— Nine European countries kicked off week-long military exercises in Spain, the first lead by the EU independently of NATO.
— EU countries and the European Commission will assess semiconductor technology, AI, quantum and biotech, but EU insiders tell POLITICO the Commission risks a rushed evaluation process.
— Steadfast Noon, NATO’s annual nuclear exercise, begins today.
MILITARY EXERCISE IN SPAIN: As of today, 31 military units and 2,800 military personnel from nine EU countries — including 1,800 from Spain, 600 from France and 200 from Portugal — will participate in a week-long exercise in southern Spain led by the European Union. The goal is to “enhance further the EU’s military readiness to respond to external conflicts and crises,” Austrian General Robert Brieger, the EU Military Committee chairman, told Laura.
Unprecedented: It’s the first time the EU is planning and executing a major air-sea-amphibious military exercise without leaning on NATO structures, EU and French military officials said. Doing more of those is one of the targets in the 2022 Strategic Compass for Security and Defense. This year’s edition is “a ‘first reality check’ where we will demonstrate our capacities and capabilities in operational, equipment and technical matters,” Brieger said in a statement.
Now, some acronyms: This week’s exercise is dubbed LIVEX and is part of MILEX 23, the 2023 edition of the EU Crisis Management Military Exercise.
The scenario: Brieger explained that the exercise would simulate an intervention in another country asking for EU help. The president of Seglia — a fictitious EU partner on a continent south of the Mediterranean Sea — needs support to secure his country, as the situation is “rapidly deteriorating” because of a violent extremist organization. In the scenario, the Council has greenlit a military operation.
The plan: LIVEX kicks off today with aerial reconnaissance and a first landing on Spanish beaches on Tuesday. From Wednesday to Friday, the military units will deploy on the ground to secure the area, including another landing on Thursday to secure Seglia’s main harbor. Planning lasted from September 18 to October 6, and units traveled to the south of Spain last week (here are some pictures from France’s armed forces).
What’s next? LIVEX should take place every year, Brieger argued. This year’s exercise is financed with the European Peace Facility’s €5 million budget for MILEX23. That’s “as a one-off solution for this year. Our aim is a structural solution,” he said. He added that EU countries have different views, but technical discussions are ongoing and leaders are expected to discuss again by the end of the year.
Stay tuned for stories from the deck of a French amphibious helicopter carrier from Laura later this week.
NATO: DIANA, NATO’s defense innovation accelerator, launches today in Seraing, Belgium, in a ceremony organized by startup incubator WSL and featuring Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder.
FRANCE: French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu visits Nexter factories in Roanne. More on that below.
**A message from ASD: In the new European security landscape, European countries must ramp up their defence production capacities. Industry is ready to play its part – but needs investment, firm orders and long-term visibility of future needs. Find out more.**
EU CONCERNED CRITICAL TECH ASSESSMENT WILL BE RUSHED: Only one week after the European Commission presented a list of four critical tech areas up for further risk assessment, there’s concern that the Commission’s timing will prevent a deep dive.
Reminder: EU countries and the Commission singled out advanced semiconductor technology, AI, quantum and biotech as four areas they will have to assess by the end of the year — given the pressing security risks.
But but but: Work among EU member countries kicked off at the technical level this week. Multiple member states have said assessing the risks for civil and military goals needs more time than the Commission deadline allows, feeding concerns about thorough analysis, according to two EU diplomats. POLITICO granted them anonymity, as they could not comment publicly on the meeting. One member state even called the Commission’s time path downright “naïve.”
The Dutch example: Dutch export controls on microchip printing equipment are a case in point. It took the country months to align with the U.S. restrictions (aimed at China) and more months for regulation finalization.
Managing expectations: It’s a good reality check before talks even start. “Don’t expect a deep dive into all the complexities of these industries,” said Tobias Gehrke, geo-economics lead at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “This would have proven difficult even for one tech sector, let alone four.”
Critical tech: He thinks this process is much more about capacity-building than deciphering the nuances of all four technologies. “It’s much more about laying the political and strategic foundations for why all member states should care about these critical technologies, placing them at the center of the geo-economic power struggle.”
FINLAND TO FOCUS ON STOCKS, BORDER SECURITY NEXT YEAR: The Finnish defense budget for 2024 — which is slated to be 5 percent higher than this year — will be spent primarily to replace weapons sent to Ukraine and secure the country’s border with Russia, Defense News reports.
ALL IN ON AIR DEFENSE: In case you missed it, following the NATO defense minister summit in Brussels last week, Berlin updated its list of military support to Ukraine — most importantly, adding one Patriot air defense system. Air defense will be decisive for Ukraine this winter.
UKRAINE GETS READY FOR A TOUGH WINTER: Ukraine is waiting for Russia to renew its missile strikes against energy infrastructure as it gets colder. Like officials in Kyiv, the British Ministry of Defence reported that Russia has not attacked Ukraine with long-range missiles since September 21.
Ammunition depletion: This could indicate Russia has exhausted its stocks of AS-23 air to surface cruise missiles following its winter’s winter campaign targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure last year. Russia is likely preserving unfired AS-23 missiles as well as using this pause to increase usable stocks in anticipation of further strikes against Ukraine over the upcoming winter.
Risk to critical infrastructure: Rustem Umerov, Ukraine’s minister of defense, said Kyiv must be ready for this scenario. Recently, Umerov met Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, the air force commander, and talked about the Ukrainian air defense state and the protection of critical infrastructure facilities.
DUTCH PATRIOTS TO UKRAINE: The Netherlands is also sending Patriot air defense missiles to Ukraine. Dutch Minister of Defense Kajsa Ollongren took to X (formerly Twitter) to point out the acute danger Ukraine faces. “Russia is intensifying its airstrikes against Ukraine. With winter on its way, protecting energy infrastructure is crucial,” Ollongren said. “That is why the Netherlands will supply another batch of Patriot missiles to Ukraine.”
FRANCE TO TRIPLE DELIVERIES OF 155MM AMMUNITION: In 2024, Paris will send 3,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition to Kyiv each month — instead of 1,000 currently — because defense companies such as Nexter and Eurenco now produce faster, French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu told local press. He also hinted that Nexter could soon win new contracts abroad for its Caesar self-propelled howitzer, which is also used by the Ukrainian army.
BATTLESTATIONS SIMULATION: NATO kicks off its annual Steadfast Noon exercises today. The two-week training tests the alliance’s nuclear weapon handling capabilities, but doesn’t involve live nuclear weapons and is held at least 1,000 kilometers from Russia’s border. The exercises “help to ensure the credibility, effectiveness and security of our nuclear deterrent,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “It sends a clear message that NATO will protect and defend all Allies.”
MORE TROOPS TO KOSOVO: More than 130 Romanian troops arrived in Kosovo over the weekend to reinforce NATO’s Kosovo Force peacekeeping mission. The deployment comes in response to what NATO described as a “violent attack on Kosovo Police” and “increased tensions in the region.” More than 4,500 troops from 27 NATO countries comprise the KFOR mission to Kosovo.
EU-US TO AGREE ON MORE JOINT EXERCISES: Senior officials from the EU and U.S. are due to meet on October 20 and a draft of the joint statement prepared in advance and obtained by our colleague Jacopo Barigazzi says they will agree on “exploring further joint exercises” in the future “in operational theatres of mutual interest.”
DUTCH SUB DECOMMISSIONED: The Netherlands has retired one of its Walrus class submarines — in service since 1992. Its parts will be used to keep three other subs operating, and the country will decide on a program to acquire four modern submarines next year.
BRITAIN’S COUNTERSPACE: Because spacecraft are so critical for both military and civilian life, militaries are taking their protection more seriously. Many countries, including the U.K., have founded military space commands, and NATO formally designated space as its fifth theater of conflict alongside land, sea, air and cyber a few years ago.
Josh has the story from a chat with Paul Godfrey, head of the U.K. Space Command, here.
EU SPACE LAW: The European Commission aims to canvas opinion on an EU Space Law. While work will start in 2024, any legislative proposal would only land in the next mandate, so at least a year from now and likely long after that. Once views are collected by November 2, the Commission’s team will start working on an impact study, which will likely take months, if not years, to pull together.
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BRIT TROOPS TO NORTHERN EUROPE: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged during a Friday meeting in Sweden with regional leaders that the U.K. will deploy over 20,000 troops to Northern Europe to bolster the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). They will be tasked with protecting critical infrastructure and cooperating against hybrid threats.
Joint Expeditionary Force: “Northern Europe is vital to our national security,” Sunak said. “Which is why it’s more important than ever that we work with our Joint Expeditionary Force neighbours to protect our backyard and deter damaging hybrid threats.” The JEF is a British-led expeditionary force comprised of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
Kyiv invitation: The JEF also invited Ukraine to observe JEF exercises in 2024 and 2025.
Hybrid attack?: The deployment information comes on the heels of damage sustained to the Balticconnector gas pipeline and a communications cable between Finland and Estonia: the investigation into what — or who — damaged the infrastructure is still ongoing. However, Finnish authorities said a “state actor” could be responsible. Here is Claudia Chiappa’s recent story.
Our Nicholas Vinocour also talked to famously fit former Finnish PM Alexander Stubb, who said the pipelines was “a natural target” for NATO’s enemies. More here.
NEW POLISH TOP GENERAL: After the surprise departure of two of the country’s top generals (more here), the new chief of Poland’s general staff is General Wiesław Kukuła. In a speech, he said the military’s job is “not a heroic death, but victory.”
JOSEP BORRELL IN BEIJING: Speaking at Peking University, the EU’s top diplomat acknowledged fractures and increasing multipolarity in world affairs but called for respect for the rule of law. “We have to prevent the fact that the rule of the stronger prevails … rules precisely exist to protect the small against the big.”
THANKS TO: Jan Cienski and Zoya Sheftalovich.
**A message from ASD: Ramping-up of defence production in Europe is urgent but still faces important hurdles such as: 1) Lengthy procurement processes and the persistent uncertainties about longer-term procurement plans, which prevent companies from confidently investing in the expansion of their production capacity; 2) Bottlenecks in supply chains and dependence on non-European suppliers for essential inputs, such as high-end electronic components and critical raw materials, which create delays and vulnerabilities in production processes; 3) Labour and skill shortages and the time it takes to up- or reskill new workers, which limit the availability of specialised professionals to handle the complex development and manufacturing processes; 4) Regulatory and administrative red tape, which slows down the establishment or expansion of production lines and the execution of contracts. Find out in our ASD paper what it takes to ramp up European armament production capacity.**