Britain’s Defence Capability

Michael Webster’s remarks (in his article “A Littler Britain”) on the British civil service and defence are virtually incontrovertible. As far as the EU bureaucracy is concerned, however, I would suggest that, if jobs really need to be filled, they would be better filled by German professionals than by Club Med amateurs.

The British record on defence is dismal and irresponsible. Successive strategic defence reviews have accurately diagnosed the growing proliferation of security threats to Britain and her allies. Governments have responded perversely by imposing an arbitrary limit to defence spending. It was approached from the wrong end in that they opted for, not what was needed to do the job, but what seemed the plausible minimum without the exercise becoming a complete farce. Threats to British security and interests have increased dramatically but the defence budget has been cut in an absurd response. The peace dividend has long since proven to be a chimera. New threats emerge constantly from rogue states, terrorism, territory grabbing bullies and piracy, all often backed by sophisticated weapons. . Britain is unable to respond effectively to these threats and does not even meet its minimum commitment to NATO. Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine constitutes almost a carbon copy of the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland but it has drawn only mild sanctions, from Britain and her allies.

In this and other recent situations of dangerous bellicose operations, the British government could have sent a clear diplomatic and military message if it had possessed the naval forces available for speedy movement to the danger zone. Naval forces are needed because of their ability to deploy vessels flexibly in international waters without diplomatic clearances Naval response groups can provide the ability to operate aircraft in locations chosen by the government , virtually British islands mobile in the high seas with huge control and command potential.

While strongly endorsing Michael Webster’s spotlight on the neglect of defence spending, then, I plead for more of the scarce resources available at least to be used efficiently and effectively in naval task groups held in a permanent state of readiness for rapid response. In particular, aircraft carriers and their supporting frigates, destroyers and submarines, have been neglected to an extent completely incompatible with Britain’s pretensions to act as a naval power.

Peter Huggins
BCiP member