Russia's elite are nervous about new US sanctions - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

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.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
Vladimir Putin held the first meeting with Government members this year. (Image from Moscow Kremlin)

‘Freaking out’

“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.

Related: US intel officials report that Russian leaders think US wants to topple Putin

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.

‘Oligarchs list’

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?”

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
The Kremlin in Russia. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Parlor-game guessing

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.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
Garry Kasparov. (Photo from Flickr user Gage Skidmore, cropped to fit)

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to queries about its upcoming list.

Credit crunch

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.

Ripple effect

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.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. (Photo from Flickr user Moscow CTBTO Youth Group Conference. Cropped to fit)

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.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.

The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.


Human trafficking is a global issue that affects roughly 40.3 million people and roughly 300,000 American children each year. Less than 1% of those victims will be rescued. And, if they are lucky enough to be rescued, what happens to them?

Thinking big

“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.

Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.

According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.

Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.

SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.

“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.

Why is this so hard?

Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.

While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.

“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.

Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.

“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act

The victims

The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.

“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”

Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.

“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.

See something. Say something. Do something.

According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.

In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).

For more information or to donate to SHP, visit: https://www.safehouseproject.org/donate

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US military should focus on the Taliban and not ISIS

A number of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan towards the end of January 2018 were claimed by competing terrorist groups ISIS and the Taliban — putting the spotlight back on a country that has been at war for over a decade.


An attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on Jan. 20 that killed at least 40 people and an ambulance bombing in Kabul on Jan. 27 that killed 103 were claimed by the Taliban.

An attack on Save the Children’s Jalalabad office on Jan. 24 that killed six people and an attack on Kabul’s military academy on Jan. 29 that killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers were claimed by ISIS’ Afghan branch — known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).

Since its creation in 2015, ISIS has pushed to have a bigger presence in Afghanistan. The recent attacks, and the fact that ISIS-K has proven to be stubbornly resilient, have made some in the West more worried about the group.

Seth G. Jones, an expert on Afghanistan and a senior adviser to the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the Taliban and ISIS have been “at each other’s throats” since day one — but there is no question who the more threatening group is.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Michael “Doc” McNeely with the Georgian Liaison Team – a joint Coalition Patrol Team – carries one of the children whose life he helped save after a Taliban suicide bombing attack Nov. 22, 2017.  (DVIDS Image from Master Sgt. Sheryl Lawry)

“The Taliban is a much larger organization, controls roughly 10-12% of the population of Afghanistan, has conducted a lot more attacks, and has some support among Afghanistan’s conservative rural population,” Jones said.

“ISIS-K, on the other hand, is shrinking in size, controls virtually no territory, has conducted far fewer attacks, and has virtually no support among Afghanistan’s population.”

ISIS declares the ‘Khorasan Province’

ISIS first came to South Asia in 2014, using the group’s substantial funds and weak local governments to co-opt high-ranking members of the Pakistani Taliban and disaffected members of the Afghan Taliban.

But almost as soon as it was founded, ISIS-K began suffering losses, as they found themselves fighting the Pakistani and Afghani governments, the NATO Coalition, and the Taliban all at the same time.

Angry that ISIS had taken some of their members in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban hit back and essentially wiped out ISIS-K in Helmand and Farah provinces.

ISIS has also suffered major losses in its fight against the Afghan government in NATO. All three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) have been killed since the group was founded, and, according to Jones, their numbers have almost been halved since their founding.

ISIS-K is now more of a deadly nuisance than a strategic threat to Afghanistan.

“ISIS-K controls virtually nothing other than a small segment of territory. They’re not competing in any meaningful way,” Jones said. “It’s in a bad situation. It has got everybody against it.”

Jones said ISIS-K has been so surprisingly resilient because it mostly operates in parts of Nangarhar Province, particularly the Achin District, where neither the Taliban or the Afghan government have much control. Instead, the region is mostly controlled by local tribes and clans.

Jones believes, however, that ISIS-K will eventually become a transnational movement — forced to move into Pakistan or Bangladesh as operations against them continue.

Also Read: ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

“They’re down in numbers, it looks like they are down in recruitment, they’ve stuck around but it looks like under most accounts they are probably weakening,” he said.

Taliban remains the dominant jihadist force

All of this is in stark contrast to the Taliban,  where “there is absolutely no comparison,” according to Jones.

Recent reports suggest that the Taliban has tripled in size since 2014 to up to 60,000. This is compared to ISIS-K’s 1,000-2,000.

The Taliban have complete control of some areas in Afghanistan’s countryside, have their own court systems and governmental structures in place, a military structure based in Pakistan, and, according to a recent BBC report, threaten 70% of the country.

They also, as Jones points out, have support from state actors; most notably Pakistan and possibly even Russia.

ISIS-K and the Taliban are likely to continue attacks like the ones that plagued Afghanistan in January 2018. Those high-profile attacks are important because even though neither ISIS or the Taliban control any urban territory, they gain international media attention and put them in the spotlight.

Jones said the attacks “may give an impression that groups like the Taliban are omnipresent,” even though they are not. “That’s really a psychological impact.”

Articles

Fear of killer flood prompts pause in Syria offensive

U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria paused military operations near a dam held by the Islamic State group on March 27 to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability.


The decision by the Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after conflicting reports over whether civilians had begun evacuating the nearby city of Raqqa — the extremists’ de facto capital — due to concerns about the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River.

Some activist groups opposed to IS have said residents are seeking higher ground, fearing that the collapse of the dam could cause severe flooding, while others said people were remaining in place. Conflicting reports are common in areas controlled by IS, which bans independent media.

The SDF, a U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force, has been fighting IS in the area since Friday in an attempt to capture the dam, one of the main sources of electricity in northern Syria.

The SDF said in a statement that the cease-fire expired at 5 p.m. local time, after their engineers inspected the structure and found no faults. Photos credited to an embedded freelance journalist indicated they had just inspected the dam’s spillway, which is on SDF-controlled territory. The main dam structure and the gates lie 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away and are still held by IS militants.

The SDF said the request for a cease-fire was made by the dam’s administrators, without specifying whether they were part of the Syrian government or IS, which operates a quasi-state in the areas under its control.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said technicians inside IS-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the cease-fire, to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.

The engineer Ahmad Farhat, who oversaw the mechanical administration of the dam, said that it is “equipped with the necessary precautions for its own protection,” but there needs to be technical personnel on site to engage them. He spoke with The Associated Press from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.

Engineer Aboud al Haj Aboud who was the head of the electricity division of the dam said on social media that if indeed the control room is busted and the gates of the dam cannot be opened, it will still take at least a month for the waters being held back by the dam to overflow the top of the structure.

The U.S.-led coalition said it is taking every precaution to ensure the integrity of the dam. “To our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged,” it said on its Twitter account.

SDF fighters on Sunday captured a strategically important air base from IS in Raqqa province, marking their first major victory since the United States airlifted hundreds of forces, as well as American advisers and artillery, behind enemy lines last week.

The SDF announced they had captured the Tabqa air base, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.

On Monday, IS fighters detonated a car bomb on the southern edge of the air base, but it was not clear if it inflicted casualties among SDF fighters, the activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the Observatory reported.

Fighting is ongoing in areas near the air base, both activist groups said. The SDF said in another statement that its fighters captured two villages north of Tabqa on Monday.

Elsewhere in Syria, authorities resumed the evacuation of the last opposition-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs in an agreement to surrender the district to the government.

Opposition activists have criticized the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The Observatory has called the evacuees “internally displaced” people.

The government has rejected allegations that the Homs deal and similar agreements in other besieged areas amount to the forced displacement of civilians.

On Monday, 667 militants, along with their families, for a total of 2,009 residents, were taken by bus in the direction of the rebel-held city of Jarablus, near the Turkish border, according to an official in the Homs Governorate administration.

The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Syrian state TV had forecast that some 700 people would leave, far fewer than the final tally.

The evacuation was planned to take place on Saturday, but no reason was given for the delay.

Opposition fighters agreed to leave al-Waer after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces. They were guaranteed safe passage to rebel-held parts of northern Syria.

The evacuations are expected to last weeks, after which the government will be able to claim control over the entire city for the first time in years.

Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany might be considering a nuclear bomb

President Donald Trump’s relationship with Europe has been characterized by him attacking NATO for what he perceives as failures to meet the defense-spending goals alliance members have agreed to work toward.

A consequence of this newly contentious relationship is more interest in Europe in domestic defense capacity. In Germany, that interest is going nuclear.


Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

At the end of July, prominent German political scientist Christian Hacke wrote an essay in Welt am Sonntag, one of the country’s largest Sunday newspapers, arguing Germany needed to respond to uncertainty about US commitment to defending European allies by developing its own nuclear capability.

“For the first time since 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany is no longer under the U.S.’s nuclear umbrella,” Hacke argued, according to Politico Europe.

“National defense on the basis of a nuclear deterrent must be given priority in light of new transatlantic uncertainties and potential confrontations,” Hacke said. Divergent interests among Germany’s neighbors made the prospect of a joint European response “illusory,” he added.

Hacke is not the first in Germany to suggest longstanding ties with the US have fundamentally changed.

In June, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Europeans “need a balanced partnership with the US … where we as Europeans act as a conscious counterweight when the US oversteps red lines.” Maas compared Trump’s “America First” policies to the policies of Russia and China.

While concern about Trump is very real, Germany is treaty-bound not to develop nuclear weapons, and discussions of doing so are seen as little more than talk.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

(Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Germany developing nuclear military capability, a nuclear weapon, a nuclear deterrent, will never be in the cards ever,” said Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow in the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“Things nuclear are always hot in Germany,” said Townsend, who spent eight years as US deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy. “This is not something that’s going to change and all of a sudden the Germans are going to think seriously about developing a nuclear capability. That’s just not going to happen.”

Others in Germany were also dismissive.

Journalist and defense expert Christian Thiels described the discussion as “a totally phony debate” and referred to Hacke’s argument as a “very individual opinion.” The same question was discussed “by very few think-tankers media people one year ago,” he added, “to zero effect.”

Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference and a former German ambassador to the US, argued that Germany’s pursuit of nuclear weapons would set an undesirable precedent.

“If Germany was to relinquish its status as a non-nuclear power, what would prevent Turkey or Poland, for example, from following suit?” he wrote in a response to Hacke. “Germany as the gravedigger of the international non-proliferation regime? Who can want that?”

German plans to phase out nuclear energy likely preclude the development of nuclear weapons, Townsend said, and, as noted by Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in Germany, politicians who can’t convince Germans to support spending 2% of GDP on defense are unlikely to win backing for nuclear weapons.

This is not the first round of this debate.

Not long after Trump’s election, European officials — including a German lawmaker who was foreign-policy spokesman for the governing party — suggested French and British nuclear arsenals could be repurposed to defend the rest of the continent under a joint command with common funding or defense doctrine.

In mid-2017, a review commissioned by Germany’s parliament found Berlin could legally finance another European country’s nuclear weapons in return for protection.

There have been suggestions that “what Europe should do is depend on the French, the French nuclear capability, and the Germans pay into that and thereby kind of fall under the French nuclear umbrella,” Townsend said.

“Well, that’s not going to happen either,” he added. “As cool as it sounds for a think-tank discussion, in reality the French would never do that.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has advocated closer defense cooperation between France and Germany, but Paris has in the past expressed reservations about ceding control of its nuclear weapons. (The UK’s plans to exit the EU complicate its role in any such plan.)

Townsend said the debate was unnecessary, given that its premise — the loss of US nuclear deterrence — was unfounded.

“Trump notwithstanding, the US nuclear guarantee is not going anywhere,” he said. “No matter where we might be domestically as we talk about Europe or as we talk about NATO, we’re not going. Our nuclear guarantee is going to be there.”

But Trump has changed the way Europe thinks about its defense. Some welcome discussion of Germany acquiring nuclear capability, even if they don’t support it.

Ulrich Speck, senior visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, said on Twitter that while he didn’t favor “Germany becoming a nuclear state,” he did believe “there is a debate looming with the many question marks over the US with Trump, and that it’s better to have the debate. Germany needs to think through nuclear deterrence.”

“It’s crucial for Germany and Europe that we have a strategic debate,” Ulrike Franke, an analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Politico Europe. “What Germany is slowly realizing is that the general structure of the European security system is not prepared for the future.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the first enlisted woman to graduate Sapper Leader Course

Sgt. Hailey Falk is the Army’s first enlisted female soldier to graduate from the rigorous Sapper Leader Course since the program’s inception in 1985.

Falk, 23, received her Sapper Tab, Dec. 7, 2018, after completing the “demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army.” She is assigned to B Company, 39th Engineer Battalion “Bull Strike,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Strike,” 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


“Sgt. Falk’s success as the first enlisted [female] graduate represents a step forward in the process of recognizing success in the combat arms field by performance, not by gender,” said Capt. John D. Baer, B Company commander, 39th BEB. “The combat engineer MOS [12 Bravo] opened to females in 2015, and Sgt. Falk’s graduation from the Sapper Leader Course reinforces the wisdom in that decision by proving that both genders can achieve success in the enlisted combat arms career field.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

According to the Army, the mission of the course is to “train and certify the next generation of Sapper leaders, to serve as members of Combined Arms team, through training in small unit tactics and combat engineer battle drills in a physically demanding, stressful and austere environment.”

Sapper Leader Course

Falk was promoted to sergeant in 2017. With a high Army Physical Fitness Test score and a dedication to physical fitness, Falk’s leadership saw her potential to succeed at the Sapper Leader Course.

“Sgt. Falk is an outstanding noncommissioned officer and embodies the be, know, do leadership model and esprit de corps. She accepts the most difficult task without hesitation. As an NCO she leads from the front and drives troops forward to accomplish all missions,” said Staff Sgt. William Frye, Falk’s squad leader.

Each platoon in B Company rallied to help Falk and her fellow soldiers succeed at Fort Leonard Wood.

Among the challenges Falk faced at the leader course was the Sapper physical fitness test. The test is graded by Army standards to the individual’s age and gender. The minimum passing criteria is 230 total score, with no less than 70 points in each event.

The Sapper Leader Course not only challenged Falk physically, but mentally. According to the Army, the Sapper Leader Course is designed “to build esprit de corps by training soldiers in troop leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient) and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.”

At the end of the course, Falk’s instructor delivered the news that she had passed.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

A Sapper Leader Course 06-17 squad detonates a silhouette charge to create an entrance through a wall during urban breaching exercises as part of the course.

(Photo by Stephen Standifird)

“At that moment, that’s when it hit me that I did all this. Now, it didn’t seem hard anymore,” she said. “During it seemed like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Then, after, I [thought] I could do this again, honestly.”

Baer said Falk’s success should be a challenge to all combat engineers of any gender.

“There are physiological differences between genders, and female combat engineers often have to work harder to meet the strenuous physical demands of combat relative to their male peers. Additionally, the unit’s operational demands prevent an extended preparation time for the school,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has humbly taken on these challenges, succeeding purely through hard work and mental toughness.”

As the first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the Sapper Leader Course, Falk said she encourages other soldiers to try it and plans to encourage those under her command to enroll in the school.

“I would say ‘go for it.’ Don’t be scared of failure. As long as you work hard for it and you don’t give up, you can push through it,” she said. “It’s not just you, there are other people who are working to help you get it. All of your battle buddies are earning your tab for you. You can’t just earn it yourself. Everyone has to work together.”

Her Army future

A week after graduation, Falk said she is catching up on her sleep and preparing for her next adventure — attending Pathfinder School in January.

“[I’m] hoping to get as many [Army] schools as I can,” she said. “I’m ready to do anything at this point. I just got through that, I guess I can do anything.”

Her squad leader and company commander agree Falk has a bright future.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

A U.S. Marine climbs a rope while maneuvering through an obstacle course during a Sapper Leaders Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., October 20, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

“With Sgt. Falk graduating Sapper Leader Course, she now has no limits. She has faced and overcome the many challenges of one of the Army’s hardest schools,” Frye said. “Her unit now has one more lethal fighter among the ranks who is now an expert in mobility, counter mobility and survivability, ready to provide her task force with the tools to accomplish the most difficult missions.”

“Graduation from the course represents months of diligent preparation and an exceptional quantity of mental stamina,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has exhibited these qualities throughout her career in the 101st, and I suspect this is just the beginning of her success in the military.”

Falk remains humble about her accomplishment and credits her leadership and unit for her success.

“I still don’t think it’s a big deal, [but] I couldn’t have done it without everyone,” she said. “I’m just glad I have the support system back here. My first sergeant, my sergeant major came [to graduation]. A lot of people from the unit came to support. I owe it to all of them because without all the training — even though I didn’t want to do it at the time — the training that we do, that I dread, it ended up paying off.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How attacking Israel on a holiday backfired and turned into a rout

Arab armies have never had good luck fighting Israel. Israeli independence should have been a long shot in the first place, but they were just too good for the neighboring Arab countries. In 1967, when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran, a move Israel flat-out told Egypt would cause a war, Egypt was ready for Israel – on paper, anyway. That war lasted six days. Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq together could not bring the IDF down.

But in 1973, they were going to try again and this time, it was going to be a surprise.


Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Even though the Egyptians experienced initial successes, the real surprise would be getting their asses handed to them.

Israel was largely unprepared for two-pronged invasion through the Sinai from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria for many reasons. Israeli intelligence knew about troop build-ups but wrote them off as training maneuvers. It was the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, after all. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir ignored a warning from King Hussein of Jordan, the IDF ignored the fact that Soviet advisors left Egypt and Syria with their families, so when Yom Kippur, the holiest day for the Jewish religion, came around, the Israelis let their guard down.

That’s when the Arabs attacked.

Some 100,000 Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal with 1,300 tanks and 2,000 artillery guns, all protected by an umbrella of surface-to-air missile batteries to keep the Israeli Air Force – the reason the Arabs lost the Six-Day War – at bay. Facing the Egyptians were only 290 Israeli tanks housed in a scattering of fortresses along the canal, inadequate defenses to hold the Peninsula. Luckily for Israel, the Egyptians seemed to slow down when they approached the end of the SAM batteries’ range. This lull would prove critical to the Arab defeat.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

The Israelis at first concentrated on the Syrian invasion, considering it posed a much more vital threat to Israeli heartland, while the fighting with Egypt remained largely in the Sinai Peninsula. Once the Syrians were forced back and were on the defensive, the IDF was able to turn its attention to the Egyptian invaders. The Egyptians had just attempted to advance beyond their SAM shield by throwing a thousand tanks at reinforced Israeli defenses. Its losses were mounting and the time was right for a counterattack. It turns out the surprise that had allowed for Egypt’s initial successes was also the reason for its eventual defeat.

With so many Israelis at home for the holiday, the roads were remarkably clear, making it so much easier for Israeli reserves to activate and get to where they needed to be. After detecting a gap in the Egyptian lines, the Israelis planned their counterattack. Once the Israeli reserve forces were in place, they waited for a way to reduce Egypt’s armor strength before pouring through the gap and invading Egypt across the Suez. When Egypt threw its armor at Israeli defenses, that gave the IDF the chance it needed.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Israeli tanks crossing the Suez in a surprise move of their own.

Commandos and tanks started striking surface radar and SAM sites, allowing the Israeli Air Force to operate with greater impunity. Instead of standing their ground, the Egyptians withdrew their SAM batteries, leaving their forces defenseless from the air. Israeli troops began to flow across the Suez Canal, hitting artillery positions, defensive fortifications, and even driving on major cities. The IDF advanced within 100 kilometers of Cairo before a UN-imposed cease-fire took effect, occupying 1,600 square kilometers of Egypt’s territory, and no defenses standing between the IDF and the Egyptian capital.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Third Army was completely cut off from resupply and surrounded, surely to be annihilated if the fighting continued. The Arab armies were humiliated by Israel once again, in just two short weeks. This time, however, would be the last time. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter successfully negotiated an end to hostilities between Egypt and Israel, an accord that has never been broken and may not ever have happened without the surprise defeat of Egypt in 1973.

Articles

This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.


That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.

This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.

The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.

It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.

And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.

hauntedbattlefields

You don’t know the real Rudy Reyes

We’ve all heard of Rudy Reyes, the Recon Marine, martial artist, and actor who famously played himself in the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill, but few people really know what Rudy has been up to these days. Hell, we didn’t know either until we asked Rudy to sit down and chat.

The only problem? Rudy doesn’t sit. He’s always on the move. Always.


As a former Marine and Green Beret myself, I should’ve known what I was getting into when I asked Rudy for an interview. I’m sitting in my office waiting for the 47-year old Marine to arrive from Mongolia (yep, you read that right). After knowing Rudy for years, I can tell you there is one thing I should be doing right now: stretching.

I first met Rudy in a NYC restaurant back in 2010, just a few weeks after I had left the Marine Corps myself. I was in that awkward, post-military transition phase where the opportunity for a new life seemed so real, but I still had no idea what to do with myself after three tours to Iraq. That’s when I ran into Rudy. He was waiting tables at a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn, trying to pick up some extra cash between auditions. I can tell you with 100% accuracy, Rudy is a horrible waiter, but that didn’t stop him from giving the task his complete focus and energy. He only knows one speed: fast.

In fact, the Recon Marine and veteran of some of Iraq’s most gruesome battles moved around the restaurant like he was clearing a room. Maybe it was the newly grown “veteran” beard on my face or just the post-military emptiness that all warriors feel, but Rudy stopped when he saw me and asked me, “hey brother, are you a vet?” When I answered,”yes” and mentioned that I was just a few weeks out, Rudy invited me to join him for a workout the next day. See, that’s the kinda guy Rudy has always been. He knew me for less than a minute before welcoming me into his world.

Nearly a decade later, I am excited to see my friend again, especially now, because he’s literally traveled the globe to come up to my office. Besides his warrior spirit, there is one thing that I’ve always loved about Rudy: He knows how to make an entrance. He’s just walked in wearing a sleeveless WWII blouse while carrying a kettlebell and tactical boombox.

So let’s get this interview started…

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes

Brother and leader of Marines, welcome back to We Are The Mighty. What the hell are you wearing?

RR: Hey brother, good to see you. Aww yeah, you love this jacket. My buddy who worked on ‘The Pacific’ hooked me up. It’s what the hard chargers wore when they stormed Iwo Jima.

And what about the sleeves?

RR: Didn’t need them. [Rudy’s now doing pull-ups in the office]

Dude, it’s been a decade since ‘Generation Kill,’ and you still look like you’re on the teams. How the hell do you find time to get in the gym?

RR: Brother, I am the gym. I have Sorinex center mass bells, Monkii bar straps, and a positive attitude. That’s all I need.

Ok, well, I have no excuse not to work out today. What were you doing in Mongolia?

RR: Aww, oh my gosh bro, it was amazing. I’m part of the Spartan Race Agoge Krypteia. I am one of the leaders of these 60-hour endurance races all across the globe. Just like the Spartans of Greece, we train people to be the strongest and [most] mentally tough citizens on earth.
Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)

Why Mongolia?

RR: It’s the land of Genghis Khan. We took a group of Agoge athletes through a training program just like the amazing warriors of the steppe. There was wrestling, archery, and shapeshifting.

Shapeshifting?

RR: Oh yeah, the Shaman [priest], covers his face so you can’t see it, but it’s real. He changes into different animals to help the athletes remove the evil spirits from their lives. It’s amazing how this cleansing will move you towards peak performance.

Wow, this just got interesting. You really think that fighting spirits is part of fitness?

RR: I don’t just think it, brother. I know it. I’ve been cleansing my own demons for years as I move toward being my best self. I’ve learned to dive into my dreams and explore the world as if I was awake. I’m an oneironaut.
Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)

An Onierawhat?

RR: Oneironaut. I’m able to travel into my dreams, and once I am awake, I draw what I saw so that I can learn about the future or the past. It’s like being on a reconnaissance mission again. I have to get close to the enemy around me so that I can learn how to defeat them.

What have you learned from these dream missions?

RR: The enemy can come in many forms both internal and external. I have to fight things like self-doubt and depression as well as evil spirits that put barriers in our path to success. I’ve grown to be a better warrior, athlete, and father as an oneironaut. I recently dreamed about my son and I traveling to a beautiful waterfall.
Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

(Photo Courtesy of Rudy Reyes)

Can you teach me how to do this?

RR: Yes, of course.

Sh*t! He said yes, change the subject before we actually start fighting spirits.

It sounds like you’ve had a helluva year thus far, what does 2019 look like for you?

RR: Brother, I am so blessed. I’ve spent the years since I first met you focused on the things I love and believe in, and now it’s paying off. I get to be the warrior I am on camera with the Spartan Agoge and travel the world. I also have my non-profit, Force Blue, where we pair special operations veterans and underwater conservationists to save the planet’s coral reefs. We were just awarded a grant from the State of Florida to rescue and restore the coral reef off of Miami and the keys.


Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

(Photo Courtesy of @ianastburyofficial)

Wait, what? The state of Florida is paying you guys to dive coral reefs?

RR: Hahaha [Rudy’s laugh is now visibly causing all my coworkers to look in our direction]. Pretty much, brother. Florida’s reef is the 3rd largest in the world and one of the most threatened. The coral is both a wall and source of life. By getting in the water and restoring the coral, we are protecting the coastline from tidal erosion and protecting the fishing industry. We call it Project PROTECT.

Dude, that’s awesome. You’re rocking it. I see the same passion in you now that you had back when we first met in NY. What’s your secret?

RR: Positive mental attitude, my brother. We are our best when we believe in ourselves. That’s where I start each day and try to land each night. Positivity is contagious just like an insurgency.

You know I like that.

RR: Semper Fi.

Semper Fi, brother. [Rudy is now doing more pull-ups]

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vincent Jackson, NFL Pro Bowler and military advocate dies

The news Vincent Jackson, three-time Pro Bowler, passed away has been tough to bear. A fan favorite both in San Diego where he played for the Chargers and in Tampa Bay where he played for the Buccaneers, Jackson electrified NFL fans with his catching skills and athletic ability.  He finished with over 9,000 yard receiving and 57 touchdowns. He had over 1,000 yards in a season six times.

Beyond that, Jackson had deep ties to the military that go back to his family. Because of those roots, after his career was over, he was heavily involved in supporting the military community.

Vincent Jackson
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Image by Jeffrey Beall

The Buccaneers released a statement stating, “We are shocked and saddened to hear the terrible news regarding the loss of Vincent Jackson. During his five seasons with our franchise, Vincent was a consummate professional, who took a great deal of pride in his performance on and off the field. Vincent was a dedicated father, husband, businessman and philanthropist, who made a deep impact on our community through his unyielding advocacy for military families.”

Jackson was born to military parents in Colorado Springs. Growing up he excelled at football and basketball but also academically. He turned down Columbia University so he could play both sports in college. Enrolling at the University of Northern Colorado, Jackson became a standout wide receiver and caught the eye of NFL scouts. 

In 2005, he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the second round. Over the next seven seasons, he would develop into a favorite target for quarterback Philip Rivers. In 2011, after a contract dispute with the Chargers, Jackson ended up on the opposite side of the country in Tampa Bay. 

He proved just as productive there, until injuries ultimately ended his career.  

Both San Diego and Tampa Bay proved to be ideal for Jackson, not just on the field but off. Jackson, being from a military family had a passion to help those who served and their families as well. Both communities have a heavy military presence and Jackson used his star power to ensure that he did everything he could to advocate and help them. 

How so? Here are a few amazing ways that Jackson served the military community. 

Jackson was a recipient of the Salute to Service award presented by USAA in 2016 because of the work he did in the community. Jackson sponsored military families at every Buccaneers home game.  He arranged for military members and their families to sit in the Front Row Fans section at Raymond James Stadium. He visited troops overseas and helped a Marine veteran get his home fixed after a disaster. 

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
A signed helmet of Jackson’s. Image via Flickr.

Jackson started a non-profit called Jackson in Action 83 Foundation. He organized annual baby showers for groups of local military moms. The annual “Military Moms Baby Shower” event was held in Tampa where expectant military mothers were surprised with free supplies. 

Over the seven years, local military families received more than $500,000 in products and services.

Jackson wrote, “Danny DogTags” children’s books, dealing with common issues for children in military families. The book was partly inspired by Jackson’s own life as a military brat. It was a book to give guidance to military children who moved around a lot because of their parents changing duty stations.  On growing up in the military, Jackson said, “It’s part of the military lifestyle of just picking up and going to a new state and new school. It’s not the easiest thing to go through, but it was a part of building my resilience and my ability to adapt, and adjust, in different, challenging environments.”

These are but a few of the countless ways Jackson supported the military.  Many talk the talk, but he walked the walk.

Rest Easy 83. See some of the highlights of his career below.

Articles

The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

This year’s Memorial Day concert honors Vietnam veterans

PBS’s multi award-winning National Memorial Day Concert returns live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a special 30th anniversary broadcast hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna. The 30th annual broadcast of the concert airs live on PBS Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

A 30-year tradition unlike anything else on television, America’s national night of remembrance takes us back to the real meaning of the holiday through personal stories interwoven with musical performances by the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists.

The 2019 anniversary edition of the concert will feature Vietnam Valor and Brotherhood — brought to life by long-time friends acclaimed actor Dennis Haysbert and Joe Mantegna.


Fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War, the painful memories from their service remain fresh for many of its veterans. In 1969, our soldiers continued to fulfill their duty and carry out the missions their country asked of them. As part of a special 50th anniversary commemoration to honor the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and to thank them, the concert will share the story of two infantrymen — Ernest “Pete” Peterson (Haysbert) and Brad Kennedy (Mantegna) — who formed a brotherhood while serving in Vietnam and now meet each year at the Vietnam Wall where they remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Valor and Brotherhood

www.youtube.com

Other features include the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion — featuring a performance by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott and A Gold Star Widow’s Journey — portrayed by television series star Jaina Lee Ortiz.

For Gold Star families, every day is Memorial Day. This year, the concert will share the journey of one widow — Ursula Palmer (Ortiz) — beginning with the day her worst fears came true, just two weeks before her husband was due to return home. While “moving on” from this devastating loss was not possible, Palmer knew that for the sake of her daughter she would have to learn to move forward. Along the way she found solace and empowerment by co-founding a new chapter of Gold Star Wives, a virtual chapter for post 9/11 widows and widowers, and by helping wounded veterans and their families.

The all-star line-up also includes: distinguished American leader General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.); Grammy Award-winning legend Patti LaBelle; multi-platinum selling singer, performer and songwriter Gavin DeGraw; Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson; multi-Grammy Award-winning bluegrass icon Alison Krauss; SAG and Olivier Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated actress and singer Amber Riley; multi-platinum-selling country music star Justin Moore; and Patrick Lundy The Ministers of Music; in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly (additional performers to be announced). The 2019 National Memorial Day Concert will share Lambert’s story of bravery and pay tribute to heroes who sacrificed and died in service to our nation and the world.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US aircraft carrier and Japanese warships sail together in South China Sea

The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) participated in a cooperative deployment with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships JS Izumo (DH-183), JS Murasame (DD-101) and JS Akebono (DD-108) June 10-12, 2019.

Reagan, Akebono, Izumo and Murasame conducted communication checks, tactical maneuvering drills and liaison officer exchanges designed to address common maritime security priorities and enhance interoperability at sea.

“Having a Japanese liaison officer aboard to coordinate our underway operations has been beneficial and efficient,” said Lt. Mike Malakowsky, a tactical actions officer aboard Ronald Reagan.

“As we continue to operate together with the JMSDF, it makes us a cohesive unit. They are an integral part of our Strike Group that doubles our capability to respond to any situation.”


Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships with US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, in background, during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Murasame, foreground, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Russia’s elite are nervous about new US sanctions

Japan Maritime Self- Defense Force ship JS Izumo, left, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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