A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.
Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)
Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”
As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.
“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.
A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.
This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.
The Army has announced that its Howlers are ready to fight, achieving initial operational capability. If the Army goes to war, these lifeless robots are going to launch out of tubes, fly through the sky, and force enemy drones to crash and burn so they can’t spy on U.S. troops or attack them.
Howlers were built with two systems from Raytheon, the defense manufacturer. The major platform is the Coyote unmanned aircraft. These drones can be shot from special tubes mounted on ships, vehicles, aircraft, or just on the ground.
They’ve already served with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in hurricanes, but they’re primarily aimed at Department of Defense missions. These are the same drones that the Navy used in the LOCUST program where they launched swarms of Coyotes that worked together. The Navy is hoping to use them in coordinated strikes against targets on shore or at sea.
But the Army is hoping to use them in a very specific air-to-air mission: hunting drones. This application requires a special sensor payload, and the Army got that from Raytheon as well. It’s a radar known as KuRFS that tracks aerial threats with Ku band energy. The Ku band is in the microwave range and is mostly used for satellite communications.
On the Howler, this radar lets the Army track enemy threats. This targeting data can allow other systems to engage the targeted drone, but the Howler can also close with and destroy the threat—by blowing itself up.
Yup, the Howler can act as a suicide drone. Guess it’s good the Coyote is relatively affordable at ,000 apiece, counting the warhead. When an enemy drone is capable of taking out an entire ammo dump like in Ukraine or spotting targets for artillery like in all countries where wars are currently being fought, a ,000 bill to take any of them out is easily worth it.
US military strategists at the Pentagon have a military solution in place to address the growing threat emanating from North Korea, but they are holding their fire in favor of ongoing diplomatic efforts by Washington and its allies, Defense Secretary James Mattis said August 10.
The Pentagon chief remained largely mum on the details of that military solution, which theoretically would curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile arsenal, except to say any military option would be a multilateral one involving a number of regional powers in the Pacific.
“Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either … and of course there’s a military solution,” Mr. Mattis told reporters en route to meet with senior leaders in the technology sector in Seattle and California.
The former four-star general declined to provide any additional insight to a statement released August 9, warning that the North’s continued provocations — including alleged plans for an attack against US forces in Guam by Pyongyang — “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
Instead, Mr. Mattis reiterated that the administration’s diplomatic efforts to quell tensions on the peninsula remained the top priority for the White House.
“We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now. and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are robust” and ready to take on any threat posed by the North Korean regime, Mr. Mattis said.
US defense and national security officials have repeatedly touted the capabilities of the US missile defense shield over the last several weeks, in the wake of a pair of successful test launches by North Korea of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile in July. President Trump has made revamping US missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.
That impetus has only grown among administration officials amid reports this week that Pyongyang had built a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop one of the country’s long-range missiles.
On August 9, Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea did not curb its nuclear programs. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.
On August 10, Mr. Mattis declined to comment whether he was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.
“I was not elected, the American people elected the president,” he said. “I think what he’s pointing out is simply these provocations … [and] his diplomatic effort to try and stop it,” Mr. Mattis said.
Not all deployments are created equal. Some troops primarily work at a desk performing critical operational tasks, while others are out and about undertaking various missions in the bush. Regardless, both schedules usually consist of long hours and a heavy workload which can run anybody down.
No matter the nature of the mission, staying in the fight and being alert is the key for any personnel deployed.
So if you’re worried about falling asleep when you need to be at your best, check out these simple tricks of the trade to stay awake whole on deployment.
1. Bangin energy drinks
May seem obvious to the average population that drinking a Redbull or pounding a Monster will get their minds firing on all cylinders. But in most cases, deployed troops just don’t sip a single energy drink — they take it to a whole new level by chugging multiple cans of the all mighty Rip-it.
One ration the military never seems to ever run off of is coffee.
When you’re occupying a patrol base or sitting in a fighting hole, coffee machines will be scarce. So instead of filtering water through the grounds, pack a solid pinch of instant coffee from the ole handy dandy MREs into your lip. It tastes like sh*t, but it can help you keep shuteye at bay.
3. “Spicy eyes”
This doesn’t refer to “the look” that civilian reporter who came by the FOB to interview the colonel gave everyone. It means sprinkling a small amount of Tabasco sauce onto your finger and rubbing the contents under your eyes. Spicy!
If it burns a little and wakes you back up, you’re doing it right.
There’s nothing worse than drifting off while on post.
In fact, if you get caught sleeping, that’s a crucial offense. The human body has a natural way of rejuvenating itself by excreting adrenaline into the blood stream. You can accomplish this by pinching yourself, or if that doesn’t work, delivering a light love tap across your cheek.
It might seem a bit extreme, but it could also save your life and the lives of your comrades.
Can you think of any others? Comment below.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Charles Dickens
Marines never change. We’re simple creatures. Whether it’s in the air, on the land, at sea, or in the outer reaches of space, we’re going to find a way to restrict everyone’s liberty by doing what we do best: getting drunk and fighting things.
Any place we go, you’ll know we were there. Not just because of the trail of destruction and bodies we leave in our wake, but because we’ve found a way to distinguish ourselves by looking and acting like the most primitive humans to ever exist in the modern era.
This type of thing will not change in space, no matter how far we go. Here are a few things that Marines will still do, even if we’re in the Andromeda system:
1. Get married to an alien stripper in their first month
Once we establish colonies on other planets, you know there will be tons of alien strip clubs and tattoo parlors set up just outside the gates of any military installation — and you know where they’ll get their business? The Space Force Marines. One of the FNGs is bound to fall in love with an alien stripper and marry it within a month of arriving on station.
It’ll become a competition to see who can hit someone on a planet’s surface from orbit.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Throw space rocks at each other
When Marines get bored of waiting, they end up finding rocks to throw at each other. No, I’m not kidding. This is a popular pastime among Marines.
This won’t change, even if they’re in space. If anything, the lowered gravity will only make this more enjoyable.
We might even try to eat it.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. Find dangerous alien creatures to interact with
If you’ve ever been in a desert with Marines, then you know we’ve got some uncanny ability to find rattlesnakes and scorpions to play with. Here’s what would happen in the Space Force: Marines arrive on a new planet and find some kind of acid-spitting alien creature and decide it would be a good idea to pick it up and keep it as a pet.
Pro-tip: Don’t touch anything you aren’t familiar with.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
4. Eat strange, alien plants
There’s always that one Southern guy in your platoon who, while in a jungle, will just rip moss off trees and drink the water from it — or they’ll see some leafy plant and chew on it when they run out of tobacco.
Chances are, they’ll do the same on some distant planet.
The Mars rover already did it, but it lacked a human touch.
Basic Training is done, you’ve gotten back from leave where you showcased your fancy new uniforms, an emaciated body, and that wicked farmer’s tan. Now, you’re checking in to SOI/ITB and have, for the first time in your life, money in the bank.
What is a young devil dog to do? Invest in a diversified stock portfolio and get a healthy head-start on a lifetime of financial security?
Spend those liquid assets fast, before they can multiply. One may visit either coast’s Infantry Training Battalion and witness the shockingly consistent fruits of boot labor.
If the Marine Corps wanted you to have one, they would’ve issued it to you — and they did.
So, buy another one and everyone at the Oceanside movie theater will assume you’re a Marine. Besides, how else will you carry all those items you and your mandatory-for-off-base-liberty battle buddy need to see movies and buy ice cream?
4. Motivational Water Bottle
Listen, sergeant said that hydration is continuous and dammit, that’s exactly what you are gonna do after purchasing this sweet Nalgene.
Every available square inch of its surface area needs to saturated with pure motivation, complete with a tagline. Both “Mess with the best, die like the rest” and “No better friend, no worse enemy” are acceptable entries. Just be sure to get the twenty-ounce bottle — the thirty-two doesn’t fit into your day pack’s designated bottle holster.
3. Challenge Coins
You’ve managed to get “out in town” safely, stayed hydrated, and then you see a local bar, “Goody’s.” There are only Marine patrons angrily lined up to swallow that sweet nectar.
How are you going to break the ice with some of these long-time warriors? If only there was a physical manifestation of all the military trials you’ve experienced. Something you could hand to another leatherneck to create an instant connection and maybe even cause him to buy you a drink. Good news, your mother bought you just the thing in the MCRD San Diego gift shop.
Slam it on the table, big boy. This is your moment.
2. Motivational Graffiti Tee
Okay, so no one bought you a drink, but at least everyone in the bar laughed with you until you left. Those guys really appreciated your presence, but none of the ladies out here are showing you much attention.
They must not know you are a Marine, despite the pack, bottle, and sweet high and tight. How can you simultaneously be humble, but still let everyone know you’re an American badass, all while enjoying style and comfort?
The PX has all your dreams hanging on the rack next to the PT gear, now pull out that Pacific Marine card and make it rain Teufel Hunden.
It’s sunny and sergeant has already given a class on eye pro, so what’s the problem? The ones they issued you aren’t what Hoot wore in Black Hawk Down. He had Oakleys on and so will you, but not just any pair will do. There is a military-only edition at the MCX on “main side;” accept no substitutes.
Now that you are the epitome of awesomeness and everyone knows you’re directly providing them with freedom and security, you can finally rest in your squad bay. Order some Domino’s pizza, gather around that one guy who bought a laptop, and enjoy Starship Troopers for the thirteenth time.
You earned it, Marine!
Did we leave anything out? Have you noticed a trend among young Marines? Let me know in the comments below.
Emmy-Award winner Alec Baldwin will be playing Colonel Jessep in NBC’s live production of “A Few Good Men.” The role was played iconically by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 film of the same name.
According to a report by Variety, Baldwin, along with Aaron Sorkin, Craig Zadan, and Neil Meron, will be credited as executive producers of the live telecast. Sorkin, who wrote the 1992 film and the 1989 play it was based on, is writing the teleplay adaptation.
“Alec is one of our greatest actors. Having him play this role — live onstage for a television audience — is a dream come true. This will be a brand new take on Nathan Jessep and I expect that Alec is going to bust through TV screens and right into living rooms,” Sorkin, also known for producing the television series “The West Wing,” told Variety.com in response to the casting announcement.
Baldwin has played other roles in military-related projects, including Jack Ryan in “The Hunt for Red October,” and Jimmy Doolittle in “Pearl Harbor.” He also has extensive live television experience, being a 17-time host of “Saturday Night Live.”
Popular history remembers the Confederate States of America for a lot of things, but having a developed government capable of almost anything the United States could do is seldom one of those things. But it did have all the trappings of a democratic government, including a Treasury Department, an Electoral College, and even coordinated clandestine activities.
Spies. They had spies.
They’re, like, the first thing new governments get. Catch “Turn: Washington’s Spies” on AMC.
I describe the Confederacy’s secret soldiers as a kind of Secret Service, but that’s not entirely an accurate description. The mission of the U.S. Secret Service is not only to protect the President and other American leaders, but to act as an investigation and enforcement arm of the Treasury Department. They track down counterfeiters and other fraudsters while assisting on anti-terror and counter-narcotics task forces with other agencies. But intelligence is not their mission.
In the Confederacy, it could have been. The Confederate government had countless secret agents in their employ, so many the Confederate government couldn’t always track them all. They were assigned many, many roles.
In the early morning hours of a balmy August night in 1864, an American barge parked on the James River was filled with stores of supplies for the Siege of Petersburg. After about an hour, the barge exploded, destroying an estimated million of Union supplies. Its destroyer was Capt. John Maxwell of the Confederate Secret Service. He and a handful of other saboteurs destroyed a number of Union supply carriers, sunk Union ships, and allegedly destroyed the river steamship Sultana, killing thousands in one of the worst maritime disasters in American history.
Rose O’Neal Greenhow was a DC socialite who provided the Confederate Army with enough information to win at First Bull Run.
Like any other army fighting a war, the Confederate Army needed information about their opponents. More than that, the Confederates needed to know what was happening in Washington, who their friends were, and other such information. There were many Northerners willing to oblige them.
James Murray Mason and John Slidell were captured by the Union on their way to Britain. They were later released.
The Confederate States were, like most rebellions, eager to have international recognition of their independence. Confederate agents operated in Europe and elsewhere looking for this kind of support. They also measured public sentiment for or against their cause while providing any useful military information they could pick up. The US and Britain almost came to blows after two Confederate agents were captured from a British ship and detained.
“They’re over there!”
The Confederate version of the US Army’s storied unit not only conducted battlefield communication for the Confederate armies in the field but also took on a number of espionage-related missions. They gave the Confederate artillery the positions of Union troops and maintained a secret telegraph line of communications for its spies that extended all the way to Canada.
Much of the Signal Corps’ mission logs were destroyed in the Union capture of Richmond, so the full extent of their clandestine activities may never be known.
Confederates were so renowned for their use of torpedos that the Union had guys who did nothing but disarm them all day.
The Torpedo Bureau
The Confederates were very vulnerable to the vast superiority of the Union Navy. The solution for them was to mine or torpedo everything in sight. To this end, they hired two brothers who developed Confederate torpedo technology, taking them from crude wooden shells filled with gunpowder to disguised canisters which looked like coal that would be smuggled into the boiler rooms of Union steamships.
Land mines and sea mines were soon to follow.
Raids from Canada
Like modern-day green berets, Confederate agents recruited Canadians and sympathetic northerners to launch raids on American outposts in the north of the country. One such raid was the St. Albans Raid of St. Albans, Vermont in 1864. Locals of the Vermont area were forced to swear loyalty oaths to the Confederacy at gunpoint as the raiders robbed the three local banks, gaining money and notoriety for the Confederates.
Suffolk Police were contacted at approximately 1:40 p.m. (Dec. 18) to reports of a disturbance at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. […]
Shots were fired by American service personnel and a man has been detained with cuts and bruises and taken into custody.
No other people have been injured as a result of the incident.
During the lockdown, personnel on the base were instructed to hide in the offices, lock their doors, switch the lights off, and close their windows and curtains, according to U.S. Brian Boisvert, a sergeant deployed on the base who described the situation to Sky News.
The lockdown was lifted after about an hour, Boisvert added.
The 1,162-acre compound was due to be closed after the U.S. said it would move its operations from the base to Germany, Reuters reported.
Defense officials at the highest levels of South Korea’s government told Yonhap News on Wednesday that the US would deploy “strategic assets” to the peninsula amid tensions with North Korea.
“The US has pledged to expand the rotational deployment of its strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula,” Chung Eui-young, the chief of the National Security Office said according to Yonhap.
While “strategic assets” can refer to nuclear weapons, it can also mean nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers, or stealth aircraft. Chung said the deployment could happen as early as the end of 2017.
Another South Korean publication, Chosun, reported on Tuesday that a government source said the US may send an aircraft carrier, B-2 stealth bombers, and the world’s stealthiest and most lethal combat plane, the F-22 Raptor.
The talk of increased US firepower in South Korea comes after North Korea interpreted some of President Donald Trump’s tweets as a declaration of war, and announced it would try to shoot down US bombers flying anywhere near its airspace.
As it stands, the US has B-1B Lancer bombers stationed in Guam that frequently respond to North Korean missile or nuclear tests by doing flybys near its borders accompanied by advanced US, Japanese, or South Korean jets.
But the B-1B isn’t nuclear capable, nor is it stealth. The B-2, however, has both.
Although the US already has F-22 and F-35 stealth aircraft stationed nearby in Japan, placing them on the Korean Peninsula could spur further escalation of an already-tense situation.
The B-2 can carry 16 nuclear warheads as well as massive ordnance penetrators — bunker-busting bombs that would be the US’s best bet for hunting North Korea’s leadership as they hide in underground caves.
NK News recently reported that the US had to tell North Korea about the last flight of the B-1 near its borders, because Pyongyang couldn’t really track the supersonic bomber jet. If North Korea struggled with the non-stealth B-1, then it has little hope of spotting a B-2 and virtually no chance of spotting the F-22 on its radar screens.
Still, the move could backfire and destabilize the situation in North Korea, as the US’ asymmetrical advantage over North Korea’s aging forces could cause an uneasy Kim Jong Un to think he has no choice but to strike first.
“Often times when we think we’re sending very clear signals, we can’t be sure they’re being interpreted that way,” Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute, told Business Insider of the US’s attempts to show its strength towards North Korea.
“In South Korea they’ve talked about trying to scare North Korea into changing their behavior,” Town said, referring to the deployment of US military assets to South Korea. But, “the way they change their behavior is not necessarily the way we want them to.”
Mark Rasnake outside the hospital in October 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
Maj. Mark Rasnake was exhausted. The 32-year-old Air Force infectious disease specialist had worked through the night treating some of the worst trauma he’d seen in his life — seven soldiers who’d been brought in after sustaining catastrophic burns when their Bradley Fighting Vehicle hit an improvised explosive device near Daliaya, Iraq, and erupted in flames. But back at his bunk at Balad Air Force Base, north of Baghdad, he couldn’t sleep.
He opened his laptop and began to type a letter home. “I met a hero last night,” he wrote. “I did not realize it at the time … This is a place where the word “hero” is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.”
As a medical professional, Rasnake never identified his patient, even in a letter only intended for family members. As it happened, though, his words would travel further than he imagined. His local newspaper in Eastern Tennessee took it as a submission and reprinted it; and eventually, Air Force officials reached out to the paper so the service could publish it too.
Rasnake’s letter survives on the Air Force’s official website as the first public account of the bravery of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who sacrificed his life running again and again into the fiery vehicle, ignoring his own burning uniform. It has been 15 years to the day since Cashe hauled his teammates out of the Bradley on Oct. 17, 2005; but Rasnake, now the residency program director for the University of Tennessee’s Division of Infectious Diseases, says he’s never stopped thinking about him.
“I kind of think about the guy all the time,” Rasnake told Military.com in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve got a helmet bag that I use to carry stuff to and from work, and I put a 3rd Infantry Division patch on that thing, just to always have the visual thing to remember what he did. That’s just always been important to me, to at least carry that memory.”
Rasnake said he didn’t learn Cashe’s story until a few hours after he and more than a dozen other military medical professionals had finished treating the soldiers and loaded them on an air evacuation flight bound for Germany. He can’t remember who shared the account of what happened in the aftermath of the Bradley explosion. But as word spread among his colleagues and across the base, it provoked a common feeling of awe.
“The discussions we had is, you know, if his actions don’t deserve the Medal of Honor, we had trouble imagining anything that did that would,” Rasnake said.
Cashe was initially nominated for a lesser award, the Silver Star, by his battalion commander, Gary Brito, now a major general. Brito, by his own account, pushed for an upgrade to the Medal of Honor as soon as he learned of the severity of Cashe’s injuries. But as the years passed, no medal upgrade came.
At issue, according to various reports, was difficulty ascertaining accurate witness statements of what took place. While initial accounts led the Army to determine Cashe’s heroism did not take place in active combat, current descriptions — championed by lawmakers — say he dodged enemy fire while hauling body after body out of the vehicle: six soldiers plus an interpreter, who died on the scene. Cashe refused medevac until the others were taken away, according to his Silver Star citation.
Mark Rasnake (right) along with doctors Col. Ty Putnam and Maj. James Pollock, Oct 17, 2005. (Photo courtesy of Mark Rasnake)
What Rasnake saw is in none of those accounts, but speaks to the pain and trauma Cashe’s body endured because of his choice not to leave his brothers-in-arms behind.
“The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio,” Rasnake wrote in his later-published letter home. ” … Our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand.”
Rasnake still has clear memories of that night, although the conditions and treatment of specific soldiers is a blur. Off-duty medical staff were called back up before the casualties arrived. A field intensive care unit was heated to treat those suffering from the hypothermia sometimes brought on by severe burns. Doctors had to intubate to keep the badly burned soldiers’ blood oxygenated, and some required surgical incisions to allow burn-traumatized limbs to swell.
Six of the men needed ICU treatment; ultimately, three would succumb to their injuries.
Rasnake had arrived in Iraq earlier that fall, and it wasn’t common for doctors at Balad to keep track of the wounded troops they’d treated once they moved on for additional care. But this case was different.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For the next two weeks … Some of them didn’t make it, including Sgt. Cashe ultimately, and he was the last one to expire of the ones that ultimately died. And it was just heart-wrenching for us to hear what was happening back home … he had the entire [Air Force] 33nd Medical Group following daily what was happening.”
As Rasnake sat typing that first night in his sleeping quarters, not knowing the fate of Cashe or the other men he’d treated, he thought of a hero from his hometown of Greeneville, Tenn.: Marine Sgt. Elbert Kinser, who threw himself on a Japanese grenade in 1945, saving his men and earning the Medal of Honor. A bridge in the city of Tusculum, Tenn., bears his name.
“How many of his friends are still alive to remember the story? How many grew old and had grandchildren because of his sacrifice?” Rasnake wrote. “Did they thank him every day of their lives? The next time I cross that bridge I will stop for just a few minutes of my life to read about a man that gave all of his.”
Now 47, and 13 years out of the Air Force, Rasnake said he never lost hope that Cashe would receive the Medal of Honor that he never doubted the soldier deserved.
“The fact that he’s up for the MOH, reliving this and kind of seeing some closure for him and his family is just amazing,” Rasnake said. “I’m so glad; it’s probably the first piece of good news I’ve gotten in 2020.”
With a sprinkle of holy water and a protester condemning the late Mikhail Kalashnikov as a “manufacturer of death,” Russian authorities have unveiled a monument to the designer of the widely used AK-47 assault rifle.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky and the head of state-run military-industrial conglomerate Rostec were on hand for the dedication of the monument to Kalashnikov on the Garden Ring road in central Moscow on September 19.
The statue — not far from monuments to renowned poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Aleksandr Pushkin — was unveiled by Kalashnikov’s daughter, Yelena Kalashnikova.
Minutes before the ceremony began, a man unfurled a sign saying, “the manufacturer of weapons is a manufacturer of death.” He was quickly detained by police and taken away from the site.
The weapon Kalashnikov invented is the most widely used assault rifle in the world and has been fired in nearly every conflict around the globe for the last 50 years.
There are estimated to be as many as 200 million Kalashnikov rifles around the world.
“Mikhail Kalashnikov is an embodiment of the best features of a Russian person — extraordinary natural giftedness, simplicity, honesty, organizational talent,” Medinsky said, adding that “the Kalashnikov assault rifle is truly…a cultural brand of Russia.”
The head of Russia’s Udmurtia region, Aleksandr Brechalov, spoke at the ceremony, praising Kalashnikov for his contribution to “Russia’s glory and defense.”
Kalashnikov lived and worked for many years in the capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk, where Kalashnikov assault rifles are still made.
A Russian Orthodox priest then prayed for Kalashnikov and sprinkled the monument with water sanctified by the church.
But Kalashnikov — who was born into a peasant family during the civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution and died in 2013 at the age of 94 — voiced mixed feelings about his achievements and his legacy late in life.
Several months before his death, he wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in which he said: “The pain in my soul is unbearable.
“I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives that means that I…am responsible for people’s deaths.”
Medinsky presented plans to Putin for the Kalashnikov statue in September 2016 during a tour of the Kalashnikov Group’s headquarters in Izhevsk.
The project was backed by the Russian Military-Historical Society — which is chaired by Medinsky — and by Rostec, whose CEO is Putin ally Sergei Chemezov. Rostec is the majority owner of Kalashnikov.
The monument was unveiled on a state-mandated professional holiday honoring Russian arms makers going back to tsarist times.
Kremlin critics say that Putin, who has involved Russia in wars in Syria and Ukraine and touts Soviet and imperial-era battlefield achievements to promote patriotism, focuses on military affairs to draw attention away from domestic troubles.
The United States is considering sending more lethal weaponry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defenses, Washington’s special envoy for Ukraine said, as concerns mount that Russia may be stepping up operations in coastal waters.
In an interview with RFE/RL on Sept. 13, 2018, Kurt Volker blamed Russia for fueling the conflict. He also said that Washington and Moscow still have serious differences over a possible United Nations peacekeeping force that could be deployed to help bring an end to the fighting in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Volker said he thought that Russian President Vladimir Putin was unwilling to negotiate much of anything related to the conflict at least until after Ukraine’s presidential elections in March 2019, or with “[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko still in power.”
Volker said he has made several overtures to his Russian counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, since their last meeting in Dubai in January 2018, but he has received no response.
In January 2018, Surkov showed interest in the idea of a phased deployment of peacekeepers, Volker said. Since then, however, the Russians “have backed away and have some objections.”
Another meeting is possible, he said, but “right now, there is nothing scheduled.
“Since fighting broke out between government forces and Russia-backed fighters in April 2014, more than 10,000 people have died and more than 1 million have fled their homes.
Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.
In recent months, Russia has stepped up naval operations in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volker said, “Ukrainians have virtually no naval capability or limited capability, so [the Russians] feel they can assert dominance there.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capabilities is a weakness Volker said Washington looks set on addressing.
“I think that’s going to be the focus as we develop the next steps in our defense cooperation,” he added.
International negotiators have twice reached a framework for a cease-fire and a road map for peace, known as the Minsk peace accords. Both have failed to hold.
That is due in large part to the fact that Russia continues to flood the territory with fighters and arms, Volker said.
In August 2018, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documented — using drone footage — convoys of military trucks crossing to and from Ukraine and Russia on a dirt road under the cover of darkness. Early September 2018, the monitors said another convoy had been spotted in the area.
Russia has not responded to accusations that it was behind the convoys.
Volker also criticized Kyiv, which he said was not doing enough to reach out to Ukrainians living in separatist-held territories. He said Poroshenko’s government has also failed to develop a reintegration plan for when the conflict does end.
Preliminary ideas, he said, “[do not] enjoy strong political backing and there is little emphasis that this should be a priority for the Ukrainian government to figure out how it can reach its own citizens and be as proactive as possible in trying to make their lives better.”
“It’s a shame because those people [living in separatist-held areas] have gone through a lot. It causes them to be very sour on the government in Kyiv,” he added.
He highlighted the cases of elderly people, “people with the least mobility,” and said Kyiv should work with the Red Cross to help get government pensions to those people.
Changing U.S. Policy?
Volker’s appointment, in July 2017, came amid concern that U.S. President Donald Trump was looking to soften Washington’s position on the Ukraine conflict, and Russia’s role in it.
However, the Trump administration has all but continued U.S. backing for Ukraine, a policy set in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Washington has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces, and sanctions imposed for the annexation and for fueling the conflict remain in place.
More notably, the Trump administration in early 2018 sent Ukraine 210 advanced antitank missiles known as Javelins, a move Obama had resisted for fear of antagonizing Moscow.
“It’s true that we haven’t achieved anything on the ground and we haven’t gotten Russia to really resolve the conflict,” Volker said. “So we have to keep that under advisement.
“On the other hand, what we’ve done over the last year has been very important,” he said.
“We’ve created a policy framework for the United States; we’ve coordinated that with our allies, specifically France and Germany; we’ve given clear support for Ukraine and restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity; we’ve clarified Russia’s responsibility here,” he said.
In August 2018, Trump suggested in an interview that he would consider lifting Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia “if they do something that would be good for us.”
Asked about Trump’s commitment to Ukraine, Volker said that everything the United States has done for Kyiv “has been done with the president’s approval, so there’s no policy gap.”
“The way I read what the president is doing, [he] is trying to keep a door open for Putin to be able to climb down, negotiate some kind of agreement, see if we can reduce the risk of conflict, see if we can actually create peace in Ukraine,” he said.
“At the same time, the policy has been to continue to layer on additional steps of pushback on Russia and support for Ukraine as a way to induce Russia to negotiate,” he said.
Featured image: Kurt Volker, the special representative of the U.S. State Department for Ukraine.