British Security Policy Programme
The British Security Policy project will focus on the impact of international threats on the UK's security, and on UK policy responses.
The Project is led by Professor Malcolm Chalmers whose experience, both as an internationally renowned scholar of security politics, and as a Government foreign policy adviser at the highest levels, will redefine British security policy for the future.
British Security Policy in Transition
This discussion paper was prepared by Professor Chalmers and presented at RUSI on 14 March 2008 to a panel of influential policy makers and academics. It discusses the role of Britain in the world today and some of the limits and challenges it faces in setting security policy.
The extent of involvement of UK armed forces in military interventions over the last decade has been driven by strong political and ethical commitment. Earlier applications of this approach (Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone) were widely welcomed. Afghanistan and especially Iraq have been more controversial and difficult, and have increased awareness of the limits, and the unpredictability, of military force in a post-colonial age.
Does this mean we have seen the high water mark of interventionism? What are the prospects for ‘smarter’ intervention, for example through improved economic support and better state building strategies?
The battle of ideas responding to conflict in the Middle East
Negotiated solutions to the Israel/Palestine, Lebanon/Syria, UN/Iran and Iraq conflicts are proving difficult to achieve, and the risks of major new wars are high. The UK would be particularly exposed to such escalation, which could further undermine efforts at countering support for violent extremism, both at home and abroad.
Is there more that the UK and the EU can do to head off new conflict? What are the options for UK response should it take place? What more can the UK do to win the battle of ideas in the region?
The UK in Afghanistan
The UK's deployment in southern Afghanistan is now its main operational military commitment. It has achieved significant tactical successes. But the prospects for success in meeting longer-term objectives are uncertain. The central problem remains whether it is possible to build a stable political settlement that allows the integration of southern Afghanistan into a unified state.
How far is this objective being undermined by continuing cross-border activity? Is enough being done to encourage reconciliation with ex-Taliban? What are the realistic prospects of success in counter-insurgency efforts? What more can be done to encourage the ‘localization’ of security, recognizing the limitations of the ANA?
Is détente with Russia possible?
Relations between Russia and the West have worsened in recent years, with security issues high on the list of issues of concern. The US and its European allies bemoan Russia's increasing authoritarianism and sabre-rattling, particularly in relation to its ‘near abroad’. Russian leaders protest steps – for instance, NATO enlargement, ballistic missile defence deployment in Poland, Kosovo independence – that, they argue, adversely alter their own position.
The potential for a further worsening of relations is real. What are the implications of worsening relations for UK security? Can more be done to develop a modus vivendi between Russia and the West?
Nuclear disarmament: what can the UK contribute?
There is growing momentum within the US policy community behind a new push for progress on the disarmament dimension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as demonstrated by the January 2007 Wall Street Journal article authored by influential former officials.
As the US and Russia consider how far, and in what ways, they can reduce their arsenals, what can be learnt from the UK's experience with maintaining a small nuclear deterrent force? What can the UK do to contribute to the re-energising of nuclear arms control?