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28 Aug 20. Trump repeats questionable NATO funding claims in GOP convention speech. U.S. President Donald Trump again claimed credit for an agreement by NATO members to increase spending on their own defense during his Republican convention speech on Thursday night, repeating a consistent but somewhat misleading talking point from his campaign rallies.
“Our NATO partners, as an example, were very far behind in their defense payments, but at my strong urging, they agreed to pay $130 bn more a year,” Trump said. “And this $130bn will ultimately go to $400 bn a year.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump said to applause, “was amazed, after watching for so many years and said that President Trump did what no-one else was able to do.”
The speech doubled as Trump’s formal acceptance of his re-nomination to serve as president and an argument that he deserves four more years. In it, he said that other countries had been “taking advantage” of the United States on foreign policy and national defense before he became president.
Trump also repeated a mischaracterization of NATO members as delinquent in payments to the alliance and enlarged his role in convincing members to increase their defense spending.
Under NATO commitments forged 2014 — two years before Trump took office, and coinciding with Russia’s annexation of Crimea — each ally has until 2024 to reach their goal to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense.
Trump has used those pledges to make a vigorous push for allies to share more of the costs for their own protection. And Stoltenberg has given Trump some credit for Canada and European allies adding $130bn to their defense budgets, on the way to $400bn by 2024.
“President Trump has been very clear,” Stoltenberg told Fox News in 2019. “He is committed to NATO. He stated that clearly just a few days ago and also at the NATO summit in July. But at the same time, he has clearly stated that NATO allies need to invest more. And therefore at the summit in July last year, we agreed to do more to step up ― and now we see the results.”
“By the end of next year, NATO allies will add hundred – 100 bn extra U.S. dollars toward defense. So we see some real money and some real results. And we see that the clear message from President Donald Trump is having an impact.”
Under a second term, Trump’s reelection campaign promises there would be more money to come.
Trump’s 50 “core priorities,” unveiled ahead of the four-day Republican convention, included vows to maintain American military might, “wipe out” terrorist groups overseas and stop the country’s involvement in “endless wars” ― but also a pledge to “get allies to pay their fair share.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his advisors have drawn a contrast with Trump, pledging to rehabilitate frayed alliances, and Biden is thought to view those relationships more conventionally, as mutually beneficial, without Trump’s transactional lens and provocative rhetoric.
In a recent Fox interview, Trump accused Germany of “making a fortune” off U.S. soldiers, and that Germany, “owed us billions of dollars, billions of dollars to NATO.”
Trump has said Germany’s inability or unwillingness to commit 2 percent of its budget to defense spending fueled a contentious decision to cut deployments in Germany by nearly 12,000 troops and relocate some to Belgium and Italy. (U.S. defense officials insist it was a strategic decision.)
Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton recently told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the removal of German-based troops was “a sign — and not a good one — of what lies ahead if Trump is re-elected” president in November. He added that, “Trump shouldn’t get a second term.”
With a new mandate from voters, Trump may bear down in the Pacific, observers say.
Defense cost-sharing negotiations with South Korea have deadlocked over U.S. demands that Seoul sharply increase its contribution to offset the costs of stationing some 28,500 service members to protect against North Korean threats. Trump has openly complained about the costs, and reportedly wants a 50 percent increase―down from 400 percent initially.
“The negotiators and the policy makers have very little latitude because the president takes a strong personal interest on these matters, and believes ’we should be paid more,’ as he’d say it, to protect them,” said a former administration official.
“So what we should expect to see is more of the same. In South Korea, it’s dragging into almost a full year, and it’s possible we could see the same thing in Japan if our request is an extraordinarily high number.”
Earlier this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon was drawing up plans to reduce the U.S. presence in South Korea below the current level of 28,500 personnel. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said after that he had not issued any such orders, but he did leave the door open for a future move.
Japan’s five-year bilateral deal with the U.S., which Trump has called “unfair,” is up for renegotiations before it expires in March, 2021.
However, there are some key differences as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has striven to cement a personal relationship with Trump while Seoul is seen as more ambivalent about the U.S. presence. It’s not clear yet how Abe’s resignation, announced Friday, would factor in.
Japan, which has boosted its defense spending in the face of a rising China, plans to buy 105 F-35 joint strike fighters, which would make it the biggest foreign customer of the Lockheed Martin-produced jet.
Crediting allies for purchases of U.S. military equipment is something the Trump administration has discussed as a way to meet the president’s concerns, but to no avail. “Again, to him, it’s very transactional. ’What are we being paid to defend them?’” the former administration official said.
For the U.S. to follow its defense strategy, based in great power competition with Russia and China, it cannot withdraw masses of troops over burden sharing, said James Carafano, vice president for national security and foreign policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
However, Carafano speculated that, like the plan to reposition U.S. troops in Europe, a second term for Trump could see some troops redistributed from South Korea to another location in the region, like Guam.
Still, the expense of big troop withdrawals undercuts any cost-savings arguments the administration might want to make.
“What’s going to play into this is the transaction costs, and people can’t move things around like they are cost-free,” Carafano said. “I find it hard to believe the benefits of moving the [Germany-based units] are going to outweigh the costs.” (Source: Defense News)
25 Aug 20. UK could purchase only half of planned F-35 fighter jets. The UK could reportedly purchase only half of the 138 F-35B Lightning II fighter jets that the country has planned to buy over the course of the programme, according to The Times. Sources close to the UK Government’s defence review were quoted by the publication as saying that the plans are “unlikely to be fulfilled”.
The F-35 short take-off and vertical landing variant is being purchased for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy. The jets will operate from the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The UK will procure 48 jets at a total value of £9.1bn by the end of 2025.
In May this year, US Republican senators were reportedly seeking to deter the stationing of 48 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft in the UK.
In a separate development, Korea has planned to increase the number of F-35 stealth fighter jets it has planned to procure, reported Korea JoongAng Daily quoting military sources.
Korea will acquire 40 F-35 jets, built by Lockheed Martin, for around KRW8tn ($6.7bn).
Earlier this month, US Air Force (USAF) 356th Fighter Squadron (FS) and 388th Fighter Wing’s (FW) F-35A Lightning II aircraft participated in the Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) exercise in the Alaskan skies.
In July, USAF Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) in Alaska accepted the delivery of three new F-35A Lightning II jets.
In December last year, USAF’s Hill Air Force Base (AFB) in Utah received its final F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
24 Aug 20. Defence chiefs face battle over plan to scrap tanks. Radical move aims to cut costs and focus on cyberwarfare. Military chiefs have drawn up plans to mothball all of Britain’s tanks under radical proposals to modernise the armed forces.
The move would lead to other military assets being given priority over heavy armour, The Times understands.
The government is examining the controversial idea as the cost of upgrading Britain’s ageing fleet of 227 Challenger 2 tanks, and the 388 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles that support them on the battlefield, has soared.
Both vehicles were branded “obsolete” last year and the argument has been made in the Ministry of Defence that the changing character of warfare demands more investment in cybercapabilities, space and other cutting-edge technologies.
The budget for army kit is already squeezed and the ministry is preparing for its funding to be cut owing to the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
Talks related to giving up the tank are part of the government’s integrated foreign policy, defence and security review, which is due to conclude in November. A government source said last night: “We know that a number of bold decisions need to be taken in order to properly protect British security and rebalance defence interests to meet the new threats we face.”
While options remain on the table to upgrade the Challenger 2 or to buy the German Leopard 2 tank, Britain is already sounding out Nato partners about the proposal to give up heavy armour and overhaul its military contribution to the alliance.
The new offer would focus on taking a leadership role in attack aviation, offering all 50 Apache helicopters to allies along with heavy-lift refuelling and battlefield reconnaissance helicopters, plus training and support facilities. Britain would also offer to contribute brigades that help early entry into theatre as well as cyber, electronic and unconventional warfare capabilities.
British liaison officers have raised the plan in recent weeks with senior personnel within the US army in Europe and Nato’s allied land command in Izmir, Turkey, it is understood. Proposals have also been drawn up to close the British Army’s training base in Alberta, Canada, where it practises heavy armour live-firing drills.
One senior British defence source said that the plan to get rid of the army’s tanks was likely to harm Britain’s leadership role within the transatlantic alliance and its status as a partner of choice for the United States more widely.
“We simply will not be viewed as a credible leading Nato nation if we cannot field close-combat capabilities. It places us behind countries such as France, Germany, Poland and Hungary,” the source said, adding that the move was “dressing up financial pressures as capability choices”.
General Sir Richard Barrons, former commander joint forces command, expressed support for transforming land combat power and said that Britain could lead the way in a modernisation effort. “The future is about manned/unmanned autonomous things [personnel remotely controlling or deploying unmanned equipment]. If you were to recapitalise your land army, you would not simply press on, spending all your money on a small number of manned platforms, because you’ll be putting yourself another generation behind,” he said.
Under the proposal for the army to lose its heavy armour, its Challenger tanks would most probably be placed in deep preservation, leaving the option to bring them out in a crisis. It is understood that the army could afford to upgrade or replace only between 150 to 170 of its tank fleet if it forged ahead with retaining the capability.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “Our commitment to Nato is unwavering, and the UK recognises that as a global military power our greatest strength remains our alliances. We are engaging our international allies and industry partners as we develop and shape defence’s contribution to the integrated review.”
The spokesman added that “no decisions have been made regarding troop positioning”. (Source: The Times)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Leaving aside the strategic implications of scrapping the entire armoured vehicle fleet, the industrial implications of this possible move are sever and would put the government head-to-head with the Unions who are urging the approval of both Challenger 2 LEP and Warrior CSP to save jobs. The possibility that Leopard 2 A7 could be purchased instead of C2 LEP has been doing the rounds for some time. But this would mean scrapping the Titan and Trojan engineer vehicles as well as they would be too expensive to retain. Scrapping Warrior CSP has been seen as the most likely COVID sacrificial lamb with the vehicles being converted into the Warrior ABSV vehicle to replace the FV432/6 fleet under ABSV/WR SV which would enable the UK to retain vital defence jobs and maintain the supply chain. It would also enable Babcock to retain its DSG contract as without C2 and WCSP, that would be unprofitable and again lead to job losses.
24 Aug 20. Turkey extends deployment of research vessel amid Mediterranean tensions. Turkey has extended the work of its Oruc Reis survey vessel in the Mediterranean in a move that will likely add to already high tensions between it and Greece.
The ship has been operating alongside vessels from the Turkish Navy in a disputed area of the Mediterranean. Disputes over the waters have increased tensions between the two NATO allies and saw a collision between a Turkish frigate and a Greek ship.
The Turkish vessel has been undertaking seismic surveys, which are a preliminary step for oil and gas exploration. Greece has called the Turkish survey operation ‘illegal’ and ‘threatening to peace’.
Despite being NATO allies, Turkey and Greece have a long had an uneasy relationship, in part stemming from disputes in the Aegean Sea which separates the two countries and the invasion of Cyprus in the 1970s.
In response to the tensions, Greece has been backed by allies including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and France, the latter has bolstered its military presence in the region deploying fighter jets and maintaining the deployments of some vessels.
On Twitter, French President Emmanuel Macron said the ‘situation in the eastern Mediterranean is worrying’. Macron said that Turkish oil exploration ‘must end’ to allow for a peaceful dialogue between Turkey and Greece. Macron added that he would ‘temporarily strengthen’ French military presence in the area.
Turkey and France also have geopolitical tensions, with both countries supporting different sides in Libya’s ongoing civil war.
Greece and the UAE are also soon set to start joint military exercises in the region; the US Navy’s “USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is also in the region, however, this is reportedly part of previously scheduled operations.
Turkey has denied its activities are illegal. Speaking ten days ago Turkish Minister of National Defence Hulusi Akar said: “Greece does not recognise international law in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, only selfish, one-sided demands and approaches that protect their own interests are incompatible with the facts.
“We are in an effort to explain that the activities carried out within this framework are not compatible with reason, logic and law and that doing this in this way does not benefit anyone.”
Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg discussed the dispute with Turkish Foreign Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. During the phone call Stoltenberg ‘stressed’ that dialogue between the two countries was needed to cool tensions and was in the best interests of the region.
During an interview with CNN, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on the two countries to ‘talk as civilised neighbours’. During the interview, Mitsotakis added: “Turkey should be aware that if it does not change its attitude, there will be consequences and its overall relationship with Europe will be jeopardized. Because challenges of this kind cannot go unanswered. Not only from Greece or Cyprus but also from Europe as a whole.”
Both countries have signed agreements with regional partners claiming jurisdiction over the disputed area of the Mediterranean. Egypt and Greece have signed an agreement laying out the boundaries between the two’s maritime control; Turkey has a similar agreement with the UN-backed government of Libya. In its deal, Turkey claimed rights over areas that Greece says fall under its control. (Source: naval-technology.com)
26 Aug 20. UK main battle tank fleet not a ‘lost cause.’ Following a report in The Times that military chiefs are drawing up plans to axe the UK’s fleet of main battle tanks (MBTs) and armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) in favour of attack aviation and cyber capabilities, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) land warfare research analyst Nick Reynolds told Army Technology this was not the time to declare MBTs as a ‘lost cause and walk away’.
Commenting on the putative plans, MP and Chair of the Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood told Army Technology the UK’s fleet of Challenger 2 MBTs and Warrior AFVs were a ‘critical, yet neglected’ part of the British Army and advocated that service chiefs make ‘strategic decisions not ham-fisted cuts’ when it comes to deciding on the future of the fleet.
The Times quoted a government source as saying: “We know that a number of bold decisions need to be taken in order to properly protect British security and rebalance defence interests to meet the new threats we face.”
Reynolds told Army Technology: “Throughout the War on Terror, the British Army has effectively prioritised integration with the US over integration with the rest of NATO, as well as maintaining its ability to deploy medium-scale forces in an expeditionary capacity on an independent basis, outside of an alliance framework and without the support of allies.
“In the past, the British Army was large enough to meet all of these commitments in a credible fashion (more or less). However, the progressive downsizing of the force has left the British Army and British Armed Forces, in general, having to make choices about which capabilities it can maintain at the expense of others.”
Currently, the UK operates a fleet of 227 Challenger 2 MBTs and 388 Warrior AFVs, both of which have faced problems with delays to life extension programmes that will ensure the continued service of the vehicles into the next few decades. Under the alleged new plans, both would be mothballed.
Specialisation or generalisation
A move to cut the tanks reflects a wider debate around what role the UK Armed Forces should play, whether that is to be able to undertake expeditionary activities of its own volition or to focus efforts on contributing to NATO, instead of focusing solely on sovereign capability.
Reynolds explained that the UK was not the only NATO member experiencing a ‘downsizing issue’, adding that the alliance ‘has long been comprised of multiples national armed forces that are complete armed forces in their own right.’
“However, as these forces shrink, contributing to NATO effectively may increasingly mean that members have to specialise and provide particular capabilities, while divesting themselves of others, in order for the NATO force to be effective,” Reynolds added.
The alternative Reynolds said was that an attempt to maintain independent militaries that were not sufficiently funded would mean a NATO comprised of understrength or ‘notional’ capabilities that ‘that would not function as advertised were they called upon to conduct combat operations at scale’.
Reynolds added: “An MBT and AFV fleet is a difficult capability to justify for expeditionary warfighting, especially given the high cost of maintaining the support and transport capability to rapidly deploy and sustain a heavy armoured force overseas, when a lighter force may well be sufficient for most predicted contingencies.
“Conversely, an MBT and AFV fleet is far more useful in a European/NATO context. However, given that the Germans and other NATO countries plan to maintain large armoured forces for the foreseeable future, there are also strong arguments for specialisation.”
On the topic of force structure, Ellwood said that the UK must first ‘agree what is Britain’s place, role and ambition in a fast-changing world.’
“Operational debates over land vehicles vs helicopters are far too premature when we have not confirmed how, where and when our military might be used,” Ellwood added.
A credibility game
Reynolds said: “Having said all of the above, I actually feel that a credible UK heavy armour fleet will still be invaluable in either an expeditionary or European/NATO capacity.
“Recent experience has shown that lighter forces often suffer even against irregular non-state actors when deployed in an expeditionary capacity, and end up up-armouring significantly in order to maintain their freedom to manoeuvre and operate.”
Many have warned that cutting the UK’s ground component would be a blow to both NATO and the UK’s credibility as an alliance partner. Speaking to The Times former Chief of the General Staff General Lord Dannatt called the option of cutting the MBT and AFV fleet “very dangerous” in light of a resurgent Russia.
Reynolds echoed this adding: “In Europe, a reduction of a British commitment to the ground component would be a great loss to the alliance and a blow to British credibility as a contributing member, no matter what aviation and cyber assets the UK were to bring to the table.”
While capabilities in emerging technologies such as unmanned systems, cyber and space are seen as changing the face of warfare, the need for area denial in Europe and the ability of armoured vehicles to hold ground means they still have a place in modern armed forces.
Reynolds added: “In my view, we are at a critical point where our armoured doctrine needs to adapt to a changing threat environment, but the question of how to employ armour effectively is an open one, and now is absolutely not the time to declare it a lost cause and walk away.
“Nevertheless, I am forced to concede that there are challenges to overcome, not least in resourcing, for the UK’s heavy armoured force to remain effective, credible and useful.” (Source: army-technology.com)
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