Category Archives: Defense

NATO faces multifaceted threats

Brussels 14.06.2021 “…We face multifaceted threats, systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers, as well as growing security challenges to our countries and our citizens from all strategic directions” reads the Brussels Summit Communiqué Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels 14 June 2021.

“Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security; terrorism in all its forms and manifestations remains a persistent threat to us all. State and non-state actors challenge the rules-based international order and seek to undermine democracy across the globe. Instability beyond our borders is also contributing to irregular migration and human trafficking. China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance”.

“We will engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the Alliance. We are increasingly confronted by cyber, hybrid, and other asymmetric threats, including disinformation campaigns, and by the malicious use of ever-more sophisticated emerging and disruptive technologies. Rapid advances in the space domain are affecting our security”.

“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the erosion of the arms control architecture also undermine our collective security. Climate change is a threat multiplier that impacts Alliance security. The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend our territories and our populations against attack, and we will address all threats and challenges which affect Euro-Atlantic security…”

NATO-Russia: dual track approach

Brussels 14.06.2021 “…Today I really look forward to welcoming all the NATO Leaders to our summit. We meet at a pivotal moment for our Alliance. And today we will open a new chapter in our transatlantic relations.
The Leaders will discuss a wide range of issues, among them Russia” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of the Summit.

“Our relationship with Russia is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. This is due to Russia’s aggressive actions. I am confident that the NATO Leaders will confirm our dual track approach to Russia: strong defence combined with dialogue. I’m sure that the NATO Leaders will welcome the opportunity to consult with President Biden ahead of his meeting with President Putin”.

https://twitter.com/jensstoltenberg/status/1404346633249247235?s=20 .

“We will also address China. There are of course opportunities and we need to engage with China on issues like climate change, arms control.But China’s military build-up, growing influence and coercive behaviour also poses some challenges to our security. We need to address them together as an Alliance.

“On this background, NATO Leaders will today agree an ambitious forward-looking agenda, the NATO 2030 agenda.
This is about how to reinforce our collective defence, how to strengthen our resilience, and sharpen our technological edge. And for the first time in NATO’s history, also make climate and security an important task for our Alliance. To do all of this, we need to resource our higher level of ambition.Therefore we need to invest more. I welcome that we are on a good track. We now have seven consecutive years of increased defence spending across European Allies and Canada. And these Allies have added in total 260 billion extra US dollars for defence.

“I am also confident that NATO Leaders will agree to invest more together, to meet our higher level of ambition. This is a force-multiplier and it demonstrates the unity of our Alliance.
So all together I’m absolutely certain that the decisions we will make today, they will send a strong message of unity, of resolve and that we are making NATO stronger in an age of global competition”.

EU defence in focus

Brussels 06.05.2021 The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Defence): Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference:

“Well we had three different meetings today, maybe to celebrate that it was our first physical encounter since last August – soon it will be one year. We decided to hold three different meetings.

We started with the Steering Board of the European Defence Agency. It offered the Defence Ministers the possibility to review the state of play in the implementation of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and to have a look at the recommendations of CARD, looking in particular at collaborative opportunitiesc in capability development, research and technology, which are the basis of the strategic autonomy in the field of defence.

And, certainly, we have a lot of work to do. We have a clear picture of this capability development based on research and technology, but we are very much aware that it takes 10 to 30 years to fully design, develop, and put in the field a usable major military system. This means that we need to take decisions and engage now. The discussion has been interesting, but there is a lot of work to do to go from the theoretical approach to the practical implementation.

Then, we went to our everyday business and, on that, the Sahel took an important place. I briefed Defence Ministers on my recent trip to the Sahel. As you already know, I visited Mauritania, Mali and Chad. The programme of the travel was strongly altered and had to be adapted due to the fact that the President of Chad [Idriss Déby Itno] was killed. The region is facing one of the most important security and development crises of our generation. After I came back, more events happened with the killing of soldiers and civilians, I think that we have to increase our engagement in the region because the stability in the Sahel remains key for European security.

We went on to discuss Russia: Russia’s recent [military] build up in illegally-annexed Crimea and on the Ukrainian border.

We discussed about the de-escalation of the tensions and the implementation of the Minsk agreements as the only way forward for a lasting political solution. But it is unclear that Russia wants to engage fully in this respect and unclear is a mild word.

On Mozambique, Mozambique is a new issue that appears more and more in our agenda. I updated Ministers on our response to Mozambique’s request for European Union assistance to help address the security crisis and the terrorist threat they are facing in the region of Cabo Delgado.

Work is already ongoing. We are considering a potential European Union Training Mission, like the ones we already have in several African countries. We have a few steps ahead of us, but I hope it will be launched as soon as possible. I have given instructions to accelerate the work, because we must respond to Mozambique’s request with a certain sense of urgency that we do not always have.

The main dish of our meeting was the Strategic Compass. It was the most important item in our agenda. Today we focused on one of the baskets of the Strategic Compass, the basket of crisis management.

This analysis that we produced last year shows that we need to be prepared for future crises and to react quickly.

To this end, we have put forward a number of concrete ideas and proposals. Many of them are based on inputs received from the Member States themselves. We want to do that in an interactive way. At the end the Member States, which are responsible, competent for the Foreign and Defence Policy, have to provide their proposals, their input, their analysis. We got a lot of papers and putting all of them together we have to use our own proposal that the Ministers have been discussing. Allow me to summarise the main guidelines of this proposal.

First, the European Union needs to be more effective and take decisions faster. As I said before, we have to react quicker. We need to take decisions faster. And we discussed notably how to launch our missions and operations more quickly, as well as how we could create more incentives to improve the number of personnel, staff and assets deployed under our Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations.

Second, we need more flexibility. That is what I learned, during my visit to the missions that we are deploying in the Sahel. We need to better adapt our civilian and military missions to the needs of each crisis and each crisis is different from the others. This could also mean more coordination and cooperation with other military operations conducted in ad hoc coalitions by some Member States or other partners. In the Sahel, for example, there are the European Union missions and then there are coalitions ad hoc led by some Member States. We have to converge these European Union activities with the Member States’ activities. More coordination and cooperation.

Third, we need to be prepared. I want to raise the level of our ambition. And when I am saying to be better prepared, it is not just a matter of speed, but it is also a matter of having fully equipped and prepared our staff to react quickly. In this context, we discussed the idea that was present in some of the papers presented by several Member States – but also in our own reflexions – the idea of an initial entry force that could be deployed as a “first responder” in case that we have to face an urgent crisis.

This is just one example of the proposals that could be considered by Member States as part of the ongoing reflections on the Strategic Compass that I hope will be finished by next March. For the time being nothing is cast in stone, there is no agreement on any specific issue. It is a battle of ideas. It is a reflexion, a collective reflexion. There is strong agreement on some issues, the debate is ongoing on others. But this idea of an initial entry force has been widely discussed today.

For Member States’ forces to be ready for future crises and conflicts, we also need to plan and exercise together, by using scenarios not only to determine what we need, but also to train together and improve our planning and conduct structures. Here also I want to be more ambitious. If we want to have the capabilities to deploy on the field, we must have at the Headquarters planning, conduct and structures that for the time being we do not have.

In the weeks to come, the Ministers will have substantive discussions also on the other baskets, or directions, the components of the Compass: capabilities, emerging and disruptive technologies, partnerships and resilience. Some Member States were asking about our partnership with NATO. Our partnership with NATO is something that I take for granted. It will be everywhere, but it has a specific part when we talk about partnerships. And our partnership with NATO is the most important one that we have.

In order to enhance this partnerships we invited to have lunch with us the NATO Secretary General [Jens] Stoltenberg who joined us for an informal lunch. We discussed areas of common interest from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan.

As you can imagine, the situation in Afghanistan has been the most important issue we have been discussing with Jens, the Secretary General of NATO. In light of the US and NATO decisions to withdraw forces as of 1 May, increased communication and coordination between us, NATO and the US and other international partners will be key for ensuring a stable and long-term political solution in Afghanistan. Everybody understands that there is a big risk of increased violence. We want to encourage the peace process, to support the prosperity, security, democracy and human rights in the country. But let us see the events the way they will unfold.

The Mediterranean is the other area in our immediate neighbourhood and there are still pending issues like, for example, the cooperation between our operations, [Operation] Irini and [NATO] Sea Guardian. We asked the Secretary General of NATO to continue working in order to have the same level of cooperation with Operation Irini that we had with the previous Operation Sophia.

And, finally, we had the Board [meeting] at the Ministerial level of the European Union Satellite Centre based in Torrejón at the outskirts of Madrid. It is the first time in almost 30 years that the Board of the European Union Satellite Centre meets at a political level and I had the honour and the pleasure to chair this meeting.

For me, the Satellite Centre is a very important asset for our institutions and agencies, for Member States, for our missions and operations, because it provides us with a critical geopolitical intelligence analysis.

It also provides [support] to our partners such as the OSCE [in] Ukraine or the United Nations in Libya with an invaluable view of what is happening on the ground.

The Ministers adopted the participation of Canada, Norway and the US in the first PESCO project shared with non-Member States. Finally we have non-Member States participating in PESCO projects, in particular in this one on military mobility in the European continent, in which for sure the US, Canada and Norway is also interested. I think it is an important step for PESCO. We have been discussing about it for months, but finally our Common Security and Defence Policy cooperation with partners in the area of defence and for European and transatlantic security has grown one step further. Good news.

NATO Summit in June

Brussels 25.04.2021 The U.S. President Joe Biden will participate in the NATO Summit on June 14 in Brussels, Belgium. Leaders from all 30 Allied nations will meet to discuss how to orient the Alliance to future threats and ensure effective burden sharing. #WeAreNATO

“This is a unique opportunity to reinforce NATO as the enduring embodiment of the bond between Europe and North America. We will take decisions on our substantive and forward-looking NATO 2030 agenda to deal with the challenges of today and tomorrow: Russia’s aggressive actions, the threat of terrorism, cyber attacks, emerging and disruptive technologies, the security impact of climate change, and the rise of China”.

“Belgium was a founding member of NATO in 1949, and has hosted our headquarters for more than fifty years.
I look forward to a successful Summit here in June” said Jens Stoltenberg, the Alliance Secretary General.

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.

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