It was the pivotal battle that most historians believe turned the tide against the Nazis for good in World War II, resulting in a cascade of defeats as the Wehrmacht beat its retreat to Germany from the Soviet Eastern Front.
But it wasn’t always that way, and in the opening months of Operation Barbarossa the German army seemed poised for a stunning victory against the Red Army.
But many believe Adolf Hitler wanted to capture the city as a thumb in the eye to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, for whom the city was renamed.
Initially, the German army was able to push well into the city, taking the Univermag department store at its center. But the Red Army dug into the city’s industrial areas along the banks of the Volga river and the battle ground down into a brutal street-by-street slugfest.
One of the Red Army’s most accomplished generals, Marshall Georgi Zhukov, hatched a plan to surround the 6th Army and cut off its supply lines. And by mid-November, the Soviets began to squeeze the Nazis inside the city.
As winter descended, the Germans were running out of food, ammunition and other supplies, and when a rescue mission launched by Field Marshall Erich Von Manstein failed to break through, the Nazi’s fate was sealed. The German forces under the command of Gen. Friedrich Paulus eventually surrendered in early February 1943.
While the Soviets lost nearly 500,000 men in the battle, the Wehrmacht surrendered 91,000 soldiers and lost nearly 150,000. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
It was a horrific battle waged on a titanic scale in a battlefield unlike any seen in modern times. In all, the Germans lost about 147,000 men in the battle while surrendering 91,000. The Soviets took even more catastrophic losses, with 480,000 dead and 650,000 wounded. An estimated 40,000 civilians were killed in the fighting.
A combat controller will receive the Air Force’s highest combat medal for extraordinary heroism, after a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.
The Air Force Cross will be presented to former Staff Sgt. Christopher Baradat, now separated, who had received the Silver Star medal for his essential role in rescuing 150 coalition members in Afghanistan, April 6, 2013.
“Chris Baradat exemplifies the professionalism, courage and lethality of special tactics Airmen,” said Col. Michael E. Martin, the 24th Special Operation Wing commander. “Every day, special tactics Airmen like Chris willingly put themselves in harm’s way to fight and win our nation’s wars.”
While on his third deployment, Baradat was attached to a U.S. Army Special Forces team tasked to support pinned-down coalition forces flanked by enemy fighters in a valley in Kunar Province. As the special forces convoy approached the steep valley, it became clear that the vehicles wouldn’t fit through the narrow mountain path.
Baradat and eight others dismounted and sprinted toward the embattled friendly forces, but came under heavy fire within 1,000 meters of their objective. Without hesitation, Baradat identified the enemy’s position and called in close air support from A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets and AC-130 gunships—eliminating the immediate threat. The team pressed toward the friendly forces when they were again pinned down by an avalanche of enemy gunfire from the ridgelines above.
They took cover in a small compound nearby, but the thick walls limited the radio signal, interfering with the ground force’s link to the aircraft above. The team was outnumbered and outgunned, Baradat knew it would only be a matter of time before the enemy had them surrounded.
With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Baradat left cover and exposed himself directly to enemy gunfire to communicate with the aircraft above and protect the team. “That was where I needed to be standing to communicate with the aircraft and to get the mission done,” he said in an interview from 2014.
Although his team shouted at him to take cover, he systematically began engaging the enemy.”I remember repeatedly yelling at him to get behind cover, yet he ignored the warnings, choosing instead to keep fires on the enemy positions,” wrote one of his Army Special Forces teammates about the event.
Baradat controlled multiple aircraft while he stood in the open courtyard–sprayed by dirt as rounds impacted the ground near him– relaying targets he spotted to the aircraft above.
“Throughout the next two hours, I witnessed (Staff) Sgt. Baradat call for fire and utilize eight different aircraft [six A-10s and two AC-130s] to eliminate the enemy threatening both his team and the friendly forces they were sent to rescue,” wrote one of the AC-130 pilots in an after action report. But enemy fire intensified as the single element navigated through the narrow terrain in their armored vehicles, vulnerable to the enemy.
Baradat’s radio connection was limited inside the vehicle, so with no hesitation, he positioned himself on the vehicle’s running board outside the safety of the vehicle’s armor … secured only by a teammate holding onto his belt.
With his body scraping the narrow canyon walls, peppered by falling rocks knocked loose from the heavy machine gun fire, Baradat directed precise strafing runs and bomb drops until the entire team was clear of enemy fire. “You never know what to expect going into any combat situation, but I do feel that the intense and diverse training that I received from … the special tactics community, set me up to handle the stress of the situation,” Baradat said of the battle. “I was only one piece of the puzzle that day; if it wasn’t for the extreme professionalism and fearless intensity of my Army Special Forces team, the mission could have turned out a lot differently.”
In the end, Baradat precisely directed 13 500-pound bombs and over 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting, contributing to the safety of 150 troops and destruction of 50 enemy and 13 enemy fighting positions.
“He is an American hero who did an outstanding job under incredible circumstances, seamlessly integrating air power into a complex and dangerous ground mission,” Martin said. The Air Force Cross is presented for extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations against an enemy of the United States. This is the ninth Air Force Cross to be awarded since 9/11; all have been awarded to special tactics Airmen.
The upgrade was due to a Defense Department-directed review of medals from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure service members are appropriately recognized for their actions.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James approved nine medal upgrades for eight Airmen, Jan. 17, 2017, including Baradat and Keary Miller, a retired pararescueman from the Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.
“I am extremely humbled to receive this award,” Baradat said. “The men who have previously been awarded the Air Force Cross have done amazing things on the battlefield, and it is an honor to be a part of that group.”
NOW WATCH: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack
The submarine fleet will welcome two new Virginia-class fast attack subs, the USS Colorado (SSN 788) and the USS Washington (SSN 787). While new Virginia-class subs typically feature the latest and greatest tech in submarine warfare, everything from improved sensors to better acoustic camouflage, the specifics are classified for obvious reasons.
5. New night-vision goggles will let troops see thermal signatures better
R. Lee Ermey, better known as “The Gunny”, has had a very impressive film and television career following his 11 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. The former drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran acted in numerous films, hosted television shows, and is also an author. Of course, the Gunny is best known for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic film “Full Metal Jacket,” a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
If you scour his body of work closely, Ermey offers some tips that can serve as a guide to living a successful life. Here are some of them:
A decade before Ermey played a drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket,” Gunny donned the brim hat in the 1978 movie “The Boys in Company C.” During the boot camp scenes, Ermey’s character Staff Sgt. Loyce challenges one of the recruits named “Washington” to step up his game and become a leader. Loyce tells Washington he needs him to be the type of leader that fellow Marines can trust and count on in combat. His also stresses the importance of supporting his fellow comrades, not being selfish, and working as a team. He inspires the character to seek his potential as a leader.
Ermey lends his voice to the “Toy Story” animated trilogy playing “Sarge,” a leader of plastic Army men. In the first movie, Woody tells Sarge to perform a reconnaissance mission during Andy’s birthday. Woody and his fellow toys fear they will be replaced when Andy gets new toys as birthday presents. Like a loyal team player, Sarge leads his men to scope out the party and report back to Woody. When one of his fellow army men gets stepped on by Andy’s mom, Sarge refuses to leave the man behind and carries the minesweeper to safety saying “a good soldier never leaves a man behind.”
In the 2001 comedy “Saving Silverman,” Gunny plays a no-nonsense football coach who gives his players pieces of advice throughout the film. During the locker room scene, his stresses the importance of sportsmanship. He also says some other things that may not suitable for younger audiences.
4. Life-long Commitment
In his 2013 self-help book Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine, Ermey talks about being a ‘life-long’ Marine even after retiring for medical injures while in service. In the book, he says “The Marine Corps had retired me, but I kept showing up for work.”
His talks about using his celebrity status to serve his beloved Corps and his desire to contribute any chance he gets. His commitment to serve is still seen today by troops. Ermey makes numerous appearances on bases all over the world helping boost morale and motivation. In 2002, his life-long service was recognized by the Marine Corps, and he was given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.
5. Don’t give up
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to have a list about Ermey’s career without talking about “Full Metal Jacket.” However, Ermey was not originally cast to be Gunny Sgt. Hartman. During a 2009 interview, the actor talks about serving as a technical advisor for the film. He took the job to get his foot in the door in hopes to convince director Stanley Kubrick that he should be given the role. After lobbying for the job and impressing Kubrick’s ‘right-hand’ man during an interview session with movie extras where he played the Hartman character, he was offered the role.
In the interview, he said “They had already hired another actor to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, but Marines don’t just say ‘Oh’ and give up. We continue to march and we attack until we achieve our goal, and we accomplish our mission.”
6. Embrace your talent
The former Marine is definitely a typecast actor playing similar authority figures in films. Whether he is the police captain in “Seven“ or a mean boss in the horror film “Willard,” Gunny uses his acting chops, quick wit, and background to make each character unique. His willingness to harness this talent led the 72-year-old actor to a very successful career. Like Ermey, it’s important to embrace what you’re good at.
7. Don’t forget your roots
Despite working beside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and actress, Ermey seems to be very humble and doesn’t forget where he came from. To this day, Ermey’s military roots are strong and he still embraces the “Gunny” nickname, especially in his latest show on the Outdoor Channel called “Gunny Time.”
The Navy has the mission of securing American interests on the ocean, otherwise known as “most of the planet.” Here are 7 weapons that help them fight battles across the globe:
1. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile- one of the most dangerous weapons
At $569,000 apiece, Tomahawks are expensive cruise missiles that pack a huge punch. They fly at 550 mph and have a maximum range between 700 and 1350 nautical miles, depending on which version of the missile is used. They can carry either 166 bomblets, a 1,000-pound conventional warhead, or the W80 nuclear warhead with a 5-150 kt yield. The Block IV Tomahawk missiles can even be reprogrammed in flight to hit different targets.
2. MK 48 Heavyweight Torpedo
The MK 48 heavy torpedo has 650 pounds of high-explosives packed into its warhead. It can swim at 28 knots for more than 5 miles to reach its target, homing in on it with an advanced sonar system. The Mod 7 version has new sonar and guidance for better engaging targets in both deep and littoral waters while getting past enemy countermeasures.
3. Trident II Ballistic Missile
Deployed aboard Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, each Trident II can carry 14 independently-targeted nuclear warheads. The warheads can be the W76 with a yield of 100 kt or the W88 which yields a 475-kt explosion. The submarines were built to carry 24 each. The number of nuclear warheads on a Trident II was limited to eight and the number of missiles on each submarine was limited to 20 by nuclear treaties.
4. Standard Missile- There’s really nothing standard about this weapon.
The Standard Missile has a boring name but awesome capabilities. It’s a family of missiles that are primarily for shooting down planes and helicopters but can also attack ships, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. One even took out a satellite.
Currently, different missiles are needed for different missions. The SM-2 can cripple an enemy ship while the SM-3 focuses on ballistic missiles. The youngest member of the family may change that. The SM-6 has successfully engaged cruise and ballistic missiles and may be tested against surface ships in the future.
5. MK 50 Advanced lightweight torpedo
While the MK 50 is much lighter than the MK 48 above, it still hits with an impressive 100-pound warhead and can swim at a blistering 40 knots. Designed to chase down and destroy double-hulled nuclear submarines, the MK 50 was created to get past torpedo countermeasures and kill the enemy, even in shallow water. It’s one hell of a weapon.
6. Laser Weapon System
Yes, this weapon is exactly what it sounds like. Already deployed aboard the USS Ponce, the Navy’s Laser Weapon System concentrates light into a fine point, heating a target until it burns or explodes. So far, the laser has only been used in tests but the crew of the USS Ponce is allowed to use the laser to defend the ship from actual threats. The laser can fire at different targets in rapid succession. Since shots cost less than a dollar each, double-tapping is probably fine.
Like the laser above, the railgun is currently serving on only one Navy ship. The USNS Millinocket carries the prototype weapon, essentially a cannon that uses magnets instead of chemical propellents to fire a round over 110 nautical miles. Because the round is moving so fast, it can bust bunkers and other hard targets without the need for explosives. Also, the railgun is expected to be able to engage missiles, speedboats, and aircraft at a fraction of the cost of other weapons.
Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.
“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.
Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.
“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.
Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.
During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.
They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.
Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.
Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.
Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.
“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”
Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.
Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.
Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.
“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”
Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.
He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.
One of the single worst things that plagues military forces is the phenomenon known as “friendly fire.” Some instances of friendly fire have been momentous, like the time Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate troops who mistook him for a Union general.
There have been tragic, modern instances as well – like the case of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman.
This was also a problem in World War II — reference the disastrous friendly fire incident off Sicily in July, 1943. In trying to prevent these terrible instances, the Navy put forth a very unique training film, featuring the fictional “Ensign Dilbert.”
No, this isn’t the same Dilbert that’s made Scott Adams very rich, although, Adams admits that the suggestion of the name was, in fact, inspired by a Navy character. This Dilbert is, well… an idiot. A real big one. The type whose sole purpose in life is to be a warning to others.
The film was called, aptly, Don’t Kill Your Friends. In the film, the main character, training to be a fighter pilot in the Grumman F4F Wildcat, looks friendly and likable enough, but he repeatedly makes bone-headed mistakes that could get people killed. It even features one disastrous incident with a supposedly “safe” dummy cartridge, which can do some very serious harm when it falls from a fighter plane.
Check out the film below, complete with a supposedly likable “Dilbert” and the chain of disasters he causes.
There’s an unspoken creed within the military-veteran community: no veteran should ever be buried alone.
The U.S. military is a system designed to break its members of the individuality that defines Americans to create members of single team — a unit. This bond endures as veterans transition out of the service. It’s one of the defining characteristics of veteran life.
Nowhere else in life is this more true than in death. For those without family buried in Arlington Cemetery, the Arlington Ladies will make sure they aren’t alone. But Iowa-born Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz wasn’t going to Arlington and had no known family. Then, his obituary went viral.
Stoltz was 73 when he died on Nov. 18, 2018 in Bennington, Nebraska. His obituary in the Omaha World-Herald said that he had no family. Although he worked in Bennington, he spent the end of his life around medical caregivers. While it was eventually revealed that Stoltz had a brother and an ex-wife, hundreds of people who never knew the deceased came out to pay their last respects.
Unfortunately, Stoltz didn’t get to see the outpouring of respect and appreciation for his service that he and so many other Vietnam veterans sorely lacked upon returning home from the war.
“No vet deserves to die alone,” attendee Dick Harrington told WOWT-TV, the Omaha NBC affiliate. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”
Despite the frigid Nebraska weather, hundreds of people who never knew Stanley Stoltz — including many who have never met a Vietnam veteran or a veteran of any war — flooded Bennington to ensure he received the send off worthy of his service to their country.
The cemetery estimated that upwards of 2,000 people came to the funeral. The services were even delayed so stragglers to the event wouldn’t miss a moment. Traffic was backed up, bumper-to-bumper along Interstate 80 to give a final salute to a passing veteran.
The city of Gotham has a new hero: and he comes in the form of Robert Pattinson. On May 16, 2019, Variety reported that the Twilight star will play the Dark Knight in Matt Reeves’ upcoming superhero film The Batman.
According to the media outlet, “while sources say it’s not yet a done deal, Pattinson is the top choice and it’s expected to close shortly.” With rumors that Nicholas Hoult may also still be in the running, Warner Bros has yet to confirm the casting.
At 33 years old, Pattinson will be the second-youngest Batman ever, behind Christian Bale who was 31 when he played the caped crusader in Batman Begins in 2005. And while some question whether Pattinson — who started his career in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before becoming a teen heartthrob in Twilight — can handle such a dark role, others argue that his leading role in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming action film is proof that he can.
The debate over who would be the next to hold the Batman title has been going on ever since Matt Reeves, who’s best known for Planet of the Apes, took over as director for the new Batman flick following Ben Affleck’s departure from the franchise in 2017.
“I have loved the Batman story since I was a child,” Reeves told Polygon. “He is such an iconic and compelling character, and one that resonates with me deeply.” The director also explained to Gizmodo that his take on the comic will be a bit different: “It’s very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale… I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional. It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films.”
Unsurprisingly, Bat-fans have already started voicing their opinions, both for and against the all-but-confirmed casting of Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman. For longtime fans of Batman, this kind of backlash, defense, and general snarkiness is old hat.
The reality is, that every single time a new big-screen Batman is a cast, there will always be a vocal group of villains yelling about it. But, Michael Keaton was a great Batman in 1989, despite Warner Bros and DC Comics getting death threats over that casting. If anything, this role — not Cedric Diggory or Edward Cullen — could define Pattinson for years to come.
The Batman is set to be released in theaters nationwide on June 25, 2021.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The latest “X-Men” movie shows Jean Grey get taken over by a mysterious cosmic force, pitting her against the X-Men for most of the movie.
However, it’s revealed early on that Jean isn’t the only threat the X-Men need to worry about.
This is your last chance to head back before spoilers.
Early in the movie, a group of shapeshifting aliens crash on Earth to take over the planet after their home is destroyed. One of them, who we later learn is named Vuk, takes over the body of a nameless woman played by Jessica Chastain.
Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner star in “Dark Phoenix.”
(20th Century Fox)
From there, we learn Vuk is the leader of an alien race called the D’Bari. Their planet was destroyed by a cosmic force — the Phoenix — that had demolished everything in its path until it was absorbed by Jean. Once landing on Earth, the group makes a quick decision that they’re taking over Earth, ridding it of every human, and rebuilding it from scratch for themselves.
They just need to acquire the cosmic force from Jean. (Apparently, that’s a thing they can do even though it destroyed their planet and many of their people.)
Both Vuk and the D’Bari’s names are said once in all of “Dark Phoenix” and it’s easy to miss either name-drop in a quick moment. Strangely, the film doesn’t spend much time on them other than to say they’re aliens, they’re bad, and they’re coming to kill us all.
If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know that the characters are a part of the “Dark Phoenix” story line at one point. However, they’re not a group who has appeared that much in the Marvel comics. Even if you did catch their name during the movie, you may find yourself doing a quick search for more info on them after the movie because they’re a bit different from the D’Bari you may remember in the comics.
Unlike the aliens we see in “Dark Phoenix,” the D’Bari look like vegetables in the comics.
Who are the D’Bari? They’re not bad guys in the comics.
The group first debuted in the comics in a 1964 issue of “Avengers,” and is labeled as antagonists. But their most significant appearance was in 1980’s “The Uncanny X-Men” No. 135 and they definitely weren’t obsessed with taking over the Earth.
Just like the “Dark Phoenix” movie explains, they’re an alien race who are best known for having their planet destroyed. However, they can’t shapeshift and the circumstances of them losing their planet is much different in the comics. Jean Grey is responsible for killing most of the D’Bari and destroying their planet.
The D’Bari lived on a planet in the D’Bari star system, which was very similar to our own Earth. At this point, Jean Grey already had the power of the Phoenix and had just gone on a rampage against her fellow X-Men.
Power hungry, Jean Grey soars far into space out of our galaxy and into the D’Bari star system where she fuels up by depleting a star of its power. That star, very similar to our sun, gave life to the D’Bari’s home planet and quickly destroyed it. “The Uncanny X-Men” describes the D’Bari as an “ancient, peace-loving civilization.” Jean Grey wiped out five billion of them.
On Earth, Vuk went by the alias Starhammer.
And who’s Vuk?
Vux doesn’t appear in “The Uncanny X-Men” No. 135. In the comics, Vux is actually a male and he wasn’t on his home planet when it was destroyed. As a result, Vuk heads to Earth to, understandably, seek vengeance. He also cannot shape-shift.
Wait. These characters don’t look or sound anything like the ones in “Dark Phoenix.”
Yeah, we know. Other than a similar background story, the D’Bari in the comics and movie only appear to share the same name.
You know who they do sound and look a lot like? The shapeshifting D’Bari in “Dark Phoenix” remind us a lot of the shape-shifting Skrulls in “Captain Marvel.” In the Disney/Marvel movie, which was released in March, the alien race comes to Earth and transforms themselves into any one they come into contact with. Unlike the D’Bari of “Dark Phoenix,” they don’t wish to take over the planet. But their powers and design are somewhat similar.
Here’s how the Skrulls look in “Captain Marvel”:
Here are two of the Skrulls in “Captain Marvel.”
Fox hasn’t released any images of the D’Bari, yet. Chastain, who plays the D’Bari leader, told Yahoo UK at the end of May that her character changed a lot during the making of the movie, suggesting that she may not have been a D’Bari alien to begin with.
“My character changed a lot, which is an interesting thing because I’m not playing someone from the comics,” Chastain said of Vuk. “So it was always everyday trying to figure out ‘Who am I? Who is the mystery that is this character?’ And then understanding with the reshoots ‘Oh, it’s changing again.’ It was a constant evolution…. So yeah, my character changed.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
China is preparing to lock down potential oil and gas assets in the resource-rich, but hotly contested South China Sea by effectively banning exploration by countries from outside the region.
The Nikkei Asian Review reports that China, as part of a longer-term strategy that seeks to divide its South East Asian neighbors on the issue, has embedded the proposal in part of a long-awaited code of conduct for the contested waters.
Beijing’s proposal, which is helping drag out tense negotiations over the code with southeast Asian nations, is a likely deterrent targeting US oil interests from securing access to the seas claimed by a host of nearby Asian powers.
China hopes its talks with southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will bear fruit in about three years, visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in Singapore on Nov. 13, 2018.
Xinhua reports that Li said in a speech at the 44th Singapore Lecture, titled “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity (“在开放融通中共创共享繁荣”) that China reckons it would like to draw a line under talks on the COC by 2021.
According to a report in the Nikkei on Nov. 11, 2018, people close to the COC negotiations said China inserted the oil exploration ban into a working document proposal in August 2018.
With officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including US vice president Mike Pence gathering this week in Singapore, calls have grown for the language’s removal, suggesting the ban is at odds with standard international maritime laws.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)
The South China Sea is a critical commercial gateway for the world’s merchant shipping, and consequently an important economic and strategic flashpoint in the Indo-Pacific.
Moreover it is the growing focus of several complex territorial disputes that have been the cause of conflict and angst.
China, as it continues to develop its energy technologies and oil extraction infrastructure has in all likelihood inserted the latest sticking point language knowing full well that any delay suits its long-game strategy.
Knowing that a bloc of ASEAN members can and will not accept the proposal, secures China more time ahead of a finalized code of conduct while Beijing’s power in the South China Sea grows and its influence among sympathetic ASEAN nations grows.
ASEAN members are already split when it comes to making space for China and on its role in the region, particularly the South China Sea.
Cambodia and Laos have in recent years fallen further and further under Beijing’s dynamic influence as China has invested heavily in supporting public works that secure the regimes in Phnom Penh and Vientiane.
Meanwhile, firebrand Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, has enjoyed his role as a regional disrupter, at once isolating the US while hedging on Beijing.
Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.
Duterte has embraced the confusion apparent in ASEAN waters as leverage for Manila, leaving a fractured bloc at the table with US and Chinese negotiators ahead of the East Asia Summit in Singapore.
The South China Sea comprises a stretch of roughly 1.4 million square miles of Pacific Ocean encompassing an area from the strategically critical passage though Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan, spanning west of the Philippines, north of Indonesia, and east of Vietnam.
Countries as diverse and numerous as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, China are all connected to the South China Seas, which goes some way to explain the waters’ inherent dangers to regional security.
It’s quite a minefield.
The major contested island and reef formations throughout the seas are the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas, the Natuna Islands, and Scarborough Shoal.
The islands are mostly uninhabited and have never been home to or laid claim by an indigenous population, making the issue of historical sovereignty a tricky one to resolve —China for example likes to say it has historical roots to the region established sometime back in the 15th century.
But their are many other aggravating maritime and territorial factors in this increasingly dangerous part of the world.
As ASEAN’s economic intensity has continued to build under the shade of China’s decades-long economic boom, so has the waterway become a critical channel for a growing percentage of global commercial merchant shipping.
China itself still depends heavily on access through the Malacca Straits to satiate its appetite for energy and resources.
Nearby Japan and South Korea, both net importers, also depend enormously on free access to the South China Sea for unhindered shipments of fuel, resources and raw materials for both import and export.
On top of that, these are oceans rich and unregulated when it comes to natural resources. Nations like Vietnam and China furiously compete through fleets of private fishing vessels organizedwith state backing in a rush to exploit fishing grounds in dire need of governance.
Yet, the source of the most intense friction is the widely held belief that the South China Seas are home to abundant, as yet undiscovered oil and gas reserves.
China and ASEAN have been discussing changes to a 2002 declaration on the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea that would give the rules legal force.
As it stands, the declaration has proved wholly unable to stop Chinese island-building in the waters.
The Spratly Islands, where China has been reclaiming land and building strategic assets, 2016
South China Sea nations including China, Vietnam and the Philippines seek opportunities to develop the plentiful reserves of energy that the sea is thought to hold.
But with the notable exception of China, backed by its heaving state-owned behemoths, like Sinopec and CNOOC these countries independently lack well-developed oil industries.
Which is where the US enters the frame.
Beijing has obvious and probably well founded concerns that the US will seek to engage and then use joint oil development projects with ASEAN countries to build a legitimate commercial toehold and thus a greater presence in the sea.
The Nikkei Review noted that the South China Sea’s lack of clear maritime boundaries makes it a difficult place to ban oil exploration by outside countries, according to a specialist in international law.
As part of the code of conduct, China has also proposed barring outside countries from taking part in joint military exercises with ASEAN countries in the South China Sea.
ASEAN members including Singapore have not agreed to this provision, creating another obstacle to concluding the negotiations.
ASEAN is moving to strengthen ties with China, as shown by October’s first-ever joint military exercises. At the same time, the Southeast Asian bloc plans to hold naval exercises with the US as early as 2019.
Meanwhile, this week Chinese president Xi Jinping will travel to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to meet with the leaders of the eight Pacific islands that recognise China diplomatically and welcome Chinese investment.
Beijing warned no country should try to obstruct its “friendship and cooperation” with Pacific nations that have already received over billion in Chinese investment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You would think that, as NATO allies with the United Kingdom, France wouldn’t do anything to make the lives of British forces harder. Unfortunately, the French may have done just that with a small arms sale that didn’t really make much of a blip.
According to Scramble Magazine, the French sold Argentina five Dassault Super Etendard carrier-based attack planes. Now, you may wonder how this makes the life of the U.K.’s Royal Navy harder, especially since the Argentinean Navy hasn’t had a carrier since the Veinticinco de Mayo was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1997.
For that answer, we need to go back roughly 36 years, to the Falklands War, when Argentina had seized the Islands. At the time, among their potent aircraft were some newly-purchased Super Etendards, armed with the Aerospatiale AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. At the time, they had a grand total of five planes and five missiles but were waiting on delivery of several more aircraft, according to The National Interest. Despite that very limited inventory, the Super Etendards carried out two successful strikes that sank the Type 42 guided-missile destroyer, HMS Sheffield, and the merchant vessel, Atlantic Conveyor.
While the British eventually liberated the Falkland Islands from Argentina, the Etendard had left its mark.
Argentina eventually got the full delivery of 14 Super Etendards. They also, presumably, had a good stock of Exocets. But in the 1990s and 2000s, the Argentinean military got hit with budget cuts after the country’s economy suffered serious problems. The Super Etendard force had declined to a lone operational plane in 2014, according to Scramble, with nine reserves in storage.
This sale of five planes will push Argentina to a minimum of six operational planes and, if the other nine return to service, the British could once again have to prepare for a fight near the Falklands.
The NATO Alliance was originally established 68 years ago today. Political rhetoric notwithstanding, the modern alliance is currently fighting in Afghanistan while also facing down a resurgent Russia in Eastern Europe and figuring out how to stop ISIS at home and abroad. Here are 7 facts from its proud history:
1. NATO grew out of the more limited Treaty of Brussels of 1948
The Treaty of Brussels signed in 1948 established collective defense for Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The U.S. wanted a greater stake in Western European security and so began looking for a way to join an expanded version of the treaty.
2. The U.S. invited other countries into NATO to form a “bridge” across the Atlantic
America and the Brussels signatories largely agreed on the framework of what would become NATO, but one of the original sticking points was whether other countries would be allowed to join. America wanted to invite North Atlantic countries like Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, and Portugal as these countries would form a “bridge” across the Atlantic for deploying forces.
3. Both the Treaty of Brussels and the NATO Alliance were in response to Soviet aggression
After World War II, Stalin quickly began supporting pro-Soviet and pro-communist government in Eastern Europe. After a civil war in Greece, a coup in Czechoslovakia, and the Blockade of Berlin, Western European countries were increasingly worried about the USSR trying to topple their governments. They responded with the Treaty of Brussels and then the NATO treaty.
4. The NATO Alliance formed a “nuclear umbrella” over Europe
The first mention of a “massive retaliatory power” to any Soviet incursion was made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. This established a “nuclear umbrella” over NATO, the possibility that the U.S. would respond to any attack with nuclear weapons, but it wasn’t an immediately credible threat.
It wasn’t until the development of nuclear weapons like nuclear-tipped, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the implementation of practices like Operation Chrome Dome that the U.S. could truly threaten Moscow with nukes on short notice.
5. NATO had a clear nemesis in the Warsaw Pact
The increased readiness of NATO in the mid-1950s and its expansion into new countries, especially West Germany in 1955, spurred the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a sort of Soviet NATO that existed between the USSR and seven Soviet-aligned countries in Europe.
6. NATO has a science program
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1956 and the West realized it had to get serious about scientific development. This led not only to the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, (now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the U.S. but also the NATO Science Programme.
Now known as the Science for Peace and Security Programme, it provides funding, expert advice, and other support to security-relevant science and research between NATO countries and partner countries.
7. A NATO training exercise nearly triggered a nuclear war
While the relationship between the Warsaw Pact and NATO was always strained, it reached a fever pitch on a few occasions. In addition to the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis, NATO military exercises in 1983 nearly triggered an actual war.
The annual war games were focused on command post operations, but the 1983 exercise included an unprecedented 19,000 troops flying in from the U.S. and jets carrying dummy nuclear warheads on simulated attack runs. The Soviets were worried that it was actually cover for an invasion and put their own troops on nuclear high alert.