The NewsFeed is a press review with a summary of a selection of articles and events that occurred in the past two weeks in the European defence and geopolitical environment. Keep track!
In our brief of the last weeks, you will find a focus on the NATO summit in Ramstein and the delivery of tanks to Ukraine, the significant increase of the French defence budget, or the tensions highlighted at the occasion of the 60th Elysée Treaty anniversary!
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Focus: No MBTs for Ukraine at Ramstein, but only four days later
For the 8th time have the supporting countries of Ukraine met at the US-American military base in the German Ramstein. This time, on the 20th of January 2023, one question was above all: The possible delivery of Leopard-2 Main battle tanks to Ukraine. Has a decision been taken?
No, but also not for or against the delivery. The discussion about leopard deliveries has been going on for quite a while: The German-manufactured MBT is widely used in the European landscape and even a slight bit outside of Europe. Therefore, and because of its set of capabilities in comparison to the T-72, T-80 currently used by Russia and Ukraine. As one of the user-countries, Poland has already stated that it is willing to supply Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 tanks. That was the situation until the 24th.
If it was not on the 20th of January that Germany agreed to deliver its own MBT to Ukraine, the 24th finally brought that decision. For now, Germany will deliver 14 Leopard 2a6, which is enough for one armoured Battalion. This decision has been made after weeks of pressure against the chancellor Olaf Scholz and severe criticism that Germany wouldn’t take a lead-role in Europe. Although a long-awaited relief for Germany’s allies, the political attitude has very likely not changed, since the decision was taken under pressure and not by autonomous consent. Still, the coming days will reveal details to this important news.
Piling up the announcements of the last days by numerous countries, the Ukrainian ambassador to France stated on January 28th that 321 tanks could be sent to Ukraine.
Procuration costs of the CH-47 Chinook could possibly double for Germany
According to Business Insider Germany, the price for the procurement of the CH-47F Chinook as the Bundeswehr’s new heavy transport helicopter could double, going from 6 to 12 billion euros for 60 units. Although this hasn’t been confirmed yet by the German Ministry of Defence, it would be no real surprise, since procurement costs have gone up in many of the Bundeswehr’s projects. While simple inflation does his own part on the phenomenon, additional equipment and requirements not yet developed could explain the rest. It would be the first time that the German procurement system hampers in this instance.
Other examples are the fleet of F-35As, where additional costs were identified in the preparation of hangars, maintenance equipment and personnel formation for the new type, or the procurement of new tanker-ships, where the German Navy first renounced features of the ships, in order to have them at a better price. Unfortunately, the proposed price stayed the same, and later stayed so high, that civilian manufacturers that had come up with an offer of a civilian tanker for the German Navy would have been less price extensive, with the same features.
For the Chinook, it remains to see if the price has actually doubled, or how high the final price will really be. Some increase will surely have to be counted for as inflation adjustment.
Military cooperation and external operations
The Netherlands join Germany and the US with Patriot, Denmark delivers CAESARs to Ukraine
The Netherlands will join the United States and Germany in supplying Patriot missile systems to Ukraine. The decision to supply the systems was made during a meeting between Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld and her Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Taran. The Patriot missile system is a defense system designed to intercept and destroy incoming missiles and aircraft, though there is not a specific timeline of the system delivery available yet.
Andriy Taran also visited the Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen. They announced that in addition, Denmark has decided to give 19 Caesar 8×8 artillery systems to Ukraine, and that Ukraine will also receive CV-90 armored vehicles from Sweden. The Caesar 8×8 artillery system is a highly mobile French artillery system that can be configured for a variety of missions, including fire support and reconnaissance. The CV-90 is a tracked armored combat vehicle that is used by several countries in Europe. Delivery plan is also unknown.
The Franco-German relations celebrate their 60th anniversary in a complex strategic environment
Germany and France are celebrating 60 years of the Elysée Treaty, and there is no real reason to celebrate. The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis pose historic challenges for the Franco-German couple: there has been a crisis between Paris and Berlin for months. “France sees its role and Europe’s role in defense differently from Germany” says the IR researcher Judy Dempsey. “Paris believes that the EU should be much more concerned with its own defense and security interests. Germany does not agree, also because it is simply weak in terms of security and defense.“ Berlin is also aware that the security guarantor for Germany and also for Europe remains the United States. France, with its large defense industry, has a more distant view of NATO’s role. And it is much less dependent on Russian gas. Macron accused Scholz of acting alone to overcome the energy crisis. “The question of stability must be put back at the centre of relations between Paris and Berlin,” says expert Dempsey. Macron and Scholz would have to understand how fragile this stability is and involve the other member states. In this way, they can give the transatlantic relationship a much-needed boost, with Europe playing a much stronger role than before. Because the differences between Germany and France are also their strong points. If they reach an agreement at the European level, they can be almost certain that the other EU members will follow.
Germany has a new Defense minister
After multiple scandals around Germanys’ (now ex-) defense minister Christine Lambrecht, she had finally decided to resign from office on the 16th of January 2023. One day later, Boris Pistorius, minister for interior in the federal state of Lower Saxony was announced as her replacement. Next to all the people speculated for the position, such as social-democrat defense experts Lars Klingbeil, Siemtje Möller and Eva Högl, Boris Pistorius was never talked about. In fact many heard his name for the first time this day. Therefore, it is safe to say that it was an unexpected nomination.
In addition, his first week in office has already been eventful for two main reasons: after meeting the American defense minister Lloyd Austin, it went directly on to the Ramstein meeting (featured in today’s focus). And on the 22nd, Pistorius met his partner counterpart Sébastien Lecornu at the Franco-German council meeting.
While political commentators underlined that Pistorius entered office with a lot more willingness and determination than Christine Lambrecht did, it remains to see if remarkable changes in politics will be noted in the coming weeks.
France decides on a 30% increase of its defence spending for the next 7 years
During his traditional address to the French Armies for the New Year, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an increase of the defence budget by €100B for the period 2024-2030, to reach a total of €413B during this period.
France’s defence budget is planned through a military programation law covering 6 to 7 years. The previous one, from 2019 to 2025, was qualified as a law of “reparation” from the reductions of the post-2008 period, whereas this one is aimed to be a law of “transformation” to cover the new threats. However, it does not trigger an era of excessive spending: this budget is “without luxury nor comfort”. It will go with an adaptation of the military development and production tools to do more, faster and cheaper for more efficient spending.
In terms of capacities and equipment, Mr. Macron has provided some guidelines for structuring programmes, already launched: the upgrading of France’s national deterrence, the new aircraft carrier, or the replacement of all Mirage-2000 fighter jets by a uniform Rafale fleet. New fields were also put under the spotlight, such as drones and space. Military intelligence budgets will double to keep the country permanently “one war ahead”.
The similarity with the “Sondervermögen” budget in Germany, also worth €100B and announced by Olaf Scholz very quickly after the invasion of Ukraine, cannot be missed. However, in his speech, Macron did not mention NATO once but only Europe and the possibility to act in coalition, meaning this budget increase should be directed more to national or European spending than its German counterpart.