Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.
To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).
The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.
Here’s what the plane is like inside.
The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.
First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.
First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.
The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.
United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
There is a very robust veteran community within the entertainment industry. Veterans in Media and Entertainment is a nonprofit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in the film and television industry. The Writers Guild Foundation has a year-long writing program for veterans. And hey, We Are The Mighty is a company founded on a mission to capture, empower, and celebrate the voice of today’s military community.
The military community makes up a small percentage of Americans, but plays a global — and exceptionally challenging — role. It makes sense that many veterans have stories to tell. Not all of those stories are about their military experiences, but many are. Hollywood loves a good hero story, but there’s more to the military than those few moments of bravery.
The military is a mind f*** unique lifestyle, one that does involve war and sacrifice, but also really weird laws and random adventures — and in a Post-9/11 world, we are now seeing an influx of veterans ready to dissect that world.
Enter Xanthe Pajarillo.
“Veteran narratives are begging for more diversity. When our representation in the media is limited to war heroes or trauma victims, it creates a skewed portrait of who service members are,” said Pajarillo, the creator of Airmen, a web series that explores the dynamics of queerness, romantic/workplace relationships, and being a person of color in the Air Force during peacetime operations. It emphasizes the unshakable bonds and relationships that veterans make during their time in service.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chloe Mondesir, who will play Airman 1st Class Mercedes Magat.
It’s important to recognize that there is much more to military service than what is traditionally portrayed in film and television (which tends to be the rare stories of heroism in battle and/or the traumatic effects of war).
American society has placed heroes on a pedestal, which is a very high standard to meet for our troops — and one that often involves a life-threatening circumstance. Not every troop will see combat (this is a good thing… but we don’t always feel that way when other members of our team are shouldering the burdens of war), and even those who do engage in battle but live when others die experience survivor’s guilt and symptoms of trauma.
It’s time to tell the reality of military service: the warrior’s tale, yes, but more importantly, the stories of the humans living their lives while wearing the uniform.
“Ultimately, I created Airmen to help bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. The characters are active duty, but their experiences are universal. We are complex individuals with successes, failures, and insecurities just like everyone else. I hope when someone watches the show – civilian or veteran – they’ll feel less alone in the world,” says Pajarillo.
Which is exactly what Airmen is setting out to do — and now the series is ready for the next stage of production, beginning with a campaign at SeedSpark, a platform designed to change the entertainment industry to reflect the world we actually live in.
Look, airmen are technically people. That’s why we can’t slap a fence around the Air Force, call it a zoo, and call the day done. Especially since we need a few of them to fly close-air support and whatever else it is that they do. So, the boys in blue tiger stripes are going to keep wandering around, quoting Nietzsche (even if they are finally getting rid of those stripes).
If you are forced to interact with one of them, here are some pics you can drop on the ground and escape while they argue the semantics or parse the meaning of it:
It’s a fact of life; in war, troops sustain injuries — which can range from mild to severe. If the medics and aid stations can’t fully treat a wound on their own, troops are moved back from the front lines to more-equipped facilities to recover. Exactly how far back depends on how long the wounded service member needs to recover before returning to fighting shape.
The military once used the C-9 Nightingale for medical evacuations. This plane was designed based on the DC-9 airliner and is capable of hauling 40 litter patients. A total of 48 of these planes were built and two remain in service with the Marine Corps today. These planes were, in large part, phased out in the 2000s.
Staff Sgt. Vanessa Potchebski and Staff Sgt. Miguel Rodriguez, both 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron medical technicians, unload medical equipment from a C-130 Hercules after a successful mission to pick up sick patients in Iraq.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
The current method of aeromedical evacuation involves putting a team of doctors and nurses on whatever cargo plane is available — be it a KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster, or C-5 Galaxy. On one hand, this means that medical crews don’t have to wait for a dedicated plane to arrive — they simply load up and go. On the other hand, it may not be a bad idea to have a dedicated aeromedical evacuation aircraft, one that’s carefully set up to provide care for the wounded.
At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo, we learned that a dedicated aeromedical evacuation aircraft may be exactly what’s in store, and the potential contender for this role is a jet most associate with the rich and famous: The Gulfstream. Yes, that’s right, the jet that Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, and other Hollywood A-listers take to Cannes could now be hauling wounded American troops.
The Air Force operates nine C-37s, based on the Gulfstream V business jet.
Versions of the Gulfstream have been in service with the U.S. military for a while as the C-20 and C-37, which are designs based off of civilian Gulfstream aircraft. These jets feature a long range (of at least 4,000 miles, if not more) and are capable of reaching high subsonic speeds. This makes them very useful, especially in critical-care cases.
Currently, the Air Force has seven C-20 (Gulfstream III/IV) and nine C-37 (Gulfstream V) jets in service, mostly for VIP transport. The Navy presently operates the C-37 as well. But if the decision is made to press these jets into service for aeromedical evacuation, the military may see more of this celebrity transport.
The three-gun turrets on an Iowa-class battleship are perhaps some of the best-known (and most-loved) naval guns. When they are fired, there is a sense of immense power — and they have a reputation for being able to take out just about anything.
It’s a well-deserved reputation. During Operation Desert Storm, a bunch of Iraqi troops saw the RQ-2 Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle circling overhead. Knowing that a lot of powerful shells were going to come soon, the Iraqis decided not to wait to get hit and surrendered to the drone.
So, how do these three-gun turrets work?
Now, this is a key distinction to keep in mind. A triple turret raises and lowers all three guns at the same time. A three-gun turret can raise and lower each of the guns separately. Don’t call ’em a triple turret — that could end up getting you in almost as much trouble as getting on the clip/magazine thing wrong.
The Iowa-class battleships have served off and on since World War II. Two of them, USS Missouri (BB 63) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) saw action during Operation Desert Storm. All four were reactivated in the 1980s and equipped with BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems.
The Iowa-class fast battleships (they had a top speed of 35 knots) displaced 45,000 tons, and their main armament was nine 16-inch guns in three three-gun turrets. When built, they had twenty five-inch guns in ten two-gun turrets. Six were ordered, but only four were commissioned. Two ships, USS Illinois (BB 65) and USS Kentucky (BB 66) were scrapped after World War II.
Take a look at this 1955 training film about the big guns on the Iowa-class battleships. Then think about how they no longer sail the seas, and mourn.
The Pentagon is about to realize its dream of having a drone warship to hunt foreign stealth submarines.
Meet the ACTUV (Antisubmarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) — a crewless,140-ton, 132-foot-long robotic ship unveiled in Portland’s Willamette River on Thursday.
“This is a big, big, deal,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said.
“It looks like a Klingon Bird of Prey,” he added, admiring the vessel’s narrow bow.
“It’s extremely inexpensive compared to a manned system and it takes men and service women out of harms way. So why wouldn’t we want to do this?”
The ACTUV, pronounced “active,” costs $15,000 to $20,000 a day to operate, according to the Department of Defense. It was conceived in 2010 by Darpa, the Pentagon’s developmental wing responsible for testing emerging military technologies.
And those expenses are chump change compared with the operating costs of an aircraft carrier or submarine.
Staffing the ACTUV costs an estimated $684,900 a day.
“You can afford to use it in ways or think about using it in ways that would be too dangerous for a manned vessel,” Scott Littlefield, the ACTUV’s program manager, told Business Insider. “Like taking it into a minefield or taking it within range of somebody else’s weapons.”
“I don’t think we’ll ever get away from sailors on big ships,” he added, “but I could imagine a future in which we have a mixture of manned and unmanned systems working together.”
In short, ACTUV advances the US’s robotic-warfare abilities by supplementing the Navy’s manned fleet.
‘These will be everywhere’
The ACTUV’s completion comes as Russia and China, near-peer adversaries to the US, expand and update their navies.
According to NATO Vice Adm. Clive Johnstone, there is now more reported activity from Russian submarines in the North Atlantic than at any time since the Cold War. At the same time, China claims the majority of land in one of the most disputed areas on the planet: the South China Sea, which is home to $5 trillion in annual global trade.
To that end, the tit for tat over crumbs of territory in the South China Sea isn’t for nothing.
“This will operate wherever the United States Navy operates,” Work told Business Insider. “It can operate in the South China Sea. It can operate in the Baltic Sea. It can operate in the Persian Gulf. And it can operate in the middle of the Atlantic or the middle of the Pacific.”
“These will be everywhere,” he said.
The ACTUV’s sophisticated sonar system allows the unmanned vessel to hunt submarines, detect torpedoes, evaluate threats, and avoid small objects at sea — all while traversing the ocean at a top speed of 27 knots, or 31 mph.
This animation from Darpa depicts how ACTUV will hunt targets at sea:
While at sea, ACTUV will communicate information back to a military control center as well as to nearby Navy vessels and aircraft.
“There is no reason to be afraid of a ship like this,” Work said. “This is a ship that’s going to do what we tell it and nothing more.”
“The US military doesn’t really have the luxury of picking where it has to go, and the fact that the Navy has to be in all of those environments, that is what national security is all about, being able to do all of that,” Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the director of Darpa, told Business Insider.
Stand by for more testing
While ACTUV has already passed a few preliminary tests, the vessel must still undergo another two years of open-water trials with the Navy.
The Navy is slated to begin those tests in the summer 2016, in waters off San Diego.
If all goes well, the Navy hopes the vessel enters service by 2018.
For the longest time, I always wanted an M1903 Springfield rifle. This was the rifle that served in two world wars and saw use as late as the Vietnam Conflict. To this day the rifle serves in Honor Guard Detachments honoring our fallen military members and US veterans. It’s one of those iconic fighting rifles that every serious gunny should have in their safes.
My problem was two-fold.
First, they always seemed to be around and always seemed to be priced on the lower end of the spectrum. I would see one, handle it, inspect it and think about it; only to be swayed by some other firearm, seemingly at the last minute. Those of us who lived through the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 or any of the numerous state bans know this phenomenon all too well.
“That’s just an old bolt-action rifle. I need to buy more ammo, more magazines, more black guns, before I can’t get them anymore.”
Invariably this leads to the second part of the dilemma. By the time you think your collection, or horde, is squared away and you can go for something you really want as a fun shooter or a collectible; that price has seemed to skyrocket.
“Oh my God! I remember when these things were all day long in a pickle barrel outside the gun shop! Now they want 00!!!!”
If I am exaggerating, it is only slightly. Prices of obsolete or out of production firearms rise due to scarcity and demand. Remember when Mosin Nagant rifles sold as low as each, in some areas that price has increased more than 10-fold! Then the realization hits you that there were only a finite amount of those rifles to go around.
Many military surplus rifles were converted into sporting rifles because a surplus Mauser, Enfield or even a Springfield 1903 was much cheaper than a commercially manufactured bolt-action hunting rifle. In the past few years, I have actually restored a number of these rifles to their former military appearance. When I came across this Remington M1903A3 Springfield at around 0, I thought I would take another chance.
Luckily the rifle’s action, barrel, and sights were still intact. The previous owner had discarded the original military stock, handguards, and the metal stock hardware. I removed the barreled action from the commercial Fajen stock and began my search for the rest of the parts.
I found all the metal hardware at SARCO: butt plate, sling swivels, stacking swivel, sling swivel screws, and handguard ring. It was a mix of some original and some reproduction. I found an original military stock on an auction site and a reproduction handguard in the white and handguard clips at Numrich Arms.
The stock was very dark and required a good deal of hand fitting in order to install the action properly. This was mostly with regard to the internal magazine body and the mounting screw channels. I spent a week staining the new handguard, but it never got quite as dark as the stock. Eventually I might go with another stock closer in color to the hand guard, but for now, I would be satisfied with just a decent shooter.
I had hopes… the trigger was nice, the bore was clean and the metal still had that Remington green hue to it for which the Remington-built rifles were famous.
It was installing the metal hardware that proved to be its own challenge.
At first glance you might think that these parts slide over the front sight and barrel, but the front sight sits too high and requires removal.
I soaked it overnight in Kroil and the next day removed the front sight base, as trying to tap just the sight blade usually leads to its destruction.
The base is set in a keyway and although it’s a notoriously tight fit, it comes off rather easily. Drift out the pin, drive out the sight, remove the entire blade. The handguard, bands, etc. are then easily installed and the sight is put back into place. I advise going slow, using lots of machine oil and you won’t ding or destroy your sight.
With the rifle together and in as close to original condition as I was going to take it at this point, I set out to the range.
One of the things I like about the M1903A3 is the longer sight radius with the rear mounted peep sight. It may not be as fast as some military rifles with their over the chamber mounted rear sights, but I’m not gearing up to storm the beaches of Guadalcanal anytime soon.
As a full-time firearms reviewer, consultant, and author I have the luxury of trying out many new firearms, but rarely get to shoot the ones I really enjoy.
Initial testing using some Greek surplus ball ammo yielded groups of 3.35″ to 4.5″ at 100 yards. The next time out, I might try some commercial ammunition and maybe even attempt some fitting of the handguard, stock, and barrel bands. There are a lot of components that can affect accuracy on this rifle, considering in its sporter configuration it produced groups of about half that size at the same distance.
The rifle filled a small void in my collection and will probably only be shot a few times a year if I am lucky. However, I still hold to the old adage that only accurate rifles are interesting and my goal will be to make my M1903A3 interesting once again.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).
Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.
The United States has confirmed to RFE/RL its delivery of American-made, Javelin antitank missile systems to Ukraine in a move that is welcome in Kyiv but will almost certainly enrage Moscow amid a four-year conflict that pits Russia-backed separatists against Ukrainian national troops.
“They have already been delivered,” a U.S. State Department official confirmed on April 30, 2018, in response to an RFE/RL query on the handover of Javelins.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also confirmed the delivery and said his country continues “to strengthen our defense potential in order to repel Russian aggression.”
“I am sincerely grateful for the fair decision of [U.S. President] Donald Trump in support of Ukraine, in defense of freedom and democracy,” Poroshenko wrote. “Washington not only fulfilled our joint agreement, it demonstrated leadership and an important example.”
A shipment of lethal aid would appear to deepen U.S. involvement in the simmering conflict and mark at least a symbolic victory for Ukraine in its effort to maintain Western backing in the ongoing conflict.
After months of heated debate in Washington and, reportedly, much reluctance on the part of U.S. President Donald Trump, the White House was said to have approved the Javelin sale in December 2017.
That announcement sparked a sharp rebuke from Moscow, with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accusing the United States of “fomenting a war.”
Two sources who wished to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly about it — one in Ukraine and the other in the United States — confirmed the Javelin deliveries to RFE/RL ahead of the State Department announcement.
Neither disclosed when the missile systems arrived in Ukraine, whether all the promised missiles and launchers had been sent or where they were being stored; or whether Ukraine’s military had begun training on Javelins. But one of the sources added that the Javelins were delivered “on time.”
The State Department provided no details beyond the confirmation of the delivery.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has lobbied hard to Western officials for more weapons, in addition to limited supplies of nonlethal aid from Washington and European allies so far and U.S. approval of commercial weapons sales.
A $47 million U.S. military-aid package approved in 2017, and confirmed in March 2018, specified 210 Javelin antitank missiles and 37 Javelin launchers, two of them spares, for Kyiv.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in December 2017, that U.S. military assistance to Ukraine was intended to bolster that country’s ability to “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression.”
Kyiv and Western governments say Moscow has armed and coordinated Ukrainian separatists as well as provided Russian fighters to help wrest control of swaths of territory that border Russia since Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.
The Javelins’ delivery is likely to spur a response from Moscow, which rejects accusations of involvement despite mounting evidence that includes weapons movements and cross-border artillery barrages, captured Russian troops, and intercepted communications.
Responding to the approved delivery of the missiles to Kyiv in December 2017, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said arming Ukraine would further inflame tensions between Moscow and Washington and push Ukraine “toward reckless new military decisions.”
Since 2015, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with $750 million in nonlethal aid, including Humvees, night-vision equipment, and short-range radar systems.
There has been a recent uptick in fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed separatist forces, according to reports from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM).
A 3-year-old cease-fire deal known as Minsk II has helped to reduce the intensity of the fighting, but it has not ended the war.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in March 2018, that while the Javelin sale would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine” and “help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
The stuff that goes boom on an enemy target is very important. But that is just the payoff at the end of a long and what used to be a dangerous process. You see, the first thing you had to do was find the thing you want to want to make go away. That can be hard in and of itself, but let’s assume that the scouts do their job and find the target.
That is only half the work… you see, once the scouts have FOUND the target, you gotta tell the folks dropping the bombs that location. In the old days, the scouts would try to get back – and sometimes, they didn’t make it. And we all know that dead men tell no tales. Furthermore, there was always a time-lapse aspect. Technology has helped in this regard – first with radios, but in recent years, something newer has emerged.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk can help find targets, but Radiant Mercury allows the information to be passed to shooters very quickly.
According to material obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that something newer is called Radiant Mercury, and it takes passing information to a new level. The methods range from old-school data using old-school ASCII text files to the latest technology, including Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. This is a huge game-changer.
How so? Because with all the options, the scouting elements, be they special operators or a drone, can send the information securely to the shooters – and do so very quickly. This is known as shortening the kill chain. The only way to make it better is if the scout actually carried the weapons.
A shooter like the F-15E Strike Eagle can act on information passed on to it via Radiant Mercury.
Radiant Mercury is one of those programs that will not make big headlines or draw much attention. Yet being able to pass on information between scouts and shooters is one of the most important things in warfare. With Radiant Mercury, the United States gets an edge in doing that.
While picking up parts for his vehicle at a local hardware store in Fountain, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, recently encountered a unique situation.
“As I got closer to the store, I noticed that the manager was standing in front of the doorway blocking the entrance,” said Pfc. Adrian Vetner, a native of Umtentweni, South Africa. “A man was trying to get past the manager and he had power tools in his hand. He was clearly trying to rob the store.”
The robber was somehow able to get past the manager and ran toward the exit, Vetner said.
“At that moment, without hesitation, I ran — grabbed him — threw him to the ground and held him until the manager took over,” Vetner said. “I didn’t hesitate or think about it twice because at that moment I knew it was the right thing to do.”
Vetner’s personal courage and eagerness to help those around him didn’t stop there.
Col. Dave Zinn, left, commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, presents a coin to Pfc. Adrian Vetner, right, a horizontal construction engineer with Alpha Company, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd IBCT, Jan. 9, 2019, at the brigade headquarters building on Fort Carson, for his recent actions in helping others.
(Photo by Capt. James Lockett)
Six days after stopping the robbery, Vetner was once again put in a situation where his assistance was needed, this time it involved a fellow soldier.
“I was on my way to work and it was snowing out, and I saw someone had broken down on the side of the road,” he said. “Their tire was laying down a couple feet behind him. I helped him get his new tire on by lending him my jack, made sure he was good to go and went on with my day.”
However, for Vetner, those actions were nothing out of the norm.
He credits his upbringing in a military family and his father, who is a retired colonel in the South African military, for his acts of courage and selflessness.
“I was raised to do the right thing at all times even when no one is watching,” he said. “Sometimes people get the wrong idea [about] military personnel, and if I can do little things here and there to change that mindset, I am happy to do so.”
Capt. Cory Plymel, who recently took command of Alpha Company, said hearing of Vetner’s actions made him feel proud to become part of the company.
“The fact that we have soldiers who live the Army values on a constant basis is very fulfilling,” Plymel said. “To see someone put those values into action and show what right looks like, especially in such a young Soldier, just shows how great our soldiers are.”
Plymel said he hopes that Vetner’s actions send a greater message, not only to junior soldiers but to all soldiers.
“I think it speaks volumes that someone who is not from the U.S. is serving this country and performing these acts of courage and kindness without thinking twice about it,” Plymel said. “It’s very humbling to see that and it speaks volumes about the soldiers we have in our Army regardless of where they are from.”
President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear headed for a one-on-one confrontation on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels after Trump slammed Germany as being controlled by Russia.
“You tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it’s not, and I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO, and I don’t think it should have happened,” Trump said. “And I think we have to talk to Germany about it.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump.
(White House photo)
A Reuters review of Germany’s official data shows that 35.3% of German imports of oil and gas come from Russia, but the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is expected to increase such energy trade.
Trump went on to bash Germany’s defense spending, which stands at 1.24% of its gross domestic product. The country has committed to reaching 2% by 2024, but Trump has pushed it to get there sooner.
“I think it’s very unfair to our country,” Trump said. “These countries have to step it up not over a 10-year period — have to step it up immediately. Germany is a rich country. They talk about they’re going to increase it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately.”
Merkel with Trump during the G7 Leaders Summit in Canada on June 9.
(German Federal Government)
Merkel fires back
Just hours after Trump’s comments, Merkel fired back, saying she lived in East Germany under Soviet control and that things are different now.
“I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany,” she said. “Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”
Merkel also defended Germany’s role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pointing out that German troops were still fighting for US interests in Afghanistan after the US invoked NATO’s mutual-defense clause following the September 11, 2001, attacks.
“Germany is the second-largest provider of troops — the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement toward Afghanistan,” she said. “In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”
Trump found Merkel’s weak spot, and he’s hammering it
Merkel faces serious difficulties in meeting Germany’s defense-spending commitments to NATO. They are unpopular domestically, and she is already struggling to stay atop a shaky coalition government.
At the same time, Germany’s military is in a poor state, and the country’s own defense minister has criticized a lack of readiness and defense spending. In May 2018, the German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that only four of Germany’s 128 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets were ready to fly combat missions.
While the US has moved to increase its troop presence in Germany and Eastern Europe as a counter to Russia, Merkel’s government has sought to increase some energy purchases from Russia, the very force NATO seeks to defend against.
But as Mark D. Simakovsky, an Atlantic Council expert who previously served as the Europe/NATO chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, told Business Insider, Trump is unpopular in Europe, and that could make upping defense spending even harder for Merkel.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a photoshoot on a white horse on Mt. Paektu, a symbolically important location for his family and for North Korea.
Kim Jong Un has had similar trips and photo shoots before; during one such trip, North Korean state media claimed that the rotund dictator climbed Mt. Paektu, while photos of the event showed him in leather business shoes.
Of course, the photo caused a stir on Twitter, with some Photoshopping the pictures into prestige drama ads for Netflix:
Or bringing up a similar winter photoshoot:
But apart from looking faintly ridiculous to the outside world, the new photos from the Hermit Kingdom are shot through with meaning, according to experts. Read on to see what Kim Jong Un’s snowy ride means.
The North Korean leader on the side of Mount Paektu.
Propaganda images are nothing new for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean propaganda machine is an important part of the regime.
Photos of the North Korean leader climbing the mountain on horseback is “a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” according to KCNA, the North Korean state media.
North Korean propaganda is nothing new; in fact, it’s everywhere in the country. From posters showing the US’s evil aggression toward North Korea, to Kim’s winter wonderland, controlling the message in the hermit kingdom is vital in order to keep citizens obedient and in the dark about the rest of the world.
Kim rides an immaculate, snow-white horse to match his surroundings. But it’s not just about equine aesthetics.
The white steed upon which Kim Jong-Un is seated is reminiscent of the legendary creatures Chollima, a winged horse, and Mallima, a horse with incredible speend and indurance, according to Reuters.
Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, was also supposedly visited by a white steed during his guerilla days, according to The Washington Post.
There are postage stamps of Kim Jong Il riding white horses on Mt. Paektu, according to Michael Madden, a North Korea researcher for the Stimson Center, but “no one’s had the balls to take a horse up there,” he said.
Kim Jong Un resembles his grandfather physically, and has had a number of propaganda photos mirroring his grandfather’s. Kim Jong Un’s resemblance of his grandfather allows him to “project power and gravitas,” Madsen told The Guardian in 2014.
Kim Jong Un isn’t the only person harkening the past in the photo shoot, though; in other photos, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is riding a horse like the one her father used to ride, and is dressed like her grandmother, Kim Il Sung’s first wife Kim Jong Suk, who is considered the mother of North Korea and holds vital importance in the country’s mythology.
Mt. Paektu is a loaded location for the Kim family — and North Koreans.
Mt. Paektu is an important place for the Kim family, as it cements their status as the rightful rulers of North Korea.
It’s said to be the “location of Kim Il Sung’s mythical guerrilla base,” Joshua Pollack, a North Korea researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies told Reuters. Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, was the first leader of North Korea, and the country’s mythology sees him as a great guerilla fighter against imperilalist Japan, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Of this latest photoshoot, Pollack said, “The location and the clothes are meant to evoke the founder’s legacy.”
And according to North Korean state media, Mt. Paektu is where Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, was born, although it’s more likely he was born in the Soviet Union. It’s also, according to legend, where Dagun, the leader of the first Korean kingdom, was born thousands of years ago, according to the BBC.
There are two Kim family compounds nearby, including one built by Kim Jong Il on Mt. Paektu, Madden told Insider. Somewhere in the vicinity — perhaps at that compound — is the secure facility Madden referred to as the “North Korean panic room,” where the Kim family can head in case of disaster. They also have the option of crossing the nearby border into China.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse during snowfall in Mount Paektu in this image released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 16, 2019.
While the photos may look absurd, they’re intended to have a very serious message.
“This is a statement, symbolic of defiance,” Pollack told The Washington Post. “The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020.”
North Koreans have suffered from international sanctions due to its nuclear program; the photos seem to show that North Korea will not bow to international pressure.
According to multiple reports, Kim Jong Un has visted Mt. Paektu prior to major announcements or policy decisions before. For example, a 2017 trip came just days after the North Korean military launched its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.
Madden told Insider that the photo shoot most likely portends a military announcement of some kind, possibly that North Korea and China are announcing a long-term strategic aggreement. “A member of the Chinese Military Commission is in North Korea right now, and [talks are] going very, very, very well,” he told Insider.
Madden told Insider that “North Korea in 2020 is either going to launch a rocket, or announce that they have attained the ability to perform sub-critical nuclear tests,” and the photos could be in advance of such an announcement.
Whatever the announcement is, it’s almost certainly not about making concessions to the US or any of its allies, Madden said.
“North Korea has massively regressed in the past few months,” in terms of foreign policy “and I have no idea why,” Madden noted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.