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15 Apr 20. UK hits pause on defense review due to coronavirus. The British government has hit the pause button on its integrated defense review as it pours its efforts into battling the coronavirus crisis, Cabinet Office officials have told the parliamentary Defence Committee.
“The Cabinet Office has informed the defence select committee that work on the integrated review has been formally paused across Whitehall,” the committee announced April 15.
Committee chair Tobias Ellwood said in a statement that the move by the Cabinet Office, the department leading the review, was the right move to take given the crisis.
“There would be no point in conducting an in-depth review of the nation’s defence and security challenges to an artificial deadline, especially at a time when Whitehall is rightly focusing on tackling conronavirus,” Ellwood said.
The recently appointed Defence Committee chair said that when the review restarts it will have to do so “with the added consequences of the pandemic to be considered.”
A spokesperson for the Defence Committee said the Cabinet Office had not given any indication as to when it might start to ramp up the review effort again. However, two sources tell Defense News that the review could go on ice for up to a year.
In a letter announcing the pause, deputy national security adviser Alex Ellis said that while the review was on hold, the government would be retaining a “small core capacity to think about the long-term effects of COVID-19 and issues expected to be covered in the Integrated Review.” This team will be very limited in size and function, he added.
The Ministry of Defence already faced mounting budget problems before the pandemic struck. Now, the massive economic crisis facing the British government makes it highly unlikely any additional cash will be found for defense, despite the prominent role the military is playing here combating the virus.
The review was initiated immediately following Boris Johnson’s election as prime minister in early December. Johnson promised it would be the most fundamental review of its kind since the end of the Cold War. Defense, security, foreign policy and international development strategy were to all be part of the effort. The review was scheduled by the government to be completed by July, a timescale the Defence Committee, analysts, lawmakers and others all said was too quick.
Johnson first signaled his intention to slow down work on the review in a letter to Ellwood and two other committee chair dated March 24.
“We have diverted resources from across Government and the Civil Service to work on COVID-19, scaling back efforts on the Integrated Review,” Johnson said at the time.
Quizzed last month by parliamentarians about a possible delay to the review, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the government was open-minded about putting the work on hold.
“There is no ideological block or determination to carry on come what may,” Wallace said then. “With this coronavirus growing, if it is the right thing to do, we will absolutely pause the review if necessary; if not, we shall move forward.”
Jon Louth, an independent defense analyst, believes the government may have to start the review process over again, given the changing circumstances.
“I think we are close to going back to square one, if the budget settlement for defense is to be unpicked and secured as part of a late Autumn or Spring  government-wide spending review,” he said. “Who could have any confidence in what the defense equipment program funding settlement would actually be? It could involve unpacking current contracts, but also unpick some of the ambition we have in terms of new things.
“What we have and what we would like are going to be colored by a budget settlement smaller than people were anticipating; in fact, quite substantially smaller. Whether that means the MoD starts to think about reprofiling things to the right or really starts taking strategic choices, we will have to wait and see,” added Louth, who until recently was a senior analyst at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London. (Source: Defense News)
15 Apr 20. Covid-19: Polish Navy could be affected by budget cuts.
- The Polish Navy could be the first service to suffer budget cuts
- Fast attack craft, submarine, and coastal defence vessel programmes could be affected
The Covid-19 pandemic could affect the Polish Armed Forces’ modernisation process because of the need to review the state budget, with Poland’s Armament Inspectorate (AI) confirming to Jane’s on 9 April that the Polish Navy could be the first service forced to suffer budget cuts.
Poland’s Ministry of National Defence (MND) is expected to cancel or postpone some naval programmes, with cuts likely to affect the modernisation of Orkan-class fast attack craft, which will be delayed or even cancelled. (Source: Jane’s)
14 Apr 20. Esper, NATO Defense Ministers to Discuss Global Effort to Defeat COVID-19. The coronavirus sets its own timetable and does not respect international boundaries, and it will take an international effort to defeat the pandemic, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
The NATO leader will host a virtual meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers tomorrow. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper will join the meeting from his Pentagon office.
The only item on the agenda is the alliance’s efforts against COVID-19, Stoltenberg said today in a virtual news conference from Brussels.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect us all,” he said. “Even though we have seen that the rate of increase is slowing down in some countries, the illness continues to take a terrible toll.”
The secretary general expressed his condolences to those who have lost family and friends and praised health workers who are on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic.
The ministers will review the actions NATO allies are taking to combat the spread of the virus and decide on the next steps. “We will also address how to maintain NATO’s deterrence and defense and sustain our missions and operations throughout the pandemic,” the secretary general said.
The alliance responded quickly to the pandemic by implementing preventive measures, assuring the continuation of operations and assisting allies in combating the virus, he said.
Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, has set up a task force to share resources and speed up military support to allies in response to the pandemic.
“NATO allies are cooperating to airlift critical supplies from across the globe,” the secretary general said. “Hundreds of tons of medical equipment have been donated and delivered. Allies are sharing medical expertise and spare hospital capacity.”
The support that the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Turkey and the United States have provided to the alliance’s newest member: North Macedonia, is evidence that the alliance is more than a singularly focused military entity, Stoltenberg said.
The NATO disaster response center has facilitated Denmark’s delivery of ventilators and a field hospital to Italy and Germany’s delivery of ventilators to Spain, he said, adding that Turkey has delivered medical supplies to allies and partners across the Balkans and to hard-hit Italy and Spain.
“Allied armed forces are also providing essential support to civilian responses in our nations, including with logistics and planning, field hospitals and hospital ships, transport for patients, repatriation of citizens abroad, and the disinfection of public areas and at border crossings,” Stoltenberg said.
The coronavirus crisis has far-reaching consequences for how the nations of the alliance and NATO as an entity think about security and national resilience, he said.
The defense leaders also will address countering disinformation about the virus.
“We have seen state and nonstate actors try to take advantage of the pandemic to spread false and harmful narratives and to try to divide us,” the secretary general said. “So allies need to work closely together to identify, monitor and expose these efforts. An open and transparent press is the best bulwark against disinformation and propaganda.”
All this builds on NATO’s core task of preserving security to almost 1 billion citizens in the North Atlantic region, he said. “We must continue to work hard to ensure that this health crisis does not become a security crisis and that we are better prepared when the next crisis comes,” he added. (Source: US DoD)
14 Apr 20. NATO defense ministers to weigh coronavirus fallout. NATO defense ministers plan to hold a secure video conference on April 15 to discuss the longer-term ramifications of the coronavirus crisis, now that many member states’ new infection rates appear to be slowing.
The virtual meeting comes as countermeasures to contain the virus’s spread have largely upended international travel, making online gatherings a commonplace practice in global policymaking.
While alliance members are still mostly focused on an immediate response to the pandemic, defense ministers are expected to take stock of what dynamics they expect to result from the crisis, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters today.
“We will start the work on looking into medium- and long-term consequences,” he said, mentioning the morass of coronavirus-related disinformation and the need for nations’ “resilience” to large-scale crises as two areas ripe for discussion.
Analysts in Europe have also pointed to the expectation that national defense budgets will plummet as a result of a significant global economic downturn. At the same time, potential threats emanating from a “more assertive Russia” or the rise of China on the geopolitical stage must still be managed, Stoltenberg argued.
Member states have yet to submit adjusted defense budget projections as they tackle more immediate needs in their countries. But, Stoltenberg said, “Of course there will be economic consequences from the coronavirus crisis. How severe these economic consequences will be will depend, of course, on how long the crisis will last.”
The German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based think tank, published a study this month outlining four potential paths for NATO in a post-coronavirus world. The options range anywhere from a complete breakdown of Europe’s defense infrastructure to a newfound solidarity on the continent, where countries less affected by the pandemic prop up those with greater losses. According to the study authors, careful and cooperative planning in maintaining military capabilities is paramount for NATO members to soften the blow from what could be an unprecedented shock to the alliance caused by the pandemic. (Source: Defense News)
13 Apr 20. Yemen U-Turn: Finland Reverses Human Rights Policy on Military Exports. Some of the government ministers who spoke out loudest against exports of military equipment to Middle East countries involved in conflicts have now changed their minds & issued unusually long permissions. Finland has issued new licenses for military exports to the United Arab Emirates, reversing a 2018 policy promise to stop sales to any country involved in the Yemen conflict.
The move comes after intensive lobbying by the Emiratis towards a number of European countries; even as Finnish government ministers who argued vociferously for a ban on military exports while in opposition seem to have now changed their minds.
Although UAE has officially pulled its troops out of Yemen – where the conflict has paused this week during a two-week ceasefire – it still actively backs various anti-Houthi forces in alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Human rights experts say the unusually long validity of Finland’s new export licenses shows the Finnish government is acutely aware of how sensitive the issue is. In a change of policy in March, Finland issued new licenses for military exports to the United Arab Emirates.
Sisu Axles Oy and Katsa Oy were granted licenses to sell 700 sets of axles and gears to UAE-based Calidus LLC, a company that produces air and land vehicles for military use.
The Finnish components will be used in the manufacture of the Wahash infantry fighting vehicle. A protype of the Wahash was on display at the IDEX weapons and defence technology in 2019, and reportedly equipped with Finnish gears, axles and an array of weaponry including 30mm automatic cannons, anti-tank missiles and grenade launchers. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/NewsNow Finland)
12 Apr 20. The Royal Air Force Has Begun Its Latest NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission. In addition to supporting the NHS, and other Government departments during the current Covid-19 Pandemic, the Royal Air Force has begun deploying for their latest NATO Air Policing mission.
The RAF Wittering based 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron has begun the task of delivering vital equipment and spares to Lithuania where RAF jets will be based as part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission this summer.
As well as contributing to the Government’s COVID-19 Support Force, the Royal Air Force’s commitments to the defence of the United Kingdom and NATO continue. One such commitment is the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission, known by its military name as Operation Azotize.
2MT Squadron’s drivers have been collecting equipment, spares and airfield support vehicles from RAF Stations across the country. The equipment and vehicles are then being prepared and delivered for onward shipment to Lithuania. By the time the jets arrive 2MT Squadron will have moved over 400 tonnes of equipment to Lithuania.
Flying Officer Lucy Heal from 2 MT Squadron Headquarters said: “2 MT Squadron Ops have been busy co-ordinating a vast amount of critical equipment to be conveyed to the Sea Mounting Centre at Marchwood, Southampton and then moved to the air base once it gets to Lithuania.”
Another of the RAF Wittering based A4 Force units that is deploying is, 5001 Squadron. The squadron is the ground engineering spearhead for the RAF and once in Lithuania, the deploying detachment will build an environmentally controlled storage shelter and ready the existing aircraft shelters for the Typhoons.
Flight Sergeant Leon Moxam the 5001 Squadron Detachment Commander said: “Deploying the team in advance is crucial to provide the engineering support for the aircraft to operate effectively. I will be leading the team through a rapid build phase, which will then allow another dedicated section of our qualified Electrical and Mechanical Technicians to support the aircraft.” Flight Sergeant Leon Moxam
Group Captain Jo Lincoln the Station Commander at RAF Wittering and Commanding Officer of the A4 Force Elements said: “To be effective in policing the air, the Royal Air Force needs the logistics and engineering support which the A4 Force Elements provide. We ensure we have the right people and equipment on the ground to sustain the air mission. Everything we’re doing right now to support the government’s COVID-19 operations, we are doing in addition to our normal duties. My team are doing brilliantly. Their normal work in sustaining Defence’s operational output is exemplary, and they are ready to support the Government’s response to COVID-19.” (Source: Warfare.Today/RAF)
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