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At a recent event at Policy Exchange the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, made an eloquent, well-argued and ultimately moral speech on the necessity to stand up to Putin and deny his aggression and his war crimes in Ukraine any legitimising veneer. For all our futures, it was necessary for Russia to be defeated in its aims in Ukraine. She reminded the audience that Ukraine needed help to resource its fight, and that help must be constant must endure.
For over two hundred years every single European war that Britain has been involved in has originated in the eastern half of the continent. From the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, to the Crimean War in the 1850s, and from both World Wars – starting with Austro-Hungary’s shelling of Belgrade in late July 1914 and Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 – to the Bosnian and Kosovo Wars in the 1990s, it has been an iron rule of modern British history that military crises in Europe always come upon us from these eastern lands “of which we know little”.
Owning nuclear weapons changes everything. Officers from militaries that are solely conventionally armed ask what it feels like in tones of awe. But, for the vast majority of British officers it is an almost impossible question to answer. Uniquely amongst our peers and allies we push our nuclear forces out into a specialist niche, cloak them with secrecy, and pretend they are nothing to do with ‘us’.
The world was shocked this week by a barbaric and unprovoked full-scale attack on a sovereign, European and most importantly, peaceful member of the community of nations. Ukraine had already been a victim of Russia’s aggression since 2014. Now the Kremlin wants to finish the job, although its leadership might have severely underestimated the type and strength of the resistance it would meet.
The Ministry of Defence hit a milestone this week with the establishment of the Secretary of State’s Office of Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC), a little over three years since Policy Exchange first laid out the full case for it in our report, A Question of Power: Towards Better UK Strategy Through Net Assessment.
What is Global Britain? This is a question that has been asked, mostly witheringly, in Washington since Theresa May first picked up this coinage in the aftermath of the 2016 referendum. Now with the launch of “Global Britain In A Competitive Age”, the government’s 114 page integrated review of Britain in the world, DC has got its first major look at both how the British government sees a changing world and its plan to compete in it. And it likes what it sees.
The Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy is the most important British strategy document since end of Cold War. Its significance comes not only from its unprecedented scope across policy areas; perhaps even more important is the strategic conception, the intellectual armature around which it is designed. At its heart is the idea of strategic competition understood in its genuine geostrategic-military sense rather than as a simplistic sporting-race analogy.
Should groups of campaigners have a veto over certain public appointments? Presumably, most of us would say no. Yet this is effectively what is now being attempted as part of a boycott campaign opposing the appointment of William Shawcross as independent reviewer of Prevent; the national counter-radicalisation programme.
Among Democrats, there is no American who knows more about Asia and is better known in Asia than Kurt Campbell. The news in recent days that President Joe Biden has appointed him as Co-ordinator for the Indo-Pacific, a new role within the National Security Council, is therefore very welcome. Campbell has effectively become Biden’s Asia tsar.
The appointment is good news for the UK and for the broader Western alliance. Campbell has a long history of engagement with Asia in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. He is credited with authoring Obama’s “pivot” to Asia and is considered to be a tough foreign policy realist who understands the shifting power dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region – and how America can work with allies to manage them. That is, after all, the single greatest foreign policy challenge facing the incoming Biden administration.
Linking space power with offensive capabilities reflects wider trends in global strategic affairs.