Luxembourg’s defence minister talks about going green, India invests in homegrown jets and Greece places a big order.
Going green isn’t always easy. François Bausch, who is one of Luxembourg’s two deputy prime ministers and the only defence minister in Europe from a Green party, is keen to give his military responsibilities some environmental edge. The defence industry has one of the biggest ecological footprints of any government sector. Yet, says Bausch, that means it also has the biggest potential for reducing said footprint. “Two years ago I was alone [in thinking that] and it was hard to get people to listen,” he says. “That is really changing now.”
“It’s not like we’re all going to be driving electric tanks”
Bausch has overseen many of his country’s international collaborations on matters of defence and sustainability, including spearheading Luxembourg’s co-operation with the European Defence Agency on a circular economy project. The common-sense concept is about designing everything from buildings to weapons and vehicles so that they not only last longer and can more easily be maintained but are also built in a way that saves energy.
“I said a while ago, as a joke, that it’s not like we’re all going to be driving electric tanks,” says Bausch. Even so, he adds, if military vehicles are designed thoughtfully, “it can have an enormous influence on the ecological footprint”.
Since he stepped into the role in 2018, Bausch has seen a growing understanding of the connection between the environment and global security. “More and more military people are recognising that a lot of conflicts stem from problems induced by climate change,” he says, pointing to disputes over land that can no longer be farmed or water shortages caused by droughts. Meanwhile, rising sea levels could create tens of millions of refugees around the globe, which could lead to political instability. Yet despite encouraging signs, Bausch says that more urgency is needed. Too many politicians focus too much on the next election while vastly underestimating the risks posed by climate change. Militaries also need to shift focus, he says, by adapting their policies to prevent conflicts arising from climate change.
“The pandemic shows us what can happen,” says Bausch. “But it is still manageable. I always say against the virus, there’s a vaccine. There’s no vaccine for climate issues – only prevention.”
In the basket: 10 Leonardo m-346 trainer aircraft
Who’s buying: Greece
Who’s selling: Israel
Price: Part of a $1.7bn (€1.4bn) deal
Delivery date: tbc
Leonardo m-346 jets are the headline component of a 20-year deal under which the Israeli defence firm Elbit Systems will establish a new flight school for the Hellenic Air Force at Kalamata Air Base. Also included are simulators, training, logistical support and the maintenance of Greece’s ageing Beechcraft t-6 Texan II turboprop trainers. Elbit’s pitch was chosen ahead of a Canadian proposal and reflects a growing partnership between Israel and Greece on a number of fronts: the two countries (and Cyprus) agreed to closer defence co-operation last November, have worked together on developing resources in the eastern Mediterranean and share a mutual suspicion of Turkey.
The combat aircraft component of the Indian Air Force is a multinational mishmash: Russian migs and Sukhois, French Mirages and Rafales, British Jaguars. But now it seems that India wants to be more self-sufficient. In a colossal show of faith in its homegrown product, India has agreed a $6.5bn (€5.4bn) deal to buy 83 lca mk1a Tejas fighters, which are built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
This batch is in addition to 40 already ordered; delivery is due by 2028. India’s primary reason for wanting the new planes is – as always – its worries about Pakistan and China. But it also has an eye on the export market.
Photographer: Sophie Margue. Illustrator: Joanna Ławniczak. Image: Getty Images