United Kingdom and France Vow Greater Defense Cooperation

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

March 11, 2023

PARIS – UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and France’s Minister for the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu met Friday at the 36th UK-France Summit in Paris to discuss new initiatives to further strengthen the military relationship between the two nations.

At the meeting, Wallace and Lecornu met to reaffirmed the two nations’ long standing partnership and friendship as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Macron outlined their vision to meet the greatest challenges the UK and France face, including the war in Ukraine and ambitions for further integration of the Armed Forces over the next decade.

“It has been a great pleasure to meet again with my friend and defense counterpart Sébastien Lecornu.  We have agreed to strengthen our defense and security partnership, committing to look at areas of cooperation to increase the interoperability of our joint defense capabilities – and to advance key projects to develop complex weapons systems.  Our shared and ongoing support for Ukraine remains unwavering. We will continue to provide that support for as long as it takes.” Wallace said in a statement.

Wallace and Lecornu pledged to continue steadfast support for Ukraine and work with NATO allies to ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine will be defeated.  Both the UK and France have committed to strengthen Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities and ability to defend its population and critical infrastructure against Russian attacks. 

“As our leaders meet in Paris, the British and French Armed Forces are working together in response to Russian aggression in Europe, and to protect our shared values and interests across the globe. Now we will deepen our cooperation be it supporting Ukraine today or meeting the challenges of tomorrow, from security in the Arctic to carrier deployments in the Pacific.  We will also pursue a host of joint endeavors from intelligence sharing to complex weapon development. This reflects the mutual respect and confidence that exists between us, our shared technological ambitions, our unwavering commitment to NATO and our recognition that the security of Europe and the Atlantic is tied to that of the wider world.” said Chief of the Defense Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.

Both the UK and France have agreed to coordinate deployments of aircraft carriers to provide complementary and a persistent European presence in regions of shared interest. As a result, both nations’ Armed Forces will be providing support for each other’s task groups, cooperating in exercises to prepare our carriers for battle and exploring opportunities for the UK and France to demonstrate the sequencing of more persistent European carrier strike group presence in the Indo-Pacific.

It was also revealed that UK and French Armed Forces will see further integration over the next decade with a goal to enable seamless operations and draw on common intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data.

The UK and France also agreed to ensure further interoperability of weapons and platforms across Europe and NATO, including developing future complex weapons systems, such as the Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) program.  

Both nations discussed further strengthening cooperation on homeland defense and cyber security.  An agreement was reached to continue to harness the potential of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) to defend contested areas under threat from hostile actors.

Norway Orders 54 New German Tanks

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

February 3, 2023

OSLO – Norway announced it will order 54 new German Leopard 2 tanks, produced by German based Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Group, for its military with an option to purchase another 18 tanks in the future.

“We ensure that we have the same tanks as our Nordic neighbors and many key NATO allies.  This further strengthens our relationship with Germany.”  Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a statement.

Norway, a NATO member, shares a 122 mile border with Russia and according to their defense minister, had originally planned to purchase 72 tanks but opted for 54 in order to purchase more helicopters, drones, and advanced artillery.

German Leopard II Tank Photo: NARA

Communist China Suspends Social Media Accounts of Covid Critics

By Douglas F. Roberts, The Chicago Times

January 08, 2023

BEIJING – Communist China has suspended the social media accounts of some 1,200 critics of the government’s policies on the Covid-19 outbreak.

In true communist fashion, the suppression of freedom of speech and thought was carried out by the popular Sina Weibo social media platform which said it suspended or closed the accounts on the orders of CCP officials.  Sina Weibo also said the Communist crackdown on freedom of thought was the result of about 13,000 “violations” that involved opinions on experts, scholars, and medical workers.  Historically, the CCP severely limits free speech and punishes critics of the government and its policies.

CCP Dictator Xi Jinping

Over the past two years, the CCP used medical experts to “justify” brutal Covid lockdowns, some of which caused the death of apartment dwellers in China’s Xinjiang province after a fire.  According to officials, residents were trapped in their buildings, some with doors welded shut to enforce the lockdown.

Sina Weibo siad it will increase its “clean-up” of “illegal content” in order to create a “harmonious” community environment for users.  For as long as I have been reporting on China, the word “harmonious” often means less freedom and more punishment.

Much of the criticism by everyday Chinese citizens has been focused on never ending travel restrictions, home confinement, and lack of access to adequate food and medical care.  In the face of recent riots over lockdowns, China has started to reduce restrictions which has now led to an increase in Covid cases just as the Lunar New Year arrives. 

Despite the rising cases, Chinese citizens striving for individual freedom need an outlet to express their thoughts freely against the brutal CCP which feels so insecure about its hold on power that it needs to suppress and control every aspect of life.  CCP members claim they are always working for the people, yet more and more it seems they are only clinging to power to serve themselves and ensure the CCP survives no matter the cost to human life and freedom.

United States and Germany Announce Armored Vehicle Deal with Ukraine

By W. Spencer, The Chicago Times

January 06, 2023

KIEV – The United States and Germany announced Friday that they will supply armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine as a possible Russian military onslaught looms in the coming months.  

Bradley Fighting Vehicle

The agreement will supply Ukrainian forces with 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles as part of a security assistance deal worth about $2.8 billion.  Germany is expected to supply Marder Infantry Fighting Vehicles and a Patriot air defense battery.  Both nations are expected to train the Ukrainian army in the use of the supplied weapons, said U.S. and German officials.

German Marder Fighting Vehicle

The possible Russian offensive could come in February as the Russian government rebuilds its military with conscripts and contract soldiers after a humiliating defeat and high casualties over the past year.  Russian President Valdimir Putin is seeking revenge and may attempt a major offensive to retake Eastern Ukraine along with Kiev with an army 300,000 to 500,000 strong.  Only time will tell if Russia can face the Ukrainian forces without being slaughtered in the meat grinder.

Patriot Air Defense Missile

Russia to Ban Oil Sales to Nations Imposing Price Caps

By H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

December 28, 2022

MOSCOW – The Russian government announced on Tuesday that oil sales to countries that enforce a price cap will be banned.

On December 5, oil traders were required to enforce a price cap of $60 per barrel for Russian oil in order to gain access to Western financing.  The current cap is close to recent market prices for Russian oil and is expected to hamper future revenue of the Russian oil industry, which is the world’s second largest oil exporter.  The price cap is an effort to further sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.  

President Vladimir Putin issued an executive order in direct response to the Western price cap in which the Kremlin would  ban crude oil sales to countries participating in the price cap from February 1 to July 1, 2023.  Further bans on oil related products are also expected from the Russian government in the near future.

Russian Airbase Attacked by Possible Ukrainian Drone

By Sasha Kinskey, The Chicago Times

December 27, 2022

MOSCOW – A suspected Ukrainian drone caused a deadly explosion at the main base for Moscow’s strategic bombers on Monday.  The Russian government said it had shot down the drone which then crashed at the Engels Air Base killing three service members.  Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack.  The Engels Air Base is the main airfield for the bombers that Kiev claims are used to strike targets in Ukraine.  Russian defense officials said no aircraft on the ground were damaged.