This could be the Army's next rifle — and it's totally awesome - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

The U.S. Army’s chief of staff recently made a bold promise that future soldiers will be armed with weapons capable of delivering far greater lethality than any existing small arms.


“Our next individual and squad combat weapon will come in with a 10X improvement over any existing current system in the world, and that will be critical,” Gen. Mark Milley told an audience at AUSA 2017 on Oct. 10.

Milley’s pledge to “significantly increase investments” in a leap-ahead small arms technology appeared low in the story I wrote for Military.com since soldier lethality was the lowest of the Army’s top six modernization priorities.

As Milley was speaking, Textron Systems officials were showing off their new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm on the AUSA exhibition floor.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Textron Systems booth at AUSA on October 10, 2017 (Image, Textron Facebook)

The working prototype has evolved out Textron’s light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.

Over the last decade, the Army has invested millions in the development of the program, which has now been rebranded to Textron’s Case-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition.

Textron’s cased-telescoped ammunition relies on a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.

The ICTC is a closed bolt, forward feed, gas piston operated weapon, weighing 8.3 pounds. The 6.5mm case-telescoped ammunition weighs 35 percent less and offers 30 percent more lethality than 7.62mm x 51mm brass ammunition, Textron officials maintain.

“I think the most important thing is what we have been able to do with the intermediate caliber, the 6.5mm in this case,” Wayne Prender, vice president of Textron’s Control Surface Systems Unmanned Systems told Military.com. “We are able to not only provide a weight reduction … and all the things that come with it – we are also able to provide increased lethality because of the ability to use a more appropriate round.”

Textron officials maintain they are using a low-drag “representative” 6.5mm bullet while U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, is developing the actual projectile.

“We actually used three different bullet shapes and we scaled it,” said Paul Shipley, program manager for of Unmanned Systems. “We scaled 5.56mm up, we scaled 7.62mm down and took a low-drag shape and ran that between the two” to create the 125 grain 6.5mm bullet that’s slightly longer than the Army’s new 130 grain M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round.

Textron officials maintain that the new round retains more energy at 1,200 meters than the M80A1. At that distance, the 6.5mm has an impact-energy of 300 foot pounds compared to the M80A1 which comes in at about 230 foot pounds of energy, Textron officials maintain.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. Army photo from Todd Mozes.

“The increased lethality we are referring to has to do with the energy down range,” Shipley said. “You can take whatever kind of bullet you want, compare them and it’s going to have increased energy down range.”

Lethality has always been a vague concept. Is it the amount of foot pounds of energy at the target? Or is it the terminal performance, or the size of the wound channel, it creates after it penetrates an enemy soldier?

It’s hard to predict how much performance will change if and when ARDEC creates a 6.5mm projectile that meets the Army’s needs.

A lot can be done to predict performance with computer modeling, but ultimately there is no way of knowing how a conceptual bullet will perform until it is live-fire tested thousands of times under multiple conditions, according to a source with intimate knowledge of military ballistics testing.

The Army has also spent years developing its current M855A1 5.56mm and M80A1 7.62mm Enhanced Performance Rounds. After many failures, the service came up with a copper-jacketed round composed of a solid copper slug that sits behind a steel penetrator tip designed to defeat battlefield barriers and remain effective enough to kill or incapacitate.

Is the Army going to throw all of that away, invest millions of dollars to redesign its ammunition-making infrastructure to switch to case-telescoped ammunition?

“What they’ve got in stockpile does what it does, and they know that is not good enough anymore, so they are faced with that choice,” Shipley said.

The Army has not come to a definitive conclusion on a future caliber, but it has been very open about its waning trust in the 5.56mm round.

In late May, Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
A group of 7.62mm rounds are staged in a UH-1Y Huey during Northern Strike 17 at the Combat Readiness Training Center Alpena, Mich., Aug. 10, 1017. Northern Strike is a joint exercise hosted by the Michigan Air National Guard that emphasizes on close air support and joint fire support to enhance combat readiness. Photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Ohira

In August, the service launched a competition to find an Intermediate Service Combat Rifle chambered 7.62mm NATO. The Army intended to purchase up to 50,000 new 7.62mm rifles to meet the requirement, according to the solicitation, but sources say that the service has already backed away from that endeavor.

Textron’s 6.5mm case-telescoped carbine certainly looks like the leap-ahead, small-arms tech that the Army is searching for to arm its future soldiers.

Then again, the Army’s imagination was also captured in the late 1990s by the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, or XM29.

Remember that? It featured a 20mm airburst weapon mounted on top of a 5.56mm carbine. XM29 had an advanced fire-control system that could program 20mm shells to burst at specific distances. At 18 pounds, it proved to be too heavy and bulky for the battlefield.

Textron officials maintain that case-telescoped carbine can be customized to whatever the Army wants.

“It’s configurable,” Shipley said. “The technology that is inside is what counts.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Joining Forces relaunched by incoming First Lady

In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces; an initiative to encourage public and private sectors to support the military community. The program dissolved under the previous administration but with Dr. Biden’s husband being sworn in as 46th president, the incoming first lady appeared eager to relaunch it. 

Joining Forces called for a commitment of support in education, employment and wellness not just for the military member or veteran, but their families. At the original launch ceremony, President Obama called for “every segment of American society, not to simply say thank you but to mobilize, take action and make a real commitment to supporting our military families.” After six years, the initiative boasted new legislation in all 50 states and 1.25 million military community members hired. 

Serving military families appears to be something close to the incoming First Lady’s heart. Her father was a Navy Signalman during World War II. Her late Step-Son Beau was an officer in the Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq while her husband was the Vice President. Despite leaving Washington, D.C. behind in 2017 – and watching Joining Forces end – Biden continued her work with military families through the Biden Foundation.

When Biden was elected president, many within the military community began to speculate when and if now-FLOTUS would bring back Joining Forces. “Joe and I have always believed that as a nation, we have many obligations. But we only have one truly sacred obligation — to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families both while deployed and when they return home, because your sacrifice deserves nothing less,” Dr. Biden stated, speaking to the Military Child Education Coalition’s virtual conference on November 17, 2021. 

Just days ago, the Bidens officially relaunched Joining Forces.

On a call with military family organizations, Thursday January 14, 2021, Dr. Biden announced that an Executive Director for Joining Forces had been chosen. It was a familiar face; former Deputy Director of Joining Forces, Rory Brosius. “I know the love and strength and resilience that makes this community so unique, and it’s such a joy to be a part of it and a privilege to really have the chance to serve it,” Biden said during the virtual announcement

Brosius is a spouse to a Marine Corps veteran. “This is my community, and it’s one I care deeply for. The world has changed since Joining Forces started in 2011. And I know that we have work to do to make sure that we are as timely and as targeted as we need to be. I take my mandate and our bias for action very seriously,” Brosius said during the announcement.

Biden has stated in multiple interviews that there is more work to be done in order to adequately and effectively support military families. On the virtual call she stated that Joining Forces will “get to work on Day One.” 

The soon-to-be first lady appeared excited on the virtual call, sharing that, “The weight and the beauty of this responsibility, of the trust the American people have given us, will never leave me and I’m grateful and excited and most of all ready to get to work with all of you.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the Pentagon’s missile defense strategy

James H. Anderson, the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, spoke about the 2019 Missile Defense Review at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019. He noted that the strategy covers the Defense Department’s three lines of effort: lethality, partnership and reform.

Here are his main points:


The threat

China and Russia are developing advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons that can potentially overcome United States defenses. North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching the U.S. and could be armed with nuclear warheads. And, Iran’s space program could accelerate development of an ICBM system that might be able to reach the U.S.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

2019 missile defense review goal

Diplomacy and deterrence are the primary strategies to protect the nation, deployed forces and U.S. allies from missile attacks. Should that fail, the U.S. is developing a layered missile defense system as well as offensive capability.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

The ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee gold crew returns to its home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Jan. 11, 2019, following a strategic deterrence patrol.

(Photo by Bryan Tomforde)

Lethality strategy

• Upgrade existing radars and sensors

• Increase the number of ground-based interceptors by 20 to 64, along with developing a new kill vehicle for the GBI

• Develop small, high-energy lasers that can be fitted on unmanned aerial systems

• Arm F-35 Lightning II aircraft with tracking capabilities and possible missile intercept at the early boost stage

• Increase the Navy’s fleet of Aegis-equipped destroyers from 38 to 60

• Improve space-based sensors to detect and track missiles

• Conduct a feasibility study of space-based missile intercept capability

• Conduct a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA test against ICBMs by 2020

• Leverage the SM-6 for both defensive and strike operations.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

A Standard Missile 3 Block IIA launches from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, Dec. 10, 2018, during a test to intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in space.

(Photo by Ryan Keith)

Partnership strategy

To address regional threats and protect partners, Anderson said the U.S. will deploy additional terminal high altitude area defense, Patriot and Aegis Ashore platforms.

In turn, partner nations are building up their air and missile defenses, with the possibility of integrating them with U.S. systems. For example, he noted that NATO has an operational Aegis Ashore site in Romania. A second site, to be operational in about a year, is being built in Poland, which will house SM-3 Block IIA missiles. Denmark and the Netherlands have sea-based radar systems that can locate missiles.

Reform strategy

DOD must adopt processes and cultures that enable development and procurement of missile defense systems in a streamlined and cost-effective manner, Anderson said.

“We must not fear test failure, but learn from it and rapidly adjust,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Super Bowl commercial hit it out of the park

If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”


www.youtube.com

Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.

The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.

Others said the video didn’t line up with Johnny Cash’s politics or beliefs although Cash was always ambiguous about where he stood on the political spectrum.

Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.

Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.

Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:

“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”

“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.

The moving lyrics of the song:

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.

And it almost fell at the Alamo

Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam

She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she’s been abused
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land
And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in
‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines now have an anti-ship missile

The US Marine Corps plans to arm its forces with a new anti-ship missile that will allow US troops to sink enemy ships from shore-based launchers 100 miles away, a capability the Marines have been chasing with China’s growing navy in mind.

The Corps has decided to spend roughly $48 million on Raytheon’s Naval Strike Missile, a long-range precision strike missile the Navy ordered last year for its littoral combat ships and future frigates, Raytheon announced this week.

The service has made fielding this capability a priority.

“There’s a ground component to the maritime fight. You have to help the ships control sea space. And you can do that from the land,” Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller told USNI News earlier this year. “We’ve got to be able to attack surface platforms at range.”


Breaking Defense reported in January 2019 that the Marines were considering Lockheed Martin’s Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, the Naval Strike Missile, and Boeing’s Harpoon as options for the kind of capability the Corps desires as the US military readies itself to defeat a powerful rival like Russia or China.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

Army experiments with land-based launch of Naval Strike Missile during RIMPAC 2018.

(David Hogan, AMRDEC WDI)

The Naval Strike Missile, which was manufactured by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence Systems in partnership with Raytheon, carries a 275-pound warhead, has a range of over 100 nautical miles, and can be fired from ships and mobile shore-based launchers.

The Army experimented with a land-based launch of the Naval Strike Missile during last year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, when the weapon was fired from a truck at a decommissioned ship off Hawaii.

The Marines have yet to select a suitable mobile launch platform, which could be Lockheed’s M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or one of two large, heavy trucks from Oshkosh, Breaking Defense previously reported. The Corps told Military.com two years ago they wanted a launcher that could be easily moved by a V-22 Osprey.

The Corps still has some important experimentation and decision-making to do before the Naval Strike Missile can be effectively fielded from shore-based batteries.

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

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 2nd

Ah, springtime. It’s almost that beautiful time of year again.


Junior enlisted are happy, NCOs are yelling at them to downgrade to the summer PT uniform, and sergeant majors can finally see their beloved grass before a dumb butter bar walks on it. Rumor has it that the warrant officer might have even come out of hibernation!

For once, things are optimistic. Pizza MREs are coming, the Army is getting its Pinks and Greens back, and a sweet pay increase is coming. So, take it easy. Relax. Enjoy the smell of freshly cut memes.

13. Every. Single. Time.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

12. “What are they going to do? Kick me out — oh…”

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

11. Holding random clipboards or putting your cellphone up to your ear also works.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Walk with a sense of purpose and people will think you’re doing things. (Meme via Air Force Nation)

10. We get enough opinions from the “Good Idea Fairy;” we don’t need anymore.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Anyone who thinks any troops have feelings immediately loses their right to be heard. (Meme via Decelerate your Life)

9. The beard comes standard with every DD-214.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
The alcoholism never fades, though. (Meme via Reddit)

8. Any troop who says they haven’t had to open an MRE packet with their mouth is a damn liar.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
(Meme via Reddit)

7. Perfect, until you drop something…

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
(Meme via Reddit)

6. Will Gunny ever relax? Will we ever find the WO? Tune in next week.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
(Meme via Reddit)

5. They’re not mutually exclusive.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

4. Eye for an eye. Next time they try to miss formation and lie about being “at dental,” get their asses.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

3. If Big Army took the same approach, maybe everyone would get their SSD1 done.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

2. Roger. We get it. Can we go home already?

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
(Meme via The Salty Sailor)

1. POG is a state of mind, not an MOS.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Shots fired. (Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Air Force raises its remarkable working dogs

Candy is a military working dog with six deployments under her collar, and, on Nov. 9, she was finally able to rest her paws when she officially retired from duty during a ceremony.


Her career, like hundreds of canines before her, serves as a reminder of the power of these four-legged airmen.

 

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Candy, a military working dog assigned to the 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, receives an Air Force Commendation medal from the unit’s commander, Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Hamilton, during her retirement ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 9, 2017. Candy deployed six times across the Middle East and became one of the most experienced and decorated military working dogs in the Defense Department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lane Plummer)

For most of these working dogs, it all starts across the Atlantic Ocean. The Military Working Dog Buying Program will travel to European kennels to purchase canines for the Defense Department. In some cases, however, MWDs are born and raised at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where training occurs for both canines and their aspiring handlers. The way to tell the difference between foreign and domestic canines is in their name. For example, if their title is “MWD Kkeaton” or “MWD Ttoby,” the double consonant will signify they’re a dog raised through Lackland’s Puppy Program. Names without the double consonant are for all other adopted dogs.

After being adopted, the dogs live with foster families before the initial training regimen, which begins when they are 18-24 months old. Once they enter the training program, the dogs have 120 days to graduate.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Senior Airman Jordan Crouse pets his MWD Hector during a patrol dog certification qualification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Training Dogs, Handlers

During training, they learn all the basics. Basic commands, such as down, sit, and stay, are the starting point. Once they learn these commands, the canines begin learning more advanced techniques, such as patrol work, detection, and more. Successfully completing the four-month program means they’ll graduate and be assigned their base.

Simultaneously, aspiring dog handlers are training nearby. It was an experience that, for Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Pethtel, a dog handler with the 27th Special Operations Security Forces, was fun and filled with challenges for both canine and handler.

“It felt hard at times because you didn’t know how much work it takes to become [a handler],” Pethtel said. “I remember how nervous we’d be [when] pulling our first working dog.”

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Xxyliana, military working dog, Provost Marshal’s Office, sprints toward her target during a demonstration for the summer reading program at the Twentynine Palms Public Library, July 13, 2017. Xxyliana demonstrated her obedience to not only show what MWD’s are capable of, but to foster a positive relationship with the community. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Margaret Gale)

Before they get to handle their first working dog, the handlers must also learn the basics and proper commands. Not only that, they also must learn how to groom the dogs and keep them fit to fight.

When the newly trained dogs arrive at their first assignments, they will be assigned a handler and begin learning more advanced techniques.

Also Read: This is what happens to military working dogs after retirement

Teamwork

From there, it’s all about strengthening the bond between handler and canine. Just like airmen in an office, team chemistry is a vital component for these working dog teams to accomplish the mission. Between base patrols and deployments, the bond only strengthens each time they put their bulletproof armor on.

“When we do convoys, canines lead,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Little, a 27th SOSFS dog handler. “When we’re downrange, dog teams lead the way. It’s one of the most vital components to any mission they’re involved in.”

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

It’s an honor that Candy, one of the most experienced and decorated military working dogs in the DoD, had one last time before she traded in those heavy vests for a simple collar and leash. After eight years of service, she received an Air Force Commendation Medal and retired to her new home in Colorado with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Fehringer, one of her former handlers.

From puppy to airman, the career cycle of these canine service members is long and arduous and requires as much sacrifice as the thousands of human airmen they serve and protect.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Putin tells officials to ‘get ready’ for fight; Iran urges IMF to move on emergency loan

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.

“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.

Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.

Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.

In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.

Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.

“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.

Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”

“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.

“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.

“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.

The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.

On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.

More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.

The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.

Romania

Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”

Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

North Caucasus

A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.

Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.

The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.

Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.

Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.

He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.

He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite threats to carriers, 2 of them are flexing at China

The US Navy just released an impressive video of two of its aircraft carriers exercising in the Philippine Sea, but a new report from the US government said these massive floating air bases could be sitting ducks for Chinese missiles.

The USS Ronald Reagan and the USS John C. Stennis carrier strike groups conducted “high-end dual carrier operations” during the training in November 2018, a US Navy statement said.


The two carrier strike groups include guided-missile destroyers — meant to protect the carriers and other important assets — which trained with the carrier’s complex air, surface and antisubmarine warfare operations, according to the Navy.

The Navy said the exercise was dedicated to preserving a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which has become code for countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

But even with two massive carriers, eight other ships, and about 150 aircraft flying overhead, the US government itself strains to believe it can stop China from locking down the region.

“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” a report from the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts handpicked by Congress to evaluate the 2018 National Defense Strategy — explained.

The report specifically points to “China’s anti-access/area-denial capabilities,” or Beijing’s ability to use long-range missiles to keep US systems, like aircraft carriers, out of the combat zone.

These area-denial capabilities have taken aim at the US’ most expensive, most powerful, and most vulnerable systems: aircraft carriers.

China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” missile was specifically built to destroy aircraft carriers. While the carriers sail with guided-missile destroyers meant to protect them from incoming missile fires, there’s no guarantee they could block the carrier killers. Even if the destroyers could knock them down, China has a massive fleet of these missiles and could simply overwhelm the ships’ defensive arsenals.

The DF-21D has a range of about 800 miles, and with the max range of US Navy carrier aircraft tapping out at about 550 miles, China can force the US to either back down from a fight or risk losing a carrier.

“Detailed, rigorous operational concepts for solving these problems and defending U.S. interests are badly needed, but do not appear to exist,” the report wrote of the area-denial missiles and other threats to the US.

“Put bluntly, the U.S. military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights,” the report concludes.

Here’s the video of the carriers training in the Philippine Sea:

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fmedia%2Fthumbs%2Fframes%2Fvideo%2F1811%2F640845%2F1000w_q75.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.dvidshub.net&s=925&h=2dcfab797ffdb5ff92c7c524ab64c67e654febc489e12241cf73ae6c6f4e156e&size=980x&c=456130137 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fmedia%252Fthumbs%252Fframes%252Fvideo%252F1811%252F640845%252F1000w_q75.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fcdn.dvidshub.net%26s%3D925%26h%3D2dcfab797ffdb5ff92c7c524ab64c67e654febc489e12241cf73ae6c6f4e156e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D456130137%22%7D” expand=1]USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan dual carrier strike force exercise.

www.dvidshub.net

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

The algorithms that played a major role in allowing a supermassive black hole to be photographed for the first time were largely designed three years ago by a graduate student in her 20s.

Katie Bouman, now 29, was studying computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and she worked at the school’s Haystack Observatory.


This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

Scientists published the first image of a black hole. The image captured Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87.

(Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration)

In the search for a way to capture an image of the black hole, located 55 million light-years away in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, astronomers at MIT took part in the Event Horizon Telescope project, but they faced a serious problem.

They needed to stitch together millions of gigabytes’ worth of data captured by telescopes located all over the world.

Bouman had the solution: Find a way to stitch the data about the black hole together pixel by pixel.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

Katie Bouman.

(TED/YouTube)

“We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image,”Bouman told CNN.

“We didn’t want to just develop one algorithm. We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them.”

“If all of them recover the same general structure, then that builds your confidence.”

Vincent Fish, a scientist at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, told CNN that Bouman was “a major part of one of the imaging subteams.”

Fish told CNN that senior scientists worked on the project too, but the specific task of imaging the black hole was predominantly run by junior researchers like Bouman.

“One of the insights Katie brought to our imaging group is that there are natural images,” Fish said.

“Just think about the photos you take with your camera phone, they have certain properties.” He added: “If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it.”

CNN reported that Bouman would begin teaching as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology in the fall.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Almost every NFL player stood for the national anthem on Veterans Day

The NFL take-a-knee protests dropped off dramatically Sunday, with all but a handful of players standing for the national anthem as teams pulled out the stops to honor the military for Veterans Day.


As of Sunday afternoon, only three players — the San Francisco 49ers’ Eric Reid and Marquise Goodwin and the New York Giants’ Olivier Vernon — had refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That was down from 15 players the week before, according to the ESPN tally.

The three represented the lowest number of kneelers since Week One of the NFL season, when three players sat or took a knee during the national anthem.

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who has refused to stand all season in a protest against racial and social injustice, told reporters that he made an exception for Veterans Day.

“It was to signify that we are all with the military and that we love them,” Bennett told the Tacoma [Washington] News Tribune after Thursday’s game. “There’s been this narrative that we don’t care about the military. Today we were honoring the military.”

The pro-military celebrations came amid calls to boycott the NFL for Veterans Day over the take-a-knee protests.

In a joint statement, the NFL and NFLPA said Saturday that there was “no change” in its national-anthem policy, which says players “should” stand but does not require them to do so.

Still, there was plenty of patriotic feeling at the Week 10 games, which were marked by ceremonies to commemorate the military as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service month.

At least two teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins, invited hundreds of new military recruits to take their oath of enlistment on the field.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Service members, firemen and police officers participate in a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks before a Jacksonville Jaguars NFL game. More than 300 Sailors from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay participated in a pre-game and halftime performance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr./Released)

Players were joined by military personnel as they ran out of their tunnels before the games; coaches and cheerleaders wore camouflage gear, and camouflage Salute to Service ribbons decorated items including footballs, helmets, pylons and goal-post wraps.

Players wore helmet decals honoring military branches. Each player on the Atlanta Falcons wore a helmet decal with the initials of a fallen hero.

Some celebrations were more spontaneous. After a touchdown, Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate gave a four-way salute from the end zone to the fans.

The NFL said it would donate $5 to its military non-profit partners, including the Pat Tillman Foundation, the USO, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and the Wounded Warrior Project, for every #SalutetoService tweet.

“Honoring the military is part of the fabric of the NFL,” said the league in a statement. “This support takes place both at home and abroad, with NFL players and coaches traveling overseas to salute the troops, as well as with team recognition of our servicemen and women through the NFL’s Salute to Service.”

Also Read: This NFL star trying to eat an MRE will crack you up

Since 2011, the NFL said it has raised more than $17 million for charity through its Salute to Service program.

The ESPN count on those kneeling came before the Sunday night game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, all of whose players have stood for the anthem in recent weeks.

The Monday night game could bring up the total: Playing the Carolina Panthers are the Miami Dolphins, whose team includes three players who have frequently taken a knee during the anthem.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

From their outpost on Iraq’s westernmost edge, U.S. 1st Lt. Kyle Hagerty and his troops watched civilians trickle into the area after American and Iraqi forces drove out the Islamic State group. They were, he believed, families returning to liberated homes, a hopeful sign of increasing stability.


But when he interviewed them on a recent reconnaissance patrol, he discovered he was wrong. They were families looking for shelter after being driven from their homes in a nearby town. Those who pushed them out were forces from among their “liberators” — Shiite militiamen who seized control of the area after defeating the IS militants.

It was a bitter sign of the mixed legacy from the United States’ intervention in Iraq to help defeat the militants. American-backed military firepower brought down the IS “caliphate,” but many of the divisions and problems that helped fuel the extremists’ rise remain unresolved.

The U.S.-led coalition, which launched its fight against IS in August 2014, is now reducing the numbers of American troops in Iraq, after Baghdad declared victory over the extremists. Both Iraqi and U.S. officials say the exact size of the drawdown has not yet been decided.

Also read: Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

U.S. and Iraqi commanders here in western Iraq warn that victories over IS could be undercut easily by a large-scale withdrawal. Iraq’s regular military remains dependent on U.S. support. Many within Iraq’s minority communities view the U.S. presence as a buffer against the Shiite-dominated central government. Still, Iranian-backed militias with strong voices in Baghdad are pushing for a complete U.S. withdrawal, and some Iraqis liken any American presence to a form of occupation.

That has left an uncomfortable limbo in this area that was the last battlefield against the extremists. Coalition commanders still work with Iraqi forces to develop long-term plans for stability even as a drawdown goes ahead with no one certain of its eventual extent.

Hearts and minds — again

“Let’s go win us some hearts and minds,” Sgt. Jonathan Cary, 23, joked as he and Hagerty and the patrol convoy set off from a base outside the town of Qaim, evoking a phrase used in American policy goals for Iraq ever since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
U.S. Army military police provide crowd control while Iraqi citizens line up for food and water being distributed to citizens in need in April 2003. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson.)

After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.

“Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?” Hagerty said later, back at the base. “But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves.”

After victories against IS, the PMF has built up a presence in many parts of Sunni-majority provinces, including western Anbar. It formally falls under the command of the prime minister, but some Iraqi commanders accuse the PMF of being a rival to government power.

PMF flags line highways crisscrossing Anbar. At a PMF checkpoint outside al-Asad airbase — a sprawling complex used by both Iraqi and coalition forces — U.S. convoys are regularly stopped for hours while busloads of PMF fighters are waved through.

U.S. Marine Col. Seth Folsom works closely with the branches of Iraq’s security forces — Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi army — who are increasingly concerned about the rise in power of the PMF. Iran has given no indication of dialing back its support after the defeat of IS extremists.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
Popular Mobilization Forces fire a mortar during the Hawija offensive in 2017. (VOA photo by Dlshad Anwar)

“The biggest question I get now is, ‘how long can we count on you being here?'” Folsom said of his conversations with Iraqi commanders and local politicians.

That decision ultimately rests with Iraq’s political leadership, he said.

“I guess some people could see that as a cop-out, but at the same time it’s not my place as a lowly colonel to define how long the U.S. presence is going to be.”

‘Forward line of freedom’

For the senior officers leading the current fight against IS, decades of U.S. military intervention in Iraq has defined their careers.

The top U.S. general in Iraq — Lt. Gen. Paul Funk — served in Iraq four times: in the Gulf war in 1991; in the 2003 invasion; in the surge when some 170,000 American troops were serving in Iraq in 2007; and most recently in the fight against IS.

Related: The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

“It will definitely be positive,” Funk said of the legacy of the U.S. role against IS in Iraq. “People see their young men and women out here defeating evil. That’s a positive thing.”

On a recent flight from Baghdad to a small U.S. outpost in northern Syria near Manbij — a trip that traversed the heart of the battlefield with IS for the past 3½ years — Funk described the future of the fight as ideological and open-ended.

“The problem is people believe it’s already over, and it’s not,” he said. “Beating the ideology, destroying the myth, that’s going to take time.”

Touching down outside an orchard on the perimeter of the Manbij base, Funk exclaimed: “Welcome to the front line of freedom!”

Funk predicts the ideological fight could take years and easily require U.S. troop deployments elsewhere. He said that is one reason he believes it’s so important to visit U.S. troops on the current front lines — to show them “the American people believe in their purpose.”

“We have got to recruit the next generation,” he said.

More reading: This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

Many of the young U.S. troops interviewed by The Associated Press said they didn’t know anything about the Islamic State group when they enlisted.

Rayden Simeona, a 21-year-old corporal in the Marines, enlisted in 2014, when all he knew about the U.S. military was from movies and video games.

“I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with my life, I had no idea what IS was. I just knew I wanted to go to war,” he said. Once deployed, he said talk rarely broached the big questions of “What we are doing here?” or “Why?”

“But I do wonder all the time: Why are we spending all this money in Iraq?” he said. “There’s probably some greater plan or reason that someone much higher up than me knows.”

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Along Iraq’s border with Syria, the two Iraqi forces charged with holding a key stretch of territory lack direct communication. Because one force falls under the Defense Ministry and the other under the Interior Ministry, their radios are incompatible.

Instead, the troops use Nokia cellphones in a part of the country where network coverage is spotty to nonexistent.

At the nearby coalition outpost near Qaim, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brandon Payne spends much of his time filling communications gaps by relaying messages between different branches of Iraq’s military.

“The coordination is not where we hoped it would be,” Payne said. “But they do talk to each other, and we see that as a sign of progress.”

Tactical shortcomings within Iraq’s military are partially what fueled the expansion of the coalition’s footprint in Iraq in the past three years. As Iraqi ground forces demonstrated an inability to communicate and coordinate attacks across multiple fronts, U.S. forces moved closer to the fighting and sped up the pace of territorial gains.

Despite the caliphate’s collapse, those weaknesses have persisted. Iraqi forces remain dependent on coalition intelligence, reconnaissance, artillery fire, and airstrikes to hold territory and fight IS insurgent cells.

Payne regularly shuttles between his base, Qaim and the Syrian border, meeting with different members of Iraqi forces to coordinate security and repel IS attacks from the Syrian side.

Read more: ISIS’ last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

“I would say we are still needed,” Payne said. “We are getting great results with this model, but you see how much goes into it.”

The base, once a small, dusty outpost, now houses a few hundred coalition troops and is a maze of barracks, gyms, a dining facility, laundry services and a chapel.

“At some point, someone much higher up than me is going to decide the juice is just not worth the squeeze,” Payne said, referring to the cost of such a large outpost in a remote corner of the country.

Rotten leadership

Iraqi army Lt. Col. Akram Salah Hadi, who works closely with Payne’s soldiers at the Qaim outpost, said coalition training and intelligence sharing have improved the performance of his unit. But overall, the U.S. effort in Iraq gives him little hope for the future.

Corruption in the military, Hadi said, remains as bad as it was in 2014, when it was seen as a major reason why entire Iraqi divisions simply dissolved in the assault on Mosul by a few hundred IS fighters.

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome
This soldier instructs a motivated group of Iraqi troops. (Image from DoD)

Young Iraqi soldiers with ambition and talent can’t rise through the ranks without political connections. Top ranks are bloated with officers who have bought their promotions. Within his division alone, Hadi said he can think of 40 officers with no military background who attained their rank because of their membership in a political party.

“With leadership like this, the rest will always be rotten,” he said.

Coalition programs that have trained tens of thousands of Iraqi troops have largely focused on the infantry, not the junior officers needed to lead units and instill a culture of service that will make a professional force.

Folsom, the U.S. Marine colonel, said military power will not root out corruption or heal Iraq’s longstanding divisions.

“I have a saying out here,” he added, “‘You can’t want it more than them.'”

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. officially withdraws from Open Skies Treaty; Moscow says ‘All options are open to us’

The United States formally withdrew on November 22 from the Open Skies Treaty, an 18-year-old arms control and verification agreement that Washington repeatedly accused Moscow of violating.

The withdrawal is the latest blow to the system of international arms control that U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly scorned, complaining that Washington was being either deceived or unfairly restrained in its military capabilities.

The U.S. State Department confirmed the move, noting six months had expired since notice of the pending exit had been issued and saying “the U.S. withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies.”

The National Security Council confirmed the withdrawal and added that “Russia flagrantly violated [the treaty] for years.”

It quoted national-security adviser Robert O’Brien as saying the move was part of an effort to “put America first by withdrawing us from outdated treaties and agreements that have benefited our adversaries at the expense of our national security.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21 announced the U.S. intention to withdraw and gave the six-month notification to Open Skies’ 34 other members, as required under the treaty’s rules.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. decision.

“Washington has made its move. Neither European security nor the security of the United States and its allies themselves have benefited from it. Now many in the West are wondering what Russia’s reaction will be. The answer is simple. We have repeatedly emphasized that all options are open to us,” the ministry said in a statement on November 22.

Signed in 1992, the treaty, which entered into force in 2002, allows its 34 members to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation and surveillance flights over one another’s territories, to collect data on military forces and activities. More than 1,500 flights have taken place under the agreement.

The treaty’s proponents say the flights help build confidence by showing that, for example, adversaries are not secretly deploying forces or preparing to launch attacks.

But its critics, particularly among U.S. Republicans, have asserted the treaty has been violated repeatedly, first and foremost by Moscow.

In his May statement, Pompeo charged that Russian violations included restrictions on flights near breakaway regions over Georgia, along Russia’s southern borders, and limits on the lengths of flights over the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

“Russia has consistently acted as if it were free to turn its obligations off and on at will,” he said.

Arms control experts have said while some of the U.S. complaints have merit, others are misleading. And U.S. military and intelligence agencies will lose an important source of data by not being party to the treaty, they said, and NATO allies support the agreement.

“While Russia has violated the treaty, the United States has reciprocated. NATO allies support the treaty — which focuses first and foremost on enhancing European security — and wish the United States to remain a party,” Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador and arms control expert, said in commentary published last week.

The Trump administration has targeted several international treaties over the past four years, most notably the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key Cold War agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union.

After years of complaining that Russia had secretly designed, then deployed, a treaty-violating missile, Washington withdrew in 2019 and the treaty collapsed.

Another more consequential treaty, the New START agreement, is also set to expire in February 2021, and U.S. and Russian officials have been struggling to find a way to keep it intact.

But Trump administration officials want to expand the treaty to include China. And they have also sent mixed signals about new conditions for extending New START, something Moscow has rejected.

Adding to the uncertainty is Trump’s expected departure from the White House on January 21, 2021, when Democrat Joe Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated and take office.

Biden has signaled support for extending New START and preserving other treaties.

“Instead of tearing up treaties that make us and our allies more secure, President Trump…should remain in the Open Skies Treaty and work with allies to confront and resolve problems regarding Russia’s compliance,” Biden said in a statement in May.

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

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