News Briefs – November 22, 2016


Russia deploys new missiles to the Baltic Sea region

The Interfax news agency says the military has deployed state-of-the art anti-shipping missiles in Russia’s westernmost Baltic region, a move that comes amid tensions in Russia-West ties.
The agency reported Nov. 21 that the military has put the Bastion missile launchers on duty in the Kaliningrad exclave that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. The Bastion made its combat debut in Syria earlier this month.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday that the Baltic Fleet was rearming itself with new missile launchers, but didn’t provide specifics.
Separately, Viktor Ozerov, the head of the defense affairs committee in the Russian parliament’s upper house, also told RIA Novosti news agency Monday that Russia would deploy Iskander missiles and S-400 air defense missiles to Kaliningrad in response to the U.S. missile defense plans. AP

Italy helps Albania’s army replace Kalashnikovs

Albania’s defense minister says the country’s army has replaced its old Kalashnikov automatic rifles with NATO-standard weaponry.
Speaking at a parliamentary commission Nov. 21, Mimi Kodheli said Italy is donating 5,000 new automatic rifles to help complete the replacement of the Kalashnikovs.
She also said that the United States is donating 250 armored vehicles needed for “strategic transport,” adding that the first vehicles will come in January.
Albania joined NATO in 2009, and since then has been replacing outdated weaponry with the new ones in line with the alliance’s standards. Most of its antique Eastern Bloc-era transport vehicles, tanks and armored personal carriers, as well as infantry AK-47 assault rifles, known as Kalashnikovs, and ammunition was sold for scrap. AP

Leadership transition coming to Bath Iron Works

One of Maine’s largest employers is going through a leadership transition.
General Dynamics said Nov. 21 that Dirk Lesko has been elected a vice president of the corporation and appointed president of Bath Iron Works. The shipyard employs some 6,000 workers in Maine.
The parent company says the appointment is effective as of Jan. 1 following the retirement of Frederick Harris.
General Dynamics executive vice president John P. Casey praised Harris for “significant contributions to the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding programs.” The iron works has built naval and commercial ships since the 19th century.
The shipyard’s Machinists Union Local S6 president Rich Nolan says the union has a “fairly decent working relationship” with Lesko. He says Harris was unpopular with many members and the end of his tenure will likely boost morale. AP

Japan defense adviser sees chance to update alliance with U.S.

A top defense policy adviser for Japan’s government on Nov. 21 proposed using U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s demand that Tokyo contribute more to its own defense as a chance to update the countries’ security alliance to reflect Japan’s greater military capability and today’s harsher security environment.
Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, a leading candidate to become Japan’s next prime minister, said Tokyo contributes more financially for the basing of American troops than any other U.S. ally, but perhaps less militarily.
Ishiba’s comment comes amid concerns in Japan that Trump might demand that Tokyo pay more for the 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security treaty. Japan pays about $2 billion a year, about half of the non-personnel costs of stationing the U.S. troops, while South Korea pays about $860 million a year for about 28,000 American troops based there.
Japan’s pacifist constitution, written under U.S. direction after World War II, prohibits it from using force in settling international disputes. The security treaty requires the U.S. to help Japan if it is attacked and allows the U.S. to maintain military bases in Japan. Many military analysts say the U.S. benefits from having the forward-deployed bases in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
“In the future, this structure should change,” Ishiba said at a news conference in Tokyo, citing the development of Japanese military capability and changes in the regional security environment, including China’s growing assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear program, since the security alliance was formed about 60 years ago.
In those days, Washington’s main interest was in having unrestricted use of military bases in Japan, not in having Japan help defend Americans, Ishiba said. He said Japan has become a more equal partner since then, and that it can take on some of the roles currently performed by the U.S. military.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged an expanded role for Japan’s military in areas such as international peacekeeping, and eventually hopes to rewrite the pacifist constitution. Many in Japan oppose such constitutional amendments. AP

Japanese peacekeepers arrive in South Sudan with new mandate

Japanese peacekeepers, with a broader mandate to use force, land in South Sudan, the first overseas deployment of the country’s troops with those expanded powers in nearly 70 years.
The 350 Self-Defense Forces will replace a contingent of Japanese peacekeepers who served in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, but did not have the mandate to use force. The incoming troops will be tasked with engineering and construction in the capital, Juba.
For the first time since the end of World War II, when Japan enacted a law enshrining pacifism in its military, these peacekeepers will have the ability to use force to protect civilians, U.N. staff and themselves.
Experts say the deployment indicates Japan’s growing trust in its Self-Defense Forces. AP

Court rules Camp Pendleton worker defrauded Marine Corps

A federal court has ruled a disgruntled Camp Pendleton, Calif., worker defrauded the Marine Corps for hazardous-duty pay after convincing military officials that treated sewer water is poisonous.
The San Diego Union Tribune reports Nov. 20 the base’s former recycled water manager, Scott Stanford, insists splashes of the water irritated his eyes, nose and throat.
The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which arbitrates disputes between civil servants and federal supervisors, ruled in September that in 2014 Stanford filed four false attendance slips claiming $1,600 in extra pay after getting doused by what he said were hazardous chemicals.
Last year, base leaders gave Stanford a last-chance to spare his job in exchange for admitting guilt for the purported fraud. He refused and they fired him.
Stanford, who worked at the base for 37 years, says he’s mulling whether to file an appeal before the Nov. 22 deadline. AP

U.S. House votes to prohibit sale of commercial aircraft to Iran

The Republican-led House has voted convincingly to approve legislation that would bar the sale of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran.
By a 243-174 vote Nov. 17, lawmakers passed a bill to prohibit the Treasury Department from issuing the licenses American banks would need to complete the transactions.
The House action seeks to counter the Obama administration’s decision to grant aviation giants Boeing and Airbus permission to sell the planes to Tehran. The proposed deals, which may involve more than 190 aircraft, could be worth billions of dollars.
Republicans decried the sale of aircraft to a country they say is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and has flouted U.N. resolutions by testing ballistic missiles.
Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers specifically allowed for the purchase of aircraft and parts. AP