In Other News – Saudi Arabia is positioning China in a strategic role in the Gulf & More – 1/7/2022

January 7, 2022

Arrest and prosecution of Russian tech mogul presents opportunity for US intelligence. Last March, Vladislav Klyushin, a Russian tech executive charged with hacking into confidential quarterly earnings reports of US companies and making millions on insider trading, was arrested by the US government while on a ski trip to Switzerland. It wasn’t until mid-December, however, that the Swiss made public their decision to extradite Klyushin to the United States, shunning Putin’s request to try the accused in Russia. As per the indictment, Klyushin previously led M13, a Russian cybersecurity company whose IT solutions were used by the Russian government, and Klyushin also is associated with Ivan Ermakov, one of the alleged dozen Russian intelligence operatives charged in connection with the 2016 election hacking. This week in Boston federal court, Klyushin pled not guilty to the insider trading charges. But if Klyushin decides to cooperate with the US Government, he holds unique insight on the Kremlin’s cyberattacks and strategy and could offer intelligence operators an insider’s view into GRU operations against the US and its allies.

Saudis are reportedly manufacturing ballistic missiles, complicating diplomatic efforts to reach nuclear agreement and positioning China in a strategic role in the Gulf. In a development that could have significant regional repercussions, US Intelligence agencies have assessed that Saudi Arabia, with the assistance of China, is now actively manufacturing ballistic missiles. If true, this would shift the power dynamic in the region and complicate efforts to expand the terms of a nuclear deal with Iran to include restraints on missile technology. There’s no clear end in sight to the enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and with the Saudis now manufacturing their own missiles, Tehran will be hard pressed to scale back their own missile program. Over the past year, China has increased its collaboration with Iran on economic and security issues, including on state-level cyberattack initiatives, while simultaneously helping the Saudis build up their defenses. While it’s in China’s interest to have stability between Saudi and Iran, it’s uncertain if President Xi is angling to broker a détente between the two nations or is instead just playing both sides to his advantage.

Widespread efforts to curb transnational crime are announced in December, but their effectiveness remains to be seen. In December, President Biden signed an Executive Order to mitigate the threat of transnational organized crime, noting that cross-border criminal networks threaten everything from the health of the environment to democratic processes and the rule of law. The Executive Order comes with the establishment of a United States Council on Transnational Crime that includes representatives from major offices like the Director of National Intelligence and US Treasury. The initiative highlights the need for increased information sharing with private and international entities, a goal that is becoming more pressing for international bodies and nations.

In late December the Korean National Police Agency of the Republic of Korea, whose leadership noted that transnational crime has been fortified with the development of technology and globalization, signed a Working Arrangement with Europol to collaborate on the threat. Also in mid-December, Russia and Cambodia pledged cooperation in countering transnational crime, highlighting money laundering and terrorist financing as focus areas, and presenting Russia as a third path between China and the US. While global efforts to collaborate on transnational crime are building momentum, many nations will likely remain reticent to share any information that could incriminate their leadership or influential criminal actors.