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Russia Used Social Media to Spread Propaganda to Veterans and Troops

russia hack

By Debbie Gregory.

British researchers say they have evidence that Russia targeted U.S. military veterans and active-duty troops via social-media, especially Twitter, to spread anti-government propaganda in the spring before the presidential election.

The study by Oxford University traced the reach of three websites, Veteranstoday.com, Veteransnewsnow.com, and Southfront.org, known to have shown ads and posts linked to the Russian government.

The content led to “significant and persistent interactions” on Twitter over a one-month period, with a theme of news to undermine faith in U.S. democracy.

According to Philip Howard, a professor of internet studies who led the research, the study uncovered an entire ecosystem of junk news about national security issues that is deliberately crafted for U.S. veterans and active military personnel.

“It’s a complex blend of content with a Russian view of the world — wild rumors and conspiracies,” Howard said.

The Oxford study categorized 12,413 Twitter users and 11,103 Facebook users who had messages that referenced or carried content from one or more of the Russian-linked websites from April 2 to May 2, 2017.

On both Twitter and Facebook, Russian fingerprints are on thousands of fake accounts that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages. Many were automated accounts, called bots, that sometimes fired off identical messages seconds apart,  and in the exact alphabetical order of their made-up names

News from the study’s findings comes after Facebook revealed that Moscow purchased online ads that specifically targeted presidential swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. Specific demographic groups were also targeted in an attempt to influence the presidential election.

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the extent and the success in which Russia disseminated false news or further fanned inflammatory reports.

Given the powerful role of social media in political contests, understanding what Russian did will be crucial in preventing similar attacks in the 2018 congressional races and the 2020 presidential election.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Trump’s Comments on Nuclear Treaty Raise Concerns

dump

By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, President Trump made comments about the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ) Treaty, calling it “a one-sided deal” and a “bad deal,” and pledged that “if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

The treaty, with the formal name Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, was signed between Russia and the United States in April 2010 in Prague, and entered into force on February 5, 2011. The Treaty’s duration is ten years — until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement.

Under the Treaty, the U.S. and Russia agreed to limit their deployed forces to 1,550 warheads over 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and bombers by February 5, 2018.

According to a Reuters report on February 9, 2017, in Trump’s first telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump denounced the treaty claiming that it favored Russia and was “one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration.”

The independent non-profit Arms Control criticized the president’s remarks, saying “Mr. Trump’s comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons. The history of the Cold War shows us that no one comes out on ‘top of the pack’ of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship.”

“Any effort to undo the agreement or suggest the administration is not interested in an extension or negotiating a new agreement to replace New START when it expires in 2021 would negatively impact U.S. security and negatively impact an already shaky global nuclear order,” said Kingston Reif, a member of the Arms Control Association.

Expanding the US arsenal with new or additional nuclear weapons could cost approximately $400 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Other estimates put the overall nuclear modernization closer to $1 trillion.

The New START allows the United States to keep enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet several times over. Without the New START and INF effective, America will be compelled to waste enormous military and financial resources.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

NATO Sending More Troops to Eastern Europe

General View of the meeting room

By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, NATO Defense Ministers wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels, which marked progress in creating four NATO battalions in the Baltic States and Poland.

“Over the past two days, we assessed the various challenges confronting NATO,” said Secretary General Stoltenberg. “We took stock of our progress since the Warsaw Summit – and we mapped out the road ahead. We are as united as ever in our determination to protect our citizens.”

In the face of perceived Russian provocation, the United Kingdom has deployed hundreds of troops to Eastern Europe as NATO continues to make its presence known.

In 2017, the UK plans to send Royal Air Force Typhoon jets to Romania for up to four months. This is the largest buildup of troops in the region since the Cold War.

The latest troop deployment comes at a time of fear over the security of Baltic states such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which have significant Russian-speaking minorities like Ukraine and concerns that they could suffer a similar fate to Crimea’s.

The United States and the UK are both set to send troops to Poland next year in a show of strength and support of their NATO ally. NATO has also said that Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia will contribute to a Canadian-led battalion in Latvia.

Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway will join a German-led battalion in Lithuania, while Denmark and France will contribute to the UK-led battalion in Estonia. Romania and the UK will join the US-led battalion in Poland.

In February, the US Department of Defense announced it was spending $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative to deter Russian aggression against NATO allies.

The initiative will include putting equipment in place in the Baltic states, Poland and Central Europe.

A limited rotational force of 330 U.S. Marines will be deployed to Norway, beginning in January. They will be stationed at the Vaernes military base, according to a statement from the Norwegian Defense Ministry.

Earlier this year, members of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade trained in Norway alongside troops from other NATO countries in Exercise Cold Response.

Norway shares a 196-kilometer (122-mile) border with Russia.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Is America Losing The Cyber War?

cyberwar

By Debbie Gregory.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, the Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election

Russia, as well as China, Iran and North Korea routinely launch cyberattacks.

Russia has demonstrated its ability to integrate full-scale cyberwar into its military maneuvers, further threatening U.S. allies along its border.

President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation.

Complicating the ability to hit back are strict policies on how the U.S. is willing to conduct digital warfare. There are hard-line barriers between cyber operators cleared to carry out the government’s business and those who aren’t.

Too many U.S. combat commanders believe developing cyber tools is as clear-cut a process as making and employing conventional weapons.

America’s cyber shortcomings were at the center of a congressional hearing earlier this month during which Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, pressed the nation’s two top officials for digital combat to appraise the military’s ability to respond to cyber aggression.

“The cyber threat is one of the greatest challenges we face,” offered Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

The Arizona Republican prodded, citing former Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey’s troubling acknowledgement in January 2015 that cyber is the only major field of warfare in which the U.S. doesn’t have an advantage over its foes.

“It’s a level playing field,” the Army general said at the time, “and that makes this chairman very uncomfortable.”

The CIA’s cyber operation is being prepared by a team within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, documents indicate. According to officials, the team has a staff of hundreds and a budget in the hundreds of millions, they say.

The covert action plan is designed to protect the U.S. election system and insure that Russian hackers can’t interfere with the November vote, officials say. Another goal is to send a message to Russia that it has crossed a line, officials say.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Experts Say Russia, China Closing Weapons Gap with U.S.

flyby

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. is worried that its military advantage is getting smaller.

Russia and China are improving their ability to target U.S. aircraft and ships, closing the advanced weapons gap and challenging the US military presence in their regions.

Experts say the two countries are pushing the U.S. military farther away, in the air, on the sea, and under the sea.

China has become a big threat in the South China Sea, able to deploy numerous military assists to the disputed waters in no time. Russia has also warned that the Baltic Sea has become unsafe for the American military forces there.

China and Russia have test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles that have the ability to evade the most complex of missile defense systems.

In terms of undersea technology, Beijing and Moscow have shown advancements.

“Chinese nuclear attack submarines are just in absolute overdrive, how quick they’re building and how fast the technology is developing,” said Chris Harmer, senior naval analyst at the US Institute for the Study of War. He added, “And we’ve seen a significant increase in Russian naval activity, Russian long-range naval activity, Russian ships conducting port calls to Bandar Abbas in Iran.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

DoD’s Proposed 2017 Budget Comes in at $583 Billion

Ashhh

By Debbie Gregory.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter submitted a proposed $583 billion Defense Department budget for 2017 that focuses more on high-tech future conflicts and less on counterterrorism operations against militants such as the Islamic State group. But the budget does include a significant increase in funding for the fight against Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS, or ISIL.

“The [fiscal year 2017] budget reflects recent strategic threats that have taken place in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe,” the Pentagon said in a statement accompanying the budget documents released on February 9th.

The budget request includes a quadrupling of the funds to support NATO’s effort to counter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, raising the current amount of $789 million to $3.4 billion. This increase will allow for the rotation of more U.S. units in Europe, additional training, and the pre-positioning of gear.

“All of this together by the end of 2017 will let us rapidly form a highly-capable combined arms ground force that can respond theater-wide if necessary,” Carter said.

Fiscal year 2017 begins on October 1, 2016.

Carter called Russia, along with China, “our most stressing competitors,” which “reflect a return to a great power competition.”

With Russia’s seizing of Crimea from the Ukraine and China’s claims on disputed islands in the South China Sea, Carter said “we cannot blind ourselves to the actions they appear to choose to pursue.”

The Defense Department budget will shift in focus away from one potential enemy to multiple threats.

“We don’t have the luxury of just one opponent, or the choice between current fights and future fights — we have to do both. And that’s what our budget is designed to do,” Carter said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Russia a Threat, Once Again? Military Connection

ash putin

By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is calling Russia a “very, very significant threat,” agreeing with an assessment made by top military officials. Describing Russia’s behavior under President Vladimir Putin as that of an “antagonist,” Carter said a potential conflict with Russia is not something that the U.S. has had to think about since the Cold War.

During confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who will take over as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs this year, and Army Gen. Mark Milley, who recently became the Army’s new chief of staff, both named Russia as the top threat.

Carter said that the Pentagon’s strategy in countering Russia included an approach he called “strong and balanced.”

“The strong part means we are adjusting our capabilities qualitative and in terms of their deployments, to take account of this behavior of Russia,” he said.

While the U.S. must deal with Russia’s new aggression on the world stage, Carter said America will continue to work with Russia on things like counterterrorism and conflicts with Iran and North Korea. This cooperation leaves the door open for a peaceful future relationship with Russia, he said.

“The balanced part is we continue to work with Russia, because you can’t paint all their behavior with one brush. There are places where they are working with us: in counterterrorism in many important respects, in some respects, with respect to North Korea, in some respects with respect to Iran and elsewhere,” he said.

“So where Russia sees its interests as aligned with ours, we can work with them and will continue to do that,” Carter added.

U.S. and Western allies were forced to impose several rounds of sanctions on Moscow last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

“We’ll continue to hold open the door so that if either under Vladimir Putin or some successor of his in the future, there’s a leadership that wants to take Russia in the direction that, I believe, is best for Russia,” Carter said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.