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05 Aug 22. Russian threat driving Slovenia’s defence budget increase.
The repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continue to be felt as Slovenia is predicted to increase defence spending over next five years to meet the NATO benchmark. Slovenia is set to increase its defence spending over the next five years to reach $1.53bn by 2027 which would see the country meet NATO’s target of spending 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence, according to a report by GlobalData.
The report, titled ‘Slovenia Defense Market Size and Trends, Budget Allocation, Regulations, Key Acquisitions, Competitive Landscape and Forecast, 2022-27’, notes that Slovenia is heavily reliant upon its membership of international organisations such as NATO for its security.
In order to continue to benefit from the collective defence offered by membership of NATO, Slovenia must remain an active and engaged member of the organisation. To this end, meeting the 2% target for military spending would set a positive baseline for the country, while 2022 was also the first year that Slovenia met NATO’s other spending target of 20% of the defence budget being allocated to acquisitions.
Madeline Wild, associate defence analyst at GlobalData, commented: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced states across Europe to reassess their defense spending. Slovenia’s defence market is small, with current spending levels restricting Slovenia’s ability to bolster its defensive strength due to the small acquisition budget on offer. However, forecasted growth means that long term investments into major platforms can be carried out due to payments being split over a multiyear timeframe.”
The country’s growing defence spending is forecast to outpace GDP increases, rising from 1.5% of GDP being spent on defence in 2022, to 2.2% in 2027. This growth aligns Slovenia with its NATO allies who have also announced budgetary growth in order to meet the threat posed by Russia, the report highlights.
Slovenia can also strengthen its relationships with NATO allies through procurement programmes. Industrial collaboration can be beneficial in terms of what it can offer politically and in terms of the provision of military capabilities, while joint procurement programmes can help states strengthen their relationships and provide new channels for cooperation and communication.
Wild added: “One of the major ongoing procurement programmes within Slovenia is the acquisition of a C-27J aircraft. This programme is part of a larger government-to-government agreement with Italy and will provide Slovenia with greater levels of independence in the aerospace domain.
“Currently, Slovenia is heavily reliant on its neighbours for air-based capabilities, but the acquisition of a C-27J is a significant step towards meeting Slovenia’s requirement for transport aircraft.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
04 Aug 22. Dstl and UKSA plan closer collaboration. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the UK Space Agency will investigate ways to collaborate more closely. The initiative follows the first visit by the UK Space Agency’s Chief Executive Paul Bate to Dstl’s space facilities at its Portsdown West site near Portsmouth, where he met Dstl Chief Executive Paul Hollinshead and senior members of its Space Systems Programme.
The 2 organisations are responsible for separate but complementary UK government activities in space under the National Space Strategy. Dstl’s Space Systems Programme has expanded significantly in recent years, supporting UK Space Command and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) more generally with research and development (R&D), particularly in space domain awareness (SDA) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
The first satellite launch from the UK later this year by Virgin Orbit from Spaceport Cornwall has resulted in increased contact across many levels of both organisations, which is expected to continue as the UK grows its commercial satellite launch market and builds additional capabilities.
There are benefits to working together to develop new technologies and deepen the specialist expertise found across Dstl and the UK Space Agency, which were discussed at the meeting.
Dr Paul Hollinshead, Dstl Chief Executive, said: “This is an ideal time to deepen the collaboration between two of the UK’s leading space research organisations. Many of the space innovations being developed today will have dual-use application for both the defence and civil sectors. Pooling our expertise could widen the adoption of these technologies to bring them into use faster and cheaper while fuelling the growth of our specialist suppliers.”
Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “It was a privilege to visit the advanced facilities at Dstl and discuss areas of mutual collaboration, to inform the development of new space capabilites. The National Space Strategy recognises the huge potential for dual-use applications in areas such as secure communications and Earth observation, and we value the support of our defence partners in the preparations for the first satellite launches from the UK.”
We also share a common desire to inspire the next generation to reach for the stars and support the talent of tomorrow. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
04 Aug 22. Armenia-Azerbaijan: Clashes.
On 3 August, Russia formally accused Azerbaijan of breaking a ceasefire agreement with Armenian and Armenian-backed forces in the flashpoint region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The resultant fighting marks the most serious escalation over the disputed region in recent months. However, heavy fighting appears to have stopped at the time of writing (4 August).
- On the afternoon of 3 August, Azerbaijan accused ‘illegal Armenian armed detachments’ of firing on their troops, leaving one Azerbaijani soldier dead. Such accusations of limited ceasefire violations have remained a semi-regular occurrence since the signing of the Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. However, following the reported violations, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence announced that it had launched a ‘revenge’ operation. Baku claims that its forces have seized a number of strategic heights around the Lachin Corridor region, the only remaining strip of land that connects ethnic-Armenian controlled Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.
- The clashes effectively represent a limited Azerbaijani offensive in the area aimed at forcing Armenia’s hand on a range of issues relating to the peace agreement. The central issues are twofold. Firstly, Azerbaijan has demanded that Armenian forces withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh. While Yerevan announced last month that it had agreed to complete this by September, Baku’s actions clearly indicate that Azerbaijan is pushing for this to happen sooner. Given that the Nagorno-Karabakh de facto authorities declared a partial mobilisation of forces on 3 August, the timeline for this withdrawal is now thrown into question. Azerbaijan is also demanding for Armenia to accelerate the construction of an alternative road connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. The new road will be used instead of the current Lachin Corridor. While Azerbaijan is nearing completion of its portion of the road, Armenia has yet to begin its section.
At the time of writing, negotiations between the two sides appear to be underway, with heavy fighting having ceased for the time being. Armenian sources indicated this morning that an agreement has been reached that will see Armenia build an alternative road and withdraw from the Lachin Corridor by the end of the month, though this has not yet been confirmed.
While it is unclear whether this will be sufficient to prevent further fighting, the developments indicate Yerevan’s determination to continue with the implementation of the peace agreement. However, these risks triggering renewed anti-government unrest inside Armenia, as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan faces accusations that he is willing to abandon ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. This month, Yerevan announced that it plans to establish a National Guard aimed at protecting high-ranking officials and state assets. This ultimately reflects the growing risks of domestic unrest in the coming months as the implementation of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace agreement is highly likely to generate a backlash in Yerevan. This week’s clashes have raised serious questions regarding the ability of Russian peacekeepers to maintain stability in the region during the critical implementation phase of the peace agreement. We previously assessed that there is a risk Azerbaijan could exploit Russia’s distraction in Ukraine (and the resultant severe manpower pressures facing its peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh) to launch renewed offensives to resolve the dispute militarily. While the continuation of talks decreases the likelihood of further fighting in the short term, further clashes or overt Azerbaijani offensives remain a realistic possibility in the coming months if Baku perceives the agreement’s progress is not being made with sufficient speed. The resumption of a full-blown war remains unlikely in the short term. Furthermore, continued low- or high-intensity fighting is unlikely to seriously impact hydrocarbon pipelines and production in the region. Nevertheless, the EU is looking to Azerbaijan as an alternative oil and natural gas supplier to Russia amid the current energy crisis. As such, further instability in the region will threaten to undermine efforts to sign major energy contracts in the coming months, especially as Azerbaijan wishes to present itself as a stable and reliable energy partner for the European market. (Source: Sibylline)
04 Aug 22. Montenegro: Deal with Serbian Orthodox Church triggers vote of no confidence, increasing government instability risks. On 3 August, Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic signed a highly controversial agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church which many legal and human rights experts claim gives too much power to the church. In response, many opposition and coalition members of parliament initiated a vote of no confidence in the government. The vote will be held on 19 August, and will almost certainly exacerbate ethno-religious tensions within Montenegro. Tensions already exist between ethnic Serbs who are generally more pro-Russian and support fostering ties with Serbia and Montenegrins who typically favour Montenegro’s pursuit of European integration. Government instability risks will remain high in the short term. It is likely the vote will be successful following statements by several coalition members that they have lost faith in the government’s ability to lead Montenegro’s European integration. (Source: Sibylline)
04 Aug 22. Germany: Postponement of gas levy will sustain energy security, socio-economic risks. The government announced on 3 August that it will postpone the introduction of a gas levy which is scheduled to come into effect in October. The proposed levy was initially supposed to collect contributions from all gas users to assist struggling gas importers crippled by rising prices. This follows Russia having slashed its gas flows. Despite around one quarter of gas consumers having been guaranteed fixed prices, the authorities reportedly plan to adjust surcharges every three months, meaning that suppliers will have the power to increase gas prices. As a result, Germany’s economy ministry estimates that households should expect between EUR 500-1,000 in additional annual costs. While the delay in imposing the levy will reduce the short-term risks of domestic unrest, policy risks will be elevated due to the government having to amend its energy security law. Nevertheless, long term risks associated with worsening socio-economic conditions remain high, as consumers will likely face higher-than-usual energy costs in the coming months. (Source: Sibylline)
03 Aug 22. How US Marines put Force Design 2030 to work in Europe and monitored Russian naval forces. The U.S. Marine Corps in recent months took the quiet step of putting its Force Design 2030 plans to work in Europe, using forces to monitor Russian naval forces in the Baltic Sea.
“We went past experimentation and we went right into operational capability,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Donovan, the commander of the 2nd Marine Division and Task Force 61/2.
Force Design 2030 calls for the Corps to refashion itself into a lighter, faster and more lethal service — one that can integrate Marines and sailors into versatile “stand-in forces” that can respond to an array of crises. To that end, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa — otherwise known as U.S. 6th Fleet — stood up Task Force 61/2, named for Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2d Marine Division, in April.
The task force oversees the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, known as an ARG-MEU when coupled. An experimental reconnaissance/counter-reconnaissance force also falls under its purview.
The Naples, Italy-based task force made history in June when a vessel under its command, the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, made a port visit to Stockholm in a show of support for Sweden’s bid to join NATO. It marked the first time a U.S. naval vessel of its size had visited the city.
In a July 21 interview, Donovan offered a detailed, insider’s view of force structure and equipment involved in the realization of Force Design 2030 — and how it was put into use amid increased Russian naval activity in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
What does Task Force 61/2 do, and what is its connection to the Marine Corps’ stand-in forces concept and Force Design 2030?
A couple of things happened over the last few years here in the 2nd Marine Division. As the commandant came out with Force Design 2030 about a year before I got here, the division was already transitioning certain equipment, standing down certain elements of the division, standing up others. I inherited that, but it got exciting when we looked at two programs from Force Design 2030 that directly impacted us as far as experimentation.
One is called the Infantry Battalion Experimentation 2030, or IBX-30, where one of our battalions looked at a new structure, how we distribute infantry forces over a maritime littoral contact layer and how we operate. The second was reconnaissance/counter-reconnaissance, or RXR. It’s a term brought forward by Force Design 2030 that’s about how we task and organize Marine forces to support a fleet commander’s requirements, primarily to increase a fleet commander’s maritime domain awareness.
For RXR, we had littoral exercises up and down the East Coast that tested tactics and procedures and put the core elements of RXR into action.
Since the beginning of this global war on terror, the 6th Fleet structure in Naples, Italy, had not had to command and control an amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit for a full deployment inside of U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command. Typically, after a six-month work-up on the East Coast, we would sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea and right into 5th Fleet, [which is responsible for the Middle East].
But about 10 months ago, the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet, Vice Adm. Eugene Black, was given that challenge and opportunity. He worked with II Marine Expeditionary Force’s commander, Lt. Gen. William Jurney, to form a command-and-control element in Naples, which led to Task Force 61/2, which meshed Navy and Marine Corps forces.
The task force was not directly tied to Force Design 2030 at first, but it became the venue for advanced exercises in theater for both some of our IBX forces and RXR forces. The RXR initially focused on theater exercises to continue to prove out the concept and construct, but the war in Ukraine brought with it increased Russian naval activity. So Marines on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge were not only brought forward to exercise, but to prove the concept by increasing maritime domain awareness to the fleet commander.
Some have criticized Force Design 2030 as solely geared toward the Pacific. How did it fit — or not fit — into the European theater, and what fine-tuning took place to make it work in Europe?
We want to make RXR theater-agnostic, providing maritime domain awareness to a fleet commander who has to execute local and temporal sea-denial and sea-control lanes.
Whether that’s the Pacific, the Baltics or the Mediterranean, the Bab el-Mandeb or the Persian Gulf, we are a maritime nation, and our commerce has to transit global commons that have strategic chokepoints in that key maritime domain. We worked very hard to ensure that what we were developing for RXR could be exported anywhere.
I think it has great promise in the Pacific, but I thought we’d have a better chance to exercise along the European continent and littorals because often in the Pacific, our legacy training there puts us in the same areas and environments with the same partners. There was a fresh canvas in Europe, and we were able to go in and engage the fleet staff that runs both EUCOM and AFRICOM naval littoral [training] engagements and develop a campaign plan to test RXR in a very active, complex theater.
Throw in the increased Russian naval activity in the Mediterranean and the Baltics and you really got a chance to test this out. What started out as experimentation became: “Can we go into this NATO country and actually do this mission?” The answer was: “Absolutely.” The focus is on key maritime terrain, and we’ve got that in spades in the EUCOM and AFRICOM theater.
How did Europe’s terrain, especially littoral features like the small islands around Sweden, factor in?
The Pacific has large swathes of big, blue ocean that eventually condense down into narrow chokepoints, like the Strait of Malacca or the Sulu Sea, and in around the other places that maritime traffic has to travel. With Europe’s waterways ― you have the Suez Canal, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus, the Straits of Sicily, the Strait of Gibraltar, then all the way up to the Gulf of Finland ― there are numerous opportunities to get into that key maritime terrain and then develop access and placement of forces.
So what did we learn from experiments? With RXR, we knew right away we didn’t want to tie it to a certain wheeled vehicle or a certain platform because to be able to execute those operations, you have to have incredible flexibility and a dynamic approach. For example, when we brought RXR forces forward, we originally thought we’d get some C-17 aircraft, and we already had some utility task vehicles with radars mounted on them — some communications equipment, some command-and-control systems, and then off we’d go. Well, because presidentially directed actions to support Ukraine were using C-17s, we lost our C-17s, so right away we’re like: “How do we get to theater?”
Well, we packed up our stuff in Pelican cases and backpacks and we got commercial flights to fly into the theater. We were able to land in a NATO country and within hours start increasing the maritime domain awareness of the 6th Fleet commander. We worked with those nation forces in that littoral contact layer, which is where we believe the RXR fight is going to play out.
We didn’t bring UTVs, so we got rental cars. One of our cables went down on one of our radars, so we went to a local boating store and got a new cable. We ate in the host nation’s mess facilities.
At the same time, we also were able to link our RXR force to the ARG-MEU that maneuvered up into the Baltic Sea and leverage V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, the different mobility platforms of the ARG-MEU with our ground-based RXR forces, and it ended up being the perfect union. In one case, we had a radar team forward, backed by intel Marines in fleet headquarters ― so we had the sensing force forward in the NATO country with fleet headquarters providing the cueing.
Once we linked the ARG-MEU to those RXR forces, we had a much greater ability to stretch our legs on those islands, those key locations. And that keeps the potential enemy guessing: They don’t know where we’re going to be; and we don’t want to be a known entity in that contact layer, we want our radars blending in with the local noise; we want our intel communications to be passive; we want to do that kind of reveal/conceal thing on our terms. And so I think it’s very different.
We can have the big gray ships there, and that means one thing, but [RXR forces] can be there when they’re not there. Let’s say we keep a destroyer there that can shoot an SM-6 missile 100 nautical miles. We want them 100 nautical miles away, potentially, and then we’ll have Marines forward in those areas able to bring those fires to bear. Those maritime chokepoints are so important. The lighter, more dynamic, more flexible those forces are, the more access we can develop. In some cases, it might be very overt, and in other parts of the theater, you’ll have a clandestine approach where we’re using different naval platforms to put forces ashore where they’re least expected.
Describe those RXR teams and how they’re made up.
Our primary two core elements of the tactical action of RXR — those Marines and sailors came from 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion and 2nd Light Armored Recon Battalion. So one change we’re looking at hard in Force Design 2030 is the future of wheeled-vehicle reconnaissance. It’s very good in the open desert and open terrain, but can we look at that differently? We’re considering a second reconnaissance battalion that provided the reconnaissance Marines that did the hard-skill work: cold and wet, working on submarines or working on other surface platforms; working Zodiac boats; clandestine actions at night. That’s classic Marine reconnaissance work, and I’m excited.
As far as the 2nd Light Armored Recon Battalion, we developed it in experimental mode: a mobile reconnaissance company with a mobile reconnaissance team. These are Marines who might have been communicators, intel specialists, mechanics or scouts. We looked at who is best suited to do this, who could operate in a smaller team, and who has an interest in making some of these systems come together when they might not have been designed to work together. We had four mobile reconnaissance teams, and that was the primary sensing force that was out there. Each of those teams had about four to six Marines and sailors; we had a headquarters element forward, away from Naples, led by one of our O-6s, and below that an RXR element. We had some other sensing elements forward doing different types of intel collections. The key was all that was brought back and fused in the fleet headquarters, and that all together was recon/counter-recon.
The total force investment was probably 150 Marines and sailors, and that was spread between forward-sensing forces, and then inside fleet headquarters, driving collection and increased maritime domain awareness. Headquarters was also pushing indications, warnings and cueing down to the force.
How has the equipment for these Marines changed, as opposed to, say, the armored vehicles they’d previously used?
Because you’ve got to be able to get there and be flexible, “small form factor” was our theme. We have great communications systems, backpack radios and the Harris system radios — the AN/PRC-150, the AN/PRC-160, the AN/PRC-117. We’re able to leverage those and apply methodology to use them at the right time in the right place so we’re not revealing ourselves. We’re being smarter about how we’re using our current systems. That was one of our goals.
We originally wanted UTVs because they’re able to get us around quicker, and they are still very viable because they fit inside a CH-53 helicopter or V-22, and they can extend our reach and speed. What’s not viable is a larger vehicle that we would have to get strategic lift for or transport on a ship.
The key term for us, “small form factor,” was about the ability to tap into something called the Common Aviation Command and Control System, or CAC2S. It’s about linking into the Link 16 network, which would have in the past taken four or five Humvees, big radars or generators. Now, think about a couple laptops and a couple of small-scale PacStar-type terminals that can fit in a backpack or on a UTV. That CAC2S was the heart and soul of taking all this stuff we’re collecting and entering into a process, a system, that would then eventually kick out a Link 16 link between us and supporting assets, whether that’s an F-35 or a destroyer, or providing our ability to link back into a fleet headquarters, into that maritime ops center, and having our locations show up in a command post.
That Link 16 architecture is the joint architecture, that’s how you bring aviation and surface fires to bear. Beyond hand-held Link 16 radios, we’re able to use the Stalker unmanned aerial system — a program of record for us right now — which belonged to the MEU. That gave us about a 100-mile radius and longer loitering time and better collection equipment.
We bought commercial off-the-shelf FLIR [maritime recreational] radar systems that we were able to link into Link 16. That was kind of the missing link in the sense that no one had ever done that before. So you’d have these off-the-shelf radars that can, yes, acquire a target, but it took those Marines a number of different littoral exercises to figure out how to connect it into that CAC2S system. So light, mobile, very flexible forces; low numbers of very highly trained Marines that really trained themselves specifically for this kit. Then we’re able to reinforce it with support from the fleet headquarters, and then mobility assets from the ARG-MEU. Other supporting platforms across the task force and 6th Fleet enhanced what we’re able to do in recon/counter-recon.
How much of it was experimentation and exercises, like the multinational Baltic Operations drill, versus real-world need?
RXR wasn’t tied to BALTOPS at all; the ARG-MEU was tied to BALTOPS. But in the end, as things developed over time, with a lot more Russian naval forces in the Baltic Sea, specifically in the Gulf of Finland — that’s a normal transit lane for Russian naval forces in and out of St. Petersburg.
We originally were going to do RXR in a different country. Once we got there, we were asked: “Could you go to this NATO country and help increase the maritime domain awareness of 6th Fleet?” This is before BALTOPS. And the answer is: “Yes.” And that’s exactly what we did. We went past experimentation and we went right into operational capability.
Not everything was perfect; we learned a lot each time, we adjusted, we moved folks around. But it directly increased the maritime domain awareness in key maritime terrain for that fleet commander before BALTOPS. We were able to double down and keep an eye on the increased Russian naval force presence in action in that area, in the Gulf of Finland, into the Baltic Sea.
What was the NATO country?
I can’t say because of the sensitivities of NATO and partnerships and all that. (Source: Defense News)
03 Aug 22. Italy: Centre-left parties scramble for centrist allies to prevent the far-right’s rise to government. On 2 August, Italy’s largest centre-left party, the Democratic Party, forged an electoral agreement with the smaller More Europe and Action liberal parties in an effort to consolidate centrist and leftist parties ahead of 25 September snap elections. Currently, the far-right Brothers of Italy is leading the polls at 24 percent, and its far-right allies Forza Italia and the League are at 8 and 13 percent. While the Democratic Party’s alliance is polling at 29 percent, they will need to form new agreements with other leftist and centrist parties ahead of 25 September to form a government. Additionally, the Five Star Movement, the largest party in the previous government, is polling at 10 percent. With any government elected in the September polls likely to require a coalition, significant policy differences between the parties will undermine prospects for the implementation of key economic and judicial reforms required to receive additional EU recovery funds. (Source: Sibylline)
03 Aug 22. Spain: Introduction of first energy restrictions on businesses will likely improve energy security. On 1 August, the Spanish government passed a decree that introduced various limits on energy use for businesses in order to reduce the country’s energy consumption in the next 8 months. According to the new decree, business, including shops, hospitality venues, public transport and banks, cannot set the air conditioning to lower than 27 degrees during the summer and cannot increase the heating above 19 degrees during winter. Additionally, shops will have to turn off their lights for the night, starting at 10 p.m. Households remain exempt from the regulation. According to the government, the new measures will help to reduce the country’s energy consumption by 7 percent until next March, while refusing to commit to a 15 percent reduction proposed by Brussels last month. The new measures will almost certainly improve energy security in the country in the short term and are unlikely to disrupt business activity. (Source: Sibylline)
02 Aug 22. NATO ‘prepared to intervene’ amid rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland personnel are deployed in the region as part of the allied international peacekeeping force.
NATO has said that it is prepared to intervene amid rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia in a region where British troops are deployed as part of the allied international peacekeeping force.
About 40 personnel from 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland are currently deployed in Kosovo as part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) – a NATO mission made up of international troops.
Air raid sirens can be heard ringing out along the Kosovo-Serbian border as tensions in the region rise once again, 14 years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 following a military campaign by NATO to push back Serb forces from the former province.
Serbia and its allies such as Russia and China have long refused to recognise Kosovo’s independence, despite more than a hundred countries recognising Kosovo as an independent state.
Relations have been further soured over a new law making it compulsory for everyone, including Serbs living in Kosovo, to have a Kosovo ID card and car number plate.
It has been 20 years since the former Yugoslav territories were at the centre of one of Europe’s most violent conflicts but the two sides are still at odds.
Kosovo is a mainly ethnic Albanian territory that was formerly a province in Serbia.
Jonathan Eyal, associate director at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the defence and security think tank, spoke to Forces News and says he believes the tensions in the Kosovo region would be “music to the ears” of the Russian authorities.
“The idea that you will have a flare-up in the area of the Balkans, where there is still western troops and NATO troops there, just as we are dealing with a war in Ukraine is, of course, music to the ears of the authorities in Moscow,” Mr Eyal said.
“That’s not only because it would divert attention from Ukraine but also because it is the southeastern part of the Balkans… those which are without membership in either NATO or the European Union, and therefore they remain very much the ‘wild east’.”
British forces have played a key role throughout the Balkan region since the early 1990s when the break-up of the former Yugoslavia resulted in a series of separate conflicts.
Today, British troops remain part of KFOR in the region where the personnel of the 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the mission.
Britain also provides a Battalion-sized strategic reserve force based in the UK that can move at relatively short notice, with a commitment by the UK to be part of the KFOR mission until 2023.
The UK underlined its commitment to the KFOR mission in Kosovo when it was announced last year that contributions would be extended until 2023.
Britain has been part of the NATO mission for more than two decades, helping to maintain peace and stability.
Meanwhile, Ethnic Serbs have created roadblocks and reportedly fired at police officers in response to the Kosovan government’s new rules over number plates.
NATO has described the situation as ‘tense’ and says it is prepared to intervene if ‘stability is jeopardised’. Kosovo has also postponed the introduction of its new rules for a month. (Source: forces.net)
02 Aug 22. Bulgaria: Snap election announced for 2 October, underlining political volatility and policy risks. On 1 August, President Rumen Radev established a caretaker government, with former labour minister Galab Donev serving as its leader until the country’s parliamentary elections on 2 October. The development follows former prime minister Kiril Petkov’s coalition government losing a vote of confidence amid rising regional tensions with Russia and soaring inflation. According to the latest polls, the October election is likely to produce another unstable government, with Petkov’s We Continue the Change (PP) party polling closely with the former prime minister Boyko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, which will likely see a larger representation of nationalist and pro-Russian parties. In the short term, however, the appointment of Donev and the caretaker government will temporarily reduce government instability, with the new administration likely to prioritise tackling social issues such as energy and food prices. Moving forward, however, energy policy risks will remain elevated as Bulgaria continues to grapple with uncertain gas supplies, which could drive the government to improve relations with Moscow in order to ease the economic strains.(Source: Sibylline)
01 Aug 22. V Corps home in Poland gets new name. U.S. and Polish leaders applaud after the unveiling of the Camp Kościuszko during the official renaming ceremony for Camp Kościuszko, Poznan, Poland, July 30, 2022. From left to right: Polish Minister of National Defense Mariusz Blaszczak, U.S. Army Gen. Darryl Williams, who leads Army Europe and Africa, Polish Land Forces Gen. Jarosław Mika, and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, who leads V Corps. (Sgt. Garrison Waites/Army)
The eastern-most Army base in Europe was renamed Camp Kościuszko on Saturday to honor a war hero to both Polish and U.S. militaries, according to a statement from V Corps, which uses Camp Kościuszko as its headquarters.
Previously known as Forward Operating Site Poznan, the base was renamed after Thaddeus Kościuszko, a Polish soldier who served the U.S. side during the American Revolutionary War and also fought against the Russian Empire’s domination of his native Poland.
Camp Kościuszko houses U.S. soldiers manning V Corps’ forward headquarters. At a NATO summit in Madrid this summer, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would make the V Corps headquarters in Poland permanent, in addition to moving two F-35 squadrons to the U.K.
Lt. Gen. John S. Kolasheski, commander of V Corps, said the base renaming shows the U.S. commitment to the security of its allies — and history of cooperation.
“Victory Corps is grateful to our Polish Allies for recognizing a Polish and American hero for this honor,” Kolasheski said in a statement. “Brig. Gen. Kościuszko was a master of building military defenses… We believe Camp Kościuszko is a fitting name for this installation as it demonstrates our deep historical ties and our commitment to collective defense.”
Kościuszko left Poland in 1776 and found employment aiding George Washington’s Continental Army.
During his time in the Army, he made a name for himself as a designer of fortresses and blockades, enough so that he was given the rank of colonel by Congress and later promoted to brigadier general. Kościuszko’s use of topography and structures contributed to the Army’s victory at Saratoga, according to the National Park Service.
After his victories in the Continental Army, Kościuszko returned to Poland in 1784 in the midst of great political changes Europe. When Russia invaded Poland, Kościuszko joined in the defense, though Poland eventually surrendered.
According to the National Park Service, Kościuszko would go on a year later to start a rebellion again, but an unexpected alliance between Russia and Prussia left little room for victory. He would never live to see a free and democratic Poland. (Source: Army Times)
01 Aug 22. Kosovo: Regional Tensions. Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia increased notably on 31 July following protests in northern Kosovo. The demonstrations were in response to measures imposed by Pristina requiring people entering Kosovo from Serbia to obtain new travel documents and number plates. However, Kosovo’s government stated on 1 August that it will delay the implementation of the new measures until 1 September in a bid to de-escalate the situation.
- Kosovo’s government originally intended to introduce the new measures from 1 August. Pristina wants to replace number plates issued by the Serbian authorities and used widely across northern Kosovo with new Kosovar plates displaying the abbreviation RKS (Republic of Kosovo). Similar measures have been in place since 2008 in Serbia, which does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state.
- In response, ethnic Serbs living in northern Kosovo have blocked roads near Jarinje and Brnjak, forcing the Kosovar police to close both border crossings. Unconfirmed media reports also indicate that shots were fired overnight, though no deaths or injuries were reported. Similar protests have taken place in northern Kosovo in recent years, though the security forces have thus far been able to prevent any unrest escalating into large-scale violence.
- Following calls from NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR), the US and other Western governments to de-escalate the situation, Pristina decided to postpone the implementation of the new travel requirements until 1 September. (Source: Sibylline)
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