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18 Dec 20. Trump was a ‘wake-up call’ for Europe: GLOBSEC. US President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric on NATO was a ‘wake-up call’ for Europe to invest more in defence, the founder and President of the GLOBSEC thinktank Robert Vass told Army Technology. Vass added that while a Biden presidency will see a strengthening of the relationship between the US and European NATO countries, Europe should maintain its commitment to increasing levels of defence spending and pushing for more strategic autonomy.
He added that in the first years of the Biden presidency, the US would likely have to focus on ongoing domestic issues, meaning that for the West to maintain leadership on the world stage, the US and Europe will have to work together more closely to promote their ideas.
Vass also said that President Biden should take steps to tighten the relationship between the US and the European Union, suggesting that on his first trips to Europe the incoming US President should visit and meet with the European Commission.
The thinktanker explained that under the Trump administration, there had not been a change in NATO norms but rather the language and communication had become more ‘assertive’.
Vass told Army Technology: “We can see that as a consequence of that language and the threats that Donald Trump made; European allies were able to wake up and actually agree on a very credible plan to increase defence spending across Europe that has been happening, and I think it will continue.”
Despite hopes of a return to ‘transatlantic romanticism’ under a Biden Administration, Vass said he was concerned that the ball was now in Europe’s court to maintain its prior commitments to defence, and not rest on laurels of expecting the US to be there to protect Europe.
Vass explained: “We need to be very careful because I think that the ball is on the European side. Whoever is in the US administration, it is clear that we cannot sleep on our laurels. This time, we have to come up with agendas and proposals to the US.
“If Europe would think that ‘okay, we have a nice US administration’ which would mean that ‘okay, they will not be pushing us to make very hard decisions’, it would be very dangerous for Europe.
“The danger is that we will live in in this kind of romantic feeling of hugs and kisses, but, this time, hugs and kisses are not enough. We need common agendas and actions on so many fronts on a global stage.”
During his Presidency, Trump often made vocal criticism of NATO and its European members for not meeting the recommended spend of 2% of their GDP on defence. The outgoing President has also repeated questionable claims about NATO’s funding structure.
In the past, Trump has called the alliance ‘Very unfair to the United States’ and claimed that the US subsidises European commitment to NATO. Trump has also made claims that the US protected Europe at a financial cost to itself.
Trump’s harsh rhetoric on the alliance has, however, lead several member states to up their defence budget and take on a more significant share of the alliance’s common fund. Across the alliance arguments and threats about spending have resulted in European and Canadian allies putting an extra $400bn into defence by 2024.
He suggested that while some may see Biden’s victory as a sign Europe should do less, it was an opportunity for the continent to do more when it came to collective defence and the global stage.
While the current administration may be more friendly towards Europe, and more committed to traditional alliance’s like NATO, Vass added that this might not be the approach of whoever succeeds Biden.
Vass said: “Trump’s administration to some extent was a wake-up call for Europe and there will not be a coming back to the status quo under Biden. I think that the transatlantic relations have changed, and the Europeans will always have in their mind that. Now we have Biden, who we like and a lot of people who understand Europe who supports NATO, but what will happen in four or eight years? Are we sure of what will come later?
“This will mean that what happened during the Trump administration will stay in European heads for a long time. We need more Europe within NATO, we need more European defence, we need to spend more, and there are so many transatlantic gaps that we need to fill in.”
Despite the economic uncertainty currently facing the continent of Europe due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Vass added that he expected European NATO members would continue a trend of expanding their defence budgets in the coming years.
He went on to say that the Trump presidency also led European nations to have more discussions about the importance of strategic autonomy and to do more by itself. However, he added that Europe’s push for strategic independence should not come at the expense of NATO, which has long been and continues to be the guarantee of security on the continent.
Vass explained: “If we are talking about European strategic autonomy, we have to say this is not at the expense of NATO, or there will not be parallel structures. And if we are talking about more European defence, it needs to be based on capabilities, not structures; this is very important.
“I think that the last administration was a wake-up call in both good and bad and it will stay with us for a long time. Because it would mean that we cannot depend on the changes in the US government and Europe will need to be able to reassert itself, and it will also be taken more seriously.”
GLOBSEC is a thinktank based in Bratislava, Slovakia that hosts many influential forums focusing on security, transatlantic cooperation through NATO and global affairs. The organisation also focuses on fostering private sector-public sector cooperation on issues, helping NATO to organise several meetings and discussions on emerging technology.
Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the organisation was able to host its GLOBSEC 2020 Bratislava Forum and Tatra Summit in person by creating a ‘health perimeter’ around the events allowing the high-level political representatives, experts and other guests to meet in person.
At its 2020 Bratislava Forum, the organisation was also able to bring together the Turkish and Greek Foreign ministers in a move that helped calm tensions between the two NATO countries.
Next year, GLOBSEC is set to start an initiative to create a permanent dialogue structure between the private sector and NATO designed to help the alliance stay ahead of future challenges in defence. Under the plans, the thinktank is set to bring together defence contractors, academia, technology companies and the alliance through an independent forum. (Source: army-technology.com)
21 Dec 20. New trade barriers service launched to help British businesses export internationally. The Department for International Trade (DIT) has today (Monday 21st December) launched a new service to help British businesses identify new trade opportunities. The ‘Check for barriers to trading and investing abroad’ digital service will allow users to search for information on trade barriers imposed by other countries, which could restrict businesses in trading and investing there.
Whilst not all barriers are necessarily resolvable, businesses will be able to see where barriers have been removed and the new service will highlight potential areas of growth and opportunity for their products or services.
This service is the latest tool made available by DIT in supporting British businesses with market access issues. It sits alongside the existing ‘Report a trade barrier’ and ‘Check how to export goods’ as a suite of services. It has been specifically created to help make it easier for British businesses to seize new opportunities.
Tackling trade barriers is one of the Department’s key priorities. It is integral to Britain’s independent trade policy and could add billions into the British economy through increased trade flows.
Minister for International Trade, Ranil Jayawardena, said, “I have spent much of the past year speaking to British businesses of all sizes – hearing of their determination to bounce back bigger, better and bolder out of COVID-19. This new service will help businesses across Britain to identify potential new markets and seize the new opportunities that come with becoming an independent trading nation, boosting jobs and growth in every corner of the country.
“I am committed to doubling down on tackling trade barriers, so that we can add to the 175 barriers across 61 countries we have already removed and make it easier for our great British businesses to trade globally.”
The new database will be regularly updated to reflect the latest information on trade barriers. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
18 Dec 20. Armed Forces support for vaccine roll-out in Wales. UK Government announces that the Armed Forces will be deployed across Wales this winter to help set up and operate community vaccination centres.
Members of the Armed Forces will be deployed across Wales this winter to help set up and operate vaccination centres in the community.
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart and the Defence Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey have approved a Military Aid to the Civilian Authorities (MACA) request for the Welsh Government. The MACA provides more than 90 service personnel to support Wales’ Health Boards in rapidly establishing and operating vaccination centres.
As the vaccination programme is rolled out during the rest of December and into January, military personnel will support the setting up of additional capacity as greater quantities of vaccine are made available. And for the first time since the vaccine has been rolled out, trained defence medics will also support the administering of the vaccine.
The military aid request runs between 4 January to 28 February 2021 and will see members of the Armed Forces delivering the vaccine, setting up equipment and carrying out a number of other functions.
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said, “The roll-out of the vaccine is a considerable logistical challenge, so we have approved the deployment of Armed Forces personnel to help with its distribution in Wales. The use of the military to help with this vital work shows how we can pull together to meet the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom as we tackle the pandemic. With case rates high across many areas of Wales, it is important that we continue to support the Welsh Government. The huge number of vaccines that the UK Government has procured and the assistance of the Armed Forces in distributing them will help turn the tide in this fight.”
Defence Minister James Heappey said, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, our Armed Forces have stepped up to support health services across the UK. In Wales, our personnel have already helped with the distribution of PPE, construction of a temporary hospital in Cardiff and, most recently, the rollout of community testing in the South Wales Valleys. I’m pleased we can now support the vaccine rollout and I am proud defence has responded quickly to support this urgent task.”
After becoming the first country to approve a vaccine for use, the UK Government has bought vaccines on behalf of all parts of the UK and distributed them around Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland ahead of last week’s (8 December) initial rollout.
Approved vaccines will be available across the UK, free at the point of delivery and according to need.
Vaccination will be managed by the health services in each nation: NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Wales, NHS Scotland, and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland. Armed Forces personnel have deployed to assist the NHS and the Devolved Nations with planning and logistic support for the delivery of a vaccine.
The UK Government has also invested over £230m into manufacturing a vaccine. The UK Government will also meet the cost of vaccines which will be distributed to all nations of the UK, Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
The MOD currently has around 14,000 personnel held at graduated readiness as part of the Winter preparedness 2020 Package. This package will ensure defence remains ready to respond to requests for support at necessary pace, including but not limited to COVID-19 support. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
17 Dec 20. Spain approves IFV and NH90 funding. Spain’s Council of Ministers approved funding totalling EUR184m (USD225m) for the Dragón 8×8 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) and the second phase of the NH90 helicopter programme. The Ministry of Industry and Trade announced in a press release on 15 December that it would handle the deals with the two companies involved, Tess Defence and Airbus.
The secretary general for industry and small and medium-size enterprises, Raül Blanco, said the projects would “allow industry and technology policies that will promote Spanish companies. This sector is one of the main technology suppliers for the rest of the economy thanks to dual technology”.
The Ministry of Defence and Tess Defence signed the framework contract for the Dragón in August, with delivery of the first vehicles in an initial batch of 348 IFVs beginning in 2022.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade said the programme would “have a great impact on Spanish industry”, not only for the main partners in Tess – General Dynamics European Land Systems-Santa Bárbara Sistemas, Indra Sistemas, and SAPA Operaciones – but also “a large group of subcontractors and suppliers across the country. They are going to develop and produce a product with a high level of national content representing an essential national defence capability and with major export opportunities”.
The ministry said it “will provide initial financing of EUR50m in 2020 for the initial work to prepare the production facilities and for the first orders”. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Dec 20. European Parliament and Council agree EU’s military budgets. The European Commission’s proposed budgets for the European Defence Fund (EDF) and military mobility were sewn up with a final nod on 14 December from the European Parliament toward the Council. The resulting political agreement – which now awaits official enactment in the coming weeks – will institutionalise the EU’s entry into the fields of defence research and capability development.
This agreement seals the work done over many years,” François-Xavier Bellamy, French member of the European Parliament who negotiated the EDF, declared in a press release published by his European People’s Party on 14 December. “It will eventually have a lasting positive impact on industry and employment by supporting European value chains in the fields of security and defence and by investing in long-term research and development.”In a Commission press release the same day, Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the internal market, hailed the agreement as a “major breakthrough” for supporting defence industrial co-operation. “A more integrated, innovative and competitive European defence technological and industrial base is essential for a stronger, more resilient and strategically autonomous Europe,” he said. Under the EU’s 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) general budget, the EDF is allocated EUR7.953bn (USD9.7bn) and military mobility EUR1.691bn. (Source: Jane’s)
16 Dec 20. Turkish defense industry risks big damage from US sanctions. The US sanctions targeting Turkey’s defense industry agency may be seen as rather mild by some observers, but they threaten to deprive Turkey of key military technology should they last more than a year. The new US sanctions against Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defense systems stand to inflict heavy damage on the flourishing Turkish defense industry unless Ankara moves to compromise with Washington to limit the duration and impact of the penalties.
The sanctions, based on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), were announced Dec. 14, more than a year after Turkey took delivery of the S-400 systems from Russia. President Donald Trump — long under fire for going easy on his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan — actually surprised Ankara by greenlighting the sanctions weeks before his term expires.
The decision made Turkey the first NATO ally to face sanctions under CAATSA and the second country after China to be penalized for purchasing the S-400s, sending a strong signal to other countries that have shown interest in the S-400s such as India and Qatar. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington has demonstrated its resolve to “fully implement CAATSA” and “not tolerate significant transactions with Russia’s defense sector.”
The sanctions include a ban on US export licenses to Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) — the government agency in charge of military procurement and exports and the development of the local defense industry — as well as an asset freeze and visa restrictions on the SSB’s president and three senior officials.
Two diverging views have emerged in Ankara on how the sanctions will affect the country’s defense industry.
The first is prevalent in pro-government and nationalist quarters, which are putting on a brave face. They argue that the sanctions amount to an embargo, but similar moves in the past have served to strengthen national spirit and invigorate the country’s defense industry. The nation has nothing to worry about, they say, as Turkey’s defense industry is stronger than ever today and the army is well stocked thanks to long-term planning. The pro-government media is actively propagating those arguments, though the reality is a bit different.
The second view is that the sanctions will badly hurt the Turkish defense industry in the medium term of two or three years, although their short-term impact over the next year might be limited.
Turkey’s defense industry remains reliant on imports from the United States, as evidenced by the 2019 performance report of the Defense and Aerospace Industry Manufacturers Association. The industry’s $1.4bn in purchases from the United States, mostly raw materials and semi-processed products, account for 45% of its total imports, which were worth nearly $3.1bn last year, according to the report. The breakdown shows that $648m worth of imports were destined for the Turkish air force, $564m for civil aviation and $107m for land systems.
The sanctions do not directly target state-owned military companies and the private sector, and a US source familiar with the decision told the Financial Times that the scope was limited to avoid hurting the extensive ties between the US and Turkish militaries.
Still, the sanctions stand to affect roughly 40% of Turkey’s defense industry imports from the United States and could have a devastating impact should they continue for two or three years, a Turkish defense expert told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity.
Air force equipment and land systems stand out as the most vulnerable areas. For the Turkish air force, crucial aspects include the modernization and maintenance of its F-16 fighter jets, the TF-X national combat aircraft project and Turkey’s reliance on foreign-made aircraft engines. In terms of land systems, the sanctions threaten to undermine the operational efficiency of radars, command-control systems and armored vehicles, among others. The air force has already taken a severe blow from Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 joint strike fighter program last year — Washington’s initial retaliation to the S-400 purchase.
The SSB is currently running about 700 projects worth up to 70bn Turkish liras ($9bn), including many that involve export licenses. A series of national projects rely on hundreds of US-made systems and sub-systems. Looking from this perspective, the sanctions threaten to choke the Turkish defense industry in the long term.
Moreover, the sanctions are likely to discourage third parties from collaborating with the SSB, the defense expert said. Such risks would hover over Turkey’s tank and aircraft engine needs as well as a series of national projects on key equipment such as the T70 general-purpose helicopter, the TF-X combat aircraft, the HurJet training aircraft and the MILGEM combat ship and the export of the T129 attack helicopter.
In the past several years, the United States and European countries have already imposed partial de facto embargoes on Turkey amid myriad political rows. A case in point is the T129 helicopter gunship, which Turkey has sold to Pakistan but failed to deliver due to Washington’s reluctance to issue export licenses for the US technology, namely the engines, used to make the helicopter. The problem has jeopardized the deal, forcing Pakistan to extend the delivery deadline.
Some in Ankara are floating a bypass to circumvent the sanctions — a legal amendment to transfer certain projects back to the Defense Ministry’s foreign procurement department, which was responsible for them until a few years ago. Such a move, however, might trigger additional US measures, as Washington appears determined to enforce the bans.
In the best-case scenario, the sanctions would force a comprehensive structural overhaul in Turkey’s defense industry as they hit procurements from the United States and hamper weapons development projects in the short run. Turning the crisis into an opportunity, Turkey could develop a strategy to achieve domestic production of key components in the long term, or so optimists hope.
In the worst-case scenario, the sanctions would remain in place under the upcoming Joe Biden administration and largely discredit the Turkish defense industry in a couple of years before it has matured enough to sustain its growth and become globally competitive. Critics of Erdogan’s government see little chance of a sound strategy to minimize the fallout of the sanctions, convinced that rational thinking is long gone in Ankara.
Moreover, further sanctions under the Biden administration cannot be ruled out and the European Union could follow suit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that the EU wants to discuss arm exports to Turkey with NATO allies and coordinate its actions with the Biden administration. She spoke after EU leaders agreed to outline limited sanctions over Turkey’s gas exploration row with Greece and Cyprus, but deferred any harsher measures until March.
As to how the crisis could be overcome, no easy solutions appear to be at hand. The scenarios include the following:
- Turkey steps back and heeds US calls to remove the S-400s from its territory, leasing them to another country such as Azerbaijan, Qatar or Ukraine. This option appears highly unlikely at present.
- Turkey and the United States agree on a technical middle way such as a Turkish pledge to not use the systems, backed up with physical or satellite monitoring. Ankara has pushed hard for this formula over the past year, but neither the United States nor NATO has acquiesced.
- The United States purchases the S-400s. This option has been floated in Washington, but Turkey’s contract with Russia bans the systems’ sale to third parties.
- Ankara steps back partially and avoids harsher embargoes. It pledges to not activate the systems, while Washington agrees Turkey could use the weapons only in very limited, emergency situations.
In its initial reaction to the sanctions, Ankara said it “stands ready to address this issue through dialogue and diplomacy,” but also threatened to “retaliate in a manner and timing it deems appropriate.”
Ankara’s response to the current and any further sanctions could range from token or mild measures to escalatory moves such as activating the S-400s, shutting the US military base in the southern town of Incirlik or the NATO early-warning radar station in the eastern province of Malatya, further rapprochement with Russia and a fresh military operation against the Syrian Kurds.
Does Ankara have the will and the capacity to resolve the crisis? The government’s foreign policy record in recent years leaves little room for optimism. Moreover, the S-400s are increasingly becoming the subject of domestic politics at a time when Ankara is scrambling to divert public attention from grave economic woes. And the Kremlin is, no doubt, closely watching Ankara. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.al-monitor.com/)
11 Dec 20. Defence and Security Accelerator – how to apply. The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is a government programme that offers development funding for innovative technologies and services that advance the art of the possible by 5-10 years. This keeps the UK ahead of its adversaries and helps businesses prosper in a competitive environment.
DASA publishes around 30 challenges each year to help protect the UK from its adversaries and keep the public safe. If you have development concepts on your technology roadmap that could fully or partially address these challenges, DASA provides full-funding without restricting where else you can sell these developments and they don’t take any IP or equity.
In the last 3 years DASA have awarded over £120m to more than 700 businesses and universities. More than half the awards have gone to SMEs.
They also have a team of regional Innovation Partners who can advise you on the suitability of your proposal prior to bidding and provide advice on applying.
If you’re looking for funds to de-risk the development of exciting new products that could give you a competitive edge, take a look at current DASA challenges here and contact your regional DASA Innovation Partner here:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contact-a-dasa-innovation-partner (Source: IoD)
16 Dec 20. Defence Secretary visits British troops defending NATO’s eastern flank in Estonia. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace gave his personal thanks to British troops deployed in Estonia over the Christmas period, during a visit to the Baltic state.
At Tapa base, the HQ of the UK’s largest overseas deployment, Mr Wallace discussed with members of the 5 Rifles battlegroup the vital deterrence and defence they provide in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).
Members of the battlegroup also provided the Defence Secretary with a visual demonstration of the fearsome capability of the Challenger II battle tanks deployed on the mission.
The UK is the lead nation of the multinational NATO eFP Battlegroup in Estonia with over 900 British troops deployed alongside Danish and Estonian forces. In meetings with Estonia’s Minister of Defence Jüri Luik, Prime Minister Juri Ratas and parliamentarians of Estonia’s National Defence Committee, the Defence Secretary reaffirmed that the United Kingdom would maintain its persistent presence in the country for as long as necessary.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “While we celebrate Christmas at home, over 6400 of our Armed Forces personnel will be working away from their families to protect the people of the United Kingdom and its interests. So I was delighted to be able to pass on all our thanks to troops in Estonia. Their presence provides a concrete deterrence to an increasingly assertive Russia and is a demonstration of the United Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to European security.”
Both Mr Wallace and Mr Luik agreed that the UK and Estonia see eye-to-eye when it comes to identifying the threats to regional security and would continue to deepen a tight knit defence relationship that has grown in strength since the UK first took the lead of eFP in the country nearly four years ago.
As well as being trusted NATO Allies, the UK and Estonia are both members of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force and the Northern Group of north European nations. In addition to the Army’s persistent presence, the RAF have deployed to Ämari air base in the north of the country for NATO Baltic Air Policing in 2016 and 2019. The UK also contributes around 150 personnel to the US-led NATO efP battlegroup in Poland.
Our soldiers have fought side-by-side in Afghanistan and both are currently contributors to international efforts to bring security and stability to the Sahel region in Africa.
The strength of our defence relationship was also clear this July when the Ministry of Defence loaned four Jackal vehicles to the Estonian Defence Forces until next March for elite soldiers of the Estonian Armed Forces to use on their counter-terror deployment in Mali. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
15 Dec 20. Sweden ups defense budget 40% due to regional tensions. Sweden’s parliament on Tuesday approved a 40 percent increase in the defense budget for 2021-2025 because of tensions in the Baltic Sea region in recent years, with officials saying Russia is the main reason for the move.
The 349-member Riksdag assembly approved the largest hike in 70 years, bringing the annual defense budget by 2025 to 89bn kronor (U.S. $11bn).
Defence Minister Peter Hultquist told the assembly before the series of votes that “it is the largest investment since the 1950s.”
The proposal was put forward in October by Sweden’s two-party Social Democrat-Green Party minority government, and it received immediate backing from two smaller opposition groups.
The government described it as sending a signal after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, repeated airspace violations by Russian military aircraft in the neighboring Baltics and a military buildup in Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad, which sits across the Baltic Sea from Sweden.
“There is much to suggest that Russia’s military capabilities in absolute terms will increase throughout the next 10-year period,” the adopted proposal read.
The plan will see the armed forces grow from the current 55,000 positions to 90,000 by 2030. Several disbanded regiments will be reestablished and the number of conscripts will increase to 8,000 annually, which is a doubling compared with 2019. The Navy will receive new equipment and there will be upgrades in armament.
Sweden currently spends 1.1 percent of gross domestic product on defense. Guidelines issued by NATO, of which Sweden isn’t a member, advise that members spend 2 percent, although many do not achieve that target.
In December 2017, Sweden decided to establish the nation’s first new military regiment since World War II — a unit of 350 soldiers based on the strategically important Baltic Sea island of Gotland.
In the same year, Sweden also introduced a selective military draft for men and women, having previously abolished a men-only draft in 2010. (Source: Defense News)
15 Dec 20. North Atlantic Council Statement as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Enters Into Force.
- We reaffirm our commitment to the preservation and strengthening of arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation. As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or ban treaty, nears entry into force, we collectively reiterate our opposition to this treaty, as it does not reflect the increasingly challenging international security environment and is at odds with the existing non-proliferation and disarmament architecture.
- Arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation have made, and should continue to make, an essential contribution to achieving NATO’s security objectives. NATO Allies, individually and collectively, have a long track record of doing their part, and continue to support a number of initiatives that offer real progress on nuclear disarmament with tangible, effective measures. We continue to support the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons, in full accordance with all provisions of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), including Article VI, in an ever more effective and verifiable way that promotes international stability, and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all. The NPT remains the only credible path to nuclear disarmament. We recognise commitments made under the NPT in the five decades since its entry into force, and we are resolved to contribute to the preservation, universalisation, and full implementation of the NPT. The upcoming NPT Review Conference presents a major opportunity for the international community to this end. On the other hand, the ban treaty lacks any rigorous or clear mechanisms for verification, and has not been signed by any state that possesses nuclear weapons, and thus will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon. It risks undermining the global non-proliferation and disarmament architecture, with the NPT at its heart for more than 50 years, and the IAEA Safeguards regime that supports it.
- NATO is a defensive Alliance. The fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion, and deter aggression. A world where the states that challenge the international rules-based order have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not, is not a safer world. As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. Allies are determined to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective, and reject any attempt to delegitimise nuclear deterrence. We do not accept any argument that the ban treaty reflects or in any way contributes to the development of customary international law. The ban treaty will not change the legal obligations of our countries with respect to nuclear weapons. We call on our partners and all other countries to reflect realistically on the ban treaty’s impact on international peace and security, including on the NPT, and join us in working to improve collective security through tangible and verifiable measures that can reduce strategic risks and enable real progress on nuclear disarmament. (Source: NATO)
15 Dec 20. New plans set out to transform procurement, providing more value for money and benefitting small business. New plans to overhaul procurement rules, cutting red tape and making it easier for smaller businesses to win government contracts have been launched today.
- Green paper will set out long-planned changes to UK’s procurement rules, putting value for money and transparency at the heart of the new approach
- Plans will cut red tape, reduce bureaucracy and help unleash wider social benefits from public money spent on procurement
- New rules for lower value contracts will allow more UK based SMEs to win government business
The measures, which have been developed over the last 14 months by a team of specialists in international procurement and set out in a green paper, take advantage of new powers now that we have left the European Union.
Every year, the government buys some £292bn of services from the private sector. Today’s measures will transform the current procurement regime to put value for money at the heart of the new approach, by allowing more flexibility for buyers, enabling government to be more strategic and save the taxpayer money. This will also drive increased competition through much simpler procurement procedures.
The changes will make UK procurement rules more modern, flexible, innovative and diverse, by allowing government to consider wider social value when picking suppliers . This will ensure that taxpayers money goes further and has more of a wider benefit for society.
Cabinet Office Minister, Lord Agnew, said, “The measures outlined today will transform the current outdated system with new rules, providing flexibility to the public sector and less burden on business.These long standing plans have been developed with international procurement specialists and will help unleash innovation across the country and provide a fairer system for small businesses.”
In another new move, also published today, the government will allow the public sector to buy British for contracts not subject to international trade rules, by allowing competitions for government contracts under £4.m for public works and £122k for goods and services to be limited to small businesses, voluntary, community and social enterprises, or to a certain geographical area. These new rules will support SMEs by opening up new opportunities to them and making it easier for them to win contracts, in turn helping to drive local growth, promote innovation, support local recruitment and level up communities across the UK.
Specific changes to the rules proposed today include:
- Removing over 300 complex regulations, to create a single uniform rulebook
- Overhauling inflexible and complex procedures, replacing them with three simple modern procedures. This will allow more freedom for suppliers and the public sector to work together and innovate
- Allowing buyers to include wider social benefits of the supplier, such as economic, social and environmental factors, when assessing who to award a contract to, while also still considering value for money
- Giving buyers the power to properly take account of a bidder’s past performance, allowing them to exclude suppliers who have failed to deliver in the past
- A new unit to oversee public procurement with powers to improve commercial skills of public sector contractors
- A single digital platform for registering contracts, improving transparency and making life significantly simpler for business
The plans will also make procurement more transparent and effective during times of crisis where government needs to act quickly to ensure vital goods and services are bought. Throughout the COVID pandemic, the UK, along with many other countries internationally, has relied on direct awards to ensure that vital supplies, such as life-saving PPE, have been bought quickly and to high standards.
The new measures will bring more competition into this process, by changing the rules to encourage more competitive buying in a quick time frame. This will allow for multiple companies to bid for emergency work, without slowing the process down in times of emergency.
Gavin Hayman, Executive Director of the Open Contracting Partnership says, “This is a unique opportunity to make sure public money is spent wisely. We’ve all seen how old school procurement has struggled during the pandemic. These proposals will digitize and transform how contracts are planned, awarded and delivered in the UK with open data and public transparency at their heart.
Done properly, the proposals will save huge amounts of time and money for both government and business, and deliver smarter public services to us all.
The future is open.
While suppliers of all sizes will benefit from the changes, SMEs, who feel the effect of long, bureaucratic and costly processes more, will benefit in particular. One tangible example of this is providing registration information on a ‘tell us once’ basis, which will help small firms by saving them time and resources.
Elizabeth Vega, Group Chief Executive of Informed Solutions and member of Cabinet Office’s Procurement Transformation and Advisory Panel said, “I have experienced first-hand how difficult it can be under current procurement rules for SMEs bidding for public sector contracts, whether because of closed framework agreements locking them out of future opportunities, or complex procedures making it expensive to bid or difficult to offer innovative solutions. That’s why I was keen to be part of Cabinet Office’s Procurement Transformation Advisory Panel because it was an unprecedented opportunity to generate radical ideas for procurement reform. I am confident that the proposals set out here have withstood significant challenge from a diversity of viewpoints and expert opinions. Our aim as Panel members has been to focus on simplification, increased transparency, removing unnecessary barriers to public sector opportunities for competent suppliers, and delivering improved value for money. As a long-time champion for SMEs, these reforms will result in more SMEs being able to access public sector contracts, and ultimately put in place a new procurement framework that delivers better value for taxpayers and greater benefits for society.”
The green paper will also bring forward extra measures on transparency, meaning taxpayers will be better informed about how their money is spent, as well as the ability to exclude poorly performing companies from winning valuable contracts and preventing spurious legal challenges from unsuccessful bidders, which all too often delay public sector projects and lead to spiralling costs.
Awarding authorities will also be encouraged to consider how public contracts can support social or environmental issues or promote local communities, small businesses and charities. The rules will also provide more flexibility to allow contractors to take account of wider government priorities and support work to build back better from the pandemic.
When public bodies are considering how social value benefits can be delivered through their contracts, the new rules will make it possible for them to consider full value to society and not just the public body undertaking the procurement. This means more, wider opportunities to deliver social value through public contracts.
The green paper is available here Transforming public procurement green paper (PDF, 509KB, 82 pages)
BATTLESPACE Comment: This long-awaited news to free up procurement for SMEs is a very welcome development, particularly for those SMEs in high-tech defence industries. This will allow procurement of advanced technology items to be streamlined and accelerated to get them into service quicker and at an affordable price. In the past SMEs have been hampered by Treasury regulations on the size of their balance sheet to allow for the log procurement process, hence a Prime Contractor is often employed to tun the Programme which means that the ultimate price paid by the MoD is more and the process delayed.
11 Dec 20. No ‘human-out-of-the-loop’ for autonomous weapons, says new European Parliament report. Artificial intelligence (AI) cannot replace human decision-making in military operations, while any “human-out-of-the-loop” arrangement for lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) must be banned internationally, according to the European Parliament in a new report. The report urges the EU to take a leading role to promote a “global framework” on the military use of AI.
“LAWS should only be used as a last resort and be deemed lawful only if subject to human control, since it must be humans that decide between life and death,” the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee said in a 10 December statement after the approval of its new report on the military and civil uses of AI.
The new self-initiative resolution (2020/2013 INI) on the “interpretation and application of international law to AI in the areas of civil and military uses and of state authority” was authored by French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Gilles Lebreton.
In his report, Lebreton stated that AI systems should be designed to enable humans to correct or disable them in case of unforeseen behaviour.
“All military uses of AI must be subject to human control so that a human has the opportunity to correct or halt them at any time, and to disable them in the event of unforeseen behaviour,” he wrote, adding that the decision-making process “must be traceable, so that the human decision-maker can be identified and held responsible where necessary. Humans should therefore be identifiable and ultimately held responsible.” (Source: Jane’s)
16 Dec 20. Turkey Slams US Sanctions Over Russian Missile System Purchase. The Trump administration’s decision to sanction NATO ally Turkey over the purchase of a Russian missile system has drawn swift Turkish condemnation. For now, however, Ankara appears to be holding off on any retaliation, a move analysts suggest is a sign that Turkey is already looking ahead to the new administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.
“We are strong in the field and at the table,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu Tuesday in response to the sanctions.
“We condemn this decision and call on the U.S. to step back from this mistake as soon as possible,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter.
Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system in 2017 triggered Trump’s sanctions, as it violated the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA. Along with Turkey’s other NATO partners, the United States says the S-400 compromises NATO’s defense systems, an accusation Ankara denies. It has been reported that the S-400 is capable of shooting down aircraft such as the F-35, the U.S.’s latest fighter jet.
The move comes at a delicate time in relations between Washington and Ankara, which have been at odds for more than a year over Turkey’s acquisition from Russia of the S-400 missile defense system and other issues
Turkey has already paid a heavy price for purchasing the Russian missiles. It is now barred from buying and building the F-35. Turkey began taking possession of parts of the S-400 in 2019.
The latest sanctions primarily target Turkey’s military procurement agency, banning U.S. export licenses and loan credits. Several senior individuals working at the agency have also been targeted.
Under the CAATSA legislation, however, the sanctions are seen as among the less punitive.
“They are symbolic,” said analyst Atilla Yesilada of consulting group Global Source Partners. “They are not damaging at all; as far as the individual involved, it has no impact. For me, this is a preemptive first round, and more is to come.”
Ismail Demir, head of Turkey’s military procurement agency and a prime target of U.S. sanctions, was quick to dismiss the penalties.
“No decision taken abroad towards myself or our institution will change the stance of my team or me,” Demir tweeted.” The sanctions will not be able to hinder the Turkish defense industry in any way.”
On Ankara’s part, at least for now, the response appears to be limited to rhetoric.
“Turkey will take the necessary steps against this decision, which will negatively affect our relations and will retaliate in a manner and timing it deems appropriate,” read a Foreign Ministry statement Monday.
Bordering Syria, Iran and Iraq, Turkey is a crucial Washington ally in the region.
“Turkey is a regional power of inescapable geopolitical importance especially given the current context of international affairs,” said former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, who served in Washington.
The U.S. has a vital radar base close to Iran, while American forces have for decades used Turkey’s Incirlik airbase, one of the largest in the region. Turkey’s NATO membership also gives it leverage over the United States.
“I do not think that Turkey needs to declare right away that it will veto any and every NATO decision that will come its way,” said Selcen, who is now an analyst. “Yet, all the members are aware of the fact that Turkey yields full veto power if need be, and that is a factor for them to take into consideration.”
Observers suggest Trump’s decision to sanction Turkey just before leaving office could work in Ankara’s favor. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been calling for months for Trump to enforce the CAATSA legislation against Turkey for procuring the Russian missile system.
“Trump did a favor for his pal Erdogan,” said analyst Yesilada. “He really gave maneuvering room to Biden to negotiate with Mr. Erdogan. Before (Trump’s move), he was compelled by law to impose sanctions.” Yesilada was referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara has reportedly stepped up its courting of the incoming U.S. president, employing new political lobbying firms with close links to the future Biden administration and sending high-level party officials to Washington to coordinate efforts.
“On the Biden administration, it will not be the first time Erdogan will be working with a Democratic president,” said Aydin. “U.S. priorities of drawing a line to both Russia and Iran speak for themselves.”
Turkey’s geographic position makes it well placed to counter both Russian and Iranian regional ambitions. Ankara’s current close ties with Moscow and Tehran are major points of contention with its Western allies. A diplomatic reorienting of Turkey away from Iran and Russia and concessions over the S-400, analysts say, are among Erdogan’s most powerful cards in dealing with Biden. In an effort to keep Turkey close, Iran and Russia were quick to condemn the U.S. sanctions.
“It’s yet another manifestation of an arrogant attitude toward international law and the use of illegitimate unilateral forcible measures,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference Tuesday while visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina’s capital, Sarajevo.
“U.S. addiction to sanctions and contempt for international law is at the full display again. We strongly condemn recent U.S. sanctions against Turkey and stand with its people and government,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Voice of America News)
14 Dec 20. U.S. sanctions NATO ally Turkey over purchase of Russian defense system. The United States imposed long-anticipated sanctions on Turkey on Monday over Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense systems, further complicating already strained ties between the two NATO allies. Turkey condemned the sanctions as a “grave mistake” and urged Washington to revise its “unjust decision.” It said sanctions would inevitably harm mutual relations and threatened unspecified retaliatory steps.
Senior U.S. officials said in a call with reporters that Ankara’s purchase of the S-400s and its refusal to reverse its decision, despite repeated pleas from Washington, left the United States with no other choice.
The sanctions, first reported by Reuters last week, target Turkey’s top defence procurement and development body Presidency of Defence Industries (SSB), its chairman Ismail Demir and three other employees.
The measures, which received a bipartisan welcome from the U.S. Congress, were announced under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) – the first time the act has been used against a fellow member of the NATO alliance.
Turkey’s lira rallied about 1% as Washington opted not to adopt broader sanctions but analysts said the move was still likely to weigh on the Turkish economy, already in a coronavirus-induced slowdown and with double-digit inflation.
Ankara acquired the Russian S-400 ground-to-air defenses in mid-2019 and says they pose no threat to NATO allies. But Washington has long threatened sanctions and last year removed Turkey from an F-35 jet program.
Ignoring the advice of aides, President Donald Trump had resisted imposing penalties on Turkey until giving the green light several days ago, sources familiar with the matter said.
“The United States made clear to Turkey at the highest levels and on numerous occasions that its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of U.S. military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
Briefing reporters, Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, said Washington had sought a solution but Ankara rejected all offers.
“This is not a step we’ve taken lightly or certainly quickly,” he said.
Turkey says it has repeatedly proposed forming a joint working group with the United States and NATO to resolve the issue but its offers have not been fully utilised
The sanctions, near the end of Trump’s presidency, are likely to weigh on Ankara’s ties with Democrat Joe Biden’s administration when he takes over as president next month.
The sanctions will block joint projects or technology transfers between U.S. companies and Turkish firms linked to SSB, said former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ulgen, who heads the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies think tank.
They also impose restrictions on loans and credits by U.S. financial institutions to SSB totalling more than $10m, while imposing asset freezes and visa restrictions on the SSB president and three other employees.
It is not immediately clear what impact the sanctions will have on third countries such as European states that supply arms or defence components and work with Turkish defence firms.
“Turkey’s defence industry will be under stress for a while,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, from the German Marshall Fund in Ankara. “Whether there is a secondary sanctions aspect or not, it will have a chilling effect on third countries as well.”
But he said the impact on the wider economy would be less severe and it was “very good that the uncertainty is being removed” after sanctions had loomed for so long.
U.S. senators, both Republican and Democratic, hailed the move. Animosity against President Tayyip Erdogan in the U.S. Congress has deepened over the past year, a phenomenon Biden will have to consider when dealing with Ankara.
“After watching President Trump repeatedly refuse to hold Turkey and President Erdogan accountable, I’m glad to see this Administration finally impose these required sanctions,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said.
“These measures send a clear message to Erdogan: we will not allow him to undermine our national security and that of our faithful NATO allies without consequence.” (Source: Reuters)
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