Friday, December 30, 2016

Putin’s SS – The Kremlin’s Bodyguards



In early 2016 the Kremlin officially announced the consolidation of several security agencies to create one National Guard consisting of an estimated 350,000-400,000 personnel. It’s one powerful and well-armed security agency, a de facto personal army, an executive military protection force, under Putin’s direct command. Historically such exclusive protective services are de rigueur for any autocrat.

Interestingly, the creation of such an ominous force goes against the official government that Putin’s popularity rating is about 80%. If that’s the case, what does he have to fear especially after his triumphant walk-over victory in Crimea and successful “shock & awe” aerial military campaign in Syria to save an embattled allied in Assad all while suffering minimal casualties.

Obviously Putin is preparing himself against internal threats. Despite the recent recovery in oil prices and rise in the ruble, the two- year recession has hurt the Russian citizenry whose economic pain is not shared by the outsized and continued corruption of favored businessmen and officials.

One of Putins’ fears is that the upcoming fall legislative elections may not fully support Putin and his party which may forecast a less than guaranteed presidential electoral victory for Putin’s second term bid in 2018. In other words Putin is pre-positioning himself in case the people, his enemies and even his political allies turn against him. Furthermore a deteriorating economic situation could force the hand of the armed services that may be reluctant to engage in a bloodbath with a well-armed and loyal contingent. Such militarized protection services are always geographically stationed close to the capital insuring maximum force and reducing disloyal influence by rogue officers.

Additionally Putin may feel that hiss overall influence may be waning and he’s surrounding himself with a leadership of loyal true political believers who he trusts implicitly to carry out his orders because he realizes that even economic incentives to buy loyalty can’t be counted on during a severe crisis. Even his billionaire oligarchs may be willing to forgo their riches for political change. 

This show of reorganizing security services that will be led by loyalists is the hardware to support his public relations’ machinery software, a chapter blatantly ripped from a 21st century autocrat’s playbook utilizing military methods legally within a technically democratic country. This is not so different from genuine democracies everywhere that use this same method by loading up the legislative branch with loyalists. The only difference is the method how power can be maintained most successfully– through the barrel of a gun or pen.


Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2016.  All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

We provide executive coaching, speaking engagements, speechwriting and workshops. Contact us at www.indobrazilian.com


Putin’s Teddy Bear Military - A Cardboard Cutout



Who's afraid of the big bad bear?

President Putin has masterfully crafted a program to provoke the West into a hissy-fit about a former military superpower seeking to recapture its past Soviet era glories and domination through military adventures that challenge NATO and American might. During Russia’s recent aggressive thrust close to and beyond the Near Abroad, Russia engaged in battles that were guaranteed public relations victories, not military ones notably: Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria. Each encounter had limited downside risk because Russia’s military faced inferior, if any, opposition. Consider the following:

·         Eastern Ukraine has a large ethnic Russian population and Ukrainian government forces in effect felt like it was fighting on foreign soil. Although Russia denied utilizing its ground troops in this campaign, they still had to be clever to minimize the burials of “little green men.”
·         Crimea was a lightning invasion of an island whose Russian population heartily welcomed them. Ironically it was a Pyrrhic victory because Russia now assumes Crimea’s burdensome economic responsibilities.
·         Syria is exclusively an air campaign (a cost savings on body bags), a reinforcement of long-established military installations and access to a deep-water port at the behest of longtime ally, the Syrian government. As a de facto intensive training exercise Russia has been able to test their new high-tech toys under battle conditions against an opposition that didn’t have advanced weaponry to threaten them.

In each case Russia engaged their military where the West was not legally compelled nor threatened to intervene because neither Ukraine nor Crimea are NATO members and Syria is a Russian ally. Additionally each territory conquered had a sizeable Russian population. In the meantime Russia has continued their incursions over the tiny Baltic States and small nearby NATO countries.

Militarily thin Russia is like a former world-class prize fighter who gets himself back in decent shape though far from his peak fighting years. He then buys some cool-looking boxing trunks, gets a good promotional manager and proceeds to beat up drunken beer-bellied toughs in a local dive bar and avoids battle-hardened fighters. It’s all a clever measured risk that maximizes Russia’s image and minimizes their military’s short-comings. Any significant Russian ground battlefield losses regardless if it’s a skirmish would spell doom for Putin’s strongman political image. The question is whether Putin push his military too far in future ventures.

Russia is a bully in its neighborhood casting a long and dark shadow over smaller nearby countries. To these small countries Russia is a big, hungry bear seeking easy morsels. Though it seems implausible that Putin will risk any military offensive maneuvers in Europe because of potential world condemnation and sanctions, Putin’s thirst to gain respect may supersede better judgment.

On the other hand, election victories by European ultra-conservatives in 2017 in France, Germany and other countries may provide Putin a level of respect he desires and will cease his military threats. Nonetheless Putin is keeping his worst-case options open in case the European ultra-conservative parties fall short in the elections and decide change their pre-electoral rhetoric to engage with Russia with respect and as an equal. Taking the non-NATO small countries “hostage” militarily may provoke, in the eyes of the Russians an aggressive military NATO reaction, a confrontation Putin is guaranteed to lose badly.

So I ask again, “Who’s afraid of the big bad bear?”


Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2016.  All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

We provide executive coaching, speaking engagements, speechwriting and workshops. Contact us at www.indobrazilian.com

Cyber-Storms on the Horizon



There’s an on-going escalation cyber-war between nations, unseen and unheard by the world’s general public who blithely go about their everyday business not realizing their vulnerability to a prolonged breakdown.

One factor rarely mentioned is the ever increasing risk of a “Fail Safe” incident in which a military grade cyber-virus goes ‘rogue’, out of control, escapes its electronic cage and spreads to key infrastructure sectors forcing shutdowns. Back-ups fail under the strain and a major western city or region plunges into the Dark Ages in which power cannot be restored for days even weeks. I’m referring to a cyber-beast of a virus that almost has a mindset of his own – borderline A.I. – obliterating and vaporizing firewalls and their operating systems everywhere as a nasty cyber-pandemic.

We’re dependent and even coddled by modern technology. For this reason even prolonged cut-off such as a lack of access to food, water, money - could lead to civil unrest prompting the dispatch of militarized law enforcement with authorization to apply draconian laws. Worse yet, if the situation is so overwhelming then there will be no help at all. The food, water and sanitation will be compromised. Think of the horrors New Orleans suffered. Now imagine that impacting the entire West or East coast.

Tropical storms or infectious outbreaks can be detected and identified before matters get dire. Like an earthquake, a cyber-collapse strikes without warning. And even if you had one, there’s no safe zone.

Civilization is no longer partners with technology, we’re hostage to it. This relationship is particularly acute in high density cities particularly the mega-cities defined as those urban areas with greater than 10 million inhabitants. Worldwide hundreds of millions of urban citizens are dependent on power to cook their foodstuffs in small apartments that don’t allow a large inventory of food. In fact, whether they have storage room or not, most families only have enough food for 2-3 days. For this reason there are security challenges to deliver supplies to emergency locations. Additionally banks and ATMs will run out of cash in less than 24 hours, and credit cards will be useless. This scenario is the makings of the manifestation of a genuine urban jungle.

Think of the computer Hal 9000 from the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey” (1968) meets “Fail Safe” (1964). Such programs can run amok, take control, disconnect from their scientific and military masters creating confusion, chaos and panic. Programs are so complicated and consequently lethal, security cages become nothing more than a papier-mache holding pen until these programs go feral and run amok. Our practice and policy of making things ultra dependent on these programs is a recipe for disaster regardless how many counter-systems and checks are in place because there’s always an escape hatch someplace, a vulnerability that is dismissed as unlikely to occur. Complete containment is an illusion and it’s inevitable that new technology will wreck unspeakable havoc at some time in the future like all every cutting-edge technology before it.

Because of the quantum leap in technological advances, we can now redefine the Stone Age as the 1980s which means the successful early adapters to a major long-term disruption will be the Boomers while the Millennials frantically readjust to life without the internet.


 Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2016.  All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

We provide executive coaching, speaking engagements, speechwriting and workshops. Contact us at www.indobrazilian.com

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Trump’s China Gambit – Foreign Policy Tactic Forerunner



There’s a tremendous irony in Trump’s infamous phone call to Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen as a diplomatic taboo. Unlike stateside, Trump reached “across party lines” to chat with a democratically elected president vs. the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC). In other words he would rather talk to Taiwan rather than the Democratic Party whom he’s barely on speaking terms.

Politically as president-elect, that fog-like gray political zone, this was a brilliant gambit to gauge China’s reaction. During the Obama administration many complained about the standoffish US overseas policy. Well, be careful what you wish for because Trump is providing what Americans demanded.

As succinctly stated by three-time ambassador including ambassador to China (1991-1995) J. Stapleton Roy as a guest panelist on December 1, 2016 at the U.S.-China Forum at NYU Law School, “China has a highly experienced international corps that is totally unprepared to deal with a highly inexperienced new US government.”

Nations will throw a hissy-fit about his lack of charm and uncouth behavior yet Trump speaks to them how everyone thinks in high-level diplomatic circles and probably in private talks yet they never publicly admit it which follows the protocol, “What happens in the palace stays in the palace”. Instead Trump rips off the mask, the fa├žade.

More frightening to our allies and enemies alike is that if Americans can’t figure out Donald Trump, can you imagine how they feel? With a new administration of political outsiders, everyone everywhere must be wondering, as infamously repeated in the classic movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), “Who are those guys?

It’s like being in a political cloud. When there’s no reference point it’s difficult to move anywhere. And that’s why Putin likes him so much because in many ways they’re kindred socio-political spirits, cut from the same cloth.

Commonalities:
1.    They are blunt speakers, crassness and coarse language
2.    They are more popular with working class in rural areas than among highly educated urbanites.
3.    They both have ultra-rich supporters. Trump has billionaires. Putin has oligarchs.

They speak the same language means it will be easier to come to, if not an agreement, certainly an understanding. Such a relationship may buy time to resolve crises because they personally have much more in common personally and politically than would a Hillary Clinton presidency. This potentially new relationship frightens China because it offsets Russia’s move for closer political and economic ties with China during the Obama administration.

However in the long-run there is no such thing as a genuine brotherhood among rightwing leaders at this level because there’s not enough room for all these egos. These are nothing more than short-term, self-serving agreements. Each strongman admires the other as to how they came to power and how they lead but their indelible mindset is that you’re either for them or against them. They reward loyalty, punish enemies and marginalize non-supporters. They depend more on someone’s word than formal agreements which are open to interpretation anyway.

Yet real politik is considerably different. These are strong men with strong wills and they are loath to be second fiddle which is why compromise without losing face will be more challenging for them during a deep crisis, especially a potentially long-term one. Because they are more prone to push buttons than to push talking points, this could be a tumultuous historical period.




For additional perspectives on Trump's stunning ascendancy including a series of published articles dating back to 2015 projecting his victory well before his GOP nomination, refer to our special website link The Men in the Trump Tower.


Copyright Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC 2016.  All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based global advisory service and think tank with connections at the highest levels specializing in international investment, political and security risk assessments. International business is increasingly complex featuring a highly mobile professional class in all corners of the globe. We provide you the tools to successfully negotiate cross-culturally in your global business endeavors. Tell us about your challenges.  We'll get you on the "Short List".

We provide executive coaching, speaking engagements, speechwriting and workshops. Contact us at www.indobrazilian.com