North Korea's generals don't seem to know how pistols work - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Earlier this week, images surfaced out of the reclusive nation of North Korea showing Kim Jong Un posing with a bevy of senior military leaders as they show off their fancy new pistols. The pistols were handed out by the nation’s Supreme Leader in celebration of the 67th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, and according to North Korean media, the pistols were awarded to Kim’s top generals as a symbol of his trust in them.

Of course, after looking at the pictures for a minute… you might start to wonder if that trust is all that founded.


North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Literally chillin’ like a villain. (North Korea’s KCNA)

Long before a recruit earns the right to call him or herself a Marine, they’re ingrained with the four weapons safety rules. This essential training step comes before being bestowed the title of Marine for good reason: If you can’t handle your own weapon safely, you represent a potential threat to your fellow Marines. Let’s run through those rules again, just in case you’re not familiar with them:

  1. Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
  2. Never point the weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
  3. Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
  4. Keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire.

The first thing I couldn’t help but notice in these pictures is the egregious lack of trigger discipline on display in this photo of what should theoretically be North Korea’s most competent military minds. The third weapons safety rule says clearly that you should keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Why is that rule so important? Well, in this case, it would be so you don’t accidentally blow the leader of your country’s head off…

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

But this guy is clearly thinking about it.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

And this guy might just want to replace the 3-Star sitting in front of him.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Dude on the left is literally pointing a pistol at Kim with his finger on the trigger.

Of course, even if you violate the keeping your finger straight and off the trigger rule, the people around you should still be fairly safe if you’re careful not to ever point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

I’m pretty sure these two guys think they’re in a water gun fight.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

“I’ll just point this weapon safely at Bob’s face.”

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Maybe they’re all trying to rob each other?

Of course, it’s safe to assume that none of these weapons were loaded, as Kim Jong Un almost certainly didn’t intend to equip his generals to overthrow him — but that’s not really the point. The whole idea behind firearm safety is not to grow complacent about the rules; a Navy SEAL and a food service specialist learn and exercise the same basic tenants of firearm safety because it serves as the foundation from which you can develop more advanced skills. Snipers still keep their fingers straight and off the trigger until they’re ready to fire for the same reason professional race car drivers wear helmets: Because no matter how good you are, everybody has a bad day.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

But like… has this guy ever even seen a pistol before?

Of course, North Korean troops are regularly starving, are poorly equipped, and almost certainly receive sub-par training even by a third-world standard, so we shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see how uncomfortable and awkward its military leaders seem to be with pistols. In that case, it’s the photo op that might be the most confounding.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

How pilots train to survive, evade, resist, and escape behind enemy lines

Being an aircrew member in the armed forces isn’t just flying a plane, helicopter or a jet. It’s putting your own personal safety on the line to protect people from threats known and unknown.

Lastly, it’s being brave enough to answer a call that most don’t.

From as early as 1909, when the Wright brothers sold the Wright military flyer to the US Army Signal Corps, aircraft and aircrew have been a vital part to the success of military operations.

The armed forces puts a great emphasis on ensuring these pilots are safe and have the knowledge and skills to make it home safe in any situation they might endure.

This responsibility heavily lies on the shoulders of the United States Air Force’s survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) specialist, whose main job is to train aircrew and other military personnel how to survive in a variety of environments and conditions.


North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Staff Sgt. David Chorpeninng, 366th Fighter Wing survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist, explains the differences between the illumination and smoke ends of the MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal to Capt. Scott Hatter and Capt. Tyler Ludwig, 389th Fighter Squadron aircrew, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Chorpeninng pops a M-18 smoke grenade, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Chorpeninng explains to Hatter how to properly use a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Tech Sgt. Timothy Emkey, 366th Fighter Wing survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist, checks radio communications, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Emkey demonstrates how to use the surrounding area to evade the enemy’s line of sight, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

Aircrew are then given certain points to reach via global positioning system before they contact friendly forces to extract them from the hostile area.

Aircrew throughout history, such as Capt. Scott F. O’Grady who in 1995 was shot down and stranded in enemy territory for six days during the Bosnian War, used these skills taught by SERE to return to safety.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

The US Air Force’s main missions are to take care of airmen and enhance readiness. SERE accomplishes just that and will continue to with the ever changing environment these men and women might find themselves in.

“SERE is constantly adapting,” said Staff Sgt. David Chorpeninng, 366th FW SERE specialist. “We are continuously implementing new technology and tactics to increase survivability in the future.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 things you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Although we commemorate Memorial Day each year, the holiday’s origins are rarely discussed. Many countries, especially those that were involved in World War II, have their own iteration of the monument to the soldiers who dedicated their lives to their country’s cause. From its earliest version as Decoration Day, Memorial Day has been a part of an important, reflective moment in the United States. Trace the history of the holiday from its earliest incarnation to the major occasion it is today with these little-known Memorial Day facts.


1. Memorial Day began as a day honoring Union soldiers killed during the Civil War.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Aftermath of the Civil War

After the end of the Civil War, General John A. Logan became the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group of Union veterans. Logan issued a General Order declaring May 30 as Memorial Day for fallen Union soldiers. For the first years of celebration, Memorial Day and Decoration Day were used interchangeably to refer to the day.

2. Some Southern states still have a separate day of remembrance for Confederate soldiers.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Presidents of Ladies Memorial Association

Not long after the Grand Army of the Republic established Memorial Day, Confederate groups organized to create their own commemorative holiday. Although a number of women’s groups, primarily the Ladies Memorial Association, had started to organize day outings to tidy graves and leave flowers, a larger movement began in 1868. By 1890, there was a specific focus on commemorating the Confederacy as well as the soldiers lost. Today, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina continue to celebrate a separate day for the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy.

3. The original date of ‘Decoration Day’ was May 30, chosen because it was not associated with any particular battle.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
1870 Decoration Day parade in St. Paul, Minnesota

General Logan chose the date of the original Memorial Day with great care. May 30 was chosen precisely because no major battle occurred on that day. Afraid that choosing a date associated with a major battle like Gettysburg would be perceived as casting soldiers in that battle as more important than other comrades, May 30 was a neutral date that would honor all soldiers equally.

4. The tradition of red poppies honoring fallen soldiers comes from a Canadian poem written during WWI.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Although the wearing of red poppies to honor fallen soldiers is more popular in the United Kingdom and throughout the former British empire, poppies are also associated with Memorial Day in the United States. This tradition was started after Moina Michael, a young poet, was inspired by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”. The opening lines read, “In Flanders field the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row”. The imagery moved Moina, and she decided to wear a red poppy as a symbol of her continued remembrance of those who fought in World War I.

5. The Vietnam War was responsible for Memorial Day becoming a national holiday.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
A wounded solider being carried away during the Vietnam War in 1968

Memorial Day was celebrated regularly across the United States from the mid-1800s on—while it nearly ceased in the early 20th century, the world wars made its commemoration important once more. Yet Memorial Day was not federally recognized until the height of the Vietnam War. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved a number of holidays to a Monday rather than their original day, including Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. In 1971, the Act took effect, making each holiday federally recognized and giving workers additional three-day weekend—in part thanks to the lobbying efforts of the travel industry.

6. Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit that brings attention to prisoners of war and those who remain missing in action, holds a rally every Memorial Day.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
The annual ride by Rolling Thunder as it crosses the Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C.

In 1987, a group of veterans visited the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. While there, they realized just how pervasive the issue of missing Vietnam soldiers was. The status of over 1,000 soldiers remains unknown to this day. In the ’80s, as many as 2,700 soldiers’ fates were unknown. The men decided to organize a motorcycle rally the day before Memorial Day, hoping to create enough noise—both literal and figurative—that political groups would be forced to pay attention. Since the outset of their rally, an additional 1,100 unknown soldiers have been identified or discovered.

7. Although many towns claim to have been the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, New York is officially recognized as the first to commemorate the day.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Waterloo Downtown Historic District

General Logan may have made the first call for a national Memorial Day, but, as discussed earlier, it was far from the only day of remembrance. As early as 1866, people throughout the North and South gathered to memorialize fallen soldiers. Waterloo, New York was one of many towns to have a city-wide commemoration of those lost in the war. And while over two dozen towns and cities claim to be the first to have celebrated this day of remembrance, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day—in part because it was the only town to have consistently memorialized the day since its inception.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Weight was the issue. The B-25B, carrying a full combat load, was just too heavy to takeoff from the deck of the USS Hornet.

While the nation was still reeling in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of Staff of the Army Air Force, assigned Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle to conduct a bombing mission on Tokyo to disrupt Japanese aggression and momentum and embolden the American public for the task ahead.

A seemingly impossible mission, as the United States had no aircraft with enough range to reach the Japanese home islands from any U.S. or allied nation’s runways.


The attack would have to be launched from the sea. However, carrier-based aircraft could only carry one or two small bombs each and had such short range that one of the U.S.’s precious few carriers would have to approach dangerously close to Japan, making it an easy target. The mission was seemingly over before it began.

Until the airmen examined the problem from a unique perspective – perhaps a longer range B-25B bomber, never designed to launch from an aircraft carrier, could be stripped of enough excess weight to launch at sea, bomb the target and then fly on to friendly airfields in China.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work


U.S. Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers launch from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet on April 18, 1942 to bomb the Japanese home islands in what came to be known as the Doolittle Raid.

On April 18, 1942 Doolittle’s Raiders did just that, launching off the deck of the Hornet, with wooden broomsticks in place of machine guns to save weight and extra fuel tanks to make the journey, and successfully completed their mission over Japan.

While bombers haven’t flown off a carrier since, the same spirit of innovation and trust in airmen that made the Doolittle raid possible is still alive and well in today’s Air Force.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein has challenged leaders across the force to take risks, trust their people and embrace failure as a way to learn and grow.

One unit, the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, welcomed this idea with open arms.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

A mobile chase car driver pursues a U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft during its landing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2015. Mobile chase car drivers act as a second pair of eyes and ears for U-2 pilots during their launch and landings, radioing adjustments to the aircraft to make up for the pilot’s limited sight of the runway. Pilots of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron have procured GPS-style aviation watches that aid pilots in communicating with ground chase crews and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

“The path that we’re making for our new initiatives is actually modeled off the Doolittle Raider patch, and we actually look to that for inspiration,” said Capt. Syed, 99th RS pilot. “They achieved something in a moment of national crisis, and really lifted morale and mood of the nation by doing something everybody thought was impossible, and what we’re trying to do in our little squadron with a few people, is to change the make up and the culture, so that when people come into work they’re happy, they feel empowered, and the leadership has enabled that.”

Syed saw a need in the aging U2 and T-38 airframes around him that could be met by using off-the-shelf products. One was a GPS-style aviation watch that would aid pilots and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots and, in some instances, aid in safely returning an aircraft when mishaps occur.

“It wasn’t anything that I did, it was really what the culture and the environment of this organization allowed us to do,” Syed said. “We were able to go from thought to having it on our wrist in 100 days. And in other organizations of the Defense Department, I think that’s almost impossible.”

Discover the future: A simple but powerful charge put forth by Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th RS commander, has invigorated his squadron with the willingness and enthusiasm to seek out what is possible within the constraints of the DoD.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, fosters a command climate that encourages his airmen to start projects without being afraid of failing. Products of his command range from resourcing their own aviation watches to creating software applications built by 99th RS members that can benefit flying squadrons.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“There’s those that value initiative, mission command, execution, freedom of maneuver, but there’s a law of physics, so to speak, a law of humanity that bureaucracy grows. In the U.S. military, and the Air Force in particular, that bureaucracy has grown, and slowed us down,” said Nussbaum.

The culture of innovation being developed at the 99th is driving change, agility and initiative while disempowering the bureaucracy and putting the power of decision-making and freedom of maneuver back in its member’s hands, says Nussbaum.

In many ways, the 99th RS is similar to most Air Force squadrons, but what makes it stand out is its quest for information and learning.

“Knowledge is the key to everything,” said Maj. Ray, 99th RS pilot. “For us, in the case of being able to self resource and self heal, we’ve gotten into different areas to which we aren’t familiar like U.S. code, the defense, federal and Air Force acquisition regulation, and all these different entities, and what we’re discovering is that knowledge gives you the freedom to maneuver.”

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Members of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare Lt. Col. Jeff Klosky for a U-2 Dragon Lady mission, April 19, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Ray and Syed credit their leadership with giving them the leniency and the freedom to be able to try and experiment, discover, learn and learn about learning. This symbiotic leader-follower relationship has allowed the team to progress rapidly.

“It’s a dynamic instability, F-16s are agile airplanes because they’re inherently unstable,” Ray said. “We’re not trying to destabilize command and control of the organization, what we’re trying to do is effect that same command and control at the user level – at the level of those who are out fighting and defending their nation. To resource them, and allow them to resource themselves, in ways people previously did not think was possible.”

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Maj. Ray and Capt. Syed are 99th Reconnaissance Squadron who took initiative in learning the acquisitions process in order to make sure their squadron is equipped and ready to execute the mission.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Freedom of maneuver isn’t without challenges, though. Some of the toughest challenges come from the individuals themselves and learning to work as a team.

Nussbaum cautions people who think the frozen middle is a place that exists in a certain group of people but instead that it is in all of us. A whole team approach is key to mission accomplishment and having the tolerance to let others try problem solving in their own way is vital. Allowing everyone to have a chance to participate and come up with solutions adds a sense of ownership and fun to the process.

Like Doolittle, the 99th and the Air Force face many challenges that require new approaches and open-mindedness. Untethering unit members to give freedom to explore all avenues of problem solving is a progressive way ahead and one the Air Force is taking seriously.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America might need to derail an Indian purchase of the T-14

Russia may have a major buyer interested in its next generation T-14 Armata battle tank.

Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat is currently on an official visit to Russia, where he will tour several military facilities and discuss defense deals worth over $10 billion, according to Russian and Indian media.

One of the topics of conversation will be the T-14 Armata battle tank and other platforms part of the Armata universal chassis system, according to The Diplomat, which cited Indian defense sources.


Russia’s Armata Universal Combat Platform is based on a single chassis that can be used for other Armata vehicles, such as the T-14 tank, the T-15 (or Terminator 3) Infantry fighting vehicle and the Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzer.

In November 2017, India announced it was looking for 1,770 combat vehicles to replace its aging arsenal of Soviet armored vehicles, made up mostly of Soviet T-72s tanks.

New Delhi plans to build whichever vehicles it ends up choosing in India with help from the manufacturer.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

A 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV.

But a US law known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed in August 2018, could throw a wrench in any future deals.

CAATSA sanctions any country trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors, but sanctions could be avoided by a new provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows the president to exempt sanctions on any purchases.

Initially, Moscow said it would put 2,300 T-14s into service by 2020, but has massively scaled back procurements due to budget constraints.

Moscow signed a contract for 132 T-14 and T-15 platforms in late August 2018, with the first nine getting delivered in 2018, and the rest by 2021, Russian state-owned media outlet TASS reported.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia hasn’t shown its laser weapon fire a single time

As Russian propaganda blows up the internet with the unveiling of a new laser weapon, this is just a friendly reminder of a couple things. First, Russia lies about new tech all the time. Second, it hasn’t shown the weapon fire. And, most importantly, this weapon was originally announced in a press conference filled with other over-hyped weapons.


Russia originally released footage of its Peresvet Combat Leaser System a few months ago, and it actually showed the weapon in more detail than what came out in December. Neither video actually shows the weapon in action.

(YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defence)

That’s not to say that the Russians can’t build a functioning laser weapon or that America shouldn’t be prepared for its enemies to deploy lasers, but it is to say that we should take our time while pricing mirrored caps for our bomb shelters (save money by cutting old disco balls in half!).

The laser in question, if you haven’t seen it, is the Peresvet Combat Laser System. It was first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a March annual address to the Russia’s Federal Assembly where he also discussed new nuclear missiles, including a nuclear-powered missile that he claimed was ready put in the field. It later came out that the missile has never had a successful test and crashed at sea, forcing Russia to try and find it.

Russia actually also claimed another laser weapon at the same time, a plane-mounted, anti-satellite laser. The Peresvet is, almost certainly, not the same weapon. This thing would not fit on a high-flying fighter jet.

The Peresvet Combat Laser System Is Now In Service

www.youtube.com

Peresvet has been teased one time since the annual address but is now receiving a lot of publicity as Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet, has released a new video of the laser “in service.”

Except, as everyone buzzes about the laser, we all seem to forget that the video is only showing the foreskin of a tent being pulled back to reveal a shiny laser head as a Russian with no face takes a firm grasp of the stick. That is literally as sexily as I can possibly describe this actually very boring video.

Is this a new laser weapon? Probably, but it could just as easily be the trailer for a professional gamer who only uses Apple keyboards and discount joysticks while playing his flight sims on the road.

Assuming it is a weapon, could it tip the balance in a ground war with the U.S. as it shoots down incoming missiles, drones, jets, and helicopters by the thousands? Again, sure. Anything is possible. But lasers are actually super hard to make work as weapons, and they require a ton of energy per each shot.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

A U.S. Air Force C-130 flies with an experimental laser in 2009. The laser was later canceled because it couldn’t engage enemy missiles at a significant range.

(U.S. Air Force)

They require somuch energythat America’s first few laser prototypes barely used electricity because the battery and power-generation requirements were technically infeasible. Instead, we filled a C-130 with vats of chemicals that could, yes, create a laser of sufficient strength to down a missile, but not at ranges sufficient to work in a real-world scenario.

With advances in electronics, it is now possible to create lasers powered by electricity that have sufficient strength to bring down objects in the sky or destroy targets on the ground. How can I be so sure? Well, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army prototypes have all been publicly demonstrated and fired.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

A target at sea is destroyed by the prototype laser mounted on the Navy’s USS Ponce during a 2015 test. Note that the fireball comes from explosives in the target, not the energy from the laser.

(U.S. Navy video screenshot)

They’ve even been demonstrated working on actual combat platforms like the Army Stryker and the Navy’s amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce. The Air Force demonstrated the aforementioned chemical laser on a C-130 years ago and currently has a contract with Lockheed for high-energy lasers for fighter jets, a weapon it wants combat ready by 2021.

So yeah, there’s no reason to think that Russia can’t develop a similar weapon. And warfighters, especially drone operators, should begin training to operate in environments where Russian lasers can shoot them down (but only when using massive trailers). But America still, obviously, has the edge in laser technology. And we don’t need to panic because Russian propaganda has made an impressive claim.

Remember, Russian leaders also claimed that the Su-57 and T-14 Armata were game-changing weapons that they could build relatively cheaply and would tip the worldwide balance of power. Spoiler: Both weapons are too expensive for Russia to afford and neither appears to work as well as advertised.

Articles

The Air Force wants cyber weapons that can knock out Russia’s air defenses

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Ajvol


As foreign air defenses become more and more sophisticated, Air Force planners are working solutions to keep America’s technical edge, an edge that has been narrowing for the past few years. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh wants cyber solutions to enemy systems like the Russian Buk, the probable weapon that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He’s looking for cyber weapons that do things like filling an operator’s screen with false contacts, stopping a missile from launching or, the ultimate solution, allowing a missile to launch before redirecting it to attack its own launcher.

For the full rundown, check out this article at Defense One 

NOW: The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on 

OR: The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period 

MIGHTY TRENDING

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

China is voicing support for the possible U.S.-North Korea summit, despite concerns that it will be left out of talks that could dramatically alter regional security and political dynamics.


U.S. President Donald Trump surprised the world when he agreed to accept North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s offer to meet about ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Also read: South Korea’s plan to convince President Trump to visit North Korea

The rapid turn toward diplomacy could defuse building tensions over the North’s accelerated testing of missile and nuclear devices to develop a nuclear-armed long- range missile that can target the U.S. mainland.

The Trump administration has led a “maximum pressure” campaign that imposed tough sanctions on Pyongyang, and planned for possible military action, if needed, to force the Kim government to give up its nuclear program.

 

Chinese support

Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was delighted with the progress being made to reduce regional tensions and facilitate direct talks between Trump and Kim.

The Chinese leadership has closely consulted the U.S. and South Korea on the prospects of talks. Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Science in China said Beijing has nothing to fear from being left on the sidelines of the upcoming summit between Washington and its ally in Pyongyang.

More: North Korea is so short on cash it’s selling electricity to China

“Beijing’s role will not be diminished. Neither will China’s interests be compromised if the U.S. engages in direct talks with the North Koreans,” said Lu.

The Global Times, China’s Communist Party newspaper, also reacted to the prospect of a Trump/Kim summit by urging the Chinese people to “avoid the mentality that China is being marginalized.”

Also anxiety

Yet other China scholars in the region worry that Trump’s diplomatic initiative could undermine Beijing’s influence and further strain already tense relaxations between Xi and Kim.

“There is evidently anxiety on the progress being made in the absence of its [China’s] influence all of a sudden,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, a professor with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies in Seoul.

North Korea has still not reacted to Trump’s response, nor confirmed the offer for a summit that was communicated though a South Korean envoy that met with Kim in Pyongyang.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Chung Eui-yong, who led a special delegation of South Korea’s president. (Photo released by KCNA)

If the summit does happen, Trump would be the first head of state who Kim Jong Un will meet since he came to power in 2012. The North Korean leader has yet to meet with Chinese President Xi.

Even though North Korea is dependent on China for over 90 percent of its trade, relations between the two allies has been strained over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The young leader of North Korea has also not cultivated friendly ties with China, and has repeatedly ignored Beijing’s calls for Pyongyang to refrain from provocative missile and nuclear tests.

Related: Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

In contrast, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader, often visited with the leaders in Beijing, despite his own disagreement with China over nuclear weapons. In the 2000s China led six party talks – that included the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Russia — to reach a denuclearization deal. But in 2009 Kim Jong Il walked away from these talks to resume his country’s nuclear development program.

President Xi’s frustration with past failure and with the young North Korea leader may also be part the reason why Beijing is willing to sit out the denuclearization talks this time.

“China wants to play some role, but the greatest obstacle is Kim Jong Un’s hostility against China,” said Shi Yinhong, a political science professor at Renmin University in Beijing.

Improving U.S.-North Korea relations could further estrange Kim from Xi. With a nuclear deal in place, the Trump administration would no longer need Beijing’s support on sanctions and could take a more confrontational approach to deal with Chinese trade issues and to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

Aligned benefits

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge, linking Dandong with North Korea.

For China, there are clear benefits to a North Korea nuclear deal. It would reduce the potential for conflict in the region and restore expanding cross border economic activity.

Rather than lead to confrontation with the U.S. on other issues, there is also speculation that Beijing could leverage its support of U.S. led sanctions to end Washington’s objections to China’s claims in the South China Sea, or to the “One China Principle” on Taiwan.

“There have been discussions about trying to obtain the cooperation of the U.S. to unify Taiwan into China, after securing a good deal with the U.S. on the North Korea issue,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies.

A nuclear deal would also increase pressure on the United States and South Korea to reduce their military presence and remove the THAAD missile defense shield that was deployed on South Korea in 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is pulling out of Syria after declaring victory

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Syria on Dec. 11, declared victory, and announced the pullout of his troops.


Accompanied by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Putin spoke to Russian troops at the Khmeimim air base, which has been the headquarters of Russia’s military mission in Syria since its military fighter planes first arrived there in 2015.

In his remarks, Putin ordered the start of “withdrawal of troop contingents” from Syria, adding that a Russian presence would remain at both the air base and at the naval base in Tartus.

Read More: Russia just declared the defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria

Putin congratulated the Russian troops involved in Syrian combat, saying,

The homeland is proud of you … and if the terrorists raise their heads again, we will strike them with such blows which they have not yet seen.

Syria’s six-year civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced more than 6 million civilians. Russia and Iran have sided with Assad in the conflict, which has run concurrently with efforts to defeat the Islamic State terror group in the north African nation.

Putin has ordered similar drawdowns of Russian troops from Syria in the past.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is Putin the richest person in the world?

While many a news outlet regularly reports when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates flip-flop as to who is the richest person in the world, with Bernard Arnault and Warren Buffet nipping at their heals, as we previously noted in our article on the richest people in history, Bezos and Gates’ combined wealth barely matches that of the known fortune of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over that oil rich country for over three decades before being ousted and then killed in 2011. So how wealthy was Gaddafi? In the years since his death, so far nearly $200 billion dollars have been found in secret accounts, real estate holdings, and other investments directly belonging to him. No matter whether he acquired it ethically or not, assets are assets, and Gaddafi had the most of any known person so far this century by a huge margin.

Another individual who has more or less ruled a petroleum-rich nation for about two decades now is likewise rumored to secretly have a net worth in excess of $200 billion. We are, of course, talking about Vladimir Putin. But is Putin actually the richest person in the world, or are these just rumors?


To begin with, as you might imagine being born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Putin didn’t exactly start out life in the lap of luxury. In a bit of 1950s-era role reversal, his father was a cook and his mother a factory worker. Putin himself would grow up to join the KGB in 1975 working a variety of positions with that institution over the years. While you might envision Hollywood spy type scenarios were his daily life, in fact, according to journalist and biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Putin in the KGB.

The first rumor that Putin was using a government position to stash away quite a lot of money for his own personal gain came in the early 1990s when he, in his then position as head of the Committee for External Relations at the Mayor’s Office in St. Petersburg, allegedly helped broker a million deal to acquire various food supplies for the city. In a nutshell, various companies were granted permits that would allow them to supply a huge amount of materials to foreign entities, and in exchange would be given an equivalent value back in foodstuffs to then be used within the famished city. The thing was, as far as anyone can tell, while the companies did send out the materials, no foodstuffs came back in return. The matter was ultimately investigated by one Marina Salye at the behest of the city council, with Salye in turn claiming Putin’s signature could be found authorizing the deals.

She states, “The raw materials were shipped abroad but the food didn’t materialise. There’s 100% proof that in this Putin was to blame. As a result in 1992 – when there was no food at all – the city was left with nothing. The evidence I have is as solid as it gets…. Putin – well, his committee – made bartering contacts to get food for the city. He issued licenses. And commodities – wood, metal, cotton, heating oil, and oil – flew out of the country.”

That said, while she states Putin was to blame and, at least according to her, she had definitive proof, she did not find any evidence that Putin had received anything in return for the apparently botched deals. As for Putin, he claimed the companies that had been given the export permits in the deal were to blame for foodstuffs not coming back as they were supposed to have- implying that Putin had no knowledge the deals wouldn’t be completed as originally brokered when he issued the licenses.

The city council would move forward with further investigation, but ultimately Mayor Anatoly Sobchak put a stop to it and the matter was dropped. While you’ll read in many outlets reporting this story that Salye would die of so-called natural causes mere weeks after she made these accusations and the investigation was killed, in truth she would go on to help found the Free Democratic Party of Russia and more or less continually rail against Putin to anyone in the media and public who would listen, until eventually giving up in 2000 after the election and moving to the countryside. There she lived until her death at the age of 77 in 2012, though she did give a handful of interviews during that span, still unabashedly anti-Putin.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

A portrait of Marina Salye during the 2012 Protests after the 2011 Russian elections.

As for Putin, from that 1992 political position, he worked his way up to becoming one of a trio of Deputy Prime Ministers, and was known to be Boris Yeltsin’s preferred successor, despite before this being a relative unknown among the wider public. Ultimately he did indeed become president in 2000 after winning the majority vote.

Once elected, Putin, like his predecessor, reported his finances and holdings publicly, including his salary and exact amount in his many bank accounts. He has continued to do so since. The result? Over the years while his salary has changed regularly from year to year, he has made approximately 0K-0K annually in that span, for example in 2018 reporting an income of 5K. Today between his wife’s and his own accounts, the couple seem to have a little over a half a million in cash in various bank accounts, though why he isn’t investing this is rather curious given his apparent lack of any other investments and almost complete lack of actually needing any cash for his day to day life given the government foots the bill for most everything. Of this, Putin states, “Honestly speaking, I don’t even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don’t even count it…”

As for his other assets, he also owns a studio sized apartment in Saint Petersburg, a slightly larger apartment in Moscow, owns a small garage, a couple cars, a small plot of land outside of Moscow, and otherwise has various minor assets of no great worth.

Of course, over the years people can’t help but notice that Putin has a collection of watches he wears very publicly whose purchase price combined is around that of his reported entire net worth, ringing in at about 0,000-0,000 if various reports are to be believed. For reference, the highest valued watch he has been spotted wearing costs around 0,000- a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch.

On top of that, the clothing he can often be seen wearing is likewise extremely expensive, such as his 00+ tailored suits from outlets like Kiton and Brioni. Not just expensive suits, in one photo of him working out, Putin can be seen wearing sweatpants that cost over id=”listicle-2641610333″,400 a pair, apparently made from silk, cashmere and the tears of impoverished children, along with a similarly priced top.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Giphy

On top of that, among other mansions, he is long rumored to own an estate known as “Putin’s Palace” near Praskoveevka, widely reported to be worth id=”listicle-2641610333″ billion by media outlets. However, this was actually sold in 2011 to one Alexander Ponomarenko, a former associate of Putin’s, for somewhere around 0 million. (Note, the exact amount has not been publicly disclosed, but Ponomarenko has indicated it’s in the ballpark of that widely reported figure.)

Ponomarenko purchased the estate from a group led by businessman Nikolai Shamalov. Ponomarenko claims he decided to buy the company behind the estate project, and thus the mansion, as it was a steal of a deal owing to the project being stalled from lack of funds to complete the estate and the business group wanting to cut their losses on it rather than complete it.

That said, Russian businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who is exiled from Russia, claims the palace was built specifically for Putin’s use. He claims Putin was able to afford its construction in part thanks to a gift given him by the aforementioned Nikolai Shamalov in the form of 94% of the shares in a company called Lirus Holding. Among other personal knowledge of the development of the palace, Kolesnikov claims Shamalov himself told him this and, to quote him, “I have no reason not to believe (him).”

However, no documents concerning any ownership connected to the project seem to indicate Putin, or any holdings of Putin’s, ever were directly involved with this estate. That said, some contract documents concerning its construction allegedly have the signature of one Vladimir Kozhin, one of Putin’s inner circle of confidants. Of course, this still doesn’t definitively indicate whether Putin actually owned the palace or even was behind its building at all- simply, allegedly someone he is close to was involved in some capacity and later someone else he is close to bought it- a bit of a theme for a lot of these rumors.

Putin himself denies he had anything to do with the palace being built. Nevertheless, Putin allegedly frequents the palace and Federal Protective Service guards have been seen at the mansion, along with locals reporting seeing Putin in the area regularly.

Of course, among the extremely wealthy with such mansions, it’s not uncommon at all to allow friends to guest in one’s estates whenever they please, so Putin would not have to actually own the thing to stay there, nor would it be a big ask to do so- more or less par for the course among the exorbitantly wealthy.

That said, on top of all this estate, Putin has been connected to causing to have had built or secretly owning several other mansions, yachts, planes, etc.

Whether he actually owns any of these or, like Putin’s Palace, seemingly is just using them when he pleases, his flashing of extreme wealth in the case of his watches and other such items, along with an awful lot of not implausible allegations of widespread corruption within his government connected to him, has led to the belief that he has boatloads of money secretly stashed away in accounts throughout the world.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Giphy

Others speculate Putin is simply using the government coffers to finance all these extravagances. For many items, this would not actually be that uncommon for a major world leader, if a lot more excessive than most. For example, the replacement Air Force One planes the U.S. President will soon have at his disposal has a budget of over billion. The U.S. President also gets a pretty posh mansion (The White House) and vacations spots to go to at their leisure with the tax payer footing the bill for quite a lot of such perks with few batting an eye at this.

But, of course, the U.S. government isn’t funding 0,000 watches for the President (though bullet proof tailored suits occasionally worn by the president are presumably paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. To attempt to clarify these items, requests have been made to the Russian government asking if, for example, Putin’s watches are actually his or property of the state that he is just wearing, but no answer to this question has been given that we could find.

Whatever the case, yet others claim Putin is simply enriching many people around him and it is they who are then happy to provide Putin with anything and everything his Judo-master heart can desire.

Yet others claim it is all three- Putin is enriching himself through shady means and using government funds and people he is helping make wealthy to get whatever he wants while he’s in office.

But the question of the hour is not whether Putin’s net worth is more than he is letting on- that is very apparently true by his watch collection alone, whether he purchased them or they were gifted. The question of the hour is whether he is secretly the richest person in the world with a net worth in excess of 0 billion as so many claim.

So what does the man himself say about all these rumors? “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world…”

Case closed, right? He admitted it! Well, in truth, he wasn’t finished talking. He goes on, “I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”

Of course, whether he collects emotions or not doesn’t inherently negate the first part of that statement, simply that he considers that a greater wealth than whatever he has possession-wise.

Argue amongst yourselves whether this was Putin cleverly admitting to being the wealthiest person in the world while making it seem like he was saying he wasn’t, and also simultaneously admitting he’s a Lizard Person given a hallmark of these creatures is apparently feeding on human emotions… ?

For a more direct answer to the question about the rumors of his extreme wealth, he clarifies, “It’s just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss… They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.”

The Press and Information Office of the President of the Russian Federation’s also asserts of these rumors, “This information has no substance. As you may know, the declarations of Mr. Putin’s income and property are published annually… We recommend you to use only reliable sources henceforward and not to believe fake news in 2018.”

Naturally, nobody seems satisfied with these assertions given his apparent and frequent flashing of wealth far beyond what anyone with his salary should be able to afford.

So what do others who might know a little more say? First, we have political analyst and noted critic of Putin Stanislav Belkovsky who claimed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2012 that Putin had net worth of approximately billion, though how he came up with this figure isn’t exactly definitive nor inspiring confidence in his hard knowledge here. In his own words, “The figure of billion emerged in 2007. That figure could now have changed, I believe at the level of -70 billion…. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”

Mildly more concrete, at least in terms of given something more specific, he also claims much of this wealth is because of Putin’s alleged 4.5% stake in Gazprom, 37% stake in Surgutneftegas, and allegedly 50% ownership of Gunvor. How he knows this, however, isn’t fully clear. Belkovsky simply states he got this information through sources he has within the companies. It’s also noted that for a time Gunvor was co-owned by a friend of Putin’s, billionaire Gennady Timchenko.

So what do the three companies say? For whatever it’s worth, Corporate Affairs Director of the Swiss-based Gunvor Group, Seth Thomas Pietras, states, “President Putin has never had any interest in, investment in, or involvement with Gunvor Group either directly or indirectly… Mr. Belkovsky’s claims are based on absolutely nothing and are fundamentally ridiculous. And the U.S. government, despite its statement has never sanctioned Gunvor in any capacity, nor has it provided any evidence of its own.”

Moving on to Surgutneftegas, they likewise deny Putin owns any shares.

Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government itself, with the rest of the stock publicly traded, likewise shows no records of Putin owning any shares.

Belkovsky counters these denials by the companies and lack of records stating Putin has a rather elaborate network of off-shore companies and funds that own the shares, which all ultimately mask that he himself actually owns, or at least, controls them.

Moving on to the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder, he is the one that seems to have started the widespread rumor that Putin’s personal wealth is in excess of 0 billion, stating before a Senate Judiciary Committee

I believe he is worth 0 billion. The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money…He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.

On this latter note, one of Browder’s former associates, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was investigating corruption within the Russian government and allegedly found evidence of various Russian officials taking part in a near quarter of a billion dollar tax fraud scheme. Magnitsky himself was then arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the tax fraud, and died while in jail before his trial. At the partial encouragement of Browder, the U.S. then passed the Magnitsky Act in 2009. In an oversimplified nutshell, this allows the U.S. government to sanction various individuals thought to be human rights offenders, ban them from entering the U.S., and more importantly freeze their assets where the government is able. The bill was essentially meant to allow the government to legally hold somewhat accountable those thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death.

As for hard data, however, Browder offers little.

Next up, noted economist Anders Aslund, author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, states, “I would estimate that Putin is worth around 0-160 billion. We can see that Putin and his friends have taken -15 billion from Gazprom every year since 2004. That’s just Gazprom. There are large numbers of transactions being made… What’s much more difficult is to see where the money goes. It’s typically Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Willmington, Delaware…”

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

(Kremlin.ru)

As to how he came up with these figures, he states, “My assessment is that since Putin’s circle got its looting fully organized around 2006, they have extracted -25 billion a year, reaching a total of 5-325 billion, a large share of the Russian private offshore wealth. Presuming that half of this wealth belongs to Putin, his net wealth would amount to 0-160 billion. Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power.”

Why he assumes Putin would get half of these alleged amounts instead of some other percentage isn’t fully clear.

On that note, like so many before, nobody seems to be able to actually offer hard evidence that Putin has any money stashed away anywhere not publicly known, which when talking sums of allegedly 0 billion, is a pretty neat trick for someone who has been so highly scrutinized, including by the U.S. Senate, who presumably if they wanted could just ask the CIA or other entities good at collecting such data to look into it. Given, instead, they are asking the likes of Browder, it has been presumed and widely claimed, that the CIA and other such government entities have no definitive intelligence on this either.

From this lack of a paper trail directly linking money or assets to Putin, yet his clearly lavish lifestyle indicating he does indeed have access to an awful lot of money, this has led many to conclude that Putin himself doesn’t actually officially own most or all of the wealth attributed to him, but rather he is leveraging his position and connections to enrich those close to him who, in their gratitude, are then more than happy to provide Putin with any money or items he wants, from access to mansion to yachts to sweatpants that keep his Judo-jubblies ultra comfortable when working out.

As alleged evidence for this, we turn to 11.5 million documents from the Panama Mossack Fonseca law firm made public in 2016, dealing in off-shore holdings by over 200,000 entities. While Putin himself is not listed in any of them, the documents do reveal three close associates of Putin’s among those having off-shore holdings partially managed by the law firm, with a combined amount of around billion between the trio.

Despite not owning these assets, there are many claims by various individuals that Putin uses some of these like his “personal bank account”, most notably the holdings of a man claimed by many in the media as Putin’s best friend- famed Russian musician and conductor Sergei Roldugin. Not just a friend, Roldugin is also the godfather to one of Putin’s children and was the man who introduced Putin to Putin’s wife.

As for where Roldugin supposedly got his extreme wealth, beyond his noted music career, starting in the 1990s Roldugin began investing in various oil and other business entities, to great success. Beyond all of this, in 2019, Roldugin also was accused of being involved in a massive multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme in conjunction with Sberbank CIB, which allegedly profited him greatly.

That said, for those using these records as proof of Putin having money elsewhere via his associates, it should be again noted these are the records of well over 200,000 entities throughout the world. And the vast majority who are using the firm are doing so completely legitimately, including actor Jackie Chan who reportedly had six perfectly above board off-shore companies the law firm helped manage various facets of. So that three among Putin’s numerous friends who are exorbitantly wealthy should be included isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than they wanted to have some assets outside of Russia, which isn’t uncommon among the wealthy in Russia. As some formerly close to Putin who have had their assets stripped and forced to flee the country demonstrate, having some off-short holdings is probably a good security blanket of sorts, just in case.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Giphy

On this note, political scientist professor and author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha, stated before her death from lung cancer in 2018, “Why is it that 0 billion left the country last year? Because they believe that their wealth can only be secured in the long term outside their own country.”

Coming back to the posed question of whether Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, whether these funds are being held for him or not, this is still not Putin’s money, not just technically, but we’re guessing regardless of the amount of good-will Putin has built up with these various businessmen and women, should he no longer be in power, they might quickly find themselves less than willing to continue to support his lifestyle, if that is what has been happening as is widely believed. And some speculate he might even find himself in a rather unsafe circumstance in that case.

For example, one-time billionaire and the man formerly known as “Putin’s banker”, but now exiled from Russia, Sergei Pugachev, says “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”

As for leaving power, he goes on that Putin chose not to leave office after his first term and beyond, not because of a desire for continued power, but rather because he feared for his own safety should he no longer be in that position. Even today, Pugachev claims, “I don’t see any guarantees for him [if he steps down]. Putin doesn’t see them either,” which is why he finds it unlikely that Putin will ever willingly leave office. Though it should be noted that Putin himself has stated he will not be running for president at the end of his current term in 2024.

Also for whatever it’s worth, Pugachev, despite having billions stripped from himself by the Russian government, being currently in fear for his life, and in exile, states, in his opinion, Putin himself is not evil, nor did Putin originally plan to setup a corrupt government when he took power, simply that, “He surrounded himself with like-minded people whom he didn’t know very well and who had served with him in the KGB. They immediately began enriching themselves….Putin wanted to get rich, too. He was a pragmatic person. We talked about this. He didn’t want to leave office poor.”

As for the Russian government’s position with regards to Pugachev, it is claimed that Pugachev defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars which is why the one-time bosom-buddy of Putin originally had to go on the run.

Pugachev counters, “The state steals something then has to defend its theft. In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.” This has all left the one-time billionaire with, by his own account, only about million to his name which he kept in off-shore holdings. It must be rough…

In truth, this amount is unfortunate for him because Pugachev allegedly was offered a deal from a Russian official that if he paid 0 million to certain entities, his legal issues in Russia would be made to be resolved to his benefit and he could return to Russia.

Further siding in the camp that Putin doesn’t have hundreds of billions stashed away he officially owns, the aforementioned Karen Dawisha, who perhaps gives some of the best account and most concrete details of the alleged corruption within the Russian government in her Putin’s Kleptocracy book, states that Putin’s real wealth comes from his position. “He takes what he wants, When you are the president of Russia you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Again backing up this position, financial investigator L. Burke Files, states, “Putin controls wealth through proxies.” He then makes up examples to illustrate, “Sergey owes his fortune to Putin, so when Putin asks Sergey a favor, the favor must be honored. A luxury cruise, use of a private dacha, expensive consumer goods, etc….Ivan owns a shipping company and owes his wealth to Putin, so when Putin requests a favor, Ivan— like Sergey—honors the request.”

So, is Putin the richest person in the world? While, as Gaddafi demonstrated, it is possible to squirrel away 0 billion secretly, given the level of scrutiny thrown Putin’s way by governments the world over looking into the matter, with nobody seemingly able to come up with any hard evidence, most think this figure grossly inflated, though it is generally accepted that he probably does have at least some significant amount stashed away somewhere.

For most, however, the explanation for his rather luxurious lifestyle is more reasonably explained by the simple fact that he can pretty much have the Russian government foot the bill for anything he wants without much uproar or oversight. And it does seem like an awful lot of his compatriots have gotten exceedingly wealthy during his tenure at least in part thanks to their connections with Putin and him leveraging his position to help facilitate their enrichment. Thus, if that is what has happened, it’s reasonable enough that many of those are happy to scratch his back whenever he feels the need for a new yacht or the like, without Putin needing to have anything in his name to avoid the backlash that would result should he be discovered to have such.

But as to answering the question of Putin’s own wealth, as the consensus seems to be that most of his wealth is tied up in his position and associates, rather than funds he directly has, it seems a bit of a stretch to call him the richest man in the world, though not a stretch at all if talking the money he currently has strong influence over. His position as President of Russia alone would be enough for that.

And as to the idea that he really does have 0 billion simply being held in other people’s names, as alluded to, we’re guessing even if many of these individuals are actually holding money for Putin, that should he step down from power and ask for that money be given to him en masse, or even remain in power and ask for a combined sum of 0 billion, that shortly thereafter memorials and monuments would be being built for the former Russian leader who sadly died in his sleep of natural causes…

Thus, to sum up, while given his lifestyle and various possessions, Putin most definitely does have access to quite a lot of wealth between the Russian government and a lot of friends in high and wealthy places, when talking his own assets, there simply isn’t any real hard data to date backing up the claim that he is the wealthiest person in the world. And, while not impossible certainly, it would be quite the hat trick to squirrel away a couple hundred billion without any world governments able to find hard evidence that he owns a dime of it. Of course, while some might argue access to vast sums should still count- access is not ownership, even if one can benefit from it on some level.

In the end, unless he really is one of the Lizard People, he’s probably not immortal, so at some point in the next few decades he will shuffle off this mortal coil and, perhaps then, like Gaddafi, more definitive data will be revealed. Or perhaps sooner when he no longer has the protection of his position in 2024, as he is constitutionally unable to run for the presidency that year. Although, of course he could always do as he did in 2008 and take a different position while remaining in power.

Whatever the case, for now, at least, while it is technically possible he does have 0 billion in secret, and even probable that he has drastically more than he is letting on publicly, which isn’t difficult given his paltry public assets for a man in his position, given the current data at hand, the needle is seemingly tilted more towards Gates and Bezos being wealthier than Putin, at least in terms of money and assets they officially own.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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Articles

This ISIS-hating grandma takes her war on terrorism to a whole new level

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work
Photo from Wahida Mohamed Facebook


An Iraqi grandmother who leads a militia of 70 men fighting the Islamic State in the Salahuddin province to avenge the killings of her family members doesn’t mess around.

Wahida Mohamed Al-Jumaily, better known as Um Hanadi, started fighting al-Qaida in 2004 and later made ISIS the target of her war against jihadis. ISIS is responsible for the deaths of Um Hanadi’s first two husbands, father and three brothers, which she says justifies any means to kill them.

“I fought them, I beheaded them, I cooked their heads, I burned their bodies,” she told CNN.

Um Hanadi, 39, now says she’s at the top of ISIS’s most wanted list. Bombs have been detonated outside her house several times and she has received death threats from the group, including personal ones from leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Six times they tried to assassinate me,” she told CNN. “I have shrapnel in my head and legs, and my ribs were broken. But all that didn’t stop me from fighting.”

Um Hanadi and her militia operate in the recently liberated town of Shirqat, located about 50 miles south of ISIS’s Iraq stronghold Mosul.

The force is backed by Iraqi ground forces in the area, which provides the militia with weapons.

“She lost her brothers and husbands as martyrs,” Gen. Jamaa Anad, commander of Iraqi ground forces in the Salahuddin province, told CNN. “So out of revenge she formed her own force.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the US could have made instead of F-35

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who took over after President Donald Trump accepted the resignation of Jim Mattis, reportedly hates the most expensive weapons system of all time, the F-35.

Shanahan worked for 31 years at Boeing, the F-35 maker Lockheed Martin’s main industry rival, and has reportedly said his old firm would have done a better job on the new stealth fighter.


A former senior Defense Department official told Politico that Shanahan described the F-35 stealth fighter as “f—ed up” and said its maker, Lockheed Martin, “doesn’t know how to run a program.”

While some may suspect Shanahan may be committing an ethical breach by speaking in favor of his former employer, others have also raised concerns with the F-35 program, which will cost taxpayers id=”listicle-2625730090″ trillion over the life of the program.

But instead of simply handing over the construction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant as a single stealth fighter/bomber with 3 variants for ground launch, carrier launch, and short or vertical takeoff, others have proposed a radically different approach.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

US Naval aircraft and aircraft from the Chilean Air Force participate in a fly-by adjacent to aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

(US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka)

What the US could have built instead

Former US Navy commander and aviator Chris Harmer gave Business Insider an idea of another such approach in 2016.

“The F-35 is very capable in a very specific way,” Harmer said. “The only thing it does that legacy can’t do is stealth.”

The US’s F/A-18, F-15, and F-16 families of fighter aircraft, all Boeing products, bear the name of “legacy” aircraft, as they were designed during the Cold War before in a simpler time for aerial combat.

The F-35’s low observability and integrated stealth design are central to the plane’s mission and tactics. Throughout its development, the F-35 notoriously lost to older legacy fighters in up-close dogfights.

Defense officials never planned for the F-35 to revolutionize dogfighting, however; they instead wanted to change aerial combat as a whole. The F-35, nearly impossible for enemy aircraft to spot, is designed to shoot down foes from long distance before they’re ever close enough to really dogfight.

But Harmer suggested that instead of building the F-35, the US simply should have updated existing aircraft, like the F-15, the F-16, and the F/A-18.

“For a fraction of the cost for F-35 development, we could have updated legacy aircraft and gotten a significant portion of the F-35 capabilities,” Harmer said. The F/A-18 carrier-based fighter, for example, has already undergone extensive reworkings, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is 25% larger than the original F/A-18, has a smaller radar cross-section than its predecessor and is one of the US’s cheaper planes to buy and operate.

F-35 pilots and military experts have told Business Insider that the F-35’s advantages include its advanced array of sensors and ability to network with other platforms. Combined with its stealth design, an F-35 can theoretically achieve a synergy as a sensor/fighter/bomber that operates deep within enemy territory in ways that legacy aircraft never could.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Fully armed Aircraft from the 18th Wing during the no-notice exercise.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

But Harmer, and other F-35 detractors including legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager, still think the F-35 was a waste of money. According to Harmer, proven legacy fighters could be retrofit with the advanced avionics and helmet for targeting that fighters out of Russia have long used.

An F-15, the Air Force’s air-superiority fighter, with fifth-generation avionics and targeting capability, still lacks the integrated stealth design of an F-35. Stealth must be worked into the geometry of the plane and simply won’t do as an afterthought. In today’s contested battle spaces, a legacy fighter, no matter how you update it, still lights up brightly and clearly on enemy radar and is therefore less survivable to the pilots — something US military planners have refused to accept.

“The only advantage of the F-35 is to go into highly contested airspace,” Harmer said, adding that the US had “literally never done that.”

Plus, the US already has another fifth-generation aircraft with even better stealth in its inventory: the F-22. In fact, when the US does discuss operations in the world’s most contested airspaces, it’s the F-22 it talks about sending.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

(US Air Force photo)

The Pentagon believes in stealth and wants you to too

“There are other, less expensive ways to address highly contested airspace — cruise missiles, standoff weapons, radar jamming,” Harmer said. The F-35 does radar jamming, or electronic warfare, but the same electronic attacks could theoretically be delivered by a cruise missile.

Even Trump publicly weighed abandoning the F-35C, the carrier variant of the jet, for the F/A-18, the US’s current naval fighter/bomber. Ultimately, Trump seems to have landed in favor of the stealth jet, which he now routinely claims is invisible.

Harmer’s view of an alternate path to the F-35 represents a different military philosophy than what the Pentagon has accepted since 2001, when it launched the F-35 program.

But today the F-35’s problems are mostly behind it, and operators of the next-generation aircraft have told Business Insider they’re supremely confident in the plane’s ability to fight and win wars in the toughest airspaces on earth.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine makes miraculous recovery after brain injury

Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.

Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.

“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”

The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.

“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”

“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”


Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.

Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.

“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”

First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.

Coming out of the coma

The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.

“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.

“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’

“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”

Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.

“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”

At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.

“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”

Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.

“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”

Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”

Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.


No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …

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Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.

“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.

The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.

“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”

“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.

She and her boyfriend are no longer together.

“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”

“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”

Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA

Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.

Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.

“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”

“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.

Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.

North Korea’s generals don’t seem to know how pistols work

Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.

“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.

“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”

Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.

Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”

“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.