Citations of RUSI expert analysis and events in the global media, August 2009.
- RUSI Experts in the News
- Reports of RUSI Events
General Sir David Richards takes over as Chief of General Staff
As General Sir Richard Dannatt retires and becomes the Chair of RUSI, his role is filled by General Sir David Richards, who took over the position on 28 August. Admitting that Dannatt’s would be a ‘hard act to follow’, Richards resolved to ‘continue to focus on what is needed to meet the government’s aims in Afghanistan and the region’ whilst maintaining that ‘the army’s most valuable assets are its people’.
NATO chief and British Prime Minister both make surprise visits to Afghanistan
On 5 August, NATO’s new chief, former Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, made a surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan to reinforce the message that this war against the Taliban remained the alliance’s top priority. The chief has a difficult task ahead of him, as the number of fatalities in Afghanistan continues to rise and the campaign grows less popular at home. Lisa Aronsson, a trans-Atlantic specialist at RUSI, argues that Rasmussen’s endorsement of the war will be a hard sell. She noted that ‘if Obama couldn’t do it, considering the political capital he had at the beginning of the year, it’s going to be difficult’ for NATO’s chief.
Later this month, the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown also made a visit to troops on the front line in Afghanistan. During a six-hour visit to a military base in Helmand, the Prime Minister urged faster training of large numbers of troops. Despite his optimism here, RUSI’s Malcolm Chalmers argues that, like Rasmussen, Brown’s message here will be a hard sell to the British public. The number of fatalities is focussing public attention on ‘the question of whether we’re succeeding in Afghanistan and what success means’. Highlighting that the Taliban indeed seem to be ‘strengthened’, he argues that the public are not seeing many signs of success.
Politics of defence spending: the ‘thinning red line’
Funding and procurement for the UK’s armed forces continues to dominate headlines this month. With the government having called for a new Strategic Defence Review in July, experts have opened the debate about how and why money is spent in various areas of the defence community. Britain’s major political parties seem to concede that cuts will have to be made across government, and this includes the defence sector: senior RUSI fellow, Malcolm Chalmers’, highlight of these cuts in his paper, Preparing for the Lean Years continues to inform these discussions.
Read Chalmers' 'Preparing for the Lean Years' here
Generation gap: combating insurgency
The anniversary of British entry to Northern Ireland in August 1969 has sparked discussions of how the campaign there might be seen as a ‘test run’ for Britain’s current dealings with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The battle for ‘hearts and minds’ of Afghan people is a key component of success in the war against widespread terrorism here, and, like the campaign in Northern Ireland, it is likely to take years – generations – to win. In light of these comparisons, RUSI’s Amyas Godfrey remarked that the international forces in Afghanistan had no hope of changing people’s minds over a short amount of time. ‘It takes an entire generation’, he said.
Counter terrorism ‘gadgets’
In light of the Government’s three-year Science and Technology Counter-Terrorism Strategy, CONTEST, leading counter-terrorism experts are calling for investment in more sophisticated technology. Predicting that in the coming years, terrorists will begin to use highly-developed technology to plan attacks as well as to recruit members to terrorist groups and spread propaganda, experts are calling for the UK to retain its status as a ‘leading innovator’ in anti-terrorist technology. In response to this, DR Tobias Feakin, head of National Security and Resilience at RUSI, stressed the importance of keeping up with terrorist groups in this way. Noting that these groups are ‘very adept at changing and adapting’, Feakin emphasised the rapidity of technology’s evolution and the importance of Britain keeping up to date.
Iraq bomb blasts test the country’s resolve
As unnamed insurgent groups instigated synchronised attacks on Iraq’s capital this month, experts gage the reaction of the country’s government. Taking place in the wake of the American military’s exit, RUSI’s director, Michael Clarke, argues that Sunni insurgents (thought to be blamed to the attacks) will hope that the Iraqi government ‘over-reacts and hits back with retaliation’ in a way which is viewed as harsh and unjust, so as to highlight their cause to the international community and gain support from opponents of Iraq’s government.
The effects of terrorist networks like Al Qa’ida are still felt strongly in the region, and this month, security forces in Saudi Arabia arrested forty four suspected members – all university graduates – who were believed to be assisting Al Qa’ida in finance and recruitment. Mark Thomas of RUSI Qatar notes that ‘the arrests were interesting because they indicate renewed militant activity in the kingdom that is potentially home grown’. The move by Saudi Arabia for such action no doubt symbolises the stepping up of efforts against the organisation.
The ‘biggest enemy is always the Russian people’
After publishing a Whitehall Paper, ‘Who ‘Lost’ Russia?’ in April of this year, director of the International Security Studies department at RUSI, Jonathan Eyal, continues the analysis of the West’s breakdown in its relationship with Russia. In an editorial piece at the end of this month, Eyal defends the paper and reiterates that ‘actually Russia and the West have an enormous amount in common’. He continues, ‘if one looks at the major strategic issues facing us, there is an enormous amount in common between Russia and most western governments. The tragedy is that this is not seen in Russia itself’. Eyal’s findings in the paper were originally used by a governmental cross-party committee examining the UK’s posture towards Russia, and the debate continues.
Read Eyal’s paper, ‘Who ‘Lost’ Russia?’, here
Zimbabwe Unity Government made tense by Zuma mediation visit
The visit of South African President and Southern African Development Community Chairman, Jacob Zuma to mediate ‘longstanding unresolved issues’ in Zimbabwe sparked tensions in the country. Such mediation was unlikely to resolve the longest-standing issues here, and members of Zimbabwe’s government had voiced their scepticism. Despite these minor tensions, RUSI’s Knox Chitiyo remarked that the government would be unlikely to collapse entirely.
Coverage: Voice of America (VOA)
RUSI events in the news
Defence contribution to counter-terrorism: Bill Rammell speaks at RUSI
On 3 August, Bill Rammell MP gave his first speech as Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Speaking at a RUSI Members’ Lecture, chaired by RUSI Vice President Sir David Omand, the Minister used his debut to highlight the defence contribution to UK and international security. The Minister outlined how the UK Armed Forces are defending the UK's security interests in Afghanistan and those operations fit in with the UK's wider counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. He stressed that the vast majority of the Muslim community was appalled by terrorist groups like Al-Qa’ida and that Islam was being used as a mere ‘smoke-screen’ to carry out extremist aims. Ultimately, the Minister remained optimistic about UK efforts on the campaign, and although he conceded that counter-terrorism efforts could not take place solely by military intervention, he valued the input of the Armed Forces in maintaining UK security.