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Category Archives: NATO

NSO > Home – NATO School

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 10:15 am

By Ms. Liliana Serban, ROU-CIV,Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Course Director/ Liaison Officer

On 17 Oct 19, the NATO School Oberammergau (NSO), together with the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Monterey, USA, concluded the second cyber security course at the NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Centre in Kuwait.

The first course, Introduction to Network Security, held from 24 Mar to 04 Apr 19, was followed by an Introduction to Network Vulnerability Assessment & Risk Mitigation, from 06 to 17 Oct 19. The courses were organised under the auspices of the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme and brought together 40 IT specialists, network security administrators, technicians and engineers from different governmental agencies representing all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

These tailor-made courses are aimed at strengthening the ties between the countries in the Gulf region and NATO and at developing local cyber expertise by addressing the bits-in-transit aspect of network security and potential vulnerabilities and their mitigation in networked systems.

"The security and stability of the region heavily depend on reliable cyber infrastructure, and these courses represent a significant added value to NATOs efforts on projecting stability to the South of the Alliance", underlined Colonel Brian Hill, USA-AF, the NSO Dean of Academics, in his closing remarks.

Inaugurated in Jan 17, the NATO-ICI Regional Centre is the hub for education, training, and other cooperation activities between NATO and its ICI partners in the Gulf, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Should Ukraine Join NATO? – The National Interest Online

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Ukraines Prime Minister announced earlier this week that NATO and the Ukrainian Armed Forces will hold joint military exercises in the Black Sea region, the latest in Kievs ongoing effort to secure membership in the Transatlantic Alliance through a strategy of consistent participation in NATO projects.

Operation Coherent Resilience 2020 will be held in Ukraines southern port city of Odesa on October 5-9, 2020, according to an agreement signed by Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba and NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Bettina Cadenbach. Over the course of the exercises, over 200 experts will develop contingency plans for potential crisis situations in the Black Sea region: "The goal is to provide a smooth, timely, and competent response to cyber attacks, attacks on ports, seizure of transport routes and other threats," according to a Ukrainian press statement issued yesterday.

Coherent Resilience 2020 is far from the first of its kind; in 2019, Ukraine has participated in a flurry of NATO exercises and military planning sessions.

The upcoming joint exercise, and others like it, is part of what Kuleba sees as a concerted strategy to position Ukraine as an indispensable NATO partner: we integrate Ukraine in as many fields and markets when it comes to the EU, or fields of cooperation with NATO, as possible, so one day the guys in Brussels in NATO and EU look around and say: Oh, these Ukrainians are already everywhere, so why shouldnt we make this next step? And thats what weve been doing in the last three months, he said last month at the German Marshall Fund. NATO accession has been written into the Ukrainian constitution-- at least, pending an upcoming referendum promised by President Volodymyr Zelensky-- since February 2019, and continues to command the support of certain Washington D.C. foreign policy experts.

Still, the Zelensky administration continues to face major hurdles in its quest for NATO accession. In an article recently written forThe National Interest, Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for the National Interest George Beebe compellingly highlights a lack of appetite for Ukraines NATO membership among west European partners who fear adding fuel to the fire of potential military escalation in the ongoing Donbass war. Whereas the assurance of Ukrainian NATO membership is sometimes framed as a deterrent against further conflict with Russia, Beebe cites the 2008 Russo-Georgian War to warn that it could have the exact opposite effect by sending dangerous military signals to Kiev amid the Ukrainian Armys ongoing effort to retake the Russian-backed separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

There are ongoing concerns that membership would allow Ukraine to immediately invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the stipulation that an armed attack against one member state is an attack against them all. As it stands, the Atlantic Alliance can be said to enjoy the best of both worlds by cooperating with Ukraine on a wide variety of military matters, but without committing to the security guarantees associated with formal membership.

Popular support for NATO accession among Ukrainians has seen a steep decline, down from 69 percent at its peak in 2017 to around 51 percent in recent months. Though it remains to be seen if Ukraines political establishment will follow suit, there are early signs of a newfound pragmatism by some Kiev elites.

They are not waiting for us in NATO, head of the Ukrainian Parliaments Committee on State Security Irina Vereshchuk told reporters, urging the government to instead explore a neutrality doctrine on the example of Finland.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributorto The National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is alsoa PhD student in History at American University.

Image: Reuters.

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NATO Is Expanding, and Everyone Is Curiously Silent – The New Republic

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Thosethree words have, for the past three decades, provided the rocks upon whichanti-NATO advocates have built their arguments. Naturally, those anti-NATO voices,pointing to Bakers quip, have gladly ignored any evidence contradicting thisinterpretation. Theyve ignored the fact that Gorbachev revealed in 2014 that Bakers commentsmadeto a country, and to a government, that no longer existswere directed solelytoward NATOs presence in eastern Germany,not eastern Europe writ large. The topic of NATO expansion was not discussedat all, and it wasnt brought up in those years, Gorbachev said, adding thatBakers comment was specifically made in [the] context of eastern Germany.(Gorbachev made clear there was no promise regarding broader enlargement, accordingto a Brookings Institute summary of Gorbachevscomments.)

Thesedetractors have also ignored the reality that Boris Yeltsin, wrangling in themid-1990s over NATOs growth into former Warsaw Pact countries, never bothered to cite Bakers pledgein trying to get the U.S. to slow the expansion. Most pertinently, they ignoredthe realities that Yeltsin and an early Vladimir Putin even made noise about potentiallyjoining NATO themselves, or that Putin hardly raised his hackles when NATOexpanded into, say, the Baltics in the mid-2000s. These arguments and debates typicallypop up whenever NATO expansion bubbles up: when NATO expanded into Croatia andAlbania in 2009, when Montenegro joined the alliance in 2017, when Georgia andUkraine drifted into NATOs orbitwith the Kremlin using the latter as anexcuse to feed its revanchist militarism.

Andyet, with the dawning of this decade, theres been a deafening silence greetingthe latest round of NATO expansion. Instead of public debate and the inflamedpassions of isolationists and integrationists, North Macedonias move towardincreasing NATOs ranks has been greeted with silence. Its falleninto something of a black hole in American politics.

Normally,backing the accession would be a political gimme for the White House: As theChicago Council recently found, the percentage ofAmericans favoring increasing U.S. commitments to NATO is as high as its everbeen. But Trump and his constellation of supporters are loath to highlight thefact that the U.S. is extending its security umbrella that much further, lestit upset his nominally isolationist base. Meanwhile, Democrats are hardly predisposedto credit Trump with enabling the expansion of NATO member stateseven though NorthMacedonia took drastic steps, well in keeping with liberal values, to completethe process. And so North Macedonias accession into NATO rolls onbut thekind of public debate around the wisdom of the move and implications for Americannational security seen in the past is nowhere to be found.

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Biden predicts ‘NATO will end in the next four years’ if Trump reelected – Washington Examiner

Posted: at 10:15 am

Joe Biden predicted at a Houston fundraiser North Atlantic Treaty Organization will collapse if President Trump wins reelection in November.

"If a Democrat, God forbid, doesn't win the next election, NATO will end in the next four years," the former vice president said Thursday evening in Texas, about NATO, which guarantees mutual military support for the 29 participating countries.

Biden, 78, later boasted about his relationships with foreign governments, claiming that he has "met every single world leader in the last 45 years."

"I have more world leaders contacting me since we got out of office than you can imagine," he said.

Biden also fretted about Trump's decision to kill Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani earlier this month, saying the two nations are now at risk of a full-blown conflict.

"We're at the brink of a war with Iran. I've said this before. What worries me most about Trump is, the more the walls close in on him, the more erratic he's going to become," he said. "And I predicted it. ... Folks, we got to turn this around quickly. He still has another nine or 10 months, God knows what can happen."

Biden has made restoring America's alliances a cornerstone of his third White House run, attacking the president over what he calls reckless foreign policy decisions that stir global instability.

"I truly believe that there will be no NATO. Our alliances will be completely fractured," Biden said at a fundraiser in November. "They're already being hurt."

Before Trump won his first term in November 2016, Biden claimed as vice president that he had to " reassure" NATO countries that the future president's rhetoric should not be taken seriously. Biden said that the leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania asked him to address the citizens of their country and say the United States would support them in a war with Russia.

"Either he is actually devoid of any intellectual content when he's saying this, or he's completely dangerous," Biden said at the time.

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The French and German threat to NATO – Washington Examiner

Posted: at 10:15 am

President Trumps targeted killing of the worlds master of international terrorism, Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, highlighted Washingtons improved cooperation and concordance with Middle Eastern allies. But it also laid bare tensions between the United States and European allies, specifically France and Germany. Those tensions are a growing problem as Berlin and Paris undermine the Western security alliance, all while accusing the White House of doing the same.

After the Soleimani strike, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News: I spent the last day-and-a-half, two days, talking to partners in the region, sharing with them what we were doing, why we were doing it, seeking their assistance; they've all been fantastic. And then talking to our partners in other places that haven't been quite as good. Frankly, the Europeans havent been as helpful as I wish that they could be.

This is, unfortunately, a pattern. For all the accusations that Trump is weakening the NATO alliance, Germany and France are arguably the worst offenders.

Faced with decades of escalating, Iranian-sponsored terrorism against NATO members in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, Trump neutralized Soleimani and other major terrorists from Iran and the Kataib Hezbollah Shiite militia. Violence directed and enabled by Tehran against Germany and France is nothing new. Its worth recalling that Irans regime, along with its Lebanon-based Hezbollah proxy, murdered 58 French paratroopers in Beirut in 1983. And a German court determined that the Iranian government ordered the assassination in 1992 of exiled Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant.

Yet both Germany and France vehemently oppose the European Union designating the entirety of Hezbollah a terrorist organization. This isnt true of all our European allies: The United Kingdom outlawed Hezbollahs entire movement in 2019.

Soleimani, whose chief proxy was Hezbollah, ordered a spy in Germany and France to surveil Jewish and Israeli institutions, with a view toward carrying out an assassination. His agents planned terrorist attacks against Jewish kindergartens in Germany.

Meanwhile, Berlins bizarre attachment to the regime in Tehran is starting to ruffle German feathers. In a rare commentary that cuts against the grain of that countrys conventional wisdom, Welt am Sonntag newspaper editor Antje Schippmann wrote: Instead of repeatedly holding on to the regions corrupt but often tyrannical rulers and instead of warning against destabilization and a conflagration, the federal government [in Berlin] could recognize the signs of the times and stand on the side of the secular, democratic protest movements against the Revolutionary Guards and their apocalyptic visions.

It took days for Chancellor Angela Merkel to condemn the Iran-sponsored militias that stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad at the end of December or to defend the American killing of Soleimani. She and French President Emmanuel Macron finally issued a joint statement with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, criticizing the negative role Iran has played in the region.

But Merkels foreign minister, Heiko Maas, decided instead to crack the whip at Pompeo, tweeting: This action has not made it easier to reduce tensions.

This is the same Maas who sent his diplomats to Tehrans embassy in Berlin last year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic of Irans founding revolution.

But its not just about Iran far from it. Macron on Oct. 21 described NATO as brain-dead. The alliance remains, despite its flaws, a significant bulwark against authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, and Iran. Trump, this time defending the alliance, fired back that NATO serves a great purpose. I think thats very insulting, adding, Nobody needs NATO more than France. Its a very dangerous statement for them to make.

There seemed to be obvious irony in Trumps defense of NATO, as during the nascent phase of his presidency, he lambasted NATO as obsolete. The president, in contrast to his political counterparts, is capable of change.

The Washington Examiner learned that a worried Merkel brought up Macrons anti-NATO remark with the American government. U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told the Washington Examiner: We made clear that NATO is a crucial organization and a very successful one. While it needs to constantly consider the current and relevant issues, it should also be fully supported by all members. We made clear this support also includes abiding by the Wales Pledge.

Both Germany and France are falling short of their NATO commitments to spend 2% of their GDP on defense, as outlined in the pledge.

Unsurprisingly, Merkel and Maas stayed silent when Bundestag deputy Nils Schmid, the Social Democratic Partys foreign policy spokesman in the German legislature, declared that a war between Iran and the United States would not trigger the NATO alliance.

Article 5 of NATO requires mutual defense if a member country is attacked. Schmids announcement makes the mutual-protection provision toothless and tells enemies that the West is divided. In the face of Tehrans naval terrorism in the vital Gulf region, his comment is exactly the sort of soggy appeasement that invites increased Iranian aggression.

Schmid's party is the junior partner in a governing coalition with Merkels Christian Democratic Party. Grenell told the Washington Examiner that I saw the unfortunate comment and have been assured by the Chancellery that this is not the governments view.

Grenell has, in many ways, served as a formidable check on misguided German foreign policy. Whenever he meets with German officials, he urges them to ban all of Hezbollah. The Bundestag recently passed a nonbinding resolution calling for a ban on Hezbollah activities.

NATO was, of course, founded to contain the former Soviet Unions imperialism. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he would reverse the dissolution of the Soviet Union if he could, is working overtime to destroy NATOs potency.

Another salient example of Germany undercutting NATO is its complicity in Putins Nord Stream 2 energy project, 90% completed and scheduled to begin operations in mid-2020. The pipeline will run under the Baltic Sea and permit Russia to increase gas exports to Germany greatly. With the backing of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, the Trump administration levied sanctions on the firms building the pipeline. Having Europes largest economy, and a NATO member to boot, dependent on Moscow for its energy would be a monumental danger to international security.

Merkels desire to solidify the Nord Stream 2 project cannot be decoupled from her governments failure to crack down on Putins threat to NATO and on his assassinations across Europe (think of the nerve agent poisonings of Russian double agents Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the U.K. in 2018).

Then theres China. In October, Merkels government put together guidelines for the build-out of 5G networks in Germany. Those rules would probably permit Chinas state-owned telecommunications giant Huawei to build a 5G wireless network in the Federal Republic.

The U.S. views Huawei as a danger because the company will be able to penetrate sensitive communications and collect vast amounts of intelligence. Consequently, Washington announced it would downgrade intelligence-sharing with Germany if Merkel green-lights the rules.

Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have banned Huawei equipment from their 5G networks, and it looks as though the U.K. will follow suit. Meanwhile, Merkel and Germanys export-heavy economy are resisting a ban on Huawei. China is Berlins third-largest export market, worth roughly $100 billion a year.

The time is ripe to dispense with the narrative that Trump is undermining NATO and the global democratic alliance. France and Germany, two international powerhouses, are the ones emboldening NATOs enemies.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

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Why NATO to the Middle East is a really bad idea | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: at 10:15 am

President Donald Trump took a stable though unpleasant Iranian status quo and turned it into a burgeoning crisis. After pushing the Middle East to the brink of war, he urged NATO to get more deeply involved: we can come home, or largely come home and use NATO. He even proposed the name: NATO-ME. What a beautiful name.

One can imagine European officials barely suppressing their urge to run screaming from whatever room they occupied when they heard his idea. Washingtons policies in the Mideast have been consistently disastrous. America should be getting out, not dragging its allies in.

During the 2016 campaign candidate Trump railed against unnecessary wars. The U.S. is now more deeply entangled than ever. President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE has increased the number of Americans in Afghanistan and tasks for the U.S. military in Syria.

Worse, the president has fixated on Iran. In January 2017 the Islamic republic was contained, living up to its nuclear commitments and facing internal political strife as its young hoped for greater contact with the West. Tehran was a regional troublemaker, but had the U.S. given full effect to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by easing Irans entry into the world economy further negotiations over regional issues could have ensued.

In January 2020 Washington was increasing U.S. troop levels as it and Tehran teetered on the brink of war. Iran had resumed its nuclear activities, seized Gulf shipping, and attacked Saudi oil facilities. The administration even risked pulling Iraq into the abyss, refusing to withdraw troops as requested and threatening to revive sanctions from the Saddam Hussein era, only worse.

Now the president wants Europe to join America in the mess that he created.

The alliances Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, described by the president as excited about the prospect of involvement, mixed flattery with meaningless ambiguity, stating that NATO has the potential to contribute more to regional stability and the fight against international terrorism, and we are looking into what more we can do. Trump preened with pleasure: My biggest fan in the whole world is Secretary General Stoltenberg.

Look into the issue the alliance will do, but not much more. Stoltenberg noted that while NATO had to deploy troops to fight terrorism, the best way is to enable local forces to fight terrorism themselves. The Europeans have trained Iraqis and otherwise contributed to the fight against ISIS, but are not looking to become military props for the administrations anti-Iran crusade.

The Europeans know the president will move on to the next issue shortly. The key is to wait after telling him yes. Given his limited attention span and tendency to call everything a victory, he is likely to be satisfied with whatever NATO says or does.

The alliance is unlikely to offer troops. After the U.S. turned Iraq into a battleground and, it seems, occupied territory, Canada, Croatia, and Germany began removing their forces. No NATO member wants to be caught in the crossfire or tied to a coercive American occupation. Popular anger is likely to well up across Iraq even without Tehrans help.

Moreover, with good reason the Europeans abhor what passes for Trumps leadership. Although he is right to criticize their persistent free-riding, his impulsive behavior and ignorant narcissism cannot help but drive them away. On Iran the president arbitrarily wrecked an agreement which they helped negotiate and which was working to contain the Islamist regime. He then demanded that they back his position and launched a commercial and financial offensive against Tehran, conscripting their economies. That aggressive campaign, traditionally seen as an act of war, encouraged Iran to respond provocatively. One diplomat told the Washington Post: The notion that the Americans are calling this a de-escalating, defensive move is frankly surreal. Its Soviet. After bringing the region close to war Trump now insists that the Europeans bail him out.

It wont happen. After the assassination of Qassem Soleimani the president again called on European governments to abandon the JCPOA and submit to administration policy. European foreign ministers met two days later and turned him down. They chose Tehran over Washington. Reported Politico: so far, the European response has focused on trying to placate Iran instead of displaying solidarity with the U.S. Who can blame them for not taking responsibility for peace in the Middle East when the president is creating further mayhem?

Nor should Washington want Europeans to focus on the Mideast. They disagree significantly over outside threats and defensive policies in their own continent. They disagree even more about the Middle East. Only France and the United Kingdom have much interest in the region, growing out of their colonial pasts; Germany, Italy, Spain and the herd of smaller European states wont commit serious military forces. Pushing reluctant governments and their recalcitrant populations to entangle themselves in issues of at best tangential interest would complicate, not expedite, U.S. policy.

It would be even worse if they agreed to devote significant resources to the Middle East. Pressure from a succession of American presidents and concern over Russias ambitions after its assault on Ukraine in 2014 led several European governments to slowly hike military outlays, a trend for which the president has taken credit. Despite the welcome increase, most Europeans perceive few threats and are unlikely to raise outlays substantially. It is in Americas as well as Europes interest that governments not divert money and manpower from the continents defense to the Mideast.

Instead of fixating even more on that ever-unstable region, the U.S. should back away. America no longer need worry about the Middle East as an energy source. Conflicts such as Libya and Syria raise humanitarian, not security concerns.

Even at its strongest, Iran is of no threat to the U.S. Washingtons fixation on the Islamic Republic mostly reflects the concerns of allied states, particularly Saudi Arabia, a wealthy and well-armed monarchy, which is more repressive politically and radical theologically than Iran, and Israel, a nuclear power and regional superpower, which is well able to defend itself. Tehran shouldnt be Americas problem.

The president was rightly skeptical of Washingtons seemingly endless wars in the Middle East. Instead of dragging Europe in he should be pulling America out.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and author of several books, including Foreign Follies: Americas New Global Empire.

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Trying to Turn NATO Into NATOME: A Trump Administration Adventure – The National Interest Online

Posted: at 10:15 am

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a flurry of phone calls over the weekend in support of President Donald Trumps call to turn the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into NATOME, adding two letters for the Middle East.

Trump has been a longtime critic of NATO, a Cold War-era pact that commits the United States and Canada to defend Europe from Russian aggression. He has previously complained that NATO is an unfair arrangement for the United States, and reportedly considered pulling out of the alliance several times in 2018, as he saw it as pointless. But despite his critiques, he now seems to support an expanded role for the alliance as his administration struggles to balance deteriorating relations with Iraq and the threat of war with Iran.

Fractures in the trans-Atlantic relationship, however, make a joint mission in the Middle East a tough sell.

Trumps call for a NATO with a Middle East focus during a January 8 press conference came on the heels of the U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani in Iraq, which occurred on January 3 and heightened tensions. In the aftermath of the drone-strike assassination, NATO suspended its training mission for counter-ISIS forces in Iraq, a decision that coincided with the Iraqi parliaments push to expel foreign forces. Iranian leaders promised hard revenge and fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq on January 7, but no one was killed.

NATO, right, and then you have ME, Middle East. They would call it NATOME, the President told reporters on January 9. Im good at names, right? What a beautiful name, NATOME.

The State Department rushed to turn Trumps words into action over the weekend. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Pompeo agreed NATO could contribute more to regional security and the fight against international terrorism during a January 9 phone call, according to readouts published by both the U.S. State Department and NATO headquarters.

Pompeo made seven more calls to European or NATO countries related to the Middle East and Iran, from January 9 to January 12, according to U.S. State Department statements.

He told his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Minister FranoisPhilippe Champagne, that an expanded NATO force in Iraq could be a way to contain the aggressive and destabilizing influence of Iran, according to a U.S. statement on January 10. Champagne emphasized the need for a de-escalation in tensions, according to a Canadian statement, which did not mention the NATO proposal.

Pompeo also called the foreign ministers of Britain, the European Union, Estonia, and France to discuss Iran and Iraq that weekend.

EU High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell talked with Pompeo about Irans destabilizing role in the Middle East, according to a U.S. statement on the call, but the EU readout of the call did not mention Iran.

French Embassy press counselor Mlanie Rosselet told the National Interest that she was not aware of any public readouts published by the French side, and the British Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

Estonia, however, seemed supportive.

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu affirmed his colleague Mike Pompeo that Estonia supported the United States, and underscored the United States had a right to self-defence according to the UN Charter, a statement by the Foreign Ministry of Estonia stated. According to Reinsalu, it was crucial to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power and stop the development of its missile programme. The cooperation of Atlantic allies is vital in this issue.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale also joined the EU Political Directors conference on January 10 by video call to discuss global issues, including the situation in Iraq and Iran.

Jordans King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, one of Americas key partners along the border of Iraq, is attending a whirlwind of meetings across Europe this week.

Instability in our part of the world affects Europe and the rest of the globe, and so I think that a lot of our discussions will be centered on Iran, but mainly around Iraq, the king told France24 on January 13. This trip to Europe comes at the right time, where we need to talk about how do we talk to each other with maturity and respect, as opposed to rhetoric that could create a problem that takes us to the brink.

He plans to visit NATO headquarters on January 14.

Pompeo ended the weekend with a Sunday night call to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlt avuolu and reiterated the need for NATO to play a greater role in the region and stressed the U.S. commitment to the UN-facilitated peace process in Syria.

Turkey has the second-largest army in NATO and borders Iran and Iraq as well as Syria.

U.S. relations with Turkey have been strained over U.S. support for Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria, which the Turkish government sees as an extension of the Kurdish separatist movement inside Turkey. Trump allowed Turkish forces to invade Syria in October 2019 as his State Department pushed for a closer relationship with Turkish-backed Islamist rebels in the country in order to counter Iranian influence.

The U.S. readout of the call did not make it clear how Turkey reacted to Pompeos proposals, or what was discussed during Special Envoy Amb. James Jeffreys visit to Turkey that same weekend. But a video of Jeffrey speaking on the phone while waiting in stanbuls airport, captured by Turkish state television news reporter Adnan Nawaz, hints at a deeper Turkish involvement in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Across the board, they are seeing as we are much hardening [unintelligible] line on Syria, Jeffrey said. Our situation with them in the northeast has dramatically improved. Our situation with the Russians in the northeast has dramatically disimproved.

The State Departments Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs refused to confirm or deny purported telephone conversations in an airport, and the Turkish Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump is also asking European countries to join a U.S. campaign of maximum pressure against Iranbut that may be an even harder sell.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) removes international economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for the ability to inspect and regulate the Iranian nuclear program. Iran signed the deal with six world powers in 2015, but Trump withdrew the United States and began to impose harsh sanctions on the Iranian economy in 2018.

European countries are working on a mechanism called INSTEX that would allow Iran to avoid U.S. sanctions for humanitarian trade. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin threatened to put secondary sanctions on INSTEX during a January 10 press conference.

Iran has responded by removing all operational limits on its nuclear program. European countries have been reluctant to exit the deal and lose access for international inspectors.

Pompeo issued a twelve-point ultimatum to Iran in May 2018 that included an end to Iranian support for militias across the region and the Iranian ballistic missile program. Stoltenberg echoed his rhetoric in a press conference this week.

For years, all allies have expressed concern about Irans destabilizing activities in the wider Middle East region, Stoltenberg told reporters on January 13. We agree Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon, we share concern about Irans missile tests, and we are united in condemning Irans support for a variety of different terrorist groups.

But actually leaving the nuclear deal would be a harder sell.

The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout, Trump said on January 8. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.

The president proposed that the six world powers all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.

France, Britain, and Germany disagreed. All three countries released a joint statement on January 12 reaffirming their commitment to upholding the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

We reserve recourse to all the provisions of the JCPoA to preserve it and to resolve the issues related to Irans implementation of its JCPoA commitments within its framework, the statement said. Despite increasingly difficult circumstances, we have worked hard to preserve the agreement.

French president Emmanuel Macron drove the point home the next day when he repeated Frances commitment in a phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Matthew Petti is a national security reporter at the National Interest and a former Foreign Language Area Studies Fellow at Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Armenian Weekly, Reason and America Magazine.

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Ukrainian troops to serve with NATO training mission in Iraq – Stars and Stripes

Posted: at 10:15 am

Ukraine plans to send 20 troops to Iraq to support the NATO training mission once the alliance resumes the work it put on hold as tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalated in recent weeks.

Ukraines Defense Ministry announced the plans Wednesday after NATO and Ukrainian officials met in Brussels.

The invitation to become an operational partner of the Alliances mission in Iraq testifies to recognition of the value of Ukrainian military experience and professionalism, Ukraines deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Dmytro Kulebo, said in an online statement.

The alliances noncombat training mission in Iraq comprises about 500 troops and is separate from a much larger U.S.-led coalition effort to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State group in the country.

Many of the Canada-led NATO missions troops were relocated to Kuwait amid safety concerns after tensions skyrocketed in Iraq following the killing in Baghdad by the U.S. of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which drew threats of retaliation from Tehran.

Last week, as more than a dozen Iranian missiles fell on bases hosting U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, air defense forces outside Tehran shot down a Ukrainian airliner shortly after takeoff from the citys airport, killing all 176 people aboard.

garland.chad@stripes.comTwitter: @chadgarland

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MSU research professor taking leadership role in NATO teams focused on off-road autonomy – Mississippi State Newsroom

Posted: at 10:14 am

Daniel Carruth, associate director for advanced vehicle systems at MSUs Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, is helping to lead NATO research efforts focused on off-road autonomy. (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.A Mississippi State research professor is helping lead international efforts to advance off-road autonomous vehicle capabilities.

Daniel Carruth, associate director for advanced vehicle systems at MSUs Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, is part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization research task group examining autonomous vehicle modeling and simulation tools. The group will work through 2023 to determine standards for modeling and simulation tools, allowing military and research personnel to more effectively develop algorithms that will allow autonomous vehicles to navigate off-road and unknown terrain.

The research task group is part of the NATO Science and Technology Organizations applied vehicle technology panel. Carruth said the ongoing work with NATO brings together advances in virtual environment and mobility modeling.

With mobility modeling, it was mostly about dynamics between the tire/track and the terrain its driving on, Carruth said. With autonomy, you have more questions about the environment and need to account for things such as trees, people, animals and other obstacles. Were trying to take two domains that have advanced a lot over the last 10 or 15 years and bring them together to improve off-road vehicles.

At CAVS, researchers use the MSU Autonomous Vehicle Simulator to test navigation software in virtual environments. Recently, MSU acquired 50 acres adjacent to CAVS to also test autonomous vehicles in a variety of physical off-road environments. The center recently was awarded over $3 million from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center to support the Armys ground mobility research.

Off-road autonomy is a new space thats being created, and were right there at the forefront, said CAVS Executive Director Clay Walden. Its invaluable to have Dr. Carruth being involved with the NATO working group, which allows us to better see the vision for future military research and puts our work in mobility on the international stage.

Carruth led two NATO sub-groups in 2019one focused on virtual environments and sensors, and another focused on benchmarking modeling and simulation tools. He said the benchmarking group will help determine gaps in current simulation software. The group plans to test autonomous vehicles in the real world and compare their performance to the modeling tools. Starting this year, Carruth is leading the organization of a competition designed to compare performance of different autonomous vehicle modeling and simulation tools.

Once we can show that the modeling and simulation tools work, we can help set standards for them, Carruth said.

Paramsothy Jayakumar, co-chair of the NATO task group and U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center senior technical expert, said it is important for NATO to be able to reliably judge the performance and applicability of autonomous technologies in military contexts.

It is critical to set up standard methods and tools for assessing military autonomous vehicles and be able to confirm their ability to fulfill strategic maneuvers and wider operations in a quantitative manner, especially since the military context provides extremely challenging and rough situations, Jayakumar said.

Given that this activity is likely to result in a long-lasting methodology and/or tool similar to the current NATO Reference Mobility Model (NRMM), which is widely used in military acquisitions by NATO member nations, such development will be a valuable investment for the future. The leadership and contributions provided by MSUs Dr. Daniel Carruth areextremely critical to the success of the NATO Task Group.

Carruths research interests include modeling and simulation of human interaction with autonomous vehicles, as well as the study of human task performance in law enforcement, military and industrial work. He earned his doctorate in psychology from MSU, in addition to a bachelors in degree in computer science.

CAVS is an interdisciplinary research center that uses state-of-the-art technology to address engineering challenges facing U.S. mobility industries. The center also impacts Mississippi and the Southeast by supporting economic development and outreach activities. For more, visit http://www.cavs.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippis leading university, available online at http://www.msstate.edu.

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The UFO Sightings that Pushed the UK to Take ‘Flying Saucers’ More Seriously – History

Posted: at 10:14 am

In late September 1952, only months after a rash of flying saucer sightings over Washington, D.C. made headlines around the world, dozens of military officers participating in NATO exercises in the North Atlantic were struck by their own UFO fever.

Exercise Mainbrace was the largest peacetime military exercise since World War II. The war-game-style maneuvers simulated NATOs response to a mock attack on Europe, presumably by the Soviet Union. The Mainbrace operation involved 200 ships, 1,000 planes and 80,000 soldiers from multiple NATO countriesincluding large deployments from the United States and the United Kingdom.

In a year dominated by news reports of UFO sightings, Pentagon officials half-joked with Naval Intelligence that they should keep an eye out for aliens during the NATO exercises, said Edward Ruppelt, the U.S. Air Force captain in charge of the top-secret Project Blue Book UFO investigations.

As it turns out, they werent off base. [N]o one really expected the UFOs to show up, Ruppelt wrote in his 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Nevertheless, once again the UFOs were their old unpredictable selvesthey were there.

READ MORE: Interactive Map: UFO Sightings Taken Seriously by the U.S. Government

TheUSS Franklin D. Roosevelt, where one of the Mainbrace sightings was made.

The National Archives

The first Mainbrace encounter came on September 13 when the captain and crew of a Danish destroyer spotted a triangular-shaped object moving through the night sky at alarming speeds. The unidentified craft emitted a blue glow and was estimated by Lieutenant Commander Schmidt Jensen to be traveling upward of 900 miles per hour.

On September 20, an American newspaper reporter named Wallace Litwin was aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier participating in the Mainbrace exercises, when he saw a commotion on deck: several pilots and flight-crew members pointing at a silver sphere in the sky that appeared to be following the fleet. Litwin quickly shot four color photos of the round object, which he assumed was a weather balloon.

In a letter to a UFO investigator years later, Litwin recounts that he went below deck and joked with fellow newspaper correspondents that he had just shot a flying saucer. This caught the attention of the ships executive officer, who informed Litwin that no weather balloons had been released that day. The officer then radioed the Midway, the only other ship in the vicinity, which also confirmed that no weather balloons were in the air or unaccounted for.

In other words, the skies above this NATO fleet were very carefully observed and nothing flew around overhead unobserved, wrote Litwin, But I knew that I had taken a picture (4) of what looked like a ping-pong ball 10 feet over my head.

Ruppelt and the Project Blue Book team followed up with the Navy and interviewed members of the flight-deck crew. Some dismissed it as a weather balloon, while others had their doubts.

It was traveling too fast, and although it resembled a balloon in some ways, wrote Ruppelt. And it was far from being identical to the hundreds of balloons that the crew had seen the aerologists launch.

READ MORE:Meet J. Allen Hynek, the Astronomer Who First Classified 'Close Encounters'

A British Meteor fighter jet circa 1950s, similar to the aircraft that the RAF's encountered the Topcliffe UFO.

SSPL/Getty Images

The most perplexing sightingthe one that may have single-handedly relaunched the British militarys interest in UFOswas reported by a half-dozen Royal Air Force (RAF) officers and air crew based in Topcliffe, Yorkshire, England.

It took place on September 19, as a British Meteor fighter jet was returning to the Topcliffe airfield from exercises over the North Sea. When the plane had descended to 5,000 feet, crew on the ground spotted a silvery, circular object traveling several thousand feet above the Meteor, but on its same trajectory.

In a report preserved in the National Archives, RAF Flight Lieutenant John Kilburn of 269 Squadron said the object then began to descend toward the Meteor, swinging in a pendular motionsimilar to a falling sycamore leaf. At first, Kilburn thought it was a parachute or engine cowling that had broken loose from the jet.

Then the object stopped suddenly in mid-air, rotated on its own axis and zipped off at incredible speeds over the horizon.

The acceleration was in excess of that of a shooting star, reported Kilburn. I have never seen such a phenomenon before. The movements of the object were not identifiable with anything I have seen in the air.

Unlike previous UFO sightings kept hush-hush by the RAF and Royal Navy, the Topcliffe sighting was leaked to the pressand splashed across the front page of Sunday newspapers. Saucer Chased RAF Jet Plane, reported the Sunday Dispatch with a photo of five of the airmen, including Kilburn.

The circus-like publicity surrounding the Topcliffe incident put the British military intelligence in a difficult spot. They couldnt ignore questions from the press, but they also werent interested in a serious investigation into UFOs. Theyd already been down that road.

READ MORE: UFO Stories

A letter from Winston Churchill to the Secretary for Air, dated July 28, 1952, requesting an explanation on flying saucers.

The National Archives UK

While conducting research in the UK National Archives in 2001 for a book called Out of the Shadows: UFOs, the Establishment & the Official Cover-Up, British journalist and UFO investigator David Clarke made an incredible discovery. Despite officials repeated denials that they existed, he uncovered documents that referenced top-secret UK government UFO investigations.

The six-page report from the Ministry of Defences Directorate of Scientific Intelligence (the equivalent of the CIA in America), dated June 1951, was produced by a top-secret panel of military-intelligence experts known as the Flying Saucer Working Party.

According to the report, the five-member team had been meeting since 1950 to analyze reports of unexplained sightings from RAF and Royal Navy pilots. The Flying Saucer Working Party, much like the Air Force higher-ups overseeing the Project Blue Book investigations in America, dismissed all sightings by experienced military personnel as either mistaken identification of conventional aircraft, optical illusions and psychological delusions, known astronomical or meteorological phenomena or deliberate hoaxes.

The clandestine team concluded that the only way to get substantiated data on UFOs would be to establish a global network of radar stations and photographers continuously monitoring the sky for aberrations.

We should regard this, on the evidence so far available, as a singularly profitless enterprise, they wrote. We accordingly recommend very strongly that no further investigation of reported mysterious aerial phenomena be undertaken, unless and until some material evidence becomes available.

This was the conclusion shared with Winston Churchill when he fired off a memo in the summer of 1952 reading, What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to? What can it mean? What is the truth? Let me have a report at your convenience. Churchill was shown the top-secret report and the topic of UFO investigations was briefly laid to rest. That is, until Exercise Mainbrace.

READ MORE: The Time Winston Churchill Wrote About Aliens

In the wake of the Topcliffe sighting and resulting newspaper coverage, the British military intelligence was forced to officially recognize the UFO, according to Ruppelt of Project Blue Book. In 1953, the British Air Ministry established a UFO desk within the Deputy Directorate of Intelligence known cryptically as AI3. From then on, all unexplained sightings by British military personnel would be controlled internally, classified as restricted and not shared with the press.

A chart of various UFO sightings from the 1950s through the 70s in the U.S. and U.K.

The National Archives UK

Clarke, for one, isnt surprised that dozens of sailors and airmen spotted unidentified and unexplainable aerial phenomena during two weeks of high-stakes exercises.

You have all these military personnel on high alert looking for potential intruder aircraft, he says. Theres a good chance theyre going to see things that might have otherwise been ignored.

As to the seriousness of the British militarys investigations into Topcliffe and later UFO sightings, Clarke cites a newspaper clipping published months after the Mainbrace exercises where a reporter pressed an Air Ministry official for the results of their investigation. The official said he had no idea if the investigation was ongoing or if its conclusions would be shared with the public.

Was there any chance that it might turn out to be a flying saucer? wrote the reporter. One gathered from the low chuckle of the official that there was not the remotest chance. We take those stories with a large spoon of salt, old boy, he said.

Don't miss the return of Project Blue Book, Tuesday January 21 at 10/9c on HISTORY.

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