7 March 2018 – Cambridge, UK
by Robert Grayston
Assassination is suspected although not proven after a Russian ex-intelligence officer residing in the UK was found in a critical condition. Similarities have already been drawn to the death in 2006 of another Russian who sought asylum in the UK, Alexander Litvinenko, and has raised further questions on other deaths of Russians on UK soil which were highlighted in an exposé by Buzzfeed. Questions on what meaningful response the UK could provide should a link to Russia be confirmed are still awaiting answers.
The Ministry of Defence has announced it will proceed with ordering a seventh Astute class nuclear submarine after speculation it would be cancelled. This comes after a leaked document on operational capability stressed additional difficulties with fewer submarines.
25 EU countries have signed the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) agreement. The eventual aim is for joint research and deployment of forces, but for now its efforts are focused on specific areas, such as development of a joint infantry fighting vehicle, and a joint European medical command. The Spanish Defence Minister addressed US concerns with the deal, saying “There is no suggestion of duplication with NATO.” Whilst the British Prime Minister Theresa May is keen for continued defence ties with Europe, Britain was excluded from the process.
DARPA has been active in assisting the Ukrainian government with information and hybrid warfare. After Russian use of hybrid methods in the theatre, it has been regarded as an ideal testing ground for methods to counter Moscow-backed information warfare processes.
Germany is looking to expand its international security commitments, strengthening its military missions in states such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali. The German Defence Minister has called her country’s training programme with the Peshmerga in northern Iraq a “great success,” but there has been criticism from some domestic quarters over equipment shortages and underfunding of the military which could potentially endanger German lives.
The RS-28 Sarmat ICBM (called the Satan 2 by NATO), has been unveiled by Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, who called it ‘invincible’ as a weapon. It is expected to be accepted for service by the Russian armed forces in late 2018.
Admiral Kurt Todd of the US Southern Command has stated that the US needs to remain active in denying China any military bases in the Western Hemisphere. He said “It’s something that is always worth paying attention to… We have seen China make some very interesting moves geopolitically.”
Artificial intelligence technology developed by Google is being used in a US military drone project, prompting controversy and a statement from the company, “Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns… as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies.” The AI element of the project was intended for video analysis, whereupon it could raise observations of significance for human review.
Shuibu Moni, a Boko Haram commander who was freed during a swap for 82 kidnapped Chibok girls, is issuing new threats to the Nigerian government, reports SaharaReports. Moni also claims, in his video, that they are operating in Sambisa forest this is in contrast to what the Nigerian government claims that Boko Haram has ben chased out of the forest in Borno state.
The increased US military presence in Africa has been scrutinised by a House Armed Service Committee, with the head of the US Africa Command stating “we’re not at war” despite the increase personnel, as well as drone strikes more than doubling.
Iran has claimed it has increased its missile production threefold in a statement by a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, although there was no indication on the timescale of production. The statement mentioned a need had been identified by the Iranian government for an increase in ground-to-ground missile capability.
The Syrian army is continuing its offensive against rebel forces in Eastern Ghouta, after rebel groups “refused to leave” after rejecting a proposed withdrawal and negotiation brought forward by Russia. Since February 18th this year, Russian-backed airstrikes have killed at least 770 people according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in what is already a dire humanitarian crisis with many civilians trapped in the besieged area.
Electronic warfare on the part of Egypt in its Sinai offensive against militant groups has been disrupting communications in Israel, with reports of difficulties as far away as Jerusalem and the north of Israel depending on the weather. The Israeli Communications Minister said, “Without getting into details, for the first time in the south we have been experiencing an uncomfortable situation,” although he believed the disruption would end soon.
After a recent state of emergency was declared in the Maldives by its pro-Chinese President, a Chinese naval taskforce entered the Indian Ocean for the first time in four years. Requests for Indian assistance in ‘restoring democracy’ were initially met with redeployments of ships and aircraft on standby to southern Indian bases, but no further action has been forthcoming. China’s Defence Ministry said, “These drills were normal exercises for this year and not aimed at any third party,” but would not elaborate any further.
China has also announced an increase in its defence budget by 8%, to $175 billion. Some of this budget will be allocated towards new technologies and power-projection projects such as China’s new aircraft carrier and its new Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter.
Social Media Wires
Four peacekeepers from Bangladesh were killed in an IED attack in Mali.
.@UN_MINUSMA paid tribute to 4 @UN #peacekeepers from #Bagladesh🇧🇩 killed on 28 February during an IED attack in the area of #Mopti, #Mali🇲🇱. We thank the peacekeepers for their valuable contribution to the @UN peace efforts in Mali. #ServingForPeace pic.twitter.com/aWa0FgnyhN
— UN Peacekeeping (@UNPeacekeeping) March 6, 2018
Turkish troops are continuing their operation in Afrin, Syria.
— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) March 5, 2018
Feature photo – Soldiers of the PLA, c. 2011 – Wikimedia, 2018
The Wires Brief is a mid week breaking news report incorporating wire service news and social media updates. DefRep can not verify the authenticity of social media reporters nor the accuracy of social media updates.
Robert Grayston is DefenceReport’s marketing coordinator and occasional contributor. His most recent experience has involved security policy work for a member of the Shadow Defence team in the British Parliament. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org