A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.
The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.
The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.
SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.
Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.
Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.
The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.
In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.
Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.
Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.
The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.
It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.
SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.
Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.
In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.
As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.
The U.S. Olympic team’s stars – Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles – stole the show during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, performing record-breaking feats on the world stage.
But what if the Olympics featured elite athletes crawling under barbed wire or running with an 80-pound rucksack for 5, 10, or even 20 miles? Our men and women in uniform could be winning gold if the following military activities were official competitions:
1. Obstacle course
During a team-building challenge, 1st Lt. Alan Roy (right), a platoon leader from Strawberry, Minn., and Sgt. Luis Garcia, a squad leader from Bryant, Texas low-crawl through an obstacle course. The two Soldiers teams endured six other events after completing the obstacle course. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)
Obstacle courses are a full body workout consisting of running, climbing tall structures, jumping over walls, and (of course) crawling in the mud under barbed wire. These courses are mental as much as they are physical, testing courage and willpower. Obstacle courses would make up for some interesting drama if it was an Olympic event – add live fire for a fun twist.
2. Drill and Ceremony
Drill and Ceremony teams have to be disciplined, precise, and work as a single unit. Timing and repetition are vital for a successful routine. DC routines are sort of like synchronized swimming — without the water and shiny outfits.
3. Log drills
Usain Bolt may be the fastest man in the world, but what if the Jamaican track and field star was carrying a large log on his shoulder instead of holding a baton?
Military members are no strangers to doing PT with a large wooden log that could weigh in excess of 150 pounds or more. From overhead presses to squats and running with the heavy log, this exercise tests the strength and cardiovascular endurance of service members. This event would sure make for an interesting 4x100m relay in Rio.
4. Ruck marching
The Olympic marathon is one of the original events of the modern Olympic Games that started in 1896. The 26.2-mile race is definitely a grueling event but at least the runners do not have to carry a heavy rucksack on their back, wear boots and full military uniform. U.S. service members would certainly have an advantage if rucking was an Olympic competition.
The Javelin throw is a track field event where a competitor throws a long spear for distance. But why throw a spear when you can fire an FGM-148 Javelin – an anti-tank missile – for both distance and accuracy? Now that’s must-watch TV.
What military training do you think would make interesting Olympic events? Write your thoughts in the comments.
The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.
But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.
According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.
The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.
“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”
Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.
Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.
The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.
“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”
Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.
According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.
Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”
While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the country’s foreign minister ahead of a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in June 2018.
Lavrov’s May 31, 2018 visit — his first to North Korea since 2009 — was seen as an attempt by Moscow to ensure its voice is heard in Pyongyang’s diplomatic overtures with the United States and South Korea.
Lavrov met Kim in Pyongyang, Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, and extended an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the North Korean leader to visit Russia.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to know whether there would be a Putin-Kim meeting in Russia.
Lavrov began his visit to North Korea by meeting with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
“We welcome contacts between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and the United States,” Lavrov said on May 31, 2018, after meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
The Russian minister called on “all the parties involved to fully realize their responsibility for preventing the failure of such an important but fragile process.”
Moscow is interested in implementing joint economic projects with Pyongyang and Seoul, including railway construction, Lavrov also said.
Russia and North Korea share a small border that is only a few kilometers from the Far East city of Vladivostok and they enjoy relatively cordial relations.
Lavrov’s trip to Pyongyang comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to organize a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim’s right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, in New York late on May 30 2018, to discuss the matter.
Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the United States in nearly 20 years, dined with Pompeo and the two were due to meet again on May 31, 2018.
“Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu,” Pompeo tweeted.
Trump previously cancelled the summit scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.
Washington is seeking the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for certain economic and security benefits for Pyongyang.
But at the same time, the F-15 has been facing increasingly better competition. Perhaps the most notable is the from the Flanker family of aircraft (Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35/J-11/J-15/J-16), which has been receiving upgrades over the years.
Boeing, though, hasn’t been standing still, even as it lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition. Instead, it has been pursuing F-15 upgrades.
The Eagle 2040C is one for the F-15C air-superiority fighter, which has been asked to continue soldiering on with the termination of F-22 production after 187 airframes.
In the video, one of the planes is seen carrying 16 AIM-120 AMMRAAMs — enough to splash an entire squadron of enemy planes! (“You get an AMRAAM! You get an AMRAAM! EVERYONE gets an AMRAAM!” a la Oprah)
Check out Boeing’s Eagle 2040C video above. Seems like they missed an opportunity for one hell of a Super Bowl commercial.
Imagine you’re a Navy torpedo pilot in World War II. Your life is exciting, your job is essential to American security and victory, but you spend most days crammed into a metal matchbox filled with gas, strapped with explosives, and flying over shark-filled waters of crushing depths. But your Navy wants to get you back if you ever go down, so it came up with a novel way of rescuing you: ice cream bounties.
The wake coming off this thing could easily drown even a strong swimmer.
(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)
Before helicopters were stationed on carriers after World War II, those massive ships had few good options for rescuing pilots who had to bail out over the sea. It’s not like they could just pull the floating city up alongside the swimming pilot and drop him a line. After all, carriers displace a lot of water and could easily swamp a swimmer. And rescuing a pilot like that would restrict or temporarily stop aircraft launches and recoveries.
So, carrier crews came up with a silly but effective way of rewarding boat crews and those of smaller ships for helping their downed pilots out: If they brought a pilot back to the carrier, the carrier would give them gallons of ice cream and potentially some extra goodies like a bottle or two of spirits.
I told the captain (Hickey) that it was customary to award the DD with 25 gallons of ice cream for the crew and two bottles of whiskey for the Capt. and Exec. We ended up giving 30 gallons of ice cream because it was packed in 10-gallon containers. This set a new precedent for the return of aviators.
Carriers could rarely swing about, slow down, and pick up their own pilots, especially in the heat of battle. But a small destroyer or PT boat could fire a salvo of torpedoes at enemy subs and ships and then swing around and try to get a swimming pilot aboard.
Obviously, sailor to sailor, these rescues would’ve happened anyway. But the carriers figured that any goodwill they could foster in the other crews to rescue their pilots might help the aviators’ chances in the water. And while some submarines and other vessels had their own ice cream, it was a rare treat in most of the deployed Navy and Army. But carriers had massive freezers and stockpiles.
Destroyers like the USS Yarnall could look forward to some well-earned desert if they were the ones to pass an aviator back to his carrier.
“We’d get 10 gallons of ice cream every time we picked up a pilot, which was a real treat. So we started joking, ‘Let’s shoot one down.”‘
For the pilots, this could feel a bit reductive. Lt. Cmdr. Norman P. Stark was a Hellcat pilot in World War II, and he was shot down while attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa. After a controlled dive and crash into the ocean, his fellow aviators marked his location and called for rescue. A floatplane from a battleship pulled him out.
Coast Guard pilot Lt. John Pritchard helped rescue air crews in Greenland and surrounding waters, eventually disappearing while rescuing crewmembers from a lost bomber. Small planes like his could land in the water, pick up pilots, and return to a cutter or other ship.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
But then the battleship transferred him to a destroyer, and the destroyer crew was happy to have him … because of the ice cream:
After disembarking from the canvas bag, I was greeted like a long lost brother. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that they weren’t seeing me, but what I was worth to them–10 gallons of ice cream. Destroyer crews loved to rescue pilots. A pilot returned to his carrier was exchanged for 10 gallons of ice cream.
The Yarnall came alongside the Wasp, shot a line which was made fast, and I was transferred back to my Carrier. This was a dry trip. The 10 gallons of ice cream was passed to the Yarnall, and as they pulled away, I saw grins, from ear to ear. At least I had finally ascertained my true value–10 gallons of ice cream.
Does the carrier greet the rescue crew with special treatment when a pilot is saved, like the old practice whereby a carrier gave a destroyer five gallons of ice cream for returning a downed pilot? “You kidding?” a pilot asks. “They give us a hard time for delaying operations!”
But the first helicopter rescue of a carrier pilot was actually effected by a civilian crew from Sikorsky there to sell the Navy on the value of rescue helicopters in 1947. Since the helicopter pilot was a Sikorsky employee and not a member of the carrier crew, the carrier ponied up 10 gallons per pilot rescued.
The Sikorsky crew had picked up three downed pilots and so was lined up for a 30-gallon bounty which the carrier gave them all at once on their last day aboard. The Sikorsky pilot had to quickly gift the ice cream back to the carrier crew in an impromptu ice cream social since he couldn’t possibly eat 30 gallons in mere minutes.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said the United States must be ready to resist attempted Russian interference in the country’s elections later this year.
“I don’t think there is any question in the [intelligence] community or at [the Department of Homeland Security] that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral systems,” Nielsen said at a security forum in Colorado on July 19.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that they did it, and I think we should be prepared given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again.”
Finding a job is a daunting and sometimes difficult task after separating from the military. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) is a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. Hiring Our Heroes provides a variety of tools such as a resume builder, a corporate fellowship program and a career planning tool, along with several hiring events across the U.S each year.
Career Summits are meant to help veterans improve their chances of obtaining a job by providing training programs and job fairs around the country.
The Hiring Our Heroes Resume Engine is a resume building tool used to help civilian employers understand skills learned in the military. Veterans can better explain their skills to potential employers by using this system.
Hiring Our Heroes helps Veterans and military personnel translate skills, build resumes and find employment after they leave service.
Hiring Our Heroes provides a guide to help veterans understand the resources available in their search for a job. Much like the military, the transition process requires a strategic plan, an assessment of resources, and a lot of work. The VET Roadmap breaks the military-to-civilian transition process into three simple actions, helps a veteran navigate the transition process which is continuous, and identifies best-in-class resources.
Veteran Fellowship Program
The Veteran Fellowship Program is a six week long paid internship with businesses in Maryland, and Washington D.C. Veterans have the opportunity to work and learn valuable skills from these businesses. Additionally, the fellowship program helps veterans with their resume and interview skills.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
In “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” a newly-released documentary that deals with the current PTSD epidemic, writer and director Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon,” “Snitch”) does exactly what he needed to do to respect the importance and delicacy of the subject matter: He gets out of the way of the story by letting the principals tell it themselves.
“My job was to let them tell their story with unflinching candor,” Waugh said at a recent screening in Los Angeles.
TWILDM follows the post-war lives of two veteran special operators. Jayson Floyd served in Afghanistan as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and Tyler Grey was a member of Delta Force and served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Floyd and Grey met at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan in 2002, but their friendship blossomed after their complicated paths of post-active duty life joined around the methods they’d unlocked for dealing with their PTSD – mainly understanding the benefits of a supportive community of those wrestling with their own forms of post-traumatic stress.
Waugh sets the tempo of the documentary with soliloquies featuring a number of people, but mostly Floyd and Grey. Their personalities are at once different and complimentary. Floyd is Hollywood-leading-man handsome, moody and brooding, and speaks with a rapid-fire meter that forces you to listen closely to cull out the wisdom therein. Grey is more upbeat, a conversationalist who uses comedy to mute his emotional scars. He is quick with folksy metaphors that show how many times he’s told some of these stories, and he matter-of-factly relates how he sustained massive wounds to his right arm as breezily as a friend talking about a football injury.
The two warriors’ physical appearance changes throughout the documentary, which has the net effect of showing the passage of time and the range of their moods. Sometimes they’re clean-shaven; sometimes they’re bearded. Their hair length varies. The differences color the underlying chaos around the search for identity of those dealing with PTSD.
Others are featured, as well. Grey’s ex-girlfriend singularly comes to represent the toll of PTSD borne by those around the afflicted. She’s beautiful and articulate, and as she speaks from a couch with Grey seated next to her, a pathos emerges that is intense and heartbreaking. You can tell she loves him, but they’ll never be together again. Too much has been said during the darkest days. For his part, his expression evinces resignation for the beast inside of him that he is still taming, as he’ll have to for the rest of his life. The sadness in his eyes is that of a werewolf warning those who would attempt to get close to stay away lest they be torn to shreds in the dark of night.
Floyd’s brother tells of the letter Floyd wrote explaining why he couldn’t be physically present to be the best man at his wedding. As the brother reads the letter he begins to weep, which causes Floyd to weep as well. The image of the tough special operator breaking down is very powerful.
But perhaps the most powerful scene is the one featuring Grey participating in a special operations challenge in Las Vegas. He’s back in his element, wearing the gear he wore so many missions ago, a member of a team of elite warriors bonded by a clear-cut mission.
The team cleanly makes its way through a series of obstacles, but at the last one – where they must each climb a 15-foot rope to ring a bell – Grey falters. His wounded hand won’t hold him. He tries again and again, each attempt increasingly pathetic. It’s hard to watch. He finally gives up.
His teammates pat him on the back and put on the good face, but Grey is obviously crushed by his failure – something that goes against every molecule of his special operations DNA.
Grey convinces his teammates (and the camera crew, as Waugh revealed at the LA screening) to get up early the following day and try again before the event organizers tear down the obstacle course. This time Grey rings the bell. The scene captures the triumph of that day and, in a broader sense, the will to triumph over PTSD.
“Dealing with PTSD is a constant process,” Floyd said. “To do this right we had to rip the scab off and show the wound.”
“We know we’re not the worst case,” Grey added. “This is our story – just about us – and we’re putting ourselves out there not to compare but hopefully to coax people into sharing.”
Find out more about “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” including dates and places for the nationwide tour, here.
2. The French and Spanish Siege of Gibraltar in 1779
The Siege and Relief of Gibraltar. Painting: Public Domain/John Copley
France and Spain attempted to invade England via the English Channel and the Rock of Gibraltar. The English Channel fleet never bothered to attack anything the Gibraltar campaign was an abysmal failure.
Starting in 1779, the Franco-Spanish fleet attacked the Rock of Gibraltar for nearly four years, losing 6,000 lives and 10 ships without taking a bit of ground.
But logistical failures and mismanagement slowed the German army’s advance despite a series of battlefield successes. The Soviets capitalized with a series of counterattacks and by raising 200 new divisions, four times what the Germans planned for. The Axis lost nearly a million men of the 4.5 million it sent to Russia and was then stuck in a two-front war.
Instead, Castro knew about the operation ahead of time, American involvement was exposed the morning of the first attacks, and the Cuban forces captured and killed nearly all of the Cuban exiles assaulting them.
5. Japanese invasion of Midway
In the summer of 1942, Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku attempted to draw the surviving American aircraft carriers into a trap by invading Midway Atoll, a U.S. island near Hawaii.
But U.S. Navy had intercepted the Japanese plans and laid their own ambush. In the resulting battle Jun. 4, Japan lost all four carriers involved in the battle and a heavy cruiser while the U.S. suffered the loss of one carrier. The battle was a tipping point in the overall Pacific Theater of World War II.
6. U.S. invasion of Canada in 1775
In its first major offensive, the Continental Army sent two major forces to take Quebec and convince the rest of Canada to join the rebellion.
Early successes were followed by catastrophe at the siege of Quebec City. One commanding general was killed and the other wounded before a hasty retreat gave the British back all the territory the Americans had taken.
Though the Soviets would achieve victory in the Winter War of 1939-1940, their first thrust into Finland was a disaster. 450,000 Soviets with approximately 4,000 planes and 6,000 tanks and armored vehicles were stopped by 180,000 Finnish troops operating 130 outdated aircraft and 30 armored vehicles.
Throughout March people across the country will celebrate Women’s History Month, paying tribute to the vital role women have played in United States history. Generations of women have courageously blazed trails, broken barriers and fundamentally changed our society. At VA, we are proud to spend this month honoring and celebrating women service members and veterans for their past, present and ongoing service to our country.
As the daughter of a Navy veteran and someone who has had the privilege of working to advance veterans for more than 23 years, supporting women veterans feels very personal to me. My colleagues, mentors and friends are veterans — many of them women veterans. I am proud that here at VA, women are represented at every level throughout our organization. And while studies show that people typically imagine a man when they think “veteran” — women veterans have been around for much of America’s history.
Well before the women’s rights movement came along in 1848, women in the military were breaking barriers to serve our county. During the Revolutionary War, women served in military camps as laundresses, cooks, nurses and spies. Up until World War I, women served as soldiers disguised as men. During the last two years of World War I, women were finally allowed to join the military in their own right. Thirty-six thousand women served in that war, and more than 400 nurses died in the line of duty.
A 1917 recruitment poster illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.
Today, about 219,000 women Service members are currently stationed throughout the world filling a diverse range of roles from radio operators, translators, and pilots to rangers. Times have certainly changed.
As the number of women in military service grows, so does the number of women veterans. Today, nearly 2 million veterans are women. As the fastest growing veteran subpopulation, women veterans are making their mark. Before 2012, there had been only three women veterans in Congress in history. Today, a record six female veterans hold office on Capitol Hill.
But while the success of our women veterans is undeniable, the explosive growth in the number of women veterans means VA must continue to adapt to better meet their diverse needs — and we are.
I spent the first eighteen years of my VA career in Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) Service — and I know first-hand how essential it is that veterans receive their benefits and services to put them on the path to a meaningful civilian career. It’s our job at VA to anticipate the services women veterans need and to provide that to them.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jessica Domingo, right, and Cpl. Daisy Romero, assigned to a female engagement team.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum)
For instance, women veterans are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of businesses owned by women veterans increased by 296 percent, to reach a total of 384,548 businesses, up from about 130,000. And the number continues to grow: over the past five years the number of companies owned by women veterans has almost quadrupled.
I hope you’ll take a look at the Center for Women Veterans’ new Trailblazers Initiative, which celebrates the contributions of women veterans who served our country — especially those who blazed a trail for others to follow.
At VA we are proud of our women veterans, and we will continue to work to ensure that we anticipate and meet their needs as they continue to be a vital part of our military and nation. I extend my thanks to women veterans who continue your service every day in big and small ways.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The U.S. withdrawal from a landmark 1987 nuclear arms treaty could make the world “more dangerous” and force Moscow to take steps to restore the balance of power, senior Russian officials said as U.S. national security adviser John Bolton held talks on the issue in Moscow.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued words of warning on Oct. 22, 2018, two days after President Donald Trump declared that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
European allies of the United States also expressed concern, and the European Union’s executive commission urged Washington and Moscow to negotiate to “preserve this treaty.”
Peskov said Russia wants to hear “some kind of explanation” of the U.S. plans from Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, who is meeting with senior officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018.
“This is a question of strategic security. And I again repeat: such intentions are capable of making the world more dangerous,” he said, adding that if the United States abandons the pact and develops weapons that it prohibited, Russia “will need to take action…to restore balance in this area.”
President Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton.
(Photo by Eric Bridiers)
“Any action in this area will be met with a counteraction, because the strategic stability can only been ensured on the basis of parity,” Lavrov said in separate comments. “Such parity will be secured under all circumstances. We bear a responsibility for global stability and we expect the United States not to shed its share of responsibility either.”
The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying medium-range, ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Peskov repeated Russian denials of U.S. accusations that Moscow is in violation of the treaty, and said that the United States has taken no formal steps to withdraw from the pact as yet.
Bolton on Oct. 22, 2018, met with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Putin’s Security Council, and then headed into a meeting with Lavrov at the Russian Foreign Ministry that was described by the Kremlin as a ‘working dinner.”
Bolton was expected to meet with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018.
Russian Security Council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin said Bolton and Patrushev discussed “a wide range of issues [involving] international security and Russian-American cooperation in the sphere of security.”
Ahead of the meetings, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said Russia hopes Bolton will clarify the U.S. position on the treaty.
Nikolai Patrushev and Vladimir Putin.
Earlier, Ryabkov said a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the INF would be “very dangerous” and lead to a “military-technical” retaliation — wording that refers to weapons and suggests that Russia could take steps to develop or deploy new arms.
Both France and Germany also voiced concern.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Trump on Oct. 21, 2018, and “underlined the importance of this treaty, especially with regards to European security and our strategic stability,” Macron’s office said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.
Many U.S. missiles banned by the INF had been deployed in Europe as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, but Macron’s remark underscores what analysts says would be resistance in many NATO countries to such deployments now.
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters that the United States and Russia “need to remain in a constructive dialogue to preserve this treaty and ensure it is fully and verifiably implemented.”
The German government regrets the U.S. plan to withdraw, spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Oct. 22, 2018, adding that “NATO partners must now consult on the consequences of the American decision.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a day earlier that Trump’s announcement “raises difficult questions for us and Europe,” but added that Russia had not convincingly addressed the allegations that it had violated the treaty.
China criticized the United States, saying on Oct. 22, 2018, that a unilateral withdrawal would have negative consequences and urging Washington to handle the issue “prudently.”
“The document has an important role in developing international relations, in nuclear disarmament, and in maintaining global strategic balance and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said when asked about Trump’s comments.
U.S. officials have said Russia has been developing such a missile for years, and Washington made its accusations public in 2014.
Russia has repeatedly denied the U.S. accusations and also alleged that some elements of the U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the agreement. Washington denies that.
The INF, agreed four years before the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, was the first arms-control treaty to eliminate an entire class of missiles.
“Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters on Oct. 20, 2018, during a campaign stop in the state of Nevada.
The United States is “not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons [when] we’re not allowed to,” Trump said.
The announcement brought sharp criticism from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
General Secretary Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House.
Gorbachev, 87, told the Interfax news agency that the move showed a “lack of wisdom” in Washington.
“Getting rid of the treaty is a mistake,” he said, adding that leaders “absolutely must not tear up old agreements on disarmament.”
Reactions were mixed in the West.
In Britain, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said his country stands “absolutely resolute” with Washington on the issue and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order.”
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky), criticized Bolton, and said on Fox News that he believes the national-security adviser was behind the decision to withdraw from the treaty.
“I don’t think he recognizes the important achievement of Reagan and Gorbachev on this,” Paul said.
Bolton has been a critic of a number of treaties, including arms-control pacts.
Many U.S. critics of Trump’s promise to withdraw say that doing so now hands a victory to Russia because Moscow, despite evidence that it is violating the treaty, can blame the United States for its demise.
Aside from the INF dispute, other issues are raising tensions between Moscow and Washington at the time of Bolton’s visit, including Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria as well as alleged Kremlin interference in U.S. elections.
Lavrov said on Oct. 22, 2018, that Russia would welcome talks with the United States on extending the 2010 New START treaty, which limits numbers of Russian and U.S. long-range nuclear weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, beyond its 2021 expiration date.
Meanwhile, Peskov, when asked to comment on remarks Putin made on Oct. 18, said Russian president had stated that Moscow would not launch a nuclear strike unless it was attacked with nuclear weapons or targeted in a conventional attack that threatened its existence.