Michael Carey: The US general with a finger on the button – and a foot in his mouth

Report claims Air Force general displayed behaviour 'unbecoming to a gentleman' on official trip to Russia

A US Air Force general in charge of nuclear weapons repeatedly drank too much and displayed behaviour “unbecoming of a gentleman” last summer during an official trip to Moscow, where he insulted his Russian hosts and was seen with two suspicious women he met at a hotel bar, according to an investigative report.

Major-General Michael Carey, who was commander of the Air Force’s arsenal of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, “acted in a manner that exceeded the limits of accepted standards of good conduct” during a four-day visit to Moscow in July, according to an investigation conducted by the Air Force inspector general.

Maj-Gen Carey’s behaviour stunned his aides and other colleagues travelling with him for a nuclear security exercise and meetings with Russian officials. They said he started drinking during a stopover in Zurich and kept it up during three days in Moscow, causing a string of gaffes and embarrassments that led Air Force officials to relieve him of his command.

Maj-Gen Carey was fired in October from his job as commander of the 20th Air Force, which is responsible for maintaining and operating the country’s ICBMs. At the time, Air Force leaders said he was under investigation for “personal misbehaviour” but divulged few details because the case was pending.

According to the investigative report, Maj-Gen Carey had some unusual encounters with foreign women during his stay in Moscow. On his first night in the city, he and a colleague met two women at the rooftop bar of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. The next night the foursome went out drinking and dancing. Maj-Gen Carey described them as “hot women”.

The women told the two Americans that they were in the travel business, but were vague about whether they were Russian or British. The report does not allege that anything untoward happened beyond the drinking and dancing, but Maj-Gen Carey later acknowledged to investigators that he was suspicious about their overt friendliness toward a visiting US military commander in charge of nuclear secrets.

“It just seemed kind of peculiar that we saw them one night and then saw them again later while we were there,” he told investigators. “For people who are in business to be kind of conveniently in the same place where we’re at, it seemed odd to me.”

Despite those concerns, Maj-Gen Carey also socialised into the early hours with a female shop assistant from a hotel tobacco shop, which likewise raised eyebrows among US officials.

The report says he told Air Force investigators: “A tobacco store lady talking about physics in the wee hours of the morning doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. You need to watch out for that because that’s just like our training says, you know, people are trolling for information.”

Although Maj-Gen Carey defended his actions to investigators, other members of his delegation said they were shocked by his behaviour.

One female US official, whose name was redacted, told investigators: “I realised that this was putting us all at risk, especially Russia and women, and I just wanted nothing to do with that.”

@ The Washington Post