Let's have a tale of two cities here today, so to speak.
We can start with antagonism on two fronts. 50,000 NATO troops are readying in the frozen north
for a "training" exercise. Although it's nowhere near the Russian border, of course they are the target of this display of penis.
Marines are landing in Iceland, a Navy aircraft carrier is sailing past the Arctic Circle and U.S. aircraft are soaring over Scandinavia -- and none of it has gone unnoticed by Russian military leaders.
Nearly 50,000 U.S. and NATO forces are gearing up for the largest iteration of Trident Juncture since 1991. Set to start Thursday, it'll involve troops operating in the air, on land and at sea in a month-long exercise that will test NATO forces' ability to respond to a large-scale event from several locations.
Troops from all 29 NATO allies -- plus Finland and Sweden -- are participating. So are about 65 ships, 150 aircraft and 10,000 vehicles.
The exercise won't take place near Russia's border. But Lt. Gen. Valery Zaparenko, former deputy chief of general staff there, said he believes Trident Juncture is meant to send a message to his country, which has pledged to expand its capabilities in the Arctic region.
"All this talk from NATO about Russia not being the target of Trident Juncture doesn't hold water," Zaparenko said, according to RT, a Russian-government-funded TV station. "Even if NATO says otherwise, Trident Juncture is really preparation for a large-scale armed conflict in regions bordering with the Russian Federation."
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis disagreed, saying earlier this month at NATO's headquarters in Belgium that "it would be a mischaracterization to put [Trident Juncture] in any kind of offensive or destabilizing sort of context."
About 14,000 U.S. troops are participating in the exercise, which is set to be one of NATO's largest since the end of the Cold War. Some of those troops have been participating in rehearsal exercises in the days leading up to Trident Juncture.
But that's not the only place where the United States feels the need to overcome her leader's shortcomings. There is an ongoing war of words with the Dragon, as China has threatened to retaliate in tit for tat trade sanctions. So of course, we need to display our genitalia over there as well.
The Navy sailed two Japan-based ships through the Taiwan Strait on Monday amid ongoing tensions over freedom of navigation in the western Pacific and political strains over trade with China.
The cruiser USS Antietam and the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur each sailed from south to north, CNN reported, along the waterway separating mainland China from Taiwan.
"USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Antietam conducted a routine Taiwan Strait Transit on October 22, in accordance with international law," Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Fleet, told CNN.
Two U.S. defense officials also told CNN that multiple Chinese warships followed the Yokosuka-based 7th Fleet ships at a safe distance.
China considers Taiwan a province of the mainland and officials have stated over the years that the democratic island's continued self-rule cannot continue indefinitely. Taiwan receives support and defense funding from the United States in line with a 1979 bilateral agreement.
Although the U.S. and most nations consider much of the 110-mile Taiwan Strait to be international waters, transiting there has long been a source of tension for Beijing. In 1996, China conducted a series of missile tests nearby a small Taiwan-controlled island as a show of strength, after Beijing's government accused Taiwan of independence sentiments in the runup to a presidential election on the island.
In response, the U.S. sent two aircraft carrier groups through the Taiwan Strait. Since that time, China has rapidly modernized its naval forces and begun its own carrier program. China has also constructed artificial islands atop submerged reefs in the South China Sea and placed weapons and aircraft on them. Chinese ships have used force and coercion to prevent access to islands in the region claimed by smaller nations, U.S. officials have repeatedly said.
But not very far from there, there is an unlikely example of what can happen when cooler heads prevail.
Some of us from a certain generation are quite familiar with the 'peace' city of Panmunjom in Korea. The only places on that troubled peninsula where North and South routinely face off against each other. In a small step, both sides have agreed to de-mine the area in a effort to reduce tensions. Notably missing is any influence from a certain orange-y irritant.
SEOUL, South Korea â€” The two Koreas have completed removing land mines planted at their shared border village as part of efforts to disarm the area located inside the world's most heavily fortified border, South Korean officials said Monday.
The announcement came following a meeting among military officers from the Koreas and the U.S.-led U.N. Command at the border's Panmunjom village earlier Monday. It's the second such trilateral meeting to examine efforts to demilitarize Panmunjom, the most well-known place inside the 248-kilometer (155-mile) -long Demilitarized Zone that bisect the two Koreas.
Disarming the village was among a set of tension-reduction agreements signed by the Koreas' defense chiefs on the sidelines of their leaders' summit in Pyongyang last month.
As the next disarmament steps at Panmunjom, the two Koreas and the U.N. Command agreed on withdrawing weapons and guard posts there by Thursday. The three sides will then spend two days jointly verifying those measures, Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a statement. The Koreas eventually aim to have 35 unarmed personnel from each side guard the village.
Officially, the entire DMZ area, including Panmunjom, is jointly overseen by North Korea and the U.N. Command, a legacy of the Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. North Korea and China signed the armistice on one side, while the U.N. Command signed on the other side. South Korea wasn't a signatory to the agreement.
Panmunjom is where the armistice was signed. Numerous incidents of bloodshed and violence have taken place there since the war's end, and rival soldiers face each other only feet away from each other at Panmunjom.
This isn't rocket science. Where a common denominator is present, there is trouble. Where the influence is minimized or non-existent....progress can be made.