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The SIS is worried about foreign interference – so what’s NATO doing in our back yard?

Written By: - Date published: 9:28 pm, March 31st, 2021 - 26 comments
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The SIS can’t help itself – it keeps getting involved in our politics, but stays resolutely one-eyed. As Sam Sachdeva of Newsroom reports, it has just released advice for politicians on how to avoid political interference. Maintaining ‘transparent’ secrecy, it uses its favourite journalists and academics to drop the necessary hints – look over here.

The SIS document “Espionage and Foreign Interference Threats: Security advice for members of the New Zealand Parliament and Locally Elected Representatives” warns

Foreign state actors work under many guises. While foreign intelligence services usually lead and carry out espionage and foreign interference, they may also use a range of other actors to help them. These other actors include diplomats, academics, military personnel, media organisations, community organisations, business people, online actors, proxies.

We’ve known that for years. It’s what diplomats do, and it’s also no secret that foreign embassies include intelligence agents, and one of their jobs is to cultivate relationships, particularly with journalists and increasingly also with academics. It’s also what the SIS and the GCSB do.

The question is, exactly who are the foreigners whose influence we as citizens need to be careful about, and to what extent are our interests and security addressed by the intelligence agencies. In their review of the intelligence agencies occasioned in part by the GCSB’s illegal surveillance of Kim DotCom, Sir Michael Cullen and Dame Patsy Reddy had this to say at 4.28:

We consider it is in New Zealand’s national interest to maintain its collaboration with the Five Eyes partnership for as long as it continues to result in a net benefit for us. However, there are risks and costs associated with this close relationship. Continuation of our involvement depends in part on how much we contribute to research,development and intelligence collection. Close co-operation on operational matters also creates a risk of some loss of independence, both operationally and potentially also in relation to our intelligence, defence and foreign policy settings. The Agencies must keep at the forefront of their minds New Zealand’s national interests, which do not and cannot exactly coincide with those of any other country, no matter how friendly or close. The Agencies should continue to collaborate with foreign partners only to the extent compatible with New Zealand’s laws and national interests.

Speaking in Radio New Zealand’s series ‘The Service’, which detailed some activities of the SIS, Helen Clark said:

Helen Clark said she believed the Five Eyes alliance was a net benefit for New Zealand, but it was vital that the country maintained its independence within the network. “I think you’re as independent as you want to be. I consider we were independent in my time. I sense there’s been a bit of slippage since then, frankly.”

Clark said “sources in officialdom” had told her New Zealand had “got a lot closer back in” and that could threaten the country’s independent foreign policy, which went right back to the nuclear-free stance of the mid-1980s.

In my opinion, the maintenance of peace and the prevention of nuclear war is at the very top of New Zealand’s national interests. Also in my opinion, the greatest threat to that peace and the greatest risk of nuclear war lies with the confrontational activities of the United States and the confrontational ambitions of NATO in our Asia-Pacific region.

Sachdeva’s article goes on to cite two other documents warning against interference in Universities. He cites Professor Anne-Marie Brady, indefatigable China critic, referring to a previous story about her warning against technology exports. More on that in another post. Brady says:

University of Canterbury academic and China expert Anne-Marie Brady, who has written about the People’s Liberation Army using academic collaborations as a “foothold” to strengthen its militarisation programme, told Newsroom it was good to see the Government doing more to educate the public about foreign interference.

“The documents contain very detailed information about what foreign interference is, and how to prevent it, and highlights how our politicians and academics are being targeted by foreign governments.”

The irony is that the research project Small States and the New Security Environment (SSANSE) that Professor Brady heads at Canterbury University  is a project funded by NATO. The NATO funding agency, Science for Peace and Security,  states as follows:

The SPS Programme offers funding, expert advice and support to tailor-made, security-relevant activities that respond to NATO’s strategic objectives.

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is a military alliance formed between the United States and European countries after the Second World War. It has expanded to the border of the Russian Federation, and is currently conducting large military exercises in the Ukraine and the Baltic States. There it sits on a powder keg and is a threat to peace. It has also just sent more troops to Afghanistan at a time when the US has promised to leave by May 1 but now says it might not, which undoubtedly means more mayhem. It now wants to expand into the US-defined ‘Indo-Pacific.’ It is a foreign agency.

It has just held a two-day summit attended by US Secretary of State Blinken. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg described the adoption of a a confrontational policy towards China as a threat and “an opportunity.” Finian Cunningham writing in the Strategic-Culture Foundation had this to say:

In an unguarded moment, NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg let the cat out of the bag when he described the rise of China as both a challenge and “an opportunity”. What he was admitting unintentionally is that a confrontational policy toward China gives the military alliance some badly needed new purpose.

Anne-Marie Brady would certainly be carrying out NATO policy by carrying on her confrontational policy towards China. NATO will feel they are getting their money’s worth for her compliance with their strategic objectives.

In my opinion a confrontational policy towards China is not in New Zealand’s economic interest. Given the tensions in the region, it is also not in New Zealand’s security interest. Stirring up anti-country feeling is historically a preparation for war, as we know from the experience of Iraq, and previous disasters.

I hope the SIS is taking note, and warning Canterbury University about the foreign interference in their midst.



26 comments on “The SIS is worried about foreign interference – so what’s NATO doing in our back yard? ”

  1. Anne 1

    I've been hearing good things about Nanaia Mahuta Mike Smith. She's a clued up lady from all accounts and she does not seem to be falling for the negative propaganda which abounds around China – although there is truth to some of them. Our trade alliances with China will continue to remain front and centre in all our dealings, and this government is not going to do anything to jeopardize them.

    I'm not well informed on the actions of foreign agencies such as NATO but the US anti- China strategy appears to me to be far more about the fear China is going to take over as the world's next super power. I have no doubt NATO is as afraid of them as the US and they will both be working hard to find some excuse to have a go at them.

    Interesting time ahead.

  2. Castro 2

    What was the PRC spy doing in the Beehive all those years? crickets chirping

  3. Hanswurst 3

    Although I am inclined to believe that NATO's interests are pretty much as you suggest, I have to take issue with the way Cunningham frames Stoltenberg's statements. He doesn't say that the rise of China presents a threat, but also an opportunity; he says that it presents an opportunity, but also a threat. The inmplication is not that it is an unfavourable development that NATO can turn to its advantage, but that it is a favourable development that has a sting in the tail. His emphasis is specifically on the opportunity to engage with China on climate change, which I assume is predicated on an assessment that China no longer sees itself as engaged in an all-out battle to elevate itself to a modern industrial economy, but feels that it has achieved that status to a sufficient extent that it is worth its while to concentrate on sustainability, and also to compete with Western powers for a share of the burgeoning market in lucrative green technology.

    Stoltenberg also quite clearly links his statements about values to the observation that Chinese interests are investing growing quantities in NATO economies, and the implicit question is, "What do you do in a system that has evolved to sustain free markets centred around a few big players, if incrdeasing numbers of those big players begin representing interests opposed not aligned with those of the political class?"

    I don't think it's a case of any kind of mask slipping, or that his comments are terribly revelatory. He's just articulating pretty much exactly the interests you'd expect from someone in his position.

  4. greywarshark 4

    I bought the book – about how we traded with Russia – butter for Ladas and the diplomacy required to get there. We are capable of stepping on the high stones across the bog and avoiding the river Styx.

    But the programmed boys in the intelligence community may feel secure and righteous in their niche on the wall behind the plaster saint. Informed people will never forget the briefcase, the Playboy, and was it a pie or a sandwich? They harassed Bill Sutch who being more clued and worldly than they, wanted to hear the latest world political yarns from a Russian point of view without listening devices, and get the 'real oil' on what was going on, outside the official western blah.

    What a dilemma for us – the Aussies are stuffed with conservatives who may have moved into Alzheimers territory but it would be hard to know. The USA becomes more obdurate the more their own country falls apart and their adventures in other lands and the air, form the basis for spy-science-fiction novels. The Chinese have hatched from their communist chrysalis, but like my nascent monarch butterflies, seem prone to being affected by ill-omened influences affecting their expected outcome.

    Mike's opinion about our best route forward being not to take sides against China and indeed I think any country, is considered and wise I think, as an ordinary, thoughtful citizen.

    Stirring up anti-country feeling is historically a preparation for war, as we know from the experience of Iraq, and previous disasters.

    We need to keep thinking and trying to act wisely and try for ethically too, considering all factors (including that every country has perpetrated actions that do them no credit).

    • Anne 4.1

      They harassed Bill Sutch who being more clued and worldly than they, wanted to hear the latest world political yarns from a Russian point of view without listening devices, and get the 'real oil' on what was going on, outside the official western blah.

      He was actually sounding out the Russians with a view to initiating negotiations for a trade deal between NZ and the [then] Soviet Union. He was light years ahead of his compatriots.

      • Tiger Mountain 4.1.1

        An old friend of mine, retired Lawyer, well involved in Wellington political affairs, wrote quite a tome about the “Razgovorov Affair”, and the various twists and turns beyond the Truth newspaper version of WB Sutch. No one really was interested in publishing it in the late 90s. It could have easily been E-published nowadays.

        • Anne

          If the tome was at odds with the officially accepted version of events then it is possible the publishers of the day were 'advised' not to publish it.

          It was well known the Truth newspaper was in cohorts with the SIS in the 50s, 60s and 70s and given that newspaper's propensity for telling everything but the truth, it doesn't auger well for an accurate portrayal of the WB Sutch affair.

          A good example:
          My mother was a founding member of a well known philosophy group in Auckland. It was a branch of a highly respected group based in London. Around the mid 1970s, the Truth newspaper wrote an article claiming the group was… a front for a covert communist organisation linked to Moscow. A more gracious and kindly group of people – most of them professionals in their filed of endeavour you could not find.

          • Anne

            Sorry ran out of time. Last sentence should read;

            A more gracious and kindly group of people (most of them professionals in their field of endeavour) you could not find.

          • Tiger Mountain

            Getting your drift…R. House perhaps. My friend is well out of the fray now, was involved with “The Salient” for a bit and international stuff.

            • Anne

              My father was also involved in some international stuff in the late 1960s and early 1970s which I know was the origin of my experiences. A group of individuals, including from our nearest neighbour, misconstrued his activities (a polite euphemism for political paranoia) and it ended up reflecting on his daughter – me.

              Yes, I think you have the drift…

    • Stuart Munro 4.2

      Russia, unfortunately, contains both communities – the reasonable, even somewhat enlightened folk that let Gorbachov establish enterprise zones in Primorye without it being a neoliberal farce. And the descendants of the Okhrana, the cheats and oligarchs who pushed him out of power so that they could continue parasitizing off the state as they had in Soviet times.

      There were, and may still be opportunities for NZ in Russia, as there were when the EU didn't want our butter, and Russia did. The current leadership is from the dirty tricks side of the ledger however, which is why all border states, even Turkey, find NATO membership pretty attractive.

      • greywarshark 4.2.1

        And do I take it that President Putin inclines towards the tricky side of the ledger? Though he did put one of the oligarchs in jail for getting above himself perhaps?

        • Stuart Munro

          I think it's probably better to describe them as kleptiarchs than oligarchs. Like Roger Douglas and the merchant bankers who succeeded him, they have enriched themselves with stolen state wealth – they differ in this from the likes of Bill Gates, who for all his corporate chicanery contributed some value along his path to self-enrichment. The state asset thieves contributed nothing.

          Some of Putin's former allies fell out with the group and were killed or chased abroad. Some were never allied, and were done down and stripped of their wealth, and some were, perhaps akin the members of the Hart family that were not enriched by NZ's most famous billionaire, not quick enough to recognize the ambitions of other rising oligarchs.

      • Mike Smith 4.2.2

        @ Stuart Munro
        I think the point being made is that NATO needs an adversary to provide relevance and a reason for its existence – hence opposition to China is seen by Stoltenberg as an opportunity to give it that relevance.

        • Stuart Munro

          That's certainly one construction to put on things – and institutions being what they are, I'm sure there's an element of truth in it. We see the same thing in China's nationalist drumbeating about Uyghur cotton Chinese apparel brands rally on support for Xinjiang cotton sourcing | Financial Times (ft.com), and Putin has certainly played anti-western cards from time to time.

          But NATO has thus far refrained from invasions like the Citrus War, and Putin's little green men in the Crimea. Though doubtless NATO force involvement in deeply tainted conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan can be laid at their door, they are not presently as energetically seeking confrontation as their colleagues to the east.

  5. The sissies should be worried about nz terrorists attacks on mosque adherents.

    Our governments have, for far too long, been wedded to british imperialism.

    Imperialism from anywhere has to be resisted.

  6. Trude 6

    It would be good to see some more open acknowledgement that the Five Eyes are engaged in much more than counter-espionage.

    "An honest, open environment can bring out the best in people."
    – Pierre Omidyar

  7. Subliminal 7

    War and peace. Great themes. The greatest threat to humanity remains as nuclear weapons. This is something that is easy to lose consciousness of amongst impending climate disaster. It could however be argued that ending military confrontation would make negotiations on climate change mitigation a simple matter if only because the concentrated energy and portability of fossil fuels would not be so critical. Alternative energy sources require stable and robust communities. So is anyone still concerned about the nuclear threat? Trump tried to ditch non proliferation and walked away from the JCPOA. Biden appears to be following Trump at least with regard to the JCPOA. Also, Bidens characterisation of Putin as a killer who must be made to pay is quite unbelievable as is the tone taken by Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken towards the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Anchorage. It seems that the USA only understands confrontation and has lost any ability at diplomacy. What then of China? They have clearly stated in there recent historic agreement with Iran that they support and wish to reinstate the JCPOA. But not only this. They also support a nuclear free Middle East. On a tour through the ME Wang has been supported in a vision of an independent, sovereign ME by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran. America may be back but China is making the moves that are most likely to end the chaos that is the Middle East.

    • Anne 7.1

      Is it not all about America maintaining its super power status? Strutting the super stage full of sound and fury, is the mark of a declining nation desperate to hold on to its power at any cost.

      Mind you, the same could probably be said of Russia which makes the whole scenario rather amusing – was it not for the deadly consequences.

      • Subliminal 7.1.1

        Hi Anne. Yes, I would tend to go for the not so amusing scenario. Wheras Trump was mostly focused on clipping China's wings, historically, Biden has always had greater animosity towards Russia and close ties with the post coup Ukraine government. We can see this in his characterisation of Putin from where there is no chance that there will ever be any kind of non confrontational dialogue. This doesn't bode well for the future stability of Europe. Added to this is the realisation that Biden is losing the support of Europe with his approach to China. So Russia and specifically the NATO beach head that is the Ukraine is an ideal opportunity for Biden to make good on his "America is back" to reassert their dominance over Europe. Of course, this is all being portrayed as reaction to a Russian buildup but the reality is that this is just another opportunity to "poke the bear" and hope for a reaction.

        • Anne

          Thanks very much for that explanation Subliminal.

          I don't have specific knowledge of these things but it has been my sense for years that the 'would be super powers' have been playing what I regard as a senseless and dangerous game of cat and mouse simply because they can. I don't think any one of them is better or worse than the others in this regard.

          In the 1980s I found myself entwined in an intrigue (in NZ) which had an element of cold war paranoia and power games attached. I was the innocent piggy in the middle who didn't know what was going on around me until it was too late to do anything about it. But the experience did leave me with a reasonable ability to broadly sniff out this type of conduct despite a lack of detailed knowledge.

  8. Adrian Thornton 8

    Very good piece M.Smith, and also very timely. Thanks.

    This might be of interest…

    As US continues New Cold War, Russia and China forge new ties

    "In its opening months, the Biden administration has targeted Russia and China with belligerent rhetoric, new sanctions, and continued military provocations. Lyle Goldstein of the US Naval War College discusses how the US is inflaming the key flashpoints of Taiwan, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, Ukraine, and nuclear weapons, and how Russia and China are deepening cooperation in response."

  9. Penny 9

    What about the Centre for Australian / American Progress?

    There's a NATO link there… at least one. Ivo Daadler.

    [I let this through although it lacks any links or other useful info, the centre doesn’t exist as such, and the surname is spelled incorrectly. Let’s see what this commenter has to offer, but by the look of it, not much. Any comment that starts with “What about …” can only get worse from the start – Incognito]

  10. Vaughan M 10

    It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it's time to meet the Muppet on the Muppet Show tonight. . .

    Whenever we see the cutesy academic next-door Anne-Marie Brady, wheeled out on MSM all dressed up in front of the bright lights with her makeup on, you know it’s time for the Demonisation Of China Show.

    A show brought to you by Washington, starring a shill for the US Deep State Anne-Marie Brady. Brady is nothing less than a CIA asset – bought and paid for NATO apologist and propagandist pig dog. No amount of lipstick on the pig can hide the evil agenda she is pushing & represents. Tune in next week when you’ll hear Miss Piggy, I mean Anne-Marie Brady say. . . “Amerika good, China bad”.

    Seriously, I wonder what a hot war with China would be like? End of Humanity?

    I wonder what a cataclysmic asteroid strike on Washington, and all her military bases around the world would be like? A gift to Humanity?

    There is no doubt the biggest threat facing Humanity is the United States. This rouge State has form like no other generating wars on a regular basis. Fantastic form generating massive profits for the evil sociopaths associated with, and mired deep within, the MICIMATT (Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank) complex. For war is their business, certainly NOT peace. We have witnessed time and again wars manufactured before our eyes on Western news media and indeed our own local media in New Zealand. Parroting the same talking points from Washington, based on lies and manufactured consent. Blatant propaganda repeated on high rotation by Deep State affiliated media [specific broadcasters in Five Eyes nations] to ensure more wars for the coalition of the killing.

    Our news media is an abject failure in terms of fact checking: Specifically, TVNZ et al, news segments featuring daily satellite feeds by affiliated partners such as CBS, BBC, Sky News. Almost always no questions are asked about reliability of sources, allegations & assertions made, no content checked for truth in those affiliated ‘Ministry of Truth’ stories. Seemingly the news editors and producers here just press play, and potato-head news presenters dutifully read the auto-cue. So, when we see news segments alleging mass concentration camps and human rights violations [genocide] by China, we unconditionally accept that as fact without knowing the full story or the truth. When we read or see hit-pieces by academics in the news media we unconditionally accept that as fact because they’re academics and hey we read & watched it in the news so it must be true, right?

    From Iraq to Syria and beyond it’s the same playbook, demonisation of target country slowly ramped up over weeks & months – rinse & repeat. China is undergoing such demonisation treatment now in the media; at the same time Washington is dismantling diplomatic relations with China & her allies. The Belt & Road initiative and rejection of US reserve currency for trade by BRI partners are direct threats to US hegemony. Access to rear earth elements [lack of] is of major concern to the United States, technological & military advancement will be seriously disrupted by China if they choose to stop exporting to the rouge American state.

    Jacinda Ardern, are we for peace or are we for war? Please tell the United States Embassy in Wellington to fuck off back to where they came from. Then please, tell the Israeli Embassy in Wellington to fuck off back to where they came from. Then please this is VERY important, dismantle all infrastructure supporting NSA spy bases in New Zealand and inform other members of 5-Eyes we (NZ) are withdrawing immediately. Also, sack Rebecca Kitteridge & reform the SIS and make them pick apples or something useful as soon as possible. Lastly, tell Andrew Little over at GCSB to pull his socks up. Cheers.

    Debunking US accusation of China’s ‘genocide’ against Uighurs – Max Blumenthal>

    ‘Independent’ report claiming Uyghur genocide brought to you by sham university, neocon ideologues lobbying to ‘punish’ China – AJIT SINGH>


    US/NATO vs. Russia-China in a hybrid war to the finish – Pepe Escobar>


    Peace, Brothers & Sisters.

    Vaughan M

    • RedLogix 10.1

      Colonialism with Chinese characteristics.

    • Incognito 10.2

      A copy & paste job from your comment on TDB.

      Can you please do us a favour and leave the misogynist remarks and character assassination at the door next time? It kinda undermines your comments about ‘the truth’ and demonization and manipulation in and by the media.

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