16 April 2014

Ukraine 4/16: Civil War Finally Percolating?

Now that Ukraine is taking actions against pro-Russian violence-mongers, is a true civil war about to break out?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine was "on the verge of civil war" in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after acting President Olexander Turchynov announced the start of the operation to reclaim territory.

Russian officials said both leaders "emphasised the importance" during the conversation of planned four-way talks on Thursday between senior diplomats from Russia, the EU, the US and Ukraine.

However, Ukrainian and Western officials have accused Russia of being behind the pro-Russia activism in the region. Moscow strongly denies fomenting the unrest.

Ukrainian counter-terrorism chief Gen Vasyl Krutov, speaking to reporters at Kramatorsk airfield late on Tuesday, emphasised that armed individuals had crossed the border into Ukraine.

"We have to deal with a very serious, highly skilled and very professional opponent," he said according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

"They display a very high level of preparedness, tactical and practical skill. These people must have been to hot spots across the world and on their own territory."

Last month's annexation of Crimea by Moscow was preceded by the presence of uniformed, armed men believed to be Russian troops, although in greater numbers than the similarly dressed and equipped men who have been seen in eastern Ukraine, correspondents say.

The Kremlin has condemned the Ukrainian military operation in eastern Ukraine as an "anti-constitutional course to use force against peaceful protest actions".

MOH: SGT Kyle White

President Obama will award a Congressional Medal of Honor to the former SGT Kyle White.

An Army veteran credited with trying to save the lives of fellow soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan will be awarded the nation's highest military award, the White House said on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama will bestow the Medal of Honor on May 13 to former Sgt. Kyle White for heroics stemming from the 2007 battle during which his only cover from enemy fire was a single tree jutting from a mountain cliff.
Six Americans were killed and several others, including White, were wounded in the four-hour attack.
The Medal of Honor is received for conspicuous gallantry on the battlefield above and beyond the call of duty. White will be the seventh living recipient for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
He left the military in 2011 and is now an investment analyst in Charlotte.
White was a platoon radio telephone operator and among 14 American troops and Afghan soldiers ambushed while on patrol on November 8, 2007, in eastern Afghanistan.
He quickly returned enemy fire and was knocked unconscious by a rocket-propelled grenade as he tried to reload his weapon. When he came to, his face was hit with shrapnel.
White and four others were cut off from the other soldiers, who jumped from a cliff. He applied first aid to a wounded soldier and they both moved to the only cover they had: a single tree on the mountain.
His radio not working, White moved into the open to try to reach a Marine about 30 feet away who was so severely wounded he could not move. He braved enemy fire, moving back and forth several times to drag him to the tree although he died of his wounds.
White then exposed himself to withering fire again, crawling into the open to try to recover the platoon leader. When he reached him, the man was already dead.
By this time, the soldier White initially brought to the tree had been hit again, this time in the leg. White applied first aid by using his own belt as a tourniquet.
He then located a working radio and called for mortar, artillery, air strikes and helicopter gunships. But a friendly mortar round landed near him, resulting in a concussion.
After nightfall, White established a security perimeter and ensured that no U.S. military equipment fell into the hands of enemy forces.
The impact of multiple concussions was now causing his own condition to deteriorate, so he called for a medevac. He knew if he passed out, no one there could work the radio and guide the rescuers.
When help arrived, White refused assistance until the other Americans and Afghans were aboard the helicopter.

15 April 2014

Ukraine 4/15: More Bullshit from Russia

Claiming that using force to eject illegal Russians from their sovereign buildings would be a 'criminal' use of force, Russia's foreign minister sounds more like a moron every day.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday warned Kiev against using force to quell pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, saying the "criminal" act would undermine talks planned in Geneva.

The four-way meeting set for Thursday involving top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union is the latest step in a flurry of diplomacy aimed at easing the worst European security crisis in decades.

"One cannot issue invitations to talks while at the same time issuing criminal orders for the use of armed force against the people there," Lavrov said during a visit to Beijing.

"You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," he said.

US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland earlier played down US expectations for the summit, although she maintained that "it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open and will see what they bring".

14 April 2014

Ukraine 4/14: Russian Claims US CIA Chief Visits Kyiv, Demand Explanation

Ah yes, the smell of fresh bullshit in the morning.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday urged Washington to explain Russian media reports that CIA director John Brennan visited the Ukrainian capital.

Lavrov also accused the West of "off the scale" hypocrisy over the crisis in Ukraine, where protests in the southeast led to fresh violence at the weekend.

"We can remember when violence on Maidan (Independence Square in Kiev) that ended with dozens and dozens of deaths was called democracy, while peaceful protests that are ongoing now in southeastern Ukraine are called terrorism," he said.

"The hypocrisy is off the scale."

The West has accused Moscow of fomenting unrest in Ukraine's Russian-speaking regions by providing logistical support to separatists and sending representatives of its special services there.

Lavrov, however, denied that members of Russia's FSB security service or the GRU military intelligence service were operating in Ukraine's east.

"We are not meddling in Ukraine's domestic affairs. This contradicts our interests," he told reporters.
"We are not meddling in Ukraine's domestic affairs. This contradicts our interests," [Lavrov] told reporters.

09 April 2014

DoD Announces START Compliant Structure

The DoD has officially announced their strategic force structure.

Today, the Department of Defense announced the United States' Strategic Force Structure to comply with the New START Treaty (NST).
The treaty limits the total number of deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery vehicles to 800. By Feb. 5, 2018, the total deployed and non-deployed force will consist of 454 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, 280 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and 66 heavy bombers. U.S. deployed forces will consist of 400 deployed ICBMs. There will also be 240 deployed SLBMs. DoD will also maintain 60 deployed nuclear capable heavy bombers, for a total of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles, the treaty limit.
This capable, survivable, and balanced force fully supports the president's national security strategy and nuclear weapons employment strategy and maintains strategic stability and deterrence, extended deterrence, and allied assurance.
This force structure maintains the commitments set forth in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the report to Congress on the president's new nuclear employment guidance, and the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review that the United States will maintain a triad of ICBMs, SLBMs, and nuclear-capable heavy bombers within the central NST limits.

08 April 2014

US Weapons to Syrian Rebels?

So it's clear the Syrian rebels are using TOW missiles. War on the Rocks asks the key question: where did they come from?

Fresh video from the battlefields of southern Idlib province show the rebels using US-made BGM-71 TOW missiles. This weapon has never been observed in rebel use before. Coming on the heels of much speculation that the Obama administration has finally made the decision to aid the Syrian opposition with weapons, the arrival of the TOW missile in Syria is certainly suggestive. Former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford recently stated that he expected a move by the Administration to change the military balance in Syria.

The TOW missiles in question are being used by Harakat Hazam, a Free Syrian Army group that is mostly composed of survivors from the now-defunct Kataeb Farouq FSA group, and they are connected to former FSA Supreme Military Council chief General Salim Idris. Both of these facts mark them as being distinctly less jihadist than the powerful Islamic Front, and General Idris has been the most active solicitor of American aid for the FSA. All of these things indicate that Harakat Hazam would be an attractive option if the Obama Administration was searching for “good rebels” to provide with weapons. Interestingly, Harakat Hazam also began appearing with MANPADs recently. The group has participated in a successful rebel offensive in the south of the contested Idlib province, which has mostly removed a siege placed on the strategic town of Khan Sheikhoun by Assad forces and seized control of a section of the critical Damascus-Aleppo highway.

07 April 2014

Sec Hagel Tours Liaoning

Secretary Hagel takes a guided tour of the Chinese aircraft carrier and/or port monument (depending on your point of view).

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China's sole aircraft carrier on Monday in an unprecedented opening by normally secretive Beijing to a potent symbol of its military buildup.

A U.S. official said the visit to the carrier the Liaoning, at a port in the northern city of Qingdao, lasted about two hours. No other details were immediately available.

The official believed Hagel was the first official visitor from outside China to be allowed on board the Liaoning, although that could not be immediately confirmed.

China's Defence Ministry confirmed the visit would happen but did not provide details.

Chinese security experts said Beijing could be trying to quell U.S. criticism that it was not transparent about its military modernization.

Hagel's carrier visit, at the start of his three-day trip to China, was quietly approved by Beijing at Washington's request, the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The 60,000-tonne Liaoning, a Soviet-era vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998 and re-fitted in a Chinese shipyard, is seen as a symbol of China's growing naval power and ambition for greater global influence.

The carrier has yet to become fully operational, however, and military experts say it could be decades before China catches up to the far superior and larger U.S. carriers - if ever.

"The carrier has yet to become fully operational" eh? They said the same thing about the second Death Star, too...

Ukraine 4/7: No, This Is Not A Re-Run

Hmmm... pro-Russian "separatists" take over a government building and claim to be independent.

A Ukrainian news agency is reporting that pro-Russian separatists who have seized the regional administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk proclaimed the region an independent republic.

The activists on Monday also called for a referendum on the sovereignty of the Donetsk region, which borders Russia, to be held no later than May 11, the Interfax news agency reported.

The move comes weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region following a referendum, not recognized by the West, in which Crimeans voted to join Russia.

And apparently they're after security buildings with weapons storage as well. Oy vey.

Pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine have seized state security buildings in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukrainian officials say.

The Luhansk security building's weapons arsenal has been raided, police say.

On Sunday, protesters broke into regional government buildings in Donetsk and Kharkiv.

At an emergency cabinet meeting, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed Russia for the seizures.