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UK Government Integrated Review Announcement – RUSI Experts React

News, 26 February 2020
UK, UK Defence
The UK government has announced plans to overhaul its approach to foreign policy through a new government-wide review. Here, RUSI experts give their initial reaction to the news.

OPPORTUNITY FOR A FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY GROUNDED IN THE UK NATIONAL INTEREST    

The Government has decided – rightly – that the Integrated Review should conclude at the same time as the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). It has not yet clarified how many years the CSR will cover. The commitment to protect the 2% of GDP spent on defence provides some reassurance against deep cuts. But the Ministry of Defence will want to have clarity on its budgets beyond the next two years if it is to plan for the radical modernisation that is required.  

What makes this review distinct from 2010’s and 2015’s – and what could make it the most radical since the end of the Cold War – is the increased focus on foreign policy. In contrast to previous reviews, the previous commitment to support the Rules-Based International System is noticeably absent from this statement. This is welcome, and opens up the way to a foreign and security policy that is more clearly grounded in UK national interests.   

A radical review of foreign policy is needed to help the government respond to President Trump’s America First doctrine which, together with wider international trends, is in danger of leaving the UK isolated when pursuing its national interests. While there are also new opportunities as a result of recent changes, the risks to the UK's essential alliance relationships are greater now than they have been for many decades. The mitigation of these risks should be central to this new review. 

 Professor Malcolm Chalmers, RUSI Deputy Director-General 

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WE NEED A CLEAR-HEADED ASSESSMENT ABOUT THE UK’S ROLE IN THE WORLD 

‘We welcome the review, its ambition and the emphasis given to foreign policy. This needs to be based on a clear-headed assessment of UK national interest, its position in the world and what we want to be as a nation. There are numerous challenges that will need to be addressed: military; policing; financial; and societal. But perhaps the biggest question is what role the UK, as a medium but important power in the world, should aspire to play in an era of great power competition. It needs to decide whether the UK wishes to be an active participant in shaping a new order or focus on preserving existing arrangements against the tide of change. This should address the circumstances under which the UK will act, including militarily, to protect its interests.   

While the Review will, and should, consider threats, it must not be confined to that; it must also explore how to seize opportunities and the capabilities that allow the UK to respond to unforeseen events. This will inevitably involve consideration of the UK’s international alliances (bilateral and multilateral), including the responsibilities of being a member of the UN Security Council and NATO. However, while it is heartening that the Review is going beyond the usual Departments, the threats involve a complex mixture of harmful actions taking place both at home and away. These come from hostile actors (states and non-states) but also natural disasters and climate change. National resilience also needs to be reflected, and there is a role for non-traditional security Departments to participate. This might also include, perhaps, Education to ensure that the UK not only has the skills it needs but also can inform people of the way hostile actors seek to exploit divisions in society to destabilise us at home.  

The timeline as announced is tight for such a Review and without prioritisation, there is a danger it will deliver little if it tries to deliver too much.’ 

Professor Peter Roberts, Director, Military Sciences Research Group, RUSI 

 

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TIME TO TREAT SERIOUS ORGANISED CRIME AS A TIER ONE THREAT 

Serious and organised crime has been described as the deadliest national security threat faced by the UK that persistently erodes our economy and communities. It affects more UK citizens, more often, than any other national security threat, impacting on citizens, public services, businesses, institutions, national reputation and infrastructure.  

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review made it its aim to reduce substantially the level of serious and organised crime affecting the UK and our interests. It has not succeeded in that ambition. In the intervening years the threat has increased markedly.  

Now is the time for the government to raise the threat of Serious Organised Crime to Tier One status. The resultant extra resources and refocused attention are not only required to tackle the current threat but would also prove essential to fill any void in the UK’s security arrangements with the rest of Europe in our post-Brexit relationship. A failure to properly recognise the Serious Organised Crime threat to national security would lead to the exploitation of more vulnerable persons, especially children and young persons, more damaged and fractured communities and increased harm to our economy and institutions, affecting our prosperity and international reputation. 

Keith Ditcham, Senior Research Fellow and Acting Director, Organised Crime and Policing Research Group, RUSI 

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RECALIBRATE RELATIONSHIPS IN COMPLEX REGIONS 

The Integrated Review represents a generational opportunity to set a direction for foreign and security policy following the UK’s departure from the EU. The task is not, however, confined to relations with Europe. To succeed, the Review will need a coherent vision of the UK’s global interests, responsibilities, and where threats lie. This will all be in the context of a fast-changing international security order. Critically, the Review will need to calibrate the UK’s foreign and defence policies for engagements in the regions that will likely define international security in the decade ahead – Northern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and Gulf, South Asia (especially India), parts of Africa, and Southeast Asia. A central task of the Review will be to determine the UK’s strategic approach to Russia and China, notably regarding their security activities in these key regions. This will require responses to genuine threats alongside the reality of economic interdependency, notably with China, and the aim of ultimately steering hostile countries into more cooperative and less confrontational relationships. An effective response will be possible only through adapting existing alliances and partnerships and by building new ones, thereby, placing diplomacy at the heart of national security. 

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UK NEEDS TO CAPITALISE ON CYBER STRENGTH ON WORLD STAGE 

The government needs to look hard at how it can capitalise more effectively on the UK’s cyber strength on the international stage. It should make the UK’s leading role in cyber security a core part of its position in the world. 

 

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Author

Malcolm Chalmers
Deputy Director-General

Professor Malcolm Chalmers is Deputy Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). His research is focused on UK... read more

Professor Peter Roberts
Director Military Sciences, RUSI

Peter is Director of Military Sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, having been the Senior Research Fellow for Sea Power and... read more

Keith Ditcham
Senior Research Fellow and (Acting) Director, Organised Crime and Policing

Keith Ditcham is Senior Research Fellow and (Acting) Director of RUSI’s Organised Crime and Policing Research Group, bringing over 19... read more

Neil Melvin
Director, International Security Studies

Dr. Neil Melvin is Director International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (... read more

James Sullivan
Head of Cyber Research

James is the Head of Cyber Research at RUSI. His research interests include cyber security, the spread of terrorism and violent... read more

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