Category Archives: Defense

Leyen hosts meeting with Stoltenberg

Brussels 15.12.2020 Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had discussions at the European Commission on Tuesday, 15 December 2020, about how to further strengthen NATO’s cooperation with the European Union.

While the Secretary General often meets with EU leaders and EU Commissioners, this is the first time that a NATO Secretary General attended a meeting of the College of Commissioners, a sign of the deepening partnership between NATO and the EU.

The joint press point by the NATO Secretary General and the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, as well as footage of Secretary General’s arrival, were available remotely.

Among discussed issues were closer cooperation on cyber-security, countering disinformation, climate change & its geopolitical impact, and increasing our resilience against hybrid attacks.

NATO2030: Foreign ministers focus on future

Brussels 01.12.2020 NATO Foreign Ministers met virtually on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 to discuss key issues for the Alliance. They include an outside expert panel report on how to further adapt NATO for the future, Russia’s military build-up and NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan.

“We have just concluded the first session of this meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. We had a good, constructive exchange. And I am looking forward to when I can once again welcome all the ministers here in Brussels, in person. We discussed NATO2030 and how to further adapt our Alliance for the future. We also addressed Russia. And the situation in Afghanistan.

NATO supports the Afghan peace process. And as part of that, we have adjusted our presence. While United States has decided to further reduce its troop numbers to 2,500, NATO’s training mission continues. And over half of our forces are, now, non-US. Ministers made clear that all Allies remain committed to the mission. And to supporting Afghan security forces in the fight against terrorism.As we continue to assess the situation in Afghanistan, it is clear that we will face a turning point early next year.

If we stay, we risk continued fighting. And an even longer-term engagement.
If we leave, we risk Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. And the loss of the gains made with such sacrifice.

So there is a price for staying longer. But there is also a price for leaving too soon. We will have to take some hard decisions when NATO defence ministers meet next February. But whatever we decide, we must do it in a coordinated and orderly way.

We also discussed Russia’s continued military build-up in our neighbourhood. As well as arms control. We see Russia violating and undermining treaties. And deploying new weapons. Ministers expressed support for preserving limitations of nuclear weapons. And for developing a more comprehensive arms control regime. We all know that the New START treaty will expire next February, so time is running out. We welcome the dialogue between the United States and Russia to find a way forward. Because we should not find ourselves in a situation where there is no agreement regulating the number of nuclear warheads. We are adapting NATO’s deterrence posture to address Russia’s destabilising actions. At the same time, we all agree that we must continue to pursue dialogue with Russia.

We also addressed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Working together here at NATO, we recently developed a military de-confliction mechanism between Greece and Turkey. A hotline between the two Allies. And the cancellation of specific military exercises. I am committed to strengthening this mechanism further, to build more comprehensive confidence-building measures.

We also discussed the NATO2030 project on how we can make our strong Alliance even stronger. Earlier this year, I appointed a group of experts to support my work on NATO’s continued adaptation. The group, led by co-chairs Thomas de Maizière and Wess Mitchell, has now finalised its work. Today the co-chairs briefed Ministers on their findings. And we have just made their report public. I want to thank all the members of the group for their efforts and dedication.

Their report shows that NATO is agile. It recognises that in recent years we have been able to adapt, both militarily and politically. The report also demonstrates that political consultation and decision-making work at NATO. So we build on solid foundations. he group’s work concludes today, and is one input into NATO2030.

I will continue to consult with civil society, parliamentarians, young leaders, the private sector, and of course with Allies. I will then prepare my recommendations for NATO Leaders when they meet next year. The goal is to keep NATO as a strong military Alliance. Make it more united politically. And with a more global approach”

“Donors have pledged more than $ 3 billion for the first year of the upcoming four-year plan,” running from 2021 to 2024, “with annual pledges expected to remain at that same level year after year, this is expected to add up to $ 12 billion dollars over four years, ” Ville Skinnari, Finnish Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade said. Afghanistan will receive up to $ 12 billion in aid from donor countries by 2024, under certain conditions, the Finnish Minister of Cooperation said on Tuesday after a two-day conference in Geneva and by video conference on November 24.

EU defence progress

Brussels, 20.11.2020 The Council approved conclusions on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) Strategic Review 2020. The review assesses the progress made on PESCO and provides guidance for the next phase (2021-2025) on the overall aim, policy goals, incentives and projects. (Image: Dassault Rafale factory, France).

The review highlights the need to fulfil the more binding commitments and achieve concrete outputs and tangible deliverables by 2025.

It stresses the importance of making tangible progress towards a coherent Full Spectrum Force Package that strengthens the EU’s military ability to act. It also highlights and reaffirms key objectives such as those connected to defence investments, more systematic use of EU defence tools in national planning processes, enhancing the EU’s operational effectiveness and developing the necessary capabilities.

The review highlights some incentives for giving PESCO more visibility at the political level and increasing the degree of transparency between member states on the way in which they are fulfilling their commitments, notably in the operational area.

The review also highlights a list of 26 PESCO projects which will deliver concrete results or reach full operational capability before the end of 2025.

Launched in December 2017, PESCO represents a step-change in defence cooperation within the European Union. PESCO is a framework which allows willing and able EU member states to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.

To date 25 EU member states have undertaken binding commitments that form the basis of PESCO. There are currently 46 collaborative projects in various areas: training facilities, land formation systems, maritime and air systems, cyber, and enabling joint multiple services or space projects.

The 25 member states participating in PESCO are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

On 5 November, the Council established the general conditions under which non-EU countries could exceptionally be invited to participate in individual PESCO projects, thereby paving the way for stronger and more ambitious defence cooperation with partners in the EU framework.

NATO condemns Novichok attack on Navalny

The North Atlantic Council met on 4 September 2020 to address the assassination attempt on Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny. Germany briefed Allies on the toxicology findings of their specialist laboratory. “There is proof beyond doubt that Mr. Navalny was poisoned using a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

«…North Atlantic Council has just met to address the appalling assassination attempt on Alexei NavalnyGermany briefed Allies on the findings of their specialist laboratory. There is proof beyond doubt that Mr. Navalny was poisoned using a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group.The use of such a weapon is horrific» Stoltenberg said, addressing press in online conference.
«All Allies today were united in condemning this attack.Any use of chemical weapons shows a total disrespect for human lives, and is an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules. NATO Allies agree that Russia now has serious questions it must answer.

The Russian government must fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on an impartial, international investigation.Those responsible for this attack must be held accountable and brought to justice. We also call on Russia to provide complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the OPCW. Time and again, we have seen opposition leaders and critics of the Russian regime attacked, and their lives threatened. Some have even been killed.
So this is not just an attack on an individual, but on fundamental democratic rights.
And it is a serious breach of international law, which demands an international response.
We wish Mr. Navalny a full and speedy recovery.
Our thoughts are with him and his family.
Allies will continue consultations and consider the implications of this incident.
With that I am ready to take your questions».

AMENDED: Earlier in Berlin Chancellor Angela Merkel made a statement, concerning Alexey Navalny poisoning with Novichok group military chemical agent.

Crimea: Putin attends keel-laying ceremony

President Vladimir Putin attended the keel-laying ceremony for the Russian Navy’s first helicopter carriers warships at the Zaliv Shipyard in Kerch, Crimea, on Monday July 20.

Together with the general director of the Zaliv plant Igor Obrubov, the head of state installed a mortgage board for the section of the Ivan Rogov universal landing ship.

Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy Nikolay Evmenov installed the foundation board for the Mitrofan Moskalenko UDC section.

The head of state also watched the laying of the Voronezh and Vladivostok nuclear submarines in Severodvinsk, as well as the Admiral Yumashev and Admiral Spiridonov frigates in St. Petersburg in a video conference mode. Presentations were made by the Director General of PO Sevmash Mikhail Budnichenko and the Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov.

Three leading Russian shipyards simultaneously laid down six new vesssels on Monday: two universal amphibious assault ships in Kerch, Crimea, two frigates in St. Petersburg and two nuclear-powered submarines in Severodvinsk.

Following the tradition, the universal amphibious assault ships and next-generation frigates will be named after Russian glorified military and naval commanders “who did much for strengthening the Navy,” Putin said at the ceremon in Kerch.

These are the helicopter carriers Ivan Rogov and Mitrofan Moskalenko and the frigates Admiral Yumashev and Admiral Spiridonov, he specified.

The contract for building Project 885M ‘Yasen-M’ multi-purpose nuclear-powered submarines was signed at the Army-2019 international arms show in the summer of 2019.

The baseline Project 885 lead nuclear-powered underwater cruiser Severodvinsk entered service with Russia’s Northern Fleet in 2014. The upgraded Project 885M lead sub Kazan is preparing for its delivery to the Navy in 2020.

Five Project 885M submarines are at various stages of their construction at the Sevmash Shipyard.

Project 885/885M submarines will carry Kalibr-PL and (or) Oniks cruise missiles and also Tsirkon hypersonic missiles as their basic weapons.

Today, at the three leading shipyards of Russia, six new ships of the far sea zone are simultaneously laid. Here, in Kerch, these are two universal landing ships, in St. Petersburg at the Severnaya Verf shipyard, two frigates, and in Severodvinsk, at the Sevmash enterprise, two nuclear submarines” President Putin said.

“By tradition, the landing ships and frigates of the new generation will bear the names of our famous military leaders and naval commanders who have done a lot to strengthen the Navy. These are “Ivan Rogov” and “Mitrofan Moskalenko”, “Admiral Yumashev” and “Admiral Spiridonov”. And nuclear submarines are named after the cities of military glory – “Voronezh” and “Vladivostok”.

“The new ships will be equipped with advanced weapons, control and long-distance communication systems. They will significantly strengthen the combat potential of the Navy and increase its strategic capabilities.

“The Navy has always reliably defended the borders of Russia. And today he plays an extremely important role in ensuring the security of Russia, stands firmly on guard of national interests, and helps maintain a strategic balance and stability in the world.There are now about 60 of our ships and support vessels in key regions of the World Ocean. Almost half of them are in the far sea zone. And such long sea voyages, the demonstration of the Russian flag have been held in recent years on an ongoing basis” the President continued.

“Russia has one of the longest coastlines and access to three oceans, so we will continue to pursue the development of a modern combat-ready fleet, build ships equipped with advanced weapons and equipment.

“I would like to note that over the past eight years, the fleet has included more than 200 ships, boats and vessels of various classes. It is necessary to continue to consistently carry out the measures of the state armament program, so that by 2027, the share of modern ships in the Navy will exceed 70%.”

Russian defense reporter accused of espionage

The arrest of former journalist has caused major outcry among independent media outlets in Russia. Ivan Safronov, accused of spying for the Czech Republic and the United States, was arrested on July 7 by Russia’s security service, the FSB, which has accused him of state treason, the charges foreseing prison sententse from 12 up to 20 years.

Until two months ago, Safronov was a reporter covering Russia’s defense and space industries for a leading state newspaper, Vedomosti, having spent a decade covering the same subject for Kommersant newspaper. Since May, he has been a communications adviser for the head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.

Safronov’s lawyer told reporters on July 7 the FSB accuses him of passing secret information to Czech intelligence about Russian arms supplies to Africa and military activities in the Middle East. A Moscow court ordered his arrest for two months in pretrial detention in the city’s Lefortovo jail.

Former colleagues and journalists from other publications protested against his arrest outside FSB headquarters in Moscow on July 7, and more than two dozen were detained by police. Three of Russia’s top news outlets, including his two former papers, published protests prominently on their sites, saying the arrest was intended to discourage the objective reporting in Russia.

Kommersant, where Safronov worked for a decade, wrote that the accusations seemed “absurd” and called him a “patriot.” Another leading outlet, RBC, wrote that his arrest was “a signal” to Russian media and society to avoid casting light on shady activities of powerfl groups of people.

Treason cases are classified, meaning Safronov’s trial will be held behind closed doors as even the charges brought against him are likely to remain obscure.

Ivan Pavlov, the lawyer, who defends Safronov at Court, told reporters the FSB alleges his client was recruited in 2012 by Czech intelligence and in 2017 allegedly was given the task of passing along intelligence about the arms deliveries and military operations. That information allegedly was shared with the United States, added Pavlov, who told reporters materials for the case filled seven volumes, suggesting the FSB had been building a case against Safronov for quite some time.

The Czech Foreign ministry on July 8 declined to comment.

Safronov, 30, is known as for breaking stories on Russia’s defense sector and had worked in the Kremlin media pool, which travels with President Putin. Last year, he repeatedly was interrogated by the FSB over an article he wrote about the sale of Russian warplanes to Egypt.

Stoltenberg calls Russia to respect Open Sky

NATO Allies met today to discuss the Open Skies Treaty.

“We are firmly committed to the preservation of effective international arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation. We all agree that all states party to the Open Skies Treaty must fully implement their commitments and obligations. All NATO Allies are in full compliance with all provisions of the Treaty”.

“Russia has for many years imposed flight restrictions inconsistent with the Treaty, including flight limitations over Kaliningrad, and restricting flights in Russia near its border with Georgia. Russia’s ongoing selective implementation of its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty has undermined the contribution of this important Treaty to security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region.

“Allies have called on Russia to return to full compliance of the Treaty since the Wales Summit in 2014, and repeated that call at the Warsaw Summit in 2016 and again at the Brussels Summit in 2018. The United States has declared Russia in violation of the Treaty, and has now announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty in six months, consistent with Treaty provisions. The US has declared that it may, however, reconsider its withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the Treaty.

“NATO Allies and partner nations have engaged with Russia, both in capitals and at the OSCE in Vienna, to seek Russia’s return to compliance at the earliest date possible. Russia’s return to compliance is the best way to preserve the benefits of the Treaty.

“NATO Allies will continue to uphold, support, and further strengthen arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation, as a key element of Euro-Atlantic security, taking into account the prevailing security environment. Allies also remain open to dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council on risk reduction and transparency. We continue to aspire to a constructive relationship with Russia, when Russia’s actions make that possible”.

EU maintains operational presence

EU Defence Ministers discussed the security and defence implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing in particular on the crucial role played by armed forces in supporting civilian actors and providing cross-border support among member states. In this context the Task Force that was established at the last video conference of Defence Ministers on 6 April has worked closely with member states to ensure the exchange of information and best practices.

EU Ministers of defence on May 12 held a video conference, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.

Ministers concurred that the EU should continue to do its utmost to maintain the operational presence on the ground of its Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations, while preserving the safety of the personnel deployed.

They also underlined the need to strengthen preparedness and resilience for the future by conducting exercises, strengthening work on cybersecurity and countering hybrid threats including enhancing efforts to counter disinformation.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and UN Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix provided an update on ongoing work in their organisations. They discussed with ministers defence cooperation in tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

NATO Stoltenberg adresses COVID19 crisis

The alliance’s defence ministers met on April 15 to discuss the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic that has left 1,878,489 infected globally, according to the latest estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) release.

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has been holding a press conference via a secure video link in Brussels Headquarters following an extraordinary meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers.

The ministers discussed measures to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and its long-term ramifications following a slow-down of infection rates in member nations.

Another topic on the agenda concerned coronavirus-related disinformation.

NATO COVID19 response

NATO Foreign Ministers directed NATO’s top commander, General Wolters, to coordinate the necessary military support to combat the coronavirus crisis and to start using fast-track paths through Europe’s airspace for military flights carrying medical supplies, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday (2 April 2020).

NATO was created to deal with crises. So we can help and our Alliance is playing its part”, the Secretary General said. Mr Stoltenberg’s remarks came after a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, held by secure videoconference for the first time in NATO’s history. Ministers also agreed to hold an extra-ordinary meeting of Defence Ministers in April to review the support provided to Allies and take decisions on any further steps.

The Alliance is already coordinating and supporting national efforts against the pandemic with logistical, transport and medical help. “I am grateful for the further offers of assistance, which NATO Allies made today and for the substantial support that Allies have already provided”, the Secretary General said, citing the airlift of medical supplies, provision of medical personnel and the use of innovative technologies. Mr Stoltenberg stressed that NATO’s main task remained the protection of NATO’s almost one billion people, and that NATO’s ability to conduct operations had not been undermined.

Today’s meeting also focused on NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and support for Georgia and Ukraine. On Iraq, the Secretary General said that NATO would take on some additional activities including the training and the education of non-commissioned officers, engineers, and federal police. On Afghanistan, the Secretary General welcomed efforts to set up an inclusive team for the inter-Afghan negotiations, calling on the Taliban and all political actors to play their part.

North Macedonia, which on Friday (27 March 2020) became the alliance’s 30th member, attended a NATO Ministerial meeting for the first time as an Ally.

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