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03 Feb 23. Statement by the North Atlantic Council on the New START Treaty.
The NATO Invitees associate themselves with this Statement.
- NATO Allies agree the New START Treaty contributes to international stability by constraining Russian and U.S. strategic nuclear forces. Therefore, we note with concern that Russia has failed to comply with legally-binding obligations under the New START Treaty.
- Russia’s refusal to convene a session of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC) within the treaty-established timeframe, and to facilitate U.S. inspection activities on its territory since August 2022 prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the Treaty, and undermines the United States’ ability to adequately verify Russian compliance with the Treaty’s central limits. The United States is in compliance with the New START Treaty.
- NATO Allies continue to view effective arms control as an essential contribution to our security objectives. The New START Treaty remains in the national security interest of all states, including NATO Allies. NATO Allies welcomed the February 2021 agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the New START Treaty for five years. However, Russia’s noncompliance undermines the viability of the New START Treaty.
- We call on Russia to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty by facilitating New START inspections on Russian territory, and by returning to participation in the Treaty’s implementation body, the BCC. (Source: NATO)
03 Feb 23. UK Army no longer ‘top tier fighting force’, warns US general.
A senior US general has issued a major wake-up call to British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, telling the United Kingdom that the British Army is “no longer” a top tier global fighting force, spelling trouble for the UK in an era of renewed great power competition and raising questions about where Australia actually ranks.
Just as the United Kingdom seemed to be regaining some semblance of stability following the chaos of the Brexit vote, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing political fallout following the resignation of Boris Johnson, followed by the subsequent transition from Liz Truss to Rishi Sunak, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, added further fuel to the fire thrusting the United Kingdom into a position not experienced since the early days of the Second World War.
For the British Armed Forces, the Russian invasion and subsequent waves of US and UK-led financial and military aid couldn’t come at a worse time. Despite an ambitious plan for the modernisation and restructuring of the British Armed Forces by former prime minister Boris Johnson, which aimed to focus the nation’s attention towards the rapidly developing multipolar world order, particularly in eastern Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
In doing so, Johnson sought to re-establish the UK as a pre-eminent global military, economic, and political power, or a new “Global Britain”. This radical approach echoed comments made by former UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson in early 2019, when he promised a “major departure and reorientation” and the first major shift in UK defence policy for the first time since the introduction of the “east of Suez” doctrine in the 1960s.
At the time, Williamson described the post-Brexit era as “our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the Second World War, when we can recast ourselves in a different way, we can actually play the role on the world stage that the world expects us to play”. These lofty ambitions appear to have run aground, with rather disastrous results for the British Armed Forces and the British Army, in particular.
Johnson’s plan for the British Army envisaged the major restructuring of the British Army to focus on power projection and rapid expeditionary capability as part of the Army 2020 plan — this plan is designed to support concurrent deployments in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Indo-Pacific.
Despite the ambitions designed to transform the British Army, the economic impact of COVID-19, compounded by decades of cuts to the nation’s defence has left the British Army a shadow of its former glory — with major ramifications for the United Kingdom as a global power in the era of renewed and growing great power competition and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s position as a “war time prime minister”.
This point has recently been reinforced by a senior US general who had pointed warning for the United Kingdom’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace: “Bottom line … it’s an entire service unable to protect the UK and our allies for a decade”. This was further compounded by a series of concerning details outlined about the state of readiness of the British Armed Forces, namely:
- The British Armed Forces would run out of ammunition “in a few days” if called upon to fight.
- The Royal Air Force lacks the ability to defend its skies against the level of missile and drone strikes that Ukraine is enduring.
- It would take five to 10 years for the Army to be able to field a warfighting division of some 25,000 to 30,000 troops backed by the required tanks, artillery and helicopters.
- Thirty per cent of the UK’s forces on high readiness are reservists who are unable to mobilise within NATO timelines.
- The majority of the Army’s fleet of armoured vehicles, including tanks, was built between 30 to 60 years ago and full replacements are not due for years.
Perhaps the most concerning part of this warning, the US general reportedly told Wallace, “You haven’t got a tier one [force]. It’s barely tier two [force].” This is particularly concerning for the United Kingdom, when the US, Russia, China, and France are ranked as “tier one” powers, while Germany and Italy are examples of “tier two” powers.
While Australia’s defence and strategic policy community waits with bated breath for the release of the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) and its implications for the Australian Defence Force, once can’t help but ask, where does Australia rank and how will the DSR impact our capability moving forward?
Lessons for Australia’s future strategic planning
There is no doubt that Australia’s position and responsibilities in the Indo-Pacific region will depend on the nation’s ability to sustain itself economically, strategically and politically in the face of rising regional and global competition. Despite the nation’s virtually unrivalled wealth of natural resources, agricultural and industrial potential, there is a lack of a cohesive national security strategy integrating the development of individual, yet complementary public policy strategies to support a more robust Australian role in the region.
While contemporary Australia has been far removed from the harsh realities of conflict, with many generations never enduring the reality of rationing for food, energy, medical supplies or luxury goods, and even fewer within modern Australia understanding the socio-political and economic impact such rationing would have on the now world-leading Australian standard of living.
Enhancing Australia’s capacity to act as an independent power, incorporating great power-style strategic economic, diplomatic and military capability serves as a powerful symbol of Australia’s sovereignty and evolving responsibilities in supporting and enhancing the security and prosperity of Indo-Pacific Asia, this is particularly well explained by Peter Zeihan, who explains: “A de-globalised world doesn’t simply have a different economic geography, it has thousands of different and separate geographies. Economically speaking, the whole was stronger for the inclusion of all its parts. It is where we have gotten our wealth and pace of improvement and speed. Now the parts will be weaker for their separation.”
Accordingly, shifting the public discussion and debate away from the default Australian position of “it is all a little too difficult, so let’s not bother” will provide unprecedented economic, diplomatic, political and strategic opportunities for the nation.
As events continue to unfold throughout the region and China continues to throw its economic, political and strategic weight around, can Australia afford to remain a secondary power, or does it need to embrace a larger, more independent role in an era of increasing great power competition? (Source: Defence Connect)
02 Feb 23. Italy: Heightened security at embassies underscores elevated threat posed by anarchist groups. On 31 January, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani stated that the government would raise security levels at Italian embassies across the world in response to an increased threat of anarchist attacks. The threat is linked to the case of hunger-striking Italian anarchist Alfredo Cospito. Anarchist groups have already carried out attacks targeting Italian state officials in relation to the case. In December, for example, an anarchist group in Greece claimed responsibility for an arson attack on cars at a senior Italian diplomat’s home in Athens. There is a rising threat of further similar attacks in Greece, Italy, Germany and France, where European anarchist groups are particularly active. A deterioration in Cospito’s health would likely trigger far-left demonstrations across Italy. His scheduled court appearance on 9 March will also act as a potential flashpoint for protests and low-level arson attacks. (Source: Sibylline)
31 Jan 23. Russia’s war against Ukraine has been a sobering wake-up call for western militaries. Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, they are discovering they are ill-prepared for a full-intensity conflict like that in Ukraine or the one that China may unleash against Taiwan. Russia’s onslaught has turned into an attritional struggle with ghastly echoes of the first world war, albeit with more modern arms. The US and its European allies have commendably poured in weapons and ammunition to help Ukraine defend itself. Western-supplied portable anti-tank weapons, precision-guided missiles and Nato-standard artillery have proved critical to blunting Russia’s invading forces. However, Kyiv’s insatiable demands are emptying stores at an alarming rate and outstripping capacity to replenish them. With the post-cold war peace dividend and then the shift to more nimble expeditionary warfare, governments have allowed inventories to dwindle despite a Nato benchmark, set in 2014, to stockpile a month’s ammunition for high-intensity combat. Some, like Germany, have supplies for a few days at most. Years of lean, stop-start procurement have curtailed the defence industry’s capacity to ramp up production in an emergency. As FT analysis has shown, sophisticated weapons systems such as Javelin anti-tank missiles or Himars guided rockets can take at least a year to manufacture and involve complex production chains with multiple suppliers, each of them a potential bottleneck. The situation is particularly acute for artillery munitions. At the height of the slugfest across the front lines last summer, Ukraine’s army was firing an estimated 7,000 shells a day, a fortnight’s worth of maximum US production. Ukraine has only a few friendly central European suppliers for its 152mm Soviet standard shells. The continuing shift to Nato standard artillery and 155mm shells will only increase the burden on western suppliers. Russia is also thought be suffering shell supply problems, but it has a vast defence industry that it can put on a war footing. The war in Ukraine is a war of resources — as would be any conflict with China. Nato governments have been slow to respond. It should have been obvious, for example, that once Russian forces had been pushed back from Kyiv in March last year, Ukraine would need advanced air defences to protect its cities and its troops. The US has at least begun signing contracts and writing cheques. It has pledged to expand artillery production by five times within two years. The risk of fighting a war over Taiwan while also defending Europe against Russian aggression means it will need to do more to beef up production capacity and resilience. It should be more strategic about identifying long-term armaments needs, replenishment capabilities and potential bottlenecks, and where necessary agree multiyear contracts. European powers are further behind. Catching up will be costly. Germany says that building a 30-day ammunition stockpile alone could cost €20bn. Outside aeronautics and missiles, Europe’s defence industry is fragmented and low-volume. It is all the more important that European governments join together for procurement. A German-led initiative on air defence involving 15 European countries is a good step forward. Governments will balk at feather-bedding already profitable defence companies whose performance often leaves much to be desired. But defence industrial capacity is a vital component of security underpinning the international order and global trading system. Maintaining it is also a way of deterring aggression. It is a message to Moscow — and to Beijing — that Ukraine’s allies are in it for the long haul. (Source: FT)
30 Jan 23. British Army set for budget boost amid concerns troops overstretched by support for Ukraine. Ben Wallace admits ‘urgent recapitalisation’ is needed but also calls on Labour to accept some responsibility for the situation.
The British Army is set for a budget boost in the wake of concerns troops have been overstretched by the UK’s support for Ukraine, a defence minister suggested on Monday.
The comments by James Heappey were made in response to claims that a senior US general privately told Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, that the British Army was no longer regarded as a top-level fighting force.
Addressing the House of Commons, Mr Heappey said: “Serial under-investment in the Army over decades has led to the point where the Army is in need of urgent recapitalisation.”
Hinting at a potential rise in investment in the budget this spring, he added: “The Chancellor and the Prime Minister get that and there is a Budget coming.”
It comes after The Telegraph reported that the Army feels that the latest gift of tanks by the UK to Ukraine is another example of the force having taken on the “lion’s share” of equipping the war-torn country.
Senior defence sources are understood to feel that the RAF and Navy should be doing more to help to “shoulder the burden”.
‘Barely tier two’ fighting force
It follows a report by Sky News that a US general privately told the Defence Secretary: “You haven’t got a tier one – it’s barely tier two.”
Mr Wallace also addressed the accusations, as he admitted the Army requires “urgent recapitalisation”. He added: “That’s why we are investing in it.”
Mr Wallace also said he would rather have a “perfectly formed, properly protected men and women of the Armed Forces of a size we can afford and an ambition we can afford than pretend we are somehow reaching beyond ourselves”.
Last month, it was reported that defence spending is set to increase by more than £1bn to avoid a real-term cut over the next two years.
It is understood that the Treasury has accepted the argument that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) budget should not be falling relative to inflation while the Ukraine war continues.
Military experts have estimated that to avoid real-term cuts, the MoD budget in 2024/25 must rise from £48.6bn to £50.1bn, meaning an increase of at least around £1.5bn is expected.
Call for Labour to accept responsibility
Mr Wallace also told the Commons on Monday that the Armed Forces have been “hollowed out and underfunded”, but called on Labour to accept some responsibility for the situation.
John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, noted that when Labour left government in 2010, the British Army “stood at over 100,000 full-time troops and we were spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence”.
“The serious hollowing out has happened since. Who does he think has been in charge over the last 13 years?” he asked.
Mr Wallace said: “You only have to listen to the veterans on this side to understand their experience under a Labour government.
“Snatch Land Rovers – let’s remember that and all that awful mess as a result of the Labour government’s investment.
“If [Mr Healey] wants to be the next secretary of defence, he should come here and get off his chest the shortcomings that his former government did.
“I’m happy to say that we have hollowed out and underfunded. Will he do the same? Or will he hide behind petty party politics?”
30 Jan 23. Czech Republic: Victory for pro-West candidate will reduce EU tensions, boost near-term political stability. On 28 January, the retired general and pro-West Petr Pavel was elected as president of Czechia in a second round of voting. Pavel comfortably defeated his rival (the former prime minister Andrej Babiš) with 58% of the vote, and will succeed President Miloš Zeman in March. Although the election campaign was relatively polarised (largely due to Babiš’s attempts to portray Pavel as a pro-war candidate, as well as his criticism of the government), its long-term impact on Czech society will likely be limited. However, Pavel will likely pursue closer co-operation with NATO and the EU and continue to support Ukraine. The centre-right coalition government supported Pavel’s campaign; his election will therefore help to boost government stability in the near term. (Source: Sibylline)
30 Jan 23. Turkey: Elevated terrorist threat will raise duty of care concerns for Western businesses. On 30 January, the US embassy in Turkey issued its second security alert in four days, cautioning US nationals of ‘possible imminent’ retaliatory terrorist attacks against churches, diplomatic missions and synagogues. Embassies in Ankara, including those of France, Germany, Italy and the US, issued security alerts on 27 January following incidents in which far-right politicians in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden burned copies of the Quran. The updated US alert identifies areas frequented by Western travellers as vulnerable to attacks, including parts of Istanbul such as Beyoglu, Galata, Taksim and Istiklal. Heightened regional tensions with European governments will sustain elevated terrorist threats and bystander risks to Western travellers and personnel visiting Istanbul and other major cities in the coming weeks. This will raise duty of care concerns for Western businesses and governments and will likely curtail elevated tourism demand from European travellers for winter holidays in Turkey. (Source: Sibylline)
30 Jan 23. French Rafale undertakes Nato’s mission with German fighters.
The short-term deployment involved French aircraft to relocate to Ämari Air Base, Estonia, from Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania. The French Air and Space Force has temporarily deployed a Rafale fighter aircraft to support their German counterparts in performing NATO’s mission in Estonia.
The deployment was revealed by Allied Air Command (AIRCOM), which said that the French aircraft was deployed to Ämari Air Base in Estonia from Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania.
Following their arrival in Estonia, the French detachment received extensive bed-down and servicing support from their German counterparts.
This further allowed the two forces to carry out ‘Diverse Aircraft Combat Training and Deployed Operations in Contested Environment’.
The short-term deployment also enabled the Rafale jet to perform dispersed operation drills and aircraft cross-servicing scenarios with the German Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon detachment.
French Rafale Detachment commander lieutenant colonel Jonathan said: “We conducted this temporary deployment to ensure our operations continued out of an alternate air base.”
Both German and French fighter jets are deployed to support Nato’s Baltic Air Policing mission.
As part of the training, the French Rafale jet was required to relocate to Estonia to counter a simulated threat at Siauliai Air Base. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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