Two very different developments in Europe should lead to some deep thinking among Defence and Foreign Affairs advisers in Canberra.
The first is the consequences for the Joint Strike Fighter or F-35 from the cuts to military spending announced in the UK last night. An analysis by Bill Sweetman on the Aviation Week Ares blog argues that the UK purchase could fall from the original 138 F-35s to as low as 12, and only some time well beyond 2020. A later article on the Ares blog by Robert Wall looks at the industrial share in the program already locked up by UK aerospace companies which they will retain despite HMG’s decision to cut deeply, and the inequity of this for Australian industrial participants in the program is made obvious in his analysis.
Whatever one might think about the JSF program, the decisions by the UK government, and the issues highlighted in the two analyses in Ares, will require a lot more than the usual craven and unquestioning rhetoric of subservience that comes out of our Defence establishment in terms of this program.
The second development to arise in recent days which has the potential to pose immense challenges for Australia’s defence and security alliances in the broadest of terms is the meeting of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev for a few days by the seaside at Deauville.
A new alignment between the countries is discussed in this analysis by Stratfor, which it will email to you in full for free if you go to this link.
But here is a teaser, concerning a meeting that isn’t happening for fun.
The summit is being described by Western media as an opportunity for Russia to improve its relations with NATO, with Paris and Berlin lending a hand toward the reconciliation between Moscow and the West.
In a way, the press on the summit is correct: The summit is ultimately about the West’s relationship with Russia. Unfortunately for the United States, Central Europeans, the United Kingdom, and a large part of Europe’s firmly pro-U.S. countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, it’s about the West as defined by Paris and Berlin — which is to say … Paris and Berlin.
Golly. Just image all those Sukhois in the colours of the Armée de l’Air and the Luftwaffe!