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"Broken helicopters, Panzer tanks without parts, and submarines which lie on the land like dead whales."

Penny Bochum 1That was the Frankfurter Allgemeine's blistering comment on the state of German military equipment, following the annual report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces in February. The report found that there is 'equipment misery' in every part of the armed force, writes Penny Bochum.

This report, and the reaction to it in the German press, illustrates a conflict at the heart of German defence policy. There is an acceptance in government that Germany's status as a leading European power means that it has to take a more prominent role on the world stage, especially against the backdrop of changing world security needs highlighted by Trump, Brexit and Putin. However, greater military involvement and an increase in defence spending is not accepted either by the German public or by many members of the German parliament.

This conflict is seen in the agreement made by Angela Merkel's new coalition government with the SPD. Following the election in September 2017, Merkel's CDU and the SPD both lost seats. However, Merkel's failure to negotiate a 'traffic light' coalition with the FDP and Greens meant that she had to go back to the SPD, which, despite a historically low vote, now has major influence as part of the new coalition government.

The Paracel and Spratly Islands, two obscure archipelagos in the South China Sea with little arable land and no indigenous population, consist of coral islands, reefs, and shoals, many of which are barely above sea level -- the highest points of land are 46 feet and 13 feet respectively. We first reported on them in 1998 as "Conflict in the South China Sea" U.K. Defence Forum Research Associate Joseph E Fallon has returned to and updated the story of how they are at the centre of international disputes between China and six of her neighbours: Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines reject China's claim of legal ownership of those islands and/or their surrounding waters.

JL PHOTO--ELECTION ADDRESSIn 1945, after long experience of Anglo-Soviet anti-Nazi co-operation, the British Chiefs of Staff realised that Russia would respect only strength as the basis for any future relationship. This mirrored Lord Palmerston's view, almost a century earlier: "The policy and practice of the Russian Government has always been to push forward its encroachments as fast and as far as the apathy or want of firmness of other Governments would allow it to go, but always to stop and retire when it met with decided resistance and then to wait for the next favourable opportunity."

Not much has changed, writes Dr Julian Lewis.

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