On 29 December 2016, US President Barack Obama authorised sanctions against 11 Russian entities and individuals, including two key Russian intelligence services ─ the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) ─ over alleged cyber-attacks against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and attempts to influence the 2016 US election.
Four top GRU officers, including the Chief, Deputy Chief and First Deputy Chiefs, have been designated, along with three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. Two individuals have also been designated for using cyber-enabled means for personal financial gain.
This is the most extensive US response to a state-sponsored cyber-attack. Along with the Executive Order designation, the US State Department also declared 35 Russian government personnel as persona non grata, with a 72-hour notice period to leave the US. The Department also closed two estates in Maryland and New York that it claimed were used for “Russian intelligence-related purposes”.
Despite the US government’s strong response, evidence tying the GRU or FSB to a plan to influence the election is lacking. A 29 December Joint Analysis Report conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security detailed Russian military and civilian intelligence services’ capabilities associated with cyber-attacks. But the report fell short in identifying any Russian intelligence election interference.
The timing of the sanctions is notable. They come less than a month before president-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office, leaving him to decide whether the latest sanctions should be lifted in a move contrary to what the majority of the Republican party want. It is unlikely the new designations will have a significant impact on either of the Russian intelligence agencies, which generally do not hold assets in the US and whose officials rarely travel there.
Nonetheless, the allegations that Russia was behind cyber operations that affected the US elections are serious and have driven Republications to hold Congressional hearings. Given the power of Congress in adopting sanctions and the traditional viewpoint held by Congressional Republicans that the US and Russia are strategic rivals, it is unclear whether the Trump administration could reset relations with Russia even if it was minded to do so. This uncertainty also affects other sanctions on Russia, including those related to the country’s annexation of Crimea. As a result, it remains unclear whether the US – and indeed the EU – will maintain or ease their Russia sanctions regime in 2017.
The individuals added to the sanctions list are as follows:
- KOROBOV, Igor Valentinovich (Chief, GRU)
- GIZUNOV, Sergey Aleksandrovich (Deputy Chief, GRU)
- ALEXSEYEV, Vladimir Stepanovich (First Deputy Chief, GRU)
- KOSTYUKOV, Igor Olegovich (First Deputy Chief, GRU)
- BELAN, Aleksey Alekseyevich
- BOGACHEV, Evgeniy Mikhaylovich
The entities added to the sanctions list are as follows:
- Federal Security Service (FSB)
- Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU)
- Special Technology Centre
- Autonomous Non-Commercial Organization Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems
The US White House and Treasury announcement can be found here:
Project Alpha has launched a new research initiative focused on identifying Russian sanctioned and non-sanctioned organisations and networks involved in Russia’s strategic industries.
On 15th December, the US Department of Commerce issued an update to its Entity List, adding seven entities in Pakistan which appear to be linked to Pakistan’s missile programme.
The move by the BIS End User Review Committee follows close scrutiny of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes prompted, in part, by a report published by Project Alpha in November. That report had identified most of the entities that were added to the US list on the 15th December as well as up to a dozen more front companies procuring illicit goods on behalf of Pakistan, including front companies thought to act on behalf of the newly designated entities.
The timing of the move is noteworthy. With little over a month to go until the inauguration of President Trump, it is possible that the Obama administration acted to list these entities foreseeing a window in which the move would not necessarily hamper US diplomatic ties with Pakistan. While there are signs that Pakistan is discontent with the US action, the Pakistani government will wish to start fresh with the Trump administration regardless.
It is also notable that the US appears to have focused these additions around entities involved in Pakistan’s missile programme. Given that Pakistan earlier this year applied to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, any move by the US to designate entities connected to Pakistan’s nuclear programme would likely be taken as an overtly political act by the outgoing Obama administration.
The entities sanctioned the US are noted below.
- Ahad International
- Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
- National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM)
- Air Weapons Complex (AWC)
- Maritime Technology Complex (MTC)
- New Auto Engineering (NAE)
- Universal Tooling Services
The US announcement can be found here:
The public version of the Alpha in-depth Report on Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs can be accessed here: http://projectalpha.eu/research-opens-a-window-into-pakistans-nuclear-weapons-programme/
The UN Security Council on 15 December unanimously approved resolution 2325 (2016), updating resolution 1540 (2004) as a result of a thorough review process – known as the 2016 Comprehensive Review of the Status of Implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) – by member states.
Resolution 1540 imposes binding obligations on member states to adopt legislation to prevent the proliferation of WMDs and establish appropriate domestic controls to prevent their illicit trafficking. As part of its review process, the 1540 group of experts Committee [the Committee] was tasked with assessing implementation of the resolution based on information which included the 1540 approved matrices, as well as inputs from member states and other relevant information provided by intergovernmental and regional and sub-regional organisations. On 9 December, the Committee submitted to the Security Council a report on the conclusions of its review. It found that “while overall progress has been made with the implementation of resolution 1540, there remains more to be done to accomplish the objective of full implementation of the resolution, which is a long-term task that requires continuous efforts at national, regional and international levels.”
Resolution 2325 (2016) urges governments to make greater efforts to comply with the implementation requirements of resolution 1540, and contains a new series of recommendations regarding the work of the Committee, which, it said, had substantially expanded its outreach since its establishment. However, noting a decreasing capacity of the Committee to respond to member states’ requests for assistance, it called on governments to, whenever possible, participate in voluntary contributions and high-quality assistance for capacity-building that would meet national needs for comprehensive implementation of the 1540 regime, including through greater cooperation among all stakeholders, civil society and academia.
While the resolution is helpful in reiterating the requirements of UNSCR1540, it does not contain much that is new other than highlighting a need to redouble efforts towards full implementation and to ensure that the resolution’s requirements are kept up to date with the evolving technological landscape. It is understood that more ambitious proposals had been discussed including, on the one hand, a dedicated provision of capacity building capability and, on the other hand, the creation of a chemical and biological terrorism convention at Russia’s request. However, it seems that agreement could not be reached within the Security Council, which has been politically charged in recent years as a result of re-emerging tensions between Russia and the US/ Europe.
An official statement on the adoption of resolution 2325 (2016) is available here:
by Ian Stewart, with contributions from Dominic Williams and Nick Gillard
Project Alpha is today releasing a report on Intangible Technology Controls (ITT), examining the utility of ITT in managing the spread of proliferation-relevant technologies. Continue reading New Alpha Report: Examining intangible technology controls
Extensive research carried out by Project Alpha, based at King’s College London, reveals critical new information about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missile programme, at a time when the country is aspiring to be a leading player in non-proliferation. Continue reading Research opens a window into Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is a major threat to international peace and security. Detecting the financing of proliferation (FoP) can assist in combating WMD, but it is difficult and requires a better understanding of FoP typologies. Typologies can assist governments in implementing sanctions on WMD programs and disrupting proliferation networks. They can also help the private sector to identify information on FoP that should be passed to governments, and to remain compliant with sanctions. Continue reading Study of the Typologies of the Financing of Proliferation (STFoP)
To explore ways to strengthen the partnership between the UK and India on strategic nuclear issues, Project Alpha of King’s College London, together with the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in India organised a two-leg dialogue during the first quarter of 2016. The sessions were attended by scholars, practitioners and officials from the two countries, who explored a number of relevant topics in order to build common understanding and identify opportunities to further strengthen the relationship between the UK and India.
The first event, held at the Royal Society for the Arts in London on January 18th to 19th 2016, focused on common interests and areas for collaboration, strategic challenges and stabilities, non-proliferation and disarmament efforts, as well as India’s entry into the export control regimes. The second event was held at the IDSA office in Delhi on March 1st to 2nd 2016, where the discussion focused on the Asian security landscape, export control governance, and discussion on the next steps to developing the India-UK alliance.
The detailed meeting summary of the event can be accessed below.
After a long ongoing review, which included production of a report by experts at Project Alpha for the European Parliament, the European Commission has issued the proposal to modernise and upgrade its export control regime. Continue reading EU moves to strengthen its export control regime
While North Korea’s provocative actions show no sign of abating, scrutiny of Pyongyang’s sanctions-busting activities abroad has been focussed on North Korean activities in China, the Middle East and Africa. Dubious North Korean-related activity can be found closer to home, however: an investigation undertaken by John Druce, a researcher affiliated with Project Alpha at King’s College London, has found that associates of North Korean entities appear to maintain front companies in the United Kingdom.