October 2016 – UNITED KINGDOM – The headquarters (HQ) of NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) began Exercise ‘Trident Juncture 16’ (‘TJ16’) at Royal Air Force (RAF) St. Mawgan in Cornwall on 24 October. The exercise, which lasts 10 days, is a major command post exercise that will certify HQ ARRC as a NATO Land Forces HQ in advance of it assuming the role as part of the NATO Response Force (NRF) 2017.
‘TJ16’ is also testing the NATO Joint Force Command HQ in Naples in preparation for it assuming the role as HQ of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) 2017. HQ ARRC, for which the United Kingdom is the framework nation, will provide the Land Component Command of VJTF 17.
Russia: Meanwhile, concerns about government stability ahead of the 2018 presidential election are driving Vladimir Putin into reforms of Russia’s security apparatus. Mark Galeotti surveys changes that could substantially re-orient Moscow’s internal security and espionage posture. –Janes
Spain incurs NATO members’ ire: Spain is facing international anger as it apparently prepares to refuel a flotilla of Russian warships due to step up strikes against the beleaguered city of Aleppo. Politicians and military figures condemned the support from a NATO member, while the head of the alliance indicated Madrid should rethink the pit stop.
Warships from an eight-strong group led by the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will take on fuel and supplies from the port of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, after passing through the Straits of Gibraltar on Wednesday morning, Spanish papers reported. NATO officials expect the flotilla to then sail onward to the eastern Mediterranean and escalate air strikes on the only major rebel-help city remaining in Syria, where 275,000 people are trapped. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said the carrier group, which passed through the English Channel last week, could be used to bomb civilians in the city.
He said: “It’s for each nation to decide whether these ships can get supplies and be fueled in different harbors along the route towards the eastern Mediterranean. “But at the same time we are concerned, and I have expressed that very clearly, about the potential use of this battle group to increase Russia’s ability and to be a platform for air strikes against Syria. “This is something I have conveyed very clearly before and I repeat those concerns today. I believe that all NATO allies are aware this battle group can be used to conduct air strikes against Aleppo and Syria.”
Spain regularly refuels Russian warships at the North African port, which it says is not covered by NATO treaties. At least 60 Russian military craft have made technical stops at the Spanish enclave since April 2010, when the naval base was opened up to serve ships from other nations. Sir Gerald Howarth MP, a former Defense Minister, said it would be “wholly inappropriate” for a NATO member to refuel the Russian vessels. Lord West, a former head of the Royal Navy, added: “There are sanctions against Russia and it’s an extraordinary thing for a NATO ally to do.” –Telegraph