Russian President Vladimir Putin’s old secret service ID card from the 1980s was found in an East German secret police archive on Dec. 11, 2018, and it shows the young man pouting and staring proudly into the distance.
Putin, who worked for the Soviet Union’s KGB security agency at the time, worked alongside the Stasi — East Germany’s Ministry for State Security — from 1985 to 1990. East Germany was under Soviet Union’s control at the time.
The ID was issued in 1986, when Putin was 33, The Stasi Documentation Archive said on Dec. 11, 2018.
He was a “subordinate officer to a KGB liaison officer” at the time, the archive said.
The front of the card showed Putin’s photo, the location of his service — Dresden — and the ID’s issue number — B 217590.
There are several stamps on the back of the card, which were stamped every three months and ended in late 1989. It’s not immediately clear what they represent.
Stamps on Vladimir Putin’s old Stasi ID card.
A spokesman for the Stasi Documentation Archive said it was normal for KGB agents stationed in East Germany to be issued passes giving them entry to the German Stasi offices, Reuters reported.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the news agency: “As is well known at the time when the Soviet Union existed, the KGB and the Stasi were partner intelligence agencies so you probably can’t rule out an exchange of such identity cards.”
After leaving the Stasi and the KGB, Putin went on to work for the KGB’s successor, the FSB.
He served as director there from 1998 to 1999, before becoming president in 2000.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Troops lose their mind when they have to go to either Fort Irwin or Twentynine Palms. They’re both in insanely hot climates, offer very little to do outside of training, and the living conditions are far worse than what POGs are accustomed to. Despite all that, everything comes to a standstill when a single desert tortoise shows up.
The same thing happens when a red-cockaded woodpecker appears at Fort Benning, Indiana bats at Fort Knox, and piping plovers at RTC Great Lakes. These are all objectively unpleasant military installations that have endemic species of animals that put a stop to training just by showing up.
This causes a headache for many troops in leadership positions and is the butt of many jokes among the junior enlisted. It stops becoming funny, however, when leadership tells their troops that they can’t leave behind even a single breadcrumb that could attract the predators of said animals.
(Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
This is all because the animals listed above are endangered and their safest habitats are on military installations.
Back in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed, stating that the government will do its part to protect its endangered animals and prosecute anyone who bring them harm. While it’s easy to issue out fines to anyone who accidentally kills a desert tortoise, it’s even easier (and you know, better) to take preventive measures and keep them alive.
The military does its part in a large way — far larger than most organizations dedicated to saving these species. In 2011 alone, the U.S. military spent $7.6 million on keeping desert tortoises safe — a grand total of over $100.9 million since 1993. That money has gone a long way in keeping these at-risk animals alive for many generations.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams)
“But these are just some dumb turtles!” someone in the back of the formation may yell. That class clown might be right — these tortoises could be dumb, indeed — but it doesn’t matter. If you allow one invasive fish, for example, to fade away because of the enormous amount of money required to protect it, then there’s a justification allowing any species to die out, putting the animal kingdom right back where it was in 1972.
Potential dumbness aside, every animal must be treated with the same delicate gloves or we risk losing them all.
The next “good idea fairy” solution is to just move them away from military installations. It should be fairly obvious why taking slow-moving prey away from a habitat where they’re cared for and are kept safe from predators and tossing them into a new, unfamiliar landscape devoid of such protections is a bad idea. If you’re having trouble seeing why that’s a problem, we’ve got an example for you:
They tried this once with the desert tortoises at Fort Irwin in 2008. The logic behind it was that the tortoises would be far safer somewhere where they wouldn’t be accidentally blown to bits by troops in training. The relocation effort cost $50 million and, within a year, about 30% of all the tortoises (who have an average life-span of over 100 years) died before the program was scrapped.
There were many factors that contributed to the dying off of thousands of tortoises. First, being put in an unknown environment meant that they had no idea where the food or water was. This was made worse when packs of predators discovered an enormous buffet of food that couldn’t run or hide.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
There are over 400 species of endangered animals on military grounds and, even with human intervention, these are the best habitats for them. Each of the species that are protected by the U.S. Armed Forces are all carefully monitored to make sure that no harm comes to them.
It’s not uncommon for troops to incorporate their nesting grounds into their training. While preparing for a mission, their nests are treated in the same way as schools or hospitals in the battlefield. Troops just avoid them at all costs.
The good news is that this ongoing effort to protect them has yielded some very visible results. While there are outliers in the desert tortoise populations (California droughts are partially to blame), animal populations at other installations have all boomed in recent years. Simply adjusting fire from one part of the range to another at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has helped the streaked horned lark population almost quadruple in less than a decade.
Protecting these species requires a little effort and a creates bit of inconvenience, but it’s been proven that the military installations these animals call home are truly the best places for these species to thrive.
What do you think are major spy targets? Troop movements? Strategic plans? New weapon designs?
Sure, those are all great choices, but what about space shuttles and planetary probes?
(Illustration from Soviet Military Power 1985, courtesy U.S. Armed Forces)
Rivals have always kept a close eye on America’s space program, especially after the U.S. edged ahead of the Soviets in the ’60s by first copying their manned orbit of the earth in 1962 and then beating them to the Moon in 1969.
For the Soviet Union, this presented a dire threat.
After all, while NASA and the Soviet’s Federal Space Agency — now reorganized as a corporation and known as Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities — were both scientific enterprises, both did a little moonlighting for spy agencies and provided a lot of important technical know-how to spooks.
In 1976, senior Soviet leadership finally signed the decree authorizing the program, and the Soviet-designed “Spiral” space plane was quickly removed from contention. Russia specifically wanted a weapon with all the same capabilities as the Shuttle, including the imagined ability to bomb enemy capitals.
“Space Shuttle Door Gunner” isn’t as cool when they have them, too.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo by Master Sgt. Dave Casey)
“It is no secret to anyone in our sector … that the Energia-Buran system was ordered from us by the military,” said Yuri Semenov, who worked on the boosters for the Soviet craft. “It was said at meetings on various levels that American shuttles, even on the first revolution, could perform a lateral maneuver and turn to be over Moscow, possibly with dangerous cargo. Parity is needed, we needed the same type of rocket-space system.”
What resulted from all of this was a craft known as the Buran, Russian for ‘blizzard,’ that looked almost identical to the Space Shuttle.
But it actually had some nifty capabilities not found on the American version. For one, the Buran could conduct automated flights with no human occupants. In fact, it did so in its one and only flight in space in 1988.
Second, the Buran used Energia boosters, liquid-fueled boosters that were safer and more powerful — but more costly — than American solid-propellant boosters.
The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”
Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.
“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.
“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.
Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.
If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.
Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.
Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.
Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.
Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.
In April, 2015, the son of a New Jersey pizza shop owner left the United States. His destination was an Islamic State training camp in Syria. Shortly after arriving, he allegedly emerged in a video posted to social media, beheading Kurdish fighters captured by ISIS. Now, Zulfi Hoxha may be in command of ISIS fighters in the country.
How Islamic State fighters survive the onslaught from American, Kurdish, Syrian, Russian, Iranian, and/or Turkish forces is baffling to many, but Zulfi Hoxha has managed to stay alive through it all, even after the fall of the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the subsequent collapse of the terrorist “caliphate.”
Hoxha now goes by the name Abu Hamza al-Amriki, the last being a nod to his country of origin. He’s been seen in a number of pro-ISIS jihadist propaganda videos, doing everything from encouraging “lone wolf” attacks in the United States to actually beheading enemy soldiers captured in combat. At just 26, he’s being touted as one of the most dangerous recruiting tools of the declining Islamic State.
Only a few dozen Americans have left the U.S. to join international terrorist organizations. Hoxha is significant in that he is now a major propaganda star and is featured as a senior commander of the Islamic State forces. But since the apogee of ISIS’ rise to power in 2014, the group has lost the kind of success that would attract followers like Hoxha.
Having graduated from an Atlantic City, N.J., high school in 2010, youth like Hoxha saw ISIS in control of some 34,000 square miles of territory cut out of Iraq and Syria – a territory roughly the size of Maine. In the years since, the group has lost most of that territory, along with the prestige, money, and followers that kind of success attracts. In previous years, ISIS members like Hoxha were propaganda stars on social media, but after the worldwide effort to curb ISIS recruiting, jihadists are more likely to be found on dark websites than on Twitter.
Iraqi Federal Police hold an upside-down ISIS flag after retaking streets in Mosul.
Hoxha has had minimal contact with former friends and family back in New Jersey. He sent a message to one friend shortly after leaving the United States to tell him that he had arrived in “the Safe House.” He also told his mother that he was going to be training for three months. Now he is one of just a few Americans who rose to a leadership position in the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations.
Many of the others are dead, most killed by U.S. airstrikes.
Marines and sailors from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Exercise KAMANDAG 3 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, 2019, in the Philippines.
KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan.
KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.
Philippine marines operate an M102 105 mm howitzer gun line at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
Philippine marines observe US Marines wit during a fire mission at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
“KAMANDAG 3 provided us a unique opportunity to integrate with the Philippine Marine Corps while conducting realistic, valuable training,” said Capt. Trevor Hall, the commanding officer of Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th MEU.
“Over the course of our nine days ashore, we participated in several subject matter expert exchanges and joint exercises, which increased our interoperability with the Philippine marines.”
US Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel Alcantar, a howitzer section chief, opens the breech on a Philippine marine corps M102 105 mm howitzer during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 15, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
US Marine Corps Cpl. Dominic Rosado, a light armored reconnaissance Marine, fires an M107 .50-caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
“The US Navy has a longstanding tradition of partnering with the Philippines and Japan,” said Capt. Kevin Lane, the commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).
“It truly is an honor to continue that tradition and to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”
A US Marine Corps light armored vehicle fires its main gun during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
US Marines bivouac at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 16, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment on May 1, and entered the US 7th Fleet on September 22 after roughly two months deployed to Central Command’s area of operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force plans to upgrade a combat controller’s Bronze Star Medal to a Silver Star for exemplary action while engaged in combat in Afghanistan in 2006.
Chief Master Sgt. Michael R. West, assigned to the 720th Operational Support Squadron, will receive the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest valor award, during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on Dec. 15, Air Force Special Operations Command said in a release.
West was originally awarded the Bronze Star in 2007.
“West will be honored for his role in securing the safety of 51 Special Forces Soldiers and 33 coalition partners during a five-day offensive operation in support of Operation Medusa,” the release said.
“Over the period of five days and two climactic battles, West delivered more than 24,000 pounds of precision ordnance credited with more than 500 enemy killed in action,” AFSOC said.
His upgrade comes as a result of a comprehensive Defense Department-wide review of awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though the Air Force announced eight valor upgrades in totality this year, new evidence shed light on West’s case, 24th Special Operations Wing spokeswoman 1st Lt. Jaclyn Pienkowski told Military.com.
“With time, additional statements were provided that more completely captured Chief West’s actions during Operation Medusa,” Pienkowski said. “Once the package was complete, the Air Force considered totality of his actions and deemed the appropriate award to be a Silver Star Medal.”
“During this process, the Air Force was committed to properly recognizing our service members for their service, actions and sacrifices, and that those valorous service members were recognized at the appropriate level. It was important to ensure the award package was complete when it was reviewed,” she said.
West, a master sergeant at the time, was involved in two dynamic battles over five days within the Panjwai Village, according to his official award citation.
West was a Joint Terminal Attack Controller supporting Special Forces teams tasked “to conduct offensive operations in support of Operation Medusa,” a Canadian-led mission during the second battle of Panjwaii in the Zhari and Panjwaii districts of Kandahar Province against Taliban fighters, the citation said.
While exposed to direct enemy fire, West’s “mastery of air to ground operations” allowed for the NATO teams to employ a strategic advantage “with over 88 fixed and rotary wing attack; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms; and medical evacuation assets in the area,” the citation said.
That included bombers, fighters, and MQ-1 Predator drones “to eliminate the enemy threat and allow the coalition forces to safely seize their target location,” according to West’s “Portraits in Courage” story. He was featured in the program in 2007.
His actions “on numerous occasions either prevented friendly forces from being overrun, or directly enabled friendly forces to break contact and regroup while minimizing casualties,” the citation said.
Twelve Canadian soldiers lost their lives over the course of the battle, with dozens more wounded, according to figures from Veterans Affairs Canada; A British reconnaissance plane also crashed in Panjwai during the offensive, killing all 14 on board.
At the time it had been “the most significant land battle ever undertaken by NATO,” according to Canada’s CBC News.
Canada regards Operation Medusa as one of its most successful operations. Earlier this year, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan exaggerated he was the grand “architect” of the operation, but later retracted his comments. Sajjan served in Afghanistan at the time as a liaison between Canadian commanders and local Afghan leaders, according to the Global News.
Whether or not West’s valor elevation may be the last medals upgrade for this year remains unclear.
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works. Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” August cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran’s story from his or her time in uniform.
When he came home from Afghanistan, Max’s mom prepared the classic Nicaraguan Carne Asada dish with fried plantains. It was a symbol of prosperity and transition into good times from his childhood. When he was young, his mother was a new immigrant to the U.S. and as a single mother, it was sometimes hard for her to put food the table. This dish always served as an embodiment of her love and stayed with Max from his home to overseas.
Short Rib Carne Asada w/ Bacon Jam, Apricot Mojo and Platanos
Inspired by Max’s Mother’s Nicaraguan Carne Asada
8 beef short ribs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 thin slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, diced
2 jalapeno, finely minced
1 medium onion, diced
Splash of red wine
4 cups Cola
4 cups beef broth (low sodium)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbs apricot jam
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons ground
2 Green Plantains
Corn Oil for Frying
Salt and Pepper to taste
Season short rib liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and bacon in heavy, oven-proof pan on medium heat. Once bacon starts rendering fat into the pan, add carrots, garlic, onion and jalapeño. Sweat for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Sear short ribs in pan, working in batches to not crowd pan. If pan starts to look dry, add olive oil. Once all sides of every short rib are browned, deglaze pan with red wine and add cola. Let simmer for 10 minutes on stove to reduce.
Meanwhile, prepare the mojo by adding all ingredients but the olive oil in a blender. Slowly increase blend speed to reach about 4 out of 10. Slowly add olive oil through the top until the sauce becomes the consistency of smooth salsa.
Once cola is reduced by half add beef broth, thyme, rosemary and place entire pan (with top) into a 325° oven and braise for 4 hours. Remove short ribs and add flour to braising components to make jam. Stir ingredients for 4-5 minutes or until ingredients bind together.
Prepare platanos by slicing plantain, frying in 350° oil until light brown, smashing with side of a knife and then frying again until crispy (about 2 mins).
Grill short rib for 2-3 mins just to add final touch of smoke and fire to the meat. Then plate by adding platano and mojo to plate topped with meat and bacon jam.
Kim Jong Un doesn’t take well to being dissed. Remember how North Korea threatened Sony over The Interview? Though, one has to like the fact that in that film, Kim became a firework to the tune of Katy Perry’s Firework.
So, here are some of the ways Kim knocks off those who dissed him. This dissing can take the form of trying to steal a propaganda poster (which lead to a fatal prison stay), possessing the Bible, or even having American or South Korean films in your possession. So, how might Kim do the deed?
Here are some of the ways he’s offed those who angered him in the past:
Everyone’s starving in North Korea. That includes man’s best friend. Kim Jong Un, though, is reportedly more than willing to feed dogs. Guess he’s trying to spin himself as an animal lover with this method.
6. Anti-Aircraft Guns
This is probably the most notorious method. Kim is known to have used this method on one high-ranking official by the name of Ri Jong Jin who fell asleep during a meeting where the North Korean dictator was giving a speech. He and another official who suggested policy changes were blown to smithereens at Kim’s orders.
Kim Jong Un used this deadly nerve agent earlier this year to kill his half-brother, who was seen as a threat. This hit took place in Kuala Lampur, showing that North Korea’s dictator can find a way to kill people he wants dead – even when they flee the hellhole that is North Korea. What’s really awful is how persistent VX is.
4. Machine Guns
Kim Jong Un has also used regular ol’ machine guns on enemies. One reported instance was on an ex-girlfriend, although she later turned up alive. He did use this method to knock off the engineers and architects who designed and built a 23-story building that collapsed and killed 500 people, though.
3. Burned with Flamethrowers
Flamethrowers are considered some of the scariest weapons when wielded in war. Kim Jong Un turned them into a very nasty method of execution for an official who was running a protection racket.
2. Blown up with a Mortar
When Kim Jong Un wants you to mourn, you’d better mourn. One high-ranking official in the North Korean military was busted “drinking and carousing” after Kim Jong Il died in 2011. He got the death penalty, which was carried out by making him stand still while a mortar was fired, obliterating him.
When Kim Jong Un executed his uncle, his aunt was understandably upset. Kim. Though, wasn’t very consoling to his bereaved aunt, and had her poisoned in May 2014.
Yeah, Kim Jong Un can be real nasty when he wants you to go. So, either don’t cross the Pyongyang Psycho, or if you do…make it really worth it.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been called many things — crazy, mad, insane, and “rocket man” — because of his program to build nuclear bombs and missiles capable of launching the weapons to the U.S.
But experts say he is not crazy to want a nuclear arsenal. And Kim doesn’t necessarily want nukes because of a desire to use them on the U.S. or any other country, contrary to what bellicose political rhetoric might suggest.
“He is not crazy — he has consolidated control over that country in a very effective and ruthless manner,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Business Insider. “He’s just willing to do really terrible things to protect himself, which I think tells us something about the credibility of their nuclear threat.”
Such a threat is the purpose of the weapons, Lewis says, but almost certainly not their goal.
“If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” added Lewis, who also publishesArms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.
Here are the most likely reasons Kim wants a nuclear arsenal.
The U.S. has a track record of breaking its word with rulers
A watershed moment for U.S.-North Korea relations occurred during the Bush administration in the mid-2000s: the six-party talks, initiated after questionable accusations that North Korea was cheating on an agreement not to pursue the production of nuclear materials led to its collapse.
“They very sincerely tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Lewis said.
But one of the problems the Bush administration ran into was the U.S.’s track record with Iraq, formerly led by Saddam Hussein.
“How do you assure the North Koreans, when they sign a deal, that they don’t end up like Saddam? Because Saddam had actually given them the WMDs, and we still went ahead and said he had them, and we still went ahead and invaded,” Lewis said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.
The Americans “realized they had to find a way to convey to Pyongyang that if they went ahead and gave up their nuclear program, we wouldn’t invade them,” Lewis added.
So, Lewis said, the Bush administration pointed to how the U.S. had held up its end of a disarmament agreement with Libya and its ruler at the time, Muammar Gaddafi.
“I know why they did it at the time — it was the right decision,” Lewis said. “But we had a disarmament deal with that guy. We told the North Koreans to go look at how well things had worked out with Libya, and then we turned around and toppled the Libyan government.”
These foreign policy decisions happened during the rule of Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. But his son has not forgotten them.
“Kim Jong Un, I think, is fearful of ending up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi,” Lewis said. “He is terrified that we will do to him what we did to them and has decided that nuclear weapons are the best way to ward that off.”
It’s unlikely North Korea has nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as reliable as those in the U.S.’s arsenal, if North Korea has deliverable weapons at all. But Lewis says this doesn’t really matter in the big picture.
“Every military system has developmental problems and issues, and maybe not work as well as it should,” Lewis said. “But they have all of the skills and expertise in place, and they’ve demonstrated the vast majority of things.”
He added: “If tomorrow they were going to put a nuclear weapon on a missile and fire it at my house, and you asked me, ‘How do you like your odds?’ I would say, ‘I don’t like my odds at all.’ … This is now a serious-enough capability that we have to start assuming, on a bad day, a lot of their stuff is going to go well.”
But nuclear weapons as a stick against the U.S. is not the only reason North Korea wants them.
“I am sure if given the choice between controlling North Korea or North Korea and South Korea, he would clearly prefer to control everything,” Lewis said. “I don’t think, though, that this explains their nuclear behavior.”
That may be because Kim’s ability to take over South Korea — at least not as a smoldering crater — is virtually nil. Lewis also says North Korea isn’t building the kinds of nukes “that would be consistent with that goal.”
What is possible, if not likely — and perhaps surprising to many Americans — is that North Korea sees obtaining nuclear weapons as a way to improve its relations with other countries, including the U.S.
Lewis, who has studied the history of China’s nuclear-weapons program, says it has many similarities to North Korea’s path toward nuclearization.
China set off its first nuclear device in 1964 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and two years later it launched a live nuclear warhead atop a missile to prove the capabilities of its program. The U.S.’s view of these events during the Cold War was grim. But over time, something shocking transpired.
“If you had gone into Lyndon Johnson’s office in October 1964 and said, ‘The Chinese are about to test a nuclear weapon,’ he would have said, ‘That’s terrible,'” Lewis said.
“But if you would have then said, ‘No, no, no, it’s great — this is really going to improve Chinese security, and as a consequence of that, China is going to reorient its foreign policy, and they’re going to become anti-Soviet and pro-American, and we’re going to have a diplomatic relationship with them,’ Johnson would have asked you: ‘Really? What president is going to go to China and meet with Mao Zedong?’ And you would have said, ‘Richard Nixon.’ Then he would have thrown you out of its office and said you were an idiot.”
But that is exactly what happened: When China’s proven nuclear capabilities deterred U.S. military action and opened the door for increased local aggression or international diplomacy, China chose the latter.
“The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis said.
His point is that North Korea’s motivations, notwithstanding its accusations of horrifying human-rights abuses, may not be so nefarious as rhetoric and propaganda suggest when it comes to nukes. In fact, it could be that North Korean nuclear scientists see themselves more as doves than hawks.
But the country’s direction is ultimately up to its leader.
“It is possible that the North Koreans will take the security they are given by these weapons and spend it on being awful — sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises,” Lewis said. “It will depend on how the North Koreans choose to act now that they have this capability. They could be easier to get along with; they could be worse.”
Instead of always assuming the worst, we should practice being “more neutral” about how having nuclear weapons might change North Korea, Lewis said.
“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive,” Lewis said. “But we should wait and see.”
He added: “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”
But this likely isn’t the U.S.’s current thinking. President Donald Trump has expressed hopes to expand nuclear-weapons capabilities, and American military forces appear to be quietly training to face a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
A new poll from the University of Maryland indicates that the majority of Americans favor of cutting funding from the U.S. defense budget in five out of seven major areas.
Specifically, they favor defunding one of the U.S.’ 11 aircraft carriers, and the F-35 Lightning II, DefenseNews.com reports.
“Given all the talk about increasing the defense budget, we were surprised to find how much Americans are not sold on increases, including a majority of Republicans nationwide,” said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation.
Indeed the survey, which polled more than 7,000 U.S. voters across the nation, shows that a majority of Republicans would prefer to keep defense spending where it is, a majority of Independents favor reducing the defense budget by $20 billion, and Democrats favor slashing the budget by $36 billion.
The survey presented 2015 figures on spending and offered alternatives. For example, when informed that cutting funding to the F-35 program would save $6 billion this year, and $97 billion through 2037, 54 percent of citizens polled supported cutting the program.
Though the desire to save money and be fiscally responsible is admirable and understandable, top brass in nearly all U.S. military services have expressed concern that nations like Russia and China threaten the U.S.’ foreign interests, and some have even gone as far as to call them existential threats.
On Tuesday, top Air Force acquisitions personnel took to Congress and re-asserted the need for the U.S.’ fifth generation fighter planes. “We’ve seen both Russia and China develop airplanes faster than was anticipated,” said Lt. Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, according to the Air Force Times.
The survey suggested that Americans supported cutting the number of U.S. aircraft carriers to 10 from 11.
Surprisingly, nationally, the majority of Americans did not support shrinking the submarine fleet from 12 to eight, nor did they want to cut funding to development of a new long range strike bomber.
The U.S.-backed coalition effort to retake the city of Mosul officially began Monday, but experts say the end of the battle against ISIS is far from over.
Pentagon officials warned reporters before the operation began that ISIS was likely to convert to insurgency after losing the city of Mosul. “If anything, it’s gonna be more difficult,” is how Canadian Army Brig. Gen. Dave Anderson described the coming fight against ISIS as an insurgent force.
The retaking of Mosul highlights the Obama administration’s central belief that retaking territory from ISIS constitutes victory against the group. “It’s as if we’ve decided by taking territory back, they won’t be terrorists anymore,” Dr. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
As ISIS reverts to a guerrilla insurgency, Iraq must begin to grapple with the underlying sectarian tensions that threaten to engulf it after the defeat of ISIS. The operation to retake Mosul is composed of the U.S., Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and Turkish troops. Each group has its own vested interest in the future of Mosul and greater Iraq.
“What has emerged from the conflict is a complex patchwork of ethnic, tribal and religious militias that claim fief over particular territories,” Ramzy Mardini of the Atlantic Council leveled a stark warning on the administration’s pursuit of defeating ISIS in a recent op-ed for The New York Times.
Shiite militias participating alongside Iraqi Security Forces in anti-ISIS operations have well known ties to humanitarian atrocities against Sunni civilians. The United Nations estimates nearly 1.5 million civilians remain in Mosul, and if Sunni citizens are harassed or outright killed by militias it could lend sympathy to defeated ISIS terrorists. ISIS’s history lies in a guerrilla insurgent force that capitalized on sectarian tensions to seize territory.
Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus parroted Mardini’s thinking in August, saying failure to stabilize post-ISIS Iraq could lead to the rise of another version of ISIS. “The challenge of Mosul and Nineveh is the considerable number of ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and other elements that make up the province.”
Ultimately, Petraeus warns the biggest challenge in Iraq is not the defeat of ISIS, but is “to ensure post-conflict security, reconstruction and, above all, governance that is representative of and responsive to the people.” He warns, “Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.”
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While most drones require an operator to control them, the ones in DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program fly themselves. Although not perfect in its current phase, the program’s first flight test exceeded expectations.
“We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection,” said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. “The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAV’s perception range and compensate for the vehicle’s’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds.”
Advancing algorithms and extending perception range. That’s what we thought.
Now watch this video of DARPA’s first test flight: