November 2010


Europe’s leading drone manufacturers have joined forces in yet another EU-funded R&D project on the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or ‘drones’. The OPARUS project brings together Sagem, BAE Systems, Finmeccanica, Thales, EADS, Dassault Aviation, ISDEFE, Israel Aircraft Industries and others to “elaborate an open architecture for the operation of unmanned air-to-ground wide area land and sea border surveillance platforms in Europe”. The consortium has received €11.8 million in EU funding.

Meanwhile IPS reports that FRONTEX has invited expressions of interest in a tender to demonstrate “Small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and Fixed systems for Land border surveillance”.

Another article, by Dave Cronin, reports that the European Defence Agency (EDA) has now launched the SIGAT project (Study on the Insertion of UAS in the General Air Traffic), featuring EADS, Sagem, BAE and Dassault (see also previous post on the EDA’s drone programme).

Finally, Cronin’s article also notes that Sagem has entered into a “joint venture” with Elbit, the Israeli company which manufactured some of the most lethal weaponry ever used in Gaza.

Few people make the case against excessive security and defence expenditure quite as well as Simon Jenkins.

Here he is describing the British government’s new National Security Strategy (A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty):

“…one of the most bizarre documents to emerge from the ectoplasm of the MoD. It was a paranoid’s manifesto, a Matrix movie horror. Admittedly, the authors had a tough job. There is no Wehrmacht hovering across the Channel, no Napoleonic Grande Armée massing at Calais and no megaton missile with itchy communist fingers pointing at Britain. So how on earth were they to justify £45bn? They decided, in their tidy way, to group various so-called threats into three tiers of seriousness.

The first tier contains four threats, like a Russian doll. Number one, presumably the greatest, is “attacks on British cyberspace by states and cyber-criminals”. The second is international terrorism. The third is a “military crisis” between other states, one that “draws in” Britain. The last is “a major accident or natural hazard that requires a national response,” such as coastal flooding or flu.

The second tier of threats comprise “an attack from another state using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons”. Next come “instability, insurgency or civil war overseas,” that affect us by somehow “creating an environment that terrorists can exploit to threaten Britain”. In other words terrorism again. Next is a big rise in organised crime. Next is “severe disruption to satellite-based information, possibly deliberate from another state”. This is a repeat of the cyberspace threat.

Lastly we have the third tier of threats, the least serious. The first is “a large-scale conventional military attack on Britain” by an unspecified other state. The second, somewhat desperately, is terrorism again, the third is crime again. The authors clearly ran out of threats, but had to fill their threat quota. We are also threatened by immigrants and smugglers “trying to cross the UK border”. We are “threatened” by an accident at a nuclear site; by a conventional attack on a Nato ally, and by an attack on a British colony. Finally, we face a curious bundle of threats: fuel shortages, price instability, and “a short- to medium-term disruption to international supplies or resources”.

You may note that almost none of the above is a threat. They are crimes and catastrophes or, in the case of being “drawn in” to a foreign conflict, a matter of political choice. Many things on the list may make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but few are remotely to do with the security of the state. They are incoherent and repetitive and rather desperate, like a madman with a sandwich board crying, “They are coming to get you; the end is nigh!”

Yet this list was the basis for last month’s strategic defence review with its £45bn price tag. A set of threats that are almost entirely non-military is to be met by submarines carrying nuclear missiles, two new aircraft carriers and dozens of jet fighters.”

You can read the full-text of the article, which appeared recently in the Guardian, here. The UK National Security Strategy should be read in conjunction with Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review.

The Quaker Council for European Affairs has published a briefing paper on “Security Co-operation between the EU and Israel” (pdf) – a topic that features regularly on this blog (see Israel posts).

The report makes the following policy recommendations:

  • Dual use technology, security and military research should be clearly separated from the other research areas. Industries working in the military sector should not have access to other research funds.
  • Israeli industries that profit from the occupation in Palestine should not be eligible to apply for EU funding. Israel is able to control the Palestinian territories thanks to its military supremacy which depends on the hardware and software provided by its homeland security.
  • Cut the funds for unmanned vehicles. UAV are currently banned in the European skies because of possible dangers to regular air traffic. Furthermore Israeli UAVs have been used indiscriminately against civilians during the Gaza War and therefore the EU should not subsidise Israeli UAV producers.

Ben Hayes of Statewatch will be giving evidence on EU subsidies for Israeli Homeland Security companies to the London session of the Russel Tribunal on Palestine on the 21st November 2010.

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