U.S Army Soldiers deploys to Ukraine – Defence Blog


The U.S. Army has announced that earlier this month approximately 160 American Soldiers with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquarters company deployed to Ukraine as Task Force Juvigny and assumed responsibility of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine at the Combat Training Center – Yavoriv.

TF Juvigny consists of Soldiers from several units across the Wisconsin Army National Guard; each of the Major Subordinate Commands; Joint Force Headquarters and the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. They were selected for their unique skills and expertise in a variety of disciplines.

“No nation can confront today’s challenges alone,” said Col. John Oakley, Task Force Juvigny’s commander. He added that, “the more capable and interoperable our militaries are, the better positioned we will be as a community to achieve our common goals of security, stability, and peace.”

Task Force Juvigny, along with NATO allies: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Lithuania, and Poland are in Ukraine to aid and support Armed Forces Ukraine’s training abilities along with increasing NATO interoperability with Ukraine.

“Our main goal is NATO interoperability,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brandon McKaig, a company mentor to mortars and artillery, and explained that one of the “challenges has been with equipment interoperability, but our Ukrainian partners overcome this challenge by being very competent and capable.”

“We’ve also been working a lot with our British counterpart and learning from him,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kirsten Schultz, an operations battalion advisor, and stated that “there’s more than one way to skin an apple and I’m learning a lot about how to better plan, or plan different, for missions back home in Wisconsin.”

“My Ukrainian counterpart has been very knowledgeable and competent,” said Cpt. Phil Cluphf, a sustainment and logistics brigade advisor, “and he brings a lot of Ukrainian Army experience in logistics and supply to the training center.”

The JMTG-U mission is part of an ongoing effort to contribute to Ukraine’s long-term military reform and to help improve Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities and training capacity. Task Force Juvigny, along with our NATO allies, works with our Ukrainian partners to advise on the training center, cadre, and institutional level development.

“I have been blown away by how professional they [Armed Forces of Ukraine] have been,” said McKaig, and added “I’m enjoying my time here; I think the job I am doing here is important and one of the biggest things is just building confidence and rapport with the Ukrainian units.”

“It’s going really well here,” said Schultz about working with Ukrainian military units, and continued, “every day is a learning experience, and each day I’m learning how to be a better advisor.”

“I’m looking for how I can help, and in my experiences thus far the Ukrainians seem grateful for our presence here and welcoming of our suggestions,” said Cluphf.

“We look forward to learning new skills and perspectives,” said Oakley. “We are ready to share our knowledge and training expertise while growing our strategic partnership.”

Col. John Oakley, commander of Task Force Juvigny, delivers a speech during the transfer of authority ceremony for Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine at the Combat Training Center – Yavoriv, Ukraine, Nov 11. Earlier this month approximately 160 American Soldiers with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquarters company deployed to Ukraine as Task Force Juvigny and assumed responsibility of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine at the Combat Training Center – Yavoriv. Photo by Spc. Jared Saathoff

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Joe Biden Refuses to Voluntarily Testify at Impeachment Proceedings



Joe Biden ruled out the possibility that he would voluntarily testify in the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying to do so would “divert” away from the issue at hand.

“No, I’m not going to let them take their eye off the ball,” the former vice president told reporters when asked about the possibility on his “No Malarkey” bus tour in Iowa. “The president is the one who has committed impeachable crimes, and I’m not going to let him divert from that. I’m not going to let anyone divert from that.”

Biden’s refusal sets up the likelihood that he would need to be subpoenaed to appear before Congress, especially if the impeachment inquiry proceeds to a trial in the Senate. Some Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), have already signaled it would be inappropriate for the impeachment inquiry, let alone a trial, to progress without the testimonies of both the former vice president and his youngest son, Hunter. As such, Senate Republicans have begun looking into the Obama-era White House and Hunter Biden’s wheeling and dealing in Ukraine, which has taken center stage in the inquiry.

The former vice president, for his part, has responded to calls that he and his son testify by lashing out at the Republicans, like Graham.

“Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he’s going to regret his whole life,” Biden said last month when asked about the senator’s efforts around impeachment. “I say Lindsey, I just—I’m just embarrassed by what you’re doing, for you. I mean, my Lord.”

Biden’s refusal to testify also underscores just how central he and his son are to the Democrats’ case for impeaching Trump. The controversy started when Trump suggested the Ukrainian government investigate how Hunter Biden was able to secure a seat on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings. The younger Biden was appointed to the Ukraine-based natural gas company’s board in 2014, despite having no background in either the energy industry or eastern Europe. More troubling was the fact that Hunter Biden’s appointment seemed to coincide with his father being tapped to lead the Obama administration’s policy towards in Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

As Peter Schweizer, senior contributor at Breitbart News, detailed in his book Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, Hunter Biden’s background in investment banking, lobbying, and hedge fund management paled in comparison to that of current and past members of Burisma’s board.

Adding to concerns is the fact that at the time Hunter Biden joined Burisma, the company was seen as actively courting leaders in the West to prevent further scrutiny of its business practices. The same month that Hunter Biden was tapped to join the company’s board, the government of Great Britain froze accounts belonging to Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, under suspicion of money laundering.

A Ukrainian official with strong ties to Zlochevsky admitted in October the only reason that Hunter Biden secured the appointment was to “protect” the company from foreign scrutiny.

It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s political influence has raised the most red flags. The former vice president has particularly drawn questions over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016.

Joe Biden, who has publicly bragged about the firing, reportedly threatened to withhold more than one billion dollars in U.S. aid if the Ukrainian government did not remove Shokin. He has claimed the demand came from then-President Barack Obama, who had allegedly lost faith in the prosecutor’s ability to tackle corruption.

Unofficially, though, it was known that Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for public corruption. It is uncertain if the probe extended to Hunter Biden, although Shokin has recently admitted that prior to his ouster, he was warned to back off the matter. Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor, who is now himself being investigated for public corruption, dropped the investigation into Burisma.

Congressional Republicans have cited the shadowy timeline of events and the appearance of conflicting interests when arguing for Hunter and Joe Biden to testify before the impeachment proceedings.

“I believe that Hunter Biden’s association on that board doesn’t pass the smell test,” Graham told reporters last month. “If a Republican was in the same boat they would be eaten alive by the media.”



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Senators Seek ‘Suspicious Activity Reports’ on Ukraine, Hunter Biden



Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the United States Treasury to inquire about “suspicious activity reports” related to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his employment with Ukrainian energy empire Burisma.

Reuters reported on the November 15 letter sent by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, to Ken Blanco, the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network:

The letter, seen by Reuters on Friday, seeks “suspicious activity reports,” or documents that financial institutions file with the department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network when a case of money laundering or fraud is suspected.

It was unclear if any such reports exist regarding Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son. There letter gave no evidence that Hunter Biden engaged in suspicious activity that would have been covered by such reports.

The agency does not comment on the reports, a spokesman said. Fincen, as the network is known, collects more than 2 million such reports each year, and they are tipsheets that make no findings on whether illegal activity has occurred.

The letter is part of an effort in Congress to defend President Donald Trump for what Republicans say is a partisan effort by Democrats to make a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky where the Bidens’ Ukrainian dealings were discussed an impeachable offense.

The lawmakers set a Dec. 5 deadline for Treasury to respond to the request.

Reuters noted in its report that Hunter Biden served on the board of directors for Burisima, which has been investigated for corruption. The younger Biden served on the board while Joe Biden was vice president of the United States.

“In the letter, the senators said Burisma was paying Hunter Biden as much as $50,000 a month and their panels were investigating ‘potentially improper actions by the Obama administration with respect to Burisma Holdings and Ukraine,’” Reuters reported.

In the final paragraph of the Reuters report, another investigation is revealed: Grassley and Johnson have asked the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration for records of a 2016 White House meeting between Obama administration officials, representatives of the Ukrainian government, and officials from the Democratic National Committee.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter





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