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Interesting week for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

Russian President Putin takes a potentially important step in the Ukrainian conflict by recognising the documents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics whilst US President Trump stands in Washington and appeals over the heads of the US media directly to the American people.

The Saker

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This article is published with the permission of the author and was first published by The Saker

Putin’s latest move

I don’t follow the western corporate media so I don’t really know how much coverage this development has received in the West, but in Russia and the Ukraine the big news is the decision by Russia to begin recognizing official Novorussian documents such as passports, driver licenses, school and college diplomas, etc. The Russians were pretty specific in the way the made the announcement. They said that it was a temporary measure dictated by humanitarian considerations. They have a point. Until now, the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics had to travel to the Nazi-occupied Ukraine to try to get their documents. Which, considering how the Ukronazis consider anybody from the Donbass was not only futile, but sometimes dangerous. This decision makes perfect sense practically. But, of course, it has a far-reaching symbolic dimension too. The timing is also crucial: by recognizing the documents issued by the DNR and LNR authorities, the Russians have de facto “semi-recognized” the authorities which issued them and that is just a fairly short step away from recognizing these republics.

Right now, the Kremlin is vehemently denying any such thoughts. But all the Kremlin-affiliated commentators are rather blunt about what this really means. According to them, the message for the junta in Kiev is simple: if you attack Novorussia or if you officially ditch the Minks agreements we will immediately recognize these two republics. And, once that happens, it’s over the the Ukronazis, these republics will be gone just like South Ossetia or Abkhazia. Of course, nobody will officially recognize the independence of these republics, but neither will anybody do anything meaningful about it. And, let’s be honest, the Russian authorities couldn’t care less about what western politicians or their corporate media have to say: they already heard it all and it’s not like they could be demonized much further.

The next logical move would be to move the Russian border control from the Russian border to the line of contact. Or not. If the Russians don’t do it, this might be a sign that they support the official position of the Republics which is that they want to liberate the totality of the Doentsk and Lugansk regions. By the way, the Russian Border Guards are elite and highly militarized forces whose presence on the line of contact would in no way prevent a Novorussian (counter-)attack against the Ukronazi forces. So the decision about where to deploy them would have a primarily political dimension and no real military consequences.

Right now the Ukronazis have basically gone officially on record in declaring that they never intended to abide by the terms of the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 agreements. Here is what Anton Gerashchenko, an special adviser to the Minister of internal Affairs of Ukraine and a member of the Board of the Ministry of internal Affairs of Ukraine openly declared on Ukrainian national TV: (emphasis added).

Let’s immediately say that the Minsk Agreements were not implemented from the day they were signed in February 2015. This was a temporary measure on the side of the Ukraine and, I will be honest, a deliberate deception. Remember that the first Minsk Agreement was signed following the military disaster near Ialovaisk when we had no forces to defend the front from Donetsk to Mariupol. The second Minsk Agreement was signed following the treacherous Russian aggression on Debaltsevo and the formation of the “Debaltsevo Cauldron”. These agreements are not international agreements or anything else.

Needless to say, NOBODY in the West paid any attention to this statement, and why would they, after all, their line has always been that Russia is not abiding by the Minsk Agreement, even if Russia is not even a party to them (Russia is only a witness and guarantor). And if a senior Ukronazi official says otherwise, who cares?!

This amazing admission by Gerashchenko is only the latest in a series of steps taken and statements made by various Ukronazis to the effect that “we are done negotiating and from now on, we will solve this problem by force”. So far, the “force” applied has been primarily in the form of a total blockade of the Donbass which included the prevention of a large amount of vitally needed coal to the Nazi-occupied Ukraine from the Donbass even though this shipment had already been paid for. Officially Poroshenko does not condone this blockade, but in practice he is either unwilling or unable to prevent or stop it. Another sign that the Independent Banderastan is falling apart.

There is a strong feeling in Russia that Poroshenko is powerless and that the Ukronazi crazies are up to no good. Clearly, *nobody* in the Ukronazis elites has any intention of actually implementing the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 agreements. That, by the way, might be a dangerous approach for a number of reasons:

First, these agreements were endorsed by the UNSC and every country out there, at least as far as I know. So Gerashchenko is wrong – the Minsk Agreements are binding under international law.

Second, the Ukrainian authorities recently found and released a document showing that Yanukovich had made an official request for a Russian intervention in the Ukraine. They wanted to show that he was a traitor. But in the process, they also showed that the last legitimate president of the Ukraine had made a legal request for a Russian intervention which might well mean that, at least in legal terms, any subsequent Russian intervention in the Ukraine would be 100% legal.

Even better, Yanukovich is still in Russia. And, from a legal point of view, you could make the case that he is still the legitimate president of the Ukraine. If the Yemeni President in exile Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi could ask the Saudis to intervene in Yemen, why would that no be an option for Poroshenko Yanukovich to ask for such an intervention in the Ukraine?

Right now, the Russians are making no such legalistic statements. But you can be sure that they have already aligned all their ducks in a neat row just in case they do decide to openly intervene in this civil war.

How realistic is the possibility of a Russian recognition of the breakaway republics or an overt Russian intervention in the Ukraine?

I think that it all depends on what the Ukronazis crazies do. If they really attack Novorussia I expect the Kremlin to recognize the DNR and LRN. A Russian intervention? I doubt it, but only because I believe that the DNR/LNR can handle a Nazi attack. So the only question for me is how long Poroshenko will stay in power and what the real crazies will do once they overthrow him. Right now this mostly depends on the USA but since the US elites are locked in desperate struggle for power, I don’t see the Trump taking and dramatic decisions anyway, not in the Ukraine, not elsewhere. At least not as long as there is a question mark as to who is really in charge in the White House. Everybody is waiting for the outcome of that struggle, including Moscow and Kiev.

Trump – all words, no action, but good words

In the meantime, Trump has been busy doing speeches. Which sounds pretty bad until you realize that these are good speeches, very good ones even. For one thing, he still is holding very firmly to the line that the “fake news” (which in “Trumpese” means CNN & Co. + BBC) are the enemies of the people. The other good thing that twice in a row now he has addressed himself directly to the people. Sounds like nothing, but I think that this is huge because the Neocons have now nicely boxed Trump in with advisors and aides which span from mediocre, to bad to outright evil. The firing of Flynn was a self-defeating disaster for Trump who now is more or less alone, with only one loyal ally left, Bannon. I am not sure how much Bannon can do or, for that matter, how long until the Neocons get to him too, but besides Bannon I see nobody loyal to Trump and his campaign promises. Nobody except those who put him in power of course, the millions of Americans who voted for him. And that is why Trump is doing the right thing speaking directly to them: they might well turn out to be his biggest weapon against the “DC swamp”.

Furthermore, by beating on the media, especially CNN and the rest of the main US TV channels, Trump is pushing the US public to turn to other information sources, including those sympathetic to him, primarily on the Internet. Good move – that is how he won the first time around and that is how he might win again.

The Neocons and the US ‘deep state’ have to carefully weigh the risks of continuing their vendetta against Trump. Right now, they appear to be preparing to go after Bannon. But what will they do if Trump, instead of ditching Bannon like he ditched Flynn, decides to dig in and fight with everything he has got? Then what? If there is one thing the Neocons and the deep state hate is to have a powerful light pointed directly at them. They like to play in the dark, away from an always potentially hostile public eye. If Trump decides to fight back, really fight back, and if he appeals directly to the people for support, there is no saying what could happen next.

I strongly believe that the American general public is deeply frustrated and angry. Obama’s betrayal of all his campaign promises only made these feelings worse. But when Obama had just made it to the White House I remember thinking that if he really tried to take on the War Machine and if he came to the conclusion that the ‘deep state’ was not going to let him take action or threaten him he could simply make a public appeal for help and that millions of Americans would flood the streets of Washington DC in support of “their guy” against the “bastards in DC”. Obama was a fake. But Trump might not be. What if the Three Letter Agencies or Congress suddenly tried to, say, impeach Trump and what if he decided ask for the support of the people – would millions not flood the streets of DC? I bet you that Florida alone would send more than a million. Ditto for Texas. And I don’t exactly imagine the cops going out of their way to stop them. The bottom line is this: in any confrontation between Congress and Trump most of the people will back Trump. And, if it ever came to that, and for whatever it is worth, in any confrontation between Trump-haters and Trump-supporters the latter will easily defeat the former. The “basket of deplorables” are still, thank God, the majority in this country and they have a lot more power than the various minorities who backed the Clinton gang.

There are other, less dramatic but even more likely scenarios to consider. Say Congress tries to impeach Trump and he appeals to the people and declares that the “DC swamp” is trying to sabotage the outcome of the elections and impose its will upon the American people. Governors in states like Florida or Texas, pushed by their public opinion, might simply decide not to recognize the legitimacy of what would be an attempted coup by Congress against the Executive branch of government. Now you tell me – does Congress really have the means to impose it’s will against states like Florida or Texas? I don’t mean legally, I mean practically. Let me put it this way: if the states revolt against the federal government does the latter have the means to impose its authority? Are the creation of USNORTHCOM and the statutory exceptions from the Posse Comitatus Act (which makes it possible to use the National Guard to suppress insurrections, unlawful obstructions, assemblages, or rebellions) sufficient to guarantee that the “DC swamp” can impose its will on the rest of the country? I would remind any “DC swamp” members reading these lines that the KGB special forces refused not once, but twice, to open fire against the demonstrators in Moscow (in 1991 and 1993) even though they had received a direct order by the President to do just that. Is there any reason to believe that US cops and soldiers would be more willing than the KGB special forces to massacre their own people?

Donald Trump has probably lost most of his power in Washington DC, but that does not entail that this is the case in the rest of the USA. The Neocons can feel like the big guy on the block inside the Beltway, but beyond that they are mostly in “enemy territory” controlled by the “deplorables”, something to keep in mind before triggering a major crisis.

This week I got the feeling that Trump was reaching out and directly seeking for the support to the American people. I think he get it if needed. If this is so, then the focus of his Presidency will be less on foreign affairs, were the USA will be mostly paralyzed, than on internal US politics were he still might make a difference. On Russia the Neocons have basically beat Trump – he won’t have the means to engage in any big negotiating with Vladimir Putin. But, at least, neither will he constantly be trying to make things worse. The more the US elites fight each other, the less venom they will have left for the rest of mankind. Thank God for small favors…

I can only hope that Trump will continue to appeal directly the people and try to bypass the immense machine which is currently trying to isolate him. Of course, I would much prefer that Trump take some strong and meaningful action against the deep state, but I am not holding my breath.

Tonight I spoke with a friend who knows a great deal more about Trump than I do and he told me that I have been too quick in judging Trump and that while the Flynn episode was definitely a setback, the struggle is far from over and that we are in for a very long war. I hope that my friend is right, but I will only breathe a sigh of relief if and when I see Trump hitting back and hitting hard. Only time will tell.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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