The reasons and risks behind Russia's big oil bet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

For years now, Russia has been laser-focused on insulating itself from an external economic shock.


It may have just sparked one.

In an unexpected move on March 6, Russia rejected a call by OPEC countries to further cut oil production in order to help prop up prices amid sagging global demand for energy due to the coronavirus.

The decision broke three years of cooperation under an arrangement called OPEC+ and stunned participants at a meeting in Vienna, not to mention some of Russia’s own oil executives — one suggested the move was “irrational” — and governments from the Middle East to the West.

OPEC leader Saudi Arabia swiftly responded to the snub by announcing it is no longer obliged to hold back production, causing the largest single-day drop in the price of oil in nearly three decades and sending global stock markets and the ruble tumbling. Why?

One potential answer: President Vladimir Putin wanted to punish the United States by putting severe pressure on the U.S. shale-oil industry, which has sold millions of barrels of oil while Russian companies kept production down under the existing OPEC+ agreement.

“The Kremlin had decided that propping up prices as the coronavirus ravaged energy demand would be a gift to the U.S. shale industry,” Bloomberg News reported. The acerbic spokesman for Russian state oil giant Rosneft, Mikhail Leontyev, suggested that was at least one of the motives, telling the agency: “Let’s see how American shale exploration feels under these conditions.”

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, an old and close Putin ally, has long been said to be chafing under the existing OPEC+ production limits, and was widely seen as playing a role in the decision to reject further cuts.

Some analysts played down the idea that the Kremlin was out to get U.S. shale, however, saying that Russia’s coordination with OPEC+ was fragile to begin with and that Moscow and Riyadh had different views of the current volatility on the global oil market.

Whatever the reasons, it’s a risky move for Moscow at an uncertain time.

The oil price collapse stoked by Moscow’s move and concerns about the effects of the coronavirus on a slew of industrieswill hurt Russia’s economy in the short-term, and there is no guarantee that it can knock out U.S. shale in the long run, analysts said.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

U.S. Benefits

The United States has been a beneficiary of the high prices maintained by the OPEC+ output cuts over the past few years, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia — now Number 3 — as the world’s largest oil producer.

As the coronavirus ravaged the Chinese economy and hit others around the world, slashing oil demand, Saudi Arabia lobbied for OPEC+ to cut another 1.5 million barrels at the March 6 meeting in Vienna. Russia recommended maintaining the existing cuts. OPEC+ — a 24-member group consisting of OPEC nations plus non-cartel members like Russia — first agreed to oil production cuts in 2017.

Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it would hike production sent the price of U.S. crude oil tumbling by 25 percent on March 9 to a low of a barrel. Prices gained back some of the losses on March 10 but were well under for U.S. and the global benchmark, Brent Crude.

Some U.S. shale producers have a break-even price of a barrel or above, putting them in a vulnerable position, said Chris Weafer, an energy specialist and founder of Moscow-based consultancy firm Macro-Advisory.

Oil producers in Saudi Arabia and Russia have lower production costs, enabling them to weather the price.

“There are three parties facing off against each other — Russia, Saudi, and U.S. shale — and it really is a case of who blinks first,” Weafer told RFE/RL.

Several analysts said that in the short-term, Russia is in the strongest position among those three players.

“The impact of this price crash on U.S. shale companies is going to be pretty devastating” in the short term and could result in a U.S. production decline in 2020, said Gregory Brew, a historian at Southern Methodist University in Texas focusing on energy politics and the Middle East.

Diamondback Energy, a Texas-based shale producer, announced March 9 it would immediately reduce investment following the price drop.

Russian oil companies have some insulation. They are profitable at a oil price, helped by a free-floating currency, and the budget is protected for years to come.

The Kremlin’s conservative fiscal policy over the past few years boosted foreign currency reserves to about 0 billion and driven down the price of a barrel of oil necessary to balance the budget from above 0 to below .

At the current ruble rate of nearly 75 to the dollar, the budget can balance at per barrel, said Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance in Washington.

Saudi Arabia’s budget break-even oil price is closer to and its foreign currency reserves have been declining amid a massive state spending program.

Risky Bet

Riyadh not only faces budget pressure, but potentially investor pressure to cut production to keep the market stable, Sarah Ladislaw, a senior vice president at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a March 9 note.

Riyadh recently sold shares in state oil company Saudi Aramco, raising .6 billion in the world’s largest initial public offering. The shares are now below the price the investors paid for them.

But the U.S. shale industry has shown resilience in the past and is likely to do so again, analysts said. Low oil prices lead to consolidation, which should make companies more competitive in the longer term, Brew said — the opposite of what Moscow may be angling for.

Saudi Arabia failed to achieve the goal of shuttering the U.S. shale industry several years ago: The producers improved their efficiency in response to price pressure, driving down their own production costs.

Unlike large onshore or offshore oil fields that can take years to develop, shale fields can start producing in weeks, said Rauf Mammadov, an energy analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington. And the biggest U.S. oil companies, which are less vulnerable than smaller outfits, are investing more into shale.

“It will not impact the shale industry in the long run,” Mammadov told RFE/RL.

Meanwhile, the impact of the oil price drop is being felt globally, including in Moscow.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

‘Very Unexpected, Irrational’

Russia’s already slow-growing economy could potentially contract this year if oil prices stay low for the rest of the year, said Ribakova. She previously forecast growth of more than 2 percent in 2020.

Russia is losing 0 million to 0 million a day at an oil price of rather than , said Leonid Fedun, the billionaire vice president for strategic development at Lukoil, Russia’s second-largest oil producer, which is not state-owned.

Fedun called the collapse of the Russia and OPEC+ agreement “very unexpected, irrational.”

That’s not the view at Rosneft, though. Sechin was the driver behind the Kremlin’s decision not to agree to additional cuts, Weafer said.

In June, Sechin accused the United States of using sanctions against energy-producing nations to make room for U.S. domestic production.

The United States has angered the Kremlin by imposing sanctions on Russian Baltic Sea export gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, delaying its completion indefinitely, and by slapping penalties last month sanctioned a trading arm of Rosneft for doing business in Venezuela.

In 2019, the United States supplied oil to Russia’s western neighbor Ukraine for the first time — as Kyiv seeks to reduce reliance on Moscow amid a continuing war with Russia-backed separatists in its east — while Belarus has inquired about purchasing U.S. oil as it seeks alternatives to Russian crude.

Rosneft will increase production by 300,000 barrels a day following the exit from the agreement with OPEC+, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified company officials.

Mammadov questioned the notion that Russia is targeting the U.S. shale industry.

The abundance of global supply, while largely driven by the United States, is also due to greater output from Canada, Brazil, and other non-OPEC countries, some of which have high-cost production and will be impacted, he said.

“This is more the outcome of the failure of the negotiation rather than a premeditated strategy or tactic” to crush U.S. production, Mammadov said. “There are too many global unknowns at the moment and that is the reason why Saudi Arabia and Russia could not agree on cuts.”

If the spread of the coronavirus retreats globally, leading to a pickup in economic activity and oil demand, the tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia will ease as the question of greater cuts subsides, Mammadov said.

Another factor potentially limiting the depth of the price war is the Kremlin’s determination to maintain the political influence it has achieved in the Middle East in recent years, Weafer said.

That greater influence was on display in October 2017 when Saudi Arabia’s King Salman traveled to Moscow, the first-ever visit by the nation’s leader to Russia.

“The Kremlin will want to try to get back to the negotiating table because the political relations” with Saudi Arabia are “very important,” Weafer said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

popular

6 top secret bases that changed history

Secrets are hard to keep, and secrets that require a lot of real estate are even harder to keep. Here are six examples of large-scale efforts that managed to maintain the utmost secrecy and wound up changing the course of history as a result:


1. The entire city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Photo: US Army Ed Westcott

Oak Ridge, Tennessee is now a mostly normal city that houses about 30,000 people, but it was originally established to create the nuclear bomb.

Army engineers tasked with building the infrastructure for the Manhattan Project chose the site of modern Oak Ridge and secretly created a top-secret facility with a peak population of 75,000 people. Oak Ridge was where the bulk of the nuclear material for the bombs was created.

In 1949, the site was opened to the general public and it was incorporated as a city in 1959.

2. The Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Photo: US Navy Greg Senff

Most people know Bikini Atoll, the site of many U.S. nuclear tests and the inspiration for the bikini. But Bikini Atoll was supported and largely ran by U.S. military forces at Kwajalein Atoll.

U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll still exists and sensitive operations are still conducted there, mostly missile testing and target practice.

3. Tonopah

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
F-117 Stealth Fighter (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Tonopah was a secret even among military aviators in the 1970s. Those in the know were sent to practice dogfighting against captured Soviet jets near Tonopah, Nevada.

But Tonopah had a different secret that would change military aviation. Stealth aviation was developed there and the F-117 flew many of it’s test flights from Tonopah.

READ MORE: The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

4. Area 51

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Photo: CIA.gov

If you don’t know what the cultural significance of Area 51 is, then stop lying because you definitely know what Area 51 is. The rumors around the test site spurned its own sub genre of entertainment with big movies like “Independence Day” and video games like “Area 51.”

Area 51’s military significance is that it was a testing ground for the U-2 and the SR-71 predecessor, the A-12 Oxcart. Officially, the site is named the Nevada Test and Training Range at Groom Lake.

5. Wendover Army Air Base

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Photo: Wendover Air Force Base History Office

Wendover Army Air Base was a tiny establishment when it was activated in 1942, serving primarily as a school for aviators headed to Europe.

But by 1944 a shroud of secrecy descended over the remote base with FBI agents and military police monitoring conversations and limiting movements of base personnel and their families. That’s because the base was being used to train the men who were hand-selected to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

6. Muroc Army Air Base/Edwards Air Force Base

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Photo: US Air Force

Muroc Army Air Base started as a bombing and gunnery range in the 1930s but became a proper base and school for pilots during World War II. A few years after the war, its name was changed to Edwards.

Top secret projects began at Muroc in 1942 when the Army Air Force’s first jet, the Bell P-59 Airacomet, was tested there. It also served as an early testing site for the B-29s modified to drop nuclear weapons on Japan, was the base Chuck Yeager flew from when he first broke the sound barrier, and assisted in the testing of the space shuttle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why moving Fort Campbell’s Gander Memorial Park is for the best

On this day in 1985, two-hundred and forty-eight Screaming Eagles and eight crew members were on their way home for Christmas after a six-month peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. Their plane stalled due to iced wings and crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. There were no survivors.

This horrific plane crash resulted in single largest loss of life the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has ever endured and December 12th has since been a solemn day at Fort Campbell. The citizens of Gander donated a sugar maple tree for each life lost, planting a total of 256 trees in Kentucky in their honor. The trees stand in formation, each before a plaque bearing the name of a fallen soldier. For more than thirty years, this memorial has remained in the median separating Airborne Road.

After much consideration and with an extremely heavy heart, it was decided that the memorial needed to be moved to the nearby Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

As a Screaming Eagle soldier who had to police call the park because Blue Falcons tossed litter out of their cars, I can attest to how this change will be a positive change.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula)

The sugar maples serve as a living monument in a location that’s visible to everyone. Any time you drive on or off post, you’ll see the rows of trees and be reminded of the sacrifice of those we lost. But that resting spot may not have been the best place for the memorial.

All 256 trees are nestled into a tightly-packed space that spans just 1.5 acres. Sugar maples are hardy trees, but they need plenty of room to grow. This wasn’t a concern when they were originally planted, but after thirty-three years of growth, the roots are becoming intertwined, which may cause them whiter and die. A typical sugar maple tree can live up to 400 years, but those planted in memoriam are already showing signs of weakening.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

As much as it hurts to more then, it’d be more disrespectful to the fallen to let their trees die.

(U.S. Army photo by Sam Shore)

The decision to move the memorial was not made lightly and it will require a major undertaking. All of the monuments will be moved less than a mile away in a much larger, 40-acre plot next to the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum. This will give every tree the room it needs to grow into a mighty maple that can withstand the test of time.

Trees will be excavated gently to ensure that they can be replanted successfully. The trees that don’t make it — and the trees that have already started to whither — will be replaced by new trees, again gifted by the citizens of Gander.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

All 248 soldiers who died that day were a part of the 3-502nd Infantry Regiment.

(National Archives)

The same, annual ceremony honoring the lost soldiers will still occur, just as it always has, only now it will be in a wider, more open space that doesn’t have traffic buzzing by.

In a statement to the Army Times, Col. Joseph Escandon, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 110st Airborne Division (Air Assault) said,

“We will always honor the memory of our Gander fallen. Maintaining this annual tradition at a living memorial is essential to ensuring that the memory of those lost will never be forgotten. The Gander tragedy affected not only the Fort Campbell community but countless others across the United States and Canada.”

“Every year on Dec. 12, we take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service of their nation. While we are saddened by the need for the relocation of the original memorial, one thing will not change: our commitment to honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifices of their families, friends and fellow Soldiers.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

My great uncle deployed to Vietnam when he was around 21 years old. I didn’t know about his deployment until I found out I was deploying to Afghanistan in 2009. My uncle, unlike most of the friends and family I had, knew the reality of what was coming. He had already supported me as a military service member, but when the word deployment became a part of the conversation, everything changed.

It wasn’t until my first care package from my uncle arrived that I realized how deeply our paths were connected. The care packages he sent were different from all the other care packages I received. Each one told a story. It could have been the contents of the box or the letter it contained. But no care package was sent without thought and care of what he would have liked to have opened while serving overseas. It was different from all the other care packages because he had been on the receiving end before.


One care package he sent had the book, The Pearl by John Steinbeck. The book on its own would have been nice to have something to read, but there was a story that went with it. In one care package he received from a family in Coos Bay Oregon for Christmas in 1967, he received The Pearl and read it throughout his deployment. I read it too. And sitting on my bunk in my tent, I felt a connection. That book, unlike most of the books I received, made it home with me and sits on my shelf. And every time I see it, I think of my uncle and the bond we share.

Years later after coming home I wanted to do a series for my blog focused on deployment stories. I loved reading the stories in the letters from my uncle and it inspired me to search out more stories and create a series with stories from the past and present-day wars. Not surprisingly, I was excited to include my uncle in this series. So, I sent off my questions and waited for a response. To my surprise, the response was not full of distant stories and fond memories. Instead, I could feel the hurt and pain that deployment can sometimes bring when hidden inside for years. It was something I had struggled with at times as well. Dark memories are sometimes easier to keep hidden.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

I was disappointed with his short answers, but I understood his pain. Even though I write and talk about my deployment, sometimes questions can hit me off guard and a wall can go up so fast. And so, I quickly expressed an apology for bringing up pain and thanked him for the answers I received while I also worked to change my questions to focus on the story and not the combat. I was not giving up hope that a story was there.

He responded with an apology and a chance to start again. He said he had reread his answers and realized he was blunt and grumpy. Instead of receiving one-word answers and angry responses I received pieces of history gifted to me through his words and photos. It was a treasured gift and opened my eyes to the history of the Vietnam War and the struggles and challenges he faced. You can read the full interview here.

And it may seem silly or trivial to say that one interview, one group of questions, could help someone who had been hurt so deeply from war and then by those who treated him with indifference on his way home, heal. But there is power in telling your story. There is power in bringing the darkness to light. He once told me, “Until you asked about it, it never occurred to me that anyone would be interested in my story because I made it home in one piece when so many of my buddies didn’t…”

But the story isn’t over. My uncle continues his healing journey and is signed up and waiting for his turn to attend an Honor Flight to Washington DC. He talked about the excitement, anticipation and so many other emotions of going to the Vietnam Memorial and what that trip means to him. He knows it is the next step in his journey and knows it will mean a lot to him.

I never thought my deployment experience would have such an impact on my uncle’s life. I did not realize that the path to my deployment would cause me to want to hear more stories and share more experiences with others. How many people are out there thinking no one wants to know about their experience because they came home alive? But it is through the stories of those who are still alive that we can honor the legacy of those we lost.

There is so much power in telling your story and it is part of the healing journey. It likely won’t be easy but it is so important to share.

Do you know someone who has deployed to Vietnam?

Be sensitive, open and sincere and ask them about their story. Know that they might not be ready to tell their story, but you will never know if you don’t ask. And even if you never hear their story the power of asking one question can help them realize they do have a story to share and that might just be the first step in their journey that they need.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army considering 2 cool additions to the new greens uniform

The U.S. Army is considering having paratroopers in airborne units wear World War II-style brown jump boots with the new Army Greens instead of the black boots they currently wear.

“We have discussed that; we don’t have them done yet, of course,” said Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey. “We’ve got to make prototypes and show them to [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley] for a decision.”

Since the first airborne units were formed during World War II, Army paratroopers have bloused their spit-shined jump boot in the trousers of their Class-A and Class-B uniforms.


The tradition will likely continue with the new Army Greens, Dailey said.

“The intent is to still allow the airborne soldiers to wear jump boots [with the Army Greens] and … it’s not approved yet, but the intent would be to show the chief of staff of the Army brown prototypes.”

Dailey’s comments to reporters at the Pentagon on Nov. 19, 2018, came eight days after the service announced the adoption of the Army Greens — a new Class-A/Class-B uniform designed after the iconic pinks-and-greens uniform soldiers wore during World War II.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey stands with Soldier models wearing the proposed Pink Green daily service uniform at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 9, 2017.

(US Army photo by Ron Lee)

The current blue Army Service Uniform will become the service’s optional dress uniform once the Army Greens becomes mandatory for wear in 2028.

The service plans to begin issuing the Army Greens to new soldiers in summer 2020. Soldiers will also have the option to begin buying the new uniform in summer 2020.

The new uniform will feature a green jacket, taupe-colored pants and brown leather shoes. It will be issued with a garrison cap, but soldiers are also authorized to wear the black beret, Army officials said.

There will also be an optional service cap with brown leather trim that soldiers can purchase, officials have said.

There are other optional items soldiers can purchase as well, Dailey said.

“There are a few different jackets that we are working on right now,” he said.

One of them, Dailey said, is the Eisenhower jacket or “Ike jacket,” a waist-length jacket that was popular in WWII.

“The second one is the tanker jacket, which would replace the [current] black windbreaker, and it is a greenish color,” he said. “And the last one is, which the soldiers love the most, is what we call the World War II bomber jacket, so it’s the leather jacket.

“Each one of those would be optional for wear, based upon the type of formation or the commander’s input. But if the soldier is traveling around in Class-Bs and wants to put on … a jacket to warm up, a soldier will have that option,” Dailey said.

Army officials did not say when the three optional jackets would be available for soldiers to buy.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why American submarines feared this Russian destroyer

Russian ships are often the butt of a joke. The aircraft carrier Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, for instance, has had a long history of problems. That said, during the Cold War, we didn’t know what we know now about these Soviet designs. Mysterious submarines lurked beneath the water and, to many Americans, these ships were quite scary.


One such vessel was the Soviet Navy-designed counter to American and British nuclear-powered submarines, the Udaloy-class destroyer. The need for this ship was evident – the Soviets had to protect Kiev-class carriers and Kirov-class battlecruisers from subs, which have sunk capital ships in the past. Don’t take my word for it; take a look at what happened to the JDS Kongo or the IJN Shinano.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
USS Dallas conducting training operations in 2000. (U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Jason E. Miller)

To avoid such disasters, the Soviets designed a ship that could find and kill NATO subs. The Udaloy-class destroyer was born. This vessel had some capabilities that could give an American sub commander nightmares. It weighed in at 6,700 tons, had a top speed of 29 knots, and it carried two Kamov Ka-27 “Helix” anti-submarine helicopters, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

The most noticeable feature on this vessel are the two quad launchers, fit for the SS-N-14 Silex missile. This weapon has a range of just over 34 miles, which was very crucial, as it out-ranged the torpedoes on NATO subs. These vessels could screen a Kirov or Kiev, thus ensuring that a prowling American sub couldn’t get close enough to hit the high-value hull. Udaloy-class destroyers were also equipped with two 100mm guns, eight eight-round launchers loaded with SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” missiles, a point-defense surface-to-air missile, and two CADS-N-1 close-in defense systems with 30mm cannon and eight SA-N-11 “Grison” missiles.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
The Russian Federation Navy Udaloy Class destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov passes the USS Nevada Memorial while transiting the channel into Pearl Harbor for a five-day port visit. (U. S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class William R. Goodwin.)

The Soviets built 12 of these ships, plus a modified version, the Admiral Chebanenko, outfitted with different weaponry. Only eight Udaloys are in service today, but they still give Russia a capable anti-submarine platform.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKPdxeWXFE4
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the French President praised a Nazi collaborator

With the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I just around the corner, world leaders of the war’s victorious Triple Entente powers are looking back at those who finally brought the grinding trench warfare to its bitter end. One of those was French Marshal Philippe Petain, who led France’s forces during the Great War, who halted the German advance into France at Verdun in 1916.

In fact, Petain’s role at Verdun, combined with his favor of firepower over manpower saved countless French lives throughout the war and his promotion to Commander-In-Chief may have saved France from falling out of the war entirely. It was what he did later in life that tainted his legacy.


On Wednesday, Nov. 8, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Marshal Petain for his leadership and vision during the Great War – and rightfully so. But in France, Petain will always be a controversial figure. He was the World War I hero that collaborated with the Nazis after the Fall of France. In doing so, he became the head of state of the infamous French regime based in Vichy.

His legacy is marred by his collaboration, but his memory is controversial. The once-hero is beloved by some, hated by others, but remembered by all for better or worse. President Macron touched on this when he said, “Marshal Petain was also a great soldier during World War I” despite “fatal choices during the Second World War… I pardon nothing, but I erase nothing of our history.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Petain in World War I.

World War I on the Western Front was not going well for the Entente Powers. The Germans made great gains at the beginning of the war. Petain, newly promoted to a general’s rank, was one of few French commanders who saw real success. It was at Verdun where his true genius came in to play. He kept rotating his frontline troops every two weeks instead of keeping them on the battlefield.

This gave him a reputation of being more of a soldier’s soldier than just a general commanding faceless masses of troops. That it was a more effective tactic was a great bonus.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

In the interwar years, Petain went to work for the French government and became ambassador to Fascist Spain. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, he returned to France and became a member of the government yet again. After the fall of Paris, he escaped to Bordeaux with the rest of the government. In deciding how to proceed after the fall of the French capital, the government was reshuffled and Petain became Prime Minister.

The majority opinion of the new French government called for an armistice with Nazi Germany, which was accepted. The new puppet government of France would convene at Vichy, the name that would become synonymous with collaboration in the coming years.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Henri Petain was the the leader of the new Vichy France while Paris became just another city in Hitler’s “Greater Germanic Reich.” Vichy France produced volunteers to fight alongside the Nazis, produced war materials, and even ordered overseas possessions to fight Allied forces.

France was, of course, eventually liberated and, after the war’s end, General Charles DeGaulle became head of the new French provisional government. Petain was put on trial for treason, convicted, and stripped of all military rank and title, save for one – Marshal of France. Imprisoned in the Pyrenees Mountains, Petain’s health began to steadily decline until he died in 1951.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban promises it won’t harbor terrorists anymore

It’s a well-known fact that the United States and the Taliban are at the negotiating table, hammering out the groundwork for peace after some 18 years of constant conflict. The U.S. first went to war in Afghanistan to defeat the al-Qaeda terrorist fighters the Taliban refused to give up in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on American soil.

The Taliban swears it would never again harbor terrorists.


In 2001, the Taliban were the recognized rulers of Afghanistan and had been since the early 1990s – for better or for worse. Until that point, the worst crimes committed by the Taliban were on Afghanistan’s female population and the cultural history of the region. During that ten-year span, Osama bin Laden and his followers established bases and training camps in the Taliban’s backyard, and the Afghan rulers did little about it. After Sept. 11, the United States began bombing the country in earnest.

Afghanistan’s leadership demanded evidence of bin Laden’s guilt while demanding the United States stop bombing their country. Then-President George W. Bush said the bombing was non-negotiable until the Taliban handed over the terrorist leader. The Taliban refused, but that didn’t matter – U.S. special operators were already in the country by that time. The rest is history.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Nearly two decades later, Zalmay Khalilzad an Afghan-American diplomat who represents the United States at the negotiating table, is content with the Taliban’s assertion that they would never allow Afghanistan to return to its former status as a “hotbed” for international terrorism.

“The world needs to be sure that Afghanistan will not be a threat to the international community,” said Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. “We are satisfied with the commitment that we have received on counterterrorism.”

Not everyone agrees, including U.S. lawmakers, Afghan government officials, and even the UN Security Council who, as late as 2018, declared that al-Qaeda militants were still very much embedded within the Taliban command structure, along with other terror groups, operating forces numbering into the thousands.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

For Khalilzad, the U.S. military’s withdrawal can only be linked to the promises of the Taliban. The Taliban promised the counterterrorism guarantees will be written into its laws as soon as the United States leaves Afghanistan. The State Department is also working on ways to verify Taliban compliance with the agreement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the British plan to kill Erwin Rommel before D-Day

Very few enemy generals have captured the imagination of their foes. And of those, none seem to be as interesting as Nazi German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. He was Hitler’s favorite and Patton’s “Magnificent Bastard” at the same time. Perhaps it’s because he never joined the Nazi Party that history gives the bold commander a reprieve or maybe it’s because he was implicated in a late war plot to assassinate Hitler.

No matter what the basis our fascination for the man was, the fact remained that he was a German Field Marshall and the best hope for keeping the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe at bay. He had to go.


To this end, the British hatched Operation Gaff, the plot to kill or capture Rommel behind enemy lines while he was in occupied France. Rommel was posted in France following the Allied victory in North Africa. Though his vaunted Afrika Corps had to evacuate those battlefields, Rommel still returned to Germany with a hero’s welcome. He would soon be posted in France, where he seriously upgraded the coastal defenses that would give the Allies so much trouble on June 6, 1944.

British Intelligence learned that Rommel’s field headquarters was located in La Roche-Guyon, France, the Special Air Service launched its plan. Six commandos parachuted into Occupied France near Orleans on July 25, 1944. They were to track down Rommel at his headquarters building, which they learned was lightly defended. There was just one problem.

Rommel was gone.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

The Field Marshall was severely wounded in a car accident just a few days before the launch of Gaff. His staff car was overturned during strafing runs from two British Typhoon fighter planes. Just like a similar plan to kill Rommel in North Africa in 1941, the plot was foiled because Rommel was not in his house as the plan called for. But unlike in the 1941 plan, the commandos sent to kill Rommel in 1944, the commandos of Gaff didn’t just end their mission, they began the long walk back to the Allied lines. Along the way, the wreaked total havoc.

Their first stop was a train station that was ferrying troops to fight the Americans in France. They demolished the tracks at the station with way more explosives than necessary. Once the sabotage was done and German troops were dealing with the aftermath, the commandos engaged the HQ building, clearing it of its 12 Nazi guards. They then moved on from that station, destroying tracks all along the way until they were able to link up with the American forces.

Rommel didn’t live long, however.

The German general, of course, would be implicated by friends in the Valkyrie plot to kill Hitler at a military briefing at his Wolf’s Lair headquarters five full days before the SAS commandos ever landed in Europe. The wildly popular Rommel couldn’t just be branded as a traitor, so Hitler gave him the choice to commit suicide or stand before the People’s Court. The Court would have dragged his family through the mud, and the outcome would be the same, so Rommel chose to take cyanide on Oct. 14, 1944.

If Rommel had stayed in France instead, he would likely have been captured by the Americans and survived the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

The Navy is a tradition-bound military service, and few traditions are as important as burials at sea.


Perhaps the most unique services in the fleet occur on board submarines that spend the majority of their time under water. Submarine Force Atlantic says it is preparing for burials at sea on several Norfolk-based subs in the next few months.

One of those burials will be for World War II submarine veteran Marcus White, who served on seven war patrols in the Pacific theater during World War II and the Korean War, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device for valor, signifying it was earned in combat.

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Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN

White died in June at age 95. The USS Newport News, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, will commit him and his wife Mary Miles White, who died seven years earlier, to the sea sometime next year. White’s son, Marcus White Jr., lives in Chesapeake and said his father loved being a submariner, and that he’s fulfilling his father’s wishes. The Navy allows active-duty sailors, veterans and their family members to be buried at sea.

The chaplain for the Navy’s Norfolk-based submarine squadron, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Smothers, spoke with The Virginian-Pilot about what makes burial ceremonies on board subs unique and special for those who choose them.

Releasing of cremains

Unlike larger ships such as aircraft carriers that can accommodate caskets, all submarine burials at sea involve cremains. They also must occur at least 3 miles from shore.

Smothers said burials at sea aboard a sub primarily occur in two ways. If the weather is fair, a sub will surface, stop moving and conduct a ceremony topside that involves raising a flag the family can keep, reading any scriptures the family requests and firing a 21-gun salute with seven rifles. A member of the crew will then pour the ashes overboard. Chaplains don’t serve on board subs, and the service is usually led by a lay leader on the boat.

Smothers said the sub’s commanding officer will usually address the crew from an onboard communications system so everyone can learn about the person who was committed to the deep. If the weather isn’t good enough to allow for a full topside ceremony, the cremains can be poured overboard in a smaller ceremony from a ship’s sail, the tall structure found on the topside of the sub.

The other option involves releasing ashes underwater through a torpedo tube while the sub is still moving. Smothers said this is a popular option among those who served as torpedomen.

“I know it sounds amazing or strange, but it does happen, and it can be done very honorably, very respectfully,” he said.

Smothers said the crew will clean the torpedo tube’s surface and place the cremains inside. After the burial, the family will usually receive a letter of condolence and appreciation from the sub’s commanding officer and a chart showing the GPS coordinates where the cremains were released.

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A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

Custody of the fallen

The Navy accommodates requests for burials at sea when it can, but it’s not always a speedy process. A ship’s operational schedule takes priority, and it can be months between the time a request is made and the time the burial occurs. In White’s case, that also allowed for a traditional memorial service long before his cremains were set to sail from Norfolk.

For a burial at sea on board a Norfolk-based sub, Smothers said a family will first provide their loved one’s cremains to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. A religious program specialist in the submarine force will then take custody of the cremains and examine sub schedules to find the best fit.

If former submariners spent most of their time in a certain home port such as Groton, Conn., or Kings Bay, Ga., they’ll try to find a sub based there. Otherwise, they’ll find the best available schedule. Sometimes family members will be allowed onto Naval Station Norfolk or another base to watch the sub carrying their loved one’s remains depart, which is a rare occurrence for an outsider to know when a sub is departing.

Also Read: The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Smothers said a religious program specialist will go aboard the sub with the cremains and transfer it to either the executive officer or chief of the boat, where they will be safely locked away in a state room until the burial. Smothers said the Norfolk squadron typically performs about a dozen burials at sea a year.

Crew connection

The submarine force is a small, tight-knit, all-volunteer community that places a premium on valuing tradition and respecting their forerunners. In some cases, subs will perform a burial at sea where a sub sank so a former submariner can be committed to the deep with some of his former crew members or the sub where he served.

Smothers also said it’s not uncommon for family members to request that someone who holds the same job their loved one did participate in the ceremony.

“I think burials at sea, that’s one of the ways we not only just honor those families and their service, but we reactivate our commitment and our appreciation for serving,” Smothers said. “It’s a real privilege to be a part of. … Every sub that’s ever been part of a burial at sea has thanked us and said, ‘Hey, we appreciate being able to do this.’ It’s an honor.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy doesn’t use these small boats with a big punch

Back in World War II, patrol torpedo, or PT, boats were the scourge of the Japanese Navy. These vessels were so small, they weren’t even measured in tons, but rather by feet. The Elco PT boat was 80 feet long, and the Higgins PT boat was 78.


Many were discarded after World War II, but the Soviet Union, China, and some NATO allies brought the concept back, this time equipping them with anti-ship missiles, like the MM38/MM40 Exocet, the Penguin, and the SS-N-2 Styx.

In the 1980s, the United States got into the game with the Pegasus-class hydrofoil.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
The patrol combatant missile hydrofoils USS AQUILA (PHM 4), front, and USS GEMINI (PHM 6), center, lie tied up in port with a third PHM. The Coast Guard surface effect ship (SES) cutter USCGC SHEARWATER (WSES 3) is in the background. (US Navy photo)

The Pegasus was all of 255 tons, according to the Federation of American Scientists. It carried some serious firepower, though: A single 76mm gun, like those used on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (and later, the Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters) forward and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. That’s a lot more than what you see on today’s Littoral Combat Ships.

The Navy bought six of these vessels and based them at Key West, Florida. There, they helped keep an eye on Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and pitched in to fight the War on Drugs. With a top speed in excess of 45 knots, these boats could chase down just about anything on the waves, and their firepower gave them a good chance of defeating any vessel the Cuban Navy could throw at them. That said, these vessels were expensive to operate and suffered from short range.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
USS Aries (PHM 5), the only survivor of the six missile-armed hydrofoils the Navy operated in the 1980s. (US Navy photo)

With the end of the Cold War, the PHMs were among the many assets retired. All six were retired on July 30, 1993. Four of the vessels were scrapped immediately. A fifth, USS Gemini (PHM 6), became a yacht for a brief time before she went to the scrapyard. The lone surviving vessel in this class is the former USS Aries (PHM 5), which is slated to become part of a hydrofoil museum.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the world’s two biggest countries may soon be in conflict

At the end of August, 2017, India and China backed away from a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau, high in the eastern Himalayas.

In the year since, both sides have sought to mend ties, especially after a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in April, 2018.

The two countries are engaged in a kind of “recalibration” of their relationship, even though deeper-rooted issues that divide them persist, according to Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia analyst at geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor.


The appointment of Vijay Gokhale, who was ambassador to China during the Doklam crisis and helped resolve the dispute, to foreign secretary was “an indication that India wants to take … a less confrontational posture,” Pervaiz said.

China, too, has come to believe it needs “a bit more calm” with its neighbors, including India, in part because of contentious relations with the US, Pervaiz added, though he stressed that Beijing’s change in thinking was likely temporary. China has also made overtures to India about a potential partnership in trade disputes with the US.

In October 2018, New Delhi and Beijing launched a joint program to train Afghan diplomats, and China’s ambassador to the country predicted more cooperation there in the future. In late October 2018, they are to sign a long-discussed internal-security agreement expected to cover cooperation on intelligence sharing, disaster mitigation, and other issues.

Despite the apparent rapprochement, the two countries are keeping a close eye on each other.

While India has largely pulled back from positions it took during the Doklam standoff, imagery reviewed by Stratfor in January 2018 showed that in late 2017 and early 2018, Delhi increased its deployments of combat aircraft to bases near the disputed area.

Those images showed even more activity around Chinese bases in Tibet, north of the disputed area, including airfield upgrades and a large aircraft presence. (China puts more assets at those bases because it does not have bases closer to the border area.)

In October 2018, officials told Hindustan Times that Delhi was concerned about construction at the Chinese air base in Lhasa, which included bomb-proof bunkers for aircraft and expanded surface-to-air missile batteries.

“You need blast- or bomb-proof hangars for fighters only if there is a possibility of hostilities,” one official said.

Any activity with military hardware or other assets that could have military applications around the eastern end of India and China’s shared border was likely to attract scrutiny, Pervaiz said.”

If you are India or China and you are seeing any sort of moves that either military is making, you view that almost through the lens of paranoia — that if you’re making that move, how can that be used against us in a potential conflict?” he told Business Insider.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

The Doklam Plateau

(Google Maps)

The Doklam Plateau sits at the southern edge of the Himalayan mountain range, where the elevation is on average close to 15,000 feet. High altitudes and rough terrain put considerable limitations on military operations.

While the higher elevation gives China an advantage in surveillance and physiological acclimatization, lower air density hinders jet aircraft engines and limits the weaponry and fuel that aircraft can carry. China’s air force is larger than India’s, but it only has five air bases in Tibet — though upgrades at the Lhasa base described by Hindustan Times include special helicopter bases that allow them to take off and land with full payloads.

India’s air power in the region would offer it some advantages. Indian air bases, including those that received more aircraft in 2018, are closer to the area in question than China’s bases. India counts 20 air bases within range of the Line of Actual Control, which separates Indian- and Chinese-claimed territory.

India has also also practiced with transport planes at forward landing areas in the region.

But China’s air defenses are more effective and reliable than India’s. And China has more artillery that can fire farther and is more mobile.

Thin air at higher elevations hinders traditional rocket propulsion, but Chinese officials claimed in August 2018 they were progressing on a type of electromagnetic propulsion that would give rocket artillery longer range and more accuracy.

Both countries can be expected to use land-attack cruise missiles — the Indian Su-30MKI jets deployed to the area are capable of firing India’s Brahmos missile. But China has a larger inventory of them, and the paucity of Chinese targets in the area north of the border would likely mean Beijing would have the edge.

Much of the fighting in a conflict around Doklam would likely be done on the ground, even though the terrain would limit quick strikes and mass movement of troops.

Both countries are among the most largest militaries in the world. China’s 2.1 million active-duty troops are far more than India’s 1.3 million, though Indian troops may bring more experience to bear.

Indian fought its last war, with Pakistan, in 1999 and has been involved in sporatic clashes with Pakistan, as well as counterterror and counter-insurgency operations for years. (Delhi was developing a special Mountain Strike Corps for the northern border, but it was shelved in summer 2018.)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

An Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI

(Aeroprints.com)

China fought its last war in 1979 — a three-week incursion into Vietnam that ended with China’s withdrawal, though both sides claimed victory. Xi has ordered China’s military to increase readiness and launched reforms to the force.

Along the Line of Actual Control, however, China may gain an edge through superior command, control, and communications and through its unified command structure in the region, whereas India divides the region among three combatant commands.

India is aware that it would likely lose a military confrontation with China, Pervaiz said, as it did in 1962. (Mao later said China invaded essentially to teach India a lesson.)

A conflict now is not in the interest of either country, he added, but “they both are going to continue to sharpen their capabilities in the event that there ever is a conflict [in order] to be able to fight and execute on that conflict, no doubt about it.”

Since the end of the Doklam standoff, China has kept the assets it deployed there — tents, bunkers, and vehicles, Pervaiz said — in place, even as Indian forces withdrew.

Questioned about that change in parliament in 2018, the Indian Defense Ministry tacitly admitted “China has actually altered those facts on the ground” and India had to accept the change, Pervaiz said.

India too has pursued a longer-term shift in its strategy toward the disputed border.

Delhi tried to minimize the number of roads in the border area after the 1962 war in order to deprive future enemies of transportation routes.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment (left) and Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade (right)

Since the 1990s, however, India has switched to what Pervaiz called “an offensive-defense posture, meaning that we’re not just going to deny the Chinese access to roads in our region. We’re actually going to start building more roads and infrastructure so that our military can be better positioned.”

Amid the recalibration, the broader strategic issues driving tensions between India and China — the border dispute or China’s partnership with India’s rival, Pakistan — have not dissipated, suggesting the current period is one in which both sides are trying to manage their disputes, which Pervaiz analogized to treating a chronic illness.

“It may be that the physician says that you’re not going to get rid of this,” he said. “This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life, but we can manage it … and then the symptoms can stay under control.”

Even though neither side sees conflict as in their interest, deep-seated disputes that persist raise the chances one may occur.

“In the long run, because the strategic drivers are still there, and they’re building up their assets, the roads, the bunkers,” Pervaiz said, “that that does mean in the future, there’s actually a heightened probability there’s going to be some sort of confrontation, even if it’s a small one.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Everything is on the table but Crimea’ at the Trump-Putin summit

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to searching for compromises with his U.S. counterpart on “all” issues except the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which Moscow claims is part of Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments on July 2, 2018, ahead of a planned summit between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Peskov said on a conference call with reporters that Putin “stated multiple times and explained to his interlocutors that such an item as Crimea can never appear on the agenda, considering that Crimea is an integral part of Russia.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
President Donald Trump

“All the rest are matters [subject to] consensus, discussion, and a search for possible points of contact,” he added.

Trump, asked on June 29, 2018, whether reports about him dropping Washington’s opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea were true, said, “We’re going to have to see.”

White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, later ruled out the possibility of abandoning Washington’s opposition to the takeover.

“That’s not the position of the United States,” he told CBS on July 1, 2018.

The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions against Russia over actions including its seizure of Crimea and its role in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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