NewsFeed N°53

Published by Elias Ricken on

In this edition that covers the last two weeks, we discuss about the new “Marshall Plan” to rebuild Ukraine, the current trouble in Franco-German relations, the NATO-exercise Steadfast Noon 2022 and much more.
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Focus: War in Ukraine – And after that?

In our previous Newsfeeds since the 24th of February 2022, we have regularly informed you about political development during the war against Ukraine. It often were the most recent weapon deliveries, the latest news on the grain export problematic or the actions of western countries in consequence to the events in Ukraine. This time, we’ll discuss the European initiative to rebuild Ukraine after the war has ended with the help of a (possibly 750 B€) fund, that would come from the 27 member states. That way, the country of Ukraine should be rebuilt not only with a national prosperity in mind, but also in a European approach in mind, as the German chancellor Olaf Scholz stated on the corresponding conference in Berlin on the 24th of October: “ Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Schmyhal already stated that the damage caused by Russias war, has already hit the 750 B€ mark, and is rapidly approaching the 1 trillion €. Most of the damage would be of infrastructural nature, such as providing electricity, houses, roads and bridges.

Next to the of providing political support and reassurance for a future where Ukraine wins the war, another possible reason why the EU has decided to launch such an initiative is the frighteningly high difference in support in regards to the United States. As noted by the Kiel Ukraine Support Tracker, the US have mobilized around the double of monetary value than the EU has, with their military deliveries alone overcrossing the entire European efforts in value. With these numbers in mind, it would be only logical for Ukraine to rather allow American companies the contract for rebuilding than European. Especially since the US are also far more present in NATO, with remains a Ukrainian point of interest.

What remains unsure for the moment is, who exactly will pay what sum to participate in the rebuilding. Surely, the plan will most likely remain an EU-internal initiative, but which member state will pay what (and is ready to pay what) remains to be seen.

One can hope that the European leaders will this time learn from their mistakes in the past and tie their financial support after the war to a strict plan. After all, one cannot forget that Ukraine was marked as the country with the highest corruption numbers before the war started. Therefore insisting on judicial reforms to fight corruption seems reasonable.

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International relations

Massive RAF live fire exercise – training and imposing with clear intentions

What better way to develop the confidence of pilots and mechanics than through practice? Over the space of 10 days, exercise Fox2 Frenzy involved crew members from eight different squadrons of the Royal Air Force (RAF) to experience a large live-fire exercise including RAF Typhoon and F-35B stealth fighters.

By doing so, the RAF conducted its largest ever mass firing of Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAMs). In total, 53 of the missiles were fired over Banshee target drones, off the northwest coast of Scotland, to train to counter airborne threats over the Atlantic.

According to a press release, exercise Fox2 Frenzy, which has been a success, aimed to provide crew members an actual experience with combat-proven equipment and to maintain the operability of missiles. To ensure the RAF remains ready to secure the skies, life-fire exercises stay crucial as opportunities to fire such air-to-air missiles are rare, as the RAF has concentrated mainly on air-to-ground missions in recent years.

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Russia’s “dirty bomb” theory and the nothingness that backs it up

On the 24th of October, Russian Defence Minister Shoigu has accused Ukraine of building a “dirty bomb”: A traditional TNT-based bomb, with additionally added radioactive material. When the bomb is detonated, the radioactive e material is, by pure physical force, released in the surroundings of the explosion, therefore a certain area, depending on the mass of radioactive material, is contaminated. In contrary to a nuclear bomb, the radioactive material does not take part in the detonation process. Although a dirty bomb has never been detonated in a conflict situation before, it is considered to be rather unreliable weapon. Especially because multiple attempts to use a dirty bomb have been defied in the past years. Those cases include only attempted terrorist attacks, why fore the creation of such a weapon is directly attributed to a terrorist group, who struggle for funding, and capacity to construct a stronger weapon. To build a bomb a state/nation, is simply not logical from a military point of view: there exist far more sophisticated explosives, that work much more reliable and have a more predictable outcome.

Next to the fact, that Russia has by now not provided any evidence that Ukraine was building such a bomb, it would be a gigantic risk for Ukraine to even try themselves on using radioactive material in a non-civil way. The country knows well and surely that its survival depends on the support of its western allies, which of it would have none, should they use such a weapon. Trying to prove the innocence of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Kuleba has invited UN-inspectors to Ukraine to show that they have “nothing to hide”. These will take place in the coming weeks. In the meanwhile, basically all western countries have defied with Russias accusation, since there is no proof what their thesis.

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External operations and military cooperations

NATO exercise Steadfast Noon

NATO has performed from mid-October to October 30th its annual nuclear exercise.

Involving a wide range of equipment and capabilities, from tankers, bombers to fighter jets, from 14 NATO countries, it is aimed at keeping “out deterrence safe, secured and effective”, declared the NATO spokesperson, Oana Lungescu.

The gamefield was located above Belgium, hosting the exercise this year, but also above the North Sea and the United Kingdom. The other countries hosting NATO nuclear weapons are Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.

In the current geopolitical context, it was clearly stated by NATO that it was a “routine, recurring training activity not linked to any current world event”. Indeed, the communication around this yearly exercise was traditionally very light, in order to avoid any escalation with Russia. In 2020, it was only officially announced afterwards. However, with the recent declarations of Vladimir Putin, it has two benefits: it can be highlighted as a response to the Russian nuclear forces alert level and readiness, and it also ensures that it is not interpreted by Russia as an upcoming attack.

The NATO new Strategic Concept adopted in June stated that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance […] to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression”.

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The German parliament votes for the continuation of the Iraq mission

After verifying the necessity of the continuation of the US-led military operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, the German parliament has decided to do so. The mission exists since 2015, and consists primarily on fighting the terrorist group ISIS. The possible 500 German soldiers deployed in the mandate, are not conducting combat mission and only participate in military counselling, air-to-air refuelling and radar observation duties.

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European policies

Franco-German relations in distress: factors of defence that led to the postponement of the minister meeting

While the German pragmatism encounters the French naivety, bilateral cooperation between these two founders of Europe suffers from fundamental discrepancies and radically different long-term strategies regarding sovereign issues of energy and defence. First, it is a matter of importance to remind that since the EU foundation, Paris and Berlin, have maintained a strong relationship notably through remarkable political tandems which went down in history as highly symbolic driving forces of Europe. They coordinated major industrial projects and have made Europe the largest market of the world.

However, things tend to change as the war over Ukraine has been source of worry and awareness around the world and more specifically in Europe where battlefield is the closest. In Germany, the return of war in Europe is seen as a turning point on many varied topics: industrial model, energy supplies dependency, historical pacifism since WW2, increasing defence budgets and capacities, or even its place in Europe and the role of the UE.

To reach its objectives to modernise the Bundeswehr, Germany will set up a special fund of 100 billion euros to acquire new equipment, as was the case with the American F35 stealth fighters. This fund already represents a challenge for the future of the Europe of defence but doesn’t ultimately condemn European industrials such as Eurofighter with the Typhoon or Dassault with the Rafale, since Germany plays a role in NATO nuclear dissuasion in Europe. Therefore, FCAS [Future Combat Air System] project supported by Spain, Germany and France remains up to date as long as Dassault and Airbus reach an agreement on responsibilities born by each other. In parallel, other key industrial projects on defence struggle to come to light:

1)the successor to the Leclerc and Leopard 2 had to be a combat tank developed within the framework of the Franco-German MGCS [Main Ground Combat System] program, whose direction has been entrusted to Berlin. As of now, because of cooperation issues with Nexter, KMW, and Rheinmetall, a common project shouldn’t be operational before 2035-2040.

2)European drone MALE project and elaboration take more time than expected due to different political opinions between countries (GE, ESP, IT, FR)

Finally, what seems to be the one too many for France, is the choice initiated by Germany and 13 other European countries to opt for the Israeli American iron dome rather than giving priority to a European-made solution so hoped for by French president Macron.

All these elements put together, coupled with disagreements on gas prices ceiling and the refusal of France on a gas pipeline project between Spain and Germany, contribute to hurt the FR-GE collaboration to such an extent that a planned council of ministers in Paris has been postponed.

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France, Belgium and the Netherlands will cooperate on the mine hunting capability

During the Euronaval fair in Paris end of October, the procurement agencies from France (the DGA), Belgium (the DGMR) and the Netherlands (the DMO) signed an agreement to enhance the synergies and cooperation on the mine hunting segment. The target is to « increase the programmes’ efficiency » and « reinforce interoperability », according to the joint statement.

Mine hunting is already a field where the three Navies cooperate closely, as their current mine hunters ships have been developed jointly. However, two aspects differ from the previous set-up: first, Belgium and the Netherlands have already started the development and have engaged funds. And second, France is developing its next generation of ships with the United Kingdom in the SLAM-F project since 2012. The ships should be quite similar but will embark different systems, for example a different LARS (Launch and Recovery System) that will manage the expected drones.

The first delivery is expected in 2024.

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