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India-Russia Sign An Air Defense System Deal

Putin said that Russia places a top priority on its India relationship and the two countries had concurrent positions on key global issues.

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Russian S-400 air defense missile systems are on display during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. VOA
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India has signed a deal worth more than $5 billion to buy five sophisticated air defense missile systems from Russia that could trigger sanctions by the United States.

The agreement for the purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems was sealed Friday in New Delhi as Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India and held a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Although the deal was not mentioned when the two leaders appeared before reporters, a joint statement after the talks said that the two sides welcomed the agreement.

The deal, said analysts, demonstrates that India is seeking a balance as it steadily grows strategic ties with Washington, but is unwilling to forgo its long-standing defense partnership with Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, VOA

Washington has warned that the purchase of the air defense system would be a “significant transaction” violating a U.S. law passed last year under which countries trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors face the threat of sanctions.

New Delhi, which does not want to jeopardize its growing ties with Washington, is optimistic about avoiding U.S. sanctions.

In talks with U.S. officials, India has stressed its need for the air defense system to strengthen its capabilities against the might of China, whose ambitions are moving New Delhi and Washington closer.

“If the U.S. thinks India is an important partner in the Indo Pacific, they will find a way out,” said political analyst Manoj Joshi at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, pointing out that India is not bound to follow U.S. law.

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Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, wikimedia commons

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, Jinnie Lee, said that the law is “not intended to impose damage to the military capabilities of our allies or partners.” She did not comment on the deal, but said that any waivers would be considered on a transaction by transaction basis.

U.S. officials have said there is no guarantee of a waiver from the Trump administration, which has imposed sanctions on China’s military for the purchase of the same system. The deal figured in discussions in New Delhi when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited India last month.

Indian Air Force Chief B.S. Dhanoa has said that the S-400 system would be a “booster shot” for the Indian air force. The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced long-range, surface-to-air missile system and can take down enemy aircraft from the ground.

India is the world’s largest purchaser of arms and Russia its biggest supplier. In recent years, the U.S. has also become a significant source, with purchases adding up to $15 billion over the past decade.

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Mr. Narendra Modi

Political analyst Joshi said the deal would help restore ties between India and Moscow on an even keel — relations between the Cold War allies had cooled somewhat in recent years as New Delhi’s ties with Washington blossomed. The contract for the air defense system is one of the largest handed out by India.

After the summit, Modi spoke of a “trusted” and “special and privileged partnership” with Moscow as he addressed reporters along with Putin.

“Russia has stood by India through time and has played a crucial role in India’s growth story,” he said.

Also Read: Second Data Centre Launched In Inida By Alibaba Cloud

Putin said that Russia places a top priority on its India relationship and the two countries had concurrent positions on key global issues.

Eight agreements signed by the two countries include pacts for Moscow to build six nuclear power plants in India and cooperate with the Indian space agency in sending a manned mission to space. (VOA)

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Twitter Releases Tweets Showing Attempts Of Influence On U.S. Politics From Foreign Countries

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted.

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The Twitter logo is shown at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California. VOA

On Wednesday, Twitter released a collection of more than 10 million tweets related to thousands of accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency propaganda organization, as well as hundreds more troll accounts, including many based in Iran.

The data, analyzed and released in a report by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, are made up of 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, 770 other accounts potentially based in Iran as well as 10 million tweets and more than 2 million images, videos and other media.

Russian trolls targeting U.S. politics took on personas from both the left and the right. Their primary goal appears to have been to sow discord, rather than promote any particular side, presumably with a goal of weakening the United States, the report said.

DFRlab says the Russian trolls were often effective, drawing tens of thousands of retweets on certain posts including from celebrity commentators like conservative Ann Coulter.

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The Internet Research Agency building, dubbed the Russian troll factory, is seen at Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, Russia. VOA

Some of the tweets posted:

“Judgement Day is here. Please vote #TrumpPence16 to save our great nation from destruction! #draintheswamp #TrumpForPresident,” said a fake Election Day tweet in 2016.

“Daily reminder: Trump still hasn’t imposed sanctions on Russia that were passed 4,193 in the House and 982 in the Senate. Shouldn’t that be grounds for impeachment?” said another tweet in March of this year.

Multiple goals

The Russian operation had multiple goals, including interfering in the U.S. presidential election, polarizing online communities, and weakening trust in American institutions, according to the DFRLab.

“The thing to understand is that the Russians were equal opportunity partisans,” Graham Brookie, one of the researchers behind the analysis, told VOA News. “There was a very specific focus on specific ideological communities and specific demographics.”

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The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, speaks at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington. VOA

Following an initial push to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected in 2016, the analysis identified a “second wave” of fake accounts, many of which were focused on infiltrating anti-Trump groups, especially those identified with the “Resistance” movement, exploiting sensitive issues such as race relations and gun violence. These often achieved greater impact than their conservative counterparts.

“Don’t ever tell me kneeling for the flag is disrespectful to our troops when Trump calls a sitting Senator “Pocahontas” in front of Native American war heroes,” tweeted an account posing as an African-American woman named “Luisa Haynes” under the handle @wokeluisa in November 2017. The tweet garnered more than 32,000 retweets and over 89,000 likes.

“They tried to inflame everybody, regardless of race, creed, politics or sexual orientation,” the Lab noted in its analysis. “On many occasions, they pushed both sides of divisive issues.”

Iran trolling

Iran’s trolling was primarily focused on promoting its own interests, including attacking regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

However, Iran’s trolling was less effective than the Russian posts, with most tweets getting limited responses.

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Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

This was partially because of posting styles that were less inflammatory, according to the report.

“Few of the accounts showed distinctive personalities: They largely shared online articles,” according to the report. “As such, they were a poor fit for Twitter, where personal comment tends to resonate more strongly than website shares.” Generally, many troll posts were ineffective, and “their operations were washed away in the firehose of Twitter.”

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted, and the analysis notes that overall activity from suspected Russian trolls fell this year after Twitter clampdowns in September and June 2017.

Also Read: Facebook Better Prepared To Defend Itself Against External Manipulation For The Elections

But, that does not mean political trolls do not still pose a threat.

“Identifying future foreign influence operations, and reducing their impact, will demand awareness and resilience from the activist communities targeted, not just the platforms and the open source community,” according to the report. (VOA)