COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Joseph V. Micallef is a best-selling military history and world affairs author, and keynote speaker. Follow him on Twitter @JosephVMicallef.

Of all the world’s commodities, petroleum best epitomizes the geopolitical consequences of natural resources. Countries that were fortunate to possess large reserves of hydrocarbons found themselves with incredible wealth and in control of a powerful driver of economic development. Countries that were unable to produce enough oil and gas for their needs found themselves vulnerable to supply disruptions and at a major geopolitical disadvantage.


The oil and gas industry had a significant Achilles heel, however. Oil and gas development had significant up-front development costs but, in many cases, relatively low operating costs. Once a well was brought into production, the cost of keeping it operating was relatively low, even if the revenue was insufficient to amortize the development cost. The result was that, historically, the oil and gas industry has been subject to volatile swings in pricing.

In 1919, the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) was charged with setting production levels among Texas oil producers in order to control the supply and stabilize prices. From 1930 through 1960, the TRC was largely responsible for setting the price of oil worldwide.

In 1960, a group of oil-producing countries, led by Saudi Arabia, adopted the TRC model and formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to regulate oil production and stabilize prices. OPEC did not eliminate oil price volatility, but its willingness to regulate its production levels helped moderate some of the pricing instability. Between 2000 and 2020, average yearly oil prices varied from a low of .99 per barrel in 2001, to a high of 2.58 per barrel in 2011. The average price in 2019 was .92 per barrel. Currently, average oil prices are approximately per barrel.

Canada, Russia, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, all significant oil producers, were among the oil-producing countries that did not join OPEC. The U.S., a major producer, began to import oil in 1959. Although the U.S. still imports oil, it has been a net exporter of both refined petroleum products and crude oil since November 2019.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

OPEC’s share of the global oil market peaked at slightly more than 50% in 1973. In 2019, it was approximately 30%. Energy conservation; new discoveries; improvements in drilling and production technology; and, most significantly, the development of horizontal drilling to open “tight” oil- and gas-bearing formations and the development of the Canadian tar sands, have all cut into OPEC’s market share. In addition, Asia, principally China, India and Japan, have now become the main market for OPEC’s exports.

In 2017, Russia, along with 10 other non-OPEC oil-producing countries, agreed to coordinate production cuts with the group in order to stabilize prices. The countries were referred to as the “Vienna Group” and the arrangement as OPEC+. The agreement represented a strategic alignment of Saudi Arabia and Russia to rationalize prices. It lasted through March 2020.

One of the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was a sharp drop of approximately one to two million barrels per day (BOPD) in world demand for petroleum. In early March, OPEC agreed to extend its current cutbacks of 2.1 million BOPD and to reduce production by an additional 1.5 BOPD to a total of 3.6 million BOPD.

OPEC requested that Russia and the other 10 oil-producing countries in the OPEC+ group decrease their production by an additional 500,000 BOPD. Russia refused to accept the additional production cuts, arguing that any production cutbacks would simply be made up by American shale oil producers.

In retaliation, Saudi Arabia declared that it would flood world oil markets in a quest to regain lost market share and indirectly punish Russia for its unwillingness to cooperate.

Within a matter of days, world oil prices cratered by approximately 60%. The collapse of oil prices, coupled with rising anxiety over the economic consequences of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, triggered widespread economic turmoil and a marked decline in financial markets.

U.S. Strategic Interests and OPEC

The governments of both Russia and Saudi Arabia are heavily dependent on petroleum exports to fund the bulk of their expenditures. In Riyadh’s case, oil exports supply 70% of its revenues; in Moscow’s case, the number is approximately 46%. Both countries have sovereign funds designed to cover shortfalls in government revenues from falling oil prices. Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund had 0 billion in assets, while Russia’s National Wealth Fund had approximately 4 billion at the end of 2019.

The Trump administration was quick to characterize the Saudi and Russian decisions to increase oil production as a thinly veiled attack on American shale oil producers. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that 7.7 million BOPD, or about 2.81 billion barrels, of crude oil were produced from tight oil formations in the United States in 2019. This was equal to about 63% of total U.S. crude oil production last year.

This was not the first time that Saudi Arabia had tried to use low prices to force the producers of the more expensive shale oil out of the market. In response, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would buy up to 77 million barrels of oil from American producers for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Funding for these purchases was not, however, included in the recently passed 2020 Cares Act. In the meantime, the TRC announced that it would consider limiting Texas oil production to stabilize prices. Texas represents 40% of U.S. oil production.

Pundits were quick to take positions on which country, Saudi Arabia or Russia, would be able to hold out the longest in the ensuing price war. Meanwhile, television commentators pointed out that lower gasoline prices represented a boon for American consumers.

The more germane questions, however, are where does the U.S. interest lie? Is the U.S. better off from lower or higher petroleum prices? What are the consequences of lower oil prices on America’s strategic interests around the world?

From the 1960s through 2013, the U.S. was the largest net importer of petroleum in the world. Lower petroleum prices were in America’s interest as they decreased the balance of payments deficit created by oil imports and represented savings to American households. Today, gasoline costs represent around 2% of average household income. So even significant reductions in gasoline prices are not going to represent a major change in a family’s income — certainly not in respect to the current economic turmoil.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Moreover, given that the U.S. is now a net exporter of oil and natural gas, lower prices reduce its export earnings. Additionally, over the last two decades, the U.S. shale oil industry has emerged as an important driver of economic development and a source of high-paying blue-collar jobs. On balance, the U.S. economy would be better off if prices returned to their -to- pre-crash levels than if they continue at their current depressed levels.

From Washington’s standpoint, the strategic implications of low oil prices around the world are mixed. On the one hand, low oil prices are a significant constraint on the Russian government and on the Kremlin’s ability to fund the expansion and modernization of Russian military forces. Russia needs oil prices at around a barrel or higher to balance its budget, and closer to to finance the more ambitious social and military programs that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to implement.

On the other hand, low oil prices threaten to destabilize countries that are American allies and to create new areas of regional instability or aggravate existing ones. This is particularly true of the Gulf region, but also of countries such as Nigeria and Mexico. Roughly one-third of Mexico’s federal budget comes from oil exports.

The average cost of producing a barrel of oil in the world is around . It’s a difficult number to pin down because operating costs are typically in local currency and are affected by exchange rates, as well as each country’s relative market share. Costs per country, however, can vary dramatically.

The U.K., whose North Sea oil fields are mature and declining, has a production cost of per barrel. Norway, whose oil fields are in a similar position, has an operating cost of .10 per barrel. On average, the amortization of capital costs typically represents about 50% of operating costs. Direct production, overhead, taxes and transportation costs represent the other half.

The U.S., where oil shale production represents two-thirds of output, has an equally high cost at .20. Brazil and Canada, whose new oil production is particularly capital intensive, have costs of .80 per barrel and per barrel, respectively. Russia’s average production cost is around .20, although the cost of new production, especially in its Arctic oil fields, is much higher.

At the other extreme, Saudi Arabia has a production cost of .90 per barrel, while Kuwait has the lowest production cost at .50. Across OPEC, the average production cost is probably between and per barrel. That means, at current prices, most OPEC producers’ costs exceed revenues after they factor in capital costs.

Only Iraq, Iran and the UAE have costs comparable to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. In short, current oil prices are unsustainable long term. Even those countries that can produce oil profitably at these levels cannot produce enough to make up in volume the revenues they need to fund government expenditures. In the short term, prices may drop even lower but, in the long term, low prices are both unsustainable and extremely destabilizing politically.

The trends that produced the current instability in petroleum markets are not new. They have been in process for some time. The COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated those trends and brought them to a culmination faster and more dramatically than would otherwise have been the case. Ironically, instead of dealing with the consequence of “peak oil” and skyrocketing prices, today we are dealing with too much production capacity and insufficient demand.

For much of its existence, OPEC has been an American nemesis, a position underscored in 1973 when the Arab members of OPEC (OAPEC) embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. in response to American aid to Israel. Historically, as a net consumer of oil, the U.S. wanted lower prices, while producers wanted higher prices. Today, however, it’s a different world, one in which the interests of OPEC and the U.S. are more closely aligned.

Prices in the to range are sufficient to keep the U.S. shale oil industry economic and afford OPEC members a basis of financial stability. It’s also in Russia’s interest, as it stabilizes the Kremlin’s finances, even if it falls short of Moscow’s more ambitious goals. In the meantime, the U.S. petroleum industry will continue to innovate and to bring down its shale oil production costs, while continuing to expand its liquefied natural gas export capability. Moreover, the U.S. would likely get Canada, Brazil, the U.K. and Norway to participate, even if unofficially, in such an arrangement. The Alberta provincial government is already limiting oil production.

In light of the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. and the global economy, stabilizing the oil market and a key American industrial sector would be a first step in repairing the economic damage. It’s time for Washington to make a deal with OPEC and Russia to stabilize the oil market, even if that means the U.S. must agree to some production cuts or export curtailment to ensure price stability.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This elite military dog died saving US soldiers

A military working dog was killed in a fierce firefight in Afghanistan in November 2018, and his actions in his final moments saved the lives of several US soldiers.

Maiko, a multi-purpose canine (MPC) assigned to Army 75th Ranger Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, was killed during a raid on Al Qaeda militants in Nimruz Province. Sgt. Leandro Jasso, who was assigned to the same unit, was also killed during this engagement.


“Maiko was killed in action while leading Rangers into a breach of a targeted compound” on Nov. 24, 2018, an unofficial biography leaked online read. “Maiko’s presence and actions inside the building directly caused the enemy to engage him, giving away his position and resulting in the assault force eliminating the threat without injury or loss of life.”

“The actions of Maiko directly saved the life of his handler [Staff Sgt.] Jobe and other Rangers,” the document said.

The accuracy of the biography, which first appeared on social media, was confirmed to Stars and Stripes by a spokesperson for the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning in Georgia.

The dog was born in Holland in 2011 and brought to the US when he was 15 months old. Maiko was seven years old and on his sixth deployment to Afghanistan at the time of his death. He is said to have participated in over 50 Ranger-led raids involving IED detection, building clearance, and combatant apprehension.

“Rest assured Maiko never backed down from a fight,” his biography explained, adding that this dog “embodied what it means to be a Ranger … The loss of Maiko is devastating to all that knew and worked with him.”

According to a Bloomberg News report from 2017, there are roughly 1,600 military working dogs serving in the field or aiding veterans. These dogs go through extensive training, and a full-trained military dog is worth around the same amount as a small missile.

Maiko was purchased by the Regimental Dog Program in 2012 and put through the Regimental Basic/Advanced Handler’s Course before he was ultimately assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 2nd Battalion. He was handled by five different handlers during his career.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Who will be President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense?

As President-elect Biden builds his team, one key unknown appointment is causing friction: who could be President Biden’s Secretary of Defense?

Coalition leaders within the political landscape are pushing for different contenders. The Congressional Black Caucus is encouraging him to choose a Black leader while many within the progressive wing of politics are pressuring Biden to select a female leader. There has never been a female or Black Secretary of Defense, something both groups are vying to change. 

Among the speculated contenders for the position include retired four-star Army General Lloyd Austin and Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Army National Guard veteran and America’s first female double-amputee from the Iraq War. Michele Flournoy is also under consideration as is former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. Although there are others being considered, these four have the most ties to the military community through service and experience. 

General Austin visits troops over the holidays. He's being considered for Secretary of Defense.

All potential candidates represent the president-elect’s commitment to building a diverse cabinet. In November of 2020, Biden announced the historic appointment of an all female-led communications team.

For Austin to be President-elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense, he would require a congressional waiver from Congress since he only retired just four years prior from active duty service. There is widespread discontent with him as a choice due to his time working within defense contracting as well as a congressional hearing that left more questions than answers. If chosen, he would be the first Black Secretary of Defense, as would Johnson. Although Duckworth would be a history-making nominee as a female and combat-wounded veteran, CNN reported that Biden is reluctant to leave vacancies within the Senate. Flournoy is experiencing some backlash as a choice as well, due to her connection with arms sales and unanswered questions about her consulting company, WestExec Advisors, LLC.

Tammy Duckworth salutes. Duckworth is said to be on the shortlist for President-Elect Biden's Secretary of Defense.

The Secretary of Defense position has been full of tumult under President Trump, with a leadership change six times. While retired General Jim Mattis led for almost two years when Trump began his presidency, his successors didn’t last nearly as long. Patrick Shanahan held the position for six months, Mark Esper for 21 days, Richard Spencer for only eight days before Esper took over again, this time for a year and 109 days. The current Acting Secretary of Defense was only appointed in November of 2020 after Esper was fired on Twitter by President Trump. 

With the continued changing leadership at the Pentagon, it’s understandable that those voicing opinions on Biden’s pick are concerned. The administration appears to be taking pains to ensure President-Elect Biden’s Secretary of Defense is a solid and secure pick. Until then, the military community waits in the wings, breath held in anticipation of their new defense leader.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veteran addresses homelessness with tiny homes

When former Army Cpl. Chris Stout saw his fellow veterans struggling with homelessness, he set out to solve the problem by going small — really small. Tiny, even.

On Veterans Day, 2015, Stout and three other combat vets started the Veterans Community Project (VCP), a non-profit that builds communities of tiny homes, providing a host of services for veterans.

During a 2005 combat tour in Afghanistan Stout was wounded and transitioned back to Kansas City, Missouri. Like many wounded warriors, he struggled with physical and mental injuries. He knew that he felt better when in the company of other veterans and, for a short time, worked as a veteran counselor connecting vets to services they needed. But it wasn’t enough.


“I often would use my own money to put up vets in a hotel room,” Stout said. “I felt like there must be better way to get vets the services they needed, as well as housing.”

With its focus first on the great Kansas City, Missouri area, VCP wants to use the region as the blueprint for achieving similar successes in cities across the United States. Long term, they aspire to eliminate veteran homelessness nationwide.

Veteran’s Community Project

www.youtube.com

“We are the place that says ‘yes’ first and figures everything else out later,” Stout said. “We serve anybody who’s ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution.”

Homelessness is one of the major contributors to the high suicide rate of veterans, he said. According to the latest 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs study, that rate is 22 per day among younger veterans aged 18 to 34.

In the VCP program, veterans get more than just a home; they get a community of like-minded veterans supporting each other.

“It’s very much like the barracks lifestyle, except that each veteran has their own home,” Stout said. “They’re taking care of each other. We also have a community center for them to gather and share camaraderie.”

The founders of VCP say on their website they are a team of “connectors, feelers, and doers on a mission to help our kin, our kind. We move with swift, bold action, and will always serve with compassion.”

Stout and his partners use their military logistics prowess to ensure that their housing communities are located along convenient bus lines and provide every veteran a free bus pass to allow easy transportation.

“We like to have them say, ‘What do you provide?’ That way we can ask them, ‘What do you need?’ And then we can start being the connectors,” Stout said. “At least 60 percent of the people that we serve, we’re serving them because of a poor transition from the military.”

And it’s thanks, in part, to his work with that community that he’s accumulated a wealth of good advice on how to survive the transition from the military into the civilian world.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Chris Stout, Army veteran and Founder of the Veterans Community Project.

Chris Stout’s top 5 transition tips

  1. Connect with other veterans in your community. They will have learned lessons and have guidance more valuable than a brochure.
  2. Ask for assistance before it’s too late. When Plan A doesn’t pan out, be prepared to execute a Plan B and ask for help pulling yourself out of the hole.
  3. You’re not alone. You’re not the first to struggle with the VA, and you’re not the first to struggle with home life. Know that there are people who understand and can help sort it out. Often, when veterans transition, they view it as if they are the only ones traveling this road or the first blazing the trail. That’s not the case
  4. If you’re a veteran, act like one. That means accepting responsibility, be on time, hold yourself accountable, have integrity and do not act entitled.
  5. Work as hard as you did while you were in the service each and every day. It doesn’t matter what you decide to do when you get out; if you keep the drive, you will be OK.

Master your military transition

Looking for more transition tips? Military.com has you covered. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have military news, updates, and job resources delivered directly to your inbox.

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

Articles

New Navy secretary welcomes ‘any patriot that wants to serve’

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer visited Naval Station Norfolk for the first time August 10, where he pledged that America would defend itself and its allies against aggression from North Korea.


Tensions between the US and North Korea have escalated amid threats from Kim Jong Un to lob missiles near the American territory of Guam, which is home to naval and Air Force bases. President Donald Trump ramped up warnings of “fire and fury” should the dictator put his plan into action.

Spencer, who was sworn in as the Navy’s 76th secretary August 3, declined to comment on the Navy’s preparations in the Pacific.

“We just hope that Korea stops acting the way it does,” Spencer said. “We’re going to defend ourselves; we are going to defend our allies. They should know that, and we hope that we can have conversations and de-escalate.”

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
US Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Rafael Rodriguez (right), command sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Regions, greets Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay.

Spencer’s comments came after he toured the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and Virginia-class submarine USS John Warner and named people, capabilities, and process as priorities for his new role.

Spencer joined the Marine Corps in 1976 after graduating from Rollins College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and flew the service’s H-46 helicopter. He attained the rank of captain before leaving in 1981 for a career in finance, according to a Navy biography. He most recently served as managing director of Wyoming-based Fall Creek Management, LLC.

Spencer follows Ray Mabus, whose nearly eight years as Navy secretary — the longest since World War I — was marked with criticism for decisions to name some ships after civil and human rights leaders and for dropping a more than two-century-old naval tradition of referring to sailors by their rate, or job title, in favor of rank. That decision was reversed after a storm of fierce opposition.

During his July 11 confirmation hearing, Spencer told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supports the use of alternative energy sources, growing the capacity and capabilities of the fleet, and protecting Navy bases against sea-level rise.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
Richard V. Spencer is sworn in as the 76th Secretary of the Navy by William O’Donnell, Department of the Navy administrative assistant. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan B. Trejo.

Spencer also said he opposed the use of the services as “a petri dish for social experiments,” instead saying it should be left to the Pentagon to develop policy. A little more than two weeks later and in a series of tweets, Trump said he was banning transgender military personnel from service, stunning an unprepared Pentagon.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has reaffirmed current policies until additional guidance is given by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Spencer said August 10 he would follow policies developed by the Pentagon at the direction of the White House, adding context to his “petri dish” statement to mean that no service secretary “should go off and do experiments on their own.” But Spencer did not directly say whether the thousands of transgender service members on active duty and in the reserves should be kicked out.

“As I’ve said before, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military,” Spencer said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army soldier leads the way after historic accomplishment

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster was 37 years old when she attended Ranger School. While the average age of attendees in the course ranges in the early 20s, that didn’t deter her, and in October of 2015 she graduated from the course.

She was the first woman in the U.S. Army Reserve to do so.

Four years later, her advice to others is simple.

“You have to be ‘all-in,'” said Jaster. “Be willing to give everything you have for the school and maintain your integrity. The first week is published therefore you know what to expect and how to succeed. Once you’ve passed the physical entrance exam (RAP week), you will need to have the mental toughness to push through conditions that could beat a lesser person down.”


“Do not let ‘quit’ in,” she continued. “That means once you allow quitting into your mind as an option, it will move in, live there, steal your motivation, and eventually defeat you from within.”

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Maj. Lisa Jaster in late 2015, after her graduation from Ranger School that previous October.

(Courtesy of Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster)

The all-in attitude that Jaster says is the key to success for Ranger school has also been tantamount to accomplishments in other aspects of her life. As a citizen soldier, she demonstrates that one can serve their country while continuing to have a civilian career.

In the past three years, Jaster has been a senior project engineer with Shell Oil Co. before becoming the director of civil engineering for MS Engineering. She also has become a professional speaker with Leading Authorities, holding engagements across the country.

In the Army Reserve, she has been a battalion executive officer, an engineering team lead supporting the Iraqi Security Forces during Operation Inherent Resolve, and is now the brigade executive officer for the 420th Engineer Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command.

Throughout all of her experiences, her definition of leadership and what is expected of leaders has one constant: be consistent in your words and actions, and set the example for others to follow. This definition has served her well in both her military and civilian life.

“Everyone needs to be led as an individual, and each individual brings something to the fight as long as they are vested in the end state,” said Jaster. “A leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better versions of themselves.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, poses with her family after promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col. Jaster graduated from Ranger School in 2015, the first female officer in the Reserve to do so.

(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)

“Traditionally,” she continued. “I have said that consistency is the most important aspect of leadership to ensure subordinates can perform in the absence of guidance,” After Ranger School, I have created the three Cs – Consistency, Communication and Competence. There are a lot of other aspects to being an effective leader, but these are necessary starting blocks.”

Jaster approaches her personal life with the same care as her professional one. A dual military couple, she and her husband, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, have two children. Their support of each other and their children has been a critical factor in their accomplishments.

“Balancing the Citizen (employee, mom, wife, sister, daughter, and individual) with the soldier is very complicated,” said Jaster. “I used to try to silo both aspects of who I am but found that so much bleeds over from one job to the other that I need to be fluid with those lines.

“What that means,” continued Jaster. “Is that Army conference calls can happen during cheer practice, and I might need to review proposals for work while I am in the field with the Army. It means being open and honest with my spouse, my military boss, and my civilian supervisor about what I can handle and what might be coming up. Having a strong support team with regards to extended family, friends and hired help is critical to ensure nothing at home drops.”

Jaster does not want her Ranger School experience to define her. Since her completion of the course, she has advised to not identify soldiers and civilians by their race, sex or creed, but their skills, attributes and performance.

She created the hashtag #deletetheadjective for social media to emphasize her message, and throughout all of her speaking engagements, she has consistently stated the best teams are those with the highest level of competencies, not just a group identity. Being in the Army Reserve has allowed her to serve her country while creating awareness, and discussion, of the topic.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, receives a new patrol cap from her family signifying her promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col.

(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)

“Ranger school was just part of my path,” said Jaster. “It was not an end state. I have a larger public voice because of graduating from Ranger School. My true failure or success is what I decide to do with that voice. If I can live by the Ranger Creed and set an example which brings our community together for a smooth gender integration, then that is the goal I am striving for.”

Looking forward to the future, Jaster continues to strive for excellence. Whether in uniform or out, she has used her previous accomplishments to continue to fuel her drive to succeed and set the example for others to follow. Her discipline and dedication to her family, civilian profession, and military career is a standard she refuses to let falter.

“Ranger School does not make me a good or a bad officer,” said Jaster. “It does mean there are certain external expectations of me that were previously only self-imposed. This gives me an additional drive to continue to train martial arts, strength, endurance and tactics, even when time constraints make it difficult and my current job doesn’t require it.

“I am looking forward to being a battalion commander,” she continued. “After battalion command, I am not sure what the Army holds, but I plan to stay in uniform as long as I can.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lee Harvey Oswald suspiciously contacted the KGB


  • The CIA intercepted a phone call from Lee Harvey Oswald to the KGB’s department in charge of “sabotage and assassination” before Oswald murdered John F. Kennedy.
  • Oswald had tried to defect to the Soviet Union years earlier but was denied citizenship.
  • The CIA did not conclude that Oswald killed Kennedy on the KGB’s instructions.

Newly released documents from the CIA show that the spy agency intercepted a phone call from Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy’s assassin, to the KGB department in Moscow that handled “sabotage and assassinations.”

Just over a month before Oswald assassinated Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the CIA intercepted a phone call he made to Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov.

Also read: This is where you can read the newly released JFK documents

The CIA identifies Kostikov as an officer in the KGB’s 13th department, which is “responsible for sabotage and assassination.”

Oswald asked Kostikov whether there was “anything new concerning the telegram to Washington,” and Kostikov told him there was not.

That telegram, though not explained in the CIA document, most likely had something to do with Oswald’s 1959 attempt to defect to the Soviet Union by traveling to Moscow. The Soviets denied his bid for citizenship but allowed him to stay in the country for a few years.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
Lee Harvey Oswald (undated image wikicommons)

The CIA document does not conclude that Oswald acted against Kennedy on Russian instructions or with help from the KGB.

Peter Savodnik, the author of “The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union,” told The Atlantic in 2013 that Oswald, who joined the US Marine Corps at 17, had moved with his mother 20 times during his childhood and most likely sought to live in Moscow to gain some feeling of permanence.

Savodnik maintains that instead of grooming Oswald as a potential agent against Moscow’s rivals in Washington, Soviet authorities sent him to live hundreds of miles away in Minsk, Belarus, because it was “sleepy and boring and quiet.”

Here’s how to read the new trove of previously classified documents on JFK’s assassination.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to get your own free ‘Space Force’ ringtone

If you’re in the military or are a veteran and haven’t heard about the Space Force yet, it’s time to climb out from under that rock you’ve been living in. There’s a sixth branch of the U.S. military now, and it’s going to be a department of the Air Force.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
The men’s department.

Although the Air Force has released very limited guidance on what the new branch will do, how it will roll out, or basically anything at all except that it’s called the ‘Space Force’ and will exist one day, the excitement the idea of a space force brings the military community is palpable.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
Judged solely by the sheer volume of Space Force memes.

Also Read: 5 boring details a Space Force private will get stuck on

So if you’re excited to do your part, you can fully engulf yourself in the burgeoning Space Force culture, you can now enjoy the first Space Force song, sure to be shouted at the top of many a Spaceman’s lungs every morning during Space-ic Training.

This songified version of President Trump’s Space Force announcement was created by The Gregory Brothers, whose YouTube page is packed with pop culture songification. Due to the popular demand for the song to be made into a ringtone via the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco, the Gregory Brothers responded immediately.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
Thanks Air Force amn/nco/snco.

Check out: Why the name of the space-based branch should be Space Corps

Good luck getting this song out of your head now that it goes off every time your mom or dad calls you. You can get your free Space Force ringtone from The Gregory Brothers at their Patreon page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US suspends F-35 delivery to Turkey over Russian S-400 missile deal

The United States says it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 fighter-jet program in response to Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of Russian air-defense system.

“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended while our dialogue on this important matter continues with Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said on April 1, 2019.


Washington has been warning Ankara for months that buying the S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Turkey has said it is committed to a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.

(Photo by Dmitriy Fomin)

Ankara has refused to back down on its planned purchase.

On March 29, 2019, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country was committed to the deal to buy the Russian system and was discussing delivery dates.

Russia media reported that Turkey intended to buy four S-400 units for a price of .5 billion.

Washington has also said it could withdraw an offer to sell Turkey the U.S. air-defense equivalent — the Patriot missile system.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US submarine maintains ‘readiness and lethality’ after time in ‘limbo’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019, praising the crew for maintaining “readiness and lethality,” even though the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine completed its most recent deployment in 2015.

The Boise has been in limbo, awaiting repairs amid a Navy-wide backlog that has sent subs, including the Boise, to private docks for repair, driving up costs.

The Boise is currently at Naval Station Norfolk, according to the Daily Press, and awaiting repair at Newport News Shipbuilders.

Read on to learn more about Esper’s visit to the Boise.


COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the USS Boise.

(Department of Defense)

Esper came to Virginia to discuss the problem of Navy suicides.

Esper visited the Boise during a trip to Norfolk, where three Navy sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush have died by suicide in the past two weeks.

“I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent future further suicides in the armed services,” Esper told sailors. “We don’t.”

This year, suicides in the armed services have garnered significant attention, with the Air Force calling a one-day operational stand-down in August 2019 to address the number of suicides in its ranks.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Defense Secretary Mark Esper tours the USS Boise, Sept. 25, 2019.

(Department of Defense)

While at Norfolk, Esper took a tour of the USS Boise.

The submarine Esper praised for its readiness has been out of action for four years and lost its certification to perform unrestricted operations in June 2016 as it awaited repairs, according to Navy spokesperson Cdr. Jodie Cornell.

“The Boise has been waiting for repairs since its last deployment ended in 2015, and become the poster child for problems w/ Navy maintenance,” journalist Paul McLeary tweeted Sept. 25, 2019.

The Boise and two other Los Angeles-class submarines have long awaited repairs that the Navy doesn’t have the capacity to perform, so the service has contracted the labor to private shipyards.

Cornell told Insider that the Boise could go into repairs in spring 2020, but the contract for the private shipbuilder to perform the repair was still in negotiations.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

Esper aboard the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019.

(US Department of Defense)

The Boise maintains a full crew, despite being stuck at Naval Base Norfolk.

Cornell told Insider that while there is indeed a full crew aboard the Boise, “the command has been executing an aggressive plan to send crew members to other submarines to both support the other ships, including deployments, and to gain Boise crewmembers valuable operational experience.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2018 that attack submarines have spent 10,363 days in “idle time” — when they can’t operate and are unable to get repairs — since 2008.

During that time, the Navy also spent an estimated id=”listicle-2640620235″.5 billion to maintain attack subs that weren’t operational.

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

Articles

These are among the few people on Earth who actually know what it’s like to be the target of a nuclear weapon

The increasing threat of nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea cast a shadow over the August 9 observance of the 72nd anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in the final days of World War II.


“A strong sense of anxiety is spreading across the globe that in the not-too-distant future these weapons could actually be used again,” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue told the crowd at the city’s Peace Park. The ceremony was held a day after US President Donald Trump vowed to respond to North Korea’s continuing threats with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Mayor Taue also lashed out at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for refusing to enter negotiations for the UN Nuclear Prohibition Treaty, calling his stance “incomprehensible to those of us living in the cities that suffered atomic bombings.” Japan routinely abhors nuclear weapons, but has aligned its defense posture firmly under the so-called US “nuclear umbrella.”

Taue and the other dignitaries led the audience in a moment of silence as a bell was rung at the exact moment a US warplane dropped a plutonium bomb onto the port city, killing as many as 70,000 people.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
Panoramic view of the monument at the hypocentre of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki. Wikimedia Commons photo by Dean S. Pemberton.

The Nagasaki bombing happened three days after 140,000 people died in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, the world’s first using of nuclear weapons. The bombings hastened Japan’s surrender to Allied forces on August 15, 1945, bringing the six-year-old global conflict to an end.

Articles

The Air Force is looking for more pilots to fly like the Russians and Chinese

Air-to-air dogfights have been lacking in recent years.


In one sense it is a good thing – it means the United States has been able to take control of the air very quickly. But American pilots still need to be able to practice – and not everyone can get to Red Flag or the Navy’s equivalents.

Recently the Air Force has been using Northrop T-38 Talons to help alleviate the problem. The T-38 Talon is a supersonic trainer that served as the basis for the F-5 “Freedom Fighter” and the F-5E/F Tiger. The F-5s were light, day-time fighters that were very maneuverable, and they have served as Navy and Marine Corps aggressors for the long time.

The Air Force has been using T-38s to supplement F-16s at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
A T-38 Talon participates in the 2004 Lackland Airfest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Aggressor training, developed after the Ault Report showed shortcomings in naval aviation, has helped keep American airmen good, and emerged in the late stages of the Vietnam War. The famous “Top Gun” school, in particular, had a marked effect, sending kill ratios skyrocketing to over 13:1.

Many of the aggressor pilots are currently members of the military, but according to a report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, that is changing as the Air Force seeks to hire contractors. Part of the reason has been an ongoing pilot shortage.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum
An air-to-air right side view of an F-21A Kfir (young lion) aircraft. The Israeli-built delta-wing tactical fighter was used as part of the Navy’s aggressor training. (US Navy photo)

The other reason is that some of the private companies can offer planes beyond the T-38 for these missions. A 2016 report from DefenseOne.com noted that one company has a mix of F-21 Kfirs, A-4 Skyhawks, Hawker Hunters, and L-39 Albatross jets. Among the companies getting into the mix is Textron, which makes the Textron AirLand Scorpion.

The final reason. though, maybe the most important.

That is because turning the aggressor training over to contractors could make them even tougher opponents for Air Force and Navy pilots. While many an Air Force pilot has non-flying billets at various points in their career, contractors will be able to just keep flying and dogfighting. This will make the military pilots they face off against sweat more, but it may prove the wisdom behind one old saying: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is urging its fighters to avoid Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic

ISIS has issued a travel advisory for Europe to its fighters due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, asking fighters to suspend travel to the region for terror attacks.


The latest edition of the terror group’s newsletter, Al-Naba, calls on its fighters to “stay away from the land of the epidemic,” Homeland Security Today recently reported.

COVID-19 and the geopolitics of petroleum

“The healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it,” the editors of the newsletter stated.

The newsletter also offered militants advice on how to avoid getting infected, including “cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing” and “wash the hands before dipping them into vessels.” There’s a full-page graphic on the back cover that cites Islamic texts for “directives to deal with epidemics.”

The terror group’s newsletter has been following the novel coronavirus pandemic closely, reporting on the spread of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, since the beginning of 2020.

In a February edition, ISIS said “many Muslims rushed to confirm that this epidemic is a punishment from God Almighty” for China’s oppression of the Muslim Uighur minority, but went on to warn that the “the world is interconnected” and transportation “would facilitate the transfer of diseases and epidemics.”

ISIS no longer has a self-declared caliphate, meaning it doesn’t control a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria anymore. But it’s estimated the terror group still has as many as 20,000 fighters in the region, and a recent UN report said the group has 0 million in reserves.

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There have been confirmed cases of coronavirus in a number of countries where ISIS has fighters, including Iraq and Afghanistan. As of Tuesday afternoon, almost 196,000 people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 7,800 have died.

Europe has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, particularly Italy, where over 30,000 people have been infected and over 2,500 people have died as of Tuesday.

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

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