Russia flexes military might with naval exercises in Mediterranean

Updated 20 January 2013

Russia flexes military might with naval exercises in Mediterranean

MOSCOW: Russia said it started its largest naval exercises in years over the weekend, in war games analysts said would let it flex its military muscle and underline its interest in Syria, where Moscow has a Mediterranean base.
At least eight warships from Russia’s Northern, Baltic and Black Sea fleets were taking part in the maneuvers in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the defense ministry said.
The announcement did not mention Syria, but Andrei Frolov, a naval expert at Moscow military think-tank CAST, said last week the drill was probably meant to remind the West of Russia’s links to Syria, where it has repeatedly argued against outside intervention in an uprising.
Russia has been Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main foreign protector during a 22-month revolt against his rule and also his biggest arms supplier.
Moscow leases a naval maintenance and supply facility at the Syrian port of Tartous. Two Russian ships heading for the naval exercise picked up munitions on their way to Tartous, news agencies reported on Thursday.
The exercises, which also involved other support craft and long-range aircraft, were the biggest of its kind since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian officials have said.
They would run until Jan. 29, the defense ministry said in a statement late on Saturday.
The exercise also comes as Russia aims to increase its naval presence, as earlier this month it inaugurated the first of a new class of submarine it will rely upon for decades as a bulwark of its strategic nuclear force.
President Vladimir Putin vowed to rebuild Russia’s sea power after a period of shrinkage following the 1991 Soviet collapse.


EU warns of ‘challenging’ timeframe for UK trade deal

Updated 13 December 2019

EU warns of ‘challenging’ timeframe for UK trade deal

  • EU is concerned about the rapid speed with which Johnson would like to strike a trade deal with Europe
  • Johnson has until July 1 to request for a trade talks extension

BRUSSELS: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday warned of the tight timing for securing a trade deal with Britain, hours after Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won a crushing election victory.
“The time frame ahead of us is very challenging,” von der Leyen said, following a discussion by EU leaders on the way forward after Brexit, now expected on January 31.
On the “first of February, we go to work,” she said.
EU Council President Charles Michel warned that the 27 member states would not accept a deal blindly, stressing that the bloc would insist that Britain respect European norms to win the deal.
“There is no question of concluding a deal at any price, said Michel, who coordinates EU summits, after the talks.
“Negotiations are over when the results are balanced and guarantee respect for the different concerns,” the former Belgian premier said.
“We have a way of doing things based on experience, transparency and maintaining unity” in the EU, he added.
EU is worried about the breakneck speed with which Johnson would like to strike a trade deal with Europe and any British effort to undermine the unity among the remaining 27 members.
In a text released after the talks, the 27 EU leaders called for “as close as possible a future relationship with the UK” while warning that it “will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations and ensure a level playing field.”
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will direct trade negotiations, which the leaders will follow closely “and provide further guidance as necessary, fully consistent with the EU’s best interest,” conclusions added.
Johnson has until July 1 to ask for a trade talks extension.
If he refuses to extend the negotiation period, a no-deal Brexit will loom at the end of 2020, with Britain in danger of an abrupt cut in trade ties with Europe, endangering its economy.