News Briefs – October 16, 2019

Big changes to grueling Special Forces course draw scrutiny

Army commanders are making big changes to the grueling course that soldiers must pass to join the elite Special Forces.
The goal is to meet evolving national security threats and to shift from a culture that weeds out struggling soldiers at every point to one that trains them to do better.
But some Special Forces say the brass wants to make it easier to pass, as a way to boost recruiting numbers and ensure women will eventually qualify.
The fear, such critics say, is that Green Berets will become weaker and “dangerously less capable than ever before.”
Army leaders say the nearly two-year course had to be shortened, so some training will be done when soldiers get to their units, where it can be tailored to more specific needs. AP

Russia to conduct sweeping drills of its nuclear forces

Russia’s military will this week undertake a sweeping drill of its strategic nuclear forces.
The Defense Ministry said the three-day exercise began Oct. 15 and involve 12,000 troops, 213 missile launchers, 105 aircraft, 15 surface warships and five submarines.
It said in a statement Oct. 14 that the war games will feature practice launches of missiles.
Maj. Gen. Yevgeny Ilyin, the head of the ministry’s international cooperation department, said at a briefing for foreign military attaches that two intercontinental ballistic missiles will be launched at practice targets on the Kura testing range on the Kamchatka Peninsula. He added that strategic bombers will also fire cruise missiles at test targets at several firing ranges.
Russia has expanded the scope of its military drills in recent years amid rising tensions with the West. AP

EU nations commit to arms export ban against Turkey

European Union nations vented outrage Oct. 14 at Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria against the Kurds and joined France and Germany in banning arms sales to Ankara, a rare move against a NATO ally for many of them.
Many EU foreign ministers were looking beyond a strong statement condemning the military operation that has destabilized the whole region and wanted to make sure their move would carry some sting.
They also prepared sanctions against Turkish companies and individuals involved in gas drilling in east Mediterranean waters where EU-member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights and has licensed European energy companies to carry out a hydrocarbons search. The sanctions, which Cypriot officials said may include an asset freeze, travel bans and a sales ban on material used in drilling, could be implemented at short notice. France and Cyprus are conducting naval maneuvers there now.
Over the years, Turkey has become increasingly less dependent on European nations for its defense needs and it was unclear what the impact of such a measure would be beyond applying diplomatic pain. AP

WTO body formally OKs US sanctions against EU in Airbus case

The World Trade Organization has formally given the go-ahead for the United States to impose trade sanctions on up to $7.5 billion worth of European Union goods following a ruling that European plane maker Airbus received illegal subsidies.
The move by the trade body’s dispute settlement body was largely a formality after the long-awaited Oct. 2 ruling by a WTO arbitration panel. For that ruling to be blocked, every country including the United States that attended the settlement body’s meeting Oct. 14 would have had to reject it.
The record $7.5 billion ruling found that the European bloc and member states Britain, France, Germany and Spain failed to remove improper subsidies for Airbus that hindered sales by U.S. rival Boeing.
The Trump administration plans to impose the sanctions starting Oct. 18. AP