Amazing details from the drunken Moscow bender that got an Air Force general fired

December 19, 2013
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey is seen in an undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Air Force (Reuters)
Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey in an undated Air Force handout photo (Reuters)

The Air Force has just released its official report on its investigation into Maj. Gen. Michael Carey's July trip to Moscow, which got him fired in October. Carey oversaw three wings of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, with 450 ICBMs in all. At the time, the dismissal was reportedly over personal misconduct during the official trip. But "misconduct," it turns out, does not even come close.

The 42-page report is a doozy. It describes Carey as drinking heavily, spending an awful lot of time with two foreign women (a possible security risk), skipping meetings, complaining, offending the Russian hosts, at one point trying to perform with a band at a Moscow bar called La Cantina and generally acting a bit like a college kid on a semester abroad. The drinking got so bad that, according to the report, "one witness was concerned that Maj Gen Carey needed assistance standing." As a bonus, the report mentions Carey's impolitic comments about "Eric Snowden."

Here are some choice excerpts from the report. Even in stiff military bureaucratese, it's quite a yarn:

Maj Gen Carey consumed alcoholic beverages to the extent that it impacted his conduct during briefings, during the banquets, during the tour of the monastery, and on the walk to Red Square for dinner.

The drinking actually began on the trip over, during the group's layover in Zurich, Switzerland:

Ms. [REDACTED] states that Maj Gen Carey was visibly agitated about the long delay at Zurich, he appeared drunk and, in the public area, talked loudly about the importance of his position as commander of the only operational nuclear force in the world and that he saves the world from war every day.

The report recounts a number of incidents in which Carey drank heavily, such as this official banquet:

Maj Gen Carey stated that he only had about half a dozen shots of 8 ounces and sipped on some toasts and finished his glass on others. He also stated that he didn't remember the particulars of any of his toasts other than them being about camaraderie. (Ex 15:52-53) When asked if he was intoxicated when he left the banquet he declined to answer.

There's a lot of attention paid to Carey's interactions with the two foreign women. The report stresses that they were probably aware of his status, to some extent, and certainly his nationality. Here's a scene from their second meeting:

Lt Col [REDACTED] also recalled the two women's arrival and that Maj Gen Carey got up went to the table with the two women, "then two young ladies came in and said hello to everybody at the table... which surprised me. And then the General and the translator went over and sat with them." (Ex 16:20)

Mr. [REDACTED] recalled Maj Gen Carey dancing with one of the women at La Cantina, "Yeah, I, I think he might have danced with one of them, um, yes, yeah, I think they did dance one time. It, it was a fast dance, I think, as far as I can remember.

One person who was not identified told investigators of that encounter, "Then these two women show up that come over to him and you know, give him a kiss on the cheek and say hi."

While at La Cantina, witnesses stated that Maj Gen Carey had alcohol and kept trying to get the band to let him play with them. (Ex 16:20, Ex 17:25, Ex 21:26) According to Mr. [REDACTED], the band did not allow Maj Gen Carey to play with them.

The report seems to imply that Carey sought out the company of the two women:

Maj Gen Carey had repeated contact with two foreign national women while in Russia, despite by his own admission knowing that they were somewhat suspect. (Ex 15:14) He went to La Cantina knowing that the two women would be there. (Ex 15:16) Maj Gen Carey stayed after most of the US delegation left to spend time with two foreign national women and discussed, at least to some extent, his trip with them. (Ex 21:18-29)

There's a bit of a blurry space between La Cantina and Carey's return to his hotel that night, at about 3 a.m. The report says that Carey, two U.S. delegation members and the two women "went to several places for drinks after leaving the La Cantina."

Carey was allegedly rude to his Russian counterparts:

The IO found that Maj Gen Carey was frequently rude to both his fellow delegates and to his Russian hosts during the exercise and briefings. ... In particular, the IO noted the Russian reaction to Maj Gen Carey's comments about Syria and Eric Snowden. (Ex 22:25-26) He was similarly rude to his fellow US delegates on the walk to Red Square, when he was unable to keep up, pouted and sulked, and then complained repeatedly about the exercise itself.

A person whose name is redacted told investigators, "I'll tell you that when the, when the conference was done and we were in the airplane I didn't want to have anything to do with him."

Carey's antics continued right into the investigation process itself. "Maj Gen Carey appeared flippant in his attitude toward the interview and did not expect the interview to last more than an hour," the report says.

Despite being informed the interview [for this investigation], which began at 1300, would take at least two hours, he scheduled another meeting for 1400 that same afternoon. As such, the interview was put on hold white Maj Gen Carey called to cancel his 1400 appointment.

And his testimony contradicted that of other witnesses "greatly":

His testimony frequently differed greatly from that of other witnesses, for example, regarding trying to play with the band, talking about not attending the second day of the exercise, or spending so much time with the two foreign national women on the night of the 16th.

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Max Fisher | December 19, 2013