Coronavirus aid coming 'from Russia with love' - or an agenda? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

MOSCOW — The 15 Russian military planes that delivered much-needed medical equipment to Italy last week to deal with the coronavirus outbreak were branded with the slogan “From Russia With Love.”

And that sentiment was reciprocated.

Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini offered official thanks to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. Italian singer Pupo posted a video of himself performing a popular Soviet song, and signed off saying: “I love you Russia. Thank you.”


And fellow crooner Al Bano was quoted by a Russian news agency saying Italy would never forget Russia’s help.

In Russia, video of the country’s anthem playing in a quiet Italian neighborhood was quickly picked up by state TV.

“Italians are turning to us with words of thanks,” said one presenter.

“A sign of gratitude from local residents,” quipped another. “The U.S. and Europe could learn a lesson,” an anchor concluded.

While reports have emerged that some of the “grateful residents of Italy” were, in fact, from Russia, cheerleaders at home are seizing the opportunity to promote Russian diplomacy and international outreach.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

That chorus grew louder following news that Russia sent masks and medical equipment to the hard-hit United States on April 1.

Russia is not alone in sending aid abroad. The United States, Germany, and France have also sent supplies despite dealing with their own domestic outbreaks. And China — where the outbreak originated — has sought to reverse the negative fallout by providing expertise and equipment to other countries, although the delivery of faulty equipment and questionable data has been criticized.

But for Russia, such missions prove a belabored point. Since its relations with the West soured amid the Ukraine crisis in 2014, and Moscow was placed under economic sanctions by much of the world, President Vladimir Putin’s government has lobbied for the world to see it as a force for good, with a crucial role to play in the international arena.

It has not been an easy sell.

Aid … But With Strings?

While a convoy of whitewashed military vehicles containing clothes and medicine that the Kremlin sent to eastern Ukraine in 2014 was shown on loop on state TV, others saw the purported humanitarian effort as a way of secretly supplying weapons to the Moscow-backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces.

And Russia’s military operation in Syria, launched in 2015 with the declared aim of driving out the Islamic State extremist group from the region, was presented by federal channels as a peace mission to liberate the war-ravaged Middle Eastern state. But while Russian soldiers were shown handing out food packages to Syrian children, critics accused Russia of bombing hospitals and targeting rebel forces fighting against Syria’s Kremlin-backed President Bashar al-Assad.

As the current coronavirus outbreak took root, murals in Moscow and beyond depicted Russia as an amiable bear surrounded by doves, and one Putin likeness was depicted carrying the globe on his shoulders.

In recent weeks, China — another country exporting medical aid — has also pushed positive propaganda about its contributions to that global campaign. In Italy, one newspaper found that several videos shared by Chinese officials and appearing to show Italians applauding and thanking the Chinese were doctored or staged.

For some, Russia’s latest missions have also led to questions.

The La Stampa newspaper on March 25 cited unnamed officials in Rome saying that 80 percent of Russia’s aid package was “totally useless.” Moscow was in an uproar about the claims, which were shared widely. “The aid given to Italy is selfless,” Russia’s ambassador to Italy Sergei Razov told the RIA news agency. “Not subject to a trade-off, a settling of bills or anything of the kind.”

Then there was that video of the Russian anthem being played on an Italian street. The video originated as a post to the Telegram messenger app by a Russian journalist working for the Daily Storm outlet. “Who would have thought that our Russian hymn will play on the streets of Italy?” wrote Alyona Sivkova on March 25, in a caption to the video.

The following day, after the video had been featured in various Russian reports as evidence of ordinary Italians’ gratitude to Russia, Sivkova posted an angry Telegram post alleging that Russian state media had “stolen” the video — which was recorded by the Italy-based mother of a Russian colleague — for their own purposes.

Ilya Shepelin, who leads a program debunking fake news on independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, told the BBC that Italians who have publicly praised Russia’s aid to their country are mostly people with close business ties to Russia.

“We’re not dealing here with a pure fabrication, but manipulation,” he said of the Russian TV reports. “Hybrid lies, or hybrid truth.”

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

Articles

NATO is boosting deployments after Russian threats

Amid increased Russian aggression, including the Kremlin’s unveiling a new “Satan 2” nuclear missile, NATO forces announced on Oct. 27 that they were increasing deployments of troops to nations most likely to suffer an attack if Russia goes on the offensive.


Most of the forces are being sent to NATO’s eastern flank, according to a report out of a meeting between the NATO defense ministers who just wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
A Romanian soldier of the 33rd Mountain Battalion Posada fires a semi-auto PKM while conducting a simulated attack during exercise Combined Resolve VII on Sept. 11, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Nathaniel Nichols)

Russia has consolidated its military control and NATO believes it has 330,000 troops massed near Moscow. NATO has described its new deployments as a measured response. NATO’s new deployments consist of only about 4,000 soldiers.

The alliance will send a previously agreed upon four multinational battalions to its borders with Russia. A German-led battalion is headed to reinforce Lithuania, a Canadian-led battalion is reporting to Latvia, a British-led battalion is deploying to Estonia, and a U.S.-led battalion is protecting Poland. Most of the forces will arrive at their destinations in 2017.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

Britain had originally pledged 650 men for the battalion in Estonia, enough for a headquarters and a few companies of frontline fighters. But the British Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, announced on Oct. 26 that Britain would deploy 800 troops instead. Those 800 soldiers will sport tactical drones and Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

All of the NATO battalions being deployed are made up of multinational forces led by a battalion headquarters from a single nation, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The U.S.-led battalion going to Poland is the largest force planned in the agreement.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Polish soldiers of 17th Wielkopolska Mechanized Brigade move a simulated wounded soldier during a react to contact scenario during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

The U.S. also agreed to a deal with Norway that calls for 330 Marines to deploy to that country. The Marines have previously cooperated with Norway in NATO training exercises set in that country, says CNN.

America has pledged $3.4 billion to increasing defensive measures in Europe in 2017. A portion of the money will go to staging more military equipment near vulnerable NATO areas.

All of this activity comes amid continuously heightening tensions in Europe. Russia has continued to invest heavily in military infrastructure and exercises despite tightening budgets in Moscow.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. F-35s might head into combat for the first time

The US is finally ready to take its most expensive fighter jets into battle, as the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters sailing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex may soon be called to conduct strikes against insurgent forces in Afghanistan, CNNreported Sept. 25, 2018.

The USS Essex arrived in the Middle East early September 2018. Having already sailed through the Gulf of Aden into the North Arabian Sea, the ship should move into the Persian Gulf in the very near future, a defense official told CNN. The stealth fighters on board have reportedly been conducting intelligence and reconnaissance operations in Somalia, but they have yet to engage an enemy in combat.


While the US Air Force was the first service to declare its version of the F-35 combat ready, it appears the Marine Corps may be the first to take the plane into combat. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 in 2017.

The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to take off from the USS Essex, a ship much smaller than a modern US aircraft carrier. The incorporation of the F-35B, an powerful aircraft built to support the Marine Corps, into the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) “is a very significant enabler for me and for my team,” Capt. Gerald Olin, Amphibious Squadron 1 commander and Essex ARG/Marine Expeditionary Unit commodore, told USNI News in early September 2018.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, attached to the “Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, sit on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman)

“It increases battlespace awareness with data fusion and the ability to share information with the ships and the ships’ combat control system. So it’s really an extension of our sensors, and it also brings to the table a greater increased lethality than what we had with previous generation aircraft,” he added, calling it a “game changer.”

The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May 2018, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.

“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts,” IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said at the time, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Over the years, the F-35 has faced significant criticism, largely due to high costs.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Force Recon legend, Major James Capers, receives hero’s welcome in his hometown

Major James Capers Jr. is a living legend.

If you do not know who “The Major” is, it is highly recommended that you read here to learn more about this great American and highly decorated war hero. Capers was born in Bishopville, South Carolina in the Jim Crow south. During the Vietnam War, just three generations removed from slavery, he became the first African American to receive a battlefield commission as part of Marine Force Recon. Capers’s team, which called themselves “Team Broadminded” conducted more than 50 classified missions in 1966 alone.


During his 22-years of service, Major Capers has been awarded the Silver Star; two Bronze Stars; and Combat V; four Purple Hearts; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry; a Joint Service Commendation Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; three Good Conduct Ribbons; Battle Stars; Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; CG Certificate of Merit; and multiple letters of Merit, Appreciation, and Commendation. There is a new push for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever happen during the Major’s lifetime; he turned 83 years old on August 25.

On Friday, August 28, Capers’s hometown of Bishopville, South Carolina held a ceremony in honor of his service and dedication to this great country.

After several high profile guests bestowed deserved recognition and honors upon Capers, he began his speech with a tribute to his dear wife, Dottie Capers, and son, Gary Capers. They have sadly both passed away, several years ago, but clearly still have a special place in his heart and mind. Capers began his speech by saying: “I’m a little bit overwhelmed because my precious Dottie is not here, and my wonderful baby [Gary] is not here. They are in heaven and God has promised me that I will see them again.”

The event included a parade through Bishopville accompanied by USMC veteran Danny Garcia from Honor Walk 2020 and a color guard comprised of Marine Raiders.

The Mayor of Bishopville presented “Capers Boulevard and intersection,” a bronze wall sculpture with his likeness. Additionally, Major Capers was recognized by Congressman Ralph Norman and other elected officials. He was also given South Carolina’s “Order of the Palmetto.” This is the state’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded to citizens for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. The award was presented by Senator Gerald Malloy.

In addition to a large crowd of civilians, Marines from several generations were also present to honor Major Capers and witness the public outpouring of gratitude and respect for his service.

Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Capers has continued to mentor countless young Marines who look to him for natural and spiritual guidance as they navigate life. Major Capers’s legacy is not only long-lasting because he was a warrior and leader, but also because he was a devoted husband to his late-wife Dottie and a loving father to his late-son Gary. As he neared the conclusion of his speech, Major Capers stated, “All of these accolades today mean a lot to me, and it means a lot to Dottie because she’s up there watching.”

A humble and soft-spoken man, Capers said, “I don’t deserve all of this.” To which the captivated crowd strongly disagreed. The reality is that no one deserves this honor and respect more than he does. He is a true patriot, great American, and hero to the highest degree.

For those interested in learning more about this legendary man by purchasing a copy, you can read Major Capers’ incredible memoirs which are titled Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of James Capers, Jr. All proceeds are donated to charity.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

A year in, no female SEAL applicants, few for SpecOps

A little more than 12 months after training pipelines for previously closed elite special operator jobs opened to women, the U.S. military has yet to see its first female Navy SEAL or Green Beret.


The component commanders for each of the service special operations commands say they’re ready to integrate female operators into their units, but it’s not yet clear when they’ll have the opportunity to do so.

Related: Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

The Navy is closely monitoring the interest of female applicants. In fact, Naval Special Warfare Command is eyeing one Reserve Officer Training Corps member who’s interested in the SEALs, and another woman who has yet to enter the service but has expressed interest in becoming a special warfare combatant craft crewman, a community even smaller than the SEALs with a training pipeline nearly as rigorous.

But it will likely be years until the Navy has a woman in one of these elite units.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Jones

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, which includes the elite SEALs and other Navy special operations units, noted that the enlisted training pipeline for SEALs is two-and-a-half years from start to end, meaning a female applicant who began the process now wouldn’t join a team until nearly 2020.

And that assumes that she makes it through the infamously grueling Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

“Just last week, we secured Hell Week … [we started with] 165 folks. We finished with 29. It’s a tough pipeline and that is not uncommon,” Szymanski told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference near Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “Five classes a year, and that’s what you have, demographically.”

While the Army Rangers famously had three female officers earn their tabs in 2015 in a special program ahead of the December 2015 Defense Department mandate that actually gave women the right to serve in the Rangers, the elite regiment remains male-only, at least for now.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school.(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

To date, one female officer in a support military occupational specialty has completed the training process and will likely join the unit by the end of March, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, commander of Army Special Operations Command.

In other previously closed Army special operations elements, he said, two enlisted women have attempted special operations assessment and selection but haven’t made it through. One, who was dropped due to injury and not to failure to meet standards, is likely to reattempt the process, Tovo said.

Two female officers are also expected to begin assessment and selection in the “near future,” he said.

“So we’re going slow,” Tovo said. “The day we got the word that SF and rangers were available to women, our recruiting battalion that actually works for recruit command sent an email to every eligible woman, notifying them of the opportunity and soliciting their volunteerism. We are working things across the force through special ops recruiting battalion to talk to women and get them interested.”

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was the first service to report publicly that it had women in its training pipeline. But in a year, MARSOC has had just three applicants, and none who made it through the first phase of assessment and selection, commander Maj. Gen. Carl Mundy III said at the conference. Currently, he added, there are no women in training, and none on deck to enter the pipeline.

The Air Force, which opened its combat control, pararescue and tactical air control party jobs to women last year, has had several applicants, but all have been dropped from training due to injury or failure to meet standards, said Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.

“I think this is a slow build … and we’ll keep after it,” Webb said, noting that that the service observed similar trends when it opened other jobs up to women decades ago. “AFSOC is looking for the highest caliber candidates, and when a person meets that standard, she will be joining our ranks.”

For some of the services, the challenge is twofold.

Tovo said Army Special Forces recruits primarily from the infantry, which opened to women at the same time SF did. And women are moving quickly into these previously closed jobs; the first 10 women graduated from the Army’s infantry officer course in October, and 140 women are reportedly on deck to enter infantry training in 2017, while more have already been reclassified. But it’s still a small field.

MARSOC also recruits heavily from Marine Corps ground combat MOSs. To date, just three female Marines assigned to one of these jobs have entered the fleet.

“This is a process; it’s going to take time,” Tovo said. “We are focused on it, we’re ready for it and I have no doubt when we get the opportunity to put women through our qualification courses, it going to be done to a professional standard and we will be proud of the results of the female operators who come out the other end.”

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) take a break after completing their 10k hike before navigating their way through the obstacle course aboard, Camp Geiger, N.C., Oct. 04, 2013. Delta Company is the first company at ITB with female students as part of a measured, deliberate and responsible collection of data on the performance of female Marines. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mancuso

Szymanski suggested that social barriers to women serving in units such as the SEALs may no longer be the impediment they once were, as younger, more tolerant sailors enter the force.

“The students coming through, it’s no big deal to them,” he said. “This generation’s much more tolerant of society than our generation — a multi-diverse, gender-neutral society. Some of the integration [challenges] will be with our older cohorts.”

It’s possible, however, that the services will have to rethink recruitment in light of a widened field of potential applicants. Szymanski said his contracted SEAL scout teams visit high schools to recruit talent, but tend to target events with high male participation.

“Typically in the past, that’s been things like wrestling matches and those types of things,” he said. “So I now have to be sure that they’re thinking about, how do they incentivize or attract younger females at some of those events. Maybe swimming meets; swimmers typically will fend well in the pipeline if they’re good in the water.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Marine Corps’ first female F-35B fighter pilot

Twenty-four years after the Marine Corps got its first female aviator, another woman pilot is making history.

Capt. Anneliese Satz is the Marine Corps’ first-ever female F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jet pilot. The 29-year-old from Boise, Idaho, has spent the past four years training as a naval aviator.

Now, she’s cleared to operate the cutting-edge fifth-generation stealth, supersonic fighter aircraft in combat. She’s the first woman to complete the F-35B Basic Course, designed specifically for the Marine Corps variant of the fighter jet. The F-35B can take off and land vertically from amphibious assault ship flight decks and austere locations with little runway space.


Satz is joining the “Green Knights” with the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. VMFA-121 was the first F-35B squadron to complete an operational deployment with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard a Navy ship.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Satz recalled the first time she took off in the Joint Strike Fighter in a Marine Corps news release announcing her career milestone.

“The first flight in an F-35 is by yourself,” she said. “… It’s an exhilarating experience.”

Satz was licensed to fly the single-engine Robinson R44 light helicopter before joining the Marine Corps. Since switching to fixed wing, she’s flown the T-6 Texan II tandem-seat, turboprop trainer and the T-45C Goshawk carrier capable jet trainer, which prepares naval aviators for tactical missions.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

Capt. Anneliese Satz puts on her flight helmet prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

She then joined Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, where she trained to fly the military’s newest fighter jet. Showing up and working hard are what allowed her to succeed, she said in the release.

Satz also credited the instructors, maintainers and other members of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 for helping her complete the F-35B Basic Course.

“This is a phenomenal program made possible by all of their hard work,” she said in a Marine Corps news release. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from all of them. I am incredibly excited to get to VMFA-121 and look forward to the opportunity to serve in the Fleet Marine Forces.”

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

Earlier this week, another female Marine aviator made history when she became the first woman selected to fly the Corps’ other Joint Strike Fighter variant — the F-35C.

First Lt. Catherine Stark will join the Navy’s fleet replacement squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 125, where she’ll fly the F-35 variant designed for carrier operations.

Female Marines have been able to fly only since 1993 when the service opened pilot positions to women. Then-2nd Lt. Sarah Deal, a CH-53E heavy-lift helicopter pilot, became the Marine Corps’ first female aviator in 1995. And Capt. Vernice Armour, an AH-1W Cobra pilot, became the service’s first black female pilot in 2001.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to visit America’s Gold Star Families

In 2018, Navy veteran Anthony Price burned through more than 450 gallons of gasoline and three sets of tires. He spent more than 700 miles in the rain, many days in temperatures above 100 degrees, and at least one day in the snow. He did all of it to honor the families who lost a loved one to America’s wars. And he’s going to do it again in 2019, as he has for the past six years.


Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

The Gold Star Ride of a lifetime.

Price began his ride for Gold Star families in 2013 as a means of calling attention to those families and saying thank you in his own way. Since then, he has been to more than 44 states, enduring extreme temperatures and conditions just to ensure the families of fallen service members are taken care of. As the Gold Star Ride website says, “We ride because they died… We do the work that our fallen heroes would do if they hadn’t fallen for all our freedom.”

Soon the Minnesota-based Price and his fellow riders were a full-fledged nonprofit, dedicated to the mission of helping those in need. Gold Star Riders actively support, comfort, and provide education benefits to Gold Star Families throughout the United States directly with personal visits via motorcycle. They also vow to partner with any group who actively helps these Gold Star families.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

Price literally even wrote the book on the subject, “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.” the story of their 2018 ride, which covered 18,000 miles over 58 days, visiting 64 families of fallen troops. The proceeds of which go toward the Gold Star Ride Foundation.

“The families themselves are not looking for any stardom or any fame or any glory,” Price says. “They’re just looking for someone to remember, to remember a huge sacrifice.”

The title of Price’s book is a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “Bixby Letter,” a letter the 16th President penned to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. In it, the President is said to have written his regret at her loss and his attempt to console her by reminding the mother of the Republic they died to save. He ends the letter with “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.”

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

Price in an interview with a Fox affiliate.

The letter is an apt reference, as Price describes on commercial producer Jordan Brady’s Respect the Process” Podcast. Price mentions that he would talk to twenty or so people a day, on average, for two months straight. He found that 19 of those 20 didn’t know what a Gold Star Family was. In one case, even a Gold Star Family did not realize they were a Gold Star Family.

To be clear, a Gold Star Family member is the immediate family of any military member who lost their life in military service – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children.

“One of the reasons we do this is because no one else was doing it,” says Price. “Every once in a while I hear someone say ‘you’re adding an element that makes [the loss] a little more palatable… the work you’re doing is helping me make sense of the tragedy I have to go through.'”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s explanation about drone attacks keeps getting stranger

Russia hinted on Jan. 11 that Ukraine manufactured the explosives used in an attempted drone attack on its military bases in Syria, following claims linking Turkey and the U.S. to the attack.


“Preliminary research has shown that PETN was used as a base for an explosive substance used in that ammo, which is more powerful than hexogen. The specified explosive is produced in a number of countries, including at Ukraine’s Shostka Chemical Reagents Plant,” Major General Alexander Novikov said in a Russian Ministry of Defense release.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense denied the allegations, according to Hromadske, a Ukrainian media outlet.

“This is nothing more than a regular informational attack,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Victoria Kushnir said. “We reject these allegations.”

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Captured fixed-wing insurgent drone. (Photo from Russian Air Force)

Russia’s Hmeymim Air Base and Tartus Naval Facility in Syria were attacked overnight with a swarm of 13 drones on Jan. 5 and 6, but were seemingly successfully repelled.

Moscow has since released a number of pictures of the drones, which were fixed-wing UAVs made of wood and tape and powered by small internal combustion engines seen on lawn mowers.

Russia has continuously claimed the drones came from a local force that was backed by an outside power. But experts told Business Insider that the drones could have been constructed and operated without any outside help.

“I could literally turn 10 drones on right now in a field by myself and tell them to fly to a specific coordinate,” Brett Velicovich, a leading expert in drones and author of “Drone Warrior,” told Business Insider in an email.

“Basic swarming with drones now is so easy that any kid with an internet connection can figure out how to do it,” Velicovich said.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Explosives attached to drones used in an attack on Russian military bases in Syria. (Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense)

Russia plays the blame game

Moscow had previously hinted that the US helped target the drones, claiming that a P-8 Poseidon spy plane had “coincidentally” flown over the Russian bases around the time of the attack.

“Any suggestion the US, the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible,” Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon previously told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is “absolute bonkers.”

Moscow on Jan. 1o said that the drone attack originated from the village of Muazzara, which is located in the Idlib province of Syria.

Also Read: Russia now blames Turkey for drone attacks, not US

“The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces,” RT reported, adding that Moscow complained to Turkey about the incident.

However, Russian President Putin said on Jan. 11 that he had spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and that he was confident that Turkey had nothing to with it, according to the Associated Press.

“There were provocateurs, but they weren’t the Turks,” Putin said. “We know who they were and how much they paid for that provocation.”

“We often overestimate how much governments in capitals have control over the rebel groups they sponsor,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, previously told Business Insider.

While Moscow appears to have now excluded Ankara from its list of perpetrators, it continues to insinuate that the rebels that launched the drones had outside help.

 

(Ministry of Defense of Russia | YouTube)

 

The Russian MoD Defense Ministry spelled it out on Thursday, arguing that the complexity of the drones — which they said required “calculations and flight tests” — prove that whoever launched them were backed by an outside power.

“First of all, it is impossible to develop such drones in an improvised manner. They were developed and operated by experts with special skills acquired in countries that produce and apply systems with UAVs,” according to the MoD. “The fact that terrorists have received assembly technology and programming technology is the evidence that this threat stretches far beyond the Syrian borders.”

Experts agree: Russia is wrong

Business Insider spoke with multiple experts who all said that the drones could have been constructed and operated from a distance of more than 30 miles by rebels without any outside help.

Gorenburg, the CNA research scientist, said Russia was likely “embarrassed” by the attack and the MoD may have needed to attribute the drone strike to “a major power.”

Caitlin Lee, a political scientist at the RAND Corp., told Business Insider that GPS or a camera would be needed to operate a drone at such a distance.

“It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a non-state actor to put GPS software on a drone,” Lee said.

The Russian Defense Ministry even admitted that one of the drones had a camera on it.

Velicovich, the author of “Drone War,” said the drones could have come from ISIS, which has been increasingly active in Syria’s Idlib province.

“Wouldn’t surprise me if this was ISIS’s drone unit, which has been active for a few years now and played with similar technology under their Al Bara Bin Malik brigade,” he said.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Briefing by Head of Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development Maj Gen Alexander Novikov (Screengrab from Ministry of Defense of Russia YouTube)

Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider the same thing.

“All of the technology — the styrofoam, wood, lawn mower engines — can probably be bought in Idlib for a couple hundred dollars,” Stein said.

“It’s really embarrassing to have a bunch of junk fly through your air defenses and wreak havoc,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A crew of pilots and former astronauts just broke this world record

An international flight crew has broken a world record after flying around the world in 46 hours, 39 minutes, and 38 seconds.

The crew, known collectively as “One More Orbit,” flew over the North and South poles from July 9 to July 11, 2019.

The team, which flew in a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER ultra long-range business jet, managed to beat the world record by 5 hours, 51 minutes, and 26 seconds, according to its website.

One More Orbit’s flight broke two previous records. The first, for the quickest overall time to fly around the world was set in 1977 by Capt. Walter Mullikin, while the second, for the fastest average speed, was set by Capt. Aziz Ojjeh in 2008.


The total route spanned about 22,328 nautical miles (25,695 miles/41,351 km), said Captain Hamish Harding, a mission director and one of the pilots.

The average speed was about 535 mph, according to The Associated Press’s calculations.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

A photo from the Apollo 11 landing on July 20, 1969.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The pilots attempted the flight to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11’s first moon landing on July 20, 1969, which saw humans go to the moon for the first time.

It started and ended its mission at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida — exactly where the Apollo 11 crew took off almost 50 years ago.

July 9, 2019’s mission also started at 9:32 EDT — the exact same time as Apollo 11, One More Orbit said.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?

An aerial view of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

(NASA Kennedy)

The group consisted of three mission directors and six members of the Qatar Executive crew. One mission director, Captain Hamish Harding, and three other crew members served as pilots.

The entire flight consisted of nationals from the UK, US, Russia, Germany, Denmark, South Africa, Ukraine, and Poland, according to the team’s site.

Terry Virts, a former International Space Station (ISS) commander, and his former ISS crewmate, Russian Gennady Padalka, served as mission directors, and were also present during the flight.

‘NASCAR pit-stop intense’

Because the journey was so long, the team needed to refuel three times, in Kazakhstan, Mauritius, and Chile, Harding said.

Harding said prior to the flight that the team would attempt refuel stops of around 30 minutes each.

Virts, the American, described the fueling stop as “NASCAR pit-stop intense” after the flight, the AP reported. Padalka, the Russian, left after the second fuel stop.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon will report what really happened to 4 soldiers in Niger

The Pentagon is releasing a redacted version of the lengthy Niger ambush investigation that is expected to focus on the command and tactical decisions that led to the deaths of four members of the Army‘s Third Special Forces Group.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation is thousands of pages long. Pentagon officials said the report would include an animated video of what happened on the joint patrol with Nigerien troops near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger on Oct. 4, 2018.


The families of the fallen and members of Congress have already been briefed on the findings, which were expected to answer the lingering questions about how a patrol of 12 U.S. and approximately 30 Nigerien troops came to be overwhelmed by fighters from an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

In a briefing shortly after the ambush, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the mission had been expected to pose little risk.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

However, the mission reportedly was changed and sent the patrol after a high-value militant linked to the offshoot called ISIS in the Greater Sahel.

Those killed in the patrol were Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.

Four Nigerien troops and a Nigerien interpreter also were killed in the ambush near the Mali border as the patrol was returning to base near the Nigerien capital of Niamey.

Black’s father has declined to fault the decisions that led to the ambush.

He told National Public Radio, “I would not personally characterize them as mistakes. They were just decisions based on what they knew, and I believe that those decisions were sound decisions.”

One of the questions that is expected to be answered is how Sgt. La David Johnson came to be separated from the rest of the patrol during the ambush. His body was not found until two days after the attack.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
Sgt. La David Johnson
(U.S. Army photo)

The noontime briefing at the Pentagon on the investigation is expected to be led by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem and Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command.

Waldhauser’s chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, who led the Article 15-6 investigation, is also expected to join the briefing.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

That Russian nerve agent is an old Cold War weapon

Novichok, the powerful nerve agent that British Prime Minister Theresa May says was used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, means “newcomer” in Russian. But the military-grade chemical is anything but.


Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, novichoks are a group of advanced nerve agents designed to circumvent chemical weapons treaties and penetrate protective gear used by NATO forces.

Also read: All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

They are made of two nontoxic components that become lethal only when mixed together, making them difficult to detect and relatively safe and easy to transport and store. Once mixed, however, they are believed to be five to eight times more potent than the notorious nerve agent VX.

Dan Kaszeta, a London-based expert in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN), said on Twitter that novichoks were “specifically developed to evade the West/NATO’s detection capabilities and foil intelligence collection efforts.”

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
An example of a Novichok nerve agent.

Russia has vehemently denied any connection to the attack, which has left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter in a “critical but stable condition” at a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to the chemical on March 4, 2018.

‘Enough to kill tens of millions’

Novichoks gained notoriety in the early 1990s when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov revealed that the country had secretly developed the powerful binary nerve gas that is believed to take effect rapidly by penetrating through the skin and respiratory system.

Mirzayanov, a chemist, told The New York Times in 1994 that the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons, some 60,000 tons, “would be enough to kill tens of millions.”

More: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear regiment, told the Daily Express that novichoks are “designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.”

“Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream,” he said.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
CCTV image showing Skripal buying groceries and scratch cards near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed. (Photo by ITV News)

Despite the fact that novichoks were not developed in large quantities, de Bretton-Gordon said the Russians may have enough of them to kill several hundred thousand people.

Related: Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

He also warned that there could be hidden costs as well for those who come into contact with it such as “mutations in the next generation or future generations.”

The effects of novichoks are similar to other nerve agents.

It is believed that they attack muscles, especially around the heart and lungs, causing the collapse of body functions, including respiratory and cardiac arrest.

Articles

POTUS to deliver Coast Guard Academy commencement address

President Donald Trump will deliver the commencement address to graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy next month.


On April 19, White House spokesman Sean Spicer announced Trump’s participation in the May 17 ceremony in New London, Connecticut.

Coronavirus aid coming ‘from Russia with love’ — or an agenda?
A photo from the 2016 Coast Guard Academy commencement events. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by PA2 Mendenhall)

Each year, the president delivers the commencement address at one of the U.S. military service academies.

It will be Trump’s second time addressing graduates during commencement season this year.

He’s scheduled to deliver the keynote address at graduation exercises at Virginia’s Liberty University on May 13.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Election anxiety is very real. Here are 7 ways to cope

Election anxiety is real. More than two-thirds of Americans surveyed said that the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd is a source of significant stress. This is no surprise, as this election season has, for numerous reasons, been the most polarizing and contentious in recent history. Add this to the COVID-related stress we’re all feeling and it’s a lot to handle.


With Election Day quickly approaching, it’s very understandable to find yourself more anxious, more on edge. It’s also easy for those feelings to manifest as shortness or anger aimed at the people we love. Of course, that is the last thing our families need or that we want to provide them. So how do you keep yourself healthy and present? Take some deep breaths and follow the suggestions laid out below. Because, as with everything in 2020, the election will drag on for a lot longer than we anticipate.

1. Maintain the Foundational Four

In times of high stress and anxiety, the fundamentals are more important than ever. According to Vaile Wright, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health Care Innovation with the American Psychological Association, it’s critical, then, to focus on the “Foundational Four”: getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy, staying active, and keeping connected socially. Interrogate yourself: Am I sleeping enough hours? Am I reaching out to friends? Is my diet helping me feel energized? Wright adds that, on top of these, you should also add activities and routines that fill you back up when you’re feeling burnt out. You know yourself better than anyone else. Now’s the time to really make sure you’re giving yourself what you need.

2. Identify What’s in Your Control — and What’s Not

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of uncertainties in the world today. But uncertainty is always a constant and we must all learn to focus on only what we can actually control. So ask yourself: What do I have control over? What don’t I? Write them down as you do so. “Make two lists on a piece of paper,” says Wright. “On the left, write down the things that are out of your control. On the right, write out what things you can control — including the things that can distract you from what’s stressing you and can engage you, like listening to music or watching a movie.” This list can form the basis of your self-care toolkit. “In a moment of anxiety, you don’t have to think about what you need to do to feel better,” Wright says. “Pick something from your list.”

3. Do the Things that Are in Your Control — Like Voting

When you made your lists, did you include “Vote” in the right-hand column? “Voting is you exerting your agency and control over something you do have control over — your vote,” says Wright. “After you vote, you’ll feel less stressed. You’ll have permission to take a step back so there won’t be that pressure to be so connected.” You’re not going to ignore what’s happening, of course, but doing your part can help you moderate how much attention you’re giving the election.

4. Understand How You Cope

Do you know how you cope? It’s smart to really think about the things that help you destress and be your best self. Coping skills, per Wright, fall into three buckets: cognitive, physical, and sense-based.

  • Cognitive: Puzzles. Reading. Card and board games “These all require you to use your noggin,” Wright says. “A family activity like a scavenger hunt with clues to figure out combines mental and physical.”
  • Physical: These are activities that get your heart pumping. Yep. General exercise falls into this area. But don’t box yourself in if that’s not your style. “My favorite physical stress-buster is impromptu dance parties in the kitchen when we’re cooking,” Wright says. “Find opportunities to try something new.”
  • Sense-based: These are activities that have you focusing on touch, taste, smell, and sound. Think: taking a hot shower. Lighting a scented candle. Drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Squeezing a stress ball. “For some people having a rubber band around their wrist and snapping it is a way to distract themselves as they focus on their body,” Wright says.

Understand which category — or combination of categories — helps you the most and carve out time to make them a part of your day.

4. Limit Your Media Consumption

News, news everywhere. But not a moment to think. Doomscrolling, or the act of constantly scrolling through one soul withering news story after another, contributes to anxiety. Now is the time to be very aware of your social media and news viewing habits. Reduce your stress by limiting how much time you’re spending on social media and news sites. “Stay informed, especially at the local level, but be mindful of your time online,” Wright says. “That means being mindful of when, how much, and what type of information you’re consuming.”

For starters, turn off your phone’s push notifications. “Most of us don’t need to know late-breaking news,” Wright says. “You don’t realize how often you’re getting distracted all day long.” Instead, set aside time to get caught up on the news — like lunch.

Another good tactic: Use your phone’s settings to set limits that cut you off when you’ve reached your fill of social media or news sites.

And, while this is easier said than done, avoid what you know stresses you out. “If pundits on TV get your blood boiling, try reading your news online instead of watching it,” Wright says. “With the 24-hour news cycle, you’re exposed to negative images and hear the same things over and over — most of it conjecture. Go with what works best for you.”

Remember the Foundational Four? That’s why it’s smart to avoid scrolling before bed. “You need at least an hour away from your phone before going to sleep,” Wright says.

5. Step Away From Your Phone

Disabling push notifications is one thing. But it’s crucial to schedule phone-free. As hard as it may be to go offline, you’ll feel better if you do so. Do what it takes to disconnect for stretches of time. “Don’t rely on willpower,” Wright says. “Leave your phone in another room.”

“If you prioritize quality time for you and your family, being on the phone is not quality time,” Wright says. “Set some rules for device use as a family. And if you don’t let your kids use theirs at dinnertime, you shouldn’t use yours, either.”

6. Set Your Expectations for Election Night

With this particular election, we might not have results for days or even weeks after November 3rd. Your mindset should account for this likelihood.

“Go in with the expectation of not knowing who the president will be the day after the election,” Wright says. “With that established, it’ll be easier to weather the period of time when we’re waiting and things are uncertain.”

“It comes back to focusing on the basics: taking care of yourself, taking care of your family, using your coping skills, and focusing on the things that are in your control,’ Wright says. “There’s not much we can do about it if it goes to the courts. Maintain your stability.”

7. Model Self-Care for Your Kids

Kids are intuitive — they’ll notice if you’re stressed — so when you are taking measures for your own self care, tell your kids what you’re doing and why. “Explain why you’re turning off the news, why you’re sitting down to do a puzzle together, how taking care of yourself is important,” Wright says. “You’re going to get stressed in life. If you’re overwhelmed, tag out and have your partner take over. Demonstrate emotional well-being and ask for help when you need it.”

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

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