Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Russia, NATO Remain At Odds Over Libya Campaign

SOCHI, Russia - Russia and NATO on July 4 said they were still at odds over the air campaign in Libya after talks between Russian leaders and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, third from left, speaks with NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, fifth from left, during the Russia-NATO Council meeting July 4 in Sochi, Russia. (Mikhail Mordasov / Agence France-Presse)
"So far, there is no common understanding over how the resolution is being implemented," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, referring to the U.N. Security Council resolution that paved the way for the air campaign.
Lavrov and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier held talks with Rasmussen in this Black Sea city in a bid to overcome their differences and find a peaceful solution to the Libya crisis.
Lavrov said they were also joined by South African President Jacob Zuma, who earlier had a bilateral meeting with Medvedev and like Russia wants a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Russia abstained in the resolution vote at the Security Council but has since expressed growing anger over the duration and intensity of the NATO-led air strikes against targets of Moammar Gadhafi's Libyan regime.
Last week Russia was particularly angered by a direct French arms drop to rebels fighting Gadhafi's forces and the two sides made no attempt to hide their differences after the Sochi talks.
"We consider the arms embargo [under the U.N. Security Council resolution] to be unambiguous," Lavrov said. "Any weapons deliveries are a violation of the resolution," he added.
"They [NATO] have a different opinion - that the resolution can let anyone do anything."
Rasmussen vehemently defended the arms drop and said it was in line with the resolution.
"The delivery of weapons has taken place as part of protection of civilians and the ability to protect themselves against attacks," he said.
"So far we have successfully implemented the resolution."

German Politicians Angered Over Saudi Tank Sale

BERLIN - German opposition parties and even some members of the ruling parties were up in arms Tuesday over reports that the government wants to overturn its export rules and sell hundreds of tanks to Saudi Arabia.
This followed press reports that Saudi Arabia is about to buy 200 Leopard-2s, Germany's main battle tank that is also produced under license in Spain.
Germany has declined for more than 20 years to sell such heavy weapons to Saudi Arabia because of concerns over human rights and fear for Israel's security.
To date, the government has refused to confirm the reports and said such matters are discussed confidentially within the federal security council, which determines export guidelines.
"The federal security council meets secretly. Therefore we can comment neither about its deliberations, nor about its decisions," foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke has told reporters.
But opposition leaders have demanded a parliamentary debate on the matter.
"The government must explain itself at some stage," Green parliamentary leader Juergen Trittin told ARD television on July 5.
"Such decisions cannot be taken at a time when people are fighting for democracy in the Arab world," he added.
"And now one's trying to say such heavy weapons can simply be sold to dictators - and that is the case in Saudi Arabia," he added.
"The government's readiness to sell 200 modern German tanks at a time of tension in the near East and the Arab peninsula denotes a frightening lack of judgment," the social-democrat parliamentary deputy leader Gernot Erler told the Welt newspaper's online service.
Such a policy demonstrates that Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westewelle "only pay lip service to supporting democratic movements in the Arab world," he added.
Selling tanks to Saudi Arabia at a time when that country has sent armored vehicles to help put down a peaceful protest movement in neighboring Bahrain is "a slap in the face for freedom movements in the whole region," Erler added.
The tiny but strategic Gulf archipelago, joined by a causeway to Saudi Arabia, has experienced repeated bouts of unrest between its Shiite majority population and its Saudi-backed Sunni ruling family.
Even in Merkel's government ranks, news of the possible deal has ruffled feathers.
Ruprecht Polenz, a Christian-Democrat who heads parliament's foreign affairs commission, suggested such a sale would go against all previous rules about exporting weapons to countries in turmoil, and even the parliament's Christian-Democrat president, Norbert Lammert, expressed concern about the timing of such a deal given the crackdown in Bahrain, newspapers reported.
The Saudi order for Leopard-2A7+ - a 55- to 62-ton tank equipped with a 120 mm gun - could be worth billions of euros to the companies Kraus-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall, Der Spiegel magazine reported.
The Saudi kingdom has been in talks with the Spanish subsidiary of General Dynamics about buying their version of the Leopard tank, but the major portion of the order would land with the Germans, the magazine suggested.
The Saudis are also in talks with U.S. companies for $60 billion (41 billion euros) worth of defense equipment that would become the largest U.S. contract ever.
In an editorial, Die Welt newspaper defended the government's bid to sell the tanks and said Saudi Arabia needed to be able to defend itself against Iran.
With Iran threatening to acquire nuclear weapons "the only way to avoid a nuclear arms race (in the region) is to help the Saudis develop a strong conventional deterrence," it said.

Bulgaria To Shift Arms Exports to EU, NATO Markets

SOFIA, Bulgaria - After decades concentrating on Asia and Africa, Bulgaria plans to shift its arms exports to markets in the European Union and NATO, according to a new defense strategy presented July 5.
Currently, arms exports to EU and NATO countries do not exceed 10 percent of Bulgaria's annual defense sales abroad, which stand at about 250 million lev ($185 million), said the document, which was drafted jointly by the economy and defense ministries.
"Maintaining this tendency would hinder Bulgaria's integration and have a negative effect on the industry's competitiveness," it added.
The strategy has yet to be approved by the government during the next few months.
"This strategy is the first real effort on the part of any government since the fall of communism to offer a long-term development vision for the defense industry," Economy Minister Traicho Traikov said at the document's presentation July 5.
Under communism, Bulgaria's arms and munitions industry employed 115,000 people and shipped abroad some $700 million to $800 million worth of production.
But the collapse of communism, the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact defense treaty and a number of international arms sales embargoes to countries in Africa and the Arab world plunged the once booming industry into a deep crisis in the 1990s.
The majority of production facilities were privatized, but failure to attract foreign investors put them in the hands of small local buyers with limited potential for new investments.
An industry source told AFP on July 5 that Bulgaria still managed to preserve some of its markets in the Middle East, India and Algeria.
The new strategy will aim to keep these traditional arms export partners by forming joint ventures and common research and development projects.
Another major goal was to encourage the Bulgarian army to buy more local defense equipment by developing it to become fully compatible with NATO standards and also engage in collective alliance defense projects from 2018 on.
Bulgaria's defense industry currently employs some 15,000 people and makes up 0.5 percent of the general industry share in the country's gross domestic product, according to the document.

Libya Rebels To Meet NATO, EU Chiefs Next Week

BRUSSELS - Libyan rebels will hold meetings with NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen and European Union president Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels next week, NATO and EU diplomats told AFP on July 5.
Rasmussen has invited the rebel representatives for a meeting at alliance headquarters for the first time on July 13, a NATO diplomat said. The gathering was agreed by ambassadors of the 28-nation alliance.
"NATO countries agreed to invite the rebels because there is no NATO representation in Benghazi yet," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, referring to the rebel bastion in eastern Libya.
Separately, a European diplomat said a member of the National Transitional Council (NTC) will meet Van Rompuy next week. The NTC official may also meet European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in the middle of next week.
Although the 27-nation EU has opened a mission in Benghazi, NATO does not have an office there.
NATO officials declined to confirm whether Rasmussen had invited the rebels but noted he has met NTC officials at overseas meetings of the international contact group on Libya.
"NATO has had contacts with the (NTC) as part of the broad international efforts to find a solution to the Libya crisis," a NATO official said.
"For instance the secretary general has met representatives of the (NTC) in the context of the contact group. Such meetings have taken place and will continue to take place," the official said.
Several NATO nations, including the United States, Britain and France, have recognized the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
Turkey became the latest alliance member to recognize them on July 4.

Brunei Kicks Off 3rd BRIDEX Defense Show

TAIPEI - The third Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition (BRIDEX) is quickly taking its rightful place among regional exhibitions as one of the top defense and security events in Southeast Asia.
Organized by the Royal Brunei Technical Services, BRIDEX 2011 will showcase the latest regional and international defense technologies and equipment in land, sea, air and security systems from July 6-9.
U.S. companies vying for market space include BBA Aviation, General Dynamics, Harris Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Piper Aircraft and Raytheon. European defense exhibitors include BAE Systems, Defense Conseil International, QinetiQ, Renault, Rosoboronexport and Saab. A number of competitive helicopter manufacturers will also be exhibiting, including AugustaWestland, Bell Helicopters, Eurocopter and Sikorsky.
Asia-Pacific exhibitors include Australia's Prism Defence, China's Hubei Hudiequan Plastic Products Co., Pakistan Ordnance, Singapore Technologies Engineering and Taiwan's Smart Team Technology.
BRIDEX officials said there would be land-based and waterborne demonstrations of defense and security equipment and systems. The new BRIDEX Exhibition and Convention Centre in Jerudong is located next to the waterfront.
"BRIDEX also provides an excellent platform for building vital alliances, forging partnerships and capturing new business opportunities in a fast growing South East Asian region, as well as for networking, sharing ideas and knowledge, discussing technology advancements and industry developments," said a BRIDEX press release.
BRIDEX 2011 coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. This year about 300 exhibitors and 500 VIP delegates are expected to participate. In 2007, 108 exhibitors representing 16 countries participated, including more than 60 delegates from 17 countries. In 2009, the number of exhibitors jumped to 200 from 26 countries, along with 300 delegates from 40 countries.
Singapore's Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen will also attend. Ng is also visiting Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer cadets undergoing jungle confidence and survival training in Brunei. The SAF will be displaying a F-16 fighter aircraft, a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter, a Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle and a Formidable-class frigate, the RSS Stalwart, at BRIDEX. Ng will be accompanied by Singapore's Permanent Secretary for Defence Chiang Chie Foo, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Neo Kian Hong and Chief of Air Force Major-General Ng Chee Meng.
BRIDEX will also host a conference, "Mapping Future Security and Technological Challenges," on July 5. Presenters include Kim Taeyoung, former South Korean defense minister, now a senior adviser for the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses; Ambassador Barry Desker, dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore; and Lt. Gen. Prakash Menon, military adviser for India's National Security Council Secretariat.
In a statement issued by Yang Mulia Dato Paduka Haji Mustappa, Deputy Minister of Defense of Brunei Darussalem, the military has gone through organizational changes since BRIDEX 2009, "most notably the merging of the Directorate of Operations with the Joint Force Headquarters to enhance Joint Operations."
The military also formed a new department in 2010, the Centre of Science and Technology Research and Development, "that will form a synergy with the Directorate of Capability Development to focus on acquiring capability solutions required by the Royal Brunei Armed Forces."
The military is awaiting the soon-to-be released 2011 Defense White Paper, which will identify key areas for future development, such as the integration of the Joint Force with the military's C4ISR system, he said.

U.K. MoD: 6.3B Pounds of Military Hardware Missing

LONDON - Britain's Ministry of Defence is unable to account for the existence and condition of military hardware worth 6.3 billion pounds ($10.1 billion) according to a report released July 5 by the parliamentary defense committee.
The report said the failure to be able to track equipment meant the National Audit Office, the government's financial-performance watchdog, had opted to qualify MoD accounts from 2009-2010, the fourth successive year that has occurred.
The committee said it was "alarmed that the MoD should be unaware of the location, usability or indeed the continued existence of the assets worth 6.3 billion pounds."
The figure represents 14 percent of the total 45.2 billion pounds ($72.8 billion) of assets reported by the MoD.
The shortfall involved capital spares and inventory valued at 5.5 billion pounds ($8.8 billion) and 752 million pounds ($1.2 billion) of military equipment, including 568 million pounds ($915 million) of grouped assets such as firearms and 184 million pounds ($296 million) of Bowman radios, said the report into the performance of the MoD in 2009-10.
An earlier report by the NAO said the MoD was unable to demonstrate the existence or location of 5,961, or 13 percent, of the digital voice and data radios which were at the heart of the British military's tactical communications capabilities.
That doesn't mean the equipment is lost or not being used somewhere. But the Committee said it was "unacceptable" the MoD couldn't track the whereabouts of the equipment in theater, as it had security as well as financial implications.
Defence Committee Chairman James Arbuthnot said the issue of unaccounted stock was not "some abstract problem existing only on paper: Equipment is needed by troops in the field, and proper logistics are an essential part of effective military operations."
Arbuthnot said the MoD's inability to manage existing resources would hamper any effort to request additional funding.
The cash-strapped MoD is trying to secure additional funding from the Treasury to curtail further reductions to capabilities and programs. The MoD is also struggling to make headway in balancing its books in the face of a 7.5 percent cut in defense spending over the next four years and faces 38 million-pound ($61.2 million) black hole over the next decade in unfunded liabilities.
The MoD said it would take between two and four years to resolve its stock control problems - a timetable the committee said should be speeded up.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the MoD has not managed its resources well for many years. "We inherited a multibillion-pound deficit in defense from the previous government that was characterized by waste and inefficiency. That must change," he said.
"While there are specific difficulties in managing assets in war zones across the globe, we must have better systems in place to accurately track what resources are held and where. I announced major defense reforms last week to deliver clearer structures and financial responsibility across the department. This will be implemented at pace, and I wish to see demonstrable improvement in the MoD's inventory management," Fox said.