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Category Archives: NATO

Op-Ed: The US should rally G7, NATO and other global allies together in fight against coronavirus – CNBC

Posted: March 24, 2020 at 6:22 am

The latest plot twist is a stunner in our ongoing global drama, "Major Power Struggle in the Era of Coronavirus."

President Xi Jinping, who just days ago seemed to have been put on the ropes by this killer pathogen, appears to have turned the tables on the disease, his critics, and his ideological adversaries. Some initially thought the virus might even cost him his job.

Instead, his authoritarian colossus, the People's Republic of China, is rapidly leveraging its position of being the first country to emerge from the worst of the COVID-19. To be sure, China is still suffering its biggest economic hit since the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, with still incalculable damage to growth, industrial production and its role in global supply chains.

Yet with head-spinning speed, President Xi is revving up his stalled economy with fiscal stimulus and is tightening the screws of his authoritarian surveillance state with new technologies. He is ramping up a domestic and international publicity campaign, trumpeting his triumph over the virus and donning the garb of the global champion working to protect others.

At the same time, Chinese authorities are taking aim at the United States by tossing its top journalists out of Beijing, by wooing American allies from Tokyo and Rome in common cause, and by contrasting its perhaps draconian approach to COVID-19 to that of President Trump.

"China can pull together the imagination and courage needed to handle the virus, while the US struggles," trumpeted the People's Daily, the Communist party mouthpiece. Xinhua news agency claimed that Xi's handling of the crisis has demonstrated his "pure heart, like a newborn's."

Pure heart or not, Xi is demonstrating an iron will. This week he stepped up threatening flights near Taiwan, a warning that he won't abide any move toward independence.

In the latest incident on Monday, Taiwan's Defense Ministry said it scrambled air reconnaissance and patrol aircraft to drive away Chinese J-11 fighters and KJ-500 early warning aircraft on nighttime missions.

The not-so-hidden message to Washington: We know from our experience how long this virus will drain you and distract you from your external obligations. You also have your messy elections to manage. What better time than now to demonstrate to the world the advantages of China's system and embrace?

Meanwhile, COVID-19's epicenter has moved to Europe where this week Italy surpassed China in the number of fatalities. It has spread in the United States to all 50 states, prompting an economic shutdown that could make the 2008-2009 financial crisis seem mild by comparison.

It's hard to engage in long-term strategic thinking about the neighborhood when your house is burning. However, the Trump administration needs to do precisely that. U.S. policy makers need to wake up to the geopolitical perils of the coronavirus crisis.

American global leadership has enjoyed a wide measure of acceptance not only because of military power or economic might. It also was perceived by its partners as defending larger, common interests and for convening global coalitions when required.

It was precisely that brand of leadership that characterized the U.S. response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009. Even so, that crisis shattered much of the world's confidence in the United States' financial leadership. Mismanaging the coronavirus could accelerate further the end of the American era.

"Beijing understands that if it is seen as leading, and Washington is seen as unable or unwilling to do so," writeKurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi in Foreign Affairs, "this perception could fundamentally alter the United States' position in global politics and the contest for leadership in the twenty-first century."

The authors in this must-read analysis remind us that global orders change gradually at first and then all at once. "In 1956," they remind us, "a botched intervention in the Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom's reign as a global power."

So how do United States policy makers avoid their own "Suez moment?"

My columnlast week offered a starting point. It suggested that President Trump, instead of introducing a European travel ban unilaterally March 11, should have triggered NATO's Article 5 for the second time in history. That is the provision, crafted to deter the Soviet Union, that an attack on one member should be treated as an attack on all.

Overly literal readers of that column argued such a response was either ill-advised because it would militarize U.S. response or impossible, as Article 5 was designed for response to an "armed attack." What both arguments missed was the symbolic significance of such a declaration, as was the case when Article 5 was triggered by U.S. allies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

That's particularly true given current transatlantic divisions.

Even if NATO could muster such political will, it would still be insufficient. As the current chairman of the G-7, the United States could convene a "Coalition Countering COVID-19" that would rally the seven leading industrial democracies, the European Union, NATO and, perhaps most importantly, the G-20.

It would thus also involve China as a central and collaborative actor against a common foe.

Yet no other country, including China, has the wherewithal to summon that sort of global response. Failing to do so would further erode U.S. legitimacy as a global leader, a position already damaged through trade wars with its allies and the failure to join galvanizing projects from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Accords.

The need is all the greater given Europe's fragmented response even as the virus rages, with the significant exception of European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde's rallying this week of eurozone central bankers.

"European solidarity does not exist," Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic

We're only in the opening scenes of this epic COVID-19 drama, which will continue without intermission. The Chinese rebound could prove to be a welcome twist in the plot.

Imagine the far-happier ending, however, if the United States and its allies manage to join forces globally even as they isolate socially.

Frederick Kempe is a best-selling author, prize-winning journalist and president & CEO of the Atlantic Council, one of the United States' most influential think tanks on global affairs. He worked at The Wall Street Journal for more than 25 years as a foreign correspondent, assistant managing editor and as the longest-serving editor of the paper's European edition. His latest book "Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth" was a New York Times best-seller and has been published in more than a dozen languages. Follow him on Twitter@FredKempeand subscribe hereto Inflection Points, his look each Saturday at the past week's top stories and trends.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

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Covid-19 will cause ‘severe consequences’ for members: NATO – Army Technology

Posted: at 6:22 am

]]> NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presents his Annual Report

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that Covid-19 will cause severe consequences for member states economies and defence budgets.

Speaking during the release of NATOs Annual Report, Stoltenberg said: It is clear that there will be severe economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. And at least in the short term, there will also be severe consequences, not only for the total economy, but also for government budgets.

When we speak about the long-term consequences, that is too early to say anything with certainty about what the long-term consequences will be.

Despite this, Stoltenberg said that in the face of an uncertain world, he expected member states would continue to invest more in defence and security spending, adding that he expected countries to stay committed to their current defence spending targets.

Stoltenberg explained: We have to remember that when NATO Allies decided to invest more in defence, they did so because we live in a more uncertain, more unpredictable world, and therefore we need to invest more in defence. This has not changed. So, I expect Allies to stay committed to investing more in our security.

Stoltenberg added that investments in security often paid off in crisis situations citing how Armed Forces provide surge capacity for all our societies when it comes to responding to natural disasters and other crisis.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread a number of NATO member countries have called upon their armed forces to support civilian authorities, provide medical assistance and logistics capabilities.

Yesterday, the UKs Ministry of Defence announced that it was readying an additional 10,000 personnel for its COVID support force and will begin training 100 personnel to drive oxygen tankers to support the NHS next week.

In his speech, unveiling the report, Stoltenberg said that the Covid-19 pandemic faced NATO with an unprecedented crisis but that NATO had overcome crises before. Stoltenbergs conference on the report was held online for the first time due to social distancing measures, NATO this week also suspended media access to its HQ in Brussels.

In response to the Pandemic, NATO has also looked to modify a number of exercises, but Stoltenberg said this did not affect the organisations ability to act if needed.

The US has already made modifications to exercise Defender Europe that would have seen 20,000 troops deployed to Europe.

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Russia to base hypersonic tracking radar in middle of NATO turf – Stars and Stripes

Posted: at 6:22 am

Russia plans to deploy a next-generation radar to its military exclave of Kaliningrad and use it to counter emerging U.S. hypersonic weapons systems, state media reported.

The Konteiner radar can track launches of cruise and hypersonic missiles nearly 2,000 miles away, Russias Tass news agency reported Thursday. Deploying the radar in Kaliningrad, which is wedged between NATO members Poland and Lithuania, will put almost all of continental Europe and the United Kingdom within its range.

The Kaliningrad Konteiner will be the second such radar on Russian territory. A similar radar was installed in 2019 in the Volga area of Mordovia, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, Tass said. Moscow also plans to eventually position a hypersonic tracking radar in the Arctic, it said.

No date was given for the Kaliningrad deployment.

The planned mobilization of the radar near NATO territory comes as Moscow and the U.S. boost their investments in hypersonic technology. Vice Adm. Alexander Moiseyev , who commands the Russian navys northern fleet, told Russian newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda on Thursday that plans are underway to test-fire hypersonics with nuclear submarines.

We have already received our orders, he told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has ramped up investments in hypersonic technology and has plans later this year to test a new glide body weapons system, which uses a booster rocket motor to accelerate to well-above hypersonic speeds and then jettisons the expended rocket booster.

vandiver.john@stripes.comTwitter: @john_vandiver

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How the coronavirus affects NATO and security – TRT World

Posted: at 6:22 am

Militaries will have to strike a delicate balance between juggling domestic obligations and external security threats.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has dominated news headlines all around the world. Tragic images and heartbreaking stories emerging from places like China, South Korea, Iran and Italy have started to focus on governments in other countries to take more robust measures.

While most of the attention has been focused on the virus impact on health policy and the economy and rightfully so there are security implications resulting from the spread that policymakers must consider. This is particularly true of countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Especially for the US with its large military presence around the world in places where coronavirus rates are high like South Korea, Japan, and Italy.

In NATOs most recent Strategic Concept an official policy document that is supposed to go to guide the alliance to prepare for future threats theres not even a single mention of the word pandemic.

Luckily, many of the countries inside NATO address this issue in their national security and defence strategy documents.

For example, the United Kingdom has a global health security section in its most recent security and defence strategy. The threat from pandemics even gets a mention in the foreword written for the document by the prime minister.

The Trump Administrations National Security Strategy published in 2017 has a section titled Combat Bio Threats and Pandemics.

The most recent French white paper on defence and national security also recognises the threats posed from global health issues and pandemics.

There are three areas that NATO and its member states need to keep close attention on in the coming months pertaining to the spread of the coronavirus.

First is the issue of health and welfare of service personnel and their families. It is important that militaries are healthy and fit.

During an international pandemic, this is perhaps the single most important thing for the Armed Forces. Obviously the widespread nature of the coronavirus presents challenges.

The coronavirus does not discriminate between ranks.

Inside NATO there have already been two high profile cases of senior generals testing positive for the virus. The Chief of Staff of the Italian Army, Salvatore Farina, and the Head of the Polish Armed Forces, Jarosaw Mika, have both tested positive.

General Mika recently attended a high-level conference in southern Germany where he came into contact with other senior military officers including the commander of the US Army in Europe although its not clear if anyone else at the meeting contracted the virus.

Large numbers of US soldiers are based in Spain, Italy, and southern Germany all of which are coronavirus hotspots. US military bases in these regions have essentially closed and there have been examples of family members and service members testing positive for the virus.

There has even been at least one confirmed case of the coronavirus at NATO headquarters in Brussels. A large military base in Northern Norway near the border with Russia was put on lockdown after a Norwegian soldier tested positive for the coronavirus and another 1,300 soldiers were put into quarantine.

A second major focus area is maintaining levels of military readiness. Militaries rely on training. If they cannot train then they will be less prepared to fight. So far, it seems that the spread of coronavirus throughout Europe is impacting readiness on both a strategic and a tactical level.

On the strategic level, major NATO exercises are being cancelled or curtailed.

A major exercise in Norway focused on arctic security called Exercise Cold Response 20 was recently cancelled. This exercise was supposed to involve 15,000 NATO troops.

Another major exercise called Defender Europe 20 was curtailed because of the coronavirus outbreak. This exercise was originally billed as the largest since the mid-1990s.

On the tactical level, if soldiers cant do basic training such as going to the rifle range because they are restricted to military bases or to the barracks, then their readiness levels go down. This also leads to low morale.

Fortunately, cancelled exercises can always be rescheduled.

Finally, NATO and its members cannot lose strategic focus. Due to the wide-scale disruption that the coronavirus has caused throughout Europe and in some places in North America, much of the focus of policymakers has been on responding to the domestic crisis. This is completely understandable.

In some cases, the military has played or is planning to play, a role. Some US Army National Guard units in at least six US states have been activated.

In the UK, officers of the Royal Logistics Corps have been involved in local response plans for the coronavirus.

When Norway decided to cancel its Cold Response 20 exercise the excuse given by one of its top generals was we would rather preserve our armies combat capabilities so we can support society in the turbulent period to come.

So if the militaries of NATO are focused on domestic response there is less time, energy, and resources available to focus on the other threats to the Alliance.

As the recent rocket attack on the US in British troops in Iraq and Turkeys military operations in northern Syria reminds us, coronavirus or not, there are still military security challenges that have to be dealt with.

This means that governments inside NATO have a challenge to maintaining the levels of readiness and resources required to meet national defence objectives while ensuring the health and welfare of their service members.

This is no easy thing to balance. The longer this global pandemic lasts, the more difficult this balance will be for policymakers.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion please send them via email, to

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NATOs Afghanistan Withdrawal: Regional interests and civil war fears – Global Risk Insights

Posted: at 6:22 am

A deal has been recently struck in US-Taliban peace talks and progress towards long term peace seems increasingly possible. However, with a likely NATO withdrawal and recent election results, there continues to be a substantial risk to the countrys security and the likelihood of descent into civil strife.

Last month it was announced that Ashraf Ghani had been successfully and legitimately re-elected as Afghanistans president. Ghani received 50.64% while Abdullah Abdullah, his main political rival and his chief executive officer, received 39.52% of the vote. Abdullah heavily disputed the legitimacy of the result and the entire electoral process, forcing a recount.

The recount has posed a potential threat to the delicate position of the peace talks between the Taliban and US. Abdullah has declared that he is setting up a parallel government of his own, spelling danger for the intra-Afghanistan negotiations which will take place between the Taliban and the government after the start of the withdrawal of NATO forces. A fractured government and a potential for a Ghani-Abdullah power struggle may allow for a united Taliban to gain the upper hand in negotiations.

The deal made between the US and Taliban delegations in Doha, Qatar on the 21st of February focused on a 7-day reduction in violence in return for the withdrawal of US troops. The two parties agreed to several good-faith transactions to ensure a de-escalation in the use of arms. One of these agreements was for the Taliban to commit to a 7-day nationwide reduction in violence before the US signed the deal on the 29th of February. Further conditions to the agreement included possibilities of releasing insurgent prisoners as long as safe havens for transnational terrorism was prohibited throughout Taliban territory.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed that once the deal was signed, intra-Afghan negotiations would begin and would build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan.

However, the US-Taliban talks have not involved any Afghan government officials at any stage. It has led to fears that the US could prioritise a simple military withdrawal over a complex political settlement, which in turn could risk the humanitarian and socio-political gains that have been made since 2001.

Direct talks are supposedly going to begin between the Afghan government and the Taliban since the US confirmed the deal two weeks ago. Yet, problems have immediately arisen, with Ghani refusing the release of Taliban prisoners that were supposedly promised by US negotiators. Hence, observers have repeatedly raised concerns about what sort of political arrangement will be able to be negotiated to ensure an end to the insurgency and armed conflict which will satisfy both the Taliban and Kabul.

Several factors now provide Iran with an opportunity to gain influence. Firstly, Soleimanis replacement, Ismail Qaani, has extensive experience and knowledge of Afghanistan and the Taliban, which will strengthen Quds forces in their activity in the country. Secondly, NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan signals removal of a physical US presence which Tehran will most likely capitalise on. Thirdly, intra-Afghan talks that are likely to be fractious and chaotic will position Iran well to gain diplomatic influence among the competing groups.

Pakistan, who has had a close relationship with the Taliban, will be monitoring any strategic moves Iran will make in attempting to gain influence with the group. Islamabad played a crucial part in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table and will hope the intra-Afghan talks will prove productive in finding a long term solution to the governing of their western neighbour. A close relationship with a government in Kabul has for a long time been a strategic desire for Islamabad with regards to its rivalry with India. Both Iran and Pakistan want to secure stability for their neighbour, but mistrust between the two may cause clash points further down the line.

China and Russia, who also share a border and history with Afghanistan respectively, have their interests in how the intra-Afghan talks play out. Strategic rivalry between China, Russia and the US will mean Beijing and Moscow will be attempting to take advantage, economically, politically, and militarily while the US is bogged down in what could be a complicated troop withdrawal.

Primarily, the US will want to make sure they get some sort of return on the length of time, investment, and loss of life since 2001. Having secured this deal with the Taliban, the US will now concentrate more on efficiently removing forces from around the country over the next 14 months. Trump is keen to see an end to the Afghanistan war and anticipates a timely US withdrawal will prove popular amongst the electorate with the presidential election coming up later this year in November.

In the short term, the intra-Afghan talks will commence, but a neutral host must be decided upon. Germany, Norway, Qatar, Uzbekistan and Indonesia are currently the frontrunners to provide for these talks however, the respective governments are presently vying for the political benefits hosting such a negotiation could give them. This may cause an unnecessary delay to what are already going to be extraordinarily complex and sensitive negotiations. Considering the COVID-19 international crisis, Afghanistan will also be dealing with containing the outbreak that is prevalent on its western border with Iran. The ongoing political crisis in Kabul could further complicate any challenges involved in this effort.

A critical question that now must be confronted is: what form will a united Afghan government take, and how will it approach talks with the Taliban? For the talks about being productive and resulting in a long term solution, the government must be seen as legitimate and supported by Afghan citizens. How long this will take is unknown, but the longer the country does not have a unified government, the longer the talks may be delayed. There is a risk that if the negotiations proceed too quickly, the divergent ambitions of the Ghani and Abdullah governments will cause significant damage to any authority the elected government still has in reinforcing their negotiating position against other actors.

In the medium term, there is ample concern that the uncertainty that typifies the Afghan political situation will lead to an armed conflict between the competing factions. It is well known that there is deep mistrust between the Taliban and the current Western-backed government, and this will prove a significant barrier throughout the talks. If talks breakdown between both parties or within each party and progress seems unattainable, violence and further conflict are likely.

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NATO, US and Germany strongly react to deadly Taliban insider attack in Zabul – The Khaama Press News Agency

Posted: at 6:22 am

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), United States and Germany strongly reacted to deadly Taliban insider in southern Zabul province.

I condemn the savage Taliban attack on the Afghan security forces in Zabul. What kind of people can order and do this to fellow Afghans on the day of Nowruz, in the midst of a global pandemic & after professing commitment to peace? Shameful., the NATO Senior Civilian Representative said in a Twitter post.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also issued a statement on Twitter and strongly condemned the attack. We strongly condemn Fridays attack in Zabul & offer our condolences to the brave ANDSF & their families. Afghan security forces honor #Afghanistan by their dedication & service. In the midst of a global pandemic & on Nowruz, attacks like these are obscene. Time for peace is now.

Meanwhile, the German Ambassador to Afghanistan Peter Prugel said in a Twitter post Outraged by todays heinous #Taliban attack on #ANDSF forces in Zabul. On the day of Nowruz and in face of a global pandemic, this savage act sheds serious doubts on the #Talibans commitment to peace. Sincere condolences to brave ANDSF, families and friends of the victims.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) in a statement said the Taliban militants launched the attack on security posts with the help of their infiltrators in the center of Zabul province, killing 11 army soldiers and 6 policemen.

The Zabul Provincial Council officials had said a group of 8 Taliban infiltrators launched the attack, killing at least 37 army and police personnel.

The Khaama Press News Agency is the leading and largest English news service for Afghanistan with over 3 million hits a month.Independent authors/columnists and experts are welcomed to contribute stories, opinions and editorials. Send stories to

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Rockets hit Iraqs Besmaya base housing Coalition and NATO troops – The Defense Post

Posted: at 6:21 am

A pair of rockets hit an Iraqi base hosting U.S.-Led coalition and NATO troops, Iraqs military said Tuesday, March 17, the third attack on installations hosting foreign forces inside a week.

The rockets slammed into the Besmaya base south of Baghdad late Monday night, a statement by the military said, making no mention of casualties.

Spanish forces linked to the U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State, as well as NATO training forces, are present in Besmaya.

The last week has seen a renewed spike in rockets hitting Iraqi bases hosting foreign forces, with three coalition troops killed on March 11 in a similar attack on the Taji airbase, which was hit again on March 14.

Since late October, there have been 24 rocket attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad or bases where foreign troops are deployed, killing a total of three American military personnel, one British soldier and one Iraqi soldier.

No attacks have been claimed but Washington has blamed Kataib Hezbollah, a hardline faction in the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) Shia militias incorporated into the Iraqi state.

The U.S. has long insisted Iraqs government should do more to reign in such factions and prevent them from targeting American troops and diplomats.

But Washington took a much tougher line in December after a U.S. contractor was killed in a rocket attack, launching retaliatory air strikes against Kataib Hezbollahin Iraq and Syria.

The factions supporters then surrounded and briefly stormed the U.S. embassy. Days later, the U.S. military killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani and PMU de facto leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike on Baghdad.

Outraged, Iran launched ballistic missiles at the largest Iraqi base hosting U.S. troopsand the Iraqi parliament voted to oust all foreign forces from the country.

The parliamentary vote has yet to be implemented by a government.

With reporting from AFP

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Estonia raises Polish border issue with both NATO and the US – ERR News

Posted: at 6:21 am

"Border issues as a result of Polish actions have a military aspect as well, as they affect the ability to move troops, "Reinsalu said at a government press conference on Thursday.

"The situation is worrying enough regarding goods and the economy, but this also has a security dimension - military equipment cannot move when the roads are blocked. This is why our ambassador has raised this issue at the North Atlantic Council (NAC), our ambassador informed me last night. In short, in the security dimension, these boundaries and routes must remain open," Reinsalu said.

The foreign minister added that according to the Estonian Ambassador to Germany, for example, the queue at one of the border crossings with Poland has already grown to 70 kilometers in length and comprises about 10,000 trucks.

Around 73 Estonian citizens found themselves trapped at the front of such a traffic column at the beginning of the week, about a kilometer over the border into Poland and close to the German city of Frankfurt an der oder. Unable to go forwards or backwards and lacking many basic facilities such as toilets, many of them had to break down a fence in order to get back on to German territory and make their way the 400 kilometers to the north German port of Travemnde.

A vessel operated by Estonian shipping firm Tallink is at the time of writing making its way back from another Baltic port in Germany, Sassnitz, and is due to arrive in Riga at midnight tonight. It carries 470 people, Estonians as well as Latvians and Lithuanians wanting to return to their countries, and had already borne around 35 German nationals from Riga on its outbound trip.

Tallink is also laying on several return voyages using its Star ferry, which usually plies its trade between Tallinn and Helsinki but was freed up by reduced schedules on that route following both Finland and Estonia imposing border controls.

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Turkey is Learning Why NATO Membership Matters – Bloomberg

Posted: March 5, 2020 at 6:47 pm

  1. Turkey is Learning Why NATO Membership Matters  Bloomberg
  2. NATO should tell Turkey: 'Let's make a deal' | TheHill  The Hill
  3. Idlib and a watershed moment for NATO-Turkey relations  Daily Sabah
  4. Work with Turkey, NATO tells EU amid migrant crisis  EURACTIV
  5. Why NATO should grit its teeth and help Turkey in Idlib  The Economist
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

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NATO Evaluation Tool Points Out Training Mistakes in Almost Real-Time – USNI News

Posted: at 6:47 pm

Naval Aircrewman (Operator) 3rd Class Ethan Mehring, assigned to the Skinny Dragons of Patrol Squadron (VP) 4, conducts flight operations aboard a squadron P-8A Poseidon aircraft during an during an anti-submarine warfare mission over the Mediterranean Sea, Feb. 19, 2020. VP-4 is currently forward deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations and is assigned to Commander, Task Force 67, responsible for tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons throughout Europe and Africa. US Navy photo

NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, ITALY An increasingly sophisticated reconstruction and evaluation team is giving sailors in NATOs ongoing Dynamic Manta anti-submarine warfare exercise almost real-time feedback that helps them learn from any mistakes they make each day instead of waiting weeks or months for corrections.

An In-Stride Debriefing Team (IDT) set up at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily is helping the participants in the air, surface and undersea domains understand each day what contributed to their success in finding the target submarine in that days serial, or if they didnt find the submarine, what opportunities they had to detect the sub and why they missed their target.

In some cases, the issue could be as simple as operating a sonar at the wrong depth in the water column, where a simple fix could help the team find success the next day. In other cases, the lessons learned may be more complicated but participants are finding out during the exercise while they can consult other experts and try to correct out their mistakes, whereas in other exercises they might not understand until weeks or months later what went wrong.

Normally during most exercises you dont get that sort of immediate feedback. So what Im hoping to see is maybe at the beginning of the exercise the people shaking the rust off, if you will, to at the end of the exercise they are feeling really that theyve gotten that feedback that they need in a real-time feedback loop such that their skillsets are improved, U.S. Rear Adm. Andrew Burcher, who commands submarines at NATOs Maritime Command (MARCOM), said during a press conference at sea during the Dynamic Manta 2020 kickoff.

Burcher likened the capability to a test where you can see the answer to the first question and know if you got it right or wrong before moving on to the second question.

That immediate feedback can help participants see if youve improved and understand where maybe your mistakes are. And thats incredibly important, because a lot of times in these exercises the ships, the assets dont know if they got the answer right until weeks later after theres been some feedback. So that real-time heres the answer to Question 1, this is how you did, lets take Question 2, is really important, he said.

A helicopter from Italian frigate ITS Carabiniere (F 593) lowers its dipping sonar into the Ionian Sea on Feb. 24, 2020, during an anti-warfare demonstration for media at the kickoff of NATO exercise Dynamic Manta. USNI News photo.

Peter Van Mierlo is leading the IDT, made up of 12 officers from 12 countries with a range of expertise and backgrounds. He has been involved in the effort to provide real-time lessons learned for 20 years, dating back to his time in uniform in the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Van Mierlo told reporters during the exercise that in 2000 he came to participate in Dynamic Manta for the first time, when the exercise had nine submarines and 40 maritime patrol aircraft missions that were flown but no surface ships at the time. He was told to collect all the data when the aircraft came back from their missions, and in sorting through stacks and stacks of papers from the exercise, he realized that 75 percent of the missions were cold the airplanes did not detect a submarine and the aircrews would have no way of knowing if there was just no submarine in their operating area or if they missed it due to a mistake they had made.

They were cold, and they dont know why, if they missed anything, he said.

He realized at the time that, with just a little more information on the submarines actual tracks, he could figure out what detection opportunities were missed and, with perhaps with a little more information, why.

Some tools were built for the 2001 exercise and have been improved upon since then, bringing answers to aircraft and ship crews within about 24 hours so they can apply lessons learned to the next serial in the exercise.

Todays feedback comes in the form of Power Point slides, where Van Mierlo and his team of experts map out snapshots of every 15 minutes or so, where the subs were versus anti-submarine warfare assets, and comments regarding what actions the crew took versus what they should have done.

The idea is that the [operations] officer takes that aboard ship, gets the whole team around it and talks his way through it and picks up on what went well and what could go better, to accelerate the lessons learned process, Van Mierlo said.

Some nations contributing to the IDT send experts on diesel submarines, and some send experts on ASW and this year, the U.S. Navy for the first time sent an expert on the lessons learned process.

Lt. Ryan Rapada, the ASW officer at the Afloat Training Group who was previously trained to be an anti-submarine/anti-surface warfare tactics instructor (WTI) through the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), is supporting this NATO exercise on behalf of SMWDC for the first time in the commands history.

Rapada told USNI News that SMWDC stresses the PBED process planning, briefing, executing and debriefing above all else as a way to improve proficiency quickly.

That is exactly what were doing here. So we receive the data, do the analysis and debrief, he said.Debrief is the most important part, thats how the guys get all their lessons learned. So we construct the PowerPoints, something that we vigorously did in the (SMWDC) schoolhouse, and then we get the chance to interact with the squadrons and the surface ships and submariners and sort of poke them to talk about what they did and how they can improve.

During Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) events hosted by SMWDC for ships preparing to deploy, the PBED process is enhanced by playback tools that allow operators to listen back to conversations on the bridge and re-look at what they could see on their screens at the time, to discuss in vivid detail what they knew and how they arrived at the decisions they made. The IDT at the NATO exercises does not have the playback tools but does recreate that to a degree in the PowerPoint slides, with detailed tracks, depth movements, detections, and commanders commentary on what tactical thinking drove their decisions.

Rapada said that some of his colleagues on the IDT have dedicated their careers to mastering ASW in a way that American sailors arent often able to do, as they might serve as an ASW Officer on a surface ship but then move onto another assignment with another focus area two years later. What he could bring, to supplement their deep subject matter knowledge, is an expertise on generating lessons learned and boosting crew proficiently on short timelines.

WTIs enter the fleet as warriors, thinkers, and teachers, Rapada told USNI News.Being part of Dynamic Manta, were constantly analyzing the tactics being used in each [combined ASW exercise] to provide lessons learned to all of the major players. During the debriefs, we have a chance to teach doctrine and help the participants from every community become a more lethal force.


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NATO Evaluation Tool Points Out Training Mistakes in Almost Real-Time - USNI News

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