Mark Collins – The Incredible Shrinking British Military, Queen’s Speech Section

Further to this post, two stories:

1) U.K. Defense Budget in Cameron Crosshairs After Queen Speech

2) David Cameron must ‘put money where his mouth is‘ on defence, senior Tories MPs warn: David Cameron warned that Britain’s special relationship with the US will be put at risk unless he commits to spending 2 per cent of Britain’s national income of defence.

Given the Canadian situation,

NATO and Canadian Defence: The One Per Cent Solution

our relationship with the Americans really looks un-special.  Not that POTUS cares about us anyway.  More on the Canadian defence budget here (nice graphics) and here.

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 – Turkey, or, The Sublime Erdogan? June 7 Parliamentary Election Section

Further to this post, excerpts from a briefing at The Economist (remember that, however will written the newspaper, has its own agenda):

Turkey’s election
A big moment for Erdogan—and Turkey
Foreign policy is a hubristic disaster and the economy is on the slide, but that won’t stop the ruling AK party founded by Recep Tayyip Erdogan from winning

CRITICS of Turkey say its democracy is under threat, but it doesn’t look that way at election time. Villagers are on the streets in their hundreds, city-dwellers in their hundreds of thousands, to listen to politicians’ pitches. The country is covered in bunting. In recent elections turnout has been over 80%—higher than in most other European countries—and, although allegations of ballot-rigging are frequent, voting is mostly fair.

The likely victor in the general election on June 7th is the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party, founded by the charismatic Recep Tayyip Erdogan, long-serving prime minister and now president. Polls suggest AK will get over 40% of the vote.

In electoral terms, AK has been a wild success. Since the party was set up in 2001, it has won seven consecutive general, local and presidential elections, plus two referendums. In the 2011 general election its vote share was close to 50%. Mr Erdogan won the 2014 presidential election in the first round.

But AK’s impact on the country has been more ambiguous. Turkey has had a strong decade economically, but it now faces stagnation and high unemployment. Abroad, Mr Erdogan’s foreign policy has been a comprehensive failure. The government’s peace process with the Kurds is on a knife-edge. And Mr Erdogan is bent on changing the constitution into a strong presidential system. Because this election will determine whether he can, it matters a great deal to Turkey’s future…

With the economy weakening, Mr Erdogan’s assertive foreign policy was partly designed to shore up support at home. As Sinan Ulgen of EDAM, a think-tank in Istanbul, argues, “Erdogan has hijacked foreign policy for domestic purposes.” The president’s rhetoric has taken on an increasingly anti-Western tone. He has pandered to sectarian Sunni feeling and to Turks’ prickly nationalism, caricaturing opponents as traitors working for Western interests and talking of foreign plots. Israel, America and the EU have all been implicated in such plots. Turkey has switched from being an ally of Israel to one of its harshest critics.

Mr Erdogan saw the turmoil after the Arab spring as an opportunity for Turkey to play a bigger role in the former Ottoman empire...


Reluctance to support Syria’s Kurds has won Turkey opprobrium in the West. When Mr Morsi was toppled in a coup and Mr Assad remained defiantly in charge, Turkey ceased to look like a model for the Arab world. It is now in the awkward position of having no ambassadors in Egypt, Israel, Libya and Syria, as well as having withdrawn its ambassadors to Austria and the Vatican in a row over the pope’s reference to the 1915 Armenian genocide. A foreign policy that was supposed to boost Mr Erdogan’s popularity seems now to be doing the opposite…

…[Erdogan’s] ultimate prize…[is] a new system of government with a strong presidency. To create that, he needs a new constitution. If AK gets a three-fifths majority (330 seats), it can pass a new constitution that has to be put to a referendum; with a two-thirds majority (367 seats), it can have a new constitution without a referendum...

…seen against the background of his recent behaviour, Mr Erdogan’s plans for a strong presidency are troubling. He has dismantled checks on his power. His approach is majoritarian and divisive: so long as his party wins elections, it can trample any critics. Critical newspaper groups have been subjected to capricious tax fines. Columnists have been fired. Turkey had more journalists in jail than any other country until the middle of last year, when a clutch of 40 were let out. Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based group, ranks it 149th of 180 countries for press freedom, above Russia but below Venezuela.

The authorities have often tried to close off access to critical websites and social media. In the second half of 2014, Turkey filed 477 requests to Twitter to remove content, five times more than any other country. And since Mr Erdogan became president, 105 people have been indicted for insulting the head of state…

Turkey is at a fork in the road. In one direction is a stronger autocratic president better able to crush critics at home and challenge Turkey’s Western allies abroad. In the other is a more conciliatory parliamentary government that is readier to reform the economy and engage opponents at home…


Syria: Turco-Saudi Axis in Support of (some) Islamists

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 – Europe vs Russia: Finland/Sweden, Plus NATO’s Missile Defence

Two pieces at Aviation Week and Space Technology:

1) Sweden, Finland Move To Align Defenses (note Finns’ new fighter plans)

2) 2015 Marks Critical Year for Europe’s Ballistic Missile Umbrella

As for 2), Canada is in this odd position:

Ballistic missile defence is good enough for Europe, but not for us?

The author, CDFAI Fellow Frank Harvey, also wrote this paper last year for the institute:

Canada and Ballistic Missile Defence

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 Government’s “Defence Acquisition Guide 2015″ (note new fighter)

For what it’s worth the guide is here; no costs are given for very large procurements other than “More than $1.5 billion”.  The guide says this about the RCAF’s “Future Fighter Capability” (well taken out as an issue for this year’s federal election):

  • 2018 to 2020
    • Implementation Approval
    • Contract Award
  • 2026 to 2035
    • Final Delivery…

Holy Hornet replacement!  That “final delivery” sure is dragged out.  At least there’s the “CF-188 Life Extension 2025“, more on that here.

Another thing: in 2020, when the contract is supposed to be awarded, the F-35 and Dassault Rafale will still be in production–but what about the Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon (see penultimate paragraph here)?  A two-horse race?  Might Saab re-enter its new Gripen?

Last year:

Canadian Government’s “Defence Acquisition Guide”: Worth the Webpage Posted On?

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 and Russia Upping the Blackjack Ante

There’s more than Bears about to which to worry–consider now the other Russian strategic bomber:

Russia to complete Tu-160 upgrades ahead of time



Russia’s upgrade of its Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ strategic bomber fleet is now set to be complete in 2019, rather than 2020 as previously announced. Source: Tupolev

Russia is to complete a major upgrade of its Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ strategic bomber [more here] fleet a year earlier than previously announced, with the final aircraft now set to be delivered back to the air force in 2019.

The work, which is geared at replacing all of the aircraft’s Soviet-era equipment with modern systems, is being carried out in two phases. The first phase, now completed, involved bolstering the aircraft’s nuclear armament with the capacity to carry 12 conventionally armed Raduga NPO Kh-555 (AS-15 ‘Kent’) long-range cruise missiles and laser-guided bombs. The first such upgraded aircraft was delivered back to the air force in April 2008.

The second phase is focused on replacing the radar, as well as the electronic navigation and communication systems. The first flight of a Tu-160 fitted with these new systems took place out of the Kazan Aircraft Plant (KAPO) east of Moscow in November 2014. The aircraft’s engines are also to be upgraded under this effort at a later date.

According to the TASS news agency, Boris Naishuler, director of the Gorbunov Kazan Aviation Production Association’s design centre, said on 26 May that the modernisation programme to the 16 bombers in the air force’s inventory is now expected to be completed in 2019, rather than 2020 as previously stated…

Very relevant:

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

Russian Bombers and Cruise Missiles: Should Me Worry?

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 – “Supporting the Canadian Armed Forces”–Not

First an excerpt from a post in February 2013–and still no redo of the CFDS!

…The government has said it will announce a redo of the CFDS [Canada First Defence Strategy, June 2008] some time after the budget…But if each service tries to go on being as all-singing and all-dancing as possible each is likely to end up not performing all that well. The government needs to make some some very difficult choices to focus the services, and abandon some capabilities so as to be able to afford and maintain others. That means the government must decide what types of missions/roles each service must be able to perform (as opposed to “nice to have”) and how much it is willing to pay for the personnel and equipment so that those missions/roles can be carried out effectively and efficiently. But I doubt this government is capable of–or our services willing to–engage in such a serious review. Which the UK government did carry out well over two years ago, almost mercilessly…

Now a post at the CDA Institute Blog:

CDA Institute guest contributor Steve Daly, a frequent contributor to the Canadian American Strategic Review, comments on some of the problems facing the government’s recapitalization efforts.

When one makes a cursory examination of Canada’s defence budget, and the monies already earmarked for major capital acquisitions, it is easy to draw the conclusion that a major recapitalization is now under way. The $33B set aside for new Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) ships and $9B for a new Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fighter aircraft are just the highlights. Other smaller projects abound, creating the impression of money flowing into a revitalization of Canada’s defences.

If only this were true.

Escalating costs are already eating into the budgeted amounts in ways that are eroding capabilities and numbers. In fact, we already see both capabilities and numbers eroding; the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) has fixed budgets so far in advance that something has to give. The net result is a full speed charge toward acquiring the greatest number of ships that meet minimal mission requirements. In fact, we are already seeing the process resulting in fewer than ideal numbers of hulls, at a capability level that is below that originally envisioned…

What Canada needs is clarity. The government needs to define explicitly the missions required of the Canadian Armed Forces, the assets required to meet mission requirements and the projected costs of funding. Of these, only the costs can be considered as a variable. The missions required and the assets to meet those missions are fixed. This process also needs to be public. The Canadian public has a right to be informed about such basic issues as the spending of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds and National Defence.

Without such clarity we are proceeding aimlessly, spending billions of dollars without the surety that we are getting both what we need and those things that will allow us to achieve national goals…

Well put, say I.   More here on the “State of the CF”.
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 – Arctic Tensions Not Really About the Region but Relations With Russia

Sensible analysis at The Arctic Institute (Washington, D.C.):

Arctic Security: Hype, Nuances and Dilemmas
Andreas Østhagen

Outright conflict over the Arctic…seems unlikely. At worst, claims over the North Pole’s seabed will lead to a diplomatic struggle. The potential for conflict over offshore resources is also vastly exaggerated. Yet, to contend, like some have, that the Arctic is ‘completely uninteresting geopolitically’, neglects the role that the region plays in the security considerations of some Arctic states, Russia in particular.

A Looming Conflict

Military activity in the Arctic is at its highest point since the Cold War. Russian bombers flying along the North Norwegian coast or across the North Pole from the Kola Peninsula continue at high numbers and with increasing complexity. Russian investment in military infrastructure in the Arctic is growing. Moreover, controversial statements by Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin implying that Crimea and the Arctic are “all about the same”, do not help cool down Arctic rhetoric.

These trends have prompted debates in the other Arctic states over the need to invest in northern capabilities and presence…

Conflict over the Arctic?
Increased military activity does not, however, imply that an Arctic standoff is imminent. The prevailing argument for why there would be a conflict over the Arctic is the region’s energy and mineral resources. Yet, when examining the location and accessibility of these resources, it becomes apparent that they are predominantly located in what are already the economic zones of the Arctic coastal states. With the largest maritime border dispute between Norway and Russia in the Barents Sea settled in 2010, Arctic riches are more or less already divided.

Furthermore, the Arctic states are struggling to exploit their own riches, with limited or no petroleum and mineral activity commencing. Instead of inspiring a so-called scramble for the north, the Arctic states are actually mutually dependent on a stable political environment to develop the potential of their northern riches. As Rolf Tamnes and Kristine Offerdal argue in their seminal 2014 book ‘Geopolitics and Security in the Arctic’: “There is little to suggest today that the Arctic states see resources and territory in a more accessible Arctic as likely to trigger armed conflict”. With the marked drop in oil and gas prices, these conclusions have only become more relevant…

Conflict in the Arctic?
The Arctic states are, on the other hand, not exempt from conflict and instability. Although struggle over the Arctic is not cause for grave concern, the regional relationships with Russia in the Arctic cannot be sheltered from the deterioration of the relationship between Russia and the West. Subsequently the potential for small-scale incidents having a larger impact on the security situation in the region should not be underestimated…

Another part of the activity increase, however, is directed at the Arctic itself, as a show of force to mark the Arctic’s strategic importance to Russia. As Katarzyna Zysk argues, Russian activity and rhetoric concerning the Arctic may seem contradictory. On the one hand, Russia continues to emphasize cooperation and low-tension, signaling a desire to keep Arctic cooperation unharmed. On the other hand, Russia expands its military posturing in the Arctic for both symbolic and strategic purposes, embodied by military investments and snap exercises.

On the other side of the North Pole, the Arctic does not hold the same seminal role in security considerations. In North America (including Greenland), the Arctic has primarily been the location of missile defense and surveillance equipment, in addition to a limited amount of strategic forces (in Alaska and Greenland). Beyond that, the North American Arctic states have not prioritized Arctic military investment, as the perceived threats in the north have been minimal.
Despite the overflow of rhetoric suggesting otherwise, Russian investment in the European Arctic consequently has limited impact on the North American security outlook. Due to the sheer size and inaccessibility of the region, the spillover of security issues between the various parts of the Arctic is limited. Indeed, Russian overtures with bomber and fighter planes may cause alarm, but the real threat for the North American states – Canada and Greenland in particular – is limited.

…there is still potential for conflict to take place in the Arctic, as the region stands as one of multiple theaters for clashes between Russia and the West. This has arguably little to do with symbolic quarrels over the North Pole, and everything to do with the West’s relationship with Russia at large…

If only more Canadians could see as clearly.  Related:

“The Arctic: Not so cool” [with map]

The Bear’s Bears: New NORAD Radars for Canadian North/Back to Cheyenne Mountain

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 – Yemen Update: Bomb, Bomb–Kill, Kill

What a poor, miserable place:

Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen drags on with little progress

A Saudi-led air campaign targeting Shiite Muslim rebels in Yemen is entering its third month with little substantive military progress to show for relentless bombardment that has killed at least 1,800 people, ravaged an already impoverished country’s infrastructure and triggered a far-reaching humanitarian disaster.

Since the air offensive began March 26, the rebels, known as Houthis, have expanded their territorial gains, maintained control of the capital, Sana, and clung to strongholds in the strategic port city of Aden, although they suffered a setback Tuesday [May 26] when anti-Houthi militiamen captured a southern town, Dali, according to residents and news reports [see also: “Yemen fighters backing exiled government take southern city”].

The air campaign is aimed at restoring the rule of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who has taken refuge in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, along with other members of his government. But the offensive, overseen by an inexperienced Saudi defense minister, who is the son of King Salman, has been widely criticized as lacking clear military objectives, as well as for causing vast destruction and mounting civilian casualties.

Because so many areas are cut off by fighting, an accurate death toll has been difficult to compile. However, residents believe the figure is far higher than the more than 1,800 estimated by international organizations. At least 135 of those fatalities were children, the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said this week.

The degree of human suffering enveloping what was already the Arab world’s poorest country is intensifying as well. The British aid agency Oxfam said Tuesday that at least 16 million Yemenis — nearly two-thirds of the population — now lack access to clean water and sanitation, setting the stage for a potentially catastrophic outbreak of disease.

Yemen has been under an air and sea embargo since the start of the Saudi-led campaign, which has triggered shortages of food, fuel and other crucial supplies, though a trickle of humanitarian relief has arrived. More than 500,000 people have been internally displaced, with many of them living in conditions of desperate hardship…


Yemeni politicians say UN peace talks indefinitely postponed

[UN SecGen] Ban calls for postponement of Yemen consultations, urges ‘soonest possible’ return to dialogue


A boy sits amid rubble, all that remains of his home, which was destroyed in an air strike in Okash Village, near Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Photo: UNICEF/Mohammed Hamoud…

Air strikes kill at least 80 in deadliest bombings of Yemen war

Why Saudi Arabia’s Yemen War Is Not Producing Victory
Saudi Arabia is seen as having jumped into the war in Yemen without having thought out the consequences.

One way of looking at matters:

The Middle East analyst Simon Henderson captured the disintegration well in an essay in The Wall Street Journal in March, writing, “The violent chaos in Yemen isn’t orderly enough to merit being called a civil war.” [see here]..


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 – What to Do About the Bloody Middle East? Good Grief! Tom Friedman Agrees With Me

I wrote the following in February:

Poor bloody locals. If the West is truly willing to sort things out right now, are we then willing to rule-one way or another-for some decades or so to try to ensure things work out wellish? Triple double HAH! Given no willingness for, or today in the West intellectual acceptance of, such a prospect, then let us just face things honestly:

The US and the Middle East: Just. Give. Up

Now we find the formerly opTomist NY Timesman writing this:

I see only two ways coherent self-government can re-emerge in Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Syria: If an outside power totally occupies them, snuffs out their sectarian wars, suppresses the extremists and spends the next 50 years trying to get Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis and Libyans to share power as equal citizens. Even that might not work. Anyway, it’s not going to happen. The other is just wait for the fires to burn themselves out…

We cannot effectively intervene in a region where so few share our goals. For instance, in Iraq and Syria, both Iran and Saudi Arabia have acted as “arsonists” and “firefighters.” First, Iran pushed the Iraqi Shiite government to crush the Sunnis. When that produced ISIS, they sent pro-Iranian militias to put out the fire. Thanks a lot. And Saudi Arabia’s long promotion of the puritanical, anti-pluralistic, anti-women, Wahhabi brand of Islam helped to shape the thinking of ISIS and the Sunni fundamentalists who joined them. The Saudis, too, are arsonists and firefighters. Indeed, ISIS is like a missile that got its guidance system from Saudi Arabia and its fuel from Iran…

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

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Infographic – Canada’s Arctic Strategy

Click the Infographic for a full screen view

Canada's Arctic Plan FINAL

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