Sponsored by Exensor
21 Apr 22. Czech Republic Hopes to Deepen Military Ties With the U.S..
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted an enhanced honor cordon today, welcoming Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova to the Pentagon.
Cernochova has confirmed the Czech Republic’s intention to sign the Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States.
“We believe that the will deepen our mutual cooperation not only as NATO allies but at the same time in the fielding of our armed forces modernization efforts,” she said, noting that her country wishes to replace its obsolete Soviet-era equipment with modern military hardware.
The Soviet-era military equipment is now being put to good use as the Czech Republic has been sharing it with Ukraine, which is familiar with its use, she said.
“The Czech Republic is ready to send more military equipment to Ukraine,” she added.
Cernochova said that she would also like to sign the reciprocal Defense Procurement Agreement that will enable the Czech defense industry to participate in U.S. defense procurement programs.
The defense minister said that although her country has about 10 m people, the Czech Republic has taken in around 300,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Cernochova said the Czech Republic will fulfill its pledge to reach 2% of its gross domestic product in defense spending by 2025.
Austin said: “I applaud the Czech Republic’s leadership standing up against Russian aggression and standing strong with our fellow NATO allies to defend peace and security in Europe.”
The secretary commended the Czech Republic for providing security assistance and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, enhancing deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank and serving as a framework nation in the new NATO battlegroup in Slovakia.
The Czech Republic, Austin noted, also has a state partnership with both the Texas and Nebraska National Guards.
Austin mentioned that this is a solemn visit by Cernochova to the U.S., as she’s also here to repatriate the ashes of Czechoslovak Gen. Frantisek Moravec, who fought the Germans during World War II.
“I know that your nation remembers him for fighting the Nazis as a brave son of Czechoslovakia. Yet we also remember him here as a proud American citizen, who in his later years actually became a valued advisor for the Pentagon,” Austin said.
Austin noted the parallels of Ukraine’s current plight with that of the Czech Republic over half a century ago.
“I know that the Czech people hear history’s echoes today. And we remember the bravery and the determination that the Czech people showed in 1968, when, as a part of Czechoslovakia, you face down invading tanks from Moscow. So, it’s no surprise that you stood up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-defense,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
20 Apr 22. Poland Will Increase Defense Spending. At the Pentagon today for a meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said his country will increase its defense spending to 3% of gross domestic product.
Blaszczak said the increase will begin next year. He also noted that Poland signed an agreement to acquire 250 M1A2 Abrams tanks from the United States earlier this month.
The defense minister said he’s grateful for the U.S. engagement and commitment in solidifying allied posture against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, as well as strengthening NATO’s eastern flank, including deployment of additional troops to Poland.
“With great concern, we’re observing everyday Russian attacks in Ukraine. I trust that Russia will be held accountable for all its war crimes,” Blaszczak said.
Austin thanked Blaszczak for providing security assistance to the Ukrainian military and facilitating the delivery of security assistance from the United States and other NATO allies and partners from around the globe.
“Perhaps most importantly, the Polish people have opened their hearts and their homes to ms of Ukrainians fleeing the violence. And you’ve done it with grace,” Austin said.
Austin said he’s looking forward to discussing the ways in which the Defense Department can further strengthen its close, military-to-military alliance with Poland.
Austin mentioned that Poland has had a long history of fighting for its independence and helping others fight for theirs. He said it reminds him of the old Polish saying, “for our freedom and for yours.”
Austin added: “Mr. Minister, Poland has once again demonstrated that spirit.” (Source: US DoD)
19 Apr 22. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Policy uncertainty eases as secessionist leader tones down breakaway rhetoric. On 19 April, Milorad Dodik, the leader of Bosnia Herzegovina’s Serb-majority entity, Republika Srpska, announced that he will postpone the implementation of a new law adopted last year that would have established parallel state institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, potentially undermining the country’s territorial integrity. In November 2021, Dodik claimed that he intended to create Republika Srpska’s own military and withdraw the Serb entity from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s central institutions, including the tax administration, the intelligence agency, and the judiciary. Dodik’s reversal came after Germany suspended nearly EUR 100m of funds for financing infrastructure projects in Republika Srprska in April citing concerns over Dodik’s obstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s state institutions. It is highly likely that Serb leader Dodik’s push for Republika Srpska’s independence was part of his campaign ahead of the October 2022 elections, although his latest u-turn indicates that his secessionist agenda lacks widespread support in Republika Srprska, therefore, policy uncertainty should ease in the coming months. (Source: Sibylline)
16 Apr 22. Is the UK capable of maintaining its nuclear arsenal?
The nuclear threat is rising. But do we really know how to manage deterrence in this new landscape?
By Matthew Harries
For some time now, former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings has been blogging about the fragility of deterrence and the possibility of nuclear catastrophe. But perhaps his most interesting remarks—phrased carefully to avoid spilling official secrets—come on the topic of the UK’s fraying nuclear weapons infrastructure. Whatever you think of Cummings, and whether you support or oppose Trident, the point is worth listening to.
The UK’s facilities for making and maintaining nuclear weapons, wrote Cummings in a recent post, are characterised by “rotten infrastructure” and “truly horrific bills” amounting to “many tens of bns” over the coming years. He tried to get Boris Johnson to listen to a briefing on this topic, he claims, and was told by the PM that he’d wasted his time.
Even allowing for a touch of exaggeration, Cummings’s basic account rings true. For decades and across Conservative and Labour-led governments, ministers and MPs have failed to pay proper attention to the detail of the UK’s nuclear weapons programme. Westminster has been interested in little more than whether the parties support or oppose Trident and whether their leaders would use it. The nuclear dilemmas posed by Putin’s war in Ukraine remind us this is not good enough. And the huge sums of public money being spent on the nuclear enterprise should make this everyone’s concern, whether or not they have strong views about the bomb.
Build it and the weapons will come
Cummings won’t talk in detail about the condition of the nuclear enterprise, but some details are public, and they make for tough reading. The UK is beginning the process of designing a new generation of nuclear warheads, while at the same time maintaining and upgrading the existing ones. This is a huge challenge.
The warheads which sit on the top of Britain’s Trident missiles are designed and manufactured by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), the government-owned weapons factory headquartered at Aldermaston in Berkshire. AWE has never before built a new warhead without being able to validate the design through nuclear test explosions, something that the UK has forsworn since signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996. For AWE to be able to produce the new warheads—and indeed, even to maintain the existing ones—it needs to update a number of crucial facilities, all of which are ageing. AWE has received a £20bn cash injection since 2005 to get up to speed, and yet serious problems remain.
Two big projects illustrate the extent of AWE’s struggles. A new facility called Mensa is urgently required to replace AWE’s ageing “gravel Gerties,” the buildings where warheads are assembled and disassembled, designed to be able to ride out an accidental detonation of the warheads’ high explosives and minimise the release of radioactive material. Mensa was originally supposed to be in service by 2017, at a cost of £734m. The date has now slipped to 2024 (a delay that recently increased by an extra year, announced on the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine) and the cost to nearly £2bn.
The British debate rarely rises above the old binaries: should we still have the bomb, and, as PM, would you push the button?
Another new facility called Pegasus is needed to replace the UK’s capability to store and manufacture enriched-uranium components of its warheads and submarine fuel. Here, the slippage is even more dramatic. Pegasus was reportedly meant to be up and running by 2016 at a cost of £634m. Instead, the MoD recently decided to divide the project into two phases: the storage facility will not be operational until 2025, and the manufacturing capability won’t arrive at least until 2030. There is no updated cost estimate, but the government has already conceded that completing the second phase will blow the budget.
These infrastructure failures (and these are only two of the public ones—there could be more whose details are undisclosed) suggest bad programme management. In the case of Mensa, the National Audit Office said in 2020 that construction began with immature designs, the initial contract lacked commercial instruments to deal with delays and the MoD and AWE failed to oversee contracts effectively, including those given to subcontractors. The NAO did not examine Pegasus in that report, because the project was at an earlier stage. But the MoD itself has since blamed “poor contractor performance” and excessively complicated initial designs for “significant” cost increases and “severe delays,” leading to the project’s suspension while the plans were re-evaluated.
These issues, among others, led the government last year to renationalise AWE—reportedly at Cummings’ behest—which was previously operated by a consortium of private contractors. More direct control and less profit motive certainly seems like a good start, and the government said it has learned lessons from Mensa’s early problems. And yet it was purportedly owing to MoD failings that AWE was originally privatised in the early 1990s after slippages in infrastructure that started to look like they would jeopardise the timeline for producing the first Trident warheads. It is not immediately obvious that the department will be more successful in managing the nuclear enterprise this time around, unless its approach changes much more fundamentally. This demands serious, top-level political attention.
What we talk about when we talk about Trident
The issues at AWE are a symptom of a political culture where Trident is a marker of political positioning first and a weapon system second. The British debate rarely rises above the old binaries: should we still have the bomb, and, as PM, would you push the button?
Under Blair and Brown, Labour governments were sceptical of nuclear weapons’ usefulness and yet determined to renew the submarines for fear of returning their party to the unelectable 1980s. The Coalition continued along similar lines: the Liberal Democrats thought Trident should be replaced with something simpler and cheaper, but were told by officials that there was no workable option, and so the subs stayed.
Then came Jeremy Corbyn, a committed unilateralist. Rather than refreshing Britain’s nuclear debate, his spell as opposition leader brought the worst out of everyone. Enthusiasm about using nuclear weapons became the litmus test for leadership. Constructive, detailed discussion of UK nuclear policy was muted on both sides of the house.
This debate is inadequate to the current moment. The past decade has seen nuclear weapons return to the centre of world politics, and not just in the form of Putin’s threats. As China’s strategic ambitions have grown, so has its nuclear arsenal, which it is expanding and rapidly upgrading. Other nuclear dilemmas—India-Pakistan tensions, North Korean tests, Iranian ambitions—have got worse.
Some American hawks argue that to keep the peace, the US must now prepare to fight and win a limited nuclear war.
Nuclear weapons are back, and this time there are more fingers on more buttons. What’s more, evolving weapons technology—new types of missiles, new types of defences, space weapons, cyber capabilities and autonomous systems—is making the business of deterrence even more complicated.
This context made it into the government’s Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy published last year, as part of the justification presented for raising the cap on the UK’s warhead stockpile. But there are a range of questions that few of the current generation of ministers and MPs have thought deeply about, and which officials are having to relearn. In the 1970s and 1980s, Whitehall’s leading nuclear brain was the late Michael Quinlan. His brilliance might not be replicable but his interest in nuclear questions and commitment to rigorously debating them—in front of parliament and in public—should be emulated.
Perhaps the most essential of the questions we face today concerns strategy: do we really know how to manage deterrence in this new, more dangerous landscape? The Cold War was risky enough. Now we have to work out what escalation will look like when you throw all those new weapons into the mix, wielded by, among others, a Russia president unconfined by familiar taboos, and a potential new nuclear superpower in the form of China.
Then comes stability: even if nuclear abolition seems a very distant prospect, which partial arms control measures could the UK be promoting to reduce nuclear risks in the meantime? Important treaties have collapsed in recent years. Any negotiations involving Russia will be extremely difficult, and perhaps impossible in the short term. But this does not make them unnecessary in the longer term.
Another twist: if Scotland votes for independence, it will almost certainly send London back its nuclear weapons. The MoD would then find itself navigating the political and financial costs of relocating them, probably to Plymouth. It will need some convincing arguments.
But the most tangible question, as Cummings reminds us, is simply one of money and material: is the UK capable of maintaining its arsenal properly? The MoD was already planning to spending tens of bns on new submarines, and the new warhead will add approximately £7bn to the MoD’s equipment plan over the next ten years, with more to follow after that.
Rising to the occasion
So how can we start a better conversation? The UK could take a leaf out of France’s book, where it is traditional for each president of the republic, once he or she is settled in office, to give a major speech setting out the country’s approach to nuclear deterrence. A British equivalent would bump nuclear weapons policy to the top of the news agenda, and would force the PM of the day to focus, in detail, on how the government sees the global nuclear landscape, the UK’s own doctrine, and the nuts and bolts of the weapons programme. For once, the question would be more than “Trident: yes or no?” and the debate would not be left to the experts.
Parliament should also do its due diligence. In the 1980s, select committees routinely asked ministers and officials in depth about nuclear strategy and the nuts and bolts of the programme. They should start doing so again, integrating questions about deterrence into the majority of their discussions about defence strategy, not just treating it as a specialist topic. This would also encourage budding Quinlans, making fluency in nuclear issues an important job requirement rather than a dead-end specialism.
The Defence Committee could visit Aldermaston and hear for themselves what the scientists and engineers of the newly renationalised AWE are up to, and why. They could take evidence from the officials accountable for the delivery of M0D’s major nuclear procurement programmes (the so-called senior responsible owners), and hold a post-appointment hearing with the new chair of the AWE board, John Manzoni. Meanwhile, the NAO and the Public Accounts Committee should extend their existing scrutiny of infrastructure projects. This could include both Pegasus and Teutates, the joint Anglo-French test facility which is supposed to become fully operational this year.
If the MoD insists that these issues are too sensitive for detailed public discussion, then the committee could hold closed sessions, just as they did in the 1980s when the UK was designing its last warhead. Failing that, following Cummings’s advice, Parliament could add the nuclear enterprise to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s remit, allowing MPs and staff with existing security clearances to deal with classified material.
As Vladimir Putin wreaks havoc on Ukraine, there may be some who feel entirely vindicated in their support for nuclear weapons, just as some will remain implacable that the bomb is of no use, even in the gravest circumstances. The rest of us can begin by insisting that the multi-bn-pound programme to build and maintain Britain’s warheads is properly scrutinised. Possessing nuclear weapons is a heavy responsibility. Our political establishment needs to show it is up to the task. (Source: https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/)
18 Apr 22. Sweden: Rioting. On 17 April, three people were wounded from shots fired by police officers during riots in the Swedish city of Norrköping, the latest in a series of violent confrontations in several Swedish cities over the past week including Malmo, Orebro and Stockholm. Far-right demonstrations late last week triggered the violence, with clashes between police and counter-protesters leaving over a dozen injured over the weekend.
- The violence began in the cities of Orebro and Linkoping on Thursday, 14 April, after the anti-immigration and anti-Islam right-wing party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), led by Rasmus Paludan, organised a demonstration. Paludan is known for Quran burnings and while local authorities had granted permission for his demonstration to go ahead, counter-protesters gathered, with violent altercations intensifying after Paludan’s followers set fire to Qurans in several Swedish cities on Friday 15 April.
- Nine police officers were reportedly injured during protests since 15 April, with masked counter -protesters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, resulting in four police cars set on fire and numerous hospitalisations. Counter-protesters attacked police cordons in the city of Orebro, with violence also erupting in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby following the burning of the Quran.
- Violence continued throughout the weekend, with far-right protesters and counter-protesters clashing in the city of Malmö on Saturday 16 April, where again Molotov cocktails and stones were used, with a bus reportedly set on fire. Further violence took place in the city of Norrköping on 17 April, where at least three people were injured after counter-protesters clashed with police. On Sunday, 17 April, Paludan announced he would cancel demonstrations in Linköping and Norrköping as he claimed the police were incapable of protecting the demonstrations. Nevertheless, counter-protesters continued attacking police following the announcement, with police firing warning shots while attempting to disperse the crowd.
The violence over the Easter Holiday weekend is indicative of the enduring ethno-religious tensions in Sweden that are likely to remain elevated in the run-up to the Swedish general election in September. Paludan is reportedly in Sweden on an “election tour” of the country, with last week’s demonstrations forming part of his party’s far-right campaign to tap into and promote anti-Islam sentiment. Given the persistently high tensions between far-right and anti-fascist activists in the country, further far-right election rallies and demonstrations are likely to trigger renewed rioting and violent counter-protests, which the Swedish police have struggled to contain in various locations this week. Violence will likely remain directed toward police and between the protesters themselves while Islamic communities will remain an enduring target for far-right groups. As the election approaches, heightened levels of activism will increase the likelihood of additional violent riots over the summer, posing a threat to private property and bystanders in key Swedish cities. (Source: Sibylline)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Homeland Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company