OTTAWA — The Canadian subsidiary of French defence industry giant Thales has been awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to service Canada’s new fleet of Arctic offshore patrol ships and joint support vessels.
The federal government said Thursday Thales Canada, in a joint venture with the company’s Australian arm, will provide in-service support for the vessels under a contract that could total $5.2 billion over 35 years.
Acting Procurement Minister Jim Carr announced the awarding of the contract along with parliamentary secretary Steven MacKinnon at news conferences in Halifax and Ottawa.
The contract starts with an eight-year, $800-million service period.
Carr said it will provide “men and women in our military with the equipment they need to conduct their operations effectively while creating good middle-class jobs for Canadians.”
But the Union of National Defence Employees said the government is relying too much on the private sector when it should be doing the ship service work in house.
Rear Admiral John Newton said Thursday the Royal Canadian Navy maintains a “fine balance” between in-house capabilities and industry support.
“We are constantly migrating our in-house capability very slowly to keep a balance between what industry can provide, readiness of ships when we demand it, international deployments, and what we (the Royal Canadian Navy) can provide with specialized teams and specialized operational equipment, weapons and sensors,” said Newton, commander of Canada’s East Coast navy.
“We’ll have a navy that’s ready for operations globally and it’s a good navy that thrives on this kind of relationship.”
MacKinnon said the announcement is part of building the capacity for Canadians to do the work in the future.
He said Canada has suffered by allowing its shipbuilding capability to deteriorate, and the government is in the process of rebuilding from the floor up.
“We are literally, under the shipbuilding strategy, rebuilding an industry,” MacKinnon said in Ottawa. “This contract . . . does bring new capability to Canada. It brings new efficiencies to Canada, it brings experience from across the world.
“But at the same time, it’s Canadians doing work on Canadian vessels that were paid for by Canadian tax dollars,” he said. “We’ll be building capabilities benefiting from the experience of our partners from around the world and using that right at home, using Canadians.”
Carr said the federal government received four strong bids. Winning bidder Thales Canada will retrofit, maintain and repair the ships, and will also provide training.
Officials say Thales will be required to hire subcontractors to complete the work in regions across the country to ensure economic benefits.
Work is to be completed in Canada, except when the ships need work overseas.
Thales Canada president and CEO Mark Halinaty said the company isn’t yet sure which shipyards will be used to do the maintenance and repair work.
“That’s all part of the competitive process that we plan to undertake,” he said.
The previous Conservative government originally launched the national shipbuilding strategy in 2010, budgeting $35 billion to rebuild the navy and coast guard fleets while also creating a sustainable
shipbuilding industry on both the east and west coasts.
Six Arctic patrol vessels are being built by Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, with the first expected next year.
Under the contract, Thales is required to subcontract work for ships delivered in the east to companies in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario, whereas work on ships delivered in the west must be completed in the western provinces and territories.
John MacLennan, national president of the Union of National Defence Employees, said privatizing repair work puts public sector jobs at risk.
He also expressed concerns related to national security and the quality of the workmanship that will be done by subcontractors on the ships.
“The quality of work is very important. There is a pride and professionalism in the public service,” MacLennan said.
Carr said there will be no job losses because of the contract, estimating it will create or maintain 2,000 jobs over 35 years.
He added that everybody involved in the work will have a top security clearance.
“We’re fully confident that all the safeguards are in place,” Carr said. “This contract will conform to the highest standards of security for Canada.”
The government and two parties in the center-right opposition have agreed to increase the defence spending with SEK 8,1 billion until 2020.
In 2015, five parties reached an agreement over defence and defence spending until 2020. But in the beginning of this year, those parties reopened talks to increase that budget, as a result of what was referred to as “the worsening security situation”.
The talks were supposed to have been finalized before the summer, but have been dragging on. After the parties met in the beginning of this week, the Christian Democrats announced that they were not happy with where the negotiations were going, and so would leave the talks.
Now, the government, made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party, has reached an agreement with the biggest opposition party in parliament, the conservative Moderate Party, and the Centre Party to increase the defence spending by SEK 2,7 billion per year between 2018 and 2020.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Bydén told the government that another SEK 9 billion would be needed until 2020, in order to fulfill the task set by the defence agreement from 2015.
At a press conference on Wendesday, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist thanked the Moderates, the Greens and the Centre Party for good co-operation during the negotiations.
“Continuity in Swedish defence and security policy is crucial,” said Hultqvist at the press conference.
The defence spokesperson of the Moderate Party, Hans Wallmark (M), said that this agreement is in line with what the Supreme Commander had demanded earlier this year. Wallmark said that it was thanks to his party that the increased spending was as high as it was.
“The alternative would have been zero or significantly lower sums,” Wallmark said.
In a comment on twitter on Wednesday, the leader of the Liberal Party, Jan Björklund, said: “The defence decision of 2015 was a) under-financed b) insufficient. Now the decision is fully financed, but Sweden’s defence is still insufficient.”
The Liberal Party left the talks already in 2015, in protest against the direction the talks were taking.
August 8, 2017 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown joins Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) today on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Baltic Sea as part of Canada’s support to NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe.
On its second deployment under Op REASSURANCE, HMCS Charlottetown replaces HMCS St. John’s, which arrived in its home port of Halifax on July 17, 2017, after a six-month deployment.
The deployment of HMCS Charlottetown demonstrates Canada’s ongoing commitment to international security and cooperation as part of NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe.
“Canada’s participation in regional maritime security operations as part of NATO assurance activities is another demonstration of Canada’s ongoing commitment to international security and cooperation. The excellent crew of the HMCS Charlottetown is demonstrating our continued leadership on the world stage by making meaningful and enduring contributions to NATO activities in Eastern and Central Europe.”
— Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister
“The highly trained and professional ship’s company is well prepared to meet the challenges of this mission. HMCS Charlottetown is committed to further increase the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to work alongside our Allies, contribute to enhancing NATO readiness, and help strengthen international and regional stability.”
— Commander Jeff Hutt, Commanding Officer, HMCS Charlottetown
HMCS Charlottetown is a Halifax-class frigate with a crew of approximately 240 personnel of all ranks, including an Enhanced Naval Boarding Party and a CH-124 Sea King helicopter air detachment.
The Enhanced Naval Boarding Party provides a relatively new capability for the Royal Canadian Navy that is used in support of maritime interdiction operations.
HMCS Charlottetown’s deployment is part of a range of military activities undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures through the provision of military capabilities for training, exercises, demonstrations, and assigned NATO tasks and demonstrates Canada’s commitment to promote security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe.
During its first deployment in support of Op REASSURANCE, HMCS Charlottetown conducted maritime security operations and joint NATO training exercises between June 2016 and January 2017, in the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean, Aegean and Baltic Seas, as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2).
The Standing NATO Maritime Groups are multinational, integrated maritime forces made up of vessels from various Allied countries. These vessels are made available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from exercises to operational missions. They also help to establish Alliance presence, demonstrate solidarity, conduct routine diplomatic visits to different countries, support partner engagement, and provide a variety of maritime military capabilities to ongoing missions.
Commander Jeff Hutt, from Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, has served in the CAF since 1998. After his initial naval training, he was assigned to HMCS Charlottetown and was twice deployed with the ship to the Arabian Sea. On board HMCS Athabaskan, he served in Operation HESTIA, Canada’s response to the earthquake in Haiti. He was Chief of Staff to the Commander of Naval Reserves in Quebec City from July 2015 to December 2016.
Operation REASSURANCE refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe, aimed at reinforcing NATO’s collective defence and demonstrating the strength of Allied solidarity.
Department of National Defence
Once it is fully operational, HMS Queen Elizabeth will doubtless be the most heavily protected vessel in the Royal Navy. For now, however, it seems the £3bn pride of the British fleet is so lightly defended that a £300 drone can be landed for an unauthorised visit to the aircraft carrier’s decks.
An amateur enthusiast has told how he overflew the largest – and most expensive – warship ever built for Britain’s armed forces with his Parrot Bebop drone before briefly landing on its vast flight deck as it sat, apparently unmanned, on Cromarty Firth in the Scottish Highlands.
The ability of a hobbyist to take a private and unchallenged remote-controlled tour of “Big Lizzy” will raise difficult questions about security surrounding the vessel – as well as throwing into sharp relief the fact that the carrier will not have its own complement of aircraft for authorised take-offs and landings for several years to come.
The drone pilot, who asked not be named, posted footage on Facebook of a series of flights over the carrier while it was docked at Invergordon during ongoing sea trials before it is due to arrive at its new home port of Portsmouth as early as next week.
The enthusiast told the Inverness Courier: “I was amazed that I was able to land on the aircraft carrier for two reasons, the first being that there was no-one to prevent it from landing, although there were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone.”
The amateur flier said he had been forced to land on the deck of the ship after a warning of high winds on the control panel of his drone. He added: “I expected the deck to be steel, which would send the drone’s electronic landing systems haywire, but I was able to touch down OK and took a couple of shots.
There was absolutely no-one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship.” The 65,000-tonne flagship, one of two super-carriers being built for the Royal Navy, has not yet been formally handed over to the military as it continues to be fine tuned by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, the consortium that is building both vessels.
Trials with the carriers’ American-built F35B “Lightning” aircraft are due to begin next year but the Queen Elizabeth is not due to be fully operational until 2021. The drone pilot said he had been so concerned about his visit to the carrier that he drove to the dockyard in an attempt to explain in person to the crew what he had been doing but was told there was no-one available because all personnel were ashore at dinner.
The hobbyist added: “The ship has not been commissioned by the Royal Navy yet and doesn’t have aircraft, so I don’t think its defence systems that could block radio signals will be fully operational. If they were, there would be no way I would get within a mile of this vessel. “But it is worth a lot of money and I suppose I could have been a Talibani or anything.”
The incident is the latest security scare involving drones, which have been involved in multiple near misses with commercial jets landing at airports as well as criminal uses such as delivering drugs and weapons to prisons.
A Scottish MSP said he was considering tabling a question in the Edinburgh parliament about the incident. Liberal Democrat Jamie Stone said: “I think the moral of this astonishing tale is that there is a serious question about security for the Royal Navy for it would have been quite easy for someone of evil intent to do something quite serious.
Even a drone crashing into its radar could cause damage.” The Ministry of Defence said it had tightened security on the carrier following the incident.
An MOD spokesperson said: “We take the security of HMS Queen Elizabeth very seriously. This incident has been reported to Police Scotland, an investigation is underway and we stepped up our security measures in light of it.”
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats on Sunday rejected NATO’s target of spending 2 percent of economic output on the military, and blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives for kowtowing to the demands of U.S. President Donald Trump.
With just over a month to go before national elections, SPD leader Martin Schulz and Thomas Oppermann, who heads the SPD in parliament, issued their strongest criticism to date of Merkel, the NATO spending target and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen in an essay for the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain.
“We say a clear no to the ‘two-percent target’ of Trump and the CDU/CSU,” the two leaders wrote, referring to Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party.
“It’s not only unrealistic, it is simply the wrong goal.”
The comments put the SPD on a collision course with U.S. officials, who have began pressing Germany long before Trump’s election last November to increase its military spending.
The SPD leaders, whose party is lagging Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the polls by 15 percentage points, said Germany would have to nearly double current defence spending to meet the NATO target. That would make it the largest military power in Europe – a goal they said “no one could want” given Germany’s Nazi history.
Instead, they said, Germany should focus on building a strong European defence union and ultimately, a European army – a stance that may resonate with a deeply pacifist German public that remains sceptical of military engagements.
“Merkel and the CDU/CSU make themselves small vis-a-vis Donald Trump when they answer his provocations around the two-percent target by saying, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll put in more money,’ as if we didn’t have any better ideas what to do,” they wrote.
They said increased military spending should be matched by higher outlays for diplomacy, humanitarian aid and crisis prevention.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a former SPD leader, has also questioned the NATO target, but the Schulz-Oppermann essay was far more explicit, driving a further wedge between the parties in Merkel’s right-left coalition.
Merkel, who is poised to win reelection on Sept. 24, insists that Germany is committed to reach the two percent target. She has also chided Gabriel pointedly, noting his predecessor signed off on the NATO commitment when it was first made years ago.
Merkel’s conservatives have about 38 to 40 percent support in the polls, and hope to form a coalition government with one or more of the smaller parties, after the election.
In June, the SPD also reversed course and rejected plans to lease Israeli drones that can carry weapons to protect German soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Mali, sparking sharp criticism from von der Leyen and the top officer in the German air force.
The essay also criticised von der Leyen’s leadership as defence minister since late 2013, citing continued problems with equipment, a lack of planning, and challenges in recruitment.
The resignation of veteran Liberal staffer Brian Bohunicky from his position as Harjit Sajjan’s chief of staff has prompted a new round of questions about whether a cabinet shuffle will see Sajjan moved from the defence portfolio.
Bohunicky resigned a week ago, touching off a new round of speculation at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa about whether Sajjan will also be moving on from his job. The minister has had more than his share of controversy, in particular, his claim that he was the architect of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan. He has since apologized for making that claim.
News outlets have already reported that a cabinet shuffle is probably in the works for early fall. That could be good timing for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to move Sajjan out of his position. Sajjan recently delivered the Liberal’s Defence Policy Review and so it can be argued has set the stage for his successor. He has been in the job coming up to two years this fall.
Sajjan’s director of communications, Renee Filiatrault, is now handling Bohunicky’s job.
Whether she will stay in that position full-time is unclear. “I am not in a position to comment on broader staffing questions within government at this time,” Matthew Luloff, a spokesman with Sajjan’s office, noted in an email.
He also added:
“Minister Sajjan wishes to thank Brian Bohunicky for the great work he has done over the past year and a half at DND, most recently ensuring the successful rollout of the Defence Policy Review. On behalf of the team in the Minister’s Office, we’d like to thank Brian for his tireless efforts as our Chief of Staff, and wish him well as he takes some well-deserved personal time.”
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite on 20 July backed calls for the permanent deployment of the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air, air defence, and anti-missile systems to the Baltic states, local media have reported.
“The speed of response to an airborne threat may be crucial. Therefore, it would be appropriate to have such weapons in the Baltic region,” Grybauskaite explained.
The calls follow Poland’s signature of a memorandum on 6 July to buy the Patriot missile system from the US. The Baltic states currently only possess short-range air defence systems.
Grybauskaite emphasised that the move would ensure greater security for all nations in the area.
Prague, July 20 (CTK) – The Senate approved today the mission of up to 290 Czech troops in Lithuania and Latvia next year within NATO’s multinational Enhanced Forward Presence unit in the Baltics, which is a reaction to the Russian threat.
The mission will be “a strong political and practical expression of solidarity and readiness to meet the pledge of collective defence,” Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky told the senators.
The other house of Czech parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, approved the deployment of the troops last week.
In the vote today, 57 out of 68 senators present supported the mission.
Only one Social Democrat (CSSD) senator and three senators from the group led by Jan Veleba (Party of Citizens’ Rights, SPO) voted against the mission, while seven other senators abstained from the vote. Former Communist Jaroslav Doubrava, From Veleba’s group, proposed that the mission be rejected as it threatens peace in the region.
Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said previously strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is one of its key priorities. Over 1,200 allied troops are to be deployed in each of the countries.
The security environment in the region changed due to Russia’s aggressive steps towards Ukraine.
Up to 250 Czech members of mechanised infantry are to participate in the multinational battlegroup in Lithuania commanded by Germany. A Czech mortar platoon of up to 40 members is to join the battlegroup in Latvia, which is led by Canada.
The army is likely to send lower number of soldiers so that reserves may be added in case of need, Stropnicky said.
He said the mission is to cost Czech Republic 362 million crowns.
Stropnicky said French and Danish troops are to operate in Estonia and U.S., British, Croat and Romanian troops will be deployed in Poland.
Czech troops served within a joint exercise of the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Baltic countries early this year already. Czech pilots with supersonic
fighters repeatedly took part in air policing over the Baltics. The Czech fighters may rejoin it in 2019.
Defence trade deliverables grew substantially in 2016. Markets expanded by $4.3 billion to hit $62.5 billion, as imports rose despite global defence spending falling between 2010 and 2013. However the total export backlog – orders placed but yet to be delivered – has fallen by around five percent and is on track to decline rather than stabilize over the coming three years.
“For the first time we are forecasting a decline in our expectations for the global defence export market. This is happening for a number of reasons including falling energy prices, increasing domestic production and the world simply pausing for breath after such a long run of increases,” said Ben Moores, senior analyst, Jane’s by IHS Markit.
“Traditionally deliveries have slipped to the right so it could well be that the fall in the total market comes in 2018. This would be the first fall since our records began in 2009,” Moores said.
Key findings from the Global Defence Trade Report:
Middle East countries imported $21 billion in defence equipment in 2016 – one third of the entire global market – and will import at least $22 billion annually for the next four years.
Saudi Arabia increased its lead as top global importer, now importing nearly three times as much as its closest rival, India. This dominance is set to continue for at least five years with further large aviation, vehicle and naval orders.
The US remained the highest exporter in 2016, supplying $23.3 billion worth of military goods.
Military imports throughout Western Europe rose from $7.9 billion in 2013 to $8.9 billion in 2016. This climb takes western European imports back to 2010 levels.
Large order backlogs in Asia, including Japan ($14 billion), South Korea ($12 billion) and Taiwan ($13 billion).
Significant rise in defence export opportunities to Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, Iraq and Egypt.
Middle East’s spending spree continues
The largest Middle Eastern defence importers – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Iraq – remained among the top importers in the world for 2016, importing a total of $15.2 billion in defence systems. This figure is up from $9.9 billion in 2014, and represents more than all of Western Europe’s imports combined.
“Saudi Arabia’s 2016 imports grew from $4.9 billion to $8.3 billion – an increase that is three times more than the entire Sub-Saharan African market,” Moores said. “As the Middle East has assets against which it can borrow until oil prices recover, we expect to see sustained growth in defence spending for the next few years.”
Based on the existing order backlog, Jane’s forecasts that this region will continue to import an annual average of $22 billion in equipment over the next four years, before dropping off sharply after 2020.
US dominates export market
The US remained the highest exporter in 2016, increasing its relative market share at the expense of Russia to supply $23.3 billion worth of goods and equipment in 2016, compared with $21.5 billion in 2014. Its primary export strength is in its aerospace products; set to continue with strong orders in place for its F-35 program.
For the third year in a row, Saudi Arabia was the primary recipient of American military equipment in 2016. Although the US’s 10-year backlog remains strong, political uncertainty in countries such as Saudi, UAE and Qatar means there is a possibility that some of these projects may be cancelled.
Western Europe falls short of 2009 outlay
Military imports throughout Western Europe rose from $7.9 billion in 2013 to $8.9 billion in 2016. This slight climb takes Western European imports back to 2010 levels but still some way off 2009’s $12 billion peak.
“While we don’t foresee a return to pre-2008 import commitments, Western Europe finally saw a return to growth in defence spending in 2015 which will translate into sustained deliveries in the next couple of years,” Moores said.
Western European exports fell from $16.3 billion in 2009 to $14.9 billion in 2013, but increased notably to hit $17.8 billion in 2016. Germany, France and Sweden all enjoyed sizeable increases in export levels over the past year, primarily in military aerospace markets.
Eastern Europe holds strong backlog
“Military imports for European states West of Russia totalled $900 million in 2016, and the delivery backlog for these states currently stands at $4.6 billion for the next five years, confirming our earlier forecasts,” Moores said.
Russia, the region’s leading exporter and the world’s second largest exporter, saw a slight decline in 2016 to $6.3 billion. However, this is not indicative of further decline in the short term, as Russia has a strong backlog out to 2020.
Asian imports grow despite Chinese cuts
Military equipment imports to East Asia increased from $10.4 billion in 2015 to $12.8 billion in 2016. China has been cutting import deliveries over the last six years but this has been counter balanced by South Korea, Taiwan and Japan which have all seen large increases over the same time frame.
“There remains a slight chance that South Korean exports will overtake China in 2017 depending on delivery schedules of various programmes but in the longer term China has a bigger overall backlog,” Moores said.
Lately, the EU has become very active in pushing for meaningful steps in the area of security and defence. Last month, the European Commission proposed a reflection paper concerning the future of the European Defence in 2025 while advancing an ambitious “defence fund” for boosting the niche industrial sector. Some of these measures are resonating with the calls projected by Berlin and Paris for “taking our fate into our own hands”, but also with the idea of enhancing EU strategic autonomy, a reality more or less spearheaded by the election of Donald Trump.
Defence Matters debated the potential impact of these measures with Luis Simón, a Research Professor at the Institute for European Studies (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Director of the Brussels office of the Royal Elcano Institute.
Writing an op-ed in January in Financial Times, Emmanuel Macron concluded that “in the world of yesterday, European security was also America’s business.(…)It is time for Europeans to become sovereign.” How far would go this time the new call for European defense “souveranism”?
For the French, the concept of European defence souveranism is very much associated with industrial and technological questions. And my sense is that we are actually likely to see significant developments on the European defence-industrial front. On 7 June 2017, the European Commission launched a much-awaited European Defence Fund, which is a vehicle that aims to provide financial incentives to member states, with a view to advancing towards a more efficient and competitive European defence industrial base.
The European Defence Fund revolves around two main instruments:
the ‘research window’ contains a fund that aims to stimulate defence-related R&T in collaborative European programs. The Commission plans to spend about EUR 90 million for the next three years and EUR 500 million per year from 2020 onwards. These are not insignificant numbers. With this fund, the Commission will emerge as the fourth largest player in defence-related R&D in Europe, right below the UK, France and Germany, but above a country like Italy.
the so-called ‘capability window’ contains funds that aim to co-finance (up to a ceiling of 20%) the development of European defence capabilities, up to the prototype phase. The Commission’s purpose is to leverage its financial resources to stimulate collaborative research amongst companies from different member states – initially, up to 2020 the European Defence Industrial Development Programme will support projects involving at least three companies from at least two different member states. For this, the Commission intends to spend EUR 500 million for 2019-2020 and, from 2020 onwards, it plans to spend EUR 1 billion per year.
Given the combined resources of the European Defense Fund, more and more European defense companies are likely to look at the Commission as a key interlocutor.
So, when it comes to defense, the Commission does mean business, and it has the resources to put its money where its mouth is. The key question is to what extent are the Commission’s efforts on the defense-industrial front grounded in a common politico-strategic vision about the future of European defense. That is what is not so clear to me, because EU member states continue to have important differences in terms of strategic culture. Indeed, the Commission has been at great pains to say that it has provided the financial incentives, but member states must now come up with capability priorities. And it is not clear to me to what extent they’ll agree around a clear vision on capabilities. This is where differences in strategic culture come in.
France and Germany are the engine at the forefront of the current push for a more coherent European Defence Union. How aligned are their agendas today? Do they have a common mindset on defence issues?
France looks at military force not just through the lens of defence and deterrence, but also as a means of advancing its foreign policy and economic interests. And it makes a proactive use of it. Germany rejects that vision. It sees the military as a last resort defensive instrument. These differences are not just philosophical: they project into virtually any debate on European security cooperation, whether it relates to capability development, new institutional structures, or the launch of E.U. military missions.
The debate over the establishment of a HQ for the planning and conduct of EU military operations is a good thermometer of what I am talking about. The French have traditionally pushed for a fully staffed European Union military HQ geared for planning and conducting expeditionary missions. The Germans have advocated for a more modest civilian-military planning facility focusing on low-intensity, peacekeeping, and stabilization missions. Despite numerous institutional reshuffles in the European Union’s planning and conduct structures, French and German (and British!) red lines have barely moved since the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) was launched back in 1999. And this explains why it has taken nearly 20 years for the European Union to establish a so-called “Military Planning and Conduct Capability composed of up to 25 staffers (which is a remarkably modest number), and confined to provide assistance in the planning and conduct of so-called non-executive (i.e. training and assistance) missions.
Having said that, I think both France and Germany understand that something needs to be done on the defense-industrial front. And they both support the current efforts by the European Commission and the European Defense Agency, aimed at moving towards a more competitive European defense technological and industrial base.
Overall, I would say that there are both bright spots and shades in the area of European defense. My main concern here is that there is a risk that the industrial-technological aspects of European defense (which is where we are seeing the most progress) get decoupled from the political-strategic one. This would be a problem. Only if the two are brought together around a clear vision – shared by the Commission and the Member States – will European defense really move forward. At the end of the day, you cannot ask the Member States to give greater support to the Commission’s efforts to “rationalize” the European defense technological industrial base unless there is a clear political and strategic framework.
What are the real world consequences of this strategic culture gap for the future trajectory of EU defence policy?
Let me address this question from a very practical viewpoint, looking at what is actually going on operationally. And lets bring Britain in, because I don’t think you can have a serious discussion about European defense without the UK.
Britain has been one of the leading advocates of greater military spending in Europe, and of investing in modern capabilities. And it has more often than not joined forces with France in that context, including in the context of the EU. Let us not forget that the launch of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy followed a bilateral Franco-British initiative in 1998 at Saint Malo. In particular, London and Paris agreed on the need to promote a more expeditionary, out-of-area outlook for European defence.
It is true that Britain and France have had their fair share of disagreements in the past, especially on questions related to the EU’s desired level of ‘strategic autonomy’ vis-à-vis NATO and the United States. However, this has changed in recent years, especially after France’s return to the Alliance’s integrated military structure in 2009, and its interest in strengthening its bilateral strategic ties with Britain and the US. In fact, France’s ‘Atlanticist shift’ may be partly explained by its realization that most European countries (Germany included) seem to be attracted by the notion of the EU as a ‘civilian power’, and by the fact this ‘softer’, German-championed vision of security is gaining more and more traction within the EU (at the expense of France’s).
Today, I would say that more and more people in France realize that their old idea of a militarily capable, extrovert and autonomous EU might be a rather tall order. This dovetails with an important point: whereas France, Germany and other countries may agree on the need for a stronger Europe in foreign and security policy, they do not necessarily agree on the question of what kind of Europe they want. Think about the Libya or Syria crises, where France has been much closer to the UK and US than to Germany or many other European countries.
To complicate things further, Russian revisionism in Eastern Europe is prompting many in Germany to think harder about defence and deterrence in an eastern flank context – and leading them to argue for German re-engagement within NATO.
Germany is critical to any credible NATO strategy aimed at restoring (conventional) deterrence in Eastern Europe. And this is a process that Britain is very much invested in. Two clear examples of that are London’s decision to set up a 7-nation Joint Expeditionary Force (aimed at fostering interoperability between the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic States) and its command of one of the four NATO battalions forwardly deployed in the Baltic (the other three being commanded by the US, Canada and Germany). Britain and Germany are each leading one of the two framework nation initiatives and two of the four battalions aimed at strengthening deterrence in NATO’s eastern flank. When it comes to guaranteeing security in Eastern Europe, Britain and Germany are clearly emerging as the two key European powers — that is the way the Baltic, Poles and Nordics understand it. France is, by and large, detached from this dynamic, bar some token contributions to NATO initiatives.
Britain and Germany converge and cooperate more and more in a NATO context while Britain and France converge and cooperate more and more (bilaterally) in out of area operations in the broader southern European neighbourhood. These developments underscore the centrality of Britain in the European defence architecture, and prompt questions about the future and role of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.
Two out of the three scenarios that the European Commission advanced recently in its reflection paper on the future of European Defence presume the EU’s ability to conduct high intensity operations, the need to develop collective capabilities (in the area of strategic transport, UAVs, offensive capabilities) and to build up its own command structures. The 3rd scenario in particular proposes cloning NATO’s responsibilities (collective defence), and speaks about high end-operations, contingency planning, pre-positioned forces, rapid movement of military equipment across Europe, etc. Is replicating/mirroring something that already exists at NATO a wise policy course for the EU? Considering that many Central and Eastern European member states don’t really trust the EU when it comes to collective defense, do we not risk seeing greater European fragmentation?
I am not sure it is realistic for the EU to step into the territory of collective defence – and I do not think that is the intention of either the Commission or the Member States, at least not at present.
If you’re talking collective defence, the question of nuclear deterrence immediately comes up. You can only do deterrence – and have a credible defence – if you have escalation dominance or, at least, if you can match your opponent’s (potential) moves at every step alongside the escalation ladder, from hybrid, through conventional warfare to nuclear. It’s not like you can compartmentalise these things. Deterrence requires an integrated response, and an integrated command and control infrastructure.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea has put deterrence and defence back in Europe’s security agenda. In addition, Moscow’s ongoing efforts to modernise its nuclear arsenal underscore the renewed importance of nuclear weapons for European security. This means that any serious discussion on European strategic autonomy must square the nuclear circle which leads to a critical and highly uncomfortable question: given widespread reluctance around the idea of a German nuclear deterrent, are Paris and Berlin ready to reach some sort of sharing agreement over the French nuclear deterrent? Most unlikely, I would say. The idea of national strategic autonomy is embedded in France’s political DNA, and an independent nuclear deterrent is the jewel of France’s autonomy crown. Germany, for its part, might have come to terms with its de facto strategic subordination to the United States through NATO. But it is unlikely to sign off on a serious European defense scheme if its role is to be relegated to playing second fiddle to France, let alone Britain.
And as long as a shared nuclear deterrent is off limits, Berlin is unlikely to reject any sort of French or British nuclear umbrella, both for strategic and political reasons.
How do you assess the impact of the new U.S. Administration on the internal dynamic inside EU at a time when there is the emergence of a de facto multi-speed Europe and the potential for cleavages between Old and New Europe is once again running high?
It’s true that the idea that Trump can act as a catalyzer for European strategic autonomy is catching on. Big time. Some people in Europe say that Trump is just too unstable and untrustworthy to look after European interests, or to be entrusted with the defense of the international liberal order. Others argue that his emphasis on greater allied burden-sharing means Europeans need to step up their defense efforts. No matter which of these particular arguments rocks your boat, the conclusion is similar: Europeans have no option but to get their act together. So there’s a dynamic going on there, which is not to be dismissed, and could prove to be politically instrumental in complementing the current push for greater European security cooperation. But we also need to be aware of the limitations of this dynamic.
After all, the notion that an irresponsible or disengaged America forces Europeans to take care of their own security could re-open old divisions on fundamental questions. One such question is nuclear deterrence, which I already discussed. And this underscores America’s ongoing importance to European security. So I think we need to try and distinguish the strategic bit from the politics.
It’s true that Trump is bad politics in much of (Western) Europe. So, for instance, if you look at the German election, as we get closer and closer, the pressure for Merkel to distance herself from Trump and talk tough will only grow. One way to do that is by questioning the indispensability of the United States for European security and by calling for European strategic autonomy. We’ve seen some of that already. But I think that might change after the election, assuming Merkel wins. My sense is that Merkel is well aware that the US played a key role in underpinning German political unity, economic development and socialization within the West. She said as much during her joint press conference with Trump at the White House a couple of months ago.
And Germany is key here. So I would say that, for all the rhetoric about Trump having done more for European defense cooperation than anyone else, once the electoral fog clears in Germany, we should expect key European leaders to re-emphasize the centrality of the United States to Europe’s security and geopolitical architecture, and put their energies on co-opting the United States (mainly through NATO) and re-stating its commitment to European security.
By Luis Simón.
Luis Simón is a Research Professor at the Institute for European Studies (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Director of the Brussels office of the Royal Elcano Institute. He has a PhD in International Relations from the University of London (Royal Holloway College).
Turkey has agreed to purchase as many as four S-400 missile defence systems from Russia for $2.5bn, a report said on Thursday.
The deal signifies a shift from Turkish reliance on NATO for military aid.
As it stands now, Russia will send two S-400s to Turkey next year with plans to build another two inside Turkey, Bloomberg News reported, citing a Turkish official.
It would mark the first time that Turkey has bought high-tech military equipment from Russia since an arms agreement was made after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Turkey currently relies on NATO-deployed missile batteries for long-range defence and any S-400 bought by Turkey would not be able to intergrate into the NATO system.
Prior to the potential S-400 deal, Turkey had purchased only minor weaponry including rocket-propelled grenades from Russia.
Russia first participated in a Turkish military tender for attack helicopters in 1995, but failed with a joint Israeli bid.
Russian forces deployed S-400s to Syria last year to protect its bases, although the system failed to detect or disrupt a US Tomahawk cruise missile strike on a Syrian government airbase in April, prompting consternation among Russian defence experts.
Meanwhile, Russia is open to discussing partially lifting its ban on tomato imports from Turkey, provided the move does not harm its own farmers or investors, agriculture minister Alexander Tkachev told Reuters on Thursday.
In a bid to resolve a trade row with Russia, Ankara has proposed that Moscow lift the ban on Turkish tomatoes during periods when Russian farmers are unable to grow their own.