Tuesday, February 20, 2018

British military strategy in the next five years

This is a continuation from the previous post, a review of "2020: World of War" by Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson.

Back in January, I wrote a post "British military strategy will converge to Russia's" which quoted and commented on a Times article by Edward Lucas. Given the crisis afflicting the British military budget, he proposed a break from those tight ties with America, resetting to a Eurocentric posture.

He himself admitted this was pie-in-the-sky and would never be seriously considered.

If you view Europe from the perspective of the American suzerainty, it's clear why even Lucas lacked the courage of his own convictions. He knew that the UK in recent decades has always prioritized a capability to interwork with America's military - as envisioned in America's "2018 National Defense Strategy".

This 'competency-to-partner' is the basis of the much-mocked 'special-relationship' which buys access and some small leverage in Washington.

Lucas also recalls how that great proponent of autonomous European military strategy, France, rejoined NATO in 2009. Geopolitical reality finally persuaded President Nicolas Sarkozy to terminate 'go it alone' after forty-three years.

So you can forget lurid fantasies of the UK being threatened by Russia, China or invaders from the asteroid belt. The UK military has - as its major function - that of slotting into its allocated position in the US global force-structure. The UK has some freedom to configure its remaining military assets. These are targeted on nearer problems: in EMEA relating to Islamism and to domestic issues such as the intractable troubles in Northern Ireland.


The present crisis in military financing is entirely due to the problems of keeping up with the Americans while not at their scale (and with a much less productive economy). Yet this is the one area where the UK with its global economic interests dare not fail completely.

Well, it wouldn't be a crisis if there were an easy solution.

In my January post, I jokingly suggested we adopt the Russian doctrine of a reliance on small-scale battlefield nukes. I emphasise: that was a joke. Russia perceives itself to have a real problem of confronting superior (if badly organised) hostile forces. Small nukes wouldn't solve any British problem.

In the end, the British establishment will choose to pay to avoid being dissed and marginalised by the Americans. The global geometry of the British economy calls for no less. It will be a while coming, but taxes are going up and the defence budget will rise to the minimum they think the Americans will accept as credible. And that will include the carriers, the fast jets and that 'nuclear deterrent'.


  1. In working for US companies the term EMEA does become very familiar...

    1. The Americans like our special forces too. One might observe, cynically, we're their version of 'Wagner' .. .


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