Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 21 April – Sunday 28 April:

On Monday, in a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to quickly provide “significant new security assistance packages to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield and air defence needs” as soon as he signs the National Security Act, 2024, which was passed on Saturday by the House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate advanced and then passed the $95.3 billion National Security Act, 2024, which provides funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Funding for Ukraine will total $60.7 billion, of which $23 billion will be used by the U.S. to replenish military stockpiles that have previously been sent to Ukraine. Another $14bn would go to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, in which the Pentagon buys advanced new weapon systems for the Ukrainian military directly from US defence contractors. $11 billion will go towards funding current U.S. military operations in the region as well as military and intelligence training and collaboration between Kiev and Washington. $8 billion will be spent on non-military assistance like paying Ukrainian government salaries. It’s unclear what effect this funding will have on the battlefield, or whether sufficient volumes of weapons will be delivered to change Ukraine’s fortunes in this war. $8.1 billion goes for Indo-Pacific (Taiwan) spending, $3.3 billion of which will be spent on building the submarine industrial base in the U.S. $2.1 will be spent on submarine purchases. Another $2bn of funding in the aid package will go towards the foreign military financing program for Taiwan and other security partners in the Indo-Pacific, who the US says are “confronting Chinese aggression.” A further $1.9bn will go towards defence-related expenses provided to Taiwan and other regional partners, while $542m will specifically strengthen US military capabilities in the region. This is staggeringly little money spent to deter America’s greatest strategic rival and only true near-peer competitor, in the face of massive enlargement of the Chinese military. 

On Tuesday, the U.K. announced increased defence spending of £75 billion over the next six years, which will increase defence spending to 2.5 % of GDP by the end of this decade. The announcement, made by Prime Minster Rishi Sunak during a trip to Poland, said the increased spending is the “biggest strengthening of our national defence for a generation,” which “sets a new standard for other major European NATO economies to follow.” Sunak, alongside NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, said now was not “the moment for complacency,” and “we can’t keep thinking America will pay any price or bear any burden if we are unwilling to make sacrifices for our own security.” Sunak insisted the defence spending would not require spending cuts or tax rises and will bring the U.K.’s annual defence spending to £87 billion in 2030-31. Included in the package is a extra £10 billion over ther the next decade on munitions production and “radical” reforms of Britain’s defence procurement procedures. The British government is also vowing a new “Defence Innovation Agency” to boost military research and development. “Today is a turning point for European security and a landmark moment in the defense of the United Kingdom,” Sunak said. This is not particularly impressive and marks only a slight increase in what is a long downward trend. Reversing the British Military’s loss of capability will require far more funding than 2.5%.

UK defence spending between 1955 and 2012.

In the same trip, Sunak announced details of a £500 million ($620 million) military package for Ukraine, which will take the overall total of UK military aid to Ukraine to £3 billion ($3.71bn) in the current financial year. The new package will fund ammunition, air defences, drones and engineering support. The government said the drones “will be procured in the UK and the funds will support a scale-up in domestic defence supply chains”. What the UK is calling its “largest ever single package of equipment” will also include 60 boats and more than 1,600 attack and defence missiles as well as Storm Shadow long-range, precision-guided missiles. More than 400 vehicles, including 162 armoured vehicles, will also be delivered as well as 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition. “Defending Ukraine against Russia’s brutal ambitions is vital for our security and for all of Europe. If Putin is allowed to succeed in this war of aggression, he will not stop at the Polish border,” Sunak said.

On Tuesday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu warned Russia would ramp up strikes on Western arms in Ukraine, in anticipation of American weapons which will soon arrive in Ukraine. “We will increase the intensity of attacks on logistics centers and storage bases for Western weapons,” Shoigu said. The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed it has destroyed more than 22,000 Ukrainian uncrewed aerial vehicles, 3,500 HIMARS rockets and 600 missiles since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. By comparison, Russia is on track to produce 3.5 million artillery rounds in 2024 and might be able to surge to produce 4.5 million by the end of the year. NATO officials believe Russian missile production is around 115 to 130 per month and 300 to 350 Shahed drones per month. 

The same day, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov was arrested on corruption charges. Ivanov subsequently appeared in court in military uniform, even though arrested generals are typically tried in civilian clothing to avoid tarnishing the image of the armed forces. Ivanov, a central figure in a powerful clan led by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, was arrested without the usual public display of evidence, suggesting a hasty and strategic move by his rivals within the government. This incident marks a break from the unwritten rule that top officials, especially those associated with significant clans, are immune from such crackdowns. It indicates a broader erosion of traditional norms among the elites, driven by the uncertain future and the ongoing war, which prevents long-term planning and promotes aggressive power struggles. The arrest not only threatens the stability of Shoigu’s faction but also reflects a decreasing reliance on President Putin’s ability to mediate conflicts, suggesting a more chaotic and rule-free struggle for power within the Russian state apparatus.

On Wednesday, President Biden signed the National Security Act, 2024, saying the weapons would begin to flow “within hours.” Biden said the foreign aid package would strengthen national security. “It’s going to make the world safer,” he said. “And it continues America’s leadership in the world, and everyone knows it.” 

On Wednesday, following the passage of the national security supplemental, the U.S. Department of Defence announced a new (and separate) military aid package for Ukraine valued at $1 billion. This package was authorised under the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to send military supplies and services from the Department of Defense to foreign countries in emergency situations. The package includes including air defence interceptors, artillery rounds, armoured vehicles, and anti-tank weapons. 

On Wednesday, U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Shanghai and Beijing, for meetings with President Xi Jinping, Director of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Foreign Affairs Commission and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong, and Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Jining. 

On Thursday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on 16 entities and eight individuals, as well as identifying as blocked property five vessels and one aircraft, that have facilitated illicit trade and the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in support of Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) and the regime’s UAV development and procurement.  The UK and Canada also imposed sanctions on entities and individuals involved in Iranian UAV procurement. Among today’s targets is Sahara Thunder, a key front company for MODAFL’s illicit financing and a central player in Iran’s design, development, manufacture, and sale of thousands of UAVs, many of which have ultimately been transferred to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine. Based on the track record of sanctions against both Iran and Russia, these new sanctions will most likely have little impact. 

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned in a speech given at Sorbonne University in Paris – where he made his first speech on Europe’s destiny as a freshly-elected president in 2017 – that Europe is at risk of demise if it does not take bold action as a bloc to tackle American and Chinese economic protectionism and become militarily independent amid global geopolitical threats. Some selected quotes:

  • “Europe is mortal, it can die. It only depends on our choices. And these choices have to be made now.”
  • “The era of basing our production in China, of delegating our defence to the U.S., and of getting our energy from Russia is over. The rules of the game have changed.”
  • “However strong our alliance with America is, we are not a priority for them.””They have two priorities: themselves — fair enough — and China.”

Macron laid out his vision for a strong and independent Europe – a Europe which should aim to be a world leader in Artificial Intelligence by 2030, with “dedicated financing strategies” in five strategic areas: artificial intelligence, quantum information, space, biotechnologies and new energies. Macron called for “a growth objective, or even an objective of decarbonisation” to be added to the missions of the European Central Bank. “We can’t have a monetary policy whose only objective is one of inflation [control],” he said. Macron also called for a “revision” of Europe’s trade policy, to “defend our interests.” “It can’t work if we are the only ones in the world to respect trade rules that were written 15 years ago, when the Chinese, the Americans, no longer respect them in subsidizing critical areas,” he said, adding that Europe must systematically resort to “instruments of loyal competition.” To respond to Europe’s massive new needs in terms of defence, the French president invited Europeans to build “a European defence initiative” that “might include an anti-missile European shield,” an ongoing bone of contention between France and Germany. Macron also pleaded in favour of imposing “a European preference” in the purchase of military equipment, arguing that too much EU money was being spent on non-European manufacturers. It was a nice speech, but considering that many of these issues were apparent in 2017 and having done little to change Europe’s course in that time, Macron’s pronouncements should be greeted with skepticism. Europe cannot regulate its way out of strategic irrelevancy. 

On Friday, a delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials visited Israel and conducted talks with representatives of the Shin Bet, IDF and Mossad about the hostage deal and the Rafah operation, Israeli officials said. The Israeli officials said the talks with the Egyptians on Friday were constructive and that the Egyptians made it clear they intend to put pressure on Hamas to secure a deal for the release of hostages. Israeli officials told their Egyptian counterparts that Israel is ready to give hostage negotiations with Hamas “one last chance” but would move ahead with an operation in Rafah if there is no progress in negotiations. This push for negotiations coming from the Egyptians is explained by their concerns that an Israeli operation in Rafah could lead to tens of thousands of Gazans breaching the Egyptian border and entering Egyptian territory. Egyptian officials naturally do not want this headache and financial burden. 

On Saturday, Hamas said it had received a response from Israel over its position on the ceasefire talks. “The movement will study this proposal, and upon completion of its study, it will submit its response,” it said in a statement.

On Sunday, Antony Blinken left the U.S. for a Middle East tour aimed at ending the war in Gaza. A few hours after Blinken’s departure, President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss the prospects of a possible cease-fire deal to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, while repeating his warnings about a new Israeli assault on city Rafah in southern Gaza, officials said. 

In the week ahead:

Saudi Arabia is hosting a three-day meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Leave a Reply