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 FIT

5 major ingredients that make up your pre-workout drink

Many of us have walked into nutrition stores, looking to buy a pre-workout supplement that’ll give us the energy we need to boost our next training session. However, if you’ve ever stopped to read the ingredients, you probably can’t pronounce half of the convoluted, scientific terms printed on the label.

Don’t worry; you aren’t alone.


The truth is that most supplement companies don’t want you to be able to read what’s in their product, they just want your hard-earned dollars. More importantly, these companies don’t want you to just make your own drink. Instead, they want their cool packaging design to sell you on their powder (which, like all the others, is the best-tasting and provides the best results).

Bullsh*t!

Let’s break down what it is in most pre-workout powders that gets you all pumped up.

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Creatine

This is a form of amino acid that we consume naturally by eating seafood and steak. The synthetic version we find in our pre-workout drink is safe and effective for increasing muscle mass, endurance, and strength. Due to how inexpensive the compound is, it’s one of the most-used supplements on the market.

Creatine also increases the amount of water stored inside your muscles, giving you that extra mass you probably want.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1K-V5kc9aw

www.youtube.com

Arginine

Also known as “L-arginine,” this amino acid aids with wound recovery, dilating your arteries, and delivering nitric oxide, promoting that classic gym pump that everyone loves to show off. In short, you can blame “invisible lat syndrome” on this amino acid.

Pre-workout drink companies want to make you believe you’re getting bigger by the minute and L-arginine helps with that.

Beta-alanine

This is a non-essential amino acid, which means it’s something our bodies make naturally. Beta-alanine might be printed on the label under the name “CarnoSyn” and it’s makes us feel all intense and tingly as we press out those extra reps. Beta-alanine is excellent at reducing muscle fatigue, elevating your workouts to the next level.

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The “explosive energy blend” or “proprietary blend”

Some labels don’t tell you exactly what’s in their blends — and if whatever’s in there is bad for you, the FDA has to prove that the mixture is unsafe before the supplement company is forced to take it off the market, which takes a long time.

Anyway, this is where the caffeine comes into the mix (as well as n-acetyl-l-tyrosine and other types of amino acids). Caffeine levels vary from product to product, but most pre-workout drinks contains between 75 to 200mg. The standard cup of coffee comes with about 95mg. To some, that’s a lot of caffeine.

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Bonus amino acids

L-theanine, L-citrulline, and L-valine are also commonly found in pre-workout drinks. Why you so many amino acids? Instead of wasting time waiting on the digestion process, by drinking these supplements, amino acids are shot straight to your muscles, promoting faster recovery and growth.

We’d also like to point out that you can actually mix your own pre-workout drinks and save money.

It’s way f*cking cheaper.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This old fort is supposedly haunted by a condemned Confederate bride

Civil War POW camps were some of the most terrible, squalid places of the entire war. Massachusetts’ Fort Warren was an exception, however. It was used to house Confederate political prisoners and other high-value persons. Among those held here was Alexander Stephens, the Confederate Vice-President, as well as Confederate diplomats and even the Confederacy’s Postmaster General.

Also, the black, ghostly spirit of a dead Confederate bride.


Legend has it that Melanie Lanier, the devoted wife of a captured Confederate troop, discovered his location via a letter he mailed her from the island prison. She immediately moved from Georgia to just outside Boston, Massachusetts, in the first step of an attempt to free her husband from the fortress.

One night, she boarded a boat that would take her to George’s Island – where the infamous prison camp and fortress were located. With the boat, she took a pickaxe, a pistol, and a length of rope in order to free her husband. She sat in the boat just offshore, waiting to hear any kind of signal from her beloved. That’s when she heard a common southern song, the signal that her husband was ready for action. But tragedy would soon strike.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

As she and her husband made their way off the island and back to the waiting boat, she was surprised by a Union guard. She was able to subdue the sentry at first, using her pistol. But the guard only went along with the plot for so long. He attempted to overpower the woman and snatch the pistol away. In the scuffle, the gun went off, shooting her husband and killing him. She was overcome by the sentry and captured. Sent to the gallows, she requested to die in women’s clothing. All that could be found for her was a black mourner’s dress.

Melanie Lanier died by hanging not long after the botched escape attempt. Her body is said to be buried on George’s Island with others who died there. But unlike the others, Melanie is said to still be seen around the island at times, still clad in black and mourning her husband.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

While many have claimed to see Fort Warren’s “Lady in Black” over the years, some doubt she existed at all. Such an escape attempt would have certainly ended up in Northern newspapers at the time, but no evidence of Lanier could be found. Furthermore, there’s another apocryphal story that could also be just as true. After World War II, the U.S. government was selling off all of its military possessions, and Fort Warren was one of those sales. Some say that in order to keep the historic fort from falling to a developer’s bulldozer, Edward Rowe Snow made up the story of the Lady in Black to make the island seem like much less of a steal.

It was later turned over to the National Parks Service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine snipers may have a new MOS in 2020

A recent shortage of snipers has prompted a new “proof of concept” sniper position in the Marine Corps, according to “Marine Times.”


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)

In mid-2018, the Marines announced the start of a new course for the specialized sniper position that was slotted to take place at SOI-West. The class was going to redistribute military personnel from the School of Infantry-West and the Basic Reconnaissance Course.

Although original plans were set for February of 2020, it has been moved to May to “provide sufficient staffing, and when resources would be available,” according to a “Marine Times” interview with Training and Education Command Official 1st Lt. Samuel Stephenson. Only Marines who hold the rank of Lance Corporal or above are eligible to take the scout sniper training course.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon (2015)

(Sgt. Austin Long)

The new MOS is going to be “0315” and is a specialized scouting sniper position. The new MOS is guided towards Marine snipers with advanced patrolling ability. The core track will remain in the same vein as other “03” MOSs.

In fact, the 0315 MOS is essentially an abridged path for scout Marines in the 0317 MOS. According to “Marine Times” the training for 0317 would, “…divide the course, providing a shortened version for the initial 0315 MOS before that individual would then be shipped back to a unit to perform scout duties and guidance from unit 0317 snipers.”

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(Robert B. Brown Jr., USMC)

The news of the upcoming course comes hot on the heels of recent deficiencies in sniper success rates. The “Marine Times” reported the significant failure rate led to the Marines producing only 226 snipers from 2013-2018. This figure is down approximately 25% from years past.

The same report also found that “less than half” of all Marines who took the sniper courses in 2017 passed, even though the eligibility and training requirements had remained static.

The new 0315 seeks to help remedy the need for more total snipers in the Marine arsenal by supplying a scout sniper course, while still creating an environment for upward mobility should Marines pass the more specialized advanced sniper courses.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Navy captain was relieved for sinking a ship-killing German sub in 1942

Herbert G. Claudius was in command of the patrol ship USS PC-566 in 1942. His mission and that of his crew was to monitor the Louisiana coast and its territorial waters for signs of any Nazi u-boat activity. On July 30, 1942, they got their chance, sinking a submarine that was preying on American shipping. For this, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with a Combat V device. The medal was issued in 2014, 72 years after the action.

At the time, Claudius was relieved of command for the same action.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

USS PC-566 was a submarine chaser patrol boat, much like the one seen here.

In all, Hitler sent around 22 or more u-boats into the Gulf of Mexico at the outset of World War II, and they were successful. The submarines prowling the coasts of Texas and Florida picked off an estimated 50 ships during the war. They were wreaking absolute havoc on American shipping, and the United States Navy was only able to sink one of them. That’s the u-boat taken down by Claudius’ USS PC-566 and her crew.

On July 30, 1942, the passenger liner SS Robert E. Lee was torpedoed and sank by U-166 45 miles south of the Mississippi River Delta. Upon entering the area, Claudius and his crew spotted U-166’s periscope and dropped depth charges into the water until an oil slick bubbled up to the surface – proof positive they hit their target, possibly destroying the boat.

The sunken wreckage was later found by archeologist Robert Ballard and his Nautilus crew – the same crew who found the Titanic in 1985.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

(U.S. Navy photo by Julianne F. Metzger)

When Claudius reported the action to the Navy, the Navy was skeptical because the crew of PC-566 had not yet received anti-submarine training and admonished the crew of the patrol boat for poorly executing the attack. Their skipper was relieved of his command and sent to anti-submarine school instead of receiving the Legion of Merit he so richly deserved. After reviewing the evidence presented to the Navy by Ballard and by oil companies who also found the wreck, the Navy reversed course, just 72 years too late.

In a 2014 ceremony, Claudius’ son, also named Herbert G. Claudius, received his father’s Legion of Merit from then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert at the Pentagon. The elder Claudius, who died in 1981 after 33 years of Naval service, “would have felt vindicated.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous actor was a bomber pilot in WWII

Remember It’s a Wonderful Life? The 1946 movie where an angel visits a man to convince him not to kill himself? The actor who portrayed the man was Jimmy Stewart, and he was pretty fresh from bombing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe when he played the part. He also remained in the Air Force Reserve until he retired as a brigadier general.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart was actually drafted into the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man in March 1941. It should be noted that he was already a prominent actor with a number of movies, mostly romantic comedies, under his belt. As an enlisted man, he took extension courses in order to attain his commission and got his lieutenant bars a month after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

While many people of Stewart’s fame could’ve gotten by on morale tours or some cush duty stateside, Stewart volunteered for flight training, earning him a pilot slot. Piloting aircraft was extremely dangerous in World War II, and Stewart was striving for a job more dangerous than rifleman on the ground.

After nine months as an instructor pilot, Stewart got a billet in a unit training up for deployment to England, the 703rd Bomb Squadron. They flew across the Atlantic in late 1943 in new B-24Hs and began raining Hell down on the Third Reich.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member.

(U.S. Air Force)

Stewart briefed bomber pilots before missions he wouldn’t fly in, and many of the crews reportedly found it amusing to get their instructions from a famous actor, sort of like if Hugh Grant went through crew drills with you before your convoys.

Stewart flew 20 combat missions with the 703rd as the squadron hit oil, ammunition, and chemical plants as well as German air bases and other military positions. He was promoted up the ranks until, by war’s end, he was chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing.

But Stewart didn’t bow out of military service just because the war was over. He remained in the Army Reserve and then the Air Force Reserve when it was formed. In 1959, he was promoted to brigadier general. But he still had one deployment and combat flight left in him.

In 1966, he rode along in a bomber over North Vietnam as an observer. He retired in 1968.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Brig. Gen. James Stewart.

(U.S. Air Force)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why apricots are the most despised fruit in the military

There are many unfounded superstitions within the military. Don’t eat Charms candy. Don’t whistle on a Navy vessel. Pilots won’t take off without being given a thumbs up. The list goes on.

Many of these superstitions have traceable roots that run back to a time when someone did something and terrible results followed, but there’s seldom any empirical evidence behind the practices. To that end, Marines and Marine veterans from all eras and battlefields will all attest to one fruit being such bad luck that even uttering its name will cause them to freak out.

This fruit is, of course, the apricot.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

​Vietnam was bad enough. Even if you liked the taste of the fruit, you probably shouldn’t do anything to make everyone ostracize you.

(National Archives)

While most troops tend to stay away from apricots — typically referred to as ‘cots, forbidden fruits, or A-fruits, to avoid being jinxed by uttering its true name — the biggest contributors to this superstition are Marine tankers and Marines on Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

Officially, the myth began in WWII. Many of the AAVs that were hopping around the islands of the Pacific would carry the fruit, as it was often found in rations. All the AAVs that were destroyed with their crewmembers inside were said to have a single piece of cargo in common: apricots. Of course, there isn’t much proof to back up this statement, as many vehicles that didn’t carry the forbidden fruit met the same fate.

The superstition continued into the Vietnam War. There, Marines were hesitant about even being near someone eating a ‘cot because they thought it meant that rockets or artillery were soon incoming. The belief was so strong that Marines would often force someone out of the tent if they tempted fate by biting into one of the stone fruits.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

You still won’t find any of them in a Marine Corps chow hall. Just grab an apple, they taste better and probably maybe won’t cause everything to explode or break down. Probably.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)

It was also said that ‘cots were to blame for many Marines vehicles breaking down during the Persian Gulf War and the early days of the Global War on Terrorism before they were all but banned by the military overseas.

Until apricots were removed from MREs in 1995, many Marine tankers would opt out of bringing MREs into their vehicles altogether on the off chance that the A-fruit was hiding in one of the sealed bags. The myth continues to this day, and most Marines won’t even utter the name of the fruit, let alone touch them.

Articles

The 5 worst modern battles to fight as a foot soldier

Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.


Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.

5. The Battle of Kiev, 1941

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Soviet troops on the move to Kiev. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.

Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.

How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.

Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.

4. The Battle of Verdun, 1916

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
French troops moving through the trenches during the Battle of Verdun. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.

The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.

If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.

A German soldier writes to his parents:

An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…

In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.

3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
Red Army troops fighting on the outskirts of Leningrad. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.

While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.

While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.

Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.

2. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
A German soldier fights during the battle of Stalingrad. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.

The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.

The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.

Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:

The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.

In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.

1. The Battle of Berlin, 1945

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet
German troops teach Berliners to use an anti-tank grenade before the battle of Berlin. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.

As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.

Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.

Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wires and cross chat to blame for deadly Pave Hawk crash

A U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk slammed into a steel cable in western Iraq in March 2018, causing the helicopter to tangle and crash, killing all seven airmen on board, according to a new investigation report.

An Accident Investigation Board report released Oct. 29, 2018, says the Pave Hawk, assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, was part of a two-aircraft formation flying toward Al Qaim, Iraq, on March 15, 2018. The mission objective was to position a helicopter landing zone closer to ground operations, according to the document.


During the flight, the formation refueled from an HC-130 King recovery aircraft. Then, roughly 40 minutes into the night operation, for which “night illumination for the flight was low,” the mishap Pave Hawk, flying in the lead, overshot its targeted landing area, the report states.

It was too dark for night-vision goggles to detect the cables.

The HH-60G “erroneously overflew the intended [helicopter landing zone] and descended to low altitude,” the report states. “As a result, the aircraft descended into an unplanned location, striking a 3/8-inch diameter galvanized steel cable strung horizontally between two 341-foot-high towers.”

Images within the report show the cables to be part of a powerline structure. The towers were roughly 1,000 yards apart.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

An HC-130P/N Combat King and an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter simulate an in-flight refueling during the Aerospace and Arizona Days air show here March 20, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alesia Goosic)

The co-pilot turned left to avoid one of the towers. But a helicopter blade “struck the second of four” of the 3/8 inch cables, the report said. “The cable quickly entangled in the HH-60G’s main rotor assembly, resulting in catastrophic damage and an unflyable condition.”

The investigation, conducted by Brig. Gen. Bryan P. Radliff, concluded the pilot “misinterpreted aircraft navigation displays,” causing the formation to overfly the intended destination.

Communication on the helicopter’s route and scheduled waypoints was never resolved between the crew and a Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground, Radliff said.

“The [mishap pilot] was interrupted multiple times during his navigation duties, including communications with the [mishap wingmen] regarding landing zone plan changes and [mishap crew] requests for prelanding power calculations and JTAC information requests,” the report states.

The conversation continued as the JTAC reiterated that there were towers in the area, but the Pave Hawk was already slightly northeast of the designated landing spot, according to an illustrated diagram in the accident report.

Follow-on waypoints had been incorporated into flight plan as backups should the formation need to divert and land elsewhere. The report says those waypoints could have been the reason the pilot began flying slightly farther north than planned.

The helicopter was traveling at an estimated 125 knots, or about 144 miles per hour, at an altitude between 250 and 270 feet above ground level.

Having witnessed the crash and the illumination from the helicopter’s impact, the second aircraft was able to spot the cables and divert. The second crew called in search-and-rescue forces immediately, the report said.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A U.S. HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin O’Shea)

Radliff said limited visibility also contributed to the crash. Current HH-60G “tactics, techniques and procedures contain a warning stating, ‘electric power lines, unlit towers, poles, antennas, dead trees, and all types of wires are extremely difficult to see while conducting NVG operations,’ ” the report states.

The Pave Hawk has a “wire strike protection system” in an effort to prevent such accidents. Radliff said the post-crash analysis determined “it was not effective because it does not appear that the cable had the opportunity to be pulled through any of the WSPS wire cutters.”

Killed in the crash were: Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, a special missions aviation flight engineer; Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, an HH-60G pilot; Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, an HH-60G pilot; and Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, a special missions aviation flight engineer, all of whom belonged to the 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, according to a Saturday news release. The rescue wing is based on Long Island.

Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, belonged to the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. The squadron, known as an Air Force’s “Guardian Angel” personnel and recovery unit, is part of the Air Force Reserve’s 920th Rescue Wing.

Also killed was Capt. Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Weber was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

The HH-60 is known as the backbone of combat search-and-rescue operations. It is a variant of the Army‘s Black Hawk helicopter, used to conduct personnel recovery and medical recovery missions. The crew is normally composed of two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner.

The aging HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet is expected to be replaced within the next decade by the Sikorsky HH-60W, the latest combat rescue helicopter based on the UH-60M Black Hawk.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 of the craziest twists from the ‘El Chapo’ trial so far

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s federal trial reads like a telenovela.

The Mexican drug lord has watched from his seat in a Brooklyn courtroom as prosecutors have brought out cartel cohorts, a Colombian kingpin, and even a mistress to testify against him.

The trial has led to accusations of murder rooms, secret tunnels, and bribes. Mexican government leaders have also been accused of accepting bribes — including former President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Guzman pleaded not guilty to drug-trafficking charges connected to claims that he built a multibillion-dollar fortune by smuggling cocaine and other drugs across the Mexico-US border.

He is charged with 17 counts of having links to drug trafficking in the US and Mexico.

Here are the most shocking twists and turns that have happened at his trial so far.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

In opening arguments for the case, Assistant US Attorney Adam Fels described the amount of cocaine Guzman was accused of trafficking over the border.

He said that in just four of his shipments, he sent “more than a line of cocaine for every single person in the United States,” according to the BBC.

That amounts to more than 328 million lines of cocaine, Fels said.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Former Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia.

(U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York)

2. A former Colombian kingpin who altered his face to hide his identity explained international drug trafficking to the court.

Former Colombian kingpin Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia testified how his Norte del Valle cartel used planes and ships to bring cocaine to Mexico, where the Sinaloa cartel would smuggle it to the US under the direction of Guzman.

Abadia testified that he kept a ledger that showed how much hit men were paid and that he bribed Colombian authorities with millions of dollars.

He estimated that he smuggled 400,000 kilos of cocaine, ordered 150 killings, and amassed a billion-dollar fortune through his cartel.

He was arrested in 2007 and extradited to the United States, where he pleaded guilty to murder and drug charges.

3. The son of one of Sinaloa cartel’s top leaders testified against Guzman.

Much of the prosecution team’s hard-hitting testimony came from its star witness, Vicente Zambada Niebla.

Zambada is the son of one of the cartel’s top leaders, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is considered one of Guzman’s peers within the Sinaloa cartel hierarchy.

The younger Zambada, nicknamed El Vicentillo, described in detail the exploits of the cartel in his testimony against Guzman.

In one bit of testimony, Zambada said Guzman had the brother of another cartel leader killed because he would not shake his hand when they met to make peace in a gang war.

“When [Rodolfo] left, Chapo gave him his hand and said, ‘See you later, friend,’ and Rodolfo just left him standing there with his hand extended,” Zambada said, according to BBC.

The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges in Chicago in 2013 and to a trafficking-conspiracy charge in Chicago days before Guzman’s trial began.

Guzman’s defense attorneys have argued that Zambada’s father is, in fact, the true leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

A diamond encrusted pistol that government witness Jesus Zambada said belonged to Guzman.

(U.S. Department of Justice)

4. Zambada also spoke about Guzman’s diamond-encrusted pistol.

Zambada testified that Guzman had an obsession with guns, and owned a bazooka and AK-47s.

His favorite, Zambada testified, was a gem-encrusted .38-caliber pistol engraved with his initials.

“On the handle were diamonds,” Zambada said of the pistol, according to the New York Post.

Prosecutors released photos of the weapon in November 2018.

5. El Chapo’s mistress described escaping Mexican marines using a secret tunnel hidden under a bathtub.

Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, 29, took the stand in a Brooklyn courtroom during Guzman’s federal trial to discuss her relationship with Guzman.

The former legislator in Mexico detailed a 2014 incident in which she and Guzman fled Mexican forces through a secret tunnel under a pop-up bathtub.

López said she was awoken one morning to Mexican marines trying to break down the door of the house in which she and Guzman were staying.

Guzman, who was naked at the time, brought her into the bathroom, and López said, “He said, ‘Love, love, come in here.’ There was like a lid on the bathtub that came up. I was scared. I was like, ‘Do I have to go in there?’ It was very dark.”

The bathtub lifted up with a hydraulic piston, and Guzman, López, and others ran through the tunnel in complete darkness, she said.

López said the tunnels led to a sewer system for Culiacán, a city in the state of Sinaloa.

6. Guzman’s cartel had a million bribe fund, according to Zambada’s testimony.

In Zambada’s testimony, he said traffickers had a million bribe fund for former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Garcia Luna to ensure their business ran smoothly, the BBC reported.

Zambada said former Mexico City Mayor Gabriel Regino was also bribed.

Luna and Regino have denied the allegations.

Zambada also testified that he paid out id=”listicle-2626652052″ million a month in bribesto Mexican officials — among them was Humberto Eduardo Antimo Miranda, who led the Defense Ministry under President Felipe Calderon.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Emma Coronel Aispuro, Guzman’s wife.

(Telemundo)

7. El Chapo’s beauty-queen wife described her husband as a “normal person.”

American-born mother-of-two Emma Coronel Aispuro, 29, spoke to Telemundo about Guzman’s trial in an interview that aired in December 2018.

It was Coronel’s first public interview in two years.

She told Telemundo that she had never seen her husband doing anything illegal, according to translations from the New York Post.

“[The media] made him too famous,” Coronel said of her 61-year-old husband, who she married on her 18th birthday in 2007. “It’s not fair.”

“They don’t want to bring him down from the pedestal to make him more like he is, a normal, ordinary person,” she added.

8. A weapons smuggler said a cartel hit man had a “murder room.”

Edgar Galvan testified in January 2019 that a trusted hit man for Guzman kept a “murder room” in his house on the US border, which featured a drain on the floor to make it easier to clean.

Galvan, who said his role in the Sinaloa cartel was to smuggle weapons into the US, testified in January 2019 that Antonio “Jaguar” Marrufo was the man who had the “murder room,” according to the New York Post.

The room, Galvan said, featured soundproof walls and a drain.

“In that house, no one comes out,” Galvan told jurors.

Both men are now in jail on firearms and gun charges.

9. El Chapo put spyware on his wife’s and mistress’ phones — and the expert who installed it was an FBI informant.

Prosecutors in Guzman’s trial shared information from text messages the drug lord sent to his wife, Coronel, and a mistress named Agustina Cabanillas with the jury.

FBI Special Agent Steven Marson said US authorities obtained the information by searching records collected by a spyware software Guzman had installed on the women’s phones.

Texts appeared to show Guzman and Coronel discussing the hazards of cartel life, and Guzman using Cabanillas as a go-between in the drug business.

It turns out the IT expert who installed the spyware was actually an FBI informant.

The expert had built Guzman and his allies an encrypted communication network that he later helped the FBI crack, according to The New York Times.

10. A Colombian drug trafficker testified that Guzman boasted about paying a 0 million bribe to a former Mexican president.

Hildebrando Alexander Cifuentes-Villa, known as Alex Cifuentes, testified that Guzman paid 0 million to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was in office from December 2012 to December 2018.

Cifuentes has previously been described as Guzman’s right-hand man, who spent several years hiding in northwest Mexico with him.

“Mr. Guzman paid a bribe of 0 million to President Pena Nieto?” Jeffrey Lichtman, one of the lawyers representing Guzman, asked Cifuentes during cross-examination, according to The New York Times.

“Yes,” Cifuentes responded, adding that the bribe was conveyed to Pena Nieto through an intermediary.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story behind the Frecce Tricolori video that has become the symbol of Italy’s battle against coronavirus

The scene of the Italian Air Force display team performing their trademark final maneuver has gone viral, so much so President of the United States used it for a message of encouragement to Italy.


Italy is, after China, world’s most affected country by the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. The latest figures tell of about 2,500 tested positive to Covid-19 and more than 1,800 people deaths. For about a week now, the whole country is on lockdown to slow down the new infections and death toll and the Italians have relied on emotional flashmobs and social media initiatives to break monotony and lift spirits.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Among all the things that have been used to boost morale in this tough period, one has really emerged as a symbol of unity: the Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force display team. A clip showing the Frecce’s ten MB.339A/PAN aircraft performing their final maneuver went viral quickly reaching well beyond the (virtual) borders of the Italian social media channels.

As aviation enthusiasts (especially those who attend airshows) know, the Frecce Tricolori display is constituted by an uninterrupted sequence of some thirty figures, the performance of which requires on average some 25 minutes. Following the performance of the first part of the programme with all ten aircraft, the solo display pilot detaches, alternating his own manoeuvres with the ones flown by the remaining nine aircraft. The display, which has a more or less fixed structure, but can occasionally be modified, always concludes with the Alona (Big Wing), the long curved flypast with a tricolour smoke trail by nine aircraft with undercarriage down, performed in harmony with the broadcasting of the voice of Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma”, the famous aria from the opera “Tourandot”.

The first time the team broadcasted the “Nessun Dorma” performed by Luciano Pavorotti during their final maneuver was in 1992 during the Frecce Tricolori’s second North American tour for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Boosted by the experience accrued during their preceding overseas transfer, the Frecce Tricolori achieved a remarkable success with the public, flying, between Jun. 11 and Jul. 31, 1992, 14 displays and flybys in the USA and Canada. It was at that point, during “Columbus 92”, that the practice of broadcasting the famous aria became the norm: the “Nessun Dorma” was preferred to other musical pieces test-broadcasted during the displays carried out during the North American tour.

As an Italian who has watched the Frecce Tricolori perform their display hundreds times, that final maneuver that draws in the sky the longest Italian flag, always gives me shivers.

As said, the clip posted these days (that, based on the setting, was probably filmed at Jesolo, on the Adriatic coast near Venice, during one of the airshows held there in the last years), has gone viral. Some users on social media said the scene symbolized the end of the Coronavirus: the larger formation trailing a tricolor smoke encompasses the smoke trail of the soloist “virus plane”, turning it invisible. Whatever the meaning you give it, it’s the moving end of the Frecce’s display.

Even President Trump used the clip for a tweet of encouragement to Italy.

For those who don’t know them, the Italian Frecce Tricolori are one of the world’s most famous display teams. They also hold several records.

First of all the team’s size: the Italians are the only ones to fly with 10 aircraft.

Another peculiary which makes the Frecce (also known as PAN – Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale – Italian for National Aerobatic Team) unique is the fact that the whole display is executed in sight of the public. Separations, transformations and rejoins are always performed in front of the spectators, a circumstance which requires absolute preciseness in all phases of the display.

By the way: another record accomplished by the Frecce Tricolori is the fact that they separate into two formations (one flight of 5 and another of 4 aircraft) which then fly an opposition pass and subsequently rejoin in less than two minutes. Rejoin time is a factor that can influence deeply a flying display.

One more peculiarity of the PAN is the Downward Bomb Burst, a maneuver which has been part of the Pattuglia’s tradition since its creation, having been part of the Italian Air Force heritage for 90 years now. It is a maneuver in which the aircraft, starting from a high altitude and in formation, dive towards the ground and then separate into 9 individual elements which depart in different directions, finally returning for an opposition pass, at three different levels, over the same point. This is a very spectacular and complex manoeuvre, which no one else is capable of reproducing, especially due to the difficulty in opposition passing and rejoining in the very short time frames required for a display.

The other record of the Frecce Tricolori is tied to the Solo’s Lomçovak. This is a display which is typically executed by propeller aircraft, and foresees a “standing roll” followed by a vertical spin, reverse and subsequent aircraft pitch down. Such a manoeuvre is usually “outside the flight envelope” for most jet aircraft, but the PAN’s Solo pilot can execute it in complete safety, thanks to the outstanding handling capabilities of the MB.339.

The aircraft the team flies is the PAN variant of the single engine tandem seat training and tactical support aircraft. Apart from the livery, it differs from the standard model serving with the Aeronautica Militare’s 61° Stormo (Wing) at Galatina (Lecce) airbase by the presence onboard of the coloured smokes generation system; this device is controlled by two buttons: one on the stick, for white smoke, and one on the throttle for coloured smoke. The system is fed from an under wing fuel tank filled with a colouring agent which is discharged through nozzles placed in the jet exhaust. The agent, vaporised in the jet exhaust, produces a coloured trail. Another PAN aircraft peculiarity is that in order to enhance manoeuvrability along the aircraft longitudinal (roll) axis, and to reduce wing loading, it flies with no tip tanks. These are cylindrical 510 litre tanks which are only mounted on the aircraft for long-range ferry flights. They are replaced by an ad hoc wingtip fairing which covers the wingtip tank attachment points. Since 2002, the PAN also received Mid Life Updated MB.339s. This MLU programme has integrated the previous series models with updated structural features and avionics, such as GPS, formation flying position lights, a new V/UHF radio equipped with a new tail antenna, in addition to reinforced nose and tail. The MB.339 has equipped the PAN since 1982, when it replaced the FIAT G.91, a light fighter bomber aircraft which entered service with the Frecce Tricolori in 1963. The MB.339A/PAN will be replaced by the M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer).

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Uncle Sam is a real guy and his poster is a self-portrait

In 1917, artist James Montgomery Flagg created his most famous work, a recruiting poster for the U.S. Army featuring a white-haired, white-whiskered man in an old-timey (even by the standards of the day) top hat, coat, and tie in bold red, white, and blue colors. Inspired by similar recruiting posters in Europe at the time, the poster was adapted to appeal to everyday Americans, along with their sense of individuality and patriotism. It has become one of the most enduring symbols of the United States military.

And it’s basically a portrait of Flagg himself.


The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

And that’s how you achieve immortality.

Flagg’s stock in trade was creating cartoons, illustrations, and drawings for publications of all sorts. He worked for advertising firms, newspapers, book publishers, and other creators who required illustrations such as Flagg’s. He was commissioned to create the cover for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1916. It was a weekly publication that pioneered the use of early photography to illustrate American life during its 70-plus year run, and he used himself as a model. Hearkening back to the early days of the magazine, he chose to depict himself as an older gentleman in an outdated, if colorful outfit.

The headline of that week’s issue was “What Are You Doing For Preparedness?” He decided to make the poster a reference to a then-famous recruiting poster for the British Army, one that depicted the famous Field Marshal Lord Herbert Kitchener, pointing at the viewer and telling them they’re wanted in the British Army, using the likeness of Uncle Sam in the place of Kitchener.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

As for the origin of Uncle Sam, the true origin is disputed. A resolution from Congress in 1961 declared that an Upstate New York meat inspector named Sam Wilson was the original Uncle Sam. Wilson was a Continental Army veteran from Troy, New York, who provided rations to the Army during the War of 1812. It’s not known whether Wilson’s appearance was the inspiration for the rest of Uncle Sam’s appearance, but Flagg’s depiction of himself as Uncle Sam certainly stood the test of time.

Flagg’s painting was reused again as a recruiting tool during World War II, and the notoriety from his work earned him a place as one of the top illustrators of the day, working for the best magazines and newspapers who could afford work like his. He even went on to paint portraits of famous Americans that would end up in the National Portrait Gallery, such as Mark Twain and boxer Jack Dempsey. Flagg died in 1960, the year before Congress decided to honor Sam Wilson as the true “Uncle Sam.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 new UCMJ articles that went into effect this year

A host of changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice became effective Jan. 1, modernizing definitions for many offenses, adjusting maximum penalties, standardizing court-martial panels, creating new computer-crime laws, and much more.

The changes strike a balance between protecting the rights of the accused and empowering commanders to effect good order and discipline, said Col. Sara Root, chief of the Army’s Military Justice Legislation Training Team.

“We’re pretty excited,” Root said. “It’s a healthy growth of our military justice system.”

Root and three members of her team spent the last year traveling to 48 installations to train 6,000 legal personnel and law-enforcement agents about the changes. Her two-day classes included everyone from judges to law clerks, and privates to generals, she said, and even 600 from other military services.


Codifying Changes

Many of the changes came about after a review by the Military Justice Review Group, consisting of military and criminal justice experts whose report made recommendations to Congress.

“We’ve had a lot of changes to our system [over the years], but piecemeal.” Root said. She explained that the Review Group convened to take a thorough and holistic look at the system to standardize military law and update the Manual for Courts Martial.

Many of the MJRG’s changes were incorporated into the Military Justice Act of 2016, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and then Executive Order 13825 signed by the president March 8. Additionally, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper signed a directive Dec. 20 that clarifies definitions for dozens of offenses taking effect this week.

“We’ve really needed that much time,” Root said, from 2017 to now, in order to train all members of the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Those attending her classes then needed time to train commanders and others on the installations, she added.

Adultery Changed

One of the changes replaces the offense of adultery with “extra-marital sexual conduct.” The new offense broadens the definition of sexual intercourse, which now includes same-sex affairs. The amendments also now provide legal separation as a defense.

In the past, service members could be charged with adultery even if they had been legally separated for years but were not divorced. Now legal separation from a court of competent jurisdiction can be used as an affirmative defense, Root said.

Also in the past, prosecutors had to prove traditional intercourse to obtain a conviction for adultery, Root said. Now oral sex and other types of sexual intercourse are included.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, prepare and practice for their initial drill evaluation on Peatross Parade Deck Sept. 14, 2018 on Parris Island, S.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Protecting Junior Soldiers

UCMJ Article 93a provides stiffer penalties for recruiters, drill sergeants and others in “positions of special trust” convicted of abusing their authority over recruits or trainees.

The maximum sentence was increased from two years to five years of confinement for those in authority engaging in prohibited sexual activities with junior Soldiers. And it doesn’t matter if the sex is consensual or not, Root said, it’s still a crime.

Article 132 also protects victims and those reporting crimes from retaliation. An adverse personnel action — such as a bad NCO Evaluation Report, if determined to be solely for reprisal — can get the person in authority up to three years confinement without pay and a dishonorable discharge.

Computer Crimes

Article 123 provides stiff penalties for Soldiers who wrongfully access unauthorized information on government computers. Distributing classified information can earn a maximum sentence of 10 years confinement, but even wrongfully accessing it can get up to five years in jail. Unauthorized access of personally identifiable information, or PII, is also a crime. Intentionally damaging government computers or installing a virus can also bring five years in the clinker.

Article 121a updates offenses involving the fraudulent use of credit cards, debit cards or other access devices to acquire anything of value. The penalty for such crimes has been increased to a max of 15 years confinement if the theft is over id=”listicle-2632036233″,000.

If the theft is under id=”listicle-2632036233″,000 the maximum penalty was increased from five to 10 years confinement, and this crime also includes exceeding one’s authorization to use the access device, for example, misusing a Government Travel Card.

Cyberstalking is also now included as a stalking offense under Article 130 of the UCMJ.

The reasons and risks behind Russia’s big oil bet

Support for military sexual assault victims and the number of reported offenses have increased in recent years, resulting in more investigations and courts-martial involving sexual assault charges.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

Courts-Martial

A “bench trial” by a judge alone can now determine guilt or innocence for many offenses. Almost any charge can be referred to such a forum, except for rape and sexual assault, which requires referral to a general court-martial. However, if the offense has a sentence of more than two years, the accused has a right to object to such charges being referred to a bench trial and could request a special or general court-martial.

If found guilty at a bench trial, Root said a Soldier cannot be given a punitive discharge and the max sentence would be limited to no more than six months forfeiture of pay and no more than six months confinement. The judge can still adjudge a reduction in rank.

“It’s a great tool that we’re really excited to see how commanders use it out in the formations,” Root said.

More than half of the cases in the Army actually are settled by plea agreements in lieu of a contested trial, Root said. Commanders have always had the authority to limit the max sentence with a plea agreement, but she said now they can agree to a minimum sentence as well. This might result in a range for the judge to sentence within, for example, no less than one year confinement, but no more than five years confinement.

If a case goes to a non-capital general court-martial, the panel has now been standardized to eight members. In the past the size of the panel could vary from five to an unlimited number, but often around 10-12 members. Now each general court-martial must begin with eight panel members, she said, but could continue if one panel member must leave due to an emergency during trial.

Special courts-martial will now be set at four panel members. A court-martial convening authority can also authorize alternate members to be on a special or a general court-martial, she said.

Capital offenses such as murder require a 12-member panel.

For a non-capital court-martial, three-fourths of the panel members must agree with the prosecution to convict the accused, she said. For instance, if only five members of an eight-member panel vote guilty, then the accused is acquitted. A conviction for a capital offense still requires a unanimous verdict.

Expanded Authority

Congress expanded judges’ authorities to issue investigative subpoenas earlier in the process, for example, to obtain a surveillance video from a store. One of the most significant changes is that now military judges can issue warrants and orders to service providers to obtain electronic communications such as email correspondence.

In the past, trial counsel had to wait until preferring charges to issue investigative subpoenas. Now, with the approval of the general court-martial convening authority, trial counsel can issue subpoenas earlier to help determine whether charges are necessary. For electronic communications, the government previously had to rely on federal counterparts to assist with obtaining electronic communications.

“Being able to have these tools available earlier in the process is going to be helpful for overall justice,” Root said.

The changes also call for more robust Article 32 hearings to help the commander determine if an accused should go to trial, she said. For instance, a preliminary hearing officer must now issue a more detailed report immediately after an Article 32 hearing’s conclusion. In addition, both the accused and the victim now have the right to submit anything they deem relevant to the preliminary hearing officer within 24 hours after the hearing specifically for the court-martial convening authority to consider.

Aimed at speeding up the post-trial process, immediately following a court-martial, audio can now be provided to the accused, the victim, and the convening authority in lieu of a verbatim transcript which will be typed and provided later, but prior to appeal.

A number of other procedural changes are aimed at making the military justice system even more efficient, Root said.

More changes

More changes to punitive offenses also take effect this week. For instance, the definition of burglary has changed to include breaking and entering any building or structure of another, anytime, with the intent to commit any offense under the UCMJ. In the past, burglary was limited to breaking and entering the dwelling house of another in the nighttime.

The penalty for wearing unauthorized medals of valor has increased from 6 months to a max of one-year confinement along with forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge. This includes wearing an unauthorized Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, or valor device. The maximum penalty for wearing any other unauthorized medal is still only six months.

Regarding misconduct that occurred prior to Jan. 1, the changes to the punitive articles are not retroactive, Root said. However, some of the procedural changes will apply to cases that were not referred to trial before Jan. 1.

All members of the JAG Corps are trained in the changes and ready to go, Root said.

“We’re pretty proud that our commanders are really at the center of this,” she said, “and it just gives them some more tools for good order and discipline.”

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