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19 Dec 22. UK’s Sunak to attend Baltic summit, meet UK troops in Estonia. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will meet his Nordic, Baltic and Dutch counterparts at the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) summit in the Latvian capital Riga on Monday, before heading to Estonia to meet British and NATO troops, the government said.
The JEF, a British-led group of Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, will be addressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
At the summit, Sunak will call on leaders to sustain or increase lethal aid, economic resilience and political backing to Ukraine in its resistance against Russia’s invasion, according to a British government statement.
The prime minister’s call comes after the UK announced it will supply hundreds of thousands of rounds of artillery ammunition to Ukraine next year, in a package worth 250 million pounds ($305 million).
Sunak will also discuss support to Finland and Sweden ahead of them joining the NATO security grouping and scaling up joint exercises to further strengthen the JEF alliance.
After the JEF summit, Sunak is expected to meet Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins, before heading to Estonia to meet UK and NATO troops serving on the military alliance’s eastern flank on the Russian border.
Sunak will sign a technology partnership agreement with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, to bolster technology ties and support new digital infrastructure, the statement said. (Source: Reuters)
16 Dec 22. Slovakia: Government falls after losing vote of confidence. On 15 December, the minority centre-right government in Slovakia lost a confidence vote initiated by the opposition liberal Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party which left the ruling coalition in September. The vote was called over the alleged reduction in anti-corruption efforts and the poor management of the country’s energy and cost-of-living crisis. Following the collapse of the pro-democracy government, current PM Heger could try and forge a new coalition. Alternatively, President Zuzana Caputova could call early elections or potentially appoint a caretaker cabinet to sit until the next scheduled election in February 2024. However, should PM Heger manage to unite parties and establish a new coalition, government stability risks will remain high in the country in the near term. (Source: Sibylline)
15 Dec 22. France agrees FCAS jet contract with Dassault Aviation, Airbus, Indra and Eumet. France has struck a contract for the next-stage development of the FCAS European fighter jet programme with the companies Dassault Aviation (AM.PA), Airbus (AIR.PA), Indra (IDR.MC) and Eumet, the French Armed Forces Ministry said on Thursday. The Future Combat Air System (FCAS), first announced in 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is designed to replace the Eurofighter and Dassault’s Rafale with a combination of manned and unmanned aircraft from 2040. France said the first tranche of this contract was worth more than 3bn euros ($3.2bn). The Eumet company is a joint venture between Safran (SAF.PA) and MTU Aero Engines (MTXGn.DE). Spanish company Indra said in a separate statement that it would get more than 600m euros ($637.80m) as part of the technological development phase of the programme. Indra added the contract would create 400 new jobs at Indra and more than 1,000 jobs in Spain overall. ($1 = 0.9407 euros) (Source: Reuters)
15 Dec 22. UK MoD launches independent inquiry to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by British Armed Forces in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence has today established an independent statutory inquiry to investigate and report on allegations of wrongdoing by the British Armed Forces in relation to their conduct of deliberate detention operations in Afghanistan. The inquiry will investigate alleged activity during the period mid-2010 to mid-2013.
The inquiry will also look at the adequacy of MOD’s response to those concerns and assess what lessons can be learned. This will take into account the progress that has already been made across defence in holding our Armed Forces personnel to account for their actions, and the handling of allegations that were later found to have insufficient evidence for any prosecutions.
The inquiry will be chaired by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, a Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales. Lord Justice Haddon-Cave has previous experience in defence, having been appointed by the then Secretary of State for Defence to conduct The Nimrod Review into broader issues surrounding the loss of the RAF Nimrod MR2 aircraft XV230 in Afghanistan in 2006.
Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace said: “Defence has made a number of changes in recent years when dealing with serious allegations of wrongdoing against our Armed Forces. Many of these are already in operation, including the creation of the Defence Serious Crime Unit.
While there have been several comprehensive investigations into the events in question, if there are further lessons to learn it is right that we consider those fully to ensure all allegations are handled appropriately and in equal measure to ensure our personnel are adequately protected from unnecessary reinvestigations.”
Defence has worked hard to ensure the processes in place to maintain justice in the Armed Forces are effective, and allegations of criminal wrongdoing arising from any future operations are raised and investigated appropriately.
This includes implementing recommendations from the independent Henriques Review in 2020, led by former judge Sir Richard Henriques. The purpose of that review was to ensure that in relation to complex and serious allegations of wrongdoing against UK Armed Forces on overseas operations, the UK has the most up to date and future-proof framework, skills and processes in place, and that improvements can be made where necessary.
Approximately a third of the recommendations focused on the establishment of the Defence Serious Crime Unit, under a newly appointed Provost Marshal, which is now operational and will further strengthen the operational effectiveness of the service police and Service Justice System to deal with serious offences reported in defence.
MOD is committed to supporting its people. All members of the Armed Forces, including the Reserves and civilians, plus veterans, will be entitled to legal and welfare support where they face allegations that relate to actions taken during their employment or service, and where they were performing their duties. Next steps for the inquiry will be detailed in due course. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
15 Dec 22. Royal Navy warships spent nearly 10,000 hours – 60 weeks – on NATO operations in 2022 as the UK led the alliance’s most important naval force. From the freezing Arctic and Baltic, to the endless grey of the North Atlantic and azure waters of the Mediterranean, Royal Navy warships, submarines and aircraft operated side by side with allies and partners, supporting peace and prosperity in Europe following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales served as NATO’s command ship as the Royal Navy led the alliance’s Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with emerging crises.
Commander UK Strike Force, Rear Admiral Rob Pedre, and his predecessor, Vice Admiral Mike Utley, took charge of the NATO Force in 2022 as the alliance carried out its largest planned exercises in the Arctic since the Cold War along with its regular operations across European waterways, channels and chokepoints.
The Royal Navy now passes on responsibility for leading the NATO Response Force (NRF) to Turkey, but UK operations with the alliance will continue unabated.
A handover ceremony on HMS Victory in Portsmouth saw the NATO flag lowered and passed to Turkish Navy chiefs as they take on the command role throughout 2023.
Rear Admiral Pedre said: “The Royal Navy has delivered at a crucial time for NATO as it has done throughout the history of the alliance.
“The prevailing strategic uncertainty across the globe emphasises once again the critical importance of a unified NATO that is ready to protect the security and prosperity of our allies and partners.
“Throughout 2022, Royal Navy warships, sailors and Royal Marines have been at the forefront of the alliance, working tirelessly not just in our role as the head of the NATO Response Force but across a full range of vital operations.
“Our work never stops but we now handover responsibility for the NRF to Turkey and wish our close NATO ally every success as they take command for 2023.”
The Royal Navy has operated with NATO throughout 2022 – above, below and across the waves – as part of galvanised efforts in the face of the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Two veteran Navy minehunters, HMS Grimsby (62 days) and HMS Hurworth (70 days), spent a combined 132 days working as part of the premier mine clearance task group in the Mediterranean – known as Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Maritime Group 2.
That was followed by Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster which spent 66 days with high readiness forces, operating with ships from the USA, Norway, Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Denmark.
HMS Defender operated with NATO for 46 days in the Baltic, Arctic and in the Mediterranean – the lattermost deployment saw her attach to Operation Sea Guardian, the alliance’s primary security mission in the region.
Fellow Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond was also in the Mediterranean, deployed with Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, a task force which operates across the region ready to react to events. Diamond spent 31 days working with ships from the US, Italy, Canada, Spain and Turkey.
In colder Arctic climes, Royal Navy ships were heavily involved in Exercise Cold Response – Norwegian-led training and the largest Allied exercises in the region since the Cold War.
Aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Albion, RFA Mounts Bay, HMS Defender, HMS Richmond, HMS Northumberland, RFA Tidesurge, and Astute-class submarine HMS Ambush were all involved in NATO operations in the North.
Below the waves, HMS Audacious, the Royal Navy’s newest and most advanced nuclear attack submarine, carried out NATO security patrols in the Mediterranean on her maiden operational deployment.
Frigate HMS Portland joined NATO’s premier submarine hunters putting the pressure on underwater foes for ten days.
The chilly waters of the ‘Greenland gap’ and Norwegian Sea were the setting for Dynamic Mongoose, the Alliance’s largest test of its anti-submarine forces in the North Atlantic.
HMS Lancaster and HMS Hurworth were at the forefront of NATO autonomous exercises off the coast of Portugal throughout October.
For the month-long trials, more than 11 warships, 120 autonomous vehicles and 1,500 military and civilian personnel from 15 NATO countries tested the use of uncrewed tech – from drones to underwater survey vessels, which could be used by the Alliance on the front line of operations in the future. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
14 Dec 22. British Army is ‘product of three decades of disinvestment’, service chief says. The head of the British Army has warned that soldiers are being forced to rely on ageing kit and equipment from the 1980s.
The comments were made by General Sir Patrick Sanders as he took part in the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity’s General Talk podcast, in a discussion about the future of the British Army.
The Chief of the General Staff said that British soldiers lacked drones, artillery and ammunition, and that the war in Ukraine had highlighted “gaps in our inventory”.
Speaking with the host Harry Bucknall, General Sir Patrick spoke about the lack of investment in the service.
He said: “But we are also a product of three decades of disinvestment. The Army has now halved since 1990, we’ve taken about £30bn out of the Army’s budget since 2015.
“We are an Army that is also a product of some 1980s legacy equipment, equipment that we bought rightly, to optimise and prepare ourselves for the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and that has caused some of our warfighting skill and capability to atrophy.
“So, the sort of things we are seeing coming out of Ukraine are gaps in our inventory. We don’t have enough lethality, we don’t have enough long-range precision and massed fires, we are not strong on electronic warfare and the Russians are.
“We don’t have enough unmanned aerial systems and our defence has fallen behind.”
The Army chief said things have changed “quite fundamentally” since the Integrated Review was published in March 2021.
When asked about reducing the size of the British Army, Gen Sanders responded: “The size of our Army should match the commitment that we make to Nato.
“I do think it would be perverse to be cutting the Army, so I think we should reverse the cuts in the Army and begin to grow through a combination of regulars and reserves.” (Source: forces.net)
14 Dec 22. Bosnia and Herzegovina: EU Candidate status will facilitate closer ties between Sarajevo, Brussels. The European Council agreed on 13 December to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) EU candidate status. EU leaders will highly likely approve the decision on 15 December during the upcoming summit in Brussels (Belgium). BiH will need to implement a series of reforms to acquire member status, a process which will take years. However, its candidate status will facilitate closer co-operation between Brussels and Sarajevo and help to address challenges relating to democracy, rule of law and human rights in the country (which remains ethnically divided). Furthermore, the move will increase the bloc’s influence in the region amid tensions regarding the breakaway ambitions of Republika Srpska, an ethnic Serb entity in BiH with pro-Russia political leadership. Republika Srpska receives EU investments; support for local pro-EU political groups will therefore possibly increase in the near term, putting greater pressure on breakaway political actors and reducing regional tensions moderately. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Dec 22. Armenia-Azerbaijan: Nagorno-Karabakh gas supply disruption likely to hinder peace process. On 13 December, the de facto authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azerbaijan of cutting off gas supplies to the region. Similar allegations were made in March amid heightened regional tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The recent development comes as Azerbaijani protesters continue to gather along the Lachin corridor, blocking the only road connecting the autonomous Nagorno-Karabakh region to Armenia. US and EU officials have called on Azerbaijan to cease its alleged blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, warning of a humanitarian crisis. This comes as around 120,000 residents remain cut off from supplies of essential goods, including food and medicine. Supply chain disruption will likely drive shortages for businesses and personnel in the coming days. Reduced gas supplies will increase the risk of business disruption in the coming week, particularly for energy-intensive sectors. Meanwhile, the allegations will increase regional tensions with Armenia and undermine the peace process. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Dec 22. Peru: Military control of key infrastructure and roads will possibly lead to decreased transport disruption. On 13 December, Peru’s defence ministry announced that the military will take control of critical infrastructure and key roads across the country. The measure aims to protect airports and hydroelectric plants, among other crucial strategic facilities, from protests sparked by the impeachment of Pedro Castillo. The government will reportedly prioritise road networks across the country. Protesters have targeted roads and two airports since early December, which has led to transport and operational disruption. At least seven people have been killed in recent clashes in several parts of the country. Further protests are likely, though the risk of transport disruption will possibly decrease in the near term. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Dec 22. Israel: Knesset speaker election will facilitate government formation; civil unrest risks will persist. On 13 December, the Knesset elected Yariv Levin, a Likud party member and close ally of Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, as the new parliament speaker. In total, 64 out of 120 Knesset members (MKs) voted in favour of Levin. The new speaker is likely to call for votes on four pieces of legislation, including the expansion of the authority of the national security minister, the revision of provisions for MKs serving a suspended sentence, additional regulations for opposing MKs to leave parliamentary factions and control of the West Bank portfolio by an independent minister. These legislative issues represent demands by Netanyahu’s coalition partners. Once they are resolved, the government’s formation is likely to be finalised. Civil unrest risks stemming from protests by both pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu supporters will be sustained in cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Dec 22. Egypt-Yemen: Maritime insecurity will persist amid volatility, sustaining short-term threat of attacks. On 13 December, Egypt assumed command of the 34-nation Red Sea Combined Task Force (CTF) 153 stationed in Bahrain. The CTF aims to combat smuggling and illegal activities. This has triggered threats from the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. These threats will increase if military operations encroach on Yemen’s territorial waters. The Houthi’s defence minister, Mohammad Nasser al-Atifi, stated that these waters include the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Aden. These waterways are also part of the CTF’s area of operations. Amid the ongoing conflict in Yemen, several commercial attacks against vessels by the Houthis have taken place in recent weeks. Additional attacks against commercial vessels remain a realistic possibility and will exacerbate the instability of Red Sea maritime shipping lanes. Risks of incidental and collateral damage to personnel and assets are consequently elevated. Heightened regional tensions will sustain the likelihood of maritime tit-for-tat hostilities by Iran in the near term. (Source: Sibylline)
12 Dec 22. Aviation Security: German-Austrian Agreement Completes “Alpine Triangle.” Defense Minister Lambrecht and her Austrian counterpart Klaudia Tanner signed the German-Austrian government agreement on cooperation against non-military threats from the air (air security agreement). It enables cross-border airspace surveillance between the two countries.
Christine Lambrecht said she was very pleased that the trusting cooperation between the two countries was being further intensified. It is now possible for suspicious civil aircraft to be escorted across borders by Eurofighters from the German Air Force or, conversely, by jets of the same type from the Austrian Air Force. Together, they ensure non-military airspace surveillance over the German-Austrian border area. However, “air sovereignty coercive measures and the threat thereof”, such as being pushed aside or warning shots in the airspace of the other state, are expressly excluded.
The ministers signed the agreement on December 9, shortly before the DACH meeting of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
“Hot Pursuit or Renegade Cases”
The agreement regulates cooperation in so-called “hot pursuit or renegade cases”. It therefore allows the following measures:
–Surveillance and tracking, even without becoming visible to the monitored visual check
–Accompaniment of civil aircraft, including assistance in air emergencies
–Creation of visual evidence by photo
–Interrogation by radio
–Radio or signal request to change flight route
–Radio or signal to land at designated aerodrome.
The agreement also provides for the regular exchange of air situation data and joint cross-border exercises.
Alpine triangle is now complete
With the signing by the defense ministers of Germany and Austria, existing agreements on aviation security in the Alpine region are completed – for example between Germany and Switzerland in 2007 and between Austria and Switzerland in 2017.
Minister Lambrecht emphasized that this is now the third agreement in this context represent a milestone in the trilateral cooperation between Germany, Austria and Switzerland in aviation security in the Alpine triangle. Comparable agreements already exist with Belgium and France.
In the run-up to the DACH meeting
The fact that the air forces of Germany, Austria and Switzerland can now support each other in all three airspaces in the event of threats from civil aircraft is an expression of the particularly close cooperation between these three countries, stressed Minister Lambrecht. Therefore, she could not imagine a more appropriate framework for signing the document than before the joint DACH meeting, said the German defense minister. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ German Ministry of Defence)
07 Dec 22. British Army fury as soldiers told to give up their Christmas to cover striking workers. ‘Not right’ to expect Armed Forces personnel to fill in for people in public sector who earn more than them, say senior military figures. Soldiers should not be made to give up Christmas to cover for striking NHS workers who earn more than them, senior military figures have told ministers.
The Government is set to rely on hundreds of Armed Forces personnel to stand in for Border Force officers at airports during eight days of strikes this December, and potentially to cover for ambulance drivers and firefighters as well.
But The Telegraph has been told that the military believes it is “not right” for soldiers, who are banned by law from striking themselves, to replace striking public sector workers over the festive season.
Senior members of the Armed Forces are understood to have also warned ministers that the plan risks weakening the “operational capability” of the military to respond to threats.
One senior defence source said: “You’ve only got to look at a private soldier on £22,000 a year and whose pay scales have not kept up with inflation for the last decade having to give up Christmas, or come straight off operations, to cover for people who want 19 per cent and are already paid in excess of what he or she would be, and it’s just not right.
“We’ve got to the stage now where the Government’s first lever it reaches for every time there is any difficulty, whether it’s floods, strikes, all the rest of it, is the Armed Forces, as opposed to it being the last resort.”
Earlier this week, the Government announced that 2,000 military personnel and volunteers were undergoing training to stand in to support a range of services, including Border Force officers at airports.
More troops could be sent out to drive ambulances during an NHS strike on Dec 21, although an official request has not yet been made. Servicemen could also serve as firefighters if members of the Fire Brigades Union back industrial action.
One military source said that Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, shared concerns that the Armed Forces are seen as a “free good” and had raised the issue on Tuesday at Cabinet. However, a spokesman for Mr Wallace insisted this was not the case.
It came as Border Force staff announced eight days of strikes at Britain’s largest airports from Dec 23, leaving Christmas travellers facing holiday flight delays.
The Public and Commercial Services union will mount the action at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff airports, as well as Newhaven port.
Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak threatened to ban ambulance drivers and other emergency workers from striking as part of “tough” new laws to tackle a wave of public sector strikes.
Ministers are also looking at a new legal minimum level of service that the NHS and other public services must provide during strikes, as well as considering a ban on coordinated strikes between public sector unions.
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