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NEWS IN BRIEF

EUROPE

06 Sep 06. Merkel Hints at More Money for German Army. Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled on Sept 6 that she favors boosting spending on Germany’s defense budget which lags other European countries. With more German troops deployed around the globe than at any time since World War II, Merkel told Die Zeit newspaper that Germany should be prepared to get involved in international politics and peacekeeping. “A German government cannot say: please don’t start any new conflicts in the next few decades because we can’t afford it!” she told the Sept. 7 edition of the weekly newspaper, according to extracts released in advance. “So we have to ask ourselves whether the structures of our fighting forces are well enough set up for the future,” she added. She pointed to figures which show that Germany spends 1.4 percent of its gross national product on defense compared with 1.7 percent in Finland, Norway and the Netherlands, 2.5 percent in France and 2.3 percent in the United Kingdom. “You won’t be able to say that defense spending in the next 20 years is sacrosanct,” she said, adding that there was as yet no budget plan for 2007-08. Merkel’s comments come as Germany prepares to send troops to join the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The navy is set to send ships to patrol the Lebanese border once Israel lifts its sea blockade. Germany has more than 7,000 soldiers deployed overseas in hotspots including the Balkans, Congo and Afghanistan and there is growing criticism that the forces are insufficiently equipped. (Source: REUTERS, BERLIN/Defense News)

05 Sep 06. Norwegian Party Says Lease, Don’t Buy, Fighters. Norway’s Socialist Left Party (SLP) has thrown fuel onto the debate about the nation’s proposed front-line fighter replacement program by advocating a rethink on cost. The party also is demanding that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s ruling Labor government consider leasing, rather than purchasing, Gripen fighters from Sweden. The SLP plans to set down a motion in the national legislature, the Storting, in coming weeks calling for a comprehensive debate on the fighter program. Moreover, the SLP wants the government to consider options other than fighter procurement. The party has suggested that Norway could enter into a “shared airspace defense protection” pact with Sweden, said the SLP’s defense policy spokesman, Bjørn Jacobsen. “The SLP is essentially opposed to buying new fighter jets,” he said. “We believe that the first assessment that we must take is to decide whether we need a fleet of new fighters at all. Even if the final decision favors the acquisition of fighters, there is the option of leasing planes rather than purchasing them outright. I believe Sweden would be open to such a lease proposal.” The SLP’s anti-fighter purchase position carries weight because it is a junior member of Stoltenberg’s three-party Labor-led coalition administration. “What we need is to find the most cost-efficient solution for Norway’s air defense. Norway could discuss a joint solution with Sweden, and we could also examine the basis to achieve a common Nordic airspace pact with our other Nordic neighbors Finland and Denmark,” Jacobsen said. The SLP’s intervention in the fighter procurement debate is timely, coming less than two years before the legislature is due to vote on the issue and approve the awarding of contracts relating to the planned delivery of 48 fighters at a total projected cost, at current market prices, of $5bn. Collective Approach? (Source: Defense News)

07 Sep 06. NATO’s Chiefs of Defence to Meet in Warsaw: 8-10 September
The Alliance’s top military officers will meet in Warsaw, Poland from 08 – 10 September, 2006, to discuss a wide variety of issues including NATO operations, and to shape key military work leading to the Riga Summit at the end of November. The Military Committee is NATO’s highest military authority, with formal meetings at the level of Chiefs of Defence Staff taking place three times

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