US military forces seem poised to take a prominent role in the long-awaited battle to take down Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Though the Pentagon has long downplayed the role of US ground troops in the fight against the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, recent deployments of many more “boots on the ground” suggest they may be front-and-center in the coming months.
Earlier this week, a convoy of US Army Rangers riding in armored Stryker combat vehicles was seen crossing the border into Syria to support Kurdish military forces in Manbij. The convoy, identified by SOFREP as being from 3rd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was the most overt use of US troops in the region thus far.
Until this most recent Ranger deployment, the Pentagon had adamantly stuck to the line that its “regional partners” — Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga for the most part — were bearing the brunt of the battle.
But on Wednesday, another curious deployment seemed to counter that narrative. According to The Washington Post, US Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine regiment had left their ships to establish a combat outpost inside Syria that is apparently within striking distance of Raqqa.
“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations US-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post wrote.
The unit, part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently finished conducting training exercises in Oman and Djibouti. Its new outpost inside Syria has M777 Howitzers that fire 155mm projectiles, which are likely guarded by additional infantrymen at the site, according to The Post.
U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told the Fayetteville Observer last year that most US troops were in Iraq or Kuwait, though “some” were operating inside Syria.
Meanwhile, US special operations forces, who are said to be taking a training and advisory role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, were quietly given more latitude to call in precision airstrikes and artillery. As the AP reported in February, advisors are now able to call in airstrikes without seeking approval from an operations center in Baghdad.
Additionally, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces are increasingly getting closer to direct combat.
Though the new directives were lauded by the Pentagon as “adding ‘precision’ to ground operations,” wrote The Institute for the Study of War, “it also underscores that US personnel are increasingly at the frontlines of the operation. Indicators from the new US Administration, including a proposed 10% budget increase for the Department of Defense, suggest that it may expand the level of US involvement in Iraq, beyond the Mosul operation.”
A spokesperson for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not respond to a request for comment.
Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for OIR, said the moves into Syria were to pre-position US forces so they can provide logistical and fire support to “Syrian partnered forces” who will eventually assault Raqqa.
The Marines and Rangers will provide the “commander greater agility to expedite the destruction of ISIS in Raqqah. The exact numbers and locations of these forces are sensitive in order to protect our forces, but there will be approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS,” Dorrian told Business Insider.
He added: “The deployment of these additional key enabling capabilities allows the Coalition to provide flexible all weather fire support, training and protection from IEDs, and additional air support to our Syrian partners.”
The White House is considering whether to send another 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” for the Raqqa offensive, Reuters reported Wednesday. Officials who spoke with Reuters said there were about 6,000 US troops currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, up from the 5,000 that was reported in January.
The presence of additional US ground troops inside Syria — even miles from the frontline — would bring with it considerable risk. Combat outposts often draw rocket and mortar fire, in addition to small arms. Last March, a Marine outpost established to support the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants, killing Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
A total of nine American service members have been killed in OIR combat operations, while 33 have been wounded, according to Pentagon statistics.
Your average civilian may look at the military and think it’s like the movies, with highly-motivated soldiers doing their job without complaint, saluting smartly, and marching around a lot.
But of course, that’s not really the case. Just like with any other job, military members have good days and bad days, and often air those grievances with each other. Sometimes, they let it slip in public, and tell everyone how they really feel.
Here are 9 of those times.
1. When a soldier tells you how he really feels about his post, through Wikipedia edits.
2. This soldier on Yelp doesn’t really like the “Great Place” of Fort Hood, either.
3. A Marine writing a review on Amazon challenges your manhood if you don’t want to wear ultra-short “silkie” shorts.
4. The British Marine who makes a hilarious video poking fun at his officers.
5. When a sailor on Glassdoor compares Navy life to drinking sour milk.
6. This anonymous service member using Whisper to confess his or her love for marijuana.
7. The Marine who tells you over Yelp that Marine Corps Base 29 Palms will definitely steal your soul.
8. The British soldiers in World War I who printed a mock newspaper filled with gallows humor satirizing life in the trenches.
9. When real-life Armed Force Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (portrayed by Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”) gives the troop version of a weather report in Vietnam.
A “ridiculous mistake” is believed to have compromised the security of South Korea’s defense network, exposing critical military secrets, a South Korean lawmaker revealed Wednesday.
North Korean hackers are suspected to have been behind the theft of a massive cache of classified military documents late last year, including allied war plans. The plans detailed strategic operations to eliminate North Korean leadership in the event of a conflict, among other things, Minjoo Party Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee revealed Tuesday. The South Korean defense ministry initially claimed that nothing important had been compromised.
The hackers first breached the South Korean firm Hauri, Inc., which makes the antivirus software used by the South Korean military, The Wall Street Journal reports. The North’s cyber warriors then embedded malware into the antivirus software, facilitating access to military servers. The security breach was also possible because a connector jack connecting the secure military intranet to the internet was accidentally left in place after maintenance work at South Korea’s new military data center, Rhee explained.
The intranet was connected to the internet for more than a year, leaving secure networks exposed and vulnerable to attack. “It’s a ridiculous mistake,” Rhee stressed to the WSJ Wednesday. “They should have removed the connector jack immediately after maintenance work.”
North Korea has invested in asymmetric warfare capabilities, such as cyberwarfare, to give it a fighting chance against the superior conventional military capabilities of the U.S. and its allies. The North is believed to have several thousand hackers and support staff in its cyber divisions.
The rogue regime reportedly tried to infiltrate the networks of American power companies through peculiar “spearphishing” attacks, NBC reported Wednesday.
The North is believed to have perpetrated the infamous Sony Pictures hack, incapacitated and stolen millions of dollars from top banks, negatively impacted hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide through the spread of ransomware, and disrupted numerous systems across South Korea.
The attacks linked to North Korea appear to have been designed for interference with the distribution of noticeably anti-North Korea productions, the acquisition of funds as the international community increases economic pressure on the regime, espionage, and possible retaliation.
To better counter North Korean cyber threats and avoid costly mistakes like the one that led to the loss of important war plans, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo has ordered the military to take additional precautions. he shifted the blame to the previous administration and announced that the military will complete a review of the situation.
In his April 2017 book “Make Your Bed,” Admiral William McRaven described what it was like for him as a leader and military officer to receive the families of fallen troops — including those who died under his command.
The former SEAL officer vividly paints a scene at Dover Air Force Base, the first stop on American soil for the remains of U.S. troops killed in combat. The waiting rooms are filled with “wives with a far-off look of disbelief, … inconsolable children, … [and] parents holding hands hoping to gain strength from one another.”
A number of Navy SEALs died in 2011 when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan – all 38 men aboard were killed, including 30 Americans. It was the single greatest U.S. loss in the War on Terror. Then-President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the military’s senior leadership were all present to receive the flag-draped coffins.
The admiral and his wife were there too. He writes in his book that he began to wonder if his words were any solace to the families, if they made any difference at all, or if the shock made his words incomprehensible to the bereaved. He knew what he said was never going to be enough, but he tried to empathize with them.
That’s when he noticed a then-Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly talking to a number of the families. He could tell that what Kelly was saying was actually hitting home to those who lost their loved ones. The effect was what McRaven described as “profound.” He hugged them and they hugged him in turn.
General Kelly talked to every person in the room.
The Marine’s word hit home because they weren’t the words of comfort from a commander to his troops’ families, they were the words of a parent who lost a son in combat, just as they had.
Only General Kelly could have said anything that would mean something to those who lost their children, parents, and spouses in combat. As McRaven puts it:
“When you lose a soldier, you grieve for the families but you also fear that the same fate may one day befall you. You wonder whether you could survive the loss of a child. Or you wonder how your family would get along without you by their side. You hope and pray that God will be merciful and not have you shoulder this unthinkable burden.”
Meet the F-16V ‘Viper’ – the newest, most advanced fighter in the F-16 family that has just made its maiden flight.
The latest version of the F-16 introduces numerous cutting-edge enhancements.
Made by Lockheed Martin, the fourth-generation aircraft is often referred to as the Fighting Falcon. The F-16 can travel speeds faster than Mach 2 – that’s more than 1,500 mph. The aircraft is just under 50 feet long and has a wingspan of about 31 feet.
The F-16V flew with Northrop Grumman’s advanced APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) and Northrop’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) for the first time last week.
Northrop’s SABR AESA fire control radar provides next-gen air-to-ground and air-to-air radar capability. The technology supports countering advanced threats. These AESA radars are also used by the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
SABR works by scanning electronically, rather than mechanically. This helps reduce the need for moving parts. The receiver, exciter, and processor functions are all contained in one replaceable unit. According to Northrop calculations, their advances produce three to five times greater reliability than current fire control radar systems.
SABR’s electronically scanned beams mean faster area searches. This also means earlier detecting, tracking and identification of targets at longer ranges. All-weather targeting and situational awareness have all been enhanced.
“BIG SAR” is SABR’s Synthetic Aperture Radar capability for larger areas and high definition. This mode gives pilots remarkable detail of their target areas. The digital map displays can be tailored with slew and zoom.
The tech automatically scans SAR maps to exactly locate and classify targets.
Viper also features a new cockpit Center Pedestal Display, a more advanced mission computer and other mission systems enhancements. This tech is expected to give the aircraft a big leap in capability.
There are more than 4,550 F-16s supporting the U.S. military and its allies.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter@Allison_Barrie.
The Russian sub fleet is growing and growing more active, and the US and its NATO partners are more concerned about what those boats and rest of the Russian navy are up to around Europe.
For the US Navy, that means more focus on the Atlantic, especially the North Atlantic, closer to the home base of Russia’s Northern Fleet on the Barents Sea.
At the end of September 2019, the Navy reestablished Submarine Group 2 in Norfolk, Virginia, five years after the unit was deactivated. The reactivation comes just over a year after the Navy reestablished its Second Fleet, which oversees the western half of the Atlantic up into the high north.
Sonar Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Christopher T. Woods stands lookout on the Navy sub Colorado in the Atlantic Ocean prior to its commissioning, January 11, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
The reestablishment of Submarine Group 2 is likewise “aimed at enhancing the Navy’s capacity to command and control its undersea warfare forces seamlessly across the entire Atlantic area, from the eastern seaboard of the United States to the Barents Sea, and even into the Southern Atlantic, if the need arises,” the Navy said in a release.
Echoing the comments of the Navy’s top officer upon the reestablishment of Second Fleet, Vice Adm. Charles Richard, commander of US submarine forces in the Atlantic, cited the “more challenging and complex” security situation as the reason for the return of Group 2.
“To maintain America’s undersea superiority, we must increase naval power and our readiness for high-end blue water warfare. How we’re organized to command that employment will be a driving factor in our success — that’s why we’re re-establishing Sub Group 2 today,” Richard said in the release.
A submarine group, composed of squadrons, handles the organization, training, and equipping of those boats while they’re state-side. Individual subs are attached to that squadron and group until they’re assigned to a combatant command, six of which are responsible for operations in specific areas of the globe.
A US Navy chief petty officer of the boat aboard pre-commissioned unit (PCU) South Dakota, directs his team while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Nov. 27, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)
“Until [a submarine] makes that transition, it’s part of Group 2,” which owns it and operates it and tells it what to do, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Reestablishing Submarine Group 2 doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more subs prowling the Atlantic, but its return is important because the “group is in charge of the movement and the command and control of the ship” before it transitions over to combatant command, Clark said.
Without Group 2, the attention of command elements in the Atlantic was spread thin over a larger number of subs. Bringing back Group 2, Clark said, “allows you to put more attention on the North Atlantic submarines.”
“Along with the second fleet … it’s a way of putting more command and control and leadership attention on that part of the ocean,” Clark added.
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
Reestablishing Second Fleet and Submarine Group 2 are “visible representations of the US commitment to the security in the Atlantic in an era of great power competition,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for Second Fleet, said in an email.
“Increased challenges and threats required a commensurate increase in capacity to address possible contingencies,” Walsh said, adding that Group 2’s operations in the region will add to and integrate with those of Second Fleet.
Submarine Group 2 also oversees anti-submarine warfare for US Fleet Forces Command and, when assigned, for Fourth Fleet. Fleet Forces Command organizes, trains, and equips naval forces for assignment to combatant commands, and Fourth Fleet is responsible for ships, subs, and aircraft operating around Central and South America.
In that role, Submarine Group 2 will “employ combat-ready forces in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations across mission-essential sea-service functions,” Cmdr. Jodie Cornell, a spokesperson for Submarine Forces Atlantic, said in an email.
The USS Rhode Island returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia after three months at sea.
(US Navy photo)
Group 2 will also “ensure assigned staffs and submarines achieve and maintain a level of training, personnel and material readiness necessary to carry out their assigned missions” and “advocate for resources and requirements that enable advancements in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations,” Cornell said.
The Navy generally does not comment on operations, and neither Cornell or Walsh would comment on potential future operations for subs assigned to Submarine Group 2.
But Richard’s mention of the Barents Sea, adjacent to the home of Russia’s Northern Fleet and its strategic nuclear forces on the Kola Peninsula, hints an increasing concern among US and NATO forces about Russian subs being able to reach into Europe with their relatively new sub-launched missile capability.
“The Kalibr-class cruise missile, for example, has been launched from coastal-defense systems, long-range aircraft, and submarines off the coast of Syria,” Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said in late 2018. “They’ve shown the capability to be able to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe.”
Ranges of Russia’s Kalibr missiles when fired from seas around Europe. Light red circles are the land-attack version. Dark red circles indicate the anti-ship version.
The threat of sub-launched cruise missiles is “certainly … part of what this is intended to address,” Clark said of Submarine Group 2. “This gives better coordination and better command and control of those submarines.”
More frequent deployments of more sophisticated Russian subs are driving more US naval activity in the Atlantic, which includes more deployments US Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to Iceland, where they have a higher operational tempo.
Those aircraft are in part managed by Group 2, Clark said. It helps “having people at Group 2 being able to focus on that problem.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the Marine Corps continues its quest to get more capability from long-range precision fires, it’s asking industry for proposals on a portable system that can fire high-tech attack and reconnaissance drones on the go.
The service released a request for proposals April 23, 2018, describing a futuristic system unlike any of its existing precision-fires programs.
The theoretical weapons system, which the Corps is simply calling Organic Precision Fire, needs to be capable of providing fire support at distances of up to 60 kilometers, or more than 37 miles, according to the RFP document.
This range would exceed that of the M777 155mm howitzer, which can fire Excalibur rounds up to 40 kilometers, or around 25 miles.
(Photo by Gertrud Zach)
The system, which ideally would be light enough for just one Marine to carry, would launch loitering munitions from a canister or tube no larger than 10 inches across and eight feet long. The projectile would be able to loiter for up to two hours, according to the solicitation, while gathering data and acquiring a target
Loitering munitions, known informally as suicide or kamikaze drones, are unmanned aerial vehicles, typically containing warheads, designed to hover or loiter rather than traveling straight to a target. They’re becoming increasingly common on the battlefield.
The California-based company AeroVironment’s Switchblade loitering munition is now in use by the Marine Corps and Army. It is described as small enough to fit inside a Marine’s ALICE pack. The Blackwing UAV, also made by AeroVironment, is tube-launched, but designed to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rather than to attack.
The Marines want whoever can make the system they seek to give it the ability to communicate securely with a ground control system at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. It should also be advanced enough to perform positive identification on a target, and engage and attack a range of targets including personnel, vehicles and facilities.
Companies have until May 18, 2018, to submit proposals to the Marine Corps on such a system.
Service leaders have publicly said they’re planning to make big investments in the field of long-range precision fires as they prepare for future conflicts.
The commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, told Military.com in December 2017, that the service was making decisions to divest of certain less successful weapons systems in order to shift more resources to developing these capabilities. The service had already done so, he said, with its 120mm towed mortar system, the Expeditionary Fire Support System.
“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh told Military.com. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Joe Owen served as an enlisted Marine in a forward observer squad during World War II, but as the 90-year-old vet looks back on his life, it’s his Korean War experience that really stands out to him.
“I was overseas in WWII when I got selected for OCS,” Owen remembers. “I went to the old man and begged him to let me stay with my squad. He told me I was given an opportunity rare among all Americans to become an officer of Marines and if I were successful I would be leading the finest fighting men in the world. That was the end of it. As it turned out, I am extremely proud that I was able to fight as an officer of Marines. It was my privilege.”
Becoming an officer changed his world, to put it mildly.
Owen was a second lieutenant in command of a mortar platoon when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Later Owen was at the Chosin Reservoir, the site of one of the iconic battles of Marine Corps history. Seventeen Medals of Honor were earned in the battle that saw 10 divisions of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army against the 1st Marine Division. The Marines were forced to withdraw, but not before inflicting massive casualties on the Chinese.
“Our Marines beat the enemy, position by position, with no safety margin and under heavy fire because the enemy could see everything we did,” he said. “So we had to keep our guys moving in the heavy snow and cold. The fatigue factor is serious. The guys forced themselves to keep going because they had to keep going, first for survival and because that was their nature. That’s the fighting spirit of Marine riflemen. That’s how we beat them.”
“When were fighting in the cold, we couldn’t dig holes in the ground. It was completely frozen,” Owen remembers. “So we would take Chinese bodies, stack ’em up and that would be our position. The sons of bitches would come at us and keep coming and keep going down and they would be piled up, running over each other to get at us. The sons of bitches would never stop, so we had to keep on killing them. Can you imagine that?”
If not for the victory at the Chosin Reservoir, the entire U.S. X Corps, nearly 200,000 troops and civilians, would have been lost and maybe then the entire U.N. effort in Korea. The 1st Marine Division received the Presidential Unit Citation for their tenacity. The fighting was often close and brutal.
“We never figured out why, but when we go in close, it’d be a fight with grenades,” Owen said. “We had fragmentation grenades. They had concussion grenades. So we would toss frags at ’em and kill ’em and they’d throw theirs at us and stun us. I got hit by one of those things one time. It blew me up in the air and I came back down, I didn’t know where the hell I was. Well, that’s when they broke through. Fortunately, I had my bayonet on my carbine, and I just turned around and the leader of the Chinese ran right into my bayonet and I couldn’t get the thing out. The poor son of a bitch just struggled there. We both went down. I couldn’t get my weapon out. So I picked up his weapon and from there on in it was a fight with rifle butts. I was swinging that thing and knocking ’em out, one by one.”
In Owen’s mind, the confidence enlisted Marines have in their leaders is what sets Marines apart. Lieutenants are the first line of that confidence in combat. This is why Owen calls Korea a lieutenant’s war.
“You have to be visible. Anyone who stands up under enemy fire… that takes balls. You become a target and the sons of bitches try to kill you and you have to return fire or move forward. You gotta keep the men going, give ’em direction, let them know you’re moving with them.”
This spirit was embodied in Chew Een-Lee, the Marine Corps’ first Chinese-American officer, who served with Owen.
“A guy like that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Owen says of Lee. “If you spent time with him it was rewarding. It lasts forever. We said things to each other that can only be stories, experiences that you talk about and you think son of a bitch, I should have done that.”
Lee died on March 3, 2014 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Owen gave the eulogy at his funeral.
“He was a conceited, self-centered sonofabitch but he was my pal,” Owen said. “We had some classic arguments. What I say about him may not be entirely complimentary, but it was a great experience to know him. And when you think of it, that’s better.”
“He and I and another guy named McCluskey, we used to get together to talk about combat leadership,” Owen recalls. “Chinese officers were very emphatic, screaming and yelling at their people to keep on going. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill the foot soldier who didn’t move forward. They had no feeling for the men who got killed under their command. In contrast, every time I lost a man, I felt as though I lost a son. Even though I was only 23-24 years old. I just felt my men trusted me and were entrusted to me. I had to bring them forward with care – to be damn sure that they were in a position where they could effectively use their weapon and defend themselves.”
He never felt sympathy for the enemies at the reservoir, but he remembers the Chinese differently from the North Koreans.
“They were trying to kill me,” Owen says. “I didn’t forget that. Anyone trying to kill me, I’m gonna kill them.”
Owen was injured at the Chosin Reservoir; doctors almost amputated his arm, but his verve convinced them he would survive his injuries without losing his arm.
“When I woke up at the Naval Hospital near Tokyo, I was in an examination room, and I see several doctors looking at X-rays on a light panel,” he said. “One of them says ‘we don’t have any choice, we have to amputate.’ I figured some poor son of a bitch is gonna lose something. I look around, and mind you I just came out of the morphine, and I see I’m the only guy in there. I figure they’re gonna cut something off me. So I yelled out fuck you. In my head I had to go back up on line with my men. If I lost parts, I can’t go back up. That saved it. The spirit saved my arm.”
He did lose full use of the limb and was soon discharged from the service, but Owen’s life didn’t stop there. He credits his longevity to the same spirit that kept his men going and saved his arm.
“If I could muster Baker 1-7 today, I would tell them we’re alive because you kept fighting,” he said. “You were invincible. You maintained the fighting spirit. You went through one of the most difficult fights ever experienced by American fighting men and you damn well held the line. You became the best goddamn rifle company in the Marine Corps.”
There’s a chill settling in over Moscow, and it’s not just the arctic temperatures that typically smother the Russian capital in January.
As U.S. officials put the finishing touches on new financial and travel sanctions against Russia, expectations that the punitive measures will target an expanded list of secondary companies, as well as Kremlin-connected insiders and business leaders, are causing consternation.
Unlike previous rounds, when Washington tried to punish Russia for its actions in Crimea and Syria by targeting big fish like major state-run firms and government agencies, the focus is shifting. The new wave to be announced by month’s end is expected to be broader, focusing on companies that do business with previously sanctioned entities, closing loopholes that allowed Russia to skirt punishment, and identifying — and potentially going after — the Kremlin’s inner circle of smaller fish.
Moscow appears to be on edge. One official has accused the United States of trying to influence the upcoming presidential election. An influential Russian newspaper has reported that as many as 300 people close to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle could be identified. And financial institutions are taking steps to minimize their risk.
“It is true that the Russians have been freaking out over this for more than a month now,” said Daniel Fried, who was formerly the chief sanctions coordinator at the U.S. State Department.
Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian political analyst now based in Washington, D.C., echoes that assessment. “The expectations are very gloomy” in Moscow, he said, “because for the first time, it will bring personal pain to those closest to Putin.”
The new measures, expected to be rolled out beginning Jan. 29, stem from a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress last summer and signed reluctantly into law by President Donald Trump in August.
Known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the law firstly provides for “secondary sanctions” that broaden the restrictions against people or companies doing business with Russians hit earlier.
The earlier measures were imposed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama not only for Russia’s Crimea annexation in 2014 but also for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its military campaign in Syria, and other things.
In October, in the first indication of whom the new law would be targeting, the State Department put three dozen major Russian defense companies and intelligence agencies on notice, indicating that other companies, Russian or foreign, who do “significant” business with them could face restrictions.
In theory, this meant that a foreign bank that provided credit to a company supplying a previously sanctioned Russian state-controlled company could be targeted for doing business with listed companies. That might include state arms exporter Rosoboroneksport or the legendary weapons-maker Kalashnikov.
The law also ordered the Treasury Department, in coordination with intelligence agencies, to provide Congress with a list of prominent Russians and their family members who would potentially face direct restrictions. Known as Section 241, the instruction includes identifying oligarchs according to “their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.”
This, in theory, could target the daughter of a high-ranking Russian official who owns property in the United States, or the head of a major industrial corporation with holdings in the West.
Around Washington, close observers of the sanctions process are calling it “the oligarchs list.”
“This will hit people because it shows they are not safe; that the U.S. is willing to go after this class of people and Putin cannot protect them… that there will be consequences for Russians who seem to be in Putin’s corrupt inner circle and [are] aiding and abetting his corrupt activities,” Fried told RFE/RL.
Those included will not immediately face financial or travel restrictions, but experts say it would be a clear signal of what may soon come and, more immediately, would have a major psychological effect on those listed and those who do business with them.
It could also foreshadow a public record of some wealthy Russians’ sources of income and assets in the United States.
“For some people, it’s very personal. For others, it will be very political,” said Olga Oliker of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The question is: What’s the signal that is being sent by the administration and how will it be received in Moscow?”
For the moment, the potential nominees for the “oligarchs’ list” is a closely held secret by both members of Congress and administration officials. But sanctions experts, Russian opposition activists, and Western lawyers and business groups have been trying to guess. Some wealthy Russians have also stepped up quiet lobbying campaigns in Washington, trying to persuade Congress or administration officials to keep them off the list, according to several observers.
On Jan. 12, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing its own sources in Washington, said as many as 300 people could end up being listed, a number that includes both officials themselves, but also their relatives.
In December, a group of Russian opposition activists with backing from chess master and outspoken Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov met in Lithuania to compile their own sanctions list. The compilation features more than 200 names, including prominent business tycoons who have so far avoided restrictions, including Aleksei Mordashov, owner of the steelmaking giant Severstal, and German Gref, chief executive of Russia’s largest state bank, Sberbank.
Several prominent Russians included in the opposition group’s list were already on earlier U.S. sanctions lists, including Sergei Ivanov, an ex-defense minister and President Putin’s former chief of staff; Lieutenant General Igor Sergun, head of Russian military intelligence; and Gennady Timchenko, an oil trader hailing from Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to queries about its upcoming list.
One indication of how the Kremlin has sought to get ahead of the new measures came in November. The business newspaper Vedomosti reported that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had signed a decree that would exempt Russian state companies from the requirement to disclose the names of their contractors.
Already there are signs that financial markets, in and out of Russia, are factoring the likelihood of sanctions into predictions for 2018. But among bond traders, equity dealers, and other portfolio managers, the measure that has prompted most worry is a possible restriction on buying Russian government debt.
That measure is seen as an attempt to close a loophole that allowed Russia to skirt sanctions imposed in 2014 that cut certain companies close to or controlled by the state from international credit markets.
The Kremlin ended up bailing out those companies to the tune of tens of billions of dollars and was still able to raise capital on its own. In 2016, for example, Russia sold around $3 billion in new Eurobonds.
The Countering Adversaries law includes the possibility that U.S. citizens could be barred from buying ruble-denominated, Russian government bonds. It’s unclear how much of Russia’s overall sovereign debt is held by Americans, but Central Bank data from October showed that foreigners held about $38 billion of it.
That decision won’t be handed down for some months, but still, analysts predict a ban would put severe pressure on the Russian ruble, which plummeted in 2014 after the Crimea sanctions and amid low world oil prices and has yet to fully recover. In the medium term, that would drive up inflation, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch said in a research note in December.
Some Russian financial institutions have also given indications that whatever the measures are that end up being issued by Washington, they will ripple through the country’s economy.
For example, Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private commercial lender, said it was cutting back its exposure to the country’s formidable defense industry.
“This does not mean that we have severed relations with it overnight,” Oleg Sysuyev, a deputy chairman of the bank’s board of directors, told Ekho Moskvy radio. “But we are just trying to minimize risks.”
In the short term, that could pose a direct challenge to Putin, who will run for another term as president in the election scheduled for March, a month after the new measures are unveiled.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov alluded to this on Jan. 13 when, in comments to the state news agency TASS, he charged that the U.S. measures were an attempt to influence the vote.
Piontkovsky, a longtime critic of the Kremlin, predicted that the U.S. move to target more individuals could help undermine the broad support that Putin has enjoyed for years.
“It means he is losing his meaning for the elites, his function was to protect them, and their assets in Russia and the West, to ensure their security. And now, on the contrary, he is becoming toxic,” he said.
The question now, according to Oliker, who directs the CSIS’s Russia and Eurasia Program, is whether the new sanctions will, in fact, affect Kremlin policies.
For example, with the conflict in eastern Ukraine grinding into its fourth year, dragging on Russia’s economy and losing popularity among Russians, there’s good reason for Russia to pull back on its support for separatist fighters.
However, it would be virtually impossible for Putin to pull back if it appeared he was giving in to the pressures from U.S. sanctions, she said.
Depending on who or what is targeted, the problem is that the new measures could reinforce the perception — encouraged by the Kremlin — that Washington only wants to damage Russia, Oliker said.
“In Russia, the pervasive narrative is that all the sanctions are merely to punish Russia — [that] they’re punitive, it’s not a matter of attaining actual policy goals,” she said. Many think “it’s just those nasty Americans trying to get us.”
On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Hamilton fans — grab your second and let’s get into it.
Alexander Hamilton was born in the British West Indies before emigrating to the American colonies to study in 1772. His hard work and impassioned persona would drive him to become a key figure in the Revolutionary War, one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, and a defender and champion of the U.S. Constitution.
Aaron Burr was born into an influential family and, though orphaned at the young age of two, he would go on to graduate from college at just 16 years old and serve with commendation during the American Revolution. He defended a free press, abolition, and women’s rights. Soon, however, Hamilton’s star would begin to outshine Burr’s, who was often seen as an opportunist with shifting allegiances.
Both men served in the Continental Army and then began their decades-long political rivalry, finally culminating in the presidential election of 1800. An unprecedented tie split Congress between Thomas Jefferson and Burr; but Hamilton’s support of Jefferson helped break the deadlock in Ol’ Long Tom’s favor.
Four years later, Hamilton campaigned against Burr and attacked his character. Defeated and bitter, Burr decided to restore his reputation by challenging Hamilton to a duel.
There are conflicting accounts as to how the duel went down. Some say Hamilton deliberately fired into the air — an act of honor. Burr’s second claimed Hamilton shot at Burr and missed. Either way, Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach and Hamilton died the next day.
Burr’s political career fell into ruin after that, with the nation outraged that a sitting Vice-President could brazenly shoot someone.
202 years later, Dick Cheney asked history to hold his beer.
Featured Image: Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. After the painting by J. Mund. Note: Possibly due to artistic license and the problems of perspective and canvas size etc, the duelists are standing at an unusually short distance from each other. However, it is known that some duels did indeed take place at very short distances such as this, though most were fought where the opponents were standing approximately 50 feet apart. The protagonists are dressed in anachronistic 18th century dress, not the common fashion of the early 19th century.
Everyone lies — it’s natural. To say you don’t lie is a lie in and of itself because you know damn well you’ve told a kid at some point that, “it gets better” knowing full-well it doesn’t — especially as an adult. In fact, the only real truth we have is that everyone lies.
So it makes sense that boots will lie their asses off to avoid punishment and, just like any other human, they’re bad at it. But even a bad liar can be convincing from time to time. Luckily, the Marine Corps developed the Combat Hunter Program, which enables those who receive the training to proactively assess an environment to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy. Like almost everything you learn while in the service, these lessons can be applied to other areas of life — one of those being lie detection.
Generally, by the time you take on boots, you’ve become wise enough to identify lies — probably because you told all those same lies when you were an FNG. But if you want to be extra sure that you’re getting the truth out of your newbie, watch for these cues:
If they’re this bad, be especially cautious.
In almost every case, when someone’s telling a lie, they’re nervous — they don’t want to get caught. When someone’s nervous, they have trouble controlling their perspiration.
Of course, this isn’t a foolproof metric, especially when there are external, environmental factors at play — you know, like the sun.
Unusually formal language
A person who is a little over-confident in their lie will usually use more formal language. Pay extra attention when someone drops the contractions. Look out for “did not”s and “do not”s in someone’s explanation.
While it makes sense for someone who’s nervous or ashamed to look away from the person they’re lying to, it’s also a very obvious sign. Someone who’s trying their best to be convincing knows this and will compensate by looking you directly in the eye.
Too many details
Liars have a tendency to over-explain their story. Usually, this tactic is reserved for the more experienced liars. After all, if you’ve spent time creating, remembering, and parroting a lie, you’re going to watch all of those painstakingly plotted details to emerge, right?
If they’re wearing sunglasses, you might want to have them removed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex Kouns)
If someone is lying to you and hoping to drive the persuasion home, they might smile. Naturally, we smile at each other to signal to another person that we’re genuine but, as Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, suggests, an authentic smile is in the eyes — not the mouth.
During large, multi-unit exercises, the US military’s snipers can be overshadowed by the men and machines roving the battlefield.
To correct that, Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian — a former active-duty sniper who is now a sniper observer/controller/trainer with the First Army’s 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Regiment — designed a special 10-day training course for snipers during the 33rd Infantry Brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
“The course is designed to get all of the snipers from the brigade together to train, broaden their horizons and share tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said in an Army news story.
Bastian called on two former instructors from the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, and their course filled the 10-day exercise with weeks’ worth of training for soldiers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Puerto Rico’s 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment.
The course teaches snipers how to design their own training courses, as well as how to work with ammunition, targets, and ranges, and how to use camouflage and stalking techniques during training.
Below, you can see some photos of US Army National Guard snipers getting the specialized instruction they need to seek out and pick off their targets.
XCTC is the Army National Guard’s program to provide an experience similar to an Army combat-training center at a home station or a regional training center, like Fort McCoy. Soldiers from the 502 Infantry Regiment stood in as opposition forces.
“The Army has a multitude of systems and professionals to continually train everyone, except snipers,” Peterson, one of the co-trainers, said. “When these guys go back to their units, there’s not a lot of personnel that can train them properly. This course will help them continue their education and properly train themselves.”
Spc. Johnny Newsome, a sniper with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment based in Chicago, during a stress-shoot exercise.
“It’s a force multiplier getting multiple sniper teams together to train and gain the knowledge they need for success,” Brady, the other co-trainer, said. “Over this 10-day period they’ll realize how much work it will take them to learn how to conduct their own training, and we’ll give them the knowledge they need to do so.”
The XCTC Exercise is coordinated by the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois. Here, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard prepare vehicles for gunnery training.
A soldier from the Illinois National Guard prepares a weapon for gunnery training on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy.
Russia says it has asked Canada to hand over case files on a 95-year-old former Nazi death-squad member to help Moscow investigate the mass murder of children at a Soviet orphanage during World War II.
Helmut Oberlander, who was born in Ukraine and became a German citizen during the war, lives in Canada.
He obtained Canadian citizenship in 1960 and courts have repeatedly ruled Oberlander’s citizenship should be revoked because he lied about his participation in a Nazi death squad during the war. In December Canada’s Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal on the government’s decision to strip him of his passport, bringing him a step closer to actual deportation from Canada.
Russia’s Investigation Committee announced on February 14 that it wanted Canada’s case and legal files on Oberlander, saying it was checking his possible involvement in a 1942 “genocide” at an orphanage in the Sea of Azov town of Yeysk.
The committee said in a statement that a death squad equipped with “mobile gas chambers” was deployed in 1942 and 1943 to the German-occupied Krasnodar region.
“As a result of one such operation, on October 9 and 10, 1942, a mass murder of children at the Yeysk orphanage was committed,” it added.
At the time, Oberlander served as a translator for the Nazis’ mobile killing squads, the committee said.
Oberlander has said he was forced to join one of the squads at the age of 17 and did not take part in any atrocities.
Last year, Russian investigators said they had opened a probe into suspected genocide after declassified documents in the Krasnodar region revealed that the bodies of 214 disabled foster children who had fled the Crimean Peninsula for nearby Yeysk were found after Nazi forces were driven out of the area.