Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

France 24 published an interview with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who provides Russian citizens access to mercenary work in Syria in which he said his countrymen had been galvanized by reports that they were taking an embarrassing loss to US forces.


“Each week I receive five or six new requests,” the man said. “Some call me by phone; others come to see me.”

He said that about 100 people in Russia’s Yekaterinburg region, where he is based, were “planning to go to Syria.”

Related: Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

The man said that after reports that US forces in early February 2018 crushed an advance of fighters loyal to the Syrian government — troops said to have contained hundreds of Russians — he had seen a change in the volunteers.

“Now it’s more about getting revenge than it is about money,” he said.

What it’s like to be a Russian mercenary in Syria

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
A Russian-made tank in the crosshairs of a US drone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Patrick Wyatt)

Russia is believed to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military. Some experts speculate it’s to conceal Russia’s true combat losses in Syria while it uses its state-run media to tell citizens the operation is cheap and effective.

Also read: Russia sent its most advanced fighter to Syria

For Russian military contractors, the work promises brutal and dangerous conditions in which they can expect to be asked to kill to protect business or political interests. They stand to make a decent wage, but the man said many of them don’t live that long.

“If you sign up with a private military company, you have sold yourself to them for money,” the man said.

He added: “The company can use you however it wants. What will happen to you after your death? If you’ve been turned into mincemeat, so what? They put you in a bag, close the coffin and — in the best-case scenario — send you home. In the worst, they bury you there. If you are ready to earn money by killing people and defending the commercial interests of others, then that’s fine.”

One factor contributing to the losses of Russian contractors in Syria is a lack of air cover provided by Russia’s or Syria’s military, the man said.

In the battle on Feb. 7, 2018, US airstrikes, artillery, and Apache helicopters strafed and decimated the pro-government forces, who are said to have had no anti-aircraft weaponry.

Without air power or any ability to combat aircraft, it’s unclear how Russian military contractors on the ground could do any better against US-aligned forces.

The man told France 24 that 218 Russians died in the battle, while news reports have indicated as many as 300 were killed or wounded. Russia has said five citizens may have died while “several dozens” were wounded.

How is the Kremlin playing the story?

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. (Image via Moscow Kremlin)

But just because Russia’s military, which has considerable airpower nearby, didn’t protect the Russians involved in the battle doesn’t mean it didn’t know about the advance.

Citing US intelligence reports with intercepted communications, The Washington Post reported last week that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he had “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance.

More: US was told no Russians were involved in deadly Syria attack

Reuters has reported that the advance on US-backed forces was intended to gauge the US’s response, which may have been stronger than anticipated.

The paramilitary chief told France 24 that one Russian contractor had 150 men in freezers who were described to him as “minced meat.” According to the man, the families of Russians killed in the battle won’t be informed until after Russia’s election — if at all.

“We all know why,” the man said. “There’s no problem keeping the deaths secret.”

Articles

US government places sanctions against Syrian chemists after attack

The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.


In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.

The attack left 87 dead, including many children, in the town of Khan Sheikhun, provoking outrage in the West, which accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of being responsible.

The sanctions will freeze all assets in the United States belonging to the 271 individuals on the blacklist, and block any American person or business from dealing with them.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based think tank, the SSRC is Syria’s leading scientific research center, with close links to the country’s military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Green Beret may have been killed for rejecting a dubious bribe

The mysterious death of US Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar is under scrutiny after the Green Beret, who was killed by strangulation, reportedly declined to accept money from a dubious scheme.


A Daily Beast report, sourced from five service members in the special-operations community, says that a portion of funds used to pay informants in Mali for intelligence were allegedly pocketed by members of the elite SEAL Team Six. The SEALs’ actions were reportedly discovered by Melgar, who eventually turned down the money when he was offered a cut.

Prior to his death, Melgar reportedly told his wife of the problems he had with two of the SEALs, and was going to elaborate further when he went home, the Daily Beast said.

Read More: Two SEALs are under investigation for the murder of a Green Beret

Following Meglar’s death, suspicions were raised after two SEALs alleged Melgar was participating in combative exercises, the military’s version of martial arts, while drunk, the report continued. However, Melgar’s autopsy report said that there were no drugs or alcohol in his system, a former military official said to the Daily Beast.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar (image US Army)

The New York Times first reported that two SEALs were being investigated, due to the circumstances of the incident. According to The Times, investigators were looking into whether Melgar was strangled, and his superiors believed foul play may have been involved. Melgar’s death was determined to have been “a homicide by asphyxiation,” according to military officials cited by The Times.

The two SEALs were reportedly flown out of Mali and placed on administrative leave, shortly after Melgar’s death.

Melgar, a 34-year-old Texan, deployed to Afghanistan twice. He was assigned to Mali with the 3rd Special Forces Group to help train locals and support counter-terrorism operations.

Articles

New evidence casts doubt on death of Amelia Earhart

A lost photo may shed new light on the mysterious death of famous aviator Amelia Earhart.


The photo, which will be featured in a new History channel special called “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” was discovered in the National Archives more than 80 years after her death. In it, a woman who appears to be Earhart sits on a dock in the Marshall Islands near to a man who resembles her navigator Fred Noonan.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
Photo from US National Archives

After becoming the first female pilot to fly a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart set off to circumnavigate the globe in July 1937. Her plane vanished without a trace during the flight and, by 1939, both Earhart and Noonan were declared dead.

But the new photo, which shows figures that appear like Earhart and Noonan, could challenge the common theory that the plane crashed somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
Photo from US National Archives

Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director for the FBI, told NBC News that he’s confident the photo is legitimate and pictures Earhart sitting on the dock.

“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” said Henry. Her plane appears to be on a barge in the background being towed by a large ship.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
Photo from US National Archives

According to NBC News, the team that uncovered the photo believes that the photo demonstrates that Earhart and Noonan were blown off course.  The latest photo could suggest that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, experts told NBC News.

 

While current Japanese authorities told the news outlet that they had no record of Earhart ever being in their custody, American investigators insisted that the photo strongly suggests that Earhart survived the crash and was taken into captivity.

“We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese,” said Gary Tarpinian, the executive producer behind the History project.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China doubles down with anti-ship missiles in the South China Sea

Anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems were stationed on Chinese outposts in the contested South China Sea, in yet another signal that China intends to cement its presence on the disputed islands.

Sources familiar with US intelligence reports said the weapons systems were installed on three fortified outposts in the Spratly Islands, west of the Philippines, according to a CNBC report.


The YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles would provide China the ability to engage surface vessels within 295 nautical miles of the reefs; and the HQ-9B surface-to-air missiles are expected to have a range of 160 nautical miles, CNBC reported.

“We have consistently called on China, as well as other claimants, to refrain from further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of disputed features, and to commit to managing and resolving disputes peacefully with other claimants,” a Pentagon official said to CNBC. “The further militarization of outposts will only serve to raise tensions and create greater distrust among claimants.”

“These would be the first missiles in the Spratlys, either surface to air, or anti-ship,” Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Reuters.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
An anti-ship cruise missile.
(Photo by Jeff Hilton)

“Before this, if you were one of the other claimants … you knew that China was monitoring your every move. Now you will know that you’re operating inside Chinese missile range. That’s a pretty strong, if implicit, threat,” he said.

China’s increased military presence in the region comes amid another maneuver, one which exacerbated concerns among the US military and its allies. US officials said that in early April 2018, intelligence officers detected China was moving radar and communications-jamming equipment to the Spratly Island outposts.

“This is not something that the US will look kindly on or think they can overlook.” Stratfor military analyst Omar Lamrani told Business Insider editor Alex Lockie, when asked about potential moves to jam communications channels. “The US will likely seek to counter this in some way,” he said.

Hotly disputed, $3.4 trillion shipping lane

Six countries, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, are contesting at least part of the chain of islands, reefs, and surrounding waters in the South China Sea. Located between Vietnam and the Philippines, the natural resources and trade routes that pass through the Spratly Islands are a lucrative venture for the countries — around $3.4 trillion in trade is reportedly transported through the South China Sea every year.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
CSIS/Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

China has been one of the most prominent claimants to territory in the South China Sea since the 1980s. It currently has around 27 outposts throughout the islands and has continued to outfit them with aircraft runways, lighthouses, tourist resorts, hospitals, and farms.

According to some experts, the creation of civilian attractions in the region signals that China is undertaking a two-pronged approach in attempts to legitimize its ownership — by arguing it has a vested interest in the region, both militarily and otherwise.

In April 2018, US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, nominated to lead the US’ Pacific Command, said Beijing’s “forward operating bases” in the South China Sea appeared complete.

Davidson said China could use the bases pose a challenge the US and “would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants.

“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A tunnel just collapsed at the site of North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test

Japan’s TV Asahi reports that about 200 North Koreans have died in a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, in North Korea’s northeast.


In early September, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test there, detonating a nuclear device under a mountain. Experts have said it was a hydrogen bomb about 10 times as powerful as the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the close of World War II.

Satellite imagery has revealed that the mountain above the test site has since suffered a series of landslides and seismic aftershocks thought to have resulted from the blast.

North Korean sources told TV Asahi that a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers and that an additional 100 who went in to rescue them also died under the unstable mountain.

Using the slider below, you can see the affects of the test detonations, especially along the mountain ridges:

Open California Satellite Imagery © 2017 Planet Labs Inc. licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Comparison tool from 38 North.

The tunnels in and out of the test site had been damaged, and the workers may have been clearing or repairing them to resume nuclear testing.

If the test site is compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out.

If that debris were to reach China, Beijing would see that as an attack on its country, Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, previously told Business Insider.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 veterans that can really hook you up in your civilian life

It’s always appreciated when civilians go out of their way to thank a veteran, but when veterans look out for each other — even if they’ve never met — great things can happen. A Vietnam-era sailor could welcome in a Post 9/11-era soldier with open arms. A Desert Storm Marine could go out of their way to aid a Korean War airman. Veterans of all eras are family to all other veterans.

The bond is something that comes from shared experience; serving in the military is unique, both as a life event and as a professional move. Other veterans understand that and can help navigate anything from benefits to healing to hooking a brother up.


Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Civilians have gotten better about not asking the “have you killed anyone” question but it’s never not awkward.

College classmates

Getting out and using your GI Bill can be an abrupt transition. One moment every detail of your life is dictated to you by Uncle Sam and the next you’re surrounded by college kids who’re asking if your time in was like Call of Duty. Finding a veteran friend in college makes it at least a little smoother.

In the great unknown of civilian life, vets will stick together as close as if they served together.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Even if they’re not a veteran, they still have the same sense of humor as us.

(Bath Township Police Department)

Police officers

There are countless veterans who hung up their green uniforms and put on a blue one. Chances are good that the police officer who pulled you over for speeding might also be a veteran. If you play your cards right, they may let you off the hook with just a warning.

Don’t ever assume you can play the veteran card at every opportunity, though. If you pull the “well, actually officer, I’m a veteran” move, they still might just thank you for your service and hand you the ticket. You’ve got to be subtle and let the officer figure it out that you’re a veteran or else they’ll stare at you like the entitled fool you’re being.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Don’t ruin your friendship with a vet bouncer when a drunk civilian friend opens their mouth.

Security guards or bouncers

Another common job for the gym rat grunts is to work security, and if you’re lucky they just might be working at your favorite bar or club. They won’t help you out if you’re trespassing but they could probably let you slide through if you’re, say, at a concert or waiting in a long line.

If you’ve got a light sprinkling of veteran on you (like a memorial band, “veteran” on your driver’s license, or a shirt that only vets would understand), then they can even slip you into the club without paying a cover.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

…or so I’ve been told.

Personal fitness trainers

Getting back into shape is a chore most veterans still keep up with. If they’re looking for someone to help give the right push, they can get a personal fitness trainer at a gym. Finding another veteran who became a trainer makes working out so much easier because you can both speak the same language.

Most trainers need to break everything down Barney-style to the people who only ever go to the gym once a year. It’s even worse when the civilian gets offended by “verbal motivation.” Just clicking back to NCO mode will benefit both of you.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Retail workers

Let’s be realistic. Not every veteran gets out and becomes millionaire beer tasters, bikini model judges, or woodsmen. Some end up in the service industry to help pay the never ending stream of bills. Finding another veteran when your usual clientele raise hell and demand to speak to the manager makes life so much easier.

Spark up a normal human conversation with them. Be friendly. They may even let you use their discount or toss you a free meal.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Many years out and even the old-timers can hang with the young troops.

Bar-goers

Back in the barracks, it was a 24/7 party. Booze flowed freely and our tip top shape bodies were able to make the hangovers less severe. Fast forward many years down the line and the same vets will frequent their local bars.

Spark up a conversation with a vet and you’ll quickly make a friend. Chances are that the other vet will buy your next round just for being a brother.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Potential bosses

If there’s any one person you want to have on your side immediately is the person hiring you for a position. If they notice on your resume that you’re also a veteran and can back up whatever you wrote on it, you’re golden.

The civilian workplace is very much a “good ‘ol boy” system that relies on who you know rather than what you know. Getting that leg up on everyone else is going to take you far.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 7th

The beginning of December is a wonderful time in the military. We all get to watch those from the southern states lose their minds as they watch a little dusting of snow settle on the pavement, nobody’s sure if it’s time to switch over to winter PT uniforms, and troops express extreme pride in their respective branches with the Army-Navy Game on the horizon.

All the while, everyone starts mentally clocking out because block leave is quickly approaching and no one wants to do sh*t until then. It’s a sweet, sweet waiting game.

So, here’re some memes to enjoy as you’re sitting around the training room, just waiting to finally take your happy ass home.


Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme by Ranger Up)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme by WATM)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Articles

Army fires miniature hit-to-kill missile from a new multi-mission ground launcher

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
U.S. Army photo


The Army fired an interceptor missile designed to protect forces on the ground by destroying incoming enemy fire from artillery, rockets, mortars, cruise missiles and even drones and aircraft, service officials explained.

The successful live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range N.M., demonstrated the ability of a new Army Multi-Mission Launcher to fire a weapon called the Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile. It is called “hit-to-kill” because it is what’s called a kinetic energy weapon with no explosive. Rather, the interceptor uses speed and the impact of a collision to destroy approaching targets, Army officials explained.

The idea is to give Soldiers deployed on a Forward Operating Base the opportunity to defend themselves from attacking enemy fire. The MML is configured to fire many different kinds of weapons; they launcher recently conducted live fire exercises with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. These MML is engineered to fire these missiles which, typically, are fired from the air. The AIM-9X is primarily an air-to-air weapon and the Hellfire is known for its air-to-ground attack ability.

The Multi-Mission Launcher, or MML, is a truck-mounted weapon used as part of a Soldier protection system called Integrated Fire Protection Capability – Inc. 2. The system, which uses a Sentinel radar and fire control technology to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire and protect forward-deployed forces.   The technology uses a command and control system called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.

The MML launcher can rotate 360 degrees and elevate from 0-90 degrees in order to identify and knock out approaching fire from any direction or angle.

“The MML consists of fifteen tubes, each of which can hold either a single large interceptor or multiple smaller interceptors. Developed using an open systems architecture, the launcher will interface to the IBCS Engagement Operations Center to support and coordinate target engagements,” an Army statement said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what a Marine can expect from IRR muster

So, you’ve been navigating the vast ocean of civilian life, all while growing an impressive beard and wearing that veteran’s hat to places. Suddenly, one day, you get a letter — orders for Individual, Ready Reserve Muster. But at this point, you’ve been out for so long, and you’re wondering why they’re calling you back. Well, the Marine Corps wants to check in and make sure you’re still ready to be called back into active service should they need you back in the rain, dealing pain.

It may seem like an inconvenience and, sure, it might be, but it’s really not that bad. It’s only a few hours on the weekend, and you can choose to go in the morning or the afternoon. On top of that, you’ll get paid somewhere around $250, for three hours of time. You might show up and hear a bunch of fellow Marines complain, but it’s not a field op. It’s not raining. You just sit in a few rooms, fill out some paperwork, and then you’re on your way.

Overall, here’s what you can expect:


Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

It almost brings a tear to your eye. Almost.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lucas Vega)

You get treated like a human being

There’s going to be a ton of staff NCOs and officers hanging around muster. None of them are going to yell at you for your lack of shave, haircut, or proper greeting of the day. Not a single one will hit you with a, “hey there, Devil Dog,” just to chew your ass for not saying good morning.

Furthermore, when you talk to the admin clerks and other Marines running the muster, they won’t even require you to address them by rank. Here’s the thing: they know you’re a Marine, but they actually just treat you like another person, which is an improvement.

Waiting in lines

Did you expect anything different? Most of your time at muster will be spent in lines… go figure. Waiting to leave rooms, waiting to have someone look at a medical form, etc. You know the drill. Honestly, it’s not as bad as any other line you’ve been through in the Marines. Not even close.

The only thing that makes those lines bad is the fact that you’re trying to get out of there to go do civilian things, like eat real food, not shave, and not worry about formation.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

It’s seriously not bad.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)

Briefs

No, not your underpants — you know what we mean. You’re going to get two briefs for a max of, like, 20 minutes, tops. One is from the VA and the other is to tell you about your options in the Reserve. It’s definitely not anywhere near as bad as annual training briefs, which span the course of several days, and last for about eight hours each.

Medical screening

Right after you go through the briefs, you’ll fill out a medical form to list any ailments you may have. If you do have some medical issues, you’ll wait to go into a room for a screening where they’ll decide whether or not you’re still in good enough condition to deploy if necessary. Otherwise, you go straight to the administrative room.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

It doesn’t take long, honestly.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)

Administrative tasks

This part probably takes the longest, and it’s mostly just waiting (again, go figure). You’re just there to verify that your contact information is correct as well as your Record of Emergency Data and other things. It’s just a quick scan, sign, date, and then you verify your bank information, turn in the paperwork, and you’re out of there.

A lot of other people might complain but, realistically, IRR Muster is not the worst thing you could do on a Saturday — especially when you compare it to your Saturdays spent as a Marine.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s how you can watch ‘GoldenEye’ with Pierce Brosnan on Sunday

While most of the things COVID-19 has brought us have been horrible, contagious, disappointing, frustrating, no good and almost overwhelmingly sad (just me? No?), one of the many silver linings has been the accessibility of entertainment. Movies like Trolls released straight to television, Ryan Seacrest hosted a family Disney sing-a-long (can you tell I have young children at home?) and museums and theaters all over the world are opening their doors for virtual shows, tours and the like.

And now (well, Sunday, April 19), you can watch one of our favorite Bond movies, GoldenEye, with none other than Bond. James Bond. (Fine, Pierce Brosnan, the fourth actor to star as 007).


Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Whether or not he’s your favorite Bond, you can’t say no to that face.

Wikimedia Commons

Put on by Esquire UK, the GoldenEye watchalong will stream live on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube feeds this Sunday 19th April at 7pm BST (2pm ET for American viewers.) According to Esquire UK:

The 66-year-old screen icon will be taking us all behind the scenes of the spy epic, discussing his time in the tuxedo and how it felt to take up the mantle, as well as interacting with his legions of fans – which, of course, is where you come in. We need you to supply us with all the unanswered questions that have been burning away inside your brain for 25 years. Send them over to us via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages now for a chance to get them answered by the main man himself.

The idea is simple: press play on GoldenEye (rental options are listed below) at the same moment as Pierce, and listen along to his play-by-play analysis and commentary in real-time.

How to watch

YouTube

Amazon Prime

Google Play

Quarantine just got a whole lot better!

And now,

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO addresses Russian ‘military build-up,’ situation In Afghanistan

NATO foreign ministers concluded a two-day meeting on December 2 that paves the path for reforms within the transatlantic alliance as it faces twin challenges from Russia and China, as well as key decisions about the situation Afghanistan.

The meeting, held via videolink as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, discussed how the alliance must adapt to new threats, including “persistently aggressive Russia” and “the rise of China.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on December 1 told reporters that the ministers discussed the Russian “military build-up” around the alliance and the mission in Afghanistan.

The Western military alliance “will have to take some hard decisions” about the mission when NATO defense ministers meet in February, he said.

A 67-page expert group report outlining suggestions about how to reboot the alliance noted that while NATO faced one big threat during the Cold War, it now faces two “systemic rivals” — Russia and China — along with “the enduring threat of terrorism.”

Speaking to reporters, Stoltenberg said the ministers discussed “Russia’s continued military build-up in our neighborhood, as well as arms control.”

He said NATO is adapting its deterrence posture “to address Russia’s destabilizing actions,” but the ministers agree that they must continue to pursue dialogue with Russia.

They also expressed support for preserving limitations of nuclear weapons and for developing a more comprehensive arms control regime, and welcomed talks between Russia and the United States ahead of the expiration of their bilateral New START treaty in February.

“We should not find ourselves in a situation where there is no agreement regulating the number of nuclear warheads,” he said.

The ministerial also included a meeting with the foreign ministers of Georgia and Ukraine on security in the Black Sea region and NATO’s continued support to both partners.

Foreign ministers also discussed developments in Belarus following nearly four months of pro-democracy protests and the situation in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the wake of a Russian-brokered peace deal that ended 44 days of fierce fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces.

On Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said NATO supports the peace process while remaining committed to the mission to help fight terrorism.

But he added: “As we continue to assess the situation in Afghanistan, it is clear that we will face a turning point early next year.”

The security alliance risks an even longer-term engagement if the NATO mission stays in Afghanistan, and if it leaves there is a risk that it will become a safe haven for international terrorists again, Stoltenberg said.

“So, there is a price for staying longer, but there is also a price for leaving too soon,” he said.

NATO now has about 11,000 troops from dozens of countries stationed in Afghanistan. Their mandate is to help train and advise Afghanistan’s security forces.

But the presence of U.S. forces, which NATO relies on for air support, transport, and logistics, is scheduled to shrink by 2,000 troops to 2,500 by January 15.

Under a peace deal reached between the United States and the Taliban, all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 if security conditions on the ground permit.

The policy report also suggested the Western military alliance find a way to stop individual countries vetoing policy decisions, as Hungary has done over plans for a deeper partnership with non-NATO member Ukraine.

Other recommendations included creating a consultative body to coordinate broader, Western policy toward China, holding summits with European Union leaders, and giving the secretary-general more power over personnel and budgets.

“NATO needs a strong political dimension to match its military adaptation,” according to the report, whose suggestions are not binding.

The document is to be presented to NATO leaders at a summit planned for next year. They could be included in an update to NATO’s Strategic Concept document, which dates from 2010 and sought to consider Russia as a partner.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

North Korea: Missile tests were practice runs to hit US military in Japan

North Korea’s state-run media announced its latest missile launches were conducted to practice hitting US military bases in Japan, according to The Washington Post on Tuesday.


“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” a Korean Central News Agency statement read.

Related: US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

Three of the four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning flew 600 miles and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The other missile landed outside the zone.

Studying the photos provided by North Korea, analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies deduced that the missiles were extended-range Scuds. Having tested these missiles in the past, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said that North Korea’s test was not to see whether they could operate but to assess how fast units could deploy them.

“They want to know if they can get these missiles out into the field rapidly and deploy them all at once,” Lewis told The Post. “They are practicing launching a nuclear-armed missile and hitting targets in Japan as if this was a real war.”

The extended-range Scud missiles could be produced more cheaply than other medium-range missiles in the Hermit Kingdom’s arsenal, according to Lewis. This could be disastrous for allied nations, such as Japan and South Korea, not only because North Korea could release a barrage of these missiles, but the rate at which they could be fired can be difficult to counter, even with the US’s defensive systems.

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria
Lockheed Martin

One of these defensive systems, the antimissile battery system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), was in the process of being deployed on Monday night in Osan Air Base, less than 300 miles from the missile launch location.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” said Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, in a news release.

Designed to shoot incoming missiles, THAAD has been compared to shooting a bullet with another bullet. However, analysts say that the system would have difficulty in intercepting missiles launched simultaneously — as in Monday’s test.

Also read: 4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

According to a KCNA statement translated by KCNA Watch, Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, supervised the launches from the Hwasong artillery units, who are “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”

The launches came shortly after an annual series of US-South Korea military exercises that kicked off earlier this month. The ground, air, naval, and special-operations exercises, which consist of 17,000 US troops and THAAD systems, was predicted by scholars to be met with some retaliatory measures by North Korea.

“In spite of the repeated warnings from [North Korea], the United States kicked off this month the largest-ever joint military exercise with South Korea,” said North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi during a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “The annual, joint military exercise is a typical expression of US hostile policy towards the DPRK, and a major cause of escalation of the tension, that might turn into actual war.”