Latest incursion by Spanish warship in to Gibraltar’s waters prompts calls to cancel visit by King Felipe VI to Buckingham Palace

A Spanish Navy warship, the Centinela, deliberately ignored radio calls from authorities on Gibraltar after it violated British territorial waters around the island on Saturday. This prompted the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron to dispatch one of its fast patrol boats, HMS Sabre, to order the vessel to leave.  It has been reported by the press in Gibraltar that this led to a potentially dangerous situation when the British patrol boat came “within yards” of being rammed by the 1,200 ton Spanish warship.

Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron HMS Sabre

The British Daily Express newspaper claimed a source within the Royal Navy told them;

Instead of leaving, she deliberately altered and re-altered her course. At one stage there was a real and imminent danger of collision.

The government on Gibraltar were quick to condemn the incident and criticised the Spanish Navy and government for the provocative act. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said;

These silly but dangerous manoeuvres by a supposed Nato ally are operationally irresponsible, legally irrelevant and politically inopportune. They do nothing to create a positive environment for mutual co-operation and instead hark back to another century.

This latest incident comes ahead of a planned visit by Spanish King Felipe VI to the UK scheduled to take place in the middle of this month. It is the first time in over 31 years that a Spanish monarch has visited Britain but some MPs have called for the visit to be cancelled in protest to Spain’s continued disregard for Gibraltar’s sovereignty.

Conservative Andrew Rosindell, MP for the Romford constituency in Greater London, said on Sunday;

The people of Gibraltar are rightly nervous. They break the rules while we, in turn, welcome the King and Queen of Spain for a state visit. What kind of message is that for the people of Gibraltar? The people of Gibraltar are very unnerved, and rightly so. The Government needs to be much more robust.

Last weekend’s incident is only the latest in a long line of incursions in to the waters around Gibraltar by Spanish ships;

  • Tuesday July 7th 2015 – A Royal Navy RIB was damaged in a collision with the Spanish survey ship Angeles Alvarino in Gibraltar’s waters.
  • April 2016 – It was reported that a Spanish Guarda Civil patrol boat deliberately blocked a US submarine, USS Florida, as it sailed through Gibraltar’s waters forcing the Royal Navy to fire flares over the vessel to warn it off.
  • Sunday November 20th 2016 – HMS Sabre uses flares to warn off the Spanish survey ship Angeles Alvarino after attempts to contact it by radio failed.
  • Thursday April 13th 2017 – Royal Navy escorts patrol boat Infanta Cristina back to Spanish waters.
  • Saturday April 29th 2017 – The Spanish corvette ‘Cazadora’ entered waters off Gibraltar, where Royal Navy and local police launches sailed out to meet it.

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Britain’s continued support for Gibraltar’s sovereignty while the EU continues to demand that Spain should have influence over the British territory’s future after Brexit.

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Could a Trump presidency encourage an EU Army?

Even the most casual observer of US politics has been shaken by the extremities of the Donald Trump presidential campaign. He is perhaps the most high profile example of the recent trend in western politics as a whole of more colourful characters that are trying to Donald Trump NATObuck the trend of the grey-suited, stoic politicians that are often indistinguishable from one another. Regardless of your own opinion of Donald Trump it can’t be denied that he is a charismatic personality that can fire up his supporters and energise crowds with his often inflammatory statements.

While the rest of the world has looked on with curiosity at the battle for the Republican leadership it was a recent statement by Trump that has got Europe slightly worried. Speaking in Cleveland, Ohio earlier this week the Republican candidate for the White House reiterated his “America First” policy and as part of that he dropped the bombshell that if he gets in the White House then America may not automatically honour its obligations to defend NATO countries should they come under attack.

This is in reference to Article 5 of NATO membership which promotes the principle of collective defence which has been at the very heart of NATO since its founding. The term “collective defence” means that an attack against one member state is considered an attack against all member states. It is interesting to note that only once in the alliance’s history has Article 5 ever been invoked and it was in defence of the United States of America in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Trump said that while he would “prefer to go on” with the way things are regarding the alliance he clarified his position by stating that under his presidency, US support to a member state would depend entirely on how much that member has contributed to the alliance. This is more than just Trump stating that the US will not foot the bill for European defence. It can be argued that the US signed the Washington Treaty regarding collective defence and is therefore bound by it but from the Trump camp’s perspective, many of Europe’s members have already failed to live up to their own commitments by not meeting the target of 2% of GDP being spent on defence in 2016.

According to figures published by NATO earlier this month only five out of the twenty-eight countries in NATO have met this target;

  1. The United States of America
  2. The United Kingdom
  3. Greece
  4. Estonia
  5. Poland

Not even France and Germany have met this target which means that much of Europe has little right to criticise Donald Trump regarding honouring the Washington Treaty and NATO itself. The reasons why so many countries have not spent 2% of their economies on defence as required are both varied and numerous but the biggest problem has been claimed to be Europe’s slow recovery from the economic crisis of 2008 and to a lessor extent the influx of refugees from Syria and Africa.

Reading between the lines however there is another factor that Trump and his supporters are becoming increasingly frustrated with. It is interesting to note that he specifically mentions a member state’s support to the alliance not the defence of Europe for there are now two military factions protecting western Europe; NATO and the military wing of the European Union. The EU has no army but instead has an organisational wing devoted to military cooperation between members.

EU European Union Army.jpgGenerally speaking, NATO still takes priority in the defence of western Europe but the armed forces of the European Union are increasingly becoming a more dominant factor in European foreign policies. From its very inception, NATO has been driven by US policies afforded to Washington by American military and economic support that was vital to western Europe’s defence during the days of the Cold War. For France in particular this was an intolerable position and there has long been a feeling that there has been a determination in Europe to rid itself of the White House with the ultimate goal being to create a true “EU Army”. This has understandably caused friction across the Atlantic as the US sees NATO having to compete for resources with the EU military wing.

With this in mind, it is easier to understand US frustration with Europe but if “President Trump” intends to force Europe in to deciding which is more important – NATO or the EU Army – then he may find that the European dream that is the EU may in fact overpower the perceived need for NATO especially if the matter is handed to the people in a referendum. The Trump policy of “America First” which has won him so many supporters in the US may in fact convince EU member states that President Trump’s America would be an unreliable ally and view a true European Army as the only way to guarantee its defence in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia and an alarming increase in terrorist activity.

It’s a nightmare scenario for “Brexit Britain” which would find itself out of the European Union and in a NATO that stands for very little anymore. Of course, the UK would still enjoy its special relationship with the United States but as a political outsider on the European continent its strategic position would be significantly weakened.

But an EU Army being primarily responsible for the defence of western Europe would be a potential disaster for Europe as well. After sixty years of NATO dominance the militaries of Europe have come to rely heavily on the United States military for a number of specialised roles e.g. there is no real equivalent to the Boeing E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft in Europe’s air forces. More fundamentally, the sheer number of “boots on the ground” an EU Army could generate would be many times smaller than a mobilised NATO force.

Again, the worry is that Trump’s extreme foreign policies would actually encourage the formation of an EU Army despite these drawbacks. Proponents of the EU Army would argue that with pooled resources Europe could develop its own equivalent systems that it currently has to rely on the US for but what they forget is that Europe still relies very heavily on US weapon systems such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II (below). Put bluntly, a totally EU Army cannot shake off US influence completely.

F-35 Lightning II 1

So how can such a nightmare scenario be avoided?

The obvious answer is that European NATO members meet their 2% commitment to NATO and confirm that the alliance has authority over defence of the west. As the old saying goes; that’s easier said than done. The European economy is largely recovering from 2008 but with the withdrawal of one of the major economic powers, the United Kingdom, being imminent and the influx of refugees from Syria and Africa placing a weighty burden on European countries the prospect of NATO’s target being met by every country looks bleak. Even NATO’s second largest standing army, Turkey, is now in complete disarray following the recent coup attempt to overthrow the government in Ankara bringing in to doubt how useful it would be to NATO if a major crisis erupts in the coming months.

Only Donald Trump knows how far his presidency may push Europe over NATO should he win the upcoming US election. Regardless of this fact however there continues to be a will in Europe to establish the EU Army. Against such a backdrop, NATO may either have to go through a radical reshaping or be disbanded altogether and have the US, UK and Canada sign a new treaty with the EU Army regarding the defence of the west.

 

 

 

 

British PM: 650 British troops to join NATO forces in Eastern Europe

British Army Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicle Poland 2015

British Army Warrior IFV on exercise in Poland last year (yahoo news)

British Prime Minister David Cameron made the announcement during the NATO summit held this week in Warsaw, emphasising that Britain’s role within the alliance is in no doubt. Cameron revealed that the deployment will be broken down in to 500 troops being based in Estonia and 150 in Poland. He also stated that up to 3,000 troops will be made ready in the UK for rapid deployment to Eastern Europe should a situation arise that warrants their use.

According to The Telegraph, the British contingent will comprise of elements from the following units;

  • The 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade.
  • 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
  • The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.

In terms of equipment, these units will include Challenger II Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) and Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs).

When questioned about what message this is sending to Russia, Cameron replied;

It’s a combination of defence and dialogue. We can’t close the door on Russia – we have to engage in dialogue with them. But Russia must be in no doubt that the NATO forces are lined up in Europe and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with each other.

David Cameron’s words were intended to emphasise that the UK’s uncertain economic and political future regarding Europe following the vote to leave the European Union will not impact on its role in maintaining security on the continent.

News Round-Up – June 29th 2016

 

River-class 2

Here are some of the latest British military news stories making the headlines.

British Army News

We Must Reinforce Our Commitment to NATO, says U.K. Defense Secretary
(USNI)

Trainee soldiers to be used on streets in national terror emergency
(The Telegraph)


Royal Air Force News

All Eyes on Farnborough and F-35
(Defense News)

US-UK security officials cement intelligence partnership after ‘leave’ vote
(Guardian)


Royal Navy News

Calls For Royal Navy To Patrol UK Coastline For Migrants
(Forces TV)

Royal Navy will still play a part aiding border force, the EU and Nato, says defence secretary
(Plymouth Herald)

Amec wins £75m nuclear deal with Royal Navy
(Energy Voice)


Disclaimer: all news stories are the property of their respective publishers. Any opinions expressed in the articles are of the person making them.

Brexit & Trident – What do you think?

Vanguard-class nuclear submarine trident

There’s no escaping the fact that replacing Britain’s nuclear deterrent is an awesomely expensive undertaking. Figures released in the past put it in excess of a staggering £100bn!

So with that in mind; would a Brexit from Europe endanger the program since some politicians would want that money to be spent on instead beefing up an economy independent from Europe?

What do you think?

  • Maybe you think the money should be spent on the economy?
  • Maybe you think a Brexit would guarantee the project for economic and security reasons?

There is no wrong answer and I look forward to reading your opinions in the comments below.

NEWS: Royal Navy rescue another 134 migrants in the Mediterranean

The Type 23 frigate, HMS Richmond, has been involved in the recovery of 134 migrants from a dinghy that was attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe. The ship’s company provided food and medical assistance to the migrants before they were taken ashore to Sicily. The frigate was operating as part of a multi-national fleet conducting operations in the Mediterranean.

The European fleet rescued more than 500 people from a flotilla of overcrowded and barely seaworthy vessels. A spokesman for the operation said that as well as the 134 men and women rescued by the Royal Navy, the Belgians recovered 258 people and the Slovenian Navy retrieved up 76 people. This was the third group of migrants HMS Richmond has rescued in less than two weeks and brings the number of migrants rescued by the Royal Navy up to nearly 8,000 since May.

NEWS: Royal Navy and RAF to provide security to EU summit on the migrant crisis in Malta

HMS Bulwark (Royal Navy)

HMS Bulwark (Royal Navy)

The flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Bulwark, and the frigate HMS Somerset will be part of the security being provided for this week’s EU summit being held on the island of Malta. RAF Typhoon fighters will be operating from bases in Sicily as well to provide air defence duties should they be required. Despite the heavy British military presence both the British and Maltese governments have stressed that the Maltese government have final authority on all security arrangements and decisions.

This summit will take place on the 11th and 12th of November at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, Malta’s capital city. The conference will be held to address the current demands of the continually unfolding migrant crisis on the European member states. The EU press release also states that the conference will be used to look in to addressing the root causes of the crisis.

The Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, explained to the media that while he expected no imminent terrorist or external threat to Malta during the summit he felt it prudent to ask the UK to assist in security areas that cannot be covered by the Maltese defence forces. HMS Bulwark will be docked in Malta while HMS Somerset will patrol the seas around the island. It is perhaps fitting that Bulwark should be aiding in providing security for the summit having been heavily involved in the rescue of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean earlier this year.