The geopolitical analysis site SouthFront has unearthed from the pages of LinkedIn an incredible public job offering by a US defense contractor which reveals potentially sensitive information. The job posting mentions "classified Contingency Operations" in Ukraine and was posted a mere 15 days ago— just prior to last Sunday's incident between the Russian and Ukrainian navies in the Kerch Strait.
Writes SouthFront, the US-based defense contractor company "Mission Essential" accidentally revealed a US military specialist deployment in the combat zones in Ukraine via a Job Advertisement on LinkedIn.
Crucially, it's yet further evidence which disproves the years-long claims by Washington that the United States is not directly involved militarily in the Ukraine conflict. The public posting suggests US special forces operations are indeed active and ongoing as tensions with Russia soar.
Similar to the Atlantic Council’s latest report on the independence of Eastern European countries, as well as the meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, the posting came just days before the escalation in the Sea of Azov.
"Mission Essential" is a government contractor based in the Washington D.C. suburb of Herndon, VA primarily serving intelligence and military clients, and is also considered a leading provider of translation and interpretation services for the US government.
The preemptive job advert was posted on November 16th and seeks:
...linguist candidates who speak Ukrainian to provide foreign language interpretation and translation services to support classified Contingency Operations in support of the U.S. Military in Ukraine.
The advert also requires candidates to be able to fit in the local culture and customs, in addition to “the ability to deal inconspicuously with local populace if necessary.” Which simply means that the interpreter needs to be able to hide the fact that he is not a Ukrainian citizen, at least partly.
Unsurprisingly, the individual needs to be able to serve in a combat zone “if necessary,” in addition to being able to “live, work, and travel in harsh environments, to include living and working in temporary facilities as mission dictates.”
From the Virginia-based defense contractor's website.
Considering repeated claims by the US leadership that Washington is not involved in the Ukraine conflict, the vacancy posting is an operational security failure by Mission Essential. Most other vacancies posted by the company are for analysts and various linguistical and project management positions, almost predominantly in different military facilities in the US.
It is quite possible that these specialists would assist US military personnel deployed in or near the “combat zones” in Ukraine – i.e. Eastern Ukraine, and as it was expected since as early as November 16th – the Sea of Azov.
This is another piece that reinforces the notion that the “provocation by Russia” in the Sea of Azov could somehow have been premeditated.
However, it also appears that, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s plans have appeared to, at least partially, backfire. “Partially,” because he managed to institute martial law and make another step in his attempts to postpone elections in 2019, thus “democratically” holding on to power and not allowing the Ukrainian citizens to vote and most likely elect his rival and favored presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko.
Russia Threatens to Target U.S. Allies If Trump Exits Treaty
1 hr ago
(Bloomberg) -- Russia will target countries hosting U.S. missiles if Washington goes ahead with plans to pull out of a landmark Cold War arms treaty, General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said Wednesday.
“If the INF treaty is destroyed, we won’t leave it without a response,” he said in a presentation to foreign military attaches in Moscow, according to an official transcript. “You as military professionals must understand that the target for Russian retaliation won’t be U.S. territory but the countries where the intermediate-range missiles are deployed.”
His comments came hours after the U.S. said it would pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 60 days if Russia doesn’t stop alleged violations. Moscow says it’s complying with the deal. Gerasimov accused the U.S. of seeking to shift the blame for its demise to Russia.
While the INF treaty restricts the U.S. and Russia, many other countries are producing these missiles and “apparently our American partners consider the situation has changed so much that the U.S. has to have such weapons,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to the Interfax news service. “What’s our response? It’s simple - in that case, we’ll also do it.”
The U.S. has said it has no plans to deploy land-based nuclear missiles in Europe once it pulls out of the treaty. In the past, Russia has threatened to target European countries that hosted U.S. missile defenses.
Earlier Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said it’s deployed laser weapons, one of several systems Putin touted as a new generation of armaments during his annual address in March.
The Peresvet laser, named after a 14th century Orthodox monk who fought in single combat against a Tatar champion at the Battle of Kulikovo, was deployed by the army on Dec. 1, the ministry said in an emailed statement.
Putin in March described the new arms as Russia’s response to the U.S. decision in 2002 to pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and develop its global defense shield. While Peresvet’s technical specifications are secret, military experts say it can be used against drones, missiles and aircraft.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told NATO allies on Tuesday that the U.S. is setting a two-month deadline for Russia to return to compliance with the INF treaty before carrying out President Donald Trump’s threat in October to withdraw from the accord. Russia denies breaching the treaty, which bans deployment of ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 kilometers (311 miles) to 5,500 kilometers, and has said it wants to hold talks with the U.S. on preserving the agreement.
“The U.S. has presented no evidence that the Russian side in any way violates or fails to comply with the terms of the agreement,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow. The INF treaty is “one of the key pillars of strategic stability” and Russia’s ready to discuss any problems with the accord without “baseless accusations and ultimatums,” she said.
Published on Dec 5, 2018
Samuel Cranny-Evans, Editor, Jane's Armoured Fighting Vehicles provides exclusive analysis of Russia's ambitious modernisation of its armed forces, and NATO's response to re arm and return its attention to the potential for a conventional conflict on a scale thought improbable, since the end of the Cold War.
Caught in Russia-Ukraine Storm: A Cargo Ship and Tonnes of Grain
December 5, 2018 by Reuters
Cranes and ships are seen in the Azov Sea port of Berdyansk, Ukraine November 30, 2018. Picture taken November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
By Polina Ivanova BERDYANSK, Ukraine, Dec 5 (Reuters) – When the Island Bay cargo ship arrived from Beirut at the Kerch Strait, gateway to the Azov Sea, it sailed into a perfect storm of geopolitics and bad weather.
The following day, Russia opened fire on three Ukrainian naval ships, impounded them and detained their sailors, some of them wounded. It then blocked the strait by putting a tanker underneath a new bridge it has built linking the Russian mainland to the Crimean peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
While the world digested the implications of the Nov. 25 incident, the most explosive clash in recent years, Russia said it had reopened the channel to the Azov Sea, which is shared by Russia and Ukraine.
But Island Bay remained at anchor outside the strait, lashed by gale force winds and sleet, its hull icing over while cargo ships amassed on either side.
On Monday, a week on, the captain reported seeing 20 vessels awaiting clearance to cross. Refinitiv data that day also showed 20 Ukraine-bound vessels held up at the strait since Nov. 25, with two others allowed through.
Meanwhile, Island Bay’s cargo of 5,500 tonnes of wheat, destined for flour mills in Libya, waited in the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk.
The saga of the ship is a window on the leverage Moscow has over Ukraine’s Azov seaboard, affecting dock workers, port operators, brokers and farmers who depend on the route.
Russia, whose coast guards began inspecting traffic in the Kerch Strait eight months ago, blamed inclement weather for the delay. But on Sunday, when the skies cleared, just a handful of ships passed through; by Monday evening, the Island Bay’s captain’s frustration was beginning to show.
“It is acceptable weather for transit. Coast guards have own opinion,” his log, seen by Reuters, said. That day, he reported seeing just two ships cross into the Azov Sea.
Ukraine says the hiatus is one of many since the Russian spot-checks began in May, when Russia opened the Kerch bridge, interrupting exports of grain and steel and imports of coal. Moscow denies any disruption.
In Berdyansk’s port, where icy winds had recently ripped off the roof of a nearby shed, staff of stevedore company Ascet Shipping were reading the daily reports from the Island Bay with growing concern.
Ascet loads almost a million tonnes of Ukrainian grain a year onto cargo ships in Berdyansk and was waiting to load the Island Bay; its size means each day of waiting time costs around $2,000-$2,500, Ascet’s chief executive, Denis Rusin, said.
This has made Berdyansk an unpopular port in recent months.
“Ship owners do not want to go to Berdyansk,” said Rusin, whose clients include U.S. firm Cargill, one of the world’s largest dry bulk and tank shipping companies. “Buyers are refusing to bet on passage.”
Since Russia and Ukraine clashed in the strait, Ukraine has introduced martial law in 10 regions, including the Azov Sea coast – highlighting the risks of doing business with Berdyansk.
“For us this was the worst week in recent years,” Rusin said. “Clients have stopped considering the possibility of signing contracts for delivery in January, let alone February or spring,” he said.
Some Ukrainian politicians have accused Moscow of trying to strangle Ukraine’s Azov Sea ports in preparation for an invasion from the east, following on from Crimea’s annexation and the subsequent breakaway of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
Moscow says that idea is a fantasy dreamt up by Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders ahead of elections next year. It says it has the right to patrol the strait.
But Berdyansk’s businesses say the patrols target ships bound for Ukraine, causing damaging delays.
The recent escalation in tensions has not affected ships coming to pick up grain from the Russian side of the Azov Sea, according to Sergei Filipov, director of trading firm QAM7 Dubai, which has operations there. He said inspections have delayed travel by the usual two or three days.
On its eleventh day at anchor in Kerch Strait, with skies finally clear, Island Bay reported to Berdyansk: “We called everywhere to make guards (come and) inspect the vessel, but their intentions cannot be explained.”
The situation has sent Rusin racing to further revise down his business forecasts.
Climbing out onto the windswept roof of his office on Friday, he pointed to a single truck of grain where multiple trucks used to line up along the dock.
“We had expected to load around 150,000 tonnes over the next three months… Maybe 200,000,” he said. Now the company is preparing for anything between 50,000 tonnes and no business at all, he said.
“This was a change of plan that happened this week.”
The Azov Sea grain supply chain makes up just 2 to 3 percent of Ukraine’s agricultural exports, deputy central bank chief Dmitry Sologub said. But for the southeastern Zaporozhye region, home to 1.8 million people, it is critical.
At the government Port Authority in Berdyansk, officials said they feared for the port’s future as clients look to other locations with direct access to the Black Sea.
“Of course we would prefer (to use other ports),” said Erdem Sekreter, fleet manager at Turkey’s Bayraktar shipping group, which has two ships waiting to cross the Kerch Strait to reach the Ukrainian coast.
“It is getting more expensive for ship-owners to go to the Azov Sea – the Ukrainian side of course,” he added. “We are paying out of our pocket now.”
FARMERS AND TRADERS
Bison Group owns 40,000 hectares of arable land in Zaporozhye region and exports much of its harvest via Berdyansk.
With ship-owners raising freight charges to factor in the new risks in the Azov Sea, the costs will be passed down to grain producers, Bison deputy director Igor Serov said. “It hits agricultural producers really hard.”
Prices will have to go down by at least $10 per tonne, a trader at Atria Brokers, which handles Berdyansk grain, said.
But producers may not have other options. The railway infrastructure is not in place to send exports via Black Sea ports instead, Serov said, and transferring grain by truck to Odessa, for example, would cost an extra $40 per tonne.
Buyers are also pulling back, afraid of the risks.
“Our sales have fallen,” the Atria trader said. “It has affected us in a fundamental way.”
Every day Island Bay’s cargo sits in port, it racks up costs for traders. Grain can spoil, and storage costs are steep.
“The market is suffering… everyone along the chain is paying the price for these war games,” a grain trader said, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the situation.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said some grain shipments from the Azov Sea had resumed.
Five of the 14 ships headed to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, held up since the stand-off, were still waiting to cross on Wednesday, Refinitiv data showed. One had turned back to Istanbul.
In comparison, of the ships aiming for one of Russian city Rostov-on-Don’s ports, that had arrived to Kerch Strait since the stand-off began, none were still waiting for passage, the data showed the same day.
Only one out of the six boats headed to Berdyansk had crossed by Wednesday. After twelve days at anchor in the waters near the strait, Island Bay was still waiting.
(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets in KIEV and Polina Devitt in MOSCOW; editing by Philippa Fletcher)