Given the location of the strikes, it’s likely the fighters were launched from their forward location in the Kingdom of Jordan. Satellite imagery has confirmed that the French Air Force deployed its six Mirage 2000 fighters to Prince Hassan AB, Mafraq Governorate.
They’ve been deployed at the airbase, which is located less than 20 miles south of the Syrian border and a little over 100 miles from Iraq, since early 2015. In September, the French air arm initiated its first missions in Syria after launching strikes in Iraq earlier this year.
In January, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the murder of four people in a kosher grocery store in Paris. The French Parliament overwhelmingly approved strikes a week later.
It’s likely further fighters will continue to target Islamic State’s oil income as it’s a crucial revenue stream helping fuel the terrorist group’s operations. However, given how diversified the quasi-corporate state remains, strikes alone will unlikely be enough.
Das neue Nachrichtendienstgesetz wartet im Wesentlichen mit folgenden Neuerungen auf:
Neuausrichtung der Informationsbeschaffung: Neu wird nicht mehr zwischen Bedrohungen aus dem Inland und dem Ausland unterschieden, sondern zwischen gewalttätigem Extremismus mit Bezug zur Schweiz (wo keine genehmigungspflichtigen Beschaffungsmassnahme zum Einsatz gelangen) und den übrigen Bedrohungsfeldern. Die Abgrenzung ist Sache des Bundesrates und geschieht mittels einer jährlich aktualisierten Liste, auf welcher Gruppierungen aufgeführt werden, welche als gewalttätig-extremistisch einzustufen sind.
Einführung von neuen genehmigungspflichtigen Beschaffungsmassnahmen: Es handelt sich dabei um die ursprünglich im Bundesgesetzes über Massnahmen zur Wahrung der inneren Sicherheit (BWIS II, im Juni 2007 vom Bundesrat verabschiedet) vorgeschlagenen und im Nachrichtendienstgesetz überarbeitet aufgenommenen Beschaffungsmassnahmen. Darunter fallen die Überwachung des Post- und Fernmeldeverkehrs, das Abhören und Aufzeichnen von Privatgesprächen, das Beobachten an nicht allgemein zugänglichen Orten (auch mittels technischem Überwachungsgerät), das Durchsuchen von Räumlichkeiten, Fahrzeugen oder Behältnissen, der Einsatz von technischen Ortungsgeräten sowie das Eindringen in Computersystemen um Informationen zu beschaffen bzw. den Zugang zu Informationen zu stören, zu verhindern oder zu verlangsamen. Diese Beschaffungsmassnahmen können ausschliesslich in den Bereichen Terrorismus, verbotener Nachrichtendienst, Proliferation und Angriffe auf kritische Infrastrukturen und zur Wahrung weiterer wesentlicher Landesinteressen eingesetzt werden. Nach Auffassung des Bundesrates sind sie notwendig, weil die heutigen stark eingeschränkten Möglichkeiten des Nachrichtendienstes angesichts der aggressiveren und komplexeren Bedrohungsformen nicht mehr ausreichen — die Spiesse des heutigen Nachrichtendienstes des Bundes (NDB) sind gemäss den Befürwortern des neuen Gesetzes zu kurz. Natürlich werden von der Überwachung betroffene Person (oder auch Drittpersonen) während der Durchführung der Massnahmen nicht in Kenntnis gesetzt, müssen jedoch nach Abschluss der Operation innerhalb eines Monats darüber informiert werden.
Am 5. Dezember werden die Delegierten der SP Schweiz definitiv entscheiden, ob das Referendum mitgetragen wird. Die 50’000 Unterschriften müssen bis Ende Jahr gesammelt werden, was mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit auch gelingen wird. Damit würde schliesslich die stimmberechtigte Bevölkerung über die Vorlage entscheiden.
Jürg Bühler, Jurist, Vizedirektor Nachrichtendienst des Bundes.
In der Veranstaltung “Wie lange Spiesse braucht unser Nachrichtendienst?” will “Chance Schweiz – Arbeitskreis für Sicherheitsfragen” am Dienstag, 17. November 2015 ab 1800 im Kultur Casino, Bern dieses Spannungsfeld zwischen Befürworter und Gegner des neuen Nachrichtendienstgesetzes ausloten. Als Referenten sind geladen:
Engagiert, reflektiert, differenziert – das ist die Stossrichtung von “Chance Schweiz – Arbeitskreis für Sicherheitsfragen“. Wir sind nicht allein der Tagespolitik verpflichtet, sondern wollen mit einer langfristigen Perspektive aktuelle Reformprozesse begleiten und fördern, und – wo nötig – auch dazu ermuntern. Dabei bringen wir eine ganzheitliche Sicht von Sicherheitspolitik ein.
During the discussion, Geoffrey and Matthew talk about the issues surrounding U.S. basing in the Persian Gulf, the role of history in analyzing contemporary policy challenges, and the tensions in Gulf States’ domestic politics between managing internal and external security threats.
The Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It was formed in 2012 to bring together forward-thinkers from a variety of fields to examine the capabilities, threats, hotspots, and opportunities for security in the maritime domain. Check out the NextWar blog to join the discussion. CIMSEC encourages a diversity of views and is currently accepting membership applications here.
Mit 109 Millionen Menschen gehört in China ein zunehmender Anteil der Bevölkerung zum Mittelstand — mit dementsprechenden steigenden Ansprüche. Bis 2050 wird China jährlich Fleisch für 150 Milliarden US-Dollar aus dem Rest der Welt importieren müssen. Schon heute werden auf globaler Ebene Erzeugerpreise wesentlichen vom chinesischen Markt bestimmt werden — beispielsweise beim Soja, das zu mehr als 80 Prozent von China importiert und zu Tierfutter verarbeitet wird.
In Afrika investiert China seit Jahrzehnten grossflächig in Landwirtschaft. In den 1960er Jahren als diplomatisch motiviertes Hilfsprogramm gestartet — um in den Vereinten Nationen die Stimmen afrikanischer Länder für die diplomatische Anerkennung und Aufnahme Chinas zu gewinnen — bauten die Chinesen vorerst hauptsächlich Demonstrationsbetriebe zwecks Training und Technologietransfer. Inzwischen sind es bereits 200 landwirtschaftliche Projekte, 11 Forschungsstationen, 23 Fischereibetriebe und mehr als 60 Investitionsprogramme. Berichte, dass China fruchtbare Agrarflächen halb Afrikas aufkaufen würde, sind jedoch stark übertrieben. Bis heute wurden noch keine Lebensmittel von Afrika nach China exportiert, was jedoch nicht heisst, dass sich dies in Zukunft nicht ändern könnte. Momentan konzentriert sich China jedoch auf den Abbau von Rohstoffen, den Import von afrikanischem Holz und Baumwolle (siehe auch “Mit Offenen Karten – Was will China in Afrika?“, April 2007).
Die Zeiten blosser Hilfsprogramme sind allerdings vorbei, jetzt wollen die Chinesen auch handeln und Gewinne machen. Deutlich wird dies bei Infrastrukturprojekten: beispielsweise haben Chinesische Telekommunikationsanbieter in Afrika grosses Ansehen erreicht, da sie preislich kompetitiv sind und gute Serviceleistungen anbieten. Chinesische Baukonsorten liefern Eisenbahnen, Brücken und Strassen und inzwischen ganze Stadtteile termingerecht und zu Preisen, bei denen westliche und sogar lokale Konkurrenten nicht mehr mithalten können.
DG (05AUG15) Eko Antlantic City, ein neuer Stadtviertel im Meer vor Victoria Island wird von den Chinesen seit 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria aus dem Boden gestampft und soll 2016 fertiggestellt werden. Die Stadt soll in der Zukunft einmal 250‘000 Menschen beherbergen.
In Europa wiederum haben chinesische Staats- und inzwischen immer mehr auch Privatunternehmen ihre Interessen vor allem in Grossbritannien und in Italien angemeldet. Im wirtschaftlich krisengeschüttelten Italien investieren sie vorwiegend in Bereich Industriebeteiligungen wie Mode, Nautik, Ernährung, Energie, Telekom und Immobilien. Wie in Afrika gab es auch in Südeuropa zu Beginn viel beachtete kulturelle Konflikte mit den neuen Investoren aus Ostasien. Inzwischen aber scheinen sich Chinesen und “Locals” in den meisten Fällen gegenseitig assimiliert zu haben.
Die Leitfragen der Sendung sind:
Wie gross ist der Ressourcenhunger Chinas wirklich?
Profitieren die lokalen Bevölkerungen von den chinesischen Investitionen oder bleiben sie auf der Strecke?
Streben die Chinesen nach einer “Sinisierung” der Welt oder wollen sie einfach gute Geschäfte machen?
Was passiert, wenn der chinesischen Wirtschaft der Schnauf ausgeht?
All the overseas mergers and acquisitions (excluding bonds) with a value above US$100 million that Chinese companies attempted from 2005 to the first half of 2014: Alberto Lucas López and Cédric Sam, “China’s overseas investments“, South China Morning Post, 28.04.2015.
von Björn Müller (Twitter). Er ist Journalist in Berlin mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheits- und Geopolitik.
Alles schick bei Frankreichs Soldaten, doch ihr Sturmgewehr FAMAS gilt, wie das deutsche G36, als veraltet und soll ersetzt werden (Foto: Stephan Rosger).
Ein neues Standard-Sturmgewehr für ihre Armeen – das suchen zurzeit Frankreich wie auch Deutschland. Die Bundeswehr möchte ab 2019 einen Nachfolger für das G36 einführen; bei den Französischen Streitkräften soll schon ab 2017 das FAMAS ersetzt werden. Nun haben deren Verteidigungsministerien einen Dialog zu den Beschaffungsprojekten gestartet. Die Deutschen bekunden dabei ein rein technisches Interesse.
“Ein durch Frankreich ausgewähltes Produkt könnte auch im deutschen Vergabeverfahren relevant werden. Bei dieser Auswahl wären dann die Informationen zu den französischen Spezifikationen und Ergebnissen der Produkterprobungen sehr hilfreich”, so ein Sprecher des Bundesministeriums der Verteidigung (BMVg) gegenüber dem Autor.
Die offensichtliche Hoffnung dahinter: Das Sturmgewehr, für das sich die französischen Streitkräfte entscheiden, deren Vergabeverfahren bereits auf Hochtouren läuft und 2016 abgeschlossen sein soll, das kauft im Nachhinein auch die Bundeswehr. In der Folge würden die Kosten für beide Parteien geringer. Selbst wenn noch getrennt bestellt wird. Bei Wartung, Ersatzteilen und Nachbestellungen ließe sich dann kooperieren. Auf deutscher Seite werden die Kosten für den G36-Nachfolger auf 630 Millionen Euro geschätzt. Die Franzosen veranschlagen für ihre kommende “Arme individuelle future” (AIF) circa 400 Millionen Euro.
Die Beschaffung eines neuen Sturmgewehrs gleich gemeinsam anzugehen ist wohl kein Thema des Austauschs. Das französische Vergabeverfahren steht kurz vor dem Abschluss, das deutsche hat erst begonnen. Dass beide Armeen zeitgleich entscheiden und einen gemeinsamen Vertrag aushandeln, sei sehr unwahrscheinlich, heißt es aus dem BMVg.
Erste Aufgabe des “Sturmgewehr-Dialogs” ist es wohl, einen juristisch sauberen Weg zu finden, wie die Bundeswehr an das französische Dossier kommt. Dazu ein Sprecher des BMVgs: “Eine Übermittlung der französischen Spezifikationen / Forderungen für ein neues Sturmgewehr hat noch nicht stattgefunden. Dies liegt insbesondere im laufenden französischen Vergabeverfahren begründet. Vor einer Weitergabe vergaberelevanter Informationen an Dritte ist sehr sorgfältig zu prüfen, ob sich dadurch gegebenenfalls negative vergaberechtliche Implikationen ergeben würden.”
Ob das Ganze substanzielle Ergebnisse bringt, ist nicht zu sagen; da ist noch viel Konjunktiv drin. Vielleicht ist dieser Dialog aber der Auftakt zu einer Entwicklung, an deren Ende die beiden Hauptmächte Europas ihre Armeen mit ein und derselben Infanteriewaffe ausrüsten – Franzosen und Deutsche würden sich die “Braut des Soldaten” teilen; das wäre ein starkes Signal für mehr europäische Rüstungsintegration; die bekanntermaßen weit ihren Erfordernissen hinterherhinkt (siehe dazu auch Patrick Truffer, “Euphorie fehl am Platz – Schwierige Zeiten für die Gemeinsame Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik der EU“, offiziere.ch, 05.12.2013).
Im August diesen Jahres hatte Frankreich wohl noch eine gänzlich andere Position in Sachen “Kooperation Neue Sturmgewehre”. Laut einem Artikel im Handelsblatt (Danke für den Hinweis Marco Lietz) waren es damals die Deutschen, die auf Arbeitsebene vorfühlten und vom DGA eine Absage erhielten. Das französische Argument: Auf Grund des unterschiedlichen Entwicklungsstandes der beiden Rüstungsprojekte, sei ein Zusammenkommen nicht mehr vorstellbar. Diese Position hat sich jetzt augenscheinlich fundamental gewandelt.
Die G36-Thematik wird in Deutschland ausführlich besprochen. Einen, wie ich finde, guten Beitrag zur “FAMAS-Story” (in Französisch) gibt es hier.
Recent imagery showing Iran’s use of underground facilities (UGF) to house ballistic missiles highlights the continued importance of hardened shelters to Tehran’s military doctrine. This can be seen, not just among ballistic missiles, but also with the infrastructure designed to protect naval equipment. This post examines two examples of these coastal shelters.
Additional comments by Hajizadeh suggest that the garrison functions as a high-readiness ‘alert’ base. The combination of cover & concealment afforded by an underground facility and a hair-trigger launch posture directly subordinate to the Supreme Leader is designed to preserve retaliatory capability in the event of an attack. 
Known in Iran as ‘passive defense’, Tehran believes that these force preservation techniques – particularly when geared towards countering western advantages in airpower, surveillance, and deep strike – are essential to deterrence. (Fars News)
The reason for this is the importance of second strike capability, similar to the same concept in nuclear deterrence theory. By making their missiles difficult to locate and destroy, Iran is decreasing the probability that an air interdiction campaign could knock them out before they could be used, lowering the appeal of a first strike.
Ballistic missiles aren’t the only piece of equipment getting the passive defense treatment though. Equally important to deterrence is Tehran’s ability to threaten maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf. This responsibility falls mainly to the IRGC’s Navy (IRGCN) and their fleet of small attack boats, minelayers, and coastal anti-shipping cruise missiles (ASCMs). These can be found protected by the same sort of hardened underground shelters described by Hajizadeh.
At least one example of just such a facility – a covered harbor at Qeshm island, near the Strait of Hormuz – is well known to western analysts (John Reed, “Meet Iran’s Persian Gulf Base for Spy Drones and Midget Subs“, Foreign Policy, August 23, 2013 ). There are at least two more examples worth pointing out. The first is a modest earth-sheltered garage for small boats at Bandar Lengah. The second is a more complex underground facility for anti-ship missiles dug into the side of a mountain north of Bandar Abbas.
The first facility at Bandar Lengah is part of the IRGCN’s fifth naval region, which is responsible for securing the handful of nearby islands controlled by Iran, but contested by the UAE. Created in 2012, the base remains relatively underdeveloped and dependent on pre-existing infrastructure. Part of this infrastructure includes an earth sheltered garage dug into the side of a shallow hill, which provides access to a nearby harbor.
According to DigitalGlobe imagery, construction began prior to May 2005 and was completed before June 2012. One of the reasons this site is notable is that the internal layout is visible during construction. The facility features two entrances, which are joined together by a tunnel that meets in the middle to form the garage itself. From 2012 onwards small structures are visible above the garage, which may house air circulation equipment. The first signs of operational use are found in DigitalGlobe’s 02/24/2013 imagery, which show several small patrol boats parked outside the western entrance.
The second facility is found inland, north of Iran’s primary naval facilities in Bandar Abbas. Far better protected than the garage at Bandar Lengah, this UGF is broadly similar to missile sites around the country, including the one featured in IRIB’s Hajizadeh interview.
116th Missile Group on parade in Bandar Abbas, 09/2014 (Hormoz News Agency)
Although the IRGCN’s small boats are their most visible asset, much of the force’s area-denial capability comes from their land-based cruise missiles. At least one brigade (known in Iran as a ‘group’) is assigned to each of the force’s five geographic regions. This site is associated with the first region’s 116th ‘al-Hadid’ Missile & Rocket Launcher Group. 
The site is located in a narrow valley on the eastern side of Genu Mountain, about 30 km north of Bandar Abbas. A collection of hardened shelters – in a style typically associated with munitions storage – is located nearby along with a small garrison.
The UGF itself comprises two tunnels dug into the base of the north-facing valley wall. This provides nearly 300 m of overhead protection from any penetrating munitions, similar to the 500 m quoted by Hajizadeh. Unfortunately, there are no reliable means to gauge its internal configuration. The two entrances suggest it may be similar to the basic garage at Bandar Lengah, or it may contain side passages with living facilities or command & control centers like those observed in IRIB’s Hajizadeh interview.
The earliest available imagery of the site, dating from 08/05/2004, show the UGF under construction. Excavation spoils are visible outside the tunnel entrances, and engineering equipment is visible in a frenzy of activity nearby. In the interceding decade, however, there is little visual activity of note.
The use of such UGFs by missile & rocket groups forces was confirmed in fall 2014 when IRIB aired a documentary about the IRGCN called “Face to Face with the Devil” (Part 1 / Part 2). It included footage of the force’s artillery rockets and ASCMs being driven in large numbers through the sort of tunnels documented around Genu.
IRGCN artillery rockets, pictured in “Face to Face with the Devil” (IRIB 2014)
 The exact phrases used by Hajizadeh are:
In relation to cover and concealment: “I do not have the smallest concern in confronting the enemy’s newest and most modern satellites, and their spy & attack equipment.“
In relation to launch posture: “Missiles of different ranges on TELs in all of the bases are ready for launch and hands are on the triggers, we are only waiting for the command of the Supreme Leader.“
 Although Foreign Policy describes the site as a potential harbor for submarines, the IRGCN is not known to operate any sub-surface craft, suggesting this harbor is meant for small attack boats.
 In March 2014 the author identified another IRGCN garrison with a similar UGF. This site belongs to the 26th Missile Group, which is assigned to the second naval region headquartered in Bushehr. A description of the site can be found at the author’s blog, The Arkenstone.
US President Barack Obama and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves review Estonian troops during an official arrival ceremony at Kadriorg Palace in Tallinn, Estonia, Sept. 3, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza).
The exploitation of the Russian-speaking population in Russia’s sphere of interest has taken the following path: In a first phase of subversion, allegations of discrimination against the Russian-speaking population are used to drive a wedge between them and the rest of the population, thus fueling discontent and destabilizing the situation. Propaganda, smuggling of leaders, arms transfer, etc. are used to stir up an armed conflict, as happened in eastern Ukraine. In a second phase, the destabilized territory can then be suddenly and more or less covertly occupied and de facto annexed under the pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking population, as was seen in Crimea (see also Martin Zapfe and Christian Nünlist, “NATO’s ‘Spearhead Force“, CSS Analyses in Security Policy, No. 174, May 2015). Effective measures to increase the security of Estonia must therefore counteract this two-step stirring up of conflict from Russia.
Estonia requires considerable action to prevent a possible Russian subversion. The 1991 declaration of independence only granted automatic Estonian citizenship to those whose ancestors were Estonian citizens before the Soviet occupation in 1944; this rendered almost the entire Russian-speaking population of the new state of Estonia stateless (Raivo Vetik and Jelena Helemäe, “The Russian second generation in Tallinn and Kohtla-Järve: the TIES study in Estonia“, Imiscoe reports, Amsterdam University Press, 2011, p. 15). The number of stateless Russian-speakers has reduced dramatically since independence, thanks to integration projects and simplified naturalization processes, but the requirement of Estonian language proficiency to obtain citizenship is seen by many Russian-speakers as discrimination. The segregation of Russian-speakers as well as their lower social and economic opportunities “has the potential to escalate, under certain conditions, into a large-scale conflict” (Vetik and Helemäe, p. 229).
The Kremlin says Moscow will strive to protect the interests of Russians and Russian speakers wherever they may be. This map by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty shows you the regions where the greatest concentrations of Russian citizens, ethnic Russians and native Russian speakers live, outside the borders of the Russian Federation.
Estonia should make efforts to consider nationality separately from language, so that Russian-speakers without knowledge of the Estonian language can gain citizenship and identify themselves as Estonian. Despite the potential vulnerability to conflict, Russian-speakers in Estonia do not currently offer a particularly fertile ground for Russian efforts at subversion because even the non-Estonian, Russian-speaking population is benefiting from higher living standards in comparison to Russia, as well as local voting rights for people with no fixed nationality and the availability of state social benefits to people legally residing in Estonia, but without full citizenship (Gordon F. Sander, “Could Estonia be the next target of Russian annexation?“, Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 2014). In addition, Russia and Estonia have almost none historical, cultural, and religious commonalities that qualify Estonia as a potential area of interest for Russia. As opposed to Ukraine, Estonia is neither Slavic nor Orthodox (Vadim Nikitin, “The long read: why Russia is unlikely to pull a Crimea on the Baltics“, The National, August 13, 2015. Russia’s interests are primarily concentrated on Ukraine and Belarus (Marek Menkiszak). Therefore, Estonia’s security can be increased considerably by focusing on domestic political policies, which are not dependent on any permanent stationing of NATO soldiers.
The 5,750 soldiers in the Estonian Defence Forces would not be prepared for an internal armed conflict or a coup-like occupation of any part of the country’s territory by Russian forces operating either openly or covertly. The use of NATO forces to manage conflict must therefore be a part of any contingency planning. However, the permanent stationing of NATO troops demanded by the Estonian president could prove to be counterproductive. A permanent stationing would contradict the agreements of the “1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act”, would play into Russia’s hands, and would urge Putin to take compensatory measures, for example, deploying tactical ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad, thus unnecessarily escalating the situation.
NATO reiterates that in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. Accordingly, it will have to rely on adequate infrastructure commensurate with the above tasks. In this context, reinforcement may take place, when necessary, in the event of defence against a threat of aggression and missions in support of peace consistent with the United Nations Charter and the OSCE governing principles, as well as for exercises consistent with the adapted CFE Treaty, the provisions of the Vienna Document 1994 and mutually agreed transparency measures. Russia will exercise similar restraint in its conventional force deployments in Europe. — “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation“, May 27, 1997.
The measures for addressing the growing Russian threat as adopted at the September 2014 NATO summit in Wales are derived from the experiences of the Cold War and consist of temporary stationing, performing manoeuvres, and the provision of readily deployable intervention forces. During the Cold War, NATO met the threat of substantial Soviet border incursions along the inner-German border by stationing of NATO troops close to the border, which left no doubt that an act of Soviet aggression would lead to nuclear escalation. NATO forces in West Germany functioned as a “trip wire”, and were primarily understood as symbolic of the common defence guaranteed by Article 5 of the NATO treaty.
The NATO Readiness Action Plan has a similar objective: by expanding the manoeuvres (see video below) and the rotation of task forces stationed in the region, a Russian aggression in Eastern Europe would lead to a triggering of collective defence under Article 5. This would significantly increase the risk and cost of Russian destabilizing manoeuvres in Estonia and should therefore increase security through deterrence. By rotating the task forces, a permanent presence without permanent stationing can be achieved. At the same time, the command-and-control capabilities in the Eastern European NATO member states are undergoing constant improvement. In the event of a conflict situation, the deployment of NATO troops will be gradually: national forces, as well as on-site NATO forces will be ready for immediate deployment. From 2016, a 5,000-solider Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) will be ready to be deployed as the vanguard of the NATO Response Force (NRF) within 2 to 5 days. After 5 days, some 30,000 men consisting of the NRF and the VTJF would be available for deployment (Zapfe and Nünlist).
Baltic Sea regionalism plays only a subordinate role as part of the defence capacity of the Baltic states today. While the defence ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden announced in April 2015 that they hoped to extend their cooperation with the Baltic states, such cooperation currently exists only in a non-binding form. The cooperation with the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO), in place since 2011, was always considered secondary by the Baltic countries, who had placed NATO and the United States at the core of their defence planning. Since a stronger commitment of NATO to Eastern Europe also demands more resources from the Baltic states, fewer resources are available for cooperation with NORDEFCO. In addition, Sweden and Finland, as non-members of NATO, prevent cooperation on sensitive areas right from the outset (Christian Opitz, “Potential for Nordic Baltic Security Cooperation“, SWP Comments, No.40, August 2015). Although it is still too early for a final judgment, it seems an increasing involvement of NATO in the Baltic States would actually lead to a weakening of Baltic Sea regionalism as far as defence cooperation is concerned.
Despite vague threats by Moscow and the increased perception of threats by the states of Eastern Europe, a destabilizing operation by Russia in the Baltic States currently seems unlikely. Based on the experiences from the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine, the Russian strategy consists of a first subversion phase and a second coup-like occupation phase, designed to take advantage of the split loyalties of the local Russian-speaking populations. Since this is the central threat to the Baltic States – and not a direct military invasion by Russia – it is primarily domestic policies that should provide for better integration of the Russian-speaking population into the social fabric of these Baltic states. This would lead to increased security in Estonia and Latvia without the need for the permanent stationing of NATO troops.
In response to the heightened perception of threat in the Eastern European Member States and as a contingency plan in the event of Russian aggression, NATO falls back on a concept which already found its application during the Cold War. The permanent presence of NATO troops within the scope of manoeuvres and a rotation of forces form a “trip wire”, which in the event of Russian aggression, would lead to the triggering of collective defence according to NATO Article 5. This is primarily seen as a sign of the willingness for collective defence, but with the improvement of the Command-and-Control capabilities, the NRF and the VJTF increase the risk and the cost of Russian destabilization operation, thus increasing the security of Estonia. Therefore no permanent deployment of NATO troops is required, which would be contrary to the agreements of the “1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act” and would be counterproductive. In the framework of the defence capabilities, high expectations for the Baltic Sea Regionalism will hardly be met. The stronger involvement of NATO in Eastern Europe and the resources of the Baltic states bound to this are most likely to adversely affect the cooperation with NORDEFCO.
Previously, Russia had employed this tactic with the former Georgian enclave of Abkhazia. Space snapshots of the breakaway region show the S-300 units still deployed to the territory but in prepared firing positions. Likewise with Ukraine, it’s expected that units in expeditionary sites will probably transition to more permanent ones. In fact, they may already have.
Available commercial imagery suggests the S-300PMs at Hvardiyske were jumped sometime between late 2014 and early 2015. Space snapshots from April confirmed that the equipment was no longer at the airbase. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to guess where they might be headed.
Imagery of Sevastopol shows that the former Ukraine S-300 position located at 44°32’39″N 33°25’58″E had a Russian S-300PM unit in residence as early as February 2015. Sevastopol is home to Russia’s strategically important Black Sea Fleet.
It is currently unknown if this is a new unit deployed from Russia or if it’s one of the batteries jumped from Hvardiyske — though the latter seems likely. The Russian press however did report further S-300 moving into the Crimea in December 2014. They were reportedly moved in response to NATO’s increased presence in the region.
Additional movement was also noted less than three miles to the east at another former Ukrainian S-300 site. A 64N6 Big Bird long range surveillance radar, capable of detecting over 300 aerial targets, was positioned at 44°31’17″N 33°29’04″E. Likewise, imagery from February 2015 confirmed the deployment. Previously, Hvardiyske also had a Big Bird on site.
The Big Bird was also accompanied by some friends. At least three short range Pantsir-S1s (or SA-22s) were also visible on imagery acquired in February. The SA-22s provide point defense around strategic military targets.
The latest imagery from September 2015 continues to confirm the new deployment locations.
The S-300 is a highly capable surface-to-air missile system first deployed by the Soviet Union in 1979. The system is often compared with the U.S.-built Patriot missile defense system. The latest variant, the S-3000PM2, was developed in the mid-1990s as a direct competitor to Raytheon’s Patriot PAC-2/3s.
For Russia, putting S-300 in territory where it’s deployed allows it to control the skies enabling the targeting of aircraft up to 200 km away—assuming Russia employs the 48N6D missiles. With the redeployment to the coast, units can acquire targets further out into the Black Sea.
While we’re still looking for updated imagery in order to find the other jumped unit, here’s a list of known S-300 surface-to-air missile sites on the Crimea that could play host to the battery.
Ras Tanura Refinery in Saudi Arabia. It s the ninth largest refinery in the world, with a crude distillation capacity of 550,000bpd. Saudi Aramco is the operator of the refinery.
Saudi Arabia appears to be expanding its economic war against Russia by encroaching on its European oil market.
Reuters reports that Russia has for years been muscling in on Asian markets where Saudi Arabia was once the unchallenged dominant supplier. But now Riyadh is retaliating in Moscow’s backyard of Europe with aggressive price discounting. From global majors such as Shell and Total to more modest Polish energy firms, oil refiners in Europe are cutting their longstanding use of Russian crude in favor of Saudi grades as the world’s top exporters fight for market share (“Saudi Arabia targets Russia in battle for European oil market“, Reuters, 15.10.2015).
But there is clearly a geopolitical dimension as well. Unlike in the past, the Saudis have not cut production in the face of falling oil prices. Nor has the rest of the OPEC cartel. Their aims are twofold.
The second goal was to punish Saudi Arabia’s rivals for their support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Since the uprising against Assad turned into a sectarian and proxy war, Saudi Arabia has backed the largely Sunni opposition while Iran and Russia have stood by the Syrian dictator. Whether the Saudis took any direction from Washington in this is unclear. But as the Atlantic Sentinel reported last year, whatever the kingdom’s motives, Russia will almost invariably see the hand of its ally, America, in this strategy. Saudi Arabia and the United States both oppose the Assad regime while the latter seek to dissuade Russia from further aggression in Eastern Europe without risking a war there.
European countries, for their part, want to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas — a dependence Russia has all too often used as a weapon. In the years leading up to the present crisis in Ukraine, Russia repeatedly cut off natural gas supplies to its former Soviet republic when it transited half the gas Russia sold Europe.
The European Union is trying to get more energy from Caspian Sea states like Azerbaijan and hoping that the United States will lift a forty-year-old ban on overseas oil sales. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives voted to do just that earlier this month but it is unclear if the Senate and President Obama, a Democrat, will agree.
Neither Iran nor Russia appears to have changed its behavior under economic pressure. The former has resumed nuclear talks with the West but they have yet to produce an accord. Russia is not retreating from Ukraine. It seems to prioritize the strategic imperative of keeping this crucial Russian borderland out of Europe and NATO over whatever economic pain the West is able to inflict upon it. — Nick Ottens, “American-Russian Economic War Yet to Bend Either Side“, Atlantic Sentinel, 16.12.2014.
Iran has since signed a nuclear deal with the West that is meant to prevent it from developing atomic weapons. It appeared to have calculated that the costs of an economic war with Saudi Arabia and the United States — aggravated by sanctions in its case — were no longer worth it.
Russia hasn’t yet come to the same conclusion. It has stepped back from the brink in Ukraine but not yet committed to respecting the country’s sovereignty. And it has now opened another front in Syria.
The Saudis’ move into Europe should give the Russians pause and may convince them to walk back their strategy. Or, just as likely, cause them to double down.
by Paul Pryce. Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in political science from universities on both sides of the pond, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces. His current research interests include African security issues and NATO-Russia relations.
One of the largest joint exercises in NATO’s history will soon come to an end on November 6. Since the start of the 2015 edition of Trident Juncture on September 28, approximately 36,000 troops from 30 countries have participated, along with involvement from the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), and a multitude of aid agencies. Under the direction of Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, which is also responsible for leading the NATO Rapid Reaction Force, most of the activities associated with this exercise were held on the territory of Portugal, Spain, and Italy.
The misconception that Trident Juncture is part of some “new Cold War’ posturing may stem in part from the focus of the 2014 edition. Trident Juncture is in fact an annual exercise, previously known as JOINTEX from 2010 to 2013, which exhibits a different area of focus each year in the development of NATO joint warfare capabilities. Trident Juncture ’14, which was held on 8-17 November 2014, involved a total of 1,255 troops, took place largely on Polish territory, and featured scenarios admittedly similar to the hybrid warfare seen in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. This could have understandably left observers with the impression that NATO was rehearsing for the defence of Poland or the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania against a hypothetical Russian invasion.
With regard to the training outcomes of Trident Juncture ’15, there are two principal categories. On the one hand, there are the operational and tactical levels, which taken together could be said to have improved commensurate with the opportunities to practice useful skills in a simulation environment. For example, the Spanish Civil Guard was able to escort approximately 230 convoys in the course of Trident Juncture, developing core skills that could be employed in actual future operations. On the other hand, this exercise offered opportunities at the strategic level to test assumptions about NATO joint warfare capabilities. Much has been written on the challenges of integrating humanitarian groups and aid agencies into peacebuilding or peacemaking missions, as well as the difficulties militaries experience in assuming humanitarian environments where conflict is still to some degree present. Trident Juncture ’15 allowed the Alliance to not only develop its staff officers but also experiment with how well the lessons of Afghanistan, Iraq, and more recent conflicts like Mali can inform future cooperation with aid agencies.
Video: Members of the Baltic Battalion pass through decontamination procedures after a simulated CBRN attack.
On that last point, the NATO Centre of Excellence on Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC COE) in The Hague, Netherlands truly shined during the exercise. Staff from that centre, which seeks to enhance NATO doctrine and practice on civil-military relations, met with various military and civilian personnel in Spain, Portugal, and Italy to observe how relationships were formed and to identify areas for future improvement. This could further improve the impact of Trident Juncture ’16, thus ensuring cooperation is seamless on exercise and in the field. A breakdown in communication during an actual humanitarian crisis could undermine the efficiency of the international community’s response or even risk the lives of military and civilian personnel in the field. It could be argued that a lack of civil-military cooperation has contributed to the seriousness of the humanitarian situation experienced by refugees and migrants arriving in Europe. The heavy-handed and at times disjointed response by the Hungarian authorities to the ongoing refugee crisis demonstrates that current NATO members lack core competencies in civil-military relations, let alone prospective members like Macedonia.
In this sense, although Trident Juncture is taking place in the Mediterranean, the lessons learned from the 2015 edition are very applicable to security challenges experienced in the heart of Europe itself. The degree to which European members of NATO will integrate these lessons into their doctrines and operating procedures remains to be seen. Certainly, non-European participants like Canada seem to be taking Trident Juncture ’15 very seriously; in parallel with the activities in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, a 24/7 command post exercise is being hosted in Meaford, Ontario that will see 1,000 Canadian troops trained on so-called Multinational Joint Integrated Task Force (MJITF) capabilities. Staff officers alone will not win the day in NATO’s next humanitarian intervention, but the priority the Canadian Armed Forces has placed on joint warfare shows it will be ahead of the learning curve when that day comes.