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The agency apparently learned the lesson of the past. As a former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official put it, CIA covert action appears to be waging war and is no longer just “trying to fight terrorism by passing out bags of money.”

‘The Tausch’ demoted?

Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, who has been leading U.S.-Russian missile defense talks that are largely kept secret from Congress and the public, was given a demotion of sorts, Inside the Ring was told by a senior U.S. national security official.

Mrs. Tauscher, a former Democratic congresswoman from California, has annoyed colleagues and critics with her abrasive style. In meetings, she has been known to refer to herself as “the Tausch.”

Word from the Pentagon is that Mrs. Tauscher is no longer the lead Obama administration official for the U.S.-Russian talks on missile defenses, which the administration has been holding with Moscow and working toward what critics on Capitol Hill have said is the questionable goal of concluding a technology-sharing agreement with Russia.

Instead, the Pentagon’s Jim Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, is now the key negotiator, even though Mrs. Tauscher technically will be in charge overall.

An aide to Mrs. Tauscher said Inside the Ring is “misinformed” about her position in the talks.

According to the aide, Mrs. Tauscher and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov have overall responsibility for U.S.-Russian missile defense talks, while Mr. Miller and Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antaonov deal with developing “practical steps.”

The Miller-led group met last month and issued a vague statement April 11 that said the two sides “discussed various military policy and technical aspects of potential cooperation in the field of missile defense in Europe.”

The Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the Russian General Staff also conduct talks.

NATO cancels exercise

One significant casualty of the Obama administration’s stalemated military operation against Libya, involving mainly NATO military forces, is that the alliance canceled one of its most important annual military exercises.

The Crisis Management Exercise-11, code named CMX-11, was to have kicked off March 23, but the Libya attack against Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces forced it to be canceled.

Some in the Obama administration are quietly cheering the decision to put off the exercise because it was expected to upset the Russians. According to a NATO official, the exercise would have involved an “Article V scenario” involving a simulated attack and possible nuclear strike on NATO by Russia.

“Too inflammatory of Russia” was the way it was described by a U.S. official who supported the exercise and opposes the Obama administration’s conciliatory reset policy with Moscow.

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