In our selection of the last two weeks, you will find a focus on the 28th NATO Summit, a deep transformation of the French intervention in Mali with impacts on EU forces, a very symbolic FR-UK collaboration, and a lot more!
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Focus : 28th NATO summit in Brussels
The 28th NATO summit, first one with Joe Biden, took place on June 14th in Brussels. It gathered the heads of States of the Alliance, alongside its Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.
The 2.5 hours meeting was the occasion for many European leaders and Joe Biden to display the will to cooperate more after the distance printed by his predecessor, Donald J. Trump. The U.S. president also aims to create a common analysis of the Russian and Chinese threats.
This “pivotal moment” for the alliance was also the occasion to “open a new chapter of transatlantic relations” in a “increasingly complex security environment”, according to the joint communiqué following the summit. It also acknowledged that “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security”. On Russia, it also stated that its “aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security”.
China reacted the following day by indicating that “it represents a continuation of the Cold War mentality and bloc politics”. In addition, they pointed out that the total defence budget of NATO countries, and their number of nuclear warheads were many times superior to China’s, as a sign of who is really “flexing muscles”.
The last topics on the table was the adoption of the NATO 2030 agenda, a plan to prepare the Alliance to future challenges, and stronger investments from Member States. On this last point, after 7 years of continuous increase and an additional €215 billion, the Secretary General recently called for a common funding, welcomed with skepticism.
Two confidential reports from the German Bundeswehr worries about the French domination on FCAS programme
The German newspaper Der Spiegel gave insight into two confidential documents, internal to the Bundeswehr. The first one, written by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) calls for a technical and economical renegotiation of the Phase 1B agreement signed between the three governments last month. On more technical aspects, the experts are also worried that the innovative technological approaches are not clearly identified. They conclude that the French domination is strong, and that the rules are not compliant with German interests.
The other report comes from the German MoD. It points out that if the French position is too strong, FCAS could become a new Rafale with German and Spanish funding, and would therefore not belong to the 6th generation of fighters.
Framatome began manufacturing the new generation French aircraft carrier
On June 10th, Hervé Grandjean, spokesman of the French Ministry of the Army, announced the start of the new aircraft carrier manufacturing process.
The French plant Framatome, in Le Creusot (Saône-et-Loire, France), is charged with the forging of the first part of this new generation aircraft carrier (PA-Ng).
The Lingo PA-Ng is expected to reach a weight of more than 70,000 tons and is to be about 300 meters long. It will replace the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier (42,500 tons, 261,5 meters long) in 2038. It will be equipped with two nuclear boilers of greater power than those of the Charles de Gaulle.
European Union military cooperation and external operations
Emmanuel Macron announces a “transformation” of the French engagement in the Sahel region
On June 10th, the French President Emmanuel Macron announced a transformation of the current French deployment in Mali, called Barkhane and mobilising around 5000 men. He detailed that the size of the deployment would be reduced and the operation replaced by a European coalition. It would stand on two pillars: the training of the Malian army, and special forces for counter-terrorism missions via the Takuba Task Force. 6 countries have or will send significant troops in Takuba alongside France: Estonia, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Greece and Sweden.
This follows the recent degradation of the political situation in Mali, where the army took down the former president and more recently arrested members of the new government. France reacted at the beginning of June by suspending its cooperation with the Malian army. French officials insisted that this doesn’t mean the end of the French presence in the region, which would remain the European forces’ “spine”, but that it cannot replace irresponsible States and the choices of sovereign nations.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby, stated in reaction that the US government will continue “contributing to the reinforcement of our partners’ capacities in Africa, including counter-terrorism”.
French and British aircraft carriers meet for GALLIC STRIKE exercise
The two nations’ flagships, the Charles de Gaulle and HMS Queen Elizabeth, and their groups participated in a joint exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. The first was coming home from its recent deployment, Clemenceau 21, while the second is heading towards the Eastern Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean for its first operational mission. The exercise aimed to coordinate both groups and to learn to operate together with their Rafale and F-35B aircrafts.
The cooperation between the two countries is not new : Commodore Steeve Moorhouse, commanding the UK Carrier Strike Group, acknowledged the importance of the exchanges between the Royal Navy, the French Navy and the US Navy to recover their carrier skills after 6 years without such vessels. To that end, many exchanges were organised for British sailors.
Russian aircrafts enter the Danish airspace
On June 11th, the Danish diplomacy reported two successive violations of their airspace by Russian aircrafts. They occurred above an island east of the country, and both times, F-16 aircrafts from the Danish Air Force Flyvevåbnet intervened but failed to make them change their course.
18 NATO allies and partners were engaged in the annual BALTOPS exercise, a high spectrum interoperability training in the Baltic Sea. Russia usually pays particular attention to NATO manoeuvres so close to its borders, and has previously violated the Danish airspace in the same area in recent years.
The Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jeppe Kofod, stated that the repeated action made it look deliberate, and that he hopes to get a quick and complete explanation from Russian authorities.
Admiral Pierre Vandier denounced the attitude of the Chinese Navy towards French Navy ships.
On June 8, in an interview conducted by the French newspaper Le Monde, the Commander in Chief of the French Navy, Pierre Vandier, emphasised the transformation of the Chinese army’s attitude. He insisted on the political nature of Chinese actions in the Indo-Pacific zone, which aims at asserting its position as a maritime power.
The Commander in Chief also underlined the non-respect of certain international law principles on the part of the Chinese.
The intervention of Pierre Vandier comes in a context of increasing French operations in the region: currently, some 7,000 soldiers, fifteen ships and forty aircrafts are deployed in the Indo-Pacific area. Military and diplomatic actions have been intensified.