Ukraine Update 13 April, 2022 (Morning)

  • In the past 24 hours, the city of Kharkov has been hit with over fifty Russian artillery and multiple-launch rocket fire strikes. The intensity of these attacks has increased dramatically as large convoys of Russian troops, equipment and vehicles continue their transit towards the Donbas region. The purpose of the artillery and rocket attacks is militarily sound; keep the Ukrainian forces in and around Kharkov from interfering with the movement of Russian forces into the east. Unfortunately, while these strikes are logical in the military sense, they are causing considerable amounts of collateral damage.
  • According to a report from the Svenska Dagbladet, a daily Swedish newspaper, Sweden intends to submit its application for NATO membership in late June according to sources. Part of the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a shift in security priorities by Stockholm and Helsinki. If either, or both, countries decide to join NATO it will bring about a dramatic change in the security and foreign policy pictures for Northeastern Europe.
  • The Russian Defense Ministry claims the last units of Ukrainian Marines still fighting in Mariupol have surrendered. There has yet been no confirmation that this news is accurate. If it turns out to be true though, Mariupol will become the first major Ukrainian city to fall since the start of Russia’s invasion in late February.
  • The national leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are on their way to Kiev to tour the city and meet with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy later today. Estonian President Alar Karis said in a Twitter post that the purpose of the visit is to show “strong support” to the people of Ukraine and meet with their Ukrainian counterpart.

Britain Receives Its First P-8A Poseidon

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Earlier this week the first of the Royal Air Force’s new P-8A Poseidon MPA (maritime patrol aircraft) touched down at Kinloss, Scotland. It is the first of nine Poseidon aircraft purchased by the Ministry of Defense and marks Great Britain’s return to the fixed wing ASW (anti-submarine warfare) game. The RAF and Royal Navy have been without shore based MPAs for over a decade following the retirement of the Nimrod in 2009. During the eleven year period between then and now, Britain was forced to rely on its allies to provide ASW coverage around the British Isles, and in the North Atlantic. The gap in coverage came at a critical time, as tensions with Russia rose following the annexation of Crimea, and the Ukrainian intervention in 2014. Russian naval operations in the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea increased shortly afterwards, reemphasizing the importance of the waters to NATO.

This is a step in the right direction for the Brits though. Over the past three years or so, Britain has become serious about redressing their military deficiencies. The British armed services had become a hollow shell as weapons systems were cut, and units disbanded in order to foot the bill for Britain’s commitments overseas such as in Afghanistan. Like many other European powers, British military power diminished. The Royal Navy was especially hard hit by the budget and force cuts and is presently rectifying the situation. The final three Astute class attack submarines are under construction, as well as the first of the new Dreadnought class SSBNs. On the surface side, the second Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales was recently commissioned. The first two City class frigates are also under construction and will help enhance the escort forces for the carriers.

This is certainly progress considering how much combat power had been gouged out of the British military between 2005 and 2014 or so. A lot of work still needs to be done but the Brits are moving in the right direction.

Saturday 14 October, 2017 Update: Great Britain Prepares for Possible Involvement in North Korean Crisis

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Earlier this week media outlets in the United Kingdom reported that the British armed services have been asked to draw up contingency plans for UK involvement in a future conflict between the United States and North Korea. Given closeness of the relationship between the US and Great Britain, the drafting of these plans comes as no surprise. It is generally assumed that there will be some level of British involvement in a US effort against North Korea. Judging from the tone of some reports coming out of Whitehall, however, British planners are preparing for the possibility of large scale military involvement in the Western Pacific should a situation call for it.

The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, disclosed that  plans involve a possible deployment by HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s newest carrier, even before she has undergone flight trials. At current, Britain does not even have enough F-35s or qualified pilots to fit out an air wing for the carrier, calling into question the feasibility of this particular plan. In an emergency situation, US Marine Corps F-35s could cross-deck to the Queen Elizabeth and operate from her, though it is questionable how plausible this scenario would be in a wartime situation.

For that matter, the soundness of Britain staging a major deployment of  military forces to the Pacific is up for debate. British defense spending had been cut to the bone over the last fifteen years as most of the funding went to supporting Britain’s commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. There were scarce pounds left to invest in new aircraft, ships, and other conventional weapons for a time. The Ministry of Defense adopted the watchword of ‘Cut! Cut! Cut!’ for an extended period of time. As a result, the Royal Navy and RAF are shells of their former selves. Of the 77 commissioned ships in the Royal Navy currently, only 19 of these are  major surface combatants. The RAF is in no better condition with regular deployments to Afghanistan, and other commitments vital to national interests tying up the majority of combat airframes.

Britain’s Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has spoken lately of the need to increase British spending. In light of the current world situation this is sensible talk, however, any attempt to increase spending will be undoubtedly spark a major row with Labor. Given the current state of British politics there is no telling what the end result might be. At any rate, Britain has to take a long, hard look at the condition of its military before considering its involvement in a potential future conflict.

For the moment it is safe to say that the question is not how many British troops, aircraft, or ships can be committed to a US effort against North Korea. The real question is whether there will be any available to commit at all.