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Thread: NATO Lisbon Summit - general matters and policy

  1. #271

    I will believe it when reality meets rhetoric.

    I'm not holding my breath.

    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
    It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed,
    the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning.
    It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

  2. #272

    French lawmaker decries depedence on Russian, other foreign capabilities

    By: Pierre Tran, March 30, 2017

    I notice they make no mention of British help in the form of C-17's and trips to Mali amongst other locations................

    PARIS*—*France suffers from a dependence on Russian and Ukrainian airlifters for the strategic transport of military cargoes, and it also relies fully on U.S. air tankers for refueling Rafale fighter jets, asserted François Cornut-Gentille, a member of Parliament.

    The Finance, General Economy and Budgetary Control Committee of Parliament's lower house, the National Assembly, adopted on March 28 the MP's report on French strategic air transport, in which risks of external reliance were made clear.

    France “depends totally” on U.S. air tankers to refuel Rafales, Cornut-Gentille told journalists after the committee meeting. “That means our room for maneuver*could be reduced in certain circumstances,” he said.

    “We have no idea what the Americans might decide in two years or three months,” he said. “No idea at all.”

    “It is not a total dependence," Army Col. Patrik Steiger, spokesman for the French joint chiefs of staff, said March 30.*"It is cooperation among allies.*We are allies with the Americans, we are engaged in the Sahel region, Levant, and there is the principle of a ‘mutualization’ of available assets.”

    That includes “American support in refueling,” he said, adding that the Defence Ministry just received the parliamentary report and would make a formal reply after the contents have been studied.

    There are presently 23 leases, none of which relates to a critical mission, he said. Each of these deals meets the rules governing the award of contracts.

    An uncertainty of U.S. support for NATO also called into question the availability of the strategic airlift capability, which flies a fleet of American C-17s, the report said. Each C-17 carries 77 tons of cargo.

    The report cast a spotlight on a world in which France and some NATO members rely on Russian and Ukrainian aircraft, and it urged the MoD to pay closer attention to the high cost of leases and lack of competitive bids as well as rely on friendly ties at a time of uncertain geopolitics and heightened tension with Moscow.

    “Ukraine and Russia hang a real Damocles sword over France in strategic transport,” the report said. “Despite some great phrases, strategic autonomy is, in reality, a virtual effect.”

    There is a lack of certitude on the Ukrainian Antonov and Russian Ilyushin cargo planes for French military airlift, all the more so as there are just three companies flying a fleet of some 20 Antonov An-124s, the report said. The three firms are: Flight Unit 224, a company owned by the Russian Defence Ministry; Volga-Dnepr, a privately held Russian firm; and Antonov Airlines, a privately held Ukrainian company. *

    The An-124 carries 100 tons of cargo, while the largest airlifter, An-225, flies 250 tons. ADB owns the sole operational An-225.

    To illustrate the risk of French reliance on leasing Russian operators, the report cited Moscow's cancellation in September 2015 of Flight Unit 224*leases for the An-124 booked by France. That was allegedly Moscow’s response to Paris’ Aug. 5 decision to ax the sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers, following Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine.

    Those flights had been booked through a lessor, International Chartering Systems, or ICS, based here, which then turned to Volga-Dnepr.*That Russian operator declined to accept a French lease, so ICS then asked*Antonov Airlines*of Ukraine, which agreed to fly its An-124 fleet to airlift French military kit.

    The report raised a number of legal questions, including why an open competition failed to be held after*Flight Unit 224*withdrew its flights.

    ICS has an office in Singapore, ICS Air Cargo, mainly to lease tactical aircraft to the French Barkhane mission in sub-Saharan Sahel, the report said. That arrangement may be legal but raised the question of why the company booked tactical airlift out of Singapore for tactical airlift, while strategic transport was handled out of Paris. *

    ICS said it opened the Singaporen office to stay competitive with firms located in tax havens and where corporate tax was lower than that of the French rate, business magazine Challenges reported. The Singaporean office could also bypass the anti-Russian embargo adopted in the West.

    A parliamentary source said ICS opened the Singaporean office in 2014, a year before the trade sanction was imposed.

    The murky business world was reflected with a file of email exchanges on contract awards sent anonymously at the end of 2016 to selected media and two offices of the joint chiefs of staff working on military leases: the center for operational support and transport, and the specialist department for logistics and transport.

    The “existence of this file and its distribution shows a deleterious climate,” the report said.

    NATO’s Strategic Airlift Interim Solution, or SALIS, also relies on the An-124 and Russian Ilyushin Il-76 transports, the report said. Britain and Canada pulled out of SALIS, with Finland, Greece and Sweden to follow. That leaves France and Germany the main partners in the airlift partnership.

    That reliance on those planes makes little sense in view of the poor relations between the West and Moscow, the report said.

    Britain and France have deployed forces to Estonia in a bid to bolster the Baltic states in response to a perceived Russian threat.

    The report called for greater oversight by the French MoD and more competition in awarding leases.

    In view of tough operational conditions, it was hard to find the operators, according to a French Air Force officer.

    France relies heavily on strategic airlift, as the services have deployed overseas 6,650 troops, of which 4,000 are with the Barkhane mission in Sahel. There are long-distance flights with 4,100 kilometers between Paris and Bamako, the capital of Mali, and 4,200 kilometers between Paris and N’Djamena, the capital of Chad. Distances within the theater are also great, with 950 kilometers between Bamako and Gao, Mali, and 2,500 kilometers between*N’Djamena and*Bama, Burkina Faso.

    The U.S.* cooled*relations with France when Paris showed opposition to the Iraq War, and there is deep doubt in Europe over support from the Trump administration.

  3. #273

    US sets deadline for NATO allies' defense spending plans

    By: Lorne Cook, The Associated Press, March 31, 2017 (Photo Credit: Virginia Mayo/AP)

    BRUSSELS — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned NATO allies Friday to boost defense spending or come up with plans to reach the alliance's budget guidelines within two months.

    Tillerson, in his first talks with NATO counterparts in Brussels, said that Washington is spending a "disproportionate share" on defense compared with its 27 partners, and that he expects action by the time President Donald Trump meets with other alliance leaders on May 25.

    NATO leaders pledged in 2014 to halt defense spending cuts and move toward a guideline target of 2 percent of gross domestic product within a decade. Only four other nations currently meet the target: Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland.

    "Our goal should be to agree at the May leaders meeting that by the end of the year all allies will have either met the pledge guidelines or will have developed plans that clearly articulate how, with annual milestone progress commitments, the pledge will be fulfilled," Tillerson told the ministers.

    Tillerson did not say what would happen if European allies and Canada fail to respect their pledges. During election campaigning, Trump suggested that he might not come to the defense of those allies who do not do their fair share, rocking allies near Russia, such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

    However, Tillerson sought to calm any fears, saying Friday that "we understand that a threat against one of us is a threat against all of us, and we will respond accordingly. We will uphold the agreements we have made to defend our allies."

    The United States is by far NATO's most powerful ally. It spends more on defense than all the others combined: 3.61 percent of GDP in 2016, according to NATO estimates; although U.S. spending, too, has tapered off in recent years.

    Germany spent 1.19 percent of its overall budget on defense last year.

    But German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it would be "unrealistic" for his country to hike spending from €35 billion (U.S. $37 billion) a year to more than*€70 billion, which would see Berlin allocate more to defense than Russia currently.

    "I don't know a politician in Germany who believes that this would be achievable or even desirable," Gabriel said.

    He said security is also about crisis prevention, not just combat, and noted that Germany spends a lot of money on refugees who arrive because military interventions have failed.

    Seven countries — including Canada, Italy and Spain — would have to virtually double their spending to reach the target.

    Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that beyond money, "it's also really important to look at capabilities and what countries are actually doing."

    "We really feel that we're doing our share," she said, highlighting Canada's troop deployment to Latvia to help deter Russian aggression.

    Tillerson also urged NATO to do more to fight the Islamic State group and other extremists, notably by countering ISIS online messaging and propaganda.

    NATO has fought insurgents in Afghanistan, and is training Iraqi officers so that local forces can make a strong stand against militants. There is no appetite to deploy troops in counterterrorism operations. Allies believe that the international coalition against ISIS should be leading combat operations, not NATO.

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the lesson learned from operations in Afghanistan, but also in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, is that "in the long run it is much better to fight terrorism and project stability by training local forces, building local security institutions, instead of NATO deploying a large number of combat troops."

    Sylvain Plazy in Brussels contributed to this report.

  4. #274

    European chiefs: NATO cooperation remains vital for maritime security

    By: Aaron Mehta, April 3, 2017

    NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - As they attempt to modernize their fleets, NATO partners will continue to rely on each other for both technological exchanges and strategic partnerships, a trio of European naval chiefs predicted Monday.

    Vice Adm. Andreas Krause, chief of the German Navy; Rear Adm. Lars Saunes, chief of the Royal Norwegian Navy; and Vice Adm. Kari Takanen, commander of the Finnish Navy, all agreed that the changing situation in Europe requires modernizing the European fleets, something that is now underway. In to do so, the ties bound by the NATO alliance must continue to be strong.

    Krause, the moderator of a panel at the Navy League Sea Air Space conference that also included Read Adm. John Martin, chief of Navy for New Zealand, set the tone for the conversation when he noted that the alliance is about “much more” than just defense.

    “NATO is a culture. NATO is common mindsets, common politics, common ethics, common understanding,” Krause said. “Sometimes it’s underestimated, the political role that NATO has played in the recent decades. Even in the coldest times of the Cold War, there were communication channels open based on a very trustful and rational basis, and that is the real advantage of NATO as a political alliance.”

    Both Takanen and Martin, representing non-NATO nations, agreed that the ties with the European alliance are important for their nations, while Saunes noted that the channels opened up by NATO allow for coordination on both a strategic and technological level.

    “We see in the last three or four years that NATO is starting to plan for high-end warfighting again, and so we as nations are contributing to NATO pending on what NATO needs,” Saunes said. “There are differences between the 28 nations. Some nations like the US have a lot of equipment and personnel. Other nations, like mine, have very few personnel and equipment. But all in all we are all contributing.

    Asked to identify gaps in NATO capabilities, Saunes demurred, but said the alliance is constantly trying to improve itself.

    “Every time we go out and exercise our plans, we recognize shortfalls, lessons learned, lessons identified, and we are using that to identify new capabilities,” he said. “So that is a NATO process we have on a yearly basis, where nations meet in Brussels and look into NATO shortfalls, what new capabilities do we need, what do we have to [change], and then it’s up to nations to cover that shortfall.”

    At the start of the event, Saunes noted that Norway is working with the United Kingdom to help develop new technologies, which led to a question from the crowd about the impact of the Brexit decision on the alliance.

    None of the four seemed eager to tackle that question, with Saunes finally noting that the “situation in Europe is difficult in the moment” before noting “the consequences of Brexit is not for us to say, you have to ask the Brits about that.”

    For his part, Krause downplayed the impact Brexit would have on military partnerships with the U.K., noting that the European Union and NATO are two separate entities.

    “I think there is no doubt that we will have to find proper ways to collaborate also in the future,” Krause said. “For the military, there is no other option and we will continue to closely cooperate, and there will be also, there is a need for strategic collaboration, strategic partnerships, and NATO is the perfect venue to make this happen.”

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