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 TRENDING

This stunning photo of Marine One’s Osprey escort over NYC

On May 23, 2018, Donald Trump traveled to New York City in one of the Presidential VH-3D helicopters operated by the U.S. Marine Corps HMX-1 (Marine Helicopter Squadron One).

Here’s a video of the Marine One helicopter flying over NYC the POTUS shared on his favorite social media:


MIGHTY MOVIES

A special ops veteran and his Marine dad created History’s ‘Six’

It’s a testament to the everlasting mythology of the SEAL Teams when a screenwriter – who also happens to be an Air Force Pararescue Jumper – and his Marine veteran dad team up to write a TV show about them. That’s exactly what happened with History’s show Six, now in its second season.

David Broyles is the son of Hollywood (and Vietnam) veteran William Broyles, writer of some of the best military films and television in recent memory, including China Beach, Apollo 13, Jarhead, and Flags of Our Fathers. Now father and son can add Six to that list.

Related: 6 things military veterans will love about History’s ‘Six’

Before David joined the military, he watched the Twin Towers fall with his father, who was a lieutenant of Marines in Vietnam. He had just finished his degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Within a week, he was looking at joining the military, judging them by their special operations teams.

Yes, he considered joining the Navy to be a SEAL. What he chose was Air Force Pararescue.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
David Broyles during his Air Force PJ days.
(Courtesy of David Broyles)

“I looked at the SEALs, I looked at the Marine Corps, and I found Pararescue,” says David Broyles, co-creator and one of the main writers on Six. “It seemed really challenging with the high washout rate. But also the job was to save lives, so after watching the towers come down I wanted to help. I want to make a difference. And probably like most of us, I wanted to challenge myself.”

There were 82 would-be pararescue jumpers in Broyles’ initial class. By the time he graduated there were only two (and four more would graduate later). Broyles spent his career in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan. There were good times and there were bad.


“I never felt more alive and never felt more terrified,” Broyles says. “The bonds of brotherhood that I experienced have always stuck with me and the things I saw and did have always powered my writing.”

Broyles always knew he would be a writer. After the military, he attended Columbia Film School in New York City. When the opportunity came to write Six, it was a chance to express in writing what it all meant to him and his friends that went through the war together.

“It was a way to work through that through writing,” he told We Are The Mighty. “A cathartic way to explore it and really honor the guys that were still in there and the guys that didn’t come back.”

With his father William Broyles, the two wrote the pilot for Six, the elder Broyles bringing his experience in Vietnam while the younger Broyles brought his experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. For Six, however, William Broyles was also bringing his experience as a father who watched his son go off to war.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
WIlliam Broyles and his fellow Marines in Vietnam.
(Photo courtesy of David Broyles)

William Broyles went off to Vietnam as a youth and didn’t really think about how his mother or father felt during his time away. his recent experiences with war put him in just that position. While his son was deployed, William Broyles would go to his cabin in the mountains and not answer the phone. It was a trying time for the families back home.

So while Six highlights the military family in the field, it doesn’t forget the family at home that gets left behind.

The father-son duo knew they couldn’t please everyone (they acknowledge how hard it is to please the entirety of the military-veteran community) but were determined to zero-in on the emotional truth of those moments of what it meant to serve and to be part of a brotherhood.

And they succeeded.

David’s friends and colleagues in the special operations community reached out to him to voice their support and admiration for the show and appreciate his message of what it means to be part of that team.

“I think they respect what we’re trying to do,” Broyles says “But, it’s the toughest group to please. There’s no doubt about it. We’re constantly straddling the line between reality and drama. We try to straddle the worlds between the hard authenticity, the tactics, the equipment, the movement. We wanted to make it as real and authentic as possible without putting any of the guys who are actually doing the job at risk.”

The other side of the coin is telling the story to those who have no experience in war and loss, but making them come to understand what is to be part of that bigger picture.

“That is drilling down to the emotional truth of the moment,” he says. “It’s not just about war, it’s about brotherhood and loss and family. I think people respond to those kind of broader, deeper issues regardless of whether or not you have military experience.”

History’s Six airs Wednesday nights at 10pm.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why veterans make great artists

It might be easy to assume that military veterans get out and do something similar to what they did in the military, but that’s not always true. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that plenty of us get out and become artists. We’re not just talking about painting and drawing; we’re talking about music and film as well. Either way, veterans can make some damn good art.


Service members may not always be seen as the artistic types, especially not those who served in the infantry, but the truth is that we go through the military and acquire all sorts of knowledge and experience that give us the tools we need to draw d*cks everywhere make great art.

Could it be that we all have stories to tell? Perhaps, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

The things that made our life tough are great for telling stories.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Life experience

We spend lots of time going places and collecting all sorts of experiences that one might not otherwise gain from sitting around their hometown. We get to experience life from a new perspective, and it helps us go from dumb, crayon-eating 18-year-olds to dumb, crayon-eating 22-year-olds with life experience.

This gives us a lot to say and the courage and wisdom to say it.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Even this photo is a great example.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesse Stence)

Attention to detail

In the military, if you don’t notice even the smallest details, people can get hurt. That same quality contributes to making great art — attention to even the smallest of brush strokes.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

We know how to stand almost completely still for hours.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damon Mclean)

Discipline

We can sit down and force ourselves to focus on anything and continuously find ways to get better at it.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Standing in lines for hours is a great way to build this quality.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)

Patience

Veterans know that good things come with patience. Creating art is no exception to this rule. You simply can’t rush great work. Those that do end up with something like Justice League, and we all know how that turned out (terrible — it was terrible).

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Learning to never quit is your first lesson in the military.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Emmanuel Necoechea)

Persistence 

We don’t give up. We refuse to quit. Ask any artist and they’ll tell you that they’ve dealt with a good amount of rejection.

We’ve been trained to keep attacking an objective until we succeed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump warns Russia to be prepared for an all-out strike in Syria

The US and Russia, the world’s two most powerful militaries and biggest nuclear powers, appear set to clash over a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, with President Donald Trump tweeting on April 11, 2018, for Russia to “get ready” for a US missile strike.

“Russia vows to shoot down any, and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”


The first part of the tweet referred to comments by a Russian diplomat threatening a counterresponse to any US military action against the Syrian government, which the US and local aid groups have accused of carrying out several chemical weapons attacks on its own people.

According to Reuters, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, told the militant group Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that, “If there is a strike by the Americans,” then “the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired.”

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

Trump canceled a trip to South America over the latest suspected chemical attack, which killed dozens on April 7, 2018, and is instead consulting with John Bolton, his new ultra-hawkish national security adviser. Trump and France have promised a strong joint response in the coming days.

The president and his inner circle are reportedly considering a much larger strike on Syria than the one that took place almost exactly a year ago, on April 7, 2017, in which 59 US sea-based cruise missiles briefly disabled an air base suspected of playing a role in a chemical attack.

This time, Trump has French President Emmanuel Macron in his corner— but also acute threats of escalation from Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia.

“The threats you are proffering that you’re stating vis-à-vis Syria should make us seriously worried, all of us, because we could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events,” Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, warned his US counterpart, Nikki Haley, in a heated clash at the UN.

The US wants a massive strike, but Russia won’t make it easy

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Syrian government forces present a more difficult target than most recent US foes. Unlike Islamic State fighters or Taliban militants, the Syrian government is backed by heavy Russian air defenses. Experts on these defenses have told Business Insider the US would struggle to overcome them, even with its arsenal of stealth jets.

It was US Navy ships that fired the missiles in the April 7, 2017, strike. If Russia were to retaliate against a US Navy ship with its own heavy navy presence in the region, the escalation would most likely resemble war between the two countries.

Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in an escalation with the US over Syria, saying only that it was “unlikely,” the Associated Press reports.

The US has destroyer ships in the region, The New York Times reports, as well as heavy airpower at military bases around the region. While Russian air defenses seem credible on paper, they seem to have done nothing to stop repeated Israeli airstrikes all around Syria.

US’s and Russia’s military reputations on the line

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flying over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

On both the Western and Russian sides of the conflict, credibility is on the line. The leaders of the US and France have explicitly warned against the use of chemical weapons, saying they will respond with force. Russia has acted as a guarantor of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s safety in the face of possible Western intervention but has found itself undermined by several strikes from the US and Israel.

Experts previously told Business Insider that an outright war with the US would call Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bluff and betray his true aim of projecting power at low cost, while destroying much of his military.

Additionally, the Syria government, backed by Russia, has struggled to beat lightly armed rebels who have lived under almost nonstop siege for the past seven years.

For the US and France, failure to meaningfully intervene in the conflict would expose them as powerless against Russia, and unable to abate the suffering in Syria even with strong political will.

For now, the world has gone eerily quiet in anticipation of fighting.

European markets dipped slightly on expectations of military action, and the skies around Syria have gone calm as the pan-European air-traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines about flying in the eastern Mediterranean because of the possibility of an air war in Syria within the next 48 hours.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine veteran is bringing something new to the Cannabis Industry: Integrity

We all have that friend who marches to the beat of their own drum. The one who challenges the stereotypes of how the world has always been or, even scarier, doesn’t care. These are the friends who don’t follow normal routines, who see life not just as doing work but as a chance to build something bigger than themselves. They are seemingly fearless.

For me, that friend is James Brobyn.


As a “Mustang,” a prior enlisted Marine, who worked his way to the Naval Academy and then into leading Marines in combat as an infantry officer, James has always taken risks. Even after he took off the uniform, he continued to pursue challenges that seemed too risky to consider, even for the most battle hardened. He helped the Travis Manion Foundation grow from a small family-led nonprofit into a nationally recognized powerhouse. He’s started businesses, closed businesses and started them again. James’ battles can be scary both to your health and to your finances but I’ve learned that my friend is not fearless. Instead, he finds his strength in a single word that defines who he is at his core: INTEGRITY.

In ancient Rome, the Legionnaires, not unlike Marines today, would conduct inspections before battle. Paramount in this ritual was their breastplate, the armour that protects soldiers from enemy arrows or swords. Legionnaires would spend countless hours polishing their breastplates and tightening straps. Not a single crack or chip was permitted. When a soldier passed inspection, he would pound his fist into the metal and yell, “Integritas,” (Integrity) for all others to hear. This was not only an affirmation that the armour was sound but also that the heart and soul it protected was of whole, pure character — ready to take on any challenge in battle.

James has called me into his battles both figuratively and literally many times over the last two decades. We served together in the Marines and deployed together to Iraq. He’s been my boss twice. He fired me once only to hire me back 10 years later. Another story for another time but I am grateful for everything he has taught me. Above all else, James is not afraid of hard work. In between these battles, James would disappear for a few months and then reappear with a phone call. Even to this day, he still starts each conversation with my callsign from Iraq, “White 1.”

Not long ago, James called me again. “White 1, I got something for you.” He paused. “I’ve started a cannabis company and I want you to come see what we’ve built.” Of course, I was intrigued but also weary. Cannabis is an industry tied with all kinds of risk. It’s legal in some states, not in others. It’s celebrated by some of my friends (especially veterans) and hated by others, including my own family. There is a stigma that cannabis is the Wild West, a gold rush of former drug dealers and shady investors trying to get rich in the grey area. It’s a world of multiple tribes jockeying for power. Honestly, it felt a little like James was asking me to go back to Iraq. I stuttered, “Is this legal?”

My friend could only laugh, “Yes, we’ve built our business with integrity from the ground up.” Two days later, I was on a plane to a cannabis farm in Michigan. What I saw changed my entire view of both James and the industry.

The American Fiber Company (AmFI) is a multistate cannabis brand that delivers pharmaceutical grade products directly to consumers and wholesalers. It is also the result of a three year journey that took James and his team from Colombia to Canada to the United States. AmFi operates three dispensaries in Michigan; they’re the first company approved to import FDA certified 100% organic CBD oil into the United States and they’ve partnered with world class research facilities to ensure their products maintain the highest safety standards. My first question to James: “How the hell did you build all this?”

James reminded me, “We did the hard work. We built the framework. We run it the right way with Integrity.”

I recently chatted with James to understand more about his journey from combat to cannabis.

James: White 1.

WATM: Blue 1. (James’s callsign from 2006). Boom. All right. Comms are up. So here’s my thought and you tell me what you feel comfortable with. I would really like to focus on your journey from combat to the cannabis industry as well as some of the crazy things that happened along the way.

James: Ok. So before I answer that, what is your goal with the article?

I think to myself, “Dammit. How did he turn that one on me so fast?”

WATM: Good question. I like to highlight influencers in our space that are at the top of their game. It’s a series of interview questions so people can get to know others that are making moves in our world. So are you making moves?

James: (He laughs). Yeah, ok, I think that makes sense. So I guess from my standpoint, I’m most excited about how the journey got me to this point right now. Honestly, every skill from the Academy to leading Marines in combat to the Travis Manion Foundation are all being used to build something.

All those core values that we learned and were beat into us. Do hard work with integrity, do it the right way. That’s what’s really neat about it. When you put those principles to work every day and you teach people to abide by them, you build your own tribe and it works. People want to be a part of something. And that’s what’s kind of cool about this. That’s what’s really been the neatest part about the cannabis industry. It’s a rich kind of this weird, you know, fraternity that lets in all types of people, which is great.

WATM: When was the first time you got introduced to cannabis?

James: My God, I was a teenager. I grew up in Philly in the 80s and 90s. At 15, 16, 17, it was part of the culture. Honestly, it wasn’t about weed. I was just trying to fit in with the local friends. Normal teenage stuff. And I wanted to keep up with my older brothers but I made bad choices and eventually my dad kicked me out of the house.

WATM: Kicked you out?

James: Yep, at 19, but honestly he should have done it earlier. In hindsight, I just wanted to find my tribe and the outcome was partying. I had it in sports, but, you know, as soon as you start getting older and you leave high school you lose the camaraderie. A lot of people do. So I made bad decisions. We’ll leave it at that.

WATM: What about the decision to join the Marine Corps?

James: When I was at boot camp, I was like, what the hell did I do? I thought that, like, every day. But I think most people do. When I got my aircrew wings, it was scary to be Lance Corporal, but I had two pilots in my squadron that I flew with consistently. They told me about a program for helping enlisted Marines get into the Naval Academy. They changed my life.

WATM: Why do you think they focused on you?

James: In so many ways, they took an interest in me and my long term well-being. Not short term, not as some piece of equipment, but in me as a person. Once word got around that there was traction on my application, honestly, I had half the squadron helping me out. I even had Staff NCOs that were taking me on ridiculous runs to train me to get ready to go to the Naval Academy. I mean, I think they just saw I gave a shit. I showed up every day.

WATM: Is there anything about your time at the Academy that stands out? Any major lessons learned that you still use today?

James: You learn how to win there. I believe it. It comes down to two things. First is the honor code. I think you see it with Captain Crozier (USNA ’92) and the recent situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Your integrity is what you have. If you give it away, then you have no foundation. Nothing to build from. It’s a house of cards. Secondly, the Academy teaches you that you can do more than any other person out there. Without a doubt. I mean, you know, the amount of stuff you can get done in 24 hours there is ridiculous. I keep those lessons with me daily.
The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

​James with the Marines of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq, 2006

Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn

WATM: You graduated in 2004, and we deployed to Iraq together not long after. What is there about leading Marines that stands out?

James: I loved my dudes. 2006 and 2007 were hard times to be in Iraq. We were given a mission to provide security for 30,000 people and not much more resources than what we had. That pretty much looks like a small business to me. It was the best entrepreneurship training that I’ve had. Honestly, combat is the closest thing to running a business in the cannabis industry. that I have found. You have to be nimble, understand uncertainty, take a look at risks and act. But at the end of the day, your plan never survives first contact. All you can do is surround yourself with good people.

WATM: How do you make the leap from combat to cannabis?

James: At first, I was just following cannabis related to veterans. There are a lot of positive benefits outside just the medical aspects. First off, dudes drink less, eat better and lose weight. There are multiple levels of benefit but I hadn’t thought about the business side of things until I met Dan Tobon, a former Army Sniper and Iraq veteran. We became fast friends. Dan had just started working on a project in Colombia where his family is from called NuSierra Holdings.

Colombia had approved export of cannabis products and it was anticipated at that time Canada and Australia would be able to import them, even THC products. So it was a big rush to get out of Colombia and go out to the commoditized cannabis world. Then we met John Leja, founder of PharmaCannis, who understood the retail side of the business and was trying to establish a packing facility in Toronto. I met John and Dan at a bar in Philly and they asked me, Will you help us out?I didn’t know much about cannabis but I knew we had supply and distribution so I said, ‘Sure. Let’s figure this out.’ I was on a plane to Toronto the next day.

WATM: There are so many stereotypes associated with cannabis, do you have a hard time getting over the stigmas or comparisons to a gold rush?

James: I learned alot from John and Dan about how to stop thinking of cannabis as a shiny object of gold that’s going to make everyone rich but as a commodity that’s going to be turned into an amazing consumer product. If you reframe cannabis that way, you can start thinking about designing a strategy where you can gain footholds into different parts of the supply chain that are completely compliant, legal, and then allow us to really take a good market share of the industry.
The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

James and the Author in a American Fiber Company grow facility

Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn

WATM: Was this venture your training for the American Fiber Company and setting up a cannabis business in the U.S.?

James: 100%. In 2018, it felt like every state was its own country when it came to cannabis. Some were recreational, others were medicinal only and others, it was flat out illegal. We had a plan for how to set up a multi-state operation but it’s hard to work because every jurisdiction has its own rules. And you literally have to go into jurisdictions. You have to work with the locals. You can’t just pop in your model and make it work. You have to build from the ground up and it all came back to finding the right people. People with integrity. American Fiber established our first operations in Southwest Michigan.

WATM: You’ve mentioned integrity a lot. What does integrity really mean to you?

James: It’s not about just telling the truth. It’s about following through. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. Doing it the right way. Even if it’s hard — especially if it’s hard. That’s the key here because that’s how you normalize the industry. We work with the state and federal regulators to do the hard work that people don’t want to do.

WATM: Like becoming the first company in the U.S. to legally import full spectrum CBD oil?

James: That’s just one example. We never set out to be the first company in the world to import full-spectrum CBD oil out of Colombia into the US, but we figured out how to get it compliant with Customs and Border Protection. But we’ve also taken on other challenges that are just as hard. We’ve built a research partnership in Delaware with Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology so that we can figure out how to start collecting real data on health benefits so that we can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, get approved by the FDA on certain products and continue to provide safe quality, cannabis products to our consumers. And that’s why it’s a long game.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

The American Fiber Company Team in Michigan

Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn

WATM: Is the long game paying off?

James: I think so. Take the current COVID-19 restrictions for example. Every state that had medicinal and recreational policies deemed cannabis business essential. I mean, yeah. Our team in South Michigan is out there every day serving patients curbside, delivery, and hopefully drive-through soon. We’re moving into a post-prohibition world right now and now it’s pretty exciting.

WATM: Where do you see American Fiber in that world. Maybe 5 years from now?

James: Oh, my God. That’s like 50 decades in this industry. Well, let me tell you what the ultimate goal is, and it’s how we’ve always tried to build a company. I always felt that we built a company that we could take public. Ultimately, I want American Fiber to be synonymous with all the values that make our people and country ready to face whatever challenge comes ahead. Hard work, commitment and integrity.

WATM: Integritas.

James: Exactly. Integritas.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

14 nuclear weapons terms and what they mean

Nuclear weapons are humankind’s most fearsome creations.

In a matter of minutes, one nuclear-armed nation can level dozens of cities, spread radioactive fallout for hundreds or thousands of miles, and wreck Earth’s climate.

Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.


It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.

As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.

That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.

(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

1. Nuclear weapon

A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.

Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)

During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.

(KCNA)

2. Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)

An ICBM is a space rocket that can launch a destructive device on top and carry it from one nation to another in a high arc.

Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.

As of 2018, the US has 800 ICBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 1,140 ICBMs.

3. Fallout

Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.

Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.

4. Isotopes

Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.

For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.

All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.

5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233

Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.

U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.

U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.

Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).

6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240

Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.

Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.

Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.

Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Yellowcake uranium

7. Yellowcake uranium

Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.

The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.

8. Centrifuge

The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.

The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.

Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.

It can take thousands of centrifuges spinning for an entire year to enrich enough U-235 for a weapon.

9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)

Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.

HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).

Low-enriched uranium has less than 20% U-235, and is most often used for nuclear reactor fuel in commercial power plants.

10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)

Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).

It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)

A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.

The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984

11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)


An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.

As of 2018, the US has 1,920 SLBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 770 SLBMs.

Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.

12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)

Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).

These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.

Russia has about 11 nuclear-armed subs and the US has about 14.

13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)

CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.

The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.

Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.

Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.

The Trump administration is reportedly changing its mind about CVID, though, and may push a plan that’s more acceptable to North Korea.

14. Deterrence

Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.

In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:

“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”

Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 deploys devastating sea mines from 50 miles away

America’s longest-serving bomber recently demonstrated the ability to lay down a devastating minefield at sea without putting itself and its crew in harm’s way, a game-changing capability should the US suddenly find itself in conflict with another naval power.

A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam dropped what appear to be new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) sea mine during the Valiant Shield exercises in the Pacific, The Drive first reported Sept. 19, 2018, noting that the mine is powerful enough to bring down even the largest of naval vessels.


The weapons used during the drills were, in fact, new one-ton Quickstrike-ER naval mines, Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell, the Valiant Shield Joint Information Bureau director, confirmed to Business Insider, and the test Sept. 17, 2018, was the first tactical test of the previously-unseen configuration. Valiant Shield is an exercise designed to strengthen interoperability and communication between the service branches, making it an ideal opportunity to test an asset like the Quickstrike mine, which is deployed from the air for use at sea.

The B-52 carried a total of four Quickstrike mines into testing and fired three, Russell revealed, identifying the fourth one as a spare. He indicated that the testing was successful.

The iconic bomber can lay down an entire minefield in a single pass without putting itself in the firing range of certain enemy anti-aircraft systems. The mines, general purpose bombs modified to serve as sea mines, are launched from great distances and typically deployed to relatively shallow waters where they could be used to render strategic waterways and ports impassable or inaccessible, as well as prevent amphibious assaults.

www.youtube.com

Using aircraft to lay mines is a concept that dates back to World War II, but at that time it was difficult to create adequate minefields with any real accuracy at high-altitudes. During Vietnam and the Gulf War, mines were dropped into position from lower altitudes with reduce airspeeds, putting aircrews at risk.

The first tactical test of a precision, standoff air-dropped mine occured during an iteration of the Valiant Shield exercise in September 2014, when a B-52H dropped a Quickstrike-ER, a sea mine variation of the 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM-ER). Known as Flounders, these mines can be put down by aircraft operating more than 40 miles away, an ability made possible by the extended range wing kit, the Diplomat introduced in 2017.

In 2016, the weapon was test-fired from an F/A-18 during that year’s iteration of Valiant Shield.

There is another short-range variant called the Skipjack which packs more explosive punch. The 2,000-pound Quickstrike-J can be deployed by any aircraft capable of carrying a JDAM. While it was first tested on a B-52, testing has continued with B-1 bombers and F/A-18 fighters, according to Defense One.

Whereas the older generation Quickstrike mines required aircraft to fly at lower altitudes and lower speeds over the target area, putting US aircraft in danger, the newer generation systems can be deployed by planes flying at the same tactical airspeeds and altitudes as those required for the JDAMs.

A 2,000-pound variant of the Quickstrike-ER offers the same explosive power of the Slipjack combined with the range of the Flounder. While the mine is being tested on the B-52, the weapon could presumably be deployed on any aicraft able to carry a JDAM, including the stealth B-2 Spirit bomber. US air assets could penetrate strategic areas and seal off shipping lanes and blockade ports with fewer mines.

American B-52 crews have actually practiced dropping older versions of the Quickstrike mines in Russia’s backyard, most recently in 2015 during the Baltops exercises in the Baltic Sea.

The ability to lay powerful mines from a distance would likely come in handy in a number of flashpoint areas, such as the contested South China Sea, where China is fortifying man-made islands. In recent months, US Air Force B-52s have made regular flights through the region, sending an unmistakable message to a rival.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Mark Hamill confirms how Luke Skywalker returns in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’

Mark Hamill has just seemingly confirmed what every person who has ever seen a Star Wars movie or accidentally heard about Star Wars would have already assumed by just thinking about it for a second. Still, because figuring out the plots to Star Wars movies before they come out is more fun — and easier to do — than forecasting political elections, the following piece of information has to come with a massive warning. What Mark Hamill has said could be viewed as a spoiler that will ruin your enjoyment of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which isn’t really even out for a half-a-year anyway. So, you’ve been warned, if you want to keep reading, this article contains some stuff that Mark Hamill said about how he’s appearing in The Rise of Skywalker. (But if you’ve ever read any kind of book or seen a movie, of any kind, you will have seen this coming by virtue of the fact that you are a person in the world.)


Ready? After Luke Skywalker faded away and joined the Force in The Last Jedi, he will reappear in The Rise of Skywalker as…a Force ghost! On June 20, 2019, the Associated Press posted a brief interview with Hamill in which he said he “hopes” that The Rise of Skywalker is his last Star Wars movie and detailed exactly how Luke will return in the film.

“The fact that I’m involved in any capacity is only because of that peculiar aspect of the Star Wars mythology where if you’re a Jedi, you get to come back and make a curtain call as a Force ghost.”

That’s right, Luke is doing exactly what everyone expected him to do, show up with a little blue aura around his body, and vaguely explain what he can’t and can’t do as a creepy spirit. Then again, who knows? Yoda was a ghost in The Last Jedi and that motherfucker was able to conjure a lightning bolt from the sky and burn down a tree, mostly just to pull a prank and make a complicated diss about Luke not being able to finish reading like six books that had been sitting on the planet for who knows how long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZRCIjMWRLg
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Yoda’s Force Ghost Scene [1080p HD]

www.youtube.com

So, will Luke be the kind of ghost who says ghostly things from the sidelines or the kind of ghost who takes Kylo Ren on a Dickensian adventure to show him the error of his ways? Either way, at this moment, we know Mark Hamill’s Luke isn’t the only ghost haunting the next Star Wars film; the long-dead Emperor Palpatine is back, too!

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

Articles

How to bring down an AT-AT with an A-10

If the Empire ever makes it here from its galaxy far, far away, America is going to be in a tough pickle.


And the Empire has already had a long time to get here. So what would it look like if the Empire landed one of its most feared vehicles — the All Terrain Armored Transport — in the plains of the midwest?

Surely, the Air Force would be hard-pressed to take them out, but here are five strategies that the beloved A-10 should try first:

Strategy 1: Punch out the walker’s teeth

The AT-ATs armor is too thick for firing at it center mass, but aiming at the crew cabin in the “head” will give the A-10 pilots a good chance of hitting the laser turrets mounted around it. These weapons have only light armor and the barrels are largely exposed.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

This won’t take down the walker entirely, but it would turn it into a stomping reconnaissance tool instead of a lethal, anti-armor and anti-bunker monster.

Strategy 2: Low flying pass to hit the Imperial walker’s fuel slug

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
An A-10 fires an AGM-65 Maverick missile in training. (Photo: Public Domain Jim Haseltine)

 

The walkers use a solid “slug” of fuel kept in a tank in the belly of the beast. This is the same type of fuel that powers starfighters, and everyone knows how spectacularly they blow up.

To hit this tank, the A-10s will need to conduct flights at near ground level and should approach from the walker’s 1, 5, 7, or 11 o’clock to avoid its limited skirt armor. Pilots should launch the TV-guided AGM-65 Maverick missile with its 300-pound, shaped-charge warhead and a delayed fuze.

Even if the missile doesn’t make it to the fuel tank before it explodes, the blast should cut through some of the drive mechanisms for the legs, granting a mobility kill and possibly causing the AT-AT to topple.

Strategy 3: Cripple its feet

Speaking of mobility kills, the AT-AT relies on ankle drive motors and terrain scanners in the “feet” to keep it balanced and moving forward. But the metal supports around these feet aren’t particularly strong.

In at least two occasions, Sith and Jedi have cut the feet off of a walker.

While A-10s don’t have a plasma saber to cut through the leg, the shaped charges in the AGM-65 with a contact fuse could slice deep enough for the remaining support to snap under the massive weight of the AT-AT.

Alternatively, the pilot could fire the Maverick missile against the foot itself in an attempt to cut through the armor to disable the sensors and motors inside, increasing the chances that the foot will trip on the terrain, similar to the effect in the GIF above.

Strategy 4: Wait for it to discharge troops and fill it with 30mm

 

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

 

The AT-AT is a troop transport, and patient A-10 pilots could wait for it to attempt and discharge its stormtroopers and speeder bikes. When the walker opens to release its deadly cargo, pilots would have only a short window to attack through the open armor panels.

This is a job for the GAU-8 Avenger. Pilots should fire a sustained stream of 30mm through the opening. Don’t get shy, the crew compartment is connected to the transport area only through a thin tunnel. Even with high-explosive rounds, the A-10 needs to get a lot of ammo into the troop transport section to guarantee that at least a few bits of shrapnel bounce through the cabin.

Strategy 5: Cut its head off

In the Battle of Hoth, snow speeders managed to get a mobility kill on an AT-AT by wrapping its legs up in a tow cable. Before the walker crew could escape, a flight of snow speeders fired on the AT-AT’s flexible neck section, the tunnel between the crew cabin and the troop transport area.

Just two blasts to the neck section set off a massive explosion that destroyed the walker and rained debris for hundreds of meters. While it isn’t known what in the neck caused the massive, second detonation, there’s no reason to think that an A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger couldn’t punch through this vulnerable section.

To hit it, pilots should conduct nearly vertical attacks from high altitude, sending the 30mm rounds into the neck joint perpendicular to the armor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

11,000 pounds of hashish seized by US warship

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) interdicted a shipment of narcotics aboard a stateless vessel while conducting maritime security operations in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden, Dec. 27, 2018.

Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team seized over 11,000 pounds of hashish while conducting a flag verification boarding.


“We have been conducting maritime security operations along suspected maritime smuggling routes in order to interdict illicit shipments into Yemen and Somalia,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brent Jackson, commanding officer of Chung-Hoon. “It’s critical in an effort to curb the ongoing shipments of illicit weapons and narcotics. I am grateful that Chung-Hoon was able to play a small part in an ongoing effort to deter and limit these illicit shipments of contraband.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team board a stateless dhow that was transporting 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden.

(US Navy photo)

The vessel was determined to be stateless following a flag verification boarding, conducted in accordance with customary international law. The vessel and its crew were allowed to depart once the narcotics were seized.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team prepare to board a stateless dhow.

(US Navy photo)

Chung-Hoon is one of the many ships currently conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet. Maritime security operations as conducted by the U.S. Navy entail routine patrols to determine pattern of life in the maritime as well as enhance mariner-to-mariner relations. The relationships built as a result allow the U.S. Navy to disrupt the transport of illicit cargo that often funds terrorism and unlawful activities, and also reassures law-abiding mariners in the region.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team board a stateless dhow that was transporting 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden.

(US Navy photo)

Chung-Hoon is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon, U.S. Navy Yeoman 2nd Class Michael Rawles, left, and Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Cervantes observe a stateless dhow found to be carrying over 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Logan C. Kellums)


The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London, or wherever they come from.

If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.


Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.

The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.

Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.

The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.

In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.

Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.

Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.

In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.

Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.

Whoops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How do first-, second-, and third-wave coffee movements relate to conflict coffee?

In 2015, a cup of coffee in New York City averaged $1.70; in 2019, that price jumped to $1.97. Besides inflation, coffee has undergone quite the transformation since its first wash of national popularity in the 1960s — known as the first-wave coffee movement.

As much as our favorite drink has transformed, the efforts made to source and sell coffee have also drastically transformed, eventually bumping into its fair share of problems. While it currently boasts one of the biggest markets globally, the method in which coffee is sourced often skirts the questions about morality. Conflict along the coffee belt has been a recurring issue within the past few years, but that wasn’t always the case. In order to understand the extent of coffee conflict, we must first understand the waves of coffee and how they have changed the shape of the market.


Back in the 1960s, Maxwell House and Folgers earned their place in our pantries as a morning beverage readily available for the American masses. These two companies, in combination with other “gourmet” brands, represented the face of the first wave of coffee, in which coffee was treated as a daily commodity rather than a specialty trade. These were the days of no-nonsense, pre-ground beans and a good, old-fashioned percolator drip. The grounds weren’t single-roast, imported beans that capitalized on flavor through specialized processing — and the brands weren’t interested in marketing themselves as such. Likewise, consumers weren’t invested in where their grounds were being sourced from.

Folgers Coffee Commercial 1 1960’s

www.youtube.com

The second wave gets a little more complex, but experts commonly refer to it as the “Starbucks” wave, and for good reason. Whereas the first wave seemed to be exclusive to the domestic realm, the second featured a heavy focus on intense mobilization of cafe culture, as well as the specialty beverages and passionate baristas that came along with it.

With the introduction of predominantly West Coast coffee chains, brands like Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, and Tim Hortons used espresso-based specialty beverages to lure in crowds. Ironically, the emphasis wasn’t on the coffee but the supplementary elements of the drink, as well as the cafe’s ambiance. It’s here that companies began publishing roasts and origins, which created an awareness of sourcing without a heavy emphasis on it.

Aptly nicknamed the “hipster boom,” the third wave of coffee carved its place into existence as the movement that mobilized coffee on its own terms. No longer about the syrup or milky beverages, cafes like Blue Bottle and La Colombe shifted their focus to the beans, roast, flavor profile, and origin of the individual cup of coffee. The hallmark of this wave remains the manner in which coffee is regarded. Like wine or cheese, the third wave considers coffee an artisanal good that requires knowhow to hone in on the drinker’s preferences.

How to Make Coffee With A Chemex

www.youtube.com

Rather than percolators or espresso barges, the third-wave movement revitalized manual methods like pour over and French press, controlling every aspect of the brewing process to best manifest each roast’s specific characteristics. And while this seems like an ideal scenario for coffee lovers, the third wave struggles to balance its morality with its dedication to sophistication and flavor. Of all the waves, the third is correlated with the most paltry, having been sourced primarily by strife-ridden communities.

The first and second waves vaguely alluded to the origin of their beans. They were predominantly Colombian or Arabica beans with a selection that grew to include Indonesian and Vietnamese coffee. The origins of these beans weren’t obscure, but they were never highlighted the way they are now.

The third wave doesn’t share its predecessors’ inclination for simplicity — on the contrary, it places a heavy emphasis on exoticism. This makes sense considering that coffee is now treated as an artisanal good, and as with any business, the forces of supply and demand are at work. Quality plays an important role, however, it’s less about overall flavor than it is about rarity. “Rarity” in this context is defined as how difficult something is to source rather than how obscure it is. Inevitably, the rarest beans remain engrossed in the throes of conflict. In 2016, Blue Bottle paid 3 a pound for coffee imported from a war-plagued Yemen.

The process of roasting a batch of high-quality, single-origin coffee beans in a large industrial roaster; the toasted beans are in the cooling cycle.

Before we can delve into the main connection between the third wave and coffee conflict, it’s important we understand exactly how those bags of beans end up on the shelves of our local cafes. Whereas first-wave coffee was sourced privately by equitable firms and sold wholesale to companies like Maxwell House and Folgers, the third wave engages coffee sourcing with intense vigor. With consumers willing to pay higher prices, the more direct their relationship with their coffee can be. The third wave actively removes the middleman and encourages cafes to source the coffee themselves, providing associates with a direct relationship with the farmers.

To the naked eye, this seems beneficial for both parties. Cafes get their specialty products, and farmers facing dismal conditions sell their beans for what seems like a pretty penny. But the latter isn’t necessarily true. With bigger companies entering the fray, the division of money can get staggered, leaving farmers with fractions of what their crop is worth. For farmers growing what’s deemed as a differentiated or specialized crop, money will be consistent. For farmers growing a common bean, it’s trickier. Despite the coffee industry being valued at billion, growers across the globe are struggling to rally the proper funds to cover the cost of production.

As farmers struggle to maintain a profit and, in turn, make a living off their trade, the future of coffee remains volatile. This is especially problematic when you account for the conditions of most of these farmers. Residents of Sudan have been facing a deeply violent civil war, Yemeni farmers have been dealing with crippling government oppression, and farmers in the Republic of Congo stand to lose their lives while active explosives litter their farmland. The latter is hardly an isolated incident — Colombia, Burma, Ethiopia, and Vietnam all feature obscured remnants of war, literally making coffee-growing the riskiest enterprise in the country. But there is an upside.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Pour-over coffee brewing and a deeper understanding of each roast’s origin is a hallmark of the third-wave coffee movement.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

The third wave is comprised of a hyper-aware generation of consumers that take pride in knowing how their coffee is processed and where their coffee is coming from. As such, the global approach to sourcing coffee has offered cafe patrons an easy way to engage with the origin of their beans. This usually splits the consumers into two groups: those who consider buying conflict coffee a great atrocity, and those who see their purchase as a positive impact on an ailing community. Neither are right. This hyper-awareness of farming conditions is slowly growing into what will become the fourth wave of coffee.

The fourth wave builds upon the principles of its predecessor — they share their affinity for manually processed coffee as well as quality beans and roasts. The major difference remains the issue of sustainability. Consumers swimming in this wave not only pride themselves on the awareness of the conditions of farmers but also the climate impact of sourcing particular roasts. While it doesn’t solve the moral complication of buying from the conflict community, it puts farmers’ narratives front and center, allowing consumers to make educated purchases.

As consumers of the market, it’s easy to look past the method that brings us these goods. The onus is on both the company and the consumer to be responsible and make responsible decisions for how we source our coffee.

Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe

www.youtube.com

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information