RussiaGate Lexicon: Terminology for the New Cold War

Did Russia hack the 2016 US election? Most certainly. The FBI, CIA, and entire intelligence community is in agreement on this point.

The following list is an attempt to demystify the language surrounding Russian interference in the election of Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine the Western order — in retaliation for the fall of the Soviet Union which happened under his watch as a young KGB agent stationed in Dresden, Germany.

See also: the RussiaGate Bestiary which lists the individuals involved in the Russian 2016 election interference investigation. Please note: both of these resources are works in progress and are being updated frequently.

4chanA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.
8chanIf 4chan isn’t raw and lawless enough for you, try the even more right-wing “free speech”-haven 8chan, which is notorious for incubating a large swath of the Gamergate culture.
The ActLas Vegas nightclub in the Palazzo, owned by Sheldon Adelson, under surveillance by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for obscene performances. Site of the Miss USA pageant party attended by Trump and the Agalarov’s in June 2013.
active measuresinformation warfare aimed at undermining the West
Air Force OneThe U.S. presidential plane.
art critic in civilian clothing“joke” used by the KGB to refer to themselves while informing on dissidents under Soviet rule
backdoora method, often secret, of bypassing regular login authentication or encryption of a computer or server
Bakucapital of Azerbaijan
banana republicpolitically unstable countries whose economies are monocultures controlled by an oligarchy; puppet states
Bank Secrecy ActLegal statute requiring persons managing funds in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks disclose said accounts to the US Treasury.
bespredel“limitless and total lack of accountability of the elite oligarchs”
blind trustA financial trust in which the beneficiaries have no access to the holdings of the trust, or any knowledge of its investments and contents
Bolotnaya SquareThe square was the site of the biggest protests in Russia since the Soviet era, in December 2011
BolshevikThe majority faction within the Marxist revolutionary party led by Vladimir Lenin to power in Russia during the October Revolution of 1917, eventually becoming the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
bolt holeA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
BNDGerman foreign intelligence agency
bug-out location (BOL)Another name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitMovement to split the state of Californnia into East and West states
capital flightRefers to the massive ongoing exodus of both legitimate and illegitimate funds of Russian oligarchs and their state cronies to “safe havens” in foreign banks and offshore accounts outside of Russia
Charter 77Informal Czech resistance movement against the communist regime, named after a document that was deemed a political crime to distribute.
ChekismLoyalty to the concept of an unbroken chain of Russian security services, all the way from Lenin’s Cheka to the KGB to the FSB
Chronicle of Current EventsSoviet dissident periodical (samizdat) from 1968 to the early 1980s that reported on the human rights violations in the Soviet Union
Cold War
Color Revolutions
computational propaganda
cooperating witness
CPACConservative Political Action Conference
CPSUCommunist Party of the Soviet Union
Crimeaterritory in eastern Ukraine invaded and “annexed” by Putin in 2014; unrecognized and condemned by the international community
criminal investigation
Crocus City Hall7000-seat theater complex in Moscow built by Aras Agalarov; site of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow
Cuban Missile Crisis
cut out
cyberspies
Cyprus
DACA
dachacountry estate
Dark Web
deep stateNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regime
demoshizashort for ‘democratic schizophrenics’
deposition
détentestrategy of easing geopolitical tensions between nations; used in particular to describe attempts to “cool off” antagonism during the Cold War
dezinformatsiyaRussian information warfare
diaspora
disinformation
DonbasTerritory in eastern Ukraine where Russian aggression has resumed as of Jan 29, 2017 following two years of Minsk Two ceasefire agreement
Doomsday Clock
doxingresearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Dumathe lower house of the Federal Assembly, Russia’s Parliament
Echo MoskvyDemocratic radio station in Moscow seminal is thwarting the KGB-led coup against Gorbachev in 1991
“Eternal Rome”ideology positing Russia as a geopolitical bulwark of conservatism against a weak-kneed West (part of Alexander Dugin’s reformulation of Eurasianism theory)
Evening Internetthe first blog in Russia, founded by Anton Nossik
executive privilege
fake news
fallout shelter
false flagcovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
FAPSIOne of the agencies spun out from the former KGB to head Govt Comms & Info (modeled after the NSA) — this division was instrumental in controlling the unfolding of the Russian internet
Federal AssemblyRussian Parliament
fifth column
fifth world warnon-linear war; the war of all against all
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)Department within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Court
FISA warrant
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)Legal statute requiring those persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or other entity to register such with the U.S. government.
foreign bank account report (FBAR)Required disclosure to the US treasury by persons holding in excess of $10,000 in funds in foreign banks.
forensics
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
frozen conflict zonesterm for several unrecognized pseudo states within former Soviet territories who have broken away from the national government and are operating as Russian protectorates
FSBthe Russian Federal Security Service
GamerGate
Gazeta.ru
GazpromRussia’s energy monopolgy and largest gas company
Georgia
Ghost StoriesFBI operation allowing a sleeper cell of 10 KGB spies to operate in the U.S. for 10 years, to reverse engineer their methods. At the end of the sting, FBI Director Robert Mueller rounded them all up and expelled them from the country.
glasnost“increased government transparency” or openness — a slogan employed by Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader in the 1980s
Glavplakat
“global cabal”euphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived “Jewish conspiracy” behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EU
globalization
Grand Jury16 to 23 people impaneled to hear evidence from a legal prosecution, and decide if said prosecution has a caseworthy set of evidence to bring charges.
Grenadines
honeypot
hybrid warfare
IC (Intelligence Community)
iMessageApple’s version of SMS
information warfare
interlocuter
IRC
IskraThe main Bolshevik newspaper in the early 20th century
Jackson–Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974
kakistocracy
KGBThe Soviet secret service, renowned for ruthlessness and duplicity
kleptocracyform of government in which the leaders harbor organized crime rings and often participate in or lead them; the police, military, civil government, and other governmental agencies may routinely participate in illicit activities and enterprises.
KommersantLong-respected business newspaper purchased by pro-Kremlin oligarch Alisher Usmanov
kompromatcompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
KomsomolLeninist Youth League organization for Communists aged 14 to 28 in the late 80s & early 90s
The Kremlin
Kuchinothe oldest top-secret research facility of the KGB, 12 miles east of Moscow
Kurchatov InstitutePreeminent Soviet nuclear research facility still in operation today in the far north of Moscow
Latvia
Lenta.ru
liberalismPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protection
Logan Act
lords on the boards
Mafia stateA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.
Magnitsky Act
Maidan revolutionStudent protests that ousted the Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych, that started Nov 21, 2013.
Marxism
maskirovkawar of deception and concealment
Menatep
Menshevik
Minsk TwoColloquial name of the 2015 ceasefire agreement between Russia & Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea
Mitrokhin Archive
Mokhovaya Squarewell-known landmark in front of the Kremlin
MSK-IXThe main Internet exchange point in Russia
MVDMinistry of Internal Affairs; supervises all police, prisons, and “public order militias”
nationalism
National Prayer Breakfast
neutralize
Never-Trump
Newsru.com
NKVDa forerunner to the KGB under Stalin
non-linear warfare
NotPetya
novichokmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
Novorossiaregion of eastern Ukraine occupied by Russian separatists
October Revolutionthe Nov 7, 1917 Bolshevik revolution and armed overthrow of the government, leading to the creation of the USSR
October Surprise
oligarchy
one-party state
open source intelligence
operatives
opposhort form of opposition research
opposition research
OSINTopen source intelligence
OstankinoRussia’s TV network
Ozero Cooperative
perestroikapolicy of restructuring or rebuilding the Soviet government, employed by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s
plausible deniability
plea deal
plead the Fifth
Plovdiv, BulgariaSafe “bolt hole” identified for Eastern European hackers paid by Trump and the Kremlin if things went south
ponyatiyaan unwritten understanding about how things must be done
populism
postmodernism
“post office boxes”Secret Soviet military and security research facilities, known only to the public by their P.O. Box number
post-truth
power grid intrusions
Prague, Czech Republic
proizvolRussian word for “arbitrariness”
Project LakhtaInternal name for the operation that Prigozhin’s IRA was running to interfere in elections across the Western world, according to the Mueller indictments.
Project Ripon
propaganda
provokatsiya
RedditAmerican social network inhabited by numerous denizens of the alt-Right and hosting notoriously grotesque subreddits.
refuseniksTerm given during the Soviet era, particularly under Stalin, for Jews who had been denied permission to emigrate
reiding
RelcomOne of the first private companies or “collectives” formed under Gorbachev’s glasnost reforms, it brokered the first proto-Internet within the Soviet Union and first connection to the outside world — playing a key role in thwarting the attempted coup against Gorbachev by the KGB in August, 1991
rent-a-peer
Rodinaextreme nationalist party in Russia c. 2003 that hinted at ethnic cleansing; The Guardian reported it had actually been set up as a prop by Putin & cronies, to draw votes away from the other far-right Communist Party
RosatomRussian company building Turkey’s first nuclear plant
Rose RevolutionPeaceful protest-driven pro-Western transfer of power in the former Soviet state of Georgia in Nov 2003
RosneftRussia’s state oil company
Rossiiskaia GazetaRussia’s official government newspaper
RT.comstate-owned Russian news service
Rublevkabillionaire’s row in Moscow
Russian Imperial Movementpart of the far-right coalition within Russia seeking to build an international consensus, this group advocates “Christian Orthodox imperial nationalism”
RussophobiaPopular hysteria against Russia and Russians perceived to be the case by Russia and Russians
samizdatin the Soviet era, the creation by hand and distribution of copies of literature and other material banned by the state
SberbankRussia’s largest bank
SDNs (specially designated nationals)Individuals against whom secondary sanctions have been applied
The Seychelles
shadow profilesData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who are
shestidesiatniki“Sixties’ Generation” in the Soviet Union, who shared a lot in common with the American New Left. Advocated for political reform.
Siemens AG
silovikiRussian term for those who have backgrounds and employment in security services, the military, and police; more specifically a reference to Putin’s security cabal
Signal
sistemaRussian term to denote “how the government really works” (as opposed to via formal state institutions)
SJWSocial Justice Warriors, a term which has somehow been wielded as a pejorative by alt-righters and other radical right cadre, energing out of Gamergate culture.
SMSAka “texting”
Snow Revolutionpopular protests beginning in Moscow in 2011, demanding the reinstatement of free elections & the ability to form opposition parties
sockpuppet accountsFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
SolidarityPolish workers’ party confronting Communism in the late ’80s
SORMSystem of Operative Search Measures — the system in use by the FSB to eavesdrop on the Russian internet
South Stream pipeline Gazprom project through Balkans and Central Europe
“sovereign democracy”system in which democratic procedures are retained, but without any actual democratic freedoms; brainchild of Vladislav Surkov
sovereign wealth fund
spasitelniiRussian word for “redemptive”
SputnikRussian news wire proffering fake news
StasiNickname for the Ministry of State Security in East Germany during the Cold War
Steele dossier
stochastic terrorism
Stoleshnikov Lanepedestrian street in Moscow lined with designer boutiques
St. PetersburgLocation of the headquarters for the IRA, Internet Research Agency, aka Putin’s troll farm, at 55 Savushkina Street.
Strana.ru
subpoena
SUP MediaRussia’s largest blogging service via acquisition of LiveJournal from Six Apart
SVRRussian foreign intelligence service
swattinghoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target’s home; a form of Internet-based attack used by Gamergate, the alt-Right, and other groups and individuals
tax returns
The ThawBrief period of reform under Nikita Khrushchev between 1956 and 1964, when Khrushchev takes over from Stalin and is replaced by Leonid Brezhnev
tradecraft
“translator project”
trial balloonInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
Trump Tower MoscowThen-candidate Trump signed a letter of intent to move forward with this project, while at the same time denying its existence publicly, repeatedly.
truthiness
Turkish StreamProposed gas pipeline allowing Russia to extend its control over Turkey and European energy markets
Ukranian occupation
unmaskingIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
USPER
Velvet Revolution
vertical of powerreference to the tightly controlled power cabal structure Putin has amassed around himself
vKontakteRussian social network; equivalent analog to Facebook
vlastpower
VTBRussia’s largest commercial bank
wag the dog
watering holehacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismClassic debate tactic of old Soviet apologists to deflect criticism of Soviet policy; whenever an American would levy a critique, the response would be, “What about the bad things America does?”
white knights
white nationalism
Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation
World National-Conservatism Movement (WNCM)umbrella term for Russia’s movement to unite an international extreme far-right coalition
Yes CaliforniaMovement to secede from the US entirely, run by Marcus Ruiz Evans, Louis J. Marinelli
Yukos
zakaznews information that has been paid for by special interest

The Mafia State: Russia Since the “End” of the Cold War

We Americans thought it ended, anyhow — but we were wrong. The revanchism that in some sense was of high potential after the fall of the former Soviet Union indeed came to pass — and later to be accelerated by the rise of Vladimir Putin to power.

Along with that trajectory, a curious development path for the former Soviet state: mostly, a descent into organized crime at the highest echelons of government. In some sense, organized crime is the government.

Here’s a great #longread from the Guardian about the history of a modern-day mafia state.

Putin’s Playbook: Pull factions apart from center; exacerbate democratic crisis

While we wring our hands in the United States over whether or not such a strategy is even conceivable, the erstwhile President of Russia has been running this playbook out in the open in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for some time. With help from Propagandist-in-Chief Vladislav Surkov, Putin has leveraged the open secrets about the psychology of crowds we learned in the late 19th and early 20th century to stir up emotional antagonisms within the political spectrum — to predictable results.

It’s no accident that fascism is on the march in America. The conditions have been brewing for some time, predominantly since the Conservative movement began breaking away more militantly from democratic principles and towards authoritarian philosophy (elite rule by force: preferably invisible force via economic hegemony for the middle and upper classes, and violent force / the carceral state for The Undesirables) in the late 1970s and 1980s. All Putin had to do was make use of available prevailing conditions and tools — the rise of social media in the 2000s counterintuitively blew a gaping wide security hole in the American persuasion landscape that Cold War Soviet operatives of the 1960s would scarcely have believed.

Today, as in parts of Europe between the world wars, the U.S. has partisan gridlock within The Establishment sector of politics; this exacerbates the impatience with and contempt for the status quo (aka the Liberal world order) that in some sense naturally congeals at the far right and far left margins of the political spectrum as a simple consequence of the Normal Distribution (the Median Voter Theorem captures this tendency quite succinctly). Under such conditions, an influence campaign like the one Russia wielded against the United States during the 2016 election season was tasked merely with tilting the playing field a little further — a task that platforms like Facebook and Twitter were in some sense fundamentally engineered to accomplish, in exchange for ad revenue.

New World Order? Be careful what we wish for

“Both Italian and German fascists had done their best to make democracy work badly. But the deadlock of liberal constitutions was not something the fascists alone had brought about. ‘The collapse of the Liberal state,’ says Roberto Vivarelli, ‘occurred independently of fascism.’ At the time it was tempting to see the malfunction of democratic government after 1918 as a systemic crisis marking the historic terminus of liberalism. Since the revival of constitutional democracy since World War II, it has seemed more plausible to see it as a circumstantial crisis growing out of the strains of World War I, a sudden enlargement of democracy, and the Bolshevik Revolution. However we interpret the deadlock of democratic government, no fascist movement is likely to reach office without it.”

— Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism

100 years on, it feels like we’re back at the start.

A timeline of recent Russian aggression

It’s getting harder to tell anymore who is being paid to push pro-Russian messages, and who has just been sadly taken in by them. For all this braggadocio (braggadocious, even!) about “building a wall” to keep supposed Mexican rapists out (although net migration has been falling with our southern neighbor for some time and is now net negative), no matter what the outcome of next Tuesday’s election, the “borders” around the internet will remain difficult — if not impossible — to police for the foreseeable future.

This all makes our breathless, behind-closed-doors hand-wringing over Soviet Communist influence over the population in the 1960s seem like child’s play. No need to train up a double agent over a lifetime and infiltrate the corridors of state power anymore — just fire up Twitter (or Medium).

It thus probably shouldn’t be as shocking as it has been to find the pro-Russian lovefest coming just as hard from the far-left as it has from the far-right. It stems from a good place (for the most part): a heartfelt desire for peace and the youthful misunderstanding of how difficult (read: impossible) that has been to achieve throughout history. Still, we always want to believe we’ve cracked the nut — that Mutually Assured Destruction now keeps us safe from all the power-hungry demons of the world.

Unfortunately, the Cold War is thawing. With the Russian economy reportedly in dire straits thanks to fragile over-reliance on oil and gas production combined with the precipitous drop in oil prices over the past 18 months, Putin is in a state. A state of keeping the angry ailing Russian classes distracted by the drums of war, while aiming to keep the pampered, self-absorbed American classes distracted from the drums of war. So far to great success — at least on the latter front. It’s hard to speak to the former, although all the paid trolls do seem mighty angry.

Since we can barely pull our heads out of our navels in the U.S. to remember there’s a whole other world outside of our Big Orange Terror Bubble (which is by turns understandable and deeply concerning), I wanted to record here a timeline of events in the lead-up to where we are today (re-purposed from this post with some additional backstory on the Green Party candidate’s Jill Stein involvement with Putin):

This doesn’t include any of the “soft” lobs like the cheeky offers to monitor our elections, or the material connections to the alt-right movement here as well as the swell of right-wing political insurgencies around the world.

Perhaps history will one day show that the deepest destruction wrought by globalization was not the disintegration of America’s manufacturing sector, nor its incentivization of capital flight, but its damage to the last pillars of an aging democratic architecture slowly corroded by neoliberal economic policies in fashion since the Reagan years.

If any history still remains.

King of Trussia: The case for Donald Trump’s involvement with Russia

  • a. The Alfa Bank pinging server
  • b. Connections in the Trump campaign      
    • 1. Paul Manafort — former campaign manager who helped rig elections for Ukrainian pro-Moscow former president Viktor Yanukovich      
    • 2. Sergei Millian — head of the Russian American Chamber of Commerce in the US      
    • 3. Ivanka’s friendship with Putin’s girlfriend
  • c. Russian hacking of the DNC emails
  • d. Russian attempted hacks on state vote registration rolls
  • e. Russian bots and paid disinformation operatives influencing public opinion in the US presidential election
    • 1. Twitter      
    • 2. Medium      
    • 3. Facebook (?)      
    • 4. Darkweb
  • f. High probability of significant Russian investment in the Trump Organization, its subsidiaries, shell companies, or off-shore protectorates

Was Russia responsible for the DNC email hacks? Signs point to yes

I still see a lot of denialism on this point from the far-left (or the alt-left, depending on your favored terminology), which is a bit devastating to see as it essentially parrots the pro-Russian ideology of the far-right (both the alt-right and the neo-libertarian flavors). Green Party candidate Jill Stein is an especially pernicious promoter of this myth that Vladimir Putin is a poor, innocent, peaceful world leader who is being bullied by NATO (when in fact, Russia has been the aggressor since its annexation of Crimea in 2014).

DNC hack forensic evidence

Two separate Russian-affiliated adversaries were behind the attacks, according to a post-mortem by cyber-security firm CrowdStrike when the news of the intrusion first broke in early June, 2016. This has since been confirmed by other independent security firms including Fidelis, Mandiant, SecureWorks, and ThreatConnect as well as corroborated by analysis from Ars Technica and Edward Snowden.

At this point the US intelligence community is confident enough to formally accuse Russia of involvement in the hacks, and are currently investigating other breaches of voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois as well as in Florida — the key battleground state from the 2000 election that handed GWB an unfortunate victory. Elsewhere, there is ample evidence of Putin’s extensive disinformation campaign being waged online (including several experiences I have myself witnessed), which is the continuation of a long through line of wielding propaganda as a tool from the former head of the KGB.