNN­Turk, “While the plane was in the air, one of the pas­sen­gers said that there was a bomb on board and asked the plane to not land in Sabiha Gok­cen (in Tur­key) but rather to land in So­chi.”

Des­pite warn­ings of a “tooth­paste bomb” and a de­cision by the Trans­port­a­tion Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion to ban li­quids, gels, and aer­o­sol from carry-on lug­gage brought to So­chi, an of­fi­cial with the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cur­ity de­clined to be spe­cif­ic about the kinds of threats that were com­ing in. “As al­ways our se­cur­ity pos­ture, which at all times in­cludes a num­ber of meas­ures both seen and un­seen, will con­tin­ue to re­spond and ap­pro­pri­ately ad­apt to pro­tect the Amer­ic­an people from an ever evolving threat pic­ture,” she said.

The United States and Rus­sia have been vy­ing for in­flu­ence in­side Ukraine for years, but the is­sue es­cal­ated in re­cent weeks as Ukrain­i­an Pres­id­ent Vikt­or Ya­nukovich, an ally of Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin, cracked down on pro-West­ern demon­strat­ors. Putin has offered Ya­nukovich $15 bil­lion in cred­its and a price break on Rus­si­an gas sup­plies in ex­change for Ukrain­i­an fealty to Mo­scow rather than the EU, and Nu­land has been in­volved in try­ing to help or­gan­ize the Ukrain­i­an op­pos­i­tion.

What We're Following See More »
“PROFOUNDLY DANGEROUS”
Clinton Rips Into Trump
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Just a day after Donald Trump called her a bigot, Hillary Clinton delivered a scathing speech tying Trump to the KKK and so-called “alt-right.” This new frontier of debate between the two candidates has emerged at a time when Trump has been seeking to appeal to minority voters, among whom he has struggled to garner support. Calling him “profoundly dangerous,” Clinton didn’t hold back on her criticisms of Trump. “He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party,” Clinton said.

PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
14 hours ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
×