Russia has been preparing for this contingency for years - which comes as a surprise to no one who had been following the situation closely. While there have been howls from corners of Congress that the US intelligence community failed to see this coming, Russian contingency planning over Crimea has been known to the US government for at least seven years.
A Dec. 7, 2006 cable from the US Embassy in Kiev, leaked to Wikileaks by former US soldier Chelsea Manning, outlined the ways in which Russia - alarmed by NATO expansion to the east and afraid of Ukraine possibly joining the European Union - was setting the table in Crimea. Ukraine’s so-called Orange Revolution, which brought a government to power that looked west more than east, had happened just two years prior.
Russia had been busy in the meantime.
There are in fact some things that members of Congress can agree on. With a vote of 97-0, the Senate unanimously approved a set of changes to the military’s sexual assault policies late on Monday night. The bipartisan bill composed by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Deb Fischer (R-NE), ends the time-old practice of using a “good soldier defense” in cases of assault. Here’s the AP:
The new legislation would change the military rules of evidence to prohibit the accused from using good military character as an element of his defense in court-martial proceedings unless it was directly relevant to the alleged crime. The “good soldier defense” could encompass a defendant’s military record of reliability, dependability, professionalism and reputation as an individual who could be counted on in war and peacetime.
McCaskill described it as “the ridiculous notion that how well one flies a plane should have anything to do with whether they committed a crime.”
Private Bud Kelder went missing during World War II. Evidence suggests he’s buried as an unknown soldier in Manila. Will the Pentagon ever move to identify him?
At the center of the military’s effort is a little-known agency, the Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or J-PAC, and its longtime scientific director, Tom Holland. He alone assesses whether the evidence J-PAC has assembled is sufficient to identify a set of remains: A body goes home only if he signs off.
Though finding missing service members can be difficult — some were lost deep in Europe’s forests, others in Southeast Asia’s jungles — Holland’s approach has stymied efforts to identify MIAs even when the military already knows where they are. More than 9,400 service members are buried as “unknowns” in American cemeteries around the world. Holland’s lab has rejected roughly nine out of every 10 requests to exhume such graves.
Holland’s cautious approach is animated by a fear of mistakes.
Russian troops on Friday stormed a Ukranian military base 5 kilometers from the Ukranian city Sevastopol, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimean peninsula. No shots have been fired.
The two sides were reportedly in the middle of negotiating the Ukraninian soldiers’ terms of surrender, when the pro-Russian Crimean militia started assaulting the journalists who were reporting from the area.
According to early reports, members of a pro-Russia militia used a truck to break though the gate of the base. The truck got stuck at the gate, and Russia soldiers climbed over it. Some 70 Ukrainian troops were said to still be holding out in the bunkers. Russians troops who broke through the perimeter demanded the Ukrainian soldiers surrender.
A Ukrainian military official, Vladislav Seleznyov, told Reuters by telephone that the armed men took over the base without any shooting and that no one was hurt. Another Ukrainian official told Reuters at the post that he was now mediating between the Ukrainian forces and the armed group inside, and that no arms had been seized.
An American drone strike killed five Afghan National Army soldiers and wounded eight more Thursday morning, according to Afghan officials.
The attack took place at 3:20 a.m. in the Charkh district of Logar Province, an area of intense insurgent activity.
“We believe the strike was the result of poor coordination between the people on the ground and the operators of the drone,” said Din Mohammad Darwish, a spokesman for the governor of Logar Province, which is in eastern Afghanistan, neighboring Kabul Province.
“The area is frequented by insurgents both foreign and local, and drone strikes are carried out quite often in that part of Charkh,” Mr. Darwish said. “The A.N.A. outpost was part of the security belt in the province.”
SAN ANTONIO — Former Sgt. Santiago Erevia remembers the day in May 1969 when his Army unit came under heavy enemy fire in Vietnam. While crawling from one wounded solder to the next, the radio telephone operator used two M-16s and several grenades to single-handedly destroy four enemy bunkers and their occupants.
Decades later, the Texas man’s heroic feat earned him the Medal of Honor.
“I thought I was going to get killed when I started to advance because when you fight battles like that you don’t expect to live,” Erevia told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Erevia is one of 24 veterans who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to receive the U.S. military’s highest honor after a congressionally mandated review of minorities who may have been passed over because of long-held prejudices. The veterans — most of Hispanic or Jewish heritage — will be recognized in a March 18 ceremony that will try to correct the long-ignored ethnic and religious discrimination in the armed forces
President Obama will correct a historical act of discrimination next month when he awards the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest commendation for combat valor, to a group of Hispanic, Jewish and African-American veterans who were passed over because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.
The unusual presentation will culminate a 12-year Pentagon review ordered by Congress into past discrimination in the ranks and will hold a particular poignancy when conducted by the nation’s first African-American president.
Only three of the men, two Hispanic-Americans and one African-American, are still alive, and will come to the White House for the ceremony March 18.
It’s high time for Congress to agree to the Pentagon’s request to close military bases, a whopping 91 percent of National Journal’s National Security Insiders said.
Lawmakers, even as they search for ways to cut spending, have rebuffed the Defense Department’s requests to close military installations it no longer needs as the military downsizes after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—to the dismay of the pool of national security experts. “Enough already,” one Insider said.
“Congress rails about waste, until the Pentagon comes up with legitimate savings that require congressional statesmanship,” another Insider said. “At which point, Congress goes silent.”