September 4, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) replaced the heads of the intelligence service and other security bodies on Thursday, as he continues to face the most serious challenge to his 26-year rule. Mass protests have been held in urban centers since last month, when Lukashenko claimed victory with over 80 percent of the vote in the presidential elections, and returned to office for a record sixth term.
Over 7,000 people have been arrested by the authorities in recent weeks for participating in anti-government demonstrations, which Lukashenko blames on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and “the European Union states bordering Belarus”. Regional observers point to the Belarusian military and security services as holding the key to what will transpire in former Soviet republic during the coming months. It is believed that, if the Armed Forces and the security services continue to stand by Lukashenko, the Belarusian strongman is unlikely to leave office.
In a surprise move on Thursday, the Belarusian president reshuffled the country’s intelligence and security leadership, including the head of the State Security Council (the highest national security decision-making body in Belarus) and the director of the State Security Service, known as KGB. Former Defense Minister General Andrei Ravkov, who has headed the State Security Council since January of this year, stepped down and was replaced by Valery Vakulchik, who until recently served director of the KGB. His post in the KGB was filled by Ivan Tertel, a KGB career official, who most recently served as chairman of Belarus’ financial investigative force, known as the State Control Committee. In an equally surprising move, the mayor of Minsk, Anatoly Sivak, was named deputy prime minister.
The reshuffle has been interpreted as by regional observers as an attempt by Lukashenko to surround himself with some of his most trusted apparatchiks, as rumors abound about possible divisions in the country’s military and intelligence services. Meanwhile, the Belarussian strongman is scheduled to meet with the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and a delegation of senior Russian intelligence officials in the coming days.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 04 September 2020 | Permalink
Chinese authorities announce counterespionage crackdown with 100s of arrests
October 12, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis Authorities in China said on Sunday that a nationwide counterespionage operation launched earlier this year has identified “hundreds of espionage cases”, most of them involving Taiwanese intelligence agencies. In a concerted fashion, Chinese state-run media published dozens of reports over the weekend, hailing the alleged success of the project.…
October 12, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
Authorities in China said on Sunday that a nationwide counterespionage operation launched earlier this year has identified “hundreds of espionage cases”, most of them involving Taiwanese intelligence agencies. In a concerted fashion, Chinese state-run media published dozens of reports over the weekend, hailing the alleged success of the project.
According to the reports, China’s Ministry of State Security codenamed the operation THUNDER 2020. It follows on the heels of an earlier counterespionage crackdown, known as THUNDER 2018, or THUNDERBOLT 2018. Last year, Chinese authorities said that the year-long 2018 operation had uncovered over 100 espionage cases throughout mainland China
The information released on Sunday includes claims that espionage activities uncovered under the THUNDER 2020 crackdown centered on “attempts to disrupt cross-Straits exchanges” —meaning efforts by China to raise support among the Taiwanese for reunification with the mainland. Other alleged espionage activities focused on encouraging “Hong Kong separatism” and on “instigating diplomatic ties between […] China and other countries”. No specific information was provided to support these claims.
In what appears to be a controlled leak, several Chinese news media reported on the case of a Taiwanese businessman identified as Li Mengju, or Lee Meng-chu. He was allegedly arrested in August of 2019 by authorities in the in southeastern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which is adjacent to Hong Kong. “Anonymous” sources in Shenzhen claim that Lee directs the “Taiwan Independence organization”, as well as another group calling itself “Taiwan United Nations Association” or “Association for the Advancement of Taiwan”. These appear to be groups that campaign against the possible reunification of Taiwan with China.
According to Chinese state-run sources, Lee was arrested “at a harbor in Shenzhen as he tried to flee after he was spotted conducting espionage activities”. He was allegedly found to be in possession of audiovisual material that had been “taken illegally” and included “secret-level military information”, such as “combat equipment, and quantity of troops”. No further information was provided by Chinese media.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 October 2020 | Permalink
Taiwan should prepare for war with China, says US national security adviser
October 19, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis THE TAIWANESE MILITARY AND society should be prepared to prevent and deter a possible military invasion by China, according to White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien. O’Brien, the fourth person to hold that position at the White House during the presidency of Donald Trump, said last week he…
October 19, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
THE TAIWANESE MILITARY AND society should be prepared to prevent and deter a possible military invasion by China, according to White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien. O’Brien, the fourth person to hold that position at the White House during the presidency of Donald Trump, said last week he did not believe that Beijing was planning an all-out military invasion of Taiwan. He added, however, that the island should be prepared to deter so-called “gray zone operations” by China, as well a direct “amphibious landing” by Chinese forces.
The Reuters news agency reported last week that many in Taiwan fear a possible Chinese invasion, should the upcoming presidential election in the United States lead to political confusion and disorder in Washington. Tensions between China and Taiwan have been growing in recent months. China sees Taiwan as a renegade province, a view that contrasts sharply with the majority view in Taiwan. The island sees itself as independent from China, though fewer than 20 countries around the world have officially recognized its independent status. Earlier this month, the Chinese government said it had launched an extensive counterintelligence operation aiming to uncover Taiwanese spies. Meanwhile, Chinese government-run media aired footage last week of a military exercise that appeared to simulate an amphibious invasion of Taiwan.
Speaking at a virtual event hosted by the Aspen Strategy Group on Friday, O’Brien opined that Taiwan should “start looking at some asymmetric and anti-access area denial strategies […] and really fortify itself”. He added that the goal of such a fortification would be to “deter the Chinese from any sort of amphibious invasion or even a gray zone operation” —that is, aggressive economic and political actions that fall short of a direct military invasion. O’Brien’s comments came less than a week after Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s economic and cultural representative in Washington (effectively Taiwan’s ambassador to the US) urged the Trump administration to provide the island with “some degree of clarity” on whether the US would come to its aid, should China invade.
► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 October 2020 | Permalink
US military leaders say there are ‘no plans’ for domestic security role on election day
October 16, 2020 by Joseph Fitsanakis Senior United States military officials, including the chief of staff of the Army, have said no plans are currently in place for the country’s armed forces to have a domestic security role in next month’s elections. America is preparing for one of the most contentious and tense elections in…
October 16, 2020
by Joseph Fitsanakis
Senior United States military officials, including the chief of staff of the Army, have said no plans are currently in place for the country’s armed forces to have a domestic security role in next month’s elections. America is preparing for one of the most contentious and tense elections in its recent history, in which Republican President Donald Trump is facing a challenge by Democratic contender Joe Biden. Many observers have expressed concerns about the potential for violence, some of which could be perpetrated by armed assailants. In that case, it is argued, the president could deploy military personnel across the US.
These and other questions were put to senior military leaders during a congressional hearing held earlier this week by the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee. One of its Democratic members, Michigan Representative Elissa Slotkin, said she was concerned about the possibility of limited or widespread violence on November 3. Responding to Rep. Slotkin’s concerns, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently