Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 17, 2013

Fact Check: There are no Russian troops in the U.S.

By FactCheck.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Q: Is Russia providing 15,000 troops to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency provide security for the U.S.?

A: No. A renewed agreement between the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry and FEMA only allows for the exchanging of emergency management experts, not security or military personnel.

Full question

Is this email I received accurate?

June 27, 2013

Obama Requests 15,000 Russian Troops For “Upcoming” Disaster

By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers

An unsettling report prepared by the Emergencies Ministry (EMERCOM) circulating in the Kremlin today on the just completed talks between Russia and the United States in Washington D.C. says that the Obama regime has requested at least 15,000 Russian troops trained in disaster relief and “crowd functions” (i.e. riot control) be pre-positioned to respond to FEMA Region III during an unspecified “upcoming” disaster.

Full answer

This viral e-mail is an excerpt of a June 27 article posted on Whatdoesitmean.com, a news aggregate website known for publishing articles with sensational headlines and advancing conspiracy theories. The rumor quickly spread across the Internet from there.

The article twists the facts about a routine meeting between U.S. and Russian agencies to share information and expertise on emergency management situations such as earthquakes, floods, and acts of terrorism. It says “the Obama regime has requested at least 15,000 Russian troops trained in disaster relief and ‘crowd functions’ (i.e. riot control) be pre-positioned to respond to FEMA Region III during an unspecified ‘upcoming’ disaster.” (FEMA Region III includes Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.)

What’s the source of that claim? The article links to a story from the Russian news agency Ria Novosti, but that story doesn’t mention a request or approval of 15,000 Russian troops to help protect the eastern United States during a disaster. Instead, it details a U.S.-Russia partnership “to improve protection against meteorites and other space threats.”

Ria Novosti, June 26:

Russia and the United States will work together to improve protection against meteorites and other space threats, Russia’s emergencies minister said on Tuesday following a joint Russia-US working group meeting in Washington.

“We have decided that the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Russia’s Emergencies Ministry will work together to develop systems to protect people and territory from cosmic impacts,” Russia’s Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told journalists.

The meeting also covered other kinds of natural emergencies, such as recent years’ extreme weather in Russia and United States, but it was cooperation to counter space threats that stole the limelight at the news conference.

Another highly cited article about Russian forces supposedly securing the U.S. was posted days later on Infowars.com, a site run by libertarian radio host, author and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

That July 1 article claims that “Russian officials will provide ‘security at mass events’ in the United States,” as part of a joint agreement signed between FEMA and the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry. “This suggests that events designated as ‘National Special Security Events,’ by the Department of Homeland Security, which include the Super Bowl, international summits such as the G8 and presidential inaugurations, will now rely partly on Russian authorities to provide security,” the article says.

But that, too, distorts the recent Russia-U.S. meeting on emergency management practices. The article cites a June 26 press release from the Russian government about the renewal of a long-standing agreement between the two agencies to “exchange experts during joint rescue operations in major disasters.”

The press release, which was issued by the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters, said:

EMERCOM of Russia:

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry and the USA Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are going to exchange experts during joint rescue operations in major disasters. This is provided by a protocol of the fourth meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Working Group on Emergency Situations and seventeenth meeting of Joint U.S.-Russia Cooperation Committee on Emergency Situations, which took place in Washington on 25 June.

The document provides for expert cooperation in disaster response operations and to study the latest practices.

In addition, the parties approved of U.S.-Russian cooperation in this field in 2013-2014, which envisages exchange of experience including in monitoring and forecasting emergency situations, training of rescuers, development of mine-rescuing and provision of security at mass events.

At the end of the meeting the parties expressed their satisfaction with the level of cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United States in the area of emergency prevention and response and agreed to develop it in order to respond efficiently to all kinds of disasters.

There was no mention of exchanging military personnel, let alone 15,000 Russian troops. Rather, the U.S. and Russia, once again, agreed to exchange information among emergency experts in several areas, including “provision of security at mass events.” As was noted in the press release, the United States and Russia have been meeting for years to discuss the best ways to handle natural and man-made disasters.

U.S.-Russia Partnership

In 1996, the U.S. and Russia signed a Memorandum of Understanding, creating the Joint U.S.-Russia Cooperation Committee on Emergency Situations. And, in 2009, President Barack Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, created the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Working Group on Emergency Situations.

A FEMA spokesman told FactCheck.org that the June 25 meeting — which was the 17th for the Joint Committee on Emergency Situations and the 4th for the BPC Working Group on Emergency Situations — was merely a continuation of those long-standing partnerships.

“There will be no exchange of security or military personnel through this agreement,” the spokesman said. “The agreement continues information-sharing meetings and observation opportunities with first responders and emergency managers.”

After the second meeting of the BPC in 2011, for example, it was agreed that “the Emergency Situations Working Group will explore collaboration and joint projects between FEMA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and EMERCOM to share best practices in the preparation of rescuers, to develop volunteer firefighting teams, and to map hazards associated with floods, droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.” That is from the commission’s 2012 report.

That report also said that, at the June 2011 meeting in Boston, “experts discussed a whole-community approach to disaster preparedness and response,” and that they “held a panel discussion on lessons learned from recent international disaster responses, including the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011.”

In May 2010, at the 14th meeting of the Cooperation Committee on Emergency Situations, representatives outlined an agenda for areas to work on in the future, including:

n Exchange best practices in “mass event planning” to better ensure public safety at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

n Continue exchange programs between rescue services, emphasizing training methods for rescuers and equipment of staging areas;

n Exchange experience on the creation, functioning and the development of national emergency management systems.

n Continue to develop cooperation between Russian and American regional emergency response organizations.

n Exchange best practices in fire-extinguishing technology.

n Improve operational information exchanges during planned humanitarian and disaster response efforts in third countries.

n Exchange best practices in the functioning of emergency operations centers, at the local, regional and national levels.

n Exchange best practices in addressing the needs of children in emergency situations.

n Exchange concepts and information on building disaster resistant communities and community resiliency.

n Exchange best practices in Mass Transit Emergency Events.

n Exchange best practices in medical aspects of emergency response.

These are examples of some of the things that the groups have committed to working on in past years. And none of them involve exchanging security or military personnel.

The agenda and signed protocol from the most recent meeting in 2013 are not available online. We have requested those documents from FEMA and the BPC Working Group on Emergency Situations. If we receive them, we will update this article.

By Justin Cohen and D’Angelo Gore for FactCheck.org