As tensions in Ukraine rise, military-trained dolphins from the United States and Russian navies could come face-to-face with each other for the first time.
The U.S. Navy's marine mammal unit plans to deploy 20 dolphins and 10 sea lions to take part in a NATO drill in the Black Sea this summer for one to two weeks, according to reports from the Russian newspaper Izvestia.
The use of dolphins for naval operations began in the Cold War by America and the USSR. Russia recently acquired the Ukrainian navy's mammals following Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea.
The dolphins are trained to attach buoys to mines, attack enemy divers and plant bombs, according to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti.
The drills and exercises would be testing a new anti-radar system in the Black Sea which is believed to "disorient enemy sonars, while sea lions and dolphins are looking for mines and military divers,” Tom LaPuzza, spokesman for the U.S. Navy's marine mammals program, is quoted in Izvestia's report as saying.
"In addition, we plan to test new armour for dolphins developed by a specialised research centre based in the University of Hawaii," added Lapuzza.
There are only two nations with such military dolphin programs in the world. One located in Sevastopol, Russia, and the other is under the operational control of the U.S. Navy in San Diego.
The maximum period of stay for any naval forces of any country, which does not have access to the Black Sea is 21 days, according to an international agreement.
The Wire notes that the U.S. dolphins will also have to adapt to different water temperatures and lower salinity of the Black Sea. The Navy did not say whether these conditions will affect the mammals' abilities to perform exercises.
There’s a peculiar petition climbing up the charts over at the We the People petition site run by the White House. In just three weeks, over 42,000 people have signed a petition calling for the United States to give Alaska back to Russia.
If you were really paying attention back in your high school American History class, you might recall that the US bought Alaska from Russia in 1867 for just $7.2 million – a steal given the amount of land and natural resources Alaska sits on.
Now, 147 years later, people want America’s northernmost state returned to its old country.
The petition must accumulate 100,000 signatures in order to receive an official response from the White House. Given the number of signatures the proposal has received in such a short time, it’s very possible the Obama administration will have to respond to it in some way – most likely by saying something along the lines of “Relax, Alaska isn’t going anywhere.”
But if/when the Obama administration releases a response to the measure, they won’t be the first to do so. None other than Mr. Vladimir Putin already beat them to the punch.
During the same televised Q&A session that saw Edward Snowden ask Putin a question about mass surveillance, another Russian citizen asked the Kremlin if Russia would be interested in annexing Alaska.
No thanks – Russia is already cold enough.
“Faina Ivanovna, dear, why do you need Alaska?” Putin asked. “We have a northern country – 70% of our territory is in the north and far north. Alaska is too cold. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Who needs Alaska?"
Source: We the People
Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donestk were ordered to register, provide a list of all their property and pay a registration fee "or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated," according to Israeli media.
Jews say they were handed leaflets as they left synagogue that told them to register with the pro-Russian militants, who seized government buildings and want to make the city part of Russia.
Leaflets were stamped with the name Denis Pushilin, who declared himself the chairman of "Donetsk's temporary government.”
According to Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website, Pushilin acknowledged that his organization handed out the leaflets but denied any responsibility for its content.
The notice said registration was due to the alleged support of Jewish leaders for the "nationalist junta of [Stepan] Bandera in Kiev" and its hostility "to the Orthodox Donetsk republic and its citizens."
Jewish Donetsk resident Olga Reznikova, 32, told Ynet she never experienced anti-Semitism locally until she received the leaflet.
"We don't know if these notifications were distributed by pro-Russian activists or someone else, but it's serious that it exists," Reznikova said.
"The text reminds of the fascists in 1941,” she said referring to the Nazis.
Michael Salberg, director of the international affairs at the New York City-based Anti-Defamation League, told USA Today that it is uncertain whether the flyer was a made by pro-Russian leaders or a splinter group, but the message is still clear.
"The message is a message to all the people that is we're going to exert our power over you," Salberg said. "Jews are the default scapegoat throughout history for despots to send a message to the general public: Don't step out of line."
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that Russia doesn’t want a confrontation with the United States.
"They’re not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians,” the president told Major Garrett of CBS News, according to a Washington Post Blog. "We don’t need a war."
The remarks came two days after the Associated Press reported that a Russian fighter jet made multiple close passes near an American warship in the Black Sea.
The fighter pilot’s actions increased tensions in the region of Eastern Europe around Ukraine. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last month and has been amassing troops on Ukraine’s eastern border since that time.
"This provocative and unprofessional Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries," said Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren.
According to a Time magazine story, Garrett asked the president if the “buzz” from the fighter jet should be regarded as an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send a signal to Washington.
“As commander-in-chief, I don’t make decisions based on perceived signals,” Obama responded. “We make decisions very deliberately, based on what’s required for our security and for the security of our allies. And the Russians understand that.”
The president reiterated that Russia annexed Crimea "in an illegal fashion,” and he suggested that Russia has supported separatist militias in other parts of Ukraine. Those efforts by Russia are "causing chaos,” according to Obama.
But the president stopped short of detailing what, if any, further action the U.S. was willing to take in order to slow Russian aggression.
“What I’ve said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps, that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going to be consequences,” he said according to CBS News.
"The question now becomes whether or not this can be deescalated and resolved — in a way that gives Ukrainians a chance to make their own decisions about their own lives," Obama said.
Diplomatic officials from the United States, Ukraine, Russia and the European Union are scheduled to meet Thursday in Geneva. That will be the first meeting between the four parties since the crisis in Ukraine erupted.
Putin expressed hope that the talks could offer “real dialogue.”
“I think the start of today’s talks is very important, as it’s very important now to think together about how to overcome this situation and offer a real dialogue to the people,” he said.
As Russian troops move further into Ukraine, the Obama administration is preparing to hit the Russian economy and the Putin regime with another round of sanctions.
The Daily Beast reports that Russian troops seized government buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities over the weekend. The U.S. State Department issued a statement Saturday characterizing the movements of Russian troops in Ukraine as “orchestrated and synchronized” and were ”similar to previous attacks in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.”
When Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea last month, the Obama administration and key European allies were quick to put economic sanctions and banking restrictions in place that targeted key members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership. Now there is a divide between the European countries and the United States as to whether the overall economy of Russia should be targeted with further sanctions or if more action should be taken against members of the Russian leadership.
“The U.S. government is ready to go, we have all kinds of options that have been developed,” said one U.S. official. “The European view is that sectorial economic sanctions should be limited to respond to an outright Russian military invasion of Eastern Ukraine.”
Even so, White House officials say sanctions could be put in place as early as Tuesday.
Whether more sanctions are put in place or not, Sen. John McCain said over the weekend that the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to support Ukraine. He favors stepping up sanctions but also supplying the Eastern European country with small arms.
"We ought to at least, for God's sake, give them some light weapons with which to defend themselves. So far, this administration's not only not done that, but they won't even share some intelligence with the Ukrainian government," McCain said on Face the Nation.
McCain’s harshest criticism was directed at President Barack Obama, who, he believes, is not being firm enough when dealing with Putin. He attacked the the president’s notion of “off-ramps” from the crisis or looking for ways to deescalate the situation. According to McCain, Putin isn’t interested in the “off-ramps.”
"Right now he's going full speed ahead down the freeway. And there's no tangible evidence of him having to pay a significant penalty,” he said. ”Where is the president of the United States? Shouldn't the president of the United States be speaking forcefully and strongly? And didn't the president say if they carried out further actions, there would be further sanctions? So far, we haven't heard anything.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told ABC News Sunday that those sanctions were coming.
"I think we've seen that the sanctions can bite," she said. "And if actions like the kind that we've seen over the last few days continue, you're going to see a ramping up of those sanctions."
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, U.S. Air Force General Phillip Breedlove, told the Associated Press Wednesday that American troops could be deployed to Eastern Europe.
Breedlove has been asked to draft countermoves to respond to Russia’s troop buildup along the Ukrainian border. He said that in drafting those measures he wouldn’t "write off involvement by any nation, to include the United States.”
Russian troops took control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March. Citizens there then voted in a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Since that time, the United States and its NATO allies have been concerned that Russia may move further into Ukraine or other countries.
Breedlove said the response from NATO will likely involve many forces.
"Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies," he said. "I'm tasked to deliver this by next week. I fully intend to deliver it early."
The NATO commander also noted that such a response must be done carefully so as not to provoke Russia.
"The tougher piece is, how do we do the assurance piece on the land," the general said. "Because these are measures which are more costly [and] if not done correctly, might appear provocative. And everything we are trying to do in the air, on the ground and at sea we are trying to completely characterize as defensive in nature.”
The U.S. has gone to great lengths to minimize that provocative appearance. The Obama administration has only agreed to send food rations to Ukrainian troops thus far.
According to The Daily Beast, the White House also recently decided not to share U.S. satellite images with Ukraine. Those images would give the Ukrainian military important intelligence about the Russian troop buildup along its border.
That was seen as a significant move by the current administration because analysts now believe that the buildup is a definite sign of an impending invasion, as opposed to simple readiness exercises.
Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the presence of mobile military hospitals was a telltale sign.
“Mobile military hospitals mean preparation for war, it means they are preparing to take casualties,” he said.
Breedlove said the time it takes to plan will not reflect a shortage options but rather the planning around how to tread lightly in the face of the estimated buildup of 80,000 Russian troops.
"There is not a shortage of what we can us.,” he said. "It's how do we use this in a measured way that indicates defensive capability so that we don't provoke. And that's what we will be working on,"
A new report suggests that the Russian government had information regarding the man responsible for the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon that it neglected to provide to American authorities.
According to Fox News, an inspector general’s investigation found that Russian officials informed the F.B.I. about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s involvement in radical Islam as early as 2011. Russian officials claimed Tsarnaev “had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”
The report acknowledges that the F.B.I. believed Tsarnaev to be a greater threat to Russia than to the United States, but it also claims that Russian officials declined to reveal further information despite several requests by the American organization.
According to the New York Times, the U.S. government has thus far been unable to find ties linking Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar, the other major suspect in the attacks, to an international terrorism organization.
Tsarnaev died during an exchange of gunfire with police after the attacks, while Dzhokhar was arrested. The Justice Department has claimed it will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar.
Russian food safety officials have launched an investigation into a group of workers at a Siberian factory after they posted a picture of themselves naked in a vat of cheese.
“Yeah, our job is really boring,” the photo’s caption reads.
Officials were alerted to the photo when angry consumers saw the “sickening” picture, which is believed to be taken at lead food processing center Omsk “The Cheese” trade house.
“If you plan to buy string cheese the next time you go to the supermarket, you may want to check that it wasn't made in Omsk,” one Russian newspaper warned.
Alexander Kriga, head of RosPotrebNadzor, the Russian food safety watchdog in the Omsk region, said investigation into the exact location the picture was taken at is under way.
An unscheduled visit to the factory was made Thursday as part of the investigation.
Kriga reported that the results of the investigation will be made public as soon as possible.
President Barack Obama delivered a speech in Brussels on Wednesday in which he denounced Russia’s justifications for the annexation of Crimea. In his first trip to the capital of the European Union, and the headquarters of NATO, the president sought to embolden European countries to stand firm against Russian aggression, as well as to reassure NATO members of U.S. support for the region.
In his speech, Obama claimed Russia had returned to old ways of thinking.
“Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident,” the president is quoted as saying in the New York Times. “That in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force; that international law matters; and that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future.”
The president dismissed Russia’s claim that it only seeks to protect Russians living in countries outside of the Russian Federation.
"Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine does not mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine's future," he said, according to the New York Daily News. "No amount of propaganda can make right something the world knows is wrong.”
Furthermore, the president said European allies, particularly those in NATO, must stand together and honor agreements made to protect each other. He specifically warned European countries that declining defense budgets could be a detriment to their collective security.
"If we have a collective defense, it means everyone's go[ing] to chip in," Obama said.
Declining defense budgets are symptoms of complacency and indifference, the president argued. Prior to his speech Obama visited Flanders Field Cemetery, the burial place of thousands of Americans who died during World War I. With a nod to history he warned against such complacency, saying it would have far-reaching consequences.
“Casual indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this Continent,” Obama sad. “It would allow the old way of doing things to gain a foothold in this young century. And that message would be heard, not just in Europe but in Asia and the Americas, in Africa and the Middle East.”
In what may have seemed like a reassuring statement to a European audience, President Barack Obama said he’s more worried about “the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan” than the threat to national security posed by Russia.
“Russia’s actions are a problem,” Obama said in The Hague, Netherlands. "They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.”
The White House assured the public that Obama was not talking about an imminent terror threat to New York City, according to the New York Daily News.
“The president was not discussing intelligence when he said, ‘I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan,’” said White House National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
“For years, the NYPD has recognized the fact that Manhattan is considered a potential terror target,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Davis. "We continue to maintain an appropriate level of security according to ongoing threat assessments. There are currently no known threats of this nature against the city."
The president was responding to a question about whether Russia's taking over Crimea proved Republican Mitt Romney was right in 2012 when he called Moscow America’s top geopolitical foe.
"There's no question but that the president's naiveté with regards to Russia, and his faulty judgment about Russia's intentions and objectives, has led to a number of foreign policy challenges that we face," Romney said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"And, unfortunately,” Romney continued, “not having anticipated Russia's intentions, the president wasn't able to shape the kinds of events that may have been able to prevent the kinds of circumstances that you're seeing in the Ukraine, as well as the things that you're seeing in Syria."