Thursday, 09 December 2021
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.

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By George Friedman

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will brief French and Polish officials on a joint proposal for Russian-European "cooperation on security," according to a statement from Westerwelle's spokesman on Monday. The proposal emerged out of talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev earlier in June and is based on a draft Russia drew up in 2008. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be present at the meeting. Andreas Peschke said, "We want to further elaborate and discuss it within the triangle [i.e., France, Germany and Poland] in the presence of the Russian foreign minister."

On the surface, the proposal developed by Merkel and Medvedev appears primarily structural. It raises security discussions about specific trouble spots to the ministerial level rather than the ambassadorial level, with a committee being formed consisting of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russia's foreign minister.

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By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Romania's deliberation over the purchase of fighter planes to replace its Soviet-made MiG-21 Lancers has been anything but hasty. Decisions have been regularly delayed due to a lack of funds. In 2008 the Romanian Ministry of Defence seized the initiative by arguing that purchasing second-hand F-16s would enhance inter-operability with NATO partners. On 23rd March 2010 Romania's Supreme Defense Council (CSAT) announced the proposed purchase of 24 second-hand Lockheed-Martin F16s for $1.3 billion. It was further anticipated that Romania would eventually purchase 24 second hand F-16 Block 50-52s, and if finances permit 24 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Yet Romania's indecision does not stop there.

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By George Friedman

The European financial crisis is moving to a new level. The Germans have finally consented to lead a bailout effort for Greece. The effort has angered the German public, which has acceded with sullen reluctance. It does not accept the idea that it is Germans' responsibility to save Greeks from their own actions. The Greeks are enraged at the reluctance, having understood that membership in the European Union meant that Greece's problems were Europe's.

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By Guy Birks

The dissolution of the bipolar bloc system that broadly defined and framed the purpose of modern armed forces in the West has been supplanted by a more integrated and interdependent international environment. The purpose of modern armed forces has consequently been altered and adjusted to fit the changing nature of international relations. The principle of sovereignty has shifted from a position of inviolability to one where the international community can become involved in the internal affairs of a state and a region if it is deemed that a state poses a threat to international stability. Intervention in Somalia, Former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan are examples of the proactive, expeditionary defence against instability. The direct defence of the homeland as a strategic premise and priority for Britain and the United States has been replaced by a concern to defend against instability through expeditionary intervention. The focus of defence now resolves around the shift from a conventional all-embrasive threat towards the expeditionary defence against unconventional threats from failing or failed states.   However, the examples of India and China - key geostrategic states with prominent armed forces indicate that defending against instability frequently involves activities which protect and defend the homeland and its immediate locale.

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By Peter Zeihan

The global system is undergoing profound change. Three powers Germany, Iran and China face challenges forcing them to refashion the way they interact with their regions and the world. We will explore each of these three states in detail in our next three geopolitical weeklies, highlighting how STRATFOR's assessments of these states are evolving. We will examine Germany first.

Germany's Place in Europe

European history has been the chronicle of other European powers struggling to constrain Germany, particularly since German unification in 1871. The problem has always been geopolitical. Germany lies on the North European Plain, with France to its west and Russia to its east. If both were to attack at the same time, Germany would collapse. German strategy in 1871, 1914 and 1939 called for pre-emptive strikes on France to prevent a two-front war. (The last two attempts failed disastrously, of course.)

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By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Debates have polarised around whether China is engaged in a project of resource exploitation withAfrica for its own needs, or if it is offering the continent an opportunity to focus on trade rather than Western aid. Chinese arms sales to African states provide fuel for both sides of the debate. Yet they also contribute to challenges to the security of the continent. The international community should consider opportunities or strategies to counter Chinese arms sales to Africa.

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The UK Defence Forum has just published a study by Patrick Nopens entitled the impact of climate change on the geopolitics of the Arctic.
( in members' area, password protected).

Here's the introduction.

Climate change will cause major physical, ecological, economic, social, and geopolitical adjustment. The Arctic, more specifically, is undergoing some of the most rapid and drastic climate change on earth. This is leading to a new interest in the region, not only by the Arctic states, but also by other major powers.

Even though it was the shortest route for intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, and the main base of the Soviet submarine fleet during the Cold War, until recently, the Arctic remained a geopolitical backwater. The relative lack of interest in the Arctic did not prevent conflicts of interest, but these did not lead to major tensions.


By Gerrard Cowan

One of Europe's largest ever defence projects, the A400M military transport aircraft, finally flew on December 11th, five years and billions of pounds over target. As they gathered in Seville, the leaders of the continent's defence industry would have seen the take-off as an all-too-rare bright spot in a year that saw major programmes cancelled or postponed, funding reduced and procurement ambitions curtailed.

Cutbacks to already-small budgets have many consequences: most obviously, they raise serious security concerns, particularly at a time when many European nations are committed to the war on terror and fighting hard in its Afghan hub. But for the continent's defence industrial base, it is the structural effects of underinvestment that poses the greatest threat.

Italy, France and Germany have announced budgets below their 2009 level. The UK's decision to procure 22 Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavylift helicopters for Afghanistan was funded through an extensive package of cuts to equipment programmes, including the cancellation of plans to acquire around 50 medium support helicopters, worth 3 billion; and Spain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it would cut training exercises following three consecutive reductions to its 2009 budget.

Beyond the traditional big spenders, things were perhaps even worse. Senior figures in the Austrian military warned that the army was "dying" due to underfunding; the Slovakian MoD was told to enact cuts of 10 %

Estonia postponed the procurement of ammunition and trucks;Poland called an end to its military presence in Lebanon Syria and Chad/Central African Republic for financial reasons; and Lithuania said it would refrain from new procurement projects.

It is obvious that lower budgets will see less money going to European companies, who will be forced to increase their focus on international expansion; this itself may be threatened in a climate when non-European countries will be aiming to support their own industries, making them less keen on European hardware. This is likely to be particularly true of the US.

Not only are European budgets falling; there are also questions over what they are being spent on. In 2008 just five NATO members met or exceeded the target of spending 2 % of GDP on defence: the UK, US, France, Greece and Bulgaria. But France spent the majority of its investment 56.9 % on troops and just 21.7 % on equipment. Bulgaria's spend was even more slanted in favour of its personnel, at 58.9 % with 21.4 % on equipment, while Greece spent the highest proportion of all on its personnel 74.1 % compared to 16.4 % on equipment. The US and UK, unsurprisingly given their contribution to the Afghan war, spent the least on personnel and the most on equipment. The US spent 27.3 % of its budget on equipment, and 29.8 % on personnel; for the UK it was 40.7 % on personnel and 23 % on equipment.

Referring to these stark figures, Peter Flory, NATO's assistant secretary general for defence investment, said on 17 December that the alliance was now "dealing with its highest-ever operational tempo combined with a need to make long-term strategic decisions. Yet only five of the 28 allies meet the NATO's 2 percent [of GDP] spending guideline [for defence expenditures].  The overall average may be 1.7 percent, but many allies are far below that. Thus, the first problem is that we do not enough money, and within the budget the allies do have there is not enough spent on investment on capability and equipment."

In a broad sense, defence spending could actually serve as an economic stimulus at a time of severe recession; however, this will only work if there is a degree of cooperation across European states. In a speech in December before NATO's Parliamentary Assembly, Dr Adrian Kendry, NATO's Senior Defence Economist, said that "a big disparity" was beginning to emerge between EU nations and the US and Canada and that while the European emphasis on domestic defence investment was a natural response to the economic crisis, it was "good for the local economy but not the best use of funds...we have to think about collaborative defence expenditure". Echoing these comments, Canadian parliamentarian Leon Benoit said that if European budgets were proportionately 40% lower than the US, then due to the fragmentation of the European market, it would only be 20 % as effective as US investment.

"We cannot continue with the way things are now," he said.

Falling budgets have led to increased calls for European collaboration. In a December speech on Europe's naval defence technological industrial base (DTIB), European Defence Agency chief executive Alexander Weis said that "innovation does not come from the export but from the domestic market...the current naval DTIB is characterised by overcapacities, fragmentation and redundant structures".

To illustrate his point, Weis said that despite a far inferior defence spend, Europe has 7.2 naval systems, overall, for each US naval system; the continent has seven different types of diesel submarines and 11 different frigates; and most starkly of all, there are 25 naval prime contractors, many of which encompass more than one shipyard.

>He outlined three scenarios which can be applied to the defence industrial base as a whole. In a worst case scenario, industry would continue in its current form, with no consolidation or cooperation; operating profits and costs would come under increasing strain and yards would eventually be unable to compete with cheaper equipment from Asian yards.

A 'single European market scenario' would see consolidation of demand and the creation of EADS-type companies in the naval sector. However, none of the major European shipbuilding countries would abandon their national capacities, making such a scenario unrealistic.

A third, 'realistic scenario' would see the launch of major co-operative projects, such as a logistics ship in the mid term and even an aircraft carrier project in the long term.

"On this basis the European naval industry increases project-oriented co-operation aiming at specialisation while avoiding duplication of capacities and technological capacities," Weis said.

The coming year will certainly see European countries cut their defence budgets even further. More optimistically, however, it could present a unique opportunity. The parlous state of the global economy could lead to more co-operation, less duplication and more rationalisation: a money-saving goal long cherished by many in the industry. With budgetary pressures also weighing heavily in Washington, there is also the potential for more transatlantic industrial co-operation.

"Out of crisis comes opportunity," Professor Kendry said. "This may encourage a more comprehensive approach to addressing problems and challenges. How do we engage effectively, where are there synergies to spend more wisely and effectively? If we could only take time to review how we use this crisis, it might go some way to dealing with the challenges of investing in defence."

Gerrard Cowan has been Europe Editor of Jane's Defence Weekly since February 2009 and was previously a reporter for Jane's Defence Industry. He has a BA in History and English Literature from Trinity College, Dublin and an MA in International Relations from King's College, London.


By Joachim Hofbauer

The European defence market is undergoing profound changes. Four distinct trends are altering the landscape of European defence acquisition, with some of them underscoring the shift of defence matters from national capitals towards the European Union (EU). First, participation in international operations is substantially affecting acquisition priorities. Second, this change on the demand side expands the defence market to a broader range of companies, which are not traditional defence firms. Third, the EU is displaying a rejuvenated commitment to consolidate its fragmented defence market. Fourth, US efforts to reform export control regulations will considerably impact the supply decisions for European defence acquisition. A key question is how the combination of these trends will influence the transatlantic defence market and industry

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By Brigadier (Ret) Patrick NOPENS

The West and Russia have no alternative but to engage each other in European security matters. This engagement should reach further than mere discussions and result in concrete cooperation. From a Western point of view, the background to any security dialogue remains the close association between the European Union and the Atlantic alliance and the need to reconstruct a partnership with Russia.

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