Putin’s war games plot as China and Iran to join Russian military troops – West on alert

China’s defence ministry announced Friday it would conduct the “Caucus 2020” military drills alongside Russia and Iran. According to China’s state-run the Global Times, Beijing hopes to use the joint drills with Russia as a way to strengthen diplomatic and strategic co-operation between Moscow and Beijing. The military drills that are causing anxiety in the West will run throughout next week.

The team-up of the Eurasian armies will also include forces from Armenia, Belarus, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

The close ties of Russia and China have stoked anxiety from NATO and from India.

India, which also has close military ties with Russia, has withdrawn from the upcoming drills due to its ongoing disputes with both China and Pakistan.

The Indian defence ministry attributed their decision to logistical “difficulties”.

The drills will further alienate New Delhi and provide more grounds for strengthening US-India ties.

However, India has been accused of “childishness” by Beijing based military expert Li Jie.

Speaking to Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times, Li said that “India showed its childishness in quitting because of China, and that it feared China’s presence could eclipse its role.”

The planned exercises have heightened tensions in the fragile power balance of world powers.

JUST IN: Beijing warns ‘US spy planes posing as as airliners ‘serious threat’

China has plans to send its elite troops from its Western Command division to the strategic military exercise.

Russia has recently been expanding its military strength.

In November Moscow ordered the deployment of an unprecedented number of submarines from its Northern Fleet.

These included sea trials of its newest Yasen-class submarine, the Kazen, a 13,800 tonne nuclear boat, which will eventually carry 40 Kailbr-M cruise missiles.



Putin’s masterplan? China and Iran to join Russian military troops – West on alert

China’s defence ministry announced Friday it would conduct the “Caucus 2020” military drills alongside Russia and Iran. According to China’s state-run the Global Times, Beijing hopes to use the joint drills with Russia as a way to strengthen diplomatic and strategic co-operation between Moscow and Beijing. The military drills that are causing anxiety in the West will run throughout next week.

The team-up of the Eurasian armies will also include forces from Armenia, Belarus, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

The close ties of Russia and China have stoked anxiety from NATO and from India.

India, which also has close military ties with Russia, has withdrawn from the upcoming drills due to its ongoing disputes with both China and Pakistan.

The Indian defence ministry attributed their decision to logistical “difficulties”.

The drills will further alienate New Delhi and provide more grounds for strengthening US-India ties.

However, India has been accused of “childishness” by Beijing based military expert Li Jie.

Speaking to Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times, Li said that “India showed its childishness in quitting because of China, and that it feared China’s presence could eclipse its role.”

The planned exercises have heightened tensions in the fragile power balance of world powers.

JUST IN: Beijing warns ‘US spy planes posing as as airliners ‘serious threat’

China has plans to send its elite troops from its Western Command division to the strategic military exercise.

Russia has recently been expanding its military strength.

In November Moscow ordered the deployment of an unprecedented number of submarines from its Northern Fleet.

These included sea trials of its newest Yasen-class submarine, the Kazen, a 13,800 tonne nuclear boat, which will eventually carry 40 Kailbr-M cruise missiles.



Boris under attack: Scotland and Wales join forces to launch full scale assault on PM

Mark Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff there had only been “one brief phone call” with Mr Johnson since May 28, which he described as “simply unacceptable”.

He added: “All of these issues need to be discussed at a UK level by the four governments, working together, but as far too often in this crisis that opportunity has not been there.”

Nicola Sturgeon also echoed calls during her briefing when asked about Mr Drakeford’s remarks. 

Express.co.uk has also learnt that Scottish Government officials have been calling for more engagement from Boris Johnson over COVID-19 as relations between Holyrood and Westminster break down over the UK internal market Bill. 

 



Robot dogs join US Air Force exercise giving glimpse at potential battlefield of the future

Emerging from United States Air Force planes, four-legged robot dogs scampered onto an airfield in the Mojave Desert, offering a possible preview into the future of warfare.

But the exercise conducted last week, one of the US military’s largest ever high-tech experiments, wasn’t a movie set.

Flying into a possibly hostile airstrip aboard an Air Force C-130, the robot dogs were sent outside the aircraft to scout for threats before the humans inside would be exposed to them, according to an Air Force news release dated September 3.

The electronic canines are just one link in what the US military calls the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). It uses artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics to detect and counter threats to US military assets in space and possible attacks on the US homeland with missiles or other means.
A Ghost Robotics Vision 60 prototype operates at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on September 3.

Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said on a future battlefield, soldiers will face “a dizzying array of information” to assess and will need to rely on data synthesis done in nanoseconds to fight effectively.

“Valuing data as an essential warfighting resource, one no less vital than jet fuel or satellites, is the key to next-gen warfare,” Roper said in an Air Force news release on the ABMS exercise.

The latest ABMS exercise, from August 31 to September 3, involved every branch of the US military, including the Coast Guard, plus dozens of teams from industry, and used 30 locations around the country.

Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada was one of those, and that’s where the robot dogs came into the mix.

“The dogs give us visuals of the area, all while keeping our defenders closer to the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Lee Boston, a member of the Devil Raiders, the nickname for the Air Force’s 621st Contingency Response Group, said in the Air Force release.

US Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Rodiguez provides security with a Ghost Robotics Vision 60 prototype during an exercises on Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The dogs are called Vision 60 UGVs, or “autonomous unmanned ground vehicles” by their manufacturer, Ghost Robotics of Philadelphia.

It touts their ability to operate in any terrain or environment while being adaptable to carrying an array of sensors and radios on, for a dog robot, a fairly simple platform.

“A core design principle for our legged robots is reduced mechanical complexity when compared to any other legged robots, and even traditional wheeled-tracked UGVs,” the company’s website says.

A Ghost Robotics Vision 60 unit operates with a US Air Force sergeant during an exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

“By reducing complexity, we inherently increase durability, agility and endurance,” it says. “Our Q-UGVs are unstoppable.”

And in the US military of the future, they may be a vital component of what an Air Force release calls the “kill chain.”

“We are exploring how to use … ABMS to link sensors to shooters across all battlespaces, at speed and under threat. Maturing these concepts and capabilities is necessary to fight and win in the information age,” Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations, said in an Air Force release.

“Our warfighters and combatant commands must fight at internet speeds to win,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr.

PMQs LIVE: Boris in firing line as OWN MPs join Brexit backlash – Keir Starmer takes aim

Sir Keir hit out at the Prime Minister ahead of today’s debate at noon over his latest COVID-19 restrictions to limit social gatherings to six people as cases of the killer virus continue to rocket. Also on the agenda is Brexit, after Mr Johnson was hit with criticism over controversial plans to override key elements of his Brexit deal with Brussels, in breach of international law.

MPs reacted angrily after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said on Tuesday that legislation to change the Withdrawal Agreement would go against international law in a “very specific and limited way”.

Ministers have argued the measures are necessary to ensure “damaging” tariffs are not imposed by “default” on goods travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland if negotiations with the EU on a free trade agreement fail.

But a series of senior Conservatives have expressed dismay, warning the move risks undermining Britain’s standing and reputation as an upholder of international law.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said that if the Government went through with the changes to the agreement – which secured the UK’s departure from the EU in January – it would “lose the moral high ground”.

While Tom Tugendhat, Tory chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, who said Britain had traditionally been the “chief exporter” of the rule of law around the world.

“We have been the single pillar of dependability in international negotiations… which has allowed others to prosper and indeed allowed us to prosper,” he told a British Foreign Policy Group think tank event on Tuesday.

“It’s not just about the law. Our entire economy is based on the perception that people have of the UK’s adherence to the rule of law.”

Sir Keir has urged Mr Johnson not to “reopen old wounds” and to get a trade deal with the EU as he criticised the Government’s admission it could break international law over Brexit as “wrong”.

The Labour leader called on the Prime Minister to return his attention to the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring negotiations with Brussels are successful.

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Brexit panic: Shinzo Abe’s resignation puts UK’s bid to join MAJOR trade bloc at risk

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced he will step down after a record seven years and eight months, citing ill-health after a recurrence of ulcerative colitis. Mr Abe made the announcement of his resignation in a news conference on Friday, in which he addressed his health after two recent hospital visits. The Japanese Prime Minister said he wanted to avoid causing problems to the government because of his worsening condition.

He said: “I have decided to step down from the post of the Prime Minister.

“I cannot be Prime Minister if I cannot make the best decisions for the people.”

Mr Abe declined to comment on who might replace him as LDP leader and Prime Minister.

The sudden resignation without a doubt sparks political uncertainty – and not just for Japan, as it could also put into question Britain’s membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

In 2018, the 65-year-old leader said Britain would be welcomed into CPTPP with “open arms” after it leaves the EU.

Mr Abe told the Financial Times that while the UK would lose its role as a gateway to Europe after Brexit, it would retain its “global strength”.

The CPTPP is a high-quality free trade agreement which binds together Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Chile and Brunei.

It covers nearly 14 percent of the global economy.

JUST IN: Poland ‘problematic member’ in EU’s fight for future

However, US participation was scrapped by President Donald Trump on his third day in office.

With the US having shunned the dream of a trading bloc that would have accounted for 40 percent of world trade, it was Japan that took the lead in making the TPP a reality.

Mr Abe’s successor might not be as eager as he was to welcome the UK into the free trade area.



Turkey-Greece crisis: Four EU nations to join military exercise – angry Erdogan fires back

France, Greece, Italy and Cyprus will deploy forces to the Mediterranean following the ongoing maritime dispute between Athens and Ankara. Relations between Greece and Turkey have become volatile following the discovery of large gas reserves in the disputed waters.

Tensions erupted this month, after Ankara sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel near to the location of hydrocarbon resources – a move Athens branded illegal.

According to a Greek military source, two vessels from Athens and Ankara collided during the heated dispute.

The Greek Ministry of Defence confirmed news of the allied EU mission known as the Quadripartite Cooperation Initiative earlier this afternoon.

In a statement, the Ministry said: “Cyprus, Greece, France and Italy have agreed to deploy a joint presence in the eastern Mediterranean within the framework of the Quadripartite Cooperation Initiative.”

The military exercise will take place between August 26 and 28 in southern Crete and Cyprus.

In the wake of the marine dispute, Greece has announced plans to extend the western limit of its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 miles – an increase from the current six mile limit.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a bill on the matter would be submitted to parliament in the coming days.

The proposal to extend the boundary has promoted a furious response from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Erdogan has vowed to do whatever is necessary to obtain its rights in the Black Sea, Aegean and Mediterranean.

Mr Erdogan said: “We will not compromise over what belongs to us.

“We are determined to do whatever is necessary.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus map LIVE: Deaths and reinfections RISE 

Ms Parly said: “The eastern Mediterranean is turning into an area of tension.

“Respect for international law must be the rule and not the exception.”

The French politician added the region “should not be a playground for the ambitions of some”.

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)



Cuba join the race for vaccine against the coronavirus

For a long time, Cuba had been quite efficient in handling the pandemic. For the past couple of days, though, the Caribbean island has been reporting a rising number of people infected by the novel coronavirus.

This is why last week the government imposed a fresh lockdown for Havana. Restaurants and bars were closed again. Public transport ground to a halt and beaches were cordoned off. People believe that only an efficient vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 can bring long-term relief.

Cuban epidemiologist Francisco Duran announced on Tuesday that his country was working on such a vaccine. “Finding an efficient vaccine to fight COVID-19 is a top priority for our science and innovation system,” he said. The president of Cuban biotech firm BioCubaFarma,

Eduardo Martinez, added on Twitter that “a look at the nation’s Finlay Institute showed how much progress could be made in this field in a very short time.”

Cuba no stranger to vaccine research

The Finlay Institute is a state-run science center in Havana dedicated to research on and the production of vaccines. At the center of molecular immunology as well as of genetic engineering and biotechnology (CIGB), Cuban scientists are currently working on four potential vaccines, with testing already in an advanced phase, state media report.

“In the face of  the pandemic, we now have two priorities — to develop enough capacities for quick mass testing so as to be able to analyze the spread of the virus and develop specific vaccines to fight the disease in our country,” said Rolando Perez, director of Science and Innovation at BioCubaFarma. He didn’t provide any details.

Cubans wearing face masks

Cuban scientists are confident their nation can play a big role in finding and producing a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2

According to the director of Biomedical Research at CIGB, Gerardo Guillen, Cuban research is focused “on developing vaccines using virus-resembling particles that are potentially able to activate and strengthen people’s immune system.”

As an example, he cited a therapeutic vaccine developed in Cuba and meant to fight chronic hepatitis B. Globally, it was the first vaccine against a chronic infectious disease that was administered through the nose.

“Now that we’re again talking about a respiratory disease [COVID-19], we believe that immunizing the mucous membranes may have the most efficient impact when it comes to neutralizing the virus,” he said. Guillen pointed to joint research projects with the EU and China.

In contrast to many other developing nations, Cuba has a strong biotech sector and laboratories of its own. The experience that the nation has accumulated over the years in developing vaccines now comes in handy in research on SARS-CoV-2. And it makes the country interesting for cross-border cooperation.

“Cuba produces almost 80% of the vaccines used within the national immunization program — there’s the Finlay Institute plus a big technology and innovation sector we can fall back on,” said the director for Cuba of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Jose Moya, himself a Chilean.

‘Let’s remain realistic’

Media reports suggest that Cuba is among the group of nations that would be capable of jointly producing the Sputnik V vaccines developed by Russian scientists. The announcement of the vaccine last week made a splash worldwide but has also drawn criticism as crucial phase-three clinical testing was skipped. Cuba is not expected to risk the same, known as it is for strictly adhering to WHO regulations.

“Cuba has excellent abilities to produce vaccines,” said the director of the state-owned Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Kirill Dmitriev. “We believe that Cuba can become one of the world’s most important centers for the production of vaccines.”

According to Dmitriev, production of the Russian vaccine could start in Cuba as early as November, provided cooperation with the government and the companies involved will advance according to plan. The details of the deal have yet to be hammered out.

Cuban epidemiologist Francisco Duran warns that despite the announcement of the Russian vaccine and the progress made so far in research on SARS-CoV-2, an efficient vaccine will not be available in huge quantities anytime soon. “Let’s remain realistic,” he said. “For the time being,” he added, “the only effective protection against the virus is to wear a mask and observe hygiene and distancing rules.”



Prince Charles dons his medals as he and Camilla join veterans to commemorate VJ Day

Prince Charles and Camilla are leading a national moment of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire today. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess left their Scottish home in Birkhall to join veterans, officials and the Prime Minister in commemorating the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. 

 

The royals’ appearance in Staffordshire comes as the Queen issued a deeply personal message to mark the poignant day. 

She wrote in a statement: “Today we mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, which brought victory for the Allies and finally marked the end of the Second World War.

“Those of us who remember the conclusion of the Far East campaign, whether on active service overseas, or waiting for news at home, will never forget the jubilant scenes and overwhelming sense of relief.

“Amongst the joy at the end of the conflict, we also remembered, as we do today, the terrible devastation that it brought, and the cost borne by so many. 

Prince Philip and I join many around the world in sending our grateful thanks to the men and women from across the Commonwealth, and Allied nations, who fought so valiantly to secure the freedoms we cherish today. 

“May the memory of their sacrifice and bravery remain with us always.”

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Macron sends French fighter jets and navy ships to join Greek forces near Turkish border

The joint training exercises come a day after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to increase France’s military presence in the region. The move is in response to soaring tensions between Greece and Turkey over disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

The French armed forces ministry said on Thursday it was sending two Rafale fighter jets and the naval frigate Lafayette to the region.

The frigate and the jets arrived in Crete and carried out joint manoeuvres with Greek forces, Greek defence sources said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Macron announced France would boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

The French President also warned Turkey to halt oil and gas exploration in disputed waters.

The statement said France will “temporarily reinforce” its military presence to “monitor the situation in the region and mark its determination to uphold international law”.

It added that Mr Macron discussed concerns over “unilateral” exploration by Turkey in a call with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The statement said that prospecting should “cease in order to allow a peaceful dialogue” between Turkey and Greece.

READ MORE: World War 3 warning: Russia warns any missile strike will see attack

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Mr Mitsotakis warned Turkey “no challenge will go answered”. 

He said: “The risk of an accident lurks when so many troops are concentrated in a limited area.

“And the responsibility lies with the one who causes these conditions. We will never be the first to sharpen things.

“But no challenge will go unanswered.

“We raise the attitude of responsibility and legitimacy.”

Mr Macron last month called for EU sanctions against Turkey for “violations” of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty over their territorial waters.

Relations between Paris and Ankara have also been strained over the conflict in Libya.