Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

At first glance, Mr. Smith’s in the trendy Georgetown area of Washington, DC, may seem like a regular bar.

On any given day — at least before COVID-19 — you’d find a cross-section of Washington’s society there for the burgers and the beer. Drunk tourists, young Capitol Hill staffers, K Street lobbyists with money to burn, and cynical old Washingtonians sharing inside-the-Beltway gossip all gather there.


Like dozens of other sites in the city, however, the bar has a dark past. It was at this bar in 1985, then known as Chadwicks, that CIA officer Aldrich Ames betrayed his country by meeting with Victor Cherkashin, a KGB counterintelligence officer stationed at the Soviet embassy in Washington.

Over weeks and months of meetings at the bar — which proclaimed itself “casual dining at its best” — Ames revealed the identities of more than 100 CIA assets operating in the Soviet Union, many of whom promptly “vanished” or were executed. His reward? A total of $4.6 million. He was finally arrested in 1994 after the CIA began looking into his lavish lifestyle, which included a $540,000 house in nearby Arlington paid for in cash, a $50,000 Jaguar, and tailor-made suits that even his bosses couldn’t afford on a government salary.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Mr. Smith’s replaced Chadwicks in Georgetown, where CIA officer Aldrich Ames betrayed the US by meeting with a Soviet counterintelligence officer. Photo courtesy of Mr. Smith’s/Facebook.

Chadwicks is just one of dozens of sites across the Washington area that speak to its past, present, and future as a hub of foreign espionage activity and American efforts to stop it.

“DC is a hotspot of espionage activity, between all of the embassies that are located there that have their diplomatic attachés that sometimes work for their home country’s government or intelligence operations,” explained Francis Gary Powers Jr., the founder and operator of Spy Tour of Washington, DC. “There’s always some kind of intrigue going on in DC.”

For Powers, tales of Cold War espionage are a personal affair. His father, Francis Gary Powers Sr., was the pilot of a CIA U-2 spy plane that was famously shot down while flying a mission over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. Although the elder Powers successfully managed to bail out of the aircraft, he was quickly captured and remained in Soviet captivity until he was exchanged for a Soviet intelligence officer at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin in February 1962.

These days, the younger Powers takes private groups on trips across the many drop points, safe houses, and other clandestine sites that make up Washington’s spy history dating back all the way to Rose Greenhow, a Washington socialite who spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a spy during the Civil War, with her youngest daughter and namesake, “Little” Rose, at the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, DC, 1862. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

“We go by Aldrich Ames’ homes, [convicted spy] Alger Hiss’ home, and have briefings on FBI agent Robert Hanssen drop points,” he said. “Or we go by the Russian Embassy and talk about the underground tunnel that was dug out there. There’s a variety of places to see.”

Many of the publicly known spy locations in Washington revolve around “traditional” espionage tradecraft that was perfected over many decades. The innocent-looking Foxstone Park in Vienna, Virginia, for example, was where disgraced FBI agent Robert Hanssen left classified materials for his KGB handler — who, incidentally, was the same Victor Cherkashin who handled Aldrich Ames.

Long before mobile phones, the internet, communications technology, and the cloud changed the way government — and intelligence services — operated, many of these sites were in use. Spy agencies in both the US and around the world are now increasingly reliant on technology to communicate, intercept communications, conduct surveillance, and perform other day-to-day functions of intelligence.

Technology, however, is no replacement for tried-and-true methods.

“There is something to be said for ‘sticks and bricks.’ Going back to the old school is always there, even if it’s as a fail-safe,” explained Marc Polymeropoulos, who served 26 years in the CIA before retiring from the agency’s Senior Intelligence Service in June 2019.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

The “Ellis” drop site — under a footbridge over Wolftrap Creek near Creek Crossing Road at Foxstone Park near Vienna, Virginia — where FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen clandestinely placed a package containing highly classified information for pickup by his Russian handlers. Photo courtesy of the FBI.

According to Polymeropoulos, who oversaw and took part in clandestine operations across Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, there is simply no replacement for meeting an asset face-to-face.

“That lets you really sit down and assess them and talk to them,” he said. “You need to be able to look someone in the eye and assess them, regardless of this new environment in which we live. […] We’ll always find a way.”

Meeting people in person, Polymeropoulos said, allows intelligence officers to judge a person’s motivation and trustworthiness in a way that a Zoom call, for example, never will.

“People do lie to you, all the time. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s also the sense of getting a feel of someone and their motivations,” he said. “It’s even things that just sound silly, like going over the details of stories with someone over and over. If they’re telling the truth, they might not slip up as much.”

“It’s like taking a graduate class in psychology. Ultimately, what you’re doing is assessing someone and their mental ability and motivations to betray their country,” Polymeropoulos added. “Doing so remotely is difficult. It’s certainly possible, but I don’t think you’re ever going to get as much.”

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Marc Polymeropoulos. Photo courtesy of Twitter/@mpolymer.

Whether new tech-savvy techniques or old espionage methods are in play, there’s no doubt that Washington remains a hub of foreign intelligence activity.

“There are different intelligence operations going on all the time in DC and Northern Virginia,” Powers said. “There’s definitely espionage taking place every day.”

Polymeropoulos, for his part, is even more blunt in his assessment. In his view, current political tensions mean that foreign adversaries are perhaps even more active in the nation’s capital now than they were during even the tensest years of the Cold War.

“Washington is still a spy capital; it always has been. One of the troubling things that’s happening in the United States is that any country — as we would — is going to try to take advantage of political turmoil and chaos,” he said. “If I was looking at the United States, I’d be looking at people within the government that have secrets, who are dissatisfied. You have a lot of that now.”

Foreign intelligence services, he added, are likely assessing targets in both political parties and across government agencies in Washington.

“This has to do with people in government, staffers on the Hill. If you think about it, it’s such a target-rich environment for hostile intelligence organizations to target the United States right now, and ground zero is Washington,” he said.

“There’s a lot for our adversaries to work with right now, and that’s a huge concern and a huge counterintelligence worry.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

One woman wrote 25,000 letters for wounded soldiers who couldn’t

In 1917, the horrors of World War I were something entirely new to the world. “The War to End All Wars” inflicted horrible casualties and painful deaths in a way no one had ever seen before in the history of warfare. Mechanized vehicles, poison gas, trench-clearing shotguns, and even the constant mud and water that filled the trenches took its toll on the men who fought the war.

Many of those wounded and dying from the new weapons of war found themselves laying next to Red Cross volunteer May Bradford, who would write what for many of her patients, was the last words they would ever say to their loved ones.


Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Even those who survived were altered forever by the new weapons of war.

For those that were dying, Bradford recorded their last words. For those that were too injured to write, she informed their families of their loved one’s situation. For those who were simply illiterate, she was happy to take care of them too. She was part of the French No. 26 General Hospital, near Etaples, France during the war. She was there following her surgeon husband, Sir John Bradford.

She had been there for the entire war, watching the dying and wounded roll in and out of the clinics and field hospitals. She immediately took up the mantle of “hospital letter writer” for anyone who might want or need her services. Over the course of Britain’s time in the war, she wrote more than 25,000 letters, averaging 12 or more every day for four and a half years.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Bradford later wrote a book of her experiences.

Rather than wear the traditional uniform of the scores of Red Cross volunteers at English aid stations around the world, Lady Bradford wore her usual clothes, which were usually an impeccably clean and neat dress, which made the men in her care feel less like they were in a hospital with a nurse and more like they were dictating a letter with an old friend.

In her relatively short time as a letter writer for the sick, injured, and mortally wounded, Bradford experienced firsthand the horrors of the First World War – and experienced the emotional rollercoaster of fighting that war secondhand.

Articles

13 of the best military morale patches

Morale patches are patches troops wear on their uniforms designed to be a funny inside joke, applicable only to their unit or military career field. They are usually worn during deployments, but the wear of morale patches is at the discretion of the unit’s commander.


The patches often (not always) make fun of a depressing, boring or otherwise specific part of the job.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

These patches have been around since the military began to wear patches. They are collected and traded by people, both military and civilians, who come across them. Some are more popular than others, but they are usually a lot of fun.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

The “Morale Stops Here” patch is pretty popular and is actually repeated by units the world over. It’s really funny the first time you see it.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

This is an old one, a throwback to the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command days. “To forgive is not SAC policy” is widely attributed to famed SAC commander Curtis LeMay.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

For the benefit of the uninitiated, CSAR stands for Combat Search And Rescue.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Having the Kool-Aid Man as your unofficial mascot is funny enough, but making his hand the lightning-shooting gauntlet in the old SAC emblem is clever.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

The JSTARS (or Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System) have a descriptive patch here – as they operate out of trailers at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar (in the military, being deployed here is also known as “doing the Deid”).

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

This is a U.S. Navy patch from Vietnam. The “yacht” is a junk – a historically widespread type of ship used in China and around Southeast Asia. The Tonkin Gulf is where the Vietnam War (or more specifically, the U.S. involvement in it) really ignited.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

More from Vietnam. By the end of the 1960’s, the rift between those who served in Vietnam and the perception of the war back home hit its peak.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

As the Cold War intensified and the threat of nuclear war seemed more and more unavoidable, the young enlisted and officers whose role in the annihilation of Earth’s population probably felt more than a little stressed.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

The tradition continued, well into Desert Storm. If you have morale patches that make others laugh or are highly prized, please post in the comments.

Articles

The Browning Automatic Rifle cut down enemies from WWI to Vietnam

It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.


The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
Army 2nd Lt. Val Browning stands with the Browning Automatic Rifle designed by his father. (Photo: Army Heritage and Education Center)

One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.

In the mud-filled trenches of World War I, the rifle was known for its reliability despite the conditions. When troops hit an enemy trench line, they could be reasonably sure that the rifle would spit its 20-40 rounds of .30-06 per magazine without jamming or overheating.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
A group of U.S. Marines patrol Okinawa in 1945. The Marine on point is carrying the Browning Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.

Rounds from the BAR hit with enough force to pierce up to .375 inch of steel plate, meaning it could penetrate the armor on most French light tanks stolen by the Germans.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.

It was so respected in World War II that, according to War Is Boring, soldiers “acquired” extra BARs to give themselves more firepower than their units were allotted — a single BAR per squad.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
A U.S. infantryman uses a Browning Automatic Rifle to fire on Chinese troops during the Korean War. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.

For instance, the BAR was one of the weapons Underwater Demolitions Team-13 members used to fight off Viet Cong guerillas during a riverine ambush.

But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Jason Momoa is a bona fide action star, a buff, bearded (most of the time) beast of a dude best known for playing fierce warriors of the Dothraki and underwater varieties. Off-screen, it seems that he takes the strength and free-spiritedness of his characters and combines it with an unapologetic commitment to his family.

In a new video – presumably for Harley-Davidson, though that’s not ever made explicit — Momoa talks about his lifelong love of motorcycles. Over scenic desert landscapes, a well-worn motorcycle shop tells the story of the very special way he shared that love with his kids.

“Fierce and proud I put my hand on the throttle and with a twist it rumbled and howled like I held the power to control its breathing,” he says, sounding like a muscled, tattooed Bruce Springsteen as slowed-down footage of his kids touching a motorcycle with wonder in their eyes plays.


“It was the first time I really felt speed. It was the awakening.”

In what sounds apocryphal, Momoa talks about finding an old, broken-down Harley motor in a garage and being seized with a dream to fix it up and build a bike around it.

Where the Wild Stomped In – Happy Papa’s Day!

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“Reality sunk in, and that young man’s dream, it had to wait. For my life,” he says. Translation: he had kids and didn’t have time to spend fiddling around in the garage for hours on end. That part is definitely relatable.

But the video is about motorcycles, so Momoa finds the time — with what looks like a very able, affable motorcycle-fixing dude — to make his dream come true.

“It has taken three decades in the making. The longest dream I have ever held onto. And now, the best part is that I get to share that dream with my children and the people that I love.”

More beautiful shots of sparks flying, dirt getting kicked up, scenic vistas, and Momoa and his crew drinking beers follow. The motorcycle is fixed up and taken all over the desert.

“We built our family heirloom. We’re the Momoas. We’re the knuckleheads. And with every ride, whether it’s me, my daughter, my son, or even a grandchild I don’t know yet. They will share in the miles and memories we were creating.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US is painting jets to look like Russian fighters

The US Air Force’s 64th Aggressor Squadron, which uses 20 F-16 fighter jets to train the rest of the force on realistic battle scenarios against enemy fighters, will use the paint scheme of Russia’s newest fighter jet, the Su-57, for one of its jets.

And this should give the US a considerable advantage in aerial combat against the Russian jet that’s meant to take on US F-22 and F-35 fighters, Brig. Gen. Robert G. Novotny, who commands 38 squadrons including the 64th, told The Drive.


Beyond-visual-range radars and missiles that can seek heat or electronic emissions have made visual camouflage on aircraft somewhat less of a priority over the years, but Novotny said camo still has an important psychological effect.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

A rendering of the F-16’s new paint scheme.

(57th Wing Commander / Facebook)

The Su-57 sports a “digital shark” paint job of pixelated blues and grays that distorts what pilots may see in the air. The US, as a counterpoint, has largely abandoned painting its jets with camouflage and has moved to integrating stealth coatings.

“Long ago, when aerial combat almost always involved visually acquiring the adversary, an enemy aircraft paint scheme could provide an advantage by either delaying detection, i.e., it blended in with the background environment, or it could confuse a pilot by masking its aspect angle or range,” Novotny told The Drive.

In the past, the Aggressor Squadron has sported paint jobs from Russia’s Su-34 and Su-35 fighters, as well as China’s J-20 stealth fighter.

A major advantage for US fighters

“The aggressor paint schemes serve a purpose other than just looking cool,” Novotny said. He cited the book “Red Eagles: America’s Secret MiGs” by Steve Davies that explains “buck fever,” a phenomenon that happens to fighter pilots upon seeing the enemy.

Novotny said Davies described it as “the emotion a new hunter feels the first time they aim a rifle at a deer,” or something that can cause well-trained pilots to freeze up and fail to act in combat.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

(Russian Embassy / Twitter)

“Although the 64th Aggressors are not flying actual [Russian] aircraft, we use adversary paint schemes to help mitigate the risk of buck fever,” Novotny continued. “Based on that threat-representative training, our warfighters are much more likely to arrive at a merge, visually identify the enemy, and kill!”

The Aggressor with the new paint job will soon start in on a busy schedule of simulated air combat against US fighters like F-15s, F-22s, and F-35s in exercises like Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, where the squadron is based.

While the Su-57 paint job is designed to ready the US for combat against a formidable Russian fighter, it was not the obvious first choice, or even a choice made by Novotny — he posed the question to his Facebook followers, who overwhelmingly chose the Su-57.

Though the Su-57 has no large orders on the books and may never see a large role in Russia’s air force, people apparently jumped at the idea of a US fighter taking on the new challenge.

Novotny, for his part, agreed that the Su-57 was a relevant foe to train against.

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

Articles

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

When most people retire from the military, they look forward to spending more time with family, relaxing, and maybe pursuing their hobbies.


Neall Ellis isn’t most people.

After a successful career in both the Rhodesian and South African militaries, Ellis became bored with civilian life. Rather than sit back and relax, he decided to pursue the only hobby he knew — kicking ass.

With plenty of strife and a need for fighters throughout the African continent, Ellis decided to become a mercenary. He wasn’t going to be just any mercenary though. Ellis recruited a team and procured an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.

 

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
Russian Mi-24 Hind.

 

Ellis’ mercenary work eventually brought him to Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of a civil war in the late 1990s. The government of Sierra Leone, backed by the British, was attempting to quell a rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Working for the Sierra Leone government, Ellis and his crew were seen as the most effective force against the rebels, even though they were a single gunship. As Ellis put it, “the gunship strikes the fear of God into the rebels. They run into the bush as soon as they see it.”

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
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As the rebels advanced on the capital, Freetown, the British forces remaining in Sierra Leone evacuated. Freetown looked as if it would fall to the rebels.

Also read: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time

Ellis saw things differently. Though the rebels were attacking at night, and he had no night vision devices, he proposed that he and his crew fly out to meet them and try to drive them off. To his crew, this sounded foolish and none would agree to fly the mission. Unperturbed, Ellis, piloting his helicopter alone, flew against the rebel onslaught.

 

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
The city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, was a front for brutal fighting during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 90s. (Photo via Flickr user David Hond. CC BY 2.0)

In the dead of night, with no crew and no night vision, Ellis fought off the rebel advance. When the rebels came again, Ellis once again flew alone and turned them back from Freetown. Only when his helicopter broke down and he was unable to fly did the rebels finally take the city.

But Ellis wasn’t done fighting. Even though the government of Sierra Leone had lost the capital and could no longer pay him or his crew, they kept flying.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Ellis told them, “I have not been paid for 20 months. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I enjoy the excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

His staunch defense of Freetown had also drawn the ire of the RUF. His actions had so angered the RUF that they sent him a message: “If we ever catch you, we will cut out your heart and eat it.”

Ellis’ response was epic.

Ellis loaded up his bird and flew out to deliver a message of his own.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies
Coalition forces release informational leaflets out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter over villages in the Logar province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2014. The leaflets are used to pass along information to the local populous regarding on going operations in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

Arriving over the rebel camp they proceeded to drop thousands of leaflets, with a picture of their helicopter and the words “RUF: this time we’ve dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57mm rockets, or 23mm guns, or 30mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!”

And he meant it. Although heavily outnumbered, Ellis kept fighting the rebels.

Eventually, his efforts drew the attention of the British, who decided not only to return to Sierra Leone, but also to provide support to Ellis and work in conjunction with him.

His vast knowledge of the country made him a valuable asset to the British and he actively participated in operations.

Need more inspiration? 4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

In September 2000, Ellis flew his helicopter in support of Operation Barras, a rescue mission of several soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured. He would also flew missions with the British SAS.

Ellis and his crew would stay in Sierra Leone until the defeat of the RUF in 2002.

Ellis’ reputation earned him a trip to Iraq working with the British during the invasion in 2003.

Later, he would also fly in Afghanistan “where, he reckons, he has had more close shaves than in his entire previous four-decades put together.”

At the age of 67, he is currently rumored to be flying against the Islamic State.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Massive Russian wargames signal worries about NATO

The Russian military is getting ready for what is said to be an “unprecedented” military exercise, but as thousands of men and machines gather in Russia’s east, leaders in Moscow may be increasingly concerned about what’s going on in the West.

Early August 2018, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called the upcoming Vostok-2018, or East-2018, exercises “the largest preparatory action for the armed forces since Zapad-81,” referring to a Soviet military exercise in 1981 involving about 100,000 to 150,000 troops, according to a CIA estimate at the time.


Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the Vostok-2018 exercise, scheduled for Sept. 11-15, 2018, will have some similarities to Zapad-81 but involve vastly more personnel.

“In some ways, they resemble the Zapad-81 drills but in other ways they are, perhaps, even larger,” Shoigu said, according to Russian state-owned media outlet Tass.

“Over 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 servicemen at almost all the training ranges of the Central and Eastern Military Districts and, naturally, the Pacific and Northern Fleets and the Airborne Force will be fully employed.”

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The Russian military has already begun evaluating its forces’ combat readiness and logistical support with “snap inspections” that involve special drills and are done under the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Just imagine that 36,000 pieces of military hardware are simultaneously in motion: these are tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and all this is, naturally, checked in conditions close to a combat environment,” Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, according to Tass.

Russia has invited military attaches from NATO countries to observe the upcoming exercises — an offer that a NATO spokesman told Reuters was under consideration.

Russia conducted another large-scale exercise, Zapad-17, or West-17, in September 2017. About 70,000 personnel took part in that — though only about 13,000 of them were part of the main event that took place in Belarus and western Russia. (The number of troops involved became a point of contention between Russia and NATO.)

Russian forces will not be the only ones taking part this time around. Chinese and Mongolian units will also take part, with Beijing reportedly sending more than 3,000 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 pieces of other military hardware.

Chinese participation in Russian military exercises “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Aug, 28, 2018, according to Tass.

‘It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time’

Peskov was asked if the expense of the Vostok-18 exercise was necessary at a time when Russia’s economy is struggling and demands for more social spending are rising.

“The social security network and the pension system are a constant element of state policy and a very important component,” Peskov responded, according to Tass. “But the country’s defense capability in the current international situation, which is frequently quite aggressive and unfriendly for our country, is justified, needed and has no alternative.”

Russia has consistently condemned Western military activity and NATO maneuvers as provocative, but Peskov’s reply may hint at a growing unease in Moscow, which is still uncertain about President Donald Trump as it watches the defense alliance deploy an array of units to its eastern flank.

Trump has signaled a conciliatory stance toward Russia and hostility toward NATO, but those attitudes haven’t translated significantly into US or NATO policy.

“We don’t like the picture we are seeing,” Vladimir Frolov, an independent political analyst in Moscow, told Defense News.

“NATO is getting serious about its combat capabilities and readiness levels. Trump may trash NATO and his European allies,” he said, “but it is the capabilities that matter, and those have been growing under Trump.”

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, July 16, 2018.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

NATO members have been boosting their defense spending and working to build military readiness — moves stoked recently by the combination of uncertainty about Trump and concern about assertive Russian action, like the incursion in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO troops, including US forces, are practicing tactics that have been little used since the Cold War. A number of former Soviet republics have embraced the West. NATO units have forward deployed to the alliance’s eastern flank, and Poland has even offered to pay to host a permanent US military presence.

Some European countries are also debating augmenting their own militaries and defense sectors. Germany, long averse to a large military footprint, is looking to recruit more troops, and some there have restarted debate about whether Berlin should seek its own nuclear-weapons capability.

Moscow has long used confrontation with the West to bolster its domestic political standing, and many leaders in the West have come to identify Russia as a main geopolitical foe — a dynamic that is likely to perpetuate tensions.

Early 2018 Russian officials called military exercises involving NATO and Ukrainian personnel “an attempt to once again provoke tension in southeastern Ukraine and in the entire Black Sea region” and said “countries … constantly accusing Russia of threatening regional stability shall be held responsible for possible negative consequences.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White told Reuters that countries have a right to conduct military exercises, “but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner.”

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” White added. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

It Sure Looks Like Cats Can Contract COVID-19

A Belgian housecat may be the first feline with a confirmed case of COVID-19, joining the more than 800,000 humans around the world who have contracted the disease to date.

Belgium’s Federal Public Service announced that the cat’s owner contracted the disease after a trip to Northern Italy, one of the most infected regions in the world. About a week after the onset of their human’s symptoms, the cat followed suit, with diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Poor kitty.


Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Tests conducted at a veterinary school in Liège on vomit and feces samples from the cat confirmed the vet’s suspicions: High levels of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus were found. Blood tests will be conducted once the feline exits quarantine and antibodies specific to the virus are expected to be found.

When COVID-19 first hit our shores, many media outlets (ahem, New York Times) were quick to jump on the fact that the virus was not yet shown to infect dogs. This has proven untrue — two dogs in Hong Kong were infected — and is beside the point. Dogs are not a primary vector for the disease, but if their owner is infected, they can certainly pass on the virus. This is why experts advise steering clear of strange dogs when you’re on solitary walks no matter how friendly they are.

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

Still, the experts don’t seem too panicked about this development.

“We think the cat is a side victim of the ongoing epidemic in humans and does not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus,” Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.

That’s good news for the humans of the earth, especially the cat people. The good news for the felines of the earth is that the cat in question recovered from the virus after just nine days with all nine of its lives intact.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the most decorated enlisted sailor in US military history

When James Elliott Williams enlisted in the Navy in 1947, World War II was over, and the South Carolina native probably thought he might have a career no different, better, or worse than any other enlisted sailor. History would have other ideas. He just wanted to join the Navy, so bad in fact, he was only 16 when he enlisted. He and a county clerk altered his birth certificate to make him old enough to join. That was just the first bold move of his career.


It’s notable that the most decorated enlisted sailor in Navy history isn’t a SEAL or anything like that, he was a Boatswains Mate.

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Chief Ryback approves.

Today’s Boatswain’s Mates now train, direct, and supervise the ship’s personnel in the maintenance of the ship as well as operate machinery to load and unload supplies. They’re kind of the jack of all trades sailor, the oldest rate in the Navy. They repair the ship, provide security, and even drive the damn things. Not three years into James William’s enlistment, the Korean War broke out, and Williams was aboard the destroyer USS Douglas H. Fox. Being a Boatswain’s Mate, he ended up on numerous small boat raiding parties into North Korea.

It suited him just fine. Williams continued his enlistment even after the war ended. His real moment to shine came during his time in Vietnam.

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Yeahhhhhhhh buddy. I don’t know this guy, but I’d follow him anywhere.

Williams was the Petty Officer in charge of overseeing patrols in the Mekong Delta as the Vietnam War was heating up in 1966 and 1967. At the time in his career when other NCOs would be seeking a quiet place to end their enlistment, Williams was tossing ammunition over his shoulder and telling junior sailors everything was going to be okay – and it was, because Williams was going to see to that.

That’s what happened on Oct. 31, 1966, when Williams’ two boat patrol was ambushed by two enemy boats on the river. He collected his “19-year-old and scared to death” gunners, and directed a return fire that destroyed one boat and sent the other running away for dear life. It wouldn’t get away, as the sailors chased the damaged enemy boat right into…

An enemy stronghold.

Suddenly, they were outnumbered 65-to-1. The VC opened up on the Americans with withering AK-47 and RPG fire. You can probably guess what happened next.

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If you guessed the Americans retreated, I’m showing you this photo again because you clearly forgot about it.

Williams led his boat and its crew into the enemy formation, with fortified bunkers shooting at them from the riverbanks, enemy boats swirling around them, and all kinds of different ordnance being thrown their way. As he attacked enemy sampans, junks, and other river craft, he called in for help from UH-1B Huey helicopters as the night fell on the South Vietnamese inlet where Williams and his crew were absolutely laying waste to the Viet Cong.

For three hours, Williams and company fought and wrecked an entire hub of VC shipping and supply along with the 65 boats and untold manpower defending it. The Navy wrecking crew killed 1,000 enemy troops in the process while disrupting the VC supply lines in the entire region.

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That’s how James Williams earned the Medal of Honor.

Aside from the Medal of Honor he earned on that day, Williams other awards and decorations include the Navy Cross, the Silver Star with gold star, the Legion of Merit with combat V, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal with gold star, the Bronze Star with combat V and two gold stars, the Purple Heart with two gold stars, and a ton of other unit commendations and service medals.

He left the military as a Boatswain’s Mate First Class, E-6, but was made an honorary Chief in 1977.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why soldiers and Marines get along so well

There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.

No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.


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Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…

(U.S. Army)

1. Our missions are similar

Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.

Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.

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“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. We get each other’s low-brow humor

When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.

Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.

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There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

3. We share the same values

Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.

We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.

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And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

4. We understand each other’s pain

Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.

But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.

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Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!

(U.S. Army)

5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously

It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.

When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Russia is working on its own TV show about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster — but this version focuses on a conspiracy theory that a CIA agent sabotaged the reactor.

The Russian show, whose release date is not yet known, comes at the heels of HBO’s successful miniseries, “Chernobyl.”

The HBO show attributes the 1986 nuclear disaster to a combination of reckless decisions made by senior plant staff and Soviet state censorship, which resulted in the government hiding dangerous problems at the plant from the public, as well as other scientists and plant staff.


This portrayal is considered highly accurate. Many former Soviet, however, slammed it as inaccurate and slanderous of the Soviet Union.

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Donald Sumpter on HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries.

(HBO)

The nuclear disaster propelled radioactive particles over 1,000 square miles of Ukraine and Belarus. The death toll remains unknown, but some studies say tens of thousands of people died as a result of the leak.

Moscow’s version of “Chernobyl” — which is produced by NTV, an arm of Russia’s majority state-owned Gazprom Media — is premised on the theory that CIA agents sabotaged the nuclear reactor, which ultimately led to the accident, NTV said in April 2018.

Specifically, the plot will follow a Russian KGB agent in the town of Pripyat, near the plant, as he tries to track down US spies before they trigger the disaster, director Alexei Muradov told The Moscow Times on June 4, 2019.

Russia’s ministry of culture gave NTV 30 million rubles (2,000) to produce the Russian version of “Chernobyl,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The idea for Russia’s version of “Chernobyl” is based from a popular conspiracy theory in the country, Muradov told The Moscow Times.

“One theory holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many historians do not deny that, on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy’s intelligence services was present at the station,” he said.

The US and Soviet Union were in the midst of the Cold War at the time of the explosion, and espionage and mutual mistrust were high.

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Digitalization of Chernobyl disaster.

Journalists from former Soviet countries have taken issue with HBO’s adaptation of the nuclear disaster.

One writer from Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia’s most popular paper, said last month the series was designed to slander Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy company.

The same newspaper also ran the headline on a separate story, which said according to The Guardian: “Chernobyl did not show the most important part — our victory.”

Another journalist wrote in Kosovo’s Express Gazeta that HBO had wrongly depicted “ignobility, carelessness and petty tyranny.”

HBO’s “Chernobyl” is the highest-rated TV series of all time, Esquire cited IMDB as saying.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic gunslinging lawman who took down the Indian Territory’s most wanted

Indian Territory following the American Civil War was a vast and open area where criminals, outlaws, and thieves found refuge. Much like no man’s land during World War I, whenever lawmen, cowboys, and posses entered, a gunfight was almost guaranteed. On its eastern border sat a frontier town called Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Fort Smith federal court was responsible for bringing justice over a jurisdiction that spanned nearly 75,000 miles.

The Five Civilized Tribes also called Indian Territory home. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians lived where Oklahoma is today, and they had their own police, courts, and governments. The tribes could arrest only those who belonged to their communities and not outsiders such as white and Black men who committed crimes.


Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing nearly 180 pounds, a former slave named Bass Reeves became one of the first Black deputies hired to the US Marshals Service. Reeves had served as the bodyguard of George Reeves — the son of William and a Texas slave owner — who joined the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Accounts vary — one story goes that he knocked out his owner with his fist after a dispute over a card game, while another said he ran away after hearing rumors of slaves being freed.

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Bass Reeves was born a slave but became the first Black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi. Screenshot from YouTube.

Either action was punishable by hanging, and Reeves feared the outcome, so he fled to the Indian Territory for sanctuary. As a runaway he lived among the Seminole and Creek Indians, learning their languages and culture. The tribes taught him ancient stalking and tracking techniques, improving his expertise as an outdoorsman. He later developed priceless skills such as shooting a .44 Winchester rifle and reloading a revolver, a must for all Old West gunslingers to master. He was an ambidextrous gunfighter, talented both in draw speed and accuracy, and over his career he would never once be wounded by an outlaw’s bullet.

When the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865 abolishing slavery, Reeves’ newfound freedom allowed him to relocate to Arkansas. There he married and had 11 children. Prior to his hiring as a deputy with the US Marshals at Fort Smith, Reeves used his knowledge of the land, his dexterity learned from the tribes, and his intuition to guide federal lawmen into the Indian badlands scouting for wanted outlaws.

The US Marshals’ policy required at least one other deputy or Indian scout to join a patrol since the wasteland was as unpredictable as it was dangerous. When Reeves took the job in 1875, more than 100 deputy marshals had been killed in apprehension attempts; thus Reeves took a different approach. He donned several different disguises, in similar fashion as the Lone Ranger, to gain a tactical advantage over the miscreants he identified for arrest.

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Bass Reeves — in the front row and far left with cane — served as a lawman in the American Indian territory of Muskogee, which is today’s Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of history.net.

He disguised himself as a tramp on the run from the law. He told two wanted brothers his story, glorifying his 28-mile journey on foot before pulling out his revolver and taking them into custody. He convinced a woman that he was avoiding a nearby posse, and she fed him a fresh meal and even offered him a bed to sleep in at her house overnight. In the middle of the night, he walked into her son’s bedroom, put handcuffs around his wrists, and was on horseback the next morning riding toward the jail.

His fearlessness never wavered, even when he was bedridden battling pneumonia. On Feb. 3, 1906, a Black man named Frank Brown chased his wife through town while armed with a knife. The wife burst through Reeves’ front door to hide from her husband. Brown followed her, screaming that he was going to kill her and brandishing his knife.

“Reeves reached under his pillow and secured his ever trusty revolver, with which he soon persuaded the wife-chaser that he was under arrest,” The Wichita Eagle reported that Sunday. “Reeves held his gun on the man while he sent his wife after a posseman, who took Brown to federal jail.”

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Belle Star was arrested by Bass Reeves in 1883 and charged with horse theft. She was one of many notable American outlaws Reeves apprehended. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Accounts of his arrests frequented the newspapers, each as astonishing as the next. Reeves didn’t take bribes nor was he appreciative of any favoritism. After his son, Bennie, murdered his wife, Reeves issued a warrant for his arrest. His son was convicted and sentenced to serve a life of imprisonment in Leavenworth.

Bass Reeves served as a deputy for more than 30 years and retired from federal law enforcement at age 67. He worked a brief two-year stint as a city policeman in downtown Muskogee, Oklahoma, where crime was low because of his presence, before he died in 1910. Throughout his career he made an estimated 3,000 arrests, personally killed 14 outlaws in self-defense, and has since become an icon of both the Old West and pop culture.

Al Burton, the author of Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves, wrote, “Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger on the American western frontier of the nineteenth century.”

In addition to inspiring books and movies, Reeves’ likeness was recently featured in the HBO series Watchmen, bringing his no-nonsense persona to the opening of the fictionalized comic-book story.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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