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US senators are even more neoconservative than Trump’s appointees

The confirmation hearings for the members of incoming President Donald Trump’s national-security team show that neoconservatism dominates the U.S. government today.

Eric Zuesse

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Published with the permission fo the author. First published on strategic-culture.org.

Neoconservatism didn’t end after George W. Bush’s alleged certainty that «Saddam’s WMD» existed in 2002, turned out to have been merely an excuse —not an authentic reason — to invade Iraq, and so to spread death and mass-misery (as every invasion does). Today’s confirmation hearings are, in fact, making clear that virtually all of Congress is neoconservative — at least as much as was the case back in 2002, when Congress authorized the President to invade Iraq before weapons inspectors finished their work (and so Bush was able to order them out, and to invade Iraq).

These hearings are displaying 100% neoconservative U.S. Senators — no Senator who isn’t a neoconservative. These Senators, of both Parties, in their questioning and comments, are all far to the right of the incoming President, Donald Trump. (Democrats might be to the ‘left’ of Republicans on some domestic matters, but both Parties are neoconservative, which is a far-right foreign-affairs ideology.)

This fact is shown clearly, as the Senators probe each appointee with questions that challenge him (since all of these nominees are males) as being insufficiently hostile toward Russia, and also (though to a lesser extent) insufficiently hostile toward Iran, and toward other countries (especially Syria and China) that have friendly relations with Russia. This obsessive hatred of Russia is the standard neoconservative position — neoconservatism’s defining reality, regardless of whether neoconservatives admit to being haters at all, of anything.

Each one of these nominees has, in turn, provided responses which indicate that he, too, is far to the right of Trump. The Senators are apparently satisfied with each one of the nominees, on that basis — a neoconservative basis.

Also, each one of the Senators is probing the nominee, in order to make certain that the interviewee favors steep increases in ‘defense’ spending (another essential mark of neoconservatism — unlimited military spending), even if other federal spending is required to stay the same or else be reduced. Even the Democratic Senators want ‘defense’ spending increased even if domestic spending gets reduced. Democratic Senators on the panel are showing themselves as being just as emphatically in favor of abolishing existing limits on ‘defense’ spending as the Republican ones are.

If what U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961 had referred to as «the military-industrial complex» owns all of Congress today, then the results of these interviews with nominees still couldn’t be any more neoconservative than they have, in fact, been.

Great pressure is thus being placed, by the interviewers, upon each nominee, to increase greatly U.S. ‘defense’ spending, and to exhibit hostility toward Russia and the other countries that are the standard ‘enemies’ in the view of neoconservatives. Regardless of whether Trump wants unlimited ‘defense’ spending (and is merely pretending to want to cut programs like the scandalous F-35), Congress certainly does.

Neoconservatism can, very practically, be defined by the nations that it places unquestioningly as being America’s ‘friends’ (Israel, Europe — especially the parts that were formerly communist — Japan, and all of the fundamentalist-Sunni Gulf Cooperation Council [Arab monarchy] nations); and as being America’s ‘enemies’ (Russia, Iran, China, and any nation that’s allied with one or more of those three). Nothing that either a ‘friend’ or an ‘enemy’ nation does is actually pertinent to a neoconservative’s national favors or hatreds: each of these nations is permanently what it is; and, for example, Russia being no longer communist and no longer the Soviet Union, doesn’t really affect a neoconservative’s hatred of Russia. Neoconservatism is — in that sense — ethnic, tribal: rigidly loyal to labeled ‘friends’, and also rigidly hostile to labeled ‘enemies’. It’s permanent war for perpetual ‘peace’, because to stop trying to conquer the ‘enemies’ is viewed as ‘immoral’, actually shameful and maybe even ‘cowardly’ — no matter how few the aristocracy actually are who benefit from all this mass bloodshed, crippling, refugees, and destruction. It’s an upside-down ‘morality’.

America’s Congress is at least 90 % neoconservative, not only in the Senate, but also in the House. To judge by these hearings, the Senators are virtually united, that Russia is America’s #1 enemy (a key mark of neoconservatism is the demonization of Russia); and, while most seem to consider Iran to be enemy #2, some Senators and House members place China in that category (#2). North Korea is also mentioned by many.

Eliminating, or even reducing, jihadism, is definitely well below the second national-security priority (if it’s an authentic concern at all), for members of the U.S. Congress, with Russia certainly being the #1 enemy in their eyes. Furthermore, no member of Congress considers the Saudi government — the government that is owned by the Saud family — to be an «enemy» at all, nor do they consider, to be an enemy, any other of the fundamentalist-Islamic Arab royal families (such as the ones who own Qatar, or who own UAE, or who own Kuwait), even though the Saud family are the main funders of jihadist groups around the world, and those other royal Arabs provide most of the rest of the financing that makes jihadist terrorism possible. So, practically speaking, the U.S. Congress considers the chief financial backers of jihadist groups to be U.S. ‘allies’, not to be «enemies» of the U.S., at all.

For example: as one strong friend of the royal Arabs, Hillary Clinton has said in private:

«Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide».

Saudi Arabia is owned by the Saud family; so, she knew that they are the main funders of Al Qaeda etcetera (or, like Osama bin Laden’s former bagman said of Al Qaeda’s financing, «Without the money of the — of the Saudi, you will have nothing»). That family control the government, and all the rest of their aristocracy do whatever the Saud family tell them to do. Hillary wasn’t naive.

And, elsewhere (also in private), she referred to «the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region».

And she also devoted a lengthy cable to U.S. Embassies, to the desirability of dealing with this problem (their aristocracies’ funding of jihadist groups around the world) also in Kuwait, and UAE — two more U.S. ‘allies’.

And so, former U.S. Senator Clinton was simply a normal member of the U.S. Senate which is under display even now, as being even more neoconservative than President-elect Trump’s national-security appointees are.

For example, during the hearing on Thursday, January 12th, in which Trump’s choice to head the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department, James Mattis, was grilled by each member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the retired Marine General Mattis was pressed on whether he supports eliminating the ‘defense’ spending-cap that Congress in late 2012 imposed to begin on 1 January 2013, as the 2013 Budget Control Act, or «sequestration». General Mattis replied by calling the 2013 Budget Control Act a «self-inflicted wound». (He had already told this very same Senate Committee, on 27 January 2015, «The Senate Armed Services Committee should lead the effort to repeal the sequestration that is costing military readiness and long-term capability while sapping troop morale». So, they already knew that he’s a hard-liner about lifting the spending cap on the military — just not on the rest of the budget, because he had also said on 27 January 2015, «If we refuse to reduce our debt or pay down our deficit — …No nation in history has maintained its military power while failing to keep its fiscal house in order». So, these Senators are clear about removing the limit only on ‘defense’ spending.)

Mattis said in this January 12th confirmation hearing, that Russia «has chosen to be both a strategic competitor and an adversary» and «we still engage with the soviet union». (It’s common for high U.S. military, and even diplomatic, officials, to slip back into calling Russia «the Soviet Union», still 25+ years after the Soviet Union ended, and its Warsaw Pact of military allies ended, and their communism ended. This insanity is normal for America’s leaders.)

He was asked about Donald Trump’s having questioned whether NATO (the anti-Russia military alliance) needs to be continued, and Mattis said «If we did not have NATO today, we would have to create it. NATO is vital to our national interest».

He was questioned regarding whether he agrees with Trump’s having challenged President Obama’s campaign to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and Mattis said that the real issue is only about the speed with which Assad must be removed. He said that what is needed is »a more accelerated campaign than the President-elect has called for» — in other words, he said that not only was President Obama too slow in this matter, but that Mattis will be advising Trump to reverse position on this and to out-do Obama on it. (A Democratic Senator, Bill Nelson of Florida, had asked those questions, and he seemed to be pleased with Mattis’s super-hawkish responses.)

Responding to another Senator, Mattis said that there’s «an increasing number of areas in which we’ll have to confront Russia». We’re not doing it enough, he thinks.

He was asked whether he shares President-elect Trump’s distrust of the U.S. intelligence-services, and he replied, «I have a very very high degree of confidence in our intelligence community». The CIA and other people who were united in saying that Saddam Hussein had WMD in 2002 and that they needed to be immediately eliminated, are trusted by Mattis as much as they were trusted by Bush.

He was asked about Israel and said that it is eternally an ‘ally’ of America, and that Israel is «the only democratic nation in the Middle East». No Senator asked him whether apartheid South Africa was also a ‘democratic’ nation. On 13 January 2017, Brandon Turbeville headlined about the only secular nation in the Middle East, «Grand Mufti Of Syria Discusses Secularism In Syria – Human Beings Live In States, No Countries Based On Religion»; and, previously I have pointed out that even Western polling in Syria has consistently shown that the vast majority of Syrians want Assad to continue as the country’s leader, and that it was Barack Obama who was criticized by U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon for refusing to let the Syrian people determine, in a free and internationally monitored democratic election, whom the nation’s leader should be. (Obama knows that they would elect Assad; so, he doesn’t want democracy, there.)

Perhaps a lot of false ‘facts’ are in Mattis’s head, but he maintains them with consistency — and any falsehoods that he believes are of the type that would make his nomination to become the U.S. Secretary of ‘Defense’ all the more attractive to the members of the U.S. Congress.

In my previous article, «Trump Team Targets Iran», I documented that:

All four of the persons selected by U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump for the top U.S. national-security posts are committed to replacing the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s #1 military target, Russia, by a different #1 military target, Iran. Iran has long been the #1 military target in the view of Michael Flynn, the chosen Trump National Security Advisor; and of James Mattis, the chosen Trump Secretary of Defense; and of Dan Coats, the chosen Trump Director of National Intelligence; and of Mike Pompeo, the chosen CIA Director.

So, although Trump’s appointees might be less neoconservative than the Senators, and less neoconservative than was Trump’s predecessor, Obama — and Trump is far less neoconservative than is Hillary Clinton — Trump still could turn out to be a neoconservative President. This isn’t because the American public are neoconservative (they definitely aren’t), but because the American aristocracy is. The U.S. government represents them — not the American public.

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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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