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  • Author: David Blagden
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: The international system is returning to multipolarity—a situation of multiple Great Powers—drawing the post-Cold War 'unipolar moment' of comprehensive US political, economic and military dominance to an end. The rise of new Great Powers, namely the 'BRICs'—Brazil, Russia, India, and most importantly, China—and the return of multipolarity at the global level in turn carries security implications for western Europe. While peaceful political relations within the European Union have attained a remarkable level of strategic, institutional and normative embeddedness, there are five factors associated with a return of Great Power competition in the wider world that may negatively impact on the western European strategic environment: the resurgence of an increasingly belligerent Russia; the erosion of the US military commitment to Europe; the risk of international military crises with the potential to embroil European states; the elevated incentive for states to acquire nuclear weapons; and the vulnerability of economically vital European sea lines and supply chains. These five factors must, in turn, be reflected in European states' strategic behaviour. In particular, for the United Kingdom—one of western Europe's two principal military powers, and its only insular (offshore) power—the return of Great Power competition at the global level suggests that a return to offshore balancing would be a more appropriate choice than an ongoing commitment to direct military interventions of the kind that have characterized post-2001 British strategy.
  • Topic: Security, Cold War
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Brazil
  • Author: Paul Cornish, Andrew M. Dorman
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Institution: Chatham House
  • Abstract: Whichever party or parties form the next UK government, a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is expected to begin soon after the general election in May. The review might be a 'light touch' exercise—little more than a reaffirmation of the SDSR produced by the coalition government in 2010. It seems more likely, however, that the review will be a lengthier, more deliberate exercise and one which might even last into 2016. For those most closely engaged in the process the challenge is more complex than that confronted by their predecessors in 2010. The international security context is more confused and contradictory; the UK's financial predicament is still grave; security threats and challenges will emerge that cannot be ignored; the population's appetite for foreign military engagement appears nevertheless to be restricted; and prevailing conditions suggest that the risk-based approach to national strategy might be proving difficult to sustain. Two key questions should be asked of the review. First, in the light of recent military experiences, what is the purpose of the United Kingdom's armed forces? Second, will SDSR 2015–16 sustain the risk-based approach to national strategy set out in 2010, and if so how convincingly? Beginning with a review of the background against which SDSR 2015–16 will be prepared, this article examines both enduring and immediate challenges to the national strategic process in the United Kingdom and concludes by arguing for strategic latency as a conceptual device which can complement, if not reinvigorate, the risk-based approach to national strategy and defence.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom