Even before COVID-19, only half of military and veteran family respondents felt satisfied with their ability to access mental health care appointments, according to data released this week from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN). The top obstacle to obtaining mental health care, across all demographics, was the lack of available appointments.
Add physical distancing, forced isolation and unemployment due to COVID-19, and the data suggests that military and veteran families could be at increased risk of struggling with mental health concerns without the ability to get help.
MFAN’s Military Family Support Programming Survey was fielded from October 7, 2019 to November 11, 2019 and 7,785 respondents answered the questions. The full survey results will be released next month, but MFAN has been releasing some findings early so that leaders and policy makers will have access to the information in order to make decisions during the pandemic.
“My spouse had been trying to schedule a mental health appointment because they have really been struggling lately,” one respondent, the spouse of an Air Force active duty service member, said. “It took them over four weeks to actually be able to see someone in person (which I think is extremely unacceptable). Not to mention, once they were finally able to, the appointment was only available at a hospital over an hour away.”
The majority of respondents, 82.6%, said they had not accessed mental health crisis resources. Those who had sought crisis resources, the remaining 14.6%, were slightly more likely to be spouses of veterans or retirees.
When asked if participants had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, more than 80% said they had not, 12.5% said they had thoughts about suicide, and 6.1% said they preferred not to answer.
“No mental health providers in our area take Tricare and are accepting new patients,” the spouse of a Marine Corps active duty member said. “Therefore, this service is not available to us, even though we’ve attempted to access these services.”
But there’s good news, too
The data MFAN released also tells us that military family members are interested in receiving care through non-traditional methods, specifically telehealth.
“If I had the option to use it, I would,” said the spouse of an active duty sailor. “If it meant not waiting six-plus months to see a doctor, I would gladly use it.”
If the pandemic continues, or even if it doesn’t, receiving care via telehealth could present opportunities for military and veteran families to have easier access to appointments and to continue receiving care from trusted providers with whom they have a rapport, even if the military or life moves them elsewhere.
Through the darkness, the Soldiers pushed forward toward their objective. Sweat was dripping off the chins of some, hitting the ground as each mile passed. This is only the beginning of earning the Army Expert Infantryman Badge.
Their rucksacks seemed heavier with each passing step, their helmets weighing down like lead covers on their heads. They had to complete a full 12 miles before their trek was done.
Once they reached their destination, there was one more task at hand: each Soldier had to treat a simulated casualty and carry him out on a litter.
This was the final event for the Expert Infantryman Badge testing that took place Dec. 11-15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Out of the 324 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers who started the Expert Infantryman Badge testing, only 73 successfully completed all the required tasks and earned their Badge — making the attrition rate 78 percent.
“The test has evolved over the years,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter A. Tagalicud, the I Corps command sergeant major. “It certainly differs from the one I participated in to earn my EIB in 1989. But, the spirit and intent remain. There is no greater individual training mechanism to building the fundamental warrior skills required in our profession, than the EIB.”
There is a lot of train up to the EIB, said Spc. Tyler Conner, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. Even if a Soldier is not trying out for the EIB, the train up for the testing is valuable to see the right way of doing infantry tasks. When a Soldier finally earns the EIB, it shows that they have honed their skills enough to be called an expert infantryman.
The EIB evaluation included an Army Physical Fitness Test, with a minimum score of 80 points in each event; day and night land navigation; medical, patrol, and weapons lanes; a 12-mile forced march, and Objective Bull (evaluate, apply a tourniquet to and transport a casualty).
“These crucial skills are the building blocks to our battle drills and collective gates,” Tagalicud said. “The Expert Infantryman Badge is as much about the training, leading up to and through the testing, as it is about proving your mettle.”
“Earning the EIB was one of the best experiences I had in the Army,” said Sgt. Wilmar Belilla Lopez, a Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. “Being tactically and technically proficient is the core of being a Soldier. When a Soldier earns their EIB, it signifies they have achieved a level of proficiency all Soldiers should strive for.”
“The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, ‘Out of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there, 80 are just targets, 9 are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them – for they make the battle. But the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back,'” Tagalicud said while addressing the new EIB holders.
“You are that warrior. You Infantrymen, you Soldiers, you leaders, and candidates are the one in a hundred,” he said. “Many stepped forward to answer the question am I good enough. For you the answer in a resounding yes!”
The Expert Infantryman Badge was developed in 1944 to represent the infantry’s tough, hard-hitting role in combat and symbolize proficiency in infantry craft.
For the first Expert Infantryman Badge evaluation, 100 noncommissioned officers were selected to undergo three days of testing. When the testing was over, 10 NCOs remained. The remaining ten were interviewed to determine the first Expert Infantryman.
On March 29, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull was the first Soldier to be awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge
Facial recognition is being widely embraced as a security tool — law enforcement and corporations alike are rolling it out to keep tabs on who’s accessing airports, stores, and smartphones.
As it turns out, the technology is fallible. Researchers with the artificial-intelligence firm Kneron announced that they were able to fool some facial-recognition systems using a printed mask depicting a different person’s face.
The researchers, who tested systems across three continents, said they fooled payment tablets run by the Chinese companies Alipay and WeChat, as well as a system at a border checkpoint in China. In Amsterdam, a printed mask fooled facial recognition at a passport-control gate at Schiphol Airport, they said.
The researchers said their findings suggested that a person who prints a lifelike mask resembling someone else could bypass security checkpoints to fly or shop on their behalf.
“Technology providers should be held accountable if they do not safeguard users to the highest standards,” Kneron CEO Albert Liu said in a statement. “There are so many companies involved that it highlights an industry-wide issue with substandard facial recognition tech.”
Some facial-recognition software proved impervious to the printed-mask test, however. The researchers said Apple’s Face ID and Huawei’s system passed; both use more sophisticated technology known as structured light imaging. Kneron said its own facial recognition software also passes the test.
Researchers said that tests at security checkpoints were carried out with the permission of security guards supervising them — suggesting that as long as humans are present to notice the mask, facial-recognition checkpoints aren’t entirely unsecured.
In the month after its mask study went viral, Kneron announced that it raised million from investors including Alibaba, Qualcomm, and Horizons Ventures.
“We are excited to continue our journey with partners like Horizons Ventures who share our passion and dedication towards our mission to enable AI on any device [and] democratize AI,” Liu told Business Insider after the fundraising was announced.
Here’s the pitch deck Kneron used to raise million.
Footage of a Coast Guard drug interdiction where one Coast Guardsman jumps onto a narco-submarine and forces the hatch open has gone viral. And for good reason. It was possibly the most insane thing I’ve seen all week, but it’s actually not a shock to me. The Coast Guard does insane stuff like this all the time, but it’s never really talked about as much.
I get it, we all mock the Coasties. It’s the price you pay for being the little brother. But when you consider this, their elite snipers, and their track record for going toe-to-toe with narco-terrorists while the rest of us are stuck at NTC or 29 Palms… I think it’s time to admit that some Coasties may be more grunt than a good portion of the Armed Forces.
Just don’t be surprised when that sub-busting Coastie with balls of f*cking titanium calls you a POG at the American Legion. These memes go out to you, dude. Keep giving the Coast Guard an awesome name.
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
In case you missed the video, here’s an accurate representation of it…
It’s easy to exhibit mental toughness when you know exactly where the fire is coming from, for example, hostile territory or the far side of the range. It’s a lot harder when you’re not sure if your coworkers, a rival company, or the customer standing across from you is your enemy or your ally.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to U.S. Navy Vet Dr. Seth Hickerson, the CEO of A Boost Above. They specialize in Leadership and Mental Toughness Training. It’s a little different than you may have experienced in the military though…
We talked about mental toughness, education, loneliness, breathing, domestic terrorism, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So hold onto your butts as you jump into this all too familiar rabbit hole.
How is Boost’s mission to defend the nation against domestic terrorism?
Me and my team are Vets…and we signed an oath to support and defend the United States against ALL enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC. And we believe there are domestic institutions that do not have the best interest of our citizens in mind. Rather they are focused on controlling, manipulating, conditioning people to perpetuate hyper-capitalism and elite ideologies…so we wanted to create a company that provides awareness, education, and more importantly, training to help our citizens live their best lives.
We want people to be healthy, happy, and whole…
In our world out there today, it’s all about psychological warfare, and sadly most of our citizens are completely unarmed…so they are in a losing battle. We want to equip them.
The root cause is simple. We are still utilizing antiquated systems and institutions that were designed during the industrial revolution to produce workers instead of thinkers. The world and society has changed exponentially, but we still push people through “systems,” control media, Perpetuate the illusion of “the American dream” all in an attempt to control the masses while also extracting as much money from them as possible before they die…right before they can cash out their 401ks.
Some of the U.S. Army’s Boost trained Medics.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How can Boost help address the loneliness problem that’s running rampant lately?
First by educating and raising awareness as to why we have a loneliness epidemic. Technology is the main culprit…the devices we are using to “connect” us are actually isolating us. We are devolving as a species….Humans are meant to be tribal, communal, social.
We need to interact…face to face…not online.
Also, technology provides people an opportunity to constantly compare themselves to others. But what they are comparing themselves to are illusions. Not reality.
News media perpetuates this by utilizing fear-based sensationalism…they use stimulus content that makes people fearful, racist, divided, and not want to leave their house.
Social media uses fantasy-based sensationalism….the content on there is FANTASY, but people believe it is real. “Why can’t I have the nice car, vacation, job, family,” Why can’t I look like that, cook like that etc. So it makes them feel less than, feel inadequate.
These are just a few things that perpetuate loneliness.
It takes TRAINING to overcome this stuff…and that’s where we come in.
The civilian world may look cuter and nicer than the military but there’s just as much suck that needs to be embraced.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How specifically can Boost be used to help service members transition out of the military more effectively?
The biggest challenge Vets face when transitioning to civilian life is the loss of identity.
Only Less than 1% of our population serves in the military. It is a tight, highly trained fraternity, brotherhood. We think, act, and behave differently.
It is difficult to transition from the warrior mindset to the civilian one.
In my opinion, the ball gets dropped because we don’t do a good job of educating and prepping Vets before this transition happens. Then when they struggle, get depressed, lose confidence etc…we stick them in the “mental illness model” and expect them to sit on couches, treat them like they are broken, and have them “talk about things” with some egg-head who has never served.
Vets need training….we are mission-oriented…always will be…we need tasks and something to work towards…we don’t need talking…we need training.
Boost is training…not therapy.
Dr. H and cohorts spreading techniques that help vets transition out of the military more successfully.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
Can you give a quick rundown of BAMO, why it works, and why everyone should be using the breath to help regulate themselves?
Since we are Vets…we LOVE acronyms. BAMO is one of the first techniques we teach people. It stands for Breathe And Move On. The two most powerful things in a person’s lives are their thoughts and their breath…and most people have NO idea how to control either.
BAMO is a breathing technique we teach that basically shows you how to “flip the switch” from sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic “aka the parachute”….it is what calms you down.
When someone gets scared due to a stimulus that they have perceived as a threat it activates the sympathetic nervous systems and engages the flight, flight or freeze…rapid heart rate, blood restricts only to essential organs, fear/worry mindset, sweating, trembling, breathing rapidly…it’s very hard to perform when this is happening…so you need a quick way to flip the switch to the parasympathetic nervous system…to calm your ass down..even if it’s just for a few seconds so you can execute the task at hand.
We use the 4×4 breathing technique…a simple breathing technique that you have to PRACTICE…four seconds in through the nose, breathing into the belly, then four second exhale through the mouth…..COUNTING to four in your head on the inhale and exhale (hard to think/worry about anything else) when you are counting in your head. The trick is to practice this breathing technique often throughout the day when you AREN’T SCARED or WORRIED…so that your body can adjust to it and then automate it once any negative stimulus comes your way…that’s when you are on the next level.
Dr. H and Boost sponsor all kinds of events that help make their community stronger in their free time.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
At Boost we are very aware of the alarming suicide problem as it pertains to our military Veterans, and we understand they need access to more tools.
We have served on many deployments and multiple combat operations at all levels…from grunts to upper echelon (SEALs and Rangers). We are also PhD’s in Human Performance, Psychology, and Educational Leadership.
Most importantly, we are Vets that want to help Vets.
Vets need to see what they are doing as training…not therapy. The current model promotes and perpetuates a sense of brokenness. And it’s usually led by someone that has “not been there.”
Vets are warriors. They need to be treated accordingly and given the tools in a way that makes sense to them and makes them proud to be doing the training.
So that’s our approach and philosophy.
We believe that by providing a modern and fun, measurable, accessible training systems utilizing technology is imperative. Our unique methodology (mindfulness training, emotional intelligence training, cognitive fitness training, and spec ops training) can give each and every veteran the tools they need to thrive. No insurance, no appointments, no coaches, no BS…and deployable anywhere anytime.
Rumors are swirling after a Nov. 21 meeting at Trump Tower in New York that former Massachusetts senator and 35-year Army National Guard veteran Scott Brown could be the new president’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Brown, a Republican, won a special election to take the senate seat vacated by Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died in 2009. Brown served as a Judge Advocate in the Massachusetts Army Guard and also infamously posed nude for Cosmo magazine in 1982.
He later joked that he was in his 20s at the time and didn’t regret his nude centerfold pose for the magazine’s “America’s Sexiest Man” contest.
But he now says he’s “the best candidate” for the VA job and wants to reform the reeling organization.
“We obviously spoke about my passion and his passion which are veterans’ issues,” Brown told reporters after his meeting with Trump, according to CBS News. “And you know obviously I think it’s the toughest job in the cabinet to lead the VA, because while it has so many angels working there, it has so many great problems as well.”
Trump also tapped South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as the American ambassador to the United Nations, while 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is front-runner for Secretary of State.
Governor Haley was first elected to her post in 2010, after serving three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She gained national attention in the aftermath of the July 2015 shooting at a Charleston church. Her husband is in the National Guard and served a tour in Afghanistan on an Agribusiness Development Team, and is believed to be the first spouse of a sitting governor to serve in a war zone.
“Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally, and I am honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love as the next Ambassador to the United Nations,” FoxNews.com quoted Haley as saying.
Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who lost the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama, is considered the front-runner for Secretary of State. During that campaign, he noted Russia was a “geopolitical foe,” to derision from Obama and the media. During the 2012 campaign Romney also criticized China for unfair trade practices, criticized the 2011 withdrawal of troops from Iraq and took a hard line on Iran. Romney and Trump exchanged harsh words during the Republican presidential primaries, but apparently buried the hatchet in a weekend meeting.
Potential VA chief Brown served in the National Guard for 20 years in the Judge Advocate General Corps, part of a 35-year career which also saw him receive airborne, infantry and quartermaster training. Brown spent time overseas in Kazakhstan, Paraguay and Afghanistan during his career. His decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Medal.
According to a report by the Boston Globe, Brown told the media that if selected to run the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, his top priorities would be to address veterans’ suicides and to clear up the backlog of cases by outsourcing care to private providers. His service as a state lawmaker and Senator included a focus on veterans’ issues.
During an interview with with Fox News Channel host Chris Wallace, Putin was asked about whether he had any “qualms” about civilians being killed in Russian bombings in both Aleppo and Ghouta.
“You know, when there is a warfare going on — and this is the worst thing that can happen for the humankind — victims are inevitable,” Putin told Wallace.
“And there will always be a question of who’s to blame,” he added, before shifting responsibility to terror groups in the region, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, for “destabilizing” the country’s political situation.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia has supported the Assad regime in Syria since it formally entered the country’s civil war in 2015.
Putin also tried to deflect the issue of casualties by talking about the Syrian city of Raqqa, where Amnesty International says US-led coalition airstrikes killed and injured thousands of civilians in 2017 and left the city in ruins.
On July 16, 2018, President Donald Trump met with Putin in Helsinki and discussed a number of issues including the humanitarian situation in Syria.
“Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Trump said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Look, it is easy, and deeply enjoyable, to give Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis boatloads of crap for the shenanigans and mannerisms (shenannerisms?) he regularly deploys in the line of duty. It’s easy because he’s a good sport. It’s enjoyable because, well:
But credit where credit is due, it is no easy thing to drop in on a recording studio unprepared, be played a brand new beat, compose a non-wack verse and then get into the booth and spit your best whiteboy flow in front of a hot producer and a rapper at the top of his game.
TMR served 10 years in the Middle East as a Marine Corps combat correspondent, ala Joker from Full Metal Jacket. Though he started rapping young, he found he had to put his passion on ice during active duty — no time to think, let alone rhyme.
When he finally left the service, the transition was rough.
“It was a reality shock. I didn’t know where to go. You’re like, ‘I have all this time on my hands,’ and you get to thinking… ‘I was such a super hero in the military, but now I’m just a regular civilian. Nobody cares about me. I’m nothing now. Why should I even live?'”
Finding himself in a dark headspace familiar to many vets exiting the military, TMR did a hard thing: he asked for help.
With the assistance of the VA, he was able to reorient, finding an outlet in his long-dormant passion for rap. He now lives in Hollywood, CA, cutting tracks and shooting music videos to support his budding career as a musician.
And, no joke, in a single day of working together, TMR, producer Louden and the Artist Formerly Known as Ryan Curtis may just have succeeded in dropping the U.S. military’s first ever chart-topping hip hop track:
It’s a lock for New Oscar Mike Theme Song at the very least.
Watch as Curtis looks for lyrics in a Magic 8 Ball and TMR proves there’s no room in his game for shame, in the video embedded at the top.
Military family members have whispered for decades about Intimate Partner Violence in our community. We’ve heard stories about friends and neighbors. We’ve been confidants for friends who needed help. Some of us have been in an abusive relationship ourselves.
“It’s really common. We’ve had multiple cases of domestic violence just in our neighborhood this year,” said the spouse of an Air Force active duty member.
According to the latest survey data release from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), 81% of military community survey respondents are aware of intimate partner violence in their neighborhoods and social circles, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to quarantine together.
Intimate Partner Violence is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as …abuse or aggression that occurs in a close relationship. According to the CDC, an intimate partner can be a current and former spouse or dating partner, and Intimate Partner Violence includes four types of behavior: physical violence; sexual violence; stalking; and psychological aggression. This is the first year MFAN’s support programming survey, presented by Cerner Government Services, has explored the issue
The data is even more disturbing against the backdrop of the pandemic. Since the nation began quarantining to limit the spread of COVID-19, mental health experts nationwide have sounded the alarm that quarantining forces abused people to spend even more time with their abusers.
“Reporting the abuse jeopardizes the service member’s career, therefore jeopardizing the woman and her family’s livelihood. A difficult choice to make: report abuse knowing your husband will lose his job or suffer to keep food on the table? There is no easy solution. That is awful,” the spouse of a Navy active duty service member said.
Among other findings, MFAN’s data showed that those who sought assistance were more likely to:
Range in rank from E4 to E6, if they were active duty family members
Carry more debt
Be concerned with their own or a family member’s alcohol use
Rate as more lonely on the UCLA Loneliness scale
Have considered suicide in the past two years
“For years now, we have heard anecdotes from our Advisors and others in the community about Intimate Partner Violence,” said MFAN’s Executive Director Shannon Razsadin. “We felt it was critical that we collect data on this issue, so that leaders and policy makers will be able to make decisions that honor and protect the health and safety of everyone in the community.”
MFAN recommends that policy makers look for ways to increase communication with military and veteran families about online and virtual resources available; encourage connections with others, especially virtually, as isolation is a tactic of abusers; and reduce barriers for military spouses to seek financial or health care benefits if they or their children are experiencing abuse.
“I’m not by any means a violent person, but I have wanted to strike [my wife] after I came back from tours because I was so angry at the world,” a National Guard and Reserve member said. “I never did, but it was really disturbing how much I wanted to. That’s what made me start counseling.”
Muratov told the station on Oct. 26 that the newspaper is buying “traumatic weapons” for its journalists, providing courses on how to use them and taking other unspecified security measures.
“Traumatic weapons” usually refer to pistols that fire rubber bullets.
“I will arm the newsroom,” Muratov said on Russian radio, according to AFP. “We will also supply journalists with other security means that I don’t want to talk about … I have no other choice.”
“Do you want people to fight, stab [journalists] and know that these [journalists] are defenseless and unarmed? Neither the authorities nor law enforcement will stand up for them,” Muratov said, according to The Moscow Times.
Several Novaya Gazeta journalists have been killed or died under mysterious circumstances, including renowned Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot in 2006.
In September 2016, journalists Yelena Kostyuchenko and Diana Khachatryan were beaten and dragged across the ground during a memorial service, The Moscow Times reported. Khachatryan said police on the scene did not try to stop the attack.
In September 2017, Novaya Gazeta columnist Yulia Latynina fled Russia after feces were thrown in her face and her car caught fire, according to The Moscow Times.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Oct. 26 that citizens can take security measures they think are necessary.
On Tuesday, the Navy announced that the USS Coronado had completed initial operational tests and evaluations with Raytheon’s SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system, and in doing so, they answered a big question.
Anti-ship cruise missiles have long been an area of concern for US military planners as China and Russia develop increasingly mature and threatening missiles of that type.
Effectively, both Russia‘s and China‘s anti-ship missiles and air power have the capability to deny US or NATO forces access to strategically important areas, like the South China Sea, the Black Sea, and the Baltics.
And that’s where the SeaRAM anti-ship cruise missile could potentially be a game changer. Building upon the already capable Phalanx close-in weapons system, a computer-controlled 20 mm gun system that automatically tracks and fires on incoming threats, the SeaRAM system simply replaces the gun with a rolling-airframe-missile launcher.
The autonomous firing controls of the SeaRAM system, as well as it’s use of the existing Phalanx infrastructure, means that the system will have relatively low manning costs, and that its procurement was affordable.
The tests showed that the SeaRAM system performed in hostile, complicated conditions. Raytheon claims the system shot down two simultaneously inbound supersonic missiles as they flew in “complex, evasive maneuvers.”
Here is the SeaRAM tracking and firing on a target:
“The successful testing on the Independence variant (USS Coronado) demonstrates the self-defense capabilities of the ship and systems and installs confidence in Coronado as the ship prepares for its maiden deployment this summer,” said LCS program manager Capt. Tom Anderson in the statement.
Currently, the Navy plans for the Coronado to take an extended deployment to Singapore.
“USS Coronado is designed to fight and win in contested waters, where high-end anti-ship cruise missiles pose a significant threat to naval forces,” Cmdr. Scott Larson, Coronado’s commanding officer, said in a NAVSEA statement.
“Today’s test validates the Independence variant’s ability to effectively neutralize those threats and demonstrates the impressive capability SeaRAM brings to our arsenal.”
In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.
During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”
“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.
The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.
The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.
Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.
Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.
Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.
That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.
Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.
Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.
While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.
“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.
Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.
‘What is our red line?’
After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)
Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.
Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.
The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.
More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.
“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.
Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.
In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.
“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.
The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.
President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.
It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”
“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”
That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.
While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”
That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.
“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. defense secretary has again accused Russia of violating a key Cold War arms control treaty, calling the unresolved and increasingly tense dispute with Moscow “untenable.”
Jim Mattis’s remarks on Oct. 4, 2018 after a meeting of NATO military leaders were the latest in a series of increasingly blunt statements by U.S. officials regarding the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. assertions, first made publicly in 2014, that a ground-launched cruise missile Moscow has developed, and reportedly deployed, is in violation of the agreement, known as the INF treaty.
After years of public criticism of Moscow, U.S. officials in 2017 started becoming more aggressive in their approach. And Russia acknowledged the existence of a missile identified by Washington, but denied that it had violated the treaty.
In early October 2018, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said U.S. forces might have to “take out” the Russian missiles if the dispute continues. She later clarified that she wasn’t referring to an actual U.S. military attack.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018.
“Russia must return to compliance with the INF treaty or the U.S. will need to respond to its cavalier disregard for the treaty’s specific limits,” Mattis said in Brussels.
“The current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable,” he said.
Congress has backed funding for a new missile program to counter the Russian weapon, and Mattis said in early 2018 that defense planners were working on new low-yield nuclear weapons to force Russia back into compliance.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Mattis’s comments, saying Russia was imperiling the treaty, which is widely considered a “cornerstone” of European security.