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UKRAINE UPDATE: 4 JUNE 2024

Norway military chief sees short window to boost Nato’s defences; US’s Harris to attend peace summit

Norway military chief sees short window to boost Nato’s defences; US’s Harris to attend peace summit
Norway's Defence Force Chief, Eirik Kristoffersen, says Nato has two to three years to prepare before Russia is able to carry out a conventional attack. (Photo: Per Ole Hagen / Getty Images)

Norway’s chief of defence said the Nato alliance had a window of two to three years to prepare before Russia rebuilt its ability to carry out a conventional attack.

Vice-President Kamala Harris will represent the US at the Ukraine summit in Switzerland later this month, confirming President Joe Biden’s plan to skip the gathering.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met his Philippine counterpart, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, in Manila on Monday, a day after the conclusion of a security summit where the two leaders delivered statements sharply critical of China.

Norway military chief sees short window to boost Nato’s defences

Norway’s chief of defence said the Nato alliance had a window of two to three years to prepare before Russia rebuilt its ability to carry out a conventional attack.

It’s a shorter time frame than some Western officials have estimated as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization discuss Russia’s ramp-up of military capacity and its ability to reconstitute forces while waging a full-scale war against Ukraine.

“At one point someone said it’ll take 10 years but I think we’re back to less than 10 years because of the industrial base that is now running in Russia,” General Eirik Kristoffersen (55) said in an interview in Oslo on Monday.

“It will take some time, which gives us a window now for the next two to three years to rebuild our forces, to rebuild our stocks at the same times as we are supporting Ukraine,” Kristoffersen said, while pointing out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public comments that he wasn’t interested in a war with Nato.

Norway, a Nato member since 1949, hasn’t seen a significant change in Russia’s “posture” on its border over the last year, including its neighbour’s nuclear forces and its Northern Fleet, while Russia’s land forces on the Kola Peninsula were “decimated” after taking heavy losses in Ukraine, Kristoffersen said.

Its parliament is still due to approve a plan to almost double defence spending over the next 12 years to adapt to threats from its neighbour, with a focus on naval and air defence capabilities.

Norway aims to reach its target for spending as part of the defence alliance — at 2% of gross domestic product — already in 2024, while a level of 2.7% of GDP is expected to be attained by 2030. Nato members have agreed on a more-than-2% expenditure goal.

Read more: Norway to nearly double defence spending by 2036

“I see a window now where we can meet the requirements that Nato has agreed on, new command structure, new force structures, the new regional plans,” he said. “So we can fulfil those plans and those decisions with content in the next years but we need to speed up. We need to do it in two to three years to make sure that we are ready for whatever might happen.”

Harris to attend Ukraine summit, with Biden booked for fundraiser

Vice-President Kamala Harris will represent the US at the Ukraine summit in Switzerland later this month, confirming President Joe Biden’s plan to skip the gathering.

Harris will travel to Lucerne, Switzerland on June 15 for the meeting, the White House said on Monday. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will join her at the summit.

“The Vice-President will underscore the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s effort to secure a just and lasting peace, based on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the principles of the UN Charter,” Kirsten Allen, Harris’s communications director, said in a statement.

Switzerland scheduled the meeting on the heels of the Group of Seven gathering this month in Italy. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly pressured Biden to attend the summit, where attendees will discuss Kyiv’s peace blueprint.

Biden, however, will attend the G7 meeting before leaving for home and a major fundraising event in Los Angeles with former President Barack Obama, as well as actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts. His attendance underscores the rising emphasis he’s putting on his reelection campaign against his predecessor, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has downplayed the impact of Biden not attending, saying the US was involved in the summit nonetheless and remained a staunch supporter of Ukraine.

About 70 countries will take part in the Swiss summit at some level, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited, and other countries are skipping, too, including China.

Beijing has long been seen as crucial to the process given its close relationship with Moscow. China and several other nations in the so-called Global South have pushed for Russia to be involved in the process. Ukraine and its allies don’t want to engage with Moscow until a set of principles that would define any future peace settlement are broadly agreed. The Swiss summit was originally envisioned as a first step toward that aim.

Zelensky, Marcos to boost ties after slamming China at summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met his Philippine counterpart, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, in Manila on Monday, a day after the conclusion of a security summit where the two leaders delivered statements sharply critical of China.

The two leaders discussed a Ukraine summit which will be held in Switzerland on 15-16 June, and Zelensky underscored the importance for Southeast Asian countries to be represented there.

“I am pleased that the Philippines will participate in the summit,” he said in a post on X. Marcos’ communications office confirmed that the Philippines would join the event, but was still finalising details.

“We will continue to do all that we can to promote peace and to bring an end to the fighting and to come to a political resolution of your country,” Marcos told Zelensky during their meeting, according to the Philippine president’s communications office.

The Ukraine leader’s visit to the Philippines followed his attendance at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday, where both he and Marcos delivered statements critical of China during the three-day annual defence summit.

Sudan’s deputy visits Russia with weapons-for-port deal on table

Sudan’s deputy leader is travelling to Russia for talks, days after the North African nation’s army said it may get weapons in exchange for letting the Kremlin establish a military fueling station on the Red Sea coast.

Former rebel leader Malik Agar will meet President Vladimir Putin to discuss Sudanese-Russian relations and ways to improve ties, according to a statement from Sudan’s military-backed government on Monday. The Sudanese ministers of finance, mining and foreign affairs are also on the several-day trip that includes attendance at an economic forum in St Petersburg, it said.

Russia has long coveted a foothold on Sudan’s 853km coastline, seeking to gain influence on one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors that lies south of the Suez Canal. Its navy officials also visited Sudan’s neighbour Eritrea in April to discuss deepening ties in the defence, security and mining industries.

Sudan’s move is likely to stoke Western concern about Russia’s growing profile in Africa, where Moscow has also forged tight relations with governments in Mali and the Central African Republic. The initiative comes as the Sudanese military strives to regain swathes of territory lost to the Rapid Support Forces militia in a civil war that erupted in April 2023 and may have killed as many as 150,000 people.

Russia said to be seeking French-held uranium assets in Niger

Russia is seeking to take over uranium assets in Niger held by a state-controlled French company, according to people informed about the matter, in a further challenge to Western interests in Africa.

Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear company, has had contacts with Niger’s military-led authorities about acquiring assets held by France’s Orano, according to a person in Moscow familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. A Western diplomat based in the region said talks were probably centred around mining permits. Niger accounted for about 4% of global uranium mine production in 2022, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Following a coup last July that ousted the west African nation’s Western-allied leader, Niger is the latest in a string of African countries, almost all military-ruled, that have forged closer security ties with Russia. That’s opened the way for Moscow to seek access to mining interests as it tries to revive its Soviet-era presence in Africa, in particular by exploiting widespread resentment of France’s decades-old influence in its former colonies.

“Russia has been stepping up its economic, diplomatic, and military links in Africa, including after the Niger coup, and they see this part of the world as a strategic investment opportunity,” said Mark Hibbs, a Berlin-based nuclear analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Hand in hand, Rosatom has been diversifying its uranium investments in Africa.”

Russian oil finds new site for controversial cargo switching

Under pressure from Greece’s navy, traders of Russian oil have found a new place to switch cargoes of crude in the Mediterranean sea, a sign of how hard it will be to clamp down on an activity that has alarmed regulators and European governments alike.

Tankers hauling Russia’s flagship grade Urals are in the midst of transferring it from smaller tankers onto a larger one near the city of Nador at the eastern end of Morocco’s coast on the Mediterranean, ship-tracking data gathered by Bloomberg show. Since last month, Greece’s navy has been holding naval exercises in a location where the trade had been taking place in a attempt to deter it.

The new location is close to the Spanish-run enclave Melilla, raising the prospect that Madrid might repeat steps it took to block similar activity 200km to the west, near its other enclave Ceuta. Those measures ultimately stopped the practice.

Russian bots use fake Tom Cruise for Olympic disinformation

A pro-Russian propaganda effort is using artificial intelligence as part of a vast operation to suggest that violence is likely to occur at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, according to Microsoft  findings released on Sunday.

One disinformation group used fake AI-generated audio to make it appear as if actor Tom Cruise had narrated a video titled Olympics Has Fallen, modelled after the 2013 action movie Olympus Has Fallen, researchers found. The video, which spread in the fall of 2023, presented itself as a Netflix documentary, including the use of Netflix’s signature introduction that the company uses on all of its streaming videos.

The video also included falsified endorsements from well-known media outlets including the New York Times and the BBC.

In fact, the influence campaign was the work of a pro-Russian propaganda group that Microsoft calls Storm-1679, the company said. The video represented one example of a rapidly growing pool of suspected Russian operators who are working now to denigrate the image of the Olympics and France, the Games’ host country, after the International Olympic Committee prohibited Russian athletes from competing under the country’s flag.

In addition to disinformation, hackers probably began first probing IT systems linked to the Games for weaknesses about a year ago and then began ramping up actual attacks four months before the Games to try and disrupt them.

The aim of the Russian-affiliated groups appears to be to deter people from attending the games, according to the report. Microsoft’s researchers said they expected the activity would intensify ahead of the July kickoff, with the Russian groups adding additional languages and harnessing generative artificial intelligence to expand their reach. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Gareth Searle says:

    “peace” summit = lets make sure we have enough of an armory
    i got no time for putin, but lets call it what it is

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