US Wants Increased NATO Spending, Makes Its Case By Threatening French Bank with $10B Fine
- Eliot Engel [D-NY], Ranking Member of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and 2 other congressmen wrote last week to NATO’s Secretary General, urging the alliance to buy France’s 2 Vladivostok (Mistral) Class LHD ships as a pooled asset, instead of selling them to Russia. The idea makes sense on paper because it fills a critical gap. But the lawmakers’ obliviousness to France’s position, and to the reality of European defense budgets, is stereotypically American – in a bad way.
- Things have gotten worse since Engel sent this letter, as a looming $10B fine (an officious number first reported last week by the WSJ) against BNP Paribas, France’s biggest bank, is now dominating the bilateral agenda between France and the US. The amount of money at stake dwarfs the Mistral contract or any sanctions enacted against Russia so far, and while the French don’t dispute the grounds for a fine, they find its amount widely disproportionate. Here’s how the Editor in Chief of Les Echos, France’s leading financial newspaper, covers it [in French]:
“When America loses her mind – This is a declaration of war. An unprecedented blow against transatlantic relationships based on trust and common values.”
- Poland’s Foreign Affairs minister Radoslaw Sikorski told Le Monde [in French] that the Mistral delivery to Russia shouldn’t proceed, but he didn’t offer an alternative. France is sticking to its position that it has to meet its contractual obligations.
- The Finns may have 60+ F/A-19C/D Hornets in their inventory, but maintaining constant vigil isn’t easy. Recent Russian incursions have left Finnish fighters unable to respond in a timely way. (We’re waiting for the viral video.) One idea: NATO had contingency plans to arm Hawk trainers for air policing, and Finland owns some.
- Yesterday’s lead Pentagon award: up to $9.9B to Northrop Grumman for B-2 modernization and sustainment.
- L-3 Communications is suing Serco Inc., claiming that Serco supported a new subcontractor created by a former L-3 employee using L-3’s intellectual property, in order to provide High Altitude Electro-MagneticPulse (HEMP) equipment to the US Air Force.
Assessing Sergeant Bergdahl’s Release
- Disturbing revelations are piling up regarding President Obama’s release without notification of 5 Taliban commanders, which was strenuously opposed by DNI James Clapper and CIA head Leon Panetta in 2012. The White House reportedly kept intelligence out of the loop this time. In exchange, the USA got Sgt. Bowe/”Abdullah” Bergdahl. Reports of his behavior conflict. Six US soldiers died looking for him after he appears to have deserted his post, and he may have actively helped the Taliban kill his fellow soldiers.
- The law also requires 30 days notice before high-level detainees are released from Guantanamo Bay – but there was none.
- The Taliban released a video of the handover.
US Navy Meets Small Businesses
- Today’s video wraps up the 1st day of this year’s Navy Opportunity Forum in Crystal City, VA: