In this edition that covers the last two weeks, you can read about the UN-peacekeeping mission MINUSMA, the grain export treaty in Ukraine, Latvias decision to re-establish the compulsory military service, current developments in British aviation and much more.
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Focus: Is MINUSMA still an effective peacekeeping mission?
The situation for the UN-peacekeeping mission Mali, has suffered another multiple setbacks. Since the Malian government prohibited the UN-force to move freely with an official paper on June 29th, more and more restrictions have been added to hinder the work conducted for the MINUSMA personnel. Most notably, it is now impossible for the UN to investigate on the crimes against humanity that the Russian mercenary group Wagner is blaming France on, even though they have very presumably committed them themselves.
Along with some minor provocations, like the imprisonment of a group of 49 NSE (national support element) soldiers coming from Ivory Coast to support the MINUSMA-mission, the situation has developed in three big steps.
First, the rotation for soldiers participating in the UN mission has been paused by the UN. The reason for it, is the irregularity with which the Malian government seems to handle the inward and outward journey of personal in connection with MINUSMA. One has to note that 8 German soldiers were also temporarily hindered to leave the country on a civil airliner. The reason were missing documents for departure.
Second, the Malian government has declared the UN-spokesman an unwanted person, forcing him to leave the country. Such a step is purely symbolic and has no real influence on the personnel in the field, but dismissing the person in charge of communication shows that the government is clearly not interested in cooperating or even talking with the UN.
Third, the 21st and 22nd of July saw multiple complex terrorist attacks. The attacks didn´t affect the UN force, but show that the terrorists are gaining on confidence and power. Most notably, the city of Kati was attacked, even though it is only 15 km from the capital Bamako and known as a city with a strong military presence.
With this development, the question emerges if MINUSMA can still operate in its sense as a peacekeeping force. The ideal conditions are long a thing of the past, but the sum of restrictions imposed by the Malian government pose the new question if the UN-force would receive help of the Malian government in case they were attacked. With the firing of the UN spokesman this question can almost certainly answered with “no”. And with new attack in the country, close to capital infrastructure, Mali might redevelop into a landscape where a peacekeeping force that works with very tight rules of engagement is simply senseless. One should always remember that peacekeeping as it is conducted by MINUSMA relies on existing structures and only applies help to stabilize them. The current situation promises an environment for which MINUSMA is not meant: Armed conflict instead of peace and political disregard instead of the will for cooperation.
Relief and setback: The grain export treaty
For the next 120 days, an agreement has been reached between Ukraine and Russia on Russia’s grain export blockade.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, huge worries have been raised about the consequences on the world food supplies, as the country was the world’s top 5 exporter of wheat and corn. Russia instituted a sea blockade to prevent ships from bringing weapons to Ukraine, resulting in the blockade of all grain export.
This hot topic may have found a temporary solution with an agreement reached between Russia and Ukraine, under the control of the UN and Turkey. Last Friday, on July 22nd, both countries signed, however separately, a common treaty to organise the creation of safe corridors for merchant ships. The naval mines placed in the Black Sea by Ukraine however, to avoid any landing from Russia will not be removed. Instead, Ukrainian pilot ships will guide the way in and out for civilian shipping.
In order to get Russia to sign the treaty, some guarantees and counterparts have been settled.
First, there will be no attacks on harbour infrastructure in Odessa, Mykolaiv and Kherson.
Second, a joint coordination centre will inspect the ships in Istanbul on their way to Ukraine to ensure they don’t carry any weapons.
Third, there will not be any sanctions regarding the export of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers.
The United States even offered to provide big tankers, since many logistical companies could be reluctant to cooperate with Russia. The agreement has been saluted by Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, as a “initiative that serves all” that will allow to empty Ukrainian silos before the next harvest and release the tensions on food supplies. However, suspicion remains high as Ukraine has designated the UN responsible of the application of the treaty and warned they would fire on any Russian ship or escort in their waters.
One day after this treaty was signed, Russia already broke it. On the 23rd of July, surface-surface-missile struck the harbour of Odessa. Russia first denied being behind the attack, but admitted on the 24th to having indeed sent those missiles. Apparently, they were supposed to destroy western weapon shipments and did in fact not impact the segment of the harbour where the grain is readied for export. Still, the treaty both war parties signed two day prior, unmistakably clarifies that the entirety of harbour infrastructure is not to be attacked.
This is another example of a direct and purposeful violation of international law by Russia. If the treaty can hold under these circumstances is to see, for now the export continues.
Western weapon systems prove themselves in Ukraine – and see an increase on the arms-market
Continuing with Belgium, their just purchased French-built the Self-propelled howitzer CAESAR, that could be quite familiar to our readers due to its current use at the hands of the Army of Ukraine. 18 SPGs were shipped over by the French military in May and June this year and fight there the Russian invaders.
Another recent arms-purchase, was the Estonian army, purchasing the American M142 HIMARS multiple launched rocket system. This system has also been delivered to Ukraine on multiple occasions, where 12 are currently in service and 4 are planned to be delivered.
This recent purchase show that the use of these exact system has an impact on choice of buying for other countries. Since the systems used in Ukraine are employed in combat against an equal, if not superior enemy, their advantages and flaws are immediately visible. CAESAR and HIMARS fall under this same page of analysis and evaluation.
Latvia re-establishes the compulsory military service
Whereas Russian Minister for foreign affairs, Sergei Lavrov, recently stated that Russia’s “special operation” will expand from now beyond the simple rescue of Donbas region, and therefore opens the gates for a larger military escalation, Latvia is set to reintroduce compulsory military service. This news was announced by Latvian Minister of Defence, Artis Pabriks last week echoing the last announcements of Russian officials. Out of fear to see its neighboring country continue its invasion towards the east, the relative small Baltic country made the decision to reimplement that system to better defend its territory. Latvia actually abandoned it after joining NATO in 2007 rendering its national defence needs gradually less important regardless of its proximity with Russia. We count today the number of 7500 professional soldiers in addition to the national guard made only of volunteers. Added to that, the 1500 NATO soldiers, the total amount weighs few in light of the current threat that Russia represents. The Latvian military capabilities seem then to reach their limits in a quite strained context where the country is vulnerable given its geographical position. Thus, as part of the reintroduction of compulsory military service, young men from 18 to 27 years old will have the choice on a voluntary basis as of 2023 to experience a 11 months military training. Expected to become fully efficient five years later, the Latvian government aims to make it mandatory to attend for the youth. It is also worth noting that the presence of women will remain on a voluntary basis. Finally, the whole cost is estimated to 110 million euros per year with a final objective of having a total amount of 50 000 active soldiers.
Moldovan-European cooperation on illegal arms dealing
One month ago, on June 23rd, Moldova officially received the EU candidate status, together with Ukraine. Now it was decided to start a dense cooperation between the EU and Moldova in the field of arms trafficking. The latter is becoming an increasing problem, since all the weapons sent to Ukraine to reinforce the war industry also increase weapon availability on the black market, as a side effect. On July 11th, Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, and Ana Revenko, the Moldovan Minister of Internal Affairs, signed a cooperation paper in form of the “EU Support Hub for Internal Security and Border Management in Moldova”.
The cooperation is supposed to help Moldova stop any arms trafficking from their own inside. The EU simply applies supportive measures, such as consulting by Europol, Frontex and the already existing EUBAM; the Border assistance group between the EU, Moldova and Ukraine.
This news go hand in hand with one of the key conditions, that Moldova and Ukraine had to accept with the EU candidate status: the commitment of structural reforms, notably in the field of corruption.
External operations and Military cooperation
Partnership signed between the Franco-Belgian ground forces
In Newsfeed n°46, published on June 26th, we discussed a cooperation between the British Army and the Armée de l´Air in the framework of the “Combined Joint Expeditionary Force”. Today, we want to briefly talk about another cooperation, between France and Belgium. This time, it is the 4th Logistics Battalion of the Belgian ground forces, the “composante terre” on one side and the French 503rd train regiment with the 4th supply regiment on the other. Both French units are also specialised in logistics and both based in the city of Nîmes.
The Belgian and French armies have a long history of partnerships, that dates back to the very early 2000s. Today, this cooperation shows the value that is brought to effective logistics and reliable supply lines in an armed conflict.
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Romania acquires two new submarines
Romania is also feeling the impact of the Russian attack on Ukraine, with its port of Sulina, where the Danube flows into the Black Sea, being only 170km away from Odessa. Already, Romanian forces needed to defuse 20 sea mines drifting over from the war zone. While being a NATO member, Romania so far possesses only one obsolete submarine, which it judged insufficient to contribute its own part to the collective defense efforts. Therefore, Romania signed contracts with France, seeking to buy two helicopters and two Scorpène submarines. This continues the modernization of Romania’s navy with French expertise and technology, which began in 2019 with contracts regarding four new corvettes and upgrading two frigates. The Scorpène class submarines are regular diesel-electric attack submarines and were jointly developed by the French Naval Group and the Spanish Navantia Group.
Original articles: 🇫🇷
United Kingdom becomes the first operator of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian and continues modernizing its Air Force
The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force will soon operate the General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian medium-altitude, long-endurance Remotely Piloted Air System (RPSA) under the moniker of “Protector RG MK1”. Expecting the delivery of the first system this autumn, this successor platform to the well-known Predator and Reaper series is expected to set new standards in the field of RPAS. It can fly longer and higher, has a higher payload, possesses modern de-icing and lightning protection capabilities and can start from shorter airfields. Additionally, the Protector is capable to operate in civilian airspaces due to its detect and avoid systems, while the pilots continue operating the aircraft remotely.
In further news, the Royal Air Force also announced the maiden flight of the “Flying Combat Air Demonstrator”, part of the UK’s very own Future Combat Air System (FCAS), for 2027. Developed under the code name “Tempest”, the system is planned to be combat ready by 2035. In contrast to many large-scale projects, like the Franco-German FCAS for example, Tempest is going better than projected. BAE Systems, Leonardo, MDA and Rolls-Royce play leading roles in this project, in which not only the UK, but also Sweden and other nations have expressed interest.
Finally, the Royal Air Force also makes investments into extending the life span of existing platforms like the Eurofighter Typhoon, allocating 2,75 billion € for this project alone. A core feature of this upgrade is the new radar European Common Radar System Mark 2, which was developed by BAE Systems and Leonardo UK.