NATO Members Up Defense Spending In Face Of New Threats

909px-Flag_map_of_NATO_Countries_(Europe)On May 9, the skies over Moscow’s Red Square filled with aircraft as Russia marked 70 years since the end of World War II. In the streets below, crowds watched as a new generation of armored fighting vehicles rumbled past the country’s leaders in one of the largest displays of military might since the end of the Cold War.

During the last five years, a resurgent Russia has increased its defense spending by 50% and plans to modernize its conventional air, sea and land forces and, perhaps more worryingly, firm up the posture of its nuclear forces.

In the same period, Europe’s defense spending has fallen – in some countries by as much as 20% – as governments attempt to recover from burgeoning deficits and indebtedness resulting from the global economic crisis.

These same countries were caught largely off-guard when well-armed troops without insignia deployed into the Crimea following the Ukrainian revolution of early 2014. “Ukraine was really a wake-up call, it reminded Europeans that we cannot any longer take peace and stability for granted,” explained Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former secretary general of NATO in an interview with Aviation Week.

With the Russian bear re-awakened, Europe’s governments have been scrambling to renegotiate budgets and find additional funding for new equipment to improve readiness, but they are likely to struggle after years of cuts and the costly nation-building exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“My assessment is that 2015 will represent a low point in defense investment; from here we will see a gradually reversed trend that will see increased defense spending,” says Rasmussen, who led calls for NATO members to boost their defense spending back up to the NATO target of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) at the alliance’s summit in Newport, Wales, last September.

Germany’s plans to raise spending by an additional 6.2% over the next five years may only partially mitigate the impact of previous cuts. In France, the country’s defense ministry has a huge shopping list of new capabilities it wants to purchase, but the defense spending increases are mainly about countering extremism in the aftermath of the attack on Charlie Hebdo last January.

Read More at Aviation Week

Russia says will retaliate if U.S. weapons stationed on its borders

placement1A plan by Washington to station tanks and heavy weapons in NATO states on Russia’s border would be the most aggressive U.S. act since the Cold War, and Moscow would retaliate by beefing up its own forces, a Russian defense official said on Monday.

The United States is offering to store military equipment on allies’ territory in eastern Europe, a proposal aimed at reassuring governments worried that after the conflict in Ukraine, they could be the Kremlin’s next target.

Poland and the Baltic states, where officials say privately they have been frustrated the NATO alliance has not taken more decisive steps to deter Russia, welcomed the decision by Washington to take the lead.

But others in the region were more cautious, fearing their countries could be caught in the middle of a new arms race between Russia and the United States.

“If heavy U.S. military equipment, including tanks, artillery batteries and other equipment really does turn up in countries in eastern Europe and the Baltics, that will be the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War,” Russian defense ministry official General Yuri Yakubov said.

“Russia will have no option but to build up its forces and resources on the Western strategic front,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

He said the Russian response was likely to include speeding up the deployment of Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania, and beefing up Russian forces in ex-Soviet Belarus.

“Our hands are completely free to organize retaliatory steps to strengthen our Western frontiers,” Yakubov said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said: “We hope that reason will prevail and the situation in Europe will be prevented from sliding into a new military confrontation which may have dangerous consequences.”

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German tanks enter Poland in major NATO exercise

1280px-Flag_of_GermanyGerman tanks are rolling into Poland as part of a major Nato exercise as the US mulls over whether to deploy heavy weaponry in eastern Europe.

The arrival of German forces in Poland triggered World War II in 1939 but this time their arrival is broadly welcome, as it forms part of Operation Noble Jump.

The operation is just part of a much larger exercise, Allied Shield, taking place across the region and which includes US and UK troops including members of the Brigade of Gurkhas.

The latest operations come as the New York Times reports the US is considering sending a permanent force of tanks, fighting vehicles and up to 5,000 troops to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary.

Russia, which is also currently conducting large-scale manoeuvres within its borders, is claiming the text of the 1997 Founding Act between Nato and Russia prohibits military build-up east of the Elbe River, but Nato says this was never a part of the agreement.

“There never was any written agreement not to station troops east of the Elbe,” Lt Col Paul Kolken of the 1st German-Netherlands Corps told the Sunday Times. “Nato activity in member states is transparent and in accordance with international agreements.”

Read More at the International Business Times

U.S. ambassador to U.N. visits Ukraine, slams Russian ‘aggression’

placement1A senior U.S. diplomat, on a visit Thursday to Ukraine, has slammed what she called Russian “aggression” in the country.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, pledged support to Ukraine and delivered a pep talk of sorts that encouraged Ukrainians to “demand change.”

“America is clear-eyed when it comes to seeing the truth about Russia’s destabilizing” actions in Ukraine, she said, adding that U.S. support for Ukrainians is “unwavering.”

If Russia “continues to violate the rules upon which international peace and security” stands,” Power said, then the United States will “raise the costs on Russia” and “rally other countries to do the same.”

“Their silence in the face of Russian aggression will not placate Moscow,” she said. “It will only embolden it.”

Power spoke at Kiev’s October Palace, a performing arts center. She stood behind a podium that had the U.S. State Department seal on it.

Power said that all too often, discussions about Ukraine are framed as dilemmas that pit the East versus the West or the U.S. versus Russia. “At best,” she said, “the Ukrainian people get to choose one of these sides.”

Instead, they should work to take control, but she acknowledged at length the “immense strain” they are suffering.

At least 6,350 people have been killed in violence “driven by Russians and the separatists,” Power said. More than 1,000 are missing, more than 15,000 have been wounded, and the conflict has displaced at least 2 million people, she said.

Read more at CNN

Russia steps up military modernization… but at what cost?

russian military parade wwii 70th 2It has a remote-controlled turret, it bristles with state-of-the-art defense systems and its computerized controls make driving it feel “like playing a video game.” Russia’s Armata tank, which its creator says can be turned into a fully robotic combat vehicle, is the crowning glory of a sweeping military modernization drive that is rumbling forward amid a perilous confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

But President Vladimir Putin’s expensive arms build-up faces major hurdles as Russia’s economy sinks under the weight of Western sanctions and falling oil prices. The 22-trillion ruble (about $400-billion) program, which envisages the acquisition of 2,300 new tanks, hundreds of aircraft and missiles and dozens of navy ships, was conceived back at the time when Russia’s coffers were brimming with petrodollars.

Putin vowed that the military upgrade would go ahead as planned, and this year’s military budget rose by 33 percent to about 3.3 trillion rubles (nearly $60 billion). Some observers predict that the Kremlin will inevitably have to scale down the plans amid a grinding recession.

In one of the first harbingers of the possible curtailment of new arms procurement, a deputy defense minister said earlier this year that the air force will likely reduce its order for the T-50, a costly state-of-the art fighter jet developed for two decades to counter the U.S. Raptor.

Another problem is also hampering the modernization drive: The sanctions include a ban on the sale of military technology to Russia. Nick de Larrinaga, Europe Editor for IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, predicted that Russia would find it hard to replace Western military know-how.

Read More at Yahoo! News.

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