NATO Response to Ukraine Crisis–21 Aug 14

Putin threat stirs European tank ambition dormant since cold war
Richard Weiss
Chicago Daily Herald | August 18, 2014

The Ukraine crisis is pushing European governments to review the role of the weapon that dominated Cold War defenses as the strength of Russian ground forces stirs political concerns: the battle tank.

The cost and war-fighting benefits of developing common armored vehicles for the region could also spur consolidation beyond the pending merger of Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH and France’s Nexter Systems SA, said Frank Haun, chief executive officer at KMW, maker of the 62-ton Leopard 2.

Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and massing of troops on the Ukraine border has left front-line nations pondering the strength of armored brigades that have shrunk since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Haun said in an interview at KMW’s Munich base. Nordic countries including Finland and former communist states such as Poland are among those reviewing capabilities.

"They are beginning to increase spending because of concern regarding Russia," Haun said. "We are in closer touch with those countries and getting more visitors from there."

Demand for Cold War hulks like the Leopard 2, which fires shells than can penetrate 22 inches of steel from 1.3 miles, faded in Europe as relations with Russia improved, with the focus of tank deployment shifting from the north German plain to the deserts of the Middle East. The most recent new-build Leopard 2 was produced in 2009, after 3,200 were previously sold to 16 armies worldwide.

Spending Revival

The last major pitched tank battles took place in the war against Saddam Hussein after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when the General Dynamics Corp. M1 Abrams — of which the U.S. Army has received more than 8,000 — saw action alongside Britain’s BAE Systems Plc Challenger 2s. The pair are the Leopard’s main rivals for the mantle of the world’s best performing model. More recently, tanks have proved their versatility in the mountains of Afghanistan, where Canada deployed its Leopard 2s.

While defense spending in western and central Europe fell 2.4 percent last year to $312 billion, budgets have begun to revive in states bordering Russia, with increases in Poland, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In contrast, military outlay continued to decline in countries including France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said last week that the Ukraine crisis has shattered the illusion that force no longer has a role in European politics. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization must station troops on its eastern flank and halt cuts after Russia boosted its defense outlay for eight straight years, he said at the Army Day parade in Warsaw attended by military representatives of the U.S. and Canada.

Baltic Defenses

Finnish President Sauli Niinistoe met with Putin on Aug. 15 for talks about the escalating tensions after saying the world was on the brink of a new Cold War. Finland has a longer land border with Russia than the rest of the European Union combined.

Latvia will also seek to bolster Baltic defenses when a delegation meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today, according to comments from the country’s defense ministry.

Concern about the need to respond to a more aggressive Russian foreign policy comes as European tank manufacturing undergoes its biggest upheaval for decades, with KMW poised to create a new regional "champion" via the Nexter deal that should enhance interoperability among armies while helping to pare costs and eke out research budgets, Haun said. The 50:50 merger, sealed on July 1, will create a business with revenue of almost $2.7 billion and more than 6,000 staff.

Airbus Blueprint

For KMW, joining with the Paris-based maker of the Leclerc battle tank will add new products, technology and markets, none of which would be achieved in a mooted all-German combination with Dusseldorf-based Rheinmetall AG, which makes the Leopard 2’s main canon, firing system and ammunition, the CEO said.

Rheinmetall and KMW also cooperate on the tracked Puma infantry fighting vehicle and the wheeled Boxer.

The Nexter merger, first mulled more than eight years ago, will seek to replicate the success of Pan-European aerospace and defense tie-ups including Airbus Group NV and Eurofighter GmbH. It could also help KMW to escape strict defense-exports rules, though Haun said there’s been no pitch to sell the Leopard 2 to Saudi Arabia, a deal opposed by some German lawmakers.

The enlarged business, due to be formed next year after completion of complex due diligence and the privatization of Nexter, will feature a holding company most likely based in the Netherlands. There’ll be two CEOs, one in each country — most likely Haun himself and Nexter counterpart Philippe Burtin.

Smaller Crew

The company will have a combined order book of more than 6 billion euros, including KMW’s most recent Leopard 2 contract from Qatar won last year. Nexter meanwhile aims to upgrade the Leclerc for the French army and is pitching for a new light fighting vehicle and a troop carrier.

The Leclerc could be improved with technology from the Leopard and vice versa, Haun said. The French model features an automatic loader and needs a three-man crew versus four in the Abrams, Challenger and Leopard, while the German tank has better camouflage systems and on-the-move firing accuracy.

Like Airbus, which was formed by France and Germany and later incorporated British and Spanish companies, the combination is intended to be "scalable" should further consolidation be possible, KMW said.

Europe’s land-defense manufacturing industry has 17 active production lines for main battle tanks, armored fighting vehicles, personnel carriers and self-propelled howitzers, according to a study by the Brussels-based Centre for European Political Studies. That compares with just two sites in the U.S.

Italian, Spanish Options

"We have no standardization, so every order means we essentially develop and built a new vehicle," Haun said. "That costs taxpayers a fortune." Joint procurement could bring down unit costs by 30 percent, the executive said.

Any consolidation in Europe could affect the region’s main producers including Oto Melara SpA of Italy, part of Finmeccanica SpA, which makes artillery systems and armored vehicles and developed the Ariete tank, and Spain’s Santa Barbara Sistemas, owned by General Dynamics since 2001.

Britain, which used the world’s first tanks in the Battle of the Somme during World War I, will lose its last assembly line with the shuttering of an historic BAE plant in Newcastle upon Tyne in the second half following final deliveries of Terrier combat-engineer vehicles. That will cast doubt on further development of the Challenger 2, a model that’s intended to see service until 2035.

The combined KMW-Nexter will be better placed to be able to plan for Europe’s next generation of heavy armor beyond that period, aided by French strategic planning, Haun said.

"Who in Europe thinks about the kind of equipment we may need in 10 or 20 years — the ‘Leopard 3,’" Haun said. "The French do. They think strategically."

 

Danish daily disagrees with NATO chief’s call for more defence spending

Text of report by Danish leading privately-owned independent newspaper Politiken website, on 16 August

[Editorial: "Fogh Is on a Misunderstood and Impossible Mission"]

During his visit to Denmark ahead of the NATO summit in September, the former prime minister [Anders Fogh Rasmussen] has put what remains of his political weight behind the alliance’s demands that the European member nations increase their defence spending.

That demand is 2 per cent of gross national product, as against the 1.4 Denmark is now paying.

But now, Fogh repeated over and over again, there is an entirely new security situation. One that in his last few days as secretary general of the alliance he sees as a reason to ramp up the Danish defence spending.

According to Fogh, the new situation developed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea – and the eastern NATO countries’ growing insecurity over Russia’s further intentions.

There is no doubt that Russia’s conduct in Ukraine has shaken the ingrained stability in Europe, or that President Putin has squandered his credibility with the annexation. It is for good reason that the alliance has marked its position by sending out units to assist the eastern member nations with preparedness and surveillance.

But is it now also a matter of a completely new security situation? One that is more serious than the one that occurred after the terror attacks on 11 September 2001 – shortly before Fogh took office as Danish prime minister? And one that is more serious for Denmark than the one that followed after our extensive participation in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya?

Hardly. It is nothing new that the world is a dangerous place or that we have good reasons for loyally paying the premium for the alliance’s insurance.

But Denmark’s contribution to NATO is not measured primarily by the spending, which Fogh also did not increase when he himself was in charge. It consists of a modern, mobile, and flexible defence, which can be dispatched on the missions the alliance prioritizes, and which has the capacities needed in that respect.

It is precisely such a defence Denmark has built up, and such a defence the parties behind the defence agreement wish to ensure for the future.

It is the quality, not the quantity that is decisive. There is, as Fogh himself would have put it, nothing to find out.

Source: Politiken website, Copenhagen, in Danish 0000 gmt 16 Aug 14

 

Politicians react to Nato defence call
Emma Mackintosh
South Wales Argus | August 2, 2014

GWENT politicians continued to react to a Parliamentary report yesterday calling on the UK Government to "take the lead" on Russia at September’s Nato summit in Newport.

The summit will take place at the Celtic Manor resort for two days on September 4 and 5.

Thursday’s report by the parliamentary defence committee recommended the summit set up plans to put equipment and troops in the Baltic States.

David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth said it was "very concerning" the committee believed the Nato states are not ready to deal with a "threat posed to Western security" by Russia.

"We’ve been reducing the amount of money we spent on our armed forces over a period of time and I think it’s time to look at this," he said.

"We’ve budgeted to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid. We need to look at why some of the military budget is effectively used to provide foreign aid rather than the defence of the realm. To put it bluntly, I think there’s a case to be made for reducing the amount on foreign aid and putting it into the armed forces budget.

"The Ukraine issue in Crimea has been on the cards for years," he said. "I was in Ukraine about five years ago with the foreign affairs select committee and it was being spoken of then. They were plenty of people who knew this was going to come. I just hope it doesn’t go any further. We will have to see how Russia responds to the latest sanctions."

The Middle East is an even bigger concern, said the MP.

"Gaza and Ukraine are in the news but Syria and Iraq are just as important," said Mr Davies. "That’s a huge issue for us. Sunni fundamentalists are the most dangerous threat to our existence at the moment, not Muslims or Islam, but fundamentalists, over the next few decades."

Chris Evans, Labour MP for Islwyn seemed to agree with the view of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) who accused the report of ramping up tensions in the region.

"While the terrible atrocities in the Ukraine have sharpened the West’s focus on Russia of late, we must remember that any threat of war with Russia is miniscule," he said.

"Rather than ramp up tensions, I would like to see Nato discuss ways of improving dialogue with the Russians. No one wants to see a return to the Cold War."

William Graham, Conservative AM for South Wales East said he was aware of the view that Nato has been too complacent about the threat from Russia, but said sanctions against Russia could work.

"It is true that Russia’s tactics have changed," he said.

"However, there is growing evidence that the impact of the sanctions imposed by the EU and USA upon Russian businesses and their economy will enforce change.

"The Newport conference will provide an opportunity for Nato leaders to demonstrate their unity with regard to Russia."

 

Cameron calls for Nato’s forces to stand up to Putin
Francis Elliott
The Times (London) | August 2, 2014

David Cameron will today call for a further build-up of Nato forces along Russia’s borders, saying President Putin has "ripped up the rulebook".

The Ukraine crisis demands a "robust and sustained" response from the military alliance to show that it is not intimidated, Mr Cameron will say in a message to other Nato leaders.

His strongly worded letter, written before the Nato summit in Wales next month, is intended to set goals and reassure eastern European leaders, say aides. Although falling short of supporting permanent troops in Poland, Mr Cameron backs stockpiling weapons and other equipment to cope in preparation for a sudden escalation.

He will travel to Nato’s headquarters in Brussels on Monday to be briefed on proposals developed by General Philip Breedlove, the alliance’s European commander, for a rapid reaction force.

Under the plan, a Polish base would be used for "pre-positioned supplies, pre-positioned capabilities and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow-on forces," the general told a briefing in Naples last month. The city of Szczecin has been identified as the most likely base, according to reports.

Britain also wants the summit in Newport to focus on how it should respond to "hybrid warfare" waged by irregular troops and misinformation but directed by states.

A senior government figure said that the prime minister wanted to signal that he stood "shoulder to shoulder" with those allies in eastern Europe who feared Russian aggression.

"Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal annexation of Crimea and aggressive destabilisation of Ukraine," Mr Cameron writes in a letter to Nato leaders. "We must agree on long-term measures to strengthen our ability to respond quickly to any threat, to reassure those allies who fear for their own country’s security and to deter any Russian aggression.

"We should agree how we can sustain a robust presence in eastern Europe, consistent with the Nato Russia Founding Act, to make clear to Russia that neither Nato nor its members will be intimidated."

The Nato Russia Founding Act, signed in 1997, was supposed to reassure Moscow that there would be no permanent troops along its border. Mr Cameron also calls for Georgia – whose application to join Nato is opposed by Russia – to be given military training in a move that is sure to escalate tensions with Moscow.

 

Russia sees Nato as adversary, Cameron warns before summit
David Williamson
The Western Mail | August 2, 2014

DAVID Cameron has set out his challenge to world leaders ahead of next month’s Nato summit in Wales, to increase defence spending and protect eastern Europe.

In a letter to Nato leaders attending the Newport summit, the prime minister warns that Russia has "ripped up the rulebook" with its "illegal annexation of Crimea and aggressive destabilisation of Ukraine" and calls for Nato to have a "robust presence" in eastern Europe.

He also warns of an "arc of instability" stretching from North Africa to the Middle East.

He writes: "While Nato has only ever sought to be a partner to Russia, not a threat, it is clear that Russia views Nato as an adversary.

"We must accept that the cooperation of recent years is not currently possible because of Russia’s own illegal actions in Nato’s neighbourhood and revisit the principles that guide our relationship with Russia."

His letter comes just days after the cross-party defence committee – whose members include Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney MP Dai Havard – warned Nato was not ready to tackle threats posed by Russia and there were serious problems about its ability to warn of potential attacks.

In his letter, Mr Cameron states: "In 2014, the world is more unpredictable than ever and we meet at another pivotal moment in the history of the alliance. In Afghanistan, our combat mission is coming to an end.

"To the East, Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal annexation of Crimea and aggressive destabilisation of Ukraine.

"To the South, an arc of instability spreads from North Africa and the Sahel, to Syria, Iraq and the wider Middle East."

Setting out his priorities, he writes: "First, six months into the Russia-Ukraine crisis we must agree on long-term measures to strengthen our ability to respond quickly to any threat, to reassure those allies who fear for their own country’s security and to deter any Russian aggression.

"All Nato Allies have already contributed to the Alliance’s response to this crisis and we should agree how we can sustain a robust presence in Eastern Europe, consistent with the Nato Russia Founding Act, to make clear to Russia that neither Nato nor its members will be intimidated.

"We should agree specific actions including: a new exercise schedule adapted to the new security environment; the necessary infrastructure; pre-positioning of equipment and supplies; and an enhanced Nato Response Force.

"This should be part of a broader action plan that enables us to respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the alliance, including when we have little warning."

The defence committee had called for a "continuous presence of Nato troops on training and exercises in the Baltic".

Mr Cameron adds: "We must also review our long term relationship with Russia.

"While Nato has only ever sought to be a partner to Russia, not a threat, it is clear that Russia views Nato as an adversary.

"We must accept that the cooperation of recent years is not currently possible because of Russia’s own illegal actions in Nato’s neighbourhood and revisit the principles that guide our relationship with Russia."

As well as stressing the need to ensure Afghanistan does not become a "safe haven for terrorists," Mr Cameron calls for agreement on how to address "an unstable world of failed states, regional conflicts, terrorism and cyber-attacks."

He writes: "That requires investment.

"The UK is already one of four members of the alliance to meet the target of spending 2% of our GDP on defence and I would urge other allies to make the strongest possible commitment to increase their defence spending, and to devote at least one fifth of it to equipment and research."

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