NewsFeed n°42

Published by Elias Ricken on

The NewsFeed is a press review with a summary of a selection of articles and events that occurred in the past two weeks. Keep track!
In our brief of the last weeks, you will find details on the weapon deliveries to Ukraine, Europe’s dependency to Russian gas, the enquiry of Serbia for its next fighters, the Bundeswehr Annual Report, and much more!
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Focus: Weapon deliveries to Ukraine

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the European countries and the United States have put in place and sometimes increased their help to Ukraine, up to weapon deliveries. Whereas the border between support to a country and co-belligerency is sometimes blurry, heavy weaponry are starting to be delivered.

With these rising contributions from European countries and the US to support Ukraine in the fight against the Russian invaders, the German government has partly abandoned its reserves against the delivery of heavy weaponry to Ukraine. Although the federal government has already agreed on the delivery of “Guepard“ Air-defense tanks, the government has not decided yet on the export of German “Leopard“ battle tanks or “Marder“ mechanised infantry combat vehicles directly to Ukraine. As a compromise, they could also be delivered to Eastern European partners who would supply Ukraine with their material from Soviet times and would receive German or other Western material as a replacement. The German forces will in parallel train Ukrainian soldiers to these systems, but the Minister for Defence, Christine Lambrecht, has drawn as a clear line that this should not be interpreted as co-belligerency.  

Facing political pressure to deliver more, the German chancellor Olaf Scholz has in addition faced some difficulties with the Swiss export regulations. Despite its political support to sanctions against Russia, Swiss through its Secretary for Economy has argued of its country’s neutrality to forbid any export containing Swiss material.

While the German MoD has in addition declared, that further deliveries from the German Armed Forces arsenals could weaken the Defense capabilities of Germany, the country has strengthened its presence in the Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Lithuania with German forces. Germany supports as well Slovakian Air Defence with a Patriot battery and conducts Combat Air Patrol in the Polish Airspace.

France has also, for the first time, officially communicated about their weapon deliveries, made of multiple Caesar artillery canons and thousand of corresponding ammunitions, and Milan anti-tanks missiles. 40 Ukrainian soldiers were sent to France to be trained on those systems. The overall amount of weapon deliveries from France was announced at €100M.

As a sign of the growing support Ukraine receives, the Pentagon announced end of April that Kiev had at its disposal more fighter aircrafts than two weeks before, without detailing where the jets and spare parts were coming from. However, Poland offered in the first week of the conflict to transfer some of their old soviet MIG-29 aircrafts to Ukraine through the United States.

Those contributions are still far behind the American support, with $800M announced recently for various military material. Russia has warned the US that this was only aggravating the situation and raising the stakes. In parallel, Russia is regularly targeting the weapon stocks or transportation means coming from Ukraine’s allies, as shown by the recent announce, on May 4th, of the destruction of 6 train stations used for such deliveries.

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Serbia is entering talks for the French Dassault Rafale and second hand British Eurofighters

Although the biggest former Yugoslav republic has traditionally relied on Russian military aircraft and technology, Serbia might first come to an agreement with France about the purchase of twelve new Rafale fighter aircraft made by Dassault Aviation.

Moreover, in addition to an eventual acquisition of French-made aircraft, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Nebojša Stefanovic said that Belgrade is also negotiating “with the British to obtain Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.”

Both operations would thus contribute to the objective of modernisation of the Serbian armed forces to “maintain supremacy in the region for the next ten years,” Stefanovic said. Currently equipped with three different types of aircraft, including MiG-29, Soko J-22 Orao, and Soko G-4, Serbian executives aim to anticipate the withdrawal of MiG-29 aircraft in the following years due to limited ground-strike capacities.

Other defense upgrades could include adding a separate squadron of fighter-bomber jets, for which Serbia is in talks with three other countries.

In this situation, it also matters to recall that Serbia, since 2009, has been engaged in a pre-process of accession to the European Union through which Belgrade has been multiplying signs of rapprochement with European manufacturers to the detriment of their historical Russian suppliers. Serbia also voted against Moscow in United Nations resolutions condemning the attack on Ukraine.

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Germany may choose the American CH-47F Chinook for its next transport helicopter, for €5b

In 2017, the Schwerer Transporthubschrauber or STH programme was launched by the Bundeswehr to purchase transport helicopters. It was however cancelled for budget purposes in 2020, the cost being estimated at €5.6b, but relaunched in early 2021.

It will now benefit from the €100b Special Fund decided by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in the context of the war in Ukraine. Unofficial sources from the Ministry of Defence have indicated that a choice for the CH-47F Chinook has been made, for the same amount, €5b. The other candidate was the CH53-K from Sikorsky, a Lockheed-Martin subsidiary.

It has however not be officially confirmed from official sources, and the final decision does not stand in the Ministry’s hands but in the Bundestag’s. The defence committee will meet and discuss the topic on May 11th. Heavy transport helicopters like the CH-47F Chinook is a capacity the European Union does not possess, explaining that only American providers are considered.

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European Union military cooperation and external operations

NATO nuclear submarines meet in England

Off the coast of Scotland, two SSN nuclear submarines, French and American were spotted while entering a Royal Navy harbour that houses British nuclear submarines as well. Therefore, a training exercise with the sub-crews from the Marine Nationale, the Royal Navy and the US Navy might have taken place recently, which represents an unprecedented and sensitive reunion.

In a global armed conflict, nuclear submarines would most likely play a vital role because of their capability to deliver nuclear, as well as non-nuclear weaponry to any point in the ocean undetected. Therefore, being perfectly suited for ambush attacks and a hit and run strategy.

Despite being, in this case, not nuclearly weaponised, gathering these submarines could be aimed at sending a clear message to Moscow. Indeed, the location is close to roads used by Russian submarines to exit the Northern Sea. 

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Cyberdefence exercise organised by NATO CCDCOE in Estonia, world’s largest global live

The Estonian capital Tallinn home to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence hosted the Locked Shields 2022 cyber defence exercise. The exercise took place in mid-April and involved cyber defence specialists from NATO countries through a simulated cyber attack scenario. Based on the current geopolitical situation, the participants were tasked with defending military as well as civilian infrastructure and manage their efforts into a coherent defence structure.

The Locked Shields exercise takes place annually since 2010.

Original articles: EN

Germany publishes its Annual Report on the Bundeswehr, extends of the Irini mandate but reaches the official end of the Atalanta operation

The German parliamentary commissioner of the armed forces, Ms Eva Högl, published her annual report about the German armies’ state: She addresses a number of bureaucratical problems and announced an ambitious reformation program in which the 100 billion € special fund (that was also addressed in the EDN-Newsfeed n°40, from the 28th of March 2022) will play a vital role. However, in a long-term view, the challenge will be to reform the entire material procurement process in which the Bundeswehr herself (that gives the order of procurement), the German parliament and the federal accounting juridical court (that check the order and reassure that it is legitimate) and the German defence industry (that develops, produces and delivers the procurement) do not act efficiently.

Thereby a large deficit has been building up for some years, that has grown so complex that can only be solved by reforming the procurement process and adjusting the financing to NATO demands simultaneously. This will be the organisational challenge for the German armed forces in next years.

At the same time, the German parliament has decided to extend the mandate for Operation Irini with a very clear voting. Successor to Operation Sophia, Operation Irini is an EU-driven naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea. There, the warships patrol the area off the Libyan coast in order to enforce an UN-arms embargo against the country of Libya. Concretely, that means to control bypassing ships and to check for illegal cargo. The data recovered during the operation are put it at EU disposition. Additionally, human rescue is performed in case of need.

From an operational standpoint, the new mandate that has been voted for in the Bundestag is quite similar to the old one, with only one significant change: The new mandate gets rid of the additional task to help build up a Libyan coast guard, therefore excluding any dependence from Libyan authority while conducting the mission.

Additionally, there are news regarding another naval operation, conducted by the European Union: Operation Atalanta, ongoing since 2008, has now come an end for the German Navy.

After an increasing amount of pirate attacks leading to the creation of the mandate in 2008, the EU sent a naval force to the Horn of Africa in order to protect its ships. Germany joined the task force in December the same year and was lately participating with maritime patrol aircraft.

By the course of the years, the mission has been severely criticised for a variety of reasons, whereas no one wanted to leave the defenceless merchant ships unguarded neither. The retirement from the mission is therefore due to a decrease in numbers regarding the pirate attacks.

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European policies

The European Union is divided on Russian energy supplies, but supports Poland and Bulgaria after their gas cut-off

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the gas deliveries from Russia have been a major concern for many European countries which are dependent on them, and a line not yet crossed in the sanctions package. However, Russia requests since the beginning of April the deliveries to be paid in rouble, the Russian money, and some countries refused to be compliant.

This is the case of Bulgaria and Poland: Gazprom, the Russian gas company, has announced the halt of their deliveries to the two countries, after the finalisation of deliveries paid when other currencies were still allowed. Respectively 75% and 50% of their supplies were Russian.

The European Union reacted first by calling this new action “blackmail”, and then by activating a plan prepared for this scenario and providing additional supplies to both countries. They also prepared themselves by filling up their strategic reserves. A more middle-term plan, RePowerEU, is also on the way to reduce the continent’s dependency to Russian oil, coal and gas. Many countries also implements national plans to ensure the security of their supplies: for example, in Germany, Russia’s market share for oil has dropped from 35% to 12%, for coal from 50% to 8%, and for gas from 55% to 35%. On the contrary, France share for gas is 20%, making it less vulnerable. And some countries have alternatives offered by their geographical situation, such as Greece, which is increasing its gas sourcing from Azerbaidjan.

As a new package of sanctions is under study by the Commission, which includes an embargo on oil imports, this is still in debate among the Member States. Especially with Hungary, which judges that it would destroy “the energy security” of the country, and may benefit with Slovakia of a derogation due to their specific enclaved configuration with few alternative sources. 

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