This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions - We Are The Mighty
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This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions

The US and its European allies have been boosting their presence in Eastern Europe in recent months, responding to a period of tense relations with Russia. Now, NATO forces are looking for ways to reestablish military capabilities that have eroded since the end of the Cold War.


US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other NATO military leaders are set to review changes to the military bloc’s command structure next month, with an eye on enhancing their rapid-deployment abilities and reinforcing their supply lines.

Also read: Russian lab admits it took secret NSA code from US computer

“Fast-evolving security challenges mean new demands on our command,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told Stars and Stripes. “So work is underway to ensure that the NATO command structure remains robust, agile, and fit for purpose.”

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu. Photo from NATO.

A NATO internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegel concluded that the bloc’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe has “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

According to the report, even the alliance’s designated response force was not up to standard. It found that NATO would be unable to move troops fast enough and lacks sufficient officers and supplies in Europe.

Neither military officials nor the NATO report see hostilities with Russia as imminent, but, after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, NATO members regard an enhanced military presence as a way to deter aggression from Moscow, which has called NATO’s moves provocations.

“The alliance has to move as quick or quicker than Russian Federation forces for our deterrent to be effective,” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the top US Army commander in Europe, said this month. Recent months have seen close encounters between Russian and NATO aircraft over Eastern Europe and between Russian and NATO ships in the waters around Europe.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander, US Army Europe, is awarded the German Federal Armed Forces Golden Cross of Honor by German Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer, the chief of staff of the German Army. Photo courtesy of US Army.

The report, citing the need to reorganize supply procedures, recommends setting up two new command centers. One, based in the US and modeled on the Cold War-era Supreme Allied Command, would oversee the shipment of personnel and supplies to Europe. The other, which could end up in Germany or Poland, would oversee logistics operations on the continent, particularly between Central and Eastern Europe.

NATO members in Europe are also working on legislation to bolster infrastructure and to allow military equipment to move across national borders faster. The latter problem has hindered military exercises in Europe in recent months.

Also Read: How much of a threat does Russia pose to NATO and the US?

While NATO has the ability to suspend civilian laws on transportation and travel in the case of war, preparations for combat would need to be done before hostilities break out. The bloc must also find ways to maintain an eastern flank that now extends beyond its Cold War boundaries, running right up to Russia’s borders in some places.

NATO forces have been gathering information about infrastructure in Eastern Europe, like bridge and rail networks. Many roadways and bridges have weight restrictions that limit which NATO vehicles that can use them, and some railways cannot move heavy equipment.

“We are also looking at making sure air, rail, and sea lift is readily available and in sufficient numbers,” a NATO official told Stars and Stripes. In 2016, US A-10 Thunderbolts practiced landing and taking off on an Estonia highway for the first time since 1984. And US troops in Europe have started making preparations like painting tanks and vehicles with green color schemes — reminiscent of Cold War camouflage.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
An A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, lands on a remote highway strip near Jägala, Estonia, June 20, 2016. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy Lovgren.

The US Marine Corps in particular is looking to boost its capabilities in Europe in response to potential conflict with Russia. The Corps now wants to restore combat functions to the Marine Expeditionary Force — the largest Marine combat unit, which can have up to 25,000 Marines.

“The MEF command element will have to be ready to support a warfighting effort in Europe,” Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, said this week.

The decision follows other increases in the Marine presence in Europe. US Marines have deployed a rotational force to Romania and have conducted back-to-back deployments in Norway, positioning gear and doing exercises near the Russian border. The rotational force’s arrival in Norway was the first time a foreign force had been posted there since World War II.

The US deployed dozens of helicopters and thousands of pieces of military equipment to Germany this spring, and another detachment of US helicopters are headed to Eastern Europe this week.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
US Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 17.1 prepare to board a bus after arriving in Vaernes, Norway, Jan. 16, 2017. The Marines are part of the newly established Marine Rotational Force-Europe, and will be training with the Norwegian Armed Forces to improve interoperability and enhance their ability to conduct operations in Arctic conditions. USMC photo by Sgt. Erik Estrada.

While these preparations come at the direction of senior military leadership, a shift to Eastern Europe is one that many US troops believe necessary.

A recent Military Times poll of US servicemembers found that, even though many troops don’t think a military fight is likely, 42% think the US military should increase its activities in Eastern Europe to counter Russia. The poll also found that troops rated Russia the fifth biggest threat to US national security — behind cyberterrorism, North Korea, and domestic and foreign terrorism tied to Islam.

Only one-quarter of respondents approved of Trump’s handling of relations with Moscow, but their feelings about Trump’s dealings with NATO were more mixed: 32% said US relations with NATO were good, 35% said poor, and 30% said average.

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Adolf Hitler had a British nephew who joined the Navy during WWII

Hitler’s nephew, who he would come to call “my loathsome nephew”, was originally named William Patrick Hitler, but he later changed it to William Patrick Stuart-Houston to distance himself from his uncle’s name after WWII.


This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions

William was born in Liverpool, the son of Adolf Hitler’s half brother, Alois Hitler, Jr., and an Irish woman named Bridget Dowling.

Prior to WWII, William moved from England to Germany where Adolf Hitler got him a job in a bank, which he subsequently left after convincing Hitler to get him a job at an automobile factory, as a salesman. At this point, Hitler began calling him “my loathsome nephew” and began publicly calling him out, stating, “I didn’t become Chancellor for the benefit of my family … No one is going to climb on my back.”

Getting nowhere further with his uncle, William then returned to London for a time and attempted to capitalize on his uncle’s fame there. He later returned to Germany where Hitler eventually offered William a top ranking position with the Nazis if William would renounce his British citizenship. William turned down the offer, fearing he’d be trapped in Germany in the coming conflict.

No longer caring to ask for a job or high ranking position, William subsequently began trying to blackmail his uncle, threatening to tell the media stories about Hitler and his family, including threatening to confirm a rumor that Hitler was the illegitimate grandson of the Jewish merchant, Leopold Frankenberger, if Hitler wouldn’t give him money. As you might imagine, this didn’t sit well with Hitler and William was forced to flee back to England, though some reports say he was given a sizable sum before being forced to leave.

Just before the start of WWII, William and his mother were invited to the United States at the invitation of famed publisher William Randolph Hearst. Hearst then sponsored William on a nationwide lecture tour titled “My Uncle Adolf”, where William would tell stories about Hitler and the Nazis to audiences.

Once the war broke out, William tried to join the British forces, but was denied. When the U.S. eventually entered the war, William appealed to President Roosevelt to be allowed to join the U.S. forces, stating why he felt he wasn’t being allowed to serve in the British forces: “The British are an insular people and while they are kind and courteous, it is my impression, rightly or wrongly, that they could not in the long term feel overly cordial or sympathetic towards an individual bearing the name I do.”

Roosevelt turned the matter over to the F.B.I. who eventually decided to allow William to join the U.S. Navy, despite being a British citizen and the nephew of Hitler. He served in the navy as a corpsman and was discharged in 1947 after three years of service.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions

Bonus Facts:

  • After the war, William married and moved to Long Island where he set up his own blood sample analysis business.
  • William had four sons: Alexander, Louis, Howard, and Brian. Three of them live on Long Island today. The fourth son, Howard, died in a car accident in 1989, two years after William died. Two of his remaining sons live together and own a landscaping company, and the third is a social worker.
  • The apartment William Hitler and his family lived at in Liverpool was destroyed in a German air raid on January 10, 1942.
  • William’s mother, Bridget Dowling, once wrote a manuscript, My Brother-in-Law Adolf, to try to capitalize on Hitler’s fame. Most of the content of the manuscript has been dismissed by historians including allegations that Hitler spent nearly six months living in Liverpool with her family in 1912 and into 1913. She also claimed she was the one who convinced him to cut his mustache the way he did, rather than the more traditional handlebar style and claims to have introduced Hitler to astrology, which is something he is said to have taken great stock in while planning some of his military strategies.
  • William’s father, Alois Hitler, left the family to return to Austria in 1914. Bridget and William did not go with him, though the two did not divorce. After WWI began, Alois Hitler married Hedwig Weidemann, which subsequently got him in a lot of trouble once authorities discovered he was already married. Alois had a son with his new wife in Austria, Heinz Hitler, who served as a Nazi in WWII and was captured, tortured, and killed by the Soviet Union in 1942.
  • Interestingly, Alois Hitler only managed to escape punishment for getting married while he was already married when his first wife Bridget Dowling intervened with the authorities, claiming she had separated from him before he left for Austria.
  • When Alois Hitler first met Bridget Dowling, he claimed to be a wealthy hotel owner, when, in fact, he was just a waiter at a hotel. He then eloped with Dowling, despite her father’s threats against him.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions

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Belgium is the next country to replace its F-16 fleet with F-35s

The Lockheed F-35 Lightning is replacing the F-16 in many countries. For the most part, if a country is flying F-16s, then it’s a safe bet that they will get the F-35. There may be some exceptions to that rule, of course, but for the most part, it rings true.


One country slated to receive the F-35 is Belgium. F-16.net reports that, at one point, the Belgian Air Component had as many as 160 F-16A/B Fighting Falcons. Many of these planes were manufactured as part of a consortium with Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
One of the first F-16s built for the Belgian Air Force. The F-16s currently in service will be replaced by F-35s. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Rob Schleiffert)

Today, that total stands at 45 F-16AM and nine F-16BM Fighting Falcons. These planes are divided into four operational fighter squadrons primarily equipped with F-16AMs, and one operational conversion unit equipped solely with F-16BMs. This comes out to roughly 11 F-16AMs per squadron.

According to a release on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website, Belgium will begin to replace its F-16s with F-35s. The planned purchase total, coming in at just over $6.5 billion, is 34 F-35A Lightnings and 38 F135 engines (one for each F-35, plus four spares). This comes out to eight and a half F-35s per squadron.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
The second F-35 for the Netherlands rolls out of the hangar. The Dutch also helped produce the F-16. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Now, this may just be the first batch of planes, in which case, it comes out to a more reasonable 17 planes per squadron. A Belgian media report in 2016 noted that the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet were also considered by the Belgian government.

In what seems to be a repeat of history, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark are all buying the F-35 to replace the F-16. In recent years, the Belgian Air Component has seen action in the War on Terror, the NATO intervention in Libya, and has also taken part in the Baltic Air Policing mission, often using F-16AMs.

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Veterans and the substance abuse problem

Substance abuse among veterans is a growing problem in the United States. Many members of the military come home from deployment in war-torn areas with mental health and physical problems. The disabilities caused by their experiences in deployment makes substance abuse a more prevalent problem. Today, many women and men that have served or still serve in the US military struggle with drug addiction. Some of the veterans that have been involved or seen combat have co-occurring disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression and addiction.


Such veterans turn to drugs like alcohol as a way of coping with stress and war challenges. Easy availability of alcohol and other drugs makes engaging in dangerous activities like binge drinking easy for veterans. Eventually, many veterans end up battling an addiction to illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol.

If a serviceman or woman you love has a substance abuse problem, call AddictionResource drug addiction helpline. This will enable you to get the help that your loved one needs to beat the substance abuse problem. Hotline numbers for addiction are manned by trained professionals that understand the pain that callers and their loved ones go through. They provide useful information about the available treatment options and guidance for those ready to undergo addiction treatment. Many veterans have received treatment after making this call and are now recovering.

Substance abuse among active service men and women

Research indicates that alcohol, prescription drug, and tobacco abuse is steadily increasing and more prevalent among members of the armed forces as compared to civilians. However, the use of illicit drugs is lower in the military than in the civilian population in the U.S. So, what compels active military members to abuse prescription drugs and alcohol?

A major cause of substance abuse among military men and women is the stress that comes with deployment to war-torn areas. Spending months away from home in challenging environments, fatigue, and loneliness, expose these men and women to substance abuse vulnerability. The unique military culture and strict discipline can also lead to addictive behaviors among active servicemen and women.

Unfortunately, many active servicemen and women do not call drug addiction hotline seeking help due to the stigma that is associated with the problem. Others fear that their confidentiality will be compromised if they speak about their problem.

Substance abuse problem among veterans

For some veterans, the substance abuse problem starts when in active service. However, some develop the problem after retiring from active service. Many veterans face complex economic and health challenges. Combat experiences come with psychological stress that veterans have to deal with. The demanding military life environment can also lead to substance use disorders.

Frequent moves and long deployments can strain relationships with their loved ones. Many veterans face problems like homelessness and unemployment. These are some of the challenges that lead veterans to alcohol and drug use as a way of readjusting to civilian life or coping with hardships.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, an estimated 7% of veterans in the U.S struggle with a substance use disorder. About 20% of the ex-servicemen and women that have been to Iraq and Afghanistan have depression, PTSD, or traumatic brain injury. All these conditions predispose veterans to addiction. Substance abuse and mental health issues are the major causes of U.S troops’ hospitalizations.

Statistics that reveal the reality

The Department of Defense has a strict, zero-tolerance drug use policy among the active members of the military. This may explain why many active servicemen with substance abuse problems opt not to call a drug abuse hotline. Nevertheless, tobacco and prescription drug abuse, as well as, alcoholism remains high among the active members of the military than among the civilians. And, substance abuse by veterans is increasing steadily.

For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental health Service Administration reports that 7.1% of veterans were diagnosed with substance use disorder between 2004 and 2006.

Out of 10 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, 2 develop substance use disorder. And out of 6 veterans involved in Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns experience PTSD symptoms. 20% of the female veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD. Out of 4 veterans involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, 1 reports signs of the mental health disorder.

25% of veterans between the age of 18 and 25 years reported symptoms of mental health disorders like SUD from 2004 to 2006. This is double the number of veterans that reported similar symptoms between the age of 26 and 54 years. It’s also 5 times the number of veterans that reported the same symptoms from the age of 55 years and above.

Major causes of substance abuse among veterans

Many soldiers face alcoholism and substance abuse problems after serving in wars. Both veterans and active military personnel can call rehab numbers seeking help with a substance abuse problem. However, the stigma associated with seeking help for addiction hinders them from getting assistance. Here are the major reasons why veterans and active members of the military can develop an addiction to prescription pills, illicit drugs, and alcohol.

  • Mental health problems
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Exposure to combat
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Substance misuse while in active service
  • Chronic pain caused by injuries and overuse
  • Challenges coping with stress
  • Challenges in adjusting to civilian life
  • Inability to acknowledge or recognize the problem
  • Stigma about seeking assistance
  • Stressors of serving in the military as a woman

Deployment to war-torn areas exposes members of the military to constant risks of permanent injury or death. As such, returning home to their loved ones should be a happy experience. However, getting back to civilian life after serving in the military is not easy for many veterans. Transitioning to a civilian life entails finding employment and housing. A veteran has to adjust to a life without the unit camaraderie and military benefits. Many veterans see unit members as their family because they share similar experiences. Therefore, civilian life feels alien to most of them. They feel disconnected and without a purpose. This prompts them to turn to addictive substances as a way of coping.

The bottom line

Substance abuse among veterans is a pressing issue. These people are susceptible to substance abuse and addiction because of the intense experience they get during combat and deployment. Reducing substance abuse among veterans has many challenges because the majority of them have co-occurring conditions like PTSD and depression. Nevertheless, veterans can call rehab numbers to seek help with their substance abuse problem.

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Here is why business is booming for private military companies

The services of private security companies have expanded so much over the last 20 years that they are now referred to as private military companies (PMCs) in some circles. PMCs have assumed all the different roles of war, from backend logistics, to training, to consulting, to battlefield operations, and more. The private military industry was a $218 billion industry in 2014 and business is growing, according to the Vice video below.


Related: 20 private security contractors that hire vets with the skills

There are many reasons why hiring a PMC is more attractive than maintaining a military, and companies like ACADEMI (formerly Blackwater), Aegis, and others are redefining what war might look like in the future.

This VICE video explores the origins of the PMC industry and how the war on terror has fueled its growth.

Watch:

VICE, YouTube

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North Korea may have had no idea US bombers were so close during latest flyby

Military analysts say North Korea doesn’t have either the capability or the intent to attack US bombers and fighter jets, despite the country’s top diplomat saying it has every right do so.


They view the remark by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and a recent propaganda video simulating such an attack as tit-for-tat responses to fiery rhetoric by US President Donald Trump and his hardening stance against the North’s nuclear weapons program.

By highlighting the possibility of a potential military clash on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea may be trying to create a distraction as it works behind the scenes to advance its nuclear weapons development, said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Another possibility is that North Korea is trying to win space to save face as it contemplates whether to de-escalate its standoff with Washington, he said Sept. 26.

Speaking to reporters before leaving a UN meeting in New York, Ri said Trump had “declared war” on his country by tweeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer.” Ri said North Korea has “every right” to take countermeasures, including shooting down US strategic bombers, even when they’re not in North Korean airspace.

 

The US frequently sends advanced warplanes to the Korean Peninsula for patrols or drills during times of animosity. Last weekend, US bombers and fighter escorts flew in international airspace east of North Korea to the farthest point north of the border between North and South Korea that they have in this century, according to the Pentagon.

Hours after the flights Sept. 24, a North Korean government propaganda website posted a video portraying US warplanes and an aircraft carrier being destroyed by attacks. The video on DPRK Today, which was patched together from photos and crude computer-generated animation, also included footage of North Korean solid-fuel missiles being fired from land mobile launchers and a submarine. The North was clearly trying to claim it has the ability to conduct retaliatory strikes against US attacks, said Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz9AE15nD0M
(stimmekoreas | YouTube) 

Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official and current senior analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said it’s highly unlikely North Korea has the real-world capability to match Ri’s words. North Korea’s aging MiG fighters won’t stance a chance against much more powerful US fighters escorting long-range bombers. And while North Korea touted in May that it’s ready to deploy new surface-to-air missiles that analysts say could potentially hit targets as far as 150 kilometers (93 miles) away, it’s questionable how much of a threat the unproven system could pose to US aircraft operating far off the country’s coast, Moon said.

It’s also unclear whether North Korea would be able to even see the advanced US warplanes when they come. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing on Sept. 26 that the North’s inadequate radar systems failed to detect the B-1B bombers as they flew east of North Korea.

The last time North Korea fired on a US aircraft was in 1994 when it shot down a US Army helicopter around the heavily armed inter-Korean border, killing one of the pilots and capturing the other. The surviving pilot said after his release he was pressured by North Korean officials to confess that the helicopter had crossed into North Korea. In 1969, a North Korean fighter jet shot down an unarmed US reconnaissance plane and killed all 31 crewmembers on board.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
Republic of Korea F-15K fighters drop munitions over Pilsung Range during operations alongside U.S. F-35B stealth fighters and B-1B Lancer bombers. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

It’s highly unlikely North Korea would attempt a similar attack now, experts say. Amid tension created by the North’s nuclear weapons tests and threat to detonate a thermonuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean, such an attack would pretty much guarantee retaliation from the United States that could lead to war, Cha said.

“The most obvious reason Ri made those comments was because North Korea simply can’t tolerate such high-profile insults to its supreme leadership,” Cha said. It’s also possible that the North is trying to fan concerns about a potential military clash in the region now so that it can win room to save face later when it tries to de-escalate, he said.

“If Kim Jong Un ever offers a moratorium on his missile tests or makes whatever other compromise, he could say he made a big-picture decision to reduce military tension in the Korean Peninsula,” Cha said. He said Ri’s comments also allow China and Russian to restate their calls for a “dual suspension” of North Korean weapons tests and displays of military capability by the US and South Korea.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
Weapons dropped from U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 30, 2017. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

The Trump administration’s stance on North Korea has been hardening in recent months as the North has been stepping up the aggressiveness of its nuclear and missile tests. It conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, which it said was a thermonuclear weapon built for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It tested two ICBMs in July, displaying their potential ability to reach deep into the continental United States. North Korea has also fired two powerful midrange missiles over Japan in recent weeks.

Trump in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked, which prompted Kim to pledge to take the “highest-level” action against the United States. Ri then said North Korea might conduct the “most powerful” atmospheric hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean, but added that no one knew what Kim would decide.

Asperiores odit

The White House is going after this Lebanese terrorist group with a $12M bounty

A multimillion-dollar reward offered by the Trump administration in return for information leading to the arrest of two senior operatives of Hezbollah is part of ongoing US efforts to “demonize” the group, a party official said Oct. 11.


The new US measures, including recent sanctions, will not affect Hezbollah’s operational activities, the official added.

He was reacting to the US State Department’s announcement Oct. 10 of an up to $7 million reward for information on Talal Hamiyah, who it says leads Hezbollah’s “international terrorism branch” and who the US claim has been linked to attacks, hijackings and kidnappings targeting US citizens.

Another $5 million is being offered for information on Fu’ad Shukr, a member of Hezbollah who runs the group’s military forces in southern Lebanon. The State Department said he played a key role in Hezbollah’s recent military operations in Syria.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
US State Department wanted poster from RewardsForJustice.net/

The total of $12 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of the two comes as part of tougher US action against Iran, Hezbollah’s patron.

Shukr and Hamiyah are believed to have worked alongside Mustafa Badreddine running the party’s military operations after the death of Imad Mughniyeh. Badreddine, one of the founders of Hezbollah in 1982, took a leading role in the group’s military wing after the death of his brother-in-law, Mughniyeh, in Syria in February 2008.

Badreddine was indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a key suspect in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others in 2005, but was himself killed in Syria in 2016. Media reports speculated that internal Hezbollah power struggles had led party leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah himself to order Badreddine’s death, although a party spokesman denied the claims in March of this year.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
Sheikh Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

The rewards are the first offered by the United States for Hezbollah leaders in a decade, and come against the backdrop of heightened US-Iran tensions resulting from President Donald Trump’s threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

An avowed critic of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Trump has called it one of America’s “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. US officials have said he is looking for ways to pressure Tehran. Under the new policy, the White House is focusing on the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah – two Iran-backed entities that have long elicited scorn from much of the West.

The Hezbollah official dismissed the accusations, saying the US should be “the last state” to designate people on terror lists and accusing it of supporting terrorist organizations and sponsoring states and regimes “that have a long history in financing and supporting terrorism.”

“It is part of the continuous efforts to demonize Hezbollah. They are false accusations that will not have any effect on the operational activities of Hezbollah,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with party regulations.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

Later Oct. 11, MP Hussein Musawi – a member of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary bloc – said the “US is the mother of terrorism.” He continued: “The plan’s aim is to encourage Muslims to kill each other and to make peace with the criminal Zionists.”

All efforts to distort Hezbollah’s image and show a different image about Iran will fail, he added in a statement. “Remaining silent about this [American] interference may take Lebanon downhill toward collapse. This is what the enemies of Lebanon want.”

Musawi went on, saying: “We advise those concerned not to take any American dictates, by maintaining the policy of constructive dialogue between all political forces and components.”

Hezbollah has sent thousands of its fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s ongoing civil war. The group has been fighting ISIS inside Syria and along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

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Peter Everest Air Force Test Pilot

General Frank “Pete” Everest was a record-setting U.S. Air Force Test pilot. As a fighter pilot in World War II he flew over 150 combat missions. He then went on to lead the Air Force flight test program, flying with other legendary pilots like Chuck Yeager and George Welch.

From 1950 to 1956 he flew an average of eight newly designed aircraft a month, setting records like taking the Bell X-1 to an altitude of 73,000 feet and the X-2 to a speed of over 1900 miles per hour, making him the “fastest man alive” at the time. In this episode Pete Everest tells stories of those pioneering days of experimental aircraft and daring test pilots.

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This is the fictional country the Russians are training to fight

Russia is sending what NATO thinks is thousands of troops into Belarus – and the transatlantic alliance is worried the Russians may not leave. The move would pose a counter to the recent movement of NATO forces into the area, including former Soviet states Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, and Poland.


This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
Russian troops form to move on the fictional enemy Veishnoriya.

Every four years, the Russian military conducts its Zapad military exercise with neighboring Belarus. In the exercise, three “aggressor countries” (Veishnoriya, Vesbaria, and Lubenia) attack Belarus. Veishnoriya, according to legend, is located in the western part of Belarus; Vesbaria is on the territory of Lithuania and Latvia; Lubenia in Lithuania and Poland. The two intervening countries are pro-Western client states.

The Russian and Belorussian response, they claim, is purely defensive. The Russians say it emulates a terrorist threat with external support – that support comes from the West, which the Russian military will move to counter.

Just as Americans embrace the fictional countries the U.S. military uses to train its troops, fictional Twitter and Facebook accounts representing Veishnoriya’s various official ministries have popped up around the war games. There are even fictional seals, flags, and histories surrounding the fictional country. You can even apply for a Veishnoriyan passport.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions

One Facebook discussion boasted that Veishnoriya has never lost a war, while detractors say, “It’s not Vesbaria, it’s not Lubenia. Volodya, your soldiers will be torn to pieces!”

An estimated three thousand to 100,000 Russian troops are involved (depending on who you ask), along with the Russian 1st Guard Tank Army. It’s an exercise they’ve been running every four years since the 1970s, except for the decade or so after the fall of the Soviet Union.

NATO experts believe the game represents what Moscow thinks is a scenario most likely to come from Western efforts to undermine the Russian sphere of influence.

This is how NATO is restructuring in the face of rising Russian tensions
Russian tanks align for Zapad exercises every four years.

If the war game did have upwards of 100,000 troops and tanks, the Russians would be required to report the exercise and submit to having foreign observers monitor the exercise, according to the Vienna Document, a 2011 security agreement.

The Russians say it involves just 12,700 troops, 300 shy of the number that would trigger the Vienna agreement. But even if the West isn’t able to observe the exercise, they can still monitor Russian troop movements, something experts say will give NATO a good idea of just how capable the Russian military can be.

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