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Defense Policy

An updated version of the security review was presented on 13 March 2023 by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley in the House of Commons of the British Parliament and published on the government website. According to Sunak's office, the document, among other things, involved the creation of a new unit within the MI5 counterintelligence service to provide security advice to British companies and organizations. In addition, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kingdom will launch an initiative on "economic containment", which will close loopholes to bypass sanctions against "human rights violators and oligarchs." The new review will include a clause to double funding for the nationwide sinologist training program in the UK, including through Chinese language courses. As the new report’s introduction explains, the original Integrated Review “identified four trends that would shape the international environment to 2030: shifts in the distribution of global power; inter-state, ‘systemic’ competition over the nature of the international order; rapid technological change; and worsening transnational challenges.” The 'refresh' reflects “the pace at which these trends have accelerated over the past two years,” but also how “the transition into a multipolar, fragmented and contested world has happened more quickly and definitively than anticipated.” Changes resulting from this seismic shift mean it’s necessary to update UK’s “priorities and core tasks to reflect the resulting changes in the global context.”

British forces must prepare “to fight in Europe once again,” said the new chief of the General Staff, General Patrick Sanders. In a letter to his charges, Sanders, whose first day in the new role was 13 June 2022, claimed that “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” underlined his troops’ “core purpose to protect the UK by being ready to fight and win wars on land.” The general wrote “There is now a burning imperative to forge an Army capable of fighting alongside our allies and defeating Russia in battle”.

He stressed that he is taking over his new responsibilities during a “new era of insecurity.” He also claimed to be the first chief of the General Staff since 1941 “to take command of the Army in the shadow of a land war in Europe involving a continental power.” Sanders stated “We are the generation that must prepare the Army to fight in Europe once again”.

His remarks followed a stark warning by the country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Writing in The Times, the day after his return from Kiev, Johnson claimed: “I am afraid that we need to steel ourselves for a long war, as {Russian President Vladimir Putin} Putin resorts to a campaign of attrition, trying to grind down Ukraine by sheer brutality.”

In March 2021, the UK published a “comprehensive articulation” of London’s “national security and international policy” for decades to come, which would “[shape] the open international order of the future,” known as the ‘Integrated Review’. Its vision was bold, and foresaw the UK becoming a pre-eminent power in the Asia-Pacific, expanding its presence via overseas military bases, and increasing its nuclear weapon stockpile. The British authorities called Russia "the UK's most pressing threat". Press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov then said that the positioning of Russia as a kind of threat is unacceptable for Moscow. At the same time, China was characterized in the document as "the most significant geopolitical factor in the modern world with great consequences for British values and interests."

The United Kingdom should be able to use military force to defend its global interests after leaving the European Union, Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said 11 February 2019. "Brexit has brought us to a great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass," Williamson said in a speech in London. He also said that boundaries between peace and war are getting "blurred," and that Britain and its allies should be prepared "to use hard power to support our interests."

Williamson said: "The UK is a global power with truly global interests. A nation with the fifth biggest economy on the planet. A nation with the world's fifth biggest Defence budget and the second largest Defence exporter. And since the new Global Great Game will be played on a global playing field, we must be prepared to compete for our interests and our values far, far from home."

The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2017 election stated "... a responsibility to sustain our fine armed forces so that they can defend the realm, our overseas territories and our interests around the globe. We will play a leading role in NATO and maintain the ability to conduct strike operations, peacekeeping, security missions and the deployment of a joint expeditionary force. We will maintain the overall size of the armed forces, including an army that is capable of fielding a war-fighting division. We shall expand our reach around the world. We will retain the Trident continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent to provide the ultimate guarantee of our security.

"We have the biggest defence budget in Europe and the second largest in NATO. We will continue to meet the NATO commitment to spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence and we will increase the defence budget by at least 0.5 per cent above inflation in every year of the new parliament....

"Our two new aircraft carriers will project British military power for the next fifty years: HMS Queen Elizabeth begins sea trials in the summer and HMS Prince of Wales is due to enter active service in 2020. Alongside our new Type 45 destroyers, we will build eight Type 26 anti-submarine frigates and develop our programme for a new class of lighter, general purpose frigates so that by the 2030s we can further increase the size of our fleet. We shall also deliver five Offshore Patrol Vessels....

"The Royal Air Force will receive, with the Fleet Air Arm, the Lightning II strike fighter, as well as new Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Taken together, this is the largest programme of investment in our armed forces for generations."

The Labour Party manifesto for the 2017 election stated "The last Labour government consistently spent above the NATO benchmark of 2 per cent of GDP. Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk, shrinking the army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. The scrapping of Nimrod, HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier jump-jets have weakened our defences and cost British taxpayers millions.

"Labour’s commitment to spending at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence will guarantee that our Armed Forces have the necessary capabilities to fulfil the full range of obligations, and ensure our conventional forces are versatile and able to deploy in a range of roles.

"Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent. As a nuclear-armed power, our country has a responsibility to fulfil our obligations under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. Labour will lead multilateral efforts with international partners and the UN to create a nuclear-free world."

On 26 May 2017, in the midst of a fiercely contested election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn's speech was not only an indictment of the failed "war on terror" and how it has traditionally been waged, but the costly, futile, and equally destructive Western military "interventions" far beyond Iraq's fractured borders.

In this regard, Corbyn made what many other politicians consider a politically fatal admission: Britain, France and the United States (or their regional proxies) invading and dropping bombs on Afghanistan and other, predominately Arab countries - from Iraq, Syria, Yemen to Libya - year after dreadful year have fuelled, rather than stemmed, the terror visited upon so many, in so many places.

"Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services," Corbyn said, "have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home."

Corbyn pointed a blunt, accusatory finger at the usual gaggle of pundits, presidents and prime ministers who continue to insist that more troops, invasions and bombs are the requisite answer to terror. "The blame is with the terrorists, but if we are to protect our people we must be honest about what threatens our security," Corbyn said, "but an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism." Corbyn vowed to "change what we do abroad".

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Page last modified: 24-04-2023 18:07:26 ZULU