The United States has approved a $330 million arms deal with China’s neighbor Taiwan, in a move set to further increase tensions between Beijing and Washington amidst the escalating trade war, The South China Morning Post reported.
The news comes as China said on Sept. 24, 2018, that it was impossible to hold trade talks with the US while Washington’s tariffs are like “a knife” to China’s neck, following a fresh $200 billion of tariffs on China, and US President Donald Trump’s threat of $267 billion more.
The proposed arms deal which was announced on Sept. 24, 2018, by the Pentagon and will be put before the US Congress would include parts for F16 and F5 fighter jets, C130 cargo planes, Taiwan’s Indigenous Defence Fighter, and other aircraft systems.
The sale will contribute to the “foreign policy and national security of the United States,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said, adding that Taiwan “continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance and economic progress in the region.”
Taiwan has welcomed the move, and said that the deal helps the independent nation off the coast of China strengthen its defenses and deal with the challenges from Beijing. A spokesperson for the presidential office of Taiwan said, it would boost confidence in the face of “severe” security challenges, adding “We greatly appreciate that the US government takes note of the national security of Taiwan.”
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
China sees Taiwan as its sovereign territory, and as a breakaway province that must be united with the mainland by force if necessary. China has previously warned the US not to sell weapons to the country or establish close military ties there, the South China Morning Post reported.
The sale which is not yet finalized is the second under Trump following a id=”listicle-2607841195″.4 billion sale in June 2017 that also prompted anger from Beijing.
Critics of the deal in Washington said it bows to the wishes of Chinese opposition including US defence secretary, Mike Pompeo who criticised the Obama administration for delaying weapons sales to the area.
Officials in Taipei and Washington say it is now likely that the Trump administration will resume regular weapons sales to Taiwan, the Financial Times reported.
The escalating tensions come in the context of China rejecting an invitation for official talks in Washington, with its vice commerce minister, Wang Shouwen saying, “Now that the US has adopted this type of large-scale trade restrictions, they’re holding a knife to someone’s throat. Under these circumstances, how can negotiations proceed?”
US military officials said On Sept. 23, 2018, that the Chinese government denied permission for a US Navy ship to do a port visit in Hong Kong in October 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported. The denial comes amid escalating tensions between the countries over both economic and military issues.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President-elect Donald Trump caused a genuine uproar in the combat-aviation community when he tweeted in December, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”
The idea that an F/A-18 Super Hornet could be “comparable” to the F-35 met swift and intense condemnation, and Lockheed Martin quickly lost billions in value on its stock.
Virtually everyone pointed to a single aspect of the F-35 that the F/A-18 lacked: stealth.
But the US and other countries already have in their sights a modern update on the F/A-18 that is meant to complement the F-35. The update may be poised to deliver even more capability than Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter in some areas, even without being as stealthy.
Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would still field versions of the F/A-18 into the 2040s. The company is planning considerable updates that will focus on “addressing the gaps” in naval aviation.
Gillian and the Boeing team call it the Advanced Super Hornet, a modern update on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which itself was an update on the original F/A-18 Hornet. Gillian says Boeing designed the Super Hornet “from the beginning in an evolutionary way with lots of room for growth in power, cooling, and weight so it could adapt to changes over the years.”
Gillian says Boeing could start fielding Advanced Super Hornets by the early 2020s at the latest, while some limited contracts to bring elements of the Advanced Super Hornet are already underway. So even though the designs of the F-35 and the F/A-18 reflect different missions, they certainly are comparable in terms of price, availability, and capability.
So what does a 2017 update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet look like?
“When we talk about the Advanced Super Hornet package, it can be delivered to a build of new airplanes and it can be retrofitted to existing airframes,” Gillian said.
“An airplane that I’m building today off the line has some systems that have matured over time that a Super Hornet would not have,” he added, saying there would essentially be no difference between a 2017 Advanced Super Hornet and a Super Hornet plucked off an aircraft carrier and brought up to date.
The physical characteristics of a fully decked out Advanced Super Hornet would be as follows:
Shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tanks to carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag. These fuel tanks could “extend the reach about 125 nautical miles,” meaning the planes can “either go faster or carry more,” according to Gillian.
An infrared search and track radar, which would be the first such capability included on a US fighter jet since the F-14 Tomcat. This will allow the Advanced Super Hornets to counter enemy stealth capability and to get a read on heat-emitting entities without emitting any radar signal of their own. “There was a fixation on stealth attributes,” Gillian said of fifth-gen fighters, “which is an important attribute for the next 25 years, but tactical fighters are designed for stealth in one part of the spectrum, all planes emit heat.”
Advanced electronic warfare capabilities. Currently, the F-18 family leads the US military in EW platforms with the Growler, an EW version of the Super Hornet in which Boeing has “taken out the gun and installed more EW equipment … Instead of missiles on the wing tips it has a large sensing pods,” Gillian said. The Navy has scheduled the F-35C to eventually carry the advanced EW pod, but the initial generation of F-35s will have to rely on Growlers for EW attacks. The Advanced Super Hornet will have EW self-protection, but not the full suite present on the Growler.
An advanced cockpit system with a new 19-inch display. Basically “a big iPad for the airplane, allowing the pilot to manage all the information and data that’s out there,” Gillian said, comparing its utility to the F-35’s display.
Improved avionics and computing power as well as increased ability to network to receive targeting data from platforms like the F-35 or the E-2 Hawkeye. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an improved active electronically scanned array radar.
Further enhancements still to be considered by the US Navy for Advanced Super Hornets include the following:
An enclosed weapons pod would make the plane more aerodynamic while also cutting down on the plane’s radar cross section. Combined with the form-fitting fuel tanks, the Advanced Super Hornet could cut its radar signature by up to 50%.
An improved engine could increase fuel efficiency and performance. Boeing hasn’t yet begun earnestly working toward this, and it could add to the overall cost of the project significantly.
Hypothetically, Advanced Super Hornets could field IRST before F-35Cs come online. Growlers will also serve in the vital role of EW attack craft, without which the F-35 cannot do its job as a stealth penetrator.
So while an Advanced Super Hornet will never be comparable to the F-35 in all aspects, it could certainly develop some strengths that the F-35 lacks.
Additionally, Gillian said the Advanced Super Hornets would not cost much more than the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which run about $70 million apiece. Even if that price rose by $10 million, it would still be lower than that of the cheapest expected F-35s, which come in at $85 million.
Conclusion: Could Boeing create an F/A-18 ‘comparable’ to the F-35?
“The Advanced Super Hornet is really a collection of systems and design changes that when implemented achieve a significantly different capability for the air wing,” said Gillian, who stressed that the Super Hornet and Growler platforms were “well positioned” to improve in scope and capability over time.
Gillian made it clear, however, that the Advanced Super Hornet program had been, since its inception, meant to accompany the F-35, with carrier air wings consisting of three squadrons of Super Hornets and one squadron of F-35s into the 2040s.
The US Navy has contracts already underway to update its existing Super Hornet fleet with elements of the Advanced Super Hornet package, and it seems the US will end up with both Advanced Super Hornets and F-35s, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The F/A-18, not designed with all-aspect stealth in mind, will most likely never serve as a penetrating aircraft for heavily contested airspace, but its future onboard America’s aircraft carriers is well defined for decades to come.
But with Boeing’s field record of delivering F/A-18 projects on time and on budget, and the US Navy left waiting by overrun after overrun in the F-35 program, the two planes are starting to look like apples and oranges — both good choices. Choosing which to buy and when may simply come down to what is available on the market.
“The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces,” Mattis said.
“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory,” the secretary continued. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”
Defense press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today that Mattis spoke several times during his confirmation process about military service and unit cohesion and how those are predicated on the core values of trust and mutual respect.
All Held Accountable
“Our leaders at all levels of the chain of command will be held accountable to ensure that each member of our military can excel in an environment that maximizes their talents and [will have] no patience for those who would degrade or diminish another service member,” Davis said.
The secretary will meet with uniformed and civilian leaders in the days ahead and ensure that they are taking all appropriate actions to maintain good order and discipline, the captain added.
“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating…web sites and other services are looking into the matter, as well,” Davis said.
“Our values extend on- and off-duty, and we want personnel experiencing or witnessing online misconduct to promptly report matters to their chain of command,” the captain said.
Davis said service members who might feel uncomfortable reporting alleged online misconduct to their chain of command have alternative avenues that include family support services, equal opportunity offices, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the inspector general and law enforcement.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
Being on a foot patrol in a war zone means you’ll need to have your eyes peeled and your ears open; troops need to be able to visually identify possible threats and hear commands and other instructions. When a firefight kicks off and bullets start to fly, things can get pretty damn hectic — and loud. In most cases, the “ground pounders” usually get a fix on the enemies’ position in a matter of minutes.
Once that happens, adrenaline kicks in and time moves a bit differently, but there are a few sounds you’ll never forget.
7. When your platoon sergeant says, “Hey gents, watch this!”
At times, well-trained troops make it a game to blow up the enemy’s position. It’s also a morale booster. When the platoon sergeant wants to draw a crowd to witness their combat efforts, you know the attack is about to be freakin’ epic.
6. The whistle of incoming ordnance
Calling in mortars on the bad guys means they weren’t sneaky enough to fire a few rounds at your position and then bug out. Once you hear the whistle of incoming ordnance, it’s just a matter of time before a mortar detonation will follow.
5. The BRRRRT of an A-10
This is hands down one of the best sounds you can ever hear in combat. Just to know you have a tank killer flying above you makes a world of difference on a foot patrol.
4. When the platoon passes word of a “gun run.”
After the ground troops get a fix on where the bad guys are hiding, the platoon sergeants love to call upon the efforts of their flying arsenal that patrols the skies.
A “gun run” is when an attack plane or helicopter initiates a nose dive toward a target with their heavy machine guns blazing. After they complete the “gun run,” they’ll fly back up and out of the enemy’s range. They’ll return if called upon and authorized.
After all the commotion, the sound of silencing the enemy offensive is awesome. But knowing you’re still standing tall and healthy is the one best feelings ever.
We love rubbing in a victory. (Image via GIPHY)
2. When “RTB” is announced over comms
“RTB” is short for “return to base.” Hearing these words calmly spoken after a firefight means you guys did your job and it’s time to go home to debrief and eat chow.
After a gunfight, most ground troops will “pop smoke” when they leave an area to give themselves cover of smoke. The hiss of the smoke grenade is an excellent way to put a mental check mark in the win column.
A former Army vice chief of staff and Fox News analyst will be awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor by President Donald Trump, the White House announced Wednesday.
Retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Silver Star recipient who led troops in Vietnam and was at the Pentagon on 9/11, will be presented with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom next week.
“General Keane has devoted his life to keeping America safe and strong,” a White House statement announcing the award states.
Keane could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bill Hemmer, a Fox News host, on Wednesday called the award well deserved. “Jack Keane, a friend and colleague for years here at Fox … is a committed American to getting it right,” he said.
Presidents select Medal of Freedom recipients. The award was created to honor Americans who have made significant contributions to national, international or cultural causes in the public or private sectors. Recipients have included those in the medical, journalism, entertainment and business fields.
President George H.W. Bush presented the award to Holocaust survivor, author and political activist Elie Wiesel in 1992. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks received the award from President Bill Clinton in 1996. Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun and later saint, was chosen for the award by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 and physicist Stephen Hawking by President Barack Obama in 2009.
The award was most recently presented to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh during last month’s State of the Union address. Trump took heat for the decision to award the medal to Limbaugh, who is seen as a divisive figure by critics. The talk show host has been accused of making sexist and racist comments on the air.
Keane, 77, retired from the Army in 2003. As vice chief of staff, he provided oversight for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his bio. He played a key role in formulating and recommending the surge strategy in Iraq, it states, and as recently as 2016 was still advising senior government officials on national security issues and the Afghanistan War.
Keane also serves as chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank that produces research on military and foreign affairs.
In addition to being awarded the Silver Star, Keane has earned two Defense Distinguished Service Medals, five Legions of Merit, two Army Distinguished Service Medals and the Bronze Star.
The Pentagon is considering sending an additional 1,000 conventional troops over the next few weeks into Syria, ahead of an upcoming offensive against the ISIS capital of Raqqa.
The troops would likely come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit — currently on its way to the region — and the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which recently made its way to Kuwait, according to a report in The Washington Post by TM Gibbons-Neff.
The proposed increase in conventional forces would follow similar deployments in recent weeks that have supplemented special operations forces, of which roughly 500 have been on the ground for some time.
A convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria last week to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.
The Ranger deployment was followed soon after by a contingent of US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment, which left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.
“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.
Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, told Business Insider previously that the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.
The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.
He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”
Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.
Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.
The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.
There is also additional risk from the US’ partnership with Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG, or People’s Protection Units. Though the Pentagon seems to believe the YPG would be the most effective force in the Raqqa fight, the unit is considered a terrorist group by Turkey.
Turkey has so far refused to compromise, insisting the US use a different Syrian rebel group, Reuters reported.
“Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us,” one senior Turkish security official, briefed on recent meetings between Turkish and U.S. strategists, told Reuters.
Millennials as a group may be delusional about the future, but some are making good decisions with their money today.
Generally, many millennials have little to no credit-card debt, put a portion of their income toward retirement, and have a savings account, an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey found.
Of the 4,400 Americans polled, 1,207 identified as millennials, defined as ages 22 to 37 (237 respondents did not select a generation). The margin of error was plus or minus 1 percentage point.
Here are a few of the ways millennials are smart with their money, according to responses to our survey:
1. They have a savings account.
About 69% of millennials said they had a savings account, compared with 65% of Gen Xers, the survey found.
But while the existence of a savings account is inherently positive, it’s nothing without consistent contributions. A whopping 58% of millennials said they had under ,000 in a savings account, about 19% had between ,000 and ,000, and 11% had between ,000 and ,000.
Many financial planners recommend a high-yield savings account over a traditional savings account for an emergency fund or other short-term need. The best high-yield online savings accounts are offering an annual percentage yield between 2% and 2.5%, and many have no fees and low minimum deposits.
2. They have little to no credit-card debt
Millennials seem to know that keeping a balance on their credit cards isn’t going to make for a good credit score. About 32% said they had no credit-card debt at all — a greater share than Gen Xers (28%). Of the millennials who do have debt, a plurality (36%) said they had under ,000.
It might make sense that Gen Xers, who are older and presumably have more expenses, would be more likely to have credit-card debt, but in this survey the oldest millennials were 37 — and people’s 30s tend to come with houses, kids, pets, and expenses that are no longer limited to Gen X.
Two smart strategies to pay off credit-card debt, according to financial planners, are the “debt snowball,” which prioritizes paying off the smallest debts first, and the “debt avalanche,” which prioritizes paying off the highest-interest debt first. Either method is effective, so the best approach may be to pick the one you can commit to.
3. They would use a id=”listicle-2634449531″,000 windfall to pay off debt or save.
Given an extra id=”listicle-2634449531″,000 cash, 27% of millennials (a plurality) said they would choose to pay off debt, while 22% said they would save the windfall, the survey found. Only 6% said they would put it toward travel or shopping.
This is good instinct, as financial planners typically suggest stamping out debt with high interest rates first and foremost, even before saving for retirement or another financial goal. Carrying a balance on a credit card can erode your credit score, and fees and high interest rates can continually add to the overall debt load.
In the survey, the millennials who indicated they wouldn’t use the windfall to pay off debt or save said it would go toward outstanding bills (17%), necessities (12%), or an investment (9%).
4. They put more of their income toward retirement than Gen Xers.
Even though 52% of millennials said they didn’t have a retirement savings account, the ones who do are serious savers.
In the survey, nearly 16% of millennials said they set aside 11% to 20% of their income for retirement — more than any other generation. About 5% of millennials, the same share as Gen X, said they save more than 20% of their income for retirement.
A plurality (33%) said they put away between 1% and 10% of their income for retirement, which is a fine place to start. Experts recommend increasing savings rates annually or every time you get a raise.
One of the easiest ways to build wealth is through automatic and consistent contributions, starting with a retirement account. The contributions to a 401(k) or IRA are pretax, so the money will be taken out of your paycheck before it even hits your bank account. Many employers will match contributions up to a certain percentage or dollar amount. It’s basically free money, but you won’t get any of it unless you’re already contributing something on your own.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s a chill settling in over Moscow, and it’s not just the arctic temperatures that typically smother the Russian capital in January.
As U.S. officials put the finishing touches on new financial and travel sanctions against Russia, expectations that the punitive measures will target an expanded list of secondary companies, as well as Kremlin-connected insiders and business leaders, are causing consternation.
Unlike previous rounds, when Washington tried to punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and Syria by targeting big fish like major state-run firms and government agencies, the focus is shifting. The new wave to be announced by month’s end is expected to be broader, focusing on companies that do business with previously sanctioned entities, closing loopholes that allowed Russia to skirt punishment, and identifying — and potentially going after — the Kremlin’s inner circle of smaller fish.
Moscow appears to be on edge. One official has accused the United States of trying to influence the upcoming presidential election. An influential Russian newspaper has reported that as many as 300 people close to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle could be identified. And financial institutions are taking steps to minimize their risk.
“It is true that the Russians have been freaking out over this for more than a month now,” said Daniel Fried, who was formerly the chief sanctions coordinator at the U.S. State Department.
Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst now based in Washington, D.C., echoes that assessment. “The expectations are very gloomy” in Moscow, he said, “because for the first time, it will bring personal pain to those closest to Putin.”
The new measures, expected to be rolled out beginning Jan. 29, stem from a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress last summer and signed reluctantly into law by President Donald Trump in August.
Known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the law firstly provides for “secondary sanctions” that broaden the restrictions against people or companies doing business with Russians hit earlier.
The earlier measures were imposed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama not only for Russia’s Crimea annexation in 2014 but also for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its military campaign in Syria, and other things.
In October, in the first indication of whom the new law would be targeting, the State Department put three dozen major Russian defense companies and intelligence agencies on notice, indicating that other companies, Russian or foreign, who do “significant” business with them could face restrictions.
In theory, this meant that a foreign bank that provided credit to a company supplying a previously sanctioned Russian state-controlled company could be targeted for doing business with listed companies. That might include state arms exporter Rosoboroneksport or the legendary weapons-maker Kalashnikov.
The law also ordered the Treasury Department, in coordination with intelligence agencies, to provide Congress with a list of prominent Russians and their family members who would potentially face direct restrictions. Known as Section 241, the instruction includes identifying oligarchs according to “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”
This, in theory, could target the daughter of a high-ranking Russian official who owns property in the United States, or the head of a major industrial corporation with holdings in the West.
Around Washington, close observers of the sanctions process are calling it “the oligarchs list.”
“This will hit people because it shows they are not safe; that the U.S. is willing to go after this class of people and Putin cannot protect them… that there will be consequences for Russians who seem to be in Putin’s corrupt inner circle and [are] aiding and abetting his corrupt activities,” Fried told RFE/RL.
Those included will not immediately face financial or travel restrictions, but experts say it would be a clear signal of what may soon come and, more immediately, would have a major psychological effect on those listed and those who do business with them.
It could also foreshadow a public record of some wealthy Russians’ sources of income and assets in the United States.
“For some people, it’s very personal. For others, it will be very political,” said Olga Oliker of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The question is: What’s the signal that is being sent by the administration and how will it be received in Moscow?”
For the moment, the potential nominees for the “oligarchs’ list” is a closely held secret by both members of Congress and administration officials. But sanctions experts, Russian opposition activists, and Western lawyers and business groups have been trying to guess. Some wealthy Russians have also stepped up quiet lobbying campaigns in Washington, trying to persuade Congress or administration officials to keep them off the list, according to several observers.
On Jan. 12, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing its own sources in Washington, said as many as 300 people could end up being listed, a number that includes both officials themselves, but also their relatives.
In December, a group of Russian opposition activists with backing from chess master and outspoken Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov met in Lithuania to compile their own sanctions list. The compilation features more than 200 names, including prominent business tycoons who have so far avoided restrictions, including Aleksei Mordashov, owner of the steelmaking giant Severstal, and German Gref, chief executive of Russia’s largest state bank, Sberbank.
Several prominent Russians included in the opposition group’s list were already on earlier U.S. sanctions lists, including Sergei Ivanov, an ex-defense minister and President Putin’s former chief of staff; Lieutenant General Igor Sergun, head of Russian military intelligence; and Gennady Timchenko, an oil trader hailing from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to queries about its upcoming list.
One indication of how the Kremlin has sought to get ahead of the new measures came in November. The business newspaper Vedomosti reported that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had signed a decree that would exempt Russian state companies from the requirement to disclose the names of their contractors.
Already there are signs that financial markets, in and out of Russia, are factoring the likelihood of sanctions into predictions for 2018. But among bond traders, equity dealers, and other portfolio managers, the measure that has prompted most worry is a possible restriction on buying Russian government debt.
That measure is seen as an attempt to close a loophole that allowed Russia to skirt sanctions imposed in 2014 that cut certain companies close to or controlled by the state from international credit markets.
The Kremlin ended up bailing out those companies to the tune of tens of billions of dollars and was still able to raise capital on its own. In 2016, for example, Russia sold around $3 billion in new Eurobonds.
The Countering Adversaries law includes the possibility that U.S. citizens could be barred from buying ruble-denominated, Russian government bonds. It’s unclear how much of Russia’s overall sovereign debt is held by Americans, but Central Bank data from October showed that foreigners held about $38 billion of it.
That decision won’t be handed down for some months, but still, analysts predict a ban would put severe pressure on the Russian ruble, which plummeted in 2014 after the Crimea sanctions and amid low world oil prices and has yet to fully recover. In the medium term, that would drive up inflation, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch said in a research note in December.
Some Russian financial institutions have also given indications that whatever the measures are that end up being issued by Washington, they will ripple through the country’s economy.
For example, Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private commercial lender, said it was cutting back its exposure to the country’s formidable defense industry.
“This does not mean that we have severed relations with it overnight,” Oleg Sysuyev, a deputy chairman of the bank’s board of directors, told Ekho Moskvy radio. “But we are just trying to minimize risks.”
In the short term, that could pose a direct challenge to Putin, who will run for another term as president in the election scheduled for March, a month after the new measures are unveiled.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov alluded to this on Jan. 13 when, in comments to the state news agency TASS, he charged that the U.S. measures were an attempt to influence the vote.
Piontkovsky, a longtime critic of the Kremlin, predicted that the U.S. move to target more individuals could help undermine the broad support that Putin has enjoyed for years.
“It means he is losing his meaning for the elites, his function was to protect them, and their assets in Russia and the West, to ensure their security. And now, on the contrary, he is becoming toxic,” he said.
The question now, according to Oliker, who directs the CSIS’s Russia and Eurasia Program, is whether the new sanctions will, in fact, affect Kremlin policies.
For example, with the conflict in eastern Ukraine grinding into its fourth year, dragging on Russia’s economy and losing popularity among Russians, there’s good reason for Russia to pull back on its support for separatist fighters.
However, it would be virtually impossible for Putin to pull back if it appeared he was giving in to the pressures from U.S. sanctions, she said.
Depending on who or what is targeted, the problem is that the new measures could reinforce the perception — encouraged by the Kremlin — that Washington only wants to damage Russia, Oliker said.
“In Russia, the pervasive narrative is that all the sanctions are merely to punish Russia — [that] they’re punitive, it’s not a matter of attaining actual policy goals,” she said. Many think “it’s just those nasty Americans trying to get us.”
It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.
It didn’t hurt, though.
In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.
“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.
Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.
He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English
“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.
You’re 11 years old, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.
Whether we’re 11, 27, or 80, our human bodies read social anxiety like a physical threat. Will you be able to find and keep food? Experience physical safety? Find meaning in work and life? Throughout history, all of these things have been made exponentially more difficult without a tribe or group.
Stress hormones surge when you’re feeling lonely or rejected, and when they’re elevated too long, you may begin to have difficulty communicating, displaying empathy, or engaging in high-level thinking. This makes connecting with others even more challenging, and your isolation can easily become self-perpetuating.
The good news is, you can increase your health and performance at work and home by finding or building a tribe.
The strange but true fact is that there’s nothing more important to your physical health than community. This is true even if you’re an introvert. It’s true even if your tribe embraces unhealthy behaviors like smoking, high rates of divorce, alcohol abuse and more.
In the military, your tribe is easy to identify. Your tribe may be your branch of service, unit, platoon, or even fireteam. From the first day of training, you and other members of your tribe are working to overcome challenges together. Camaraderie continues as you train, deploy, and socialize together in the coming years.
In Gates of Fire, his epic novel about the Spartan 300, Steven Pressfield writes:
“War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love…There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods.“
For many, military service offers the kind of community they’ve never experienced. In this community, we may find purpose, self-knowledge, identity, and so much more. Challenged by our tribe, we grow stronger, faster, and ideally into better leaders.
However, when we inevitably leave the military, we may find ourselves unmoored – adrift in a sea of isolation and alienation that threatens to sink us into depression, stress, and declining performance at work and home.
Crossing the Chasm
In the age of an all-volunteer military, we often hear about the military-civilian divide. It’s not just a divide, though – it’s a chasm.
If you’re a male veteran, only about 12 percent of peers in your age group have served in the military. If you’re a woman who served, that number drops to 3 percent.
When you leave the military you’ll likely struggle to find people who have a deep understanding of your service, experiences, and the unique culture and traditions of military life. Data shows us that alienation – or feeling out of place – is strongly correlated with PTSD and other stress injuries. Finding or building a tribe is critical to good physical, relational, and mental health.
When you’re part of a group and have a deep sense of belonging, a relaxation response takes place in your body and brain. In fact, every system of your body works better when your relaxation response firing. For example, when you’re relaxed and eating a salad, your body absorbs 17 percent more iron than when you’re stressed and eating a salad. Being part of a community results in a positive cycle.
So how do I find a tribe?
As you begin your search for a tribe, one of the most important things you can do is stay humble. Don’t let your veteran status, and all the good things that come with it, become a limiting factor as you build new relationships. Build relationships with veterans and civilians alike.
On the veteran front, give yourself permission to be around people who understand what you’ve just lived through. A great starting place is any post-9/11 veteran organization – they’ll get you connected with veterans who are in a healthy place.
Team Red White and Blue’s entire mission is to build social community at the local level – to bring people together. Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues can help you discover purpose through service.
Purpose is also key. Ask yourself what your passion, ideal volunteer work, or dream venture looks like, then get to work. You may find your civilian tribe doing volunteer work, as part of a faith group, or while living your purpose-driven life.
Finding your tribe may feel tough at first, but like most things it gets easier with practice.
CHECK OUT THESE TRIBES
Volunteer with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit, to rebuild communities around the nation after natural disasters.
Meet up with civilians and fellow veterans for a hike, run, or yoga class with Team Red White Blue.
Put your unique skills to use for a local non-profit, and get paid doing it, as part of The Mission Continues.
Check out a faith community of your choosing
Sign up for a local sports league or class
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US military, despite the rise of powerful rivals, remains an unmatched military force with more than 2 million active-duty and reserve troops ready to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.
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