The NewsFeed is a press review with a summary of a selection of articles and events that occurred in the past weeks. Keep track!
In our brief of the last weeks, you will find a focus on the integration of Finland in NATO, the 1 year progress assessment of the Strategic Compass, a tour of the latest procurement deals, and more!
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Focus: Finland becomes the 31st NATO-member
Finland and Sweden have been member states of the European Union since 1995 and are since long time close partners to NATO. Still, their traditional neutrality during the Cold War and after have always been a priority in the two countries’ defence policy. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, however, times have changed. Both countries decided to end their era of neutrality and to apply to NATO in May 2022, after having an internal political discussion.
After this double application, one of the fastest adhesion processes ever was employed in order to have Finland and Sweden a NATO member state.
While the very most of NATO member states were happy about Sweden and Finland’s adhesion, Turkey accused Sweden of supporting “terroristic organisations”, most notably the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). As a matter of fact, Sweden does allow members of this party to stay and live in Sweden and the PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation in other countries as well. The question in this debate was moreover, if this Turkish-internal disagreement with Sweden justified the entire adhesion process to be stopped in these circumstances. After all, Finland, who was not accused by Turkey, was held back in its adhesion to the same measure as Sweden, while not being affected by the problem Turkey saw. With the negotiations between Turkey and Sweden still ongoing, Finland has meanwhile fully adhered to NATO on the 4th of April 2023.
With this, Finland brings not only a 1.300km long borderline with Russia, but also a well trained and (through the yearlong partnership with NATO) also well accommodated military to the table. With the draft still active in Finland, the country disposes of a formidable reserve force that is equally well equipped as the regular combat troops.
With another Scandinavian country joining NATO, the Baltic sea essentially becomes NATO-owned-waters in a conflict situation. Therefore, Russia’s official goal to become a sea power in that region (naval doctrine 2022) is put on hold. Speaking of the geographical aspects, the three Baltic countries are now geographically much more” included” into NATO. Before Finland’s adhesion, only Poland had a small border with Lithuania, whereas Latvia and Estonia weren’t accessible by direct NATO-neighbours. Now, Finland covers Estonia from the North via the Gulf of Finland and therefore relieves the country from pressure.
Last but not least, Finnish ground forces use the Leopard-2 MBT. This tank was talked about a lot in the past months, therefore it is enough to state that NATO membership also facilitates potential deliveries from Finland in order to support Ukraine.
Industry: A dence month for defence procurement – Tour of horizon
Slovakia will purchase attack helicopters Bell AH-1Z from the US at limited cost
On March 21st, the Slovakian minister for defence, Naroslav Nad, announced that Slovakia would make an offer for the 12 attack helicopters Bell AH-1Z that the US are proposing for sale. The step-up is indeed very interesting, with a total cost of $340M for a worth of $1B which includes training and 500 AGM114 Hellfire missiles. The $660M remaining cost is endorsed by the US through their Military Assistance Program. In addition, Slovakia will be able to use the $213M of European funds compensating the donation of Mig-29 to Ukraine.
Original articles: 🇫🇷
Denmark will replace its Caesar with ATMOS guns from Elbit
In January, as part of the effort to provide Ukraine with state-of-the-art equipment, Denmark donated its 19 not yet received Caesar guns. Nexter, their French manufacturer, could have expected a similar command to replenish the Danish Army. But quickly after, the Danish Ministry of Defence announced their intent to enter negotiations with Elbit for their ATMOS systems. Despite the case made by Nexter on the combat proven and interoperability with Danish digital systems benefit of the Caesar, the Israeli group announced on March 2nd that a $252M contract was signed with a “European country”, which could only be Denmark.
Original articles: 🇫🇷
The British Army will receive Swedish Archer howitzers
For the same reason, Great-Britain will also retrieve howitzer systems delivered to Ukraine (32 AS-90). Supported by a £5B defence budget increase for the next 2 years, announced by Rishi Sunak in March, completed by Jeremy Hunt, Finance Ministry, with a £11B increase within 5 years, 14 Archer systems will be procured from Sweden to be operational this April. In addition to firing at twice the range of the AS-90, they provide the UK with a short-term capacity before the development of the Mobile Fires Platform project, initially aimed for 2030.
Original articles: 🇫🇷
External operations and military cooperation
Germany Operation extends Sea Guardian and UNMISS for one more year
Germany Operation extends Sea Guardian and UNMISS for one more year.
The German parliament has discussed and approved the extension of two military operations.
First, Operation “Sea Guardian” which is a naval-driven undertaking in the Mediterranean Sea, where NATO warships and aircraft combat terrorism and arms smuggling. (Not to be confused with Operation “Irini”: successor to Operation “Sophia”, active in the same region, but conducted by the European Union Naval Force and with the objective to enforce the UN-arms embargo against Libya). Running since July 2016, “Sea Guardian” is the successor of Operation “Active Endeavour”. The latter was still a remnant of NATOs mutual defence clause, dating back to 2001. Now the German parliament has decided to extend the operation, in which its navy is taking part, for one more year, until the end of March 2024.
Second, active since 2005, Operation “UNMISS” is a UN-peacekeeping mission in the Republic of South-Sudan. For Germany, it includes a rather small force of 50 soldiers who fulfil mostly logistical tasks.
The resuming of both operations was decided by the German parliament at the end of march 2023 with a large majority.
Latvia reintroduces the compulsory military service
Latvia’s draft project stated in July 2022 has now entered its next phase, where the draft will be set in as an administrative procedure from mid-2023 onwards. 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 to experience a 11 months military training or to make a civil service, which is administered with the minister of defence. For the rest of 2023, this remains on a voluntary basis, but is expected to become fully mandatory as of 2024. It is also worth noting that the presence of women will also remain on a voluntary basis. Finally, the whole cost is estimated to be €110M per year with a final objective of having a total amount of 50 000 active soldiers.
March 2023: One year of Strategic Compass
In March 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union, Josep Borrell, presented officially the Strategic Compass, the first document to build a Defence & Security strategy for the EU. Voted by the 27 Member States, it has been in preparation since 2021 and relies on 4 pillars: Act, Secure, Invest, Partner. One year later, an annual progress report is tracking down the concrete achievements of the Compass.
For the Act side, two main achievements are pointed out. First, the set-up of the EU Military Assistance Mission, with 30.000 Ukrainian soldiers to be trained by the end of 2023. Second, the heavy use of the European Peace Facility (EPF) to support deliveries of both lethal and nonlethal equipment to Ukraine with a €3.6B total budget. With an increase of its financial ceiling by €2B and its extension to support African partners, the EPF could become the key tool for crisis management actions of the EU. Progress was also made on the operationalisation of the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity and Military Planning and Conduct Capability, both aimed for 2025.
The Secure chapter details the structuration of the EU hybrid Toolbox, Rapid response Teams and Protocols to counter hybrid threats. Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference (FIMI) is also starting to be handled with a first report published. In addition, coordination has been reinforced on strategic domains such as cyber, maritime or space (with for example the EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence).
Defence Investment by EU Member States has increased by 6% since 2020 to reach €214B per year and should reach an additional €70B by 2025, but joint spending remains at 18% of total whereas the target is set at 30%. Many joint procurement initiatives (EDIRPA, …) are currently under preparation for incentivisation on short-term needs. In parallel, the EU is coordinating a Capability Development Plan revision for Autumn 2023.
On Partnerships, links with NATO and the United Nations have been reinforced, as well as with the African Union or the Association of the South-East Asian Nations. In parallel, specific bilateral partnerships are diversifying, with the United States (with for example an Administrative Agreement finalised between the EDA and the DoD), with Norway, Canada, and the UK for potential PESCO projects. The Shuman Security and Defence Partnership Forum held in March intensified the dialogue with these strategic partners.
As a conclusion, it cannot be denied that in the past year, the Member States and the EU made concrete and significant steps forward in defence and security topics. However, it remains difficult to identify in those steps the specific thrust of the Strategic Compass compared to the shock provoked by the Russian invasion. In any case, the combination of these two events creates a significant momentum to be seized, described by Josep Borrell as “once-in-a-generation”.