As the battle for Tripoli looms, France has begun air-dropping assault rifles, machine guns, RPGs and even Milan anti-tank missiles to rebels in the mountains south of the Libyan capital.
Whether this fits U.N. Resolution 1973 is a serious debate, with France insisting that it is simply arming civilians to protect themselves, Britain remaining neutral and the African Union condemning the move.
The front line is as close as 40 miles from Tripoli, as rebels gradually make gains against dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
One of the under-reported kinds of smuggling may turn out to be one of the deadliest. In the small former Soviet republic of Moldova, uranium smuggling is a worrying reminder of the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Six men were arrested in Moldova trying to sell 1.8 kilograms of uranium-238 either to an African country or an African national. Four were identified as Moldovan while the other two were said to have from the breakaway province of Trans-Dniester, which has led the Moldovan government to accuse the Trans-Dniester authorities of arms smuggling.
Days after service chiefs went public over concerns about funding and overstretch, British Defense Minister Liam Fox and Prime Minister David Cameron have proposed deep reform of the MoD itself. The reforms include the elimination of all but one military officer on the MoD’s highest committee, the defense board, plus removing most of the top “four-star” jobs and an overall 25-percent cut to the MoD’s 85,000 strong workforce. The overall uniformed strength of the British Army stands at just over 100,000.
While all three services will now be represented by only one person on the defense board, chiefs will have more control over their budgets and procurement — a measure meant to reduce the vicious infighting over money that has gone on within Britain’s armed forces over the past decade.
France’s top brass have echoed outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ warning that cutbacks in military spending may threaten the future of NATO.
Jean-Francois Bureau, inspector general of France’s military, warned of an “imbalance” between America’s defense capabilities and those of Europe, saying that “it is not sustainable in the long run.”
Britain and France have indicated a third way between increased spending and dissolving NATO altogether: by co-operating more on defense programs and procurement.