Report: U.S. Air Force general drank too much, fraternized with foreign women in Moscow


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

An Air Force general in charge of nuclear weapons repeatedly drank too much and behaved like a boor last summer during an official trip to Moscow, where he insulted his Russian hosts and hung out with two suspicious women he met at a hotel bar, according to an investigative report released Thursday.

Maj. Gen. 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.

Carey’s behavior stunned his aides and other colleagues traveling 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.

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 intercontinental ballistic missiles. At the time, Air Force leaders said he was under investigation for “personal misbehavior” but divulged few details because the case was pending.

The Air Force released the partly redacted 44-page investigative report Thursday in response to requests filed by reporters under the Freedom of Information Act.


U.S. Air Force Major Gen. Michael Carey. (Handout/Reuters)

Carey received a “letter of counseling” for his actions and is now assigned as a special assistant to the commander of the Air Force’s Space Command. Although he was removed from his command job at the 20th Air Force, he retains his rank and does not face any other disciplinary measures, Air Force officials said.

“This was an unfortunate incident,” Gen. William L. Shelton, the chief of the Air Force’s Space Command, said in a statement. “Major General Carey has otherwise served the nation extremely well.”

According to the investigative report, 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 foursome went out drinking and dancing the next night as well. Carey described them as “hot women.”

The women told Carey and his colleague 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 Carey later acknowledged to investigators that he was suspicious about their overt friendliness toward a visiting U.S. 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," Carey 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, Carey also socialized into the late hours with a female clerk from a hotel cigar store who likewise raised eyebrows.

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

Read the report

air force ig report

The inspector general's report describes the conduct of Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, the Air Force general in charge of nuclear weapons, during an official trip to Moscow, saying he repeatedly drank too much and hung out with two suspicious "hot women." Read it.

The report says that Carey reported his contact with the foreign women upon his return to the United States and gave their business cards to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. They were not identified in the report.

Although Carey defended his actions to investigators, other members of his delegation said they were shocked by his behavior.

“I realized that this was putting us all at risk, especially Russia and women, and I just wanted nothing to do with that,” a female U.S. official, whose name was redacted from the report, told investigators.

Craig Whitlock covers the Pentagon and national security. He has reported for The Washington Post since 1998.
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