Tag Archives: defence

LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Tories’ Royal Marine cut plays fast and loose with UK defence

It makes sense that Paddy should write for the Plymouth Herald on defence given the city’s strategic importance.

He took the Government to task for cutting the Marines – about which he knows more than most people:

For more than three centuries – from Gibraltar and Trafalgar to Normandy and Afghanistan – the Royal Marines have epitomised those qualities. They have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. In our nation’s hours of danger, they have been, as Lord St Vincent predicted in 1802, “the country’s sheet anchor”.

So the news that the Government is cutting 200 Royal Marine posts – at such a volatile time in world affairs – should concern us all. They are committing this folly in response to a crisis of their own making.

The cost of Conservative foolishness doesn’t end with the Royal Marines. They’ve cut personnel numbers, breaking their manifesto promise not to reduce the Army below 82,000. Troops on the frontline are deprived of basic equipment and combat training has been slashed, putting soldiers’ lives in greater peril. Warships sit idle at quaysides. No wonder top generals have accused the Government of “deception” over defence.

The Tories are very practised at talking tough on defence in elections. But look at the history: it’s always Tories who cut most on defence in government. It’s now clear that Mrs May will get back in because of the hopelessness of the Labour Party. But it would be very dangerous to give her a big enough majority to ignore us again.

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Paddy: Royal Marines paying the price of two floating white elephants

In a typically passionate and knowledgeable intervention, ex-Royal Marine Paddy Ashdown has attacked cuts of 200 posts in his former fighting unit:

In an unpredictable age, we need forces that are fast, flexible and mobile. That’s what the Royal Marines do at a world-class level.

To cut their numbers to fill a Naval manpower black hole is not just poor reward for their service over the last years, but a folly which plays fast and loose with the nation’s defences.

The Royal Marines have carried the greatest burden in the defence of our country over the last decade – they have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. They are also the crucial manpower pool from which we draw many of our Special Forces.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Observations of an ex pat: Brexit goes nuclear, chapter 2

She’s done it. Mrs May has gone and linked Britain’s nuclear deterrent to Brexit trade negotiations.

I can honestly stick out my chest, jut out my chin and proclaim: “I told you so. And I told you exclusively.”

Alright, Mrs. May didn’t actually use the n-word in her letter to the European Commission which triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and the start of Brexit negotiations. But in just one document she explicitly linked economic concessions with security issues nine times.

It requires only the smallest leap of imagination to realise that the British Prime Minister was talking about more than exchanges of DNA databases with continental police.

But be warned, the consequences of this link will be dire. Messing with the balance of strategic weapons capable of incinerating the world several times over is a dangerous policy.

Mrs May knows that, but the problem is that nuclear missiles are just about the only weapon the British have in their negotiating armoury. Their backs are against the wall.

There is, of course, a question mark, over whether or not the UK will be allowed to play the security card. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it crystal clear that she opposes negotiations on any future relationship until the terms of the divorce are settled. That means Britain has to cough up $60 billion, allow EU citizens to remain in Britain and accept that it will no longer be part of the European Single Market. All this before any talks on a future relationship which may or may not involve security. This is a direct contradiction of Mrs May’s tandem approach.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Getting serious about defence

 

Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader much of the Liberal Democrat’s rhetoric has been aimed at portraying him as an extremist.  Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron claimed that Labour had “left the field” in a party conference speech.  The implication of this claim is that Labour have left the centre ground to embark on a far leftist fellow-traveller path, seemingly ignoring the electoral success it gained from the dominating the centre ground in the New Labour years.  In this way the Liberal Democrat comeback seemingly relies on a message that it is the new party of the centre ground.  However doing this mean more than just gesture politics, it means not being afraid to tackle issues which are not commonly associated with liberalism, most notably defence.

Liberal Democrat manifestos in recent years have treated defence matters like an afterthought, an embarrassment almost, especially when it comes to questions of hard power.  When it comes to asking questions about our hard power capability our manifesto prefers to move toward the murky soft power where it seems we are more ideologically comfortable.  The 2016 manifesto talked about emphasising “a Single Security Budget, including not just conventional defence spending but the work of our security agencies, cyber defences and soft power interventions”.  This policy in itself provides opportunities and dangers.  While it is important to emphasise that multiple security threats require multiple solutions to tackle them, there can be no substitute for hard power.  Put simply; while it is arguable that the main security threat we face is from terrorism we can’t leave ourselves unprepared for future inter-state conflict.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 24 Comments

Are we spending enough on our military?

I recently attended a seminar led by a specialist in international relations, and one of those attending asked “How likely do you think it is that the UK will fight a conventional war in the next ten years?”. Without any hesitation the reply came: “Almost certain.”

It’s hard to avoid noticing the changing political environment we find ourselves, both at home and abroad. For the first time in decades, the prospect of large-scale non-nuclear war seems plausible (though President Trump seems keen on removing “non-nuclear” from that equation). Russia’s aggressive actions can’t be written off as isolated incidents, and the situation in the Middle East is even worse than it was a decade ago.

It’s very likely that, due to aggression against us or our allies we will be at war again in the not too distant future. As someone who has always fancied themselves a pacifist, this is all a bit depressing, but it would be naive to think that my wishes have any impact on reality. It seems important, therefore, that we continue to meet our spending commitments to NATO, however many reservations we have about the use of military force.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

There’s more than one reason why defence chiefs shouldn’t criticise politicians

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 44 Comments

Entente Nucleaire?

We have had a lot of articles about Trident in the build up to conference. Now the motion has now passed with amendments, conference has commissioned a working group on what to do without Trident. The group has been asked to assess strategic threats; how best to promote non-proliferation and disarmament; the implications for Britain’s defence commitments to both NATO and our European alliances; and the scope and implications of other kinds of nuclear deterrent. Here is a proposal to consider.

In his article, George Cunningham argues that the international situation has changed enough that we should retain our nuclear capability after a broader re-evaluation of defence policy.

And George Potter writes that our stockpile is overshadowed as a deterrent by America’s NATO-wide umbrella, but enough of a threat to hostile nuclear powers to single the UK out as a target.

My sympathies are with the unilateralists. The reports and rumours I have read about outdated protocols, lax discipline, and the resulting almost-accidents are enough to make the blood run cold. The presence of nuclear weapons and their destructive force is a permanent risk to all of our lives. In an ideal world, we would use the scrap to plough our furrows. (In an ideal world, the radiation would make the crops super-big.)

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 12 Comments
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