Friday, November 30, 2018

Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States - Who is Responsible for Middle East Instability?

While Washington would have us all believe that Iran and its leadership is one of the most evil nations on earth (along with Syria, Russia, North Korea and China) as you can see here in this recent statement about Saudi Arabia from Donald Trump:

"The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism." (my bold)

It is interesting to see that, in a statement from Washington about Saudi Arabia, a nation with close links to al-Qaeda and the attacks of September 11, 2001, Iran is touted as the world's leading sponsor of terror.  It is also interesting to note that Washington would rather further distort the geopolitical situation in the Middle East by further arming Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (to the tune of $100 billion) and vilifying Shia Iran, two of the most influential military powers in the region.

Let's look at reality for a moment.  In a much ignored statement by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from early 2018, we find the following framework for Middle East stability:

The objective of a strong region — as opposed to a quest for hegemony and the exclusion of other actors — is rooted in recognising the need to respect the interest of all stakeholders.  Any domineering effort by one country is not only inappropriate but essentially impossible: those who insist on following that path create instability. The arms race in our region is an instance of this kind of destructive rivalry: siphoning vital resources into the coffers of arms manufacturers has contributed nothing to achieving peace and security. Militarism has only served to fuel disastrous adventurism." (my bold)

He goes on to note that there has been a long history of a "dialogue deficit" among the major stakeholders in the region which has led to political instability.  If a dialogue were to be opened, all of the nations in the Middle East/Persian Gulf region would realize that they have aspirations and hopes, fears and concerns that they all share in common.  Once dialogue is opened, the nations in the region could eventually create a commitment to non-aggression among themselves and eliminate the need for an arms race.

Here is another quote from Javad Zarif from October 2017 regarding Iran's relationship with Saudi Arabia:

"There is a willingness for rapprochement on both sides, and we are willing to talk to Saudi Arabia about our difference.  We do not believe that Iran and Saudi Arabia should have the type of relationship they have right now...

We believe the posture in the Persian Gulf by Saudi Arabia is not a positive one, (like) the policies they pursue against Qatar.  The concepts they are using to muddy the waters, policies that have brought unfortunate disastrous consequences for our region, cannot be justified by these smokescreens of exporting revolutions."

In recent remarks from Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi who is responding to Washington's recent comments on the links between Iran and terrorism:

"Today the country’s (United States) officials are explicitly, blatantly and with an unprecedented shamelessness promoting a new pattern of defending human rights based on the size of the arms contracts they sign with others, under the banner of deceptive humanitarian slogans and human rights outcries...   

To this end, the US officials give the green light to some of their anti-human allies to slaughter millions of innocent people including women and children in some regional states, to bring them years of drought and disease, and to bomb their schools, hospitals, and their wedding or mourning ceremonies with cutting-edge fighter jets."

Here is a quote from Iran's Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani regarding Iran's relationship with its Gulf region neighbours from March 2018

"When it comes to regional security arrangements, we are ready to talk to our neighbours and friends, without the presence of foreigners…We are, have been and always will be good neighbours.

We don't need foreigners to guarantee the security of our region."

In closing, let's take a look at some of the major arms sales during 2018 by Washington (i.e. sales greater than $100 million) to its Gulf region allies as reported on the Defense Security Co-operation Agency:

In addition, there are smaller sales to Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iraq that didn't make the $100 million cutoff.

Given this information, who is it that is really creating a geopolitical quagmire in the Persian Gulf region?  Can we really blame Iran for developing weapons that can protect it from the products of America's military-industrial complex?  It certainly appears that Iran is at least making overtures to its neighbours that would lead to a lasting stability in the region, a story that receives almost no coverage in the Western media.  Washington's sale of $100 billion worth of arms to the Saudi royal family and its sales to other Gulf nations is going to accomplish one thing - it is going to make Iran's dream of a Gulf region that is independent of outside meddling a near impossibility.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Atlantic Council and Leveraging the Khashoggi Murder for Good

While I generally do not post on the same organization two days in a row, a recent little-covered blog posting on the Atlantic Council website is just begging to be exposed, particularly since it relates to Saudi Arabia, the recent death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the revelations about the possible connections to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The posting was written by Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe.  Here is his biography:

He is obviously a very influential individual, particularly with his connections to the Wall Street Journal.

Before we dig into the posting, here is what appeared on the Atlantic Council's Twitter feed on November 25th, 2018:

With that background, let's look at the contents of the posting itself.  The author opens by noting how the "toxic aftermath" of the Khashoggi murder could trigger the worst regional war that the Middle East has experienced with the following potential scenario:

"Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen break a fragile ceasefire with a missile launched at Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Unlike so many before it, this missile slips through Saudi air defenses and lands on a shopping mall in early evening, the busiest time of the day. 
The strike takes mass casualties and sets off panic.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, already rattled by US and European backlash from the Khashoggi killing, blames Teheran for the attack, knows he must respond, but is unsure what allies he can count on. Advisers argue he must strike Iran itself, given the scale of the carnage, the pointlessness of striking targets in Yemen, and questions swirling about his leadership.
However, he lacks the offensive and defensive wherewithal for a sustained war with Iran. He considers two options: a secure call to President Donald Trump to request he join his Saudi Allies against their common foe. Or, alternatively, the Saudi Air Force strikes Iran, provoking a counterstrike that it hopes will bring American allies into the fighting."

He goes on to note that the Trump White House will face a conundrum; does the United States back a "tainted ally" or take no action at all and risk the consequences of inaction to the fragile Middle East/Saudi Arabia/Iran "peace"?

While the author does allow that the murder of Khashoggi was "brutal, foolish and irresponsible", his greater concern is that the ultimate consequences could be the weakening of United States relations with its European partners, resulting in a "strengthening (of) the growing role of China and Russia".  He also notes that:

" would be better to leverage the current situation to achieve larger US aims in the region – consistent with values and interests – rather than to respond in a manner that might be satisfying over the short-term but self-defeating strategically."

The author goes on to state that the "biggest prize" is the ability of the United States to keep Saudi Arabia on a course that prevents the laying of groundwork for the formation of another al-Qaeda and that Washington must consider that it is entirely likely that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will survive this inconvenient truth and that he will rule Saudi Arabia for decades to come.  As such, the United States must focus on a long-term strategic project to prevent new conflicts, end the regions civil wars in Libya, Yemen and Syria and prevent Islamic extremism.

Here are Mr. Kempe's closing paragraphs:

"Though Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman can’t undo the Khashoggi crime, he could refocus Western thinking over time by redoubling his efforts to reform Saudi society, not only providing women more rights but also releasing from prison the activists he recently arrested.

For starters, Western and Middle Eastern leaders need to avoid worst outcomes in the region. Even better would be to leverage the crisis to achieve some good."

In other words, Mr. Khashoggi's death was completely acceptable when framed in terms of  the good that it might do in reforming Saudi Arabia's medieval society under the rule of the man who may well have ordered his death.  That's quite a trade-off.

Given this from August 2018:

...this from August 2018:

...and this from November 2018: certainly looks like Mr., Kempe, the head of a think-tank funded by the military-industrial complex and governments in the Middle East, is living in a technicolour dreamworld when it comes to Saudi societal reformations under its future King, no matter how he may think that the world can leverage this crime "to achieve some good".

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Atlantic Council - Marching Us Closer to War With Russia

Recent news that Ukrainian ships had attempted an unannounced marine passage from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov created a significant crisis that could easily have escalated to war.  Not surprisingly, the Atlantic Council, a card-carrying member of the American Deep State, weighed in with its opinion on the events.

Here is a map showing the region with Russia located in the west and centre part of the map (Crimean peninsula), the Sea of Azov in the centre of the map and Ukraine in the northeast corner of the map:

Here is a photo of the ship blocking passage under the recently opened 745 foot long, $3.69 billion Kerch Strait Bridge which connects mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula:

Here is a map showing how marine traffic has backed up as a result of Russia's blocking of the Kerch Strait in an effort to control its territorial waters since Crimea is now part of Russia:

Let's now take a look at what the Atlantic Council had to say about this brewing storm:

"Escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov bear echoes of Russian provocations that led to the war with Georgia in the summer of 2008.

“For months, Russian forces have been working to make the Azov Sea an internal Russian body of water in order to both cut off Ukraine’s eastern ports and cement Moscow’s hold on Crimea,” said Damon Wilson, executive vice president of the Atlantic Council. 

“Moscow’s incrementalist approach is like the ‘creeping annexation’ we witnessed in Georgia in 2008—any single move tends not to be dramatic, but in the aggregate Russia makes strategic gains. Today, the Russians escalated with the aim of intimidating Ukraine into backing off its own effort to assert its access to these international waters and its own ports,” he added.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia dramatically escalated on November 25 with Kyiv saying a Russian coast guard vessel rammed one of its navy tugboats in the Sea of Azov, while Moscow shut off access to the sea accusing Ukrainian vessels of passing through its territorial waters without permission. Russia reportedly seized three Ukrainian naval vessels. Ukraine said Russian forces fired on the vessels and six crewmembers were injured. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he would propose that parliament declare martial law in the country in response to the situation.

“For those who follow Kremlin policy in its neighborhood, this  looks dangerously familiar,” said John E. Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.

“Moscow committed provocations against Georgia for years:  military overflights, random missiles landing in Georgian territory and, of course, firing across the internal demarcation line between parts of Georgia hosting Russian troops and the rest of Georgia.  Such firing from South Ossetia led to the Russia-Georgia war in 2008,” he explained.

Michael Carpenter, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said: “Russia's seizure of Ukrainian ships transiting the Kerch Strait between the Black and Azov Seas is part of a larger Russian strategy to gain control over the Azov Sea and blockade Ukrainian maritime traffic in and out of the Kerch Strait." 

“This move is clearly a violation of international law and adds a new dimension to Russia's four-and-a-half-year-old war against Ukraine,” he added.

Carpenter said the United States should "respond immediately by giving Ukraine radars to boost its maritime domain awareness and land-based anti-ship missiles so it can defend its Azov Sea littoral."

“The United States should also impose a complete asset freeze on at least one major Russian bank, such as Sberbank, VTB, or Gazprombank. The sanctioning of a Russian bank—or several banks if Russia fails to respond initially—should be made conditional on Russia restoring Ukraine's access to its own ports and withdrawing its troops from the Donbas. Until this happens, the costs on the Kremlin should continue to mount,” he added.

Anders Åslund, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said: “NATO and the United States should send in naval ships in the Sea of Azov to guarantee that it stays open to international shipping.”

Such action, Åslund said, “would be in full compliance with the UN Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 and the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits of 1936.”

The Sea of Azov has become a point of friction between Moscow and Kyiv since Russia seized Crimea in March 2014. 

“Ever since Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, it has prepared for turning the international Sea of Azov into internal Russian waters, blocking a large share of the Ukrainian coasts and two major commercial ports, Mariupol and Berdyansk,” said Åslund." (my bolds)

It's pretty obvious that the Atlantic Council's aim is to further inflame tensions in the region by adding anti-ship missiles, ships from the United States Navy and further anti-Russian sanctions into the mix and by accusing Russia of attempting to start another war in the region.

In case you have forgotten, here is a list of major contributors (or what they term as "Communities of Influence") to the Atlantic Council:

Notice the following major contributors:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom
United States Department of State
General Atomics
United Technologies Corporation
Lockheed Martin Corporation
Raytheon Company
Thales SA (a French Aerospace and Defense company)
United States Air Force Academy
The Boeing Company
Ukrainian Canadian Congress
United States Air Force
US Mission to NATO

Influence, indeed.  One would almost think that the Atlantic Council is pandering to its  major contributors by recommending further military actions against Russia over the Kerch Strait events.

It is also important to remember that, back in May 2018, Facebook retained the Atlantic Council and its Digital Forensic Research Lab (aka Digital Sherlocks) to help protect those of us who are too stupid to discern Russian-based propaganda from Washington-based propaganda.  This is the same group that is protecting us from that nasty Iranian propaganda as well.

Let's close with this excerpt from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea:

"1. Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.

2. Passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in any of the following activities:

(a) any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;

(b) any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind;

(c) any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the defence or security of the coastal State;

(d) any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State;

(e) the launching, landing or taking on board of any aircraft;

(f) the launching, landing or taking on board of any military device;

(g) the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State;

(h) any act of wilful and serious pollution contrary to this Convention;

(i) any fishing activities;

(j) the carrying out of research or survey activities;

(k) any act aimed at interfering with any systems of communication or any other facilities or installations of the coastal State;

(l) any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage." (my bold)

One at least has to question the motives of Ukraine's navy for taking this action, particularly in light of point (d) in the aforementioned excerpt from the Law of the Sea.

As we can see from this posting, the American-based non-elected and completely war-biased machinery is doing its very best to march us ever closer to war with Russia.  It is obvious that the powerful Atlantic Council is acting in the best interests of its military-industrial-Congressional benefactors.  Sadly for all of us, none of the members of the seedy underbelly of Washington will ever find themselves close to the front lines of the battle.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A History of Prosecuting and Persecuting WikiLeaks

Updated June 2019

Now that Julian Assange has been arrested and is under lock and key, a look back at a WikiLeaks release from 2012 will give us a sense of how Washington has wanted to handle this case under the Obama Administration.

On February 28, 2012, WikiLeaks announced that it had confidential emails from the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor which describes itself as the "world's leading geopolitical intelligence platform".  A series of emails from Stratfor's then Vice President for Counterterrorism and Corporate Security, Fred Burton, provides us with an inside glimpse into how the Obama Administration was going to handle the Assange case.  Just to provide you with some context, here is Mr. Burton's CV:

As you can see, prior to his employment at Stratfor, Mr. Burton who is now Stratfor's Chief Security Officer spent 14 years with the United States Department of State as a counterterrorism agent and was involved in the investigation of several high profile cases including the first bombing of the World Trade Center and the assassination of Israel's Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin.  I think that we can agree that Mr. Burton's experience in the intelligence service would classify him as a member of the "Deep State".

Now, let's look at some of Mr. Burton's emails regarding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.  Here's what he had to say about Julian Assange's future on December 7, 2010:

Here is an email that looks at where Mr. Burton waxes philosophically about a suitable punishment for Julian Assange should he ever be charged and found guilty:

Here is another part of the same email chain with further suggestions on how the Assange case should be handled:

As shown in this email dated December 7, 2010, Mr. Burton proposed using tactics that are used to bring down terrorist organizations to bring down Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, tactics that he no doubt was familiar with during his time with the State Department:

For your illumination, 43 is George W. Bush (America's 43rd president).  I do like the reference to Big Brother, particularly given Stratfor's role as a "global intelligence" company.

As well, in this email we find the following comments from Sean Noonan:

"Assange created Wikileaks with himself as the only public face—he leads supports, drives donations, and faces criticism. This has made many in the organization unhappy, and some have left it after disagreeing with him. I don't think ppl are unhappy that he is the supreme leader; i think they're unhappy b/c he's a dick head who doesn't allow anyone else to voice any opinions whatsoever. there is a difference.* If Assange were to face charges in Sweden for sexual assault or new charges in the UK or US and was found guilty, WikiLeaks would still need someone to operate it. Assange may have someone waiting in the wings, but that is not evident. 

WikiLeaks has also suffered logistically and as a brand. As national governments put pressure on its infrastructure, its websites have been shut and most importantly its main source of funding - PayPal- has closed WikiLeaks account. Does MasterCard own PayPal? I saw  something in an OS article about MasterCard cutting off WikiLeaks' accounts With such pressure and government monitoring, future leakers may be too afraid of getting intercepted and go elsewhere. Moreover, this new set of documents have not worked out like Assange expected- the U.S. public is not angry at the State Department, but many are angry at Assange and his organization." (my bold)

In light of the publishing of the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks in July 2016, Mr. Noonan couldn't have been more wrong.

Now, for the coup de gras.  Here is an email dated January 26, 2011 in response to an email regarding a potential link between Bradley Manning and Julian Assange showing that the Obama Administration had plans in place to charge Mr. Assange:

This is particularly interesting given the recent inadvertent revelations that the U.S. government  is behind moves to criminally charge Julian Assange as shown here (see the top of page 2 and the top of page 3) and keep the fact that he had been arrested confidential:

Let's close with a look at how Mr. Burton wanted to punish Julian Assange and anyone involved with WikiLeaks in this email from December 7, 2010:

As we can see, the Deep State as represented by Mr. Fred Burton, a highly connected Washington insider, and the cast of characters that inhabit Washington have long desired to rid itself of one of the few organizations that can shed light on the secrecy that plagues American politics and its greater community.  After all, knowledge is power and if the Deep State can keep the proletariat ignorant, it can control the narrative.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Russia's Intelligence Network and How It Creates Paranoia in the West

There is little doubt that the West's views of Russia are among the most negative that the world has experienced since the end of the Cold War.  Russia is vilified for everything including the situation in Ukraine, the Skripal affair and meddling in the 2016 American election and is seen as a significant threat to America's hegemony.  A recent report entitled "Putin Sees and Hears It All - How Russia's Intelligence Agencies Menace the UK" from the United Kingdom-based Henry Jackson Society takes the anti-Russia paranoia to a new level.  The report is based on interviews with 16 high-level dissidents and defectors, Western business people and human rights activists, Russia-watchers and former Whitehall officials (aka British government officials) and outlines the "banal and brazen" examples of how Russia is openly interfering in the affairs of the United Kingdom and provides us with an assessment of the scale of Russian spying in the United Kingdom.

Let's open by looking at the three main Russian intelligence agencies that are covered in the report:

1.) FSB or Federal Security Service - this is the successor to the KGB and is subordinate to the President of Russia.  Estimated employees - 387,000.  The FSB focuses on political affairs in the UK, particularly organizations and individuals that are politically active, especially those that are anti-Putin. 

2.) GRU or Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff - is subordinate to the military command of Russia.  Estimated employees - 280,000 to 480,000.  The GRU focuses on military affairs in the UK.

3.) SVR or Foreign Intelligence Service - this is also a successor to the KGB and is subordinate to the President of Russia.  Estimated employees - 13,000.  The SVR focuses on traditional intelligence gathering from military, political and commercial sources in the UK.

Total employment in the Russian intelligence services is believed to range from 680,000 to 880,00 people compared to only 16,868 employees involved in intelligence and security services across the seven U.K. security agencies.  By way of comparison, here is a screen capture showing how many employees there are in the United States National Intelligence Program for fiscal year 2013:

The author of the report states that spending on Russia's security issues (i.e. defense and law and order) have tripled between 2008 and 2016, rising from 22.7 percent to 35 percent of the total federal budget as shown on this table:

The report opens by noting that two former Russian officers have been assassinated on British soil; Sergei Skripal (and his daughter, Yulia), a retired GRU officer and Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB and KGB officer back in 2006.  Here is a quote from the report about the threat posed by Russia:

"Unlike for the countries of eastern and central Europe, the threat Russia poses to the UK is not primarily military – aside from Russia’s frequent probing of the UK’s air- and sea-space,  and the UK’s deployment of troops to the Baltic States and Poland as part of NATO measures to counter Russian aggression in the region. instead, the threat comes from Russia’s full spectrum approach to foreign policy in which, according to Russia’s 2015 Military Doctrine, “military force and political, economic, informational or other non-military measures” are integrated to achieve political goals."

The author also provides us with an explanation for why Russia's intelligence and security apparatus is so large and why it is so important to Russia and Vladimir Putin:

"Putin’s understanding of the post-cold War world is diametrically opposed to that of the West. Like most of Russia’s military and political elite, he sees periods of ‘peace’ not as opportunities to prosper and relax, but instead as opportunities to prepare for the next (inevitable) conflict. For at least a decade, the Kremlin has believed that Russia is engaged in a zero-sum conflict with the West and that it faces a serious, even existential, threat. The Kremlin also believes that the West took advantage of Russia in the 1990s when it was weak, and it is willing to go to extremes to ensure that this does not happen again. This ‘wartime mind-set’ was evident before 2014, but has become especially prominent since.

In Putin’s eyes, the US, as during the cold War, is Russia’s main strategic rival. Accordingly, many of Moscow’s defence and security resources are directed at Washington, D.C. This includes its intelligence agencies...

Other resources are directed at NATO and the European Union (EU) as well as collective security interests." (my bold)

A "zero sum conflict"?  Isn't it Washington that believes it can actually win in a nuclear exchange scenario?  As far as a Russian "wartime mindset", that certainly sounds like Washington, doesn't it?   

With this existential threat, let's take a look at the author's analysis of the number of Russians who are actively operating in the United Kingdom.  

1.) Case Officers:

During the Cold War, there were 39 Soviet case officers who managed spies in London in 1985, 25 from the KGB and 14 from the GRU.  This level remained constant until 2010 but began to rise, hitting an estimated 37 from the FSB and SVR and 14 from the GRU in 2013.  In the UK as a whole, it is estimated that there are as many as 200 case officers managing up to 500 Russian agents.

2.) Spies:

There are two main types of Russian spies operating in the United Kingdom:

a.) declared spies who officially work at the Russian Embassy occupying roles as attaches or secretaries.  

b.) undeclared spies who work in the Russia Embassy but who are not accredited as intelligence officers, taking roles in sections such as trade or culture.

There are currently 56 diplomats working in the Russian Embassy in Kensington with "around half" being engaged in either declared or undeclared intelligence work.  Additionally, there are also spies that use false identities, posing as British citizens.  There are also Russian nationals living in Britain using their real identities but with few links to Russia's security and intelligence services.  Lastly, there are Russians who are travelling to the UK for short-term stays, using either their own name or an alias.

Russian agents gather intelligence on prominent Russians, Westerners and Russia-watchers in the UK, gathering information on individuals who currently or previously occupied positions of power.   Here is a quote from the paper showing how Russia's spying tactics work:

"In attempting to gain such information, Russia’s agents employ a number of tactics, one of which follows a rather simple playbook.  A plausible scenario, described by a number of current and former government officials, is that a Whitehall official attends a high-level, closed-door event in the city. Attendees, as well as making polite conversation, exchange business cards, to the point where almost everybody has spoken with everybody else and most have exchanged business cards. When the Kremlin needs some information, one of the individuals who swapped cards with the official will reactivate the contact, seeking a meeting. When the two individuals meet, most likely at a café or bar, efforts to gather intelligence begin."

Here's where I think that the paper goes off the rails.  The author observes that there are an estimated 150,000 Russian expatriates currently living in London alone that form a potential source of intelligence gathering for Russia's three intelligence agencies.  According to the author's research, anywhere between one quarter and one half of Russia expats living in London's Russian community have been informants meaning that Russia has roughly 75,000 amateur spies living in London on top of its declared and undeclared Embassy workers and other Russian government organizations.

Here is a key paragraph that best explains today's environment:

"Many of the people interviewed for this paper described a growing belief that they are under close watch by Russia’s intelligence agencies. Whatever the truth, for the Kremlin this is a victory in itself – even if it does not lead to Moscow gaining information, making people paranoid means they start to question or change their behaviour. “Never say anything in private that you wouldn’t say in public. And never say anything in public that you wouldn’t want the Kremlin to hear”, was a recurring sentiment voiced by interviewees and interlocutors."

Yes indeed, we certainly do live in a time of paranoia, particularly when it comes to Russia.  It's a good thing that neither the United Kingdom nor the United States would ever think of intelligence gathering on this sort of long as you can forget about the massive snooping programs of the Five Eyes member states which includes both countries.