DEFENSE: UK Defence Secretary Worried About Rising Instability in Africa, Middle East

March 11, 2015 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

Failing States.

UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon (Ministry of Defence photo)

UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon
(Ministry of Defence photo)

Since he became Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence last July, Michael Fallon has seen Libya dissolve into chaos and threaten southern Europe with waves of refugees and potential terrorist attacks. There’s also been the shootdown of a Malaysian airliner carrying many Europeans over Ukraine … the rising threat of the Islamic State to Syria, Iraq and the West … and continued Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Baltics.

But the thing that has most surprised him so far is “the number of states that look to be on the brink of failing,” he told a Washington think tank audience Wednesday (March 11).

Fallon, a member of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet, said he’s worried about “the instability across great swathes of Africa and the Middle East.”

Nearly four years after a NATO air campaign led to the overthrow of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddaffi, the country has been torn by civil war, become a training ground for insurgents across North Africa and the Levant and also served as a haven for terrorists — including those that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in 2012.

Fallon said Western governments and their partners in the region have got to “redouble efforts to drive some sort of political settlement” among Libya’s warring factions.

On other security issues, Fallon said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward former Soviet Union states that are now NATO members — like all three Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — have left those governments feeling “very exposed.”

Last week (March 6) the Defence Ministry announced it was sending a shipment of non-lethal equipment to Ukraine, including helmets, first aid kits GPS units and helmet-mounted night vision goggles. “NATO needs to make clear to President Putin that we will react … to defend any member of NATO that is attacked,” Fallon said.

On the pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine, Fallon reminded the audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that the former Soviet republic is not a NATO member. There “can’t be a military solution” alone for this crisis, Fallon said. But for a political solution to work “we need reassurances” from Russia and Russian-backed rebels that they will honor the ceasefire terms of the Minsk agreement, Fallon said.

A Russian bomber photographed from a Royal Air Force jet off the coast of Britain in October 2014.  (Sac Robyn Stewart/British Ministry of Defence photo)

A Russian Bear long-range bomber photographed from a Royal Air Force jet off the coast of Britain in October 2014.
(Sac Robyn Stewart/British Ministry of Defence photo)

He was asked about numerous Russian military flights — including the flight of two Russian bombers over the English Channel — that have led the Royal Air Force to scramble jets to escort the Russian planes away from Britain.

While none of those Russian jets have actually entered UK airspace, there has been no response from the Russian pilots, no radio or transponder communication at all. “We see that as Russia’s testing our response,” said Fallon, adding the radio-silent flights are “provocative and frankly, they’re dangerous.”

Fallon and new U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will be meeting for the first time later in the day at the Pentagon.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Aircraft, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Technology, Washington, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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