On December 4, 2020, President Trump signed a bill that waives a federal law requiring that requires a Medal of Honor to be awarded within five years of the actions for which the award is recommended. The bill, H.R. 8276, was introduced by Representatives Michael Waltz (R-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). By signing the bipartisan bill into law, President Trump has authorized U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.
On October 17, 2005, Sfc. Cashe was part of a route clearance mission in Daliaya, Iraq. He served as the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Previously, the experienced NCO infantryman served in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. During the route clearance, Cashe was in the lead M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle when it struck an IED.
The explosion ruptured the vehicle’s fuel cell which covered Cashe in fuel, and caused the vehicle to burst into flames. Initially slightly injured, Cashe exited the Bradley, helped the driver out, and extinguished the flames on his clothes. Six of Cashe’s soldiers and their interpreter remained in the Bradley which had been consumed by the flames. Cashe moved the the rear of the vehicle and reached through the flames to rescue his men, his fuel-soaked uniform burning. He rescued six soldiers and refused medical attention until the others were evacuated. Sadly, the interpreter was killed in action. 10 soldiers from the Bradley were wounded, 7 of them severely. Cashe suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 72% of his body. He succumbed to his wounds on November 8, 2005.
For his heroic actions, Cashe was awarded the Silver Star. Since then, Cashe’s family has led the effort to upgrade his award to the medal of honor. Recently, however, Cashe’s valor and his family’s campaign have gained public attention. Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, Cashe’s battalion commander at the time, said that he was not aware of the extent of Cashe’s injuries when he nominated Cashe for the Silver Star. The general since has submitted additional statements to the Army to justify upgrading Cashe’s Silver Star to the Medal of Honor.
On October 17, 2019, 14 years after Cashe rescued his men from the burning Bradley, Reps. Waltz, Murphy, and Crenshaw wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy formally requesting Cashe’s award be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On August 24, 2020, Secretary Esper agreed that Cashe’s actions merited the upgrade. The following month, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 8276 to waive the five-year statute of limitations. The same month, Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, brought public attention to the campaign by taping Cashe’s name on the back of his helmet.
On November 10, 2020, the Senate also unanimously passed the bill and cleared the way for Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. With President Trump’s signing of the bill, the last hurdle to recognize Cashe with the nation’s highest military honor is cleared. “I applaud President Trump for signing our bill into law, recognizing Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe for his bravery in risking his own life to save his fellow soldiers,” said Crenshaw. “He is deserving of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for bravery on the battlefield, and now he is finally receiving proper recognition for his bravery and sacrifice.”
Once the President receives endorsement from the new acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, he will be able to award the Medal of Honor to Cashe. This would make Cashe the first African-American to receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. On July 23, 2020, Cashe’s son, Andrew, followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated as an infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia.
For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.
Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).
The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.
I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.
I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.
One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.
This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.
It seemed almost immediate: right after the death of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, the FBI began opening up training to women who were qualified candidates. At Hoover’s funeral was a young female Marine, sent to Washington as a representative of the U.S. Navy. As soon as Hoover’s replacement offered the title of “special agent” to women, that Marine was one of the first ones to go to Quantico.
Susan Roley Malone wanted to be an FBI agent ever since she was tasked to give a presentation on the Bureau in the eighth grade. The young Malone was supposed to research the agency, interview special agents, and tell her class about career opportunities, even though she would not be eligible for them. The FBI was her passion as she grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. She read books about the FBI. She watched movies about the FBI. When it came time to serve her country, however, she wasn’t allowed to join. So she became a Marine.
She and another woman – a former nun named Joanne Pierce – went to the FBI academy on Jul. 17, 1972 – little more than two months after Hoover’s death. Her FBI career would include investigating the Patti Hearst kidnapping, organized crime, and monitoring foreign nationals.
Susan Roley Malone
The hostility began right away – and abated just as fast. At lunch, some male agent trainees sat around her and began to grill her on her dedication to training with the Bureau.
“Why are you here?”
“Who are you?”
“Why do you want to be here?”
“What makes you think you can be an FBI agent?”
Her answer was curt but honest. She sat down and told them what’s what: she was there for the same reason any man was there. She loved her country just like anyone else. She wanted to continue to serve, now in law enforcement. She knew the FBI and the work it did. She cherished their work and she wasn’t going anywhere.
“It’s like any organization,” Malone says. “When you’re the first and you’re a pioneer, you know, you’re going to get push back from some people. But I got a lot people that helped, a lot of people that held out their hands, and were colleagues and allies to help. Those people that didn’t help or were maybe nasty to me, they have to walk in their own skin and you know they probably didn’t feel good about themselves, I can’t say.”
Her first field office was Omaha, Nebraska, wrangling cattle rustlers, which she thought was a cruel joke at first, chasing down cattle rustling in the 1970s. It turns out that stealing cattle was a big business. But she was a good agent – and dedicated one. She began making arrests right away, the first arrest ever made by a female FBI agent.
“I am where I am today because of the talents and gifts of many people that have opened doors for me,” she says. That have assisted me along on my journey. And especially some of the people that I recall that were FBI agents… These people had such talent and they were willing to share it. They were willing to take a young agent, whether it was a man or women, and share that talent. And for that I am grateful.”
An attack in Niger that left four American Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead earlier this month has sparked a nationwide debate over how the Trump administration has handled the incident.
During a condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the men who was killed, President Donald Trump reportedly told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a friend of Johnson’s family who listened to the call on speakerphone, called Trump’s remarks “insensitive.”
In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Wilson an “empty barrel,” and said he was appalled that the congresswoman shared what she heard on that call. Trump fired off several tweets calling Wilson “wacky” and disagreeing with the widow’s impression of the call.
As the feuding continued, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford held a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday addressing reports that the Trump administration was withholding information about what really happened in Niger.
Dunford said 12 members of the US Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission from Niamey, Niger’s capital city, to an area near the remote village of Tongo Tongo.
October 4: The day of the attack
US soldiers and the Nigerien troops met with local leaders to try to gather intelligence information, Dunford said. Some of the soldiers stayed behind to guard their vehicles, a US defense official told CNN.
As the meeting came to a close, the soldiers became suspicious when the village leadership started stalling and delaying their departure.
When US troops started walking back to their vehicles mid-morning, they were attacked by approximately 50 militants. Dunford said the enemy was likely from an ISIS-affiliated group of local tribal fighters.
The militants fired on the US-Nigerien patrol team with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. This apparently caught the Americans and Nigeriens by surprise.
One hour later: US troops request reinforcements
An hour into the firefight, the American soldiers asked for support to thwart the attack.
Dunford said a drone arrived overhead “within minutes,” although it was only sent to gather intelligence. French Mirage fighter jets capable of striking enemy targets arrived at the scene “within an hour.”
Later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived along with a Nigerien quick reaction force as well.
Sgt. La David Johnson was somehow separated from the rest of his unit. US military officials were not able to explain how or when exactly that happened.
“This [attack] was sophisticated,” an intelligence official told ABC News. “Our guys not only got hit hard, but got hit in-depth.”
Responding to questions about why the US troops didn’t request reinforcements sooner, Dunford said he wouldn’t judge why it took them an hour to ask for backup.
“I’ve been in these situations myself where you’re confronted with enemy contact, [and] your initial assessment is you can deal with that contact with the resources that you have,” he said. “At some point in the firefight, they concluded they then needed support, and so they called for additional support.”
That night: US soldiers evacuated
French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated US soldiers who were wounded during the firefight to Niamey.
Three soldiers killed in action were also evacuated: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. One soldier, Sgt. Johnson, was still missing.
October 6: Johnson’s body is finally discovered
Dunford said US officials continue to investigate how Johnson separated from the team and why it took 36 hours to recover his body.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, meanwhile, has insisted that Johnson was not “left behind.”
“The US military does not leave our troops behind, and I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” he said.
An intelligence official told ABC News that Johnson’s locator beacon was giving unclear reports, and he seemed to be moving.
“Johnson’s equipment might have been taken,” the official said. “From what we now know, it didn’t seem like he was kidnapped and killed. He was somehow physically removed from where the combat took place.”
That same day, the Pentagon identified the three other soldiers who were killed.
October 7: Johnson’s body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.
October 16: Trump first addresses the incident publicly
During a press conference at the White House, CNN asked Trump why it took so long for him to come out with a statement about what happened in Niger.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump responded. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”
That exchange was the first time Trump addressed the Niger ambush publicly.
Tuesday, October 17 to Monday, October 23: The condolence call controversy
Trump, Kelly, and Wilson exchanged barbs last week, disagreeing over what the president said during his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s widow.
The Gold Star widow broke her silence on Monday, saying that Trump had trouble remembering her husband’s name and told her that “he knew what he signed up for.” Johnson said she cried after she got off the phone.
After the interview aired, Trump tweeted, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
“If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name? That’s what made me upset and cry even more,” she told “Good Morning America.”
October 23: Dunford outlines key details in the attack
In a 45-minute briefing on Monday, Dunford acknowledged that many looming questions about the attack are still unanswered.
Questions he’s hoping the military’s investigation can uncover include:
“Did the mission of US forces change during the operation?”
“Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training?”
“Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate?”
“How did US forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sgt. Johnson?”
“And why did they take time to find and recover Sgt. Johnson?”
“These are all fair questions that the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.
(Featured image: Nigerian army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Department of Defense photo.)
So, in weird military news, the former range director and several others at Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks have pleaded guilty to an insane amount of bribery. And I don’t mean your run of the mill “here’s twenty bucks. Say I shot a perfect 40/40” either. I mean, he received antique sports cars, diamond earrings, and a nice arsenal of firearms in kickbacks to help squeeze through lucrative government contracts.
I get that GS-12 contractors make far more than an E-9, but you’d think someone would have noticed that the retired Sergeant Major is now rolling up in a souped-up ’69 Ford Galaxie overnight. Like, I’m pretty sure all of those stupid internet training videos the military makes us do twice a month specifically point out that this is a red flag.
But honestly. The dude took over $700,000 in bribes, and I bet the range still worked like sh*t. Or that’s at least my excuse whenever the 50M target won’t go down when I swear I shot that motherf*cker… Anyways, here are some memes.
The Department of Justice Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team (J-CODE) and Europol on Tuesday announced the conclusion of Operation DisrupTor, which resulted in 179 arrests throughout the world and the seizure of $6.5 million in cash and virtual currency, 500 kilograms of drugs, and 63 firearms. According to a US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) press release, the operation was “a coordinated international effort to disrupt opioid trafficking on the Darknet.”
The joint international task force developed follow-on intelligence after completing Operation SaboTor on March 12, 2019, where they infiltrated and shut down the notorious dark web e-commerce site, the Wall Street Market (WSM). According to a DOJ press release, the WSM was “a sophisticated online marketplace available in six languages that allowed approximately 5,400 vendors to sell illegal goods to about 1.15 million customers around the world. […] WSM functioned like a conventional e-commerce website, but it was a hidden service located beyond the reach of traditional internet browsers on the Tor network, a service designed to conceal user identities.”
“Criminals selling fentanyl on the Darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in the press release. “The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well—shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”
Operation DisrupTor was conducted throughout the world with arrests executed in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, Austria, and Germany. Out of the approximately 500 kilograms of drugs confiscated, 274 kilograms were seized in the US including opioid prescriptions such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and its street version, heroin. Methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and “medicine containing addictive substances in the United States” were also among the drugs seized.
One of the raids conducted through the joint efforts of the FBI, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in support of Operation DisrupTor took place in Southern California. The Los Angeles J-CODE team successfully apprehended members of the drug trafficking organization that operated under the code name “Stealthgod” on the dark web. This group is suspected to be one of the largest methamphetamine distributors that J-CODE has apprehended so far. According to the DEA press release, the group conducted “more than 18,000 illicit drug sales to customers in at least 35 states and numerous countries around the world.”
Former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the establishment of the FBI-led J-CODE on Jan. 29, 2018, in a press release. Since then, J-CODE has taken down several dark web sites in an effort to combat the opioid pandemic and the people responsible for it. J-CODE has expanded its partnerships to both domestic and international allies for operations like DisrupTor and SaboTor.
Law enforcement on scene in Southern California after one of the raids on the “Stealthgod” drug trafficking network. Photo courtesy of the FBI/Flickr.
E-commerce sites like the WSM are hosted on the darknet, also known as the dark web, which functions like the regular World Wide Web but with encryptions to disguise the users on it. The darknet was previously a stronghold for both criminals and noncriminals. Besides criminals using it to prevent law enforcement and/or the mainstream media from identifying illegal transactions ranging from sex trafficking to illicit drug sales, political dissidents have used the darknet to keep their identities secret.
Sessions had a stark warning for criminals on the dark web after announcing J-CODE. “Criminals think that they are safe on the darknet, but they are in for a rude awakening,” he said in the press release. “We have already infiltrated their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice. […] The J-CODE team will help us continue to shut down the online marketplaces that drug traffickers use and ultimately that will help us reduce addiction and overdoses across the nation.”
There’s a chill settling in over Moscow, and it’s not just the arctic temperatures that typically smother the Russian capital in January.
As U.S. officials put the finishing touches on new financial and travel sanctions against Russia, expectations that the punitive measures will target an expanded list of secondary companies, as well as Kremlin-connected insiders and business leaders, are causing consternation.
Unlike previous rounds, when Washington tried to punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and Syria by targeting big fish like major state-run firms and government agencies, the focus is shifting. The new wave to be announced by month’s end is expected to be broader, focusing on companies that do business with previously sanctioned entities, closing loopholes that allowed Russia to skirt punishment, and identifying — and potentially going after — the Kremlin’s inner circle of smaller fish.
Moscow appears to be on edge. One official has accused the United States of trying to influence the upcoming presidential election. An influential Russian newspaper has reported that as many as 300 people close to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle could be identified. And financial institutions are taking steps to minimize their risk.
“It is true that the Russians have been freaking out over this for more than a month now,” said Daniel Fried, who was formerly the chief sanctions coordinator at the U.S. State Department.
Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst now based in Washington, D.C., echoes that assessment. “The expectations are very gloomy” in Moscow, he said, “because for the first time, it will bring personal pain to those closest to Putin.”
The new measures, expected to be rolled out beginning Jan. 29, stem from a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress last summer and signed reluctantly into law by President Donald Trump in August.
Known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the law firstly provides for “secondary sanctions” that broaden the restrictions against people or companies doing business with Russians hit earlier.
The earlier measures were imposed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama not only for Russia’s Crimea annexation in 2014 but also for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its military campaign in Syria, and other things.
In October, in the first indication of whom the new law would be targeting, the State Department put three dozen major Russian defense companies and intelligence agencies on notice, indicating that other companies, Russian or foreign, who do “significant” business with them could face restrictions.
In theory, this meant that a foreign bank that provided credit to a company supplying a previously sanctioned Russian state-controlled company could be targeted for doing business with listed companies. That might include state arms exporter Rosoboroneksport or the legendary weapons-maker Kalashnikov.
The law also ordered the Treasury Department, in coordination with intelligence agencies, to provide Congress with a list of prominent Russians and their family members who would potentially face direct restrictions. Known as Section 241, the instruction includes identifying oligarchs according to “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”
This, in theory, could target the daughter of a high-ranking Russian official who owns property in the United States, or the head of a major industrial corporation with holdings in the West.
Around Washington, close observers of the sanctions process are calling it “the oligarchs list.”
“This will hit people because it shows they are not safe; that the U.S. is willing to go after this class of people and Putin cannot protect them… that there will be consequences for Russians who seem to be in Putin’s corrupt inner circle and [are] aiding and abetting his corrupt activities,” Fried told RFE/RL.
Those included will not immediately face financial or travel restrictions, but experts say it would be a clear signal of what may soon come and, more immediately, would have a major psychological effect on those listed and those who do business with them.
It could also foreshadow a public record of some wealthy Russians’ sources of income and assets in the United States.
“For some people, it’s very personal. For others, it will be very political,” said Olga Oliker of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The question is: What’s the signal that is being sent by the administration and how will it be received in Moscow?”
For the moment, the potential nominees for the “oligarchs’ list” is a closely held secret by both members of Congress and administration officials. But sanctions experts, Russian opposition activists, and Western lawyers and business groups have been trying to guess. Some wealthy Russians have also stepped up quiet lobbying campaigns in Washington, trying to persuade Congress or administration officials to keep them off the list, according to several observers.
On Jan. 12, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing its own sources in Washington, said as many as 300 people could end up being listed, a number that includes both officials themselves, but also their relatives.
In December, a group of Russian opposition activists with backing from chess master and outspoken Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov met in Lithuania to compile their own sanctions list. The compilation features more than 200 names, including prominent business tycoons who have so far avoided restrictions, including Aleksei Mordashov, owner of the steelmaking giant Severstal, and German Gref, chief executive of Russia’s largest state bank, Sberbank.
Several prominent Russians included in the opposition group’s list were already on earlier U.S. sanctions lists, including Sergei Ivanov, an ex-defense minister and President Putin’s former chief of staff; Lieutenant General Igor Sergun, head of Russian military intelligence; and Gennady Timchenko, an oil trader hailing from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to queries about its upcoming list.
One indication of how the Kremlin has sought to get ahead of the new measures came in November. The business newspaper Vedomosti reported that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had signed a decree that would exempt Russian state companies from the requirement to disclose the names of their contractors.
Already there are signs that financial markets, in and out of Russia, are factoring the likelihood of sanctions into predictions for 2018. But among bond traders, equity dealers, and other portfolio managers, the measure that has prompted most worry is a possible restriction on buying Russian government debt.
That measure is seen as an attempt to close a loophole that allowed Russia to skirt sanctions imposed in 2014 that cut certain companies close to or controlled by the state from international credit markets.
The Kremlin ended up bailing out those companies to the tune of tens of billions of dollars and was still able to raise capital on its own. In 2016, for example, Russia sold around $3 billion in new Eurobonds.
The Countering Adversaries law includes the possibility that U.S. citizens could be barred from buying ruble-denominated, Russian government bonds. It’s unclear how much of Russia’s overall sovereign debt is held by Americans, but Central Bank data from October showed that foreigners held about $38 billion of it.
That decision won’t be handed down for some months, but still, analysts predict a ban would put severe pressure on the Russian ruble, which plummeted in 2014 after the Crimea sanctions and amid low world oil prices and has yet to fully recover. In the medium term, that would drive up inflation, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch said in a research note in December.
Some Russian financial institutions have also given indications that whatever the measures are that end up being issued by Washington, they will ripple through the country’s economy.
For example, Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private commercial lender, said it was cutting back its exposure to the country’s formidable defense industry.
“This does not mean that we have severed relations with it overnight,” Oleg Sysuyev, a deputy chairman of the bank’s board of directors, told Ekho Moskvy radio. “But we are just trying to minimize risks.”
In the short term, that could pose a direct challenge to Putin, who will run for another term as president in the election scheduled for March, a month after the new measures are unveiled.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov alluded to this on Jan. 13 when, in comments to the state news agency TASS, he charged that the U.S. measures were an attempt to influence the vote.
Piontkovsky, a longtime critic of the Kremlin, predicted that the U.S. move to target more individuals could help undermine the broad support that Putin has enjoyed for years.
“It means he is losing his meaning for the elites, his function was to protect them, and their assets in Russia and the West, to ensure their security. And now, on the contrary, he is becoming toxic,” he said.
The question now, according to Oliker, who directs the CSIS’s Russia and Eurasia Program, is whether the new sanctions will, in fact, affect Kremlin policies.
For example, with the conflict in eastern Ukraine grinding into its fourth year, dragging on Russia’s economy and losing popularity among Russians, there’s good reason for Russia to pull back on its support for separatist fighters.
However, it would be virtually impossible for Putin to pull back if it appeared he was giving in to the pressures from U.S. sanctions, she said.
Depending on who or what is targeted, the problem is that the new measures could reinforce the perception — encouraged by the Kremlin — that Washington only wants to damage Russia, Oliker said.
“In Russia, the pervasive narrative is that all the sanctions are merely to punish Russia — [that] they’re punitive, it’s not a matter of attaining actual policy goals,” she said. Many think “it’s just those nasty Americans trying to get us.”
Turkey’s Defense Ministry says the first parts of the S-400 Russian missile defense systems have delivered to Ankara and deliveries will continue in the coming days.
Ankara’s deal with Moscow has been a major source of tension between Turkey and Washington.
The S-400 consignment was delivered on July 12, 2019, to the Murted air base outside the capital Ankara, the ministry said, in a statement.
The announcement immediately triggered a weakening in the Turkish lira to 5.7 against the dollar from 5.6775 on July 12, 2019.
“The delivery of parts belonging to the system will continue in the coming days,” Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate said separately.
“Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by the relevant authorities.”
Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation confirmed the start of the deliveries, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on July 12, 2019, that “everything is being done in strict accordance with the two countries’ agreements,” and that “the parties are fulfilling their obligations.”
The Pentagon is scheduled to hold a press briefing on July 12, 2019, to outline its response to “Turkey accepting delivery” of the S-400 system, it said in a statement.
22T6 loader-launcher from S-400 and S-300 systems.
The United States has said that if fellow NATO member Turkey does not cancel the S-400 deal by July 31, 2019, Ankara will be blocked from purchasing the next-generation F-35 fighter jets.
Washington has urged Turkey to purchase the U.S.-made Patriot missile system instead.
NATO has yet to react officially to the Turkish announcement, but an alliance official speaking on condition of anonymity told the AFP news agency that the 29-member bloc is “concerned about the potential consequences” of the purchase.
U.S. President Donald Trump met with Erdogan on the sidelines of last month’s G20 summit in Osaka, urging him not to proceed with the purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system.
S-400 surface-to-air missile launcher.
Erdogan told Trump during their meeting on the margins of the G20 meeting in Japan that former U.S. President Barack Obama did not allow Ankara to buy Patriot missiles, an equivalent of the S-400s.
Washington has already started the process of removing Turkey from the F-35 program, halting training of Turkish pilots in the United States on the aircraft.
Ankara plans to buy 100 of the jets for its own military’s use.
On Sept. 14, 2019, a swarm of drones and cruise missiles struck the world’s largest oil processing facility inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There was little doubt in the Saudi’s minds as to who the culprit could be. Their American allies agreed: the attack came from the Islamic Republic of Iran, their neighbor across the Persian Gulf. But the attack on the Saudi Aramco facility was less about making the Saudis pay and more about making their American allies pay.
The regime in Tehran was still pissed about the United States leaving the 2015 nuclear deal.
According to Reuters reporters, the Iranian regime wanted to punish the Americans for leaving the deal and reimposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy. These sanctions have caused widespread hardship and unrest inside Iranian borders. Just four months prior, the head honchos of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps met in Tehran to figure out a way to do just that. They even considered attacking American bases in the Middle East. Of course, they didn’t go that far, but they had to do something.
One senior official took the floor to tell the room, “It is time to take out our swords and teach them a lesson.”
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, approved the operation on the condition that the IRGC didn’t kill any civilians or Americans. With that nod from their leader, the Revolutionary Guards, experts in covert warfare and missile strikes, began planning.
Both the Saudi government and the Iranian government have refused to comment on the attack, with the exception of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations who vehemently denies any involvement, any planning, or any meeting taking place. American military and intelligence representatives also refused to comment. But the Houthis in Yemen, the Iranian-backed rebel group who has defied a Saudi-led invasion for years, claimed responsibility for the attacks. No one believed them because it was an attack intelligence agencies believed could only have come from Iran.
If it was supposed to be an attack on the Kingdom itself, it was a success. The September attack was just in time to disrupt projections for state-owned Aramco’s coming IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. If the Iranians wanted the United States to stick up for its Middle Eastern ally, however, the timing was terrible. After the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, and the years of destruction causing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, no one in Washington was quick to stick up for Riyadh.
For 17 minutes, swarms of drones and low-flying missiles hit the Khurais oil installation and the Abqaiq oil processing facility, cutting the Kingdom’s oil production by half and knocking out five percent of the world’s oil. Oil prices soared by 20 percent as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit Iran with another round of sanctions. Everyone pointed fingers at everyone else, but the blame ultimately ended up in Iran’s lap, despite its refusals. Iran remained steadfast and despite increased sanctions and threats against further violence, largely got away with it.
Iran believed President Trump would not risk an all-out war to protect Saudi oil companies, Reuters quoted Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group as saying. “Hard-liners [in Iran] have come to believe that Trump is a Twitter tiger,” Vaez said. “As such there is little diplomatic or military cost associated with pushing back.”
The insiders believe Iran is already planning its next attack.
For the first time since 2011, the world has spent more on troops and weapons than in the previous year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The researchers estimate that countries spent $1.676 trillion on their militaries in 2015, a one-percent increase over 2014. This is equivalent to around 2.3 percent of the world’s economic output.
But as is often the case with these kinds of statistics, the details are actually more interesting than the headline figures. For starters, there are stark regional differences. Only Eastern Europe and Asia and Oceania boosted their spending. The rest of the world spent less — a lot less.
Africa reduced its spending by 5.3 percent, the first reduction in 11 years. But a closer look at the data makes clear that the continent’s governments haven’t suddenly become radical pacifists. Instead, all North African countries with the exception of Morocco actually increased military spending at rates comparable to previous years. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries stayed on their previous trajectories, as well.
The big outlier is Angola. The southern Africa country cut its military budget by a whopping 42 percent, the first real reduction since it embarked on a spending spree in 2002 after the government had regained control of all diamond mines and oil wells in the aftermath of the civil war.
Angola is still essentially a military dictatorship, so the spending cuts are not representative of a changing government doctrine. Instead, historically low oil prices have battered the heavily oil-dependent economy and government budget, making drastic cuts to military spending all but inevitable.
Some other oil-reliant governments across Africa also cut their spending, but more modestly than Angola did. This seems to indicate that these countries have either diversified their economy much better than Angola has …. or have much more pressing security concerns that make continued high spending necessary despite eventual financial collapse.
Overall, Africa spent 68 percent more on its militaries in 2015 than it did in 2006.
In South America, the situation is comparable to Africa, with Venezuela taking the role of Angola and cutting its military spending by 64 percent. Overall, South America and North America slightly decreased their spending, while Central America and the Caribbean increased spending by 3.7 percent.
Obviously, the United States is North America’s most prolific military spender — $596 billion in 2015, a 36-percent share of the whole world’s spending on troops and weapons.
This is actually more than 20 percent below America’s most recent spending peak in 2010, a result of troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.
Western and Central Europe essentially maintained their military spending, laying out 0.2 percent less than in the previous year. European spending is down 8.5 percent since 2006.
But the researchers believe that military spending could rise again in this part of the world. “For the first time since 2009, the number of countries in the subregion that increased expenditure was higher than the number of those that reduced spending.” Austerity measures are declining while the threat from terrorism — and Russia — seems to be increasing.
This brings us to the regions that have actually increased spending. All sub-regions of Asia and Oceania boosted their military budgets by at least 0.9 percent — and most individual countries did, as well.
China is obviously the most relevant in this part of the world, representing 49 percent of the regional total. Beijing boosted outlays by 7.4 percent and retained its position as the world’s second-biggest spender. The region at large increased military spending by 64 percent from 2006 to 2015, with only Fiji recording a significant decrease of 23 percent.
But no region increased spending more drastically than Eastern Europe did, at 7.5 percent, contributing to an overall 80-percent boost in military budgets over the last decade. Russia obviously drives this development, both directly by way of Moscow’s own 7.5-percent increase in spending, and indirectly by compelling neighboring countries to re-arm in order to deter Russian aggression.
Still, Russia actually lost its third place in the world rankings to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East country now spends $87.2 billion a year on its military, which actually represents only a 5.7-percent increase over 2014. Saudi Arabia placed before Russia due to the weak ruble, which made Russian military investments cheaper in dollar terms.
SIPRI’s researchers did not include estimates for the Middle East overall because too many countries in the region did not provide public military expenditure data — and independent estimates are unreliable.
Apart from Saudi Arabia, the most interesting country with sufficient data is Iraq, which stands out for its record spending increases over the last decade as it tries to rebuild its shattered armed forces. The Iraqi government increased military spending by 536 percent since 2006 and 35 percent since 2014, bringing the total in 2015 to $13.1 billion.
In contrast, Iran’s military expenditure decreasedby 30 percent since 2006, with the largest part of these cuts taking place in 2012 and 2013, after the European Union enacted economic and financial sanctions. As sanctions began to lift in January 2016, experts expect Iran’s military spending to increase in coming years.
Looking at the long-term data, military spending seems to rise and fall based more on economic cycles and long-term policy decisions than on short-term shocks and conflicts. Russia’s recent spate of foreign interventions came after Pres. Vladimir Putin boosted military spending.
Western and Central Europe seem to spend mostly in years when their overall balance sheets look good — and Saudi Arabia is decreasing its rate of spending growth despite its ongoing intervention in Yemen.
USAF C-130s Flew Self-Contained Care Unit to Aviano Air Base in Italy on Friday.
The U.S. Air Force has deployed a C-130J Hercules transport from the 86th Airlift Wing from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Italy’s Aviano Air Base in the ongoing coronavirus relief mission. The U.S. aircraft arrived on Mar. 20, 2020, and joins other relief aircraft in the region, including a number of Russian Aerospace Forces Il-76 transports that departed Russia earlier today.
Photos released by the USAF show Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron loading pallets of medical equipment on board a Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules transport.
Part of the cargo deployed to Italy in the U.S. relief mission is the En-Route Patient Staging System, or “ERPSS”. The system can support the medical transport of up to 40 patients in a 24-hour period. It is equipped with 10 patient staging beds for treatment of patients.
Commander of U.S. Air Force, Europe (USAFE-AFAFRICA), General Jeff “Cobra” Harrigian, told reporters, “The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we work with our allies and partners to [meet] the challenges together. This effort demonstrates our mutual support as we team together in response to this public health crisis. We are working closely with our Italian friends, the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to ensure we provide the right equipment in a safe and timely manner. It’s our privilege to support the Italian response, and our continued commitment reflects the values of the American people to provide to whenever and wherever it is needed.”
A USAF Airman assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, loads pallets of medical supplies and equipment onboard a C-130J Super Hercules in preparation for relief flights to Aviano Air Base in Italy on March 20, 2020 in support of the COVID-19 relief effort.
The 86th Airlift Wing received one of their most recent, new C-130J Super Hercules transports from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia in early December, 2017. The C-130J Super Hercules is the most advanced version of the celebrated C-130, which first flew over 65 years ago in 1956. The C-130J is the only version of the C-130 that remains in production today. The aircraft features a fuselage that is 15-feet longer than previous versions of the C-130. The aircraft is also designed to work with advanced loading/unloading equipment for specialty palletized cargo like the En-Route Patient Staging System.
The aid from the U.S. military several days ago, and Russia’s air force beginning today, along with missions from China, Cuba and other nations, support the Italian government’s escalating response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Italian government has deployed troops in some areas to monitor quarantine and help slow the spread of the deadly disease.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said on June 20, 2019, it shot down a US Navy drone to make clear its position that “we are ready for war.”
However, Iran and the US sharply differ over whether Iran had any right to take action, based on a technical argument over whose airspace the aircraft was in.
The Guard’s website, Sepah News, said it shot down a “spy” drone when it flew over the southern Hormozgan province, Iran, which is near the Persian Gulf, Reuters reported.
IRNA, Iran’s state news agency, also said the Guard struck the RQ-4A Global Hawk drone when it entered Iranian airspace, according to The Associated Press.
Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, said in a televised speech on June 20, 2019, that the drone shooting sent “a clear message” to the US not to attack Iran.
He said Iran does “not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war,” according to the AP.
Iran’s foreign ministry has also accused the US of “illegal trespassing and invading of the country’s skies.”
“Invaders will bear full responsibility,” a statement said, according to the AP.
The US has, however, denied flying any aircraft over Iranian airspace.
It said instead that a US Navy drone — a RQ-4A Global Hawk — was shot down in international airspace over the nearby Strait of Hormuz.
Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in statement sent to Business Insider:
US Central Command can confirm that a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (or BAMS-D) ISR aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019.
Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false.
This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace.
If the US drone was flying in international airspace, Iran had no right to attack it.
Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US’s second-highest-ranking general, said earlier this week that the US would be able to justify a military attack on Iran if it attacked “US citizens, US assets, or [the] US military.”
But he said at the time that the Iranians “haven’t touched an American asset in any overt attack that we can link directly to them.”
June 20, 2019’s drone attack could affect the US’s position.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard military exercise.
Tensions between the US and Iran ratcheted up in recent weeks after the US accused Iran of attacking an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman two weeks ago.
Iran last week retaliated by saying it would exceed the limits on its enriched-uranium stockpile that were established in the 2015 nuclear deal signed under former President Barack Obama’s administration. Trump withdrew from the deal last year.
The hawkish Revolutionary Guard is a powerful force within Iran’s ruling class and tends to favor an aggressive foreign policy.
Trump’s administration has signaled willingness to go to war with Iran in recent days.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made the case that the US might be able to attack Iran under a law originally passed to allow then-President George W. Bush to punish those deemed responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are resisting the White House’s use of that act to justify action against Iran.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.