Mark Collins – Europe’s Atrophying Militaries, German Section

Further to this post (note links at end),

Europe’s Atrophying Militaries, Cont’d

the Bundeswehr in particular–at Spiegel Online:

Germany’s Disarmed Forces: Ramshackle Military at Odds with Global Aspirations

Last week, a single person pushed Germany’s air force to the very limits of its capacities: Ursula von der Leyen, the country’s defense minister. Von der Leyen requested that two Transall military transport aircraft with missile defense systems be transferred to Amman, the Jordanian capital. The defense minister and a pool of reporters then flew for eight hours on Thursday morning in one of the aircraft to Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdish region. Back in Germany, the military had but a single additional Transall at its disposal.

After her arrival in Erbil, von der Leyen proceeded to the palace of the Kurdish regional government’s president. Her visit was to be concurrent with the delivery of German weapons, intended to aid the Kurds in their fight against Islamic State jihadists. Unfortunately, the machine guns and bazookas got stuck in Germany and the trainers in Bulgaria because of a dearth of available aircraft. One had been grounded because of a massive fuel leak. What could have been a shining moment for the minister instead turned into an embarrassing failure underscoring the miserable state of many of the Bundeswehr’s most important weapons systems…

Against that backdrop and pressure from the international community, the ramshackle state of the Bundeswehr is no laughing matter in Berlin. At the moment, if Germany’s allies were to ask it to step up its participation in deployments in the Baltic states or Iraq, for example, Chancellor Merkel would likely have to politely pass, creating a highly embarrassing situation for the country…

Major Deficiencies

In a hearing of the defense committee, the Bundeswehr General Inspector and other senior representatives of the military and the defense ministry presented the state of affairs to members of parliament. The committee had sought additional information after SPIEGEL reported in August about major deficiencies in the operational capability of important German weapons systems. On Wednesday [Sept. 24] , members of the committee reviewed a paper that provided a color-coded green, yellow and red classifications based on an assessment of the operational capability of the 22 main weapons systems used by the army, navy and air force.

It appears that the paper included a considerable amount of misleading information and that the military might even be in worse shape than that presented by the officials…

Bundeswehr – Operational Capability of Select Weapons Systems

Weapons System

Total Number



Tiger helicopter




NH90 helicopter




Sea King helicopter




Sea Lynx helicopter




CH53 helicopter




Eurofighter fighter jet




Tornado fighter jet




K130 corvette




U212 submarine








Marder IFV




Boxer AFV




Total stock = all procured units
Available = in operation, including systems currently out of service because of maintenance or repair
Deployable = can be used immediately for missions, exercises or training

*includes pre-production models
Source: Bundeswehr German Armed Forces


Despite Signs of Disrepair, Berlin Is Hesitant to Boost Military Spending
Leaked Government Report Shows Much of Military’s Equipment Is Decrepit

Brits aren’t in great shape either.  And an Iraq effort could really stretch the RCAF.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mathew Preston: Approaching a Watershed Moment

A lot has changed in the world since 1989, and even more so in China. Organizers of the pro-democracy protests have set an October 1st deadline for a government response to their demands for a real democracy, not one where the only viable options have to be vetted by Beijing. How the Chinese government will respond will be very telling as to the willingness of creating openness in politics, or the power of liberal reformers within the Communist Party. A repeat of Tiananmen seems hard to imagine, but a year ago so did reshaping Europe’s borders though force.


So far the government response, while some what excessive, has not been that different from how some jurisdictions in North America dealt with Occupy Wall Street or G8 protests. Whether the Chinese government decides to clamp down and assert their ultimate control, or allow for some political pluralism to exist alongside the economic pluralism that currently exists, will be key to the nature of China’s increase in power in the world at large, or at least how it is perceived by the West.


At least the UK has said something, noting that it is “concerned” about the situation. The 1997 deal handing Hong Kong back to China guarantees certain freedoms, including the right to peaceful protest. The Chinese responded by saying that other nations should not interfere with internal Chinese affairs. Little surprise there.

Matt Preston is a Masters candidate at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary

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Mark Collins – Afghanistan: At Last Agreements to Keep Some US, NATO Forces (plus India)

The saga has a rapid denouement–one wonders what other NATO members and friends (Australia? Sweden?) will have troops in-country going forward.  Certainly no Canada.  At Foreign Policy:

The South Asia Channel
U.S., Afghanistan Sign BSA


U.S., Afghanistan finalize BSA

The United States and Afghanistan finally signed the long-delayed Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on Tuesday, allowing nearly 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country after the NATO combat mission ends in December (AP). Amb. James B. Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, and Mohammad Hanif Atmar, a former Afghan interior minister who is now President Ashraf Ghani’s national security advisor, signed the security pact at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, just three months before the bulk of foreign forces are set to withdraw (Pajhwok, TOLO News).

According to the Washington Post‘s Sudarsan Raghavan, the 9,800 U.S. troops that stay in Afghanistan will be there to “help train, equip, and advise Afghan military and police forces” (Post). He also noted that, under the BSA: “American forces would keep some bases in the country. It also prevents U.S. soldiers and military personnel from being prosecuted under Afghan laws for any crimes they may commit; instead the United States has jurisdiction over any criminal proceedings or disciplinary action inside the country. U.S. contractors and their employees do not fall into this category and would be subject to Afghan laws.”

John Podesta, a senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama who was in Afghanistan for Ghani’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday, told reporters that the signing of the BSA was “an important step in strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries” (VOA). Bonus Read: “Afghanistan’s New Leaders Are Committed, The U.S. Should Be, Too,” Ioannis Koskinas (SouthAsia).

Now that the BSA has been finalized, Ghani is expected to sign a similar agreement with NATO later this week [in fact has been signed], laying out the terms that would allow between 3,000 and 4,000 troops – mostly from Britain, Germany, Italy, and Turkey [emphasis added, note Turks]– to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 (BBC, RFE/RL). Media outlets noted that about 12,500 total coalition troops will still be in Afghanistan at the start of 2015…


Afghanistan: Look Who’s Keeping Boots There Post-2014

Will the Canadian media pay any attention to those other countries?  For my part I remain more optimistic about Afghanistan than the Caliphate/Syria/Iraq.  Into which cauldron our government now looks ready to plunge, latest here.  Meanwhile India, a major player in this great game, weighs in–Pakistan will not like:

Indian Prime Minister Modi: U.S. Should Be Cautious In Withdrawal From Afghanistan

More here on India and Afghanistan.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – RCAF CF-18 Service Life Extension Looking Likely

It seems that the questions raised in this March 2013 post,

Canada’s New Fighter: Extending CF-18’s Service Real Option? No Decision Until After 2015 Election?

are moving towards being answered in the affirmative.  The government clearly stills the new fighter procurement decision as being politically dangerous; moreover the later it can procure F-35s–as still seems to be its preference–the cheaper they will be as the plane moves into full production (more on production plans here).  Two headlines:

Government will need to sink more money into CF-18s because of delays

Canada to funnel money into upgrades to keep CF-18 fighter jets flying [until 2025]

It will be interesting to see how much the service extension will really cost and how many of the current 77 Hornets will be done.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Der Untergang des Abendlandes: Three Most Relevant Books

How we got where we are–all well worth the read for varying reasons; the last most evocative:

1) The State and Revolution

2) Mein Kampf

3) A Canticle for Leibowitz

More Unterganging.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – The Limits of Intelligence, or, POTUS and ISIS (and June 22, 1941)

Unless one has incontrovertible intercepts, overwhelmingly accurate and timely imagery, indisputable HUMINT (rare indeed), great open sources, or some very nice combination of the preceding each not definitive on its own, then any predictions are in the end no more likely to be bang on than those of economists (not that I generally like Paul Krugman) or–gasp!–political scientists (twitter bun-fight here).  In the words of Joshua Foust one must realize there is only…

The False Promise of a Crystal Ball

If there’s one theme that could define President Obama’s foreign policy the last six years, it is his tumultuous relationship with the US intelligence community. The IC is Obama’s favorite target when Things Go Wrong: usually because they did not use their crystal ball to correctly predict the future. It is that misperception — that the IC can predict future events — that is at the heart of Obama’s unfair criticism [more here], and its widespread belief is why he can use it so effectively to avoid taking responsibility for his own decisions.

…the idea that the intel community can predict the rise of a single bad actor from a complex ecosystem of bad actors is a pernicious myth. Often, it is a myth perpetuated by those running the agencies.

“As we look at retrospectively on … what we now call the Arab Awakening,” the [DIA] deputy director said, ”what indications should we have picked up that perhaps we didn’t focus on?”

I worked at the DIA [website here] right before the Arab Spring, focused on Yemeni politics. And I can tell you: we knew there was discontent bubbling up. We knew that it would affect our mission against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But we didn’t know how badly it would affect that mission. Our bosses didn’t care, they just wanted intrigue, order of battle information, and stuff on al Qaeda. Despite being a political analyst, I was never able to get them to care about the politics of Yemen, at least not in a critical way. It simply wasn’t their mission, and because data is never perfect I couldn’t say “in three months you will see this protest movement join a regional explosion of anti-authoritarian protests and eventually topple the regime.”

Frankly, no one could possibly predict such a thing with any accuracy, it is dependent on too many variables [recent Yemeni developments here]…

Even in Tunisia, and in Egypt, people who lived there and lived out the protests daily did not know where they were going — nor could they have predicted them beforehand. Intelligence is not a crystal ball, and never will be…

Obama has never developed a good understanding of what intelligence does, what it is, and how it can be used most appropriately. His Presidential Daily Brief is filled with maps highlighting the summaries of intelligence findings. It is a benchmark product. Those maps have to come from somewhere, right? Yet when Obama was visiting a Five Guys in 2009 — a local burger joint — he did not know what agency produced all of those maps for him every day.

“So explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial…” Obama said, after the worker mentioned his employer, according to a video of the event.

“We work with, uh, satellite imagery,” the worker, Walter replied.

If there’s one complaint you hear more than any other in the working level of the intelligence community, it is that Obama is completely checked out. When analysts get to go brief their specialty in the Oval Office — a huge honor, one that many cherish as the result of hard work — too many complain that they’re barely even acknowledged. There’s no engagement on the topic. Nothing. Five months into his job, after seeing branded products produced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [website here], Obama did not know what they were or what they did. He never asked what “NGA” means on the corner of the image. He never asked where the color-coded maps of Afghanistan or Iraq came from. He had zero curiosity about it…

There is also this aspect:

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday [Sept. 29] it was also difficult to assess ahead of time how well Iraqi security forces would be able to defend their own country because of the sectarian divisions in Iraq’s government…

Yep.  See these efforts to assess foreign forces from the summer of 1941:

And this confidence that the Germans could win the war against the Soviet Union was shared by analysts in other countries. ‘The American intelligence forces thought that this [war] would [last] between three and six weeks,’ says Professor Sir Ian Kershaw. ‘They reckoned that the Red Army was in no position to withstand the Wehrmacht. And British intelligence also thought this was a foregone conclusion and the Germans would win in the Soviet Union. So nobody really at that time, inside or outside Germany, thought that the Soviet Union would withstand this assault from so powerful a force.’..

Then there’s “strategic intelligence“, note Sherman Kent at comment 2.  Knowing a bit of history may help more than a tad when assessing but is hardly any guarantee of accurate forecasting either.  But still most blinking useful.  More on history and on intercepts:

SIGINT and Another Reason Why the Atomic Bomb Was Needed Against Japan

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – NORAD (RCAF) vs Bears…and Foxhounds–and Nukes

Further to the second part of this post,

Who Needs Fifth Generation (Stealth) Fighters? But Escorted Russian Bombers?

more at Aviation Week and Space Technology, in a piece on Russian nuclear developments and planning for upgrades to US nuclear weapons systems:

Opinion: Nuclear Deterrence Back On The Policy Menu
Nuclear investments will be a hard sell

Four years ago, a North American Aerospace Defense Command officer sang the praises of a joint exercise with Russian forces, named Vigilant Eagle. “This exercise is one milestone in working together. Our folks are proud to be a part of such an important event and are passionate about partaking in efforts to protect our borders,” said Lt. Col. John Oberst, the 176th Air Control Sqdn. operations officer [see here].

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but lessons learned from Vigilant Eagle [more here] likely aided in the execution of a more-recent exercise, its name unknown. Russian Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound long-range fighters (photo)—a type that Russian forces flew in Vigilant Eagle—accompanied two Tupolev Tu-95MS bombers to a point 55 nm from the Alaskan coast on Sept. 17. Two Ilyushin Il-78 tankers supported the formation, which turned back when it was intercepted by a pair of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors.

The nuclear-attack drill was part of an escalation in long-range Russian operations worldwide, and showed a developing tactic in which MiG-31s escorted Tu-95s and Tu-142 reconnaissance aircraft. The change follows the introduction of the modernized MiG-31BM, now due to be flying until 2029. Also entering service is the Tu-95MSM, armed with the new Kh-101/102 cruise missile that has a reported range of up to 2,700 nm (AW&ST Sept. 15, p. 47). This weapons mix offers the attacker new tactical options—including a reconnaissance-strike complex with the MiGs as shooters—and poses corresponding challenges for the defender…

No shoot, NORADman.  As for US planning:

US Nuking Up for Future

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Making Complete Mockery of Supervising Canadian Security Intelligence (CSIS)

These excerpts from a piece by Prof. Wesley Wark illustrate precisely what is wrong about the current government’s approach to many of its core responsibilities, including the Canadian Forces and Coast Guard:

The rise and fall of Arthur Porter

Arthur Porter led a seemingly charmed life, which took him from the impoverished country of his birth, Sierra Leone, to elite Cambridge University, where he earned a medical degree. The young Arthur Porter, “ambitious and driven,” as he describes himself, embarked on a dizzying rise to the top ranks of hospital administration in the United States and Canada. One of the most improbable steps along the way was his appointment in 2008 by the Harper government to the status of Queen’s Privy Councillor and member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC [website here]), a very sensitive job serving as a watchdog over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS [website here]), Canada’s spy agency [mainly domestic security intelligence agency actually]. By 2010, Porter was not just a member, but the appointed chairman of SIRC, for what was meant to be a five-year sinecure.

But his fortune didn’t hold. Only a year into his chairmanship, a scandal involving inappropriate business and international dealings, first reported by the National Post in November 2010, cost him his coveted job at SIRC. And from there matters only worsened. Now, nothing remains of the charmed life. Porter, in ill health, scrapes by in a notorious Panamanian jail, trying to fend off extradition to Quebec, where he faces fraud charges over the awarding of a hospital construction project…

By his own telling, there was nothing that justified his appointment to SIRC, beyond the debased coin of patronage. Once installed at SIRC, his attitudes towards the conduct of Canadian intelligence were, at best, superficial and, at worst, at odds with Canadian values. Porter was not a fit guardian, and brought into disrepute the office that Canadians rely on to keep tabs on our spies.

Porter tells us in his memoir [see here] that he ticked “all the right boxes” for an appointment to SIRC. What he means by the “right boxes” is clear: He was a known Conservative, had friends in the party, routinely attended fundraisers, did the back-slapping routine and was a doctor with an African background and international experience. In other words, he was a patronage appointment with multicultural benefits. No mention is made of his non-existent knowledge of security and intelligence matters, or his complete lack of political experience…

Vraiment un manque de sérieux.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – The Caliphate, Big Dumb Reptiles…and George Kennan

Excerpts from a nice piece at the New Yorker:

ISIS and George Kennan’s “Americanasaurus”

In an interesting Syria post at Foreign Policys Web site, Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator [and about the best talking head on CNN, bio here], quotes George Kennan, the progenitor of the policy of containment, on the tendency of democracies to ignore external threats until, eventually, they overreact. Having just raised the possibility that the Obama Administration’s decision to expand the war on ISIS may have been partly driven by public opinion, I think it’s worth reproducing Kennan’s quote in full:

But I sometimes wonder whether in this respect a democracy is not uncomfortably similar to one of those prehistoric monsters with a body as long as this room and a brain the size of a pin: he lies there in his comfortable primeval mud and pays little attention to his environment; he is slow to wrath—in fact, you practically have to whack his tail off to make him aware that his interests are being disturbed; but, once he grasps this, he lays about him with such blind determination that he not only destroys his adversary but largely wrecks his native habitat.

In addition to being a foreign-policy realist, Kennan was an unapologetic élitist. These days, few commentators would use the sort of language he did. But, now that we have seen how the United States and other Western polities have dealt with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham over the past couple of years, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the Princeton patrician may have been on to something…

Not all wars end badly. In 1999, there was strong backing for Bill Clinton’s strategy of using NATO air power to support the pro-independence forces in Kosovo. As the fighting dragged on, the level of public support declined somewhat, but it stayed above fifty per cent until the conflict ended and the Serbian troops withdrew. If the U.S.-led coalition routs ISIS in fairly short order, American casualties are kept to a minimum, and some sort of post-conflict settlement is cobbled together in Syria and Iraq, this could be another Kosovo war rather than another Iraq.

That’s about the best we can hope for. But, like Kennan, you have to wonder.

I would say wonder ever-more furiously.  More on Mr Kennan–and a certain revenant Harvard professor and US public intellectual:

George Kennan Conservative? Actually Reactionary…and This Before the Internet

The US and the World: Almost All Kennan, All the time, or, One Wonders if Michael Ignatieff…

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Canadian Hydrocarbon Heartbreak?

That good old energy superpower status just keeps sliding to the right.

1) Gas: Malaysians, Chinese want Canada to step on it…or else:

Labour shortage imperils LNG projects, Chinese partner warns

Canada needs to open its oil and gas industry to skilled workers from China and elsewhere to address a labour crunch, says the Chinese partner of the Petronas-led consortium planning a liquefied natural gas export project in British Columbia.

Without policy concessions from the Canadian government, “many projects will drop,” said Feng Zhiqiang, executive vice-president of Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Co., a subsidiary of the Chinese oil and gas giant.

Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned energy giant, this week threatened to pull its $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project unless B.C. introduces a competitive tax and regulatory regime [see "Petronas plays hardball with B.C. over Pacific NorthWest LNG", and this what-me-worry response: "B.C. premier not concerned about Petronas threat to pull out of $10-billion LNG project"].

Now, a key Petronas partner is warning a shortage of skilled workers puts projects at risk.

“You have a very limited number of people. If one [LNG] project starts, it already will not be enough,” Mr. Feng said in an interview in Beijing. Canada simply does not have enough people to construct the many proposed complex projects on the British Columbia coast, particularly with the ever-expanding oil sands in Alberta already drawing vast numbers of skilled workers, he said. Letting workers in from China, Europe and the U.S. would “resolve some of the costs and the problems, the shortage of technical people,” he said.

Proposals to bring foreign workers to Canada are controversial...


2) Oil, awash in a sea of:

Oil overflow: As prices slump, producers grapple with a new reality

The hunt for cheaper ways to wring crude from northern Alberta’s oil sands started long before the recent slide in oil prices began…But the work today has become more urgent, as global oil markets are buffeted by the sharp rise in U.S. shale oil production and weaker-than-expected demand from China and Europe.

Oil prices started to hit the skids this summer…

The recent slide in prices reflects fundamental changes in supply and demand trends that are upsetting a long-held expectation of ever-tightening crude supplies, a conviction that prevailed for much of the past decade.

Today, the global market is awash in crude. Abundant supply is increasingly evident around the world: Europe’s inventories are bulging; China’s strategic oil reserve is nearly full; U.S. Gulf coast refineries are increasingly filled with U.S. crude as their need for imported oil plummets; and global oil prices have largely failed to respond to extended conflicts in the Middle East, Ukraine and other areas, traditionally a trigger for higher prices…
For the Alberta energy industry, weaker prices mean oil sands companies can no longer count on constantly rising prices to cover ever-increasing costs of massive megaprojects. As with high-cost producers around the globe, the new mantra in Calgary is capital discipline.

…high-cost projects are already foundering. Just this week, Norway’s Statoil ASA shelved plans for a major oil sands project in northern Alberta called Corner, citing high construction costs and extensive delays building new export pipelines designed to boost the value of Canadian oil. The move followed Total SA’s decision to mothball its $11-billion Joslyn mine earlier this year.

…Suncor and Total last year mothballed their $11.6-billion (Canadian) Voyageur upgrading plant, saying the project was uneconomic in the face of roaring Bakken output, which blew past 1.1 million b/d this summer. The partly built project is now being converted to a tire-recycling plant.

…[Amrita Sen, chief energy economist at Energy Aspects Ltd. in London] visited Calgary last week and found a litany of concerns: the lack of pipeline access, challenging relations with aboriginal Canadians, drying up of foreign investment – all compounded by rising costs and falling prices. “I think the mood in the U.S. is a lot more positive,” she said…

Oh dear.  Earlier:

British Columbia’s Energy Power Dream: A Gas! Gas! Gas?

The US Oil Behemoth, Part 2

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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