The last Summit of the Atlantic Alliance saw, at least initially, a clear divergence between the United States and NATO’s European allies.
For President Trump, who is above all a businessman, budgets and investments count, rather than strategic doctrines, about which there was very little talk.
The US President, who arrived at the Summit with premeditated and carefully-considered delay, polemicized especially with Germany, saying that its low spending for defence makes it “prisoner” of Russia.
President Trump cannot get over and deal with the NORDSTREAM pipeline, headed by Mathias Warnig, former director of STASI in Dresden where,at the time, Vladimir Putin worked for the KGB, the intelligence service that was the “master” of STASI.
He wants Europeans to buy the North American shale gas and oil – but it is a very difficult goal to reach.
Europe is disputed by two energy oligopolists.
Furthermore, President Trump ignored the long and irrelevant discussions about Afghanistan and Georgia, where the EU counts less than nothing, and warned NATO’s European members that if they did not increase their defence budget up to 2% of the GDP as from January 1, 2019, the USA would do on its own, by actually walking out of the Atlantic Alliance.
After some initial disconcertment, the NATO Secretary General organized a confidential meeting between the European members of the Atlantic Alliance, which made no concessions to the US requests.
Let us analyse, however, the data on defence spending within NATO.
As to the USA, by far the largest contributor to the Atlantic Alliance, the 2017 defence budget was equal to 686 billion US dollars, equivalent to 3.6% of GDP.
Again in 2017 the total defence spending of all the other NATO members amounted to 271 billion US dollars.
Only nine members of the Atlantic Alliance, except for the United States, spend over 10 billion US dollars per year, namely Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands.
Moreover, the United States must control other regions, such as the Pacific and South America, which are of no interest to NATO’s European members.
Currently three European countries already exceed the 2% target, namely Great Britain, Greece and Estonia.
Romania, Lithuania and Latvia are very close to this 2% target and miss it by just 0.3%.
Hence if all the Atlantic Alliance’s members spent 2% of their GDP in defence, we would have additional 114 billion US dollars available.
However, how much would be needed to make the European Armed Forces really efficient?
As to Germany, the very recent Bartels report informs us that – after years of budget cuts and total neglect on the part of politicians -the German soldiers have no sufficient protective devices, winter clothes, tents, etc.
In late 2017 for the German Armed Forces there were no submarines available for operations and none of the 14 large transport aircraft was ready for flight, considering that the entire sea and air fleet was under repair.
Lack of spare parts and technological backwardness are widespread in the German Army, both for jets and ships, as well as for tanks.
21,000 posts of German officers are vacant – with obvious effects and repercussions on soldiers.
In fact, in 2017 Germany spent just 1.2% of GDP in defence and the results and consequences are before us to be seen.
There is still the complex of the defeated country. If all goes well, it will take decades to go back to the situation when the German General and military theorist, Erwin Rommel, wanted to engrave on a basalt plate in the Tunisian desert the following sentence: “The German soldier amazed the world, the Italian soldier amazed the German soldier”.
The German Armed Forces (but this holds true also for the Italian ones) were designed for the first clash with the Warsaw Pact, so as to later give way to the nuclear attack, and still bear the brunt of the old strategy not permitting any defence of the now global German international interest.
As to France, its military system is much more efficient than the German one.
But the recent vote in favour of Article 14, which enables the Minister for Economy and Finance to veto the spending proposed by the Minister for Defence, as well as to impose a ceiling on all State spending for the current year (106 billion euros),undermines the necessary renewal of the French military system.
The veto permitted under Article 14 comes just when France has become a member of the Permanent Structured Cooperation, i.e. the group of 25 European countries that is organizing an integrated and autonomous EU defence.
To replace NATO? To have an autonomous foreign policy from the USA? And what would be the current European foreign policy?
Italy, the third European Armed Force, has an almost perfect system of projection outside borders, not only in terms of empty peacekeeping, but a military system that is probably inadequate to defend the whole Italian territory from external attacks. And this applies to all European countries’ Armed Forces.
The Italian Armed Forces, however, are better trained and equipped than those of many other NATO’s European allies/competitors.
The Carabinieri Special Forces known as GIS trained the Navy Seals, the Sayeret 13 of the Israeli Army and the Japanese SAT.
Hence President Trump’s requests are made against the background of a largely obsolete European military system that is the primary victim of the various government’s “budget cuts”. Certainly the US President has got a point there.
Nevertheless without good defence, there is no political and strategic credibility and probably not even commercial credibility.
Moreover, in private meetings, President Trump asked the European allies to rise not only to 2%, but even to 4% as a new ceiling.
In this case, the US defence spending would amount to 762 billion dollars and all the other NATO European countries should spend 735 billion dollars.
For President Trump, however, it all hangs and fits together from the fiscal and economic viewpoints: while travelling back from Brussels, he said that the European allies spend too little – hence, in his mind, there is an obvious connection with the issue of EU’s trade surplus. Europeans spend too little because they behave like pirates in international trade.
The core of the issue is mainly the German surplus which, coincidentally, is combined with an almost ridiculous military spending.
Meanwhile, China has decided to increase its military spending by 8.1% in 2019, which is – in volume – slightly lower than the US one.
It amounted to 151 billion US dollars in 2017. Nevertheless the Chinese budget must be studied carefully.
Many resources of Ministries such as the Transport, Education and Communications Ministries are closely connected with the People’s Liberation Army.
Moreover President Xi Jinping has recently established a new “Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development” – a clear sign of the strong permeation and interpenetration between these two sectors.
This will probably be the policy line that will enable NATO’s European countries to spend what is needed for defence, even with a significant impact on “civilian” spending.
The Russian Federation is spending 1.35 billion US dollars for the current year, with an 8% increase compared to the previous forecasts for the same year.
The 2% target of desirable military spending by NATO’s European countries dates back to long time ago. It was first discussed at the NATO Summit held in Prague in 2002, but it was only a gentleman’s agreement.
At the meeting of NATO’s Defence Ministers held in 2006, mention was still made of the “willingness” to spend “at least” 2% of the State’s yearly budget. But it was only lip service. Just hollow words, as usual.
At the NATO Summit held in Wales in 2014 the Heads of State and Government raised again the issue of spending at least 2% of public budgets for defence.
As already noted, only four Western countries spend 2%, namely USA, Greece, Great Britain and Estonia. Greece, however, spends most of its military budget on salaries and pensions.
Ukraine is the only country exceeding 2% and reaching a “US-style” rate of 3.57%, while Georgia and Poland are just below the 2% level.
With specific reference to equipment, NATO’s “policy line” requires at least 20% of defence budget spending. Currently we are at a much lower level.
Within the Atlantic Alliance, only 3.11 of the 28 NATO members do spend 20% on equipment. Germany, the country that in 2019 should lead the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, invests only 14% of its defence budget in materials and equipment.
Conversely, three nations of the former Warsaw Pact spend according to the target set by NATO’s policy line, namely Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria.
Slovenia and Belgium are at the bottom of the list, with only 4-5% of spending on equipment.
Russia, however, has already increased its defence budget for 2018 by 95 trillion roubles, equivalent to 51.53 billion US dollars, while its military spending, as share of Russian GDP,is slowly decreasing, according to the plans adopted by President Putin in 2015. If the GDP increases, everything will work well.
Obviously the problem raised by President Trump is only quantitative and not qualitative.
In fact, so far NATO has carried out many peacekeeping operations – a sort of strategic refrigerator that preserves regional tensions for long time – or has supported the weak and fragile democracies resulting from Eastern Europe and the former Warsaw Pact.
Moreover Europeans cannot afford to arm and train the Rapid Reaction Force led by the EU – initially by France and Great Britain with 60,000 soldiers – which will be hard to put together, but always for peacekeeping and peace enforcement purposes and for humanitarian missions.
Currently Eurofor is composed of forces from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. According to plans, there are 60,000 soldiers available, but readiness is to be verified.
So far it has carried out operations in Albania, Macedonia, Chad and the Central African Republic.
Eurofor has also an intelligence service provided only by the United States.
The EU battlegroups, military units that each EU country provides, are financed only with ATHENA funds – a pool of funds already allocated by European countries. Will they be enough?
What happens, however, if – with specific reference to the use and deployment of Eurofor and EU battlegroups – there are differences between EU countries on foreign policy?
Furthermore, President Trump’s request to European countries for more defence investment actually means only one thing.
According to the United States, currently European countries are too heavy a burden to bear. The EU -initially supported by the United States during the Cold War – has become a troublesome economic competitor and, with its Euro, a dangerous rival for the dollar.
If the United States reaches a sort of “cold peace” with Putin’s Russia – which wants to rebalance power in peripheral regions, but also in Europe – the EU will have no longer meaning for the USA.
Indeed, the European Union could become a competitor or even an enemy.
It would be possibly better to share it out with Russia and put an end to NATO as a collective security organization.
President Trump thinks that, if they wish so, Europeans can continue their wars of the buttons in the Balkans or in countries that apparently need the cosmetic exercise called peacekeeping.
In the future, however, without the NATO umbrella mostly paid by the United States.
If the agreement with the Russian Federation goes on, President Trump will claim for the United States not just a part of the EU, but a political stake in all EU countries, i.e. by buying a traditionally Atlantic political region which is currently vaguely and vocally pro-European.
President Putin will take possession and control of the so-called “anti-establishment” or “nationalist” parties, which will undermine the EU mechanisms. The United States will enjoy the spoils, without having to bear any longer the huge cost for NATO defence to the benefit of economic competitors, as well as for very harsh European tariffs and duties, and finally for the Euro.
Insecurity of India’s Nuclear Weapons
After 1945, it came into the knowledge that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, lethal and powerful weapon on the planet earth, which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people in short span of time. That’s why global community, particularly the U.S. and Former Soviet Union agreed on formulation of stringent globally accepted principles to secure these destructive weapons. India is the first country that brought nuclear weapons in South Asia by detonating nuclear device back in 1974 and yet again in 1998.However, since than safety and security of these weapons under the control of violent Hindutva regime has considerably attracted much of the scholars’ attraction.
Terrorism has become an increasing concern within international society but so far there has been less focus on one particular aspect of the problem that is nuclear terrorism. Yet, within the context of South Asia this is of special significance, given the number of insurgencies and freedom struggles with transnational linkages, and the nuclearisation of this region since 1998. Of all the South Asian states, India’s nuclear facilities are perhaps the most vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, given India’s expansive nuclear programme, much of it not subject to IAEA safeguards. In addition, the vulnerability of India’s nuclear facilities is further aggravated by its thriving underworld and more than a dozen insurgencies going on within the Indian states, as well as the freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
India’s nuclear programme has developed at an exceptionally fast pace. However, because a few of such facilities are under international safeguards, there is little knowledge about the levels of safety of the various nuclear facilities. Of the ten operational power plants, only four are under IAEA safeguards. According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between the years 1995-1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. Thus, the state of Indian nuclear facilities raises serious concerns as they seem to be vulnerable to a high probability of terrorist attacks, thefts and accidents. The scale of the programme aggravates the problems, as there are plans for the building of pressurized heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors on a commercial scale.
Apart from the risk of falling of nuclear weapons and related technology in the hands of terrorists, if one looks at the leadership of India and try to analyse the factor of rationality in the decision making of use of nuclear weapon it clearly suggests that the current leadership i.e. BJP is not only hawkish in its nature but equally believes in use of force for political gains, which further leads us to the assumption that the nuclear decision making is equally occupied by the Hindu hardliners.
During the recent Pulwama Crisis, it has been learnt that BJP’s irresponsible behaviour should suffice for all Indians to understand that India will remain hyphenated with Pakistan for foreseeable time. India planned to use Brahmos missile that could carry nuclear warhead. India’s behaviour clearly shows that nuclear weapons are in wrong hands. Because the yield and potential related to the nuclear weapons are absolutely detrimental and possession of such weapons in wrong, less responsible and extremist hands is a threat for the entire world.
The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to acquire deterrence in order to avoid the possibility of war. But, India is showing the attitude that it will use these weapons for the purposes of war fighting, which is unacceptable to international community.
The track record of India in the field of nuclear weapons and related technology is much muddier. India initiated arms race in the region, and, it is leaving no stone unturned e.g. advancements in sea-based nuclear capabilities and militarisation of space. Most importantly the recent ASAT test, which is in fact a compelling factor for neighbouring states to think in the same way in order to acquire comparable technologies for equalizing the defence capabilities. These alarming acts of India can bring the entire region at the verge of instability, which in fact could prove dire for the peace of the entire globe keeping in view the economic, natural resources, political and security factors of the region.
The time has come for the international community to break its silence and stop their patronage for India and take serious note and steps regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by India in relation to its aggressive and immature behaviour and mind-set of its leadership, which can lead entire globe to the unacceptable disaster. Since, Kashmir is flash point between both nuclear armed states it is only India which is triggering it by its continuous atrocities in Kashmir. Most importantly existence of ISIS in India is also a foremost point of concern especially keeping in view the nuclear program of India, according to the recent development ISIS claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group. This is not only the matter, which solely related to the stability and security of South Asia. This time instability is knocking the door of entire globe in the form of India. The continuous negligence of international community with respect to Indian nuclear weapons will definitely disturb the stability as well as peace of the entire globe.
Why the U.S. is silent about military exercises in the Baltic States
States are in the anticipation of the annual large scale military exercise
The well-known annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) is focused on the Baltic States. These countries consider this event as a key element of participants’ training on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. The Saber Strike exercise aims to facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.
Usually these maneuvers take place in June. Thus, it is logical to assume that the time of the military exercise is coming, but this year event is never mentioned.
There are two ways of situation development. The first one is – Saber Strike 2019 will not be held at all. The second one is the information about Saber Strike 2019 is classified.
The first assumption is unlikely taking into account the U.S. and NATO desire to strengthen the position in the region. This assumption is also contradicted by the increasing number and scale of international and national military exercises in the Baltic region.
So, the second assumption is most likely. But the question arises about the aim of hiding the information or its content. It is widely proclaimed that NATO and the U.S. put transparency about the exercises in the head. This principle is either one of the key priorities of all international organizations including UN and OSCE. Transparency of activity helps to build international peace and trust.
It is especially surprising after NATO expressed concern about transparency of Russian and Russia-Belarus military drills which were held near the Baltic State’s borders. Unlike allies, opponents give preliminary information about planned exercises. By the way, some facts can be find on Internet about joint exercise Union Shield 2019 that will take place in autumn in Russia.
BulgarianMilitary.com quoted Russian Minister of Defence Sergei
Shoigu who stated in 2018 that “Union Shield 2019” exercise would be only
defensive and emphasized: “First and foremost, and I would
like everyone to hear that, our drills are solely of defensive nature. We do
not plan any offensive actions as compared to the [NATO] military exercises.
We, undoubtedly, are doing this not as a response to some drills but as a
response to the threats which exist today and which, to our big regret, grow
From time to time we can read about the preparations for Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Shield 2019”. Thus on March 12-14, the Belarusian-Russian command-staff training on working out the interaction of military authorities, formations and military units in the framework of the regional grouping of troops (RGT) was carried out jointly, as well as improving the RGT control system.
“The general staffs have embarked on the preparation of the Union Shield 2019 exercise, which will be the main event of joint training of the military command and troops in 2019 and which will further improve the system of military security of the Union State,” Belarusian Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov noted. According to him, such events help check the quality and level of combat readiness of the regional group of troops, to see the real capabilities of weapons and the ability to carry out combat tasks.
True or not, but information is available. It is not very detailed but at least it is provided in advance. At least they name it as defensive.
As far as Saber Strike is concerned, everything is vaguely and therefore scary. What is the aim of it? Does it have defensive or offensive nature? When and who will come to the Baltic States? The approach “no comments” is not the best one in this case. The Baltics want and should know. Our opponents should be aware either. Otherwise their respond could be unexpected and even destroying. Uncertainty causes panic and rejection among local population.
Libya Crisis: Role of Regional Players
Libya remains in a chaotic state after the fall of Muammar Gadhafi. The United Nations-backed government struggles to exercise control over territory held by rival factions, escalating geographical and political divisions between the East, West, and South. But it’s political and security crisis continues as the two authorities compete for legitimacy and territorial control and have left scores of thousands displaced inside Libya and interrupted access to basic services to the Libyans.
At present, a hazardous military conflict is ongoing in Libya between east-based forces loyal to Field Marshal Haftar and armed groups allied to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. The WHO has given higher estimates of casualties where 392 people have been killed and about 2,000 wounded in the ongoing armed clashes south of Tripoli. Recently, Khalifa Haftar’s bid to tumble the UN-recognized government has displaced 50,000 people and urged his forces to “teach the enemy a greater and bigger lesson than the previous ones” during Ramadan, saying the holy month had not been a reason to stop previous battles in the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna.
The armed militias and terrorist groups are using the nation as a base for radicalization and organized crime, further adding fuel to the fire and posing a threat to the region and beyond. The civilians are harassed and victimized by the militias and armed groups, but nothing has been done so far as the international involvement has remained too apprehensive to avert an all-out fight for the capital. The Courts, on the other hand, are semi-functional, and various impediments obstruct access to fair trials. Hence, there is a threat of proxy war between regional powers if this full-fledged conflict will remain unchecked. The UN is required to play an integral role by encouraging the parties to return to the negotiating table and proposing a new three-track strategy addressing the core political, military and financial concerns of both sides. If external actors are serious in their calls, now is the time to act to stop this full-fledged war.
The conflict escalates further when Libyan National Army (LNA) under Haftar’s command launched an attack, named ‘Flood of Dignity’, with the specified aim of capturing the capital, despite repeated warnings by Libya’s international partners. LNA began to advance on Tripoli after Haftar returned from Riyadh, believing that the international supporters, i.e., the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, France and Russia would stand by them. Although the US had warned him verbally not to move into western Libya, where the UN-backed government is based and has tried to influence Haftar to accept a political deal with Faiez Serraj, the head of the Tripoli-based government, to unify Libya’s divided institutions, including the military, making Haftar the head of the armed forces, but he disagreed arguing that the presence of militias in Tripoli would increase the security issue and frustrate the ordinary Libyans.
The military strength and external support of LNA is evident but its victory in Tripoli cannot be predicted. As for now, this conflict could spread to other parts of Libya, as Misratan forces have openly stated that they aim to cut-off LNA supply lines in central Libya which will eventually worsen the conflict. To avoid this catastrophic intensification in Tripoli involving regional powers, Libya’s partners should take serious actions. The regional powers should abstain from supporting the offensive militarily, and endorse their support for UN-led negotiations. Moreover, the UN Security Council should demand for an instant culmination of hostilities, and impose sanctions on military commanders and political leaders escalating confrontations.
Furthermore, the UN should introduce a three-pronged strategy including a political track, which should not only be restricted to a deal between Haftar and Serraj rather should also include political representatives from rival parties to ensure an equal and practical solution. Second, a military track should be presented, involving senior military commanders from both sides, along the lines of the Egypt-led military dialogue to agree on new security arrangements for the capital; and in the last place, a financial track, to bridge the gap of the financial institutions which emerged in 2014 as a result of political disturbances, by bringing together representatives from Libya’s divided Central Bank.
In conclusion, Libya has witnessed frequent setbacks and external interference over the past eight years which have facilitated the non-state actors such as ISIS to gain a foothold. Keeping in view the present scenario, the menace of terrorism could become a self-fulfilling prophecy as new jihadists are joining the conflict. What will happen in the fight for Tripoli is now largely reliant on how the UN and international players of the region will respond to it. Although the external powers, including the US, UK, France, Italy, the UAE, Egypt and Russia, have condemned the escalation, but none of them included the threat of sanctions and made any explicit mention to support the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. Therefore, it can be assumed that the external powers are providing assistance to Haftar in his ambition to seize the capital and power.
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