North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ready to talk to the US about abandoning his country’s nuclear arms and pursuing peace with South Korea, according to the South Korean president’s office, the Blue House.


After a historic meeting between South Korean diplomats and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea is apparently open to denuclearizing, with Kim himself reportedly expressing a willingness to talk to the US about the touchy subject — something unthinkable mere months ago.

North Korea also said it would suspend provocations like nuclear and missile tests during negotiations, the Blue House said March 6, 2018.

Also read: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

“Chairman Kim said that even denuclearization could be among the agenda items for talks between North Korea and the US,” a Blue House spokesman said, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap. “What drew our attention, in particular, is that he made clear that achieving denuclearization is his father’s dying wish and that it has not been changed at all.”

“Kim also didn’t specify anything special from South Korea or other countries in return for the North coming to dialogue but expressed an intent to be treated seriously as a counterpart for talks,” he added.

Under Kim, North Korea wrote the possession of nuclear weapons into its constitution, and it has bitterly opposed any efforts to rid the country of its weapons. The US has maintained that it will denuclearize North Korea whether by force or by diplomacy, making the subject of denuclearization the major roadblock toward peace on the Korean Peninsula since 1994.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

“The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung Eui-yong, the director of South Korea’s National Security Office, who attended the latest meetings, said, according to Yonhap.

“In addition, the North promised not to use not only nuclear weapons but also conventional weapons against the South,” he added.

Related: North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

The news follows a year packed with white-hot nuclear threats and increasingly provocative nuclear and missile tests carried out by North Korea. The US put together the harshest sanctions package ever against the country and increased its military posture, with President Donald Trump making some overt threats.

But even as the US has applied what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” approach, South Korea, under the new leadership of a more engagement-minded liberal political party, extended olive branches to Pyongyang by including the North in the Pyeongchang Olympics and holding talks that thawed relations.

North Korea reverses course

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Kim meeting with South Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo from KCNA)

North Korea appears to have changed its tone after repeatedly declaring its nuclear arsenal nonnegotiable and reserving the right to attack US forces stationed in South Korea.

North Korea has talked about denuclearization before, but promises fell through before implementation. South Korean and US officials have repeatedly said verifiable denuclearization would need to take place before larger discussions over peace or reunification of the Koreas could happen.

More: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

Yonhap reports that the groundwork has now been laid for Kim to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in what would be Kim’s first meeting with another head of state.

North Korean media reported on March 5, 2018 that Kim wanted to “write a new history of national reunification” and would “rapidly take practical steps” toward creating peace between the two countries, which have technically been at war since 1950.

North Korea had previously refused to engage with the US as long as international sanctions and the US military in the region applied pressure to Kim’s government.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘How to get posted at Area 51’ & other dumb military questions answered

“How do you get posted at a location such as Area 51 or the Pentagon while in the military?”

I feel bad because no one actually answered this question. You see, in the military, there are a finite number of jobs at each location. Depending on the branch or the assignment, the average PCS (Permanent Change of Station) rate is about 4 years (shorter for a remote tour or a deployment). So someone will be assigned to work at the Pentagon and then after 4 years they’ll be due for a transfer, leaving their position open.

Let’s say you’re graduating from boot camp in August (congratulations, you did it, you little hero!) and Airman Snuffy is gonna PCS in August, leaving his Pentagon position open. You now have the option to go work at the Pentagon!

But you have to compete for it. So how did you do at boot camp? Huh? Did you cry? Did you piss off your drill sergeant? Or did you shine like the future freedom fighter that you are?

Your command will rate you based on your performance and recommend you for your list of assignment preferences. If you’re lucky, you’ll get your number one choice (the Pentagon I guess?) and if you’re not, well, bring mittens to Minot.

But you weren’t *really* asking about the Pentagon, were you? You were asking about aliens.


How to get posted at Area 51 | Dumb Military Questions 104

www.youtube.com

How to get posted at Area 51 | Dumb Military Questions 104

Area 51 is the most exciting conspiracy theory in the U.S. military. Aliens could be real! Just imagine!

But trust me, my little tinfoil-hat tribe, if there were actually aliens in a bunker in Nevada, you just know some boot would have instagrammed them by now. If the inability of humans to keep secrets doesn’t satisfy you, then you can fill out a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency. They’re required by law to pretty much share any information they have on anything really — they’ll just redact anything classified. You win some, you lose some.

Related: Here’s what we know about Area 51

Moving on!

“My husband is a Marine who makes fun of anyone in a different branch of service. Is this normal?”

Navy vet August Dannehl had a great stream of responses to this: “We’re all family but we’re all talking sh** on each other, you know? Marines, Army…they’re all stupid. Navy, we’re all gay. Air Force, bougy-as-f***.”

And I mean, I can’t protest this, especially since the next cut showed Air Force captain Mark Harper sporting business casual in pastel and a rainbow unicorn Pomeranian. 100% Air Force.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

His name is Ding Dong and he’s a perfect gentleman.

“What level of self-reliance training do Green Berets have? What can they actually do?”

Actually, I don’t even want to spoil the answers to this one. Go to 1:17 of the video and watch Harper dominate this question. We’re done here.

“What would a real-life U.S. military party do in a scenario like the first Predator movie?”

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

It’s possible that U.S. Air Force vet Tara Batesole is the only one to have seen a Predator film in this group, but U.S. Marine Graham Pulliam had some thoughts as well: “Not run around shirtless with a machine gun?”

Why not, Pulliam? What do shirts have to do with killing monsters?

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

“What are some acceptable gifts to send soldiers who are deployed overseas?”

Here’s a short list — and you can *totally* trust us:

–Booze

–Condoms

–Porn

–Books

–Copenhagen

–Anything that explodes

–Playboy Magazine

–Good canned food

–Playgirl Magazine

–Toothpaste

–Maybe some illegal drugs

–Blunts

–Booze

–Beef Jerky

–Porn

–Candy

–RipIts

You’re welcome.

Check out more of these videos right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer dumb military questions – part three

What happens if you refuse to shower other dumb questions

What do snipers think when they miss’ other dumb military questions

MIGHTY TRENDING

Poland willing to pay for U.S. deterrent to Russia

As military personnel paraded through Warsaw on foot, horseback, and armored vehicles on Aug. 15, 2018, Polish President Andrzej Duda reiterated his country’s call for a permanent US military presence on its soil — a presence that the Eastern European country has said it’s willing to pay $2 billion to get.

A permanent US Army presence would “deter every potential aggressor,” Duda said, it what was almost certainly a reference to Russia, whose recent assertive moves in Europe — particularly the 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine — have prompted NATO members to increase their activity along the alliance’s eastern flank.


Duda’s remarks came during Poland’s Armed Forces Day holiday. The Aug. 15, 2018 holiday commemorates Poland’s defeat of Soviet forces in 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War — a victory known as the “Miracle on the Vistula.”

2018’s celebration was larger and more vibrant than usual because it marks the centenary of the country regaining its independence after a 123-year period during which it was divided among Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

“We won. Yes, we won. We Poles won,” Duda said. “Today we look with pride at those times.”

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

Armed Forces Day 2008.

His comments also came a few months after Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said he had discussed establishing that permanent presence with US officials.

Blaszczak said the US Senate had contacted the Defense Department about the matter. Local media reported at the time that Poland was willing to spend up to billion to finance a permanent deployment.

The US has yet to respond to the request. Such a deployment would be costly and would almost certainly anger Moscow, which has sharply criticized NATO’s recent deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe.

Poland has lobbied NATO for a permanent military deployment in the past. In 2015, a US diplomat said the alliance would not set up permanent military facilities in the country. At the time, the diplomat said the US would maintain a “permanent rotating presence” of US military personnel in the country.

Since 2016, NATO has deployed multinational battlegroups of roughly 4,500 troops each to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The battlegroup stationed in Poland is led by the US and includes personnel from the UK, Romania, and Croatia.

US forces and troops from other NATO members have carried out a variety of exercises in Eastern Europe in recent months, as the alliance works to deter Russian aggression. Those exercises have focused on established capabilities that had fallen out of use after the Cold War — like maneuvering and interoperability between units — as well as new practices to fend off Russian tactics, like cyberattacks and hacking.

President Donald Trump has also goaded NATO members to increase their defense expenditures more rapidly, believing they unfairly allow the US to shoulder the bulk of that expense. Members of the alliance have boosted their spending (though some have done so with the aim of reducing dependence on US arms makers).

Poland has already met the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that the NATO allies agreed to work toward by 2024. On Aug. 15, 2018, Duda said he wanted Poland to increase that outlay even more, reaching 2.5% of GDP by 2024.

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

Articles

Russia appears to now be aiding the Taliban

Back in the 1980s, the US supported Afghan “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union. Those fighters later morphed into the Taliban. And now, the Russians seem to be returning the favor.


Moscow said last month it was in contact with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, with the stated reason being that Russia was sharing information and cooperating on strategy to fight the local ISIS affiliate there, according to The Wall Street Journal. So far, cooperation apparently doesn’t involve cash or guns.

But it understandably has US commanders there spooked.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American military commander in Afghanistan, has spoken out against Russia’s extension of an olive branch to the Taliban as offering “overt” legitimacy to a group intent on toppling the Afghan government.

Als read: Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

Russia’s “narrative goes something like this: that the Taliban are the ones fighting Islamic State, not the Afghan government,” Nicholson said at a Pentagon briefing last month. “So this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO efforts and bolster the belligerents.”

Surprisingly, even Taliban officials say the excuse of offering help to fight ISIS doesn’t add up. Two officials disputed that characterization, including the group’s spokesman, who toldReuters that “ISIS is not an issue.” In fact, both groups forged a shaky truce in August 2016 to turn their guns away from each other, and instead target US-backed Afghan forces.

“In early 2008, when Russia began supporting us, ISIS didn’t exist anywhere in the world,” one senior Taliban official told Reuters. “Their sole purpose was to strengthen us against the US and its allies.”

As the Journal reported, it’s still unclear how a Trump administration will handle Afghanistan. The situation there has steadily declined since the Obama administration ended its “combat mission” in the country in 2014, and government forces only control about  two-thirds of the country now, according to Reuters.

Besides potential Russian meddling, Afghanistan is rife with political corruption and tribalism, while many civilians report to a “shadow” government run by the Taliban instead of the national one.

The Pentagon announced it was sending roughly 300 Marines back to the southern Helmand province this spring, where Marines haven’t been on patrol since leaving in 2014.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ecstasy could be the latest PTSD treatment as early as 2021

The idea of using recreational drugs to treat health problems is picking up pace. Recent research has shown how psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms can be used to treat depressive symptoms, marijuana can treat pain and seizures, and even highly hallucinogenic drugs like DMTcould have therapeutic benefits in the future.

According to a new study, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine — known as MDMA — could be given to people who suffer with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to relieve their symptoms.


MDMA is the most common ingredient in ecstasy pills, and can also be taken on its own. An MDMA high tends to give people a buzz that makes them feel things more intensely, see sounds and colours more vividly, and feel affection for people around them. It was made illegal in 1977 in the UK, and 1985 in the US.

The new study, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, found that MDMA affects certain brain chemicals to help people become more engaged in their PTSD therapy.

PTSD can affect people who have been through trauma from a distressing, dangerous, or shocking event. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks and nightmares, making their every day life difficult. Many people lose their jobs or turn to drugs or alcohol to relieve themselves from their thoughts.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
(Daiana Lorenz / Youtube)

Currently, the most common treatments for PTSD are cognitive processing therapy or antidepressants. But many people do not respond to currently available treatments, or drop out, the authors said in the study, so the need for new, more effective treatments is clear.

The researchers, who were funded by The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, recruited 26 people, 19 men and seven women, who had been suffering from PTSD for at least six months. They included 22 army veterans, three firefighters, and one police officer.

They were randomly assigned to take oral doses of MDMA of either 30, 75, or 125 milligrams for two psychotherapy sessions. Neither the participants or the therapists knew what dose of the drug they had taken.

One month later, patients in the higher-dose groups showed significantly more improvement than those who took 30 milligrams, which was believed to be too low to experience much psychoactive effect.

In fact, 68% of the patients in the two higher-dose groups were no longer diagnosed with PTSD, compared to just 29% of the lowest-dose group. After a year, 67% of all 26 participants no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis. Those who did still experienced a reduction in their symptoms.

Participants reported some side effects, such as headache, fatigue, and muscle tension. A week after the study, some also experienced insomnia. But major side effects —increase in suicidal thoughts, major depression, and appendicitis — were not attributed to the MDMA itself, so the researchers concluded the treatment was safe.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

Although the results look promising, it’s important to remember the limitations of the study. For example, it’s very small, and a larger study would be needed to clarify the long term effects of the drug. Also, there was no placebo, and some of the participants could have continued to take MDMA after the study finished.

Neil Greenberg, a professor of defence mental health at King’s College London, told CNN that the results do not “fundamentally change” the current services offered for PTSD, and most of the participants were recruited from the internet so “one has to assume they were interested in taking a psychedelic drug.”

David Nutt, a British neuropsychopharmacologist, saw the results differently. Nutt was the drug adviser for the government until he stated in a research paper in 2009 that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than many illegal drugs, such as ecstasy, and was sacked. Since then, his research has focused on using MDMA to treat alcoholism following trauma.

“It could revolutionise the treatment of PTSD, for which there has been almost no progress in the past 20 years,” he told The Guardian.

Michael C. Mithoefer, lead author of the study and a psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the next phase of clinical trials will begin summer 2018, which will be larger, involving 200 to 300 participants in the US, Canada, and Israel.

If the results find MDMA to be a safe and effective treatment for PTSD, he expects FDA approval by 2021 — but only with use in combination with therapy sessions and not as a “daily drug.”

“If it is approved by FDA for clinical use, it will likely be restricted to specialized clinics with properly trained therapists, not as a take-home medicine that people get from the pharmacy,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Navy SEALs’ ‘4 laws of combat’ are reshaping business

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have proven that the leadership principles they learned as Navy SEALs are just as effective in the business world.

Willink was the head of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War, and Babin was one of the two platoon leaders who reported to him. After their service, Willink and Babin founded Echelon Front in 2010 as a way to bring what they learned in the military to the business world.

They’ve spent the past eight years working with more than 400 businesses and putting on conferences.


The “laws of combat” that they developed in the military and passed on to other SEALs are straightforward, but also need to be implemented carefully, Willink and Babin told Business Insider in an interview about their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”

Below, Willink introduces a concept and, in keeping with the theme of their book, Babin explains how each principle could be taken too far.

1. Cover and move

“You’ve got to look out for other people on your team and you’ve got to look out for other teams within your unit,” Willink said. It’s about not getting so focused on your own responsibilities that you forget that you are part of a team depending on you, or that your team is one of many in an organization that gives these teams a shared mission.

Taken too far: Babin added that “you could spend so much time trying to help someone else on the team that you’re stepping on their toes and they get defensive. And you’re actually creating a worse relationship with them as a result.” Mutual respect, therefore, is crucial.

2. Keep things simple

As the leader of Task Unit Bruiser, Willink learned that a plan that may look impressive to his superiors, with its detail and complexity, would be meaningless if not every member of his team could follow along. A plan must be communicated to the team so that every member knows their responsibilities.

Taken too far: That said, Babin explained, keeping things simple does not mean omitting explanations. Leaders must recognize that the “why” behind a plan is as important as the “how.”

3. Prioritize and execute

“You’re going to have multiple problems and all those problems are going to occur at the same time,” Willink said. “And when that happens, instead of trying to handle all those problems at the same time, what you have to do is pick the biggest problem that you have and focus your efforts, your personnel, and your resources on that.”

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

Jocko Willink.

Taken too far: Setting clear priorities is critical, Babin said, “yet you can get target fixated, and you get so focused on the highest priority task, that you’re not able to see when a new priority emerges and you have to re-adjust.” Therefore, leaders are in charge of determining what is most important but do not become so attached to the initial plan that they cannot adjust.

4. Decentralize command

Willink and Babin said that they found some readers of their first book, “Extreme Ownership,” misinterpreted the thesis as meaning that they must micromanage their team in addition to accepting responsibility for everything good and bad that happens under their watch.

“As a leader on a team, you want everyone on your team to lead,” Willink said. “And in order to make that happen, you’ve got to release some of that authority down to the lower ranks, so that they can make quick, decisive decisions out on the battlefield.”

Taken too far: With that in mind, Babin said, there are situations “where the leader doesn’t understand what’s going on in the front lines. And they’re too detached, they’re too far back, they’re not able to lead their team, and that results in failure.”

Leaders must set the pace for their team and fully own that role, but still learn to trust each of their team members to make their own decisions when the situation calls for it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why did these vets ride their motorcycles wearing silkies?

On August 27, the All American Riders held a motorcycle ride and charity event to raise awareness for veteran assistance programs. The event was called the “Silkies Slow Ride.”


We Are The Mighty’s Weston Scott joined other veterans in a patriotically revealing event where riders donned their “silky” workout shorts for the ride. Let’s just say that they were showing a lot of … freedom.

The purpose of the silkies on motorcycles was to encourage curious onlookers to ask questions and prompt a conversation about veterans issues — particularly the high rate of veteran suicides.

According to some stats, approximately 22 U.S. military veterans take their own lives each day. The men and women of All American Riders invited all veterans with motorcycles to ride through various cities in Southern California in their PT shorts to catch the public eye.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea’s special ops wants to kill Kim Jong Un with suicide drones

South Korea is planning to arm its newly-formed special forces unit, known as the “decapitation unit,” with suicide drones and other lethal weapons to take out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to the Korea Herald.


The South Korean Defense Ministry announced on Dec. 6 that the decapitation unit was allocated $310,000 for weapons and equipment, and an anonymous Defense Ministry official told the Herald that the unit will receive $24 million altogether.

The “equipment includes suicide drones, surveillance drones, and grenade machine guns,” the defense ministry official told the Herald.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Concept imagery of a weaponized drone. (Image: YouTube)

The decapitation unit is an army brigade consisting of 1,000 special operators. It was established on Dec. 1 with the aim of assassinating Kim and his top leaders.

It’s expected to be modeled off SEAL Team 6, but it’s not yet operational as it requires more equipment, such as low-flying aircraft to take the operators into North Korea, the Herald reported.

South Korean officials have been openly discussing the formation of the unit since summer 2015. It’s considered strange for a government to freely talk about assassinating world leaders.

Read Also: Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

But the New York Times reported in September that the South is doing so in the hopes of scaring Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table.

“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” Shin Won-sik, a retired South Korean three-star general, told the Times.

The South’s allocation of $310,000 to the unit is part of the its nearly $40 billion defense budget for 2018, which has increased 7% since 2016 and is the highest since 2009, according to Newsweek.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lee Harvey Oswald suspiciously contacted the KGB


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Lee Harvey Oswald (undated image wikicommons)

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Russia kick off this year’s massive ‘Zapad 2017’ wargame

Russia and neighboring Belarus have begun a joint military exercise near NATO’s eastern flank that has fanned already deep tensions between Moscow and the West.


Moscow and Minsk say the Zapad (meaning, “West”) 2017 exercise, scheduled from Sept. 14 to 20 in Belarus and parts of western Russia, is officially set to involve 12,700 troops.

But Western officials have said the maneuvers could include some 100,000 personnel in what they call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was among those who voiced alarm about Zapad 2017, saying the military exercises are a sign that Russia is preparing for a serious conflict with NATO.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are anxious about this drill…It is an open preparation for war with the West,” she told reporters.

“This is designed to provoke us, it’s designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on Sept. 10.

Russia, meanwhile, has pushed back against what it portrays as Western alarmism over the drills, the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member states since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Moscow insists that the size of the exercise will not cross the 13,000-troop threshold that, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules known as the Vienna Document, would require it to notify other countries and open the maneuvers to observers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West on Sept. 14 of “whipping up hysteria” over its military exercises.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

“We reject complaints of these exercises not being transparent,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “We believe that whipping up hysteria around these exercises is a provocation.”

Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, commander of Russia’s Western Military District, said in an interview published by the Russian military’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Sept. 13 that the number of troops and hardware used in the drills “will fully comply with the Vienna Document.”

The Zapad exercise is held every four years in rotation with drills in other parts of Russia.

Western governments have responded to Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine with several waves of economic and other sanctions targeting Moscow.

NATO has also bolstered its presence in its easternmost member states that were dominated by Moscow during the Cold War and remain concerned about the Kremlin’s intentions in the region.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

Belarus, where part of the Zapad 2017 exercise is being held, borders Ukraine as well as NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The drills are also being staged in Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Estonia last week that the military alliance would send three observers.

“But these invitations fall short from the transparency required by the OSCE: briefings on the exercise scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers, and overflights of the exercise,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Sept. 6 during his visit to a NATO contingent in Tapa, Estonia.

“We will monitor the [Zapad 2017] activity closely, and we are vigilant but also calm, because we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally,” Stoltenberg added.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s foreign policy adviser Kostiantyn Yeliseyev said on Sept. 14 that Zapad 2017 is “very dangerous since they are taking place just near the border with Ukraine.”

Yeliseyev added that the exercises’ purpose is to “destabilize the military situation close to the border with NATO member states” and to “keep as long as possible Russian military troops and weaponry near the [Ukrainian] border and then to use them as a platform for a possible future offensive operation.”

Russia, which has repeatedly accused NATO of stoking regional tensions through enlargement after the fall of the Iron Curtain and deployments in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, has called Western concerns about the Zapad drills baseless, saying the exercise is “purely defensive.”

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Zapad ’13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Kartapolov told Krasnaya Zvezda that in addition to the stated 12,700 troops — around 7,200 from Russia and 5,500 from Belarus — Zapad 2017 included about 70 aircraft and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including tanks, artillery units, and ships,

During the drills, the joint Russian-Belarus operations are targeting a theoretical adversary attempting to undermine the government in Minsk and establish a separatist stronghold in western Belarus.

This scenario echoes Russian concerns over what Moscow calls Western-orchestrated political revolutions in its backyard, most notably in Georgia in 2003 and in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, was ousted in early 2014.

The United States and the European Union have repeatedly rejected such allegations, calling those events the result of grassroots anger against corrupt regimes in the former Soviet republics.

Watch Russia kick off the Zapad ’17 exercises in video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykpAmVdl4xk
(Esteban Luna | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy searches for 3 missing sailors after plane crashes en route to USS Ronald Reagan

President Donald Trump has announced that the US Navy is conducting a search for the 3 missing sailors after a plane carrying 11 passengers crashed into the sea southeast of Okinawa.


Eight of the passengers have been recovered alive. The plane crashed while it was en route to the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, on Nov. 22.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
USS Ronald Reagan transits towards Pearl Harbor. The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment, operating in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of responsibility, Oct. 13, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Scott)

The accident marks the latest in a string of deadly crashes involving the US Navy’s Pacific or 7th fleet. The other crashes have involved the guided missile destroyers the USS Fitzgerald, USS John McCain, and a non-deadly crash involving the USS Benfold.

In total, 17 have died in crashes in the US Navy’s 7th fleet ships within the last half 2017. Those deaths were ruled preventable by a Navy review.

“Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff,” the Navy said in a statement.

The downed aircraft, a C-2 Greyhound logistics plane that moves people, mail, and cargo onto the aircraft carriers, suffered engine troubles, a Japanese defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace
Sailors lower the national ensign during evening colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), March 10, 2014.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Estes)

The Greyhound has served with the navy for more than five decades. It will be phased out in favor of tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys in the near future.

Eight of the passengers have been found, but no information in regard to their condition has been given, according to the Navy.

The Navy has withheld the names of those involved in the crash pending next of kin notifications.

Related: Navy on deadly collisions: We have to be better

MIGHTY TRENDING

Purple heart recipient dies saving 3-year-old granddaughter

A purple heart recipient and Vietnam war veteran, Dan Osteen, 69, sacrificed his life saving his 3-year-old granddaughter after the Oklahoma house they were in exploded.


North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

Dan Osteen, 69, with granddaughter Paetyn, 3.

Dan Osteen’s son, Brendon, says his father looked forward to every single moment he could spend with his granddaughter, “That’s what he was first and foremost I mean he was all about that baby and she was all about him.”

On Sept. 19, Brendon said his father was lighting a candle next to the stove, when there was a powerful propane gas explosion. Brendon spoke to the immediate selflessness about his father’s actions, “He wasn’t worried about himself at all. I’ll leave it at that, but save [to] her was the message he was trying to get across and he did exactly that.”

Osteen suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs, and severe burns when the blast ripped through the house. Against all odds, he was able to carry his granddaughter out of the explosion into safety—going so far as to traverse a steep driveway that winds over a quarter mile through the woods, with his sustained injuries.

Brendon Osteen

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“He just got out of the house and headed straight to where he knew help was. He tried to get in his truck and his keys were melted to him. His phone was exploded in his pocket” Brendon said.

Don’s wife was the first to make it to the scene. There she found the pair in the front pasture of the family’s property, where Don had laid Paetyn in the shade. Brendon said that before he died, Osteen told his wife, Brendon’s mother, that the roof had fallen on top of Paetyn. Miraculously he was able to recover Pateyn and return her to safety, where she was treated for burns on 30% of her body.

Dan Osteen passed away from a heart attack during emergency surgery after spending days fighting for his life. “He was a man set in his faith and he knew where he was going” Brendon added. “He knew that he did his job by saving the life of his Boo Boo Chicken,” he said. “He loved my daughter beyond unconditionally. And he gave it all for her to live.”

Brendon said the Oklahoma house belonged to his parents and brother. The house, along with all their belongings, were destroyed.

Osteen was an Army veteran who received a purple heart from a grenade explosion in Vietnam. He was a man of service to others, who paid the ultimate price to save his granddaughter. A GoFundMe page has been set up by the family.

MIGHTY TRENDING

N. Korean expert jokes about bombing Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet

A top authority on North Korea has jokingly suggested the U.S. launch an unorthodox attack on the country’s leader.


Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk and the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, California, has outlined a plan for the U.S. to strike Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet.

Writing at The Daily Beast over the weekend, Lewis was responding to increased chatter of a U.S. strike on North Korea. Though Lewis was approaching the issue in a tongue-in-cheek way, his writing nonetheless illustrates the dangers of and motivations behind using military force to send a message.

Basically, reports have come forth that the U.S. is tired of North Korea’s constant defiance and wants to carry out a limited strike in response. In theory, the use of force against a weaker opponent can serve as a reminder of who is in charge.

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

But while North Korea couldn’t really defend against a small U.S. strike, it doesn’t intend to defend. North Korea’s military posture is entirely offensive. While the country could do little to stop an incoming cruise missile or airstrike, it has long had artillery aimed at Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 25 million.

Lewis seems to think that the idea has some merit but that the difficulty lies in finding a target that’s important enough to matter but not big enough to provoke war. From The Daily Beast:

The central challenge, as we contemplate a ‘bloody nose’ option for a limited military strike, is finding a suitable target that represents Kim Jong Un’s nose — a target that will allow our strike to be intimidating and humiliating to Kim, but not the sort of broad assault that might prompt him to retaliate with his growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Lewis settles on a target of little strategic importance but great personal relevance to Kim: his port-a-potty.

Kim almost always observes North Korean missile launches from a private trailer. The launches normally happen in the middle of nowhere, so comforts like a port-a-potty suited for a supreme party leader need to be shipped in.

Related: POTUS and North Korea exchange nuclear threats

“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of U.S. precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote. “It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”

Lewis refers to his idea as hilarious, “a comedy and an action movie — both at the same time.” The U.S. military, however, may not be laughing.

Lewis’ playful idea represents a rather circumspect approach to selecting the right target to use military force to send a message. While the verbal, diplomatic, and economic messages the world has tried time and time again have failed to get through to North Korea, President Donald Trump’s administration has floated the idea of military action more than any before it.

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