RUSI in the News - March 2010

Citations of RUSI experts, analysis and events in the global media from March 2010

Future Defence Review - defence budget cuts

In light of RUSI's Working Paper Series produced in advance of a Future Review of Defence, numerous experts from RUSI have been sought for advice on possible cuts to the Defence Budget in the upcoming Strategic Defence Review. Based upon Professor Malcolm Chalmers' analysis in a January Working Paper, even in the most optimistic scenario the MoD could face a cut in its budget of around 11 percent in real terms over the six years to 2016/17. He thinks that 'to make significant savings ... there are going to have to be savings in equipment and in personnel'.

Gordon Brown's claim that the Defence Budget has been rising every year since 1997, has in real terms - taking into account inflation - been proven incorrect. The figures have been analysed by Professor Chalmers, who points out that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is using the raw figure - near-cash spending - without inflation or depreciation. 'The basic point is that near-cash spending on defence has risen each year', says Professor Chalmers, 'but the near-cash spending in real terms has not'.

In terms of defence spending, the problem facing the MoD, according to David Kirkpatrick, Associate Fellow at RUSI, is that 'defence inflation' runs almost three percentage points higher than the 'civilian rate', putting increasing pressure on the budget to cover rising costs.

However, Chancellor Alistair Darling announced this month that operational expenditure in Afghanistan would remain at £4 billion for 2010-11. Such a significant sum will lead the Treasury to question whether Britain should continue its current level of commitment in Helmand. The issue of whether Britain can continue to afford operations such as the one in Afghanistan, says Professor Chalmers, will have to be addressed in the upcoming Strategic Defence Review.

To read RUSI's Future Defence Review Working Papers, click here

Coverage: Reuters, Channel 4, Telegraph, Financial Times, Defence Professionals

Moscow metro bombings

The bombings on the Moscow Metro system have reignited tensions between Russia and the Caucuses. Dr. Jonathan Eyal, RUSI's Director of International Security Studies, believes the attacks are 'a direct affront to Vladimir Putin, whose entire rise to power was built on his pledge to crush the enemies of Russia'.

In his opinion, the public statements from both Russia's Prime Minister Putin and its President Dmitry Medvedev represent 'the same old answers that we have heard before'. And if the conflict in Chechnya continues 'it will increasingly start infecting the other parts of the Caucasus region'.

The bombings have also raised the necessity for tighter security on public transport, but explosives detection remains a problem in mass transit. According to RUSI's Dr. Tobias Feakin, Director of the National Security & Resilience Programme, 'many detection technologies in development...simply cannot cope with the volumes of people passing through'.

To read Jonathan Eyal's analysis of the Moscow Bombings, click here.

Coverage: Reuters, CBS News, Guardian, MSNBC, ABC, BBC

Talking with the Taliban

Recent statements by David Miliband, UK Foreign Secretary, that Britain is open to discussions with senior Taliban leaders do not come as a surprise to Malcolm Chalmers. He believes that within the UK government there is 'a considerable appetite' for looking at the possibility of reconciliation, even to provide roles for the most senior Taliban leaders in Afghan politics at a local, and even at a national level, providing links with Al-Qaeda are broken. However, what is most important is not whether there will be negotiations but what is the content of those negotiations.

Coverage: BBC Radio 4, ABC Australia

UK expulsion of Israeli diplomat

The UK government has announced the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat in response to the use of forged UK passports by suspects in the killing of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. RUSI's Garry Hindle, head of Security and Counterterrorism, says this is the 'beginning of a rather nasty little row'. Nonetheless, as the Foreign Office had 'little choice but to take what is fairly strong action' this will not damage the Israeli-British security relationship.

Coverage: The Peninsula

Middle East defence spending

Defence and maritime spending in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region are 'growing at a phenomenal rate', says Dr. Lee Willett, Head of Maritime Studies at RUSI. Dr. Willett argues that this is due to the complex situation developing in this part of the world. In his view, the demanding situation will lead to naval spending levels that will touch $30 billion in the next two decades.

Coverage: Gulf Times

'Problems' in fight against piracy

Piracy continues to cause serious disruption to international shipping in the Indian Ocean, despite the presence of a multi-national counter-piracy naval force.  The problem in successfully fighting piracy, according to Michael Codner, RUSI's Director of Military Science, is the 'lack of a common operational procedure'. To be effective militaries need to integrate information but it may not be in their interests to share classified information particularly anything that is militarily significant. The problem of co-ordination is exacerbated by the balance-of-power issues between the different navies. Nations that share an economic dependency on the sea do not necessarily have any other interests in common, which could lead to power struggles between EU, US, Chinese and Indian fleets.

Coverage: Al-Jazeera

Germany turning inwards

With the many economic problems assailing the European Union, Germany seems to have cooled on increased unity unless it is on strict German terms. When Germany achieved reunification in 1990, Mr. Kohl's government reassured neighbours that the nation sought 'a European Germany, not a German Europe'. Now Ms. Merkel is pushing for 'a more German Europe', says Dr. Jonathan Eyal.

Coverage: Wall Street Journal

Zuma questions Zimbabwe sanctions

On a state visit to the UK in March, South African President Jacob Zuma asked British government officials to support the removal of European Union sanctions against Zimbabwe, which he believes are hurting Harare's efforts are rebuilding the economy. However, Knox Chitiyo, Head of the African programme, says that in turn President Zuma is 'going to come under a lot of pressure from Britain on various issues relating to the Global Political Agreement'.

Coverage: Voice of America

Somalia's election choices

April's election campaign in Somalia is going to be an important measure of how far the public have turned against extremist Islamic groups such as al-Shabaab. Somalia is a deeply-religious country, but according to RUSI's Anna Rader, the al-Shabaab's extreme interpretation of Islam is onerous to most citizens. Both the President and such groups use religious rhetoric to establish legitimacy, but Rader contends that unlike other groups al-Shabaab has not shown that it 'has any clear programmatic goals or any sense of what a truly Islamic state would look like for Somalia'.

Coverage: Guardian

IEDs are a drain on military resources

IEDs are a major threat to NATO forces in Afghanistan, the source of the greatest number of casualties so far in the conflict. Olivier Grouille, Head of Land Operations and Capabilities programme, states that these weapons change the 'way forces have to move around on the ground, and it changes attitudes to risk'. This has lead to a 'cat and mouse game', as NATO forces develop better methods of protection or detection so the insurgents evolve, which 'costs money, it costs time, it costs lives'.

Coverage: Voice of America

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