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09 Oct 20. Will Trump sell F-35s to the UAE? Congress wants him to show his work. Two key Democrats are voicing “numerous questions” over President Donald Trump’s potential sale of Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft to the United Arab Emirates, accusing him of rushing a deal for political advantage instead of thinking through potentially dire national security implications.
The letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed, D-R.I. was another sign the fast-moving sale may slow to a halt on Capitol Hill.
The duo questioned whether the sale to Abu Dhabi, which has security ties to Russia and China, would compromise the F-35, an advanced and sophisticated stealth warplane, and whether such a sale would set off a Middle Eastern arms race in which Iran seeks advanced warplanes from Russia and China.
How would the administration ensure the F-35′s sensitive technology isn’t threatened by the UAE’s ties to China (which sold it Wing Loong drones) and Russia (which is selling it the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, the Pantsir S-1 missile defense system and the Kornet-E anti-tank missile system)? Has the UAE agreed to terminate cooperation and purchases with Russia and China in exchange for the F-35?
Warning that “U.S. national security and the safety of American troops could be seriously compromised by this sale,” they said the administration’s “breakneck speed” toward a deal “seems more tied to the political calendar than a sober deliberation about regional security.”
The F-35 program has grown to eight partner nations and six Foreign Military Sales customers. “Have you, or will you,” the lawmakers wanted to know, “consult with our partners about these risks and their views of this potential sale to the UAE concluding the sale?”
Reuters reported that Washington and Abu Dhabi hope to have an initial agreement on the sale of the F-35 in place by Dec. 2, as the Trump administration studies how to structure a deal without running afoul of American ally Israel. That news came on the heels of an agreement normalizing relations between the UAE and Israel.
That timeline would be “an extremely accelerated schedule, for interagency review, consultation with Congress, and preparation for [finalizing the deal] ― a process that can take months, if not longer,” the lawmakers wrote. “It has traditionally taken months for a complete and comprehensive interagency review of a proposed sale of this importance and sensitivity.”
Aside from key questions about how many aircraft were requested and the timeline for delivery, the lawmakers want to know how the Trump administration determined the sale would not jeopardize Israel’s qualitative military edge, or QME.
Any arms sale must satisfy a longstanding agreement with Israel that states any U.S. weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel’s QME, guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.
Reuters reported that the U.S government is studying ways to make the F-35 more visible to Israeli radar systems. A working idea was for Israeli air defenses to be able to detect UAE-operated F-35s with technology that effectively defeats the stealth capabilities of the jets.
If the aircraft would be reduced in their capabilities, the lawmakers want to know precisely how, with “a detailed written and graphic comparison.”
Agencies and congressional committees that would normally be involved in such a sale have been left confused and frustrated by Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner’s secret push to sell the F-35, CNN reported last month. The negotiations have reportedly been led by the National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East, Miguel Correa.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho has said any potential arms sales would have to include congressional consultations, meet Washington’s obligation to retain Israel’s QME and satisfy other requirements of the Arms Export Control Act.
While many of the headlines surrounding the sale have focused on Israel’s QME, the UAE’s connections to Russia and China also present the Trump administration with serious questions. It’s unlikely that Abu Dhabi, which has developed those ties as a strategic hedge against its relationship with Washington, would give them up, said Samuel Ramani, a Mideast researcher at Oxford University.
“The UAE is looking at foreign policy in a multipolar and global sense. It’s looking at the U.S. as a core partner, but it’s also trying to diversify with Russia, with China, with India, Brazil, the Turks and non-Western countries,” Ramani said. “Weapons development with Russia is a way of signaling to the United States that if you don’t back on our line on Iran, if you’re not confident about having a long-term military presence in the Gulf and defend us, we can go elsewhere and we will go elsewhere.”
Ramani said there’s a parallel between the UAE’s purchase of Russian military hardware and Turkey’s, which led to its expulsion from the multinational F-35 program.
“I don’t think it’ll be the last time we’ll see the UAE and Russia together on a common front, given their common interests, given their security partnerships,” Ramani said. “When you see what’s happening in Libya, and think ‘where will this be five years or 10 years down the line,’ I would say a stronger partnership.” (Source: Defense News)
08 Oct 20. UK intervention in response to Ambassadors Çevik and Grau: UK statement. Delivered by Ambassador Neil Bush at the OSCE Permanent Council on 8 October 2020.
Thank you Mr Chairperson. I would like to join previous speakers in thanking Ambassadors Çevik and Grau for briefing us today. I commend you, and your teams, for your crucial work in these difficult times.
The UK welcomes Ambassador Çevik’s assessment of the impact of the additional measures to strengthen the ceasefire. The sustained reduction in ceasefire violations has also led to a reduction in civilian casualties and in damage to infrastructure since July; none have benefitted from this more than the innocent people of eastern Ukraine who have been suffering on a daily basis as a result of this Russia-fuelled conflict. It shows what can be achieved when there is political will and we applaud Ukraine for their flexibility and commitment in achieving these measures.
We support the crucial work of Ambassador Grau and the Trilateral Contact Group towards peace and stability in eastern Ukraine. Yet while the strengthened ceasefire has offered welcome respite, and we welcome progress towards opening two new Entry-Exit checkpoints, there still remains much to be done to achieve further progress. In particular, we call for the implementation of the agreed areas for demining and for further disengagement as soon as possible, before the upcoming winter weather makes this more challenging. We also call for the exchange of conflict-related detainees based on the principle of “all for all”, and for the ICRC to be granted access to detainees in non-government controlled areas.
Sadly, the Russian Federation consistently fails to act constructively in TCG discussions. It is unacceptable that political issues under discussion in the Trilateral Contact Group are being used to block progress on vital security and humanitarian issues. Moreover, the obstructive raising of procedural obstacles is distracting from the TCG’s vital work. We support the agreed, established processes of the TCG and its Working Groups and stress that these should be maintained. We call on Russia to engage productively, and match the political will demonstrated by Ukraine, so that real progress can be made.
Ambassador Çevik, we commend you and your entire Mission for your vital work in challenging circumstances. We value the leadership you have demonstrated during the pandemic and we support the sensible mitigation measures put in place by the Mission. We share your concern that, despite the partial release of the restrictions imposed by the Russia-backed armed formations on movement at official crossing routes at the Line of Contact, remaining restrictions still impede the Mission’s freedom of movement; particularly by preventing the seamless crossing of the line of contact towards the non-government controlled areas.
It is unacceptable that these restrictions result in the Mission being obliged to work in three separate operational areas. Such actions undermine the ability of the SMM to fulfil its mandate, which all members of this Council, including Russia, committed to support.
The SMM also continues to face systematic restrictions on its freedom of movement within areas outside of Ukrainian government control. We call on Russia, as a party to the conflict, to use its influence with the armed formations to bring these restrictions to an end. We reiterate that the SMM and its assets must have full, safe and unimpeded access throughout the entire territory of Ukraine, including Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. This access is all the more critical, given serious concerns about Russia’s ongoing violation of human rights in Crimea, as well as its militarisation of the peninsula.
Ambassador Çevik, we read with sadness your Mission’s regular reports of children, the elderly and pregnant women being unable to cross the line of contact, and of them being forced to sleep on the ground or on benches in the open, without proper facilities. This is unacceptable. We share concerns raised in your report that these restrictions on civilians’ freedom of movement are impeding access to medicine and education, and preventing families from being reunited. While reasonable precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we call on the Russia-backed armed formations to refrain from imposing unnecessary limitations on civilians’ freedom of movement.
Against this backdrop it is inspirational to hear of the SMM’s “Women on the Contact Line” book, which demonstrates how women community leaders, and women SMM monitors, are working towards an inclusive resolution of the conflict. We thoroughly welcome its publication and the British Embassy Kyiv will be publicising it on their social media platforms as part of their “Women on the Frontline” campaign next week. The Ukrainian women role models in this book remind us of the importance of including the real voices of conflict-affected women in all aspects of decision-making. This must include decisions related to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The UK reiterates our support for the Minsk agreements and our firm desire to see the peaceful resolution of the conflict in full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We welcome the efforts of the Trilateral Contact Group and the Normandy Four in this regard and repeat our call for a full implementation of the outstanding commitments from last year’s Paris Summit.
The UK strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial Integrity within its internationally recognised borders, including its territorial waters. We will continue to work with international partners on deterring Russian interference and aggression including in the Black Sea region. We do not and will not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. The UK has consistently stood with Ukraine in opposing all instances of Russian aggression towards Ukraine and we will continue to do so, including through sanctions with our international partners. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
08 Oct 20. U.S. warns China against Taiwan attack, stresses U.S. ‘ambiguity.’ The U.S. national security adviser warned China on Wednesday against any attempt to take Taiwan by force, saying amphibious landings were notoriously difficult and there was a lot of ambiguity about how the United States would respond. Robert O’Brien told an event at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas that China was engaged in a massive naval buildup probably not seen since Germany’s attempt to compete with Britain’s Royal Navy prior to World War One.
“Part of that is to give them the ability to push us back out of the Western Pacific, and allow them to engage in an amphibious landing in Taiwan,” he said.
“The problem with that is that amphibious landings are notoriously difficult,” O’Brien added, pointing to the 100-mile (160-km) distance between China and Taiwan and the paucity of landing beaches on the island.
“It’s not an easy task, and there’s also a lot of ambiguity about what the United States would do in response to an attack by China on Taiwan,” he added, when asked what U.S. options would be if China moved to try to absorb Taiwan.
O’Brien was referring to a long-standing U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the question of whether it would intervene to protect Taiwan, which China considers its province and has vowed to bring under its control, by force if necessary.
The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has not made clear whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack, something that would likely lead to a much broader conflict with Beijing.
O’Brien’s comments come at a time when China has significantly stepped up military activity near Taiwan and when U.S.-China relations have plunged to the lowest point in decades in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s Nov. 3 re-election bid.
O’Brien repeated U.S. calls for Taiwan to spend more on its own defense and to carry out military reforms to make clear to China the risks of attempting to invade.
“You can’t just spend 1% of your GDP, which the Taiwanese have been doing – 1.2% – on defense, and hope to deter a China that’s been engaged in the most massive military build up in 70 years,” he said.
Taiwan needed to “turn themselves into a porcupine” militarily, he said, adding: “Lions generally don’t like to eat porcupines.”
On Tuesday, the senior U.S. defense official for East Asia called Taiwan’s plan to boost defense spending by $1.4bn next year insufficient.
He said it needed to invest in capabilities including more coastal defense cruise missiles, naval mines, fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, in a response provided to Reuters, said they will “strive for an adequate budget” in accordance with their needs to build a solid national defense force. (Source: Reuters)
08 Oct 20. Building stability and peace in Mali. Statement by Ambassador Jonathan Allen, UK Chargé d’Affaires to the UN, at the Security Council briefing on MINUSMA.
Thank you, Mr. President, and my thanks also to SRSG Annadif for his valuable briefing. Mr. President, let me begin by saying that the United Kingdom very much welcomes the establishment of a civilian-led transitional government in Mali. We commend the decisive action taken by ECOWAS in response to events in Mali in August, and the strong role of the sub-region in supporting progress since then.
Last time we met to discuss Mali on the 19th of August, the United Kingdom called for a return to civilian Government as soon as possible, to deliver for, and engage with the frustrations of the long suffering Malian people. So we echo the Secretary-General’s call for the transitional authorities to take ownership of implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. The 2015 agreement remains the bedrock of building stability and peace in Mali. I’m pleased to hear from SRSG Annadif that a signatory group has entered the government, and I’m pleased to hear that implementation of the agreement is a key part of the new Government’s mission. But colleagues, let us be frank. There has simply not been enough progress on the political track since 2015. Neither has the former Government and its Ministers nor the signatory groups taken seriously enough their obligations to deliver that agreement. Meanwhile, the people of Mali have suffered and peacekeepers in MINUSMA have paid with their lives. So I want to pass today a clear message to the new government of Mali and to all the signatories of that 2015 agreement. There is no time to waste. There can be no more evasion of responsibilities. You must now demonstrate that you are serious. Serious about securing the country, serious about providing services to your people who need them, especially in the north and in the centre.
Now I see in the chamber the distinguished representative of Mali and I look forward to hearing from him later. He is an excellent colleague and always has important things to say. But I’d just like to say to him that I hope he can report to his Government that by our next meeting he will be able to tell us about substantive progress on the following five issues. Firstly, implementation of the 2015 agreement, not words about an intention to do so, but actual steps in that direction. And I want to echo the Estonian ambassador’s words on the importance of the participation of women. Second, concrete steps to return the state to the north and the centre of Mali and to provide services to the people who live there. Thirdly, completion of the catch up phase of the DDR process. Fourth, to investigate reports of human rights violations and abuses and take action against impunity. And fifth, on the political, administrative, electoral and institutional reforms to prepare the ground for elections.
Now, none of us expect miracles in three months, but I think we need to see action on all those strands and evidence of progress. And we are there to support Mali. The UK will be following up both in New York and in Bamako. We continue to play our part. Our bilateral spend in the Sahel is now over $100m a year, which is primarily humanitarian, and through multilateral channels we contribute a further $390m a year and the UK will deploy a long range reconnaissance task force to MINUSMA this year.
Mr. President, with respect to MINUSMA, may I just say that we welcome the progress made by the mission under trying circumstances, including the difficulties and challenges of COVID-19. The rationale for mission adaptation to increase MINUSMA’s flexibility and mobility of operations remains strong. MINUSMA will, of course, continue to have a vital role to play in supporting implementation of all of the points I have just made. But we will look to the Malian authorities, of course, primarily with MINUSMA to reinvigorate the process. Let me end, please, by just saying again, we are here to support Mali. We are here to support the people of Mali and the government of Mali, and we are here to support Mali’s transition. But we expect to see tangible progress in the next reporting period. Thank you, Mr. President. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
08 Oct 20. Islamic State Affiliate Al-Shabaab Continues to Terrorize Cabo Delgado. A growing Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique entered its fourth year this week, with experts saying there is no end in sight for a conflict that has killed and displaced thousands of people.
Since the first attack in 2017 by al-Shabaab in the province of Cabo Delgado, militants have taken control of territory in the northern province, including a strategic port, and burned down dozens of villages. Al-Shabaab is considered the Mozambique affiliate of Islamic State.
The United Nations says the violence has forced over 300,000 people to flee their homes, seeking refuge in safer parts of Cabo Delgado and neighboring provinces. More than 2,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict.
Over the past three years, there have been at least 600 attacks across the restive province, according to the conflict monitoring group Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED).
Experts say the insurgents have become more sophisticated and dangerous in their attacks in Cabo Delgado, which is rich with gas resources.
“The insurgents are quickly overtaking the government’s capability to counter the offensive,” said Jasmine Opperman, an Africa analyst at ACLED.
She told VOA that government security forces are “in a defensive mode. They spread thinly, and the insurgents have too much leeway in terms of time and pace with which they move, and in terms of attacking at free will.”
“I don’t see an insurgency nearing an end,” Opperman said, adding, “I foresee a further complexity where we are going to see armed clashes between civilians and insurgents.”
“This armed group is responsible for untold suffering in Cabo Delgado,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa.
“They have reduced people’s homes to ashes through coordinated arson attacks, killed and beheaded civilians, looted food and property, and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes,” she added in a statement Wednesday.
Salvador Forquilha, director of the Institute of Economic and Social Studies in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, said the ongoing conflict in Cabo Delgado shows that the government underestimated the scale of the threat since the beginning.
“The government didn’t realize that Mozambique was actually facing a huge threat in terms of security that had consequences in the region,” he told reporters in a phone interview.
Forquilha said the Mozambican government has kept on blaming “foreign conspiracy” for causing instability in Cabo Delgado, without “actually looking at domestic factors which were feeding the insurgency.”
During a speech on Sunday, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said his country “is being attacked by outside forces who are targeting the defenseless public and our social institutions.”
“When we look at what has been happening in Cabo Delgado, we see that what is underway is a strategy by the terrorists to amplify fear, to make life worthless and to violate human rights,” he added.
In April 2019, IS declared its so-called Central African Province, known as ISCAP. Attacks attributed to its Central African Province affiliate have been limited to Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Experts believe it is important for Mozambican authorities to view the insurgency not as something from abroad.
“We can see people coming from Tanzania trying to establish some kind of radical groups through local mosques in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa [provinces],” Forquilha said. “But at the very beginning, there was a strong internal dimension linked to the insurgents in the sense that most of the people joining the group were actually recruited locally, not from abroad.”
Since the beginning of the conflict, Mozambican armed forces have had difficulties providing adequate security in Cabo Delgado. The current situation in the region requires move effective strategies by the government to curb the insurgency, experts said.
“I don’t see a clear strategy to tackle the insurgency,” said Fatima Mimbire, a Mozambique-based researcher. “The government has resorted to Russian mercenaries, and now we have South African mercenaries, but the situation tends to escalate.”
“I don’t understand why the insurgents are always ahead [of the government] in action. And how do they get information about the positions of the armed forces?” she told reporters. “It seems there are structural issues within the army that require investigating.”
Militant attacks in Cabo Delgado grew by 300% in the first four months of 2020, compared to the same period last year, according to Amnesty International.
In March, the militants attacked an army outpost in the district of Mocimboa da Praia, taking control of its armory. In August, they captured the entire town and its strategic port, which is still under their control.
Opperman said the security forces’ failure to recapture territory taken over by the insurgents “motivates them and makes them more brazen in their attacks.”
The militants “are controlling and directing how government forces respond and run around, and because of that, they are exploiting all available opportunities to attack,” she said.
Torture by security forces
While Islamist militants have been responsible for much of the violence in Cabo Delgado, Amnesty International also blamed Mozambican authorities for carrying out unlawful actions in the region.
The rights watchdog said “there have been undisputed reports of torture and other crimes under international law committed by security forces in Cabo Delgado.
In recent weeks, Amnesty International said it has verified footage of government prison guards torturing and dismembering alleged armed group fighters.
“There is evidence the security forces have also committed crimes under international law and human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings,” said Amnesty International’s Muchena.
Impact on health services
Local health experts say the three-year conflict has also destroyed the already weak health infrastructure in Cabo Delgado.
“Out of the 17 districts in the province, 11 have been attacked by insurgents,” said Dr. Jorge Matine of the Citizen Observatory for Transparency and Good Governance in the Health Sector, in Mozambique.
“The population has fled, health centers have been vandalized, and there is no clear information about reconstruction,” Matine told VOA. “But we know that there are problems with accommodation and food [for the internally displaced people]. The province has a profile of diseases such as cholera and other diseases caused by poor hygiene. With the beginning of the rainy season, Cabo Delgado will suffer more.” (Source: Warfaretoday/VOA)
08 Oct 20. Qatar makes formal request for F-35 jets – sources. Qatar has submitted a formal request to the United States to buy stealthy F-35 fighter jets, three people familiar with the deal said, in a deal that if pursued could strain U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The request for the Lockheed Martin Co jets was submitted by the Persian Gulf state in recent weeks, the people said.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said, “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”
The Qatari embassy in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Keen to counter Iran in the region, the U.S. helps to arm allies including Qatar, host to the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East, and home to 8,000 U.S. service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.
The request follows an August deal between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates in which Washington agreed to consider giving the Gulf state approval to buy F-35s in a side deal to a U.S.-brokered agreement called the Abraham Accord to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel.
Israel has signaled stiff opposition to a UAE sale and would likely be just as resistant to one with Qatar, fearing it could undercut its military advantage in the Middle East.
In Washington, a fourth person familiar with the matter said concern about Qatar’s links to Hamas have frequently surfaced over arms sales to the Gulf state. But in the case of an advanced warplane like the F-35, it could be a deal breaker.
One of the people said Qatar’s letter of request for the jets, the first formal step in the legal process of foreign military sale, was not directly linked to its adoption of the Abraham Accord. Nor has Qatar shown any sign it will normalize ties with Israel.
U.S. and Qatar have close ties. In September Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani met in Washington as the U.S. hopes to move forward with naming Qatar as a major non-NATO ally.
Despite being U.S. allies, both the potential Qatari and UAE F-35 deals must satisfy a decades-old agreement with Israel that states any U.S. weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.
Saudi Arabia, Washington’s most powerful and closest partner among the Gulf Arab states, is also likely to oppose the United States supplying F-35s to Qatar. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt remain locked in a three-year standoff with Qatar that the Trump administration has tried to end, so far without success.
A formal letter of request typically contains specifications that would be used to furnish pricing data to a customer, but currently the F-35A, a fifth generation stealthy fighter jet, costs around $80m.
Any F-35 sale could take years to negotiate and deliver, giving a new U.S. presidential administration ample time to halt the deals. Any sale would also need congressional approval.
Poland, the most recent F-35 customer, purchased 32 of the jets, but will not receive its first delivery until 2024. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Reuters)
07 Oct 20. UK and Ukraine sign Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement. The agreement will ensure ambitious cooperation in political, security and foreign matters with Ukraine, while also securing continued preferential trade for businesses and consumers.
The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today signed an agreement with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine to strengthen the political and trade ties between the two countries.
Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelenskyy have signed the ‘Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement’ to strengthen UK cooperation in political, security and foreign matters with Ukraine, while also securing continued preferential trade for businesses and consumers.
This agreement, when brought into force, will allow businesses to continue trading as they do now after the end of the Transition Period. It delivers the same level of liberalisation in trade, services and public procurement that businesses currently enjoy under the existing EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
And it underlines the UK’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as both countries’ commitment to strengthening democracy and human rights and deepening the security relationship.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The UK is Ukraine’s most fervent supporter. Whether it’s our defence support, stabilisation efforts, humanitarian assistance or close cooperation on political issues, our message is clear: we are utterly committed to upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Strategic Partnership Agreement we signed today signals the next chapter in our relationship. It’s a chapter that will bring increased security and prosperity for both the people of the UK and Ukraine.”
Trade between the UK and Ukraine was worth £1.5bn in 2019. Top UK goods exports to Ukraine were aircraft (£79m), medicinal and pharmaceutical products (£61m) and cars (£52m). The UK imported £177m of cereals and £182m of iron and steel in 2019.
International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, said: “Free trade is an incredibly powerful agent of economic growth, opportunity and human progress. This agreement enables our two countries to continue working closely together, both on a political level and in the field of commerce. Thanks to this deal, the aircraft, automotive and pharmaceutical industries can continue to thrive and support jobs in Ukraine and across the UK.”
Tom Sallis, Director of Global Partnerships at the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “We welcome the conclusion of the trade agreement between the UK and Ukraine. Ukraine is a growing market for Scotch Whisky, with over 1 million bottles exported there in 2019. This agreement will ensure that Scotch Whisky can continue to access the Ukrainian market tariff free and will continue to see Scotch Whisky recognised as a Geographical Indication (GI) in Ukraine.”
The Minister for International Trade, Ranil Jayawardena, will today also sign an MOU with the Ukrainian government that will identify sectors that could benefit from UK Export Finance support and help increase trade between the two countries. The priority sectors highlighted are defence; agriculture; infrastructure; energy; and healthcare.
This comes as UKEF resumes cover for British exports to Ukraine and can now provide up to £2.5bn of support in order to stimulate UK exports to the country. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 Oct 20. UK to announce £5m support package for Ukraine during Presidential visit. The UK is set to welcome President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and a Ministerial delegation to London this week (7 and 8 October).
As part of the visit, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will meet Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to reaffirm the UK’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of malign behaviour from Russia. Dominic Raab will also announce £5m of humanitarian aid to support communities in eastern Ukraine who have been affected by the conflict and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. UK aid will enable the provision of food, water, medical supplies and psychosocial support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
President Zelenskyy and the First Lady of Ukraine will have an audience with Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace, further strengthening the historic ties between the UK and Ukraine.
Also during the visit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Zelenskyy will sign the Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement to strengthen UK cooperation in political, security and foreign matters with Ukraine, while also securing continued preferential trade for businesses and consumers.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Ukraine’s stability is vital for Europe’s security. Providing £5m in humanitarian aid and signing the Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement is a clear demonstration of the UK’s commitment to Ukraine’s prosperity and security. The UK supports President Zelenskyy’s efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and is focussing diplomatic efforts on assisting the Ukrainian government with peace-building and recovery, alongside our longstanding support for economic and governance reform and anti-corruption initiatives.”
The Foreign Secretary will highlight the importance of stability in Ukraine to security in Europe. Responding to the priorities of the Ukrainian government, the UK has this year increased investments into stabilisation, making it a priority alongside our security support.
This year, the UK has allocated over £40m in funding – including £5m of humanitarian aid – for projects to support practical steps towards peace, counter gender-based violence, and promote economic and governance reform. This includes empowering women to take part in shaping their society.
The additional humanitarian funding for communities in eastern Ukraine will also help provide repair of water infrastructure, health facilities and housing, alongside support to micro-businesses and entrepreneurship to enable these communities to become self-reliant and aid the longer-term economic recovery of eastern Ukraine.
The UK is also stepping up its support by £600,000 for the vital work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission, who report on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including ceasefire violations and the impact on civilians. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 Oct 20. Taiwan says has spent almost $900m scrambling against China this year. Taiwan has spent almost $900m this year on scrambling its air force against Chinese incursions, the island’s defence minister said on Wednesday, describing the pressure they are facing as “great”.
Taiwan’s Minister of National Defense Yen Teh-fa speaks to the media in Taipei, Taiwan, October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its military activity near the island, responding to what China calls “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States.
China has been angered at increased U.S. support for Taiwan, including visits by senior U.S. government officials and ramped up arms sales.
In the past few weeks, Chinese fighter jets have crossed the mid line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone, and flown multiple missions into Taiwan’s southwestern air defence identification zone.
Speaking at parliament, Taiwan Defence Minister Yen De-fa said to the air force had scrambled 2,972 times against Chinese aircraft this year at a cost of T$25.5bn ($886.49m).
“Recently the pressure has been great. To say otherwise would be deceiving people,” Yen said, without giving a comparison figure for last year.
He clarified that a figure of 4,132 air force missions this year, as provided in a ministry parliamentary briefing paper, included training and regular patrol missions.
Yen said that the armed forces would this month carry out their own drills off Taiwan’s southwest coast, though they would not be live fire.
Taiwan’s armed forces are well-trained and well-equipped but are dwarfed by those of China’s, and Taiwan’s Defence Ministry has previously acknowledged the strain the repeated Chinese drills were placing on them.
Taiwan is in the process of revamping its fighter fleet.
The United States last year approved an $8bn sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a deal that would bring the island’s total number of the aircraft to more than 200, the largest F-16 fleet in Asia. (Source: Reuters)
08 Oct 20. The IP paradox and defence industry growth. There has been much recent comment in the press regarding the underwhelming levels of local work resulting from the government’s generational increase in investment in Defence capability, raising questions about IP, explains AIDN chief executive Brent Clark.
Discussion has arisen over the merits or otherwise of the AIC program, and on Defence’s statements to the effect that they have little control over the primes’ subcontracting. This stands in stark contrast to the experience many Australian companies have had in contracting with Defence.
To date, CASG’s views on how formal interaction with industry should occur are enshrined in the suite of ASDEFCON contracting templates. In a recent joint ministerial statement, it appears that the “best endeavours” approach of the existing AIC policy may be replaced by harder contractual commitments to expenditure levels on local Australian industry (ideally Australian-owned). Whether these changes can achieve this outcome, or there remains the ‘but not at additional cost nor impact to schedule’ for the ‘acquisition phase’ escape clause remains to be seen.
It is fair to say that these templates reflect a view that Defence must treat industry with a great degree of caution. Under these templates, Defence retains controls over many steps of the process of the supply (by industry) of defence equipment.
Additionally, in the event that Defence wishes to exert authority over its supplier, Defence retains a range of powerful contractual remedies able to be drawn upon at different acquisition or sustainment stages.
Defence even retains the power to simply walk away from a contract for no better reason than it be ‘convenient’ to do so.
So local industry is understandably perplexed when Defence representatives claim that they are powerless to enforce prime contractors to abide by the local AIC levels that the prime’s themselves tendered – and contracted for.
There has to be a sovereign commitment to AIC. Defence needs to use its wide-ranging powers to support Australian owned SMEs. This includes external auditing to ensure compliance. No longer can Defence allow enforcement of AIC to be put in the ‘too hard basket’. Stove-piped project-by-project acquisition methodologies has allowed this to happen. Consider the paradox of intellectual property (IP).
Among the many measures enshrined within Defence’s ASDEFCON suite is its position on IP.
Defence demands licences to the IP underlying a supplier’s products. Such licences are nuanced by the supposed constraint that the supplied products/technologies be used only for “defence purposes” – as compared to “commercial purposes”; but for much of military technology, defence purposes are the only purposes for the goods, so this constraint is immaterial if, for example, Defence subsequently gives away or exchanges this technology with our allies – which often are the only commercial export market for those goods.
For suppliers of high technology items, such licenses demand further access to the technology’s source code and other technical data. Now while this same approach ostensibly also applies to goods that are imported; in practice, Defence contracting personnel appear to implicitly accept that this level of control of IP of systems developed overseas, and often supplied by the local branch of the foreign primes, are beyond their reach.
After all, who would realistically expect to be supplied, for example, the full source code of the US-developed Aegis combat system and the SPY radars that equip the RAN’s Hobart Class DDGs?
But Australian developed technology gets harsher treatment. Local SMEs report cases where they are told by Defence’s contracting personnel that: “you are an Australian company, so we must have paid for the IP on previous contracts, so we should own it”.
Such statements may simply reflect a low-level of-understanding by public servants that have not benefited from Defence private sector experience, of the level of commercial risk borne by SMEs in their continuing investment in the development of Australian technology between often intermittent Defence contracts.
But the consequences are well understood – the ability to supplant the SME from the longer-term support of its own product by handing the SME’s IP necessary to support the product to a larger aggregated services supplier.
If Defence is genuinely concerned about long-term access to IP, as distinct from just the perpetual licence that it secures through the contractual Defence Licence, then there are already provisions for placing IP and source code in escrow. Being an Australian SME should not be used as an excuse by Defence procurement to take ‘the easy path’.
It is unfortunate that, faced with the prospect of having the local supplier of technology engaged over the longer term to support its product, Defence’s instinctive response is one of innate discomfort, rather than enthusiasm at an opportunity to partner with its local industry.
AIDN appreciates that Defence has reached these positions following unfortunate prior experience on some large programs where foreign-owned primes have utilised their control over IP to block Defence’s access to sufficient technical information to enable other parties (including SMEs) to interface equipment to the prime’s equipment and/or address obsolescence issues.
Pragmatically there may be some cases where for strategic reasons, a procurement may be undertaken through an FMS procurement – however there is a whole section on AIC for foreign military sales acquisitions that rarely has had more than lip service ever paid to it.
What irony that IP positions developed to protect Defence against the occasional proprietary practices of foreign owned primes are used to stymie the health and growth of local defence industry.
More to the point, is the inconsistency of this contracting approach with the oft-stated desire to develop sovereign industrial capabilities.
How can local industry be expected to develop defence systems if, whenever it makes a sale, it is required to include rights to higher-tier contractors, that enable them, as potential competitors, to use that technology.
And if due to this risk, there is only a poor business case to develop the desired types of technology locally, how can a sovereign industry capability ever emerge, let alone flourish?
Yet government has made it crystal clear that it not only wants, but demands, that Defence act in a manner that allows such a sovereign industrial capability to develop.
It is AIDN’s view that, in implementing its announced ‘enhanced AIC’ initiative, the time has come for Defence to reconsider the approach it takes to IP in tendering and contracting local industry.
Instead of continuing with an approach that tilts the field against local industry, it must take a stand that aids local industry. Existing requirements for local industry to provide licences to its underlying source code and technical data should be revisited to ensure local developers that signal non-compliance with such requirements are not disadvantaged.
Defence’s masters have declared that Defence must act to develop sovereign industry capability and remove the obstacles to the progress of local defence industry.
Whether Defence recalibrates its approach to local industry IP will be a sure indicator of whether its response to the challenge laid down by its masters is substantive – or merely rhetoric. (Source: Defence Connect)
08 Oct 20. Australia, US discuss ‘malign activity’ in Indo-Pacific. Foreign Minister Marise Payne and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have addressed the need to ease rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific to support the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has met with her counterparts from the US, Japan and India for the second Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting (the Quad).
The ministers reaffirmed their commitments to co-operation in the Indo-Pacific to support the COVID-19 recovery and foster stability, resilience, and inclusion in the region.
The Quad also addressed emerging challenges that threaten to “undermine” the recovery, with Minister Payne acknowledging that the region is “becoming more complex”.
“We emphasised that, especially during a pandemic, it was vital that states work to ease tensions and avoid exacerbating long-standing disputes, work to counter disinformation, and refrain from malicious cyber space activity,” Minister Payne said.
“Ministers reiterated that states cannot assert maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”
According to the US Secretary of State’s principal deputy spokesperson Cale Brown, Secretary Michael Pompeo and Minister Payne specifically noted concerns regarding the People’s Republic of China’s “malign activity” in the Indo-Pacific.
As such, the Quad has agreed to “enhance co-operation” to promote a “strategic balance” and support “a region of resilient and sovereign states”, which engage on the basis of rules, norms and international law.
This, according to Minister Payne, includes renewed support for the centrality of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the importance of an “ASEAN-led architecture” in fostering regional stability.
“[Ministers] agreed on the importance of the principles set out in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific in guiding the region out of the COVID-19 crisis and shaping the post-pandemic regional order,” the minister continued.
Minister Payne added that Quad nations have also committed to strengthening co-operation in areas including maritime security, cyber affairs and critical technology, critical minerals, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
This includes protecting the resilience of regional supply chains, key cyber-enabled systems, and critical infrastructure.
“To this end, we emphasised the importance of quality infrastructure investment as a driver of strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive economic growth, which will be critical to supporting the region’s economic recovery,” Minister Payne said.
Ministers also agreed to better engage with other regional partners and institutions, including in the Mekong sub-region.
“Quad countries will continue to work closely at all levels, and the ministers looked forward to convening Quad ministerial meetings on a regular basis,” Minister Payne concluded. (Source: Defence Connect)
06 Oct 20. Australia hands down budget, focus on post-COVID resilience. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has handed down the long anticipated federal budget, as the government pivots the economic narrative with eyes firmly set on a long-term plan emphasising resilience and national security in the post-COVID era.
By now the true economic impact of COVID-19 and a disastrous bushfire season have become apparent – with a devastating impact upon the nation’s long-term balance sheet, economic growth and development, it is safe to say that this budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s second, has big shoes to fill.
In the pre-budget campaigning, the Treasurer reassured the public: “I will lay out our economic recovery plan to rebuild the Australian economy and secure Australia’s future. Our plan will create jobs. This is all about jobs. It’s all about helping those who are out of a job get into a job. It’s all about helping those that are in work, stay in work. Our plan will create opportunity.
“Our plan will drive investment. Our plan will grow the economy and guarantee the essential services Australian’s rely on. Our plan will see Australia a stronger nation.”
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already announced a record $270 bn in funding for Defence over the next decade as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan which are expected to build on the success of the 2016 Defence White Paper and the transformational Sovereign Industry Capability Plan.
Indeed, the Prime Minister’s statement in early July prepared the nation, Defence and defence industry for the budget, with the Prime Minister stating, “This simple truth is this: even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly.
“We have been a favoured isle, with many natural advantages for many decades, but we have not seen the conflation of global, economic and strategic uncertainty now being experienced here in Australia in our region since the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s.
“That is a sobering thought, and it’s something I have reflected on quite a lot lately, as we’ve considered the dire economic circumstances we face. That period of the 1930s has been something I have been revisiting on a very regular basis, and when you connect both the economic challenges and the global uncertainty, it can be very haunting.
“But not overwhelming. It requires a response.”
Both the Prime Minister and Treasurer intend for this budget to be such a response, with the nation’s defence force, supporting defence industry and more broadly, the national security and resilience apparatus to be strengthened as a means of supporting long-term economic growth, development and resilience for the post-COVID era.
All systems go for Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan
The government has remained committed to the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan spending, with the joint media release from Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price stating, “The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan is a 10-year funding model with a 20-year outlook and continues to provide Defence and defence industry with the planning certainty required to support the ongoing development and delivery of critical Defence capability and Australian jobs.
“This 10-year model provides Defence, including the Australian Signals Directorate, with funding of $575bn over the decade to 2029-30. The Morrison government’s budget commitments position Defence to implement the 2020 Force Structure Plan and address our increasing strategic competition, now and into the future.”
Building on this, the joint release explained, “This includes investing in more lethal and long-range capabilities to hold adversary forces and infrastructure at risk, further from Australia, including longer-range strike weapons, offensive cyber capabilities and area denial capabilities.
“We will also invest in capabilities to give Australia better awareness of our region and to support regional engagement, while also increasing our air and sea lift capability to ensure we can rapidly respond to events across our region.
“More broadly, through this investment we are ensuring Defence and Australia has more durable supply chains, while further strengthening Australia’s sovereign defence industry to create more high‑tech Australian jobs and enhance the ADF’s self‑reliance.”
Modern Manufacturing Initiative to ‘re-shore’ manufacturing
The government has outlined further details for its recently announced $1.3bn ‘Modern Manufacturing Initiative’ (MMI) plan designed not only to reignite the fires of Australia’s long-neglected industrial and manufacturing base, but expanding on areas of natural competitive advantage driven by innovation and open up global markets for Australian export growth.
The Treasurer explained, “Our $1.3bn Modern Manufacturing plan will target six national manufacturing priorities:
- Food and beverage manufacturing
- Resources technology and critical minerals processing
- Medical products
- Recycling and clean energy
- Defence industry, and
- Space industry.
“This plan is built on the JobMaker platform of enabling our manufacturing businesses to be globally competitive through cheaper and more reliable energy. Better skills and training. Lower taxes. Less red tape and more flexible workplaces.
“Mr Speaker, research and development, the adoption of digital technology, and affordable and reliable energy will be critical to Australia’s future economic prosperity.
“In this budget, we are providing $2 bn in additional research and development incentives – removing the cap on refunds, lifting the rate and rewarding those businesses that invest the most.”
The Treasurer’s statements were echoed by CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall: “Just as science and technology have been guiding our health and emergency response, so too will they drive our economic response and recovery from this pandemic.”
These statements were reinforced by CSIRO Futures lead economist Dr Katherine Wynn, who explained that by acting now, Australian industries could increase productivity and cost efficiencies as well as create additional revenue from products, services and markets over the next few years.
Dr Wynn added, “Energy-efficient technologies is one immediate way to reduce energy costs, emissions and demand on the grid while creating local jobs, and we see many opportunities for increased productivity, such as energy-efficient appliances in buildings and electric vehicles in transport that use mature technologies that are readily adoptable today.
“The health sector has always been an essential part of Australia’s economy and its importance has understandably been further emphasised during the pandemic.
“We also see potential for more efficient healthcare delivery through point-of-care diagnostics supported by bioinformatics and high-performance computing. The manufacturing sector could maximise its local manufacturing capabilities, creating jobs and adding value to Australia’s growth sectors, particularly in pharmaceuticals, food and beverage manufacturing, mineral resource processing as well as in space and defence.”
Expanding on the Treasurer’s comments, ministers Reynolds and Price expanded on the government’s commitment to boosting Australia’s defence industrial capabilities, stating, “The Morrison government is strengthening the Australian Industry Capability (AIC) Program to help maximise opportunities for Australian business in these projects.
“Investment in critical infrastructure, facilities, wharves and ports will continue with around $30bn being invested over the decade.
“Local industry involvement in the delivery of these projects will be maximised through the Morrison government’s Local Industry Capability Plan initiative. This ensures that local suppliers, contractors and tradies have the opportunity to secure more of this work, creating more jobs for local communities.”
Additionally, ministers Reynolds and Price gave additional detail to the government’s expanded plans to support the growth of the nation’s defence industry as a fundamental driver of economic growth and development, stating, “Supporting Australia’s defence industry is crucial to our economic recovery and the creation of more jobs. We have implemented a $1bn investment package aimed at boosting Australia’s defence industry and supporting thousands of jobs across the country.
“This includes increased funding of over $110m for Defence innovation, industry grants, skilling and micro-credentialing, and cyber training for defence industry.
“The Morrison government recently launched the Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry (SADI) Grants program, which will deliver $39m over the next three years to support a skilled workforce in the defence industry sector.
“In addition to these grant initiatives, the government is announcing a further $4m to establish the Joint Strike Fighter Industry Support Program, delivering more opportunities for Australian industry participation. This builds on the success of the New Air Combat Capability Industry Support Program, which has delivered 46 grants to 25 Australian companies, worth $21.7m.
“Already we have fast-tracked a range of capability, infrastructure, skilling and workforce initiatives over the next two years, including a $300m national estates works program focusing on regional areas, and $190m on infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory.
“Around 4,000 Australian jobs will be supported over the 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years through the delivery of this economic package. This reaffirms our commitment to further strengthening the defence industrial base to ensure that it is robust, resilient and internationally competitive.
“The measures will continue to support and grow the 70,000-strong workforce in defence industry, supply chains, and down-stream suppliers who are benefiting from our investment in defence.”
Cyber, intelligence and law enforcement winners
The growing prevalence of cyber warfare and attacks against the nation’s government, business and private infrastructure, Treasurer Frydenberg announced a major investment into the nation’s cyber security and warfare capabilities, stating:
“Additional funding in this budget will see a total of $1.7bn invested in our cyber-security plan to keep Australians safe and secure online.
This is expected to be supported by “a further $450m is provided for our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to keep Australians safe from foreign and domestic threats”.
The ministers explained, “Malicious cyber activity against Australia is increasing in frequency, scale and sophistication.
“This government is making the nation’s largest-ever investment in cyber security through our $1.7bn 2020 Cyber Security Strategy, which includes $1.4bn over the next decade to enhance the cyber security capabilities and assistance provided to Australians through the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
“This significant investment, known as the Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response (CESAR) package, will mean that we can identify more cyber threats, disrupt more foreign cyber criminals, build more partnerships with industry and government and protect more Australians.
“The CESAR package has been designed to boost protection and cyber resilience for all Australians, from individuals and small businesses through to the providers of critical services. It includes a $470m investment to expand our cybersecurity workforce, with the creation of over 500 new Australian jobs within ASD.
“The package will put our nation on the front foot in combating cyber threats and our investment in a cyber security workforce will help ensure we have the people we need to meet future cyber challenges.” (Source: Defence Connect)
05 Oct 20. Taiwan says military under pressure from China as missions mount. Taiwan’s military has launched aircraft to intercept Chinese planes more than twice as much as all of last year, the island’s defence ministry said, describing Taiwan as facing severe security challenges from its huge neighbour. China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its military activities near the island, responding to what Beijing calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.
In the past few weeks, Chinese fighter jets have crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an official buffer between the island and the mainland, and have flown into Taiwan’s southwestern air defence identification zone.
In a report to parliament, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said so far this year the air force had scrambled 4,132 times, up 129% compared to all of last year, according to Reuters calculations.
China “is trying to use unilateral military actions to change the security status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and at the same time is testing our response, increasing pressure on our air defences and shrinking our space for activity,” it said.
The rapid development of China’s military has been accompanied by “targeted” military actions against Taiwan, the ministry added.
China has been particularly angered by growing U.S. support for Taiwan, including senior U.S. officials visiting the island, adding to broader Sino-U.S. tensions.
While Taiwan is unable to compete numerically with China’s armed forces, President Tsai Ing-wen has been overseeing a military modernisation programme, aiming to make the island’s armed forces more nimble and Taiwan more difficult to attack.
Addressing a Taiwan-U.S. defence conference late Monday, Vice Defence Minister Chang Guan-chung said China has been ramping up what he called “realistic training against Taiwan”.
“We are developing systems that are small, numerous, smart, stealthy, fast, mobile, low-cost, survivable, effective, easy to develop, maintain and preserve, and difficult to detect and counter,” he said.
Chang called for enhanced cooperation with the United States that goes beyond weapons sales, saying that would further invigorate Taiwan’s defence reform and military modernisation.
“We will also emphasise joint effort in training, operational concepts, capability assessment, intelligence sharing, and armament cooperation. These are equally important as the acquisition of hardware,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
05 Oct 20. Southcom Leaders Discuss Dealing With Hemispheric Threats. Illegal fishing, transnational criminal activities and malign foreign influence meddling in South and Central America, and the importance of counterbalancing those threats with effective partnerships in that region was discussed today by the leaders of the U.S. Southern Command.
Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, the commander of U.S. Southcom; and Jean Manes, the civilian deputy commander of U.S. Southcom, joined an Americas Society/Council of the Americas roundtable conversation.
The main mission of U.S. Southcom is to defend the United States. That’s primarily accomplished through working with partners, said Faller. “We have some really strong, capable partners in this hemisphere.”
The admiral mentioned Brazil, Columbia and Chile as being particularly stalwart partners, as well as many others, like El Salvador, which currently has peacekeeping troops in Mali and has contributed similarly in the past to other places.
Working with partners often involves enhancing their military capabilities, he said. The return on investment for doing that results in a more secure, stable and prosperous hemisphere.
Enhancing military capabilities in the region can take various forms, including bilateral and multilateral exercises, which increase interoperability, sharing intelligence and inviting military members to share in military education opportunities, he said.
Faller mentioned the top threats the hemisphere faces.
Most illegal fishing in this hemisphere comes from China. “This has us focused with a sense of urgency day in and day out,” he said, mentioning that the U.S. Coast Guard has been taking an active role in enforcement.
China is also working on port and other infrastructure deals, as well as information technology to leverage their own influence in the region, he said, adding that they’re also building military partnerships in the area, along with Russia and Iran.
The three nations most receptive to malign influence, he noted, are Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Faller said that in addition to foreign meddling, the other area of concern is the $90bn a year enterprise run by transnational criminal organizations, who traffic in people, guns, drugs, cyber, money laundering and other activities.
In some cases, they even control territory, he added.
In April, the Defense Department, in concert with the State Department, stepped up intelligence sharing of criminal organizations and activities with partner nations, Faller said, with productive results.
Manes said DOD works closely with inter-agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, particularly when it comes to natural disaster and humanitarian assistance.
In March, the department and its American partners began a large-scale campaign to deliver supplies needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. Delivering demonstrates U.S. commitment to these nations.
The U.S. is the largest aid donor in the hemisphere, she added, noting that the DOD has been involved in 330 such projects in the last six months.
Manes also mentioned China as being an economic threat to the hemisphere. China overfished their own waters so now they’re coming here and decimating local fishing communities. Every nation with a coastline should be worried, she added. (Source: US DoD)
05 Oct 20. Canada suspends drone technology sales to Turkey after claims of use by Azeri forces. Canada has suspended the export of some drone technology to Turkey while it probes allegations the equipment was used by Azeri forces involved in fighting with Armenia, a senior official said on Monday.
Project Ploughshares, a Canadian arms control group, says video of air strikes released by Baku indicates the drones had been equipped with imaging and targeting systems made by L3Harris Wescam, the Canada-based unit of L3Harris Technologies Inc LHX.N.
“In line with Canada’s robust export control regime and due to the ongoing hostilities, I have suspended the relevant export permits to Turkey, so as to allow time to further assess the situation,” said Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.
The Globe and Mail said L3Harris Wescam had received permission this year to ship seven systems to Turkish drone maker Baykar. Turkey is a key ally of Azerbaijan, whose forces are fighting Armenians over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Separately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he had asked Champagne to travel to Europe “to discuss with our allies the developments in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, particularly in Nagorno-Karabakh”.
He did not give more details and an aide to Champagne said the exact itinerary had not yet been worked out. (Source: Reuters)
05 Oct 20. Addressing chemical weapons use in Syria and non-compliance of Security Council resolutions. Statement by Ambassador Jonathan Allen, UK Chargé d’Affaires to the UN, at the Security Council briefing on Syria Chemical Weapons.
Mr President, let me say that I believe that today showed contempt for members of this Council.
You, Mr President, put a briefer to the vote. You received two votes in favour alongside your own. Members of this Council did not support your briefer, but you chose to ignore the decision of this Council.
I’m reminded of the time when Russia demanded a meeting on Ukraine, which Russia insisted must be timed to coincide with the inauguration of the President of Ukraine. When you failed to get the votes in favour of that meeting taking place, you also read out your intervention as if the meeting were happening. Again you showed contempt for the decision of the members of this Council. But it is perhaps not a surprise that Russia chooses to ignore the rules that it wants others to abide by.
Mr President, Security Council resolution 2118 is clear on the purpose of our monthly meetings. It is for the Security Council to review implementation of resolution 2118 and the OPCW Executive Council decision of the 27th of September 2013. Our discussion should focus on these issues. Any briefers should be relevant to these issues and be able to brief us on them.
And I would say to you, Mr President, that when you proposed briefers that we were not particularly enthusiastic about in your presidency last year, we accepted them. It was a discrete event, a counter-terrorism event on an issue not usually discussed in the Council. But this meeting is a monthly meeting on a particularly sensitive issue on which Russia is directly engaged on the ground. So please do not pretend that this is some sort of presidency right to propose briefers. Russia is a party to the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria, as we all know. We should be particularly cautious about agreeing to briefers whose only purpose can be to undermine and call into question the integrity of the OPCW. Such briefers will only serve to politicise our discussion and distract us from the real issues.
And with regards to Mr Bustani, as I said before, he’s had a distinguished diplomatic career and we have full respect for him, but he left his role as Director General of the OPCW in 2002. And it was clear from your words today, Mr President, that this casts a long shadow over him and his views. It was long before resolution 2118 was adopted, long before Syria even acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and long before the OPCW had carried out any investigations in Syria. I’m afraid, with respect to him, he is irrelevant to our discussion of implementation of resolution 2118. So I call on all those who continually seek to undermine the OPCW in order to protect the Syrian regime – and perhaps to protect themselves – from accountability to stop doing so.
I want to just express my full agreement with what my US colleague has said about the Arria format meeting on the 20th of September. And I would say that if the Russian Federation was at all interested in a genuine discussion of evidence, they would have attended the meeting during the Estonian presidency with the Director General of the OPCW and the head of the IIT, Mr Santiago Oñate. But the Russian delegation refused to permit the head of the IIT to brief in a formal Council meeting. It then left empty chairs in an informal meeting attended by all other Council members. So, given the Russian delegation has spoken so passionately in favour of transparency today, and given it is willing to propose briefers last involved with the OPCW 18 years ago, I have no doubt that the Russian delegation will be supporting an invitation to Mr Oñate to brief this Council so we may debate the evidence.
Now, Mr President, let me turn to the real purpose of this meeting. I want to thank the Director General of the OPCW for his 84th monthly report. Regarding the work of the Declaration Assessment Team, we note that the Syrian regime has provided some further information to the DAT, including two amendments to its initial declaration. That is why, by the way, colleagues, we do need the answers to the questions that have been raised continuously by the DAT. Syria’s declaration is not a complete declaration. These further amendments are, as I say, further evidence that the initial declaration was inaccurate. And I hope very much that this further information assists with clarifying some of the many outstanding issues. And I urge Syria to cooperate fully with the OPCW to make progress on all of the outstanding issues.
As we said last month, the outstanding issues in Syria’s declaration are significant, and they go to the heart of Syria’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Until all outstanding issues are resolved, we cannot be sure of the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. These concerns are not hypothetical, particularly in light of the findings by the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, and now the OPCW Investigation Identification Team, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on seven occasions – at least seven occasions – since 2013.
Mr President, after six years of outstanding compliance issues and further confirmation of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons by the IIT in April this year, we welcomed the robust, proportionate and reasonable action taken by the OPCW Executive Council in its decision of the 9th of July. In that decision, the Executive Council gave Syria 90 days to come into compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. The deadline for this action is tomorrow, and we call on Syria to make a final effort to respect the decision, to address the issues in its declaration and to come into compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Should the DG find that Syria has not completed the stipulated measures in full, it will be for the Conference of States Parties to decide on appropriate action to take.
The confirmed use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime represents a breach of resolution 2118, as does its ongoing failure to comply with the Convention and to cooperate fully with the OPCW. The Council should address non-compliance of its resolutions and the clear threat to international peace and security they represent.
Finally, Mr President, we note that last Friday, the 2nd of October, the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission published its reports on the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Saraqib in 2016 and Aleppo in 2018. We continue to consider the detail of the reports and, in the case of the alleged Aleppo attack in 2018, the findings of the FFM appear consistent with our assessment at the time that it was highly unlikely that chlorine was used as alleged or that the opposition was responsible for the incident. And I think it would have been helpful if Russia or Syria had provided evidence with the FFM, had they had it of any attack.
In the case of the Saraqib report, there is evidence suggesting the possibility of a Syrian regime chlorine attack. There is evidence of the presence of a helicopter, a barrel bomb, which was not filled with conventional explosive, and exposure of victims to an irritant consistent with chlorine. These are all familiar characteristics of regime chlorine attacks, such as those on Qmenas and Sarmin in 2015, for which the JIM identified the regime as responsible. In this case, however, the result of the FFM’s analysis of all available data did not allow the FFM to establish whether or not chemicals were used as a weapon. We are content to accept the FFM’s conclusion in the absence of further evidence, which would clearly show whether or not a chemical attack took place.
We welcome the fact that the Fact-Finding Mission, as it did in its investigation of the chemical weapons attack in Douma, did not jump to any conclusions, but took its time to carry out a thorough investigation and reach conclusions on the basis of all available evidence. We would encourage all parties to continue to do their utmost and in good faith to assist the Fact-Finding Mission with its investigations.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
05 Oct 20: Armenia / Azerbaijan – NOTAM issued for FIR Baku (UBBA) regarding short-range ballistic missile launches into Azeri airspace.
On 5 October, the armed clashes between Armenian & Azeri military forces continued along several areas of the border separating the countries. On 5 October, Azerbaijan issued a NOTAM stating missile launches have occurred into FIR Baku (UBBA), while also advising operators to be aware of the situation, to prepare for route deviations from ATC and to file flight plans correctly (UBBA A0131/20). Despite denials by both sides, each has claimed the other has conducted short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) strikes and/or drone operations well outside the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, where the majority of the armed clashes had occurred since 27 September:
– On 4 October, Azerbaijan claimed the Armenian military launched SRBM strikes targeting the Khizi & Absheron districts located 186 miles (300km) from the border and 155 miles (250km) from Nagorno-Karabakh. These areas are located within 31 miles (50km) northwest of the Azeri capital, Baku.
– Also on 4 October, Azerbaijan claimed the Armenian military conducted Russian-made OTR-21 Tochka (SS-21 SCARAB) SRBM strikes targeting the Azeri city of Mingachevir located 80 miles (129km) from the border and 65 miles (105km) from Nagorno-Karabakh.
– Previously, on 4 October, Azerbaijan claimed that the Armenian military conducted several SS-21 SRBM strikes targeting the Azeri city of Ganja, located well away from Nagorno-Karabakh (100 miles / 162 km) and the border (50 miles / 81km). Additional strikes reportedly targeted Ganja on 5 October.
– On 2 October, the Azeris stated the Armenians launched SS-21 SRBMs from the Tavush area of Armenia into Tovuz/Shamkir, Azerbaijan along the northern border.
– On 2 October, The Azeri military reportedly launched an Israeli-made LORA SRBM into the Goris area of Armenia to target transportation infrastructure on the border north of Nagorno-Karabakh.
– On 1 October, Armenia reportedly employed Russian-made S-300PS (SA-10B GRUMBLE) conventional surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to shoot down at least four Azeri military drones over the Kotayk & Gegharkunik areas, located just northeast and east of the capital Yerevan. The SA-10B is capable at altitudes up to FL800 at ranges out to 46 miles (75km). On 4 October, Armenia issued a NOTAM warning operators of the potential presence of “foreign” drones operating within FIR Yerevan (UDDD) at altitudes up to FL070 (UDDD A0120/20).
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region along the southern border separating the two countries since the 1990s, with the most recent large-scale armed clashes taking place in the area in April 2016. Since 27 September, a significant escalation in armed clashes has occurred between Armenian & Azeri military forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, while smaller-scale skirmishes remain ongoing further north along the shared border of the two countries, in addition to the SRBM/drone activity discussed above.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have military airbases with combat aircraft capable well above FL260 operationally stationed near the border. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have deployed variants of the Russian-made S-300 series conventional SAM system to locations within range of their respective borders for strategic air-defence coverage. The most capable variants of the S-300 have the ability to engage targets well above FL800 and out to 120 miles (193 km). The Armenian military, Armenian-backed Artsakh Army rebels and the Azeri armed forces have procured man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS) capable below FL260. The Armenian military, Artsakh Army rebels and the Azeri armed forces possess light weapons, to include anti-aircraft artillery, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles, capable below FL100.
On 30 September, Armenia issued a NOTAM for FIR Yerevan (UDDD) advising operators to monitor the conflict zone activity along the eastern Armenian border with Azerbaijan (UDDD A0115/20). NOTAMs issued by Azerbaijan have now closed a significant portion of western FIR Baku (UBBA) along the border with Armenia (UBBA A0122/20 & A0123/20, A0128/20, A0129/20, A0024/11). A French circular remains valid until further notice for the airspace over the Azeri-Armenian border (AIC France A 14/20).
Given the heightened levels of military activity on both sides of the Armenian-Azeri border and the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, we now assess there remains an increased likelihood of further escalation in armed clashes between the factions through 27 October, both in Nagorno-Karabakh but also now further north along the border as well as deeper into Armenian and/or Azerbaijan territory. More restrictive measures could be enacted at short notice by Azerbaijan and/or Armenia, including full airspace and/or airport closures if the situation deteriorates further. Operators should remain prepared for a loss of access to FIR Yerevan (UDDD) and/or FIR Baku (UBBA) and/or disruption to flight schedules at Armenian and/or Azeri airports.
The Azeri military use of drones near the Armenian capital Yerevan on 1 October has now been met with reciprocal action as evidenced by the 4 October SRBM strikes targeting Ganja, Mingachevir, Khizi & Absheron. Additional near-term attempted strikes deeper into Azerbaijan are likely until a comprehensive ceasefire is reached. We assess the current Azeri NOTAMs are a positive development aimed at shifting overflight of FIR Baku (UBBA) to areas well east of the border. However, the SRBM use against Mingachevir, Khizi & Absheron occurred in close proximity to ATS routes N319, L850 & N644, which remain open in FIR Baku (UBBA) for overflight of Azeri airspace using the ADEKI waypoint. Due to the increased distance into Azerbaijan in which SRBM strikes have occurred we advise deferring all flight operations within overland areas of FIR Baku (UBBA) until further notice. This includes the overland ATS routes using ADEKI for overflight as well as flight operations within the Azeri capital region of Baku. We advise operating via ATS route P574 within FIR Baku (UBBA) over the Caspian Sea if using Azeri airspace in order to significantly mitigate exposure to the unsafe airspace environment above overland areas of Azerbaijan.
Despite the 30 September & 4 October advisory-only NOTAMs regarding overflight of FIR Yerevan (UDDD), Armenian airspace remains open. Armenia’s stated use of conventional SAM systems & MANPADS near Tavush in July, air-defence system engagements near Vardenis on 29 September & 1 October, SA-10B employment near Yerevan on 1 October along with the SRBM activity in Tavush & Goris on 2 October is highly concerning. These areas of Armenian airspace are in the vicinity of several high-traffic ATS routes used by operators within FIR Yerevan (UDDD). We advise deferring all flight operations within FIR Yerevan (UDDD) east of longitude 441010E – including the Yerevan capital region, along with ATS routes N82 & N77 – until further notice.
On 29 September, the Armenian military claimed that its air-defence units launched conventional SAMs of unspecified type/variant within eastern FIR Yerevan (UDDD) airspace, in an attempt to shoot down a Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet near Vardenis. Within Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian armed forces and the Artsakh Army rebels have claimed downing 14 Azeri military helicopters, 17-fixed wing aircraft and 123 drones since 27 September. Armenian air-defence units have reportedly employed Russian-made Igla-pattern MANPADS capable below FL260 to target Azeri helicopters on several occasions over Nagorno-Karabakh in the past eight days. In addition, Armenian military Russian-made 9K33 Osa (SA-8 GECKO) conventional SAM system used to target Azeri drones over Nagorno-Karabakh has been reported.
Azerbaijan has claimed that its armed forces have shot down 20 Armenian military drones over Nagorno-Karabakh since 27 September. In addition, the Azeri armed forces claimed to have carried out strikes in Nagorno-Karabakh targeting 38 total air-defence systems, including at least 15 SA-8s conventional SAMs and several Russian-made 9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 GOPHER) anti-aircraft batteries operated by the Armenian military and the rebels it supports. The most capable variant of the SA-8 can engage aerial targets up to FL450 and out to 9.3 miles (15 km). The SA-13 is capable below FL260 and out to 3.2 miles (5km).
There continues to be heightened levels of air & air-defence activity by both the Armenian military and the Azeri armed forces in areas along the entirety of the borer as well as an enduring conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh. The reported conventional SAM use to down drones near the Armenian capital and the SRBM strikes well into Azerbaijan represent a significant expansion of unsafe air & air-defence activity within both FIR Yerevan (UDDD) and FIR Baku (UBBA), well beyond the border. We assess the eastern half of Armenia’s FIR Yerevan (UDDD) and overland areas of FIR Baku (UBBA) to be an EXTREME risk airspace environment at all altitudes.
Risk area recommendation: Defer all flights subject to an operation specific risk assessment
Approvals: As a precaution, conduct operational risk-based identification of divert and alternate airports for flight schedules with planned stops at aerodromes in the country or with overflight of the airspace. Operators are advised to ensure flight plans are correctly filed, attain proper special approvals for flight operations to sensitive locations and obtain relevant overflight permits prior to departure. In addition, ensure crews scheduled to operate to or over the country in the near term are fully aware of the latest security situation.
Missile Launches: Unannounced rocket and missile launches that transit airspace used by civilian aircraft pose a latent threat to operations at all altitudes. The country has a history of not issuing adequate notice of activities in its airspace that could affect flight safety. Multiple safety of flight concerns emanate from a situation where a missile malfunctions during the boost, mid-course or terminal phases of flight. Such an event would cause the missile to fly an unplanned trajectory and altitude profile which could expose overflying aircraft to mid-air collision, route diversion and or debris splashdown issues. Leading civil aviation governing bodies have standing notices advising operators of the threat to civil aviation in the airspace due to unannounced military activity, rocket test firings and or missile launches.
Shoot-down Policy: The country has an aggressive air intercept and shoot-down policy which allows air and air defence forces to intercept and disable aerial targets violating airspace regulations. Military air and air defence assets may be employed to down aerial targets under the auspice of the policy. While legal civil aviation flights are unlikely to be directly targeted, there remains a latent but credible risk of misidentification and interception by military air and air defence assets. (Source: Osprey)
05 Oct 20. UN Report Claims North Korea is Continuing to Develop Nuclear Programme. North Korea is violating international sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear programme by exceeding a cap on petroleum imports and sending its workers overseas, including a former Juventus footballer, the United Nations said.
North Korea is subject to a range of restrictions imposed since 2017 that limit its oil imports and ban exports of coal, fish and textiles.
It has nonetheless continued to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal, analysts say, despite three high-profile meetings between leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.
The UN Security Council on Monday said an annual 500,000 barrel cap on imports of refined petroleum products had been broken in just the first five months of 2020.
A report by the intergovernmental panel said deliveries to the authoritarian state “far exceeded” the ceiling, based on “imagery, data and calculations”.
elaborate evasion practices
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and foreign-flagged vessels and their owners continued elaborate evasion practices” to illicitly import oil, UN experts said, using the North’s official name.
The report did not say which countries had been exporting to North Korea but shipments also included luxury cars and alcohol.
China and Russia, North Korea’s key allies, dismissed the findings, saying they were “based on assumptions and estimations”.
illicit maritime exports
The UN report said the North “continued to flout Security Council resolutions through illicit maritime exports of coal, although it suspended such exports temporarily between late January and early March 2020”.
Negotiations between North Korea and the USA over the North’s nuclear programme are at a standstill over disputes on sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return.
The report pointed out that professional footballer Han Kwang Song was transferred from Serie A club Juventus to Al-Duhail in Qatar in January in violation of UN resolutions banning North Korean nationals working overseas.
“Although the panel contacted Italy and Qatar on Mr Han’s transfer immediately after the announcement, the transfer has not been cancelled,” the UN report said.
The 22-year-forward was paid approximately $607,000 per year by Juventus between 2018 and January 2020, it added.
He will receive more than $5m over the next five years from his new team under a multi-year contract.
“The panel reiterated to Qatar the relevant resolutions concerning the case,” the report said.
The UN sanctions require member states to repatriate North Koreans working overseas, with a deadline to do so passing in December 2019.
But the panel said “only around 40” nations had submitted reports on efforts to send back citizens. (Source: Warfaretoday/DefenseTalk)
04 Oct 20. Troika Statement on the Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and Sudanese Opposition Groups. The following statement was issued jointly by the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the Kingdom of Norway. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway (the Troika) welcome the signing of the peace agreement between the Civilian-led Transitional Government, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi and Sudanese Alliance on October 3, 2020. The peace agreement marks an important step toward meeting the calls of the Sudanese people for freedom, peace, and justice, especially for those affected by conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, and other parts of Sudan.
The agreement includes a ceasefire and an increase in participation from the opposition movements and conflict affected communities in the transitional government, as well as mechanisms and commitments for reconciliation, justice and resource sharing. We commend the parties for engaging in the good faith negotiations needed for this comprehensive agreement and thank the Government of South Sudan for its mediation efforts leading to today’s signing. We also recognize the role played by the UN and other regional and bilateral partners.
The Troika also welcomes the recent dialogue between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North/Abdelaziz al-Hilu and encourages both sides to begin wider negotiations on ending their conflict so all Sudanese can play a part in the transitional process. We call on the Sudan Liberation Movement/Abdulwahid Al Nur and the Government of Sudan to begin talks to achieve a comprehensive peace involving all the major armed movements. A lasting peace will require dedicated and Sudanese-led efforts to implement this agreement in the spirit of cooperation and compromise. The Troika looks forward to continuing our support for the parties and all Sudanese in the realization of a lasting peace. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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