By JOSHUA POSANER
with LAURA KAYALI, CALEB LARSON, VERONIKA MELKOZEROVA and STUART LAU
— Kyiv is worried that war in Israel will shift the spotlight away from its fight against Russia but the U.S. insists it can keep both allies supplied.
— NATO defense ministers meet on Wednesday and there’s no sign of war fatigue when it comes to supporting Kyiv, according to NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoană.
— EU countries have approved a whittled down joint ammo procurement scheme dubbed EDIRPA aimed at helping the bloc’s defense industry.
Good morning and welcome to Morning Defense. This is the very first edition of your daily consignment of European defense policy news and analysis. First up, NATO defense ministers meet Wednesday and Thursday, the first serious summit since the Vilnius leaders bash in July. We’re also keeping an eye on the rapidly changing situation in Israel.
Who are we? There’ll be time for proper introductions later, but I’m Josh Posaner writing to you from Brussels. I’ll be focusing on EU defense policy and space and on the U.K., while Laura Kayali in Paris is zoning in on France’s hulking defense sector, global trends and cybersecurity. Caleb Larson, in Berlin, will be keeping tabs on Germany with an eye on Ukraine too. That’s your core team, led by our editor Jan Cienski.
Data drop: It’s our first day, so we’re keen to start strong. Our illustrative DataPoint on European defense spending is here covering everything from NATO contributions to Ukraine aid. Enjoy!
UKRAINE WORRIES ABOUT THE IMPACT OF WAR IN ISRAEL: There is concern in Kyiv that the explosion of fighting in Israel will deflect the world’s attention from its own war against Russia — adding to the sense that support for Ukraine in some capitals may be slipping. That’s something that Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov will be trying to counteract during Wednesday’s meeting in Brussels of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
Voices: Oleksandr Merezhko, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament’s committee on foreign policy, told Morning Defense: “I can only speak for myself. Yes, there are such fears, but, at the same time, I think that in the end it will not be a problem, because the USA is such a powerful country in economic and military terms that it can well attract financial and military support to Ukraine and Israel at the same time.”
Ukrainian MP Yaroslav Zhelezhyank told us: “It is true that the presence of another major military conflict does not help to focus the attention of the world community only on Ukraine.” However, he added that it’s still too early to see if the outbreak of fighting in Israel will fracture world sentiment, or else consolidate democracies against a wider range of threats.
U.S. weapons: U.S. officials told our Washington colleagues that Israel urgently needs precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs and more interceptors for the Iron Dome air defense system. Officials told lawmakers that the administration is weighing the use of some portion of the $100 million of presidential drawdown authority to send weapons from U.S. military stockpiles. More from our U.S. colleagues here.
Big demand: Drawing from existing U.S. stockpiles would undoubtedly place more stress on both the Pentagon and the defense industry, which have been hard-pressed to issue new contracts and increase production of certain munitions already sent to Ukraine. The needs of the Israelis and Ukrainians are different in some key respects. Israel will rely heavily on precision air-to-ground munitions fired from F-16 and F-35 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, none of which is in the Ukrainian arsenal. The issue of 155mm artillery shells, which both countries rely on heavily, will likely loom large, however.
Still, the senior U.S. Defense Department official insisted that the U.S. was “confident” it could support both Israel and Ukraine, noting that the department is “constantly assessing” the levels of munitions stockpiles around the world.
Russian efforts: The Kremlin is already trying to link the two conflicts. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel that NATO weapons are being smuggled from Ukraine. That allegation is part of Moscow’s playbook, said GUR, Ukrainian military intelligence. “Russian army has already handed over U.S. and EU-made trophy weapons captured during the hostilities in Ukraine to Hamas terrorists. Next step, according to the Russians’ plan, should be fake accusations of the Ukrainian military for allegedly selling Western weapons to terrorists on a regular basis,” GUR said in a statement.
EU: Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, is convening a meeting of foreign ministers today to discuss the situation in Israel.
CONFERENCE: The third European Defense and Security Summit takes place in Brussels today with Borrell, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, MBDA CEO Éric Béranger and Naval Group CEO Pierre-Eric Pommellet among the speakers.
FRANCE, GERMANY: Defense — and more specifically the MGCS battle tank and the European Sky Shield Initiative — is on the agenda for a meeting between the French and German governments which continues today in Hamburg.
**A message from ASD: ASD is the voice of the European Aerospace, Security and Defence Industry, representing over 4,000 companies from 19 countries. Our mission is to promote and support a strategically important industrial ecosystem which constantly drives innovation and is crucial for Europe’s security. Discover more.**
FINLAND PROMISES TO LEAD FROM THE FRONT: Who else would be a better fit for this fresh debut edition of Morning Defense than NATO’s freshest ambassador? Over coffee and biscuits at her office which (for now) is still located in NATO’s older wing reserved for non-members, Finnish Ambassador to NATO Piritta Asunmaa told Stuart Lau how important it is for Helsinki to show its commitment to the rest of the alliance.
Stuart’s full story is here.
NATO REJECTS WAR FATIGUE: NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoană rejected any whiff of war fatigue among NATO allies in support of Ukraine — and suggested Ukraine could expect F-16s in the near future. On the same stage, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (who some tout as a potential future NATO secretary-general) echoed Geoană, saying: “As long as Ukraine is ready to fight this war for our freedom, let us decide that war fatigue will not take place in our transatlantic community.”
Take-off for F-16s? Speaking at the 96th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Geoană said that NATO has provided Ukraine with “tens of billions worth of high-end military equipment, from anti-tank weapons to advanced artillery as well as tanks, missiles, and air defense systems.” He added: “And soon, F-16s.”
American training: In August, the United States committed to training Ukrainian pilots on the American fighter, expected to take about five months for experienced pilots, but has demurred on F-16 deliveries. Denmark and the Netherlands have both said they will supply Kyiv with the jets.
COUNCIL ADOPTS JOINT AMMO LAW: The Council gave final sign-off to plans to boost joint procurement of ammunition on Monday through the — brace for it — European Defense Industry Reinforcement Through Common Procurement Act, or EDIRPA for short. The fund will provide €300 million for partial reimbursement of joint buys of armaments involving at least three member countries. That’s part of efforts to encourage defense ministries to team up and support local contractors within Europe with bulk orders. The funding allocation isn’t likely to stretch far, however.
Cash down: The original European Commission plan was to allocate €500 million for EDIRPA, while the European Parliament wanted to raise that to €1 billion. In the end, only €300 million is fixed under the final deal reached in June and formally waved through Monday. That’s peanuts in the context of major arms deals. Germany just signed a long-term deal with Rheinmetall worth €1.2 billion.
Buy local: The EDIRPA is targeted at beefing up orders for local players, with at least 65 percent of the components from any products needing to come from either an EU country or associated state to benefit from the part-refunds.
NORWAY, SAUDI ARABIA INTERESTED IN FRENCH FRIGATES: That’s according to Challenges, which reports that officials from Oslo and Riyadh are looking closely into Naval Group’s defense and intervention frigates.
DEETS ON THE MGCS: As French and German officials meet this week to talk about everything from nuclear energy to defense, France’s armed forces ministry released details about the Main Ground Combat System — the Franco-German next-generation battle tank. No further statement on the joint plan is expected after the meeting, a French official told Morning Defense.
Leclerc tanks x2: The MGCS will be capable of firing up to 8 kilometers, which is twice as far as the Leclerc tank, the ministry said, and will enable observation up to 10 kilometers away. Artificial intelligence will play a central role to support intelligence, planning, command and fire coordination, and the MGCS will be “hyper connected” thanks to combat cloud infrastructures.
Confirmed delay: The ministry’s statement confirms the delay hinted by French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu in late September, when he met with his German counterpart. While the MGCS was originally scheduled for 2035-2040, it’s now foreseen for 2040-2045.
MORE PLANES FOR THE LUFTWAFFE: Airbus broke ground on a new A400M servicing and maintenance center at Wunstorf Air Base in Germany on Monday. The base houses the German air force’s A400M military transport aircraft, which first entered service in 2014. Germany currently operates 35 A400M airframes, a number which is expected to rise to 53 by 2026 ahead of the new Airbus center’s opening.
FRANCE NAMES DEFENSE ATTACHÉ IN UKRAINE: In case you missed it over the weekend, Paris has named Brigade General Ivan Martin as a defense attaché at the French embassy in Kyiv. The move comes as France is seeking to deepen ties between Ukraine and the French defense industry.
During the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense meeting Monday evening, Joanneke Balfoort, the director of security and defence policy at the European External Action Service, spoke about strengthening the EU’s civilian response to global crises and conflicts.
“We need more specialized expertise,” she said. “We need more experts in hybrid and cyber threats,” and added that the goal is “to make CSDP [Common Security and Defense Policy] missions more effective.”
ArianeGroup which develops the Ariane 6 rocket system is asking the European Space Agency’s member countries to provide €350 million more annually for the long-delayed launcher, reports La Tribune.
THANKS TO: Jan Cienski and Zoya Sheftalovich.
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