In his recent and welcome speech to RUSI on Labour’s emerging thinking on Defence, held at the IoD on Wednesday, shadow Defence Secretary John Healey echoed several recommendations from our ‘Affording the Integrated Review’ paper published in October. The thrust of that paper was to recognise that Ukraine’s war is our war. We should resource it accordingly while being grateful that someone else is shouldering the burden of doing the actual fighting. This would mean revisions to our approach, putting the MOD onto a war-footing where currently it is still trying to manage Business as Usual while finding spare capacity to send to Ukraine. Such ad hoc contributions provide enough for Ukraine not to lose, which is not to say enough to win. And we have an interest in bringing this war to a successful conclusion, as well as a moral imperative not to prolong without enabling a decision.
The main policy recommendations picked up from our paper in Healey’s well-argued speech were: a formal adoption into UK Defence and Foreign Policies of support to Ukraine to win its war with Russia; …therefore a proper and funded MOD plan for sustained support at the necessary level; placing our NATO membership and its obligations not just at the core of our Defence Policy but our actual military practice; a pan-government approach to national resilience in the round; and a rewritten MOD Command Paper to make sense of the Integrated Review refresh, and especially what the military elements of any Indo-Pacific Tilt ought to include.
This week also saw the ex-Secretary general of NATO, Lord (George) Robertson of Port Erin, argue the recommendations made in that “our paper” or “our Integrated Review paper”] paper, and more deliberately explored in July’s paper, ‘How Ukraine can Prevail Strategically and Tactically’. Those papers argued for us to ramp up as a ‘wartime economy’ to keep Ukraine restocked at wartime rates of consumption. We argued it was very much in our interests to make these investments. Speaking on LBC Radio, Lord Robertson argued that “President Putin is in a war economy… we are not in a war economy – we should be devoting much more in terms of resources to building the kind of equipment that we can give to the Ukrainians and that are required for our own defences.”
“If Putin is at war with us, why on earth is there not a sense of urgency and determination in this country to counter that kind of war like attitude,”
And finally, although the government hasn’t gone the whole hog and adopted our paper’s recommendation to convene a ‘war cabinet’ to look at European energy security and the net zero challenge in the round, it has reorganised the government departments so that energy security and the net zero target are now integrated aims under a new department charged solely with these genuinely strategic concerns: the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. This meets our paper’s mission statement for the revised structure. We summed up the core challenge to be met by our Energy Policy thus: “So the challenge of the coming decade is to get to Net Zero in a way that is not geopolitically or economically reckless. The challenge of the hour is how to manage Europe, its economies and polities, through a difficult winter. Wise trade-offs not ideological purity will be required.”
Given the importance of efficient energy availability as the bedrock of any economy – an economic point not studied enough when we consider what confers and advantage and so drives economic growth – this might be the most important element of Sunak’s reshuffle. And a strong and growing economy is the essential bedrock of a strong national defence.