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28 Jan 22. N. Korea confirms latest weapons tests as Kim visits key munitions factory. North Korea conducted tests of an upgraded long-range cruise missile and a warhead of a tactical guided missile this week, as leader Kim Jong Un visited a munitions factory producing a “major weapon system,” state media KCNA said on Friday. Tension has been simmering over North Korea’s series of six weapons tests in 2022, among the largest number of missile launches it has made in a month. The launches have triggered international condemnation and a new sanctions push from the United States. An update to a long-range cruise missile system was tested on Tuesday, and another test was held to confirm the power of a conventional warhead for a surface-to-surface tactical guided missile on Thursday, KCNA said.
Kim did not attend the tests, but during a visit to the munitions factory, he lauded “leaping progress in producing major weapons” to implement the ruling Workers’ Party’s decisions made at a meeting last month, a separate dispatch said.
“The factory holds a very important position and duty in modernising the country’s armed forces and realising the national defence development strategy,” Kim said.
KCNA did not specify the weapons or the factory’s location. Kim called for bolstering national defences to tackle an unstable international situation at that party gathering. read more
Last week, North Korea said it would bolster its defences against the United States and consider resuming “all temporally-suspended activities”, hinting at lifting a self-declared moratorium on testing nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
At the factory, Kim called for “an all-out drive” to produce “powerful cutting-edge arms,” and its workers touted his devotion to “smashing … the challenges of the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces” seeking to violate their right to self-defence, calling it “the harshest-ever adversity.”
Pyongyang has defended missile launches as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused Washington and Seoul of double standards over weapons tests.
No ICBMs or nuclear weapons have been tested in North Korea since 2017 but a spate of short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) launches began amid stalled denuclearisation talks following a failed summit with the United States in 2019.
U.S. Department of Defence Press Secretary John Kirby condemned the latest launches as “destabilising,” and called on Pyongyang to “stop these provocations”.
The European Union also issued a statement saying the tests posed a threat to international and regional peace and security and undermine efforts to resume dialogue and help the country’s people.
Photos released by KCNA showed a thinner-looking Kim wearing a black leather coat and suit in smiles during the factory trip, with the faces of some officials blurred.
Jeffrey Lewis, a missile expert at the U.S.-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the factory appeared to be the February 11 plant at the Ryongsong Machine Complex in Hamhung, the country’s second largest city on its east coast, citing similar double column vertical lathes seen in past KCNA images, although repainted.
The facility seemed to have been remodelled, but a giant metal tube inside a flow forming machine in a new hall where Kim was seen looked like a motor casing for a KN-23 or other SRBM, Lewis said on Twitter.
In Tuesday’s test, two long-range cruise missiles flew 1,800 km (1,118 miles) for 9,137 seconds and hit a target island off the east coast, showing practical combat performance, KCNA said.
The two tactical guided missiles tested on Thursday also precisely struck the target and proved the explosive power of their warhead as designed, it said.
KCNA photos also showed a long-range missile launched from a transporter-erector-launcher, gushing flame, before sparking a fire on an island. In other images, a shorter-range missile was seen rising into the sky above a cloud of dust and then hitting an island.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected both tests, and the short-range missiles travelled for about 190 km (118 miles) to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles). read more
This month alone, North Korea has also tested tactical guided missiles, two “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after lift-off, and a railway-borne missile system.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Pyongyang is likely to ratchet up pressure and possibly fire an ICBM or other powerful weapon when it marks the 80th and 110th anniversaries of the birthdays of Kim’s late father and grandfather in February and April, both major holidays in the country.
“The ongoing string of tests should be aimed at highlighting the North’s increasingly diverse missile arsenal, and essentially staging a show of force against the United States,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
27 Jan 22. Russia, U.S. keep door open to Ukraine diplomacy, but big gaps remain. Russia said on Thursday it was clear the United States was not willing to address its main security concerns in their standoff over Ukraine, but both sides kept the door open to further dialogue.
The United States and NATO submitted written responses on Wednesday to Russia’s demands for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe since it massed troops near Ukraine, prompting Western fears of an invasion and new U.S. pledges of defense support.
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow needed time for review and would not rush to conclusions, but that U.S. and NATO statements describing Russia’s main demands as unacceptable did not leave much room for optimism.
“Based on what our (U.S. and NATO) colleagues said yesterday, it’s absolutely clear that on the main categories outlined in those draft documents … we cannot say that our thoughts have been taken into account or that a willingness has been shown to take our concerns into account,” Peskov said. “But we won’t rush with our assessments.”
The nuanced Kremlin reaction showed Russia was not rejecting the U.S. and NATO responses out of hand or closing the door to diplomacy. Washington says it and its allies hope Russia will study their responses and come back to the negotiating table.
“We are unified, unified in our preference for diplomacy. But we are also unified in our resolve that if Moscow rejects our offer of dialogue, the costs must be swift and severe,” U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the best way to reduce tensions was for NATO to remove forces from eastern Europe, but also sought to quash fears of an invasion. U.S. officials say President Vladimir Putin has not yet decided whether to invade.
“We have already repeatedly stated that our country does not intend to attack anyone,” said Alexei Zaitsev, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman. “We consider even the thought of a war between our people to be unacceptable.”
With weeks of careful dialogue yet to reach a breakthrough, U.S. President Joe Biden repeated in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Washington and its allies stand ready to respond decisively if Russia invades the former Soviet state, the White House said.
Biden said the U.S. “is exploring additional macroeconomic support to help Ukraine’s economy amidst pressure resulting from Russia’s military build-up,” the White House said in a statement. Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter that they agreed on “joint actions for the future” and discussed possibilities for financial support. A group of U.S. senators have been meeting to draft legislation that would increase defense aid to Kyiv.
Russia’s security demands, presented in December, include an end to further NATO enlargement, barring Ukraine from ever joining and pulling back the alliance’s forces and weaponry from eastern European countries that joined after the Cold War.
The U.S. and NATO responses were not made public, but both had already rejected those demands while expressing willingness to engage on issues such as arms control, confidence-building measures and limits on the size and scope of military exercises.
China told the United States it wants all parties involved in Ukraine to remain calm “and refrain from doing things that agitate tensions and hype up the crisis.”
Washington had its own message for Beijing, Nuland said.
“We are calling on Beijing to use its influence with Moscow to urge diplomacy, because if there is a conflict in the Ukraine it is not going to be good for China either,” she said.
With China-Russia relations possibly at their warmest in history, Washington cannot expect Chinese backing for its position in the standoff, policy experts said.
Western countries have warned of economic sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine, building on measures imposed since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatists began fighting the Kyiv government’s forces in eastern Ukraine.
But there are differences between the United States and its European Union allies, who rely on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies. Washington is consulting with Germany to ensure a divisive Russia-Germany pipeline project does not go ahead if Russia invades Ukraine.
“(We) continue to have very strong and clear conversations with our German allies, and I want to be clear with you today, if Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” Nuland said.
The U.S. has sought to assure the EU it will help them find alternative gas sources if Russia cuts them off, but global supplies are short.
A day after Ukrainian, Russian, German and French diplomats discussed the conflict in eastern Ukraine and agreed to more talks, Russia’s foreign minister said there was hope of starting serious dialogue with the U.S., but only on secondary issues.
The United States has requested that the United Nations Security Council meet publicly on Monday to discuss the threat posed by Russia’s build-up near Ukraine, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said.
Putin, who has not spoken publicly on the crisis for weeks, has warned of an unspecified “military-technical response” – something defence analysts say could relate to missile deployments – if Russia’s demands are ignored.
A senior Russian foreign ministry official said a nuclear missile crisis between Moscow and Washington was unavoidable without measures to ensure restraint and predictability.
Biden has said he will not send U.S. or allied troops to fight Russia in Ukraine but NATO has said it is putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets. (Source: Reuters)
27 Jan 22. F-35 fighters, 5G networks, and how the UAE is trying to balance relations between the US and China. The U.S. was dealt a fresh blow last month when the United Arab Emirates suspended talks to buy the American-made F-35, and it appears Abu Dhabi is leaning further eastward as it continues working with Chinese 5G vendor Huawei. Washington has warned allies for years that hiring Huawei to provide network services would jeopardize communications and intelligence sharing, and the Biden administration tried to levy security requirements on the F-35 deal to safeguard the high-tech aircraft from Chinese espionage. Experts say that pressure looks like it’s failing.
“F-35 is one of those things the U.S. is using as a way to exert influence over allies and partners around the world,” Emily Harding, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Defense News.
And the UAE’s embrace of Huawei for 5G should only heighten U.S. concerns about Abu Dhabi getting the F-35, said Harding, who is also deputy director at the think tank’s International Security Program.
“Even if the F-35 itself is not using this 5G network, if the UAE is embracing Huawei 5G technology and using it for ground stations, communications towers, on bases, then that is an opportunity for China to draw a lot of intelligence about the way the F-35 operates,” she said. ”This is concerning because it is giving an adversary a lot of insight into our highest-functioning airplane.”
The UAE was negotiating a deal for 50 Lockheed Martin-made F-35s to add a fifth-generation fighter jet capability to its fleet. The proposed sale came at the end of the Trump administration, rising out of a deal that saw the UAE recognize Israel. The $23 bn deal also included armed drones and other defense equipment sought by the Emirates.
After President Joe Biden came into office, his administration put the arms sale and others on hold. That in part was because of the UAE’s involvement in the years-long war in Yemen, which sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and rages on today. But Huawei’s work in the UAE is also part of the equation.
Huawei partnered with du, a UAE-based telecoms firm, to roll out 5G network services, according to an October 2019 statement by the company’s chief technology officer, Saleem Alblooshi. He assured the public that du has its own labs in the UAE, and that “we have not seen any evidence that there are security holes specifically in 5G.”
Two months later, the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority — now known as the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority — hired Huawei to open a “5G & IoT Joint OpenLab” in Dubai.
“5G is advanced because it provides very high-bandwidth connectivity at a short distance, but at long distances it has a more difficult time. The way the militaries are moving in modern warfare [brings with it a] very high data dependency,” Harding told Defense News. “Knowing the adversary’s intentions, [enabling] faster decision-making, securing people and developing more technology — and 5G is enabling that.”
However, “the UAE is saying Huawei’s 5G technology will not touch the military sector. This is an optimistic aspiration, but anybody who has worked in the defense sector for more than a minute understands the bleed-over between the commercial and military sector,” Harding added. “It is entirely possible the Huawei equipment will not end up in the UAE military systems, but it is still a concern.”
“By far it is the cheapest alternative, but when you’re buying it, you are also buying the Chinese window into your operations,” she noted, referring to the Chinese government’s investment in Huawei.
Andreas Kreig, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, said U.S. concerns go deeper than 5G technology. “It is more about how the UAE is working with Chinese companies to advance sophisticated technology — AI technology in particular — which is Chinese-based,” he told Defense News.
One joint effort on artificial intelligence is the China-Emirates Science and Technology Innovation Laboratory, which showcased drones developed by both the UAE and Chinese firm NORINCO at last year’s Dubai Air Show and IDEX defense conference. It’s unclear whether the drones are capable of using 5G telecommunications.
“Looking at the UAE intelligence services … they have solid cooperation with China, and data exploitation is used for that. It is obviously linked into infrastructure that is also relevant for the military. Dual use in that respect — including data and even data that stays in the military domain — will be used and exploited in central hubs and centers that are not necessarily for the military but are part of … national security,” Kreig said.
On the F-35 in particular, Kreig said “data won’t be shared across networks when the fighter jet is in the air. However, the entire flight can be analyzed in exercises against particularly Russian or Chinese aircraft or batteries, when the Emiratis will train to take out these hostile platforms [or] avoid them. The entire data, second by second, will be available and downloaded from the plane into servers that are operated by Chinese companies or Chinese technology, or will be stored in facilities that Chinese companies will have access to.”
Asked about the use of different frequencies to separate military and civil communications, Krieg said they’d still run through the same mast, which 5G network operators could access. One weak node in the network could make the entire setup vulnerable, he added.
“The issue [for the U.S.] was never about using 5G to communicate,” he explained, “but it is about the data exploitation, once it has been transmitted toward the ground, and what is happening to that data on the ground.”
Harding also stressed this point, noting Chinese law allows the government to “pull back anything passing through Chinese business channels.”
Josh Kirshner, a former U.S. State Department arms control official, said the Biden administration appears to want the F-35 deal to succeed, but the UAE’s threats to pull out of the deal and its recent willingness to host a Chinese military facility will create political roadblocks in Washington. In early December, a top Emirati diplomat acknowledged the UAE stopped construction on a Chinese facility at an Abu Dhabi port that America considered a military base. “We took these American concerns into consideration and we stopped the work on the facilities,” Anwar Gargash told a meeting of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. “But our position remains the same, that these facilities were not really military facilities.”
Asked whether an F-35 sale to the UAE is still possible, Harding expressed doubt, partly because the country signed a deal with France in December to buy 80 upgraded Rafale fighters.
“It depends on how much each side wants it. The UAE has advanced fighter jets now, so they may decide it’s not worth it. The U.S. wants to keep strong ties with the UAE,” she said. “The deal may be revived if the UAE decides to completely eliminate any Huawei [technology associated with] any military activity. It is expensive but doable, and it will require hypervigilance to be sure that every contractor and member of the military [is] creating that wall.”
For his part, Kreig believes the onus falls on the United States.
“Now the ball is in the U.S. court. It is more likely that the Biden administration will come out with a meaningless concession for the Emiratis to be able to publicly say why they allow the deal to go through. This may include creating the U.S.’s own little hub of data companies in the UAE to compete with Chinese companies,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
27 Jan 22. Russia has ‘little cause for optimism’ after US rejects its Nato demands. Moscow’s foreign minister says serious talks can be started only on ‘secondary issues.’ Russia said it had “little cause for optimism” on Thursday after the US rejected Moscow’s demands to roll back Nato’s expansion, but left the door open for further diplomacy as the west seeks to defuse tension over a possible invasion of Ukraine. “You can’t say that our ideas were taken on board or [that the US and Nato] showed any kind of preparedness to listen to our concerns,” Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters. Peskov said Russia would send the US a formal response to its reply after receiving written answers to two draft security proposals on Wednesday but said the Kremlin would take its time to analyse them. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said the US response “allowed us to count on the start of a serious conversation, but on secondary issues. There’s no positive reaction in the document on the main issue,” according to Interfax. The US has said it is willing to co-operate with Russia on issues such as arms control and force deployments but has said Russia’s core demands, which would essentially rewrite the post-cold war security order in Europe, are unacceptable. (Source: FT.com)
26 Jan 22. Singapore, RoK agree to boost defence cooperation. Senior defence officers of Singapore and the Republic of Korea (RoK) agreed to strengthen cooperation in cyber security, counter-terrorism and other defense-related areas during their talks in the Southeast Asian nation on January 26. Singaporean Deputy Defence Minister Teo Eng Dih and his Korean counterpart Kim Man-ki co-chaired a bilateral strategic defence dialogue in Singapore as the two countries are seeking to step up their joint efforts to strengthen defence cooperation and exchange, according to the RoK’s Ministry of National Defence. During the talks, the two sides agreed to revise a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation, which was first signed in 2009, to expand areas of collaboration, including cyber security and counter-terrorism. Kim took the occasion to spotlight Seoul’s efforts to promote lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. (Source: News Now/https://en.vietnamplus.vn/)
25 Jan 22. Pentagon reveals info on $200m military aid to Ukraine, including more Javelins. The Pentagon on Tuesday provided more details about the $200m military aid package for Ukraine approved by President Joe Biden in December.
“This package includes additional Javelin and other anti-armor systems, grenade launchers, munitions, and nonlethal equipment essential to Ukraine’s front-line defenders,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman. “Those deliveries are ongoing.”
The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on Tuesday afternoon reported that 79 tons of security assistance, including about 300 Javelins, arrived in Kyiv.
~300 Javelins. The package was not announced previously, but CNN broke news of the approval earlier this month.
“We have a $200m package that the president just approved right before Christmas that we are now fulfilling,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Fox News on Monday. “I think there’s been at least two, maybe three deliveries already just in the last few days. And they will include additional Javelin anti-tank missiles. They will include some air defense systems. They will include small arms and ammunition, certainly medical support, that kind of thing.”
On Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the latest tranche, authorized in December, arrived in Kyiv overnight Friday and into Saturday.
This week, the Pentagon put roughly 8,500 troops on a heightened alert in case of a Russian incursion into Ukraine, and Washington allowed the Baltic states to send American-made weapons to Ukraine.
Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $2.7bn in security assistance to build the capacity of Ukraine’s forces, including more than $650m in 2021 alone. (Source: Defense News)
25 Jan 22. Additional Security Assistance Headed to Ukraine. Yesterday the Pentagon announced that some 8,500 U.S.-based military personnel have been put on a high state of alert. While none of those troops has yet been asked to deploy, Pentagon spokesperson John F. Kirby told reporters the Defense Department and the U.S. government continue to be actively involved in addressing concerns of NATO allies about a possible Russian incursion into Ukraine.
During a press conference today, Kirby told reporters the U.S. continues to send security assistance to Ukraine.
“We’re shipping over additional security assistance to the Ukrainians as we speak,” he said. ” are taking off and landing in Kyiv. So, we are acting.”
President Joe Biden has also spoken twice with Russian President Vladimir Putin and explained that there will be “severe consequences,” largely economic, if there were to be a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kirby said.
The United States is also having active dialogues with allies and partners in Europe about what they think is necessary to bolster their own defensive capabilities.
“We are increasing the alert posture on quite a number of U.S. troops here, stateside, as well as taking a look at what could possibly be moved around on the European continent,” Kirby said.
Russia has amassed many troops in Russia and Belarus near the border with Ukraine. The number of troops there continues to rise.
“We have seen a consistent accumulation of combat power by the Russians in the western part of their country around the borders with Ukraine and Belarus,” Kirby said. ” continues to add to his force capability in western Russia and in Belarus. We’ve seen no signs of de-escalation … what we’re hoping for is a de-escalation. And one of the best ways they could de-escalate the tension would be to remove some of those forces away from Ukraine.”
That de-escalation hasn’t happened, yet, Kirby said.
The 8,500 troops alerted to ready themselves for a rapid deployment if called upon are still inside the U.S., Kirby said. They will mostly be assigned to the NATO Response Force. So if and when they deploy, it will only be after being requested by NATO.
“That would be a NATO decision,” Kirby said.
If any additional U.S. troops would deploy or would be readied to deploy to support individual NATO allies, Kirby said. Such a decision would come as a result of conversations with that ally directly. Right now, he said, there’s no official word that such conversations have happened.
Right now, Kirby said, the United States still believes there is time for diplomacy.
“We still don’t believe Mr. Putin has made a final decision whether to conduct another incursion/invasion into Ukraine,” Kirby said. “We still think there’s time and space here for diplomacy and dialogue to work. … We still think there’s room and time for diplomacy, and the department wants to make sure that we help provide that … time and space for the diplomats.” (Source: US DoD)
24 Jan 22. Austin Places 8,500 Troops on Heightened Readiness to Deploy to Europe. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has placed 8,500 U.S. service members to heightened preparedness to deploy given Russia’s continuing provocations along its border with Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.
Kirby said the order highlights America’s commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its commitment to the common defense. “As has made clear, the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us, our allies or partners,” Kirby said during a news conference.
The 8,500 troops are based in the United States and would be part of the NATO Response Force, if that group is activated. The American forces would be in addition to the significant combat-capable U.S. forces already based in Europe “to deter aggression and enhance the alliance’s ability to defend allies and defeat aggression if necessary,” Kirby said.
The NATO Response Force is a 40,000 multinational, multidomain construct. NATO has not yet activated the unit. Within the force is the “very high readiness joint task Force.” This element of about 20,000 includes a multinational land brigade of around 5,000 troops and air, maritime and special operation forces components.
“Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NRF or if other situations develop,” the press secretary said.
The personnel in these units are being told of the heightened preparedness to deploy today. What units are affected will be released once personnel and their families are informed, Kirby said.
If the NATO force is activated, Austin’s order would allow the United States to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, along with units specializing in logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, transportation and more, he said.
“Again, I want to reinforce that as of now the decision has been made to put these units on higher alert and higher alert only,” Kirby said. “No decisions have been made to deploy any forces from the United States at this time.”
Some of the units were already on a heightened readiness to deploy posture. Austin’s decision shortened the tether. “In some cases, units would go from say 10 days to prepare to deploy, to five days,” Kirby said.
Austin will continue to consult with President Biden and the United States will maintain close coordination with allies and partners.
These are prudent measures, Kirby said. The United States and its allies have a good “site picture” of the Russian moves to surround Ukraine. “It’s very clear that the Russians have no intention, right now, of de-escalating,” he said.
There is still time and space for negotiations to defuse the situation, and Kirby urged Russian leader Vladimir Putin to do just that.
Passes and leaves for the service members affected are canceled, DOD officials said. Instead of having 10 days to deploy, the units must deploy in half that, if so ordered. “They will have to make whatever preparations they feel they need to make to be able to meet that five-day commitment,” Kirby said.
For different units this will mean different things from ensuring vehicles are ready to checking communications systems to ensuring the “beans and bullets” needed are there. “I’m sure there are personnel readiness things that they have to do,” Kirby said. “That again, is one of the reasons why I’m not giving units today. The units are getting notified and we want to also give them time to talk about this with their families – this potential deployment order.” (Source: US DoD)
25 Jan 22. NATO sends reinforcements and U.S. puts troops on alert as Ukraine tensions rise. NATO said on Monday it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, in what Russia denounced as Western “hysteria” in response to its build-up of troops on the Ukraine border. The U.S. Department of Defense in Washington said about 8,500 American troops were put on heightened alert and were awaiting orders to deploy to the region, should Russia invade Ukraine. Tensions are high after Russia massed an estimated 100,000 troops in reach of its neighbour’s border, surrounding Ukraine with forces from the north, east and south. Russia denies planning an invasion and Moscow is citing the Western response as evidence that Russia is the target, not the instigator, of aggression.
President Joe Biden, pushing for transatlantic unity, held an 80-minute secure video call with a number of European leaders on Monday from the White House Situation Room to discuss the Ukraine crisis.
Biden told reporters “I had a very, very, very good meeting” with the Europeans, which included the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Poland. He said there was “total unanimity.”
A White House statement said the leaders “discussed their joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia for such actions as well as to reinforce security on NATO’s eastern flank.”
Welcoming a series of deployments announced by alliance members in recent days, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier said NATO would take “all necessary measures.”
“We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
He told a news conference that the enhanced presence on NATO’s eastern flank could also include the deployment of battlegroups in the southeast of the alliance.
So far, NATO has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, backed by tanks, air defences and intelligence and surveillance units.
U.S. officials said the Pentagon was finalising efforts to identify specific units that it could deploy to NATO’s eastern flank.
One of the officials said up to 5,000 could be deployed, while a NATO diplomat said Washington was considering gradually transferring some troops stationed in western Europe to eastern Europe in the coming weeks.
Denmark, Spain, France and the Netherlands were all planning or considering sending troops, planes or ships to eastern Europe, NATO said. Ukraine shares borders with four NATO countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
A Polish official said Warsaw would draw the line at sending troops to Ukraine.
As tensions grow, Britain said it was withdrawing some staff and dependents from its embassy in Ukraine, a day after the United States said it was ordering diplomats’ family members to leave. U.S. diplomats are being allowed to leave voluntarily.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West of “hysteria” and putting out information “laced with lies”.
“As for specific actions, we see statements by the North Atlantic Alliance about reinforcement, pulling forces and resources to the eastern flank. All this leads to the fact that tensions are growing,” he said.
“This is not happening because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is all happening because of what NATO and the U.S. are doing and due to the information they are spreading.”
Global stock markets skidded as the prospect of a Russian attack quashed demand for riskier assets such as bitcoin, and bolstered the dollar and oil. The rouble hit a 14-month low against the dollar, and Russian stocks and bonds tumbled. read more
Russia has used its troop build-up to draw the West into discussions after presenting demands to redraw Europe’s security map. It wants NATO never to admit Ukraine and to pull back troops and weapons from former Communist countries in eastern Europe that joined it after the Cold War.
Washington says those demands are non-starters but it is ready to discuss other ideas on arms control, missile deployments and confidence-building measures.
Russia is awaiting a written U.S. response this week after talks last Friday – the fourth round this month – produced no breakthrough.
‘PAINFUL, VIOLENT AND BLOODY’
Asked whether he thought an invasion was imminent, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told broadcasters that intelligence was “pretty gloomy on this point” but that “sense can still prevail.”
He repeated Western warnings that invading Ukraine would be “a painful, violent and bloody business” for Russia.
The United States and the European Union, wary of Russia’s intentions since it seized Crimea and backed separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014, have told Russia it will face crippling penalties if it attacks again.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels warned Russia it would face “massive” consequences, but are divided over how tough to be on Moscow and did not say what the consequences might be. read more
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told EU President Charles Michel, who was also on the call with Biden, that it was important for Kyiv that the EU showed unity.
“Ukraine will not fall for provocations, and together with its partners, will remain calm and restrained,” his office said.
The European Commission, the EU executive body, proposed a 1.2bn euro ($1.36bn) financial aid package to help Ukraine mitigate the effects of the conflict. A Russian delegation source said political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany would meet in Paris on Wednesday for talks on resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in which some 15,000 people have been killed since 2014. Previous efforts have failed to yield any breakthrough. (Source: Reuters)
24 Jan 22. Kuwait pursues corruption charges in Eurofighter plane deal. Kuwait’s government said Monday it had referred two senior military officers for prosecution in a major corruption case related to the country’s purchase of Eurofighter Typhoon combat planes, after an investigation into the jets’ improperly inflated price. The Anti-Corruption Authority said that a major general and colonel in Kuwait’s Army would face prosecutors over their alleged misuse of public funds, the latest corruption case to rock the oil-rich sheikhdom. Officials are ramping up a long-flagging campaign toward greater accountability as government graft increasingly causes public and parliamentary consternation. Kuwait ordered 28 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, made by a consortium of European companies, in 2016 under a contract valued at some $8.7bn. The first two planes in the order joined Kuwait’s Air Force last month. The high cost of the deal raised eyebrows when compared with similar purchases of the combat planes across the Middle East as many Gulf Arab states went on spending sprees amid the region’s grinding conflicts.
Qatar, for instance, paid an estimated $6.9bn for just 24 of the same jets with shipments beginning next year. For a total of 72 Typhoons, Saudi Arabia paid an estimated $6bn, albeit for an older generation of planes. The kingdom also reached a deal with the British government valued at some $5bn to purchase an additional 48 planes a decade later.
The Kuwaiti Anti-Corruption Authority’s investigations into the deal revealed that the Army officers “caused grave damage to public money by issuing inflated bills to the manufacturer that exceeded the total value agreed upon in the main contract,” the country’s state-run KUNA news agency reported.
The authorities thanked an unnamed whistleblower for helping the government obtain information about the misuse of funds and said efforts to collect and examine evidence continue.
It wouldn’t be the first scandal to cast a shadow over Kuwait’s Army. The embezzlement of nearly $800 m from Kuwait’s military aid fund forced the resignation of the government two years ago. The former prime minister and defense minister remain detained pending trial.
Activists believe corruption runs rampant through the region of oil-rich Gulf Arab sheikhdoms, but public criminal cases against senior officials are rare. (Source: Defense News)
24 Jan 22. Russia plans to target Ukraine capital in ‘lightning war’, UK warns. Alarm raised as Nato members put forces on standby while Belarus responds with its own deployments. Spain has sent the frigate Blas de Lezo from Ferrol on its Atlantic coast to the Black Sea several weeks ahead of schedule. Boris Johnson warned that Russia had massed enough troops close to Ukraine for a “lightning war” in which it would try to seize Kyiv as Nato said its members were putting military forces on standby for a potential attack. The UK prime minister’s comments on Monday came as Nato members sent additional ships and fighter jets to allied countries in eastern Europe in response to rising fears of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. Johnson said intelligence was clear that there were 60 Russian battle groups on the borders of Ukraine, which he described as evidence of a “plan for a lightning war that could take out Kyiv”. “That would be a disastrous step”, Johnson said. For Moscow, any invasion is “going to be a painful, violent and bloody business,” he added. “I think it’s very important that people in Russia understand that this could be a new Chechnya.” Russia has deployed more than 106,000 troops close to its border with Ukraine in recent months, sparking fears of a fresh invasion of the country. Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s strongman leader, said he would deploy “an entire contingent” of his army at the Ukrainian border in response to Nato force deployments in the Baltics and troop build-ups in Ukraine. “This has nothing to do with any occupation. We just want to defend our southern border,” Lukashenko said. At a meeting of EU foreign ministers and US secretary of state Antony Blinken, the bloc reiterated its warning that it would impose “severe costs” on Russia in the event of any attack, and said it had “accelerated” work on those sanctions.
The EU also reaffirmed its “commitment to further support Ukraine’s resilience”, including in the areas of “professional military education”. Over the weekend the UK said it had evidence that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was seeking to install a puppet regime in Kyiv. While western powers have released a raft of intelligence on Russia’s alleged intentions, Moscow has repeatedly denied it plans to invade. But the Kremlin has said the risk of conflict was “very high” in the eastern Donbas border region, where more than 14,000 have died since 2014 in a slow-burning war with Russia-backed separatists. On the Nato moves, Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary-general, said: “I welcome allies contributing additional forces . . . Nato will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the alliance. “We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence,” he added. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters that the west was to blame for escalating tensions by deploying more forces and publishing “fake” claims of two Russian regime change plots in Ukraine. “This isn’t happening because of what we, Russia, are doing.
This is all happening because of what Nato and the US are doing and the information they are distributing,” Peskov said. Peskov said Putin wanted to “avoid [a] similar tense situation in the future” by focusing on security talks with the US and Nato. The US is expected to send Russia a written response this week to its draft proposals to end Nato’s eastward expansion, roll back its deployments in eastern European countries, and pledge never to admit Ukraine — a step that would essentially rewrite the entire post-Cold War security order in Europe. “Unfortunately, we all live in these aggressive surroundings [ . . . ] This is the reality in which we live. Our head of state, as the commander-in-chief and the person who defines our foreign policy, is taking the essential measures so that our security and interests are ensured at the appropriate level,” Peskov said. Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko accused Nato of “demonising” Moscow to justify the “pointless” deployments, according to Interfax. Grushko said the spectre of a renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine “existed only in inflamed minds in the west” and was “being used to demonstrate that the alliance is in demand and ready to come to the defence of its helpless allies in the face of the Russian threat”. “The more Nato pumps into pointlessly strengthening its eastern flank, the louder the cries about Russian aggressiveness are,” Grushko said. Nato’s statement on Monday came as several western countries said they had taken steps to evacuate families of diplomats based in Kyiv out of the country. Britain on Monday ordered a number of its embassy staff and family members to leave Ukraine. The move came after the US on Sunday told family members of its embassy staff to leave Kyiv because of the risk of “significant military action” by Russia. The US and UK said their embassies would remain open. Moscow’s Moex stock index fell more than 7.5 per cent and yields on Russia’s government debt hit their highest level in six years, as the potential for western sanctions prompted investors to dump Russian assets. The central bank stepped in as the rouble closed in on a record low against the dollar by limiting foreign currency purchases.
Gas futures linked to TTF, Europe’s wholesale gas price, jumped more than 11 per cent to €88.40 a megawatt hour. Russia supplies around a third of Europe’s gas. The rouble lost 1.5 per cent to trade at 78.9 to the US dollar, a 14-month low. Ukraine is not a member of Nato but western officials have warned that any conflict could affect neighbours to the west. Nato said examples of the alliance strengthening include an already announced move by Denmark to send a frigate to the Baltic Sea and France’s readiness to send troops to Romania. Spain has sent the frigate Blas de Lezo from Ferrol on its Atlantic coast to the Black Sea several weeks ahead of schedule, for which Stoltenberg thanked Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at the weekend. Spain’s foreign minister José Manuel Albares told the Financial Times that such deployments “showed Spain’s commitment to the security of Europe, whether the eastern or southern flank”. (Source: FT.com)
BATTLESPACE Comment: One can understand the logic behind the statement made by Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach which caused his resignation. The Crimea is a key strategic location for Russia as it holds the Black Sea Fleet. President Putin needs to feed his sailors so requires a corrido down the Eastern border of Ukraine, hence the current conflict. Given that the Black Sea Fleet has nuclear missiles, a united Ukraine could never join NATO. There are two possible choices to avoid war, allow a corridor to Crimea or move the Black Sea Fleet to a new location. Given that the Crimea gives Russia access to the Mediterranean, the latter seems unlikely. Ukraine, given its size and location, always been the buffer between any Russian aggressor and Moscow, hence the nervousness from the Russian side.
24 Jan 22. Israel to probe purchase of German submarines under Netanyahu. The massive deal between Israel and German firm Thyssenkrupp had prompted bribery accusations against aides of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel recently announced a new deal with the German giant.
Israel’s Cabinet on Sunday approved a state commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of corruption involving the purchase of submarines and other warships from Germany.
The country paid around $2 bn (€1.76 bn) to purchase naval vessels for the Israeli navy between 2009 and 2016 from Germany’s Thyssenkrupp.
Close confidants of Benjamin Netanyahu were implicated in the submarine affair, which is also known as Case 3,000 in Israel. The former prime minister has been questioned by police about the deal before but not named a suspect.
Netanyahu, now leader of the opposition, was accused of pushing through the deals against the military’s and the defense ministry’s will.
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak called it “the most serious corruption scandal in Israel’s history.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz who pushed for the inquiry, said it signaled “that you cannot play with Israel’s defense.”
Inquiry has broad powers
The state commission will look at the procurement process but not investigate defendants currently on trial.
In addition, the circumstances under which Israel agreed to the sale of German submarines to Egypt would be probed.
A state commission of inquiry has broad powers to call witnesses, compel testimony, and make recommendations for further action against both individuals and public sector bodies.
The investigation comes only days after Israel announced a new deal worth €3 bn ($3.4 bn) to buy 3 submarines from Thyssenkrupp.
The new deal had been on hold for years because of the corruption allegations surrounding the previous deal. (Source: https://www.dw.com/en)
21 Jan 22. US hits Chinese defense companies with sanctions. China on Friday criticized Washington for imposing sanctions on Chinese companies the U.S. says exported missile technology, and accused the United States of hypocrisy for selling nuclear-capable cruise missiles.
The United States announced penalties on three companies it said were engaged in unspecified “missile technology proliferation activities.” It said they were barred from U.S. markets and from obtaining technology that can be used to make weapons.
The penalties apply to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. First Academy; China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. Fourth Academy; and Poly Technologies Inc. and their subsidiaries.
China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation was ranked as the 11th largest defense company in the world on Defense News’ Top 100 list. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation was ranked at 18th place.
“This is a typical hegemonic action. China strongly deplores and firmly opposes it,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian. “China urges the United States to immediately correct its mistakes, revoke the relevant sanctions and stop suppressing Chinese enterprises and smearing China.”
China accounted for about 5% of global weapons exports in 2016-2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The United States was the top global exporter, accounting for 37% of the total in 2016-2020.
Cruise missiles and long-range ballistic missiles are regarded as among China’s strengths in weapons technology.
Zhao defended Beijing’s controls on weapons exports. He said China opposes proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and strictly controls exports of missiles.
“Normal cooperation between China and relevant countries doesn’t violate any international law and doesn’t involve proliferation” of weapons of mass destruction, Zhao said.
Zhao pointed to U.S. plans to sell Australia’s government Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
“The United States has overtly pursued double standards,” Zhao said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/AP/Defense News)
21 Jan 22. Australia Wants to Buy U.S. Nuclear Powered Submarine. Let’s assume the government is willing to toss its Naval Shipbuilding Plan out the window and that the US is willing to sell us Virginia class boats off-the-shelf from US shipyards. What would it cost? Here’s What to Remember: The future submarine program estimate also includes design costs. But again, that’s not included in the Virginia’s US$3.25bn cost per boat. What share of the Virginia program’s design costs would the US pass on to us? Even if it waived historical design costs, what share of the design of enhancements and upgrades to future batches of Virginias would we pay over the build process? The conversation about acquiring nuclear-powered submarines here in Australia continues to bubble along.
Some commentators who previously supported acquiring conventional submarines to replace the current Collins class, such as former prime minister Tony Abbott, now favor the nuclear option. But as Abbott noted, the government has never fully investigated the nuclear option. Consequently there is no agreed factual baseline and many public claims about nuclear submarines are speculative and possibly questionable. It’s been suggested, for example, that acquiring the United States Navy’s current nuclear attack submarine, the Virginia class, would have a similar—or even smaller—cost to designing and building Naval Group’s Shortfin Barracuda here in Australia (for example, here and here).
Let’s assume the government is willing to toss its Naval Shipbuilding Plan out the window and that the US is willing to sell us Virginia class boats off-the-shelf from US shipyards. What would it cost? Attempting to compare two very different things, one of which exists, the other of which doesn’t, is a fraught exercise. But while the Shortfin Barracuda is likely to be the most expensive conventional submarine ever built, there are some good reasons to think that the Virginia would not be cheaper.
Let’s look at a very high level parametric comparison. The Virginia weighs in at around 8,000 tonnes. The Shortfin Barracuda looks like it will between 4,500-5,000 tonnes. So with everything else being equal, the Shortfin Barracuda would need to cost around 60% more per tonne to be more expensive. RAND Corporation’s 2015 study of the Australian shipbuilding industry suggested that building in Australia historically incurred a 30-40% premium compared to the United States, although that study was based solely on surface ships. The intent of the government’s continuous shipbuilding policy is to bring those premiums down, but even if that doesn’t occur, Shortfin Barracudas still look like they’ll be cheaper.
We can also compare the publicly available information about the two classes, noting that there is a vast gulf in the quality of information in the US compared to here. The US Department of Defense’s Justification Book for fiscal year 2019 for shipbuilding provides a unit cost for a Virginia class submarine of US$3.25bn. If we multiply by 12 and convert at current exchange rate that makes around A$53.7bn (of course, if the Aussie dollar sank, that number would go up).
We don’t know what Defense has estimated the unit cost of a Shortfin Barracuda to be (and likely never will). In response to questions at Senate hearings, Defense officials have stated that the estimated total acquisition cost of the future submarine program, which is designing and building 12 Shortfin Barracudas, is around $50bn ‘constant dollars’ (a measure which doesn’t take inflation and price escalation into account). The cost of Australian projects includes everything needed to bring a capability into service. In the case of the future submarine program that likely includes wharves, training and testing facilities, simulators, and so on.
So these elements would need to be added to the A$53.7bn for Virginia class boats to get an apples to apples comparison. How much would they cost? These enabling elements that make up the support system can comprise a large percentage of the cost of the platforms themselves. A lot would depend on how much infrastructure would be needed here to safely support nuclear propulsion—and that’s another area where there is no consensus among commentators. Putting that aside, the change from Collins to the Virginias would be so great that virtually every other part of the support system would need to be replaced. The $1.5bn facilities bill for the joint strike fighter would likely pale in comparison.
The future submarine program estimate also includes design costs. But again, that’s not included in the Virginia’s US$3.25bn cost per boat. What share of the Virginia program’s design costs would the US pass on to us? Even if it waived historical design costs, what share of the design of enhancements and upgrades to future batches of Virginias would we pay over the build process?
We shouldn’t forget that Defense normally costs in ‘out-turned’ dollars that take inflation and price escalation into account. In an earlier piece we made some assumptions around schedule and escalation and suggested the $50bn constant estimate for the future submarine program would out-turn to around $79bn. The $53.7bn cost of the Virginias is essentially a constant figure, so once we out-turned that and added in all the elements of the support system, it’s hard to see the Virginias coming in at less than $100bn.
On top of that, there are operating costs. Considering the Virginia has a crew of 135 compared to probably around half that for the Shortfin Barracuda, just the additional uniformed workforce required could cost $400m more per year. And operating costs are also related to size, so the 8,000 tonne Virginia will no doubt cost a lot more to sustain than a 5,000 tonne Shortfin Barracuda. We are currently paying $592m per year to sustain the six Collins. I suspect 12 Shortfin Barracudas will be around three times that, and 12 Virginias could double that again. So the difference in operating cost between 12 Shortfin Barracudas and 12 Virginias could be around $1.5bn per year—or close to $2bn once we include workforce. So that’s an additional $60bn over the life of the submarines (and that’s constant, not out-turned). Again, a big uncertainty is the cost of the infrastructure necessary to support nuclear-powered boats.
It’s possible to argue over these assumptions—that’s at the core of the art and science of cost estimation—but overall, it’s hard to see how 12 Virginias could cost less than 12 Shortfin Barracudas, let alone half as much, as has been suggested. Now cost is not the same thing as value. One can argue that the future submarine program is primarily about delivering an effect, and not about a particular number of submarines per se, and since nuclear attack submarines can deliver a greater effect (through faster transit speeds, greater endurance, no requirement to leave station to recharge batteries and greater weapons load), we would not need to buy as many Virginias to deliver the same or greater effect as 12 Shortfin Barracudas. That’s a fair point, but a discussion for another time. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
21 Jan 22. US soldiers take part in a joint military training exercise with Bulgarian and Georgian troops in Bulgaria. The US and Russian foreign ministers ended the highest-level talks yet on Moscow’s security demands over Ukraine by agreeing to continue diplomacy, in comments suggesting the meeting had created a small window for detente amid heightened risks of a conflict at the heart of Europe. The meeting between Antony Blinken and Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday was the latest diplomatic initiative designed to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine again. It came as Moscow clarified on Friday that it wants Nato to remove all its forces from Bulgaria, Romania and other ex-communist states in eastern Europe that joined the alliance after 1997 — a move deemed unacceptable by the transatlantic alliance. Blinken said Washington planned to share written security proposals with Russia next week, adding the meeting had put the two countries on a “clearer path” to understanding each other’s concerns. President Joe Biden was “fully prepared” to hold a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin if there was a belief that such a conversation would help find a breakthrough, he added. Lavrov “now has a better idea of our position and vice versa . . . and that’s precisely why we met”, Blinken told reporters after the talks, adding that both men “agreed it is important for the diplomatic process to continue”. Lavrov said Putin “was always prepared” to talk to Biden but said future talks would depend on “serious preparation”. The meeting with Blinken, which followed three rounds of lower-level negotiations Moscow deemed a failure last week, were “candid” and “useful” ahead of an expected written US response to Russia’s demands, he added. Russian state newswire RIA Novosti shortly after cited a foreign ministry source as saying Lavrov and Blinken might meet again next month after the US responds to Moscow’s security proposals. Western officials say Putin is closer than ever to a renewed invasion of Ukraine after amassing more than 106,000 troops close to its border in recent weeks. In Ukraine’s eastern Donbas border region, more than 14,000 people have died since 2014 in a slow-burning separatist war spearheaded by Moscow. Putin has vowed an unspecified “military-technical response” if the west does not agree to Russia’s draft security proposals. Lavrov on Friday dismissed warnings of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as “hysteria” and accused the west of encouraging Kyiv to “completely sabotage” a long-stalled peace agreement in Donbas. The US has sought to de-escalate tensions while warning of “crippling” sanctions in case of any Russian aggression against Ukraine. But western unity frayed this week after Biden suggested a western response would depend on the scale of Russia’s intervention and French president Emmanuel Macron proposed separate European-led security talks with Moscow. Biden later clarified his comments by saying that Russia would “pay a heavy price” in the event of any incursion, while French officials insisted the French leader’s offer was not intended to undermine US-led negotiations. “I can’t say whether we are on the right track or not,” Lavrov said. “We will understand that when we receive a written response to all of our proposals.” The US and its European allies have said Russia’s demands that Nato pledge never to admit Ukraine and to roll back the alliance’s eastward expansion — which would essentially rewrite the post-cold war security order — are unacceptable. Speaking in parliament on Friday Bulgaria’s prime minister, Kiril Petkov, said: “Bulgaria is a sovereign country, which has made its choice long ago by becoming a Nato member. As such, we alone decide [how] to organise the defence of our country in co-ordination with our partners.” Lavrov’s statement on Nato deployments in eastern Europe was an apparent rejoinder to Macron, who said on Wednesday that Paris was ready to send troops to Romania if Nato decided to beef up its presence there. Nato members are discussing troop deployments in the Black Sea region under its “enhanced forward presence” missions, akin to those in Poland and the Baltic states following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. (Source: FT.com)
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