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02 Jan 23. NATO Military Chiefs of Defence Meeting 18-19 January 2023.
. NATO’s highest Military Authority, the Military Committee, will meet in person on 18-19 January 2023, in Brussels, Belgium. Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the Military Committee, will preside over the meeting, which will be attended by the Allied Chiefs of Defence and their counterparts from Invitees Finland and Sweden. They will be supported by General Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), and General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), who will each lead a session.
The meeting of the NATO Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session (MCCS) will enable the 32 Chiefs of Defence, to meet and discuss issues of strategic importance to the Alliance.
The NATO Secretary General, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg will join the Military Committee for the first session to provide the latest political objectives and to discuss security challenges facing the Alliance.
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Lavigne, will lead the second session of the day. It will focus on early observations from the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the acceleration of the implementation of the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept and the Warfare Development Agenda. The Chiefs of Defence will discuss NATO’s military capacity and capability to defend the Alliance against all challenges, now and in the future. This will include a discussion on multi-domain operations, digital transformation and interoperability.
General Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, will lead the third session of the day. He will provide an update on the Alliance’s implementation of the Concept for the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area. This ‘deter and defence strategy’ provides a common framework for military activity in peace, crisis, and conflict. It closely interlinks national plans with NATO military plans and takes into account threats and challenges specific to particular regions, domains, and functional areas.
The fourth session will be on NATO Readiness and Sustainment of military forces, in particular risks and mitigations. This session will centre on capability development, military stockpiles and logistics.
The first session of the second day will see the Chiefs of Defence meet with their Kosovo Force (KFOR) operational partners – Armenia, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Moldova, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine. The discussions will concentrate on the situation on the ground, the security environment, and KFOR’s mission.
The Military Committee will then discuss NATO’s non-combat and capacity building Mission in Iraq with their operational partners Sweden, Finland and Australia. The Chiefs of Defence will discuss the Mission’s ongoing efforts to assist Iraq in promoting greater stability, building its security and defence institutions, and eradicating terrorism.
The final session will see the Military Committee discuss NATO’s ongoing support to Ukraine.
Wednesday 18 January 2023
11:00 Livestreamed opening remarks by Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee, and Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General.
Thursday 19 January 2023
15:00 Press Conference with
- Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer.
- Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Christopher Cavoli.
- Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Philippe Lavigne.
Media representatives holding a valid 2023 NATO Media pass will have access as usual to the NATO HQ. Media representatives wishing to attend the press conference are invited to contact the NATO IMS Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Office via email () with a completed accreditation form no later than 12h00 on Tuesday 10 January 2023
Media accreditation form
Media passes will not be mailed to applicants; they must be collected in person upon presentation of an ID card or passport and a valid national press pass (or accreditation letter from a recognized media organization). Media representatives will be given their accreditation at the Guard House South, NATO Headquarters, Boulevard Leopold III, Brussels, Belgium.
Passes must be worn visibly at all times, and security personnel may ask to see another form of ID at any time. Media representatives are informed that security personnel will examine and may test equipment and personal effects carried onto the site. They are also advised to arrive with sufficient lead-time to clear security checks.
The opening remarks delivered by the Chair of the Military Committee and the NATO
Secretary General will be broadcasted live on the NATO website.
The press conference will be streamed live on the NATO website and the live feed will be provided to EBU.
Video footage will be available for free download from the NATO Multimedia Portal after the event.
02 Jan 23. UK defence chiefs seek funding increase to confront rising threats. In early December, Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace and the head of the armed forces Admiral Sir Tony Radakin went to see Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street with an overarching topic on their minds: the UK military’s need for money. The future of Britain’s military, and how much it costs, is a more urgent matter today than at any time since the end of the cold war. For one, Russian president Vladimir Putin has fuelled the threat of a wider land war in Europe. “Clearly the war in Ukraine has refocused attention on Britain’s defence capabilities and their financial sustainability,” said Malcolm Chalmers, an expert on British defence policy at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think-tank. At the meeting, Wallace and Radakin secured a financial stop-gap that would replenish weapon stockpiles, depleted by military aid sent to Ukraine, and guarantee at least another £2.3bn in support for Kyiv in 2023.
“Defence spending will be protected from inflation next year and [is] forecast to grow to nearly £50bn,” Wallace told parliament shortly afterwards. The current budget is about £46bn a year, the second largest in Nato after the US. Left unanswered, however, was what would happen beyond 2023. “What you saw [at Number 10] was an agreement about the defence budget, where we got some additional funds . . . at a very difficult financial time,” Radakin said in a speech a week later. “Inevitably the [financial] conversations will get tougher as we step into the new year,” Radakin added, noting optimistically: “But we’re having the right conversations.” Fundamentally, defence chiefs are looking for a long-term financial commitment so the UK can confront the rising threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran that were identified last year in Britain’s high-level, defence strategy, the Integrated Review (IR). But Sunak’s desire to keep a tight rein on spending is evident in the wave of public sector strikes, as ministers refuse to countenance union pay demands. He has also distanced himself from pledges made by his shortlived predecessor Liz Truss to raise defence spending from 2 to 3 per cent of gross domestic product. “The prime minister and I both recognise the need to increase defence spending,” chancellor Jeremy Hunt said at his autumn budget on November 17. “But before we make that commitment it is necessary to revise and update the Integrated Review, written as it was before the Ukraine invasion.” A key question the update will need to answer is whether the British military should continue to “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific region and away from Europe, as the original IR stressed, a prospect that alarmed some allies even before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. With UK inflation in double digits, the stretched defence budget will also have to absorb a rise in pay, which together with pensions, accounts for about 30 per cent of annual spending, according to Chalmers. In 2022, the armed forces got a below-inflation pay settlement of 3.75 per cent, less than teachers and most NHS workers, he said. “For next year, a lot of service personnel will argue they should get the same kind of settlement as the private sector, currently running at some 7 per cent,” he added. Another key area is new equipment, which accounts for almost half of total defence spending.
The MoD has budgeted £242bn for procurement over the next decade, but that is before the effects of high inflation and the weakness of sterling are taken into account. The biggest single capital cost is the nuclear deterrent. Its renewal, including plans to build four new submarines to carry the missiles, will cost an estimated £31bn. There are other big-ticket items, such as further orders for the F-35 stealth fighter jets, which cost about £90mn each and are needed for the UK’s two new aircraft carriers. The UK ordered an initial 48 aircraft but had committed to as many as 138, with military experts estimating at least 70 are required to ensure the two aircraft carriers have a credible strike capability. In addition, the UK has a poor record buying new weapon systems. Britain’s “procurement process is fundamentally broken”, said Francis Tusa, a military consultant and editor of the Defence Analysis newsletter. “We are demonstrably spending more and getting less . . . France, Italy, Germany and Spain do things better, quicker and cheaper,” he said. According to Tusa, the army is the worst example of this. Despite close to £20bn spent on equipment over the past decade, there was little to show for it in terms of new kit, he said. A prime example is the disastrous £5.5bn Ajax programme. This was meant to deliver state of the art armoured vehicles for a ground force still largely reliant on 1970s-era armoured vehicles. Instead, it is mired in delays and doubts about its future due to problems with excessive noise and vibration. The most fundamental issue for military chiefs, however, will be the overall strategic direction set out in the IR’s planned update, which will then determine the level of long-term defence funding in next year’s spring budget. James Heappey, a junior defence minister, said recently he wanted the updated IR to be “the world’s most boring refresh” with a focus on “all the unsexy bits” of the military, such as spare parts and stockpiles, which the war in Ukraine has shown to be lacking. Radakin, by contrast, has a more ambitious vision that involves “thinking big”. Early examples of that ambition, Radakin believes, are in Asia-Pacific with the trilateral security pact signed with Australia and the US, called Aukus. More recently, the UK expanded its Tempest programme with Italy to develop an advanced fighter jet, to include Japan, a country that has previously relied on US-made kit. “If the costs of defence are high . . . the value we derive is every bit as large,” Radakin said, pointing to the UK’s more than 400,000 defence-related jobs and £8bn of annual exports. “I genuinely think there are opportunities . . . We’ve got a case to sell to governments that actually [if] we get a bit more money we can do even more.” (Source: FT.com)
30 Dec 22. Turkish defense exports pass $4bn in 2022, says procurement boss. Turkey’s annual defense and aerospace exports have surpassed the $4 bn mark for the first time, according to Ismail Demir, who leads the country’s defense procurement agency.
Demir made the announcement Dec. 23 on Twitter along with a video from the Presidency of Defence Industries, or SSB.
The Turkish Exporters’ Assembly put the country’s defense and aerospace exports in the period between January and November at $3.77bn, up 35.7% from $2.778bn in the same period of 2021.
The umbrella organization for Turkish exports said monthly defense and aerospace exports during October 2022 were worth $464m, and during November were worth $503m.
Earlier this year, Ozgur Eksi, a defense analyst in Ankara, told Defense News that the increasing trend in exports “should be attributed primarily to aerospace, and homemade drones in particular.
Local company Baykar, which makes the TB2 Bayraktar drone, has sold the aircraft to 27 countries. Selcuk Bayraktar, the company’s chief technical officer, said Dec. 22 that exports make up 98% of the firm’s 2022 revenue.
The export of Turkish land vehicles in 2022 was worth $428m, although the official yearend number may exceed this. BMC, an armored vehicles manufacturer, led Turkey’s land vehicle exports this year, accounting for 45% of foreign sales in this sector.
30 Dec 22. A high ambition: Italian Army aims for self-sufficient cannabis market.
In a bid to become self-sufficient in the field of legal, medical cannabis, Italy is growing plants using secret nutrients in ultra-clean rooms managed with military precision.
No wonder it called in the Army to handle the task.
Next year, the Italian service plans to produce 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of top-grade cannabis to cover nearly half of the 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds) required annually in the country for those in need of pain relief, such as people with cancer or Parkinson’s disease.
“The next step is self-sufficiency — that’s our ambition,” said Nicola Latorre, who leads the Italian Defence Industries Agency, which oversees the operation. The agency, which is an arm of the Defence Ministry, handles the commercialization of the state’s defense enterprises.
Cannabis the Army cannot yet grow is imported from Holland, Canada, Denmark and Germany, but production is ramping up at an anonymous-looking Army facility on the edge of Florence.
“What we can do in Florence is produce a highly standardized product so the dosage is unvaried, at the same price as we are now paying for imports,” said Col. Gabriele Picchioni, the head of the facility.
Launched in 2014, the Florence-based operation managed 50 kilograms in 2020 before rising to 300 kilograms in 2022. The increase was achieved thanks to more growing rooms — up from two in 2016 to 10 today — with six harvests a year in each of six flowering rooms, which host between 50 and 125 plants each.
To reach 700 kilograms next year, technicians are perfecting lighting, watering, temperature and ventilation, and they are using a blend of secret nutrients developed in-house that are mixed in with the hydroponic irrigation.
Also in 2023, the lab aims to produce cannabis-infused olive oil, which users can take in drop form, Latorre said.
He added that five private firms are set to supply more mother plants, from which cuttings can be taken to grow the plants in Florence. However, the main operation will not be farmed out to the private sector, he explained. “The state will continue to do this to guarantee quality and price.”
Why is the Army in charge?
The Army was handed the role of Italy’s legal pot supplier for two reasons, officials have said: to produce cannabis at a secure facility, and because the armed service has been in the pharmaceutical business for decades, turning out chemical warfare antidotes and malaria pills for soldiers.
The Army also manufactures so-called orphan drugs — medicines for rare diseases or conditions that big companies ignore because of the low production rates. The service currently makes four such drugs to supply 3,000 people in Italy.
As cannabis production ramps up, the Army has registered two types of marijuana it harvests as brands: FM1 and FM2, which stand for “Farmaceutico Militare” (or “Military Pharmaceutical” in English). Each contains a different level of tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that gives pot its high.
Latorre said his agency’s activities facilitated a growing shift toward military involvement in public health sector, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw Army personnel set up treatment tents and transport vaccines.
“COVID made us see how public health is tied to the defense of the country and its security,” he said.
(Source: Defense News)
29 Dec 22. Sweden, Finland try ‘future ally’ path with Turkey in bid to join NATO. Finland and Sweden have adopted a common “future ally” approach with Turkey in an attempt to fast-track their NATO membership — something hindered by the Ankara government.
Turkey has refused to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s membership applications until preconditions are met. Furthermore, Ankara has accused the two unaligned Nordic states of hostility toward the country’s record on human rights, and for refusing to license defense companies in the two applicant countries the ability to export weapons to Turkey.
Twenty-eight of the alliance’s 30 member states have already ratified the NATO membership applications submitted by Sweden and Finland. Hungary is expected to formalize its ratification in the first quarter of 2023.
Government officials in Helsinki and Stockholm claim the ongoing, intensified membership discussions and political bridge-building have helped create a greater level of trust to significantly improve relations with Ankara.
In particular, both Finland and Sweden have managed to advance talks with Turkey by agreeing to revise their restrictive approach to arms sales by domestic defense companies. The Turkish government has identified arm sales reform as a precondition for its support for Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO applications.
Neither Finland nor Sweden imposed a formal ban on arms exports to Turkey. However, the two Nordic states have a policy of not issuing new export permits for weapons sales to the country, a position that was influenced by ground attacks launched by Turkey against Syrian Kurds from 2016 to 2019.
“Little by little we need to reach a position where we can consider Turkey as a future ally. We need to take into account, as part of the overall consideration relating to arms exports to Turkey and the issuing of export permits, how best to develop a new mindset to achieve improved relations with Ankara,” said Finnish Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen.
Sweden’s Defence Ministry is adopting a stance similar to Finland. Stockholm also enforces a technical ban on the export of defense equipment to Turkey, but the ministry is examining what changes in policy are required, including legislative action, to allow Sweden’s defense groups to obtain export licenses to deliver weapons to Turkey.
Finland and Sweden are pursuing what officials have described as an organic solution to the arms export issue. This would involve permitting Finnish and Swedish defense companies to compete for Turkish military contracts, and for the governments to process defense materiel export applications under criteria reserved for so-called premier tier export countries.
Meanwhile, Turkey has used the membership ratification process as an opportunity to pursue concessions from other NATO member states. For example, Turkey wants the U.S. government to approve the modernization of its F-16 fighter fleet and for alliance members to lift de facto arms embargos against Ankara.
“Negotiations with Ankara are complicated for various reasons, but importantly we are moving together in the right direction,” said Tobias Billström, Sweden’s foreign affairs minister. “We are confident a positive outcome will happen, and that the continuing talks will ultimately lead to the full ratification of Sweden’s membership of NATO in 2023.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told reporters on Dec. 11 that Finland’s and Sweden’s membership of NATO would take time.
“Hungary has told us it will not be the last one to ratify. In Turkey, the solution lies with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The timing of ratification is unfortunately intertwined with internal politics in Turkey,” Niinistö said.
A series of high-level, bilateral talks have been in motion between the Turkish government and representatives from the Finnish and Swedish governments since the beginning of winter.
Kaikkonen visited Ankara in early December. Despite advances and a visible “warming in relations,” the Finnish defense minister said he could not confidently predict when Turkey might ratify Finland’s NATO application.
Turkey’s delay is also influenced by internal politics and parliamentary elections due to be held there in June 2023. NATO expansion is expected to emerge as a major issue in the elections, a development that could postpone a decision on ratification until the third or fourth quarter of 2023.
There are also differences on regional security issues that remain unresolved. In particular, before the NATO applications process kicked off, Sweden and Finland had questioned Turkey’s plan to establish an 18.6-mile-wide security zone in northern Syria.
In soliciting Turkey’s support for NATO membership, Sweden and Finland have also found themselves defending their positions and policies toward the Kurdish PYD Democratic Union Party and its armed militia, the Syrian Kurdish YPG.
The PYD has links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which the U.S. and the European Union, including Finland and Sweden, consider a terrorist organization. Turkey has accused Sweden and Finland of harboring “PKK terrorists” and failing to cooperate with Ankara on extradition warrants. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
30 Dec 22. Germany takes command of NATO VJTF. Germany takes command of the NATO Response Force (NRF) Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) on 1 January, the alliance announced on its website on 28 December. Germany takes over the leadership of VJTF 2023 from France, which led the force in 2022 during its first ever collective defence mission − to Romania − following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. The French-led VJTF 2022, including its Belgian contingent, formed the basis for the NATO enhanced Vigilance Activity battlegroup in Romania. In 2023, VJTF land forces will number approximately 11,500 troops, with the German 10th Panzerdivision’s (Armoured Division’s) Panzergrenadierbrigade (Armoured Infantry Brigade) 37 at its core. In addition to Germany, eight NATO allies contribute to VJTF 2023: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Slovenia. Among the major German units in VJTF 2023 are Panzerbataillon (Armoured Battalion) 393 with Leopard 2A7 tanks, Artillerielehrbataillon (Artillery Demonstration Battalion) 345 with Panzerhaubitze (PzH 2000) self-propelled howitzers, Versorgungsbataillon (Supply Battalion) 131, and Transporthubschrauberregiment (Transport Helicopter Regiment) 30 with NH90 helicopters. For the first time, Germany also leads the VJTF’s special forces command. (Source: Janes)
28 Dec 22. British Army instructors who start sexual relationships with recruits could face jail within a year. Military instructors who start sexual relationships with young recruits could face jail within a year under plans drawn up by the Defence Secretary. Ben Wallace is championing the creation of a new offence in military law targeting trainers who “take advantage of” cadets.
He is pushing hard for Commons time to pass legislation next year after the shocking suicide of a “vulnerable” student at Sandhurst.
The Ministry of Defence is pressing for a Bill to be fast tracked, but sources acknowledged that it will be a “tough ask” to get it through before the next election.
It came after a charity said that hundreds of servicewomen have reported abuse amid a “toxic culture” of sexual assault at Sandhurst.
Mr Wallace has already introduced a “zero tolerance” approach to instructor relationships with cadets, making them a sackable offence.
The Telegraph understands that the order to draw up even tougher punishments came directly from him as a personal policy priority.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Young recruits deserve to be treated with respect, not taken advantage of. That is why the Armed Forces has a zero-tolerance approach to sexual assault and any allegations reported will be investigated, with immediate action taken.
“The Defence Secretary is bidding for new legislation that would make it a formal offence in military law for those found guilty of sexual relationships with new recruits, potentially resulting in court martial and a custodial sentence.”
Mr Wallace previously told The Telegraph that such liaisons are “appalling” and should attract a “severe response and sanction”.
He stepped in following a damning report into banned sexual relationships taking place between instructors and cadets at Sandhurst.
It was ordered after Olivia Perks was found dead in her room in Feb 2019. She was the first female Sandhurst cadet to take her own life.
The 21-year-old had been involved in a secret liaison with a gym instructor at the training school shortly before her suicide.
The official Army investigation found the number of illicit relationships at the military academy in Berkshire was a factor in her death.
A service inquiry report also found that she had been failed by military chiefs and subjected to a “complete breakdown in welfare support”.
The Defence Secretary is understood to have felt there were not strong enough repercussions for those involved in the case.
Under the planned new legislation, instructors who got involved with the most junior cadets would face court martial and potential jail time.
Defence sources said that making such relationships a sacking offence would deter “99 per cent” of trainers from taking advantage.
They added that Mr Wallace wanted the creation of criminal sanctions to act as “the last brick in the wall” to deal with those who ignore the warnings. (Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/)
23 Dec 22. Kosovo: Regional tensions.
On 28 December, Kosovo closed the Merdare border crossing point along its border with Serbia, the largest and most important crossing point for road freight along the shared border. The closure is the latest development amid heightening ethnoreligious tensions between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs, which has now left all but three border points closed due to barricades.
The current roadblocks and Serbia putting its military on high alert are in line with recent trends of heightened ethnoreligious and cross-border tensions. In 2021, ethnic Serbs similarly erected roadblocks along the border, while two government vehicle registration centres were targeted in arson attacks. Serbia also similarly placed its armed forces on an increased readiness level and moved military equipment to the border with Kosovo. However, the EU eventually mediated a solution which ended the ban, while KFOR increased patrols along the border. As such, these current developments remain in line with established precedents.
9Nevertheless, tensions are set to remain high despite an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina in late November regarding the controversial topic of licence plate registration. It is likely that tensions will remain high in the coming months as Pristina has decided to delay the December municipal elections to April. In the coming weeks and months, the risk of border disruptions and attacks on personnel in northern Kosovo will remain elevated, leading to prolonged disruption to overland road freight and cross-border travel. However, the threat of a military confrontation between Serbian and Kosovar remains unlikely in the short term amid the continual presence of NATO-led KFOR peacekeepers in the region. (Source: Sibylline)
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