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09 Jul 20. Latvia Wants US Troops, And Is Ready To Pay For Them. The Baltic country is looking to open talks with the US about putting American boots on the ground in Latvia, a move that would surely make Moscow unhappy.
Latvia’s defense minister announced today his country is willing to house American troops if the Trump administration follows through on its decision to pull thousands of troops out of Germany, becoming the second NATO ally to ask for those troops to be housed within its borders.
“We are ready — and this is an official announcement — we are ready to invest to receive a certain amount of American troops on Latvian soil,” minister of defense and deputy prime minister, Artis Pabriks, said during a virtual event hosted by the Brookings Institution. The desired deployment would be the first large US basing effort in the Baltic nation.
“We are not trying to punish the Germans. We don’t want to compete [with them], but if it’s really inevitable then we are ready to receive you,” he added.
When asked what kind of US presence the Baltic nation wants, a Latvian official told me the country is open to either rotational or a permanent American presence in the country, noting there are already 1,500 NATO troops stationed at the Adazi military base. The official noted that the country also has a string of training areas that could be used for basing.
A Pentagon official said they had “nothing to offer” about the possibility of US basing in Latvia.
The Latvian offer comes just after Poland said it would happily take some of the 9,500 troops President Trump wants pulled out of Germany. Late last month, US officials said Washington and Warsaw have already agreed on a location to base a rotational US Army armored brigade combat team. An administration official speaking with reporters on the condition of anonymity added the two sides “are in discussions regarding additional infrastructure to support the ABCT, as well as the combat aviation brigade and combat support sustainment battalion.”
The proposed reduction of American forces from Germany would bring the number of troops stationed there from 34,500 to 25,000. There is still no timeline for the withdrawal, and Pentagon officials haven’t divulged which troops would leave or where they might be reassigned. President Trump’s pledges to withdraw troops have not always come to pass, as evidenced most recently in Syria. The president has also mused about pulling some troops from South Korea.
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The 1,500-strong NATO enhanced foreign presence unit in the country is led by 500 Canadian forces, along with hundreds more from Spain, Poland, Italy and Slovakia, among others. The US Army also sends an aviation unit to the country on a rotational basis, with another rotation planned for later this month.
In October, the US moved 500 troops to neighboring Lithuania in October for a six-month deployment, in a sign that Washington recognizes the importance of the Baltic region as a stopgap to potential Russian adventurism in the region.
Pabriks was careful to say Germany is a close ally of Latvia, and remains an irreplaceable member of the NATO alliance. He also is concerned about any American pivot away from the continent. “We think that American military presence in Europe should be increased and not decreased,” he said, “we understand that there must be a push for Germany to do more, but a presence in Germany is vital for global security, not only European and Baltic security.”
While Germany has yet to achieve the NATO goal of spending 2% of its GDP on the military, Latvia hit the target in 2018, along with its Baltic neighbors Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
08 Jul 20. Huawei calls for UK to grant stay of execution. Chinese telecoms supplier says British government should not rush decision on 5G strategy following US sanctions. Huawei says it will take ‘months’ to complete a ‘full analysis’ of its strategy in light of the US sanctions. Huawei has said it will be “months” before it can provide customers such as BT and Vodafone with full reassurance over the impact of the US sanctions at the heart of an imminent UK government decision that is set to undermine its ability to supply British telecoms companies with new 5G equipment. A UK security inquiry has raised “very, very serious” questions about whether Huawei can continue with its limited role as a supplier for 5G networks after the US announced sanctions in May, according to Whitehall officials. Those sanctions, which networks have warned could choke off the supply of chips used in Huawei equipment, are set to come into force in September, leaving some of its largest customers reliant on stockpiles of existing 5G kit which will only last into early next year. A new report, compiled by the National Cyber Security Centre in light of the new sanctions, has been delivered to the government.
Ministers are now considering the impact on Huawei’s viability as a supplier ahead of a decision by the National Security Council on whether to revise its approach to the company. Huawei has called for UK politicians not to rush their decision. Victor Zhang, vice-president of Huawei, said ‘it was not the right time’ for the UK government review Victor Zhang, vice-president of Huawei, told a media call that “it was not the right time” for the British government review because the “vital” decision would have a significant impact on the rollout of 5G and gigabit-speed broadband in the UK. “It is too early to draw a conclusion on any restrictions from the US government,” he said.
However, Huawei was not able to set a precise timeframe for when it could reassure its telecoms customers and governments over its long-term viability as a supplier, saying it would take “months” to complete a “full analysis” of its strategy in light of the new US restrictions. One option for Huawei could be to send to the UK its existing supply of millions of chips originally destined for use in kit for the Chinese 5G market. Recommended John Sawers The UK should bar Huawei from its 5G network The US sanctions are aimed at cutting off Huawei’s access to semiconductors made with American equipment, such as those manufactured by Taiwan’s TSMC. This has raised fears in London that Huawei would be forced to use alternative technology with new security risks. “If the Chinese state mobilises to support rapid manufacturing of alternatives . . . our longstanding understanding of how the [Huawei] supply chain works just disappears,” one Whitehall official told the Financial Times last month. Mr Zhang said that the US sanctions would not have an immediate impact. “There’s no issue for Huawei to continue to work with our customers like BT and Vodafone,” he said. However, ministers are keen to assess the repercussions as soon as possible to give operators time to act on a likely change in policy. The government will also want to reassure a growing number of Conservative backbench rebels, who have lobbied vociferously against allowing Huawei into 5G networks. Critics of the company argue this would allow Beijing a backdoor into UK communications — a charge Huawei has consistently denied. (Source: FT.com)
08 Jul 20. Italy declares Eurofighter and Lightning II to be multirole platforms. The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana: AMI) has said both its Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fleets will be used for multirole operations, reversing its previously stated policy of restricting different types to particular roles.
Speaking at a ‘virtual’ NATO Iceland Air Policing event, a senior AMI officer said that, while the practise of limiting the Eurofighter to air defence and the Lightning II to ground attack previously made sense, the ‘omnirole’ capabilities of both meant that this was no longer the case.
“When we were receiving our first machines, it made sense to categorise them in terms of the aircraft they were replacing – so the F-16 [air defence] fighter [was] being replaced by the Eurofighter, and the [ground attack] Tornado and AMX [was] being replaced by the F-35. A division in this way was pretty straight-forward” Colonel Michele Cesario noted. “The reality now though is that these new aircraft are both omnirole [able to conduct air-to-air and air-to-surface missions simultaneously], and there is no use in limiting their roles.”
The colonel’s comments, which were made on 8 July during a NATO virtual press event to coincide with the AMI’s second deployment of the F-35A to the Icelandic air policing mission, were the first official retraction of the previously-held policy that was spelled out to Janes. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Jul 20. Sweden to prepare next-gen fighter plans. Sweden is to begin formal planning for its next-generation combat aircraft during the next budgetary cycle of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the government disclosed on 7 July.
The groundwork for developing the country’s future combat aviation strategy will run over five-years, with a range of possible activities outlined by the government in the budgetary documentation it has released for the armed forces.
“Preparatory work on the future combat aviation capability and the next generation of fighter aircraft will begin during the defence decision period 2021-2025. Preparations can include studies, technology development, and demonstrator activities in collaboration with one or more international partners,” the documents said.
The government provided no further detail as to what form Sweden’s future combat aviation capability might take, but based on recent announcements and other events it is likely to follow one of four paths. These would be further development of the Saab Gripen, fully committing to the Tempest project alongside Italy and the UK, joining another international project, or developing its own indigenous fighter aircraft. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Jul 20. Cummings to drop in on Britain’s most secret defence installations. Boris Johnson’s controversial adviser Dominic Cummings will tour some of Britain’s most highly classified national security sites as part of his plan to radically shake up the military amid a major turf war in Westminster over how Britain will defend itself in the future.
According to internal correspondence obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the Prime Minister’s top adviser requested visits to five classified sites including facilities that specialise in defence intelligence.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s closest adviser Dominic Cummings said that he didn’t regret his decision to drive 250 miles from London to northern England, saying he had not flouted lockdown rules by staying on his family’s farm.
Such are the high stakes of the review, due for publication from September, that Defence Minister Ben Wallace expressly forbade ministry officials from talking to Number 10 or Cummings directly about the itinerary for his planned trip.
“The Secretary of State explicitly does not wish anyone to engage Number 10 or Dominic Cummings on this,” officials were told. “It is for the [the Minister’s special adviser] and the Secretary of State to engage in the first instance before delegating to officials.”
According to the document, Cummings has visited Britain’s domestic and overseas spy agencies – MI5 and MI6 – twice already.
Cummings singled out five top-secret defence sites to visit in coming weeks. They include the highly classified Special Boat Service based at Poole in Dorset, the SAS headquarters in Hereford, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in Salisbury which researches chemical weapons and pathogens, the Rapid Capabilities Office at Farnborough and the defence intelligence unit at Wyton.
Johnson’s top aide has long enjoyed a high profile in the media because of his polarising nature, his success in devising the Vote Leave campaign and more recently for breaching the UK’s coronavirus lockdown to test his eyesight on a long drive. He is said to not have wanted a “fanfare” and requested to talk to middle-ranking officers such as majors and colonels.
He has previously been targeted by the Labour opposition, which queried his security clearance after citing a whistleblower who had come forward over Cummings’ time spent in Russia in his 20s.
In January, Cummings was photographed wearing a yellow-band pass showing that he had achieved a mid-level form of security clearance instead of the developed vetting or DV classification given to most top aides once they are subjected to background checks.
However, photographs taken in recent months, show his pass now sports a green band, suggesting he has finally been granted DV clearance allowing him to view top-secret files without supervision.
In February, then chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid resigned rather than give into Cummings’ demands that Number 10 appoint his political advisers.
Cummings has carved out a reputation for himself as a straight-talking disrupter, unafraid of eliminating staff and ministers whom he does not view as competent or politically loyal.
He has taken a special interest in reforming the Whitehall bureaucracy. In the past month there have been two abrupt, high-profile resignations in the security establishment, with the head of the civil service, national security adviser and Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, and Simon McDonald, the Foreign Office boss, announcing they would leave their posts in September.
Cummings has long been a critic of what he sees as defence waste, particularly when it comes to programs for procuring new equipment which he has slammed as squandering billions of pounds and “enriching some of the worst corporate looters and corrupting public life via the revolving door of officials/lobbyists”.
“Scrutiny by our MPs has been contemptible. They have built platforms that already cannot be sent to a serious war against a serious enemy,” he wrote in a blog post titled Drones in March.
“A teenager will be able to deploy a drone from their smartphone to sink one of these multibillion-dollar platforms.
“Such a teenager could already take out the stage of a Downing Street photo op with a little imagination and initiative, as I wrote about years ago.”
But there are concerns that Cummings’ scepticism and the subsequent integrated review of British security and defence could lead to a reduction in the number of soldiers in favour of more military fusion techniques. This has created tensions which were on display when the Chief of the Defence Force Sir Nick Carter appeared before the Commons Defence Committee on Tuesday.
Mark Francois, a Brexiter Tory MP and member of the committee warned Carter that Cummings “would sort out” the department in his “own way” if it did not address its blowouts in spending.
“Can we just make a plea to you, you are the professional head of the armed forces, please nip back to the department and ask them to sort themselves out because, if not, Cummings is going to come down and sort you out his own way [and] you won’t like it,” Francois told Carter.
Downing Street did not respond to requests for comment. (Source: https://www.smh.com.au/)
07 Jul 20. Britain says it can restart Saudi Arabia arms export licences. Britain can once again issue new licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia after complying with a court order, its trade minister said on Tuesday, a move campaigners condemned as “morally bankrupt”.
The Court of Appeal last year ruled that Britain broke the law by allowing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia that might have been deployed in the war in Yemen.
The court concluded that Britain’s government had erred in law in its decision-making processes on arms export licences to Saudi Arabia, after activists said there was evidence the weapons had been used in violation of human rights statutes.
While the court’s decision did not mean Britain had to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia, it did mean it had to pause the granting of new export licences to sell arms to the kingdom – Britain’s biggest weapons purchaser.
Trade minister Liz Truss said the government had re-taken those decisions on a “correct legal basis”, meaning it could resume issuing licences.
“I have assessed that there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL (International Humanitarian Law),” she said.
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), which originally brought the legal action and had argued that British weapons were likely to have been used in Yemen in violation of human rights law, condemned the decision.
“This is a disgraceful and morally bankrupt decision. The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made arms have played a central role on the bombing,” said Andrew Smith of CAAT.
“We will be considering this new decision with our lawyers, and will be exploring all options available to challenge it.” (Source: Reuters)
06 Jul 20. UK Government’s ECJU Issues Notice to Exporters 2020/11 on License Applications for Military Exports to Saudi Arabia.
The U.K. Government’s Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) has issued Notice to Exporters 2020/11: Progressing License Applications for Military Exports to Saudi Arabia. On 7 July 2020, the Secretary of State for International Trade informed Parliament in a written statement that she has retaken her decisions regarding licences for military exports to Saudi Arabia for possible use in the conflict in Yemen, in accordance with the Judgment of the Court of Appeal of 20 June 2019. Consequently, the undertaking given to the Court – that we would not grant any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen – falls away. The broader commitment that was given to Parliament, relating to licences for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, also no longer applies. The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year. Each application will be carefully assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria and a licence would not be granted if to do so would be a breach of the criteria. Exporters should be aware that it may take some months to clear this backlog. There may also continue to be delays in processing new applications until the backlog has been cleared. (Source: glstrade.com)
06 Jul 20. Report: Next Steps in Airspace Surveillance. Today, Monday, the defense spokesmen of all parliamentary parties, airspace surveillance experts from the army, the chief of staff, the president of the finance procurator and the Federal Minister of Defense met to discuss the future of airspace surveillance in Austria.
The focus was on the Eurofighter legal case and the successor to the Saab 105 OE.
Eurofighter legal case
At the beginning of the session, an overview of the current situation in the Eurofighter case was presented. In summary, it can be assumed that in the context of the Eurofighter procurement, Airbus / Eurofighter corruption and deception against the Republic has occurred since 2002 and in the 2007 comparison.
For this reason, the Republic of Austria, after unsuccessful proceedings in the past, again submitted a factual report to the Vienna public prosecutor’s office in 2017 on suspicion of serious fraud (criminal code sections 146, 147). The Republic of Austria also participated in the criminal proceedings in order to assert civil rights claims.
At the beginning of 2019, the Vienna Public Prosecutor’s Office transferred this procedure to the WKStA. In February 2020, it became known that Airbus had admitted for the first time in a court case in the United States that it had practiced unfair behavior in the initiation and execution of transactions worldwide. It was also admitted that there were at least 55m euros in political grants in Austria.
On the basis of these new findings, the Federal Ministry of Defense in collaboration with the Finance Procurator introduced a new state of affairs in May.
“The Republic of Austria will continue to use all legal means to achieve the goal of withdrawing from the Eurofighter contract, and to be compensated by Eurofighter. Until the final decision of the judiciary, no decisions regarding airspace surveillance will be taken which could affect Austria’s position on Eurofighter,” said the Minister of Defense.
Next steps in airspace surveillance
In the past three years there have been three different commissions or expert reports commissioned by the respective ministers, in which the necessary next steps in relation to airspace surveillance in Austria have been analyzed. These were the special commission under Defense Minister Doskozil in 2017, the evaluation commission under Defense Minister Kunasek in 2018 and the report “Unser Heer 2030” under Defense Minister Starlinger in 2019.
Austria is currently operating a two-fleet system for active airspace surveillance. A combination of Eurofighter supersonic aircraft for airspace surveillance and Saab 105 subsonic planes for training that complement airspace surveillance, which can ensure around 10 hours of operational readiness per day for airspace surveillance, with 94% covered by Eurofighter and 6% by Saab 105.
It is clear that the Saab 105 can only be used until the end of 2020 – this has been known for several years.
If one looks at the neighboring countries, one can conclude that none of these countries has a two-fleet system for active airspace surveillance. Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Switzerland also have a single fleet system. Slovenia has Hungary and Italy to protect its airspace as part of NATO membership.
The recommendations from the three reports do not paint a clear picture. The Doskozil Special Commission recommends switching to a single fleet system for active airspace surveillance, as does the Kunasek Evaluation Commission. So, they spoke out against the Saab 105 OE replacement. The Starlinger report makes the recommendation to purchase a second fleet to support the Eurofighter and for training.
Klaudia Tanner: “We are grateful for the extensive reports and recommendations prepared by the three commission. These will form the basis for decisions about the future of our airspace surveillance.”
It is clear that the Republic of Austria is continuing to vigorously pursue the Airbus case.
Regarding the necessary steps in relation to the Saab 105, it is stated that both the Doskozil Commission and the Kunasek Commission have not recommended any replacement, in our neighboring countries air surveillance is organized everywhere by a single fleet system and that – even if a procurement process is initiated now – the new aircraft would not be ready by early 2021. A transitional solution would therefore be necessary for both a single fleet system and a two-fleet system.
The following key points will be ensured until the legal dispute regarding the exit from the Eurofighter contract is resolved:
- The Saab 105 will be “phased out” due to the end of its technical life and will not be replenished.
- Measures are taken to continue to ensure airspace surveillance and pilot training.
- A broad discussion process at parliamentary level is started to explore the options for the period after the Eurofighter procedure has been completed.
Chief of Staff Robert Brieger said: “In order to secure Austrian airspace for the next maximum of ten years, we have to train one or two pilots a year. It is neither militarily necessary, nor cost-effective, to purchase a second system. Pilots and employees deployed on the Saab 105 OE are urgently needed for other air fleets of the Armed Forces. In future, the training will also take place abroad, as it did before.”
Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner said: “All of our decisions today are based on expert opinions, including those from the General Staff. It is our responsibility to protect airspace in a cost-effective and adequate manner. We will do that. It is clear that we not do anything that weakens our position towards Eurofighter / Airbus.”
(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: Airbus Defence and Space did not respond to a request for comment.
Reuters quoted a company official as saying that “From Airbus’ perspective, nothing has changed in this matter,” adding that it viewed demands for reparation or reversal of the delivery contract as “not founded on any legal basis”.) (Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Austrian Ministry of Defence)
07 Jul 20. Europe’s forced shift towards defence self-reliance should raise alarms. Much like the rest of the world, Europe’s post-war security has been disproportionately guaranteed by the US – as the US continues to embrace isolationism and buckle under the weight of COVID, great power competition and domestic social issues, many US allies will be following the European experience more closely.
Across the globe the post-Second World War economic, political and strategic order appears to be in tatters, rising great power competition, economic decline and the impact of COVID-19, combined with domestic social and political unrest is serving to impact the security and sovereignty of many nations.
Europe, despite its recent history on conflagration, particularly during the 20th century has, since the end of the Second World War, enjoyed a degree of strategic stability and security, enforced largely by the tentative balance between the US and Russia.
In many ways, despite the status of many European nations, like France, Germany and the United Kingdom as global ‘great powers’ they, like Australia have been dependent upon a number of different, yet interconnected and increasingly complex factors, namely:
- The dominance, benevolence and continuing stability of its primary strategic partner;
- The geographic isolation of the continent, highlighted by the ‘tyranny of distance’;
- A relatively small population in comparison with its neighbours; and
- Increasingly, the geo-political, economic and strategic ambition and capabilities of Russia and to a lesser degree Turkey and Iran.
However, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War cementing America’s position as the pre-eminent world power – this period was relatively short lived as costly engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, peace-keeping interventions in southern Europe and enduring global security responsibilities have drained American ‘blood’ and ‘treasure’.
Further compounding matters is the renewed assertiveness and ambitions of the ‘traditional’ European enemy, Russia as President Vladimir Putin seeks to maximise the economic, political and strategic malaise in the Western European powers and more broadly the Western world to reestablish its position on the global stage.
As the threads of the post-Second World War economic, political and geo-strategic order continue to unravel, many emerging and reemerging peer competitors are leveraging ‘whole-of-government’ approaches to maximise their influence, prosperity and security in an increasingly troubling period of time.
Adding further fuel to the fire is the increasing unpredictability and ‘isolationism’ of Europe’s security benefactor: the US, which under both former President Barrack Obama and current President Donald Trump has pressured the Europeans to take a greater hand in their own security.
Explaining this, former British diplomat and director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform think tank, Ian Bond, said, “Trump may not understand how NATO works or the value to the US of having troops in Germany, but it is true that the US carries a disproportionately large share of the financial burden of defending Europe.
“During his presidency, Barack Obama also accused Europe of being ‘complacent’ about its own defence — though he was rather more diplomatic.”
Pull your own weight
While it could be argued that many of the problems faced by the US on the world stage, particularly those of a security nature are as a result of its own interventionist nature, the US involvement in Europe served as an important guarantor for continued European stability post-Second World War.
A core component of this guarantee is the NATO alliance, which mandates that at a minimum, members must meet the target spending of 2 per cent of GDP on defence — a figure Australia’s own political leaders frequently cite as the ideal of the nation’s own defence spending — this figure has emerged as a major battleground for US and European leaders.
Bond explains, saying, “In recent weeks Trump announced without warning that the US will withdraw 9,500 — more than one quarter — of the 34,500 troops it has stationed in Germany because the German government is not spending enough on defence.
“Then at a Washington press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump said a large number of NATO countries were ‘delinquent’ and declared that Europe was taking ‘tremendous advantage of the United States on trade’.”
Expanding on this, Bond states, “Only a handful of European NATO members have met the alliance’s target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence over the past 20 years, while the US has consistently exceeded it, spending 3.1-4.9 per cent.
“But Europe’s problem is not just the amount it spends on defence, but the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of its spending: Europeans get far too many systems and far too little military capability for their money.”
Based on these factors, it is clear that much of the US criticism of the European powers, particularly the likes of Germany, France and Italy, all members of the G8 industrialised economies, is warranted at the financial level.
Shifting the focus to ‘actual’ capability, the US has been frequently frustrated by the range of platforms operated by the various European nations, resulting in a lack of interoperability and, concerningly, a lack of deployability by the various European militaries.
Bond explains, “The European Commission’s 2017 fact sheet on European defence reported that European Union member states operated 178 different major weapons systems; the US had only 30. EU member states have 17 different types of main battle tank; the US has one.
“This proliferation of weapons systems leads to high unit costs for short production runs, and a lack of interoperability. And European spending is not directed to ensuring that troops can fight when needed.
“The European members of NATO have almost 1.9 million active-duty troops, while the US has 1.3 million and Russia about 900,000. But very few of the European forces can be deployed in a crisis,” Bond states.
While Australia enjoys a robust and largely cordial relationship with the US, particularly at a military-to-military level, the increasing reluctance of the US to engage on the behalf of ‘allies’ particularly at the expense of US ‘blood’ and ‘treasure’ is a concerning development.
Don’t panic, but take notice
The precedent established by the US and its renewed sense of both isolationism and policy of accountability for allies is particularly informative as the US comes under increasing economic, political and strategic pressure as a result of both domestic and foreign factors.
For Australia and other regional US allies, like Japan and South Korea, this will necessitate closer co-operation between these allies, including a growing focus on interoperability, platform commonality and what the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre (USSC) describes as “capability aggregation” to ensure collective security.
This realisation comes as the USSC spells out the one thing few of Australia’s strategic policy thinkers and political leaders seem willing to come to terms with, beyond the radical fluctuations between doom and gloom scenarios: some of which range from a complete retreat by the US, leaving Australia and other regional allies alone, or a semi-retreat and focus on limiting risk to key American assets in the region.
In doing so, the USSC recognises that for the first time America has a true competitor in China – a nation with immense industrial potential, growing wealth and prosperity, a driving national purpose and a growing series of alliances with re-emerging, resource rich great powers in Russia.
As part of this recognition, the USSC identifies the growing need for capability aggregation and collective deterrence in the Indo-Pacific, with both Australia and Japan playing critical roles in balancing any decline in the US and its capacity to unilaterally project power, influence and presence throughout the region.
“Prudent capability aggregation between the armed forces of Australia, Japan and the United States will be critical to addressing the shortfalls that America is likely to face in its military power over the coming years,” the USSC paper identifies.
“The strategic purpose of such efforts should be to strengthen the collective capacity to deter prospective Chinese fait accompli aggression in strategically significant regional flashpoints, particularly along the First Island Chain and in the South China Sea.”
While Australia has taken proactive steps, particularly following the announcement of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and supporting Force Structure Plan backed by a record $270bn worth of funding over the next decade, the limitations of US power and resolve are increasingly being revealed and clearly cannot be taken for granted.
However, these capabilities are still framed within the lens of a largely defensive conflict scenario, whereby Australia’s critical economic, political and strategic interests in the region, namely the critical sea lines of communication are still at the mercy of regional partners and a limited level of Australian area-denial, while Australia’s major military platforms remain committed to the defence of the continent.
This approach fails to acknowledge that Australia’s limited military capabilities, largely limited as a result of the budgetary and doctrinal constraints established by dogmatic adherence to the now clearly outdated ‘Defence of Australia’ doctrine and the arbitrary 2 per cent of GDP defence expenditure rate and relegates Australia to a protracted period of isolation, until larger allies either in the region or beyond come to our aid.
In doing so, this not only leaves Australia at the mercy of these ‘great and powerful friends’, who may have conflicting tactical and strategic interests thus stretching their capabilities and means, Australia’s ‘commitment’ to the Indo-Pacific once again defers all the heavy lifting in the region to other nations, while we continue to believe that we can dictate the balance of power, economic relationships and security partnerships for our own interest and benefit without any real skin in the game. (Source: Defence Connect)
05 Jul 20. France won’t ban Huawei, but encouraging 5G telcos to avoid it: report. The head of the French cybersecurity agency ANSSI said there would not be a total ban on using equipment from Huawei in the rollout of the French 5G telecoms network, but that it was pushing French telcos to avoid switching to the Chinese company.
“What I can say is that there won’t be a total ban,” Guillaume Poupard told Les Echos newspaper in an interview. “(But) for operators that are not currently using Huawei, we are inciting them not to go for it.”
The U.S. government has urged its allies to exclude the Chinese telecoms giant from the West’s next-generation communications, saying Beijing could use it for spying. Huawei has denied the charges.
Sources told Reuters in March France would not ban Huawei but would seek to keep it out of the core mobile network, which carries higher surveillance risks because it processes sensitive information such as customers’ personal data.
France’s decision over Huawei’s equipment is crucial for two of the country’s four telecoms operators, Bouygues Telecom and SFR, as about half of their current mobile network is made by the Chinese group.
“For those that are already using Huawei, we are delivering authorisations for durations that vary between three and eight years,” Poupard said in the interview.
State-controlled Orange has already chosen Huawei’s European rivals Nokia and Ericsson.
Poupard said that from next week, operators which have not received an explicit authorisation to use Huawei equipment for the 5G network can consider a non-response after the legal deadline as a rejection of their requests.
Poupard said the choice was made to protect French independence, and not as an act of hostility towards China.
“This is not Huawei bashing or anti-Chinese racism,” Poupard said. “All we’re saying is that the risk is not the same with European suppliers as with non-Europeans.” (Source: glstrade.com/Reuters)
06 Jul 20. UK set to deploy seven Archer Class P2000 patrol boats to Scotland. The British Royal Navy’s seven Archer Class P2000 patrol boats are set to deploy around Scotland’s coastline this summer.
Supporting University Royal Naval Units (URNU), the seven ships comprise HMS Biter, HMS Charger, HMS Express, HMS Trumpeter, HMS Archer, HMS Explorer, and HMS Example.
The deployment will provide the crew with an opportunity for Operational Training, including improving seamanship and navigation skills.
The vessels, which measure more than 20m long, are some of the smallest units in the navy fleet. This allows the ships to sail in smaller Scottish harbours.
Scotland and Northern Ireland naval regional commander captain Chris Smith said: “It is great to be able to bring the Royal Navy near to some of our smaller communities which, because of harbour size, don’t usually get a visit from our ships.
“The P2000s may be small, but they pack a punch, and regularly exercise around the UK and Europe, as well as supporting the fleet.
“Usually we would be hosting visits from local groups and organisations while alongside but, with the current situation, this is unfortunately not possible.” Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Four ships, including Trumpeter, Archer, Explorer and Example, will commence their sail to the East Coast of Scotland.
The remaining vessels, including Biter, Charger and Express, will sail to the West Coast route.
Some of the harbour stops of the vessels are Leith, Peterhead, Wick, Westray, Stromness, Inverness, Fraserburgh, Port Ellen, Oban, Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh, Ullapoool, Stornoway, Loch Boisdale and Tobermory. (Source: naval-technology.com)
06 Jul 20. Huawei’s days in the UK’s 5G network look numbered – here’s why. When Boris Johnson gave telecoms firms the green light to use Chinese technology giant Huawei’s 5G equipment back in January, it appeared to draw a line under the matter after more than a year of delay.
This sense of finality was short-lived and six months on it looks increasingly likely that the UK is preparing to exclude Huawei, classed as a “high-risk vendor”, from its 5G network and fixed-broadband networks.
So, what’s changed? From Huawei’s end, not much. From the UK’s perspective, quite a lot.
The biggest catalyst for the now expected U-turn is the latest sanctions imposed by the US on China in mid-May. The rule change means that foreign companies will require a US license to supply American chips and chipmaking equipment to Huawei.
Unlike the previous US entities blacklist, these latest restrictions are more targeted and, crucially, have created cause for concern among security experts, who fear that Huawei will be forced to use less secure chip alternatives.
A new report from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) into the security implications of the latest sanctions, due this week, is expected to deal a devastating blow for Huawei.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the report has concluded that the sanctions have had a “severe” impact and “significantly changes” NCSC’s risk assessment.
Up until now, British cyber intelligence agencies have long insisted that they can safely carry out a “risk management” approach to Huawei. This would have kept Huawei technology out of the sensitive, or core, part of the UK’s 5G network. Huawei would also be subjected to a 35% market cap for the non-core infrastructure.
But Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, said that if accurate, the reports give Johnson “sound technical reasons” to reverse his Huawei decision.
One government source told Verdict that “it’s all over” and that it’s now a case of “choreographing the climbdown”.
Rip and replace Huawei 5G?
What might that look like? In the short term – as little as six months – officials are reportedly drawing up proposals to prevent telecoms firms, such as BT and Vodafone, from installing new Huawei equipment.
But the government is still faced with the more long term – and expensive – problem of the existing Huawei telecommunications equipment in the UK’s 2G, 3G and 4G networks.
So-called “rip and replace” measures could cause significant delays to the UK’s 5G rollout, telecoms firms have warned.
“The UK’s leadership in 5G will be lost if mobile operators are forced to spend time and money replacing existing equipment,” said Vodafone UK CTO Scott Petty, in an interview with the FT.
One option could be to accelerate the rate in which telecoms firms replace Huawei technology at the end of the equipment’s lifecycle, replacing it with rival tech made by Nokia or Ericsson.
There are approximately 21,000 telecoms sites across the UK using Huawei equipment, according to one industry estimate.
But Huawei does not consider it game over just yet and says it is “working closely” with its customers to find ways to manage the US sanctions.
“We believe it is too early to determine the impact of the proposed restrictions, which are not about security, but about market position,” Victor Zhang, VP Huawei, told Verdict.
“As ever, we remain open to discussions with the government. All our world-leading products and solutions use technology and components over which the UK government has strict oversight. Our technology is already extensively used in 5G networks across the country and has helped connect people throughout lockdown.”
A changing geopolitical landscape
At its heart, the Huawei 5G debate can be broken into two core elements: the technical and the political.
The US has long insisted that Huawei poses a national security threat because of its close ties with the Chinese state. Huawei has strongly denied that it has or will create security backdoors to spy on other countries at the behest of the Communist Party of China, and the US has provided no solid evidence of this.
That didn’t stop the US from intensely lobbying the UK to ban Huawei in the build-up to the January announcement. US officials have consistently warned that allowing Huawei into the UK’s 5G network would threaten intelligence sharing between the two countries – a threat that UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and NCSC CEO Ciaran Martin said is yet to materialise.
But recent geopolitical events – China’s lack of transparency in its early handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its controversial Hong Kong security law – have spurred Conservative MPs into rebellion.
In March a prominent group of Tory MPs voted against the government, in an attempt to force Johnson to establish a concrete timeframe for removing Huawei from the UK’s phone networks. The rebellion ultimately failed, but Johnson’s 80-strong majority was cut to just 24.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to be presented with the latest NCSC findings this week, before sharing a new Huawei strategy in Parliament later this month. The exact details of this remain unclear. But what is clear is that the political winds have changed direction for Huawei, and its role in the UK’s 5G network looks less certain by the day. (Source: army-technology.com)
05 Jul 20. British Army ‘to be cut by 20,000’ if No 10 plan is approved. Royal Marine commandos may vanish as Cummings backs cyber-warfare and shoots forces chief ‘down in flames.’ Defence chiefs have drawn up plans to slash the army by a quarter and reduce the Royal Marines to a bit part as part of Boris Johnson’s defence and security review.
The drastic cuts, which would also close airfields and take helicopters out of service, were drawn up in response to Treasury demands that Whitehall departments map out cuts of 5% or more as part of the government’s comprehensive spending review.
In the worst-case scenario:
- Army manpower would fall from 74,000 to 55,000
- The Royal Marines commando brigade would be disbanded, losing its artillery, engineers and landing craft. Royal Navy minesweepers would also face the axe
- The RAF would shut several airbases and shed its fleet of Hercules transport planes and small Puma helicopters.
Threatened cuts to key capabilities that then do not materialise are known as “shroud-waving” in Whitehall, where they are a common feature of defence reviews.
But this time security sources say that Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s senior aide, is attracted to the proposal to slash the size of the army and pump money into cyber-warfare, space and artificial intelligence.
Cummings has already flexed his security muscles, driving through a plan to spend £400m buying a 45% share of bankrupt satellite company OneWeb last week. John Bew, who is supposed to be running the security review in No 10 did not even know about that plan.
The Conservative manifesto in 2019 pledged to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence and to increase the budget by at least 0.5% above inflation every year. But the Covid crisis has shrunk GDP, which could lead to cuts.
Cummings held a “getting-to-know-you” exercise with the service chiefs last month, when sources say the “personal chemistry” was “ a disaster”.
General Sir Patrick Sanders, who as Commander of Strategic Command is in charge of all the MoD’s special forces and intelligence units, “boasted” about his work on cyber-warfare but a source present said Cummings “shot him down in flames” leaving Sanders “humiliated”. No 10 disputes this.
Whitehall officials say the ousting last week of Sir Mark Sedwill as cabinet secretary and national security adviser will allow Cummings to take charge of the defence review because David Frost, Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator, will not take over as national security adviser until the autumn.
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, last week held an away day for service chiefs at the Tower of London to thrash out the MoD’s approach to the review. Wallace and General Sir Nick Carter, the chief of the defence staff, want to keep army numbers at about 72,000.
The list of cuts prepared for the Treasury was not discussed. Instead Wallace presided over a discussion of “the threat”. But another source said the defence secretary would have to get Tory MPs to protest to Johnson if he wished to win the argument with Cummings in the long term: “Wallace’s only hope is to mobilise the Tory backbenchers.”
A No 10 spokesman said: “It is false to say No 10 plans to cut defence. We will fulfil our manifesto commitments, including to increase the defence budget above inflation. We do not recognise the accounts of the alleged meetings.” (Source: The Sunday Times)
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