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03 Jan 22. Finland insists on its right to join Nato in defiance of Russia Moscow’s bellicose stance against Ukraine fires up security debate in the Baltics. Leading politicians in the three Baltic countries believe Finnish and Swedish membership in Nato is crucial to improving security on Russia’s western border. Russia’s sabre-rattling in Ukraine has reignited a debate in Finland about whether the Nordic country should join Nato, defying Moscow’s demands that the military alliance limit its expansion in Europe. Both Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, and prime minister, Sanna Marin, used new year addresses to underscore that the country reserved the option of seeking Nato membership at any time. “Let it be stated once again: Finland’s room to manoeuvre and freedom of choice also include the possibility of military alignment and of applying for Nato membership, should we ourselves so decide,” Niinisto said. Marin added in her separate speech that every country had the right to decide its own security policy, stressing: “We have shown that we have learnt from the past. We will not let go of our room for manoeuvre.” Russia’s foreign ministry said last week that Finland and Sweden joining Nato “would have serious military and political consequences that would require an adequate response from the Russian side”.
The US, Russia and Nato member states are set to meet for talks in early January as Moscow has amassed about 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern frontier. President Joe Biden also spoke with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday and vowed that the US and its allies would “respond decisively” in the event of a Russian invasion. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has previously refused to rule out military action and has warned he has “all kinds” of options if his demands for “security guarantees” to limit Nato expansion are unmet. Finland and neighbouring Sweden are both militarily non-aligned but have a growing co-operation with Nato as well as strong bilateral relationships with members of the alliance such as Norway, the US, and UK. There is no sense of Finland imminently applying for Nato membership, but Russia’s activity on its border with Ukraine and its list of demands before Christmas have fired up an internal debate in Helsinki to a level last seen after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Niinisto also warned the west that it risked empowering Russia if it removed the threat of possible military action. Citing former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger on appeasing Nazi Germany, the Finnish president said: “Whenever avoidance of war has been the primary objective of a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of its most ruthless member.” Petteri Orpo, leader of the main opposition National Coalition party, a longtime supporter of Nato membership, said that now was the time to discuss whether Finland should apply and that he believed joining would improve its security and that of the region. Recommended Ukraine conflict Civilians flock to defend Ukraine as Russia tensions mount “Russia has recently suggested that the possible Nato membership of Finland and Sweden would force it to retaliate militarily. Such a speech is reprehensible and ultimately says more about Russia’s ultimate goals than Finland’s or Sweden’s. Finland does not pose a threat to Russia now or in any other way,” Orpo wrote on Thursday in a post on his party’s website.
Atte Harjanne, an active reservist and head of the parliamentary group of the Green party, a member of the ruling five-party government coalition, said the arguments for Finland joining Nato had been “strengthened” and the country should do so immediately. Leading politicians in the three Baltic countries believe Finnish and Swedish membership in Nato is crucial to improving the security situation on Russia’s western border amid worries about Ukraine as well as about Belarus and its use of migrants to test Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Finland and Sweden joining Nato “could make entire northern Europe much more stable and safer”, said Marko Mihkelson, head of Estonia’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee. Finland is one of the few European countries that did not significantly cut its military strength after the cold war, as its 1,340km border with Russia, and memories of the bitterly fought 1939-40 winter war against the Soviet Union ensured security matters retained a high priority. But Finland has also preserved close diplomatic and commercial ties with Russia, and security experts said Niinisto was perhaps the European leader most respected by Putin, with whom he has regular conversations. (Source: FT.com)
30 Dec 21. Romania passes state budget, increases defence spending. Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis passed the State Budget for 2022 on 28 December, a week after the Parliament gave its approval. The budget includes RON25.9bn (USD6bn) for defence, a 14% nominal increase on 2021 that equates to a real-term rise of 11.2%. The budget maintains defence spending as a percentage of GDP at just over NATO’s 2% benchmark, a figure that Romania has been reaching since 2017. To achieve this, defence had a real-term yearly growth rate of 8% between 2017 and 2022, making the 2022 budget 55% higher than in 2016. Procurement has also been pushed upwards, both in real terms and as a percentage of the total budget. Capital expenditure tripled between 2015 and 2017, reaching RON6.5bn that year. It has since increased to RON8.6bn in 2022 and official projections suggest it will reach RON14bn by 2025. As a percentage of the budget, this is a move from 15% in 2015 to 32% in 2022 and is projected to reach 41% in 2025, exceeding the 20% NATO target. (Source: Janes)
29 Dec 21. NATO reports fall in interception of Russian aircraft over previous year. NATO has reported a fall in the number of Russian military aircraft that were intercepted by alliance air policing missions in 2021.
The Allied Air Command disclosed its interception figures for the year on 28 December, noting that there had been 290 interceptions of Russian military aircraft over the previous 12 months. This compared with 350 interceptions in 2020.
“NATO fighter jets scrambled around 370 times across Europe in 2021, mostly to check aircraft flying unannounced near allied air space. Around 80% of the missions, 290 in total, were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft,” NATO said. (Source: Janes)
21 Dec 21. The Latvian Ministry of Defence yesterday announced that the Baltic States will form a joint operational area for the armed forces. December, in Kaunas, Lithuania, during the meeting of the Committee of Ministers, the Ministers of Defence of the Baltic States agreed to establish a joint Baltic operational area in order to respond as effectively as possible to any security threats.
“We see how serious the security challenges in the Baltic region have become, and the timing of our ability to respond to potential threats is critical. We must do everything we can to ensure that, if necessary, there are no legal or practical operational restrictions on the provision of aid between the Baltic States. That is why we have agreed on the establishment of a single Baltic operational area, which provides for a legal agreement on operational procedures, a commitment to provide mutual assistance in the event of a threat, as well as joint military planning,” explains Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks. At the same time, the Ministers of Defence reaffirmed the commitment of the Baltic States to strengthen international security by continuing to participate in NATO and EU international missions and operations.
It has already been reported that the Minister of Defence A. Pabriks, the Minister of Defence of Lithuania Arvydas Anušauskas and the Minister of Defence of Estonia Kalle Laanet have condemned the efforts of Russia and Belarus to destabilise the security situation in Europe. The Baltic states condemn Russia’s efforts to divide Europe into spheres of influence, denying them their sovereign right to self-determination. Ministers also reiterated the Baltic States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, while calling on Russia to comply with international law, ending its illegal occupation of Crimea and ending its military support to separatist groups in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
In response to the deteriorating security situation in the region, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will increase the readiness of their armed forces and take planning measures to respond to any escalation of the situation. Ministers also expressed their commitment to close Baltic co-operation in the field of security and defence in order to strengthen the security of NATO’s eastern flank by promoting the interoperability and cost-effective use of defence resources.
The Baltic Defence Ministers emphasised that the continued and intensified military presence of the Allies in the Baltic States was an extremely important and integral part of NATO’s deterrence, and commended the Allies for their solidarity and unity in deploying NATO’s expanded presence space patrol mission. (Source: www.joint-forces.com)
23 Dec 21. NATO agrees 2022 military budgets. NATO’s military budget for 2022 will be €1.56bn ($1.76bn) and will cover the operating costs of the alliance’s command structure headquarters, programmes and operations around the world. After a meeting of the North Atlantic Council on 14 December, allies agreed to NATO’s military budgets for 2022. The amount agreed on was fixed at €1.56bn ($1.76bn). All member countries contribute to the budgets, according to an agreed cost-sharing formula based on gross national income. The budget will cover the operating costs of NATO command structure headquarters and programmes, missions and operations around the world, but has reduced 3% from that underwritten in 2021. NATO also announced its civil budget: €289.1m ($327.6m). It will provide funds for civilian personnel, operating costs and civilian programme expenditures – up 8.9% on 2021 – due to NATO’s continuing cyber adaptation. In addition to the civil and military budgets, the alliance’s third main common funded element is the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP). Covering major construction and C2 system costs, the 2022 ceiling for the NSIP stands at €790m. (Source: Shephard)
23 Dec 21. UK to deploy Carrier Strike Group in 2022. The UK Ministry of Defence confirmed that the UK Carrier Strike Group, including the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth, would again deploy in 2022.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed via Twitter in early December that the British Carrier Strike Group (CSG) would again deploy for 2022, working alongside Britain’s NATO and international allies.
The CSG’s visit to the Indo-Pacific in 2021 was a critical element in Britain’s recent global posturing.
However, the Strike Group’s recent deployment wasn’t without controversy. In November, the MoD confirmed reports that a F-35B Lightning II crashed in the Mediterranean Sea during “routine flying operations” by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
A British F-35 pilot ejected from the aircraft after experiencing technical issues immediately after take-off. According to the MoD, the pilot was safely returned to the ship, with sources suggesting that a rain cover may have caused the crash.
Sources have also suggested that Australian forces are likely to undergo joint training with their British colleagues in the CSG in the upcoming deployment.
“The British government intends to deploy the new carriers to the Indo-Pacific region from 2022. It is highly likely therefore their aircraft will work with Australian Air Force F-35As and P-8 Poseidons,” the Royal Australian Air Force’s The Runway outlined.
The CSG returned home to the UK earlier in the month.
Throughout the deployment, the CSG trialled new methods and procedures of undertaking replenishments at sea including vertically airdropping supplies via unmanned aerial vehicles.
“During the recent Carrier Strike Group deployment supporting HMS Queen Elizabeth’s mission to the Pacific and back, supply ship RFA Fort Victoria shipped nearly 900 loads to the carrier and other ships in the task group, encompassing food and drink, general stores, spare parts, medical supplies, mail and parts for F-35 stealth fighters and Merlin and Wildcat helicopters – over 354 tonnes of supplies in all – while tanker RFA Tidespring carried out 67 ‘vertical replenishments’ as they are known,” the UK’s Royal Navy confirmed.
“While some loads are too heavy for current small-scale drones to transport, seven out of ten resupply missions involve the transfer of loads up to 100lbs/45kg, so the head of the RFA, Commodore David Eagles, wants to see if the work is ‘dronable’.” (Source: Defence Connect)
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