These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the 'Apocalaughs' tour - We Are The Mighty
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These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

Matt Baetz is a comedian, actor, writer, and host and a veteran of six Armed Forces Entertainment and USO tours across the world. He’s performed his standup routine for the troops in Afghanistan, Africa, Bahrain, Cuba, Greenland, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He’s also done numerous television and radio appearances on shows like “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and Playboy Radio. He was awarded Best of the Fest Performer from the NY Fringe Festival for his role in the 2014 play, “Kemble’s Riot.”


Joining Matt on the most recent “Apocalaughs” tour were fellow comedians Steven Briggs, Liz Miele, and Leo Flowers.

“Not just anyone can hack these tours,” Baetz said. “The schedule is demanding and the living conditions are sometimes not the best. But I explain to the talent right up front that, wherever we go, I don’t want them coming right out of the gate and asking whether there’s wifi or complaining about the coffee. We’re there for the people serving away from home.”

Here’s a look at four of the stops on the recent tour:

1. Cuba

2. Egypt

3. Turkey

4. Italy

Hello 

Today, Armed Forces Entertainment is the single point of contact for the Department of Defense for providing entertainment to troops overseas. More than 60 tours are sent out providing over 600 performances per year to 400,000 soldiers.

Here’s a brief history of the organization:

  • World War II-1951: The United Service Organizations (USO) Camp Shows program recruited and fielded live entertainment for military personnel. Camp Shows usually consisted of well-known celebrities who were recruited to entertain military personnel serving overseas.  For many entertainers, this was their first time performing and traveling abroad. However, the Camp Shows scheduling, which was coordinated by each Service, was considered inconsistent.
  • 1951-1970: Before the establishment of the Department of Defense (DoD) in 1951, the Military Services agreed to provide a single point of contact for the USO. The Secretary of the Army was designated as the administrative agent for the DoD’s relationship with the USO. Operational responsibility rested with the Adjutant General, then transferred to the Commander, U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center. In 1951, Service representatives were assigned to the new Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Office (AFPEO) to administer the fielding of USO Shows, provide shows where the USO Camp Shows were unable, and establish a regularly scheduled program. 

Units consisted of celebrities, professional artists, college groups sponsored by the American Theater Association (ATA) and the All American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS).  The USO and DoD sent thousands of entertainers, celebrity and non-celebrity, to entertain U.S. military personnel, DoD and Department of State civilians, and their family members worldwide.  By the end of the Vietnam era, virtually all of the programmed shows were non-celebrity with DoD fielding over half of the units.
  • 1982: USO canceled the non-celebrity program to concentrate on the recruitment and fielding of well-known celebrity entertainment. The DoD directed the Secretary of the Army to assume responsibility for the non-celebrity program. In June, all non-celebrity entertainment units sent abroad were participating in the Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Program overseas, nicknamed “DoD Overseas Shows”.  In addition to the non-celebrity program, the AFPEO continued to uphold DoD’s portion of the celebrity show responsibilities with the USO.  These shows were renamed “USO/DoD Celebrity Shows.”
  • 1989: The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) assumed operational control of the AFPEO with the Secretary of the Army remaining the Executive Agent.  This assumption was designed to elevate the AFPEO’s authority, facilitate coordination, and increase program visibility.
  • 1997: The U.S. Air Force was assigned the Executive Agent for providing celebrity and non-celebrity programs to troops serving overseas, creating the jointly-manned office, Armed Forces Entertainment.
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The CIA once hired prostitutes to test LSD on unsuspecting Johns

It’s no secret by now that the U.S. government used to really love testing LSD on people. What civilians used to get better at dancing (or at least care less about how bad they danced), the CIA reportedly wanted to use to brainwash, disable and hypnotize people. Sounds about right.


 

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Unless you’re brainwashing people to do more acid, I think you need a new plan. (Image by Ben Frieden from Pixabay)

Project MKUltra was born from the desire to “develop a capability in the covert use of biological and chemical materials.” The project was an extensive testing program which administered citizens from all walks of life with LSD. Even the researchers were dosed.

At least two people died and one of the researchers became schizophrenic after his unwilling trip.

With such disregard for human life, is it any surprise the CIA wouldn’t feel too bad about giving men committing a crime a dose of acid? In the 1950s, that’s just what they did.

In Operation Midnight Climax, the agency used sex workers on its payroll to administer hits of acid to their unsuspecting customers in New York and San Francisco.

Troy Hooper of SF Weekly reported at least three houses used by the CIA to lure men in and give them LSD-laced drinks. Either that or they would have their customers, picked up in bars and restaurants, drive back to one of the houses used by the agency. The men would consume “large doses” of LSD and then do the deed under observation from CIA agents via a two-way mirror.

Houses in San Francisco operated until 1965, New York’s operated until 1966.

When MKUltra’s overseers left the agency in the 1970s, all files related to the project were ordered destroyed. The American public didn’t even know about the operation until after 1975, when a CIA employee came across documents referring to the program that somehow avoided destruction.

In 1977, John Marks, the author of “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate,” filed a FOIA request for the documents, which numbered some 20,000. President Gerald Ford ordered a congressional commission to look into the matter.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum

Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist and chief of the CIA’s technical services division testified (in exchange for immunity) that hospitals, prisons, military units, colleges, pharmaceutical companies, and more were all part of the MKUltra program.

No one was ever punished for the program.

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10 reasons James Bond is the worst spy ever

By now, we should all understand the life of Ian Fleming’s signature British spy is nothing like the real world of clandestine international espionage agents. The Silver Screen Bond is less clandestine, more clandestish. Even so, there are probably a million reasons any guy would want to be James Bond, and most of those reasons are why he’s a terrible spy.


1. He uses his real name

Secrecy is the most necessary element in the world of spies, so it’s a bad idea to use a real name. Even if James Bond is a cover name, he still uses the same cover name every time. Which is pretty much the same thing and seems like terrible espionage. Knowing how great Bond is with disguises, if he had to make up his own cover name every time, it would probably be just as useless.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Bond is supposed to be Japanese here. No that’s not a joke.

He’s much better at thinking of bad puns after killing people. No wonder he needs so much help on every mission. Helping Bond can be hazardous to your health. For instance, a guy named Quarrel helps Bond throughout Dr. No and 007 lets Quarrel get torched by an armored flamethrower. Valentin Zukovsy saves Bond, his missions, and the world banking system in two films and Bond lets him get shot to death. And then, like a uniquely British STD, there’s the slew of women who die after a night with him.

2. He cares more about bedding women than any mission

That 007 cares more about sleeping with women than completing (or starting) a mission comes up more than once. In fact, in the first few movies, he doesn’t start his super-important missions until after sleeping with some woman he just met.

That those women usually don’t make it to the end credits is more evidence that James Bond should not be the clandestine agent Great Britain depends on for its security. It’s almost as if these women had to sleep with James Bond.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
That’s the actual line from the movie.

If Bond cared about them, they would probably have a higher survival rate. The only woman Bond ever saved without banging was M, and he couldn’t get away fast enough. It literally took 5 seconds. This also probably why she survives to be in other movies.

If Bond doesn’t care about them, he sure takes it personally every time one of them dies or betrays him — another terrible trait for a spy. Natalya Simonova was one the best Bond girls, but driving a tank around St. Petersberg trying to save her is a great way to blow your cover. Speaking of which…

3. He blows his cover on every mission

In Dr. No, Bond spends half the movie trying to convince an islander to help him infiltrate Dr. No’s radioactive island. He finally does and they sneak on in the middle of the night, only for Bond to give them away first thing the next morning when he sees a woman in a bikini.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

In Goldfinger, he’s supposed to monitor Goldfinger, but instead of that, he immediately breaks into Goldfinger’s suite, introduces himself to Goldfinger’s employee, taunts him via radio, forces him to lose thousands of dollars, then bangs his employee! Is anyone surprised when Goldfinger knocks Bond out in his own kitchen? In my opinion, Jill got dipped in gold paint because she makes poor life choices.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
At least she’s wearing clean underwear.

That was Goldfinger’s employee. In Thunderball, 007 sleeps with his mark’s girlfriend.

4. He drinks like it’s his job

The drinking. All the drinking. The guy is clearly an alcoholic. In the U.S., you can’t even get a top secret security clearance with that much alcohol use, let alone be the top field agent. How does Bond not die in alcohol-related incidents? Or of cirrhosis?

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
One thing at a time, man!

He needs booze to do anything. Sure, we can give him a pass for having a drink while gambling. That helps maintain an effective cover. But how many does he need for that purpose? This is the guy who keeps a bottle of chilled champagne in his tricked-out Aston-Martin just in case he has a lady in need of an emergency picnic. And he pops the compartment open in a move that would make Glenn Quagmire proud.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

With the exception of Timothy Dalton’s chronically misdressed Bond (he wears a shabby wool suit to work and a tuxedo to the carnival), 007 always looks impeccable. How does Bond always manage to look so suave and clean? With as much as he drinks and spends all night every night shagging some new girl, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be tired, unshaven, and smelling like liquor.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
ARCHER IS A DOCUMENTARY

 5. He gets captured all the time

Dr. No captures Bond and serves him breakfast. Bond immediately allows himself to be drugged by drinking the coffee like it was life-giving vodka. When he’s trying to turn a Russian general’s girlfriend in The Living Daylights, he CHUGS the martini she gives him. Drugged again. It’s a miracle he ever escapes anything alive. Poisoned vodka should have been enough to kill 007 in 1965 but then again, alcohol poisoning should have done him in a dozen times.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
This should have been the end of every movie.

Alec Trevelyan captures him twice. In Afghanistan, he escapes capture from the Soviets, only to be immediately captured by the Muhajeddin. Elecktra King doesn’t have any special powers or weapons and she captures 007 AND M. Goldfinger captured 007 and carted him around the world for at least a week. James Bond drove up to Harlem in the 1970s, tailing a gangster, then walked right into his nightclub. He was captured and held at gunpoint in about thirty seconds. Later in the same movie (Live and Let Die) he does it again.

6. He never notices the mole in MI6

Every time he travels, every where he goes, the enemy always knows his exact schedule. It doesn’t matter if it’s Eastern Europe, Turkey, or Jamaica, enemy agents always know when his flight arrives and what the world’s top secret superspy looks like. It also doesn’t matter who the enemy is, SPECTRE, Russia, or Dr. No.  Ignoring M16’s mole entirely, Bond spends a lot of tim in Dr. No trying to interrogate his people. When he finally subdues a geology professor who tires to kill him, 007 just shoots him instead of asking him anything.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

In Casino Royale, he doesn’t even bother to check what bank account Vesper Lynd transfers the money to. That could have been a great clue into what was really going on.

7. He rarely searches his hotel rooms for thugs, bugs, or anything

In Goldfinger, Bond blows up a drug lab and then walk right to the bar (surprise) to bang a dancer (big surprise). He walks into her room and starts undressing, missing the thug waiting to kill him. He only notices in the reflection on her eyeball. As the attacker drops the blow, he spins around and lets the lady take it.

In From Russia With Love, after not being in his hotel for two days, he just waltzes in, disrobes and orders breakfast. He doesn’t search for bugs or bombs or anything. THERE’S SOMEONE IN HIS BED and he doesn’t even notice. When he finds out its a woman, He even allows himself to be filmed having sex with her, his Russian informant, who is double crossing him.

It’s a good thing SPECTRE is as incompetent as he is. Even Blofeld, the most epic of all his nemeses, met an ignominious end when Bond dropped his WHEELCHAIR down a smokestack.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U00tRdMKTqI

8. He hangs out with the supervillains he’s supposed to take out

In Live and Let Die, 007 disarms and captures a woman by burning the assailant’s drawn gun hand with a cigar while breaking into his hotel room. She says she’s CIA… and that’s good enough for James Bond, even though she can’t do any actual spy stuff or shoot a weapon. He sleeps with her anyway, then spends the next day fishing with her.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but fishing maybe?

Bond spends DAYS with Pussy Galore and Goldfinger without trying to escape even once. He drinks with Emilio Largo, vacations with Electra King, and bangs media baron Elliot Carver’s wife while staying at his house in Hamburg.

9. He’s a huge drain on the taxpayer

And doesn’t James Bond live a really lavish lifestyle for spy? Tuxedos, Aston-Martins, Gambling in the Riviera, not to mention all these other exotic locales? Why doesn’t SPECTRE set up shop in places that are little more out of reach for the West, like Sudan or North Korea? The Bahamas seems like a terrible place to start an evil plan or terrorist group. Bond’s life is one of tuxedos, luxury cars, and champagne.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

Cost Benefit analysis: how much does it cost for James Bond to stop these villains vs. What the villains actually want. How much was that invisible car? How many people died to get Bond in Space? At some point we have to wonder if it wouldn’t be cheaper just to let the bad guys win one. But be advised: When he doesn’t get his way, he rebels and becomes an enemy of the state.

10. He destroys everything

He destroys national monuments, kills local cops, and troops who are only doing their job, even when Russia isn’t the bad guy. It’s not like the cops know who he is, they’re just trying to protect the innocent. Someone let James Bond know Blue Lives Matter. And he can’t just kill someone. It takes four cars, two helicopters, and a train to get to the bad guy. Even when he’s assigned to get one guy, 007 blows up half an african embassy to do it (and gets caught on camera in the process).

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Even if Bond is a cover name used by many agents, he just blew his cover (see reason #3).

On that note, who is the bad guy here? Isn’t M16 supposed to be supporting justice and peace? Instead their main guy is blowing up dams and trashing cities. He drove a tank through an apartment in St. Petersburg.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Because f*ck you and everything you love.

If he pulled this stuff in the U.S. it would be on Fox News in heartbeat, and there goes his cover. He ruins weddings, birthdays, and lives.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
And especially vacations. Rue Brittania.

BONUS: Q Branch isn’t that great either.

Pen grenade? Awesome. Magnet and/or laser watch? Perfect. Crocodile suit? Are you kidding me, Q?

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

 

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Why this rifle is one of the most popular in history

It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.


In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.

 

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
An Army Special Forces soldier armed with a Mk-17 SCAR-H, America’s modern variant of a classic battle rifle. (Photo: USASOC via Flickr)

 

Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.

Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.

With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.

Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.

 

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Irish soldiers armed with the FN FAL rifle in The Congo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”

Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.

Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.

In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.

In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.

 

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
British troops modified the receiver to accommodate optics. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.

For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.

Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.

The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Talk about harsh conditions…The FAL has also been the chosen weapons of many of the world’s insurgent armies. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.

Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.

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This is why Morgan Freeman is Russia’s newest target

Morgan Freeman is the latest target of Russian ire. The 80-year-old actor is in a video from The Committee to Investigate Russia, warning Americans that Russia is at war with the U.S. and that Americans should respond “before it’s too late.”


“We have been attacked,” the video begins. “We are at war.”


The CIR website is a repository of information and stories concerning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. It details the investigations, the investigators, media coverage, and the players surrounding the incidents. Freeman’s part is the voice and face of the video urging Americans to take a more concerned stance and demand the U.S. government admit the meddling that took place.

Russia isn’t happy about the video or Freeman’s participation in it.. State-run media outlet Russia Today said the video shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“Many creative people easily become victims of emotional overload while not possessing credible information about the true state of things,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RT, calling CIR’s effort a “follow-up to McCarthyism.” Peskov went on to say these things eventually fade away and that statements like Freeman’s “are not based on real facts and are purely emotional.”

“Imagine this movie script,” Freeman continues in the video, “A former KGB spy, angry at the fall of his motherland, plots a course for revenge. Taking advantage of the chaos, he works his way up through the ranks of a post-Soviet Russia and becomes president. He establishes an authoritarian regime and then sets his sights on his sworn enemy, The United States. And like the true KGB spy he is, he secretly uses cyber warfare to attack democracies around the world. Using social media to spread propaganda and false information, he convinces people in democratic societies to distrust their media, their political processes, even their neighbors. And he wins.”

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, says Freeman is being used the way Colin Powell was in the lead-up to the 2003 U.S.-led Invasion of Iraq.

“We’ll find out who stands behind this story faster than we learned about the contents of the vial,” Zakharova said, referring to a vial Powell held up in a speech as he made the American case for war to the United Nations. “The finale will be spectacular, I can’t wait to see it.”

Meanwhile, Russian media called Freeman “hysterical,” even going so far to bring a panel of psychiatrists on to question the Oscar-winner’s state of mind. A weatherman even chimed in, saying the actor is overworked and smokes too much marijuana. Russian psychological experts say he may be subject to a Messianic complex from playing God and the President of the United States in so many movies.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
To be fair, I also think of Morgan Freeman as God.

The video ends with Freeman calling on President Trump to address Americans from the Oval Office:

“My fellow Americans, during this past election, we came under attack by the Russian government. I’ve called on Congress and our intelligence community to use every resource available to conduct a thorough investigation to determine exactly how this happened.”

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7 treaties and relationships that might be affected by Trump foreign policy

There may be a big stick involved in President Trump’s foreign policy, but there is no speaking softly.


Asian markets tanked as news of Donald Trump’s imminent election hit newswires worldwide last night. The Australian markets lost $34 billion. In Japan, the Nikkei was down 4.8 percent, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 2.7 percent. The economic impact wasn’t all bad; gold prices rose sharply – as they often do in times of instability.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Related: 10 wars that could break out in the next four years

The reason for mass market fluctuations is due to the President-Elect’s protectionist rhetoric. Many times during his campaign, Trump blasted the deals made by previous administrations, Democrat and Republican alike. Some he’s simply not a fan of, others he calls a huge mistake. There’s more than one he wants to “rip up” on his first day in office.

1. NAFTA

During the presidential debate, Trump called the North American Free Trade Agreement “the worst trade deal ever signed.” He said it kills American Jobs. lowers trade restrictions between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
(Photo by Jim Winstead)

NAFTA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993, lowers trade restrictions between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. After the debate, Fortune Magazine agreed there was some truth to that statement, though “the truth lies somewhere in between.”

2. Trans-Pacific Partnership

Donald Trump is on the record as not being China’s biggest fan when it comes to business practices. The President-Elect is not down with TPP and was an outspoken critic long before he became a candidate.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative told The New York Times the TPP would end more than 18,000 tariffs that the participating countries have placed on American exports, including autos, machinery, information technology and consumer goods, chemicals and agricultural products. It wasn’t very popular among Bernie Sanders supporters, either.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

“TPP is now in the history dustbin for sure,” Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told POLITICO Pro.

3. Iran Nuclear Agreement

The deal that lifted most sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic is touted as a foreign policy achievement by the Obama administration. Trump was opposed to the deal when it was signed, calling it a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

In March 2016, he told the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC that dismantling the deal would be his top priority.

4. Relations with Israel

While Israeli and American people enjoy close ties, relations between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama were frosty at best. Despite the historically large aid package given to Israel from Obama, The Guardian reports top Israeli leaders welcomed news of Trump’s election.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

One of Trump’s campaign promises was to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient city.

5. NATO

Russia celebrated the news of Trump’s victory, telling CBS News that President Putin is ready to restore full diplomatic relations with the United States. Trump hinted during his campaign that Europe was not investing enough in its own defense and that the U.S. might not defend its allies so quickly.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

NATO Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg made a statement Nov. 9, reminding Europeans – and the incoming President – that the only time the collective defense clause was invoked was because of an attack on the United States.

6. Gulf States

This is one of the most important relationships the U.S. has with allies anywhere in the world. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, a Gulf Cooperation Council member. The Fifth Fleet defends the Strait of Hormuz and keeps international trade flowing from the region. Bahrain’s close partner Saudi Arabia has been the target of much of Trump’s criticism.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
(Photo by Damac Group/Facebook)

In August 2015, candidate Trump said he “wasn’t a big fan” of the country and that the United States had paid too much to “back them up.” He believes Saudi Arabia “is going to be in big trouble pretty soon and they’re going to need help. … We get nothing for it and they’re making a billion dollars a day.”

Trump once remarked that he wanted to create a Middle East “safe zone” for refugees and migrants – and that the Gulf States would pay for it.

7. South Korea and Japan

To counter the rising strength of China in the region, candidate Trump announced his intention to maintain the U.S. “rebalance” of power in the region but increase the number of ships in the U.S. Navy from 274 to 350.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

 

To pay for manpower and equipment increases, Trump intends to talk with Tokyo and Seoul about ways they can help pay for it. Some experts fear this may shake the certainty other countries have as U.S. allies, prompting them to seek their own nuclear weapons as a deterrent from Chinese aggression.

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The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions

It’s been a long 2015, and no group is feeling it more than the U.S. Air Force, especially Air Force leadership who took quite a beating this year from a variety of sources. But, as one first shirt used to say all the time: “The good news is they can improve.”


These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
And here’s how the Air Force higher-ups usually respond to critics.

Here’s how:

Resolution 1: Stop pushing away your loved ones

In 2013, the Air Force started drastically reducing its numbers. Today, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says the USAF is the smallest its ever been. This is a tough thing to hear considering the number of Air Force general officers, including Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III, who believe the Air Force is becoming too small to succeed. He’s not wrong. The Air Force is undermanned in many critical fields and faces an estimated $10 billion budget shortfall. But they still had enough money to make really awesome commercials like this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHkjM-3lUDk

The Air Force is already working to counter that problem. The $122 billion USAF leadership requested for 2016 included slots for 4,000 new airmen. But the Air Force is threatening to cut aircraft programs to make the budget work. The service even proposed cutting 14 F-35s, which — to anyone following the F-35 controversy —is almost unbelievable.

Resolution 2: Live within your means

There’s no doubt, when you read about everything the F-35 is supposed to be capable of when it’s fully operational, the idea of having one watching your back is very reassuring. The problem is the F-35 keeps coming up with new problems. When they fix the randomly igniting engine, they find out the helmet is too big for the cockpit. The plane is supposed to be able to take out intercepting aircraft without even being in visual range and provide air superiority for the whole battle space, but it can’t do that with a weapons system that won’t fire or bombs that won’t fit. Will the F-35 even be operational when we need it?

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Maybe. But if it’s too expensive to fly now and we still need a fleet of new fighters, why not go with the tried and true airframes which made the U.S. Air Force the most formidable in the world? Someone in the Air Force had this very same idea. Since the Air Force will likely be unable to afford F-35s at the rate the leadership wants, they are considering supplementing their fleets by purchasing and upgrading F-15, F-16, and maybe F-18 fighters.

Resolution 3: Stop procrastinating

Those planes aren’t getting any younger. The Air Force decided it needs to upgrade critical programs like the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS). It also needs to replace aging airframes with new ones to meet ongoing operational needs, as is the case with KC-46 tanker. Then Air Force leadership decided to mess around with its fighter programs first. When it came time to develop the Long Range Strike-Bomber, the Air Force jumped at that first. Now the backlog is so great it seems overwhelming. What have we been doing this whole time?

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Oh, riiiiight. That. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Well, no more. The Air Force decided to do all these things at once, as well as develop new unmanned vehicles, a new combat rescue helicopter, a replacement for Air Force One, and a new trainer aircraft. Of course simultaneously developing and updating nine aircraft programs presents significant challenges in terms of budget. But the Air Force is getting creative with its procurement solutions, like siphoning money from the Navy.

Resolution 4: Make amends with your siblings

The Budget Control Act of 2011 cut $487 billion from defense spending through 2021. It also led the way to sequestration, which implemented another slashing of defense money, this time $495 million. That’s almost $1 trillion. That means there’s a lot of competition for what’s left. After reading about the Air Force’s nine airframe initiatives, you might be surprised to know they also feel the need to upgrade or replace land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
Someone should let them know it’s not 1965.

At the same time, the Navy needs to replace its Ohio-class boomer fleet (aka ballistic missile submarines). They argue their submarine fleets are as important to the “nuclear triad” as anything the Air Force maintains. The trouble is, all three parts of the triad are way too expensive. When the Air Force awarded Northrop-Grumman the contract to develop the Long Range Strike-Bomber, it also started a full court press to get Congress to create a special fund to develop the LRS-B, which is how the Navy wanted to pay for the Ohio-class submarine upgrades. The interservice funding rivalry could touch off another “Revolt of the Admirals.” Congress can pay for both, but that solution would require a sacrificial lamb from the Air Force.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
And the might of the F-35, unsmote by the sword, hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

Resolution 5: Don’t fix what’s not broken

In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
An A-10 Thunderbolt II sits on the ramp at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn)

And then, Congress provided those funds. They allocated enough money to keep the A-10s in the air until the the Air Force completes the independent study. If they have the funds, they have a mission, and they have reliable aircraft to fulfill the mission, the Air Force should probably just leave well enough alone.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 31 edition)

Greetings from WATM HQ in Hollywood and TGIF. Here are the headlines:


Now: The most incredible sieges in military history

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Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

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Marine Corps veteran Adrian Bruneau at the RNC in Cleveland as a Louisiana delegate. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


CLEVELAND, Ohio — After getting a taste of wearing uniforms and drilling while attached to a JROTC unit in high school, New Orleans native Adrian Bruneau joined the Marine Corps on his eighteenth birthday.

“My father was a colonel in the Air Force and he was not very happy about that,” he recalls. “He came straight home and said, ‘Son, don’t you know people get killed in the Marine Corps? I said, ‘Dad, I’m pretty sure people get killed in the Air Force flying and whatever too.'”

Bruneau wound up spending 15 years in the Corps — 8 on active duty and 7 in the reserves — primarily working as an avionics technician. “If it had an electronic heartbeat in an aircraft I could work on it,” he says. “Whether it was nav gear, satellite gear . . . anything that was electronic — not electric, but electronic — that needed to be fixed I could fix it.”

But while Bruneau got a lot of satisfaction out of his military service, his real passion was politics, largely because his father had been in the Louisiana state legislature for 32 years. As soon as he got off of active duty, he walked into the State House and found a job as an aide to a state senator. After working as a staffer at the state level for awhile, he decided he wanted to try his hand at working on political campaigns.

“I asked Ron Forman — a candidate for mayor of New Orleans and a longtime mentor — if I could have a job on his campaign even though I was a Republican and he was a Democrat — a conservative one, but still,” Bruneau remembers. “It was an interesting race for mayor because it was right after Hurricane Katrina and there were a lot of issues to figure out for the people there. After that, things just kind of snowballed.”

He formed a corporation — “BHC” — to give him some business and legal protections. Bruneau says, “My dad told me, ‘Somebody’s going to blame you for something at some point in time, so you’d better have the legal protection to back it up.’ ”

He followed that race (that was won by high-profile figure Ray Nagin) with a pivot into judicial elections — “popularity contests for lawyers,” as he puts it. And he made it a point to work on both Republican and Democratic campaigns.

“New Orleans is a little blue dot in a sea of red,” Bruneau says as a way to justify his bi-partisan track record. But as his network and impact grew along with his desire to work beyond the border of New Orleans, a trusted friend who worked at the national level told him he had to pick a side.

Bruneau focused on the Republican Party, and his first job was working on the campaign of Ilario Pantano, another Marine Corps veteran, who was running to fill North Carolina’s Second District congressional seat. Pantano, who first came to national prominence after being accused of murdering innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq, while serving as a platoon leader — an allegation for which he was ultimately not charged — lost the race. But that didn’t deter Bruneau from jumping right back on the campaign trail with another hopeful.

“It’s just like a military campaign, really,” Bruneau says while describing the nuts-and-bolts of running political campaigns. “You got your ground game, your air game, and your logistics. Air game is your media, your television. On the ground side, you organize people and get the fire going, which I actually enjoy better.”

He doesn’t enjoy the fundraising part of the process. “Not my space,” he says. “I just stay away from that. I’m a Marine. Go stick me in the ground and let me do my thing.”

Bruneau admits the political world can be frustrating at times. “You serve two masters,” he says. “The candidate always has a group of insiders — his ‘kitchen cabinet,’ people he’s had around him his whole life. Sometimes those people were helpful, but other times they’d get the candidate’s ear and I’d have to spend hours talking him out of a bad idea. I’ve seen good people lose because they listened to the wrong people and I’ve seen candidates who I never thought could win do so because they formed a good team and listened to them.”

This week, Bruneau is in Cleveland because he has another role in politics beyond running Gulf South Strategies, the current name of his consulting firm. He’s an RNC delegate from Louisiana.

“Back in 2012 my business partner and I reached out to the Trump campaign through the state party chairman, but soon thereafter we were told that Trump was going to endorse Mitt Romney,” he says. “This time, the Trump campaign came to us and said, ‘Hey, fellas, we think we’re going to do this again.’ ”

Bruneau advised the Trump campaign on who should be part of their team in Louisiana, and because of that effort, he was asked if he was willing to be an at-large delegate. He jumped at the opportunity.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Gee whiz, Adrian, you’re crazy supporting Trump,’ ” he admits. “I said, ‘Nope, I read his book when I was a junior in high school and I’ve been fascinated by his business every since.’ ”

Bruneau admits that his path has been unorthodox, but he thinks politics is a viable follow-on career for those leaving the military.

“I tell former servicemembers that getting into politics is a relatively easy transition to make,” Bruneau says. “Politicians naturally have an appreciation for military service and are inclined to hire vets.”

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The Army is offering $5K bonuses to join new training brigade

The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.


The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war: Army soldiers are more often training and building local security forces rather than doing the fighting for them on foreign soil. It replaces what has been a hodgepodge of programs over the past dozen years with projections for five new, permanent, fully-trained brigades that can be deployed around the world as professional advisers.

“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.

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A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) advises and assists designated Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar Province to enable ISF to degrade and defeat Da’esh (an Arabic acronym fro ISIL) and support the Mosul counterattack. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”

The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.

That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.

U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. Less than three years later, the Iraqi security forces largely collapsed as Islamic State militants seized control of large swaths of territory. U.S. troops then returned to Iraq, training, advising and enabling the Iraqis to oust IS from the country.

Also read: Here’s how the Army is assisting Iraqi forces in the fight for Mosul

The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.

Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.

“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”

The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.

Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.

The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers cross an intersection during a routine security patrol in downtown Tal Afar, Iraq (U.S. Navy photo)

“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.

The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.

Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

More reading: SEAL Team 6 is experimenting with sensory deprivation chambers to learn languages faster

The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.

As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.

The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.

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Taliban kill 7, kidnap 6 along highway in western Afghanistan

Taliban rebels killed seven people and kidnapped another six along a highway in western Afghanistan, official sources told EFE Ingles July 12.


The incident, in which 10 rebels were also killed, took place on July 11 along a national highway near Farah, capital of a province by the same name, when the Taliban stopped several vehicles and captured more than 10 people, according to Nasser Mehri, spokesperson for the provincial governor.

“According to initial information, they killed seven of the kidnapped passengers,” explained Mehri, adding that five of the victims were former members of the Afghan security forces.

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The flag of the Taliban. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Mehri added the insurgents were planning to capture more people when the Afghan troops arrived and there was a shootout.

A police official from the province, who asked not to be named, told EFE that at least seven passengers are still being held hostage by the Taliban, and that security forces have launched a rescue operation in areas around the incident spot.

In 2016, the Taliban abducted hundreds of people from the country’s unsafe highways, including members of the security forces traveling in buses or in specific vehicles.

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Intersection of Highway 1 and Route 606 in Delaram, Afghanistan. (Photo from Leonard J. DeFrancisci)

Afghanistan is witnessing its most violent phase since 2001, when the Taliban regime was overthrown with the help of the United States.

The situation has worsened following the end of NATO’s combat mission in 2015.

Since then, insurgents have been gaining ground in various parts of Afghanistan and currently control, influence, or are in dispute with the government over at least 43 percent of the territory, according to the US.

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Here are the best military photos for the week of July 22nd

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

An F-16CM Fighting Falcon assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing lowers its landing gears in preparation for landing at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 21, 2017. The F-16 is a highly maneuverable multi-role fighter aircraft in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack during combat operations.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sean Sweeney

Four F-18 Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, fly over Klamath Falls returing to Kingsley Field after a morning of air-to-air combat training with a variety of other fighter jets from around the country during Sentry Eagle 2017. Sentry Eagle is an air-to-air combat exercise bringing a variety of different fighter jets from around the country to train and work together. This year’s line-up includes the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcons, F-18 Hornets, and the F-35 Lighting. Along with the training exercise the 173rd Fighter Wing is hosting a free open house for the public with static displays and other events on Saturday the 21st.

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Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Van Mourik

Army:

Illuminating projectiles, each weighing close to 100 pounds, are staged by Pfc. Juan Valenzuela and others from the California Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 144th Field Artillery Regiment July 21 at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. About 1,500 of these and similar rounds were to be expended by the end of the 144th’s annual training.

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Army National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza

U.S. Soldiers, assigned to the 1-26 Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), participate in a simulated force on force exercise during the Network Integration Exercise (NIE) 17.2 at Fort Bliss, Tx, July 20, 2017.

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Courtesy Photo

Navy:

Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Sean Martin heaves a line around with the First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA) during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is currently underway acquiring certifications in preparation for their upcoming homeport shift to Sasebo, Japan where they are slated to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Levingston Lewis

The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) prepares to moor at Broadway Pier to provide public tours July 22-23. Giffords is the newest Independence variant littoral combat ship and one of seven LCSs homeported in San Diego.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Phil Ladouceur

Marine Corps:

A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Platoon 3052, Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, holds a M16A4 rifle during a final drill evaluation at Peatross parade deck on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., July 19, 2017. The recruits are scored for final drill according to execution of movements, confidence, attention to detail, and discipline.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Colby Cooper

U.S. Marines load into a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter to be transported onto the USS Somerset (LPD 25) as part of UNITAS 2017 in Ancon, Peru, July 19, 2017.UNITAS is an annual, multi-national exercise that focuses on strengthening existing regional partnerships and encourages establishing new relationships through the exchange of maritime mission-focused knowledge and expertise during multinational training operations.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Mesa

Coast Guard:

A U.S. Coast Guardsman jumps into Lake Goodrich during a water survival demonstration at the 2017 National Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glenn Jean, W.Va. July 21, 2017. More than 30,000 Boy Scouts, troop leaders, volunteers and professional staff members, as well as more than 15,000 visitors are expected to attend the 2017 National Jamboree. Approximately 1,400 military members from the Department of Defense and the US Coast Guard are providing logistical support for the event.

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U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jazmin Jenkins/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

An Air Station Kodiak MH-60 helicopter aircrew conducts maintenance on a MH-60 windshield at Forward Operating Location Kotzebue, July 20, 2017. FOL Kotzebue houses two MH-60 helicopters and their aircrews in support of Operation Arctic Shield.

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Brian Dykens

 

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How Russia spies: Active measures & subversion

The Main Enemy.” That’s how the Russian political, military, and intelligence apparatuses see the United States. Although the end of the Cold War brought with it hopes of democratization in Russia, 30 years later, with President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, at the helm, Russia seems buried in the past, stoking a fire against the West mainly through covert means and information operations.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. Intelligence Community released its annual threat assessment. When it came to Russia, American intelligence assessed that it poses one of the most serious intelligence threats to the U.S., sowing discord and division within the U.S. while trying to divide Western alliances, such as NATO and the European Union, alongside preserving and increasing Russia’s global standing.

Heading this campaign of subversion are Russia’s potent intelligence agencies: The SVR (foreign intelligence), FSB (domestic intelligence and counterintelligence), GRU (military intelligence), and FSO (a mix of domestic law enforcement, border patrol, presidential guard, and signals intelligence).  

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The emblem of the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service (Wikimedia.org).

A History of Subversion

From the reign of the Tsars, Russian history is deeply steeped in espionage. The Russian monarchs operated intelligence services to prevent the all-dreaded assassination attempts from domestic and foreign rivals. When the Bolsheviks ousted the Tsars after the Russian Revolution in 1917, they kept the same focus on intelligence, but now the target deck of potential threats swelled. Russian anti-communists (also known as the “Whites”), foreign nations, and even other Bolsheviks were all considered threats to the nascent revolution.

Related: BRUTE FORCE, HOW RUSSIA IS HACKING AMERICA

The Soviets began spying against other countries immediately, and the U.S. in particular was a big target. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Russian intelligence officers recruited hundreds of Americans to spy for the Soviet Union, an espionage onslaught that resulted in the compromise of the Manhattan Project and the leaking of nuclear secrets to the Soviets, with which they managed to build their own atomic weapons.

Other Western countries were also affected. Great Britain’s infamous Cambridge Five (Donald Mclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross), a group of the British elite who infiltrated its institutions, including MI6, Foreign Office, and BBC, wreaked havoc with their perfidy.

West Germany suffered too. A cadre of “Romeos,” attractive young Soviet and East German intelligence officers, used their sex appeal and charm to target lonely, single West German secretaries and recruit them, infiltrating the highest echelons of the West German government.

In an interview in 1998, KGB general Oleg Kalugin, head of KGB’s political operations in the U.S. who later defected and became an American citizen, offered some great insight on how Russian intelligence services tackled the “American target.”

“The heart and soul of the Soviet intelligence—was subversion. Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare the ground in case the war really occurs. To make America more vulnerable to the anger and distrust of other peoples,” he had said.

An Unofficial Rulebook

By interfering with the U.S. political process in 2016, Russian intelligence services, directed by the Kremlin, crossed an unspoken line that had existed since and survived throughout the Cold War. In his excellent book, Spymaster’s Prism: The Fight Against Russian Aggression, Jack Divine, a retired CIA officer who served as acting director and associate director of operations, describes this unofficial rulebook as the “Moscow Rules.”

This set of unofficial norms ensured that the respective intelligence activities didn’t go beyond a red line that would provoke either side into using its military—and as a result, its nuclear arsenal. Assassinations, terrorism, and excessive violence against the other country’s intelligence officers were a no-go, as was direct interference in the other country’s political processes.

Related: THE CIA PLANNED TO FLY U-2 PLANES FROM AIRCRAFT CARRIERS

For example, KGB officers wouldn’t beat a CIA officer caught meeting with a Soviet asset in Moscow to death (they could—and did—try and execute their countryman, though). Similarly, the CIA wouldn’t promote independence movements in other nations inside the Soviet Union or try to influence the leadership deliberations inside the Communist Party in an effort to destabilize Kremlin’s power.

These unofficial “rules of engagement” kept in check the respective intelligence services, ensuring that their actions in the cloak and dagger realm didn’t inadvertently cause World War Three. But in 2016, Putin Russia threw the Moscow Rules out of the window.

Back to the Future

In 2016, using its cyber capabilities, the Kremlin aimed to delegitimize America’s democratic process, sow distrust in Western media, and widen preexisting socioeconomic and racial fissures in the U.S. The main actor in this was the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a seemingly independent organization that works closely with the Russian intelligence apparatus, particularly the SVR and GRU.

In 2016, the IRA created thousands of Twitter accounts (3,814), YouTube videos (more than 1,000), and hundreds of Facebook pages and events, masking them as American political groups and initiatives, that posted divisive and inflammatory material. Using thousands of bots on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major social media platforms, they promoted and spread these posts to reach at least 29 million Americans, and potentially reaching 126 million, and influenced the political process in a way that’s hard to quantify.

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The Russian Intelligence Services will often use proxies: A building in St. Petersburg the IRA formerly used (Wikimedia.org).

Several of these pages and posts were directly opposed to each other (for example, “Blacktivist” and “Stop All Immigrants”) despite being run by the same Russian source. It is worth highlighting that Russian intelligence services directed their malicious efforts against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and, to a lesser extent, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. It wasn’t until the closing months of the election season, when Trump seemed to have a feasible chance to win, that the Russians started favoring him. (It’s important to highlight that Russian meddling in the election process was primarily intended to make Americans question the electoral process and democratic institutions.)

Related: NOVICHO, THE NERVE AGENT RUSSIAN SPIES USE TO ASSASSINATE

The election interference, one of many in which Russian intelligence meddled in the last few years (other examples are the Brexit vote, Scottish independence referendum, and Catalonia independence referendum), is part of what the Russians refer to as “Active Measures.”

Active Measures

Active Measures (Aktivnye Meropriyatiya), is the Russian version of Covert Action and can include election interference, information operations, influence operations, assassinations of dissidents, and cyberwarfare.

Through its active measures tactics, Russia attempts to undermine U.S. influence in the world and sow division between Western countries and NATO in order to weaken the West, thereby increasing Moscow’s importance to the world as a major international player.

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The Russian Intelligence Services are a formidable foe. Here, GRU operatives Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin during the attempted assassination of former SVR officer Sergei Skripal in the U.K. (Metropolitan Police).

According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russian officials believe that the U.S. and its allies have been conducting influence operations to undermine Russia and Putin in addition to pursuing regime-changing in the countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine and Georgia. Interestingly, U.S. officials assess that Russia seeks an accommodation with the U.S. on mutual non-interference in domestic matters and also for the West to recognize Russia’s long-gone sphere of influence in states the former Soviet Union. If that assessment is correct, it could explain the interference in the 2016 election as a show of force from the Kremlin and a tangible way to visualize the dangers of domestic interference.

Although subversion is the primary goal of Russian intelligence operations, it doesn’t mean that traditional collection is absent, with the Kremlin targeting mostly the U.S. defense and artificial technology industries, usually recruiting employees within those companies in order to achieve their goals.

A formidable foe, the Russian intelligence services pose a grave threat to the U.S. and the West.

This article by Stavros Atlamazoglou was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

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