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The Olympics as a Tool of the New Cold War

The allegations of systematic state organised doping by the Russian authorities are founded on the evidence of three compromised individuals and have been presented in a way that denies Russian athletes their fundamental rights.

Andrey Fomin

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This article first appeared and was submitted by Oriental Review with the agreement of the author.

The 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism (non-discrimination of any kind, including nationality and political opinion) seems to be forgotten long ago.  In ancient Greece the competition of best athletes was able to halt a war and serve as a bridge of understanding between two recent foes.  But in the twentieth century the Olympics have become a political weapon.  Back in 1980 the US and its allies boycotted the games in Moscow as a protest against the Soviet troops that entered Afghanistan at the request of that country’s legitimate government (in contrast, the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany were held as usual, to the applause of the “civilised” world).

On May 8, 2016 the CBS program 60 Minutes aired a broadcast about doping in Russia.  The interviews featured recorded conversations between a former staffer with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Vitaly Stepanov, and the ex-director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Grigory Rodchenkov.  That program was just the fourth instalment in a lengthy series about the alleged existence of a system to support doping in Russian sports.

A few days later the New York Times published an interview with Rodchenkov.  There that former official claims that a state-supported doping program was active at the Sochi Olympics, and that the orders for that program had come almost directly from the Russian president.

One important fact that escaped most international observers was that a media campaign, which had begun shortly after the 2014 deep freeze in Russian-Western relations, was constructed around the “testimonies” of three Russian citizens who were all interconnected and complicit in a string of doping scandals, and who later left Russia and are trying to make new lives in the West.

Yulia Stepanova née Rusanova

A 29-year-old middle-distance runner, Yulia Stepanova, can be seen as the instigator of this scandal. This young athlete’s personal best in global competition was a bronze medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championship in 2011.  At the World Championships that same year she placed eighth. 

Stepanova’s career went off the rails in 2013, when the Russian Athletic Federation’s Anti-Doping Commission disqualified her for two years based on “blood fluctuations in her Athlete Biological Passport.” Such fluctuations are considered evidence of doping.  All of Stepanova’s results since 2011 have been invalidated.  In addition, she had to return the prize money she had won running in professional races in 2011-2012. 

Stepanova, who had been suspended for doping, acted as the primary informant for ARD journalist Hajo Seppelt, who had begun filming a documentary about misconduct in Russian sports.  After the release of ARD’s first documentary in December 2014, Stepanova left Russia along with her husband and son.  In 2015 she requested political asylum in Canada.  Even after her suspension ended in 2015, Stepanova told the WADA Commission (p.142 of the November 2015 WADA Report) that she had tested positive for doping during the Russian Track and Field Championships in Saransk in July 2010 and paid 30,000 rubles (approximately $1,000 USD at that time) to the director of the Russian anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Gregory Rodchenkov, in exchange for concealing those test results.

Vitaly Stepanov

Yulia Stepanova’s husband is Vitaly Stepanov, a former staffer at RUSADA.  He had lived and studied in the US since he was 15, but later decided to return to Russia.  In 2008, Vitaly Stepanov began working for RUSADA as a doping-control officer.  Vitaly met Yulia Rusanova in 2009 at the Russian national championships in Cheboksary. 

Stepanov now claims that he sent a letter to WADA detailing his revelations back in 2010, but never received an answer.  In 2011 Stepanov left RUSADA. One fact that deserves attention is that Vitaly has confessed that he was fully aware that his wife was taking banned substances, both while he worked for RUSADA as well as after he left that organisation. Take note that Stepanova’s blood tests went positive starting in 2011 – i.e., from the time that her husband, an anti-doping officer, left RUSADA.

With a clear conscience, the Stepanovs, now married, accepted prize money from professional races until Yulia was disqualified.  Then they no longer had a source of income and the prize money suddenly had to be returned, at which point Vitaly Stepanov sought recourse in foreign journalists, offering to tell them the “truth about Russian sports.”  In early June he admitted that WADA had not only helped his family move to America, but had also provided them with $30,000 in financial assistance.

Gregory Rodchenkov

And finally, the third figure in the campaign to expose doping in Russian sports – the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Gregory Rodchenkov. 

According to Vitaly Stepanov, he was the man who sold performance-enhancing drugs while helping to hide their traces, and had also come up with the idea of “doped Chivas mouth swishing” (page 50), a technique that transforms men into Olympic champions.

This 57-year-old native of Moscow is acknowledged to be the best at what he does.  He graduated from Moscow State University with a Ph.D. in chemistry and began working at the Moscow anti-doping lab as early as 1985.  He later worked in Canada and for Russian petrochemical companies, and in 2005 he became the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory in Moscow. 

In 2013 Marina Rodchenkova – Gregory Rodchenkov’s sister – was found guilty and received a sentence for selling anabolic steroids to athletes.  Her brother was also the subject of a criminal investigation into charges that he supplied banned drugs.  Threatened with prosecution, Gregory Rodchenkov began to behave oddly and was repeatedly hospitalized and “subjected to a forensic psychiatric examination.”  A finding was later submitted to the court, claiming that Rodchenkov suffered from “schizotypal personality disorder,” exacerbated by stress.  As a result, all the charges against Rodchenkov were dropped. 

But the most surprising thing was that someone with a “schizotypal personality disorder” and a sister convicted of trafficking in performance-enhancing drugs continued as the director of Russia’s only WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory.  In fact, he held this job during the 2014 Olympics.  Rodchenkov was not dismissed until the fall of 2015, after the eruption of the scandal that had been instigated by the broadcaster ARD and the Stepanovs. 

In September 2015 the WADA Commission accused Rodchenkov of intentionally destroying over a thousand samples in order to conceal doping by Russian athletes.  He personally denied all the charges, but then resigned and left for the US where he was warmly embraced by filmmaker Bryan Fogel, who was shooting yet another made-to-order documentary about doping in Russia.

Professor Richard H. McLaren

As this article is being written, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is studying a report  from an “independent Person,” the Canadian professor Richard H. McLaren, who has accused the entire Russian Federation, not just individual athletes, of complicity in the use of performance-enhancing drugs. 

McLaren was quickly summoned to speak with WADA shortly after the NYT published interview with Rodchenkov.  The goal was clear: to concoct a “scientific report” by mid-July that would provide the IOC with grounds to ban the Russian team from the Rio Olympics. 

At a press conference on July 18 McLaren himself acknowledged that with a timeline of only 57 days he was unable “to identify any athlete that might have benefited from such manipulation to conceal positive doping tests.” 

WADA’s logic here is clear – they need to avoid any accusations of bias, unprofessionalism, embellishment of facts, or political partisanship.  No matter what duplicity and lies are found in the report – it was drafted by an “independent person,” period. 

However, McLaren does not try to hide the fact that the entire report is based on the testimony of a single person – Rodchenkov himself, who is repeatedly presented as a “credible and truthful” source.  Of course that man is accused by WADA itself of destroying 1,417 doping tests and faces deportation to Russia for doping-linked crimes, but he saw an opportunity to become a “valuable witness” and “prisoner of conscience” who is being persecuted by the “totalitarian regime” in Russia.

The advantage enjoyed by this “independent commission” – on the basis of whose report the IOC is deciding the fate of Russia’s Olympic hopefuls – is that its accusations will not be examined in court, nor can the body of evidence be challenged by the lawyers for the accused.  Nor is the customary legal presumption of innocence anywhere in evidence.

It appears from Professor McLaren’s statement that no charges will be brought against any specific Russian athletes.  Moreover, they can all compete if they refuse to represent Russia at the Olympics. 

There are obvious reasons for this selectivity.  A law professor and longstanding member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Professor McClaren knows very well that any charges against specific individuals that are made publicly and result in “legally significant acts” (such as a ban on Olympic participation) can and will be challenged in court, in accordance with international law and on the basis of the presumption of innocence.  All the evidence to be used by the prosecution is subject to challenge, and if some fact included in those charges can be interpreted to the defendant’s advantage, then the court is obliged to exclude that fact from the materials at the disposal of the prosecution.

As a lawyer, McLaren understands all this very well.  Hundreds of lawsuits filed by Russian athletes resulting in an unambiguous outcome would not only destroy his reputation and ruin him professionally – they could form the basis of a criminal investigation with obvious grounds for accusing him of intentionally distorting a few facts, which in his eyes can be summarised as follows:

During the Sochi Olympics, an FSB officer named Evgeny Blokhin switched the doping tests taken from Russian athletes, exchanging them for “clean” urine samples.  This agent is said to have possessed a plumbing contractor’s security clearance, allowing him to enter the laboratory.  In addition, there are reports that Evgeny Kurdyatsev, – the head of the Registration and Biological Sample Accounting Department – switched the doping tests at night, through a “mouse hole” in the wall (!).  Awaiting them in the adjacent building was the man who is now providing  “credible evidence” – Gregory Rodchenkov – and some other unnamed individuals, who passed Blokhin the athletes’ clean doping tests to be used to replace the original samples.  If the specific gravity of the clean urine did not match the original profile, it was “adapted” using table salt or distilled water. 

But of course the DNA was incompatible!  And all of this was going on in the only official, WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory in Russia!

How would something like that sound in any court?  We have witnesses, but the defence team cannot subject them to cross-examination.  We cannot prove that Blokhin is an FSB agent, but we believe it.  We do not possess any of the original documents – not a single photograph or affidavit from the official examination – but we have sufficient evidence from a single criminal who has already confessed to his crime.  We did not submit the emails provided by Rodchenkov to any experts to be examined, but we assert that the emails are genuine, that all the facts they contain are accurate, and that the names of the senders are correct.  We cannot accuse the athletes, so we will accuse and punish the state!

To be honest, we still do not believe that the Olympic movement has sunk so low as to deprive billions of people of the pleasure of watching the competitions, forgetting about politics and politicians.  That would mean waving goodbye to the reputations of the WADA and the IOC and to the global system of sports as a whole. 

Perhaps a solution to the colossal problem of doping is long overdue, but is that answer to be found within the boundaries of only one country, even a great country like Russia?  Should we take a moment here and now to dwell upon the multi-volume history of doping scandals in every single country in the world?  And in view of these facts that have come to light, is not WADA itself the cornerstone of the existing and far-reaching system to support and cover up athletic doping all over the world?

In conclusion, we cite below the complete translation of the Russian Olympic Committee’s statement in response to the WADA report:

“The accusations against Russian sports found in the report by Richard McLaren are so serious that a full investigation is needed, with input from all parties.  The Russian Olympic Committee has a policy of zero tolerance and supports the fight against doping.  It is ready to provide its full assistance and work together, as needed, with any international organisation.

We wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. McLaren’s view that the possible banning of hundreds of clean Russian athletes from competition in the Olympic Games is an acceptable ‘unpleasant consequence’ of the charges contained in his report.

The charges being made are primarily based on statements by Grigory Rodchenkov.  This is solely based on testimony from someone who is at the epi-centre of this criminal scheme, which is a blow not only to the careers and fates of a great many clean athletes, but also to the integrity of the entire international Olympic movement.

Russia has fought against doping and will continue to fight at the state level, steadily stiffening the penalties for any illegal activity of this type and enforcing a precept of inevitable punishment.

The Russian Olympic Committee fully supports the harshest possible penalties against anyone who either uses banned drugs or encourages their use.

At the same time, the ROC – acting in full compliance with the Olympic Charter – will always protect the rights of clean athletes.  Those who throughout their careers – thanks to relentless training, talent, and willpower – strive to realise their Olympic dreams should not have their futures determined by the unfounded, unsubstantiated accusations and criminal acts of certain individuals.  For us this is a matter of principle.”

 

The author is the Editor of Oriental Review.

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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.

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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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