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05 May 21. Greece, Saudi Arabia Forge Closer Ties In Shadow of Iran & Turkey.
“The Saudis might be demonstrating that they can go to other sources and solutions for air defense through building on the worsening of US-Turkish relations, at the heart of which is US unhappiness over Turkish acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system,” Yezid Sayegh, senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center, says.
Greece is lending a Patriot air defense missile system to Saudi Arabia to help it protect critical energy facilities from Houthi attacks and to cope with Turkish muscle-flexing in the region.
“We signed an agreement to move a Patriot battery here in Saudi Arabia,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on April 20. “This is a big step forward for our country regarding the cooperation with the Gulf countries and also a contribution to the wider security of the energy sources for the West.”
This is the first formal accord with such a wide scope between the two countries and Saudi officials believe the Kingdom is forging bilateral relations with states sharing similar concerns.
“The idea is to face the Turkish muscle-flexing in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. We believe that Riyadh is responding to Turkey through establishing an alliance with Ankara’s rival Greece and carrying out exercises in the nearby region,” the officials told me.
Last month, Athens and Riyadh held joint drills to develop the skills of air and technical crews and support their readiness and exchange experiences in all fields. Saudi F-15s and Greece’s F-16, Mirage 2000 and F-4 Phantom fighter jets performed exercises in both attack and defense formations and close air support training.
“We wonder if this isn’t more a case of signaling the Biden administration to discouraging it from taking steps against the kingdom?” they add.
However, regional officials and experts say the move does not amount to a major strategic shift in the region.
The Saudi defense leadership is probably using this agreement for geo-political purposes. “Engaging with Greece on such an important aspect of military technology sends a strong political signal,” Yezid Sayegh, senior fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center told Breaking Defense.
“The real question is, who is the intended target? The Saudis have not yet invested in improving ties with Turkey, unlike the UAE who have been warming up. But, nonetheless, I don’t really see any pressing reason for the Saudis to engage in pressuring Turkey just now,” he said.
The Saudis may also be demonstrating that they can go to other sources and solutions for air defense. “They might be building on the worsening of US-Turkish relations, at the heart of which is US unhappiness over Turkish acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system,” Sayegh added.
By dealing with another NATO ally, they might be calculating that they can highlight the difference between them and Turkey — that is, “in contrast to Turkey’s hostile behavior and threat to US national security, Saudi Arabia is a loyal friend.”
Another reason is that the kingdom’s security is a top priority, retired Kuwaiti Air Force Col. Zafer Alajmi told me.
“The Gulf country is under severe pressure from the Houthi attacks and must protect its skies at all costs,” Alajmi said. “With the US now withdrawing military equipment from the Kingdom, the Saudis don’t have the luxury of choice. They will have to pick a NATO ally of the US to acquire air defense to help boost their defenses and secure world energy supplies.”
This comes at a time where President Biden has directed the Pentagon to begin removing some military capabilities from Saudi Arabia, including Patriot missiles, and when Houthis attacks on Saudi oil facilities and military sites are becoming more frequent.
Yemen’s Houthis recently claimed to have launched drone attacks against Saudi Arabian energy giant Aramco’s facilities. According to Reuters, the Houthi military spokesman said on Twitter the group had targeted the King Khalid air base with two drones and had struck a facility of Saudi Arabia’s oil company Aramco with a drone in the southwestern Saudi city of Jizan. He later said the Houthis had launched a third strike on the air base.
Still, no realistic prospects for arms deals of any real significance looks imminent.
“Greece offers very little of any military value to the Saudis because its armed forces suffer from ageing equipment and their defense industry is not advanced,” Sayegh told me. “Nor are they free to transfer anything they want to Saudi Arabia if it contains any US components.”
But it does add however to the wider political divergence between Turkey and other countries over the eastern Mediterranean, “in which France plays the lead role,” he continued.
The proper use of air defense assets remains however a main challenge.
“First, they already have US-supplied missile defense and would normally get it from the US if they needed more. Also, what the Abkaik attack showed was that they used their air defense assets poorly and were very slow to respond at all,” Sayegh said. In other words, “their problem and needs relate not to equipment but to the human system that operates it.”
(Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
04 May 21. Washington shies away from open declaration to defend Taiwan. White House official says shift to ‘strategic clarity’ would carry ‘downsides’ in face of China’s belligerence Taipei has had to scramble jets repeatedly over the past year after China flew warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. The top White House Asia official has warned that any declaration that the US would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack would carry “significant downsides”. Washington has for decades maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan, designed to discourage Taipei from declaring independence and China from taking military action to seize the country. Beijing claims democratic Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory. Some experts have called for a shift to “strategic clarity” to make clear to Beijing that the US would defend Taiwan. But Kurt Campbell, the White House Asia tsar, said such a shift entailed risk. “There are some significant downsides to . . . strategic clarity,” he told the Financial Times Global Boardroom conference on Tuesday. “The best way to maintain peace and stability is to send a really consolidated message that involves diplomacy, defence innovation and our own capabilities to the Chinese leadership, so they don’t contemplate some sort of ambitious, dangerous provocative set of steps in the future.” China’s aggressive military activity and growing defence capabilities warrant a stronger message from Washington, some analysts have argued. But others have contended that the response could trigger an undesired outcome. China has warned the US about crossing a “red line” over Taiwan. Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, recently said China would view a policy shift as “deeply” destabilising. “It would solidify Chinese perceptions that the US is bent on constraining China’s rise, including through military force, and would probably cause Beijing to aggressively undermine US interests worldwide,” she said. But David Sacks, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supports a change, said there was “significant downside to strategic ambiguity”, which was created at a time when China did not have the military capability to assault Taiwan. “US policy must recognise that deterrence is eroding and it must adapt to China’s growing capabilities,” he said. “China’s actions in Hong Kong show that western criticism and sanctions are not enough to shape its behaviour. Strategic clarity would convey to China the seriousness with which we take the question of Taiwan’s future.” Concerns have mounted as China has flown more warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone over the past year, in what has become almost routine activity. Last month, the People’s Liberation Army sent a record 25 military aircraft into the south-western corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ. Analysts said the flights were aimed at intimidating Taipei and exhausting its air force, which is forced to scramble jets in response. In his final congressional appearance in March before retiring as head of US forces in the Indo-Pacific, Philip Davidson said he was worried that China could attack Taiwan within six years. He also said that while strategic ambiguity had helped preserve the status quo for decades, “these things should be reconsidered routinely”. Recommended Taiwan Taiwan looks for signs of US watering down bilateral relations Days later, a senior US official told the FT that the administration thought China was flirting with the idea of taking military action. Asked whether the world should be preparing for possible conflict over Taiwan, Campbell played down the risk, saying the Chinese military activity was an effort to “turn the screws” on Taiwan. But Elizabeth Economy from the Hoover Institution think-tank, who spoke on the panel alongside Campbell, said she was increasingly concerned. “One thing that you can learn about Xi Jinping from reading all of his speeches and tracking his actions is that there’s a pretty strong correlation between what he says and what he does,” Economy said. “He’s talked about the need to reunify with Taiwan sooner rather than later. He hasn’t renounced the use of force . . . We need to take very seriously the threat that he may become overconfident, that his military may become overconfident.” Ryan Hass, a China expert at the Brookings Institution think-tank, said Campbell’s statement was important because there were “few issues . . . upon which precision of language carries greater consequence than Taiwan”. “Campbell’s reiteration of longstanding policy signals that steadiness and firmness will remain the order of the day for dealing with Taiwan issues,” Hass said. “His comments should limit future freelancing on Taiwan policy by US officials.” (Source: FT.com)
04 May 21. UK and India Prime Ministers announce Enhanced Defence Cooperation. Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson have today set out a shared vision for the UK-India defence partnership and agreed to advance the relationship to a new level. In a virtual summit, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson have today (4 May) set out a shared vision for the UK-India defence partnership and agreed to advance the relationship to a new level, with a particular focus on maritime and industrial collaboration.
The leaders reaffirmed the benefits of closer co-operation in a free and open Indo-Pacific, recognising their shared interest in regional prosperity and stability. They agreed to significant new cooperation on Maritime Domain Awareness, which includes new agreements on maritime information sharing, an invitation to the UK to join India’s Information Fusion Centre in Gurgaon and an ambitious exercise programme which includes joint tri-lateral exercises.
The two countries are also working to conclude a Logistics Memorandum of Understanding that will enhance our joint ability to tackle shared challenges.
In addition to commitments on the Indo-Pacific, the two countries agreed to build on existing government-to-government collaboration on India’s future combat air engine requirement. As part of a ‘2030 Roadmap’, they agreed to work closely together in support of India’s indigenous development of the Light Combat Aircraft Mark 2. They also spoke of the potential for further industrial collaboration in areas like maritime propulsion, space and cyber, marking the start of a promising new era of UK-India research, capability and industrial collaboration on Indian combat air and beyond.
This agreement builds upon that signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Rolls Royce to move aspects of the manufacture of the MT30 Gas Turbine engine to India, supporting PM Modi’s Make in India initiative. The MT30 is an engine employed widely in navies around the world and is the basis of the UK’s Integrated Electric Propulsion system that powers the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers.
UK Minister for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin MP, said, “The UK and India enjoy a strong defence and security relationship.
We remain committed to close collaboration with India as we both adapt to meet future threats and look to innovate our defence equipment programmes and systems.”
British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, said, “The UK and India are natural partners in defence and security. Today’s announcements underline our shared ambition for that partnership, enhancing cooperation, building joint expertise and accelerating industrial cooperation, building up to the arrival of our new aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships to India this autumn.
Today’s announcements follow the news that the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 2021, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, will sail to India in the autumn on its maiden operational deployment.”
The UK Integrated Review – a landmark review of foreign, defence, development and security policy, published last month – committed the UK to becoming the European country with the broadest, most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific in support of trade, shared security and values. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
30 Apr 21. MINDEF demands ‘greater performance’ from Naval Group. The Defence Minister has refused to rule out changes to the SEA 1000 program amid ongoing scrutiny over the cost and timing of the Attack Class delivery.
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has called for greater clarity from Naval Group regarding its capacity to meet contractual obligations under its SEA 1000 contract.
The minister said “many questions” have arisen from his discussions with the prime and his “extensive briefings” with Defence.
“I have got more detail to go through. I want to see the subs delivered on time and on budget,” he said.
“I have been very clear. I met with the primes and with the heads of those that have very significant contracts with our government.”
Minister Dutton said the government would honour the contract unless Naval Group fails to meet its obligations, adding that the Defence would continue to carefully monitor the prime’s progress.
“[Like] with any contract that the Commonwealth enters into, those people that have contracted with us know that we are going to hold them to the conditions of the contract and if there are penalties to pay or there’s other action that we can take, that will happen,” he said.
“I want greater performance than what we’ve seen previously.”
The ongoing debate over Australia’s Future Submarines program comes amid growing fears of a regional conflict off the back of escalating tensions between China and Taiwan.
Minister Dutton said conflict should not be discounted, given China’s ongoing commitment to its One China policy.
“I think China has been very clear about the reunification and that’s been a long-held objective of theirs and if you look at any of the rhetoric that is coming out of China, from spokesmen particularly in recent weeks and months in response to different suggestions that have been made, they have been very clear about that goal,” he said.
However, Minister Dutton said Australia and its international partners would continue to engage in dialogue with the communist regime to maintain stability in the region.
“[For] us we want to make sure that we continue to be a good neighbour in the region, that we work with our partners and with our allies and nobody wants to see conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else,” he said. (Source: Defence Connect)
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