Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Rise Of 'The Kings Of The East', A Cyber War With N Korea And An Economic War With Russia

Over the last several months, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party have repeatedly exhorted the People's Liberation Army to "be ready to win a war." Xi has repeatedly called for greater military modernization, increased training, and enhanced overall readiness of the Chinese army, navy, and air force.
These repeated calls have alarmed China's neighbors from New Delhi to Washington. The question on everyone's mind: what is all this preparation for?
Is the Chinese leadership preparing for something? Are they gearing up for a military operation, or merely the option to carry one out?

Another possibility is that Xi and the Party are pushing for the Chinese military to adopt readiness levels on par with the Pentagon. The U.S. military, which is frequently deployed around the world, often on short notice, trains to a relatively high standard. Much of a typical deployment, such as operating planes from an aircraft carrier flight deck, is dangerous work that can only be safely accomplished by training to high level of proficiency.

Of course, it's possible that the Chinese government has something more sinister in mind.
The Party may desire the ability to conduct military action overseas as a diversion from domestic issues. In recent years, China has used territorial claims in the East and South China Seas and the Taiwan issue to divert public attention from problems at home, even going so far as to organize protests. Political grievances, environmental pollution, food scandals, government land grabs, lack of affordable healthcare, and, most importantly, government corruption are all issues that have sparked civil unrest.
As the Chinese economy slows down, the Communist Party may be worried that decreased economic activity could lead to more domestic unhappiness. A military expedition that united the country behind the government could be an option they'd consider.

Thanks to its recent territorial spats, China has a wealth of option for adventurism, such as sending naval vessels to the Diaoyu Islands (known as Senkaku Islands to Japan) in the East China Sea, making a demonstration of force near Taiwan, or even picking a fight with smaller countries such as the Philippines. Well-trained armed forces are necessary even in operations short of war; a show of force can quickly become a demonstration of incompetence.
We don't really know what is pushing Xi and company's seemingly bellicose exhortations. Much of the decision-making taking place in the Chinese military is a black box opaque to the outside world. Maybe China is preparing for something. Maybe it isn't. Maybe they're preparing for something and even they don't know what it is.

North Korea’s alleged ability to hack into Sony Pictures Entertainment is extending Kim Jong Un’sreach far beyond the range of his missiles.
While North Korea has kept Western defense officials guessing for years about a nuclear program that it may or may not ever use, the regime’s ability to wage cyber war adds a new dimension to its standing abroad.
“There is this image that North Korea never carries through on its threats,” said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow on Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation in Washington and former deputy division chief for Korea at the Central Intelligence Agency. “But it sometimes does carry through. You can’t always dismiss North Korea threats as simply being words.”

The Kim family is often mocked in European and U.S. media for its style of totalitarian rule and bursts of anti-Western invective. And yet, poking fun at the regime’s eccentricity ignores North Korea’s technological prowess in areas where it chooses to pour resources. South Korea has already accused the North of numerous attacks over the past five years, and now Pyongyang may be showing its global reach.
In June, North Korea promised to "mercilessly destroy’’ anyone associated with “The Interview,” a Sony Pictures action-comedy movie about a plot to assassinate Kim. Six months later, Sony Pictures pulled the movie from release after hackers invaded its computer systems.
“Fears of North Korea’s hacking skills and also its general offensive capabilities have risen,” said Kim Jin Moo, a North Korea researcher at South Korea’s state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul. “The perception that North Korea is a terrible threat has gotten stronger.”
North Korean cyberintimidation is no surprise to South Korea. The country says North Korea has carried out six major cyber attacks on its institutions since 2009, costing the country $780 million. It includes an attack on one of South Korea’s largest banks, Nonghyup, that left about 30 million account holders unable to withdraw money for days in 2011.
North Korea has for decades tried to make up for its deteriorating conventional war-fighting forces by developing nuclear bombs, ballistic missiles and long-range artillery. In recent years, it has added elite hackers to its list of asymmetric weapons as Kim charts a new era under his leadership.

Even though North Korea ranks among the lowest in Internet infrastructure, it operates an elite unit of 3,000 cyber experts in addition to an army of 1.2 million troops and a nuclear arms program, South Korea’s then-Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin said at a conference last year.

North Korea experienced sweeping Internet outages for hours before coming back online late Monday. One computer expert said the country’s online access was “totally down.”

The White House and the State Department declined to say whether the US government was responsible.

“We aren’t going to discuss, you know, publicly operational details about the possible response options or comment on those kind of reports in anyway except to say that as we implement our responses, some will be seen, some may not be seen,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
North Korea has forcefully denied it was responsible for hacking into Sony. But the country has for months condemned the “The Interview,” a Sony satirical comedy about a plot to assassinate the North Korean leader. Sony canceled plans to release the movie after a group of hackers made terrorist threats against theaters planning to show it.

In addition to all of our wars in the Middle East and the war that has erupted on the streets of America, we are now engaged in a cyber war with North Korea and an economic war with Russia.  Without a doubt, the United States has the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage to both of them.  But what about the damage that they could potentially do to us?  We have a society that is absolutely teeming with soft targets.  Our Internet infrastructure is extremely vulnerable, our debt-based economic system is already teetering on the edge of disaster, and government officials freely admit that security at key facilities such as power plants is sorely lacking.  And these kinds of bitter conflicts have a way of escalating.  The North Koreans and the Russians are both very proud, and neither one is going to back down any time soon.  If a foreign power wanted to really make us hurt, it wouldn’t take much imagination at all.  There are thousands of ways to do it.  So Americans should not just smugly assume that we are untouchable.  In a war, it is often those that are overconfident that get hurt the worst.

Last week, Barack Obama blamed North Korea for the nightmarish hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment and he promised that the U.S. would respond.
Well, it looks like that response began on Monday.  According to Bloomberg, North Korea’s connection to the Internet was totally cut off…
North Korea’s limited access to the Internet has been cut off, according to a network-monitoring company, days after the U.S. government accused the country of hacking into Sony Corp. (6758)’s files.

Needless to say, that got the attention of the North Koreans.
On their end, the North Koreans are still denying that they had anything to do with the attack on Sony.  And we may never know the actual truth.  In reality, Russia could have carried out such an attack.  Or it could have been the Chinese.  Or it could have even been a false flag cyberattack conducted by a three letter U.S. agency.  We just don’t know.
But what we do know is that North Korea is now vowing to take action against “the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland“…

So can North Korea back up those bold words?
We shall see.
But without a doubt our Internet infrastructure is very vulnerable.  As I have written about previously, our big banks are under Internet attack every single minute of every single day.  And in recent months we have seen a whole host of retailers and major corporations get hacked.
This is an emerging threat that should not be underestimated.  As a society, we have become extremely dependent on the Internet, and these attacks are constantly becoming more powerful and more sophisticated.
I think that Steve Quayle put it very well during one recent interview…
And we do know that the North Koreans take hacking very seriously.
In fact, it has been reported that North Korea has a small army of hackers that are continually harassing the western world known as “Unit 121″…

Meanwhile, the struggle between the United States and Russia over Ukraine has escalated into a full-blown economic war.
At first, both sides started slapping each other with relatively minor economic sanctions.
But then things started escalating.  I think that things really began to get serious for the U.S. when Russia started to make moves against the petrodollar.  This is not something that has been reported on much at all by the mainstream media in the United States, but it is a very big deal.  If you want to become enemy #1 in the eyes of the U.S. government, just start attacking the petrodollar.  So when Russia began cutting the U.S. dollar out of oil and natural gas transactions, that definitely got the attention of some folks in Washington.  You can read much more about what Russia has been doing in this regard in this articlethis article and this article.
Of course Washington was not just going to sit back and let this happen.  The Obama administration has retaliated by going after two of the most important pillars of the Russian economy – oil and the ruble.  And without a doubt, a tremendous amount of damage has already been done.
At this point, Russia is facing a full-blown currency crisis, major banks are starting to fail and economists are forecasting a deep recession for next year
But don’t count out the Russians just yet.
They are a very crafty people, and they are not afraid to fight dirty.
And it is important to keep in mind that the Russian Bear never forgives and it never forgets.  Most Americans don’t realize this, but right now anti-American sentiment in Russia is actually higher than it was at the end of the Cold War era.  Many Russians believe that this is a new Cold War, and that the United States is the greatest force for evil on the entire planet.
So while many Americans view this current conflict as a temporary foreign policy tussle about Ukraine, many Russians view this as a long-term struggle that is absolutely critical to the future of humanity.  If you doubt this, you should check out some of the things that their leading thinkers have been saying.
This conflict between the United States and Russia is not going to end any time soon.  And someday down the road, it could evolve into something more than just an economic war.  But before that happens, the Russians have a whole host of other ways that they can damage us.
Yes, the United States can hurt Russia.
But Russia can also hurt us.
In the end, this conflict is not going to be good for anyone.

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