NewsFeed n°44

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 this edition that covers the last two weeks, you can read about the factors that lead up to the nearing hunger crisis and possible problematics regarding the exchange system which with the army of Ukraine is reinforced. You can inform yourself about why Turkey could block Finland’s and Sweden´s NATO adhesion and the status of the Eurocopter Mk.III project.
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Focus: Facing an imminent global food crisis

As the war in Ukraine progresses, another dimension of crisis moves into the international eyesight: Food shortage and a following famine.

Ukraine is responsible for roughly 10% of the global cereal production. Now, while at war, multiple factors lead up to Ukrainian corn and wheat staying in stock and not being sent out for global consumption. It is important to note that it is unclear where exactly and in what quantity the cereal is in stock. Number range from 6 million to 20 million tons. From the storage location depends how fast, if at all, the stored goods could be sent out, if a solution would appear. First however, cereal trading routes would have to be cleared for safe passage and that is hard enough. A quick look on the map reveals why:

The only big enough port to make a significant difference in cereal shipping and is still under Ukrainian control, would be the port of Odessa. However, the Russian fleet operates so densely in the area, that the UN counts this naval activity a naval blockade. And they have good reason for it: Russian warships are indeed hindering any shipment leaving from Ukrainian ports for the Bosporus. Therefore, the Russian navy effectively controls about the upper third of the Black Sea and has established a naval blockade. In general, this action is legitimate in warfare, but only under certain conditions: most notably the bypassing of shipment under neutral flag, such as the merchant ships in the port in Odessa. In consequence the UN has demanded “Blue Corridors” to provide safe passage through the Black Sea, but Russia has refused, thereby, once more, breaking international law.

Another factor, although minor in comparison to the first one, is that the war in Ukraine obviously demands a shifting in resource management from a Ukrainian point of view. Many farmers have been drafted for the army and the fuel that was once used to motorise farming tractors, now motorizes the combat and transport vehicles of the Ukrainian army.

The resulting lack of nutriments could be compensated by buying it elsewhere or using up once own stocks. Especially on the African continent, countries do not have that possibility and are now facing a serious famine due to the decisive lack of cereal.
But also on the European level, the lack of Ukrainian corn has its consequences. Considering that only 30% of all wheat production is transformed into food, 60% into animal food and another 10% in agricultural fuels, it becomes clear that the lack of corn also hit on much different levels than one might first expect.

Ukraine and the EU have tried to react by using roads and trainlines through Romania and Poland to compensate for the missing shipment, but one has to understand that one cargo ship alone makes up for around 1.500 trucks. Delivering these enormous masses of cereal other than by the seaway, is a near to impossible task and the Romanian and Polish borders are already suffering in traffic jams caused by the trucks. There currently seems to be no real possibility to solve the entirety of the problem, however, the international community has some expertise with managing agricultural crisis. In case of the hunger crisis 2011 for example, a revised supervision system for global food distribution helped out. For now, the only thing every individual can do to help, is to adjust his or her own consumption and consider the waiving of some products.

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International relations

Why Turkey blocks Finland and Sweden from joining NATO

Historically neutral regarding military alignment, both Nordic countries, Sweden and Finland, have made an about-turn on their international cooperation policy by seeking an urgent  NATO membership. While Ukrainian forces are still fighting against Russian troops in the Donbas region, the Finnish and Swedish governments entered into serious talks to join the transatlantic alliance to benefit from the whole package of advantages it can provide.
Although NATO members could weapons from Russia, the main opposition arose from Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Driven indeed by domestic considerations, Turkey is making use of the required unanimity of the 30 NATO members to agree on the adhesion of new partners within the alliance. Two reasons actually explain this blocking mechanism engaged by Ankara:
First, Turkey aims to use this golden opportunity to assert its rights and get itself heard concerning the military restrictions the country is subject to. Turkey notably wants F-16s and to be allowed access to the American F-35 project again after being excluded for buying a Russian missile system. Furthermore, Erdogan is making the most of Turkey’s power and position to demand that Sweden lifts an arms embargo have feared this would provoke “military-technical” reactions, including the possible deployment of nuclear standing against him, as, according to him, a country cannot impose sanctions against another from the same alliance.
Second, the Turkish ambassadors force NATO to postpone their initial plan to proceed with the two countries’ accession to the alliance as prospective members by the end of the month. Erdogan accuses these two countries of harbouring PKK terrorists, and Turkey is demanding the extradition of some 30 criminals recognized by the regime. It is true that today the Nordic countries, especially Sweden and Finland, are the refuge for a significant Kurdish minority, which greatly bothers the Turkish leader in case of a NATO joining. “It would be unwise to underestimate how angry the top of the Turkish government is, and common Turkish people, about the fact that an organization that is recognized by the EU itself as terrorists, the PKK, finds safe haven in both Sweden and Finland,” former White House official and US diplomat Matthew Bryza said.
In the end, NATO representatives try to downplay these “political issues” and expect a better outcome with not so many concessions to make in light of Turkey’s demands because they are convinced that Turkey will end up saying yes to Finland and Sweden adhesion.

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European external operations and military cooperations

T-72 MBTs for Ukraine: Who provides them and how and where are the limits of the exchange system?

While the Ukrainian soldiers and politicians fight a horrific war against Russia, the rest of Europe tries to help with weapon deliveries and a constant flow of supplies. The example of T-72 MBT deliveries to Ukraine shows that the system does work in practice, but also that there isn´t always unanimity between the European countries.

The first example regards the Czech delivery of T-72s to Ukraine, in exchange for German Leopard 2A4s. This exchange of the Ringtausch-principle (de: “circle-exchange”) is the first instance where a full exchange with Ukraine receiving their tanks and an eastern European country receiving an exchange from a western neighbour is conducted.
However, the devil lies in detail: Although Germany is always addressed as a provider, the Leopards given to the Czech Republic do not belong the German Army. In fact, all 15 German built tanks originate from the weapons-industry. The Bundeswehr announced weeks ago that they cannot bear to give up any Leopard 2s currently in service with the German forces. Additionally, the German ministry of defence has not given out any weapon-orders to the industry since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, while other EU countries have long done so.
In other words: Even if the German army orders new MBTs next week, it will take months for them to roll out of the factory. With the position of the Bundeswehr of not giving out any of their tanks in stock, the Ringtausch-principle might reach its limit soon, when Germany won´t be able to provide vehicles to their EU partner as exchange for soviet-tech going to Ukraine.
In another Ringtausch with Slovenia, agreed on last month, sent a number of T-72 MBTs to Ukraine. In exchange however, the German army sent them a completely different class of vehicle: Marder IVFs and Fuchs armoured troops carriers. The non-accordance of the sent class of vehicles shows that the insistence of the Bundeswehr not to give their own MBTs away.

Additionally, problems also rise on the communicational level, as Poland, that recently sent over T-72s to Ukraine, claims that the German government doesn´t fulfil their promise of providing Poland with Leopard 2s in exchange. Ms Baerbock, the German minister for foreign affairs provides formal excuses to Poland and says that Germany, as explained, can´t deliver heavy weaponry by the press of a button and that constant communication in between partnering countries is vital in these days.

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The UK´s ambition to up arm Moldova to NATO standard

With the ongoing of the Russian invasion, weapon deliveries from western countries to Ukraine are an ever-present topic. The goal is to up-arm the Ukrainian military to NATO-standard, thereby assuring the ability to defend against an enemy like Russia. Ukraine´s eastern-southern neighbour Moldova however, also gets some attention.
When the country separated from the Soviet Union in 1991, a conflict between the newly formed Republic of Moldova and the region of Transnistria rose: While the biggest part of the country wanted to become independent and possibly steer into western political direction, the region of Transnistria preferred to stay aligned to Russia. The conflict heated up and in the following ear of 1992 a war broke out at which´s end the region Transnistria declared its independence. Even though no country with the exception of Russia has yet recognized the independent status of Transnistria, Russian troops (up to 2.000) are stationed in this region. Today, the political course of Moldova is decisively pro-European, requests to join the UE and aims at a partnership with NATO. With the war in Ukraine, the necessity to render eastern European countries, with the intention of staying independent from Russia, self-defendable has risen. In order to guarantee this in Moldova’s case, a lot will have to be done on personal as well as equipment level. Currently, the Republic of Moldova disposes 5.000 active servicemen and women with 70.000 reservists, that are mostly equipped with old soviet tech. Whereas the personal number is simply too low to defend in an invasion scale war, the Ukrainian army has shown that old equipment can be effectively utilised against a technically superior enemy. Still, the ambition stands:
When the President of the European Council Charles Michel, visited Moldova in the beginning of May, he promised weapon deliveries from the EU to Moldova. Now, Ms Liz truss, the UK´s minister for foreign relations went further, announcing NATO´s ambition to up-arm countries that are endangered by a Russia to NATO standard. That includes of course Ukraine itself, Poland (which already is a NATO-member) and also other countries that would be vulnerable in case of a Russian attack, for example Moldova.

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The first Eurocopter Tiger Mk.III will fly in 2025, despite Germany still hesitating to join the program

The Eurocopter Tiger is an attack helicopter used by Spain, France, Germany and Australia, and in service since 2002. A recent upgrade, called the Mk.III, was under study as a mid-life upgrade.

In march 2022, the OCCAR awarded a contract to Airbus Helicopters (ex-Eurocopter) on the behalf of the French and Spanish procurement agencies, the DGA and the DGAM, for the development of this new upgrade. Germany, after some hesitations, has not joined the program at this stage. However, the possibility for that has been prepared in the new contract until June 1st. The German Ministry of Armed Forces could choose to purchase instead the AH 64 Apache from Boeing, as suggested by a Request for Information issued to that aim in 2020 to the US government. The German government justified this as a data collection to prepare for the next decision.

The first deliveries are planned for 2030, and the first flight has been scheduled for 2025, with 42 upgraded aircraft for France and 18 for Spain. In addition, whatever the countries participating, the development will be shared among the Airbus Helicopters facilities in Albacete, Spain, Marignane, France and Donauwörth, Germany.

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The Hub for EU Defence Innovation (HEDI) has been officially established in the EDA

On May 17th, the European Defence Agency’s ministerial Steering Board, gathering the Defence Ministers of the States member of the Agency, has established the creation of a Hub for EU Defence Innovation. This new structure is aimed at both structure and strengthen the already existing innovation activities and create new ones. It is also one of the first deliveries of the recent Strategic Compass, the EU White Book adopted in March 2022 where it was identified as a priority.

It will collaborate with the existing innovation framework, such as in the EU the Innovation Framework, or in NATO the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA). Three steps have been defined:
• Inspiring and promoting innovation at EU level
• Facilitating innovation across Member States and EU institutions
• Making it a EU-wide platform embedded in the EU capability development
No indication of concrete projects or expected achievements has been shared yet for this new framework

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European policies

The EU Council approved the conclusions for the development of an EU cyber posture

In a decision of May 23rd, the Council adopted conclusions for the development of an EU cyber posture.

In line with the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and the Strategic Compass, it aims to prevent cyberattacks and respond firmly to the attacks targeting the EU or its members by combining all the initiatives in that domain. To that end, the cyber posture defines and details 5 functions the EU should tackle:
• Strengthen EU’s cyber resilience and capacities to protect: many directives and regulations are under study to ensure the securisation of entities and infrastructures. Actions are expected from both the Commission and Member States.
• Enhance solidarity and comprehensive crisis management, with the organization of cross-community and multi-level cyber exercises and the shared investment on innovation.
• Promote EU’s vision of cyberspace, which  aims at contributing to conflict prevention, mitigation of cybersecurity threats and greater stability in international relations
• Enhance cooperation with partner countries and international organisations, by calling for the establishment of a Cyber Capacity building board by Josep Borrell before the end of 2022, and the use of EU financial tools.
• Prevent, defend against and respond to cyber-attacks, on EU level as well as Member States’, as it is acknowledged that cybersecurity is primarily a national responsibility. However, interoperability is encouraged by creating a military Computer Emergency Response Teams (milCERT) network.

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News from Mali: the Bundestag extends the EU and UN missions with modifications, France continues its operations despite the break of the cooperation treaty

Following the Malian choice to discard the European presence in the country and ask a support from Russia instead, the French mission Barkhane and the EU mission Takuba are both leaving the country. On May 2nd, the Malian government unilaterally denounced their cooperation treaty with France on grounds considered unjustified by France. However, Paris stated that they will still withdraw according to the necessary planning and not earlier, to ensure the security of the French troops. In the meantime, both French and EU troops continue to perform surveillance and securisation mission in the area.

Despite this sensible context, on Friday, May 20th, the Bundestag approved with modifications the extension of the two mandates of the Bundeswehr in the Sahel region: the EUTM Mali training mission and the MINUSMA UN mission. Both votes were won with a wide majority of around 55O for and around 100 against.

The UN mission has not been impacted by the recent developments and around 13.000 troops are remaining. To replace the French support in the region, Germany had therefore to extend the medical and security personel, and has increased the limit of soldiers authorized in the country from 1.100 to 1.400. In addition, an uncommon opt-out clause has been integrated in the mandate to allow to withdraw the troops if the global security conditions are not considered adequate anymore.

Concerning the EUTM Mali itself, the maximum number of troops allowed has on the contrary been reduced from 600 to 300, as most of them are being redeployed in the neighboring Niger. The Federal Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was visiting Niger 3 days later and has saluted their cooperation.

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