Game Over: Russian Spies Have Co-opted Our Reflective PT Belts

Humor
US Army photo by Sgt. Neil Gussman

As Vladimir Putin continues his meteoric ascent from lowly KGB desk jockey to giant axe-wielding democracy-defiler, many of us may find ourselves wondering whether the people we know and love are secretly playing for Team Russia. For example, my colleague Patrick Baker. He’s got unusually small hands and shifty eyes. And he’s never not in the bathroom. There simply isn’t enough room in the large intestine for all the potty breaks that guy purports to take. (FYI Pat: the Febreeze isn’t in there for decoration.)


Sometimes the clues are more obvious, like a badly glued-on fake mustache or a yo-yo buzzsaw. And then there’s the curious case of Maria Butina, the comely 29-year-old Second Amendment advocate recently apprehended by the FBI on charges of being a Russian spy, who’s flipped the script completely with her benevolent red hair and safety-first approach to espionage.

Butina’s safety orientation was on full display when she showed up to a National Rifle Association convention several years ago wearing, yes, you guessed it: a motherfucking reflective PT belt.

Accused Russian spy Maria Butina with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in 2014.

According to U.S. military lore, when worn properly around the waist or diagonally across the chest, the reflective (or glow) belt creates a magic force field against bullets, bombs, and the prying eyes of enemy operatives. Somehow that life-saving technology ended up in the hands of the Russians, who now seem to be using it against us in their ongoing campaign for global domination.

Fake news? If only we were so lucky.

In 2014, Butina arrived at the NRA’s annual meeting in Indianapolis dressed to impress in a slim-fitting floral jumpsuit and dashing pearl necklace. Butina now stands accused of conspiring against the U.S. government on behalf of Moscow; she allegedly tried to broker a meeting between Papa Putin and then-candidate Donald Trump, and also, according to federal prosecutors, once offered sex to an unidentified American political operative in exchange for “a position within a special interest organization.”

In Indy, she had a lot of schmoozing to do. But of course, she also had to make it out alive. Reflective belts come in all different colors. There are red ones, green ones, white ones, and, no kidding, even pink ones. They all signify the same thing: a warrior’s spirit. They also say: Look out! Don’t run over me with your car.

Butina opted for canary yellow, presumably to compliment the daffodils on her jumpsuit. The belt appears around Butina’s waist in a photograph she took at the NRA convention with Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania. Santorum, my friend, you got flimflammed. Take a closer look:

A reflective PT belt adorns the waist of accused Russian spy Maria Butina.

Don’t see it? Great. That means you’re one of the good guys.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that no U.S. troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria and the United States "is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria."

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Friday said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, insisting that a planned "safe zone" will extend much further than U.S. officials said was covered under a fragile ceasefire deal.

Read More Show Less

On Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference, Army families had the opportunity to tell senior leaders exactly what was going on in their worlds — an opportunity that is, unfortunately, all too rare.

Read More Show Less

The fog of war, just kills, and war crimes are the focus of a new documentary series coming to STARZ. Titled Leavenworth, the five-part series profiles 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, the Army infantry officer who was convicted on murder charges for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two and wounding the third, while deployed to the Zhari district in Kandahar province, on July 2, 2012.

Read More Show Less

A big stereotype surrounding U.S. service members and veterans is that they are defined only by their military service, from buying "Dysfunctional Veteran" t-shirts to playing hard-boiled, high-octane first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty (we honestly have no idea where anyone could get that impression).

But the folks at OSD (formerly called Operation Supply Drop), a non-profit veteran service organization that aims to help troops and vets connect with each other through free video games, service programs and other activities, recently found that most of the gamers they've served actually prefer less military-centric fare like sports games and fantasy RPGs.

Read More Show Less

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (Reuters) - Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.

Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.

The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.

The SDF said air and artillery attacks continued to target its positions and civilian targets in Ral al Ain.

"Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.

The Kurdish-led administration in the area said Turkish truce violations in Ras al Ain had caused casualties, without giving details.

Read More Show Less