Posts Tagged ‘EDA’

NATO in Europe needs ‘military Schengen’ to rival Russian mobility

September 13, 2017

NATO has reformed its military capabilities to be able to deploy forces much more quickly. But could leftover Cold War bureaucracy prevent a rapid response? NATO General Ben Hodges told DW he wants a “military Schengen.”

US-General Frederick B. Hodges (picture-alliance/dpa/V. Kalnina)

With an unverifiable number of Russian soldiers preparing to practice war against fictional Western countries in so-called “Zapad” exercises, the US general in charge of the US military in Europe, Ben Hodges, recently spoke with DW about the differences between his ability to summon forces quickly and that of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“[Putin] is able to move a lot of stuff real fast which is what got my attention and made me start thinking, how do we achieve at least the same speed that he has,” Hodges explained. PreviousZapad drills, which are held every four years, honed the Russian ability to launch the massive “snap exercises” seen ahead of the invasion of Crimea in 2014, and earlier, the aggression against Georgia in 2008.

Read more:Things to know about international military exercises

When Hodges, on the other hand, wants to move tanks or other heavy vehicles and weaponry across Europe, he needs to stop at every national – sometimes regional – border and deal with unique controls.

Troops jump out of helicopter during Zapad in 2013 (picture-alliance/dpa/A.Druginyn)Zapad 2013 ended with a mock nuclear strike against Sweden, NATO says.

“I think most people would be astounded to find out what we have to do,” he said, “to submit a list of all the vehicles, the drivers, what’s in every truck – which they don’t do with gigantic commercial trucks moving back and forth across borders.”

He says in many European countries, it takes weeks to get the permission to move through. In Germany every state requires its own procedure.

NATO hampered by red tape

It means, Hodges fears, that it wouldn’t matter if NATO’s new “very high readiness task force” were at “very very very very” high readiness to be deployed for a crisis – it simply couldn’t slog through the red tape fast enough to effectively counter an acute threat anywhere on its periphery.

Read more: Zapad games – what does Russia want?

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the alliance’s top military executive, does have some enhanced powers to speed up the process if the threat is urgent enough, but that wouldn’t circumvent national rules and it doesn’t by any means bring the continent up to what could be considered a “military Schengen zone.”

That’s the catch-phrase used to describe what Hodges would like to see Europe do for military travel, to bring down border bureaucracy to something emulating the visa-free system agreed to by 22 European Union states along with four other European countries.

NATO doesn’t use the term “military Schengen zone” because it feels that excludes allies that are not part of Schengen. The Baltic states, which are on the potential frontline of any Russian overstep, are backing Hodges’ call.

But even a reduction in border bureaucracy wouldn’t be enough; there are many unresolved questions about issues as diverse as how resources at, for example, Deutsche Bahn could be shared or how much weight and width some of Europe’s old roadways could withstand.

Hodges feels Europeans have not adequately considered the limitations they are allowing to exist. He wants a procedure created Europe-wide that would grant NATO movements within 48 hours.

Soldiers sitting on tank (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Bielecki/PAP)The waiting game – red tape affects NATO troop movements

One military official from a NATO country who declined to be identified agreed with Hodges that the current system is untenable. “It’s not out of the ordinary that another country wants to know where you are and where you will be and they will want to give you certain routes through the country,” the official explained.

“But at the moment it just takes way too long. It will never be like the real Schengen area where you just enter another country obviously, because you are carrying dangerous goods or things like that,  but it can be much much much simpler which will allow us to deploy more rapidly.”

Dutch demand NATO-EU cooperate

The Dutch government has taken the first public step toward demanding changes.  In June, Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert wrote to both NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini insisting the “obstacles to cross-border military transport in Europe must disappear”.

Hennis-Plasschaert urges NATO and the EU to step up cooperation on this matter. “The alliance has expertise and experience in military transport, while the EU has jurisdiction in customs matters and the transport of hazardous substances,” she wrote.

The European Defense Agency (EDA), which coordinates the EU’s defense cooperation, has been tasked with taking the lead on this and things are finally moving with more haste.

An EDA official, who spoke with DW on the condition of anonymity, explained the agency has asked EU governments to formally identify where the holdups are within their own territory, be it crumbling roads or 10-day waits for permission. Next year the EDA aims to produce a report, drawing in both NATO and EU authorities. The Dutch ambition is to actually have the problems “resolved” within a year, though EDA is not committing to a strict timeline.

Hodges: 48-hour maximum delay

One of those solutions crafted by EDA is expected to be, as Hodges desires, a standardized form used by all European countries for granting permission for military transport quickly – not quickly by the standards Putin enjoys to move rapidly across Russia, but certainly more rapidly than Europe’s situation today.

The military official acknowledges perhaps this should have happened earlier along with other enhancements NATO has made, but explains that it just hasn’t been treated as a priority. But now, he says, it’s time to “do the homework”.

“Basically we’ve already enhanced the NATO response force, saying…at least the spearhead of the force can deploy within a couple of days,” he said. “We’re doing that because of Russia’s change in posture. [What] we’re doing now is to make sure that we can actually do it in every situation.”


President Obama To Visit Philippine Navy Flagship

November 16, 2015

By  Elena L. Aben
The Manila Bulletin

United States President Barack Obama will visit the Philippine Navy flagship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) where he will meet with senior Filipino defense officials.

The event is designed to underscore the United States’ commitment to Philippine maritime security.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15)

Obama is scheduled to arrive in the country on Tuesday. Nov. 17, for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting.

“Shortly after his arrival, the President will spend his first event focused on our alliance with the Philippines and our maritime security assistance to the region,” according to Daniel J. Kritenbrink, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

This will include a visit to BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, where Obama will meet with U.S. and Filipino sailors and senior Filipino defense officials. Del Pilar is a Hamilton-class weather high endurance cutter (WHEC) acquired by the Philippines from the U.S. in 2011 through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA).

Kritenbrink said the event with the Philippine Navy will underscore the United States’ commitment to assisting the region with stronger maritime security capabilities.

The Philippines is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China, which claims over 80 percent of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) based on a nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map lodged informally with the United Nations in 2009.

Obama’s visit takes place against the backdrop of tensions in the region caused by China’s massive reclamation and construction in the Spratlys and the threat of militarization of the outposts.

It also follows on the heels of a recent decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to hear the case brought by the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China.

Besides the Philippines, China’s claims in the South China Sea also overlap with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

While the territorial disputes is not in the APEC agenda, U.S. officials said it will be a central issue when Obama confers with President Benigno S. Aquino III, as well as, other Asian leaders on the margins of the summit through bilateral meetings.

Aquino and Obama are scheduled meet Wednesday morning. The two are expected to address a number of issues important to both countries, from economic to regional security, including the South China Sea and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

“I think you can expect that there’ll be a good deal of discussion about the security side of our alliance as well, particularly our cooperation together to enhance the Philippines’ maritime security. And I think you’ll see through the President’s events on the ground and some of the announcements he’ll make, you’ll see proof of our commitment to assisting our Filipino allies in that regard,” said Kritenbrink.

The U.S. official said they look forward to the implementation of the EDCA, signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg in April 2014, hours before Obama arrived in Manila for a state visit.

“We think it will help enhance alliance cooperation, our ability to further enhance the Philippines’ security, to respond to natural disasters and provide humanitarian assistance,” said Kritenbrink.

“I know that currently, EDCA is being reviewed by the Philippines Supreme Court, and we look forward to the court’s ruling on the issue. But it’s very clear to us what the benefits of EDCA will be, both for the people of the Philippines and the people of the United States, and we look forward to being able to implement it in the near future,” he added.

Earlier, Goldberg also said, “We have a very good EDCA agreement and we’re looking forward to implementing it when the time is right, when all of the decisions have been made on this side.”

The high tribunal last week deferred handing down a ruling on the EDCA, which some sectors have denounced as too advantageous to the U.S.

U.S. to increase military assistance to the Philippines

August 1, 2013

American special forces soldiers show Filipino army troopers techniques in firing their rifles during marksmanship training at a firing range on Basilan Island in the southern Philippines April 11, 2002. RTXL76Z

 Photo Credit: Reuters

MANILA (Reuters) – Washington will raise its military assistance to the Philippines by about two-thirds, Manila’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, helping its oldest security ally in Asia defend vast maritime borders against what it sees as Chinese assertiveness.

Albert Del Rosario said Washington had increased its military assistance package from $30 million next fiscal year to about $50 million, the highest level since U.S. troops returned to the Philippines in 2000.

“For military financing, it’s an allocation that is worked out by the U.S. Congress, and its usually for acquisition and maintenance,” Del Rosario told reporters.

Rosario said the Philippines may acquire a third Hamilton-class cutter to boost its efforts to patrol sea borders in view of recurring standoffs with China over territory in the South China Sea.

The Hamilton-class high endurance cutter BRP Ramon Alcaraz at Naval Base Guam Saturday July 27, 2013

The Hamilton-class high endurance cutter is the largest and newest warship in the Philippine Navy. The first two ships were acquired free of charge under the excess defense articles (EDA) under which Washington provides old equipment no longer in active use. But $25 million was spent to refurbish them.

The second cutter is to arrive next week in Subic Bay, a former U.S. Navy base, 50 km (30 miles) northwest of Manila, where it will be repainted before joining its sister ship on patrols.

Above: Subic Bay, once a key U.S. Navy port in the Philippines.

A senior military official, however, told Reuters that the Philippines may shelve the plan to acquire the third cutter and use the funds to upgrade the two vessels now in its fleet with a missile system.

Since 2002, the United States has provided the Philippines a total of $312 million in military aid as well as various types of military equipment.

Until the early 1990s, U.S. troops operated from two large military bases in the Philippines, providing a security umbrella in the country’s decades of fighting against Maoist and Muslim insurgents.

There are now plans to allow Washington wider access to civilian and military bases to help its former colony enhance its defense capability.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Ron Popeski)