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23 Jan 22. Ukraine receives second batch of U.S. weapons in Russian stand-off. Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Sunday the country had received a second consignment of weapons from the United States as part of defensive aid totalling $200 million.
Washington has said it would continue to support Ukraine amid concerns in Kyiv and among its Western allies over tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed on its border. Russia denies planning a military offensive.
“The second bird in Kyiv! More than 80 tons of weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities from our friends in the USA! And this is not the end,” Reznikov wrote on Twitter. About 90 tonnes of “lethal security assistance”, including ammunition, from the package approved by the U.S. in December arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday. (Source: Google/Reuters)
23 Jan 22. U.S. tells diplomats’ families to leave Ukraine, weighs troop options. The U.S. State Department announced Sunday it was ordering diplomats’ family members to leave Ukraine, as U.S. President Joe Biden weighed options for boosting America’s military assets in Eastern Europe to counter a buildup of Russian troops. The order, which also allowed U.S. diplomats stationed at the embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to leave voluntarily, was one of the clearest signs yet that American officials are bracing for an aggressive Russian move in the region.
“Military action by Russia could come at any time,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. Officials “will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency, so U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,” it added.
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Tensions in Ukraine have been increasing for months after the Kremlin massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, a dramatic buildup the West says is preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from ever joining the NATO Western security alliance.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning to invade, but the Russian military already tore off a chunk of Ukrainian territory when it seized Crimea and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine eight years ago.
The State Department’s announcement comes a day after British authorities said they had information the Russian government was considering a former Ukrainian lawmaker as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian leadership in Kyiv.
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The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the British allegation as “disinformation,” accusing NATO of “escalating tensions” over Ukraine.
TROOPS AND SANCTIONS
Biden has begun considering options for boosting America’s military assets in the region, senior administration officials said, after meeting with top national security aides at his Camp David retreat on Saturday.
The New York Times said Biden was mulling plans to send 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries, with the possibility of increasing the number should tensions flare further.
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A senior administration official declined to confirm the numbers on Sunday but said “we are developing plans and we are consulting with allies to determine options moving forward.”
The United States has sent military assistance to Ukraine but has so far held back from sending American personnel.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has rebuffed calls to immediately impose economic sanctions on Russia, saying on Sunday that doing so would undercut the West’s ability to deter potential Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Blinken was due to meet virtually with members of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday.
As U.S. troop deployments were discussed, a separate senior administration official said U.S. economic penalties on Russia would have far-reaching consequences should it drive any further into Ukraine.
The United States would use the Foreign Direct Product Rule to restrict the export to Russia of products incorporating microelectronics based on U.S. equipment, software or technology.
Britain has also promised stiff sanctions, with British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab telling the UK’s Sky News there would be “very serious consequences if Russia takes this move to try and invade.”
British officials say they have information the Russian government was considering former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian government in Kyiv.
Murayev poured cold water on the notion.
“This morning I already read in all the news publications this conspiracy theory: absolutely unproven, absolutely unfounded,” Murayev told Reuters in a video call, adding he was considering legal action.
He denied having any contact with Russian intelligence officers and dismissed the idea that he could be in league with the Kremlin as “stupid,” given he was placed under Russian sanctions in 2018.
Although he says he wants Ukraine to be independent from Russia as well as the West, Murayev, 45, has promoted some views that align with the Kremlin’s narratives on Ukraine.
The British foreign ministry declined to provide evidence to back its accusations.
In a message to Reuters, Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian adviser to the presidential office, said there was doubt among Ukrainians as to whether Murayev was “too ridiculous a figure” to be the Kremlin’s pick to lead Ukraine.
But Russia had propped up previously minor figures in leadership positions in annexed Crimea and separatist-held eastern Ukraine, he added. Therefore “one should take this information as seriously as possible,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
23 Jan 22. Kremlin plan to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine exposed. Foreign Secretary statement on Kremlin plan to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine exposed.
We have information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine. The former Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate.
We have information that the Russian intelligence services maintain links with numerous former Ukrainian politicians including:
- Serhiy Arbuzov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2012-2014, and acting Prime Minister in 2014
- Andriy Kluyev, First Deputy Prime Minister from 2010-2012 and Chief of Staff to former Ukrainian President Yanukovich
- Vladimir Sivkovich, former Deputy Head of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (RNBO)
- Mykola Azarov, Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2010-2014
Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking. Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy. As the UK and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs. The UK’s position on Ukraine is also clear. We unequivocally support its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, including Crimea. Ukraine is an independent, sovereign country. ” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
23 Jan 22. Taiwan reports new large-scale Chinese air force incursion. Taiwan on Sunday reported the largest incursion since October by China’s air force in its air defence zone, with the island’s defence ministry saying Taiwanese fighters scrambled to warn away 39 aircraft in the latest uptick in tensions. Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained for more than a year of repeated missions by China’s air force near the democratically governed island, often in the southwestern part of its air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “grey zone” warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwan’s forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwan’s responses.
The latest Chinese mission included 34 fighters plus four electronic warfare aircraft and a single bomber, the Taiwan ministry said.
The aircraft flew in an area to the northeast of the Pratas, according to a map the ministry provided.
Taiwan sent combat aircraft to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them, the ministry said.
There was no immediate comment from China, which has in the past said such moves were drills aimed at protecting the country’s sovereignty.
While it was not clear what might have prompted China to carry out such a large-scale mission, U.S. and Japanese naval forces have been carrying out exercises in the Philippine Sea, a vast area that includes waters to the east of Taiwan.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet said on Sunday those exercises included two carrier strike groups who were “conducting training to preserve and protect a free and open Indo Pacific”.
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims. Taiwan’s government says it wants peace but will defend itself if attacked.
Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern part of its air defence zone over a four-day period beginning on Oct. 1, the same day China marked a key patriotic holiday, National Day.
Taiwan has reported almost daily Chinese air force forays into the same air space since then, but the number of planes on Sunday was the largest on a single day since the October incursions.
No shots have been fired and the Chinese aircraft have not been flying in Taiwan’s air space, but in its ADIZ, a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols that acts to give it more time to respond to any threats. (Source: Reuters)
24 Jan 22. UAE intercepts Houthi attack, Saudi Arabia reports two injured by fallen missile. The United Arab Emirates intercepted and destroyed two Houthi ballistic missiles targeting the Gulf country on Monday with no casualties, its defence ministry said, following a deadly attack a week earlier. For more than six years, the Houthis have been battling a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE, repeatedly carrying out cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and launching an unprecedented assault on the UAE on Jan. 17.
“The remnants of the intercepted ballistic missiles fell in separate areas around Abu Dhabi,” the ministry said, adding it was taking necessary protective measures against all attacks.
UAE newspaper The National cited residents reporting flashes in the sky over the capital around 4:30 a.m.
Monday’s attack was the second on UAE soil since last week’s strike that hit a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi, killing three people, and causing a fire near its international airport.S8N2QO04R
Houthi-run Al Masirah television said the group would announce within hours the details of a “wide military operation” against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Saudi state media early on Monday said the coalition intercepted a ballistic missile, with remnants damaging workshops and vehicles in the south of the kingdom. It said late on Sunday that a ballistic missile fell in the south, injuring two foreigners and causing damage in an industrial area.
The Yemen conflict is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The United Nations, which along with the United States has struggled to engineer a ceasefire for Yemen, has voiced concern over escalations and called for maximum restraint by both sides.
The Saudi-led coalition has ramped up air strikes on what it describes as Houthi targets in Yemen.
At least 60 people were killed in a strike on a temporary detention centre in northern Saada province on Friday, and about 20 were killed in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa in an operation on Tuesday.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 months after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa. The group says it is fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
The UAE had largely reduced its presence in Yemen in 2019 amid a military stalemate, but Emirati-backed Yemeni forces had recently joined battles against the Houthis in key energy producing provinces in Yemen. (Source: Reuters)
21 Jan 22. UK and Australia conclude first AUKMIN since pandemic. UK and Australian minsters concluded vital defence and security talks following the first AUKMIN meetings since the COVID-19 pandemic began. UK and Australian minsters concluded vital defence and security talks today (Friday 21 Jan) following the first Australia UK Foreign and Defence Ministerial meetings (AUKMIN) since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Discussions focussed on key geopolitical challenges, including concerns around the situation in Ukraine. Ministers agreed on the vital need to defend freedom in the face of Russia’s growing aggression and underpinned their steadfast solidarity with Ukraine. The ministers agreed to step up collaboration to deter malign threats, promote positive critical technology standards and to support the development of quality infrastructure and standards.
They reiterated their commitment to supporting countries in the Indo-Pacific to strengthen their resilience, security and sovereignty.
Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss said: “With the world facing increasing aggression from malign actors, it is vital that the UK strengthens and deepens our partnerships with our closest allies. Today (Friday 21 January, 2021) we have committed to new and enhanced opportunities to collaborate with Australia in areas including maritime security, counterterrorism, misinformation, cyber and technology. Alliances between freedom loving democracies like the UK and Australia are essential if we are to win the battle of ideas. Discussions also reflected on the progress that has been made to date on AUKUS – our landmark partnership to strengthen our security and defence interests alongside our US allies.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Britain and Australia share one of the oldest and strongest defence and security alliances. Operating and exercising side by side, we continue to work together to promote stability, and tackle our shared threats with our like-minded ally, head on. This week, I have met with my friend and close Defence counterpart Peter Dutton to discuss our cooperation across the Indo-Pacific through AUKUS – the trilateral UK, Australia and US security partnership which will see us collaborating on world leading technologies including nuclear powered submarines.”
The AUKUS partnership seeks to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine capability to the Royal Australian Navy. The UK has built and operated world-class nuclear-powered submarine capability for more than 60 years and we bring deep expertise and experience to this partnership. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
20 Jan 22. Joe Biden hardens warning to Russia after Kyiv says no attack is ‘minor.’ Ukraine has hit back at Joe Biden’s suggestion that a “minor incursion” by Russian forces into the country might not prompt a severe allied response, forcing the US president to publicly reassure Kyiv that any attack by the Kremlin would trigger strong sanctions. “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Volodymyr Zelensky, the pro-western Ukrainian president, wrote on Twitter on Thursday. The White House sought to clarify Biden’s remarks almost immediately after he made them at a Wednesday evening news conference. The president suggested allies may end up “having a fight” over sanctions if the Kremlin stopped short of a full-scale invasion. But after Zelensky’s rebuke and alarm in other allied capitals, Biden sought to go back on the comments himself, saying at the White House that any Russian incursion would spark sweeping sanctions. “If any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border that is an invasion,” Biden said on Thursday. “Let there be no doubt at all, if [Russian president Vladimir] Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.” Biden’s effort to reassure allies came after a day of unusually public splits among Nato members over how to handle Putin’s troop build-up on the Ukrainian border. Recommended Ivo Daalder Vladimir Putin’s deepest fear is the freedom of Russia’s neighbours Emmanuel Macron, French president, on Wednesday urged EU states to conduct their own dialogue with Russia, a stance that appeared to challenge the US and Nato-led diplomacy currently under way. French officials later insisted that the proposal was not in opposition to the continuing US negotiations with Russia.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, said: “It’s normal that Europeans consult together and that there continues to be close co-operation with our allies and partners, because nothing that concerns European security can be discussed and decided without the full involvement of Europeans.” Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, also sought to reassert allied unity, stressing after talks in Berlin with European counterparts that the west would respond whatever the scale of Russia’s military action against Ukraine. “We’ve been very clear throughout that, if any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression, that would be met by a swift, severe, united response from the US and its allies and partners,” he said. Blinken was in Berlin for talks with German, French and UK foreign ministers ahead of a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. The talks come with tensions still high on the Russia-Ukraine border, where Moscow has massed more than 100,000 troops. International officials have warned of the risks of a new armed conflict in Europe. Russia denies that it is planning an invasion but says it could take military action if security demands it has put to the west and Nato are not fulfilled. Moscow has called on the transatlantic military alliance to pledge never to accept Ukraine as a member.
Despite US efforts to reassert allied unity, Biden’s comments focused attention on disagreements over the scale of the response that would be triggered if Russia invades Ukraine. EU member states are debating whether cyber attacks or a “false-flag” operation on Ukraine should meet the threshold for massive sanctions against Moscow, or whether these should be triggered in the event of a full invasion. Blinken acknowledged the problem, saying that Russia had many “tools in its playbook” and had a number of alternatives to a full-scale incursion such as paramilitary strikes and acts of hybrid warfare. “In each of those scenarios we’re working very closely together to make sure that we effectively define our co-ordinated response,” he said. Blinken denied that the west was split over how to deal with the Russian threat. He said consultations that the US had held with allies in recent weeks were designed “to ensure that we are speaking and acting together with one voice [when it comes to Russia]”. He also suggested that Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline Russia built under the Baltic Sea, could be used by Germany to deter Moscow from an invasion of Ukraine. “Gas is not flowing through Nord Stream 2 yet,” Blinken said. “It means the pipeline is leverage for Germany, the US and our allies, not Russia.” France also said it stood ready to continue its support for Nato’s reinforced presence in the Baltic states and was prepared to carry out new missions in Romania in accordance with Nato decisions. US officials confirmed they had authorised allies, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to provide US-manufactured weapons to Ukraine. Officials said deliveries of $260m worth of US defence equipment pledged to Ukraine since August were continuing. A state department official added that the US had committed $650m in defence equipment to Ukraine last year. “As President Biden told President Putin, should Russia further invade Ukraine, we will provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already in the process of providing,” a state department official said. “We are committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will continue to provide Ukraine the support it needs.” (Source: FT.com)
20 Jan 22. U.S. seeks way to speed delivery of new fighter jets to Taiwan. The United States is looking for ways to potentially accelerate delivery of Taiwan’s next generation of new-build F-16 fighter jets, U.S. officials said, bolstering the Taiwanese air force’s ability to respond to what Washington and Taipei see as increasing intimidation by China’s military. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have not yet come up with a solution on how to speed delivery of Block 70 F-16s, manufactured by Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and equipped with new capabilities. The aircraft are currently slated to be delivered by the end of 2026. Taiwan’s government has privately expressed its wish for a faster delivery to U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, a senior Taiwanese official said, as the self-ruled island’s air force scrambles jets to intercept increasingly aggressive Chinese military flights.
More missions mean more wear-and-tear on Taiwan’s aircraft.
“It’s all about risk assessment … and it’s clear where the risks are,” the Taiwanese official said, referring to tensions across the sensitive Taiwan Strait separating the island from mainland China. The F-16 is considered a highly maneuverable aircraft proven in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack.
Taiwan is on track to field one of the largest F-16 fleets in Asia once it takes delivery of 66 new-build F-16 C/D Block 70 aircraft under an $8 bn deal approved in 2019. It would bring the island’s total number of F-16s, including older versions, to more than 200 by 2026.
Any move to accelerate deliveries of new aircraft could ultimately come down to a determination by Biden’s administration that Taiwan’s defense needs are more urgent than those of other U.S. allies and partners, according to experts.
“That’s a Biden administration decision,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, an organization that encourages trade and business ties between the two. “They would have to decide that the threat from China was more important than the threat from Iran or the threat from the Russians.”
The Block 70 aircraft are the newest F-16 configuration, with new avionics, a modernized cockpit and an improved engine, according to Lockheed Martin.
A move to accelerate the aircraft delivery would be seen in Beijing in part through a political lens, according to Abraham Denmark, a former senior Pentagon official.
“It is yet another clear signal of U.S. determination to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself,” added Denmark, now an analyst at the Washington-based Wilson Center think tank.
DWARFED BY CHINA
Despite lacking formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the United States is the island’s main international backer and arms supplier. That defense relationship angers China, which has ramped up military and diplomatic pressure against the island that it claims as “sacred” Chinese territory.
In the face of Chinese pressure, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has prioritized modernizing the armed forces, which are well-armed but dwarfed by China’s military.
Lockheed Martin declined to comment on any potential future requests to change the production schedule, referring queries to the U.S. government and Taiwan’s defense ministry.
The U.S. State Department, which oversees foreign military sales, declined to comment on any internal discussions about potential changes to the delivery timeline.
Lockheed Martin’s new F-16 production line in Greenville, South Carolina has several customers in the production queue ahead of Taiwan, including Bahrain, Slovakia and Bulgaria.
The U.S. government has not asked Lockheed Martin for delivery timeline changes for the Taiwanese F-16 jets, a person familiar with the situation said.
The source declined to speculate about how much sooner Taiwan could get new-build F-16s even if a decision were made to accelerate deliveries. Any such effort would be complicated by production constraints, which include long lead times to source materials for Taiwan’s specific configuration of fighter aircraft.
Taiwan’s Air Force did not respond to questions on potential accelerated deliveries but told Reuters in a statement that the Taiwanese military’s major weapon purchases are “rigorously planned in accordance with actual combat needs and planning schedules.”
The U.S. sale of F-16s to Taiwan was guided by U.S. law and “based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs and the threat posed by (China), as has been the case for more than 40 years,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.
‘WEARING OUT THEIR OPPONENT’
The missions to intercept Chinese aircraft are putting stress on Taiwan’s air force, which last year had several mishaps, including three fatal crashes. Over time, fuel costs, pilot fatigue and wear and tear on Taiwanese aircraft will threaten the readiness of the island’s air force if this pressure continues, Taiwanese and U.S. military analysts said.
Last March, a senior Taiwanese official said Taiwan’s military had stopped intercepting every Chinese aircraft.
Taiwan’s air force last week suspended combat training for its entire F-16 fleet after a recently upgraded model of the fighter jet crashed into the sea in the latest of a series of accidents.
“They (the Chinese) are wearing out their opponent without firing a shot,” said Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation.
Taiwan’s air force in 2020 scrambled 2,972 times against Chinese aircraft at a cost of T$25.5bn ($905m). (Source: Reuters)
20 Jan 22. Japan, French ministers to discuss deeper Indo-Pacific cooperation Thursday. Foreign and defence ministers from Japan and France will discuss further security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific on Thursday, Japanese officials said, as the region faces China’s growing military might and North Korea’s missile development.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi are set to hold a virtual meeting with their French counterparts Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly via video conferencing.
France has overseas territories in the Indo-Pacific and stations armed forces in the region, where tension over Taiwan has been rising as China seeks to assert its sovereignty claims over the island, and North Korea has launched missiles in an unusually fast sequence of weapons tests.
“Both countries are maritime nations and Indo-Pacific nations … It is very important to promote cooperation between France and Japan to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a foreign ministry official said at a media briefing.
Joint military drills between the two countries have increased in frequency in recent years.
“We would like to reach an agreement on deeper defence cooperation. We also hope an agreement will be reached among the ministers to deepen cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber,” a defence ministry official said at the same briefing.
Japan and France have already concluded several key security deals including an agreement on the transfer of defence equipment and technology.
The bilateral talks come ahead of some security-related meetings involving leaders in the region, including a virtual summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and consultations between Australian and British foreign and defence ministers, both on Friday. (Source: Google/Reuters)
18 Jan 22. UK goes into ‘crisis mode’, as weapons flown to Ukraine to defend against Russian invasion. Evidence from US intelligence suggests Moscow is planning an attempt to take over Kyiv and overthrow the government. The Foreign Office has been told to prepare for “crisis mode” as weapons were flown from Britain to Ukraine to defend it from a Russian invasion. It comes as the White House reviews evidence from US intelligence suggesting Russia is planning to attempt to take Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and overthrow the government.
Joe Biden is now thought to be weighing up new options for dealing with the crisis, including providing more arms to Ukraine.
Jen Psaki, White House spokesman, said: “We believe we’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine.”
A White House official warned that Russian troops being sent for exercises in Belarus could be used to attack Ukraine.
Additional arms would include more ammunition, mortars, Javelin anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft missile systems, which would likely come from Nato allies, sources told US media.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, announced on Monday that the UK had started supplying Ukraine with Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAW) to help it defend itself from a potential invasion.
Officials at the Foreign Office have been told to be ready to move into “crisis mode” at very short notice, highlighting the increased concern that Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine could lead to an invasion.
Staff at the department were said to have been informed of the request this week. Triggering it would mean officials and diplomats are redeployed to work on Russia and Ukraine policy and to prioritise the UK response to any further spike in tensions, including deterrence and sanctions.
According to Bloomberg, staff in the department were told: “This is critical work in shaping and securing our European neighbourhood.” Some staff are already being shifted to work on contingency planning and strategic communications, the person said.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said: “The emerging situation in and around Ukraine is a top priority for the FCDO and, as everyone would expect, we have robust contingency plans in place to respond to any developments.”
The spokesman added: “The Foreign Secretary is clear that Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine is unacceptable and unprovoked, and that any incursion would be met with massive consequences and severe costs”.
Speculation grew on Tuesday that British C-17 aircrafts carrying weapons to Ukraine had taken detours in order to avoid flying over German airspace. The military flights to Ukraine over the weekend, tracked by commercial radar, showed the C-17s bypassing German airspace, opting instead for a longer route over Denmark and Poland.
The route, which saw the aircraft fly over Denmark and Poland rather than take a more direct path, has led to speculation that Germany may have reservations about the military support to Ukraine.
An RAF source told The Telegraph that Ben Wallace has been on a variety of visits over Scandinavia and north eastern Europe and the flight path reflects these recent visits. They said Mr Wallace has yet to meet his new counterpart in Germany and that waiting for permission to fly over Germany could have held up the flight.
They stressed that how the C-17 gets to northern Europe was “irrelevant”, adding that “the quickest way to get flight clearance was to go through the route we went”.
“We didn’t apply for flight clearance to go through Germany because it would take too long.”
An MoD spokesman said: “Germany has not denied access to its airspace as the UK did not submit a request, there has been no dispute between the UK and Germany on this issue.”
British diplomatic sources in Berlin said the route was chosen for operational reasons, including a standing policy of avoiding flying weaponry over heavily populated areas.
Germany ruled out export of weapons to Ukraine
While Germany has publicly pledged its support for Ukraine against any Russian aggression, it has ruled out allowing its own defence sector to export weapons to Kiev over fears it could “inflame” the situation.
Angela Merkel’s government twice intervened to veto the delivery of weapons Ukraine had already paid for, including a US shipment of rifles and anti-drone systems from Lithuania.
Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, insisted her country would stick to its ban on German weapons exports on a visit to Kiev this week.
“Our stance is not only well known, but historically well founded,” Ms Baerbock said.
But she has not commented on whether the new German government plans to continue Mrs Merkel’s policy of obstructing its allies from arming Ukraine.
British anti-tank firepower beefs up Ukraine’s defences
In service with the UK, Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg, the Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon (NLAW) is designed to be used by non-specialist troops after minimal training.
The missile is best used against tanks, where it detonates just above the top of the vehicle, but can be fired directly at vehicles, bunkers and buildings.
The weapon is not guided but instead tracks the speed and direction of the target for a few seconds prior to launch to predict where the tank will be.
The soldier firing the NLAW will set the distance to the tank being targeted. Magnetic and optical sensors on the missile then confirm that other vehicles such as previously destroyed tanks or civilian cars on the flight path are not the intended target, in which case the weapon will not function.
Only when the sensor data on the missile confirm it has reached the intended target will the warhead detonate, at about 1m above the target.
The warhead is angled down at 90 degrees to give it the best chance of penetrating the top of the tank – often the least protected part of the vehicle.
Recognising the potential for warfare in urban areas, the weapon was designed to be fired from within buildings.
Older anti-tank weapons produce a huge backblast on launch which can injure or even kill soldiers firing it if they are in enclosed spaces.
By contrast, the NLAW fires a rocket booster to move the missile clear of the launch tube first, before the main propellant charge ignites after a few metres of flight. The missile then races towards the target at around 450mph.
The weapon will further bolster the Ukrainian military. It is in a much better state than in 2014 when Russia annexed its Crimean peninsula without a shot being fired, but still has significant gaps in its defences.
Moscow outstrips its abilities on almost every front, particularly when it comes to the air force and navy.
Ukraine’s ground forces may as well be well-trained and equipped to fight off a limited land invasion but Russia’s capabilities at sea and in the air would pin down Ukraine’s ground troops wherever they are.
But after receiving bns of pounds of military aid from the West, the Ukrainian army is fully equipped with drones, artillery radars and other types of non-lethal weapons.
Ukraine last year bought several dozen combat drones from Turkey, and has finally received a shipment of US-made anti-tank Javelin missiles, significantly increasing the capability of ground troops that were badly needed eight years ago.
The country’s army now has 251,000 troops and 900,000 people on reserve duty, which is more than in China and the United States, and its military budget is expected to hit an all time post-Soviet high of 133 bn hryvnias (£3.7bn) this year. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
18 Jan 22. N. Korea tested tactical guided missiles in fresh sign of evolving arsenal. North Korea fired tactical guided missiles on Monday, state media KCNA said on Tuesday, the latest in a series of recent tests that highlighted its evolving missile programmes amid stalled denuclearisation talks.
The missile test was the North’s fourth in 2022, with two previous launches involving “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after lift-off, and another test on Friday using a pair of SRBMs fired from train cars.
South Korea’s military said on Monday that North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) from an airport in its capital, Pyongyang, which flew about 380km (236 miles) to a maximum altitude of 42km (26 miles).
The Academy of Defence Science conducted a test of tactical guided missiles from the country’s west, and they “precisely hit an island target” off the east coast, the official KCNA news agency said on Tuesday, without elaborating.
“The test-fire was aimed to selectively evaluate tactical guided missiles being produced and deployed and to verify the accuracy of the weapon system,” KCNA said.
It “confirmed the accuracy, security and efficiency of the operation of the weapon system under production.”
The unusually rapid sequence of launches has drawn U.S. condemnation and a push for new U.N. sanctions while Pyongyang warns of stronger actions, raising the spectre of a return to the period of “fire and fury” threats in 2017. read more
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim urged Pyongyang to “cease its unlawful and destabilising activities” and reopen dialogue, saying he was open to meeting “without preconditions,” the State Department said after a call with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts.
South Korea’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that it takes all North Korean missile launches as a “direct and serious threat,” but its military is capable of detecting and intercepting them.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric also called the North’s tests “increasingly concerning” during a briefing, calling for all parties to return to talks to defuse tension and promote a “very verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”
‘SHOW OF FORCE’
North Korea used the Sunan airport to test-fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017, with leader Kim Jong Un in attendance.
North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, as a flurry of diplomacy with Washington unfolded from 2018. But it began testing a range of new SRBM designs after denuclearisation talks stalled and slipped back into a standoff following a failed summit in 2019.
Kim did not attend the latest test.
A photo released by KCNA showed a missile rising into the sky above a cloud of dust, belching flame.
Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who teaches at Seoul’s Kyungnam University, said North Korea appears to have fired KN-24 SRBMs, which were last tested in March 2020 and flew 410 km (255 miles) to a maximum altitude of 50km (31 miles).
The KN-24 resembles the U.S. MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and is designed to evade missile defences and carry out precision strikes, he said.
“The North seems to have already deployed and begun mass production of the KN-24,” Kim said, referring to the KCNA report.
“But essentially, the test could be another show of force to underline their recent warning of action.” (Source: Reuters)
17 Jan 22. Statement by the Defence Secretary in the House of Commons, 17 January 2022. The Defence Secretary has given a statement to the House of Commons on the situation in Ukraine.
Thank you Mr Speaker, with your permission I wanted to update the House on the situation in Ukraine. As of today, tens of thousands of Russian troops are positioned close to the Ukrainian border.
Their deployment is not routine, and they are equipped with tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, rocket artillery, and short-range ballistic missiles.
We, and our Allies, have legitimate and real cause for concern that the configuration and scale of the force being assembled, supported by Russian air and maritime long-range strike capabilities stationed in the region, could be used for the purpose of conducting a multi-axis invasion of Ukraine.
But whatever final decision the Russian Government takes on the use of such forces, their presence and levels of readiness are contributing to a destabilising and coercive atmosphere that risks miscalculation at best and – at worst – conflict.
Furthermore, in recent weeks, we have observed hardening Russian rhetoric, heightened cyber activity and widespread disinformation that could serve to provide false pretext for a Russian military intervention.
False narratives are very much part of the Kremlin’s playbook. They were used in 2008, before Russia’s invasion of Georgia; and in Ukraine in 2014. False narratives are being peddled again today.
Russia has suggested that their military build-up on the border of Ukraine is in response to NATO aggression and an agenda by the West to use Ukraine to “divide and rule” the Russian nation. They have put forward this outlandish notion that NATO is attempting to encircle Russia.
Let me be clear, Mr Speaker, no one is trying to “rule” the Russian nation. Only 1/16th of Russia shares a border with a NATO Ally. And NATO is – and always has been – a defensive alliance.
NATO – at its core – holds a belief that any country in the alliance, no matter how big or how small they are, is – by right of membership – owed a pledge of mutual defence. You attack one of us, you attack us all. From 12 founding countries in 1949, the NATO Alliance has grown to a total of 30 today.
These countries have joined the Alliance not because NATO is making them do so – but because of the freely expressed will of the governments and peoples of those countries. Countries choose NATO; NATO does not choose them. If Russia has concerns about the enlargement, it should perhaps ask itself why, when people were free to choose, they chose NATO.
NATO is an Alliance of like-minded nations who, as well as sharing a commitment to mutual defence, also share a set of common values, and sovereignty of other nations is respected by all. Each nation has a sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements. This is a fundamental principle of European security, one indeed to which Russia has subscribed in the past. And yet now Russia seeks a veto over who joins NATO.
The United Kingdom will stand up for the right of countries to choose their alliances. More important than the choice they make is the right to have that choice. On my recent visit to both Sweden and Finland, two non-NATO countries, it was clear that Kremlin attempts to dictate what sovereign states can or cannot choose had been rejected across the political spectrum.
Mr Speaker, I must stress: no one wants conflict. The Ukrainians are not seeking confrontation, despite the illegal annexation of their lands in Crimea and the occupation of Donbas. I am sure ordinary Russian people who remember the first Chechnya conflict and other older conflicts don’t want yet another quagmire either.
Last week there were intensive discussions on the international front to achieve a diplomatic solution to the current situation, including at NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Engagement at the NATO-Russia Council made it clear that NATO is open to dialogue with Russia on a range of issues to protect Euro-Atlantic security, including risk reduction, transparency, arms control, and lines of communication. But we will not reward aggression.
And we are open to dialogue on a bilateral basis.
On 23 December, the Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Tony Radakin spoke with his Russian counterpart, General Gerasimov. In their call, they agreed the vital importance of maintaining communications to understand each other’s intentions and to avoid miscalculation.
When the Prime Minister spoke to President Putin on 13 December, he expressed the United Kingdom’s deep concern over the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border, and also reiterated the importance of working through diplomatic channels to de-escalate tensions and identify durable solutions.
The Foreign Secretary continues to engage with her Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, including recently in person at the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm on 2 December.
Russia has the largest conventional forces of any single nation in Europe. It has a proud history. We have fought together. We celebrated the courage of the Arctic Convoys and their 80th anniversary last year. And Russia is a nuclear power. It does not have anything to fear from NATO or Ukraine or the other countries that strive peacefully on the continent of Europe.
So, today, I am extending an invitation to my Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, to visit London in the next few weeks. We are ready to discuss issues related to mutual security concerns and engage constructively, in good faith.
The UK’s position on Ukraine is also clear. We unequivocally support its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, including Crimea. Ukraine is an independent, sovereign country of proud, independent Ukrainian people.
The UK Ministry of Defence already has a longstanding relationship with our Ukrainian counterparts, and we continue to provide support in many areas including security assistance and defence reform.
Since 2015, the UK has helped to build the resilience and capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces through Operation ORBITAL, which has trained over 22,000 Ukrainian troops. And we maintain the right to deliver bilateral support to a sovereign nation when requested, in areas that will better help them defend themselves.
It is important that Ukraine has the capability to defend itself. After Ukraine lost large parts of its navy to Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, it became important to help Ukraine build up and sustain a naval capability.
We should not forget, Mr Speaker, the thousands of Ukrainians who have lost their lives defending their country, and who every day are murdered by snipers from across the divide.
That is why in 2019 I expanded Operation ORBITAL to include naval cooperation. And that is why last year we agreed a range of measures including supplying Ukraine with two mine counter-measure vessels as well as agreeing the joint production of eight new ships – equipped with modern weapons systems. Defensive weapon systems.
As I said in this House last week, the Framework Agreement presented to Parliament in November 2021 affirmed the principle that the UK will provide both training and defensive capabilities to Ukraine – to help them better defend themselves.
Within that same principle, I can today confirm to the House that, in light of the increasingly threatening behaviour from Russia, and in addition to our current support, the UK is providing a new security assistance package to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light, anti-armour, defensive weapon systems. A small number of UK personnel will also provide early-stage training for a short period of time, within the framework of Operation ORBITAL, before then returning to the United Kingdom.
This security assistance package complements the training and capabilities that Ukraine already has, and those that are also being provided by the UK and other Allies in Europe and the United States. Ukraine has every right to defend its borders, and this new package of aid further enhances its ability to do so.
Let me be clear: this support is for short-range, and clearly defensive weapons capabilities; they are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defence and the UK personnel providing the early-stage training will return to the United Kingdom after completing it.
The Prime Minister has been clear that any destabilising action by Russia in Ukraine would be a strategic mistake that would have significant consequences. That is why there is a package of international sanctions ready to go that will make sure that the Russian government is punished if it crosses the line. But the costs of an invasion will not just be felt by the West.
I have visited Ukraine five times since 2016, and I know that the Ukrainians are a proud people who will stand and fight – for their country, for democracy and for freedom.
Any invasion will not be viewed as a “liberation” but as occupation, and I fear that it could lead to huge loss of life on all sides.
The current difficult relationship with the Kremlin is not the one we wish to have in the United Kingdom. It does not have to be this way. The United Kingdom respects the people, culture and history of Russia.
We have more in common than we may think – culturally, historically and technologically. We wish to be friends with the Russian people as we have been for hundreds of years.
And there is a world in which we can establish a mutually beneficial relationship with Russia, working together on shared areas of interest and addressing mutual security concerns. This current gap is wide but not unbridgeable.
I still remain hopeful that diplomacy will prevail. It is President Putin’s choice; whether to choose diplomacy and dialogue or conflict and the consequences.
But Russia’s current behaviour is not only threatening the sovereignty of a proud nation state; it is also destabilising the rules-based international order and challenging the values that underpin it.
That is why it is all the more important that we stand in solidarity with those who share our values: including our NATO Allies and partners like Sweden, Finland, and Ukraine. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Jan 22. US senators promise solidarity and weapons for Ukraine in warning to Putin. A bipartisan group of United States senators promised solidarity and weapons on a visit to Kyiv on Monday while warning Russian President Vladimir Putin against launching a new military offensive against Ukraine.
Kyiv and its Western allies have sounded the alarm after Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders and pressed the United States for security guarantees, including a block on Ukraine joining the NATO alliance.
Russia denies planning a new military offensive.
The United States has been Ukraine’s most powerful backer in its standoff with Moscow after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of the war in eastern Ukraine.
“I think Vladimir Putin has made the biggest mistake of his career in underestimating how courageously the people of Ukraine will fight him if he invades,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters.
“And we will impose crippling economic sanctions, but more important we will give the people of Ukraine the arms, lethal arms they need to defend their lives and livelihoods,” he said after the delegation met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
These weapons could include Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger missiles, small arms and boats, he said.
“And so our message is: there will be consequences if he chooses to violate the sanctity of this democracy,” Senator Amy Klobuchar added.
17 Jan 22. UK is supplying anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. Britain said on Monday it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons to help it defend itself from a potential invasion, during a stand-off with Russia which has massed troops near the Ukrainian border.
Western countries say they fear Russia is preparing a pretext for a new assault on Ukraine, which it invaded in 2014.
Moscow denies any plans for an attack, but has said it could take unspecified military action unless the West agrees to a list of demands, including banning Ukraine from ever joining NATO. Talks last week ended with no breakthrough. Kyiv has asked Western countries for arms to help it protect itself.
“We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armour defensive weapon systems,” British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told parliament, saying the first systems were already delivered on Monday and a small number of British personnel would provide training for a short period of time.
He did not specify the number or type of weapons that were being sent, but said: “They are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defence.”
“These are short-range …. but nevertheless it would make people pause and think what they were doing and if tanks were to roll into Ukraine, invade it, then they would be part of the defence mechanism.”
Ukraine’s defence minister welcomed Wallace’s announcement.
“Ukraine highly appreciates Britain’s decision to provide a new security package with light, anti-armour, defensive weapon systems!” Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet.
Britain has previously warned Russia of severe consequences if it launched a new military assault on Ukraine, while offering financing to enhance Ukraine’s naval capabilities. read more
Wallace said he had invited Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to visit London in the next few weeks to discuss the crisis, though he did not know whether the Russians would accept.
“The current gap is wide but not unbridgeable,” Wallace said, voicing the hope that diplomacy would prevail and adding, “It is President (Vladimir) Putin’s choice.” (Source: Reuters)
17 Jan 22. Abu Dhabi is ‘attacked by drones’ launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels as fire breaks out at international airport and oil tankers explode at petrol storage facility.
- Police said a fire broke out an extension of Abu Dhabi’s main international airport
- Three fuel tanker trucks had exploded near storage facilities of oil company
- Police said preliminary investigations indicated the detection of small flying objects, possibly belonging to drones
Abu Dhabi has been reportedly attacked by drones that were launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels after a fire broke out at the emirate’s main airport and three oil tankers exploded at a petrol storage facility.
Police in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said a fire broke out at an extension of Abu Dhabi’s main international airport, with officials describing the blaze as ‘minor’.
Abu Dhabi police added that three fuel tanker trucks had exploded in the industrial Musaffah area near the storage facilities of ADNOC, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned oil company.
Police said preliminary investigations indicated the detection of small flying objects, possibly belonging to drones, that fell in the two areas and may have caused the explosion and fire.
There was no ‘significant damage’ from the incidents and a full investigation has been launched, the statement added.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, claimed on Monday they had launched the attack on the UAE.
Military spokesman Yahia Sarei of Yemen’s Houthi movement, which is battling a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and including the UAE, said the group launched a military operation ‘deep in the UAE’ and would announce details in coming hours.
Pro-coalition forces backed by the UAE have recently joined fighting against the Houthis in Yemen’s energy-producing regions of Shabwa and Marib.
The UAE had largely scaled down its military presence in Yemen in 2019 but continues to hold sway through Yemeni forces it armed and trained.
The Houthis have repeatedly launched cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and have in the past threatened to attack the UAE.
The UAE has been at war in Yemen since early 2015, and was a key member of the Saudi-led coalition that launched attacks against the Iranian-backed Houthis after the group overran the capital of Yemen and ousted the internationally backed government there. (Source: Daily Mail)
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