This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Whether she’d posted a personal-best time or suffered a collision on the track, Emily Sweeney would flash her trademark smile to fans, media, or anyone who watched her compete. Even when sliding during frigid winter storms in challenging conditions, the New York National Guard Soldier kept smiling.


But for six months during the winter and spring of 2014, that bright-eyed grin couldn’t hide bitter disappointment.

A charismatic Olympic hopeful, Sweeney had entered the 2013 World Cup season as a favorite to make the 2014 Winter Games. When Sweeney lost the final spot on the 2014 U.S. Luge Team, missing the Olympics for the second time, she shut herself off from the sport to which she had dedicated most of her life.

“It’s something that I’ve wanted for so long and it’s something that’s very tangible for me,” said Sweeney, who in December, finally qualified to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

For Sweeney, the road to PyeongChang could be described as anything but easy.

Tough matchup hits close to home

Photos and murals of past Olympians adorn the walls of the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. Medals of previous Olympic greats in bobsled, figure skating, and luge sit encased in the facility’s trophy room.

Some former Olympic competitors still work at the facility, including former silver medalist Gordy Sheer, Team USA’s director of marketing and sponsorship. Sweeney, like other Olympic hopefuls, spent much of her youth here.

As a seven year old, Emily idolized her older sister, Megan, who competed in the luge program at the junior levels. She later joined the USA Luge program herself, after participating in a “slider search” in Rhode Island at age 10. Her sister remained a hero to her.

“I wouldn’t be here or be the person I am today without her,” Emily said. “I was really pushed by Megan from early on because I saw the potential of what I could be through her and that was really inspiring to me.”

After she turned 16, Sweeney showcased tremendous speed on luge tracks across the globe. And she demonstrated enormous potential in the sport in her first year competing.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Sgt. Emily Sweeney (left) is congratulated by her sister, Megan, after qualifying for the 2018 Winter Games in luge women’s singles Dec. 16 at Lake Placid, New York. Emily missed making the 2010 Games in Vancouver after losing to Megan in a race off. Emily Sweeney makes her Olympic debut next month in PyeongChang, South Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jennily Leon)

During the 2009 World Cup season, Sweeney began competing at a higher level. She built her luge resume by nabbing Norton Junior World Champion honors and earning bronze medals at the Junior World Cup in Winterberg, Germany and a gold medal at Park City, Utah.

And during the 2009 season, Emily began to beat her older sister and some of her national team peers during practice runs and some competitions. During one World Cup competition in Park City, Utah, she called her parents with concerns about competing with her sister and hero.

“She was very upset,” said Sweeney’s mother, Sue. “She was worried that she was going to beat Megan in the race and it would be the end of Megan’s (Olympic bid).”

Dreams of the Olympics, of course, had always been on her sister’s mind, and her own as well.

“I’ve always wanted that moment of walking in on opening ceremonies,” said Sweeney. “That is the epitome of what I want … to walk in with my whole team and have ‘USA’ on our backs.”

Later that year, during the final World Cup competition in Lillehammer, the final two spots for the 2010 Olympic team came down to two competitors. Both wore the name “Sweeney” on their uniforms.

Also Read: This Army athlete was awarded the same Olympic silver medal twice

Jarred by the prospect of beating her idol, the sisters made a pact to leave everything on the floor on their next competition.

Emily went on to lose to her sister in a race off at the Olympiacenter in Norway, falling by two tenths of a second. Due to a medical waiver, another team member took the final spot for the 2010 Vancouver team, while Emily remained on stand-by as an Olympic alternate. Emily still traveled to British Columbia to cheer on her sister from the stands.

“Going to the Olympics and watching her was difficult,” Emily said. “I’m glad I went, I’m glad I supported her. I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But it was tough standing on the other side of the track watching my dream happen.”

After she missed a shot at Vancouver, Emily would make a life decision that would set the foundation for life after luge.

An athlete and a soldier

Jack Sweeney, Emily’s grandfather, had long been an inspiration in Emily’s life. While she would prepare meals for him, he’d relay stories to her about his days in the Navy. Emily said her grandfather instilled in her a sense of pride for her country and also inspired her to join the Army National Guard.

Joining the military sparked a change in Emily. She often took a leadership role during basic combat trainng at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She did the same during her advanced individual training there, where she learned to be a military policeman. She even graduated with honors from the Army’s military police school.

Once in the Army, Emily also opted to join the World Class Athlete Program.

“I thought it was a great avenue of opportunity,” Emily said of her decision to join the Army. “I knew I wanted to continue being an athlete, but I didn’t want to only be an athlete. I wanted something else to pursue beyond my athletic career.”

After joining the Guard, Emily became more of a leader for USA Luge as well, not only competing for the program, but also helping the program identify and recruit talented youth to the sport during talent searches.

Sochi slips away

Around Thanksgiving 2013, Sweeney knew it. Her parents, as they checked at the World Cup standings online also knew: Emily would not be competing at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Sgt. Emily Sweeney waves to the crowd at the Lake Placid Olympic Center Dec. 16. Sweeney qualified for her first Olympics Dec. 14 and will join fellow Army World Class Athletes Taylor Morris and Matt Mortensen in PyeongChang, South Korea. (U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)

A season that began with promise, instead led to complications with her sled, dealing with minor injuries and slower finish times on the World Cup circuit.

After her final races had finished for 2013, Sweeney sat in her hotel room. Her boyfriend, Italian luge team member Dominik Fischnaller, brought her a cup of her favorite ice cream.

And then for six months, Sweeney walked away from the sport to which she had dedicated a great chunk of her childhood. Instead of weight training and spending hours on the track, Sweeney removed herself from any luge or exercise activities. Instead, she retreated to her home in Lake Placid and contemplated her future in the sport.

“I went from being an Olympic hopeful, training at 100 percent,” Emily said, “to just stopping everything.

“I was really at a point where I said, ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point of doing this if I’m not getting the results I’m wanting?’ It took a while, I closed myself off.”

She began working as a waitress and hostess at local restaurants. And while she’d visit her ailing grandfather in neighboring Saranac Lake, she mostly cut herself off from family and dealt with struggles the best way she knew: internally.

“We lost her for a while,” Sue said. “It was tough. She didn’t even watch the (2014 Winter) Games.”

“Emily had to refine her sliding and her motivation,” Megan said. “It took her a long time. But I think that’s normal when you have a dream and become so disappointed … It was very, very tough because she knows she’s good.”

The Army gets her rolling

In May 2014, Emily remained withdrawn from the luge community. It would be just the wakeup call she needed to get back on track with her sport.

She received orders to attend Warrior Leader Course (now the Basic Leader Course) that spring at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During the month-long course, she took tests on her leadership skills, land navigation and various drills to prepare to become a noncommissioned officer .

After giving up her strict luge-related training routine and regular exercising, Emily had lost muscle mass. She’d dropped 20 pounds from her 5-foot-5-inch frame. As a result, for the first time since enlisting in the Guard, she failed to score a 300 on her Army Physical Fitness Test.

“(WLC) kind of pulled me out,” said Sweeney. “It gave me a schedule that I had to adhere to again. I kind of got back into the military mode and then after that I got back into my training.”

Shortly after graduating WLC, Sweeney resumed luge-related activities. She began lifting weights again, and changed her routine, and began working out at JEKL gym in Plainville, Connecticut. There Sweeney took part in grueling gymnastics-based training to strengthen her core muscles using various gymnastics apparatus pieces including rings, the high bar and parallel bars.

“It definitely put me in my place pretty quickly,” Sweeney said.

The old Emily had returned, away from the luge track too. She began reconnecting with friends. She spoke with family members more often.

And that familiar smile came back.

“Everybody always kids her about her smile — she always has a big smile on her face,” said her mother, Sue. “But it’s true — it’s part of who she is. Once you start to see her smile coming back, you know she’s starting to feel much more like herself.”

In December 2015, during World Cup competition on their home track in Lake Placid, Sweeney and teammates Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher swept the field. It marked the first time the U.S. women knocked out the dominant German team.

“We’re more of a force to be reckoned with now,” Sweeney said.

During a fall, Sweeney suffered injury to her wrist that required surgery in 2016, proving to be a minor setback. But she bounced back to stellar marks in 2017.

“The (wrist) injury really didn’t worry me,” USA Luge coach Bill Tavares said. “For her it was all mental. When I knew that she was mentally strong coming into this year then there was no worry on my part.”

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Sgt. Emily Sweeney receives congratulations after competing in a sprint run race Dec. 16 at the Lake Placid Olympic Center. Sweeney qualified for her first Olympics after not making the 2010 and 2014 teams. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jennily Leon)

Hitting her stride

The 4,242-foot luge course in Winterberg, Germany presents a daunting challenge to competitive lugers. Those who accept its challenge must enter the course’s labyrinth in near-perfect form. In November, Sweeney and her USA teammates traveled to Winterberg to face the mighty German team that built an Olympic juggernaut on this course.

At the track’s midpoint, a turn drops competitors into the labyrinth where sled speeds multiply.

After placing second earlier in the World Cup competition at on this track, mishaps on one of her runs sent Sweeney tumbling out of contention and she thought she missed her chance to clinch an Olympic berth.

But then she bounced back later that day to take her first World Cup gold in the sprint race, upsetting 2014 Olympic champion, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, on her home course. Instead, her shot at an Olympic berth would have to wait.

Also Read: These 5 military drills would be amazing Olympic events

When dealing with the difficult highs and lows of competing against the best in the world, she turned to Grandpa Sweeney. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.

“He’s probably a big part of her personality,” Sue said. “He’s always been one of her best friends. And she’s looked to him for advice.”

As Sweeney begins final preparations for the Winter Games, she will do so with a heavy heart. Jack Sweeney passed away at age 88 on Jan. 3. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.

Olympian at last

Sweeney learned that she had reached the pinnacle of her career unceremoniously — not by an announcement on the track, or from posting a career-best time — but in a text.

Dec. 14, after having dinner with her parents and returning to the Lake Placid training facility, Sweeney received a message from her mother, Sue.

“See you in PyeongChang,” the text read.

Sweeney’s mother had been tracking the Nation’s Cup live stream on her phone. The Nation’s Cup was a pre-qualifying event for the World Cup later that week. Had Raychel Germaine qualified for the World Cup, she could have potentially knocked Emily out of Olympic competition. But she didn’t, and the final Olympic women’s luge slot went to Emily.

 

(The U.S. Army | YouTube)

“It was just a peaceful moment,” Sweeney said, “I was stunned.”

She received congratulations from Fischnaller, her boyfriend of eight years. Then came a flood of 30 messages and well wishes from family, friends and teammates.

“I’m really happy for her,” teammate Summer Britcher said. “I know how hard she works. I’m very happy that she’s met this goal and I’m really excited to compete alongside her in (32) days.”

Sweeney will join 2014 Bronze medalist Hamlin and Britcher on the USA roster in PyeongChang in February. The impact of reaching her dream did not hit her until after finishing World Cup competition in the women’s sprint race Dec. 16, Sue Sweeney said.

A heavy snow blanketed Lake Placid’s Mount Van Hoevenberg Dec. 16, and athletes faced a wind chill so bitter that exposed fingers and toes could feel like frozen blocks of ice. During the women’s sprint race, Sweeney posted an efficient run in these slick conditions, but a mishap at turn seven hurt her final time, eventually knocking her out of sprint qualification. Unfazed, she posted a better time in her second run.

The weight of realizing her Olympic dream began to creep in. Still clad in her helmet and orange and blue leotard, Sweeney waved to her 80 supporters, family and friends. And once more she flashed her wide grin.

“Emily’s missed two Olympic teams very narrowly,” Sheer said. “In 2014 … that was a real tough one for her. It takes a certain type of person to be able to bounce back from something like that and to be able to keep fighting and I give her all the credit in the world.”

Then after 15 minutes of speaking with local and national media members, Sweeney locked arms with her older sister, rosy-cheeked from the stinging wind chill. Standing amid swirling snowflakes, Megan whispered into her younger sister’s ear:

“I’m so proud of you,” Megan said.

Next stop: South Korea

When Emily dons the USA colors at PyeongChang next month, she knows he will be representing more than herself. She will also represent WCAP, the National Guard and the U.S. Army. Sweeney, who currently ranks eighth in the International Luge Federation women’s singles, will join fellow WCAP athletes Matt Mortensen in men’s doubles and singles competitor Taylor Morris.

At 24, the Olympics will wrap Sweeney’s fourteenth year in the sport and she plans to bring home a medal for her team.

“Going to the Olympics isn’t enough for me,” Sweeney said “I want to go to the Olympics and do something. So it’s not over — the work isn’t over.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Royal Navy blow up a WWII-era bomb at sea

An unexploded World War II bomb that forced a London Airport to close was detonated at sea by the Royal Navy on Feb. 14, 2018.


The 500-kilogram, 1.5-meter-long tapered-end shell was blown up with high-grade military detonators off the coast of Essex, where the bomb was transported.

The explosion took place around midday. The navy released video footage of its bomb disposal experts blowing up the device with high-grade military detonators.

 

The device was first discovered buried in dense silt on Feb. 11, 2018 near London City Airport’s runway, located by the River Thames.

Also read: The world’s most expensive bomber traces its roots to World War II

The airport closed that night and all of Feb. 12, 2018 so Royal Navy bomb disposal experts could remove the device.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
A Royal Navy bomb disposal team return to the shore after destroying the bomb. (Crown Copyright)

Divers removed the ordnance with a lifting bag on Feb. 12, dragged it down the Thames overnight, and took it to Shoeburyness, a coastal town 60 kilometers east of the bomb’s original location.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Royal Navy bomb disposal experts return after detonating the device. (Crown Copyright)

The area where London City Airport stands used to be an industrial center, and it came under heavy bombardment from German planes during the war. Unexploded bombs still occasionally turn up during construction work.

Articles

Athlete dedicates Invictus medals to soldier who saved his life

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics


As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.

Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.

Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling.  And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.

In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.

Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.

Lifesaver

“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”

Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”

Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.

“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”

He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.

“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s high-tech new torpedo is back after six years

The U.S. Navy is now engineering a new, longer range and more lethal submarine-launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, subs and incoming weapons at longer ranges, service officials said.


Many details of the new weapon, which include newer propulsion mechanisms and multiple kinds of warheads, are secret and not publicly available. However, senior Navy leaders have previously talked to Scout Warrior about the development of the weapon in a general sense.

Naturally, having a functional and more high-tech lethal torpedo affords the Navy an opportunity to hit enemies at further standoff ranges and better compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.

Progress with new torpedo technologies is happening alongside a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal and re-start production of the Mk 48, which had been on hiatus for several years.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
A MK 48 ADCAP torpedo is unloaded from the fast-attack submarine USS Annapolis by Sailors from the Submarine Base New London weapons department during a snowstorm.

Navy officials did add that some of the improvements to the torpedo relate to letting more water into the bottom of the torpedo as opposed to letting air out the top.

The earlier version, the Mk 48 Mod 6, has been operational since 1997 – and the more recent Mod 7 has been in service since 2006.

Lockheed has been working on upgrades to the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7 – which consists of adjustments to the guidance control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver and amplifier components.

Lockheed developers told Scout Warrior last year that Lockheed is now delivering 20-upgrade kits per month to the Navy.

Part of the effort, which involves a five-year deal between the Navy and Lockheed, includes upgrading existing Mod 6 torpedoes to Mod 7 as well as buying brand new Mod 7 guidance control sections.

The new Mod 7 is also resistant to advanced enemy countermeasures.

Also Read: This is what makes the Mark 48 one of the deadliest torpedoes ever built

Modifications to the weapon improves the acoustic receiver, replaces the guidance-and-control hardware with updated technology, increases memory, and improves processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to Navy information on the weapon.

The Mod also provides a significant reduction in torpedo radiated-noise signatures, a Navy statement said.

Alongside Lockheed’s work to upgrade the guidance technology on the torpedo, the Navy is also preparing to to build new Mk 48s.

Upgrades to the guidance control section in includes the integration of a system called Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS – electronics to go into the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance section, Lockheed developers explained.

This technology provides streamlined targeting and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider frequency band, Lockheed engineers said.

The new technology involves adjustments to the electronic circuitry in order to make the acoustic signals that are received from the system that allow the torpedo to better operate in its undersea environment.

Upgrades also consist of movement to what’s called an “Otto fuel propulsion system,” Lockheed officials added.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
US Navy torpedo retrievers secure a Mark 48 to the deck of their boat (Photo US Navy)

Lockheed will deliver about 250 torpedoes over the next five years. The Mk 48, which is a heavy weapon launched under the surface, is quite different than surface launched, lightweight Mk 54 torpoes fired from helicopters, aircraft and surface ships.

The Navy’s Mk 48 torpedo is also in service with Australia, Canada, Brazil and The Netherlands.

A Mk 48 torpedo is 21 inches in diameter and weighs 3,520 pounds; it can destroy targets at ranges out to five miles and travels at speeds greater than 28 knots. The weapon can operate at depths greater than 1,200 feet and fires a 650-pound high-explosive warhead.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The Warrior Games trials have begun

More than 120 wounded warriors from the Air Force and Army gathered March 1, 2019, to officially open the sixth annual Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base.

The Air Force Trials, which run through March 7, 2019, are part of an adaptive and resiliency sports program designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of the wounded, ill and injured service members who participate.


This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Retired Capt. Rob Hufford, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program ambassador and athlete, celebrates as he is honored for his Invictus Games achievements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Paralympic-style competitive event showcases the resiliency of wounded warriors and highlights the effectiveness of adaptive sports as part of their recovery. It also highlights the impact the Wounded Warrior program, or AFW2, has in helping with the restorative care of wounded warriors enrolled in the program.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Members from the Air Force Wounded Warrior team pay respect to the flag during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

The Trials are also a test of the athletes’ resiliency, strength, and endurance, according to Col. Michael Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director.

“It’s vitally important for their recovery we rebuild their sense of purpose, their sense of self and their sense of confidence,” said Flatten, during remarks at the ceremony. “Everybody in the world is going to tell them what they can’t do, we’re here to tell them what they can.”

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

A member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team glides into the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The event features 10 different adaptive sports: powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair rugby, swimming, shooting, rowing, track and field, archery, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball.

The Air Force Trials is the primary selection location for the 40 primary and 10 alternate members of Team Air Force at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey, Air Force Personnel Center command chief, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

“It’s an awesome day here at Nellis,” said Air Force Personnel Center command chief Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey. “The intent of this event is to promote the health, wellness and recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans,” said Lindsey. “During these trials, participants will build comradery and confidence as they continue to recover.”

This year, the participants are made up of 53 active duty, 15 Air National Guard and Reserve and 72 Air Force veterans. Also attending the Trials are 32 caregivers, who play an important role in athlete care and recovery.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Col. Michael J. Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

During the ceremony, the athletes were recognized by service, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue performed a parachute demonstration, two HH-60 Pave Hawks from the 66th Rescue Squadron flew a two-ship formation and the Trials torch, carried by Air Force members from the 2018 U.S. Invictus Team, was lit.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Athletes pose for a group photo during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Trials are part of the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior program (AFW2), which is a congressionally mandated and federally funded organization administered by AFPC in San Antonio, Texas. The program includes recovery care coordinators, non-medical care managers, and other professionals who work with wounded warriors, their families and caregivers to guide them through various day-to-day challenges.

The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event recognizing the importance adaptive sports plays in the recovery and rehabilitation of the wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un is afraid he’ll get assassinated in Singapore

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly fears being assassinated on his way to Singapore to meet with President Donald Trump, a trip that will take him further outside of his country than he’s been since taking power in 2011.

Kim is “extremely worried about security at the summit and is fearful of assassination attempts,” Bloomberg quoted two sources familiar with the talks as saying.

Kim has long feared assassination, even within his own country. But as the leader of a country that frequently threatens the US with nuclear war, getting on a plane and flying across international airspace to a neutral country provides him even less security.


Even along the DMZ with South Korea, Kim traveled with an impressive security detail.

But North Korea has virtually no air force, and will place its leader on a civilian airliner in a region stacked with surface-to-air threats and a large US military aviation presence. As the downing of flight MH-17 proved, airline crashes can be difficult to attribute, and can be denied.

North Korea maintains that the US has a “hostile policy” towards it and think it would attempt regime change given the chance.

Comments from Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton comparing North Korea to Libya, where its leader was killed in a US-backed intervention, may have stoked these fears.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
John Bolton
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

But while Kim’s constant fear of assassination may seem paranoid, it’s not unfounded. China is rumored to have looked into an assassination plot involving Kim’s uncle, whom Kim ended up killing.

Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, was also assassinated in neighboring Malaysia with a nerve agent that authorities suspect Kim ordered.

Furthermore, Kim is more vulnerable to assassination than his counterpart, Trump. Kim is the patriarch of a dynasty, while Trump is just the president.

If Kim dies without a clear successor, his country could descend into chaos.

If a US president dies, there’s a long-established chain of succession, and if North Korea were involved in the death, there would be hell to pay.

Singapore has taken remarkable measures to guarantee the security of the summit, including blocking off parts of the city and restricting airspace during the summit.

Insiders say Kim is seeking security guarantees from the US in exchange for acts of denuclearization, but Kim’s constant fear of assassination points to the inherent instability of his dictatorial rule.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea offers rare inside look at its latest nuclear bomb technology

North Korea unveiled a remarkably powerful bomb in its latest nuclear test, one with the ability to level entire urban centers.


In the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, state media claimed that the rogue regime had successfully tested a staged thermonuclear weapon – a hydrogen bomb. Explosive yield estimates range are around 150 kilotons, orders of magnitude larger than any bomb the North has tested before. While the international community has been trying to figure out what to do about this alarming development, Pyongyang has been celebrating its entry into the elite thermonuclear weapons club.

When North Korea’s nuclear scientists and engineers returned home, they were given a heroes welcome in Pyongyang. Similar celebrations were held after the successful test of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, on which Kim Jong Un plans to mount his newest bomb.

Officials held another celebration Saturday to honor the individuals who contributed to the development of the latest addition to North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal. During Saturday’s celebratory concert, images of North Korea’s achievements were presented on the big screen, a not uncommon pastime for the regime.

The North revealed images of the nuclear bomb tested last Sunday at the celebration this weekend.

The bomb used in the test appears to be a slight variation of the warhead North Korea presented just hours before its shocking nuclear test. The shape suggests that the device may very well be a thermonuclear weapon, with one chamber for the fission reaction and another for the fusion reaction to produce a substantial explosive yield.

In the wake of the country’s sixth nuclear test, North Korea announced that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for its new ICBM, which can effectively strike parts, if not most, of the continental U.S. While it is difficult to know for certain, it would appear that the North is “locked and loaded” for intercontinental strikes if it needed to do so.

“The recent test of the H-bomb is a great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period,” young North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said at the banquet Saturday, referring to North Korea’s success in the face of tough international sanctions and mounting pressure.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gaza fires hundreds of missiles at Israel in latest war

Palestinian terror groups claimed responsibility for firing more than 100 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel from May 29 to May 30, 2018, in the worst bombardment seen since the 2014 Gaza war referred to as Operation Protective Edge.

Israel’s Channel 10 estimated that more than 115 rockets and missiles were launched from Gaza into Israel after the first sirens were heard near the Gaza border at 6 p.m. on May 29, 2018. Other estimates listed the number as high as 130.


Despite the heavy barrage, no civilian casualties have been reported on the Israeli side as its Iron Dome missile defense system shot down many of the projectiles. Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) said three of its soldiers were wounded by mortar fragments on Tuesday, Haaretz reported.

The IDF said on Twitter that it struck 25 military targets in Gaza in retaliation for the increased fire.

“The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios and is determined to act against terror operatives.,” the IDF said.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks claiming it was in response to Israel’s killing of over 100 Palestinians participating in sometimes violent protests along its border since March 30, 2018.

“Qassam and Jerusalem Brigades (the groups’ armed wings) announce joint responsibility for bombarding (Israel’s) military installations and settlements near Gaza with dozens of rocket shells throughout the day,” the groups said in a joint statement, according to Reuters.

Israel also imposed a naval blockade on Gaza on May 29, 2018, and stopped a boat with 17 Gazan protesters from reaching Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel’s Defense Ministry said on May 30, 2018, it believed the fighting had come to an end. Hamas said it had agreed on a ceasefire with help from Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza Haaretz reported.

Israel said it would be willing to respect the ceasefire, with Egypt acting as a moderating force. However an Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel was prepared to ramp up its retaliatory attacks if rocket launches resume.

The Gaza border has been the site of mass protests aimed at lifting Israel and Egypt’s blockade on the Gaza Strip which has been in place since 2014.

Rocket launches from were common during Israel’s war with Gaza in 2014. The 7-week war saw 73 deaths on the Israeli side and over 2,000 deaths on the Palestinian side, according to various estimates by Israel, the UN and Hamas.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 demo team will debut new moves during 2019 air shows

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson soared above RAF Fairford, England, piloting an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter during the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in July 2018. It was the first time Olson had given aviation geek enthusiasts and skeptics alike a taste of maneuvers the fifth-generation stealth jet can perform at the world’s largest military air show.

Now, Olson will be showing off those moves and more on tour.


“This show is going to solidify the F-35 in its rightful place, just [as] the absolute, cutting-edge stealth fighter jet [that’s] here and it’s ready and so capable,” said Olson, an instructor pilot and commander of the F-35A Heritage Flight Team.

Military.com recently spoke with Olson, with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, about the upcoming 2019 demonstration season, in which he will be the solo F-35 performer at 17 shows across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s just a total, absolute rage fest within 15 minutes,” Olson said.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, performs a high-speed pass during a demo practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)


The F-35 Lightning II has been part of the Heritage Flight for three seasons and is gearing up for its fourth starting March 2019, officials said. The Heritage Flight Foundation is a contractor with Air Combat Command and performs across the U.S. and overseas, flying old warbirds such as the P-51 Mustang.

Only four aircraft — the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptorand F-35 — are certified to fly alongside the planes from a bygone era.

But this is the first time the F-35 will have a breakout role in the 30-minute, full-narration air show, with its own 13-minute demo featuring state-of-the-art aerobatics.

“We’re going out there to showcase the jet, [and] we’re doing it fully aerobatic … fully showcasing the maneuvering envelope of the F-35,” Olson said.

That means a minimum of 16 maneuvers, including rolls, loops, high-degree bank turns, and inverting to be fully upside down, among other actions. There will also be two new passes with the older warbirds, including a “fun bottom-up pass where the [audience] can see the bottom of the aircraft as it arcs over the crowd,” he said.

Olson said the show pulls from the strengths and maneuvers of multiple airframes that came before the F-35. For example, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is “very impressive at a slow-speed capability, being able to do things like a square loop” and the F-16 Viper demo “is very fast and agile,” he said. Audiences will be able to see the F-35 do both.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, taxis after a demonstration practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

The F-35 “will be able to power out of other maneuvers” more swiftly because of its F135 engine, which propels it with more than 40,000 pounds of thrust, Olson said.

He will perform a pedal turn similar to the F-22, in which the F-35 banks and climbs high, eventually simulating a somersault-like move. But Olson will not use thrust vectoring or manipulate the direction of the engine’s to control altitude or velocity.

“This is really just a testament to the design and the flight control logic that’s built into the jet. And all these maneuvers are repeatable under all conditions … no matter what kind of temperature, or elevation, all these maneuvers are safe,” Olson said.

“For the first three seasons, we wanted the public to see the F-35, but it wasn’t fully ready,” Olson said, meaning that not every jet used for demonstrations was configured to the latest Block 3F software. “The F-35 program involved concurrent production and test. … There was a little extra amount of testing still left to do … and software and hardware modifications.”

That restricted pilots to a maximum of 7 G-forces, but now Olson can pull a full 9Gs if he wishes.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, flies inverted during a demonstration practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

And he has: During the RIAT show in July 2018, Olson climbed to a full 9G configuration because that specific jet was fully capable. But he said he still wasn’t performing the high-banking maneuvers he now can for the upcoming season.

Olson and a small team at Luke have been working on the first-of-its-kind show since December 2018. They traveled to manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 simulator facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, to develop the show alongside Billie Flynn, Lockheed’s experimental test pilot.

The demo moves also simulate how the F-35 will perform in combat, Olson said.

“Through our narration, we attempt to succeed in connecting the maneuver at the air show to its real world, tactical application,” he said, adding that he flies the F-35 like he’s in a combat configuration but he won’t be carrying an ordnance load.

Still, “you are seeing the jet and how it would perform in actual combat,” he said.

As additional jets came to Luke for pilot training, it gave the demo team breathing room to practice because they weren’t taking planes away from the primary training mission, Olson said.

The base now has 87 of the jets, with more than 90 percent configured to the Block 3F software.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, practices the F-35 demonstration.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

“As far as flying operations go at Luke, [we now have enough] jets to support a demo team,” said Olson, who was previously an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot.

The show routine has been flown more than 40 times. Each time, he and other pilots, maintainers, avionics specialists and others involved in the show watch the tape from the cockpit and another recorded from the ground to see what can be perfected.

“We grade ourselves down to the foot, and down to the knot of airspeed,” Olson said. “When you travel at 1,000 feet per second, that’s a tight tolerance. But that’s the precision in which we designed this thing.”

He added, “No one has seen the F-35s perform this way and I … think it really sets the bar for what a demo [show] can be.”

Olson says he doesn’t see additional F-35 jets being added to the demo, though maneuvers may be tweaked or added in future seasons.

“That work is never finished,” he said. “Connecting the U.S. military, the U.S. Air Force with the American public is the goal. And the F-35 demonstration is the conduit for which we forge that connection.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Feed the Rangers: America’s elite left without enough food

Feed the Rangers.

It’s hard to imagine that one of the U.S. military’s premier Special Operations units would fail to sufficiently feed its troops during an extraordinary time. And yet that’s exactly what is been happening in the 1st Battalion, 75th Regiment, which is based at Fort Steward, Georgia.


Last week, approximately 300 Rangers were notified by their leadership that they would be moving to another barracks and undergo a two-week quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The barracks that they relocated to, however, wasn’t prepared to receive them. The main issue with the new housing arrangement was that it didn’t have an adequate Dining Facilities Administration Center (DFAC) that could properly feed the Rangers.

SOFREP understands that in the first days the quarantined troops, several of which have tested positive for the Coronavirus, were being fed twice a day with extremely low quantities and quality of food. The following pictures speak for themselves.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics

To alleviate the quarantined Rangers’ predicament, a support group was set up in order to supplement their nutrition. Word quickly spread via social media, and in just a few days, the support group has managed to raise over ,000 and deliver food to the troops in need.

One of the quarantined troops reached out to those organizing the Ranger version of the Berlin airlift and said, “I’m one of the guys who unfortunately tested positive [for COVID-19] from 1/75, just wanted to reach out and personally say we all appreciate what you guys have done for us. . . before y’all showed up, we would all just get the scraps of whatever came through for food, but now man, that is definitely not the case anymore. We all really do appreciate it!”

The guys who are organizing and running the support service are clear that what they are doing is only to supplement the nutrition of the quarantined Rangers. They don’t have an issue with the leadership.

The whole issue signals a breakdown in communications. Broken down, the core duties of a leader are to achieve the mission and take care of his troops. You can easily discern good officers and non-commissioned officers from their actions. Are they last to eat or sleep while in the field? Do they help clean up after a long day at the range? If yes, then that’s a sign that they put their troops before their welfare and comfort. Good and timely communication is also important. You can honestly care about your troops but if you don’t communicate it or, reversely, encourage productive feedback, then your good intentions will fall short.

Furthermore, the situation suggests that the Army is still having trouble in addressing COVID-19 and potential quarantines. It seems like units just hope it won’t reach them rather be proactive about it and sufficiently prepare. As a consequence, they are forced to such hodgepodge reactions that result in troops not being fed enough.

The 75th Ranger Regiment is the premier direct action Special Operations unit of the U.S. military. It is comprised of three infantry battalions (1/75, 2/75, 3/75), a special troops battalion, and a military intelligence battalion.

This event is sure to produce second-order effects. With such poor treatment during a time of need, several Rangers will be looking to either move to other Special Operations units, such as the Special Forces Regiment or Delta Force, or leave the force altogether.

The quarantine is expected to last for approximately ten more days.

You can help out by visiting the GoFundMe page that has been set up by the members of the community.

It was Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist that said “Please, Sir, I want some more,” but it’s the quarantined Rangers who are living it.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.


Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”

It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.

Also read: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”

However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”

He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.

Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.

“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”

Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.

“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.

Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”

“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.

“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”

In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”

The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.

“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”

There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.

He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.

Articles

China deploys rappers to fight US missile defense

China’s fight against the deployment of a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense missiles has now expanded to the deployment of hip-hop.


No, you didn’t read that wrong – China’s now using a rap video as a form of public diplomacy against the ballistic missile defense system, according to a report by the New York Times. The video seems to be bombing, with less than 50,000 views on YouTube.

The video, in English and Chinese, urges South Korea to reconsider the system’s deployment.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
AiirSource Military | YouTube

Dubbed “CD Rev,” the rap group is based out of Sichuan, China, and has done other videos in support of Beijing’s government — including one on that country’s claims in the South China Sea, a maritime flashpoint involving five other countries, as well as a video celebrating the legacy of Mao Tse-Tung.

A London Daily Mail report from 2011 noted that Mao was responsible for at least 45 million deaths during “The Great Leap Forward,” a brutal attempt to shift the country from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one.

The deployment of THAAD has drawn sharp criticism from China – and the reactions have included hacking that targeted the South Korean company that allowed the battery of missiles to be placed on a golf course it owned. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also hacked. China has also been blocking videos of South Korean artists, particularly from the K-pop genre.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Heritage.org

South Korea recently elected Moon Jae-in, who has favored diplomacy with North Korea, as President after the impeachment and removal from office of Park Geun-Hye.

The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the system has a range of over 600 miles.

The United States has other options to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile, including the sea-based RIM-161 Standard SM-3. The system is considered far more capable than the MIM-104 Patriot systems that the United States, Japan, and South Korea have deployed.

Here’s the video from CD Rev:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Russia kick off this year’s massive ‘Zapad 2017’ wargame

Russia and neighboring Belarus have begun a joint military exercise near NATO’s eastern flank that has fanned already deep tensions between Moscow and the West.


Moscow and Minsk say the Zapad (meaning, “West”) 2017 exercise, scheduled from Sept. 14 to 20 in Belarus and parts of western Russia, is officially set to involve 12,700 troops.

But Western officials have said the maneuvers could include some 100,000 personnel in what they call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was among those who voiced alarm about Zapad 2017, saying the military exercises are a sign that Russia is preparing for a serious conflict with NATO.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are anxious about this drill…It is an open preparation for war with the West,” she told reporters.

“This is designed to provoke us, it’s designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on Sept. 10.

Russia, meanwhile, has pushed back against what it portrays as Western alarmism over the drills, the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member states since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Moscow insists that the size of the exercise will not cross the 13,000-troop threshold that, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules known as the Vienna Document, would require it to notify other countries and open the maneuvers to observers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West on Sept. 14 of “whipping up hysteria” over its military exercises.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

“We reject complaints of these exercises not being transparent,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “We believe that whipping up hysteria around these exercises is a provocation.”

Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, commander of Russia’s Western Military District, said in an interview published by the Russian military’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Sept. 13 that the number of troops and hardware used in the drills “will fully comply with the Vienna Document.”

The Zapad exercise is held every four years in rotation with drills in other parts of Russia.

Western governments have responded to Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine with several waves of economic and other sanctions targeting Moscow.

NATO has also bolstered its presence in its easternmost member states that were dominated by Moscow during the Cold War and remain concerned about the Kremlin’s intentions in the region.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

Belarus, where part of the Zapad 2017 exercise is being held, borders Ukraine as well as NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The drills are also being staged in Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Estonia last week that the military alliance would send three observers.

“But these invitations fall short from the transparency required by the OSCE: briefings on the exercise scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers, and overflights of the exercise,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Sept. 6 during his visit to a NATO contingent in Tapa, Estonia.

“We will monitor the [Zapad 2017] activity closely, and we are vigilant but also calm, because we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally,” Stoltenberg added.

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s foreign policy adviser Kostiantyn Yeliseyev said on Sept. 14 that Zapad 2017 is “very dangerous since they are taking place just near the border with Ukraine.”

Yeliseyev added that the exercises’ purpose is to “destabilize the military situation close to the border with NATO member states” and to “keep as long as possible Russian military troops and weaponry near the [Ukrainian] border and then to use them as a platform for a possible future offensive operation.”

Russia, which has repeatedly accused NATO of stoking regional tensions through enlargement after the fall of the Iron Curtain and deployments in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, has called Western concerns about the Zapad drills baseless, saying the exercise is “purely defensive.”

This determined soldier will compete in 2018 Olympics
Zapad ’13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Kartapolov told Krasnaya Zvezda that in addition to the stated 12,700 troops — around 7,200 from Russia and 5,500 from Belarus — Zapad 2017 included about 70 aircraft and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including tanks, artillery units, and ships,

During the drills, the joint Russian-Belarus operations are targeting a theoretical adversary attempting to undermine the government in Minsk and establish a separatist stronghold in western Belarus.

This scenario echoes Russian concerns over what Moscow calls Western-orchestrated political revolutions in its backyard, most notably in Georgia in 2003 and in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, was ousted in early 2014.

The United States and the European Union have repeatedly rejected such allegations, calling those events the result of grassroots anger against corrupt regimes in the former Soviet republics.

Watch Russia kick off the Zapad ’17 exercises in video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykpAmVdl4xk
(Esteban Luna | YouTube)
Do Not Sell My Personal Information