An Update on Trump-Russia Ties

Between travelling and being ill, I apologise for a lack of posting the last week or two. But as promised, we are back with a small update to the Trump–Russia ties. It turns out that shortly before the Syria air strikes, news broke that Jared Kushner omitted dozens of contacts with foreigners on his security clearance form. One, of course, is Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. But the other was Sergey Gorkov, who runs Vnesheonombank, which is a bank owned by the Russian government, which is obviously headed by Vladimir Putin. Both Gorkov and Putin share a second tie as they were both trained by the KGB/FSB.

The new link is the connection between Kushner and Gorkov
The new link is the connection between Kushner and Gorkov

There is also news out of the UK today, via the Guardian, that British and other European intelligence agencies began, in summer 2015, to note contacts between Russian agents and persons of interest and people within the Trump campaign. And these European agencies were the ones that alerted American agencies, because American agencies are not allowed to collect intelligence on American citizens. More smoke and people who saw it earlier than we previously knew.

Credit for the new info comes from Politico.

The Nunes Connection

I am in Chicago today, visiting friends and former coworkers. Generally taking a break from my team’s recent fantastic work at my new gig. But don’t think that I wouldn’t leave you without some sort of light-hearted Friday content.

My Tuesday post was about Monday’s news about another connection between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Today’s post is a screen capture from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert from last week. Do you recall the weird story about Devin Nunes, Republican Chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and, don’t forget a member of the Trump transition team, receiving news from the White House about the White House to tell to the President (of the White House) before telling members of his own committee? Yeah, it was weird.

Colbert put together a great little monologue segment about the entire thing. And that’s what I’m going to share with you today. You should watch the entire thing, but I’ve keyed you into the referenced segment.

This does link to a video with sound. You're warned.
This does link to a video with sound. You’re warned.

I suspect this won’t be the last time over the next four years we take a look at what the Figure-It-Out-a-Tron is telling us…

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Prince, Prince, Goose?

Well, this wasn’t what I was expecting to post today. But that’s okay, because it’s big news all the same and allows me to get my hands dirty. Yesterday the Washington Post broke news that the United Arab Emirates, specifically Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the UAE’s national security advisor, arranged a meeting between an official reportedly close to Vladimir Putin and Eric Prince.

Who is Eric Prince? Besty DeVos’ brother for starters. But more importantly for the story, a major donor and supporter for and of the Trump campaign. He also has ties to Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist for the President. Most importantly, the article alleges, potentially damningly, that Zayed would not have arranged the meeting without “the nod” from both Trump and Putin.

What was discussed? Allegedly the strategic aim of separating Russia from Iran. Yeah, that’s probably a good thing. But given things like the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, the Bushehr nuclear generating station, and the ongoing support of the Iran-Assad-Hezbollah faction in Syria, it is highly unlikely that Putin would be very willing to suddenly drop his support for Iran.

Why is this on my blog today? Well, I have been increasingly curious about all the stories about how various people and organisations are linking Trump and Putin. To be fair, a link is not inherently, necessarily nefarious let alone illegal. But, given the intelligence collected that Russia was attempting to influence the election in Trump’s favour, and given his electoral college win, and given the known connections, it is important that we look at the breadth and depth of the unknown connections.

Prince, Prince, Goose? Because a sheikh is kind of like a prince.
Prince, Prince, Goose? Because a sheikh is kind of like a prince.

And that is what this graphic will be. For now it will be a static graphic that I update whenever news breaks—and when I have time to go cite previous news articles—about unveiled connections. Ideally in the future I can turn this into a more dynamic and interactive piece.

Credit for the news goes to the Washington Post. Graphic is mine.

The Russians Are Coming

I mean, they’re already here…we will return to that shortly.

I hope you enjoyed your three-day weekend, but this is a busy week, folks. Most importantly we have Thursday’s by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent, those are in the UK for my American audience, where we will see just how crazy British politics gets post-Brexit referendum.

But today is Tuesday, and in a slight departure from the normal, as a new subscriber to the failing New York Times, I was pleasantly surprised to see this cover waiting for me Sunday.

In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…
In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…

Quite a nice use of the Russian constructivist language going on. I’m not accustomed to seeing newspaper copy set on an angle.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

The T-14 Armata

Or the post’s sub-title could be something like, Boys with Toys, because I have long enjoyed diagrams of military hardware, like these examples. Today’s post is about Russia’s new main battle tank, the first new design since the 1970s: the T-14 Armata. It premiered in last year’s parade and is expected to enter service soon. This BBC article from last year’s parade shows the various new models expected to enter the Russian Army.

Russia's new toy
Russia’s new toy

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

S-300 Surface-to-Air Missiles for Iran

Russia has agreed to complete its years-old sale of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. What does this mean? Well, it does not make Iran’s airspace invulnerable, but it will be a significant upgrade with the potential to deter Israel from launching an air raid against Iranian nuclear sites. In a nice, illustrated piece the Washington Post explains what the S-300 system is.

S-300 SAM system
S-300 SAM system

Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.

Ukraine Retreats from Debaltseve

This is a short piece—it is only really an inline map—but it illustrates fairly well why Ukraine’s loss of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine last week is kind of a big deal. Basically, the now mostly abandoned city is a transport hub linking the two quasi capitals of the Novorossiya.

Rebel-controlled area

Credit for the piece goes to Gene Thorp.

Population Displacement in Ukraine

Ukraine continues to suffer the effects of a Russian invasion. Though we won’t call it that. This piece from Radio Free Europe looks at the displaced persons in the country. Unfortunately, it is not quite the best example of what to do.

Displacement in Ukraine
Displacement in Ukraine

The line chart looks at the cumulative number of displaced persons. But, a monthly growth or absolute number for that month would tell a different story. See below. Hint, it slowed down, and then got pretty bad again.

Monthly population change
Monthly population change

I am also not a fan of labelling every data point on the map. Maybe call out a few interesting ones, the outliers perhaps. But do we need to know to the person how many people are in Ternopil. Probably not.

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics department of Radio Free Europe.

The Swedish Submarine Hunt

Today you are going to get two posts. The first is this, which is a break from the week’s theme. But news stories happen. The second will be back to regular programming at the regular time. Basically, the Swedish government is reporting that a foreign submarine is operating within its waters and the available evidence points to Russia. I have seen some ridiculous claims that one of Russia’s largest submarines is in trouble there. But I highly doubt that. And here is why.

A look at Sweden's submarine hunt
A look at Sweden’s submarine hunt