The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

President Donald Trump has engaged China in a trade war that has global markets holding their breath, but his administration recently challenged Beijing on an issue Chinese officials have promised to go to war over.

The US military’s recent Indo-Pacific Strategy paper, published June 1, 2019, goes further than perhaps any US document ever issued in how it might provoke China’s rage over what it sees as the most sensitive issue.

Buried in the paper, which charts China’s efforts to build up a military fortress in the South China Sea and use its growing naval might to coerce its neighbors, is a reference to Taiwan as a “country.”


“As democracies in the Indo-Pacific, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Mongolia are reliable, capable, and natural partners of the United States,” the strategy said. “All four countries contribute to US missions around the world and are actively taking steps to uphold a free and open international order.”

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway island province that has its own democratic government. Beijing sees this as an existential threat and the factor most likely to upset the Communist Party’s absolute hold on power in the mainland.

In July 2018, China threatened to blacklist airlines that referred to Taiwan as a country. US airlines fell in line, but the White House protested the strong-arm tactic as “Orwellian nonsense.”

But now the US itself has clearly said it: Taiwan is a country, and the US will treat it as such.

‘The Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs’

In another unprecedented step, a high-ranking Taiwanese minister was allowed to meet with Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in May 2019. This move predictably enraged China.

At the Shangri La Dialogue, the top defense summit in Asia, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe made clear the stakes of China’s Taiwan problem.

“Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure,” Wei said, according to Channel Asia News. “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs.”

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe.

Taiwan is “the hot-button issue” in US-China relations, John Hemmings, the director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.

China has always maintained that it would prefer to reunify with Taiwan peacefully but would do so by force if needed. Additionally, China’s navy has increasingly patrolled the waters around the island and flown nuclear-capable bombers nearby.

But the US has also sailed warships through the narrow strait separating China and Taiwan and has gotten allies to pitch in.

The arms are already moving

The US’s rhetorical escalation follows the Trump administration normalizing arms sales to Taiwan and the news that it will sell billion in tanks, anti-tank weapons, and air defenses to the island.

According to Hemmings, these weapons have a clear purpose: to fight back against a Chinese invasion of the island.

Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the US had now entered “uncharted territory” by acknowledging Taiwan.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

A US Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank during Arrow 2019 at the Pohjankangas Training Area near Niinisalo, Finland, on May 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

The US under Trump has been the most pro-Taiwan administration in decades, Hemmings said. Trump demonstrated this during his presidential transition period when he had a call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen.

For years, China has slowly stepped up pressure on the US in areas like forcing companies to transfer technology, building up military sites on artificial islands in the South China Sea, and naval challenges.

Hemmings mentioned a popular anecdote in China, in which a frog is cooked by putting it in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize it’s getting cooked until it’s too late. China’s gradual pressure campaign against the US has been compared to this practice.

With the US now quietly acknowledging Taiwan in a strategy document, it may have found its own small way to turn up the heat on Beijing.

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

Articles

This sub sank because its commander couldn’t flush his toilet

In April 1945, being a German submariner was a dangerous prospect. Allied sub hunters had become much more effective and German u-boats were being sunk faster than they could be built. Technical breakthroughs like radar and new weapons like the homing torpedo were sinking the Germans left and right.


For the crew of U-1206, the greatest threat was actually lurking in their commander’s bowels. German Navy Capt. Karl-Adolf Schlitt was on his first patrol as a commander when he felt the call of nature and headed to the vessel’s state-of-the-art toilet.

While Allied subs had toilets that flushed into a small internal tank that took up needed space in the submarine, the Germans had developed a compact system that expelled waste into the sea. The high-tech system even worked while the sub was deep underwater.

Unfortunately, the toilet was very complex. By doctrine, there was a toilet-flushing specialist on every sub that operated the necessary valves. The captain, either too prideful or too impatient to search out the specialist, attempted to flush it himself. When it didn’t properly flush, he finally called the specialist.

The specialist attempted to rectify the situation, but opened the exterior valve while the interior valve was still open. The ocean quickly began flooding in, covering the floor in a layer of sewage and seawater. The specialist got the valves closed, but it was too late.

The toilet was positioned above the battery bank. As the saltwater cascaded onto the batteries, it created chlorine gas that rapidly spread through the sub and threatened to kill the crew. Schlitt ordered the sub to surface.

The sub reached the surface about 10 miles from the Scottish coast and was quickly spotted by British planes. One sailor was killed as the sub was attacked. The order was given to scuttle the ship and escape. Three more sailors drowned attempting to make it to shore. The other 37 sailors aboard the U-1206 were quickly captured and became prisoners of war.

Luckily for them, the war was nearly over. The sub sank April 14, 1945. Hitler killed himself April 30 and Germany surrendered May 8.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force tests headset that transmits sound through user’s bones

An innovative in-ear headset is being tested by the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 100th Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England.

The device, which uses the bones in the user’s ear to transmit sound waves, provides both communication and hearing preservation capabilities to airmen working in noisy environments.

RAF Mildenhall was awarded funding to test the product after US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa identified the base’s proposal, to incorporate bone conduction communication technology into their operations, as especially innovative. The base was paired with Denmark-based INVISIO, a hearing protection and communications company, which was able to supply a product using this technology.


“We’re funded by USAFE-AFAFRICA specifically to provide feedback and input to the Air Force on whether bone conduction is a viable option across many platforms,” explained US Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Pettingill, 100th AMXS continuous process improvement and innovation manager. “We get to be the guinea pig and determine if it works for us and whether it’s worth investing in more.”

Maintenance airmen will be required to wear over the ear hearing protection in addition to the product, but they will more clearly be able to communicate due to the in-ear headset microphone.

“When aircraft engines are running or in a loud environment, our maintainers are required to wear ear plugs in addition to a headset,” said Pettingill. “Imagine sticking ear plugs in your ear and then trying to have a conversation with somebody; it doesn’t work. Enter the dual in-ear headset. This product offers hearing protection and also a microphone you can communicate with.”

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

A dual in-ear headset at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 30, 2019. The headset, which provides hearing protection and situational awareness to the user, is being tested at RAF Mildenhall to determine whether the Air Force will invest further in the technology.

(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)

In addition to enhancing hearing protection and communication abilities for maintainers, the device will also benefit airmen in other career fields during exercises and real-world conditions, circumstances which necessitate the wearing of protective gear.

“RAF Mildenhall wanted to invest in the product not only due to the advantages it would provide the maintenance squadron, but also the ease of communication it would provide users in an exercise or in a real world event,” said Pettingill. “If you’re wearing a gas mask and you are trying to communicate with a radio, it’s going to be muffled. The product provides a better alternative to radios, which you actually have to bring up to your face to speak into.”

The 100th AMXS and 100th MXS production staff were chosen to test the in-ear headset because they are responsible for the movement of manpower and resources on the flight line, including such things as where aircraft are parked, when fuel is dispatched and which maintainers service certain aircraft, responsibilities that make communication essential. They were given the opportunity to provide their feedback about what they liked and disliked about a device not initially designed for maintenance Airmen, but special operators.

“We’re afforded the resources and the money to provide that feedback,” said Pettingill. “It’s not all positive, but that should be expected. We’ll just have to make adjustments.”

Both maintenance squadrons continue to test the in-ear headsets they have, but they’re waiting for funding to become available that will allow them to purchase the bulk of the headsets for testing.

“Once we’re ready to execute, we will outfit our maintainers and encourage them to use the product as much as possible. We’re going for a single issue rollout, so each airman will be assigned their own headset,” said Pettingill.

RAF Mildenhall’s position as the only installation in the Air Force to be testing this technology is due in large part to the maintenance senior leaders who were convinced of the product’s worthiness.

“It’s a huge honor to be able to test this innovative product,” remarked Pettingill. “We’re afforded the ability to try things out, and that’s why we are so successful. It doesn’t surprise me that we’re the first to do these things. Our leadership has our back.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How World War I chemical weapons led to a cancer treatment

The grisliest images in the history of warfare are often related to chemical weapons. Images of soldiers and civilians alike blinded and/or covered in blisters highlight the barbarity of chemical weapon attacks and nowhere was this more apparent than during World War I. But even the most terrible wounds of the Great War had a silver lining: doctors were able to find the first effective treatment for an equally horrible disease.

Beware: some of the images of mustard gas can be disturbing.


The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

No joke.

The history of cancer treatment was as slow a progression as the disease often is. Cancer is a disease older than humanity itself, as even dinosaurs suffered from it. From the earliest days of recorded medical history, doctors have come up with a variety of bizarre treatments for it. Ground coral, lead, and even the lungs of foxes were used as treatment for the disease. Only in the 1800s did surgeons start recommending the removal of cancer tissue if possible.

Even then, the surgeries were often harsh, brutal, and without anesthetics. Then came World War I and the many, many new and innovative ways to kill and be killed on the battlefields.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

Back then, no one knew it was part one of two.

Mustard gas is a blister agent that can cause blindness as well as burning and blistering skin and internal organs. Mustard blisters in the throat can seal the airway, making the victim unable to breathe. The agent can also cause pneumonia-like symptoms in the lungs, causing a painful death by slow drowning. The worst part for battlefield medicine was that the effects of mustard gas could often not be fully developed for hours, filling up first aid tents and treatment wards.

Even if it didn’t kill its victims quickly, they could feel the effects of the mustard gas attack for the rest of their lives, as the gas scars their physical body as well as their mind. And remember that World War I troops only had gas masks; there was no full body chem warfare suit during World War I.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

Nurses treating World War I troops in the field.

After the war, mustard gas was studied extensively so that militaries could better utilize it on the battlefields and protect their troops against it. In the process of doing that, doctors noticed the bodies of men killed by the gas had lower white blood cell counts. This created enough interest for doctors to take a deeper look. By World War II, researchers were looking into the marrow of the deceased doughboys, where they made an important discovery: the mustard altered cell development in the bone marrow.

Cancer researchers used this information for their own devices. They isolated nitrogen mustard from the deadly gas mix and used the new substance on cancerous lymph notes and found that it would actually shrink cancers.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

Doctors isolating nitrogen mustard.

The discovery led to a whole new generation of targeted cancer treatments that were much less barbaric and seemingly random than the centuries of treatments that came before. These chemicals targeted cells that divided at a faster rate than other cells, and eventually chemotherapy.

“Normal fast-reproducing cells usually resume production after chemotherapy is finished, but cancer cells, which have weaker DNA, tend not to.” said Dr. Toni Storm-Dickerson, a breast surgical oncologist. “Chemotherapy has really changed the system of how we fight disease.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

In one year, VA improves mental health services

Just one year after President Trump signed Executive Order 13822, VA has made significant strides forward in its mission to provide mental health care to transitioning service members and veterans during the first 12 months after separation from service, a critical period marked by a high risk for suicide.

The executive order mandated the creation of a Joint Action Plan by the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and VA. The plan was accepted by the White House in May 2018 and has been underway since that time.


According to Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, all 16 tasks outlined in the Joint Action Plan are on target for full implementation by their projected completion dates, seven out of the 16 items are complete and early data collection efforts are showing positive results.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

Transitioning service members can now register for VA health care early​

Partnerships within the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Office of Transition and Economic Development, are actively providing, through the Joint Action Plan, transitioning service members with the opportunity to register for VA health care pre-transition during the Transition Assistance Program. This is a new option for service members, who before were provided with information for independent registration, however, were not provided with the opportunity for facilitated registration.

“In a single month, more than 34 percent of the nearly 8,000 transitioning service members who attended the TAP modules in person registered for VA health care before, during or after their class attendance date,” Franklin said. “One of the joint goals of this effort is to reduce barriers to care. By getting transitioning service members registered into the VA health care system earlier, we are able to get them the mental health care they need much quicker.”

The TAP curriculum is also modified to incorporate a new military lifecycle module on community integration resources. This module informs transitioning service members about community organizations as well as how to identify and check them.

“Because of the updates to TAP, 81 percent of the transitioning service members in TAP during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 said they felt informed about the mental health services available to them,” Franklin said. “This modification reinforces the important role of community partners, such as Veteran Service Organizations.

Emergent mental health care available to more service members than ever before

Through the coordinated efforts of DoD, DHS, and VA, certain former service members may receive emergent mental health care from VA. Additionally, any newly transitioned veteran who is eligible can go to a VA medical center, Vet Center, or community provider and start receiving health care right away.

As part of the effort to provide mental and behavioral health care, VA is using telemental health technology to reach those service members who may not have easy access to a VA facility and implementing eligibility training for employees at the field level.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

“Mental health care is something that we want to make available as widely as possible,” said Dr. David Carroll, executive director, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “The efforts under this executive order are one way that we can make that happen. We have the greatest respect for the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces, and we will not relent in our efforts to connect those who are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis with lifesaving support.”

Looking ahead: Early contact and predictive analytics

While proud of how far the program has come since May, Franklin acknowledged that there is still some time before all of the Joint Action Plan goals will be fully implemented. However, there are several goals underway that will be complete in the coming months, including:

  • Within the next six months, the veterans Benefits Administration will establish caring messaging and reach to all transitioning service members and veterans to inform them about a variety of resources including health care enrollment, education benefits, and more.
  • By April 2019, DoD, DHS and VA will establish a way forward for an integrated data environment and inter-agency analytical platform that can support development of a joint approach to predictive modeling.

“This executive order was established to assist in preventing suicide during a critical period – the first-year post-separation from military service. However, the completed and ongoing work of the executive order and Joint Action Plan will likely impact suicide prevention efforts far beyond the first year,” Franklin said. “We are working diligently to increase coordinated outreach, increase access to care and focus our efforts beyond just the first-year post-separation. We are working to promote wellness, increase protective factors, reduce mental health risks, and promote effective treatment and recovery as part of a holistic approach to suicide prevention.”

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

The efforts created under Executive Order 13822 and the Joint Action Plan are all key components of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. Combined with VA’s other suicide prevention programs, these efforts will provide a full continuum of evidence-based mental health care that can help prevent a suicidal crisis before it occurs. Using a public health approach to suicide prevention, VA continues to focus care on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also encouraging comprehensive collaboration with communities to reach service members and veterans where they live, work, and thrive.

“Just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end suicide alone,” Franklin said. “We’ve been able accomplish and implement some great things from the executive order and Joint Action Plan in the last year, but there other important and valuable efforts ongoing and in our future, too. That’s why VA is working to educate partners, other government agencies, employers, community organizations, and more, on the available mental health and suicide prevention resources available – both inside and outside of VA.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This amazing Army medic saved 9 men during an 8-day battle

The battle for Shal Mountain, dubbed “Operation Rugged Sarak,” went from Oct. 8-15, 2011. Shal Mountain sat above Shal Valley and controlled two important supply routes, one vital to coalition forces for resupply and one critical to insurgent smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.


The insurgents controlled the mountain for years, but the men of B Company, 2-27th Infantry Regiment, decided to finally wrest control of it from the Taliban after two U.S. convoys were attacked from there, killing two soldiers. The battle for the summit would rage for eight days.

Specialist Jeffrey Conn was the Army medic who responded to the second convoy attack and was the medic on top of Shal Mountain during the fight for the summit. On the mountaintop, he would earn a Silver Star for saving the lives of at least nine U.S. and Afghan soldiers while also taking the lives of many insurgents — at least 12 in a single attack.

Read more about how Conn saved the lives of these men on Shal Mountain here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former director of CIA and NSA hospitalized after stroke

Michael Hayden, who previously served as CIA director and National Security Agency director, was hospitalized after suffering a stroke at his home late November 2018.

Hayden, 73, is “receiving expert medical care,” and his family has requested privacy, according to a Nov. 23, 2018 statement from the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at George Mason University.

“The General and his family greatly appreciate the warm wishes and prayers of his friends, colleagues, and supporters,” the Hayden Center said.


Hayden achieved the rank of a four-star general in the US Air Force and went on to lead the NSA from 1999 to 2005 for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; he led the CIA from 2006 to 2009.

National security experts offered their messages of support.

“Michael Hayden is one of this country’s noblest patriots, dedicating his life to America’s national security,” former CIA director John Brennan said on Twitter. “A man of tremendous integrity, intellect, decency, he has been a role model for countless intelligence professionals over several decades. Speedy recovery, Mike.”

“On behalf of the men women of CIA, I want to wish Gen. Hayden a speedy recovery,” CIA director Gina Haspel said in a statement. “Mike’s long career of public service commitment to national security continue to be an inspiration to all intelligence officers. Our thoughts are with Mike, Jeanine, their family.”

Hayden, who regularly appears on CNN as a national security analyst, has become an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump’s administration. In August 2018, Trump was reportedly weighing the possibility of revoking Hayden’s security clearance in addition to other former White House and Justice Department senior officials who publicly criticized his policies.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first aircraft-drone collision just happened in New York

A civilian drone operating illegally over Staten Island, New York, on Sept. 21 crashed into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by Fort Bragg soldiers.


There were no injuries as a result of the crash, which the Federal Aviation Administration said was the first in US history between an aircraft and a drone.

The helicopter and its crew are part of a contingent of soldiers from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division serving in New York in support of the United Nations General Assembly, which brought world leaders to the city.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over
A DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter drone. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Doodybutch.

A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, said the helicopter sustained minor damage to a window and a rotor blade when a hobby drone, described as a quadcopter, struck the helicopter at about 7:30 p.m.

The incident is under investigation by authorities in New York.

New York media reported the helicopter was flying at about 500 feet over a residential area when it was struck. FAA guidelines require drones to fly at or below 400 feet. Drones are also prohibited to fly outside of parks in New York City.

The helicopter landed safely at a New Jersey airfield after the collision, Buccino said.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over
A UH-60 Black Hawk assigned to 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation flies over New York City. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Santiago Mejiasepulveda.

“Our paratroopers are well-trained and well-led,” he said. “They responded immediately and appropriately to ensure the safety of the crew and the completion of the mission.”

Buccino said a team is on its way to New York with the equipment needed to repair the helicopter. It’s expected to be fixed within 24 hours.

Photos of the damage show dents and scratches on the helicopter. A small piece of the drone also appears to have lodged itself into the helicopter.

Buccino said no soldiers were injured during the incident.

The soldiers in New York are part of the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion. They have been there since Sept. 17.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is quietly invading this important U.S. ally

Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.

Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.


The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia

Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory

Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.

It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.

Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.

The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.

It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.

With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.

In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise

Georgia’s NATO woes

Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”

“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.

The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”

‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’

The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.

“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.

“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.

“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”

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A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind

The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.

The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.

Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

There are many joyous things about the holiday season, but this time of year can also bring on stress, depression, and other challenges. For veterans or their family members, the unique experiences of the military and transitioning back to civilian life can make enjoying the season difficult.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for as the holiday season approaches — as well as healthy tips for managing these challenges.


The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

(Photo by Jonathan Borba)

The holidays are typically times spent with family members and friends. But veterans transitioning back to civilian life — or even those who returned home years ago — might find themselves avoiding the people and activities they would usually enjoy.

“I’m a pretty extraverted, amicable person, but I didn’t want anything to do with anybody. I didn’t want to talk with anybody,” says Bryan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Sometimes a vicious cycle can develop: The more time you spend alone, the less you feel like people will understand you. And the less you feel like people understand you, the more time you want to spend alone.

“You can’t isolate yourself,” says Bryan. “You have to surround yourself with good people that want to see you do better. Take advantage of the programs they have at the VA or the nonprofit organizations that are there to help veterans out.”

Feelings of guilt can sometimes lead people to withdraw, become irritable, or feel like life has lost meaning. These behaviors can strain personal relationships, especially during the holidays, when most people spend a lot of time with family members and friends. But if you’re having trouble forgiving yourself — for something you did or did not do — talking with your family members and friends is actually a positive first step.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

If you notice yourself withdrawing from loved ones, here are a few ways to begin breaking a pattern of isolation. If these actions feel overwhelming, start with small steps.

  • Identify the thoughts and feelings that make you want to be alone.
  • Reach out to your family members or friends, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Research shows that spending time talking with family members and friends improves your mood and your health.
  • Connect with veterans’ groups or participate in clubs or hobbies focused on something you like.

“Isolation and withdrawal [are] not going to get you the end result that you need,” says Marylyn, a U.S. Army veteran. “You want to get back to enjoying your life, the things you like to do, and be able to explore new things. So you’re going to eventually have to talk to someone and connect with someone.”

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

(Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik)

Feeling on edge in large crowds?

Whether you’re walking through a crowded shopping mall or attending a large party with loud noises, you may find yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable during the holidays. Your military training taught you the importance of being observant and alert when you need to be — and being in that state of high alert in civilian life may be stressful.

“When you’re in large crowds or there’s a lot of chaos, you have to keep an eye on everything because you don’t know where a potential threat is,” says Casey, a U.S. Army medic. “After you see things like a life or death matter, your No. 1 goal is ‘I’m always going to protect myself.'”

This experience of feeling on edge is also called hypervigilance, a symptom experienced by some veterans who have returned from war or experienced traumatic events during their time in the military. Hypervigilance is a state of being on very high alert — constantly “on guard” — to possible risks or threats.

“It takes a long time to shed that alertness,” says Casey. “Once it’s there and you depend on it to stay alive, it’s really hard to lose it once you’ve been back.” Talking to your family and friends can be a first step. Turn to them whenever you are ready.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over

(Photo by erin mckenna)

On edge?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you find yourself feeling on edge in large crowds:

  • If you’re with friends or family, tell them what you’re feeling so they can try to help you work through it.
  • Try grounding yourself by focusing on details of your surroundings or neutral physical sensations, such as the feeling of your feet on the floor.
  • Practice relaxation exercises, such as taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Calmly remove yourself from the situation.

“Being able to talk helps me manage, because it’s not built up,” says Ertell, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. “It helps me to manage my hypervigilance.”

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

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300 Marines heading back to Helmand

The US Marine Corps has returned to Helmand, the restive province in southern Afghanistan where it fought years of bloody battles with the Taliban, to help train Afghan forces struggling to contain the insurgency.


Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province, where almost 1,000 coalition troops, mostly US and British, were killed fighting the Taliban.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dustin D. March)

When they left in 2014, handing over the sprawling desert base they knew as Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, the Marines never expected to return. The fact that they are back underlines the problems Afghan forces have faced since being left to fight alone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Take a closer look at Russia’s new ‘Star Wars’ combat suit

Russia’s new Star Wars-like combat suit is apparently getting a nuclear-resistant watch, according to Newsweek, citing Rostec, the Russian defense contractor building the suit.


The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” according to Tass, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

In total, the suit comes with 59 items, Tass said, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.

The suit also has a “pop-up display that can be used for tasks like examining a plan of the battlefield,” Andy Lynch, who works for a military company called Odin Systems, previously told MailOnline.

Now it’s apparently being fitted with a watch that “retains its properties upon the impact of radiation and electromagnetic impulses, for example, upon a nuclear blast,” according to Rostec’s chief designer of the suit, Oleg Faustov.

The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea, according to The New York Times.

 

The third-generation Ratnik suit will supposedly be ready for service in 2022, according to Russian Col. Gen. Oleg Salyukov.

Russia even unveiled a video of the suit in late June, but it only showed a static display of the suit, so it’s unknown if it actually has any of the capabilities that are claimed.

Russia is also not the only country developing such technology, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The US hopes to unveil its own Tactical Light Operator Suit, also known as the “Iron Man” suit, in 2018. France is working on one too, the Integrated Infantryman Equipment and Communications system, or FELIN.

Nevertheless, many problems still exist with these suits, such as bulky batteries that power the exoskeletons, Tack said.

And while Salyukov recently said that they’ve been able to reduce the Ratnik-3’s weight by 30%, Russia is known to make wild claims about its military equipment that it doesn’t back up.

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US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

The Trump administration announced May 9 it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.


The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.

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ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms May 8. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

Also read: Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition, and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision the evening of May 8.

The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a U.S. ally in NATO and a key political actor in the greater Middle East.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. trains Kurdish forces in the Middle East to help with the fight against terrorist groups in the area.

The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces nearly in position attack IS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.

Even with the extra U.S. weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a difficult and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists’ state-building project. Raqqa is far smaller than Mosul, which is still not fully returned to Iraqi control after months of combat.

Related: Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.

In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” she said. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

Other officials said Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington in the third week of May. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on May 9 with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.

The US just challenged China on something Beijing promised to go to war over
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

And in Denmark earlier May 9, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

“That’s not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward,” Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.

“We’re going to sort it out,” Mattis said. “We’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

Tensions escalated in April when Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.

“We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said at a press conference with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.