“Please, get out from Ukraine, Mr. Putin,” President Petro Poroshenko said days after Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships and their crew members claiming they had entered Russian waters illegally. “The Russians will pay a huge price if they attack us,” Poroshenko added as NATO and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held special meetings while urging for restraint from both parties.
As Kyiv insisted on Moscow’s “act of aggression” that violated a 2003 treaty that stipulates free access to the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov played down tensions, pointing out “the need for the full and consistent implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures to reach a settlement in eastern Ukraine.”
Although the latest incident marks yet another degradation of bilateral relations after Russia backed a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, the economic consequences should be mostly local and mainly impact both countries’ economy.
Of course, another hot point on the map isn’t a good development for the global economy since it increases uncertainty however the Ukraine-Russia situation has been war-like for years, and the two protagonists are the ones who will likely suffer from it the most. Also, it will strain the US-Russia relationship a bit more.
For some time on the ground and more and more frequently in words, the main military concern of the United States as seen by its government and its Generals focuses on China.
Indeed, if the immediate threat from a cybernetic and political viewpoint originates from Russia, the real long-term threat against US interests would mainly originate from China, the sole country able to reach world leadership over the next decades.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded more military funding from his European NATO allies considering that “the United States needs a very strong European pillar (because) in 15 years it is a very strong likelihood that we will be at war with China,” said US General Ben Hodges at the Warsaw Security Forum.
Now retired and a former commander of the US Army in Europe, Hodges believes that the United States will not have the ability to deal with both Europe and Asia at a same time.
In addition to the needed increase in their military capabilities, Europeans must also make sure to restore their sovereignty at home, said Hodges, emphasizing that China owns more and more companies and infrastructure including more than 10% of European ports.
According to French intelligence agencies and information from daily newspaper Le Figaro, more than 4,000 executives and employees have been “harpooned” by their Chinese intelligence counterparts, especially through professional social networks.
The preferred targets are often executives of ministries or companies specialized in advanced technologies contacted by their Chinese equivalents, at least in appearance, and who attract them with a good offer of collaboration.
In the end, if thousands of French citizens have ignored – or even some of them have understood – the maneuver, both domestic (DGSI) and foreign (DGSE) intelligence agencies assessed that several hundreds of individuals could have been compromised.
This large-scale social engineering operation allegedly led by the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSE) for several years is based on digital avatars – profiles – adapted to the sectors of activity specifically targeted and a significant number of such avatars would populate the LinkedIn professional social network.
The first step consists of establishing at least digital ties with predetermined individuals, this way accessing their list of contacts and growing the list of potential targets as a result. A relevant socio-professional geography of entire sectors is therefore drawn easily.
The second step consists of attracting duly selected targets to China by offering them professional meetings and / or a potentially fruitful collaboration, opening the path towards possible compromise.
Other countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States had already warned about the acuity of such a large-scale spying enterprise.