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25 June 21. ‘Miscalculation’ in Russian cat and mouse game could lead to full blown war, warns Army chief. Standoff in Black Sea involving Royal Navy destroyer was the type of incident that risked unwarranted escalation, says Head of Armed Forces.
A “miscalculation” in the cat and mouse game with Russia could lead to full blown war, the head of the Armed Forces has warned, after a tense confrontation in the Black Sea this week.
General Sir Nick Carter, the chief of the defence staff, said the risk of an “unwarranted escalation” involving Britain was “the thing that keeps me awake in bed at night”.
There was a standoff between Britain and Russia when a Royal Navy destroyer passed through a contested part of the Black Sea on Wednesday.
Russia considers the waters to be its own after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, but it is recognised by Britain as sovereign Ukrainian territory.
HMS Defender provoked Russian forces into firing warning shots and dropping four bombs close to the ship, according to the Russian defence ministry, but this claim is disputed by Downing Street.
Reflecting on the incident during a talk at the Chalke Valley History Festival, Sir Nick, who has pushed back his retirement to stay in post until the end of the year, said: “The thing that keeps me awake in bed at night is a miscalculation that comes from unwarranted escalation.
“The sort of thing we saw in the Black Sea on Wednesday is the sort of thing it could come from.
“It wouldn’t have done on that occasion, but it’s the type of thing one needs to think quite hard about.”
He had earlier claimed the standoff was an illustration of the “battle of the narratives” that can take place in modern warfare amid the rise of disinformation and fake news.
“That was brought vividly to life I would suggest by the incident in the Black Sea which is causing great excitement in the media at the moment,” he said.
“That is classically an example of a battle of the narratives. And the jury’s out as to who won that battle.”
It came after Britain rejected Russia’s account of events, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying the UK and other countries had been informed by Russia it was undertaking a “gunnery exercise” near to where HMS Defender was sailing.
“They provided us and others with prior warning of this activity,” the spokesman added.
Sir Nick, 62, also warned that Britain’s opponents were “evolving at pace”, adding: “If you look at some of the technologies China and Russia have developed, they are very worrisome.
“They are making us somewhat vulnerable.”
It has meant Britain now faces “mega competition” for people with science and technology skills, as technology such as AI, drones and cyber attacks is expected to become key in future conflicts.
Sir Nick said the military was now “anxious for data analysts, data scientists and engineers”.
“I never would have imagined this 10 years ago,” he said.
The Armed Forces chief voiced concern that the education system was not doing enough to equip the next generation of children with the skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) now desperately needed by the military.
He said: “From a military perspective, we are finding it very challenging to draw into the military the STEM skills we need, but also to retain them.
“My judgement is that this may well be because the education system is not developing enough people with those skills but I’m not really qualified to comment on the curriculum in schools, I’m afraid, just the output of it, perhaps.”
The Army has tried to tap into the popularity of video games to draw new recruits into its ranks, including an announcement that it was trialling the use of virtual reality technology in its training. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
25 June 21. COVID: Fewer Than 25% Of Public Admire Military’s Contribution, Survey Finds. The Armed Forces’ response to COVID-19 is the biggest ever military operation in peacetime, with more than 5,000 personnel involved.
A survey by SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has found that fewer than 25% of the British public admire the work of the Armed Forces in the fight against COVID-19.
This is despite the Armed Forces’ response to COVID-19 becoming the biggest ever homeland military operation in peacetime, with more than 5,000 personnel involved.
The charity is now calling on the public to find out more about the work of the Armed Forces and celebrate their contribution in the fight against COVID-19 this Armed Forces Day – on Saturday.
The survey of 2,004 members of the British public aged over 16 was carried out in May.
They were asked: ‘Who, of the following, do you admire the most due to the work they have been doing during the pandemic?’
Of those surveyed, 40% said they were unaware the Armed Forces have supported the fight against COVID-19, with 53% surveyed not knowing the Armed Forces helped with the UK’s vaccinations.
Military personnel’s help during the pandemic includes the vaccination roll-out, community testing, setting up Nightingale facilities, including hospitals at London’s ExCel and Birmingham’s NEC, laboratory work and PPE distribution and delivery.
More than half (54%) of those surveyed were also unaware of Armed Forces Day – a national day in the UK to celebrate the work of servicemen and women.
And 75% of those surveyed admitted they have shown no appreciation – saying thank you or donating to charity – to members of the Armed Forces for their work in the COVID effort over the last 18 months.
Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO at Armed Forces charity SSAFA, said: “The Armed Forces have worked tirelessly to support the country in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, including supporting the NHS and the Government with the nationwide vaccination roll-out, testing and much more.
“Hence the findings from our survey, highlighting the lack of understanding of the contribution of the Armed Forces, are a surprise to us at SSAFA.
“Therefore, it is appropriate that, for Armed Forces Day 2021, SSAFA and other organisations highlight the outstanding work of those in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force, alongside other key workers, who have all put themselves on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.
“That is the essence of service, something that makes our Armed Forces so special,” he added.
Sally is a former Army physiotherapist who volunteered to be part of the effort working at the NHS Nightingale hospital at ExCel London (Picture: SSAFA)
Sally Orange, an award-winning veteran and SSAFA fundraiser, volunteered at London’s NHS Nightingale hospital and helped to support the NHS.
She said: “The last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for everyone, but particularly for our key workers.
“This includes our serving personnel who, in a time of crisis, stepped up and supported on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19.
“It is important that we take the time to pause and give thanks to them this Armed Forces Day.
“As a former Army physiotherapist, I volunteered to be a part of the effort working at the NHS Nightingale Hospital at ExCel London,” she added.
“The military ethos was what led me to volunteer to help and I worked alongside many others from our Armed Forces – each of whom dedicated their time to bettering the lives of others when most in need.”
She added that lockdown has “brought the very best out in people”.
“It’s been a real pleasure and honour to play even just a small role in what has been a collective, national effort,” said Ms Orange.
In 2020, SSAFA supported more than 79,000 people in need, including veterans and their families.
The charity said it saw a significant change in the requests for support, with a greater focus on debt, housing, and relationship breakdown. Many of these issues were linked to mental wellbeing, loneliness and isolation. (Source: forces.net)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Sources close to BATTLESPACE stated that it was policy of Dominic Cummins supported by Boris Johnson to airbrush out the military’s contribution to COVID to further denigrate the armed forces. We will be highlighting the military’s contribution to COVID at our 2021 SSAFA Chepstow Raceday on November 19th.
24 Jun 21. UK tells Russia: We will not accept unlawful interference with innocent passage. Britain said on Monday that it would not accept unlawful interference with innocent passage at sea, and that its navy would uphold international law, in a written statement to parliament following a warship confrontation with Russia. read more
“The Royal Navy will always uphold international law and will not accept unlawful interference with innocent passage,” defence minister Ben Wallace said in the statement.
Russia has accused Britain of spreading lies over the confrontation in the Black Sea and warned London that it would respond resolutely to any further provocative actions by the British navy off the coast of Russia-annexed Crimea.
Wallace’s statement said the British warship HMS Defender was warned about a Russian live fire exercise, and that it noted the exercise being conducted out of range of its position. Wallace also said Russian aircraft flew around 500 feet (152.4 m) above the Defender.
“These aircraft posed no immediate threat to HMS Defender, but some of these manoeuvres were neither safe nor professional,” he said. “HMS Defender responded by VHF radio to the Russian units on several occasions and was, at all times, courteous and professional.” (Source: Reuters)
24 Jun 21. Dominic Raab warned MoD about Royal Navy’s Crimea plans.
Foreign Secretary argued Moscow could seek to exploit HMS Defender’s voyage through the Black Sea
The Foreign Secretary warned in advance that Moscow could seek to exploit HMS Defender’s voyage through the Black Sea under the route proposed by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, it is understood.
Defence sources claimed the decision was escalated to Downing Street for the Prime Minister to make the final call. Instructions were passed to the Type-45 Destroyer on Monday.
The discussions within Government show that risks were identified in the proposed mission, although all parties are said to have supported the right of a British warship to conduct a legal innocent passage through the sea.
A diplomatic row flared up between London and Moscow on Wednesday over the warship’s route within 12 miles of the Crimean shoreline.
Russia, riled by the presence of Nato navies in the Black Sea, claimed HMS Defender sailed through its territorial waters in a “provocation”.
Britain does not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and considers the sea around the peninsula’s coast to be Ukranian territorial waters.
Regardless of the conflicting claims, international law allows for any vessel to travel through territorial waters if on a direct route between two points on “innocent passage”.
Boris Johnson also weighed in, declaring that HMS Defender was “entirely right” to voyage through the contested waters around Crimea.
The Prime Minister’s intervention came as Moscow threatened to retaliate if there was a repeat of the incident.
The Russian Government has accused the warship of a “dangerous move” and claimed Russian forces fired warning shots and dropped four bombs nearby as it came within the contested waters.
The Moscow authorities also summoned the UK defence attaché to receive a formal castigation on Wednesday, then released footage of the meeting, as well as a film shot from the cockpit of a military aircraft flying over the British warship.
Downing Street rejected Russia’s characterisation of events at sea, insisting it was wrong to say firing shots were fired at the Royal Navy ship or that bombs were dropped in its path. No 10 also said Russia had provided advance warning of its plans for a “gunnery exercise” in the area.
Dramatic eyewitness reports from on board HMS Defender described Russian fighter jets buzzing the ship and two Russian coastguard vessels harassing it.
Mr Johnson on Thursday evaded confirming whether he had personally authorised HMS Defender’s voyage. Speaking to reporters at a barracks in Aldershot, he said: “These are a matter for the MoD but if you want my view I think it was wholly appropriate to use international waters.”
Freedom of navigation
He added: “It was entirely right that we should indicate the law and pursue freedom of navigation in the way that we did, take the shortest route between two points, and that’s what we did.”
His official spokesman also refused to be drawn on whether Mr Johnson personally authorised the mission, telling reporters: “I’m not going to get into operational military decision-making.”
A defence source claimed that a “dust up” had erupted because the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) had raised concerns about HMS Defender sailing through contested waters.
The insider told The Telegraph: “The whole dispute was between Raab and Wallace, then it went to the PM for a decision. The decision was sent to Defender on Monday that she was to take innocent passage through those waters.”
Whitehall insiders on Thursday night insisted there had been no disagreements within Government over the proposed mission and suggestions to the contrary were “unfounded”.
An MoD source said: “We are all one big happy family.” An FCDO source said Mr Raab “is supportive of HMS Defender’s right of innocent passage through Ukrainian waters”.
A Government spokesman said the warship’s route was “long planned and entirely in accordance with international law”, adding: “The route taken was the most direct, via an internationally recognised route between Ukraine and Georgia.”
‘We may drop bombs’
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said on Thursday that “the inviolability of the Russian borders is an absolute imperative”, adding that it will be protected “by all means, diplomatic, political and military if needed”.
Asked what Russia would do if a similar episode happened again, he said: “We may appeal to reason and demand to respect international law.
“If it doesn’t help, we may drop bombs and not just in the path but right on target if colleagues don’t get it otherwise.”
Tensions in UK-Russia relations simmered this week just as France and Germany were reported to be seeking to build bridges between the European Union and Moscow.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “a matter for Germany and France”, but added: “We would obviously support engagement with Russia in order to deliver tough messages and encourage a change in their behaviour.”
Tobias Ellwood: UK becoming ‘risk averse’
Meanwhile, Tobias Ellwood has warned the UK is becoming “risk averse” as he called on the Royal Navy to have a larger surface fleet, writes Danielle Sheridan.
The former defence minister told The Telegraph there was international “determination to step forward and challenge contested waters” around the world, although he cautioned the Navy was too small in size to carry out such a gargantuan task.
“The South China Sea, the Black Sea, the Arctic, all require constant patrolling so that civilian vessels feel safe to use them as they are legally permitted to,” Mr Ellwood said.
However, he cautioned that to do so the Navy needed to “double the size of our vessels”, as failing to do so leaves the force “overstretched”.
Mr Ellwood said it was “so important that the West starts to regroup” as he cautioned that the UK has become “risk averse”.
The Telegraph previously revealed that HMS Queen Elizabeth would not be sailing through the contested Taiwan Straits on her operational maiden voyage.
Speaking to the Today programme Mr Ellwood said while he did not believe the aircraft carrier should sail through those waters, he did believe the Navy should send a destroyer in order to stand up to China.
It comes as a former United Nations commander warned Britain has “cut off our nose to spite our face” by reducing the number of British soldiers in the Integrated Review. Conservative MP Bob Stewart, who led peacekeeping forces in Bosnia, condemned the Government’s move to cut the size of the Army by 10,000 to 72,500 soldiers by 2025.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday afternoon, Mr Ellwood said: “The ability to seize and hold ground, to separate warring factions, to deliver humanitarian aid, to assist with civil authorities – such as tackling Covid-19 – to win over hearts and minds, to restore law and order and to respond to natural disasters, and to carry out countless other diverse tasks, that requires people, it requires professionals, it requires soldiers, sailors and air personnel, and it’s wrong to reduce those numbers.”
Mr Stewart said he entirely agreed with Mr Ellwood, adding: “What we need, and we have operation after operation, is manpower. We’ve just cut it by 10,000.
“I can tell you having commanded soldiers on the ground in peacekeeping, we have actually cut off our nose to spite our face.
“We require boots on the ground, we require soldiers and I entirely endorse what he [Mr Ellwood] has said.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
24 Jun 21. HMS Protector makes history sailing further north than any other Royal Navy ship. Icebreaker HMS Protector sailed closer to the North Pole than any other Royal Navy ship in history on her first patrol of the Arctic. The survey and research ship crunched her way through polar ice to within 1,050 kilometres of the top of the world as she gathered data about the ocean and environment
Only submarines – such as HMS Trenchant which punched through the ice at the Pole in 2018 – can travel further north than the position the Plymouth-based survey ship reached: 80°41.5 North in the Greenland Sea.
Protector completed the most extensive overhaul in her decade-long career in the Royal Navy in January, since when she’s been conducting extensive trials and training – all with the goal of deploying to Antarctica in the autumn.
Having been nowhere near the ice in more than two years, the ship tested the strength of her engines using a specialist bollard pull in Flekkefjord, southern Norway, then began icebreaking in earnest in the Fram Strait – between Greenland and the Norwegian island chain of Svalbard.
The ship tested herself against various depths and types of ice, assisted by scientists, engineers and advisors including from the Ministry of Defence and the British Antarctic Survey.
Also helping the ship were two Royal Navy officers who sailed into the Alaskan Arctic aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Polar Star during the winter, and ice-breaking expert Lieutenant Lauren Kowalski, also from the US Coast Guard.
“This team has ventured far to one of the most amazing parts of the planet,” said Protector’s Commanding Officer Captain Michael Wood.
“The chance to familiarise ourselves with this unforgiving environment has been fantastic, and re-asserts the UK’s ability to operate in the Arctic.”
The ship’s Royal Marines’ Mountain Leader Sergeant Chris Carlisle led daily patrols on to ice floes inhabited by polar bears to set up the trial ranges and take ice samples.
“The team adapted well to the Arctic,” he said. “Within a week of sailing from Devonport the temperatures and conditions changed immeasurably. Everybody on-board proved they can safely do their job in the most extreme of environments.”
The ship also conducted surveys of the sea bed – between 2,000 and 3,000 metres deep in the Fram Strait – collected data about the North Atlantic currents, observed marine mammals, and helped the British Antarctic Survey with its work studying the polar ice cap.
Protector rounds off her mission to the High North by arriving in Reykjavik today to mark Iceland’s recent accession to the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, drawn from nine northern European nations committed to global security.
She’ll then return to Plymouth having earned her ‘ice credentials’ and begin preparing for return to the southern polar region in the autumn, a mission Captain Wood says has added significance this year.
He continued: “We are ready to get back to Antarctica. In the year the UK hosts the COP 26 Conference, our commitment to preserving and understanding this pristine continent, and the impact of climate change upon it, is more important than ever.” (Source: Royal Navy)
24 June 21. HMS Defender: What will be the fallout from Black Sea incident? A needless provocation by the Royal Navy or the legitimate exercising of a right of passage at sea?
That depends on your viewpoint.
Britain, strongly supported by Ukraine, insists that HMS Defender was taking the shortest, most direct route across the Black Sea, from Odessa, in Ukraine, to Georgia.
But that route passes just a few miles from the shores of the Crimean peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014 in a move condemned by the West and never internationally recognised.
That is not how Moscow sees it.
Despite a raft of sanctions imposed at the time, it has portrayed its annexation of Crimea, with its significant population of ethnic Russians, as returning the peninsula to its rightful owner: Mother Russia.
The port of Sevastopol, close to Wednesday’s incident, is home to a major Russian naval base and its Black Sea fleet.
So when a modern, Type-45 destroyer from a “hostile” Nato state (Britain) travels over 6,000 miles (9,656km) from its home port to sail through what Moscow considers are its own territorial waters then Russia sees that as an aggressive provocation.
Hence its angry warnings over the ship’s radio and the close-proximity buzzing of the Royal Navy destroyer by Su-24 jets.
Was Britain taken aback by the force of Russia’s reaction?
Not really, say defence sources, as they did something similar last year.
But it would be unwise to downplay an incident like this.
media captionJonathan Beale: “We’re being shadowed by a Russian warship”
Relations between Britain and Russia are already at rock bottom, following accusations – denied by Russia – that it sent two GRU intelligence officers to Salisbury in 2018 to poison a former spy with Novichok nerve agent.
Coupled with the earlier poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its alleged cyber attacks and the hacking of Western democratic institutions, there is almost zero trust between the two countries.
A recent Whitehall report described Russia as the greatest military threat facing this country.
It is important to bear in mind that Russia considers the whole of Ukraine, the Black Sea and the Crimea peninsula as its “near abroad” – its own back yard.
With the former KGB Col Vladimir Putin firmly ensconced in the Kremlin, there is a permanent paranoia about the West’s intentions.
Just 30 years ago Russia was at the heart of a massive empire, the Soviet Union, which, together with its Warsaw Pact allies, stretched all the way from the borders of Germany to Afghanistan and beyond.
Today, many of those former territories and allied states, such as Poland and the Baltic states, have joined Nato.
So Russia feels surrounded, and that is a dangerous place to be.
Yet as dramatic as Wednesday’s events appear, this could end up being just a dress rehearsal for a bigger test to come.
HMS Defender is part of the Carrier Strike Force, spearheaded by the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
It peeled off earlier this month to make this Black Sea visit while the rest of the force exercised in the Mediterranean.
As part of the UK’s new “forward-leaning” foreign and defence policy outlined in the government’s recent Integrated Review, the strike force will soon be heading eastwards to the South China Sea.
There, together with other nations, it will be challenging China’s claims to a vast contested area of sea bordering several countries.
Chinese air and sea patrols, often operating from artificially built reefs, have been warning shipping away from this area which Beijing considers it to be part of its own territorial waters.
The West, and other countries in the region, disagree as an international ruling found against the Chinese move.
But when the carrier strike force sails through the South China Sea there will be a lot of people holding their breath to see how China reacts.
24 June 21. Assessing the challenges in UK defence equipment acquisition.
Three broad drivers of common defence programme cost and schedule problems could be mitigated by establishing effective challenge processes, professionalising certain job functions, driving a focus on risk management and understanding, and embedding clear lessons-learned processes.
What is the issue?
Equipping the Armed Forces is one of the most important, challenging and complex tasks faced by the UK Government. Defence equipment acquisition programmes often experience challenges such as cost growth, schedule slippage and performance shortfall. This affects value for money as well as the overall ability of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Armed Forces to achieve the UK’s National Security Objectives.
Over the years, the National Audit Office (NAO) has been monitoring and evaluating the performance of defence acquisition programmes and has reported on delays and cost overruns across significant MOD equipment procurement programmes.
How did we help?
The NAO commissioned RAND Europe to help shed light on the underlying causes of equipment procurement problems and the reasons why they persist, despite repeated efforts to learn from the past. The resulting discussion paper, based on decades of RAND research on these topics, focuses on three broad drivers of cost, schedule or other performance problems often encountered in defence programmes:
- Industrial and MoD capabilities
- Supplier performance, incentives and contracting
- Programme management approach
In addition, the paper also captures some overarching, cross-cutting factors and outlines measures and initiatives that will allow the MOD to improve programme delivery.
What did we find?
Industrial and MOD capabilities
- Overly prescriptive or ambitious capability requirements can set the scene for poor performance delivery down the track.
- Production efficiencies are hard to achieve, hampering industry’s ability to drive learning economies and maximise return on investment.
- Workforce and skills constitute critical enablers for effective programme delivery and conversely, insufficient availability of suitably qualified and experienced personnel (SQUEP) can undermine effective delivery.
Contracting, incentives and supplier performance
- While robust assumptions underpinning any capability delivery plan or acquisition strategy are inevitably difficult to get right, it is important that they shared by both the MOD and industry.
- Understanding sources of risk in defence equipment programmes is a prerequisite for effective risk management and division of responsibility for risk between customer and supplier, but this understanding is often lacking.
Programme management approach
- Imbalance and divergence between Services and domains when it comes to weapon system acquisition requirements and approaches undermines opportunities to use defence equipment budgets for modernisation across the Armed Forces and deliver on the overall Defence Equipment Plan.
- Frequent adjustments to programme delivery undermine its overall effectiveness.
- Budgeting sufficient contingency for risk is appreciated in theory but not implemented in practice.
Cross cutting issues
- A culture of optimism permeates defence equipment programme decision-making, distorting assumptions and planning outcomes.
- Lack of institutional memory means that lessons from the past are not learnt as quickly and efficiently as they could be – or not learnt at all.
- The UK defence acquisition system is prone to moral hazard whereby poor delivery results in only limited negative consequences.
What do we recommend?
- Establish and embed effective challenge, scrutiny and red-teaming processes
- Professionalise, reinforce and enable programme management and cost assurance functions
- Drive a focus on risk management and understanding
- Embed clear processes to capture, share and feed through lessons learned
- Persistent Challenges in UK Defence Equipment Acquisition June 23, 2021
Lucia Retter, Julia Muravska, Ben Williams, James Black
This paper discusses three broad drivers of cost, schedule and other performance problems consistently encountered in defence equipment acquisition programs, namely, industrial and UK Ministry of Defence skills and capabilities; supplier performance, incentives and contracting; and pogramme management, budgeting and delivery. The paper also identifies examples of measures that could help address these inefficiencies going forward.
- Lucia Retter
Lucia Retter is a senior analyst at RAND Europe. Her research focuses on defence acquisition and through-life support, the European defence market and the UK and European defence industrial base and skills.
- Julia Muravska
Julia Muravska is a research leader at RAND Europe, where she oversees research portfolios on defence industry, acquisition and technology as well as on defence policy, strategy and capabilities. Her areas of expertise include defence capability development, defence industrial issues.
- Ben Williams
Senior Research Leader
Ben Williams is a senior research leader at RAND Europe focusing on defence, security and infrastructure. His interests and expertise relate to defence equipment acquisition and support, industrial policy, major projects, nuclear acquisition and policy, CBRN, science and technology, and…
- James Black
James Black is a research leader working in the area of defence, security and infrastructure at RAND Europe. His research focuses on defence, geopolitical and strategic decisionmaking in the context of deep uncertainty, including the impact of emerging technologies on society and military.
23 June 21. French-German push for Putin summit sparks fury in Baltic states. Lithuanian foreign minister calls initiative ‘irresponsible’ as Kremlin hails ‘positive’ proposal Germany’s chancellor. Angela Merkel told the Bundestag that the EU needed to ‘define an agenda of common strategic interests’ with Russia. Lithuania’s foreign minister has called a Franco-German initiative to push for a summit between the EU and Russian president Vladimir Putin “irresponsible” and a case of “historical myopia”, in a sign of the deep divergences within the bloc over how to address worsening relations with the Kremlin. Gabrielius Landsbergis was speaking to the Financial Times after Berlin and Paris surprised their EU allies by putting forward new proposals on how the bloc could better engage with Moscow. Diplomats said that Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, wanted the EU to consider inviting Putin to a summit with EU leaders, and that the initiative was supported by French president Emmanuel Macron. The German-French initiative wrongfooted diplomats in Brussels on Wednesday on the eve of an EU council summit and triggered a backlash from other EU states including those in Russia’s immediate neighbourhood. Landsbergis said that to restart meetings with Russia when Moscow “is the closest to the Soviet Union’s totalitarianism it has been for over three decades is irresponsible”. He added: “To fall into a trap once or twice may be regarded as a misfortune, but to continue doing so decade after decade looks like historical myopia.” Meanwhile, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonia’s former president, said on Twitter: “Merkel and Macron are either clueless or have learnt nothing from 80 years of history and the nations betrayed by the Germans.” The Franco-German proposal follows the meeting between US president Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart in Geneva last week, which was designed to stabilise deteriorating US-Russian relations. Speaking in the Bundestag on Thursday, Merkel said the EU should seek “direct contact” with Russia in the same way that Biden did. “It isn’t enough when US president Joe Biden speaks to the Russian president,” she told German lawmakers. “I welcome it, but the EU must also create formats for dialogues. Otherwise, we won’t be able to solve conflicts.” The Kremlin also said it was “positive” about the proposal of a summit between Putin and the EU, and was watching for a sign of agreement from its 27 members. “We assess the initiative positively,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday. “President Putin is a supporter of the restoration of the mechanism of dialogue and contacts between Brussels and Moscow.” Defenders of the German-French initiative pointed to the tougher elements of their proposed summit text, which vowed to seek a “firm and co-ordinated response” to any further “malign, illegal and disruptive activity” by Russia. The German-French language floated the possibility of economic sanctions as part of the EU’s armoury when it comes to dealing with Russia. But after a late-night meeting among ambassadors on Wednesday night aimed at ironing out the differences, the most difficult points will be left to leaders to sort out at the Brussels summit on Thursday evening. The proposed text said this included in particular a “review” of “the existing formats of dialogue with Russia, including at Leaders’ level”. It will also entail a debate on a lengthy list of areas earmarked by Germany and France for “selective engagement” with Russia. Recommended Tony Barber EU policy towards Russia is in disrepair These include the environment, the Arctic, cross-border co-operation, energy, health, space and the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Also on the list is a selection of foreign policy issues, including attempts at reviving the Iran nuclear accord, as well as Syria and Libya. Merkel on Thursday said the EU must “define an agenda of common strategic interests” with Russia, in areas such as “climate change, peace and security” and on resolving conflicts in Syria and Libya. But she also sought to dispel the impression that she was trying to cosy up to Putin. She said that individual EU member states were reacting in an “uncoordinated way” to “the multitude of Russian provocations” and needed to better harmonise their approach. “We have to create mechanisms that would allow us to react in a united and collective manner to [such] provocations,” she added. “Only this way will we learn to confront Russia’s hybrid attacks.” Merkel, who was giving her last speech to the Bundestag as chancellor ahead of federal elections in September, stressed that, because of its special “responsibility” to Ukraine, Belarus and the countries of the western Balkans, the EU “has to give an appropriate response to Russian activities” in those countries. (Source: FT.com)
23 Jun 21. Paratroopers drop into the desert at dawn as UK sends warning to Russia. In an exclusive dispatch, Danielle Sheridan reports from alongside Army’s latest operation in Jordan as UK bolsters its Middle East presence.
British paratroopers dropped into the desert at dawn on Wednesday as the UK joined forces with Jordan in a military warning to Russia.
Some 150 soldiers from the 16 Air Assault Brigade boarded two C-130 Hercules at the RAF Akrotiri base in Cyprus before jumping 800ft down into the barren terrain outside Amman, where they simulated an attack on a town, intended to “demonstrate to adversaries, such as Russia with its interests in Syria, our capabilities and commitment to Jordan”.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Jordan remained a key partner in the Middle East as it looks to ensure regional stability.
However, despite the paratroopers’ experience with drops, many of which have been into hostile environments, soldiers waiting on board the aircraft confessed to The Telegraph that, no matter how many jumps they made, the nerves never disappeared.
Joined by soldiers from the Jordanian armed forces, 16 Air Assault Brigade, which is deemed the most deployable and ready formation in the Army, was carrying out the operation as part of the UK’s Global Response Force (GRF).
As announced in the Integrated Defence Review, the GRF now features “air manoeuvre and combat aviation” to reduce its global response time to days, even hours.
The Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group has also set sail on its maiden operational voyage, with F-35Bs flown from HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of Operation Shader.
The MoD said the Combat Support Group allowed the military to be more agile against changing global threats and complimented the Army’s “future soldier” concept, whereby Britain’s forces would be more integrated, more expeditionary and ready for future challenges.
Brigadier James Martin, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “We are trained specifically in the techniques of air manoeuvre. It is a demanding role and the brigade places a premium on being expeditionary and integrated with the other domains.”
He said Britain has strong, historic bilateral ties in the Middle East and North Africa “which are vital to UK prosperity and security”.
James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, said the “joint exercise is a showcase of the Global Response Force’s impressive ability to operate across multiple domains and in harsh environments”.
He added: “They are the soldiers of the future, ready to tackle changing threats around the world.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
23 Jun 21. UK government reports export credit arrangements for 2020. The UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Financing (UKEF), revealed in its annual report on 22 June that it had underwritten a record GBP12.3bn (USD17.1bn) for UK industry during the 2020/21 financial year.
Key transactions in the annual report included the beginning of the drawing of GBP1.13bn to BAE Systems in support of the manufacture of Eurofighter Typhoon and BAE Systems Hawk trainer aircraft to Qatar. In addition, buyer credit guarantees for Indonesia were supplied for the acquisition of Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules medium transport aircraft (maximum liability of GBP74.6m) and air-defence systems from Thales UK (maximum liability of GBP29.8m).
The report also noted that “a strong pipeline of transactions is in place for 2021–22” for defence deals. The organisation is also anticipating a significant transaction in support of the space sector in the coming months, with space also being a potential significant growth area.
The maximum export credit liability for the defence sector in 2020–21 was valued at GBP1.24bn, representing 10% of overall liability for the UK government. The aerospace sector dominated support during the year, accounting for 59% of export credit liability worth GBP7.07 bn. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the commercial aviation sector drove much of this support, with a total of GBP6.2bn provided to Rolls-Royce, British Airways, and easyJet for working capital requirements to support ongoing operations. (Source: Jane’s)
23 June 21. Germany and France have called for a new EU strategy of closer engagement with Russia to build on discussions with Moscow in the wake of US president Joe Biden’s Geneva summit with Vladimir Putin. Diplomats said Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, wanted the EU to consider inviting the Russian president to a summit with EU leaders, and that the initiative was supported by French president Emmanuel Macron. Ambassadors representing Berlin and Paris wrongfooted other EU capitals at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday by making the new proposals on the relationship with the Kremlin, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. However, Merkel has been in close consultation with European allies in the past few days, with Macron and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi both visiting Berlin for talks. US secretary of state Antony Blinken has also been in the city for discussions with the government this week. Germany is of the view that the Biden-Putin summit provides a template for reviving relations with Russia. Merkel meets Putin regularly, and spoke with him earlier this week by telephone, but advocates finding a format that allows the EU to speak with one voice on Russia. “However much we argue, we must keep the channels of communication open, so as to be able to clearly express our positions and interests and then look to see if any solutions can be found,” Merkel said before meeting with Blinken on Wednesday. EU summits with Putin have been suspended since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The proposed new outreach to Moscow is likely to alarm some EU member countries, such as the Baltic states and Poland, which neighbour Russia and want to take a tougher line with the Kremlin. The Franco-German initiative came shortly after Moscow said it had fired warning shots including bombs at a British warship in the Black Sea near Crimea. The UK denied that any shots had been fired and said it believed the “Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise”. EU leaders touched on the future of Russia relations at their May summit and tasked the European Commission to come up with proposals on how to proceed. But the Franco-German draft text is far more conciliatory than last week’s commission analysis which warned of a “negative spiral” in EU-Russian relations and the need to counter “malign actions”. The wording proposed to fellow member states, which if adopted would form part of summit conclusions later this week, reiterated the EU’s willingness for “a selective engagement” with Russia on areas of common interest. It encourages the European Commission and the EU’s diplomatic service to develop “concrete proposals and leverages” to this end. Topics would include climate, the environment, the Arctic, cross-border co-operation, health, space, the fight against terrorism and foreign policy areas including Syria and Iran. “In this regard, the European Council calls for a review of the existing format of dialogue with Russia, including meetings at leaders’ level,” the proposed draft says. The proposal comes a day after Merkel spoke with Putin in a call to mark 80 years since the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. During that call, according to the Kremlin, “it was pointed out that overcoming mutual hostility and achieving reconciliation between the Russian and German people was of crucial significance for the postwar future of Europe, and that ensuring security on our common continent now is only possible through joint efforts”. “The parties agreed on further personal contacts,” the Kremlin added. One senior EU diplomat said the Franco-German initiative had caused a “stink” among fellow EU countries, who voiced their frustration at the last minute intervention on the eve of the summit. “This is not a way things should be handled,” said the diplomat. Another member state official described the intervention as “not very helpful” and a third said they were “still analysing” the surprise move. An EU official said the bloc would “reflect” on how to find a way forward ahead of the summit, which begins on Thursday afternoon. (Source: FT.com)
21 June 21. UK MOD Will Pay For New National Flagship. Royal Yacht Britannia’s successor is thought to cost £200m and will be crewed by Royal Navy personnel. A new national flagship will be paid for out of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) budget, Downing Street has said.
It was revealed in May that the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia was to be crewed by Royal Navy personnel and that construction of the vessel is expected to begin in 2022.
Downing Street now says defence will also pay for the flagship, which will be used to host trade fairs, ministerial summits and diplomatic talks.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “This new national flagship will boost British trade and drive investment into the economy.
“The procurement process, which is being done through the MOD, will reflect its wide-ranging use and so it will be funded through the MOD, as set out previously.”
The No 10 spokesman declined to comment on how the MOD could afford a yacht costing a reported £200m, given its own equipment budget blackhole of £17bn.
The spokesperson said the vessel would not be classified and a ‘warship’, adding: “We will set out the exact detail in due course but this is a trade ship, it is not a military vessel.”
The Government intends to build the ship in the UK, although the ship is part of Britain’s strategy to build links and boost exports following Brexit. Once active, the flagship is expected to last 30 years in service. (Source: forces.net)
21 June 21. Germany’s Armin Laschet warns against cold war with China. Frontrunner to succeed Merkel says EU best served by co-operation with Beijing Armin Laschet, leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, supports a cautious approach to dealing with China. Armin Laschet, frontrunner to become Germany’s next chancellor, has warned of the dangers of a new cold war against China, agreeing with Angela Merkel that Beijing was as much a partner as a systemic rival. Laschet was speaking to the Financial Times after US president Joe Biden’s first official trip to Europe, which was dominated by warnings about the challenge China poses for the west. Biden has made it clear he wants to work with allies to curb China’s ambitions. In a wide-ranging interview Laschet, leader of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union, suggested many in Europe were sceptical of Biden’s hawkish attitude to China. “The question is — if we’re talking about ‘restraining’ China, will that lead to a new conflict? Do we need a new adversary?” he said. “And there the European response was cautious, because, yes, China is a competitor and a systemic rival, it has a different model of society, but it’s also a partner, particularly in things like fighting climate change.” Laschet also called for Russia to be brought out of the cold, saying the west must try to “establish a sensible relationship” with Moscow. “Ignoring Russia has served neither our nor the US’ interests,” he said, praising Biden’s decision to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin in Geneva last week. With three months until an election that will see Merkel step down as chancellor, polls suggest that Laschet’s CDU is on course to win, though it faces a strong challenge from the opposition Greens. One possible outcome is a CDU-Green coalition, the first in Germany’s history, with Laschet as chancellor. During the interview, Laschet was at pains to suggest continuity with Merkel’s policies. The two had very different personal biographies, but “on the fundamental issues we always agreed”. One area of agreement appears to be China. Merkel has often been accused of tempering her criticism of Chinese human rights violations for fear of harming the interests of German companies active in China. Laschet said Germany should never shy away from addressing “critical issues”. “But I’m not sure that always speaking out, loudly and aggressively, in public about a country’s human rights situation really leads to improvements on the ground,” he added. “Often you can reach more in the area of human rights by addressing issues in private conversations with leaders of other countries than by talking about it in press conferences.” This softly-softly approach could set up a potential clash with the Greens, who are much more eager to challenge China publicly over its human rights record, as well as tensions with the Biden administration. Biden’s tough stance on China was in evidence during his European trip. The G7 summit communiqué criticised Beijing over human rights, trade and a lack of transparency regarding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Asked if he thought Biden was trying to drag Europe into a new cold war, Laschet demurred, saying he was “right” to view China as “one of the biggest challenges for us, for instance on new technologies” and to want to “strengthen co-operation among democracies”. But he also said the west should resist slipping into a cold war mentality when it came to its geopolitical contest with China. “The 21st century is very different and the prism of how the world looked before 1989 offers limited advice,” he said. “We have a multipolar world [now] with different actors.” Laschet insisted, however, that he would not be a soft touch on China. “I would try to foster our partnership wherever possible, and, at the same time, make clear what we expect from China: that it accept reciprocity, embrace multilateralism and respect human rights. Recommended Philip Stephens The west is in a contest, not a cold war, with China On Russia, Laschet said he had always insisted its annexation of Crimea was an “unacceptable” breach of international law. But he also argued that Russia, a member of the UN Security Council, should not be ignored or belittled. He took issue, for example, with Barack Obama’s famous characterisation of Russia as a “regional power”, saying that was one of the causes of rising tensions between Moscow and the west over the past decade. “It’s the largest country in the world, a nuclear power,” he said, adding that Biden’s approach — restoring ambassadors, describing Russia as a “great power” and “taking Russia seriously as an interlocutor” — had sent a “very important signal”. Laschet defended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the Gazprom project bringing natural gas directly to Germany from Russia across the Baltic Sea, saying Germany will need more gas as it phases out nuclear energy and coal-fired power. But he also had a warning for Moscow: The pipeline “must not become a geopolitical instrument against Ukraine”. “Ukraine’s interests must be safeguarded,” he said. “And if the Russians don’t stick to that, the basis of the NS2 deal will cease to exist.” (Source: FT.com)
21 June 21. Forces chief issues rallying cry to UK’s part-time tech warriors. Gen Sir Nick Carter says cyber experts could ‘move seamlessly’ between civilian and defence roles. The head of the UK’s armed forces has urged private sector cyber specialists and data engineers to sign up as reservists to help fill gaps in the military’s tech capabilities. General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, is preparing for an era of stealthier, tech-enabled warfare as set out in Downing Street’s defence, security and foreign policy strategy for post-Brexit Britain. But the new plans have also prompted personnel cuts to help invest in new digital capabilities such as artificial intelligence and cyber. As the regular force is pared back and the demand for tech expertise rises, skilled reservists will be increasingly needed. “I think where we would like to get to is that we no longer distinguish between regulars and reservists particularly . . . that we have a spectrum of commitment from full to part-time service,” he told the FT, arguing that skilled personnel should be able to “move seamlessly” between civilian jobs and short-term defence deployments. Britain launches new global strategy Carter, 62, has spent four years leading the armed forces and undertook tours in Northern Ireland, Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan during a career spanning more than four decades. He now has the task of implementing a demanding new strategy that promises to deploy “more forces overseas more often and for longer periods of time”. The departure last month of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier on a seven-month voyage to the Indo- Pacific — where the UK will increase its military presence to help counter China’s growing navy — has put British defence in the spotlight. Back at home, the “massive pace” of technological development is driving changes in the military that Carter admitted he did not see coming. Both China and Russia have potent cyber capabilities, while Beijing is investing heavily in military applications of AI. But the cutting-edge skills needed to compete are often found in the private sector rather than the military’s own ranks. “If you’d asked me five years ago how many data scientists and data engineers we wanted, I probably would have thought you were teasing me,” Carter said, adding this is now something he is “focused on”. Soldiers constructing a Nightingale hospital in ExCel Centre in London during the Covid pandemic © Dave Jenkins/MoD/PA Military reservists from the private sector have been deployed widely during the Covid-19 pandemic, helping to build the Nightingale hospitals and organise the distribution of PPE. More recently, he said, data analysts from industry worked together with a team from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory to help map a network of Isis fighters in the Middle East and “hone in” on a particular individual. ‘Call of Duty’ for real The Ministry of Defence might not need niche tech experts full time, or be able to afford them on permanent contracts, and Carter insisted there are mutual benefits from private sector employers releasing staff for deployments of three to six months. “We can provide that individual with opportunities that they might not get in the private sector,” he said, suggesting it would offer people the chance to move beyond gaming and “do ‘Call of Duty’ for real”. Reservists are paid by the MoD while on loan, and civilian salaries are matched in some cases, subject to a cap. Carter would not say how many private sector specialists he wants to recruit, and since the announcement in March that the Army will be cut from a target force of 82,000 to 72,500 by 2025, numbers have been a sore point for Britain’s defence chiefs. “I always have been frustrated by the fact that ill-informed people think you can measure the capability of the Army . . . on the basis of the total number of regular headcount in it,” he said, arguing that this ignores the additional impact of the reserve force. The Army currently has a reserve force of around 30,000, which includes former military personnel. Soldiers from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment take part in trials of virtual reality equipment at their home base in Chester, England. “I’d rather talk about the Army [having] 100,000 human beings available at three months’ notice to move, but they also have 15,000 robots who are able to complement their activities,” Carter said. A key difficulty is finding the right balance between new kit such as robotics and traditional symbols of hard power. The defence review trumpeted flagship assets such as Britain’s nuclear capability — announcing a 40 per cent increase in the warhead stockpile — and the country’s two aircraft carriers, but also promised investments in space technology and high-speed missiles. Recommended The Big Read Challenging China: Brexit Britain experiments with battleship diplomacy Even with a surprise defence spending boost last autumn of £16.5bn, money will be tight: critics have suggested the strategy set out several options, but left many of the hard decisions unresolved. Carter disagreed. “For the first time in my memory, we’ve got the ends, the ways and the means, in balance,” he said. “There are not many militaries in Nato who are able to be as clear about that as we are.” Russian aggression risks escalation Rising threats have given urgency to the need to upgrade and reform. The armed forces chief revealed that Russia sent 11 warships, including a submarine, into British waters last November. Russian jets are “regularly” seen in UK airspace. The sightings in November were, he said, “more ostentatious than anything we’ve seen since the end of the cold war”, adding that this gave rise to the risk of “unwarranted escalation” and miscalculation, which could lead to conflict. Further east, Britain and its allies are grappling with China’s rapid military expansion. Last week Nato allies warned that Beijing poses “systemic challenges” to the rules-based international order, and Carter said the alliance had been “entirely right” to highlight China’s growing global ambition. Images Through the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing is “increasingly appearing in parts of the world which it didn’t used to be in”, Carter said. “Whether that’s parts of Africa that we used to hold dear, whether it’s a huge embassy that they’ve built in Antigua, a Commonwealth country, whether it’s conversations they’re having in Argentina, they are spreading their wings,” he said. The armed forces chief is due to step down from that role in late November, but first he must secure the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, in line with the US decision to leave by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Carter — who was deputy commander of Nato troops during his final Afghanistan tour — has already expressed regret at this move, saying it was “not a decision we had hoped for”. He admitted his fears that the withdrawal could spark instability, and said he is in regular dialogue with Afghan contacts about the country’s future. As for his own future, the general refuses to be drawn on who his successor might be (the leading candidates are the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin and head of strategic command General Sir Patrick Sanders). Instead, Carter retorts that he still has six months left in post, and there is plenty to be done. “We are not in a position that the king is dead yet,” he said. (Source: FT.com)
17 June 21. RAF and German Air Force sign Combined Specialist Air FP Roadmap 2021. The roadmap highlights the commitment of both the countries to work closely in providing ‘specialist Air FP’. The virtual signing of the agreement took place on 16 June.
According to RAF, the latest annual roadmap highlights the commitment of both countries to work closely together in providing ‘specialist Air FP’.
German Air Force commander Oberst Marc Vogt said: “I am extremely proud to continue in this strong partnership with the RAF FP Force and look forward to undertaking the activities that the roadmap outlines with group captain Jason Sutton.”
During the next 12 months, the UK and Germany aim to maintain a mutual understanding through regular high-level leadership engagement and continue to strengthen interoperability and the sharing of lessons and experiences.
The two countries also aim to ‘engender’ a broader culture of commonality within the combined Air FP community.
RAF said in a tweet: “The RAF and Luftwaffe have signed the Combined Specialist Air Force Protection Roadmap.
“It recognises the close relationship between the RAF FP Force and German Air Force Regiment (Objektschutzregiment), in providing specialist Air FP.”
The RAF FP Force protects the British Royal Air Force wherever it operates, home or abroad.
RAF stated that the RAF FP Force is provided by RAF Police to allow air operations.
Meanwhile, the RAF Regiment provides defence by fighting on the ground to enable control of the Air.
In October 2019, RAF base in Coningsby signed a ‘twinning’ agreement with the German Air Force’s fighter wing Luftwaffengeschwader 73 Taktisches (Tactical Air Force Squadron 73 “Steinhoff”). (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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