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05 Feb 22. Taiwan condemns ‘contemptible’ timing of China-Russia partnership. Taiwan on Saturday condemned as “contemptible” the timing of China and Russia’s “no limits” partnership at the start of the Winter Olympics, saying the Chinese government was bringing shame to the spirit of the Games. China and Russia, at a meeting of their leaders hours before the Winter Olympics officially opened, backed each other over standoffs on Ukraine and Taiwan with a promise to collaborate more against the West.
Russia voiced its support for China’s stance that democratically-governed Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposition to any form of independence for the island.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said China’s continued false claims the island is part of the People’s Republic of China were exactly the same as the country’s habit of spreading fake news.
“It not only increases the Taiwanese people’s disgust at and loathing for the Chinese government’s arrogance and bullying, it also clearly shows all the world’s countries the sinister face of the Chinese Communist regime’s aggression, expansionism and damaging of peace.”
At a time when the world’s eyes are focused on the Winter Olympics and cheering on their athletes, the Chinese government has used the Russian summit to engage in the expansion of authoritarianism, the ministry added.
“This is an insult to the peaceful spirit embodied by the Olympic Rings, and will be spurned by Taiwan’s people and held in contempt by democratic countries.”
The United States has also criticised the meeting, saying Chinese President Xi Jinping should have used the meeting to push for lowering of tensions in Ukraine.
The Olympics, to which Taiwan has sent a small team of four athletes to compete, is happening at a time of heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing, with China regularly sending military ships and aircraft near the island.
While Russia is a close friend of China’s, both Russia and Taiwan maintain small de facto embassies in each other’s capitals.
Former Taiwan President Chiang Ching-kuo, who began tentative democratic reforms, spoke Russian and was married to a Russian lady he met while working there in the 1930s. (Source: Reuters)
Ukrainian troops hold drills with US missiles as military aid shipments continue. Ukrainian troops on Friday trained at the Yavoriv military base in western Ukraine, using anti-tank missiles, launchers and other military hardware delivered by the United States as part of a $200m security package.
Soldiers, some in white camouflage gear, fired missiles or stood observing, while military vehicles drove across a snowy landscape.
Ukraine has received planeloads of U.S. military aid as it braces for a possible attack after Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks. Moscow denies planning any such offensive. read more
“These weapons will help stop military vehicles, damage them and in the urban environment they will allow us to destroy buildings where the enemy hides,” said Andriy Bestyuk, spokesman for the General Staff of the Ukrainian army.
“If you want peace, get ready for war,” said one soldier, whose face was covered and did not disclose his name.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Friday evening said that the next planeload of U.S. weapons was expected to arrive soon. (Source: Reuters)
04 Feb 22. McKenzie Says ISIS Leader Who Died During U.S. Raid Was ‘Evil.’ The ISIS leader who died during a U.S. Special Operations long-range helicopter raid on a mission to capture him in northwest Syria was “every bit as evil and committed to attacks on the United States and its partners as was his predecessor,” said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command.
McKenzie spoke to the Middle East Institute yesterday on the latest developments in U.S. strategy and the challenges and opportunities facing the United States and its regional partners in the year ahead. He also commented on Wednesday night’s raid in Syria, part of Centcom’s area of responsibility.
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, also known as Haji Abdullah, refused to give himself up to U.S. special operators and killed himself in a massive explosion, McKenzie said. There were no U.S. casualties.
“While Baghdadi was iconic and a philosopher, in ISIS, was actually far more of an operational planner and director of operations,” the general said. “He was directly or indirectly responsible for numerous atrocities, including those against the Yazidis early on and ISIS’ reign of terror in Iraq and Syria,” he added.
“He killed himself and his immediate family without fighting, even as we attempted to call for his surrender and offered him a path to survive,” he said, noting that Abdullah was ejected from the building during the explosion and was identified by fingerprint and DNA analyses.
“I want to commend the expertise and bravery of the U.S. forces that executed the mission and our interagency partners who planned, supported and executed the mission,” McKenzie said. “I would also like to acknowledge the support of our Syrian Democratic Forces partners in Syria, who made invaluable contributions to the success of the mission.”
The general said the Defense Department deeply regrets the loss of life of any non-combatants, but ISIS fighters were directly or indirectly responsible for every family member who perished in the mission through their “cowardly” acts or through their choice to fight U.S. forces. He added the professionalism of U.S. forces saved the majority of non-combatants and pursued every possible opportunity to save all of those who were present.
“The death of Haji Abdullah is a clear signal that the United States remains focused and committed to finding and eliminating the terrorists who are plotting to do us harm, and we will not rest while their organizations remain committed to terrorism and violence against the international community in the United States of America,” the Centcom commander said. “It’s also a signal to all of those who wrongfully proclaimed that the United States was no longer interested in or committed to security in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this mission confirms that,” he added.
Some of the most immediate and credible threats to the U.S. homeland emanate from the Centcom area of responsibility, McKenzie said.
Following the conclusion of the Afghanistan war in late July 2021, the United States now appreciates with the “stunning clarity of hindsight” that neither the Afghanistan government nor its defense forces retain the will to defend their country in the U.S.’ absence, he noted. “As soon as this became clear, Centcom set in motion what would ultimately prove to be the largest airborne, non-combatant evacuation operation in history, a separate mission that concluded on 30 August, 2021. After the evacuation of over 123,000 Americans, third-country nationals and at-risk Afghans, this was an exceptionally complex and dangerous mission conducted in contact with ISIS-K, a vile foe. I will never forget the heroic and innocent lives that were lost during this operation. But neither will I forget the thousands of lives saved and the dedication of the men and the women who made the U.S. evacuation possible,” he added.
McKenzie said that even without a U.S. presence, the United States cannot relent in its campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat the violent extremist organizations that would export terror to our shores, adding that ISIS remains the greatest terrorist threat to the United States. “We have come a very long way since the dark days of 2014 when ISIS had overrun Raqqa and Mosul and threatened Baghdad with the invaluable contributions of nations that would form Combined Joint Task Force Operation – Inherent Resolve,” he noted.
ISIS has, nevertheless, reconstituted as an asymmetric threat, and it continues to terrorize the innocent populations of Iraq and Syria whenever it can, McKenzie added.
ISIS’ desire to harm the United States is as intense as ever, he said, adding that there is a way to deal with them. “ISIS fighters are brutal and relentless, but they’re also fairly conventional military targets,” the general said. “Our task is to find, fix and finish them.”
Iran remains a central threat, McKenzie said. “Specifically, my mission is to deter Iran from undertaking malign activities that undermine the security and stability of the region,” he added.
“It’s my assessment that Iran is now evaluating its options — everything from de-escalation in diplomatic normalization to ramping up attacks against coalition forces,” McKenzie said.
From a geostrategic perspective, the general said it’s not surprising that China has made deliberate, steady inroads into a region that’s essential to its “Belt and Road” initiative. “Last year’s strategic cooperation agreement between China and Iran, as well as recent joint naval exercises with Iran and Russia in the Indian Ocean, sent a clear signal of China’s intention to counter American influence in the region,” he said. The Chinese are eager to push the sale of their military equipment to U.S. partners, and they’re fully aware it compromises the United States’ ability to integrate these countries into collective defense architectures, he added.
“The Chinese move with great speed, notwithstanding major muscle movements. in the South China Sea, and this sort of insidious activity is what the frontline of strategic competition looks like today, and nowhere is it more active than in the Middle East,” McKenzie said.
Turning to Russia, “We need not await the passage of time to discern the nature of Russia’s interests in the region or elsewhere,” he said. “Whereas China’s approach is rational and patient, that of Russia is essentially opportunistic.”
Russia’s disregard of international norms is nowhere clearer at present than on the borders of Ukraine, where Russia has amassed a concentration of conventional military power that belies any legitimate, peaceful purpose, McKenzie said, adding that as the Centcom commander, Ukraine would not normally demand his attention, but the situation there is far from normal. (Source: US DoD)
04 Feb 22. Biden administration approves $4.2bn F-16 sale to Jordan. The Biden administration has approved the sale of 16 F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters to Jordan. The Biden administration said Thursday it has cleared a possible sale of as many as 16 F-16 fighters and related equipment to Jordan worth up to $4.21bn. The State Department also approved a possible additional sale to the United Arab Emirates of spares and repair parts for air defense systems that would bring its value up to $65m, as well as a possible $23.7m sale to Saudi Arabia for data and voice communication systems. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress on Thursday of the possible foreign military sales. Jordan wants to buy as many as 12 F-16C and four F-16D fighters, all Block 70s, as well as 21 F100 engines, either made by General Electric or Pratt & Whitney, five of which would be spare engines. Lockheed Martin in Greenville, South Carolina, will be the principal contractor for this sale. The arms package would also include numerous weapons and systems to arm the fighters, such as six AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods, 72 LAU-129 missile rail launchers, 21 M61A1 Vulcan cannons, 100 KMU-556 Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kits for 2,000-pound GBU-31 bombs, 102 KMU-572 JDAM tail kits for 500-pound laser JDAM GBU-54 bombs, 200 MK-84 or BLU-117 or equivalent bomb bodies, 204 MK-82 or BLU-111 or equivalent bomb bodies, ammunition, smoke flares and flare cartridges.
Jordan also wants to buy 31 Link 16 Low-Volume Terminals for both aircraft and ground stations, radars, mission computers, GPS navigation systems with anti-spoofing modules and multiple other pieces of equipment.
The sale would mean fewer than 20 U.S. contractors would be assigned to Jordan for three years to provide on-site logistics support.
State said the fighter sale would help modernize Jordan’s air force and make sure its military can continue to work together effectively with U.S. and coalition forces on common goals such as fighting terrorist or other violent extremist groups.
The UAE Foreign Military Sales Order would provide more spares and repair parts for the Homing All the Way Killer, or HAWK, Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target, or Patriot, and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, weapons systems, as well as additional logistics and other support.
State had already approved a deal for this equipment in a previous $30m sale; the latest proposed amended foreign military sale case would extend that by three additional years and bring the total value to $65m.
The sale approval comes weeks after UAE used one of its THAAD systems to intercept a ballistic missile during a Jan. 17 attack by Houthi militants in Abu Dhabi, which marked the first time THAAD is known to have been used in a military operation. The Lockheed Martin-made system destroyed a midrange ballistic missile fired at an Emirati oil facility near Al Dhafra Air Base, which hosts U.S. and French forces.
Saudi Arabia is also approved to buy 31 Block 2 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals, or MIDS-LVTs. These will be added to a previous $3m sale of 11 Block 1 MIDS-LVTs. The newly-purchased MIDS-LVTs are intended to be installed on THAAD platforms. The first round of MIDS-LVTs were installed on Patriot systems. (Source: Defense News)
03 Feb 22. NATO concerned by Russian exercises in Belarus, Moscow criticises US.
- NATO says Russia expected to have 30,000 troops in Belarus
- Russian defence minister inspects forces there
- Kremlin again accuses U.S. of escalating tensions
- Turkey’s Erdogan visits Kyiv
Russia accused the United States on Thursday of ramping up tensions and ignoring Moscow’s calls to ease a standoff over Ukraine, a day after Washington announced it would send nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania.
NATO meanwhile said Russia had stepped up deployments to Ukraine’s northern neighbour Belarus in recent days and was expected to have 30,000 troops there for joint military exercises this month.
Ukraine says Russia has positioned 115,000 troops near its borders, stoking fears of a looming attack. Moscow denies any such plan but international concern that Russia might be gearing up for war is running high.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the U.S. troop deployments on a conference call with reporters on Thursday.
“It’s obvious that these are not steps aimed at de-escalating tensions, but on the contrary they are actions that lead to increasing tension,” he said.
“We constantly call on our American counterparts to stop aggravating tensions on the European continent. Unfortunately, the Americans continue to do so,” he said.
Washington and NATO have rejected Russian demands to bar Ukraine from joining NATO and withdraw allied forces and weapons systems from eastern Europe, while expressing a readiness to discuss arms control and confidence-building measures.
BIGGEST DEPLOYMENT SINCE COLD WAR
The Russia-Belarus exercises, running until Feb. 20, have provided Moscow with cover to further increase forces near Ukraine. It has described the Allied Resolve exercises as a rehearsal for repelling external aggression and says its forces will withdraw after the drills.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said there had been a significant movement of Russian military forces into Belarus in recent days.
“This is the biggest Russian deployment there since the Cold War, with an expected 30,000 combat troops” as well as Spetsnaz special operations forces, SU-35 fighter jets, S-400 air defence systems and nuclear-capable Iskander missiles, he said.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Belarus on Thursday to inspect Russian and Belarusian troops and was due to meet Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
The Belarusian Defence Minister released images from the exercises showing troops parachuting to the ground, fighter jets in the sky, soldiers dismounting from a helicopter holding weapons, and tanks firing and manoeuvring. Belarus, which has 9.5 million people, shares its western border with NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, while Ukraine lies to its south.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the West had ignored Russia’s main concerns and accused the United States of trying to lure it into war, but he said Moscow was still interested in dialogue.
The Pentagon said the aim of the U.S. troop reinforcements was to send a “strong signal” to Putin.
PATH OF PEACE
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine in the crisis, was due to visit Kyiv on Thursday.
Ukraine and Turkey will sign a framework agreement on manufacturing Turkish drones in Ukraine, Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told reporters, in a move that is certain to annoy Moscow.
Kyiv has already deployed Turkish-made drones in a war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Reznikov said the number of ceasefire violations in that conflict had decreased and there had been no combat losses for the past three weeks.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Polish President Andrzej Duda had discussed the possibility of a three-way meeting along with Germany in coming days on the situation in Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union was working on a joint response to a letter many of its member countries received from Russia earlier this week asking for security guarantees.
Von der Leyen called for Russia to return to a path of “peace and dialogue” or face sanctions. (Source: Reuters)
04 Feb 22. U.S. warns Russia may stage video as pretext to invade Ukraine. Russia has formulated several options as an excuse to invade Ukraine, including the potential use of a propaganda video showing a staged attack, the United States said on Thursday, as the Kremlin condemned American troop deployments in the region.
Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in the east of the country, is demanding security guarantees including a promise NATO will never admit Kyiv as it has amassed some 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border.
The United States has said there is little chance of Ukraine joining NATO soon but that the country should decide its own future as the powers clash over their spheres of influence in post-Cold War Europe.
U.S. intelligence believes Russia could use a fabricated video showing the graphic aftermath of an explosion, including equipment appearing to belong to Ukraine or allied nations, to justify an incursion.
It “would involve actors playing mourners for people who are killed in an event that they (Russia) would have created themselves… (and) deployment of corpses to represent bodies purportedly killed,” U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer told MSNBC.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reports, according to the TASS news agency, saying similar things had been said previously but amounted to nothing.
Moscow has denied accusations in the past that it is trying to manufacture a conflict and says it is not planning an invasion but that it could take unspecified military action if its security demands are not met.
The Kremlin accused Washington on Thursday of ignoring its calls to ease the standoff, a day after the United States announced it would send nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania.
“It’s obvious that these are not steps aimed at de-escalating tensions, but on the contrary they are actions that lead to increasing tension,” Peskov said on a conference call on Thursday.
“We constantly call on our American counterparts to stop aggravating tensions on the European continent. Unfortunately, the Americans continue to do so,” he said.
Paratroopers with the U.S. Army boarded aircraft on Thursday to leave for Eastern Europe “in support of assuring our NATO allies and our partners in deterring Russia,” U.S. Army spokesman Matthew Visser said.
The soldiers were departing from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Around 1,700 service members, mainly from the 82nd Airborne Division, were being deployed to Poland, while 300 others will move to Germany, he said.
Washington and NATO have expresses a readiness to discuss arms control and confidence-building measures. Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier in the week that Moscow was still interested in dialogue.
RUSSIAN TROOP MOVEMENTS INTO BELARUS
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said there had been a significant movement of Russian military forces into Ukraine’s northern neighbor Belarus in recent days.
The Russia-Belarus joint military drills, running until Feb. 20, have provided Moscow with cover to further increase forces near Ukraine.
“This is the biggest Russian deployment there since the Cold War,” said Stoltenberg, adding the expected deployment includes 30,000 combat troops, Spetsnaz special operations forces, SU-35 fighter jets, S-400 air defence systems and nuclear-capable Iskander missiles.
The Kremlin has described the Allied Resolve exercises as a rehearsal for repelling external aggression and says its forces will withdraw after the drills.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Belarus on Thursday to inspect the troops.
The Belarusian defence minister released images from the exercises showing troops parachuting to the ground, fighter jets in the sky, soldiers dismounting from a helicopter holding weapons, and tanks firing and manoeuvring.
Belarus shares its western border with NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, while Ukraine lies to its south.
WORLD LEADERS KEEP TALKING
Support for Russia came from China.
Their two foreign ministers “coordinated their positions” during a meeting in Beijing on Thursday, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
China expressed understanding and support for Russia’s position on security regarding Russia’s relationship with the United States and NATO, it said.
Putin was set to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday before attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The U.S. State Department warned Russia that a closer relationship between Moscow and Beijing would not make up for the consequences of an invasion and only make the Russian economy “more brittle.”
Elsewhere, world leaders continued their efforts to resolve the crisis.
In Kyiv, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy and offered to host a meeting between Putin and Zelenskiy.
In a move likely to grate with Moscow, Zelenskiy used the meeting to trumpet a deal enabling Ukrainian factories to produce Turkish drones that have already been deployed in Ukraine’s war against Russia-backed rebels in its eastern Donbass region.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Polish President Andrzej Duda had discussed the possibility of a three-way meeting along with Germany’s Olaf Scholz in coming days on the situation in Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for Russia to return to a path of “peace and dialogue” or face sanctions as the EU worked on a joint response to a letter many of its members received from Russia seeking security guarantees. (Source: Reuters)
03 Feb 22. Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Raid Against ISIS Amir Hajii Abdullah. I am immensely proud of the U.S. forces who conducted an operation against Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS. He detonated an explosive device during the operation, killing himself and members of his family.
The professionalism, skill and readiness of our troops — honed through relentless rehearsal — has dealt ISIS a severe blow and has helped make our country and our fellow citizens safer.
Al-Qurayshi, also known as Hajii Abdullah, provided near-constant operational guidance to ISIS fighters, to include the prison break and attack at Hasakah and the slaughter of Yazidis in Iraq. He is now off the battlefield and out of command, and cannot threaten any more lives.
I also want to praise the leadership of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command for their superb support to the planning and execution of this dangerous mission. I’ve been involved with enough of these sorts of operations to know how difficult they are to mount and how meticulously they must be planned and resourced.
I know the rest of the Department shares my pride in them and my deepest gratitude.
Let me take this opportunity to note that the Department takes seriously our commitment to avoid civilian harm in the course of our operations. This operation was specifically designed and conducted in a manner to minimize civilian casualties. We know that al-Qurayshi and others at his compound directly caused the deaths of women and children last night. But, given the complexity of this mission, we will take a look at the possibility our actions may also have resulted in harm to innocent people.
The fight against ISIS continues. Their leader may be gone, but their twisted ideology and their intent to kill, maim and terrorize still threaten our national security and the lives of countless innocents.
We saw that evil determination in full display during the Hasakah prison break and the fighting that ensued.
And so, we will stay at it … encouraged by the bravery we witnessed last night and emboldened by the knowledge that ISIS, though still very much a viable threat, is now weaker. (Source: US DoD)
03 Feb 22. U.S. military raid kills ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in Syria, Biden says. President Biden said Thursday that a U.S. Special Operations forces counterterrorism mission overnight in northwestern Syria had killed the leader of the Islamic State militant group.
The raid killed thirteen people, including children, local first responders said. No U.S. casualties were reported in the operation, which left a U.S. helicopter destroyed on the ground.
In a statement Thursday, Biden said: “Last night at my direction, U.S. military forces in northwest Syria successfully undertook a counterterrorism operation to protect the American people and our Allies, and make the world a safer place. Thanks to the skill and bravery of our Armed Forces, we have taken off the battlefield Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi — the leader of ISIS. All Americans have returned safely from the operation.”
Biden said he would deliver remarks to the American people later Thursday morning.
A U.S. official with knowledge of the situation said the civilian casualties were caused by a man in the targeted compound who detonated explosives, killing multiple women and children. An American helicopter experienced a mechanical malfunction, prompting U.S. troops to blow it up in place before they flew away on other aircraft, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Residents in the area described a thunderous, early morning assault involving multiple helicopters and heavy machine gun fire. First responders said at least 13 people were killed.
The White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense group that works in parts of the country not controlled by the government, said they have recovered 13 bodies so far, including those of six children and four women, from a house that appeared to be the target of the operation. They also said they treated a nearby resident and a young girl who lived in the house, whose entire family they said was killed.
Residents in the northern Idlib province said they heard helicopters about 1 a.m. local time, and later, what they described as the sound of heavy “clashes.”
Unconfirmed reports circulated that American forces were hunting a leader of the Islamic State or another local jihadist group. “There were no U.S. casualties. More information will be provided as it becomes available,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
A spokesman for the White Helmets said the group “cannot determine whether there were bodies that were retrieved by U.S. forces because there is blood everywhere.” It was not immediately clear what had caused the casualties. The White Helmets, as well as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said there were exchanges of fire during the confrontation at the house.
Ahmed, a resident who said he lives less than two miles from the scene and who spoke on the condition that he be identified by only his first name due to safety concerns, said in a telephone interview that he heard helicopters as he was preparing to go to sleep at around 1 a.m.
The sound was not unfamiliar in the area — helicopters often arrived to switch out Turkish troops stationed nearby, he said. But this was different.
“The sound was horrible,” he said. He went to his roof, he said, and saw machine gun fire emanating from one of the helicopters. The gunfire and the sounds from the helicopters subsided around 4 a.m., he said.
Residents said the raid targeted a two-story house about a mile from the Turkish border, in an area that appeared to be surrounded by olive groves. The White Helmets said its first responders initially could not access the area because of the heavy “shelling and clashes” that preceded the U.S. operation. Helicopters left shortly after 3 a.m. local time, the group said in a statement.
Videos circulating on social media, which The Washington Post was not able to immediately verify, captured what appeared to be the raid and its aftermath. In one widely circulated video, the sound of heavy gunfire can be heard, as what appear to be muzzle flashes, possibly from a helicopter, are seen above the skyline. Other videos captured the sound of someone speaking in Arabic over a loudspeaker, telling children in the house to come out.
“The area is surrounded by land and air,” the person can be heard saying. “The children are without blame. If there are children, they should come to me.”
Mahmoud al-Sheikh, who works at an auto repair shop less than a mile from the house, said he did not know who lived there but often used to see “small children and women coming in and out.” There was nothing terribly extraordinary about the men in the house, he added, saying they did not outwardly match the description of hard-line Islamist fighters who often wore long beards.
At one point during the events, he heard someone saying, “Children and women leave, we are entering the house.”
Photographs purportedly showing the house, taken by a local journalist early Thursday, showed a section of the top floor partially collapsed, and damage to walls that had left rebar exposed. Pictures of the interior showed a sitting room in disarray, and other areas where blood and scattered debris were visible.
Idlib, a hilly, rural province in northwestern Syria, has been a bastion of opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for more than a decade. The province is home to millions of internally displaced people from other parts of Syria. Its cities, towns and villages are largely under the control of an Islamist militant group that was formerly affiliated with al-Qaeda called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, which is regarded as a terrorist group by the United States and other western powers.
HTS, which has recently tried to emphasize its credentials as a governing body, has waged a war against another militant group in Idlib called Hurras al-Din, which is currently affiliated with Al-Qaeda. There has been some overlap between the two groups: disaffected, hard-line HTS members in recent years have defected and joined Hurras al-Din.
There was no immediate indication Thursday that the U.S. raid had targeted HTS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement Thursday that an HTS member had been unintentionally killed during the U.S. operation as a result of the armed clashes. (Source: Washington Post)
02 Feb 22. Richardson Looks for Ways to Deepen Cooperation With Central American Allies. The nations of Central America and the Caribbean must work together with friends and allies to confront the problems of the future, the commander of U.S. Southern Command told the Central American Security Conference in Belize, yesterday.
Army Gen. Laura J. Richardson noted that the countries share democratic values and ethos and that is a good basis upon which the militaries of the region can cooperate. The meeting brought together defense ministers, public security ministers and chiefs of defense from Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Colombia and Mexico.
She did not make light of the problems confronting the region, and those threats require cooperation at all levels. “We are also connected by the cross-cutting threats we face, and the collective challenges they pose,” she said. “We must work together to keep our region — our neighborhood — safe.”
COVID-19, of course, complicates efforts still. The region faces transnational criminal organizations that traffic in arms, humans and drugs. “They are fueled by corruption, they drive irregular migration, and allow authoritarian regimes to undermine regional democracy and sovereignty,” Richardson said.
Cybercrime is also being felt with hackers — often sponsored by foreign governments — compromising networks and stealing sensitive information about citizens across the region and spreading disinformation online, she said.
Natural disasters are a significant problem with climate change exacerbating the effects. She pointed to hurricanes Eta and Iota that struck the region two years ago. The storms “affected 7 million people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, caused flooding in Panama and Belize, and displaced nearly a million people,” she said. “Drought is destroying crops and evaporating much needed drinking water for our people. Deforestation is depriving us of the air we breathe, and rising seas are flooding our neighborhoods.”
These threats require cooperation. The cross-cutting nature is simply “too overwhelming for one nation to handle on its own,” she said. “We must work together, like a football and soccer team, all of us wearing the same jerseys as one team.”
Richardson pointed to “integrated defense” — a term popularized by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III — as a strategy to face these myriad challenges. ” means bringing all allies and partners together, and using all tools available to counter threats, including different and all government agencies, the private sector and industry and non-governmental organizations,” the general said. “Integrated deterrence requires us all to work closely together — not only with our partner nations in the region, but also democratic allies and partners around the globe.”
This type of cooperation requires the nations of the region and their allies to “re-commit and re-dedicate ourselves to our democratic values,” she said. “We cannot let corruption and authoritarianism erode the democratic institutions that all of us in this room have fought for and sacrificed for.”
Richardson detailed concrete steps to help the nations of the region cooperate. The Central American Security Conference is one area on its own. The conference, she said, allows partners to synch up with each other, to share best practices and to gain an understanding of shared threats. All this enhances interoperability. “We’re getting to know each other, getting to speak the same language both literally and figuratively, so that we’ll all work together seamlessly when we need to,” she said.
Richardson would like to increase opportunities for regional allies to participate in the U.S. international military education and training program, and for U.S. personnel to work with their Central American counterparts. She pointed to the upcoming exercise in Honduras — Fuerzas Commando — as an opportunity.
Dealing with critical infrastructure is another area of cooperation. “The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has been working with Panama on a water supply system that will benefit more than half of Panama’s population,” she said. “What’s more, this project is sustainable and will protect the environment.” Another project is in the Dominican Republic port of Manzanillo.
Another exercise — sponsored by the Coordination Center for Disaster Prevention in Central America and the Dominican Republic — concentrates on regional disaster relief. “Southcom’s Joint Task Force-Bravo in Soto Cano, Honduras, is participating, offering humanitarian assistance subject matter expert exchanges,” she said. “Going forward, Sentinel Watch will be an annual exercise right before hurricane season, so that we’re all ready when — not if — a natural disaster strikes. And every year Southcom conducts Resolute Sentinel, where civil engineers and medical professionals provide life-saving care throughout the region. These are all great ways for us to build our readiness to respond to the next big disaster.”
Boosting maritime security is a concern throughout the region. “Our partners have already been putting the Southcom-donated near coastal patrol vessels to great use to save lives, combat maritime threats and conduct counternarcotics operations,” Richardson said.
Finally, the general wants to deepen existing relationships through the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program. “This year, Guatemala and the Arkansas National Guard celebrate 20 years of partnership,” she said. “Last year, Belize and the Louisiana National Guarded celebrated 25 years of partnership. National Guardsmen from Missouri, New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico will exchange best practices with their Central American colleagues on cybersecurity, civilian security, and disaster contingency planning.” (Source: US DoD)
03 Feb 22. Hunter-class frigate report indicates Australian naval shipbuilding in disarray. The latest revelations about the Royal Australian Navy’s Hunter-class frigates confirm much of what we knew about the problems besetting the program, but add a level of granularity far beyond the general admissions made by Defence Department officials at earlier Senate committee hearings.
This new evidence is contained in the system design review exit report written by the Hunter program’s own engineering team in November 2021. It’s coming from the coal face and is as close to the ground truth as you can get.
A system design review is a key milestone that is meant to demonstrate that the project will meet the system’s requirements—or, in other words, that the elements of the ship make a coherent whole that will deliver the capability the navy seeks.
Unfortunately, the exit report indicates that the design is far from coherent. We’ve known that the substantial modifications that Defence imposed on what was an immature design to start with have driven substantial problems. First among these is a growth in the size of the vessel from around 8,000 tonnes to over 10,000 tonnes. The laws of physics mean that if you increase the size of the vessel by 25% without increasing the power plant, performance will suffer. The exit report puts some detail around that, stating that ‘maximum speed will be lower than comparable RAN surface combatants’ and the vessel will face ‘increased fuel consumption and running costs’.
Lack of power also has a direct impact on warfighting capability, with the commander needing to ‘prioritise power allocation to either the CEAFAR2 radar or the propulsion system depending on the ship’s operational requirements’. In the middle of a fight when you need to go fast and run your radar at full power to detect incoming missiles, you can’t do both. The list of problems goes on, suggesting that ultimately a feasible ship design may not be possible.
The future frigate selection process was meant to pick a mature design that was in the water and in service. Instead, it picked an immature design as its reference ship (the UK’s Type 26 frigate) that had barely started construction and was far from being in the water, let alone in service. The government also agreed to five major changes to the design, including installing the Australian-made CEAFAR radar and the US Aegis combat system. There’s no such thing as a completely off-the-shelf warship design, but the point of picking a mature, in-service design is to minimise changes and the technical and schedule risks that accompany them. Instead, the path Defence has taken has generated risks that are now being realised.
One key irony is that the now-cancelled Attack-class submarine program had completed its system functional review—a milestone further along the design path than the system design review—and was ready to commence detailed design. In essence, the Attack class was considerably more mature than the Hunter and its technical, cost and schedule risks were better understood.
Senior Defence’s leaders are predictably saying that solutions to the Hunter’s design problem are well underway. However, Defence’s assurances have minimal credibility in the shipbuilding space. For years Defence assured Senate committees that the Attack class would provide a regionally superior capability throughout its life, yet after the cancellation, the prime minister stated that the Attack class would have been obsolete almost the minute it went in the water and ‘we formed the very strong view, the unanimous view of all the Chiefs of our services and Defence Force, that this was a capability that was not going to meet our needs’.
So, where does that all leave us? The delays in the Hunter program mean that the start of construction has slid from 2020 to 2022 and now to 2024, with the exit review warning of further possible delays. At the business end of the project, initial operational capability—when the first vessel is ready to fight—is now 2034. Even the most optimistic view of the nuclear submarine program doesn’t see it delivering any capability any earlier than that, and unless AUKUS finds a way to short circuit usual project timelines, it could be considerably later.
The government’s $575bn expenditure on defence in the 2020s, which includes $270bn on new capability, will not get any frontline warships to sea this decade and likely none until the middle of next decade. Meanwhile, the Anzac and Collins fleets will need to serve on into the 2040s, hopefully (but not assuredly) ageing gracefully. But if the brand-new Attack class wasn’t going to be the undersea warfare capability we need, it’s hard to see the 40-year-old Collins providing it.
The RAN’s entire warfighting capability is at risk.
We simply can’t afford to cross our fingers and hope that Defence can sort out the problems in the Hunter-class program. Even if it can, the capability it delivers is too little, too late, at too great a cost—and may be irrelevant in the face of future threats. ASPI and others have suggested alternative and complementary courses of action, from building more of the proven Hobart-class air warfare destroyers, to arming the Arafura-class offshore patrol vessels (which don’t even have a main gun) with anti-ship missiles, to investing more heavily in lethal uncrewed and autonomous systems, to acquiring strike systems such as the B-21 bomber.
So far, Defence’s focus has doubled down on the shipbuilding program; indeed, the SSN program is sucking even more people and attention into that space. But anybody with a basic familiarity with crew resource management will tell you that if everybody in the cockpit focuses on the flashing red light on the panel in front of them, the aeroplane will fly into a mountain. (Source: News Now/https://www.themandarin.com.au/)
02 Feb 22. Dutton allays Hunter Class frigate fears, BAE responds. The minister has responded to criticisms of the $45bn project following what has been described as a “low level” internal assessment. On Tuesday (1 February), findings from a classified ‘Engineering Team Assessment’ of the Commonwealth government’s $45bn Hunter Class frigate program were leaked to The Australian. The report, presented to the Department of Defence, suggested the next-generation BAE Systems-built anti-submarine vessels would be “substantially” slower than initially anticipated, operating across a shorter range and leaving ships vulnerable to detection. The 36-page report, tabled in November, also raised crew safety concerns, claiming personnel could be trapped below deck by floodwaters in “credible damage conditions”.
However, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has dismissed fears of a systemic issue with the project, stating the assessment is “only accurate in part”.
“…Unfortunately, the most important part has been left out, and that is that, yes, concerns are raised, but they are being addressed,” he told Sky News.
“When you look at the complexity of these programs — I mean trying to build frigates or submarines or putting together a helicopter fleet, the weapon systems, the millions of componentry parts and decision-making points — it’s quite phenomenal.”
Minister Dutton stressed there would always be “an element of risk” involved in major defence projects, acknowledging “things will go wrong”.
He also downplayed the weight of the assessment, describing it as a “low-level report”, which has been “exaggerated”.
“…the fact is that the concerns that have been raised are being addressed, and the Chief of Navy has been very clear about that,” he added.
Minister Dutton went on to acknowledge there may be further issues identified over the course of the program, including challenges associated with the integration of new technologies.
According to the minister, such issues have been baked into the $45 bn price tag for the nine next-generation frigates.
Minister Dutton ruled out project cancellation as an option, confirming Defence would not ditch the project in favour of a “plan B” alternative.
“[We] looked very carefully at this project and we’ve decided that we will proceed with it,” he said.
In a statement to Defence Connect, BAE Systems Australia revealed it is yet to receive a copy of the report.
But a company spokesperson stressed that identifying risks is “part of a normal design risk management process”.
“All large projects go through an engineering phase to identify and mitigate potential issues and we’re working to deliver the best outcome for our customer,” the spokesperson added.
“The Hunter Class frigate program is making strong progress towards the delivery of a superior anti-submarine warfare capability for the Royal Australian Navy.”
In October, the company completed the structural manufacture of the first steel prototype unit.
The 217 square metre steel unit, produced at Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, was moved from the shipyard’s primary manufacturing hall for the next phase of the production process, which involves outfitting and consolidation with three other units as part of the first prototyping block.
The Hunter Class program is currently employing more than 1,300 staff, including 35 apprentices and 26 graduates, and is tipped to create and sustain 5,000 jobs over the life of the program. BAE Systems Australia, which secured the SEA 5000 contract in 2018, is scheduled to deliver the first Hunter Class frigate in 2033. (Source: Defence Connect)
03 Feb 22. UK and Nigeria strengthen security and defence partnership to tackle terrorism and build regional security. The UK and Nigeria held the first UK-Nigeria Security and Defence Partnership dialogue in London this week. New commitments made this week at the first ever UK-Nigeria Security and Defence Partnership dialogue will boost work to tackle shared threats and keep both British and Nigerian people safe. It includes commitments to work together to improve civilian policing standards, protect human rights and recognise the important role of women in achieving sustainable peace. Further UK support to Nigeria in tackling Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram will also build on our work together to respond to conflict with extremist groups in the North East of the country.
Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford said: “Conflict and insecurity are leading to the loss of life and increasing displacement of millions of people across West Africa. It affects the freedom of civilians and blocks economic growth, further undermining peace and prosperity.
Through these new agreements, the UK is deepening our partnership with Nigeria to tackle shared threats, bolster regional stabilisation efforts and support Nigeria’s peace-keeping capabilities. This will help Nigeria to tackle violent extremist organisations and organised criminal groups, empowering them to respond to growing regional security challenges.”
It is only when people are safe and communities stable, that nations can truly thrive.
This week’s dialogue, the first following the agreement of our security and defence partnership in 2018, has led to refreshed plans to deepen UK engagement with the Nigerian security authorities.
This is detailed in the joint communique issued by both countries following the talks.
Nigerian National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno, said: “Nigeria and the United Kingdom share deep linkages and a common history dating back to over a century. Like many other countries faced with complex and evolving security threats, Nigeria realises the need to forge greater alliances and partnerships with friendly nations, in order to combat these threats. It is particularly imperative that we work together to combat the threats of modern day terrorism.”
The discussions and agreements reached today present an opportunity for officials at the highest levels of both our governments to work together to address threats from terrorism, inter communal conflicts, serious organised crime, piracy, banditry, border security and trafficking in drugs and persons, amongst others.
These agreements will deepen and enhance our security and defence collaboration in order to create a safe and secure environment for all our citizens to thrive.
Policing advisors deployed from the UK to Nigeria will share experiences and help Nigerian forces respond timely and appropriately to criminal activity across the country.
In addition, there will be UK support to Nigeria as they roll-out community policing in several states. This will help improve civilian security and allow the Nigerian army, which is currently performing many policing duties across the country, to focus its efforts on fighting terrorism.
The two sides also discussed a review of regulations to strengthen the role of women in crime prevention and equal treatment of men and women of the police force.
Alongside work to strengthen Nigeria’s security and respond to growing regional insecurity, both countries agreed to deepen direct engagement on human rights, through sharing UK expertise with the Nigerian military on International Humanitarian Law and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
On top of this, the UK and Nigeria discussed UK assistance on reintegration pathways to civilian life for individuals who have left extremist groups.
The two sides discussed Nigeria’s recent work to improve protection for children in conflict zones, efforts to improve human rights and accountability within the military and Nigeria’s role in regional responses to shared insecurity challenges.
- The UK-Nigeria Security and Defence Partnership was agreed between the two countries in 2018.
- The Security and Defence Partnership Dialogue this week was the first such dialogue since the partnership was formed. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
02 Feb 22. U.S. to send fighter jets to assist UAE after Houthi attacks. The United States said it is sending fighter jets to assist the United Arab Emirates following missile attacks on the Gulf state launched by Yemen’s Houthi movement, including a foiled attack aimed at a base hosting U.S. forces. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also told Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a telephone call on Tuesday that Washington would send the guided missile destroyer the USS Cole to partner with the UAE navy ahead of a port call in Abu Dhabi.
“The Secretary also informed the Crown Prince of his decision to deploy 5th Generation Fighter aircraft to assist the UAE against the current threat and as a clear signal that the United States stands with the UAE as a long-standing strategic partner,” the U.S. Defense Department said in a release.
The UAE on Monday intercepted a missile during a visit by Israel’s president, the third such attack in two weeks claimed by the Iran-aligned group that is battling a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE.
A week earlier, the U.S. military said it had fired multiple Patriot missile interceptors at two inbound missiles which the Houthis said they fired at the UAE’s al-Dhafra air base.
The Emirati envoy to the United Nations last week said the UAE may upgrade its defensive capabilities and was in discussions with the United States.
The United States would continue providing early warning intelligence and collaborate on air defence, Austin told Sheikh Mohammed, the UAE’s de facto ruler.
The attacks on the UAE, the region’s commercial and tourism hub, are an escalation in the Yemen war, in which the Houthis have repeatedly launched missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa. (Source: Reuters)
01 Feb 22. Putin accuses U.S. of trying to lure Russia into war. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West on Tuesday of deliberately creating a scenario designed to lure it into war and ignoring Russia’s security concerns over Ukraine.
In his first direct public comments on the crisis for nearly six weeks, a defiant Putin showed no sign of backing down from security demands that the West has called non-starters and a possible excuse to launch an invasion, which Moscow denies.
“It’s already clear now … that fundamental Russian concerns were ignored,” Putin said at a news conference with the visiting prime minister of Hungary, one of several NATO leaders trying to intercede with him as the crisis has intensified.
Putin described a potential future scenario in which Ukraine was admitted to NATO and then attempted to recapture the Crimea peninsula, territory Russia seized in 2014.
“Let’s imagine Ukraine is a NATO member and starts these military operations. Are we supposed to go to war with the NATO bloc? Has anyone given that any thought? Apparently not,” he said.
Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and Western countries say they fear Putin may be planning to invade.
Russia denies this but has said it could take unspecified military action unless its security demands are met. Western countries say any invasion would bring sanctions on Moscow.
The Kremlin wants the West to respect a 1999 agreement that no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others, which it considers at the heart of the crisis, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
He raised the charter signed in Istanbul by members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes the United States and Canada, during a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Lavrov said Blinken accepted the need to discuss the matter further whilst a U.S. account of the call focused on the need for Moscow to pull back.
“If President Putin truly does not intend war or regime change, the Secretary told Foreign Minister Lavrov then this is the time to pull back troops and heavy weaponry and engage in a serious discussion,” a senior State Department official told reporters.
The U.S. is willing to discuss giving the Kremlin a way to verify the absence of Tomahawk cruise missiles at NATO bases in Romania and Poland, if Russia shares similar information about missiles on certain Russian bases, Bloomberg reported.
The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment but a source familiar with the situation said the United States has only offered to have talks on a variety of Russia’s concerns, such as arms control issues in the appropriate forums.
Putin had not spoken publicly about the Ukraine crisis since Dec. 23, leaving ambiguity about his personal position while diplomats from Russia and the West have been engaged in repeated rounds of talks.
His remarks on Tuesday reflected a world view in which Russia needs to defend itself from an aggressive and hostile United States. Washington is not primarily concerned with Ukraine’s security, but with containing Russia, Putin said.
“In this sense, Ukraine itself is just an instrument to achieve this goal,” he said.
“This can be done in different ways, by drawing us into some kind of armed conflict and, with the help of their allies in Europe, forcing the introduction against us of those harsh sanctions they are talking about now in the U.S.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has often sparred with Western European leaders over democracy in his own country, said he believed after his talks with Putin that there was room for a compromise.
“I got convinced today that the existing differences in positions can be bridged and it is possible to sign an agreement that would guarantee peace, guarantee Russia’s security and is acceptable for NATO member states as well,” Orban said.
GUN TO UKRAINE’S HEAD
As Western countries rush to show solidarity with Ukraine, the U.S. urged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to cancel a visit with Putin in Russia, a source told Reuters.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv and accused Putin of holding a gun to Ukraine’s head to demand changes to the security architecture in Europe.
“It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy,” Johnson said. “And I believe that is still possible. We are keen to engage in dialogue, of course we are, but we have the sanctions ready, we’re providing military support and we will also intensify our economic cooperation.”
Johnson said any Russian invasion of Ukraine would lead to a military and humanitarian disaster.
“There are 200,000 men and women under arms in Ukraine, they will put up a very, very fierce and bloody resistance,” he said. “I think that parents, mothers in Russia should reflect on that fact and I hope very much that President Putin steps back from the path of conflict and that we engage in dialogue.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, also visiting Kyiv, said Poland would help Ukraine with gas and arms supplies, as well as humanitarian and economic aid.
“Living close to a neighbour like Russia, we have the feeling of living at the foot of a volcano,” said Morawiecki.
Zelenskiy, who has repeatedly played down the prospect of an imminent invasion, signed a decree to boost his armed forces by 100,000 troops over three years. He urged lawmakers to stay calm and avoid panic.
The troop increase was “not because we will soon have a war … but so that soon and in the future there will be peace in Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said. (Source: Reuters)
01 Feb 22. Indian Defence budget gets 13.31% of total outlay, Navy gets biggest pie. The total Defence Budget represents an enhancement of Rs 46,970 crore (9.82 per cent) over budget estimates 2021-22
Amid border tension with China, the Indian Defence Ministry gets 13.31 per cent of the total outlay of Rs 39.45 lakh crore. The Ministry of Defence has been allocated a total budget of Rs 5.25 lakh crore, which includes an amount of Rs 1.19 lakh crore for pension. The total Defence Budget represents an enhancement of Rs 46,970 crore (9.82 per cent) over budget estimates 2021-22. Through enhanced budgetary support over the years, the government has placed modernisation and infrastructure development of the Armed Forces at the centre stage of the National Security and Defence Planning process amid stand-off with China for the last 22 months.
The total allocation under Capital Outlay of the Defence Services has been increased from Rs 86,740 crore in 2013-14 to 1.52 lakh crore in 2022-23. There is an enhancement of 76 per cent over a period of nine years.
Further, during this period, the total Defence Budget including Defence Pensions has increased by 107.29 per cent, from Rs 2.53 lakh crore in 2013-14 to Rs 5.25 lakh crore in 2022-23.
In the Budget 2022-23, the Capital Allocations pertaining to modernisation and infrastructure development of Armed Forces has been significantly increased to Rs 1.52 lakh crore. This represents an increase of Rs 17,308 crore (12.82 per cent) over FY 2021-22.
Further, cumulative increase in the Capital Budget since 2019-20 has been Rs 48,975 crore (47.37 per cent).
The increase in the overall Capital Budget reflects the Government’s resolve towards sustainable enhancement in the modernisation and infrastructure development and also towards achieving the objectives of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.
In order to give push to indigenous Domestic Enterprises under the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, the share of domestic capital procurement, which was earmarked at 64 per cent in 2021-22, has been enhanced to 68 per cent of the Capital Acquisition Budget of the Defence Services (Rs 1.24 lakh crore) for the FY 2022-23, which would be Rs 84,598 crore.
The Capital segment of the MoD (Civil) budget catering to organisations such as Indian Coast Guard (ICG), Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and Directorate General Defence Estates (DGDE) etc, has also seen a notable jump of 55.60 per cent.
In absolute terms, this amount is Rs 8,050 crore in FY 2022-23 against Rs 5,173 crore in FY 2021-22.
The Capital Budget of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been increased by 40 per cent to Rs 3,500 crore in FY 2022-23 with regard to Rs 2,500 crore in FY 2021-22.
This will expedite the progress of creation of border infrastructure including important tunnels (Sela and Naechiphu tunnel) and bridges on major river gaps.
Underlining the importance of overall maritime security, the Capital Budget of the Indian Navy has been enhanced by 44.53 per cent, with a total allocation of Rs 46,323 crore in FY 2022-23. This increase is aimed at acquisition of new platforms, creation of Op and Strategic Infrastructure, bridging of critical capability gaps and building a credible maritime force for the future.
Capital budget of Indian Coast Guard
To boost the Coastal Security, the Capital budget of Indian Coast Guard has been enhanced by 60.24 per cent to Rs 4,246 crore in FY 2022-23 with regard to Rs 2,650 crore in FY 2021-22.
This enhancement is aimed at building up of assets such as acquisition of ships and aircraft, augmentation of infrastructure, establishment of coastal security network and building up technical and administrative support structures.
The Centre have provisioned Rs 173.03 crore and Rs 131.08 crore under DGDEs Capital Budget for BE 2022-23 and RE 2021-22, respectively, mainly for construction of boundary posts and pillars and perimeter fencing of Defence land. This is directed towards preventing encroachment on Defence land.
Towards hand holding of the newly created seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Rs 1,665 crore in RE 2021-22 and Rs 1,310 crore in BE 2022-23 has been earmarked for their planned modernisation.
Additionally, Rs 2,500 crore in BE 2022-23 and also in RE 2021-22 has been set aside as Emergency Authorization Fund.
Budget allocation for iDEX and DTIS
Further, for enabling the Defence Industrial eco-system in the country, iDEX and DTIS have been allocated Rs 60 crore and Rs 23 crore respectively in the FY 2022-23.
Under the iDEX (Innovations for Defence Excellence) Scheme, MoD aims to create an environment which fosters innovation and encourages technology development in Defence by engaging R&D institutes, academia, industries, startups and even individual innovators.
Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS) envisages the creation of state-of-the-art testing infrastructure in partnership with the private industry thereby boosting domestic defence and aerospace manufacturing.
Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presenting the budget in the parliament said:
“Government is committed to reducing imports and promoting ‘Atmanirbharta’ in equipment for the Armed Forces. 68 per cent of the capital procurement budget will be earmarked for domestic industry in 2022-23, up from 58 per cent in 2021-22.”
The minister has also stated that Defence R&D will be opened up for industry, startups and academia with 25 per cent of defence R&D budget earmarked.
“Private industry will be encouraged to take up design and development of military platforms and equipment in collaboration with DRDO and other organizations through the SPV model,” Sitharaman said. (Source: Google/https://ummid.com/)
01 Feb 22. UK-Ukraine joint leaders statement. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s joint statement. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Boris Johnson met President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on February 1, 2022 to discuss ongoing Russian hostile activity, including military build-up. The Prime Minister emphasised the United Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. The United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine in the face of ongoing Russian aggression, which threatens regional peace and security and undermines the global order. The two leaders emphasised that it is the right of every Ukrainian to determine their own future.
The leaders warned that any further Russian incursion in Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake and have a stark humanitarian cost.
Ukraine and the United Kingdom agreed to work together to strengthen Ukraine’s security and ability to defend itself. The leaders also expressed their commitment to strengthen Ukraine’s energy security and support its efforts towards the green transition. The Prime Minister announced £88m of new funding to aid efforts to build Ukraine’s resilience and reduce reliance on Russian energy supplies. The leaders reaffirmed their desire to deepen the strategic partnership between Ukraine and the UK in all areas of mutual interest, and to continue their engagement, particularly in the framework of the Ukraine-UK Strategic Dialogue. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
01 Feb 22. Russia conducting military exercises on a scale never seen before, military chief warns. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said the drills are part of “a pattern of coercion and intimidation” against the West.
Russia is conducting military exercises on a scale “never seen before” on the Ukrainian border, the head of the UK Armed Forces has warned.
Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin addressed a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Downing Street said.
It came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew to Ukraine in a bid to quell tensions between Russia and the former Soviet state.
But before boarding his flight Mr Johnson told his Cabinet that the situation was “deeply concerning and that there were no indications of Russia de-escalating with more than 100,000 troops currently amassed on Ukraine’s border”.
Adm Sir Tony said “a significant proportion of Russia’s land combat power was now gathered on the western border, coupled with deterrence operations such as military exercises on a scale never seen before”.
Number 10 said he warned this “fitted into a pattern of coercion and intimidation that sought to undermine the values and principles of the West”.
Mr Johnson is expected to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, where it is thought he will again urge the leader to dial down the aggression.
A planned call on Monday had to be rescheduled due to the Prime Minister defending himself in Westminster over the ‘partygate’ allegations engulfing Downing Street.
In Kyiv, Mr Johnson will discuss with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the support the UK can offer before the two leaders hold a joint press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Last month, the Defence Secretary said the UK had supplied Ukraine with light-armour defensive weapons systems amid the tensions, with British troops providing training to the Ukrainian forces.
The UK currently has about 100 trainers in Ukraine.
Over the weekend, it was revealed a major British military deployment – including fast jets and warships – was expected to become part of the UK’s offer to NATO in Eastern Europe amid the rising tensions.
Mr Johnson, who travelled on a chartered plane from Stansted with staff and a small pool of journalists late on Tuesday morning, last spoke to the Russian leader in December.
The Government announced overnight that £88m in aid would be sent to Ukraine to support the country.
The cash – part of the UK’s Good Governance Fund – will help “support stable governance and energy independence”, by supporting transparency and anti-corruption initiatives and efforts to reduce Ukraine’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
But the cash injection and the Prime Minister’s visit have been criticised as being too little too late.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said: “Britain deserves so much better than having Boris Johnson represent us on the world stage.
“He’s been missing in action while war looms in Europe – and while he might be playing catch-up now, it’s too little, too late.
“This is the man who picked pleading with his backbenchers over talking tough to Vladimir Putin. He’s spent the last month phoning wavering Tory MPs when he should have been meeting foreign leaders,” she added.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: “The situation in Ukraine is immensely serious. We want diplomacy to succeed.
“This crisis requires the attention of a focused Prime Minister, but Boris Johnson is playing catch-up and the Government is in disarray.
“Yesterday he missed a call with Putin because he was in Parliament defending the indefensible,” he added. (Source: forces.net)
01 Feb 22. UAE, reeling from Houthi attacks, seeking Israeli advanced radar: Sources. The UAE is seeking the advanced version of the Green Pine radar, part of the Israeli Arrow system that is designed to intercept ballistic missiles, in what could mark the first major arms agreement between the two nations.
In recent days the United Arab Emirates embassy in Tel Aviv has reached out to the Israeli Ministry of Defense to judge how a formal request that Jerusalem send an advanced Israeli radar to the UAE would be received, Breaking Defense has learned.
The UAE is seeking the advanced version of the Green Pine radar, part of the Israeli Arrow system that is designed to intercept ballistic missiles, as the Gulf nation deals with another week of strikes from Houthi rebels within Yemen. If Israel were to agree, it would mark the first major military technology acquisition between the two nations.
If the sale is approved, the radars will be purchased by the UAE and after a short training session in Israel, and the Emiratis will operate them themselves. While Israeli companies have sold cyber systems and homeland defense gear to the UAE in the past, an advanced radar system represents another level.
The Israeli MoD declined to comment, but two defense sources told Breaking Defense on Jan. 31 that the UAE is pursuing the Israeli solution for detecting ballistic missiles from long ranges. No decision has been made at this point, per the sources, with an evaluation of the request to occur in the coming days; should the MoD back the move, the UAE will then file an official request for the system.
Spokespeople for the UAE embassy in Israel referred questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which referred questions to the embassy in Washington, which did not respond by press time.
According to Elta, the electronics subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, the Green Pine Radar can detect and simultaneously track dozens of missiles from long ranges under all weather conditions. The UAE is interested in the advanced version the ELM-2080S, the sources say.
The request comes at a moment when both UAE and Israel’s interests align. A Jan. 30 attack on the UAE coincided with a visit by Israeli president Yitzhak Herzog. According to a statement made by the UAE, the country’s air defenses intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile in the attack, though the US military said it also fired Patriot inteceptors during the attack. A day later, Houthi rebels in Yemen announced that they intend to attack the offices of international companies in the Emirates, and called on citizens to stay away from sensitive facilities.
Israel, meanwhile, is preparing for a potential Houthi attack on targets in the Eilat area, the resort city on the Red Sea, with identified threats including both cruise missiles and long-range drones. The defense systems in the area are on high alert and the Israeli defense forces (IDF) are using all its “sensors” to get an early warning on such an attack.
The Houthis have expressed anger about the alleged presence of Israeli forces on an Island in Yemen territory. In September 2021 Yemen’s ambassador to Iran, Ibrahim Mohammad Mohammad al-Deilami, cited Israel’s presence in Yemeni territories, especially in a number of strategic islands.
“There is also an Israeli presence, especially in Yemeni territorial waters and some strategic islands, whether on Hanish Island, Mayun Island, or even on Socotra Island in the Arabian Sea,” al-Deilami told the Tehran Times then.
Uzi Rabi, one of Israel’s top experts on Iran, told Breaking Defense that there is no doubt that the Houthis have a future plan to hit Israel with long-range weapons. “By repeatedly attacking the UAE Teheran signals that it will not accept the new cooperation between the UAE created by the Abraham Accords,” he said.
Still, despite the potential threat, open source material has not shown any actual attacks on Israel from the Houthis. Instead, there have been simple threats, such as in 2019, when Houthi Minister of Defense Mohammed Nasser al-‘Atafi claimed in an interview that his forces possessed a bank of Israeli military targets. His next comment, however, was more telling, as he implied that the leadership had not yet decided to attack Israel, saying, “We will not hesitate to hit [Israel] whenever the leadership decides.
Ari Heistein and Elsha Stoin, two researchers in the Israeli institute for national security studies (INSS), believe it would be fairly difficult for the Houthis to actually damage Israel. Realistically, the researchers wrote, the Houthis would need something in the range of 1,800km to safely launch an attack into Israeli territory, a capability they have yet to show. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
01 Feb 22. Poland to provide Ukraine with arms to counter potential Russian invasion. UK prime minister heads to Kyiv and US prepares for more talks with Moscow. Poland has become the latest country to send arms to help Ukraine fend off a potential full-scale Russian invasion as Kyiv said it planned a big increase in the size of its armed forces. Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, announced the shipments to Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday. “We are ready to give Ukraine tens of thousands in artillery and ammunitions rounds, but also surface-to-air weapons of the Grom class and light mortar systems, as well as drones,” Morawiecki said. “Our part of Europe does not suffer from earthquakes and volcano explosions, but despite this, living close to a neighbour like Russia, we have the feeling that we live near a volcano.” His announcement formed part of a display of solidarity with Kyiv by European allies, and came on the day UK prime minister Boris Johnson is due to meet Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky in the country’s capital. Speaking to ministers ahead of his trip, Johnson told his cabinet that the situation was “deeply concerning and that there were no indications of Russia de-escalating with more than 100,000 troops currently amassed on Ukraine’s border”. Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, are due to speak by phone on Tuesday, their first conversation since Washington sent a written response to Moscow’s security demands last week. Russia sent its own reply to the US response on the eve of the Blinken-Lavrov call as an estimated 100,000 Russian forces are massed near the country’s frontier with Ukraine. Morawiecki spoke during a briefing with Denys Shmyhal, his Ukrainian counterpart, and before the arrival later on Tuesday of Johnson. Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands, is also scheduled to visit. Shmyhal said his country hoped “to be able to officially start a new format of regional co-operation between Ukraine, Poland and Great Britain under the conditions of continuing Russian aggression”. “We need to sign a three-party document on co-operation and strengthening regional security,” he said without providing further details. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, suggested the trilateral new “format” between Ukraine, the UK and Poland would help bolster the country’s defences and security. “We cannot expect security and prosperity somewhere in the future when we become members of the EU and Nato. We need them today,” Kuleba said. The Polish arms shipment comes after the UK last month provided Ukraine with thousands of NLAW anti-tank busters and other equipment. The US last year provided a record $650mn in military assistance to Ukraine, on top of $2.7bn it has supplied since the war in the country’s east erupted in 2014. Zelensky said on Tuesday that the country would add 100,000 professional troops to its 261,000-strong armed forces, and boost army salaries in order to deter further Russian aggression. The increase in troop numbers is planned over three years. Zelensky signed the relevant presidential decree, telling parliament he was doing so “not because war is coming, but so that there will be peace”. “This decree provides for an increase in the financial security of all military personnel to a level not lower than three minimum wages,” Zelensky said. Ukraine’s minimum wage equates to roughly $230 a month. The US and Ukraine’s other western backers fear Russia’s troop build-up could be preparation for a Russian invasion or deeper incursions on top of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the fomenting of a proxy separatist war in eastern regions of the country. EU officials have approved a fresh €1.2bn finance package for Ukraine. Kyiv is also seeking multibillion-dollar US-guaranteed bond issues. (Source: FT.com)
31 Jan 22. U.S., Qatari Defense Leaders Look to Deepen Cooperation in Persian Gulf. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III held wide-ranging talks with Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during a Pentagon meeting today.
The Amir is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden later today.
The meeting was an opportunity for the two close allies to see how they can best cooperate to promote security and prosperity in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East.
“The U.S. defense partnership with Qatar is strong, and it serves as a cornerstone for our strategic relationship,” Austin said at the beginning of the meeting with the Amir.
Qatar hosts American troops that help ensure peace in the region.
Qatar also helped the United States in its efforts in Afghanistan. “We couldn’t have evacuated more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan without your help at Camp As Sayliyah and Al Udeid ,” Austin said. “You welcomed with open arms those who left Afghanistan to find a new beginning.”
Austin travelled to the Persian Gulf in September to specifically thank allies in the region for their help saying their actions had saved thousands of lives. Qatar is still helping. “After our last C-17s departed, your airplanes continued to fly out those who were seeking a better life,” he said. “Your Highness, you’ve really stepped up as a reliable partner and a trusted leader.”
But the region is still dangerous. Iran continues efforts to destabilize the Gulf countries and sponsor proxy groups. The secretary mentioned increased threats from terrorism, missiles and unmanned aerial systems attacks. The answer to these threats is a “new era of partnership in which we tackle shared threats through multilateral efforts and where operations are more integrated,” he said. “This cooperation will allow our defense relationships with partners like Qatar to continue to grow stronger, and I know that Qatar and the United States stand together in ensuring security and stability in the region. We share the same objectives. We want to resolve conflicts and provide humanitarian aid to civilians in need, and to de-escalate tensions.”
Sheikh Tamim told Austin that Qatar is proud to host the Americans at Al Udeid Air Base and touted the partnership between the two countries. “We’re going to continue working together to help bring security and stability in the region, and I’m sure with this close partnership and this great relationship, we will be able to do so,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
01 Feb 22. EUTM working toward a Mozambican Quick Reaction Force. The European Union Training Mission (EUTM) in Mozambique is training and building the capacity of the country’s military forces to address security challenges and protect the population in the northern part of the country, where insurgents are active. Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response, Charles Fries, has just been in the southern African country to assess EU assistance and work as well as meet with Defence Minister General Cristovão Chume. An EU Delegation to Mozambique statement has it they discussed security with an eye to the end game when EUTM completes its two-year mission of ensuring the Mozambique Armed Defence Forces (FADM) are well trained, equipped and operate autonomously under international standards on humanitarian and human rights laws. At the EUTM Mozambique training camp in Katembe, Fries was briefed by EUTM-Mozambique brigadier-general Lemos de Pires on EU support priorities in the context of the training mission. This will help FADM capabilities and equipment provision, protecting civilian populations, fighting terrorism, and co-ordination. EUTM’s mission builds on the EU integrated approach in Cabo Delgado, which focuses on security, humanitarian assistance and development, the EU said.
At the camp Fries saw demonstrations of different training modules for Mozambican military personnel and local trainers. He left a recommendation to EUTM-Mozambique on the importance of acquiring all training equipment for a smooth mission as well as using the equipment effectively.
The EUTM-Mozambique two-year mission began operations in November with the mandate to support a more efficient and effective response by FADM to the crisis in Cabo Delgado. Military personnel undergoing training will be part of a future quick reaction force (QRF).
Around 140 military personnel from 10 European countries are stationed at the Katembe and Chimoio training centres and will train over 1 100 Mozambican officials. The common costs for EUTM-Mozambique, to be covered via the European Peace Facility, are valued at €15.16m for the two-year period. Additionally, the European Council last July approved an urgent assistance measure under the European Peace Facility for €4m to complement military unit training with provision of non-lethal individual and collective equipment.
EUTM-Mozambique will contribute to the EU’s integrated approach to Cabo Delgado, alongside peacebuilding, conflict prevention and dialogue support, humanitarian assistance and development co-operation, as well as promotion of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the EU said.
The security and humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado province has continuously and seriously deteriorated since 2017, with insurgent attacks leading to internal displacement of more than 900 000 people and over 3 000 deaths.
The Mozambican training mission is the EU’s fourth in Africa after Mali, Central African Republic (CAR) and Somalia. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
31 Jan 22. ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ Designation Will Enhance U.S., Qatar Relationship. During a meeting today with Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, President Joe Biden indicated plans to nominate Qatar as a “major non-NATO ally” for the United States. The designation will change the way the United States and its military interact with that country, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.
“It does open up a full new range of opportunities: exercises, operations and you know, perhaps, the … acquisition of capabilities as well,” Kirby told reporters during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
The Amir also met today with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Pentagon.
“The secretary reiterated his heartfelt gratitude to the Amir’s indispensable and, quite frankly, ongoing support to our efforts to continue to get Americans and our Afghan allies out of Afghanistan,” Kirby said.
The two leaders, he said, discussed shared regional security interests including de-escalating tensions in the region, countering terrorism and the threats represented by Iran.
“Secretary Austin shared his vision for integrated deterrence, emphasizing the importance of multilateral efforts and integrated operations with partners like Qatar, to address threats confronting the region,” Kirby said.
According to the U.S. State Department, a designation as major non-NATO ally, or MNNA, serves as “a powerful symbol of the close relationship the United States shares with those countries and demonstrates our deep respect for the friendship for the countries to which it is extended.”
Nations with the MNNA designation are eligible to, among other things, host U.S. war reserve stockpiles of material inside their countries. Private companies within those nations are also eligible to bid on contracts to maintain, repair or overhaul U.S. military equipment. Those nations can also enter into agreements with the United States for training. More than 15 nations, including, but not limited to Australia, Bahrain, Japan, Kuwait, and the Philippines, are currently designated as major non-NATO allies by the United States. (Source: US DoD)
31 Jan 22. Australian defence spending to surge amid strategic pivot: GlobalData. The deteriorating regional security environment is set to trigger a material increase in annual defence spending over the next five years, according to research group GlobalData.
The Commonwealth government’s defence budget has been tipped to surge to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.05 per cent between 2022 and 2026 in a new report published by analytics company GlobalData.
The report — Australia Defense Market: Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2026 — has suggested the surge would be driven by a spike in acquisition costs as Defence accelerates its push to modernise air, land, and maritime capability amid heightened security threats in the Indo-Pacific.
The acquisition budget is expected to hit US$17bn ($24.3bn) in 2026, representing a CAGR of 6.43 per cent.
Over the same period, defence spending as a proportion of GDP is tipped to remain above 2 per cent despite COVID-induced economic constraints.
Rouble, aerospace & defence analyst at GlobalData, noted that the ramp up in spending would fund the development of key defence capabilities across all warfighting domains, making particularly note of major shipbuilding projects.
“The Australian government is investing in programs across maritime domain which includes the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, Hunter Class frigates, and Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels,” Rouble said. “This new fleet will significantly improve the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) capabilities to maintain a continuous presence in its territorial waters and would give Australia the muscle to stand up to any potential threat in the immediate region.”
The analyst also reference investment in unmanned capabilities, aimed at delivering “round-the-clock” maritime wide-area intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability.
“Australia will continue to boost procurement programs, as well as fund major RDT&E programs in the forecast period such as the High-Speed Long-Range Strike program, which includes hypersonic research,” Rouble added. “Developing a sovereign high-speed weapons capability will be a step towards building and developing a robust, resilient, and internationally competitive defence industry base. This will create new opportunities for the Australian defence industry and could lead to potential defence exports as well.” (Source: Defence Connect)
31 Jan 22. Statement by Ambassador James Kariuki at the Security Council meeting on Ukraine. I am grateful to USG Di Carlo for her briefing. And I welcome the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council today. Madam President, first of all, the UN Charter defines our purpose here: “to take collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”. Today, over 100,000 Russian troops are massed on Ukraine’s borders. They are equipped with tanks, armoured vehicles, rocket artillery, and short-range ballistic missiles. They are supported by Russian air and maritime long-range strike capabilities. This is not a routine deployment. This is the largest military build-up in Europe in decades.
In the best case scenario, the scale of the Russian forces assembled on three sides of Ukraine is deeply destabilising. In the worst case, it is preparation for a military invasion of a sovereign country.
Madam President, in 2008, Russia told this Council that it was sending peacekeepers into Georgia. In reality it was invading an independent, democratic country.
In 2014, Russia denied to this Council the presence of its forces in Crimea. In reality its soldiers were annexing part of an independent, democratic Ukraine.
Today, Russia denies that its forces are posing a threat to Ukraine. But yet again we see disinformation, cyber-attacks and destabilising plots directed against an independent, democratic country.
Madam President, the United Kingdom welcomes our discussion today as part of the intense diplomatic effort to ensure Russia de-escalates the situation and avoids conflict. We are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
At the same time, we have sought dialogue with Russia through the OSCE, the NATO-Russia Council, and bilateral discussions with all levels of the Russian Government. We are ready to address mutual security concerns based on existing European Security structures and international commitments. This includes our expectation that Russia should address our concerns.
We are committed to a constructive dialogue if Russia is genuine about finding a diplomatic solution. This Council has a vital interest in this diplomatic effort. Because let’s be clear: this is not a regional issue.
Any Russian invasion or act of aggression against Ukraine would be a gross breach of international law and Russia’s commitments under the Charter.
Conflict would result in terrible bloodshed and destabilise the entire international community. There should be no doubt about how costly such a miscalculation would be for Russia, or how devastating it would be for the people of Ukraine, whose only provocation is to want a democratic future for their country.
There would be no winners, only victims. Civilians caught in the crossfire, or forced to flee. Families grieving the loss of fallen soldiers on both sides.
So, Madam President, we urge Russia to make clear in this Council:
That it will abide by its obligations under the Charter.
That it has no plans to invade Ukraine. That it will refrain from the threat, or use of force against its neighbour. That it will not further undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity, by military or any other means. And that it will stand down its troops. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
28 Jan 22. US Navy and NATO presence in the Black Sea has fallen since Russia took part of Ukraine, figures show. NATO activity in the Black Sea region has become less frequent since Moscow’s takeover of the Crimean Peninsula nearly eight years ago, sparking concerns that the West is falling short in checking further Russian ambitions in the strategically critical waterway.
A Stars and Stripes analysis of the data revealed that despite NATO rhetoric about a stepped-up presence in the Black Sea, the trend has gone in the opposite direction.
The U.S. Navy has shouldered most of the burden for patrolling the Black Sea. The number of days its warships spend annually in the strategic waterway mostly has fallen since 2014, when Kremlin forces seized Crimea from Ukraine.
The area could soon become a flashpoint again as Russian ships transit eastward through the Mediterranean Sea, while its forces on land surround Ukraine.
Navy patrols, military drills and port calls are critical in sending a deterrent signal to Russia, military and security experts say.
“(With) the Black Sea specifically, so much of deterrence and dealing with other nations geopolitically has do with presence,” said Jim Townsend, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington and a former Defense Department undersecretary for European and NATO policy. “If you’re not there one way or another, then the assumption is you don’t care about it.”
U.S. ships spent about 210 collective days in the sea in 2014, a Stars and Stripes analysis of data from the Istanbul-based ship-watching website Turkishnavy.net found. Two years later, that number was about 58 days.
Stars and Stripes compared the U.S. ship data with Navy press releases and news reports, finding rare variances of a day or two.
U.S. warships had not spent more than about 126 days in the sea annually since 2016 until last year, when tensions rose along the Ukrainian-Russian border.
In 2021, about 12 Navy ships, including the U.S. 6th Fleet flagship Mount Whitney, spent some 182 collective days in the Black Sea. That’s still 15% less time than they spent there seven years earlier.
The Black Sea falls under the operations area of U.S. 6th Fleet, which did not respond to a request for comment after being sent the data.
In a Nov. 25 news release announcing that the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke was entering the Black Sea, 6th Fleet said the ship’s patrol would “ensure security and stability in this vital international waterway.”
The Arleigh Burke spent about 21 days in the sea and made port calls in Constanta, Romania, and Varna, Bulgaria. Both countries are NATO members.
Representation from a few other NATO countries has picked up in recent years but has been inconsistent. Alliance members Germany, Poland and Netherlands made intermittent Black Sea patrols from 2014 to 2021, the data show.
Retired Adm. James G. Foggo III, who led U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Forces Command Naples from 2017-2020, said that it was frustrating to see wavering allied presence in the Black Sea, “depending on what crisis or what tension is building up in any given (situation).”
The inconsistency is driven by competing security priorities among allies, a lack of available ships and resources, and the failure of NATO to devise and implement a strategy in the Black Sea, Foggo said.
The result is an emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is orchestrating a stranglehold on Ukrainian ship traffic in the adjoining Sea of Azov and harassment of NATO ships in the Black Sea, said Foggo, now dean of the Arlington, Va.-based Center for Maritime Strategy.
He and other analysts say that regardless of the outcome of the current situation in Ukraine, the U.S. must take the lead in developing a NATO Black Sea strategy.
They advocate a nearly constant patrol presence in the sea, an increase in the number of surveillance operations and assistance to Ukraine in building up its naval capacity and capabilities.
However, the burden for funding and implementing a strategy should not fall primarily to the U.S., said James R. Holmes, a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.
“It’s time for Europeans to turn those resources into diplomatic and military influence rather than continue depending on us to guarantee the region’s security,” Holmes said. “We need to become an alliance of equals.”
In 2021, Spanish ships spent about 92 days in the Black Sea, according to the Stars and Stripes analysis. English ships spent some 61 days, and Italian ships spent about 52 days on patrol in the sea.
Greece and France each made three Black Sea visits last year, and Germany appears to have sent none of its ships to the sea in 2021. One German warship did spend 11 days in the sea in 2020, the data show.
Increasing presence would require creative thinking, Luke Coffey and Brent Sadler wrote in a May report from the Washington D.C.-based conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, which relied in part on the same data.
NATO and its non-Black Sea members should “invest in and help develop the maritime capabilities of the alliance’s Black Sea littoral states, such as Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, along with NATO partners Georgia and Ukraine,” they wrote.
They also recommended exploring ways to circumvent various restrictions on warships in the sea.
Russia’s demands that U.S. and NATO troops leave the countries that once formed the Cold War-era Warsaw Pact have several nations on the Black Sea concerned about Moscow’s intentions, particularly in light of Russia’s massive military buildup along Ukraine’s borders.
That is why it would be a mistake ever to ignore Russia, even while much of the U.S. security establishment has focused on China in recent years, analysts said.
“We are never going to be able to just turn our back,” Foggo said. “(The Russians) are always going to be there.” (Source: Google/https://www.stripes.com/theaters/)
30 Jan 22. U.S. worried North Korea could return to nuclear and ICBM tests, urges dialogue. The United States is concerned North Korea’s escalating missile tests could be precursors to resumed tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, a senior U.S. official said on Sunday, while urging Pyongyang to join direct talks with no preconditions.
North Korea conducted its largest missile test since 2017 on Sunday, sending a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile soaring into space.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said a recent flurry of North Korean missile tests was reminiscent of heightened tensions in 2017, when North Korea conducted multiple nuclear tests and launched its largest missiles.
He said the latest launch took North Korea a step closer to fully scrapping a self-imposed moratorium on testing its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which it hasn’t tested since 2017.
A senior official of the Biden administration was asked in a briefing for journalists whether Washington shared the concern that Pyongyang might resume ICBM and nuclear testing.
“Of course, we’re concerned,” he said. “It’s not just what they did yesterday, it’s the fact that this is coming on the heels of quite a significant number of tests in this month. And that follows on tests at the end of the year going back to September, of a variety of systems.”
“We obviously don’t want to see further testing and we’ve called upon to DPRK to refrain from further tests,” he said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name.
North Korea’s testing spree is a major unwanted headache for the Biden administration as it seeks to head off any plans by Russia to invade Ukraine and contends with relations with China at their worst level in decades.
Under President Joe Biden, Washington has repeatedly sought talks with North Korea but has been rebuffed. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held three summits with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, but the talks did not realize Kim’s demand for a removal of sanctions on Pyongyang.
The official said the latest North Korean test was part of an “increasingly destabilizing” pattern and in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and therefore international law.
“It requires a response,” he said. “You will see us taking some steps that are designed to show our commitment to our allies … and at the same time we reiterate our call for diplomacy. We stand ready and we are very serious about trying to have discussions that address concerns on both sides.”
The official did not detail the nature of the response.
Despite urging dialogue, Washington has maintained sanctions on North Korea and imposed more following recent tests and sought to encourage the U.N. Security Council to follow suit.
However, China and Russia delayed a U.S. bid to impose U.N. sanctions on five North Koreans Washington has accused of procuring goods for its weapons programs.
Asked whether the United States could secure Chinese and Russian support for new sanctions, the official replied:
“Our belief is that they understand their responsibilities as Security Council members to make sure that the Council’s resolutions are enforced and the Council takes up its responsibility promote peace and stability in the region.” (Source: Reuters)
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