Category Archives: Defense

NATO-Russia Council step forward

Brussels 12.01.2022 The NATO-Russia Council, which brings together all 30 NATO Allies and Russia, met in Brussels on Wednesday (12 January 2022) to discuss the situation in and around Ukraine, and the implications for European security.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the meeting, said: “This was not an easy discussion, but that is exactly why it was so important.” He noted that NATO Allies are ready to meet again with Russia to discuss a number of topics in greater detail and to put concrete proposals on the table. “There are opportunities for constructive engagement which should not be missed, in the interest of security in Europe,” he said.

“We had a frank and open discussion on a wide range of issues, of course, focusing on the tensions, the difficulties in and around Ukraine. And Allies also of course again expressed a deep concern about the continued Russian military build-up along the borders of Ukraine. And combined with threatening rhetoric from the Russian side, and a Russian track record of willingness to use force against neighbours, of course, Allies are concerned. And we are clear-eyed about the challenges we face when we now sit down with Russia and try to find a political way forward. But the meeting was useful. And I think that, especially when tensions are high, it is even more important that we meet, and that all Allies and Russia meet and sit around the same table and address the issues that are of concern.

“On membership and the NATO’s open door all Allies are united on the core principle that each and every nation has the right to choose his own path. This is enshrined in a lot of fundamental documents, many different documents, which are the foundation for European security. And, therefore, also Allies totally agree that it is only Ukraine and 30 Allies that can decide when Ukraine is ready to become a NATO member. No one else has anything to say and of course Russia doesn’t have a veto on whether Ukraine can become a NATO member. Allies are ready to support Ukraine on this path towards membership, helping to implement reforms, modernise the armed forces to meet NATO standards. And then, at the end of the day, it has to be NATO Allies and Ukraine that decides on membership”.

The council meeting marked the second stage in a series of talks between Russia and the West on Russia’s proposals for European security. The first stage was the talks between Russia and the US that took place in Geneva on January 10, and the third stage will happen as an OSCE meeting in Vienna on January 13.

The Russian delegation in Brussels is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin. NATO is represented by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and representatives of 30 NATO member states in Brussels.

The negotiations between Moscow and Washington dedicated to Russia’s proposed security guarantees concluded on January 10 in Geneva. On January 12, Russia-NATO discussed the security issue in Europe, as well as Russian drafts on security assurances at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, and on January 13 at the Vienna session of the OSCE Permanent Council.

On December 17, 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry published the draft agreements between Russia and the US on security guarantees and the measures of ensuring the security of Russia and NATO member states.

Leyen supports Europe defence Union

Brussels 07.01.2022 “…We agree that there is a need for a genuine Defence Union” the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said, while attending event the EU event in Paris, hosted by President Macron.
“A Defence Union that prepares us for new threats in the future. For example, the next hybrid attack, no matter where it comes from. So let us agree on our priorities using our Strategic Compass, which is a kind of White Paper on defence. I am delighted that the French Presidency has committed itself to this issue. I have high expectations of the discussion on this subject at the March Summit. I believe it is high time for the Europe of defence to move up a gear”.

The top EU executive has also reminded about the strain relations with Russia: “…here are considerable tensions at our doorstep, as shown by Russia’s military pressure on Ukraine and its intimidation of Moldova. I am delighted, therefore, that a country with the political weight and experience of France is taking on the Council Presidency at such a delicate time. France’s voice resonates far and wide. And Europe is dear to France”.

The statement was made in the context of the inauguration of the rotating EU presidency of France from January to July 2022. Starting from 1 January, France will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months. It will play a central role, together with its European partners, to move forward on negotiations to ensure a more sovereign Europe, a new European growth model, and a human-centred Europe.

In particular, France will be responsible for organising the meetings of the Council of the European Union, fostering cooperation between the Member States and handling the Council’s relations with the European Commission and Parliament. The French Presidency of the Council of the EU will contribute to reaching compromises and decisions that serve European citizens in several key fields such as the ecological and digital transition, protection and adaptation of our social model, better protection of borders and reaffirming the importance of European values.

In order to address these priorities, a number of events and informal meetings are being organised by the French Presidency throughout France, as well as in Brussels and Luxembourg where formal Council meetings are held.

NATO expels Russian diplomats

Brussels 07.10.2021 “There is a glaring discrepancy between NATO officials’ statements about their wish to normalize relations with our country and real actions. These actions, of course, leave no room for illusions regarding the normalization of relations and the resumption of the dialogue with NATO. These prospects are rather completely upset,” Peskov said.

NATO’s decision to expel Russian diplomats and accusations of hostile activity totally upset the chances for normalization of relations and a resumption of the dialogue, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Thursday, 7 October.

“There is a glaring discrepancy between NATO officials’ statements about their wish to normalize relations with our country and real actions. These actions, of course, leave no room for illusions regarding the normalization of relations and the resumption of the dialogue with NATO. These prospects are rather completely upset,” Peskov said.

NATO has decided to expel eight Russian diplomats and halve the size of Russia’s mission to the alliance in response to suspected “malign activities”, Sky News said on Wednesday, October 6.

The eight diplomats are expected to leave Brussels, where the alliance is headquartered, by the end of the month and their positions scrapped. Two other positions that are currently vacant will also be abolished, Sky News said.

“We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO,” a NATO official said later.

SOTEU: EU-NATO rapprochement

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “…We are working with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on a new EU-NATO Joint Declaration to be presented before the end of the year. But this is only one part of the equation” the president of the European Commission Ursula von dery Leyen said, while addressing the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.

“Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own. But if we are to do more, we first need to explain why. I see three broad categories.

“First, we need to provide stability in our neighbourhood and across different regions.
We are connected to the world by narrow straits, stormy seas and vast land borders. Because of that geography, Europe knows better than anyone that if you don’t deal in time with the crisis abroad, the crisis comes to you.

“Secondly, the nature of the threats we face is evolving rapidly: from hybrid or cyber-attacks to the growing arms race in space.
Disruptive technology has been a great equaliser in the way power can be used today by rogue states or non-state groups. You no longer need armies and missiles to cause mass damage. You can paralyse industrial plants, city administrations and hospitals – all you need is your laptop. You can disrupt entire elections with a smartphone and an internet connection.

“The third reason is that the European Union is a unique security provider. There will be missions where NATO or the UN will not be present, but where the EU should be. On the ground, our soldiers work side-by-side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, with humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, with teachers and engineers.

“We can combine military and civilian, along with diplomacy and development – and we have a long history in building and protecting peace. The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem…”

#SOTEU: EU towards European Defence Union

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “..Witnessing events unfold in Afghanistan was profoundly painful for all the families of fallen servicemen and servicewomen” said the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen while delivering the State of the Union speech #SOTEU at Strasbourg plenary of the European Parliament.

“We bow to the sacrifice of those soldiers, diplomats and aid workers who laid down their lives.
To make sure that their service will never be in vain, we have to reflect on how this mission could end so abruptly.

“There are deeply troubling questions that allies will have to tackle within NATO.
But there is simply no security and defence issue where less cooperation is the answer. We need to invest in our joint partnership and to draw on each side’s unique strength.
This is why we are working with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on a new EU-NATO Joint Declaration to be presented before the end of the year. But this is only one part of the equation.

“Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own. But if we are to do more, we first need to explain why. I see three broad categories.

“First, we need to provide stability in our neighbourhood and across different regions.
We are connected to the world by narrow straits, stormy seas and vast land borders. Because of that geography, Europe knows better than anyone that if you don’t deal in time with the crisis abroad, the crisis comes to you.

“Secondly, the nature of the threats we face is evolving rapidly: from hybrid or cyber-attacks to the growing arms race in space.Disruptive technology has been a great equaliser in the way power can be used today by rogue states or non-state groups.You no longer need armies and missiles to cause mass damage. You can paralyse industrial plants, city administrations and hospitals – all you need is your laptop. You can disrupt entire elections with a smartphone and an internet connection.

“The third reason is that the European Union is a unique security provider. There will be missions where NATO or the UN will not be present, but where the EU should be.

“On the ground, our soldiers work side-by-side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, with humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, with teachers and engineers.
We can combine military and civilian, along with diplomacy and development – and we have a long history in building and protecting peace.

“The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem.
But what we need is the European Defence Union.

“In the last weeks, there have been many discussions on expeditionary forces. On what type and how many we need: battlegroups or EU entry forces. This is no doubt part of the debate – and I believe it will be part of the solution. But the more fundamental issue is why this has not worked in the past.

“You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them – of what use are they? “What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity – it is the lack of political will. And if we develop this political will, there is a lot that we can do at EU level..”

EU needs more “European Defence”

Brussels 02.09.2021 “Today, we are going to have a meeting that will be dominated by the events in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will be the backdrop of our discussions today” said the High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival to Informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers.

“I think that it is clear that the need for more ‘European Defence’ has never been as evident as today – after the events in Afghanistan. I am sure that the Ministers will discuss how to face this new situation and how we can be more prepared for future challenges.

“The Strategic Compass is a work in progress. In a couple of months, I think we will be able to present the report of our work, but sometimes there are events that catalyse the history. Something happens and pushes the history, it creates a breakthrough. I think that the events in Afghanistan this summer are one of these cases.

“I hope that today the discussion will be more lively and we will be more engaged on concrete results – no, [there will be no] decisions today, because it is an informal meeting, but to prepare, no later than October or November, the final draft of the Strategic Compass”.

According to Reuters news agency in the last call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Afghanistan counterpart before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics, but neither Biden nor Ashraf Ghani appeared aware of or prepared for the imminent danger of the entire country falling to feet of insurgents, a transcript reviewed is a convincing evidence of this lack of awareness.

The politicians spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23. On August 15, Ghani fled the presidential palace, and the Taliban entered Kabul. Since then, tens of thousands of desperate Afghans have fled and 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport during the frenetic U.S. military evacuation.

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.

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