Here's what happens to the 'nuclear football' if Trump decides to skip Biden's inauguration - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

An important yet discreet part of the inauguration of a new president is the transfer of command and control authority over the US nuclear arsenal, but there is the possibility President Donald Trump will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, which could complicate matters.

Trump has refused to say whether he will attend Biden’s inauguration, but multiple reports have suggested that the president will skip the swearing-in ceremony of his successor and hold a political rally elsewhere instead.

So what happens to the “nuclear football” that accompanies the president if Trump doesn’t show? How does it get to Biden?

“That’s a good question,” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear-weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, told Insider. “It is an unprecedented situation.”

The president has the sole authority to conduct a nuclear strike, and wherever he goes, he is accompanied by a military aide carrying a briefcase called the “president’s emergency satchel,” more commonly known as the nuclear football.

Every president since John F. Kennedy has been accompanied by the aide carrying the hefty briefcase, which gives the commander in chief the ability to command US nuclear forces while away from physical command and control centers.

The briefcase does not contain a button that can instantly unleash hundreds of nuclear warheads deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers. Instead, the briefcase contains communication tools, codes, and options for nuclear war.

Separate from the football, presidents carry a card, sometimes called the “biscuit,” on their person containing authentication codes. In a nuclear conflict, the president would use the codes in coordination with the tools in the briefcase to identify himself to the military and order a nuclear strike.

Incoming presidents are typically briefed on their nuclear responsibilities before taking the oath of office. Then, during the inauguration, the codes they received that morning or the day before become active, and control of the football is quietly and seamlessly passed to the new president.

Trump described that moment as “sobering” and “very scary,” telling ABC News in 2017 that “when they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment.”

The transfer of the nuclear football is supposed to occur at noon as the new president is sworn in. The military aide who has been carrying the briefcase hands it off to the newly designated military aide, former Vice President Dick Cheney said in a past Discovery documentary. This traditionally happens off to the side and is not a part of the show.

If Trump is not at the inauguration, then the transfer process will be different. Still, the transfer will need to be instantaneous, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson, who carried the football for former President Bill Clinton.

“That’s the way it has to be,” he told Insider. “For the process to work, you have to have this clear handing off of responsibilities.” He said that how that happens would be up to the Pentagon, which serves the office of the commander in chief, not the man.

A Pentagon spokesperson told Insider the Department of Defense had a plan for the transfer on Inauguration Day but declined to provide any further details.

“We war game this stuff, and we practice it ad nauseam for years and years,” Patterson said. “There are systems in place to make sure that happens instantaneously. There won’t be any kind of question about who has it, who is in charge at that point in time.”

“We don’t take this stuff lightly,” he added. “There won’t be any kind of hiccup. It’ll just go down without anybody even noticing, which is what is supposed to happen.”

Kristensen, the nuclear-weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, speculated that the plan could resemble plans in place for situations in which a president is suddenly killed or incapacitated, situations in which nuclear command and control authority and all accompanying equipment have to be immediately transferred to the vice president or another designated survivor.

Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, recently discussed with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation what would happen to the nuclear football if Trump did not attend the inauguration.

Schwartz, known for his research on the nuclear football, said there was more than one football. In fact, he explained, there are at least three of them — for the president, vice president, and a designated survivor.

He said that if another nuclear football had not already been prepared, one likely would be before the inauguration. There would be a military aide ready then to begin following Biden as soon as he is sworn in. And, at that time, Trump’s nuclear command and control authority would expire.

“Hopefully President Trump will be there and it will be just a handoff, which is what it’s been for decades,” Patterson said, adding that if he didn’t, “it’s not that big of a deal” because the military will make sure that the transfer occurs as needed.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coronavirus and PCS Orders: What the travel ban means for you

As the United States continues to take preventative steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19, the Pentagon has issued number of statements pertaining to the coronavirus and PCS orders, as well as official and non-official travel, in the coming months.


If you have a family member or loved one currently attending recruit training, make sure to check our regularly updated article explaining audience attendance restrictions at graduation ceremonies across the force here.

It’s important to remember that most service members and even their families are not at high risk even if they are exposed to Covid-19. These precautionary measures should be seen as responsible steps aimed at preventing the spread of the infection, but not as cause for significant worry. This story will be updated as more changes manifest.

You can follow these links to jump directly to sections explaining different changes pertaining to military snd civilian travel, the coronavirus and PCS orders.

Military Travel

Family and Civilian Travel

PCS and Transfer Orders

CDC Designated Level 3 Nations

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Military Travel

On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced new travel restrictions that will go into affect on Friday, March 13. The restrictions include a 60-day ban on travel to any nation designated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a “Level 3 Location.” This ban includes all TDY and PCS related travel.

“This restriction includes all forms of travel, including Permanent Change of Station, Temporary Duty, and government funded leave,” the Defense Department announcement states. “The Level 3 countries are set by the CDC and may change. The DoD guidance will follow those changes. Service secretaries and commanders may issue waivers to this policy as they determine necessary to ensure mission readiness and address specific cases”

The Pentagon also advises that service members that are traveling to unrestricted nations take specific care to ensure their travel arrangements do not involve stops or layovers in areas designation by the CDC as “Level 3.”

“Authorized Departures are delayed until appropriate transportation and reception procedures are in place for their intended route of travel as prescribed in this memorandum,” the memo states.

Military Families and Civilian Personnel Travel

Military families and civilian personnel are also barred from traveling to “Level 2” locations for 60 days. Some “level 2” designation nations include the UK, Japan, Singapore, and Bahrain — where the U.S. Navy’s Central Command is currently located.

“The Department of Defense’s top priority remains the protection and welfare of our people,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a released statement. “While directing this prudent action, I continue to delegate all necessary authority to commanders to make further decisions based on their assessments to protect their people and ensure mission readiness. While we deal with this fluid and evolving situation, I remain confident in our ability to protect our service members, civilians and families.”
Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

PCS and Transfer Changes

The Department of Defense’ Customer Movement Portal has updated its page to include brief answers to many of the most frequently asked questions among service members and their families pertaining to coronavirus PCS order changes.

Here are the Defense Department’s answers to the questions you have about the Coronavirus and your PCS orders, sourced directly from the Pentagon’s FAQ:

Q: My PCS is rapidly approaching–how do I know if my planned move is covered by this order?

A: Contact your chain of command immediately!

Q: I’ve confirmed that my PCS is impacted by a stop movement order, but I have already submitted my movement request to the Personal Property Office. What will they do with my shipment?

A: It depends.

  • – If your shipment has not yet been awarded to a moving company, it will be put in a hold status pending further guidance (e.g. either the stop movement order is rescinded or you receive approval from your chain of command to continue with your move).
  • – If your shipment has been awarded to a moving company, but has not yet been serviced (e.g. packing has not begun), please contact your servicing Shipping Office. They will work with you to change your pickup dates to a future date in coordination with your mover and in line with DOD guidance.

Q: My shipment has already been picked up by the moving company. What will happen to it now?

A: Contact your Shipping Office to determine your shipment’s status. Depending when it was picked up, it may be in storage in the local area, en route to your planned destination, or in storage near your destination.

Q: What about my POV? I have an upcoming appointment to drop my car off at the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). What should I do?

A: If you are unsure if the stop movement order applies to you, contact your chain of command. If the stop movement order does not apply to your PCS—or your chain of command has approved an exception to the order—proceed to the VPC as planned.

Q: I’ve already dropped my POV off, but my PCS has been delayed. Can I get my car back?

A: If you’re interested in retrieving your vehicle, contact the VPC immediately. VPCs are postured to assist customers with changing appointments, vehicle retrieval, and answering any other POV-related questions you have.

The DoD also advises that service members contact their local Personal Property Office for answers to their specific questions, or you may be able to find more answers on their customer service page.

You can also contact USTRANSCOM’s 24-hour hotline Toll Free at (833) MIL-MOVE, (833) 645-6683.

CDC Designated Level 3 Travel Health Notice Nations

The Center for Disease Control currently designates these nations as “Level 3,” barring any travel to these countries for service members for at least the coming 60 days, starting Friday, March 13.

The CDC has also designated the entire continent of Europe as a Level 3 region. This list includes:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Vatican City

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how powerful names of military operations are picked

The tradition of naming major operations with an inspiring name is relatively new considering the long history of warfare. Battles and conflicts before 1918 are titled after a city or territory: The Battle of this, The Siege of that, or The Third battle of this and that. In 1918, the central powers launched Operation Fist Punch and were able to capture the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine from the Russian Bolsheviks. Over the course of 11 days the Russians surrendered and highlighted the merits of naming offensive operations with a name. From this point forward commanders around the world contemplated giving operations proper names.

The World Wars made it a thing

During World War I Germany favored naming operations over radio communications to maintain secrecy. When we fast forward to World War II the naming of operations had evolved. The Nazi empire, armed with the newly forged weapon of propaganda, blazed across Europe with the intent of intimidating allied forces and inspiring support for the war in Berlin. However, the allies had their own champions such as Frank Capra, to counter the Nazi’s Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the will. While the media giants battled on the silver screen to win the hearts of the civilians at home, allied commanders debated, agreed, and named operations to maintain operational security and motivate the troops conducting them. For example, the British launched Operation Chronometer in 1941 to capture the port city of Assab on the west coast of the Red Sea. On the American front, operations follow a color code prior to 1943.

Marines work a 155mm gun position on Guadalcanal in 1942. National Archives photo

Winston Churchill is the grandfather of modern ops names

The turning point for the Pentagon on the subject of operational names came when Winston Churchill petitioned a better way of naming them. He convinced allied high command that they should change the name of Operation Soapsuds, the bombing raid of Romanian oil fields, to Operation Tidal Wave. At the time British commanders were vulnerable to committing their troops to comical names he outlined three clear guidelines:

1. Operations in which large numbers of men may lose their lives ought not to be described by code words which imply a boastful or overconfident sentiment or, conversely, which are calculated to invest the plan with an air of despondency. They ought not to be names of a frivolous character. They should not be ordinary words often used in other connections, names of living people, ministers and commanders should be avoided.

2. After all, the world is wide, and intelligent thought will readily supply an unlimited number of well-sounding names which do not suggest the character of the operation or disparage it in any way and do not enable some widow or mother to say that her son was killed in an operation called “Bunnyhug” or “Ballyhoo.”

3. Proper names are good in this field. The heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes, could be used, provided they fall within the rules above.

Winston Churchill

The U.S. adapted to use nouns and adjectives for operations consistently afterwards. With success gaining momentum in both the European and Pacific theaters, the importance of good sounding names grows as well. America did have some proper sounding names that obscured the mission such as the Manhattan Project in 1941. America had parallel thinking with Britain, it just needed a little nudge to cross over.

The U.S. is the current champion of Badass Operation Names

The allies had Operation OVERLORD for the D-Day invasion and Operation Downfall, the proposed invasion of Japan. Among the sea of operational names that sprouted from the war, it had become an American tradition to pick awe inspiring names for operations of future wars. Operation Rolling Thunder, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom – Americans are the best at it. Our secret ingredient is a little computer system, NICKA. It that tracks the names of code words, exercises, and nicknames to ensure they are not duplicated. The task of new names falls upon commanders at the highest levels. The pentagon chooses first and second words for an operation dictated by OPNAVINST 5511.37D in three steps:

First, Permanent First Word Assignment. Major users are permanently assigned first words in enclosure (1) to avoid duplication. Applicable activities shall use these for all originating nicknames/exercise terms. Authorized Navy first words are chosen from blocks of letters assigned to Navy, listed in enclosure (1). All nicknames which are exercise terms will follow the criteria for propriety given in subparagraph 7d.

Second, Requests for first word assignments will be made in writing by the initiating activity (see paragraph 9a) to CNO (N30P), who will ensure its validity. Nicknames/exercise terms must be approved before use. CNO (N30P) is the approving authority.

Third, Second Word Assignment. The second word is used in combination with the permanently assigned first word to identify a specific nickname/exercise term. Users with first, word assignments can suggest a second word to CNO (N30P) in writing. All second words must be approved by CNO (N30P) before use. Unlike first words, second words are not restricted by alphabet. The first and second words combined must meet criteria in subparagraph 7d.

OPNAVINST 5511.37D

For decades the U.S. has had names that get the juices flowing. Operation Red Dawn was the prelude to the toppling of Iraq and capture of Saddam Hussein. Operation Urgent Fury served to make an example of the island nation of Grenada. It was getting too close for comfort with the Soviet Union. The millennial generation has Operation Phantom Fury, the Battle for Fallujah. There are still more blank pages in the book of history with room for future wars. Rising tensions in the South China Sea may call upon the pentagon once again to come up with a name. This time to liberate the pacific, only time will tell what it may be.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the internet’s best takes on raiding Area 51

The internet has been aflutter with memes about a million-person strong raiding party headed for the U.S. government’s top secret military installation commonly referred to as Area 51 for weeks now. Sure, the whole thing started as a joke, and some portions of the media lack the cultural fluency to appreciate that… but the internet hasn’t, and if there’s one thing the internet is good for, it’s running with a joke that confuses and befuddles the older generation.


It seems like a sure thing that some poor fools that clicked “attend” on the Facebook page devoted to the Area 51 raid will actually make their way out to the extremely remote Rachel, Nevada (the closest town to Area 51) in September. It’s just about certain that the media will be present as well, eager to capture shots of the turnout (or lack thereof). Whether or not anybody actually tries to make a break for the remote airstrip is yet to be seen, but it’s a safe bet that no one that does will actually make it anywhere near the isolated structures. Instead, they’ll likely find themselves in jail.

The reality of this fad, then, may be a bit of a bummer — but we’re still months away from the gloomy truth killing off lonesome teenager’s dreams of alien girlfriends just waiting to be liberated from Uncle Sam’s clutches. So let’s just appreciate the memes in the meantime.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

The timestamp checks out.

I’ll be honest, this one wouldn’t have been a contender if it weren’t for the generic “College Student” account name associated with this meme. This whole Area 51 Raid fad started somewhere in the internet’s nether regions (most of us call it Reddit), and this meme perfectly represents the demographic that brought this concept to the forefront of America’s attention.

Put simply, this meme perfectly represents the entire subject… a bunch of college students that would much rather plan a hypothetical raid on a secret military installation than study for whatever their next exam is. Maybe this is telling about us writers too… a bunch of internet journalists that would rather write about college students planning a raid on Area 51 than focus on ongoing conflicts in the… eh, never mind.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Just don’t cheat and look at my screen.

This one may just be a generational thing, but I can’t be the only guy that remembers playing Halo on the original Xbox in both the dorms as a college student and in barracks as a junior Marine. The Halo franchise is legendary for a number of reasons, including how much fun it used to be to stay up all night murdering your friends with weird weapons like the Needler shown here.

All I’m saying is… if I went through all the trouble to invade Area 51, I’d hope to get a plasma cannon or two out of the deal.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Didn’t we all, man.

No meme more accurately conveys the ironic humor of the entire Area 51 story than this one, starring Twitter comedian Rob Delaney in his super-ordinary looking Deadpool 2 garb. An unassuming and ordinary dude that chuckled under his breath as he came across a Facebook post about raiding Area 51 is really what this whole thing is all about… until the media came along and tried its best to turn this whole thing into a real news story.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Brrrrrrrrrrrt

This one is my absolute favorite, because, despite my allegiance to the internet’s tomfoolery (it is, after all, how I make a living), I’m still every bit the salty old platoon sergeant I once was, deep beneath my softening midsection. As I’ve seen this meme fad develop into a news story, and that story mobilize people into thinking an actual raid is possible, part of me sort of wants to see a mob of entitled young adults storming across the dry sands of Groom Lake.

Why? Not because they’d accomplish anything, but because half of them would go down from dehydration a half mile into the march and the rest would succumb to fear after an organized force of security officers began threatening them with non-lethal weapons.

Watching a few hundred millennials get a spanking in the desert? That’s worth the memes any day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A brief history of US Army snipers

Throughout history, snipers have had two basic roles: deliver long range precision direct fire and collect battlefield information. Their heritage can be traced to the Revolutionary War.

Many of America’s soldiers fighting for their independence in the late 1700s were militia, marksmen by necessity, farmers, and settlers who hunted to feed their family. At the time, their weapons were still relatively primitive, little more than basic hunting rifles, but these hunters were skilled and, according to the American Shooting Journal, while fighting the British, long-range kills were common. Without any formal guidance, these volunteers were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today.


Snipers continued to play an integral part in battlefield operations during World War I, when trench warfare provided good hiding places for sharpshooters, World War II’s lengthy field deployments, and the Vietnam War, when sniper fire eliminated more than 1,200 enemy combatants.

Since 1945, we have recognized the sniper as an increasingly important part of modern infantry warfare. Sniper rifles and their optics have evolved into costly but effective high-tech weaponry. Although technology, as far as snipers are concerned, can never replace experience and skill.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Annual International Sniper Competition, October 2018.

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace)

Infantrymen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micah Fulmer and Spc. Tristan Ivkov, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry (Mountain), Colorado Army National Guard, showed off their sniper skills, taking second place at the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 2018.

The International Sniper Competition is also open to law enforcement agencies, and the 2018 competition featured some of the best snipers from around the globe, including the U.S. military, international militaries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The best teams face a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills, including long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance, and reporting abilities as well as stealth and concealment.

It is a combat-focused competition that tests a sniper team’s ability to communicate and make decisions while stressed and fatigued, to challenge comfort zones of precision marksmanship capability and training methodology, and to share information and lessons learned regarding sniper operations, tactics, techniques, and equipment.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning.

(U.S. Army photo)

Ivkov suffered a knee injury prior to the National Guard match. Despite the injury, his team took first place, securing their spot in the international competition. However, concerned about how the injury may impact the team’s ability at the next level, he felt as if they shouldn’t have even been there.

“We went in with quite the train up,” Ivkov said. “Coming in with a second place medal was even a little higher than we figured on.”

The team attended an eight-week training course just before the competition took place.

In order to keep things fair, “We used schoolhouse-issued weapons so everyone was running the same gear,” Ivkov said. “The competition lasted 96 hours…we probably slept 10.”

Their targets ranged from “M9 (Pistol) targets at 5 feet to .50 caliber at a little over a mile away,” Fulmer said. “The actual shooting is just a fraction of the knowledge and discipline you have to have to be a sniper.”

The team must gauge atmospheric and wind conditions, factors that can change a bullet’s course. At some of the longer ranges, even Earth’s rotation must be taken into account. They must also move undetected through varied terrain to get into the right shooting position.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning, Ga., during the Ninth annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.

(U.S. Army photo)

Hitting the target also takes “a little bit of luck,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Colorado National Guard. Working as mentor and spotter for Ivkov, he earned the honor of top spotter at the international competition.

U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque, a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment, took first place, for the second consecutive year. Swedish Armed Forces Lance Cpls. Erik Azcarate and David Jacobsson, from the 17th Wing Air Force Rangers, finished third.

The key for any sniper is to remain “calm, cool and collected,” Fulmer said. “We’re not going to let up now; this is just the beginning.”

With ever-changing combat environments and the necessity to stay ahead of the adversary, the U.S. Army, as recently as November 2018, awarded contracts for the fielding of the M107 .50-caliber, long-range sniper rifle. These rifles will assist soldiers such as Ivkov and Fulmer continue to take the fight to the enemy.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From Nicaraguan refugee to Army NCO

Those who consider the military always have a reason for joining. Whether to continue a family tradition of service, or to see the world, the decision is life changing.

“I remember growing up and seeing Nicaraguans killed, or jailed for protesting against the government. At that time it wasn’t a safe place to be,” said Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, a parachute rigger assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Deciding to leave was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”

“I also knew what I was leaving behind, in the end, it would be so I could have something more in the end. The U.S. military provided me the opportunity my country could not. If I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Alvarez.


“When I left Nicaragua and inquired about joining the military, people said it would be hard and near impossible,” said Alvarez. “But, I didn’t give up.”

In 2013, while speaking very little English, Alvarez moved with his wife, Lucila, to the United States, and joined the Army.

His main reason for joining was to eventually be in a position to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee, while affording him freedoms that he enjoys today.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, attached to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses for a portrait on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

After five years of service in the U.S. Army and since being assigned to 7th SFG(A), Alvarez was promoted several times and attended a variety of military schools, to include the Special Operations Combative Program.

Although he joined later in life, his goal is to serve 20 years in the military and retire.

“You cannot be afraid to follow your dreams,” said Alvarez. “If I had let what people said discourage me from joining the military and coming to America, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t even know if I would be alive. But, I am thankful for what the Army has afforded me, and I will continue to serve my country proudly.”

Alvarez’s journey from Nicaraguan refugee to U.S. soldier is his American dream. He plans to continue his life of service while setting an example for his children.

“This country has provided my family with many opportunities,” said Alvarez. “I am grateful for that, and I am willing to fight and protect it. One day, I hope my children will do the same.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to survive a hurricane

As the eastern seaboard prepares for Hurricane Dorian, the fourth hurricane of the 2019 season, staying prepared and having a plan is critical to surviving a potential disaster.

During the 2019 Hurricane Awareness Tour, organizations shared insights on how to prepare and stay aware of tropical weather systems that affect different areas, including those more inland.

“Ninety percent of the fatalities of tropical systems historically are from the water,” said Ken Graham, National Hurricane Center director. “In the last three years, 83 percent of fatalities from tropical systems have been inland flooding, more than half in automobiles.”


Graham also emphasized that the lower category hurricanes require just as much consideration for preparation due to their ability to cause catastrophic damage.

“In the last decade, Category 1 storms have produced 3 billion worth of damage and 175 fatalities,” Graham said.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Hurricane Dorian as seen from the ISS on Aug. 29, 2019.

(NASA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offers tips to help prepare for hurricanes.

  1. Gather information. The NOAA emphasizes to “know if you live in an evacuation area. Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Understand National Weather Service forecast products and especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings.”
  2. Plan and take action. Put together a disaster supplies kit which has items including water, food, a flashlight and a first aid kit. To see the full suggested contents of the kit, visit https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit. Planning and taking action includes having an emergency plan, guarding the community’s health, protecting the environment, following instructions from local officials for evacuation and be alert for other potential weather hazards including tornadoes brought in by the hurricane.
  3. Recover. This highlights the need to wait for the area to be declared safe before returning home, and to remember that recovery takes time.
  4. Resources. Know the resources offered for preparation before a hurricane occurs as well as the resources available for recovery including the NOAA, Ready.gov, and the National Weather Service.
This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 truths about the drill life

Whether you’re about to live it or are wondering if it’s a viable personal move (as well as a great professional move), there are many questions surrounding drill life. Known as being “on the trail,” drill sergeants and their families deal with a schedule and a lifestyle that differs from the rest of the military world. (And the rest of training units for that matter.)


Here are 5 truths of what it’s like to live on the trail, and what you can expect as a military spouse or dependent of an incoming drill.

It’s not like “regular” military life

If you’re a milspouse, you think “been there, done that,” right? Perhaps your spouse has been deployed, you’ve experienced several TDYs apart, and more. So if going drill is on the table you might be thinking, NBD. But the truth is, the life of a drill family greatly differs from the rest of the military.

Training units in general are a whole new world, but add in trainees that – at least for a portion of time – have to be supervised at all hours, and you’re looking at a schedule that’s spotty at best, and an unequal balance of parenting and household responsibilities. Be ready to pick up the slack; life on the trail is by far a family effort.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

The hours are long

Military spouses are often left to handle things at home for days on end. Middle of the night calls when they have to go into work? Check. Last-minute overnights? Also a yep. Because trainees are involved, planning days ahead doesn’t always work. Everything could be listed out in excruciating detail, then something goes incredibly wrong, and drill sergeants have to return to work. Is that always the case? Of course not. Units do their best to keep hours low, but it’s always a possibility.

Experience depends on unit

Drill schedules take this to a new level. For instance, each MOS has its own timeline for basic and AIT scheduling. Each also comes with various rules on if/when weekends are non-work days, how many drills have to be present at each time, etc. But even furthermore, each individual company has its own rundown for days off, long weekends, especially in OSUT scenarios. (BCT and AIT in one location.)

If you have orders, the best source of information will be those who have been there first.

Here’s what happens to the ‘nuclear football’ if Trump decides to skip Biden’s inauguration

Stephen Colbert learns how “mean” drill instructors can be.

They’re loud, but not “in-the-movies” mean

When the “brown round” goes on, the voice escalates. Privates are talked down to, they’re encouraged to learn respect, and quickly. Being a drill means your spouse will have to, from time to time, be mean. But don’t freak out, either; it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, drill school teaches how to break and build incoming soldiers, but personality plays into this, too. Each drill will have their owner leadership style, their own way of being heard. Donning the same headgear as Smokey the Bear won’t suddenly make your spouse a screaming, demanding individual.

Drills don’t like being gone either

It won’t take long for most military spouses to wish they had more time with their always-working spouse. But while they’re gone for hours, sometimes days, remember that they don’t like the schedule, either. They are likely getting little sleep and training round-the-clock.

Being married to a drill is definitely a grind, but with a solid effort, it’s also a great way to fast-track a military career.

Keep in mind that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and incredible honor involved with life on the trail. It’s a great way for families to become tight-knit and rely on one another, even with crazy schedules.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Off-Islander’ sees a Vietnam vet turned private investigator looking for a missing man in 1982 New England

Growing up, my stepdad kept a series of paperback books high up on the shelf. They were novels by an author named John MacDonald with distinctive color-based titles like The Green Ripper and The Scarlet Ruse. They featured a unique sort of private investigator named Travis McGee. When I was old enough to reach them, they became my entry point into the mystery genre.

Travis McGee was a departure from the hardboiled detective stories of an earlier era. The classic noir private investigator was a world-weary gumshoe navigating dark streets and negotiating femme fatales, corrupt cops, and mobsters to close the case. Mcgee was different. Travis was a bon vivant and knight-errant, a handsome man who saw life as something to be enjoyed rather than endured as he cut a swath through both Florida’s prettiest women and its most colorful villains to close cases. Think 1980’s Magnum PI set in Fort Lauderdale and you get the picture.


All of this is my way of saying I was feeling a little bit of that MacDonald vibe when I read Peter Colt’s debut novel, The Off-Islander.

For sure, Colt’s Andy Roark is a different character than MacDonald’s McGee. Andy is a good bit rougher than McGee due to his military and cop background and as he describes himself, ‘doesn’t always conform to rules and regulations’. But Roark, much like McGee has a sensitive core with an appreciation for books and music, good food and drink, and a preference for educated women who appreciate art. He even partakes of marijuana though he rather stick to beer and bourbon.

The plot of the novel isn’t a complex one. It is a missing person case, which sees Andy travel through Boston and Nantucket Island looking for someone who obviously does not want to be found. Like most mystery novels, there are some complications as Andy works the case. Only some of those complications are resolved by the end of the novel but the loose strings do not otherwise affect the resolution of this procedural.

That is not to say I did not enjoy this novel. I enjoyed it very much. The plot is dripping with New England atmospherics. Where McGee’s novels were all Florida sun, Colt sets his story in the bleak windswept bogs and shores of Massachusetts. Andy’s investigation takes him from the gray environs of Boston to charming Cape Cod store fronts besieged by whipping rain and wind. It is the perfect setting for hard-edged people with secrets they’re willing to kill to keep. The book is also informed by Peter Colt’s real life experience as a veteran, police officer, and former resident of Nantucket Island. This lends the text an added layer of authenticity and intimacy in his description of the setting and Roark’s detective deductions.

In addition, notable in this book was Andy’s military past. Though McGee was also a veteran, MacDonald left McGee’s service ambiguous and it never really played much of a role in how portrayed his character. Colt on the other hand keeps coming back to Andy’s service in Vietnam in just about every chapter of the book. Roark is still clearly dealing with his unresolved feelings towards his service and in a melancholic touch, it seems to be the shadow that ruins his relationships with the women in his life. The title of the book, ‘The Off-Islander’ is not just descriptive of Andy’s alienation from the closed community of Nantucket Island – it also speaks to his personal post-war isolation from polite civil society.

Ultimately, this is a good debut novel which launches what I help to be a great series of adventures featuring an appealing private investigator. It was an easy afternoon and evening read set in the part of the country which I reside and love. I enjoyed my time sleuthing with Andy. I ended the novel hoping to see him get a Vietnam-free night of sleep, a good stiff drink, and a healthy relationship with a good woman in the second book.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 tips for remembering what you’ve read

If you like to read and are in the military, chances are that you aren’t reading for the hell of it, but reading to learn. Reading history, military leadership and self-improvement books are a great way to work toward developing skills to help improve your chances of success as a leader.

While the intent is admirable, there is a more practical problem with this approach. According to the forgetting curve, we forget most of what we read in the days or weeks after we encounter the material. Research has found that we generally remember as little as 10 to 20% of what we read.

I read a lot and I’m continually looking for ways to help me retain the important ideas, passages and quotes I come across. And I’m not alone.


Since humans first started writing practical advice for leaders, people have tried to figure ways to remember these lessons and incorporate them into their daily lives. The Stoic philosopher Seneca even commented on this over 2000 years ago:

“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application—not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech—and learn them so well that words become works.”

So how do we learn the words so well that we turn them into works? The key is to counter the forgetting curve and increase our ability to recall the information we gain from reading. Thankfully, memory research has some answers for us.

Here are 3 tips for remembering what you’re reading:

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Use your hands.

One of the ways in which we can better remember what we read is to get our hands involved in the process. In other words, using a highlighter to mark important passages or a pen to write marginalia (notes in the margins) helps us with retention.

In their book, The New Science of Learning: How to Learn in Harmony with Your Brain, educators Terry Doyle and Todd Zakrajsek argue that by adding the sense of touch to learning, we create multi-sensory pathways in the brain. Studies have shown that a multi-sensory approach to learning greatly increases the probability of recall.

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Build an external hard drive.

From Marcus Aurelius to George Patton and Leonardo da Vinci to Bill Gates, these leaders and inventors kept personal notebooks or notecards where they captured quotes, maxims, ideas or anything else they found of interest. As we look back now into their private writings, we find evidence of the intellectual growth that made them successful. For instance, Patton copied down insights at West Point that would eventually become his fighting style decades later.

Typically when I finish a book, I return to it and transfer my margin notes, highlighted passages or additional reading (footnotes and endnotes are great for this) into my notebook. This extra step takes about thirty minutes, but it is worth it.

I continually look back through my notebook, gaining more familiarity with the subject. This “external hard drive’ is a great place to review ideas when I need them, and I don’t have to worry about it crashing!

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Talk about it!

Finally, when we discuss what we read, we increase the chances we won’t forget it. By talking about it, we force our brains to recall the information. Research has shown that in recalling information, we strengthen the memory.

If I am reading a book I enjoy, I will bring it up in conversation with friends and family members. As we discuss an aspect of the book, I typically find that we will come up with even more applications for the quote or idea put forth by the author.

So, next time you pick up a book, don’t just read it cover to cover and put it away. Grab your highlighter and a pen. Mark passages and make notes in the margins. Find a small notebook where you can capture insights, quotes and tidbits worth remembering. And talk about your books with family and friends, always looking for ways to recall the information. If you do these things, you will be able to follow the advice of Seneca, and know the words so well that you turn them into works.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Butterfly garden acts as ‘spiritual refuge’ for vets

Veteran James Petersen noticed five unused planting beds on the grounds of the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Clinic in Colorado Springs. He realized they would be perfect for a butterfly garden.

Petersen is a social worker for the VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System (VAECHS). He and his “Butterfly Brigade” filled the planters with soil and flowers. The brigade includes VAECHS volunteers and patients.

“The beds hadn’t been touched in years,” said Peterson. But he welcomed the challenge. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to engage our veterans, as well as create a place for them to socialize between appointments.”


The garden features perennial and annual flowers. It also contains milkweed, the only food eaten by the monarch caterpillar.

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The garden is an official monarch waystation.

A painted lady butterfly stops at the garden.

“The monarch butterfly is endangered, declining almost 90% over the past 20 years,” Petersen noted. Because of their efforts, the garden now is an official monarch butterfly migration pathway station.

Petersen has planted flowers to attract butterflies before. When he returned from five years in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he “found a lot of therapeutic value in gardening.” As a result, Petersen went through the master gardener program at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“When I worked at the St. Louis VA last summer, I planted a monarch butterfly garden,” he said. “Several of the veterans on my caseload worked with me in planting the garden. They loved it.”

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A painted lady butterfly stops at the garden.

Place of change for butterflies and veterans

“This is a place to meditate, minimize stress, socialize and observe the many changes butterflies encounter, much like our own lives,” said clinic director Kim Hoge. She further called the garden a “spiritual refuge” and thanked clinic employees for donating their time, money and resources to build it.

Peterson said just as caterpillars become butterflies, veterans change when they transition to civilian life.

“This garden will do our part for conservation. It will also create a therapeutic place for veterans to hang out,” he said. “They will appreciate the symbolism of transformation and metamorphosis. Especially those who are dealing with traumatic histories.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is Putin the richest person in the world?

While many a news outlet regularly reports when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates flip-flop as to who is the richest person in the world, with Bernard Arnault and Warren Buffet nipping at their heals, as we previously noted in our article on the richest people in history, Bezos and Gates’ combined wealth barely matches that of the known fortune of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over that oil rich country for over three decades before being ousted and then killed in 2011. So how wealthy was Gaddafi? In the years since his death, so far nearly $200 billion dollars have been found in secret accounts, real estate holdings, and other investments directly belonging to him. No matter whether he acquired it ethically or not, assets are assets, and Gaddafi had the most of any known person so far this century by a huge margin.

Another individual who has more or less ruled a petroleum-rich nation for about two decades now is likewise rumored to secretly have a net worth in excess of $200 billion. We are, of course, talking about Vladimir Putin. But is Putin actually the richest person in the world, or are these just rumors?


To begin with, as you might imagine being born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Putin didn’t exactly start out life in the lap of luxury. In a bit of 1950s-era role reversal, his father was a cook and his mother a factory worker. Putin himself would grow up to join the KGB in 1975 working a variety of positions with that institution over the years. While you might envision Hollywood spy type scenarios were his daily life, in fact, according to journalist and biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”

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Putin in the KGB.

The first rumor that Putin was using a government position to stash away quite a lot of money for his own personal gain came in the early 1990s when he, in his then position as head of the Committee for External Relations at the Mayor’s Office in St. Petersburg, allegedly helped broker a million deal to acquire various food supplies for the city. In a nutshell, various companies were granted permits that would allow them to supply a huge amount of materials to foreign entities, and in exchange would be given an equivalent value back in foodstuffs to then be used within the famished city. The thing was, as far as anyone can tell, while the companies did send out the materials, no foodstuffs came back in return. The matter was ultimately investigated by one Marina Salye at the behest of the city council, with Salye in turn claiming Putin’s signature could be found authorizing the deals.

She states, “The raw materials were shipped abroad but the food didn’t materialise. There’s 100% proof that in this Putin was to blame. As a result in 1992 – when there was no food at all – the city was left with nothing. The evidence I have is as solid as it gets…. Putin – well, his committee – made bartering contacts to get food for the city. He issued licenses. And commodities – wood, metal, cotton, heating oil, and oil – flew out of the country.”

That said, while she states Putin was to blame and, at least according to her, she had definitive proof, she did not find any evidence that Putin had received anything in return for the apparently botched deals. As for Putin, he claimed the companies that had been given the export permits in the deal were to blame for foodstuffs not coming back as they were supposed to have- implying that Putin had no knowledge the deals wouldn’t be completed as originally brokered when he issued the licenses.

The city council would move forward with further investigation, but ultimately Mayor Anatoly Sobchak put a stop to it and the matter was dropped. While you’ll read in many outlets reporting this story that Salye would die of so-called natural causes mere weeks after she made these accusations and the investigation was killed, in truth she would go on to help found the Free Democratic Party of Russia and more or less continually rail against Putin to anyone in the media and public who would listen, until eventually giving up in 2000 after the election and moving to the countryside. There she lived until her death at the age of 77 in 2012, though she did give a handful of interviews during that span, still unabashedly anti-Putin.

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A portrait of Marina Salye during the 2012 Protests after the 2011 Russian elections.

As for Putin, from that 1992 political position, he worked his way up to becoming one of a trio of Deputy Prime Ministers, and was known to be Boris Yeltsin’s preferred successor, despite before this being a relative unknown among the wider public. Ultimately he did indeed become president in 2000 after winning the majority vote.

Once elected, Putin, like his predecessor, reported his finances and holdings publicly, including his salary and exact amount in his many bank accounts. He has continued to do so since. The result? Over the years while his salary has changed regularly from year to year, he has made approximately 0K-0K annually in that span, for example in 2018 reporting an income of 5K. Today between his wife’s and his own accounts, the couple seem to have a little over a half a million in cash in various bank accounts, though why he isn’t investing this is rather curious given his apparent lack of any other investments and almost complete lack of actually needing any cash for his day to day life given the government foots the bill for most everything. Of this, Putin states, “Honestly speaking, I don’t even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don’t even count it…”

As for his other assets, he also owns a studio sized apartment in Saint Petersburg, a slightly larger apartment in Moscow, owns a small garage, a couple cars, a small plot of land outside of Moscow, and otherwise has various minor assets of no great worth.

Of course, over the years people can’t help but notice that Putin has a collection of watches he wears very publicly whose purchase price combined is around that of his reported entire net worth, ringing in at about 0,000-0,000 if various reports are to be believed. For reference, the highest valued watch he has been spotted wearing costs around 0,000- a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch.

On top of that, the clothing he can often be seen wearing is likewise extremely expensive, such as his 00+ tailored suits from outlets like Kiton and Brioni. Not just expensive suits, in one photo of him working out, Putin can be seen wearing sweatpants that cost over id=”listicle-2641610333″,400 a pair, apparently made from silk, cashmere and the tears of impoverished children, along with a similarly priced top.

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Giphy

On top of that, among other mansions, he is long rumored to own an estate known as “Putin’s Palace” near Praskoveevka, widely reported to be worth id=”listicle-2641610333″ billion by media outlets. However, this was actually sold in 2011 to one Alexander Ponomarenko, a former associate of Putin’s, for somewhere around 0 million. (Note, the exact amount has not been publicly disclosed, but Ponomarenko has indicated it’s in the ballpark of that widely reported figure.)

Ponomarenko purchased the estate from a group led by businessman Nikolai Shamalov. Ponomarenko claims he decided to buy the company behind the estate project, and thus the mansion, as it was a steal of a deal owing to the project being stalled from lack of funds to complete the estate and the business group wanting to cut their losses on it rather than complete it.

That said, Russian businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who is exiled from Russia, claims the palace was built specifically for Putin’s use. He claims Putin was able to afford its construction in part thanks to a gift given him by the aforementioned Nikolai Shamalov in the form of 94% of the shares in a company called Lirus Holding. Among other personal knowledge of the development of the palace, Kolesnikov claims Shamalov himself told him this and, to quote him, “I have no reason not to believe (him).”

However, no documents concerning any ownership connected to the project seem to indicate Putin, or any holdings of Putin’s, ever were directly involved with this estate. That said, some contract documents concerning its construction allegedly have the signature of one Vladimir Kozhin, one of Putin’s inner circle of confidants. Of course, this still doesn’t definitively indicate whether Putin actually owned the palace or even was behind its building at all- simply, allegedly someone he is close to was involved in some capacity and later someone else he is close to bought it- a bit of a theme for a lot of these rumors.

Putin himself denies he had anything to do with the palace being built. Nevertheless, Putin allegedly frequents the palace and Federal Protective Service guards have been seen at the mansion, along with locals reporting seeing Putin in the area regularly.

Of course, among the extremely wealthy with such mansions, it’s not uncommon at all to allow friends to guest in one’s estates whenever they please, so Putin would not have to actually own the thing to stay there, nor would it be a big ask to do so- more or less par for the course among the exorbitantly wealthy.

That said, on top of all this estate, Putin has been connected to causing to have had built or secretly owning several other mansions, yachts, planes, etc.

Whether he actually owns any of these or, like Putin’s Palace, seemingly is just using them when he pleases, his flashing of extreme wealth in the case of his watches and other such items, along with an awful lot of not implausible allegations of widespread corruption within his government connected to him, has led to the belief that he has boatloads of money secretly stashed away in accounts throughout the world.

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Giphy

Others speculate Putin is simply using the government coffers to finance all these extravagances. For many items, this would not actually be that uncommon for a major world leader, if a lot more excessive than most. For example, the replacement Air Force One planes the U.S. President will soon have at his disposal has a budget of over billion. The U.S. President also gets a pretty posh mansion (The White House) and vacations spots to go to at their leisure with the tax payer footing the bill for quite a lot of such perks with few batting an eye at this.

But, of course, the U.S. government isn’t funding 0,000 watches for the President (though bullet proof tailored suits occasionally worn by the president are presumably paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. To attempt to clarify these items, requests have been made to the Russian government asking if, for example, Putin’s watches are actually his or property of the state that he is just wearing, but no answer to this question has been given that we could find.

Whatever the case, yet others claim Putin is simply enriching many people around him and it is they who are then happy to provide Putin with anything and everything his Judo-master heart can desire.

Yet others claim it is all three- Putin is enriching himself through shady means and using government funds and people he is helping make wealthy to get whatever he wants while he’s in office.

But the question of the hour is not whether Putin’s net worth is more than he is letting on- that is very apparently true by his watch collection alone, whether he purchased them or they were gifted. The question of the hour is whether he is secretly the richest person in the world with a net worth in excess of 0 billion as so many claim.

So what does the man himself say about all these rumors? “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world…”

Case closed, right? He admitted it! Well, in truth, he wasn’t finished talking. He goes on, “I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”

Of course, whether he collects emotions or not doesn’t inherently negate the first part of that statement, simply that he considers that a greater wealth than whatever he has possession-wise.

Argue amongst yourselves whether this was Putin cleverly admitting to being the wealthiest person in the world while making it seem like he was saying he wasn’t, and also simultaneously admitting he’s a Lizard Person given a hallmark of these creatures is apparently feeding on human emotions… ?

For a more direct answer to the question about the rumors of his extreme wealth, he clarifies, “It’s just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss… They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.”

The Press and Information Office of the President of the Russian Federation’s also asserts of these rumors, “This information has no substance. As you may know, the declarations of Mr. Putin’s income and property are published annually… We recommend you to use only reliable sources henceforward and not to believe fake news in 2018.”

Naturally, nobody seems satisfied with these assertions given his apparent and frequent flashing of wealth far beyond what anyone with his salary should be able to afford.

So what do others who might know a little more say? First, we have political analyst and noted critic of Putin Stanislav Belkovsky who claimed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2012 that Putin had net worth of approximately billion, though how he came up with this figure isn’t exactly definitive nor inspiring confidence in his hard knowledge here. In his own words, “The figure of billion emerged in 2007. That figure could now have changed, I believe at the level of -70 billion…. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”

Mildly more concrete, at least in terms of given something more specific, he also claims much of this wealth is because of Putin’s alleged 4.5% stake in Gazprom, 37% stake in Surgutneftegas, and allegedly 50% ownership of Gunvor. How he knows this, however, isn’t fully clear. Belkovsky simply states he got this information through sources he has within the companies. It’s also noted that for a time Gunvor was co-owned by a friend of Putin’s, billionaire Gennady Timchenko.

So what do the three companies say? For whatever it’s worth, Corporate Affairs Director of the Swiss-based Gunvor Group, Seth Thomas Pietras, states, “President Putin has never had any interest in, investment in, or involvement with Gunvor Group either directly or indirectly… Mr. Belkovsky’s claims are based on absolutely nothing and are fundamentally ridiculous. And the U.S. government, despite its statement has never sanctioned Gunvor in any capacity, nor has it provided any evidence of its own.”

Moving on to Surgutneftegas, they likewise deny Putin owns any shares.

Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government itself, with the rest of the stock publicly traded, likewise shows no records of Putin owning any shares.

Belkovsky counters these denials by the companies and lack of records stating Putin has a rather elaborate network of off-shore companies and funds that own the shares, which all ultimately mask that he himself actually owns, or at least, controls them.

Moving on to the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder, he is the one that seems to have started the widespread rumor that Putin’s personal wealth is in excess of 0 billion, stating before a Senate Judiciary Committee

I believe he is worth 0 billion. The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money…He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.

On this latter note, one of Browder’s former associates, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was investigating corruption within the Russian government and allegedly found evidence of various Russian officials taking part in a near quarter of a billion dollar tax fraud scheme. Magnitsky himself was then arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the tax fraud, and died while in jail before his trial. At the partial encouragement of Browder, the U.S. then passed the Magnitsky Act in 2009. In an oversimplified nutshell, this allows the U.S. government to sanction various individuals thought to be human rights offenders, ban them from entering the U.S., and more importantly freeze their assets where the government is able. The bill was essentially meant to allow the government to legally hold somewhat accountable those thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death.

As for hard data, however, Browder offers little.

Next up, noted economist Anders Aslund, author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, states, “I would estimate that Putin is worth around 0-160 billion. We can see that Putin and his friends have taken -15 billion from Gazprom every year since 2004. That’s just Gazprom. There are large numbers of transactions being made… What’s much more difficult is to see where the money goes. It’s typically Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Willmington, Delaware…”

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(Kremlin.ru)

As to how he came up with these figures, he states, “My assessment is that since Putin’s circle got its looting fully organized around 2006, they have extracted -25 billion a year, reaching a total of 5-325 billion, a large share of the Russian private offshore wealth. Presuming that half of this wealth belongs to Putin, his net wealth would amount to 0-160 billion. Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power.”

Why he assumes Putin would get half of these alleged amounts instead of some other percentage isn’t fully clear.

On that note, like so many before, nobody seems to be able to actually offer hard evidence that Putin has any money stashed away anywhere not publicly known, which when talking sums of allegedly 0 billion, is a pretty neat trick for someone who has been so highly scrutinized, including by the U.S. Senate, who presumably if they wanted could just ask the CIA or other entities good at collecting such data to look into it. Given, instead, they are asking the likes of Browder, it has been presumed and widely claimed, that the CIA and other such government entities have no definitive intelligence on this either.

From this lack of a paper trail directly linking money or assets to Putin, yet his clearly lavish lifestyle indicating he does indeed have access to an awful lot of money, this has led many to conclude that Putin himself doesn’t actually officially own most or all of the wealth attributed to him, but rather he is leveraging his position and connections to enrich those close to him who, in their gratitude, are then more than happy to provide Putin with any money or items he wants, from access to mansion to yachts to sweatpants that keep his Judo-jubblies ultra comfortable when working out.

As alleged evidence for this, we turn to 11.5 million documents from the Panama Mossack Fonseca law firm made public in 2016, dealing in off-shore holdings by over 200,000 entities. While Putin himself is not listed in any of them, the documents do reveal three close associates of Putin’s among those having off-shore holdings partially managed by the law firm, with a combined amount of around billion between the trio.

Despite not owning these assets, there are many claims by various individuals that Putin uses some of these like his “personal bank account”, most notably the holdings of a man claimed by many in the media as Putin’s best friend- famed Russian musician and conductor Sergei Roldugin. Not just a friend, Roldugin is also the godfather to one of Putin’s children and was the man who introduced Putin to Putin’s wife.

As for where Roldugin supposedly got his extreme wealth, beyond his noted music career, starting in the 1990s Roldugin began investing in various oil and other business entities, to great success. Beyond all of this, in 2019, Roldugin also was accused of being involved in a massive multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme in conjunction with Sberbank CIB, which allegedly profited him greatly.

That said, for those using these records as proof of Putin having money elsewhere via his associates, it should be again noted these are the records of well over 200,000 entities throughout the world. And the vast majority who are using the firm are doing so completely legitimately, including actor Jackie Chan who reportedly had six perfectly above board off-shore companies the law firm helped manage various facets of. So that three among Putin’s numerous friends who are exorbitantly wealthy should be included isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than they wanted to have some assets outside of Russia, which isn’t uncommon among the wealthy in Russia. As some formerly close to Putin who have had their assets stripped and forced to flee the country demonstrate, having some off-short holdings is probably a good security blanket of sorts, just in case.

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Giphy

On this note, political scientist professor and author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha, stated before her death from lung cancer in 2018, “Why is it that 0 billion left the country last year? Because they believe that their wealth can only be secured in the long term outside their own country.”

Coming back to the posed question of whether Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, whether these funds are being held for him or not, this is still not Putin’s money, not just technically, but we’re guessing regardless of the amount of good-will Putin has built up with these various businessmen and women, should he no longer be in power, they might quickly find themselves less than willing to continue to support his lifestyle, if that is what has been happening as is widely believed. And some speculate he might even find himself in a rather unsafe circumstance in that case.

For example, one-time billionaire and the man formerly known as “Putin’s banker”, but now exiled from Russia, Sergei Pugachev, says “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”

As for leaving power, he goes on that Putin chose not to leave office after his first term and beyond, not because of a desire for continued power, but rather because he feared for his own safety should he no longer be in that position. Even today, Pugachev claims, “I don’t see any guarantees for him [if he steps down]. Putin doesn’t see them either,” which is why he finds it unlikely that Putin will ever willingly leave office. Though it should be noted that Putin himself has stated he will not be running for president at the end of his current term in 2024.

Also for whatever it’s worth, Pugachev, despite having billions stripped from himself by the Russian government, being currently in fear for his life, and in exile, states, in his opinion, Putin himself is not evil, nor did Putin originally plan to setup a corrupt government when he took power, simply that, “He surrounded himself with like-minded people whom he didn’t know very well and who had served with him in the KGB. They immediately began enriching themselves….Putin wanted to get rich, too. He was a pragmatic person. We talked about this. He didn’t want to leave office poor.”

As for the Russian government’s position with regards to Pugachev, it is claimed that Pugachev defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars which is why the one-time bosom-buddy of Putin originally had to go on the run.

Pugachev counters, “The state steals something then has to defend its theft. In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.” This has all left the one-time billionaire with, by his own account, only about million to his name which he kept in off-shore holdings. It must be rough…

In truth, this amount is unfortunate for him because Pugachev allegedly was offered a deal from a Russian official that if he paid 0 million to certain entities, his legal issues in Russia would be made to be resolved to his benefit and he could return to Russia.

Further siding in the camp that Putin doesn’t have hundreds of billions stashed away he officially owns, the aforementioned Karen Dawisha, who perhaps gives some of the best account and most concrete details of the alleged corruption within the Russian government in her Putin’s Kleptocracy book, states that Putin’s real wealth comes from his position. “He takes what he wants, When you are the president of Russia you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”

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Again backing up this position, financial investigator L. Burke Files, states, “Putin controls wealth through proxies.” He then makes up examples to illustrate, “Sergey owes his fortune to Putin, so when Putin asks Sergey a favor, the favor must be honored. A luxury cruise, use of a private dacha, expensive consumer goods, etc….Ivan owns a shipping company and owes his wealth to Putin, so when Putin requests a favor, Ivan— like Sergey—honors the request.”

So, is Putin the richest person in the world? While, as Gaddafi demonstrated, it is possible to squirrel away 0 billion secretly, given the level of scrutiny thrown Putin’s way by governments the world over looking into the matter, with nobody seemingly able to come up with any hard evidence, most think this figure grossly inflated, though it is generally accepted that he probably does have at least some significant amount stashed away somewhere.

For most, however, the explanation for his rather luxurious lifestyle is more reasonably explained by the simple fact that he can pretty much have the Russian government foot the bill for anything he wants without much uproar or oversight. And it does seem like an awful lot of his compatriots have gotten exceedingly wealthy during his tenure at least in part thanks to their connections with Putin and him leveraging his position to help facilitate their enrichment. Thus, if that is what has happened, it’s reasonable enough that many of those are happy to scratch his back whenever he feels the need for a new yacht or the like, without Putin needing to have anything in his name to avoid the backlash that would result should he be discovered to have such.

But as to answering the question of Putin’s own wealth, as the consensus seems to be that most of his wealth is tied up in his position and associates, rather than funds he directly has, it seems a bit of a stretch to call him the richest man in the world, though not a stretch at all if talking the money he currently has strong influence over. His position as President of Russia alone would be enough for that.

And as to the idea that he really does have 0 billion simply being held in other people’s names, as alluded to, we’re guessing even if many of these individuals are actually holding money for Putin, that should he step down from power and ask for that money be given to him en masse, or even remain in power and ask for a combined sum of 0 billion, that shortly thereafter memorials and monuments would be being built for the former Russian leader who sadly died in his sleep of natural causes…

Thus, to sum up, while given his lifestyle and various possessions, Putin most definitely does have access to quite a lot of wealth between the Russian government and a lot of friends in high and wealthy places, when talking his own assets, there simply isn’t any real hard data to date backing up the claim that he is the wealthiest person in the world. And, while not impossible certainly, it would be quite the hat trick to squirrel away a couple hundred billion without any world governments able to find hard evidence that he owns a dime of it. Of course, while some might argue access to vast sums should still count- access is not ownership, even if one can benefit from it on some level.

In the end, unless he really is one of the Lizard People, he’s probably not immortal, so at some point in the next few decades he will shuffle off this mortal coil and, perhaps then, like Gaddafi, more definitive data will be revealed. Or perhaps sooner when he no longer has the protection of his position in 2024, as he is constitutionally unable to run for the presidency that year. Although, of course he could always do as he did in 2008 and take a different position while remaining in power.

Whatever the case, for now, at least, while it is technically possible he does have 0 billion in secret, and even probable that he has drastically more than he is letting on publicly, which isn’t difficult given his paltry public assets for a man in his position, given the current data at hand, the needle is seemingly tilted more towards Gates and Bezos being wealthier than Putin, at least in terms of money and assets they officially own.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Space Force could conduct an airborne assault on the moon

Look, we all hope that Space Rangers will be elite, Buzz Lightyear-types but with tattoos and lethal weapons instead of stickers and blinking lights. But if they’re going to be Buzzes, they have to learn to fall with style. And in the U.S. military, that means airborne school.


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I will not apologize. This entire article exists because this meme stopped me in my tracks.

(Facebook/Do You Even Jump?)

But being airborne is going to be hard for the Space Force since, you know, there’s almost no air on the Moon’s surface. It has about 1 trillionth the air molecules per volume that the Earth does.

“But Logan!” You say, interrupting me and randomly guessing my name because you definitely did not read the byline before scrolling to here. “There’s also no gravity on the moon! So what does it matter?”

Well, the moon does have gravity, enough to accelerate a human at 1.62 meters per second squared. If a Space Ranger jumped from a Space C-130 at 800 feet, their parachute would do approximately jack plus sh-t. But the force of gravity would pull them to the moon’s surface at a final speed of 92.22 feet per second. That’s like falling from a 13-story building on Earth.

M551 Sheridan Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES)

www.youtube.com

But we still have to kill the Moon communists! Right?

Right.

We’re not suffering those bastards to live. So we have to get the Space Rangers there somehow. So, here’s a radical counter-proposal: Screw jumping out of the plane, we’re going to rocket out of it a bare 60 feet from the surface. And the rockets aren’t pointed at the moon’s surface; they’re pointed at the Space C-130, hereafter known as the Space-130.

Remember those old videos of LAPES, the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System? Tanks were deployed from C-130s with just three parachutes. The plane flew so low to the ground that a parachute wasn’t needed to stop its fall. The parachutes were there to pull the tank out of the plane.

So instead of dropping Space Rangers out of a plane with jetpacks to slow them down vertically, we’re going to shoot them out the back of the Space-130 in capsules holding 13 Rangers each. The rockets would fire horizontally to stop the capsule’s forward movement immediately after it separated from the Space-130.

At 60 feet from the ground, the capsule would fall to the surface in less than five seconds and would hit with the same force of it falling from 10 feet on the Earth. Screw parachutes, the Rangers would be safe sitting on a nice pillow. And they would already be massed in squads of 13 to use their space weapons against the moon communists.

But the Space Rangers all still have to complete Airborne School at Fort Benning and conduct five normal jumps anyway. We’ll call it leadership training or something.

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