Former CIA deputy director: Absolute risk of US-China war over South China Sea

This evening, May 20, 2015, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the confrontation of U.S. and China over the latter’s increasingly aggressive moves in the South China Sea indicates there is “absolutely” a risk of the U.S. and China going to war sometime in the future.

South China Sea - China's claimChina’s territorial claims in the South China Sea

Jim Sciutto reports for CNN, May 20, 2015, that today, the Chinese navy issued warnings eight times as a U.S. surveillance plane swooped over islands in the South China Sea which are used by Beijing to extend its zone of influence.

The series of man-made islands and the massive Chinese military build-up on them have alarmed the Pentagon, which is carrying out the surveillance flights in order to make clear the U.S. does not recognize China’s territorial claims. The militarized islands have also alarmed America’s regional allies.

A CNN team was given exclusive access to join in the surveillance flights over the contested waters, which the Pentagon allowed for the first time in order to raise awareness about the challenge posed by the islands and the growing U.S. response.

CNN was aboard the P8-A Poseidon, America’s most advanced surveillance and submarine-hunting aircraft, when the Chinese navy issued warnings to the U.S. surveillance plane. “This is the Chinese navy … This is the Chinese navy … Please go away … to avoid misunderstanding,” a voice in English crackled through the radio of the aircraft in which CNN was present.

This is the first time the Pentagon has declassified video of China’s building activity and audio of Chinese challenges of a U.S. aircraft.

The aircraft flew at 15,000 feet in the air at its lowest point, but the U.S. is considering flying such surveillance missions even closer over the islands, as well as sailing U.S. warships within miles of them, as part of the new, more robust U.S. military posture in the area.

Soon after the Chinese communication was heard, its source appeared on the horizon seemingly out of nowhere: an island made by China some 600 miles from its coastline.

The South China Sea is the subject of numerous rival territorial claims over an area that includes fertile fishing grounds and potentially rich reserves of undersea natural resources. China sees itself as having jurisdiction over the body of water.

South China SeaThe U.S. surveillance plane’s mission was specifically aimed at monitoring Chinese activities on three islands that months ago were reefs barely peaking above the waves. Now they are massive construction projects that the U.S. fears will soon be fully functioning military installations.

China’s alarming creation of entirely new territory in the South China Sea is one part of a broader military push that some fear is intended to challenge U.S. dominance in the region. Beijing is sailing its first aircraft carrier; equipping its nuclear missiles with multiple warheads; developing missiles to destroy us warships; and, now, building military bases far from its shores.

That’s exactly what former CIA deputy director Morell warned may be coming if China continues down its current path. He warned on CNN that “there’s a real risk, when you have this kind of confrontation, for something bad happening.”

He added that China’s aggressive growth hints at a broader trend as the Asian economic superpower continues to expand its influence and strength — one that Morell said could “absolutely” lead to war between the U.S. and China: “China is a rising power. We’re a status quo power. We’re the big dog on the block … They want more influence. Are we going to move a little bit? Are they going to push? How is that dance going to work out? This is a significant issue for the next President of the United States.” Morell acknowledged that war is “not in their interests, (and) it’s not in our interests. But absolutely, it’s a risk.”

Capt. Mike Parker, commander of the fleet of P8 and P3 surveillance aircraft deployed to Asia, told CNN aboard the P8, “I’m scratching my head like everyone else as to what’s the (Chinese) end game here. We have seen increased activity even recently on what appears to be the building of military infrastructure. We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy, and I’m highly confident it came from ashore, this facility here,” as he pointed to an early warning radar station on an expanded Fiery Cross Reef.

In just two years, China has expanded these islands by 2,000 acres — the equivalent of 1,500 football fields — and counting, an engineering marvel in waters as deep as 300 feet.

The video filmed by the P8’s surveillance cameras shows that, in addition to early warning radar, Fiery Cross Reef is now home to military barracks, a lofty lookout tower and a runway long enough to handle every aircraft in the Chinese military. Some call it China’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier.”

In a sign of just how valuable China views these islands to be, the new islands are already well protected. From the cockpit, Lt. Cmdr Matt Newman told CNN, “There’s obviously a lot of surface traffic down there: Chinese warships, Chinese coast guard ships. They have air search radars, so there’s a pretty good bet they’re tracking us.”

The proof of the tracking is in the Chinese navy ordering the P8 out of the airspace eight times on this mission alone. Each time, the American pilots told them calmly and uniformly that the P8 was flying through international airspace.

In this military-to-military stand-off in the skies, civilian aircraft can find themselves in the middle. The pilot of a Delta flight in the area spoke on the same frequency, quickly identifying himself as commercial. The voice on the radio then identified himself as “the Chinese Navy” and the Delta flight went on its way.

U.S. commanders also told CNN that the more China builds, , the more frequently and aggressively the Chinese navy warns away U.S. military aircraft.

Over Fiery Cross Reef and, later, Mischief Reef, fleets of dozens of dredgers could be seen hard at work, sucking sand off the bottom of the sea and blowing it in huge plumes to create new land above the surface, while digging deep harbors below. “We see this every day,” Parker said. “I think they work weekends on this because we see it all the time.”

Chinese building military installations on Fiery Cross Reef

Chinese building military installations on Fiery Cross Reef

See also:

-StMA

U.S. Marines subdue civilians in training exercise in Arizona public park

In the United States, both laws (Insurrection Act of 1807 and Posse Comitatus Act of 1878) and tradition require that the U.S. military be separated from involvement with domestic politics and civilian affairs.

But an Army video has surfaced, depicting U.S. Marines subduing civilians in a training exercise in a public park in Yuma, Arizona, which is causing much consternation that the video is evidence that the Obama administration is preparing for martial law.

The video, titled “Assault Support Tactics 3,” is produced by Defense Video & Image Distribution System (DVIDS), a website operated by Third Army/U.S. Army Central (ARCENT) on behalf of the Department of the Army, and paid for by the US Department of Defense. The video was taken on April 17, 2015, in Yuma, Arizona, by U.S. Marine journalist Sgt. Daniel Kujanpaa. This is how the video is described on DVIDS:

U.S. Marines from 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division participate in assault support tactics 3 during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 2-15 in Yuma, Ariz., April 18, 2015. WTI is a seven week event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

Here is a version of the video, 02:27 minutes long, posted to YouTube, showing the Marines subduing men (crisis actors) dressed in civilian clothes, some with feigned injuries like the guy with a bloodied face at the 0:17 mark:

Note the presence of spectators with small children outside the park’s chain link fence, watching armed soldiers hunting down ordinary Americans. Here’s a screenshot I took at the 0:12 mark:

Marines assault exercise Yuma1The YouTube video is a shortened version of the original footage because the beginning of the video speeded up or rushed through the arrival of the Marines in choppers into a public park somewhere in the city of Yuma. The original 7:10 minutes-long video is posted on DVIDS.

What is interesting about the original video is that there is imagery only at the beginning, showing a chopper landing in the park and Marines talking to spectators — including small children — on the other side of the chain link fence. But after the 01:15 mark, there is no imagery for the rest of video until just before the video ends. In other words, the images of Marines subduing and hand-cuffing “civilians” were blocked.

There is, however, audio — of male voices talking, shouting, metallic clanking, a hoarse voice (at around the 05:04 mark), and the sound of machine gun fire (?) or a chopper at around the 05:45 mark. Finally, beginning at the 05:50 mark, the imagery returned — of soldiers carrying a “wounded” man on a stretcher to a waiting chopper, soldiers cleaning up, the landing of another chopper, and the deserted park at nightfall.

Go to DVIDS and verify for yourself about the censored-out imagery of Marines subduing and handcuffing crisis actors posing as civilians.

While I understand the U.S. military must train our soldiers in simulated scenarios, what is the need or rationale for a drill depicting armed soldiers subduing civilians in a public park, seen by families with small children? Why wasn’t this drill conducted on a military base or in that fake city in Virginia constructed with millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars? (See “U.S. Army builds $96m fake city in VA to train for what?”)

This “training exercise” in a public park will only add to the apprehensions about Operation Jade Helm — a 2-month Special Operations Exercise by élite members from all four branches of the U.S. military, unprecedented in its size and scope.

~StMA

Military bases across U.S. on heightened alert against Islamic terrorist threat

Dan De Luce reports for AFP that today, May 8, 2015, Admiral William Gortney, the head of U.S. Northern Command, ordered the military to bolster security at bases across the country after the FBI voiced concern that Islamist extremists could target troops or police officers. This raised the official alert status one notch higher on a five-point scale, from the fourth level “Alpha” to the third level “Bravo,” which the military describes as an “increased and predictable threat of terrorism.”

FPCON terrorist threat level Bravo

Note: Force Protection Condition (FPCON), formerly known as THREATCON, is a terrorist threat system overseen by the Department of Defense (DoD) directive which describes the amount of measures needed to be taken by security agencies in response to various levels of terrorist threats against military facilities. (DEFCON assesses the amount of military forces needed to be deployed in a situation with a certain likelihood of attack against the civilian population.) The 5 FPCON levels are:

  1. FPCON Normal: a situation of no terrorist activity.
  2. FPCON Alpha: a situation where there is a small and general terrorist threat that is not predictable. However, agencies will inform personnel that there is a possible threat and standard security procedure review is conducted.
  3. FPCON Bravo: a situation with a somewhat predictable terrorist threat. Security measures taken by agency personnel may affect the activities of local law enforcement and the general public. (Must show two military base IDs at gates.)
  4. FPCON Charlie: a situation when a global terrorist attack has occurred or when intelligence reports that there is local terrorist activity imminent. (Must show two IDs at gates. Military installation traffic routes are restricted.)
  5. FPCON Delta: a situation when a terrorist attack is taking place or has just occurred in the immediate area. FPCON Delta usually occurs only in the areas that are most vulnerable to or have been attacked. One notable example of a general FPCON Delta was directly following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when all military installations were placed at FPCON Delta and restricted to only military personnel.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said the heightened alert is “a prudent measure,” a move designed “to remind installation commanders at all levels within the NORTHCOM area of responsibility to ensure increased vigilance in safeguarding of all DoD personnel and facilities.”

Most of the additional security measures would likely not be readily apparent to the public, apart from perhaps more bags being searched or ID cards being checked at base entrances.

The heightened alert came after two heavily-armed men, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, described by Pentagon chief Ashton Carter on Thursday as “inspired” but not “directed” by the Islamic State (IS), attempted to storm an exhibition on Sunday showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a Dallas suburb. The two gunmen were shot dead by a local police officer before they could approach the building where the event was being held.

Elton Simpson, Nadir Soofi Warren said “The decision to do this now is informed by a generally heightened threat level. We’ve seen what happened in Texas. We’ve seen other social media and Internet-based discussions and threats. We have detected a general increase in the overall (threat) environment.” FBI Director James Comey said on Thursday that authorities were concerned about the IS group encouraging attacks on “the uniformed military and law enforcement” via online propaganda. Comey’s comments echoed warnings from lawmakers and experts who said IS’s social media efforts are carried out on a vast scale and at a tempo that Western governments are unable to keep up with. J.M. Berger, an author and fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, told the Senate Homeland Security committee that the IS has 2,000 people tweeting for the group 150 times a day, which gives IS “an unprecedented level of success” compared to other extremist organizations. There are “hundreds, maybe thousands” of people in the United States who had received recruitment messages from the jihadists. The risk posed by IS-inspired homegrown militants was a factor in the decision to raise the security level but not the only factor, defense officials said. H/t CODA’s M.S. -StMA

Military-aviation website forecasts economic collapse & massive depopulation for U.S. by 2025

Deagel.com, a military equipment and civil aviation guide website, is causing a buzz on the Internet for its dire forecast that in a mere 10 years, by the year 2025, the United States would be unrecognizable, a shadow of its former self. Specifically, the U.S.’s:

  • Population will be reduced by 254 million (or 78%), plummeting from today’s 318,890,000 to 64,879,100.
  • GDP will be reduced by $16.54 trillion, plummeting from today’s $17.42 trillion to $881.804 billion.
  • Power purchase parity will be reduced by $45,739, plummeting from today’s $54,800 to $9,061.

What is Deagle.com? Wikipedia does not have an entry on Deagle.com. This is what the precious metals website Silver Doctors says about Deagle.com:

Deagel.com is a military equipment and civil aviation guide website. I have spent time trying to figure out who is behind iit and whether or not it is legitimate – and what the purpose of it is. Certainly it seems legitimate as a catalog of military equipment, the corporations which manufacture the equipment and the Government organizations involved with anything related to the military.

Here’s a screenshot of Deagle.com’s home page (click to enlarge):

Deagle.com1

In a statement about its forecast, Deagle.com claims that:

  • Its forecasts employ mainly data from two sources:
    • Institutions such as the CIA, IMF, UN, and USG (U.S. government).
    • “Shadow sources such as Internet gurus, unsigned reports and others.”
  • Governments lie. Like the economic lies that communist regimes told their people and the world, present-day governments of seemingly-affluent countries like the United States also generate fake statistics about their economies.
  • The implosion of the U.S. will be triggered by a financial and economic collapse.
  • That, in turn, will result in a massive loss of population from deaths and out-migration.

Here’s Deagle.com’s statement in its entirety:

There have been many questions about the countries forecast specially the one focusing on the United States of America (USA). They won’t be answered one by one but below you can find some explanation, thoughts and reflections. We are going to keep this as short as possible. The majority of the economic and demographic data used in the making of the forecasts is widely available by institutions such as the CIA, IMF, UN, USG, etc. You can see the most relevant data at every single country’s page. There is a tiny part of data coming from a variety of shadow sources such as Internet gurus, unsigned reports and others. But all these sources are from the internet and are of public domain for at least a minority. For example, several years ago Dagong, the Chinese ratings agency, published a report analyzing the physical economy of the States comparing it with those of China, Germany and Japan. The conclusion was that the US GDP was something between $5 to $10 trillion instead of $15 trillion as officially reported by the USG. We assume that the official data, especially economic, released by governments is fake, cooked or distorted in some degree. Historically it is well known that the former Soviet Union was making up fake statistics years before its collapse. Western as well as other countries are making up their numbers today to conceal their real state of affairs. We are sure that many people out there can find government statistics in their own countries that by their own personal experience are hard to believe or are so optimistic that may belong to a different country. Despite the numeric data “quantity” there is a “quality” model which has not a direct translation into numeric data. The 2014 strain of Ebola has a death rate of 50-60% but try to imagine what would happen if there is a pandemic of Ebola with hundreds of thousands or millions infected with the virus. So far the few cases of Ebola-infected people have “enjoyed” intensive healthcare with anti-viral and breathing assistance but above all with abundant human support by Physicians and nurses. In a pandemic scenario that kind of healthcare won’t be available for the overwhelming number of infected leading to a dramatic increase of the death rate due to the lack of proper healthcare. The “quality” factor is that the death rate could increase to 80-90% in a pandemic scenario from the stated 50-60% rate. The figure itself is not important what is relevant is the fact that the scenario can evolve beyond the initial conditions from a 50% death toll to more than 90%. By the way, no pandemic or nuclear war is included in the forecast. The key element to understand the process that the USA will enter in the upcoming decade is migration. In the past, specially in the 20th century, the key factor that allowed the USA to rise to its colossus status was immigration with the benefits of a demographic expansion supporting the credit expansion and the brain drain from the rest of the world benefiting the States. The collapse of the Western financial system will wipe out the standard of living of its population while ending ponzi schemes such as the stock exchange and the pension funds. The population will be hit so badly by a full array of bubbles and ponzi schemes that the migration engine will start to work in reverse accelerating itself due to ripple effects thus leading to the demise of the States. This unseen situation for the States will develop itself in a cascade pattern with unprecedented and devastating effects for the economy. Jobs offshoring will surely end with many American Corporations relocating overseas thus becoming foreign Corporations!!!! We see a significant part of the American population migrating to Latin America and Asia while migration to Europe – suffering a similar illness – won’t be relevant. Nevertheless the death toll will be horrible. Take into account that the Soviet Union’s population was poorer than the Americans nowadays or even then. The ex-Soviets suffered during the following struggle in the 1990s with a significant death toll and the loss of national pride. Might we say “Twice the pride, double the fall”? Nope. The American standard of living is one of the highest, far more than double of the Soviets while having added a services economy that will be gone along with the financial system. When pensioners see their retirement disappear in front of their eyes and there are no servicing jobs you can imagine what is going to happen next. At least younger people can migrate. Never in human history were so many elders among the population. In past centuries people were lucky to get to their 30s or 40s. The American downfall is set to be far worse than the Soviet Union’s one. A confluence of crisis with a devastating result. The Demographic crisis in the former Soviet Union countries has extended for over two decades, if we accept that it ended early in this decade (2010s). The demographic crisis will hit the World in the near future and is projected to last between three and eight decades more or less depending on technological breakthrough and environmental issues. The aftermath is more likely a frozen picture with the population numbers staying the same for a very, very long period of time. The countries forecast population numbers do reflect birth/deaths but also migratory movements. Many countries are going to increase their gross population due to immigration while their native population may shrink. Over the past two thousand years we have witnessed the Western civilization built around the Mediterranean Sea shifting to Northern Europe and then by the mid 20th century shifting to an Atlantic axis to finally get centered into the States in the past 30 years. The next move will see the civilization being centered in Asia with Russia and China on top. Historically a change in the economic paradigm has resulted in a death toll that is rarely highlighted by mainstream historians. When the transition from rural areas to large cities happened in Europe many people unable to accept the new paradigm killed themselves. They killed themselves by a psychological factor. This is not mainstream but it is true. A new crisis joins old, well known patterns with new ones. Sorry to disappoint many of you with our forecast. It is getting worse and worse every year since the beginning of the pre-crisis in 2007. It is already said that this website is non-profit, built on spare time and we provide our information and services AS IS without further explanations and/or guarantees. We are not linked to any government in any way, shape or form. We are not a death or satanic cult or arms dealers as some BS is floating around the internet on this topic. Take into account that the forecast is nothing more than a model whether flawed or correct. It is not God’s word or a magic device that allows to foresee the future. Sunday, October 26th, 2014

The United States isn’t the only country for which Deagle.com has a dire forecast. Here are some other countries that will experience drastic population losses:

  1. United Kingdom: From 63,740,000 to 22,570,600
  2. Germany: From 80,990,000 to 48,123,620.
  3. Italy: 61,680,000 to 45,526,880.
  4. France: 66,260,000 to 43,548,080.
  5. Ireland: 4,830,000 to 1,506,920.
  6. Greece: 10,770,000 to 3,295,240
  7. Netherlands: 16,880,000 to 10,483,760
  8. Spain: 47,740,000 to 25,745,560
  9. Poland: 38,350,000 to 35,329,520
  10. Israel: 7,820,000 to 2,856,300
  11. Russia: 142,470,000 to 136,979,080
  12. Canada: 34,830,000 to 24,594,680
  13. Japan: 127,100,000 to 46,640,420.
  14. Taiwan: 23,360,000 to 15,431,900
  15. Australia: 22,510,000 to 8,882,220
  16. New Zealand: 4,400,000 to 3,398,200

Countries that will increase in population include:

  1. China: 1,350,000,000 to 1,360,720,000
  2. India: 1,240,000,000 to 1,357,200,000
  3. Indonesia: 253,610,000 to 269,846,400
  4. Pakistan: 196,170,000 to 222,018,120
  5. Brazil: 202,660,000 to 217,859,380
  6. Argentina: 43,020,000 to 44,104,700
  7. Colombia: 46,240,000 to 49,759,520
  8. Iran: 80,840,000 to 83,357,560

To see Deagle.com’s 2025 forecasts for all 182 countries, go here. Silver Doctors writes: “I leave it up to the reader to decide whether or not this is a legitimate forecast from a legitimate organization. […] But, having said that, I have 100% conviction that the U.S. is heading toward a devastating financial and economic collapse that will trigger massive social upheaval and civil unrest. What just happened in Baltimore is small taste of what that will look like.”

UPDATE (May 8, 2015):

Here are my critique and analysis:

  1. Deagle.com’s flawed data: The website itself admits that governments, including the U.S. government, lie about their economic statistics. And yet Deagle.com says “most” of its data come from public information sources that include USG and other governments.
  2. Deagle.com’s faux numerical precision: Despite its flawed data, the website manages to make forecasts 10 years into the future with numerical precision of specific population numbers and GDPs in exact dollar amounts.
  3. There does not appear to be a discernible logic for the order of countries in Deagle.com’s list of 182 countries in 2025. The countries are arranged neither alphabetically, nor geographically (by region or continent), nor by their fortunes (decline or improvement), nor by the severity of their projected decline.
  4. If one assumes that the economic collapse of the U.S. dollar and of the U.S. economy would be the trigger event, that could explain why other western countries (Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and Japan would also decline. But why would China, whose economy is so dependent on the U.S. market for its exports, be exempt from the predicted precipitous decline, but instead is predicted to have a population increase of 10.72 million and only a slight $466 decrease in its PPP (from $12,900 to $12,566? That makes no sense.
  5. Making even less sense is that present-day 4th-world countries like Burkina Faso in Africa is projected to increase its population from 18,360,000 to 18,402,380, and its PPP from $1,700 to $1,841.

~StMA

University Army ROTC made to wear red high heels to “raise awareness” about rape

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) is a college-based program for training commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces.

Two days ago, an Arizona State University ROTC cadet posted this on the U.S. Army sub-page of the popular Reddit.com website:

Reddit ROTC red heelsThe message claims that “tomorrow morning” (April 21, 2015), the poster’s “entire ROTC battalion” will be forced to “walk a mile” dressed in ACU (Army combat uniform) and red high heels “to promote awareness for sexual abuse on campus.”

Juan Leon of IJReview followed up the Reddit message with tweets by Temple University’s Army ROTC of male cadets wearing red high heels:

Temple U Army ROTC red high heelsTemple U Army ROTC red high heels1

Here are more images of cadets wearing red high heels on Temple University Army ROTC’s Facebook page:

Temple U Army ROTC red high heels2Temple U Army ROTC red high heels3

I conducted a search for “walk a mile in her shoes” on the official homepage of the United States Army and found these:

1. On Sept. 22, 2012, on the U.S. military base Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, 200 soldiers wore red high heels in an international men’s march against domestic violence and sexual assault known locally as “Dudes in Heels.” The event in 2012 was the second annual Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program sponsored event.

red high heels Rose Barracks, Vilseck Germany

2. On April 26, 2014, soldiers U.S. Army Alaska’s SHARP team participated as volunteers in a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event in Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska.

While the participation of U.S. soldiers in the 2012 and 2014 “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” marches appeared to be voluntary, Douglas Ernst of The Washington Times points out that ROTC cadets are being forced to participate:

Army ROTC cadets are complaining on message boards that they were pressured to walk in high heels on Monday [April 21, 2015] for an Arizona State University [ASU] campus event designed to raise awareness of sexual violence against women” and that although “The Army openly encouraged participating in April’s ‘Walk A Mile in Her Shoes’ events in 2014,” the event was “mandatory” for ROTC candidates at ASU.

Is it any wonder why the U.S. Army is plagued with low morale.

See also:

H/t CODA’s M.S.

~StMA

U.S. Army commander says Russia is “real threat” as Patriot missiles are deployed to Poland

Lt. Gen. Ben HodgesJustin Huggler reports for The Telegraph, April 18, 2015, that Lt. Gen. Frederick “Ben” Hodges, Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, warns that NATO must remain united in the face of a “real threat” from Russia:

It’s not an assumption. There is a Russian threat. You’ve got the Russian ambassador threatening that Denmark will be a nuclear target if it participates in any missile defense program. And when you look at the unsafe way Russian aircraft are flying without transponders in proximity to civilian aircraft, that’s not professional conduct.”

Gen. Hodges spoke to the Telegraph on the sidelines of a military debriefing after an exercise to move live Patriot missiles 750 miles across Europe by road and deploy them on the outskirts of Warsaw. The sight of a US military convoy crossing the German-Polish border more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War made international headlines and brought traffic to a standstill as people posed for selfies beside the troops.

map of Baltic StatesPointing to recent Russian decisions to move Iskandar ballistic missiles to its Kaliningrad enclave, between Lithuania and Poland, and long-range nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea, Gen. Hodges said the intention of the highly visible deployment of Patriot missiles to Poland was to send a signal:

“That’s exactly what it was about, reassuring our allies. I don’t think a military confrontation is inevitable. But you have to be militarily ready in order to enable effective diplomacy. The best insurance we have against a showdown is that NATO stands together.”

Danish F-16sSince taking over command of the US army in Europe last year, Gen. Hodges has found himself on the front line of an increasingly nervous stand-off with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Eastern European countries are looking to NATO, and the US in particular, for reassurance that they will not be left to face Russian aggression alone.

A year after the Obama administration pulled its last battle tank out of Europe, the US is sending hundreds of tanks and heavy fighting vehicles back to the continent, and Gen. Hodges is in the middle of talks over where to position them. He has also assumed command at a time when many Western European countries are cutting their military budgets, and relying ever more on the US for their defense. “I think the question for each country to ask is: are they security consumers or security providers?” Gen Hodges said. “Do they bring capabilities the alliance needs?”

In recent years, while Western countries have been cutting their defense budgets, Russia has been spending heavily on modernizing its military.
Gen. Hodges said the recent involvement of Russian forces in fighting in eastern Ukraine has shown that they have made huge advances, particularly in electronic warfare: “We’re not interested in a fair fight with anyone. We want to have overmatch in all systems. I don’t think that we’ve fallen behind but Russia has closed the gap in certain capabilities. We don’t want them to close that gap.”

But he doesn’t think this is the start of a new Cold War:

“That was a different situation, with gigantic forces and large numbers of nuclear weapons. The only thing that is similar now is that Russia and NATO have different views about what the security environment in Europe should be. I don’t think it’s the same as the Cold War. We did very specific things then that are no longer relevant. We don’t need 300,000 soldiers in Europe. Nobody can afford that any more. We want to see Russia back in the international community and cooperating against Islamic terrorism and on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That’s different from the Cold War. I’m sure they’re not going to line up Russian tanks and go rolling into another country. They don’t want a military confrontation with NATO. Our alliance is the most successful alliance in history and it has a lot of capability.”

Gen Hodges has an easy manner with the men under his command, making jokes and asking the opinions of the most junior privates, as well as senior officers. He has combat experience as a brigade commander in Iraq, but in his current role he has to deal with different challenges.

Hodges believes Russia will not risk an open attack on a NATO member for fear the alliance will invoke Article V of its treaty, under which an attack on one member is an attack on all. Instead, the danger is that Russia will seek to put pressure on NATO members on its borders through other means, such as information, economic pressure, and border violations. He points to the large Russian-speaking populations in the Baltic countries, and the economic power Russia has as a major consumer of eastern European agricultural produce, as possible avenues Russian president Vladimir Putin may try to exploit.

But Hodges is confident that NATO will remain united in the face of Russian aggression:

“If President Putin’s objective is to fracture the alliance, then he’s going about it the wrong way. At the Wales summit there was a unity of the alliance I have not seen before, and it came about because of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its use of force to change the borders of a sovereign country, Ukraine. It was a direct response to Russia’s behaviour in Crimea.”

Is Gen. Hodges not aware that last December, Hungary, which joined NATO in 1997, accused the United States of instigating a new Cold War against Russia and declared Hungary will not participate?

Pointing to recent moves by traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland to cooperate more closely on defense with NATO members Norway, Denmark and Iceland, Hodges observes:

“Nobody’s trying to join Russia. There’s no country scurrying to get under Russia’s protective umbrella. Why do so many countries want to join the EU or NATO? It’s about values. They want security and prosperity. Russia wants to make it difficult for countries that were affiliated with the USSR or the Warsaw Pact to join the West. The way they see it they’re entitled to a role, to a sphere of influence. I think the position of the West is that this idea of a sphere of influence is not applicable in the 21st century. In the 21st century countries have the right to decide for themselves what is right for them and what kind of country they want to be. They’ve made the European choice. That’s what this is all about.”

Since taking up his command, Gen Hodges has been outspoken over the Russian threat in a way that is rare for a serving general. Admitting that “I understand my role” as carrying out, not making, policy for the U.S. or the NATO alliance, Hodges nevertheless has chosen to speak out because he fears Russia is going unchallenged in the information war:

“We talk about DIME: diplomacy, information, military and economy. An important aspect of how Russia operates is how they use information. They use information the way they use infantry and missiles. They’re not burdened by the truth. Most of the independent media has left Russia and a large percentage is government-owned or -dominated. They don’t have to worry about congressional or parliamentary oversight. There’s a constant bombardment of information.”

In his last interview before his death on Monday, Günter Grass, the Nobel-winning German author, said he feared that humanity was “sleepwalking” towards another World War. But Gen. Hodges disagrees:

“I think we were sleepwalking a few years ago when we thought Russia wanted to be a part of the international community. They were with us in Bosnia. We actually have a mechanism for them to cooperate with NATO. But I think we’re wide-awake now.”

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~StMA

U.S. Army plagued with low morale: pessimistic, unhappy, distrustful and unfit

tired soldier

Gregg Zoraya reports for USA Today, April 16, 2015, that data obtained by USA Today show that, despite a 6-year $287 million campaign to boost  morale, U.S. Army soldiers are unhappy in their jobs and pessimistic about their future in the military.

The data come from resiliency assessments that soldiers are required to take every year. The Army began a program of positive psychology in 2009 in the midst of two wars and as suicide and mental illness were on the rise. To measure resiliency the Army created a confidential, online questionnaire that all soldiers, including the National Guard and Reserve, must fill out once a year. In 2014, for the first time, the Army pulled data from those assessments to help commanders gauge the psychological and physical health of their troops.

Twelve months of internal data through early 2015 obtained by USA Today  show startlingly negative findings, including:

  • More than half of some 770,000 soldiers (52% or 403,564 soldiers) are pessimistic about their future in the military, agreeing with statements such as “I rarely count on good things happening to me.”
  • 48% or about 370,000 soldiers are unhappy in their jobs, have little satisfaction in or commitment to their jobs, and would have chosen another if they had it to do over again. Only 28% felt good about what they do.
  • More than half reported poor nutrition and sleep. Only 14% said they are eating right and getting enough rest.
  • Two-thirds were borderline or worse for an area called “catastrophic thinking,” where poor scores mean the soldier has trouble adapting to change or dwells on the worst possible things happening.
  • Nearly 40% or about 300,000 soldiers didn’t trust their immediate supervisor or fellow soldiers in their unit or didn’t feel respected or valued. Only 32% felt good about about bosses and peers.
  • In physical fitness, less than 40% were in good shape, 28% were borderline, and 33% did poorly.

In contrast to their pessimism and dissatisfaction about the Army, 53% or more than 400,000 soldiers said they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with their marriage, personal relationship or family. About 240,000 expressed dissatisfaction.

Retired vice admiral Norb Ryan, head of the Military Officers Association of America, and Joyce Raezer, executive of the National Military Family Association, said the results are not surprising. Fourteen years of war and recent decisions to downsize or cut funding for the military have left morale low, they said.

A recent survey by the Military Times and a Navy Retention Study also show troops increasingly unhappy. (See Survey finds U.S. military plagued with low morale,” Dec. 16, 2014.)

The Army offered contradictory responses to the findings obtained by USA Today:

  • Sharyn Saunders, chief of the Army Resiliency Directorate that produced the data, initially disavowed the results. “I’ve sat and looked at your numbers for quite some time and our team can’t figure out how your numbers came about,” she said in an interview in March. But when USA Today provided her the supporting Army documents this week, her office acknowledged the data but said the formulas used to produce them were obsolete. “We stand by our previous responses,” it said in a statement.
  • Then the Army calculated new findings but lowered the threshold for a score to be a positive result, insisting that “We continue to refine our methologies and threshold values to get the most accurate results possible.” As a consequence, for example, only 9% of 704,000 now score poorly in optimism.

In other words, the Obama administration doesn’t like their own data on how U.S. soldiers are faring, so the solution is to change the measuring tool so as to produce concoct “better” results.

The Army’s positive psychology program, known officially as Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness, to make soldiers more resilient has been controversial since its inception in 2009. A blue-ribbon panel of scientists from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine concluded last year that there is little or no evidence the program prevents mental illness, and that there had been no effort to test its efficacy before the Army embraced it. The panel cited research arguing that, in fact, the program could be harmful if it leaves soldiers with a false sense of resiliency.

The Army disputed the findings, pushing ahead with its positive psychology program that now costs more than $50 million a year.

US Army moraleSee also: