RUSI in the News - June 2009


Citations of RUSI expert analysis and events in the global media, June 2009.

  • RUSI Experts in the News
  • Reports of RUSI Events

RUSI Experts in the News

Squeezing the budget tighter for defence

While the past decade has seen a significant increase in the proportion of gross domestic product spent on areas such as health and education under the current Labour government, the priority given to defence has fallen. Bill Kincaid, Editor of RUSI Defence Systems, stresses that the defence sector is a ‘hostage to politics’, and urges government leaders to recognise the need for and value of defence expenditure.

Predictably, such severe pressure being put onto the defence sector is causing mounting tension between the UK’s three armed forces, all vying for the same funds. With approximately ten per cent less thought to be spent on defence in the next five years, the Navy appears to be the most vulnerable to decrease in spending. Lee Willet, head of RUSI’s Maritime Studies Programme, describes the ‘impossible situation in which evermore is required of ever less’. He highlights the value of the British Navy by claiming that ‘all truly great powers are maritime powers’, but still concedes that the case for the Navy is a difficult sell: ‘The Navy's case is always hard to make because its key attribute is prevention, and how do you prove a negative?’. As a result of these pressures on the Royal Navy, giving a talk at RUSI, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the First Sea Lord, defended its funding in the form of the procurement of two new aircraft carriers. Asserting that the Afghanistan campaign was ‘not the only show in town’, Band stressed that the Navy had to be ‘big enough to have a meaningful presence, whether to deter or defeat an enemy’, which could not happen without adequate funding.

The tightening of this budget also forces the defence community to re-assess its current projects. In an analysis article for RUSI.org, Bjoern Seibert argues that the United Kingdom should end its involvement in the A400M military transport programme, since it is an inefficient expenditure.

Read Seibert’s article here.

The lack of money granted to the defence sector adds another dimension to the call for a military re-think. Alongside matters of protocol, welfare and resource-strategy for the Armed Forces, officials are calling for a re-shaping of defence spending for the twenty-first century. Amyas Godfrey, a research fellow at RUSI, emphasised that ‘there should be far more of a linking between foreign policy and defence’ areas of government, thus illustrating that money should be spent more efficiently between sectors.

Coverage: The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Defence Management Journal

 

Facing the home-grown terrorist threat

Professor Michael Clarke, Director of RUSI, illustrated the years since 2001 as the ‘golden age’ of counter-terrorism, where the UK intelligence services have been ‘both successful and lucky’. Speaking as RUSI Journal publishes a new article on terrorism, Clarke stressed that the problem of Islamic radicalisation would not disappear quickly; it is likely to be generational. Arguing that the alienation of young members of the Muslim population could lead to their susceptibility to radical grooming, the Director also highlighted that the process of conversion to radicalism could be a swift one. Clarke’s paper warns that the evolution of radical recruitment methods is entirely possible and should be accounted for. Though most extremists remain ‘resolutely amateur’ in the operations, carrying out botched, ill-planned plots, the article argues that ‘amateurs are as dangerous as professionals if they are lucky, and if there are enough amateurs plotting, some of them will be lucky’.

Read Clarke’s article in RUSI Journal here.

Coverage: The Daily Telegraph, BBC, The Daily Mail, Sky News, Press Association

 

Equipping the UK Armed Forces

Following the announcement of the new Armoured Vehicle Strategy, Olivier Grouille head of Land Capabilities in the Military Sciences department of RUSI, urges a fundamental shift in the thinking and culture behind the procurement of vehicles in the British Army.

Alongside numerous calls for changes in UK procurement strategy, General Sir Richard Dannatt was happy about the recent commitment to a re-launch of the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) at the Land Warfare Conference. Stating that ‘it is very very important for what we are trying to do’, he backed the government’s decision to restart the programme.

Coverage: Defence Management ('The Mindset for Protection' and 'MoD Plunges back into FRES')

 

The Afghan National Police Challenge

Eight years after the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, US intelligence agencies have illustrated that ‘Afghanistan is caught in a downward spiral, confronted by warlordism, a weak and corrupt government, a resurgent Taliban, and a narco-dominated economy’. Andrew Legon, a research fellow at RUSI, demonstrates the ‘deep pessimism’ felt by the international community towards the ANP, despite billions of dollars of investment into the system. He assesses US President Obama’s contentious new strategy for the establishment of a powerful national police force.

Coverage: Forieign Policy Research Insitute (FPRI), International Relations and Security Network, Zurich (ISN)

 

‘Lessons unlearned’ by the British Army

Amidst a flurry of prominent military figures calling for reform in the Armed Forces, Major Patrick Little’s analysis in RUSI Journal of the British Army and its ‘systematic failure’ has had a large impact on the defence community. Echoing speeches by General Sir Dannatt and General Sir David Richard at RUSI Land Warfare Conference about the need for military reform and re-thinking. He referred to a feeling in the Army that middle-tier officers felt they were being ignored by senior staff and called for urgent re-assessment.

Read Little’s article in RUSI Journal here.

Coverage: The Daily Telegraph

 

Chinese-US sub collision is an ‘accidental’ trend

Despite claims that a Chinese submarine’s collision with an underwater sonar apparatus towed by a US destroyer in the South China Sea was an accident, Alexander Neil, head of the Asia Programme at RUSI, contends that it is part of a rising trend in incidents. He said the trend was moving towards more such collisions as China bolsters its naval power and its claims to challenge the US Navy. He claimed that ‘we are going to see more of the same and the potential for serious incident will rise’ as China develops its maritime capabilities.

Coverage: Associated Press

 

Tensions escalate in North Korea

Amid an increase in UN sanctions imposed upon North Korea, the country stands in defiance, pledging to start a uranium enrichment programme for a light-water nuclear reactor. Alexander Neil, head of the Asia Programme at RUSI, explained that this threat of enrichment is ‘not a new phenomenon’. He claimed that ‘it is almost certain that the US and Japan will enforce a blockade which will put a pincer movement around any of the sea trade going in and out of North Korea’.

North Korea has a track record for being resilient to sanctions, and Neil questioned whether these would have any result on the country internally. Regardless, North Korea remains under the threat of instability in its succession process. Neil comments that this is the core issue for Kim Jong-Il, and perhaps even more pressing to the dictator than the sanctions themselves.

Coverage: Al JazeeraDeutsche Welle

 

Reports of RUSI Events

RUSI Land Warfare Conference: Strategic Crossroads

The UK’s leading discussion forum for the British Army, the RUSI Land Warfare Conference, was held over three days this June. Various prolific speakers held talks on issues from recruitment and welfare to science and technology, assessing Britain’s defence capabilities and options for the future.

Chief of General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, spoke in relation to the military’s previous operations. He praised the British military for their many successes in Basra, whilst highlighting ‘bumps along the way’. He argued that Britain failed to commit properly in Iraq in terms of troops and resources, due to an ‘early switch to an economy of force operation, in favour of Afghanistan’. Dannatt emphasised the need to achieve a ‘decisive effect’ early on during a campaign, and reiterated that lessons learned from Iraq should be applied, where possible, to action in Afghanistan.

Read General Sir Richard Dannatt’s speech here.

Similar sentiments were echoed by General Sir David Richard’s speech, who urged the need for an immediate review of the Armed Forces. The future Chief of the General Staff called for a ‘fundamental re-think’ in the structure of the military, arguing that the British Armed Forces ‘try with inadequate resources to be all things in all conflicts and perhaps fail to succeed properly in any’. Instead, he called for the UK to possess a ‘deterrent-scale, traditional war fighting capability’.

Read General Sir David Richard’s speech here.

Quentin Davies, Defence Equipment and Support Minister, unveiled a new policy initiative for UK procurement of armoured vehicles. In his speech, Davies underlined the MoD’s move away from previous protectionism, stating that they were now prepared to obtain AFVs from overseas, so long as their design and future modification rights could also be purchased.

Coverage: The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, Defence Management Journal

 

Moroccan Foreign Minister visits RUSI

On Wednesday 3 June, Taieb Fassi Fihri, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco, held discussions at RUSI about Morocco’s security operations in the Mediterranean. Stressing the importance of its strong relationship with the UK, the Foreign Minister emphasised the need for a well-policed Mediterranean against the threat of drug and human trafficking in the region. He discussed the risks posed by terrorist organisations in Northern Africa, and partly attributed the strong influence of Al-Qa’ida to a lack of investment in democratisation by certain sub-Saharan countries.

Speaking on the Arab-Israeli issue, he expressed King Mohammed VI’s wish for an independent Palestinian state, remaining altogether hopeful about future co-operations between the two and about future regional security in general. His visit follows consultations with UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband on the Middle East and its relations with Europe.

See the RUSI News article about the minister’s visit here.

Coverage: Morocco News, Maghreb Arabe Presse

 

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