Russia

Russian Spacecraft Stalks Secret U.S. Spy Satellite

A mysterious Russian spacecraft has maneuvered into a new orbit around Earth right behind a secret U.S. spy satellite. The unusual move by Russian Cosmos 2542 on Jan. 20 allows it to closely watch the American KH-11, a $4 billion orbital telescope staring down at Earth. And there’s not much that U.S. space operators can do about it. For the Americans, getting tailed by the Russians in peacetime is annoying. During wartime, it could be a prelude to an attack. Cosmos 2542 is what space operators call an “inspection satellite.” Fitted with sensors and thrusters, the mini-fridge-size satellite can maneuver close to other spacecraft and scan them. Some inspection-sats could double as weapons, tampering with or even destroying enemy spacecraft. The inspection-sat launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome north of Moscow back in November. Riding atop a Soyuz rocket, Cosmos 2542 settled into orbit between 250 miles and 550 miles over Earth’s surface. “The purpose of the experiment is to continue work on assessing the technical condition of domestic satellites,” the Russian defense ministry stated. But it was apparent early on that an American satellite that trackers call USA 245 was the real target. Cosmos 2542’s original orbit allowed it to pass within a few hundred miles of the KH-11 every 11 or 12 days, noted Michael Thompson, an American graduate student who moonlights with a small space company and, in his spare time, tracks satellites. It’s surprisingly easy to do. Amateur sat-trackers all over the world use telescopes and government data to keep track of many of the world’s roughly 2,200 active satellites, more than half of which are in low orbit between 100 and 1,200 miles above Earth. Between November and January, Cosmos 2542 mostly stayed a respectful distance from the KH-11 as the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite went about its business snapping high-resolution photographs of America’s rivals. Then in mid-January, Cosmos 2542 passed close to the spy satellite—and made its move. Instead of drifting away like it usually did, Cosmos 2542 performed a series of maneuvers between Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 and essentially matched orbits with USA 245. Sat-tracker Nico Janssen noticed the maneuver and fed data to Thompson, who performed his own analysis, then started tweeting. “Cosmos 2542 is loitering around USA 245 in consistent view,” Thomspon tweeted Thursday. “As I’m typing this, that offset distance shifts between 150 and 300 kilometers [93 and 186 miles] depending on the location in the orbit.” At that range, Cosmos 2542 can probably take pretty detailed photos of KH-11. “The relative orbit is actually pretty cleverly designed,” Thompson tweeted. “Cosmos 2542 can observe one side of the KH-11 when both satellites first come into sunlight, and by the time they enter eclipse, it has migrated to the other side.” It’s not clear how much Russia can learn from photographing the KH-11. “Personally, I think the intelligence value of observations of optical spy satellites like this one are probably marginal,” Thompson tweeted. The NRO reportedly operates four KH-11s. They traditionally maintain orbits that dip as low as 160 miles and climb as high as 620 miles, allowing the satellites to modulate between viewing huge swathes of Earth at low resolution and much smaller sections of the planet at high resolution. By coordinating the orbits of the KH-11s, the NRO can maintain simultaneous wide and narrow surveillance. This is obvious to the world’s satellite-trackers. The NRO never comments on the KH-11s’ operations, but the shipping-container-size sats aren’t hard to see from the ground. And since it’s public knowledge that the KH-11s use the same kind of lens that forms the basis of NASA’s Hubble space telescope, anyone with expertise in optics can estimate the KH-11s’ capabilities. Spying on the spy satellite might not be the point. Russia has deployed several mysterious inspection satellites since 2014. China, Japan, Sweden, and the United States have launched their own inspection craft. The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B robotic mini-shuttle might be the most famous spacecraft with inspection capabilities. All of these craft have had potential as weapons. “You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them,” Anatoly Zak, an independent expert on Russian spacecraft, told The Daily Beast in 2015. “If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm.” In maneuvering Cosmos 2542 to closely tail an American spy satellite, Russia could be practicing for war. KH-11s aren’t known to possess any defensive systems. Not that they would be useful during peacetime. Thompson said there’s not much the NRO’s satellite-operators can do about the Russian interloper “besides grumble at the U.N.”

Oh..  As someone who spent a couple years in the space industry as a “field grade” Army officer, I can tell you its far more nuanced than that.  This is something that is probably being addressed through diplomatic back-channels already.

Russian fighter jet intercepts US Navy plane

A US Navy reconnaissance aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian fighter jet Monday in an unsafe and unprofessional manner, according to three US defense officials and a statement from the Navy. During an encounter that lasted a total of 25 minutes, the Russian SU-27 jet passed directly in front of the US EP-3 aircraft at a high speed, the officials said. The US crew reported turbulence following that initial interaction in which the direct pass occurred. The SU-27 then made a second pass of the US plane and applied its afterburner while conducting a banking maneuver, which is believed to have caused a vibration that was experienced by the American crew. “This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second,” according to a statement from the US Navy. Officials so far, have not been able to estimate how close the Russian aircraft came to the US plane, but described the flight behavior of the Russians as the key factor in making the determination the encounter was unsafe. US officials were not initially aware of whether the Russian aircraft was armed. The Navy EP-3 was operating out of Souda Bay, Greece, according to Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon. The Navy plane had its transponder on for the duration of the mission but there was no communication established or attempted between the Russian and US aircraft, Pahon said. A Twitter account for the Russian embassy in the US posted a brief statement about the encounter on Monday saying the fighter jet “followed all necessary safety procedures.” “The Su-27 jet’s crew reported identifying the #US EP-3 Aries spy plane and accompanied it, preventing a violation of Russian airspace and followed all necessary safety procedures,” the tweet said. The last reported unsafe intercept of a US Navy aircraft by a Russian jet occurred in January when a Russian Su-27 jet flew within five feet of a US Navy EP-3, forcing the Navy plane to fly through its jet wash. The US Navy deemed that intercept unsafe and unprofessional. Following that incident, the US State Department issued a statement accusing the Russians of “flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law.” In May, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet performed an “unprofessional” intercept of a US Navy P-8 surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The Russian jet came within about 20 feet of the US aircraft, one official said, adding that the encounter lasted about nine minutes. That intercept was described by officials as safe but unprofessional..

Trump turns tables, scores wins over Russia

President Trump’s often-criticized effort to forge better relations with Russia has morphed into a confrontational stance that this week scored economic and national security wins. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that her government is backing construction of a shipping depot for importing liquefied natural gas from the U.S., bowing to Mr. Trump’s demand that she loosen Russia’s grip on the country’s energy supply. Mr. Trump then went directly after Moscow. He announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that for the past 31 years limited the development and deployment of missile or launch systems that can threaten Russia’s European neighbors. The president accused Russia of violating the missile system ban for years and, to the Kremlin’s dismay, vowed to force an expensive new arms race. Russian President Vladimir Putin was riled. At a meeting Tuesday in Moscow with National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, Mr. Putin described the developments as “unprovoked moves that are hard to call friendly.” He said a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Trump was in order. Later, Mr. Trump said he is willing to sit down with Mr. Putin when the two men are in Paris next month for events marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. “It hasn’t been set up yet, but we probably will” meet, Mr. Trump said at the White House. When he last faced off with Mr. Putin at a July summit in Helsinki, Mr. Trump was roundly criticized for being too soft and timidly accepting the Russian’s denial that his country meddled in the 2016 presidential election. In Paris, Mr. Putin might be looking to reset the relationship. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce told The Washington Times that he welcomed the advances against Russia, saying the LNG terminal would help make Germany “less vulnerable to Russian manipulation.” The California Republican backed up Mr. Trump on quitting the nuclear missile treaty. “The Russians have been violating INF for years, making this deal unsustainable. We need durable arms control agreements,” he said. Russia’s violations of the missile system ban go back 10 years, with allegations of cheating leveled by the Obama administration and European leaders.

More winning!!  For more, click on the text above.     🙂

Terror Expert Compares Reaction to Trump’s Russia Efforts to Obama’s: ‘It’s Glaring Hypocrisy’

Former U.S. Army Special Forces member Jim Hanson said that the criticism President Trump is facing for meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is hypocritical to what the Obama administration faced in 2012. Hanson, during an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” specifically called out former President Barack Obama’s hot mic incident with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the lax media reaction to it. Obama told Medvedev that after the 2012 election, he’d “have more flexibility.” The former U.S. president and Medvedev were talking about missile defense, Hanson added, saying that the world’s security was actually being put at risk. “The media at that point in time had nothing to say,” he said. “Now, President Trump wants to make a less-antagonistic relationship with the Russians … and all of a sudden it’s the worst thing that ever happened. It’s glaring hypocrisy.” Trump is set to meet with Putin on Monday in Helsinki, Finland. Hanson said that the entire stature of Obama’s foreign policy was “cringing capitulation.” “It was ‘America last,’” he said. “It ended up making the world a much more dangerous place.” Hanson also recalled the 2009 meeting between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during which Clinton presented Lavrov with a physical “reset” button to signify resetting relations with Russia. “Hillary walks into that meeting asking for nothing … she’s telling them ‘OK, you can have whatever you want from us,’” Hanson said.

The hypocrisy is indeed, breathtaking.  Thanks to former U.S. Army Special Forces member Jim Hanson for calling out the dominantly liberal mainstream media, and Democrat politicians, who are using today’s summit between President Trump and President Putin as an excuse to have another beat-up Trump session.  The rhetoric has been SO over the top, that it isn’t worth even paying attention to.

‘They beat our a–es’: Russian mercenaries talk about humiliating defeat by US in reportedly leaked audio

Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February involving US forces and Russian nationals. Published by Polygraph.info — a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news organizations that receive funding from the US government — the audio recordings paint a picture of Russian mercenaries essentially sent to die in an ill-conceived advance on a US-held position in Syria. Polygraph says the audio recordings are from a source close to the Kremlin. The Pentagon has described the attack as “unprovoked” and started by forces loyal to the Syrian government that crossed over the Euphrates River, which functions as a border between US-backed troops and Russian-backed ones. The Pentagon says that about 500 troops began to fire on the position and that the US responded with air power and artillery strikes. The audio from Polygraph seems to confirm that while giving some insight into the feelings of the defeated forces. Also apparent in the audio is displeasure with how Russia has responded to the situation. Initially, Russia denied that its citizens took part in the clash. Later, a representative said five may have died. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the fight left “several dozen wounded” and that some had died. The audio recordings, in which voices can be heard saying 200 people died “right away,” appear to back up reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Pentagon that roughly 100 — if not more— Russians died in the fight. Reuters has cited sources as saying the advance’s purpose was to test the US’s response. Russia is thought to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military — experts speculate it’s to maintain deniability for acts of war and conceal the true cost of fighting from the Russian people. The Washington Post reported last week that US intelligence reports with intercepted communications showed that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance on the US forces. The accounts in the audio also align with reports of how the battle went down, depicting an unprepared column of troops meeting an overwhelming air response before helicopter gunships strafed the remaining ones.

That’s a pretty standard response for something like this.  Clearly the Russians were totally unprepared..  To see a profanity-laced transcript of their reaction to what happened, click on the text above.

Russia Banned From 2018 Winter Olympics by I.O.C.

Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound. Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals. That was the punishment issued Tuesday to the proud sports juggernaut that has long used the Olympics as a show of global force but was exposed for systematic doping in previously unfathomable ways. The International Olympic Committee, after completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what had been known for more than a year, handed Russia penalties for doping so severe they were without precedent in Olympics history. The ruling cemented that the nation was guilty of executing an extensive state-backed doping program. The scheme was rivaled perhaps only by the notorious program conducted by East Germany throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Now the sports world will wait to see how Russia responds. Some Russian officials have threatened to boycott if the I.O.C. delivered such a severe punishment. President Vladimir V. Putin seemed to be predicting a boycott of the Pyeongchang Games, since his foreign policy in recent years has been based on the premise that he has rescued Russia from the humiliation inflicted on it by the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, has said no boycott was under discussion before the announcement, however, and the news broke late in the evening in Moscow when an immediate official reaction was unlikely. In barring Russia’s team, Olympic officials left the door open for some Russian athletes. Those with histories of rigorous drug testing may petition for permission to compete in neutral uniforms. Although it is unknown exactly how many will clear that bar, it is certain that the contingent from Russia will be depleted significantly. Entire sports — such as biathlon and cross-country skiing, in which Russia has excelled and in which its drug violations have been many — could be wiped out completely. Thomas Bach, president of I.O.C., has said he was perturbed not only by Russia’s widespread cheating but by how it had been accomplished: by corrupting the Olympic laboratory that handled drug testing at the Games, and on orders from Russia’s own Olympic officials. In an elaborate overnight operation at the 2014 Sochi Games, a team assembled by Russia’s sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to conceal evidence of top athletes’ steroid use throughout the course of competition. More than two dozen Russian athletes have been disqualified from the Sochi standings as a result, and Olympic officials are still sorting through the tainted results and rescinding medals. At the coming Games, Mr. Bach said Tuesday, a special medal ceremony will reassign medals to retroactive winners from Sochi. But, in light of legal appeals from many of the Russian athletes who have been disqualified by the I.O.C., it is uncertain if all results from Sochi will be finalized in time. The Russian Olympic Committee was also fined $15 million on Tuesday.

Wow….

Kim Jong Un sends North Korean slaves to Russia to earn cash for regime

Brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is shipping tens of thousands of impoverished citizens to Russia for the hard currency his cash-strapped regime desperately needs, Fox News has found. Alarmed human rights groups say the North Korea workers in Russia are little more than slaves, subjected to everything from cruel and violent acts to ruthless exploitation at the hands of corrupt officials, while being forced to turn over large chunks of their pay to the North Korean government. A report issued earlier this year by the Seoul-based Data Base Center for North Korean Human Rights estimates that about 50,000 North Korean laborers are working low-paying jobs in Russia. They send at least $120 million every year to the regime in Pyongyang. “The North Korean government maintains strict controls over their workers’ profits, in some cases probably taking 90 percent of their wages,” Scott Synder, director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy at the Council of Foreign Relations, said..

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