Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Modernising the British Armed Forces
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Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP: Modernising the British Armed Forces
21 May @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
In light of the publication of the Modernising Defence Programme in December 2018, which recognised the emergence of a more volatile and competitive world system, it has been argued that the United Kingdom is being forced once again to revisit its strategic defence posture. For over three centuries, Britain has acted as a custodian of the international order, provisioning itself with the means and materiel to defend itself, support its allies and maintain the global rule of law. What sort of strategic defence posture is needed to uphold these objectives under changing circumstances?
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to a discussion about the future of British strategic defence policy with The Rt. Hon. Tobias Ellwood MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans at the Ministry of Defence. James Rogers, Director of the Global Britain Programme at the Henry Jackson Society, will provide some comments after Mr Ellwood’s presentation.
Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence People and Veterans and MP for Bournemouth East. Tobias Ellwood was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence on 14 June 2017. Tobias served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from July 2014 to June 2017. He was elected Conservative MP for Bournemouth East in May 2005. Tobias was educated in Bonn and Vienna when his parents were overseas as members of the United Nations. He returned to attend Loughborough University and subsequently completed an MBA at City University Business School. He also completed the senior executive course in National and International Studies at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
James Rogers is Director of the ‘Global Britain’ Programme at the Henry Jackson Society, of which he is a founding member. Formerly, he held a number of positions at the Baltic Defence College in Estonia and has worked at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris.
On the 21st of May the Henry Jackson Society hosted the Rt. Hon. Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans at the Ministry of Defence, for a discussion on the future of UK strategic defence policy. He was joined by James Rogers, director of the Global Britain program at the Henry Jackson Society.
Mr Ellwood opened by sharing how moved he had been by the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Casino. Lamenting the losses of the battle and noting that it provided lessons learned in time for the invasion of Normandy, Ellwood described how the veterans he met at the occasion spoke of a time when Britain was great, respected by the world and looked to for solutions, and how this experience cemented the sense of duty we have to look after our interests and defend our values abroad. Today by contrast we seem more risk averse, perhaps because of Afghanistan and Iraq, amongst other issues.
Mr Ellwood was keen to emphasise that whatever our feelings are, the world around us is changing rapidly. His biggest message of the evening was that we must increase our hard power and defence spending. We must ask ourselves what role we wish to play in the world, and with that will come a cost. A greater national debate is needed. He also noted his concern at what he sees as a collective national naivety regarding the changing character of war.
Ellwood argued that the world was now more dangerous than at any time since the Cold War, not because of any single enemy, but because of the diversity of threats that we now face. Extremism is not going away, IS is still active, and its fighters fleeing from Syria will flock to join other groups. We also face a resurgent Russia, and a China that he believes will become more powerful than the United States. In the face of such threats, we must revive the spirit of Normandy and Monte Casino. A particular source of concern for Mr Ellwood was cyber weaponry as we have no real understanding of who has access to cyber weapons and who is using them. To launch a cyber-attack, one doesn’t need to be a nation state, all that is required is a laptop and a lot of coffee.
We must ask ourselves, are we prepared to defend our own way of life and to help others who are unable to help themselves? Post-Brexit who will we trade with and what will our values be? If we are to answer these questions properly, then an honest conversation with the public is needed.
James Rogers then went on to discuss the necessity of understanding the goals of our opponents. Certain actors are engaged in a geopolitical battle to dislocate parts of the current rules based system in order to collapse it. To prevent their success, we must take the fight from our spaces to theirs. In addition, while cyberspace represents an important new frontier in warfare, we must also account for space and information.
The event then closed with a round of questions and answers.
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