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07 Apr 22. French Elections. As of 7 April, President Emmanuel Macron remains the most likely candidate to win France’s presidential elections on 10 and 24 April 2022. However, with Macron’s campaign stalling and a continuing surge in support for far-right ‘Rassemblement National’ leader Marine Le Pen, an upset in favour of the far-right is now moderately possible.
- Le Pen has successfully moderated her political message to widen her appeal after her last, disastrous, campaign in 2017. This apparent smokescreen has not prevented large numbers of far-right Zemmour supporters joining her camp in recent weeks.
- Should Macron and his centrist ‘La République En Marche’ (LREM) party secure re-election, an acrimonious and close-fought election campaign is likely to leave Macron with a decreased majority that imperils LREM in National Assembly elections in June, potentially increasing the longer-term risk of government instability.
The risk of far-right extremist violence in France will remain elevated throughout 2022, with support for Le Pen and public dissatisfaction with immigration policy reaching historic highs. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine in particular risks acting as a ‘training ground’ for members of several French domestic extremist groups, heightening the risk of politically motivated violence in coming months. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Apr 22. Turkey: New electoral law benefitting ruling AKP set to be challenged by opposition. On 6 April, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved a new electoral law, passed by parliament on 31 March. Set to come into effect next year ahead of the planned June 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections, the law lowers the proportion of countrywide votes a party needs to enter parliament from 10 percent to seven percent. Meanwhile, parliamentary seats will be directly distributed to parties within alliances, rather than to the alliances themselves. The changes are likely to give President Erdogan’s incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Erdogan-backed National Movement Party (MHP) more seats, underscoring mounting concerns in the ruling party over a decline in popular support since the 2018 elections. The move also deters small parties from joining opposition alliances. As such, the legislation is likely to face legal challenges from opposition parties, while Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian policies will sustain the risk of anti-government demonstrations ahead of the elections, undermining investor confidence in Turkey’s operational environment. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Apr 22. Hungary: Investor confidence drops as EU launches rule of law mechanism against Hungary. On 5 April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Union is launching its conditionality mechanism against Hungary for the very first time in the EU’s history. The conditionality mechanism means that European recovery funds could be cut for Hungary if the country is found to be eroding the rule of law standards of the bloc. Following the announcement, the Budapest Stock Exchange fell 3.55 percent, with Hungary’s currency devaluing sharply. It is highly likely that regional tensions will increase between Hungary and the EU following Orban’s landslide victory on 3 April and the EU’s launch of the rule of law proceedings, elevating policy risks for domestic and international businesses in the country and heightening wider risks to socio-economic health. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Apr 22. Milley Proposes Rotational Forces in Permanent Bases Across Eastern Europe. The future of American presence on the eastern flank of NATO may revolve around rotational forces in permanent bases, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the House Armed Services Committee today.
“Actual presence is always a good deterrent relative to a given threat,” said Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.
Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III testified before the committee on the fiscal 2023 defense budget request.
The United States already employs rotational units in the Baltic Republics and Poland. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more have deployed to the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. At the latest NATO Summit in March, leaders agreed to study the alliance’s troop posture in Europe.
Representatives asked Milley about the possibility of American troops based permanently in the front-line states with Russia. “My advice would be to create permanent bases but don’t permanently station,” he said. This gives the effect of permanence by cycling rotational forces through these permanent bases.
By doing that, the military does not incur the costs of family moves, post exchanges, schools, housing and so forth, Milley said.
“So, you cycle expeditionary forces through forward-deployed permanent bases,” the chairman said. “And I believe that a lot of our European allies, … are very, very willing to establish permanent bases.”
NATO is going through a process right now to examine the security architecture in Europe and how it should change given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Austin said U.S. leaders expect to work with leaders from NATO allies on the troop posture picture. “If NATO deems that it’s appropriate to change its footprint, then certainly we will be a part of that,” the secretary said. “Our goal is to make sure that we continue to reassure our allies and partners, especially those that are on the eastern flank, and especially our allies that are in the Baltic area or Baltic region.”
Austin believes the decision will be announced at the Madrid Summit this June.
The two men were also asked about lessons learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Austin said he speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov often. “We do want to make sure that we are meeting their needs, and we’re providing them the things that are most useful … to their fight,” he said. “The things that we have provided them have been very, very instrumental in their efforts to blunt the advance of an overwhelming Russian force.”
The anti-armor and anti-aircraft capabilities have been effective as has the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, Austin said. One unheralded capability is the use of secure, tactical radios that has allowed the Ukrainians to maintain command and control through the battles with Russian forces.
“So, we will continue to focus on those types of things that have been most useful to them, as well as emerging needs that the Minister of Defense identifies,” he said.
Austin also said that simply having a capability doesn’t mean it will be successful. “The Russians have significant mechanized capability,” he said. “But as you look at the techniques and tactics, procedures that they used, they were not very effective.
“So, you question the training, the leadership at the at the noncommissioned officer level and their ability to provide basic logistics to a force that size,” he continued. “Those are the things that have given them significant problems over the over the last several weeks.”
Austin also pointed to the failure of the Russians to link air and ground units effectively.
“I think, because the Russians have not been effective in using their armor, it does not mean that armor is ineffective on the battlefield going forward,” he said. “It means that they were ineffective because of the things that they failed to do in this fight.”
Milley pointed to the importance of intelligence and intelligence sharing.
Strong leadership from the national to the tactical level is of critical importance, and Milley praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his leadership in the crisis. He also highlighted the captains, lieutenants and NCOs at the tactical level. “Ukraine has been trained by the United States since 2014,” he said. “And they have given me feedback personally saying that that training has been quite effective in terms of the concepts of mission command, distributed junior level leadership, development of an NCO Corps.”
The Ukrainian military has junior personnel who are encouraged to use initiative. This is not present in the Russian army, Milley said. (Source: US DoD)
01 Apr 22. Italy aims to reach NATO defense-spending target by 2028, four years late. As the Ukraine war grinds on, Italy is renewing its vow to meet a NATO spending target of two percent of gross domestic product but has confirmed it will delay it by four years amid a domestic political row over budgets.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday Italy would boost spending from the current 1.4 percent of GDP to hit the target by 2028, rather than the 2024 deadline NATO members agreed to meet in 2014.
By confirming the date had been pushed back, Draghi appeared to solve a row with a member of his ruling coalition, the Five Star party, which threatened to oppose a pending parliamentary vote on the matter over concerns the cash would be better used on social programs.
The spat prompted commentators to predict a possible collapse of the government, until Draghi announced 2028 was now the confirmed date, adding that 2024 had been only “an indication, not an objective.”
He said that Italy was spending “a lot less” on defense than France and the U.K., but added many NATO governments had not yet met the two percent target, with Germany spending around 1.6% GDP.
Five Star meanwhile said it will accept 2028 as the target date.
Italy’s defense spend of 1.4 percent of GDP last year totaled 28.3bn euros ($31.3bn), meaning the country will need to add another 12bn euros ($13.3bn) to its budget within six years to hit two percent.
That means Italy is joining a race to spend more on defense in Europe by states fearful of Russian aggression.
The Italian government has already opted to dispatch weaponry to the Ukrainian government – a move backed by a parliamentary vote on Thursday.
Five Star’s opposition to beefed-up spending did mirror fairly widespread sentiment among Italian voters, with a poll this week showing 61 percent were against increasing spending.
Italy has however already started to spend more on armaments in recent years, even during 2020 when Five Star were in power in a coalition with the center-left Democratic Party.
The defense minister at the time, Lorenzo Guerini, who has continued to hold the post during the current Draghi-led government, has overseen growing budgets which have allowed the acquisition of new ships, submarines, aircraft and army vehicles.
Overall spending grew from 26bn euros ($28.8bn) in 2020 to 28.3bn ($31.3bn) in 2021, while procurement rose in the same years from 5.45bn euros ($6bn) to 6.8bn ($7.5bn).
Speaking on Thursday, Draghi said that increasing defense spending needed to be linked to commonalities between European armies to build a “European defense” capability which would foster a common foreign policy for the European Union and in turn encourage “political union” among member states. That, he added, made it an “existential objective” for the EU. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
05 Apr 22. UK to host world-leading Nato Defence Innovation Headquarters. The UK will partner with Estonia on the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) programme to maintain NATO’s technological edge. The United Kingdom, in partnership with Estonia, will host the European HQ of a programme for NATO allies to accelerate, test, evaluate and validate new technologies that address critical defence challenges and contribute to Alliance deterrence. Announced today by the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) will see transatlantic cooperation on critical technologies and help NATO work more closely with industry and academia. The UK’s accelerator will be twinned with a new accelerator in Tallinn, Estonia to encourage the sharing of expertise, explore the use of virtual sites to trial vehicles, including autonomous ones, and test cyber innovations.
As hosts, the UK and Estonia will:
- Support start-up companies with funding, guidance and business expertise through twinned accelerator networks.
- Offer the use of ‘deep tech’ test centres to assess technological solutions to military problems, utilising the Defence BattleLab.
- Work with NATO to develop a virtual marketplace to connect start-ups with trusted investors, as well as a rapid acquisition service to connect products to buyers at pace.
UK Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said: “The UK and Estonia are two of the most innovative countries in NATO and our hosting of DIANA will harness that innovation for the benefit of all Allies tackling future military threats. The UK has a vibrant tech community, combining the academia, financiers, and high-tech start-ups that make it an ideal place to develop the next generation of military technologies.”
Estonia was the natural partner for the UK given its international leadership in cyber, autonomy and AI, and our close partnership forged through the Enhanced Forward Presence.
Ranked in the world’s top ten innovative universities, Imperial College London will bring together academia, industry and government by hosting the headquarters of DIANA and a DIANA Accelerator at the Innovation Hub (IHUB) in the White City Innovation District, in a space shared with the UK’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), Major Defence Contractors and The US Department of Defence’s Tri-Service Office.
Supported by DASA, the UK and Estonia DIANA HQ is expected to be operational from July 2022. DIANA is essential to delivering the NATO 2030 vision and ensuring that the Alliance develops the military capabilities needed to deter and defend against existing and future threats.
Estonian Defence Minister, Kalle Laanet. “The goal of DIANA is to support deep technologies companies that contribute to defence. It will bring together talented innovators with new technologies end-users in the area of defence. We are very glad to see that the good cooperation we have with the UK will expand even further and also encompass our universities and private sector more, Cooperation between the UK and Estonia is working well on every level because we have a common understanding of defence policy. Good relations with Allies is a cornerstone of Estonian defence policy, and a successful start to this programme for us is a sign that this cornerstone is strong.”
Co- Director, Institute for Security Science and Technology, Imperial College London, Professor Deeph Chana, said: “As one of the top STEM-B universities in the world, in one of the most diverse cities, Imperial College London is uniquely placed to power a progressive, responsible and holistic dual-use security and defence technology innovation program by hosting DIANA. Coordinated through our Institute for Security Science and Technology and Business School we’re committed to working on disruptive research and innovation to reduce insecurity and to deal with global threats and challenges.”
DIANA will support all seven of the key emerging and disruptive technologies that NATO has identified as priorities: artificial intelligence, big-data processing, quantum-enabled technologies, autonomy, biotechnology, hypersonics and space. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
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