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05 Feb 21. China says U.S. ‘creating tensions’ after warship sails near Taiwan. The United States is deliberately “creating tensions” and disrupting peace and stability, China’s military said, after a U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, the first such mission under the new Biden administration.
China, which claims democratically run Taiwan as its own territory, has been angered by increased U.S. support for the island, including arms sales and sending warships through the Taiwan Strait, further souring Beijing-Washington relations.
The U.S. Navy said the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain had “conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Feb. 4 in accordance with international law”. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry described it as a “normal” mission.
In a statement late on Thursday, the Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army said its forces had followed and tracked the ship.
“The U.S. move is a repeat of its old trick of ‘mixed manipulation’ of the situation across the Taiwan Strait, deliberately creating tensions and disrupting regional peace and stability. We are resolutely opposed to this,” it said.
“No matter how the situation in the Taiwan Strait changes, theatre troops will loyally perform their duties and mission, resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.”
Last year the U.S. Navy sailed through the narrow Taiwan Strait 13 times.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s government has been keen to demonstrate its support for Taiwan, calling their commitment to the island “rock solid”.
Last month Taiwan reported Chinese fighter jets and bombers had flown into the southwestern corner of its air defence identification zone, coinciding with a U.S. carrier strike group entering the disputed South China Sea.
The U.S. military said those Chinese military flights fitted a pattern of destabilising and aggressive behaviour by Beijing but posed no threat to the aircraft carrier group. (Source: Reuters)
04 Feb 21. U.S., Russia Extend Arms Reduction Treaty. The United States and the Russian Federation have agreed to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty for five years, U.S. officials announced.
The treaty was due to expire tomorrow.
“Extending the New START Treaty ensures we have verifiable limits on Russian ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers until February 5, 2026,” Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken said yesterday. “The New START Treaty’s verification regime enables us to monitor Russian compliance with the treaty and provides us with greater insight into Russia’s nuclear posture, including through data exchanges and onsite inspections that allow U.S. inspectors to have eyes on Russian nuclear forces and facilities.”
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said the extension of the treaty requires no changes in the Defense Department as the United States is in compliance with all its treaty obligations.
“President Biden’s decision to seek a five-year extension of New START advances the nation’s defense,” Kirby said during a January briefing. “Russia’s compliance with the treaty has served our national security interests well, and Americans are much safer with New START intact and extended.”
The treaty went into effect in 2011 and put in place intrusive inspection and notification tools for both nations. “Extending the treaty’s limitations on stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons until 2026 allows time and space for our two nations to explore new, verifiable arms control arrangements that could further reduce risks to Americans,” Kirby said. “And the department stands ready to support our colleagues in the State Department as they effect this extension and explore those new arrangements.”
NATO welcomes the extension. In a statement from the North Atlantic Council, officials said the NATO allies believe “the New START Treaty contributes to international stability, and allies again express their strong support for its continued implementation and for early and active dialogue on ways to improve strategic stability.”
U.S. officials stressed they will continue to explore ways to reduce nuclear dangers to the world, but they will be “clear-eyed” in dealings with the Russian Federation. Russia’s adversarial actions in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, Georgia and the Middle East must be countered. Still, the United States and its allies will engage when it makes sense and the results can be verified.
NATO allies agree and say they will work in close consultation to address Russia’s aggressive actions, which constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.
Specifically the treaty places caps on both nations’ strategic nuclear arsenals. It also requires the United States and Russia to provide regularly updated details of their arsenal. Finally, it provides regular, on-the-ground access to U.S. and Russian military bases with nuclear weapons. (Source: US DoD)
04 Feb 21. Biden to stop short of undoing Trump’s China legacy. US President Joe Biden has used his first few weeks in office to uproot much of his predecessor’s policy legacy, but according to a senior Lowy Institute analyst, the new administration won’t take an axe to Trump’s China policy.
Since assuming office on 20 January, US President Joe Biden has signed a record 25 executive orders, largely aimed at undoing the Trump administration’s hallmark policies.
The executive orders include moves to re-enter the Paris climate accord, halt construction of the border wall between the US and Mexico, and reinstate US membership of the World Health Organisation.
But according to Richard McGregor, senior fellow at the Lowy Institute, Biden’s partisan agenda won’t filter through to China policy.
McGregor pointed to the Biden cabinet’s swift support for the Trump administration’s condemnation of war crimes committed by Beijing against Uighurs in Xinjiang, and the State Department’s hard-line stance on Taiwan.
The Lowy analyst said while Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have not adopted the Trump team’s “highly ideological tone”, Beijing “should expect more continuity” in China policy from Washington.
McGregor argues that Biden recognises the importance of continuity amid a ramp in Chinese aggression.
“In the wake of COVID-19, which started in China but went on to devastate the health and economies of many other countries — most of all the United States — Beijing has bounced back strongly,” he writes.
“The upheaval in Washington during the transition from Trump to Biden has only confirmed the view of many in Beijing — that the China system works, while the US model is broken. One system has delivered for stability, the Chinese argue; the other, chaos, violence and instability.”
The senior fellow quotes Zhou Bo, a colonel with the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science, who wrote in the South China Morning Post in late January: “China’s rise so far has been peaceful, but can the United States’ decline be equally peaceful?”
McGregor continues: “Underlying such trolling is the notion that Beijing would like countries —especially in Asia — to internalise: that China’s rise is inevitable, and will unfold alongside US decline, and that everyone should cut their diplomatic cloth accordingly.”
However, McGregor claims that the 46th President of the United States would also seek to emerge from the “shadow” of the Obama administration, which critics accuse of being soft on China.
“Enter the Biden administration, which is staffed by many Obama veterans. Blinken, Sullivan, and the incoming co-ordinator for Indo-Pacific policy, Kurt Campbell, are all Obama alumni, as is Ely Ratner, who will be in charge of China policy in the Pentagon,” he says.
“The Obama administration has been criticised for failing to recognise the breadth of China’s strategic ambitions and unnecessarily trading off progress on issues like climate change to allow Beijing a freer run in the South China Sea.”
McGregor notes that Obama administration officials had been “badly burned” in 2012, recalling an instance in which they thought they had negotiated a withdrawal of Chinese vessels from a disputed area near Scarborough Shoal adjacent to the Philippines.
“Manila withdrew its boats, while the Chinese vessels stayed on. Both Campbell and Ratner attended that meeting in a Virginia hotel room and have not forgotten,” he writes.
According to the Lowy analyst, the Biden administration is “acutely aware” of the perception that Trump’s stance on China “gained leverage over Beijing”, whereas they “missed their moment” during the Obama era.
“The statement on Taiwan released by the State Department on [23 January] was particularly significant in laying down markers on an issue that could define bilateral ties,” McGregor adds.
McGregor concluded by referencing a quote from Drew Thompson, former head of the office of China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the Pentagon from 2011 to 2018, who said he was “reassured” by the Biden administration’s reaffirmation of support for Taiwan.
“If you were concerned that the Biden administration would be Obama 2.0,” he said in a tweet, “think again.” (Source: Defence Connect)
04 Feb 21. UAE, U.S. foreign ministers discuss “strategic relations” – UAE foreign ministry. The United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, discussed on the phone with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “strategic relations and Middle East regional issues,” according to a statement published on Thursday on the UAE’s foreign ministry website.
They “discussed joint cooperation to confront regional threats, and work to further maintain security and stability in the region,” the statement said.
The UAE’s ambassador to Washington said on Tuesday he was confident the sale of F-35 jets to his country would go through after a review by President Joe Biden’s administration of some pending arms sales to U.S. allies.
The UAE had during Donald Trump’s last day in office signed agreements to buy up to 50 F-35 jets, 18 armed drones and other defense equipment in a deal worth $23bn. The White House on Monday said Biden will maintain tariffs on aluminum imports from the United Arab Emirates, reversing a move to end the levies issued by Donald Trump on his last day as president. (Source: Reuters)
04 Feb 21. South Korea enacts ‘foundational’ defence industrial legislation. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) in Seoul has announced the enactment of a ‘foundational’ new law that aims to expand the national defence industry’s share of both domestic and international defence markets.
The Act on Defence Industry Development and Support – otherwise known as the Defence Industry Development Act – comes into force on 5 February after being endorsed by South Korea’s National Assembly in January 2020.
DAPA said that since securing this approval it has drawn up a series of related sub-laws and regulations that will now be formally applied.
According to DAPA, the new legislation and its related measures encompass a series of national defence industry policies, initiatives, and support mechanisms to promote international sales of both major platforms and components and expand import-substitution efforts in terms of both research and development (R&D) and manufacturing activity.
By implementing the legislation, DAPA is aiming to source more than 80% of procured military platforms and their components locally. At present, this level of indigenisation is estimated by Janes to be about 65%.
Kang Eun-ho, the head of DAPA, said, “The enforcement of the Defence Industry Development Act and its subordinate laws lays a solid foundation to transform the domestic defence industry into an internationally oriented sector.”
He added, “[The legislation is intended] to strengthen the competitiveness of the national defence industry in the domestic market and to help Korean defence products become recognised in the global marketplace.” (Source: Jane’s)
04 Feb 21. Urging Syria’s cooperation with the UN and OPCW. Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the Security Council briefing on Syria chemical weapons.
- UK underlines that unresolved issues in Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme are “of a serious and substantive nature”
- UK urges ongoing coordination between the UN and OPCW to collectively resolve the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons programme
Transcript of statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the Security Council briefing on Syria chemical weapons, 3 February 2021
We extend our thanks to High Representative Nakamitsu for her briefing today and I welcome the contributions from other members of the Council. As recognised by the Security Council in resolution 2118, ongoing coordination between the UN and the OPCW is vital if we are to collectively resolve this issue.
Despite decisions by this Council and that of the OPCW Executive Council of 27 September 2013, Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons programme can still not be considered accurate and complete. The unresolved issues are of a serious and substantive nature.
As the OPCW DG noted in his 25 January report, one of the 19 outstanding issues pertains to a chemical weapons production facility declared by the Syrian National Authority as never having been used for the production of chemical weapons. The review of all the information and other materials gathered by the Declaration Assessment Team since 2014, including samples, indicates that production and/or weaponisation of chemical warfare nerve agents did take place there.
The fact that four of the unresolved issues have been closed, shows that, contrary to the assertions of some that they are artificial, they can be resolved if Syria chooses to engage genuinely and constructively. Syria needs to provide complete access to documents and witnesses. The cat and mouse game of non-credible explanations and excuses cannot continue. The Technical Secretariat has repeatedly made clear that it stands ready to assist Syria in this regard. I note the DAT’s intention to deploy for consultations again early this month. We expect Syria to provide a full response to all the queries during those meetings.
The ongoing threat posed to international peace and security by these unresolved issues is not hypothetical, especially to the thousands of Syrians who have suffered the horrifying effects on the body of nerve agents and chlorine since 2014. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
03 Feb 21. UK commits to deeper defence and security cooperation with Japan. HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH’s deployment to the Indo Pacific later this year will enhance the defence partnership between the two nations. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab discussed the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth during the “2+2” virtual meeting with their respective Japanese counterparts, Ministers Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi.
The Carrier Strike Group’s visit to the Indo-Pacfic this year, led by the UK aircraft carrier, will herald a new era for UK-Japan defence and security cooperation, providing opportunities for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to work with their Japanese counterparts and support opportunities for future collaboration, including on the F35 and Amphibious programmes.
Both the Foreign and Defence Secretary reaffirmed the UK’s long-term commitment to working closely with Japan to uphold the security of the region and demonstrate the value of a unified approach to facing global challenges.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “Japan and the UK have forged a close defence and security partnership that is being elevated to new heights this year when the UK Carrier Strike Group visits the Indo-Pacific. The most significant Royal Navy deployment in a generation demonstrates the UK’s commitment to working with our partners in the region to uphold the rules-based international system and promote our shared security and prosperity.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “Japan is a key security partner for the UK, and a close, enduring friend. This year will see our two nations working even more closely together with the UK’s Presidency of the G7 and hosting of the UN Climate Conference.
The UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt, including the visit of HMS Queen Elizabeth to the region, demonstrates our shared priorities and common strategic interests from maritime security to climate change and free trade.”
The four ministers agreed that Japan and the UK are each other’s closest security partners in Asia and Europe respectively, with shared values and common strategic interests. They resolved to further strengthen cooperation on defence, security and trade in order to uphold those values.
A recent Maritime Security Arrangement agreed between the Royal Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) is one example of how the two countries’ Armed Forces are deepening their relationship. The arrangement, signed by JMSDF and the First Sea Lord Tony Radakin – head of the Royal Navy – will see the two countries share maritime domain awareness, helping to create a safe environment for international shipping transiting between the Indo-Pacific and Europe.
In this spirit, the four ministers committed to further cooperation on monitoring illicit ship-to-ship transfers by North Korea.
In recent years, the growing defence partnership between the two countries has seen the British Army become the only army other than the US to train with Japanese forces on Japanese soil. The VIGILANT ISLES training exercise series establishes annual cooperation on training exercises between the British Army and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF). (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
03 Feb 21. Defence Senior Advisor and his successor conclude visit to Egypt. This visit is particularly significant as it marks the handover of the DSAME role from Lt Gen Lorimer to AM Sampson. The current UK Chief of Defence Staff’s Senior Advisor to the Middle East and North Africa (DSAME), Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer, and his successor Air Marshal (AM) Martin (Sammy) Sampson have wrapped up this week a three-day official visit to Egypt. This visit is particularly significant as it marks the handover of the DSAME role from Lt Gen Lorimer to AM Sampson.
During the visit, the two DSAMEs held high-level meetings with senior representatives from the Egyptian Armed Forces and were accompanied by British Defence Attaché Captain (Royal Navy) Stephen Deacon. They met with Assistant Defence Minister for External Relations, discussing military aspects of common interest.
Lt Gen Sir John Lorimer and AM Martin Sampson also explored ways to enhance bilateral training and armament partnership with Egypt in meetings with the Chief of the Training Authority and the Chief of the Armament Authority.
Moreover, bilateral discussions were convened with the Commander of the Egyptian Navy and the Commander of the Air Force. Both sides deepened their understanding of how the two nations’ Navies and Air Forces can work together to reinforce bilateral cooperation and interoperability in future joint training exercises.
Making remarks at the end of his visit, Lieutenant General Lorimer said, “As I conduct my last official visit to the region as Defence Senior Adviser Middle East and North Africa (DSAME), it feels fitting that it is in Egypt, the country where I lived in the mid-1980s, and where I studied Arabic and Islamic Studies. I have had a deep affinity and respect for the country, its people, culture and history since that time, so it has been a privilege to help develop the bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Egypt during my time in this role. The very positive meetings that we have attended during this visit are a reflection of the strength of the relationship between our two countries. Long may that continue.”
Air Marshal Martin Sampson also commented saying, “It has been a great privilege to visit Egypt with General Lorimer in preparation for my new role as Defence Senior Adviser Middle East and North Africa (DSAME). The meetings and engagements have given me a very clear sense of the importance and standing of Egypt in the region and the Arab world. The current joint work and co-operation, as well as the plans for future collaboration between our two countries, is exciting and is a clear reflection of our strong mutual respect and ambition. I look forward to returning to Egypt in the very near future, to build on the trust and friendships that General Lorimer has developed and to strengthen the bilateral relationship even further.
British Ambassador to Egypt Sir Geoffrey Adams said, “Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer has been a great asset to our defence relations with Egypt and I would like to thank him for all his hard work and his commitment to strengthening UK-Egypt military cooperation. I would also like to congratulate Air Marshal Martin Sampson on his appointment as the UK Chief of Defence Staff’s new Senior Advisor to the Middle East and North Africa (DSAME). I look forward to working with him on furthering our defence cooperation agenda here in Egypt, and on promoting security and stability in the region.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
03 Feb 21. North Atlantic Council Statement on the Extension of the New START Treaty.
- NATO welcomes and fully supports the agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the New START Treaty for five years. NATO Allies believe the New START Treaty contributes to international stability, and Allies again express their strong support for its continued implementation and for early and active dialogue on ways to improve strategic stability.
- Allies remain collectively determined to uphold existing disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation agreements and commitments. Allies support further arms control negotiations, with the aim of improving the security of the Alliance, taking into account the prevailing international security environment. Allies see the treaty’s extension as the beginning, not the end, of an effort to address nuclear threats and new and emerging challenges to strategic stability.
- Even as the United States engages Russia in ways that advance our collective interests, NATO remains clear-eyed about the challenges Russia poses. We will work in close consultation to address Russia’s aggressive actions, which constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.
02 Feb 21. Nimitz Carrier Group Sails Into Indo-Pacific Command. The USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is departing the Central Command area of responsibility and moving into the U.S. Indo-Pacific region, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby announced today.
“We want to thank all the men and women aboard the ships in that strike crew and the squadrons who supported Central Command now for more than 270 days, ensuring our national security and deterring conflict in a very critical region of the world,” Kirby said.
The carrier is homeported in Bremerton, Washington. It is now in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility and can be called upon for operations, training or humanitarian exercises there.
The Nimitz’s departure means there is no U.S. carrier operating in the Central Command area of operations. Kirby said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III believes America has “a robust presence in the Middle East.” U.S. service members are based in many nations in the Persian Gulf and there is more than enough airpower to counter any adversary.
Kirby said Austin has constant discussions with U.S. Central Command commander Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, as well as other combatant commanders. Austin must balance requirements from various parts of the world, and the United States doesn’t have an unlimited number of aircraft carriers.
These decisions are carefully weighed, the press secretary said. “Every decision that we make with military forces — air, ground or naval — and certainly, decisions that you make with respect to a capital asset, like an aircraft carrier and its associated, supporting Strike Group is a decision driven by a frank assessment of the threats in the area, and also a frank consideration of the capabilities themselves,” Kirby said. “So, absolutely, the secretary was mindful of the larger geostrategic picture when he approved the movement of the Carrier Strike Group from the Central Command area responsibility.”
Also playing into the decision is the length of the deployment for the Nimitz sailors and their families. The Nimitz and supporting ships have been deployed longer than is typically required. Austin and CentCom and Navy officials must consider the wear and tear on the sailors, the ships and the aircraft. (Source: US DoD)
02 Feb 21. India releases details of new defense budget. India on Monday allocated $18.48 bn for weapons procurement in its 2021-2022 defense budget amid an ongoing military standoff with China and financial stress on the national economy due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Excluding pensions, the new defense budget totals $49.6 bn, an increase of more than 3 percent from the previous year’s $47.98 bn. New capital expenditure of $18.48 bn meant for arms procurement witnessed an increase of about 16 percent from the previous year’s $15.91 bn.
This is the highest-ever increase in capital outlay for defense in the last 15 years, according to Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
An additional $2.84bn was spent on emergency arms purchases in the summer of 2020 to deal with the ongoing confrontation with China.
The budget’s revenue expenditure meant for maintenance of existing weapons, pay and allowances, and recurring expenses is set at $29.02bn, compared to $28.75bn in the previous defense budget.
Officials in India point to the COVID-19 pandemic as disrupting the economy and thus affecting the government’s income and driving spending decisions. Consequently, the defense budget might not be as high as it would’ve been were there not a pandemic, said Amit Cowshish, a former financial adviser for acquisition at the Ministry of Defence.
Cowshish noted that the funds may be inadequate for all the planned acquisitions from abroad and at home to be signed during the upcoming financial year, which begins April 1.
Capital expenditure is essentially defense funding meant for fresh arms procurement and existing liabilities from previously conducted defense contracts. Revenue expenditure is defense spending meant for the pay and allowances of military personnel as well as the maintenance of weapons and other existing inventory items.
The Army will receive $4.9bn in capital expenditure, which is an increase of 8.17 percent from the previous year’s $4.53bn. “The service could buy additional military vehicles and upgrade its drones fleet,” a senior Army official said.
The service’s revenue expenditure is set at $20.37bn, compared to $20.11bn in the previous budget.
The Navy will receive $4.55bn in capital expenditure, which is an increase of nearly 22 percent from previous year’s $3.73bn. This could pave the way for the service to buy 10 tactical MQ-9 Reaper drones from General Atomics through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, an Indian Navy official said.
The revenue expenditure for the Navy is $3.19bn, which is meant for the maintenance of warships and submarines, compared to $3.13bn in the previous budget.
The Air Force will receive $7.2bn in capital expenditure, which is a hike of 19 percent from the previous year’s $6.05bn. According to a service official, this will go toward a new contract for 83 homemade LCA MK1A Tejas light combat aircraft, an existing commitment to pay for 36 Rafale fighters from France and five units of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, among other efforts.
The Air Force’s revenue expenditure is $4.19bn, compared to $4.1bn in the previous budget.
About $1.55 bn in capital expenditure will go toward the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation for new projects, compared to $1.47bn in the previous budget. DRDO has also been given a revenue expenditure totaling $1.24bn, compared to $1.2bn last year.
This year, existing liabilities could eat up to 90 percent of the new capital expenditure, which will impact several new weapons procurement efforts, an MoD official said.
But if that high percentage is accurate, according to Cowshish, there must be a lot of equipment already on contract. The military will have to make do with whatever amount is left over for acquiring new systems, he noted.
“Capability-building and self-reliance … are long-term projects, which are not dependent entirely on the budgetary allocation in a particular year. Hopefully things will improve in the future.” (Source: Defense News)
02 Feb 21. India faces real-terms cut in defence funding. India’s 2021–22 defence budget climbs mildly in nominal terms to USD65.5bn, but Janes analysis shows the expenditure is set to decline in real terms by 7%. India’s defence budget for 2021–22 – announced on 1 February at INR4.78trn (USD65.5bn) – represents a small nominal increase but a sharp real-term decline compared to last year.
The new expenditure amounts to a nominal 1.45% increase over the INR4.71trn defence budget in 2020-21. However, when the budget is adjusted for inflation, Janes analysis suggests that the new defence budget amounts to a year-on-year decline of 7%.
This fall reflects the deep coronavirus-linked recession that India is currently enduring, which has coincided with the country’s continuing military standoff with China in the Himalayas, which has served to highlight India’s expansive military modernisation requirements.
To address these needs, the 2021–22 budget includes INR1.35trn – or about 28% of the total – for capital expenditure, which is less than a 1% increase over last year’s revised allocation.
The new capital expenditure is likely to only partially meet India’s modernisation demands, given that the allocation will also pay for equipment procured in previous years. However, the tightening budget is also likely to provide impetus in India’s efforts to acquire cheaper, locally produced materiel.
Andrew MacDonald, lead analyst for AsPAC Defence Budgets provides his analysis, “In nominal terms India’s 2021 defence budget continues its unbroken run of growth, which has lasted well over a decade, but even by this measure expansion has now slowed dramatically.”
Down from recent highs of more than 20% year-on-year in 2008 and 2009, nominal expansion of ‘core’ spending (which excludes military pensions) still averaged close to 9% from 2010–20, and was well above trend last year at 12.8%. The core budget in 2021 of INR3,624bn (USD48bn) is just 0.7% larger than 2020’s, the slowest growth recorded since the start of Janes Defence Budgets data tracking in 2005.
Two further factors combine to show India’s latest budget in a less-favourable light. While total spending increased by 1.45% nominally in comparison to 2020’s initial allocation, 2021’s budget documentation reveals in-year revisions that pushed 2020’s spend almost 3% higher before the year ended. From this revised base total Indian defence spending for 2021 is in fact 1.4% lower.
Indian government figures also take no account of inflation, which has risen notably in the country in 2019 and 2020. Factoring this into its defence budget figures reveals a decline in core spending of 5.8% year-on-year, and of 7.1% in total spending. This leaves it at about the same level in real terms as it was in 2019, prior to 2020’s spending boost.
In more positive news for the country’s armed services, much of the fall in total spending is driven by a sharp decline in pensions expenditure; 2021’s allocation is 12.7% lower in real terms. This has helped to lower personnel costs and enable procurement funding to remain at the elevated rates produced by 2020’s revised budget. (Source: Jane’s)
02 Feb 21. North Korea expands number of ballistic missile units, says Seoul. North Korea has expanded the number of its ballistic missile units and bolstered the status, capabilities, and training of its special forces, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in its 2020 Defense White Paper released on 2 February 2021.
The MND said in the paper that the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force was now believed to comprise 13 missile brigades, compared with nine in 2017, adding that the units – which, among other things, operated ‘Scud’-based short-range, No Dong (Rodong) medium-range, as well as Hwaseong-series intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles (SRBMs, MRBMs, IRBMs, ICBMs) – were likely to perform functions similar to those of China’s Rocket Force and Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces.
No further details were provided in the paper, which comes after North Korea paraded a series of new missile systems in recent months, including several SRBM types, two submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and a new ICBM potentially capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), in an apparent bid to bolster its strategic deterrence posture and enhance the regime’s chances of survival.
The MND noted that Pyongyang had an estimated 50 kg of weapons-grade plutonium – unchanged from 2018 estimates – as well as “a significant amount of highly enriched uranium” to make nuclear weapons, adding that the North’s ability to miniaturise nuclear weapons “has reached a considerable level”. (Source: Jane’s)
01 Feb 21. Putin signs extension of last Russia-US nuclear arms treaty. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a bill extending the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States a week before the pact was due to expire.
Both houses of the Russian parliament voted unanimously Wednesday to extend the New START treaty for five years. Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden had discussed the nuclear accord a day earlier, and the Kremlin said they agreed to complete the necessary extension procedures in the next few days.
New START expires Feb. 5. The pact’s extension doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., but Russian lawmakers had to ratify the move. Russian diplomats said the extension will be validated by exchanging diplomatic notes once all the procedures are completed.
The treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.
Biden indicated during the U.S. presidential campaign that he favored the preservation of New START, which was negotiated during his tenure as vice president under Obama.
Russia had long proposed prolonging the pact without any conditions or changes, but the administration of former President Donald Trump waited until last year to start talks and made the extension contingent on a set of demands. The talks stalled, and months of bargaining failed to narrow differences.
After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.
Earlier this month, Russia announced that it would follow the U.S. in pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, which allowed surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.
Arms control advocates hailed New START’s extension as a boost to global security and urged Russia and the U.S. to start negotiating follow-up agreements.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, the country’s lead negotiator on New START, said earlier this week that Russia was ready to sit down for talks on prospective arms cuts that he indicated should also involve non-nuclear precision weapons with strategic range.
Russia had offered before Biden took office to extend New START for five years — a possibility that was envisaged by the pact at the time it was signed.
Trump argued that the treaty put the U.S. at a disadvantage, and he initially insisted on adding China as a party to pact. Beijing bluntly rejected the idea. The Trump administration then proposed extending New START for one year and sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons and other changes, and the talks stalled. (Source: Defense News)
02 Feb 21. ASPI chief warns Congress of Taiwanese flash point for 2021. With tensions in the western Pacific increasing, the small island nation of Taiwan is once again making headlines. Now ASPI executive director Peter Jennings has warned the US Congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission of an increased likelihood of a Taiwan flashpoint.
It is the relationship that will define whether the 21st century is a repeat of the 20th in its bloodshed and conflict, or a renewed and unprecedented period of co-operation and advancement.
The US and China relationship is showing increasing signs of fraying as the world’s two great powers size each other up from across the vast expanse of the Pacific. This growing period of tension is now increasingly centred on the small island of Taiwan, a contentious issue harkening back to the darkest days of the Cold War.
Despite the seeming victory of the US-led democratic global order at the end of the Cold War, this renewed period of great power competition has overthrown the long-standing, largely academic myth of the “end of history” was upon us, that the era of great power competition had forever been relegated to the pages of antiquity – we now know that to be wishful thinking.
While the nation’s geographic isolation, encapsulated by the ‘tyranny of distance’, has provided Australia with a degree of protection from the major, epoch-defining and empire ending conflagrations of the 20th century, the 21st century’s great power rivalry hits far closer to home.
Despite its relative isolation, Australia’s position as a global trading nation, entrenched in the maintenance and expansion of the post-Second World War order, has left the nation at a unique and troubling crossroads, particularly as its two largest and most influential “great and powerful” friends – the US and the UK – appear to be floundering against the tide of history.
While the new Biden/Harris administration is still finding its foreign policy feet and, more specifically, its defence policy in the face of an increasingly belligerent Beijing, ASPI executive director Peter Jennings has provided interesting insights and forewarning of a potential conflict inducing flashpoint in Taiwan.
Setting the scene, Jennings addresses questions raised by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission of Congress, detailing the growing tensions and, concerningly for regional and global peace and stability, the likelihood of conflagration over Taiwan. “At any time, Chinese President Xi Jinping could reduce the rhetorical tone and limit the People’s Liberation Army’s military exercises and air incursions, Jennings says, but Xi stands to lose nothing if he keeps testing the limits.
“This gives rise, in my view, to a possible major crisis on Taiwan or the East China Sea in 2021.” Jennings says Beijing will have developed a menu of options to pressure concessions from Taipei related to its political autonomy.
“This does not have to involve a PLA amphibious assault of Taiwan’s northern beaches, but it could involve maritime blockades, closing airspace, cyber assaults, missile launchings around (and over) Taiwan, use of fifth column assets inside Taiwan, use of PLA force in a range of deniable grey-zone activities and potentially seizing offshore territory – Quemoy and Matsu, Pratas, and Kinmen Islands. Beijing will continue to probe with military actions, test international reactions and probe again,” Jennings articulates.
Beijing actively splits Democracies
A key component of President Xi’s long-term ambitions in the region and designs for Taiwanese reunification is effectively undermining the legitimacy of not only the US, but also regional and global democracies, including Australia with an emphasis on coercing nations as a means of forcing compliance and destroying the remaining vestiges of the post-Second World War order.
Jennings states, “Key south-east Asian countries will make judgements about the need to hedge their relations with Beijing based on the level of confidence they have that the United States is engaged with the region and committed (for reasons of its own interests) to Asian security. A south-east Asia that doubts the longevity of American interest will get closer to the PRC regardless of the appeal of doing so.”
Building on this, Jennings references the Australian experience of Chinese coercion in recent months, stating, “As Australia saw over 2020, Beijing works hard to split democracies apart from each other and to weaken their resolve through bilateral pressure.
“My view is that the Commission can play an international role by co-operating more closely with like-minded democratic legislatures including, of course, the Australian Parliament; sharing information and generally emphasising that we must work together to address a global threat. The Commission might consider establishing a regular dialogue on the PRC for legislatures from the Five Eyes countries.”
But what about multilaturalism?
Many commentators have frequently spruiked the Biden election as a ‘return of the United States’ and ‘sanity’ when it comes to international relations and the post-War order, often overlooking precedent throughout the Obama years, combined with domestic challenges, serve to undermine the legitimacy of the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda.
Hadrien Saperstein, a researcher at the Asia Centre think tank in Paris, explains, “Some have forecast that Joe Biden’s multilateral approach will help rescue the Trump administration’s failed foreign policy approach across the Asia-Pacific region (notably in south-east Asia) and could reverse such a strategic shift.
“One of the tenets described in this return to a multilateral approach is the US (re)joining a host of international organisations and programs, including the World Health Organisation’s Covax initiative, which aims to provide 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines by the end of next year to underdeveloped countries.
“However, to the extent that US success within international organisations and with partners is undergirded by US soft power, Biden’s influence will be gravely weakened with each passing domestic crisis. Whereas in the past American soft power was systematically a strength towards aggrandising the United States’ authority abroad, it will now mostly have the reverse effect.
“Therefore, the Biden administration’s projected ‘no-frills’ or ‘business almost as usual’ approach (echoing the Obama-Clinton foreign policy era) is likely to be incompatible with a new international environment and this strategic shift.
“Consequently, in the coming years, the US government will heedlessly continue the process of militarising its foreign policy in an attempt to mitigate the diplomatic failure to reverse the slow-moving strategic shift that will occur in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The inability to project power beyond militarised means, elicited by intermittent domestic crises, will make allies and partners far less confident in the depth and durability of the US commitment to the Asia-Pacific region. The likely result will be that the United States is once again long on promises, but short on delivery.” (Source: Defence Connect)
01 Feb 21. Macron signals military pullback from Sahel terrorist fight France to focus on Isis and will leave other conflicts to African governments. Amid rising anti-French sentiment in the region, a protester demonstrates against the French military in Bakamo, the Mali capital. Critics see the French presence as a neocolonial campaign.
Emmanuel Macron has signalled he intends to reduce within months the 5,100-strong French military force fighting jihadis in the Sahel states of sub-Saharan Africa after years of military operations. The French president said at the Elysée Palace that he would wait a couple of months after the mid-February summit between France and regional governments in the Chadian capital N’Djamena to see results from France’s African allies in fighting terrorism and helping to restore order in their own countries. “If not, I will in any case be forced to pivot our French contingent,” he said on Friday. “Because if you want to make a useful impact, you have to think that if there are still terrorist groups after seven years, that means they are embedded and your problem is not simply one of security. It’s a political, ethnic and development problem. So at that point, I will adjust our contingent.”
The French have justified their presence as a way of helping to prevent Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe. But with an eye on his re-election chances next year amid growing French disenchantment with the toll taken by the country’s Operation Barkhane, Mr Macron has repeatedly expressed frustration with the ambivalent attitude towards Paris of some Sahelian governments. Like the Americans in Afghanistan after 2001, the French have struggled to suppress militant Islamist groups following initial military success. French forces defeated an Islamist offensive that captured northern Mali in 2013, but conflicts have since continued to spread across a region where political and military leaders are frequently accused of corruption and incompetence. Central Mali has become the epicentre of violence, with ethnic militias and jihadist groups exploiting a lack of governance. “Either you intervene very quickly and fix the problem in six months, or you get bogged down,” said Serge Michailof, a development expert and researcher with Iris, the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations. “There are too many problems for a foreign intervention force not to become an occupation force.”
France boosted its forces in the Sahel by 600 soldiers only a year ago and has claimed recent successes in its operations against Islamic State of the Great Sahara, the local Isis affiliate, in the “tri-border” region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Mr Macron said France would now focus on confronting Isis and he suggested other conflicts would be left to the governments of the region — those of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad whose leaders are due to meet in N’Djamena in two weeks at the so called G5 summit. “Our enemy can’t be every group that is more or less jihadist,” Mr Macron said. “It’s Islamic State of the Great Sahara.” The Big Read Why Macron’s attempt to reset French ties to Africa has hit trouble While France has boasted of killing some key jihadi leaders, the UN estimates that over 2m people have been internally displaced in the region and jihadist attacks have increased fivefold since 2016, according to the International Crisis Group. The violence has crippled Burkina Faso, once a model of regional stability, where large swaths of the country are now ungoverned.
The region is now routinely subject to militant attacks like one in Niger last month that killed more than 100 people. Amid rising anti-French sentiment in the region, there have been public demonstrations against what critics argue is a neocolonial campaign. The French presence was complicated further last month by an air strike in central Mali which locals have said killed 19 members of a wedding party. France and Mali’s government have both insisted that the January 3 strike killed roughly 30 terrorists. The international Sahel stabilisation strategy, led by France, is “foundering” in part because it overly relies on a military response, according to an ICG report released on Monday. There “is no convincing success story in the Sahel, but rather a steady deepening and expansion of its conflicts,” according to the report. “Many of France’s partners, and even some within the French system itself, are increasingly sceptical about a stabilisation strategy that has burnt through vast resources with meagre results.” Most of the armies in the Sahel are underequipped and underfunded, and many analysts — and senior politicians — warn that a French withdrawal could cause the security situation to deteriorate further. (Source: FT.com)
01 Feb 21. British troops in Mali are being commanded by a Chinese officer it emerges, as first patrol on UN mission is completed. British troops are being commanded by a Chinese officer for the first time, it has emerged. The 300 British troops deployed to counter Islamist violence in Mali will work under a Chinese sector commander as part of the United Nations (UN) force.
Lieutenant Colonel Tom Robinson, Commanding Officer of the Light Dragoons, said the Chinese military had provided a hospital to the UN mission and were responsible for protecting the camp which houses the British troops.
“I work for a Chinese Brigadier who is sector commander,” Lt Col Robinson said.
“He’s a professional guy who I very much enjoy working with.”
It is thought to be the first time British forces have been under command of a Chinese officer, although the Royal Navy has worked alongside the Chinese navy in counter-piracy operations around the horn of Africa.
The news comes as tension between Britain and China, after human rights abuses in Hong Kong, aggressive Chinese sovereignty claims in the Indo-Pacific and questions over the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, have soured relations between London and Beijing.
Using a range of vehicles including Jackals, Coyotes and Foxhounds, the UK Task Group are deployed to Mali to support the UN peacekeeping Mission MINUSMA. CREDIT: George Christie/British Army
The British Taskforce, comprising troops drawn primarily from the Light Dragoons and 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment, has just successfully completed its first patrol in the West African country.
Around 200 soldiers patrolled in 60 vehicles specially designed to handle the harsh desert conditions.
The initial deployment saw the troops venture only 30 miles into the countryside, an area largely beyond the reach of the Malian authorities. Future patrols are planned to go much further.
“That was an opportunity for us as the first British troops deployed in Mali to really understand how it is we’re going to operate,” Lt Col Robinson said.
“We trained in the UK [and] prepared for a long time to make sure we’re ready.
“There’s nothing like going out of camp for the first time, testing our vehicles on unfamiliar African scrub, meeting the Malian people and really getting that proper feel for what this country is all about and how we can help.”
He said the British patrol had been the first UN peacekeepers encountered by some of the Malian people in the eight years the mission has existed.
The British force consists of 300 troops, drawn mainly from the Light Dragoons and 2nd Bn Royal Anglian Regiment. CREDIT: George Christie/British Army
Writing exclusively for the Telegraph in December, the Defence Secretary said it was in the UK’s interests to join the 14,000 UN troops, drawn from 56 countries..
“History tells us that extremist groups opposed to our way of life can thrive in the lawless spaces that spring from the absence of governance, Ben Wallace said.
The UN force is separate from the French-led counter-insurgency mission also in Mali, which is hunting local Islamist groups in the region affiliated to ISIS and al Qaeda.
Britain supports the French mission, called Operation Barkhane, with three Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and around 90 personnel.
The two British missions are entirely separate, but senior commanders accept the fighting groups opposed to Malian and Western forces may not see the difference.
“This is a dangerous country and if we were complacent and we were not taking that threat seriously then my command team and I would be failing our soldiers in not keeping that focus on making sure they are doing everything they can to deter and protect themselves from the people who wish to do us harm,” Lt Col Robinson said.
Speaking as the troops deployed last month, Major General Nick Borton from the MoD’s Northwood headquarters accepted the mission was dangerous but said it fitted perfectly into Britain’s wider strategy for the region.
He also said it was “a chance to drive reform in United Nations peacekeeping operations”, largely seen as expensive and inefficient.
The UN mission in Mali started in 2013 and French forces deployed on the separate counter-terrorist operation the following year. A peace agreement was signed in 2015 between the Malian government and the many fighting groups.
Mali and the wider Sahel region of West Africa is considered an area of growing Islamist extremism and terrorist violence.
Britain will provide a specialist reconnaissance force for three years as part of the UN deployment. (https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/Pen & Sword)
21 Jan 21. 7 years of uninterrupted growth takes global defence spend to USD1.9trn, says Janes. Rising at a rate of 1.9% in 2020, defence spending has enjoyed continuous growth since 2014 according to the latest figures from the trusted global agency for open-source defence intelligence.
Continuing seven years of uninterrupted expansion, global defence spending rose by 1.9% in 2020, according to defence spending data from Janes, the trusted global agency for open-source defence intelligence. Total global defence spending reached USD1.93trn* in 2020 – up almost USD180bn from USD1.75trn in 2010.
Global spending growth to slow in 2021, but no contraction expected
Although 2020’s growth exceeded that seen in 2019 this acceleration is not expected to extend into 2021. Janes forecasts a noticeable slowdown in defence spending this year, as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be felt. However, outside of the United States’ gradual decline, the cuts to spending are expected to be limited to regions reliant on the export of commodities such as oil and will be more than balanced out by expansion in regions where robust growth is still expected.
“With all regions except Europe, AsPAC and Latin America likely to implement real reductions in 2021, total defence spending growth will fall to its lowest rate since 2013 – but we’re not expecting an overall contraction. In fact, the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on military funding is likely to fall in 2022, when governments may begin to rein in spending,” said Andrew MacDonald, lead analyst at Janes. “Even next year’s global spend is forecast to remain in positive growth, driven in large part by strong expansion in Asia, and in the years that follow the growth of defence budget allocations is likely to accelerate once again, pushing our forecast global total up to USD2.23trn by 2030.”
Europe’s resurgence of defence budget growth continued in 2020, but is likely to weaken this year
In percentage terms it was Europe’s military spending power that grew the most in 2020, with funding 5.6% higher than the previous year. However, Asia-Pacific contributed a similar rise in dollar terms, and its spending growth is judged likely to speed up in the coming years, as European budget increases begin to slow.
“Smaller markets are also due to record impressive growth rates in 2021, as Latin American spending rebounds thanks to Brazil’s recovery from sharp cuts imposed last year, and Eastern Europe continues to react to the perceived military threat from Russia,” MacDonald said.
Covid-19 fails to disrupt long-term trends in defence funding
While it is all but certain to force a slowdown in the rise of the world’s annual defence expenditure, the Covid-19 pandemic is extremely unlikely to undermine the long-term strategic shifts that have been under way in regional spending patterns.
“While the pandemic appears likely to stifle the growth in buying power of regions like the Middle East and further depress Russian funding, the relative decline seen in US budgets as Asia-Pacific accounts for an ever-increasing share of the global total remains the big story in military funding, even in the post-Covid world,” MacDonald said.
“In 2010 Asia was responsible for just over 20% of the world’s military funding; by 2028 we’re expecting it to have grown to 35%, overtaking North America as the largest region by value.”
About the Janes Defence Budgets Annual Report
The Janes Annual Defence Budgets Report is the world’s most comprehensive, forward-looking study of government’s defence budgets. Published every December, the report examines and forecasts defence expenditure for 105 countries and captures 99 percent of global defence spending. Data is compiled from Janes Defence Budgets online solution platform, which includes historical data to 2005, forecasts to 2032, budget charting, trend evaluation and in-depth analysis by country. *in real 2021 USD. (Source: Jane’s)
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