The RUSI Year, 2009
Highlights from the leading UK think tank on defence and security
RUSI's year began with a new look and brand for the Institute. The initiative furthered RUSI's aim of enhancing understanding of defence and security issues among its members and the general public.
The year also began amidst a war in the Middle East which had already sharply divided world opinion. Having entered Gaza on 3 January following a series of airstrikes against Hamas rocket attacks over the New Year, Israeli ground forces withdrew on 21 January after declaring a unilateral ceasefire.
RUSI experts provided high-profile professional military analysis during the media coverage of the conflict. RUSI's Director, discussed Israel's strategy while, Amyas Godfrey, a former British officer, analysed Israeli war aims in the long term. Several pieces hosted on RUSI Analysis considered the regional impact of the war from all sides of the fighting.
This year was to be dominated by news from Afghanistan, and anticipating the extensive strategy review that would take place later in the year, Michael Clarke argued for an urgent reappraisal of Britain's Afghan mission during a New Statesman roundtable discussion.
Finally, the Presidential inauguration of Barack Obama provided an opportunity for RUSI experts to reflect in the world's media on a time of transition in United States foreign policy. Experts discussed strategic relations between Europe and America, and the changing face of American policy toward Africa, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Still reeling from the Gaza conflict, RUSI's Middle East Forum added to this debate with a discussion of the conflict's impact on Palestine's divided politics, and opinion pieces from both sides of the conflict. These divisions would become a key issue in the peace process later in 2009, with negotiations between Hamas and Fatah developing throughout the year.
RUSI's engagement with the Middle East also deepened in another direction with its involvement in the Bahrain Security Forum and Exhibition - the key regional summit for cooperation on homeland security and border protection. Multilateral approaches to counter-terrorism emerged as key theme at the summit.
The problems of supplying the war in Afghanistan and the challenges of climate change have increasingly sparked debate on energy efficiency in the armed forces. An Alternative Energy and Sustainability conference held at RUSI in February 2009 was the first forum to explore practical ways of 'greening' militaries around the world, highlighting key technologies and developing links between professionals in the field.
Providing a mature context on Afghanistan emerged as key theme in RUSI's research early in the year. RUSI collaborated with the BBC in analysing the findings of a key opinion poll of the Afghan people. In an online analysis piece, Michael Clarke concluded that popular impatience with foreign intervention was fast becoming a major obstacle for NATO's mission in the country, while noting a number of encouraging positive trends.
Throughout 2009, RUSI continued to develop practical expertise in suggesting improved policies for defence and security, alongside its traditional pre-eminence in research. This was particularly demonstrated in March, with the Government's announcement that Michael Clarke would join ten other independent experts in a new National Security Forum.
Prosecuting Presidents: The Challenges of International Indictments of African Leaders brought together policy-makers and experts in order to explore best practice for an emerging field of international criminal law - and to analyse its impact on security and stability in the region.
2009 marked the sixtieth anniversary of NATO. RUSI has had a longstanding relationship with the Atlantic Alliance, hosting its leaders and facilitating debate and research for the organisation. RUSI.org published a number of articles as the anniversary began, with commentaries exploring the future of the Alliance. In October, RUSI hosted the Supreme Allied Commander for his inaugural speech.
At the month's end, RUSI experts advised HRH the Duke of York on the Institute's work in the Middle East, Afghanistan and South-East Asia. His Royal Highness, who is often involved in Britain's diplomatic engagements abroad, also discussed new methods of conducting foreign relations.
Throughout the year, the RUSI Journal provides a forum for academics, policy-makers and both former and serving soldiers to reflect on conflict and security in the world. In an article for the Journal's April issue, General David D. McKiernan, who served in Afghanistan as Commander, ISAF from October 2008 to June 2009, presented his view of the Afghan conflict at a critical moment for the campaign.
'Recommitment and Shared Interests: Progress and the Future of Afghan Security' warned that NATO must redouble its efforts in aiding the Kabul government to withstand Taliban attacks and influence, criticising the prevalence of 'national caveats' in the use of force by some troop-contributing countries. Broadening his analysis to the region as a whole, General McKiernan added that Pakistan must do more to combat Taliban sanctuaries on its own territory.
In London, the month was dominated by the preparations for the G20 economic summit. Before the summit began, Tobias Feakin, the Head of RUSI's National Security and Resilience department, warned in an online analysis piece that Metropolitan Police's strategy for dealing with demonstrators would come under intense scrutiny.
The protection of critical infrastructure is a core research interest of the National Security and Resilience department. CNI 2009: Protecting Critical Infrastructure in a Changing World provided the UK's main forum for networking and discussion between practitioners in the field, across the public and private sectors.
Nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula were thrust on to the international agenda in May, with North Korea's conduct of two missile tests and its renunciation of the 1953 armistice. RUSI analysed the North Korean military and the possibility of armed confrontation, providing media commentary on the dispute.
Proliferation and missile defence remained on RUSI's own agenda with the Tenth RUSI Missile Defence Conference. Discussing developments as far afield as Europe, Israel and Japan, the conference brought together perspectives on the technical progress made on missile defence programmes - and hosted a robust debate between Russian and US officials over plans to host interceptor sites in Eastern Europe.
Delegates also discussed looming changes in the US political climate on the issue - discussions which were borne out by the Obama administration's major shift in its European missile defence strategy in October.
Another RUSI conference held in May, Framing Deterrence in the Twenty-First Century, brought together policy-makers from across the US and Europe to discuss the challenges to the concept of deterrence in armed conflict in a multipolar age.
Britain's fight against terrorism had been both 'successful and lucky' from 2005 to 2009, RUSI's Director argued in a seminal and wide-ranging article for the June issue of the RUSI Journal.
Domestic jihadists were now replacing Al-Qa'ida's 'core' as the main threat, but remained 'resolutely amateur', they added. While the security services should be proud of the ninety convictions brought against terrorists since 2005, the article warned that the further evolution of jihadist terror was likely. The article received considerable attention from the UK media, including the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Sky News.
RUSI remained engaged throughout 2009 with the professional development of Britain's armed forces.In June, the RUSI Maritime Operations Conference and the RUSI Land Warfare Conference both considered the changing operational requirements in Afghanistan and beyond for the armed forces and their international allies.
The Land Warfare Conference provided the opportunity for senior commanders and ministers to take a hard look at the armed forces' successes and failures in Afghanistan amid growing concerns over 'overstretch' and procurement.
In a keynote speech, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff at the time, urged the army to apply the lessons learned in Iraq to the current fighting in Afghanistan.
General Sir David Richards, who succeeded General Dannatt as Chief of General Staff in September 2009, argued for an 'immediate review' of the armed forces' structure as it struggled on several fronts with 'inadequate' resources.
Quentin Davies MP, the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, used the conference to announce the Government's new Armed Forces Vehicles strategy, a major shift in its procurement policy.
The RUSI Journal also hosted regular debate from serving officers on the armed forces' doctrine and strategic direction. In the June edition, Major Patrick Little provoked intense debate in the defence community with his argument that junior and middle-ranking British officers had become increasingly frustrated with top commanders.
RUSI's engagement with the future of Britain's defence continued in July with the publication of the first paper in the new Future Defence Review series.
The series anticipated the announcement, also in July 2009, of a Defence Green Paper which could herald the first Strategic Defence Review to be held since 1998. With papers published on a regular basis, the series brings together experts and practitioners to explore the spending and strategy required for Britain's global aspirations in the twenty-first century.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers' inaugural paper analysed the state of defence spending in Britain at a time of post-recession fiscal crisis. Concluding that MoD budget cuts in real terms of 10 per cent to 15 per cent between 2010 to 2016 were most likely, Professor Chalmers warned defence planners to prepare for a stringent prioritisation of resources in the years ahead.
July was also the month in which research by RUSI was cited by the House of Commons Defence Committee for its 'hard-headed' insight into relations with Russia. In 'Russia: a new confrontation?', the Committee praised Dr Jonathan Eyal's 'Who Lost Russia? An Enquiry into the Failure of the Russian-Western Partnership', originally published as a Whitehall Paper in April 2009.
Dr Eyal, a frequent media commentator on security in Russia and Eastern Europe, also responded in a July analysis piece to the prospects for achieving a 'reset' in US-Russian relations, and discussed arms control talks between the two powers.
In August, RUSI hosted the first speech made by Bill Rammell MP as Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Speaking on the military contribution to UK counter-terrorism, Mr Rammell stressed that the division between 'home' and 'away' threats no longer existed, and outlined how Britain's security was at stake in the war in Afghanistan.
Examining the government's engagement with Muslim communities in relation to counter-terrorism, the RUSI Journal published a study of the government's Prevent strategy which would usher in a wider debate. The following month, RUSI's Garry Hindle presented a memorandum on behalf of RUSI to the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee on improving the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy. In October, two sides of this ongoing debate was hosted on RUSI.org
In September, RUSI brought to bear its expertise in conflict resolution and geopolitics across the world's regions. Making the Case for Security Sector Reform in Zimbabwe discussed a neglected aspect of the country's year-old political compromise, presenting a strategy for reforming Zimbawe's politicised police and armed forces.
In the same month, Security in the Caucasus: Enhancing Cooperation with European Security Architectures brought together ministers, ambassadors and international organisations in conference to discuss the challenges facing a future geopolitical hub.
NATO would seek cooperation, but prepare for conflict, with Russia over the security of the Arctic Sea region, the Supreme Allied Commander (Europe) told RUSI members in his first lecture in the role. Speaking at RUSI in the sixtieth anniversary year of the Atlantic Alliance, Admiral James G. Stavridis spoke on NATO's bid to redefine itself in the face of both a sceptical public and ever more agile enemies.
Britain's defence strategy is at a 'watershed' and requires a renewed 'broad political consensus' on the assumptions behind the UK's global aspirations, the second paper in the Future Defence Review series warned in October. A Force for Honour: Military Strategic Options for the United Kingdom detailed five potential scenarios for reforming Britain's grand strategy - covered in this BBC news report.
The third paper in the series, Multilateral Approaches to Security: Choices for Defence, argued for an increased emphasis on international institutions such as the United Nations and NATO in the conception of Britain's national security. The Armed Forces themselves should be tailored to multilateral operations, the paper added.
The Future Defence Review: Preparedness, Posture and Risk Management in Meeting Future Defence Challenges discussed the wider issues raised by the series in a conference that brought together academics and Whitehall policy planners.
Britain's first-ever cyber security strategy came under scrutiny in Cyber Security: A Public-Private Partnership, a two-day forum held at RUSI, comparing the UK's response to other governments' cyber security efforts.
Having been named Think Tank of the Year by Prospect magazine in 2008, RUSI's work was again recognised with the accolade of Foreign Policy Think Tank of the Year at the magazine's 2009 awards. Citing the Institute for 'defining the debate in a year in which the role and scope of the army has been central' to British politics, the judges added that they had been 'especially impressed' by RUSI's research into defence productivity and acquisitions.
High levels of corruption and drug abuse are rife in the Afghan National Police despite international reform efforts, according to an extensive study published by RUSI in November, amid a month of turning points for the war in Afghanistan.
Auditing security reform in Afghanistan since 2001, Reforming the Afghan National Police advised an urgent redirection of policy towards improving the quality rather than simply the quantity of the Afghan police - a key linchpin of the war's counterinsurgency efforts.
The report was released ahead of a speech by President Obama outlining the United States' revised strategy for Afghanistan, which emphasised reconstruction of Afghan security forces alongside a 'surge' of US units into the country.
In addition to analysing the President's deployment options, RUSI experts also provided insights in Britain's own debate on the merits of sending more troops to Afghanistan, placing the decision in the context of other NATO allies' troop movements. RUSI's Malcolm Chalmers cautioned that progress in Afghanistan could not be directly linked to troop numbers.
Providing a safe and secure London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 will represent Britain's greatest security challenge since the Second World War, Lord West warned in a speech to a major conference on Olympic security organised by RUSI. The conference was the first major forum to discuss the issue ahead of the Games' opening in 2012, and was widely covered in the media.
RUSI's web presence received an overhaul in November with the redesign of RUSI.org. RUSI's publications and research were made easier to access, and RUSI Analysis, an online forum for expert commentary on defence and security, was launched.
RUSI's year ended amid further reflection on the Afghan conflict, and the contribution of Britain's armed forces amid an uncertain future for defence in government.
The Taliban could not win in Afghanistan but the international coalition could fail through lack of will, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup argued in the traditional annual lecture to RUSI members by the Chief of Defence Staff. Sir Jock's warning was widely carried by the media amid a rising death toll in Afghanistan.
Days later, Sir Bill Jeffrey, Permanent Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, discussed the MoD's Strategy for Defence document, emphasising the crucial role played by both military and civilian personnel in the Ministry.