In an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini has stated that he does not rule out the possibility that his country will join the North Atlantic Alliance in the future.
“Neither Finland nor Sweden is yet part of NATO, and as I understand, our countries are not currently discussing accession to NATO. We should not exclude the possibility of joining NATO.
Every country should have that opportunity, and that is why open-door politics is important to us,” said Soini.
At the same time, he specified that “the position of the current government of Finland is such” that it [joining NATO] is currently “irrelevant”.
Additionally, Soini confirmed Finland’s commitment to the policy of sanctions against Russia for its actions in the Crimea and the Donbas: “I do not want to speculate on this issue: for now, as you can see, the EU foreign ministers have repeatedly and unanimously continued the package of sanctions for the next six months.”
Next year will be called “the year of integration,” where the U.S. will work even harder to improve interoperability with all NATO allies as well as with other partners such as Sweden and Finland, said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges.
The commander of U.S. Army Europe said 2017 has been a “year of implementation,” meaning initiating rotational armored brigade combat teams and combat aviation brigades, emplacing Army preposition stocks, and standing up an enhanced forward-presence battle group in Poland.
That implementation was a direct result of decisions reached by NATO at the 2016 Warsaw Summit, which was in essence a transition from assuring allies to deterring would-be aggressors, he said.
Hodges and three European allies spoke at a press briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 11.
Besides working on interoperability, Hodges said “we will continue to learn from the massive Zapad exercises” just completed by the Russians in Belarus. “Some things will take us a few months as we continue to study the forensics.”
Other lessons already gleaned are that improved intelligence sharing with NATO and other partners helped the alliance to better understand the Zapad exercises.
“It’s the best I’ve seen in years in terms of intelligence sharing,” he said. “We were all focused on trying to understand the Zapad exercises. People had their eyes wide open.”
Hodges said there are three things that need to be more interoperable among allies in Europe.
First is secure, tactical FM radios at the company and battalion level. At that level, he said, there’s a lot of interdependence. Also, he said, radios at that level must be able to operate effectively inside a “real nasty” cyber or electronic warfare environment that allies “might face in the Baltics or Poland, for example.”
Second, the common operating picture, or COP, must be truly “common.” No matter who manufactures a device, there must be seamless information sharing among allies, he said. Blue-force tracking is one example of what a COP can share, he said.
Third is digital fires, he said, providing an example of getting into a counter-fire situation, where the radar from one country should still be able to relay the mission digitally to the fire direction center and then onto the guns to do the counter-fire.
“If you can’t do that in a very short amount of time, then you’re never going to be able to strike back at who’s shooting at you,” Hodges said.
Dynamic Front is an exercise that will be begin in February at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, Germany, he said, where several nations using 100 different firing systems will focus on making them interoperable.
The Army is also honing its interoperability with allies during current exercise Swift Response 17-2, taking place Oct. 2-20 in Hohenfels, Germany, and including more than 7,000 participants from Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
SHARING THE LOAD
Hodges said that there are many times that the U.S. must rely on European partners for capabilities that it lacks. He provided some examples.
The Army depends on Romania, the United Kingdom and Germany to provide bridging capability, and their bridges have been used a number of times for river crossings, he said.
Also, the Army doesn’t have much in the way of short-range air defense. Romania is one of the countries providing that, he noted.
The Army is also leasing British heavy equipment transports to move tanks on European highways, he said.
Lt. Gen. Leo Beulen, commander, Royal Netherlands Army said that unfortunately, his nation’s defense budget was slashed in 2011 and the army was forced to sell off all of their Leopard main battle tanks to Finland and Canada, “not that we didn’t need them anymore, but because we had to find the money.”
With changes in the world since then, the Netherlands needs them badly, he said.
“Now we find cooperation with Germany, where we have a German battalion of Leopard 2 tanks, [embedded in] a Dutch company that is operating within a Netherlands brigade,” he said. “So together with Germany, we could restore the main battle tank capacity.”
Another example of where the Netherlands contributes to the collective security, he said, is providing protection with its Patriot air defense system. The Netherlands is one of the few countries in Europe that has them.
Maj. Gen. Karl Engelbrektson, Swedish Army chief of staff, said there are niche capabilities partners can bring. For instance, Sweden provides other nations with artillery-locating radar, ground-based air defense radar and smart munitions, among others.
He framed cooperation in terms of economics as well as security, particularly after the Russian invasion of Crimea.
Although Sweden is not a member of NATO, “it is not a neutral country,” he said. “We are military non-aligned. But, we adhere to NATO’s principles of military business because we believe that we need to do things together. … So for us it’s logic that we have to deploy troops far from home to be part of securing the world order and the values we live for.”
Last month, Sweden hosted an exercise with 20,000 troops from NATO and European partners, he said. During exercises such as this, “we learned that we can learn from each other. For example, there are some tactical things we developed living close to Russia in similar terrain and climate.”
Maj. Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, general commander of the Polish Armed Forces, said his nation has increased its military budget to contribute more to the collective defense of Europe.
Hodges was asked if he’d prefer Army aviation to be permanently stationed in Europe.
“I would prefer to have Army aviation permanently stationed in Europe, as opposed to rotational units,” he said. “Rotational aviation is expensive, and I worry that at some point the Army [will say] ‘I can’t keep this up.’ If [European Reassurance Initiative] money dries up or we get less of it, it becomes more difficult for the Army to fund.”
On the other hand, Hodges said, “I like rotational forces because I can do more with them and they’re here for nine months, like the armored brigade. Their opstempo is three times what it is back at home station, so you get a lot of strategic effect.”
Regarding ground forces, Hodges said he’s pleased with U.S. Stryker capability in Europe, in that they can be fitted with the 30mm cannon, Javelin missiles, and counter-unmanned aerial vehicle systems. Additionally, he said, they can also navigate the highways. Tanks, while essential, have to be transported by rail or heavy equipment transporters, so they’re less visible to the populace, restricted to the training areas.
Europe’s premier integrated air and missile defense drill Formidable Shield concluded October 17 with ally ships engaging a supersonic target off the coast of Scotland.
The US Navy-led exercise began September 24 and saw the participation of warships from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and US.
During the closing collective self-defense scenario, Dutch frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803) fired a Standard Missile (SM) 2 and an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) against the supersonic target.
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, were designated as “opposition forces” and fired the supersonic target during this exercise scenario.
The two missiles fired against the supersonic target Oct. 17 occurred during the third live-fire event of FS17. During FS17, four nations conducted a total of 11 successful missile launches.
During the first live-fire event Oct. 7, the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) fired three Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) fired two SM-2s at four incoming anti-ship cruise missiles.
The second live-fire event took place on Oct. 15, with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) firing one SM-3 Block IB guided missile against a medium-range ballistic missile target. Also on Oct. 15, the Spanish frigate SPS Alvaro de Bazan (F101) fired one ESSM against an incoming anti-ship cruise missile while Tromp fired two ESSMs against a pair of incoming anti-ship cruise missiles.
Notable ‘firsts’ that occurred during FS17 include: the first time NATO’s smart defense concept was demonstrated with ships serving as air defense units protecting naval ballistic missile defense units; the first no-notice launch of anti-ship cruise missiles as part of an IAMD scenario; and the first time a NATO IAMD task group was exercised at sea.
Belleau, France – Marine Color Guard from Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa march through the gate of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial during a wreath laying ceremony conducted by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts in Belleau, France, Oct. 1, 2017.
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa routinely conducts theater engagement and outreach throughout its Area of Responsibility, and provided a Color Guard and Rifle Detail for the event that took place at the foot of the hill where the Battle of Belleau Wood was fought.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 2ndLt. Brett Lazaroff/Released)
Trump made the announcement in a speech that detailed a more confrontational approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.
He said: ‘Today I am announcing our strategy along with several major steps we’re taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon.’ The president also spoke of his fear of intercontinental missiles, adding he wants to ensure these are never part of Iran’s nuclear program.
He never wants Iran to have nuclear weapons. While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, he gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.
That would increase tension with Iran as well as put Washington at odds with other signatories of the accord such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union.
The Defense Minister on Friday announced the new structure of the army and the home guard. The plan pays special emphasis on northern Norway.
In Finnmark, Norway’s northernmost region, gets a full cavalry battalion at Porsangermoen. That means 400 soldiers, including conscripts, and heavy arms.
Finnmark borders Russia to the east and the new structure of the Norwegian army comes in response to what the minister says is «a more demanding and less predictable» security situation.
«This shows will and ability to defend ourself in the north, and it is deterrent,» Ine Eriksen Søreide says.
Additional to a cavalry battalion, a new Ranger Company with 200 soldiers with light anti-arcraft and anti-armor weapons will be based with the Garrison of Sør-Varanger, directly on the border to Russia. That decision was taken last year. While Porsangermoen is some 200 kilometers west of the Russian border, the Garrison of Sør-Varanger is located next to Kirkenes airport some 5 kilometers from Norway’s border to Russia’s Kola Peninsula.
Ready for combat
Also the Home Guard will be strengthened in Finnmark, and Home Guard forces in other parts of Norway will be equipped and trained for fast transfer to Finnmark in case that should be needed. The Home Guard and the Army will be co-located with the army in Finnmark to ensure uniformed planning and management of land operations, the ministry informs.
The battalion at Skjold in Troms will be converted from a infantry battalion to a mechanised battalion, mainly consisting of personell from a new active reserve. The Defense Ministry says it will be have more exercises and training on mobilizing making this battalion ready for combat on short notice.
Hikes defense budget
Presented on Thursday, the government’s budget for 2018 gave a signifiant boost to Norway’s Armed Forces with a 3 billion kroner (€321 million) increase in spendings.
The budget proposal strengthens our armed forces. Together with our Allies we have pledged to increase defense spending in order to protect our mutual values, security and interests at home and abroad. Our aim is to ensure that the armed forces have the training, equipment and support necessary for their work. This budget provides for exactly that, states the minister of defence, Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide says.
Finnmark [ˈfinmɑrk] ( listen) (Northern Sami: Finnmárkku, Finnish: Ruija, Russian: Фи́ннмарк, Fínnmark) is a county (“fylke”) in the extreme northeastern part of Norway. By land, it borders Troms county to the west, Finland (Lapland region) to the south, and Russia (Murmansk Oblast) to the east, and by water, the Norwegian Sea (Atlantic Ocean) to the northwest, and the Barents Sea (Arctic Ocean) to the north and northeast.
The county was formerly known as Finmarkens amt or Vardøhus amt. Since 2002, it has had two official names: Finnmark (Norwegian) and Finnmárku (Northern Sami). It is part of the Sápmi region, which spans four countries, as well as the Barents Region, and is the largest and least populated county of Norway.
Situated at the northernmost part of continental Europe, where the Norwegian coastline swings eastward, Finnmark has always been an area where East meets West, in culture as well as in nature and geography. Vardø, the easternmost municipality in Norway, is located farther east than the cities of St. Petersburg and Istanbul.
Increasing Russian military on the Finnmark border has prompted the Norwegian government to deploy military forces to the region to shore up the existing defences.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid on Monday met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella who hosted a lunch in honor of the Estonian head of state in Rome, during which the presidents discussed the migration crisis, opportunities of the digital society and the future of the European Union.
“The fact that hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa arrive in Italy every year — and for many years in a row — is not Italy’s problem. It is a problem of the whole of Europe and so all of us hold the key to solving the problem. As Italian fighters will protect our airspace in Amari next year, we must also understand joint concerns that are to the south of us. An not only understand them, but also contribute to solving them,” the president said after the meeting.
The heads of state at the meeting focused on discussing the opportunities of the digital society and questions concerning cyber security. Kaljulaid said that many modern dangers do not depend on geography.
“Those risks are similar in Rome and Tallinn and this is why cooperation between countries is important, a good example of which is the participation of Italy in the work of our NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn since its launch,” the president said.
Speaking about the future of the European Union, Kaljulaid first and foremost considered it important that the member states remain united in important questions. “This is our — Estonia’s, and in reality the whole of EU’s — strategic interest. Europe is faced with a number of challenges, but no member state can solve a big problem alone better than together,” Kaljulaid said.
The president on Monday evening will open an exhibition at the Italian National Gallery of Modern Art that will feature the works of Estonian painter Konrad Magi. Kaljulaid on Tuesday will visit three schools in Rome and gift them with reproductions of Magi’s painting “Landscape of Italy. Rome.”
By 48th Fighter Wing Staff Reports, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published October 08, 2017 .
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England — The U.S. Air Force has deployed F-22 Raptors, Airmen and associated equipment to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, for a flying training deployment to conduct air training with other Europe-based U.S. aircraft and NATO allies.
The aircraft arrived in Europe on Oct. 8, 2017 and are from the 1st Fighter Wing, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
While in the European theater, the F-22s will also forward deploy from the United Kingdom to other NATO bases to maximize training opportunities, demonstrate our steadfast commitment to NATO allies and deter any actions that destabilize regional security.
This FTD is funded fully by the European Deterrence Initiative.
WASHINGTON — If the unthinkable were to unfold in Europe, the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment would be among the first in line to respond.
Recognizing the potential consequences of Russian aggression, tactics and capabilities, the Army has targeted the 2nd Cavalry Regiment to receive several advanced technologies designed to bridge gaps against the near-peer threat. This quick response is not Army acquisition business as usual, but instead uses rapid prototyping to accelerate interim solutions to Soldiers until the long-term programs of record arrive.
And it’s working. These critical capabilities, including integrated electronic warfare systems and upgunned Stryker vehicles, will soon be in the hands of 2nd Cavalry Regiment Soldiers in Europe, approximately a year after they were first envisioned.
The efforts behind the deployment of these prototypes, and future prototyping priorities to address strategic threats, will be the focus of the “Rapid Acquisition for Land Power Dominance” Warrior’s Corner on Monday, Oct. 9 from 12:50-1:30 p.m., as part of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
“As we continue our commitment to our allies around the world, there are events unfolding right now that are demonstrating how critical it is for the Army to modernize and modernize rapidly,” said Doug Wiltsie, director of the Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office, known as RCO. “We are using prototypes to answer operational needs by repurposing existing equipment and combining them with emerging technologies to provide something new, then incrementally improving them based on user feedback.”
The presenters at the Warrior’s Corner — the RCO, the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, known as PEO GCS, and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment — are on the front lines of creating new avenues to move faster than traditional acquisition methods have allowed in the past.
“This is a great example of where we tailored the acquisition process to meet a timeline being driven by an immediate operational need,” said Maj. Gen. David Bassett, the program executive officer for GCS. “We are delivering significant capabilities to Soldiers at an accelerated pace, because of our ability to seek out mature technologies and accept and manage concurrency of detailed design, manufacturing, and testing in order to increase delivery speed.”
In August, Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment traveled to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to take part in a six-week test and training event for the new variants of the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon, known as ICV-D. One variant incorporates a new, powerful 30 mm cannon, while the other is fitted with the CROWS-J system, enabling troops to fire Javelin anti-tank guided missiles remotely from inside their Stryker.
“This capability that is coming to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment is directly attributable to Russian aggression,” said Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commander. “Back in the Cold War there were 300,000 Soldiers in Europe, and today there are 30,000. So how do we, as an Army, make 30,000 Soldiers feel like 300,000? This new [capability] is one of the ways that can help us do that.”
The Army expects to send both Stryker variants to Europe by January, then field the combat vehicle to a forward location next summer when the regiment’s 1st Squadron is expected to go to Poland. PEO GCS will continue to work directly with 2nd Cavalry Regiment Soldiers to refine the prototype based on their feedback.
Just as the ICV-D Stryker came about as a direct request from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment for more firepower, the RCO is also answering operational needs in Europe based on the demand for an electronic detection, support and attack capability in contested and congested environments.
Already on the ground with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe is electronic warfare equipment for use at the tactical level, including a system for dismounted Soldiers. Expected to field in January is an improved, integrated version of the prototype that adds mounted and mission command capabilities. The equipment, recently evaluated at the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 17.2 in July, can be used to detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as provide electronic attack effects.
“We understand that none of these capabilities are perfect,” said Maj. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, director of operations for the RCO. “We are looking for small-scale projects where we can take some technology risks. But it’s not about fielding gadgets. It’s also figuring out how Soldiers are going to use them, how they are going to fight them, what the doctrine is going to be, what are the tactics, techniques and procedures, what is the training required, and how do we do the manning?”
These initial prototypes are setting a precedent in moving faster to meet immediate demand and close strategic gaps based on combatant commanders’ needs. Feedback from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment will continue to help drive system design, performance, functionality and training methods, enabling the Army to move faster while simultaneously adjusting to meet operational needs.
“[Our goal is] an honest assessment of the technologies available — if we can have hands on them first, it’s a great opportunity,” said Capt. Sean Lynch, electronic warfare officer for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who used the prototypes during exercises held this summer, including Saber Guardian and the NIE.
The U.S. Army’s commander in Europe is urging European nations to agree on special transport and border rules so that NATO forces can be quickly moved to deter potential aggressors like Russia, Voice of America reported citing the Associated Press.
Lt. General Ben Hodges said Monday “the alliance needs to be able to move as quick, or quicker, than Russian Federation forces if we want our deterrent capability to be effective,” according to a VOA report with the reference to AP.
Hodges is calling for a “military Schengen,” a reference to Europe’s 26-nation Schengen area where people and goods can cross borders without ID checks.
He said NATO needs to know how it can “get that speed within existing peace-time rules for movement on highways, rail and so on” for its deterrent to be effective.
Hodges said parliamentary approval would be needed for new rules to work.