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.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force tests nuclear bomb that can penetrate fortified bunkers

The Air Force’s B-2 Stealth bomber has test-dropped an upgraded, multi-function B61-12 nuclear bomb which improves accuracy, integrates various attack options into a single bomb, and changes the strategic landscape with regard to nuclear weapons mission possibilities.

Early summer 2018, the Air Force dropped a B61-12 nuclear weapon from a B-2 at Nellis AFB, marking a new developmental flight test phase for the upgraded bomb, Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin told Warrior Maven.


“The updated weapon will include improved safety, security and reliability,” Cronin said.

The B61-12 adds substantial new levels of precision targeting and consolidates several different kinds of attack options into a single weapon. Instead of needing separate variants of the weapon for different functions, the B61-12 by itself allows for earth-penetrating attacks, low-yield strikes, high-yield attacks, above surface detonation, and bunker-buster options.

The latest version of the B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, which has origins as far back as the 1960s, is engineered as a low-to-medium yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon, according to nuclearweaponsarchive.org, which also states the weapon has a “two-stage” radiation implosion design.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

B61 Thermonuclear Bomb.

“The main advantage of the B61-12 is that it packs all the gravity bomb capabilities against all the targeting scenarios into one bomb. That spans from very low-yield tactical “clean” use with low fallout to more dirty attacks against underground targets,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.

Air Force officials describe this, in part, by referring to the upgraded B61-12 as having an “All Up Round.”

“The flight test accomplished dedicated B61-12 developmental test requirements and “All Up Round” system level integration testing on the B-2,” Cronin said.

The B61 Mod 12 is engineered with a special “Tail Subassembly” to give the bomb increased accuracy, giving a new level of precision targeting using Inertial Navigation Systems, Kristensen said.

“Right now the B-2 carries only B61-7 (10-360 kt), B61-11(400 kt, earth-penetrator), and B83-1 (high-yield bunker-buster). The B61-12 covers all of those missions, with less radioactive fallout, plus very low-yield attacks,” he added.

The evidence that the B61-12 can penetrate below the surface has significant implications for the types of targets that can be held at risk with the bomb.

By bringing an “earth-penetrating” component, the B61-12 vastly increases the target scope or envelope of attack. It can enable more narrowly targeted or pinpointed strikes at high-value targets underground – without causing anywhere near the same level of devastation above ground or across a wider area.

“A nuclear weapon that detonates after penetrating the earth more efficiently transmits its explosive energy to the ground, thus is more effective at destroying deeply buried targets for a given nuclear yield. A detonation above ground, in contrast, results in a larger fraction of the explosive energy bouncing off the surface,” Kristensen explained.

Massive B-2 Upgrade

The testing and integration of the B61-12 is one piece of a massive, fleet-wide B-2 upgrade designed to sustain the bomber into coming years, until large numbers of the emerging B-21 Raider are available. A range of technical modifications are also intended to prepare the 1980s-era bomber for very sophisticated, high-end modern threats.

The B-2 is getting improved digital weapons integration, new computer processing power reported to be 1,000-times faster than existing systems and next-generation sensors designed to help the aircraft avoid enemy air defenses.

One of the effort’s key modifications is designed to improve what’s called the bomber’s Defensive Management System, a technology designed to help the B-2 recognize and elude enemy air defenses, using various antennas, receivers and display processors.

The Defensive Management System is to detect signals or “signatures” emitting from ground-based anti-aircraft weapons, Air Force officials have said. Current improvements to the technology are described by Air Force developers as “the most extensive modification effort that the B-2 has attempted.”

The modernized system, called a B-2 “DMS-M” unit, consists of a replacement of legacy DMS subsystems so that the aircraft can be effective against the newest and most lethal enemy air defenses. The upgraded system integrates a suite of antennas, receivers, and displays that provide real-time intelligence information to aircrew, service officials said.

Upgrades consist of improved antennas with advanced digital electronic support measures, or ESMs along with software components designed to integrate new technologies with existing B-2 avionics, according to an Operational Test Evaluation report from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The idea of the upgrade is, among other things, to inform B-2 crews about the location of enemy air defenses so that they can avoid or maneuver around high-risk areas where the aircraft is more likely to be detected or targeted. The DMS-M is used to detect radar emissions from air defenses and provide B-2 air crews with faster mission planning information — while in-flight.

Air Force officials explain that while many of the details of the upgraded DMS-M unit are not available for security reasons, the improved system does allow the stealthy B-2 to operate more successfully in more high-threat, high-tech environments — referred to by Air Force strategists as highly “contested environments.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Many experts have explained that 1980s stealth technology is known to be less effective against the best-made current and emerging air defenses — newer, more integrated systems use faster processors, digital networking and a wider-range of detection frequencies.

The DMS-M upgrade does not in any way diminish the stealth properties of the aircraft, meaning it does not alter the contours of the fuselage or change the heat signature to a degree that it would make the bomber more susceptible to enemy radar, developers said.

Many advanced air defenses use X-band radar, a high-frequency, short-wavelength signal able to deliver a high-resolution imaging radar such as that for targeting. S-band frequency, which operates from 2 to 4 GHz, is another is also used by many air defenses, among other frequencies.

X-band radar operates from 8 to 12 GHz, Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, sends forward and electromagnetic “ping” before analyzing the return signal to determine shape, speed, size, and location of an enemy threat. SAR paints a rendering of sorts of a given target area. X-band provides both precision tracking as well as horizon scans or searches. Stealth technology, therefore, uses certain contour configurations and radar-absorbing coating materials to confuse or thwart electromagnetic signals from air defenses

These techniques are, in many cases, engineered to work in tandem with IR (infrared) suppressors used to minimize or remove a “heat” signature detectable by air defenses’ IR radar sensors. Heat coming from the exhaust or engine of an aircraft can provide air defense systems with indication that an aircraft is operating overhead. These stealth technologies are intended to allow a stealth bomber to generate little or no return radar signal, giving air dense operators an incomplete, non-existent or inaccurate representation of an object flying overhead.

Also, the B-2 is slated to fly alongside the services’ emerging B-21 Raider next-generation stealth bomber; this platform, to be ready in the mid-2020s, is said by many Air Force developers to include a new generation of stealth technologies vastly expanding the current operational ranges and abilities of existing stealth bombers. In fact, Air Force leaders have said that the B-21 will be able to hold any target in the world at risk, anytime.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia — before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

Featured image: A B-2 Spirit dropping Mk.82 bombs into the Pacific Ocean in a 1994 training exercise off Point Mugu, California, near Point Mugu State Park.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Zippo lighter became an iconic symbol of the American warfighter

When the U.S. military entered World War II, American businesses geared their entrepreneurial efforts toward supporting the war effort as a means of survival. This meant the majority of raw materials were used to produce weapons, ammunition, armor, aircraft, and other necessary equipment. Zippo Manufacturing Company had a decade of experience selling their flip-open lighters to the consumer market, but during the war they exclusively produced Zippo lighters for American service members.

The classic Zippo design garnered respect among the millions of Americans serving overseas. These steel-cased lighters had a black crackle finish and no customization, engravings, or art work on them but were durable and could function no matter what elements troops found themselves in. An ad in 1942 wrote, “Zippo Windproof LIGHTERS have acted as rescue beacons for men in open boats, as a guide through dense dark jungles and as a means for lighting fires for food and warmth.”


Ernie Pyle, a famous war correspondent and newspaperman, developed a special relationship with George Blaisdell and personally received a shipment of 50 Zippos prior to the D-Day invasion. “And another 100 will be sent to Ernie every month for the duration,” Blaisdell added.

Pyle famously penned a letter to Blaisdell on Oct. 29, 1944: “If I tried to tell you how much these Zippos are coveted at the front and the gratitude and delight with which the boys receive them, you would probably accuse me of exaggeration,” he wrote. “There is truly nothing the average soldier would rather have.”

Following Pyle’s tragic death in the Pacific in 1945, Blaisdell immediately sent 600 Zippo lighters engraved with “In memory of Ernie Pyle” to the captain of the USS Cabot to hand out to the crew who counted Pyle as one of their own.

Post-World War II, the increasingly popular Zippo lighters became available to the general public once again. The connection between Zippo and the U.S. military didn’t stop there, and during the Vietnam War Zippo emerged as the most popular item carried in the pockets of American service members. Unlike the cigarette lighters from previous wars, these Zippos were personal mementos specifically customized with unit logos, maps of Vietnam, and both humorous and crude slogans.

“You had people who were discontent people who wanted to express heartfelt emotions,” said Bradford Edwards, a Vietnam-era Zippo collector and artist. “And here was a small canvas that may be the last thing some of these guys had to say.”

One soldier’s Zippo had the logo for the United States Army Air Defense Center in Fort Bliss, Texas, on the front, while the lid reads, “When I die bury me face down so the whole world can kiss my ass.” On the back, the case reads, “5th Special Forces Group – 1st Special Forces Viet Nam 69-70” with an engraving of a U.S. Army Special Forces green beret. The lid reads, “Nha-Trang Viet Nam.”

During the Vietnam War, Zippos were sold at the PX or by locals operating the street side black markets. Their popularity in wartime culture surged with “Zippo Tracks” being adopted as a nickname for flame throwing tanks, and “Zippo Raids” used to describe the actions of soldiers burning down hooches or villages.

Although Zippo remained a treasured collector’s item, during the 1980s a surge of fake lighters saturated the market. Zippo continues to produce military-themed lighters to commemorate their storied legacy, although the artwork is more general. The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania, is home to Zippo and Case Knives flagship stores, where collectors and tourists alike can take a deeper dive into the history of Zippo and their involvement with American service members.

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

Military Life

Why the Army cutting out BS training was inevitable

A recent decision by the Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, has been met with universal praise: No more stupid, mandatory training programs!

In fairness to the now-defunct online classes, yes, Soldiers should be aware of the risks inherent in traveling, the dangers of misusing social media, and that human trafficking is still a concern in 2018. But did the process of taking a four-day pass really need to include a mandatory class about why seat belts are important? Probably not.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
I’m just saying, take one roll-over training class and you’ll never again drive without a seat belt.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

In his April 13th, 2018, memo, Secretary Mark Esper wrote,

“Mandatory training will not have a prescribed duration for conducting the training. All mandatory training must have alternative methods of delivery which do not require the use of an automated system or project system.”

To be clear, his decision is not cancelling all military training — that’d be ridiculous. It’s just stopping the online classes that are, essentially, glorified PowerPoint presentations. These are the classes that need to get done just so a box is checked, regardless of whether a troop actually learned the lesson or not.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
And everyone except the over-zealous Butterbar knows PowerPoints should be on the chopping block next.
(Photo by Sgt. Ashland Ferguson)

So, let’s break this down to a boots-on-ground level for a regular private first class trying to see his or her family over leave. According to older standards, the Soldier would have to log on the website, click “Next” repeatedly until they reach the end, and hope they can get at least a 60% on the final quiz.

Now, the responsibility is back in the hands of the NCOs. If a sergeant feels the need to break down, Barney-style, why a wearing a seat belt reduces crash-related injuries and deaths by about half, then it’s on them. If they don’t feel the need to re-explain obvious traffic laws, they can instead spend the two hours that would otherwise been used on clicking “Next” for, you know, actual military training.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The power of hope and determination

Never say “all.”

If 36 years in the Army hadn’t taught me that, then the culmination of the first two weeks of my job as the City Manager of Panama City, Florida certainly did. From Iraq to Afghanistan to posts across the U.S., I have been extremely fortunate to serve our country as an officer in the U.S. military – and thought I’d seen it all.

I was wrong.


With an impact like a hammer on a plate glass window, Category 5 Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018, with a force not seen since Hurricane Andrew leveled parts of South Florida 26 years earlier. And although I had accepted my new job in February – the city gave me a grace period so that I could finish my service in the Army, conclude a civilian job as a church business administrator, and donate a kidney to one of my fellow parishioners – nothing prepared any of us for this hurricane and its brutal aftermath.

Yet, even as the clouds parted and the enormity of the challenge ahead became clear, so too did the community’s resolve to take control of its future. Devastated as the city was, the sense of inspiration to rebuild Panama City with renewed opportunities for all was palatable.

From the outset, we adopted twin fundamental tenets: we would surpass the pre-storm status quo, and this initiative would only be successful if it was truly driven from the “bottom up” and not dictated from the “top down.” And every undertaking had to deliver tangible benefits to improve the safety and security, quality of life, vital infrastructure, and/or economy of the newly reimagined Panama City.

The series of citizen-driven public events we kicked-off in June 2019 to shape anew the city’s historic downtown and waterfront are perfectly illustrative of this effort. Neglected over the years, there was now a once-in-a-century blank canvass on which everyone in Panama City could paint. Embracing this opportunity, hundreds of neighbors joined the design teams to ideate around their vision, join the process via open microphone sessions, surveys, and hands-on work with maps to render a key part of the blueprint for a new Panama City. Earlier this year, we (virtually) staged additional events across other equally historic neighborhoods within the city.

Often, the simplest of statistics brings definition to particularly important, albeit unglamorous, accomplishments. As a case in point, in the 18 months following the storm we removed the equivalent of 40 years’ worth of debris (3.9 million-plus cubic yards) mostly in the form of downed trees and limbs, compared to a pre-hurricane average annual collection of 100,000 cubic yards per year.

Indeed, there is nothing more foundational to rebuilding a community than housing. I am especially proud of the almost million we secured in State funding to establish the ReHouse Bay initiative to help Panama City and Bay County residents secure affordable housing. With direct financial assistance of up to ,000 for down payments and closing costs, to repair and recovery aid, to help preventing foreclosure and short-term mortgage assistance, to short-term rental assistance, these programs are key to the city’s long-term vibrance and resolution to its acute shortage of housing stock. This effort has already provided help to more than 300 applicants, with hundreds more in the pipeline – and more than 5,000 houses currently in development or under construction.

Equally important, we’ve seen a surge in economic opportunities for our residents. Post hurricane, we have supported the opening of 436 new businesses, for a total of 3,288 – which is 171 more than existed before the storm.

With companies from Suzuki Marina Technical Center to Clark and Son Inc. moving to Panama City, existing employers like Eastern Shipbuilding expanding, Verizon inaugurating 5G service (making the city one of the first in the country equipped with this high-speed service), and the St. Joe Company announcing a long-term land lease to bring a new hotel and restaurant to the historic downtown waterfront district, the city’s growth is only accelerating.

For those who ask, “are we done yet?” – the answer is an unequivocal “not by a long shot.” Two years on from the storm, our community’s steadfast joy of hope for a better and brighter future simply wouldn’t permit this collective commitment to stall. Not even for a moment. We press on to become the Premier City in the Florida Panhandle.

Mark McQueen is the City Manager in Panama City, Florida. Prior to his service with the City, he spent 36 years with the U.S Army, retiring as an Army Major General.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The differences between flying for the Marine Corps and the Air Force

For anyone who’s been in the military, it goes without saying that being in the Air Force and being in the Marine Corps are two very different ways of life. This extends from enlisted troops all the way to the pilots flying in the skies above any active battlespace.


And it goes well beyond physical fitness standards.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A fact which totally earns a thumbs up from the USAF.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

In the Air Force, once a pilot is finished training, he or she is a full-fledged pilot, who still might train in other areas outside of their chosen aircraft, be it helicopters, fighters, bombers, etc. The investment the Air Force puts into training its officers to fly means those pilots are going to be flying as much as the USAF can safely force them to. As company-grade officers, they’re pretty much going to live in the wild blue yonder. As they advance in rank and skill, however, they will slowly be moved to more administrative and management positions, staff jobs, or even instructors. If they want, they might even get a chance to chew some dirt as an air liaison officer.

The life of a Marine Corps officer is much, much different.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Which goes beyond just the uniform, which is admittedly much cooler.

Anyone reading this site probably knows the saying “every Marine is a rifleman.” That goes for Marine Corps officers, too. But USMC pilots must also graduate from the Marine Corps Basic Officers Course so they can learn to command platoons of Marine Corps riflemen – and that’s before they ever become naval aviators.

It’s important to know that Marine pilots are trained as all Marine Corps officers are trained and that they’re also trained as all naval aviators are trained. They take the same training as infantry officers and as naval aviators. As if that wasn’t enough work, the Marine Corps doesn’t wait for officers of Marines to grow in rank before assigning them extra duties around the unit or a duty outside of flying altogether. This means the Marine directing close air support on the ground with you one day might be providing that top cover for you another day.

All that and they have to land on aircraft carriers too. Probably in the dark.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane story of a Russian aircrew’s daring escape from a Taliban prison

In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator

The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:

  • A Taliban MiG fighter
  • Forcing a Russian plane to land
  • Russian government negotiating
  • A U.S. Senator helping Russia

It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.

It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
TFW you lose Afghanistan and have to ask for help from the people you took it from.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.

The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.

Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.

For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.

But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.

They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.

By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.

The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.


They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.

“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.

Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘What happens if you refuse to shower’ & other dumb questions

“What happens to a recruit in the military if they refuse to take a shower during basic training?”

U.S. Army vet Jennifer Campbell doesn’t even flinch about this one: “Oh, you gotta smother them with a blanket.”

I wasn’t sure what this meant, but thankfully Green Beret Chase Millsap elaborated: “If you refuse to take a shower, your friends are going to force you to take a shower.” And if anyone is still confused by this, Air Force vet Mark Harper makes it very clear: “They bring the soap to you. It’s called a blanket party. Lotta fun.”


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Ohhhhhhhh. Now I get it.

I love this question because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen U.S. Army vet Rosario Eléna get effing angry. I was scared. And delighted.

Moving on!

“How do you break up with a woman who was a marksman in the U.S. Army. I’m not a fan of guns all around me.”

Campbell is really getting the hang of answering these dumb questions: “I would do it from at least 400 yards away. She’s a marksman, not a sharpshooter, so you should probably be alright.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Hint: That’s the smile of a woman who can definitely take you in a fight.

“Would a modern soldier with Spartan-level training be significantly more effective than the average modern soldier in special forces?”

Let Millsap hook you up with a little dose of history here, okay? “Spartans, at the age of seven, were ripped from their mothers and sent to the agoge, where they were taught to lie, cheat, steal, bribe, and even sing, so they could become the best warriors in all of Greece.”

Other vets had answers that weren’t exactly helpful but were nonetheless important, like U.S. Navy Vet August Dannehl, who started doing impersonations from the 300 film, or Eléna who just weighed in on the fact that the soldiers would be sexier if they were Spartan.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Wait, is that Leonidas or Jarred Taylor?

“How would one go about buying a naval ship like a destroyer or a frigate? And how much would it be?”

“You know, Craigslist has a lot of hidden gems,” offers U.S. Marine Jen Brofer. She’s not wrong.

Dear question-asker, wherever you are, if you want to buy a Navy ship, now is the time. All of your dreams are coming true! The United States government is currently auctioning off a Halter Marine Logistic Support Vessel for id=”listicle-2639200274″,000,000.

I guessed -25, so I wasn’t too far off, and that’s something I’ll always be proud of.

“How can I prepare for joining the United States Marine Corps?”

Let’s see if you can pick out the Marines and the non-Marines in these answers:

–Pull-ups

–Have your parents yell at you for no reason

–Start wearing really little shorts

–Pick up a backpack, put your entire room in it, and start walking around for days

–Running, just keep running

–Eat every meal in four minutes or less

–Get a fistful of crayons and start coming up with recipes

–Stay awake for long periods of time for absolutely no reason

–Shower with a lot of people

–Empty your head

Zing!! It’s fun to make fun of other branches!
The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Don’t miss our other installments right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51′ other dumb military questions answered

What do snipers think when they miss’ other dumb military questions

Can fireworks be used as anti-air weapons? Dumb military questions part 7

MIGHTY CULTURE

A leukemia survivor just became a Marine and it’s amazing

Deciding to be a Marine means you have to accept the challenges that you’ll have to face along the way. Earning that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is no easy task. To become a Marine, you have to be willing to stare every challenge straight in the eye and say, “I got this.” That’s what it means to be a Marine. That is the very quality at the core of every person who becomes one. This is no exception for Michael Campofiori, one of the Corps’ newest Marines — and a survivor of leukemia.

According to the American Cancer Society, patients with childhood leukemia very rarely survive after five years. This disease is a monster of a challenge for anyone to overcome, and it’s a tragedy for any child to have to experience. That didn’t stop Michael Campofiori from wanting to become a Marine, despite being diagnosed at age 11.

This would be his first challenge on a path of many:


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Michael Campofiori poses for a photo with Sgt. William Todd, a recruiter with Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, and Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Falk, the Staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, after swearing in to the Marine Corps on Aug. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)

Recruitment

Joining the military is difficult when leukemia is a part of your medical history. There’s a special waiver for it, but Campofiori had trouble finding recruiters willing to take on the paperwork and help him realize his dream of becoming a Marine. The journey took him, a native of New Jersey, all the way to South Carolina.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Poolees with RSS Myrtle Beach posing with the recruiters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)

The recruiters at Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach were willing to do the work necessary to get Campofiori in. They felt he had what it took — and they were absolutely right. Not only did his waiver go through, but Campofiori dominated as a Poolee, earning nearly a perfect score on the Initial Strength Test, the prerequisite fitness test for eligibility to join.

Of the maximum 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and 9:00 minute run-time, this badass got 29 pull-ups, 121 crunches, and a 9:18 run-time for the mile and a half. He wasn’t even a Marine before he was going above and beyond.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Michael Campofiori, a recruit with Platoon 2020, Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, participates in the Day Movement Course as part of Basic Warrior Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Feb. 6, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

Recruit Training

Campofiori was sent to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina on Dec. 10, 2018. Of course, the challenge isn’t over there — boot camp is its own obstacle to overcome. It’s difficult in its own right. But, Campofiori was already slaying dragons.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Welcome to the Corps.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

On February 23, 2019, Michael Campofiori completed the Crucible and received his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, completing the transformation into a United States Marine. From battling leukemia to earning the title, Campofiori overcame every challenge that he ever had to face. Campofiori embodies the very spirit of being a Marine.

You can watch the video of him receiving his EGA here.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the worst errors the living made at the Battle of Winterfell

If you haven’t yet seen the third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, then stop reading this, go watch it, then come back and finish reading this. If you have, and you were reasonably frustrated for most of the episode, then this posting is for you. Be sure and comment about the tactical and strategic decisions you would have made. They can’t be much worse than the brain trust running Winterfell right now.


Strategically, their premise was flawed. They hinged their success on killing the Night King, something they could only do if he revealed himself, if they could kill him at all. Everyone else was expected to just fall back to a series of positions, expecting to be overrun. This plan fell apart immediately, except for the plan to fall back expecting to die – that part went just as they all thought it would.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

“Now you guys will at least see what is about to kill you.”

They deployed their maneuver forces first.

Not only did they send the Dothraki horde against the undead, the Dothraki were sent charging in head-strong against an enemy they couldn’t even see. The Dothraki have zero experience fighting in the dark, in the cold, or against an army that isn’t already afraid of them by the time they arrive. There was no reason to send them into the fighting first or to rely on them to do much damage to an overwhelming undead wave.

Reliance on maneuvering troops in an overly surrounded stronghold is what ended the French Army in Indochina, and it almost ended the army of the living.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Why are you not using this superweapon? You know the Night King will.

They made little use of air superiority.

Everyone talks about these dragons as if they’re going to level the playing field or give Daenerys Targaryen the perpetual upper hand. And if I were a ground troop at Winterfell, I would have felt pretty good about the dragonfire death from above we had at our disposal. So what were Daenerys and Jon Snow waiting for? Dany was the least disciplined person on their side anyway, so once the plan went out the window, the dragons should have been playing tic-tac-toe all over the undead horde.

The enemy dragon didn’t show up until halfway through the battle and was using undead dragonfire like it was the key to beating the living because it was.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

If only they had some source of unlimited fire that not only killed the enemy but also lit the battlefield…

They had no eyes on the battlefield.

Every time the dragons lit up part of the enemy, it not only took enemy soldiers off the battlefield but it gave them living targets for their artillery and archers. A huge chunk of Winterfell’s defenders were barely used because they couldn’t see the incoming enemy. The Dothraki rode straight into the swarm, quickly overrun by a force they couldn’t fight because they couldn’t see them.

The only time the living army had any kind of chance or was able to use their natural abilities to their advantage was when they could see the enemy to shoot at them. Ask Theon Greyjoy and the crew from the Iron Islands as they stood around defending the group project’s least productive partner. They made every arrow count. If Arya Stark hadn’t actually killed the Night King, then Melisandre would have to be Winterfell’s MVP – she actually gave the defenders light to see.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Another Tarley being recruited by the Night King.

They failed to plan for the enemy’s reserves.

All the Night King had to do was raise his arms by 90 degrees to bring in an entirely new wave of fresh troops to finish off whoever was left standing among the living. No fewer than 10 of the Winterfell defenders knew this, but failed to relay that message. Would it be so hard to take a swing at a corpse with your dragonglass just to make sure you don’t have to fight your friend later on?

Still, everyone was surprised and overwhelmed when the Night King raised the dead. Especially those who decided to hide out in a crypt.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

You know things are going badly when the Air Force has to pick up weapons.

The living still somehow managed to underestimate their enemy.

As Jon Snow ran up behind the Night King, the enemy leader stopped, turned, and raised another army of the dead. Jon Snow seemed very surprised by this. Why wasn’t the Night King giving him the one-on-one duel of honor Jon Snow knows he deserved? Because the Night King doesn’t care about things like that. All he does is win. He has no problems with winning a lopsided fight, even if he never has to fight it himself.

Jon and Daenerys thought they could just swoop down and kill the night king with dragonfire, despite there being a huge lack of evidence that he could be killed at all, let alone with fire. Then they assumed he would just reveal himself and allow himself to get splattered with fire. In their plan, every minute they didn’t know where the Night King was hiding or flying, there were hundreds of troops fighting for their lives and souls. Every minute their dragons weren’t spewing fire on anything else, the Night King was heavily recruiting for the White Walker Army Reserve.

Thank the old gods and the new for Arya Stark. Somewhere, CIA agents from the 1960s are nodding their heads in approval.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Indian military unit fought for the Nazis

During World War II, the military force aiming to install an Aryan master race over the world found potentially unlikely allies on the subcontinent of India where thousands of soldiers joined the “Free Indian Legion,” fighting on behalf of the Nazis against the Allied Powers from the China-Burma-India Theater to the Atlantic Wall on D-Day.


Hitler’s Indian Regiment

www.youtube.com

Hitler’s Indian Regiment

India was a British colony during World War II that sent millions of loyal subjects to fight on behalf of King George VI, but the relationship between Britain and India was strained—to say the least—when the war started. India had been agitating for independence from the East India Company and then the British Crown for about a century.

Indian troops serving Great Britain fought valiantly and earned top awards for heroism in the battle against the Axis Powers, but not all Indian leaders thought the fight against fascism should trump the fight for Indian independence. Much like American patriots in the 1770s capitalized on Britain’s fighting with France, some Indian leaders thought Britain’s war with Germany was the perfect time to break away from the crown.

And the Nazis were happy to help. When they began to take Indian troops prisoner in Africa, they offered those men German uniforms, weapons, and training if they would take up arms against the British. The first 27, all seen as potential officers, were pulled out of German POW camps and sent to Germany for training in 1941. These were soon followed by thousands of others to fill out the ranks.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Let’s all agree that, regardless of motives or other accomplishments in your life, the photo of you shaking Hitler’s hand will never look good.

(Public domain)

An Indian independence leader, Subhas Chandra Bose, helped start the legion and got serious concessions from Germany on how the troops would be trained, deployed, equipped, paid, and more. Basically, the agreement was that the unit would be trained, paid, and equipped at the same level as any normal German unit.

But, the Indian troops could not be deployed like normal German units. The agreement that formed the unit would limit it to combat deployments focused on overthrowing British control of India. So Germany had to fund the unit like any German force, but they could only use it for Indian independence.

But still, the trade-off was seen as worthwhile by Germany as it struggled with how it would one day root British forces out of the jungles of Asia. This worry would prove well-founded when Britain and India began sending “Chindits” into the jungles to break the logistics chains and defensive lines of Japanese forces.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Soldiers with the Free Indian Legion fight side-by-side with other German soldiers in World War II.

(German Federal Archives)

So the Indian Legion was formed and given a distinctive badge of a leaping tiger. But, in direct contradiction of the agreement, Indian Legion troops would go on to serve almost exclusively in Europe during the war. This wasn’t some dastardly Nazi plot though. It was simply the reality of the battlefield.

Savvy World War II buffs will remember that, while the Axis Powers were triumphantly marching across much of the world in 1941 when the legion was first recruited, it was suffering serious setbacks just a year later.

While the Indian Legion was going through initial recruitment, organization, and training, America joined the war, Polish and French resistance gained strength against Nazi occupiers, England turned back the German tide in the Battle of Britain, and America began limiting and then defeating Japan in the Pacific.

Italy, meanwhile, crumbled under the Allied assault like it was an Olive Garden.

So the Indian Legion, still in Europe for training, was sent to the Netherlands and France to get experience guarding coasts in 1943 until Germany was ready to invade through either the Soviet Union or the Middle East into India. Some Indian Legion members were still on the French coast when the Allies launched the 1944 Operation Overlord, the invasion of Fortress Europe through France.

The Indian Legion saw some combat there, but was quickly pulled from the front lines as the men complained that they would likely be executed as traitors if captured by British forces. The legion continued operations across Nazi-occupied France and Belgium and maintained some presence on the Atlantic Wall.

It suffered a few casualties against French forces, but saw little combat overall until the last of its troops deployed in France were sent to join brethren already in Italy. It was there, in Italy, that the Indian Legion surrendered to the Allies. Indian Legion members generally opted to surrender to American and French forces, but they were handed over to British and Indian forces quickly after capture.

The Indian political climate after the war had little appetite for prosecuting Indians who had worked, albeit with the Nazis, for independence. And most of the soldiers who faced court-martial saw their charges dropped or commuted.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.

The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.


A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.

The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.

After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.

US Coast Guard Navy go-fast smuggling boat drug bust fire

A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.

Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.

“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.

‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’

The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.

Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)

US Coast Guard go-fast smuggling boat drug bust rescue

Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.

In recent years, trafficking routes have moved farther out, sometimes going around the Galapagos Islands, likely to avoid detection in waters closer to shore.

“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”

The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.

More than 90% of the cocaine that makes it to the US comes through the Central America/Mexico corridor, though there are signs that traffickers are trying to increase production in Central America itself.

US Coast Guard go-fast boat drug bust fire

The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.

The US Coast Guard has warned repeatedly in recent years that its resources fall short of what is needed to fulfill its interdiction responsibilities in the US’s southern maritime approaches.

“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”

Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.

“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”

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

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