HJS Report Launch: “Global Britain and the Future of the British Armed Forces”

DATE: 13:00-14:00, Tuesday 28th November 2017

LOCATION: Committee Room 3, House of Lords, Houses of Parliament SW1A 0AA

SPEAKER: James Rogers


Lord Risby

Ladies and gentlemen I welcome you here today to what I think is an incredibly timely discussion which we are going to have. My name is Richard Risby and I think that it’s so interesting that in our Parliament today the question of defence has really raised its head in an extraordinary way because all the manifestations of it in terms of cyber, technology like mini drones protecting borders as well as the normal hardware and the fact that for this country obviously our capacity to have a viable defence expenditure programme plus good intelligence actually puts us into good stead with our European neighbours at a rather difficult time.

I’m just going to quickly read before we proceed something that Michael Howard said which I thought was incredibly appropriate – ‘Our security remains involved with that of our continental neighbours the dominance of the European landmass by an alien and hostile power would make almost impossible the maintenance of our national independence say nothing of our capacity to maintain a defensive system to protect any extra European interests that we may retain.’ And of course we live under the shadow of the Americans and there is a lively debate in America about this.

So it’s an enormous pleasure to welcome James Rogers today who indeed has incredible expertise who has just been living in Estonia which in one sense is a frontline for NATO, he has an incredible track record which you have seen in the invitation and I think nobody is more qualified to talk about this subject than he is and he has written this comprehensive report which I have read from cover to cover which is absolutely fascinating. But may I just say once again how grateful I am and I know all of you are to The Henry Jackson Society for facilitating a discussion which is so appropriate at this time. So James I’m going to hand over to you and as I say when I look at your background and the report which you have written I think this is exactly the right moment to hear from you so thank you very much for being here with us today.

James Rogers

Thank you Lord Risby and thank you all again for coming to here to hear me speak and hopefully we can have a lively discussion after I’ve spent a few minutes presenting the central thesis or the central ideas behind the report to you. But let me just begin by outlining why we felt there was a need for this report as you know there’s been a bubbling discussion about defence spending and whether the UK in particular is spending enough not only in relation to its European interests but also in relation to the wider global agenda and this I think has been compounded significantly I think by the UKs decision to leave the European Union. So the report was created on that kind of backdrop i.e. that where leaving the European Union irrespective of whether you support that or you’re against it, it seems that we are now leaving and the UK needs to think a little bit about the future and how we’re going to develop our strategic posture in relation to Europe and the wider world in the years ahead and I would argue that the two are coming together quite firmly.

In addition to that there are mounting concerns that the defence budget is under significant strain and also whether it is large enough in the 21st Century for the ambition and the interests that the UK has in relation both to Europe and in relation to the Indo-Pacific and indeed the wider world. So that is the backdrop against which the report has been compiled.

If I might move on now to the central thesis of the report it is basically that the UK is so far now leaving the European Union thus so far a plethora of new challenges, threats and opportunities beginning to present themselves to which some of these to some extent may become systemic. That the UK has a much broader set of interests now than it had in the past at least for the last 20 years. In addition to this to some extent the UK has been pulled in different directions simultaneously – on the one hand it has been pulled towards Europe so far it is contributing significantly to the enhanced forward presence that NATO has set up in relation to the Baltic states, Poland and South Eastern Europe but also in so far that in leaving the European Union that the UK needs to think a little bit more about how it is going to engage with the Indo-Pacific region in the vast maritime space, in the Gulf, all a way round to East Asia which is not only becoming more important in an economical context in so far that it’s becoming the centrepiece of the global economy and the centre of economic growth but also because it is becoming more geopolitically important as well as China, India, South Korea and Japan interact with one another and grow in prominence.

In addition to that the main thesis basically is the UK needs to think much harder about what it’s spending, the resources it’s allocating for its strategic posture particularly in relation to Europe but also in relation to the wider world and also the critical Indo-Pacific region. We will come on to the specific recommendations that we make in a moment. But if I may take a few moments of your time to think a little bit about British Geo strategy over the last 200 years, this is one of the central components and I think one of the things which is often forgotten when we’re discussing Britain’s interests and the resources it provides to undergo these interests in a strategic context.

As you can see here is a map of the UK off the coast of Europe and one of the key things that I want to point out is that Britain’s capacity to act as a global power or a country with global interests has always been constrained and shaped by its interests in relation to European mainland. This is something which is often forgotten and is coming back to prominence as we speak not only because what Russia has been doing in relation to Eastern Europe but also in relation to what might happen in a European Union context when the UK leaves the block.

So in that case Britain’s established strategy which has been running for maybe the last 500 years has always been to some extent to hold European geopolitics in suspended animation. In other words to create a kind of broad equilibrium between the major powers on the continent and those powers have changed over time and in this space particularly over time we have seen the rise of France, the rise of Russia, the rise of Germany at various points but what the UK has tended to do is throw in its lot with a coalition to bring an aspiring tyrants designs to nothing.

So this for example what you can see on the screen is a quote from Sir Winston Churchill made in 1948 and basically he is outlining that the UK has played a traditional role as what’s known as an offshore balancer. So basically it has sought to use its military and economic resources to prevent a specific country from taking control of the European mainland and in particular to take control of the low countries which could then be used as an invasion route for access to the UK or to constrain the UK in a maritime context.

However this approach was significantly effected in the late 19th and 20th Centuries in so far as Russia and Germany became large continental powers and developed there terrestrial communication systems, there railways and also increased their ability to project resources into the armed forces through industrialisation and added to combined arms warfare this shattered the established British approach. These countries could simply overwhelm large spaces within the European mainland before the UK could mobilise the response and we saw this taken to its logical conclusion of course during the Second World War and potentially also in the Cold War.

So after the Second World War the UK changed its approach it no longer was interested so much in offshore balancing it became more interested in what we might describe as onshore tethering so it established a continental commitment where it put military forces and air forces onto foreign areas of the European mainland for the first time ever and it also created with the United States an alliance infrastructure which was to some extent pertinent and the idea was to basically lock down Europe to keep the Americans in of course as Lord inaudible said to keep the Germans down and to keep any other potential internal power down and to keep the Russians and the Soviet Union out. So in a way this was British strategy animated through NATO and pushed forward through this so called continental commitment which in a way allowed the UK to tether the mainland to the British Isles and therefore to prevent and to dampen the likelihood of conflict.

However the collapse of the Soviet Union changed this somewhat there was no longer a significant military or strategic or even geopolitical threat and throughout the 1990s I think it’s fair to say that British defence strategy began to look more towards the global domain and it defocussed at least away from Europe or at least the Northern European plain and although there were some interludes and some interest in the former Yugoslavia over time British strategy looked increasingly towards a global perspective.

I think we can see this through the two strategic defence reviews which took place in 1998 and 2010 respectively. Because the first one set in place the kind of strategic assets, the aircraft carriers which are currently being bought to pursue a global interest and simultaneously a bit later the 2010 defence review basically argued that Britain should withdraw its continental commitment in the form of its military forces positioned in Europe and Germany.  So basically during this time the UK becomes much more interested in the global domain and after 2010 the UK begins to pursue a number of different security arrangements and interests with countries such as Japan and Australia and also in the Gulf region. So new military facilities are set up or existing military facilities are expanded in Bahrain and also new ones are sought in Oman.

Part of this is the essence to try and globalise or at least to project Britain’s military interests much further afield than they had been in the Cold War period. Although there always had been to some extent a British perspective as we say it’s just that I think there is a greater ability to project that or at least there was in the immediate Cold War period but this period seems to have come to a close in so far as three key events are underway. Firstly the resurgence and revisionism of Russia which of course to some extent kick-started in 2008 during the Georgia Russia war but moreover the 2014 intervention or military invasion you might say of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. So this brings back a kind of continental perspective to UK strategic thinking and I think to some extent takes many Europeans, the UK included and the US some time to really realise the implications of what is now actually happening in relation to Russia.

But alongside that during the same period we see the rise of China and the response of the regional countries and the US to Chinas rise. And of course the previous US administration, the Obama administration look towards a kind of pivoting or rebalancing and refocussing of its strategic efforts away from Europe and increasingly towards the Indo-Pacific and specifically towards the East Asia Pacific space. This to some extent takes away the US commitment to Europe, it still remains but I think it has been reduced and it’s likely to be reduced further still as time goes on. Not least because China unlike the Soviet Union will potentially one day gain a greater economic weight than the United States itself.

And finally over the last two years at least the UKs withdrawal from the European Union so we have basically two external events Russia, China, the US and also now the UKs withdrawal from the European Union and to some extent this basically takes away the UKs role binding the European Union’s role towards NATO and to some extent subordinating the European Union to the wider Euro-Atlantic framework that has been established or was established by Britain and the United States.

So we now ask ourselves whether we are in a way pulled in two directions simultaneously. On the one hand we seem to be being called increasingly towards the Indo-Pacific region, the Gulf and even as far as South East and East Asia in so far as our potential new trading relations will be with the countries in that region. Not least as East Asia and the Indo Pacific region becomes increasingly important as a percentage of global economic output and as Europe over the next 20 to 30 years continues to decline. So the UK as I have said has taken a very interesting role in trying to re-establish some of its connections with the countries of the Gulf region but also in relation to Japan and Australia in relation to the South East Asia region.

So this map tries to chart exactly where the UK has interests in relation to this vast new Indo-Pacific zone which is becoming itself increasingly integrated in so far China, Japan, South Korea and India are beginning to expand economically and penetrate not only South East Asia and South Asia but also increasingly East Africa and the Middle East where the majority of their energy comes from. So the UK, the US, China, France to some extent, Japan, India all have interests in this zone and the UKs interest is only likely to increase here if the UK seeks to pursue greater trade and commercial relationships with countries in the region as time goes on. They may look to the UK increasingly as to some extent like Japan already as a kind of regional player into its own right and they will expect to see a British strategic or security commitment to some of their own interests in the region as well. So if Britain has a kind of strategic foothold in the region which it already does for its military facilities both existing from former period, the ancient empire and also reconsolidated into the Gulf then it will be well placed I think to see some of these new opportunities which may present themselves as time goes on.

In addition as we said earlier, the UK has an increasing commitment to Europe not least to the resurgence in sales and its revision of its activity on Russia but also the government seems very intent on re-emphasising the UKs defence and strategic role in relation to the European mainland and this may become increasingly important in the future not in so far as that Russia becomes a challenge but also to help us to shape and to some extent manipulate the decisions what the European Union makes in relation to defence and security development and those are in a very early stage but were not entirely sure how far they will go. It’s probably the case that the UK will play something of an important role in trying to shape them in accordance in the wider Europe Atlantic space.

So this map tries to capture exactly where the UK interests are in relation to the wider European space so all the way from the North Atlantic which has been a long standing UK concern from the end of the Second World War but also increasingly parts of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and interlocking with the UKs rising interest in the Indo-Pacific region. Now of course Europe will always be more important to the UK because it is itself a European country trapped off the shore of North Western Europe so whatever happens in Europe will always be of key concern to the UK. But the UK as I said will always take an increasing interest in the Indo-Pacific region in so far as it is becoming a centre of Economic growth in the world and also in the future likely the centre of geopolitical activity as well. We cannot even misunderstand the way in which countries like China and India themselves may eventually project into the European space of the economic and military power growth. We have already seen over the last year Chinese naval groups appearing in the Mediterranean even the Baltic in ways that they never have before.

So this is the state of the new situation and the UK to some extent is ideally placed in so far that it has a kind of historical role to a geographic foothold in the two regions concerned. And in so far in the sense that it is located off the shore of Europe which gives it a natural kind of defensive role in relation to the European mainland.

This brings us to the issue of military spending. Now this graph based on NATO figures goes all the way back I think to `1972 and as you can see the UK has basically reduced the amount of money that it allocates as a percentage of its national income against its GDP towards its armed forces. Now from the period 1972 through to roughly 1990 the UK allocated on average 5% of its GDP on its armed forces and on its defence posture. Now we can say that we think this is very exceptional time were we face a peer competitor but a competitor with potential to overwhelm the entire security of Western Europe and the UK had to play a disproportionate role in trying to under girth NATO and the wider strategic plan on which it and its allies depended.

But we can also say that during the 1990s and the 2000s UK defence spending continued to drop it dropped from the period 1991 to 1997 and the average then was around 3% then it went down to around 2.5% and since the 2010 defence review it has dropped further still to around just 2% and the lowest it ever was, was in 2015 when it approached 2.08% of GDP which is the lowest it has ever been at since some time in the early-mid 19th/20th Century.

So whilst the UK has to some extent had a reduced strategic role in the world because of the fact that there were not so many competitors during the 1990s it was actually able to reduce defence spending and to some extent it’s also been reducing since the end of the Second World War when it reached something like 52% of GDP and of course that’s a natural reduction. But the question we need to ask ourselves is whether it should continue to drop even today and there have already been arguments made that it has fallen below 2% in so far as various things added to the defence budget to try and make up the 2% guideline NATO has set.

But more important than that we need to ask ourselves as the UK whether 2% is actually a viable percentage for us to spend after all this percentage was put forward in 2006 just before the Riga summit NATOs Riga summit and the idea was it would basically be enough to allow European countries particularly in the European mainland that do not necessarily play a key role in underwriting the alliance to maintain their existing assets and where possible create new ones for expeditionary operations. But this remember was a time when no significant geopolitical threat to the alliance when Russia was still a quiet state and the wider strategic framework in which the Euro-Atlantic had been established was still reasonably viable.

However since then as I have already explained a number of changes have taken place – Russia’s resurgence and revisionism, the rise of China, domestic challenges in the United States and of course the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. So we therefore need to ask ourselves whether this is a sufficient amount of money to continue to allocate to defence and our wider foreign policy interests in so far that we need to take a much more expansive view in relation to Europe and also in relation to the Indo-Pacific region. As the graph what you can see shows the trend line is to continue downwards so we need to ask ourselves now whether the time has come to reallocate resources towards defence and our wider foreign policy interests that are supported through defence, diplomacy and defence engagement in the wider portfolio which we have and whether we need to now consistently increase our military budget as a percentage of our growth domestic inaudible to take it more up or to take it higher to the kind of area that it was in the latter phase of the Cold War or the 1990s where there was still a degree of instability inherent in the system.

With that in mind we are proposing in line with the letter which was written to the Guardian newspaper by the Chair of the Defence Committee in Parliament that we actually increase defence spending to 3% of GDP which would take it more in line with the 1990s but we do not do this immediately it would be incrementally over a period of 5 years to allow the growth to take place without effecting too much other government departments. This should be implemented through an act of parliament similarly to the budget that has been afforded to the department for international development. This at least for the time being should provide us with the means to maintain our existing military interests which where afforded through the strategic defence review of 2015 and wherever possible reallocate or increase our capabilities in relation to our needs which are arising out of the resurgence of Russia in Eastern Europe and also in relation to the Indo-Pacific in so far as we want new trade and commercial relationships with the countries in the region. This may play a key role in securing those.

Finally we would argue that this guideline or benchmark should be reviewed during each additional strategic and defence review in the future to determine whether it is too much if the strategic environment becomes more prosperous or indeed whether it is too little and we need to increase further still in so far as the global environment may become in the future more volatile with China, India, the US and Russia continue to collide with one another.

So with that that is our report and I urge you to read it and I look forward to your questions and any further debate, thank you.

Lord Risby

Well I think that was just an outstanding explanation and comprehensively looking at all the issues. I just would add one more thing I happened to be one of the Prime Ministers trade envoys and the fact that we have a defence capability and we have a high intelligence capability, intelligence gathering capability, is very important when we discuss trade with some of the people and countries that before we may not have relationships with. It’s held in very high esteem and all of them now feel threatened with cyber and all the manifestations of hybrid warfare which a number of countries are suffering. James that was outstanding and I know there will be many questions so please fire away and if you could identify yourself when you ask the question that would be excellent. Thank you right at the back.

Question 1

Thank you very much for your talk it was very interesting my name is Richard inaudible… my question is do you think that defence spending if it were to increase to 3% should be spent on conventional methods or as said in the House of Commons I think it was yesterday in Prime Ministers questions a choice between spending defence money on a cyber warfare versus actual warfare there is a polar decision to be made between the two.

James Rogers

I don’t myself agree with that kind of dichotomy if you will. I think that we are moving away from traditional, conventional warfare as it was understood in the past towards what is known increasingly in the West as hybrid warfare or what is known perhaps more effectively in Russia as what’s called non-linear warfare. That is not only are we focussing our military assets on defence or at least defending ourselves in the way which we may have done to some extent during the Cold War but we are increasingly engaged in lots of very sort of muddy areas and we wavering our defence capability back to the way it was originally conceived by inaudible who said that war is the continuation of policy with not by but with other means. So in that way we should start to think more actively about using our military assets and these should be expanded to include the kind of capabilities which you talk about cyber capabilities, information capabilities, the projection of the information and we should try to bring those together in a much more cohesive way then we can use them to project out to our opponents but also to in a way to prevent countries from even becoming opponents.

So it is about using our military capabilities expanded to the new context to try to shape the international environment around us in ways which are conducive to our foreign policy interest both in Europe and the Indo-Pacific and in relation to our new commercial and alliance partners and the established ones to try and maximise our interest and even to maximise our Western ideals and values which we hold very dear and are very important in under guarding societies because there are too as we have seen in relation to Russia becoming under relenting attack and we need to be aware of this and we need to try and bring them together in a much more cohesive way and to project them out rather than simply to sit back and wait to defend ourselves because to some extent we can’t defend ourselves we need to be on the offensive in order to defend ourselves.

Question 2

Thank you very, very much indeed both of you, Euan Grant I am a former law enforcement intelligence analyst covering responsibilities for the ex-Soviet states and my question very much is framed in the context of what you have both just said because there is much at stake protected transnational crime the higher end and indeed parts of the lower end from certain countries or links with certain countries if frankly an arm of their geopolitics I think this is one of the great challenges in Western law enforcement laws face. My question is in those context of what you have both said in making the joined up effort more effective in business, UK PLC are at large in defence. How do you see the relationship with the European countries because I think that this is one area where they have great difficulty generally in perhaps not France with that and I think it is a major opportunity but I thought to see the UK perhaps maybe resented, member states might be a bit keener but for the European Commission this is culturally alien by and large so where do you see the opportunities or obstacles to this because I think it is absolutely vital.

James Rogers

To some extent I can’t answer your question at the moment because I think we need to think a little bit more about what we really want in relation to Europe. For the last 40 years we’ve been part of the European Union or part of the European community and integration and we’ve approached our strategic effort I think along those assumptions that firstly we have the Euro-Atlantic space which is governed to some extent by the NATO alliance and that’s our key stone. The strategic framework if you will that we and the United States amongst others have put in place and sustained and it is in this environment that the European process of integration has been able to get off the ground, expand and deepen. This is a key point we need to bear in mind so to some extent we and the Americans are the midwives in integration.

One of my colleagues in Cambridge Brendan Simms puts it this way that in a way we are the landlords, we own the freehold of European security and the European Union to some extent is the leasehold or even just the tenant and if the two come out of alignment then firstly we don’t really know what will happen on the European mainland and second we don’t know what will happen in relation to the wider Euro-Atlantic space.

So I think we need to think about much more clearly about what our interests are in relation to the European mainland in so far as we are leaving now the European Union whether we want a kind of bi-lateral relationship with the European countries that are in the European Union which we are about to leave whether we want also multi-lateral arrangements we would have to create and shape between certain key states for example those in Northern Europe like a Northern group, an Eastern group, a Southern group which would deal with different issues based on interests and function. Also how we want to interact with the European Union in the future in so far as we are leaving. Whether we want a kind of close relationship whereby we are in a way a part of the system in all but name or whether we want something which is more exclusive which would suggest that we are staunchly and strictly independent both functionally and in relation to the institutions but nevertheless we will cooperate on key areas both in relation to what you’re talking about and in relation perhaps even as time goes on and if the European Union takes a more integrated approach towards its defence and military capability in relation to that as well.

We haven’t I think fully understood or thought out those kind of issues and where we will go in relation to them. This will also I think be affected by the changes that are taking place simultaneously in the Indo-Pacific region because the two are becoming increasingly linked together and we’ve often approached Europe as if it is an isolated region and we need to think much more holistically and much more broadly across the entire Eurasian space which spreads from our own Islands in North Western Europe all the way across to South East Asia and Japan because the whole region is to some extent becoming interconnected like never before. That’s also having implications to where we should go and what we should do both in a strategic and an economic context in so far that they can’t even be disentangled anymore.

Lord Risby

James could I just ask you about something. It’s possible that the European with Brexit may form some closer kind of defence relationship and it is also true as you observed a number of countries perhaps not huge but there has been some improvement they have moved towards a 2% and everything else. But we are still entirely dependent for defence umbrella by the United States and there were some rather difficult noises at one point that don’t seem to have been realised about this. But the truth of the matter is there is still a tremendous self-belief in some European circles that we are inaudible in soft power, this is actually some sort of substitute for hard power. What concerns me is thus far there has been no reaction particularly from the United States but there is always that threat and it is something that Europeans need to recognise, some have, that if they don’t start doing something about the issues your dealing with and believe that somehow having soft power programmes is a substitute for it, this actually endangers potentially the whole security of Europe. I wonder if you could just comment on that.

James Rogers

Yeah I think that to some extent is what the 2% guideline was supposed to address. It was supposed to show well the Europeans were supposed to adopt this guideline or this kind of benchmark to show that they were still committed to the wider Euro-Atlantic security system and you do need to spend a certain amount of money to maintain your existing assets or to be able to put forward a credible defence. Now of course a country like the Netherlands or Norway or even Poland is not going to be in the same situation as a country like the US or even the UK and France but nevertheless there is still something they can do and they need to do something to support NATO.

This is where the issue becomes much more prickly because as I said earlier on the one hand we have China rising quite rapidly and I think the Chinese military budget had increased by something like 150% over the last 10 year period which is a dramatic increase. One of the most dramatic to ever occur in recent history. So on the one hand we see China becoming increasingly potent in East Asia which is another critical area which the US has interests in and in so far as the US economy being drawn across the United States towards the Pacific the US itself is becoming more of a pacific than what it was initially an Atlantic power even if it maintains a key Atlantic interest.

So irrespective of what the UK does in relation to Brexit or leaving the EU I think in the long run the US will become increasingly interested in East Asia and the rise of China and supporting its wider alliance interests in that region whilst it will simultaneously have less to do with Europe.

Now that doesn’t mean that the US will withdraw from Europe or cease supporting NATO because the US is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. It just means that it’s going to put greater emphasis on the Pacific and it’s going to expect the Europeans, ourselves included to do more in relation to our own defence. I think particularly in relation to Russia and particularly in relation to the Middle East. So in that context it’s not unsurprising to see that President Trump like President Obama before him and even President Bush have all argued that Europeans should spend move of their money on defence.

Now this other idea has emerged I think in many European circles particularly on the mainland and it may also have been shaping some of the thinking in this country as well in recent years is that as you said there is this kind of belief that soft power can make up for hard power so our ability to attract people to our cause is to some extent it can compensate for our ability to coerce them.

Now I have great difficulty myself in accepting that there is any such thing as soft power. I except that people can be attracted to a particular country or cause but I think that country is doing very active things to attract them. So for example a country like the US has enormous capacity for its think tanks and its research institutions and its universities and its cultural system, Hollywood films, its music industry, as do we to some extent as well. The fact that the English language is the dominant language of the world the dominant sort of international language. So we’ve been using these systems to kind of push forward our message and to some extent it’s destabilising some of the ideas which are held in other regions in the world so it’s not simply that people are just trying to be attractive to us it is also that we are attracting them to us so to some extent we are ourselves being coercive even if it’s not using you know hard sticks to beat them it’s rather trying to destabilise there ideologies, there ways of seeing the world and to try to encourage them to adopt our own. We’ve been doing that successfully over the last 20 years or so particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union and to some extent it’s also responsible for the enlargement or the drawing in of both NATO and the European Union into the areas which were formerly under Soviet occupation or Soviet influence. In that respect I think we’re now in a situation whereby this idea is reaching its apex and it can’t be taken any further.

So we need to think a bit more about the coercive component and also the way in which we can use coercive hard power for shaping peoples preferences to the very fact that they know that we have the ability to you know the stick my disincentives them from doing the things we don’t necessarily want them to do both in relation to countries like Ukraine which are outside of the remit of the Euro-Atlantic space and also to some extent within the Euro-Atlantic space because what we can provide is a platform which potentially will prevent things from occurring which otherwise might occur because people think that we’re no longer as engaged in their own interests as we were in the past. This applies both to the US and I suspect I think also to some degree to the UK as well in so far as it’s played a very disproportionate role in relation to the other European countries in under guarding European security. For example the past 5 years it’s spent 20 billion pounds more than the 2% benchmark that NATO has set to help under guard European security whereas countries like Germany you might say have short changed NATO by something like 255 US billion dollars. This is across the whole European space and we need to come to terms with that and we need to come to terms with the fact that we’re to some extent in a new situation and we need to adapt accordingly.

Question 3

Mr Grant, Royal Marines Bracket retired. I read a letter published in the Times about 3 weeks ago quite a cheeky letter suggesting that we should indeed increase GDP to something slightly more modest than what you are suggesting but it should be part of the Brexit negotiation. Inaudible… anything between 20 billion, 40 billion who knows. My reasoning for saying this is some countries like Germany which only contribute 1.2 billion to defence warmly welcome that and particularly countries that you have an interest in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and I think we might get some support for that, do you think it has any attraction?

James Rogers

Well firstly I will say if I might I don’t think what we’re proposing here is necessarily extravagant I mean as I showed on the graph actually 3% is quite small by historical standards as a percentage of GDP allocated to defence, particularly if we expand the context of defence to include things in the past we might have not included. So I don’t think it is necessarily extravagant it is actually I would say quite a modest increase particularly if it is done over a period of years so its staggered, so we are not calling for tomorrow for there to be a massive ramping up of defence outlay.

But I think you are actually onto something important which I sort of tried to deal with earlier but I think we need to think much more carefully in relation to what we want to achieve as a European mainland and how we want in so far as we are leaving the EU the other European countries some of which are not in the EU some of which are but are not in NATO to basically help us to because in so far as we are going to be potentially doing things in the Indo-Pacific region to help under guard European security there, protecting trade lines, preventing geopolitical instability, moderating extreme voices in relation to assisting the US and our allies in the region in a way we are contributing to European security there to. So the least we want is for basically for Europeans to step up and do more in relation to conventional defence in relation to Russia and potential threats around the European vicinity.

So I think to some extent we should try to work out a mechanism that would make our increases on what we are going to do dependant on what they are going to do. They have already committed in the NATO 2014 summit in Newport to actually adopt the 2% benchmark as an official benchmark whereas before it was only informal and that’s a start. But we are still seeing that most European countries are not allocating much more to their defence capability.

There’s also a kind of built in reduction as well because of course what we have now and this applies to us as well to some extent depends on the excessive amount of defence spending we were making in the 1990s, the 1980s even and in time that will be lost as well. So for example we can’t order a new aircraft carrier to replace the Charles de Gaur, what Germany will do in relation to the Eastern flank of the alliance particularly when it is heavily dependent on the economic and strategic situation in that region as its economy is much more in a way Europeanised than is ours. So I think we need to think a bit more about how we can get our European allies to do more so that we can also do more but not necessarily also in Europe also in wider fields as well.

I think one of the ways we could do this would be through forming much deeper multi-lateral groups in Europe between countries with interests and basing ourselves as a inaudible if you will in the rear. So getting the Baltic States, Poland and the Central European states even countries like Romania and Bulgaria to do more together to secure that line. To get the Nordic States, the Scandinavian States to do more to secure that line, even the Southern European States France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece to do more in relation to the Mediterranean and we should try to shape the region to support the Euro-Atlantic framework so that it doesn’t somehow either do nothing or do as little as it can or start going off into strange directions that might be hostile to our own interests and in the wider strategic framework which is supported by the Euro-Atlantic space.

Question 4

Good afternoon I wanted to know what are your views in regards to the industrial and technological space of the defence industry in the UK and the work of SMEs and whether this industrial base will be enough to sustain a vibrant defence industry in this country after the Brexit or whether the project of the government is to continue in cooperation with the EU through inaudible… the European defence fund to which I think 5 and a half billion euros have been promised even after the exits in the European Union so what are your views on this?

James Rogers

Firstly I would say that the idea of permanent structure and cooperation at least as we see it being elaborated at the moment is still quite frankly small fry I mean 5 billion euros is a tiny amount of money in relation to the wider European defence spend and its even a smaller amount of money in relation to a country like the UK and France spends. So I don’t really see there being a long term issue in relation to the ability of the defence industrial base to support increased defence spending in the UK. This is a political issue primarily about providing the resources to put together the systems that allow us to actually benefit from increased defence spending in relation to spending more in particular regions, for key industries in certain areas but also potentially to create a kind of core of British defence spending that allows us to have projects which other European countries and other global countries as well can be a part of. I think there’s actually been some reduction in the last 10-15 years in the UKs ability to do this.

To some extent that’s part of the fact that it’s procured very expensive equipment so most European countries do not have need for a 1.2 billion pound destroyers their needs are much different because they don’t have the kind of perspective that the UK does. There is potentially a great deal of cooperation between the UK and France because they have very similar interests and the US and also some of the English speaking countries like Australia, Canada and also potentially in the future also South Korea and Japan particularly in relation to the naval and air portfolios that the country has.

So I don’t really see this as being a scientific or an economic one but it’s more of a political one that needs to be readdressed.

Lord Risby

I wonder if I could just James add something I actually led a defence delegation abroad the other day and I thought that what was so interesting was as James said of course these huge projects like aircraft carriers or whatever but actually the range amongst smaller businesses of what was on offer was absolutely staggering. So in other words for example you know how to detect a roadside bomb and ID for example or material which is being developed which is almost entirely fire proof. I mean there was just a whole spectrum of things that had never occurred to me and of course for many countries which you certainly don’t want an aircraft carrier or destroyer like this but they do have internal border issues. It’s precisely and particularly where there is an area where there is more terrorism where they want mini drones for their borders or whatever that happens to be I was absolutely amazed and delighted at the range of what was on offer by British industry it was world beating and also their capacity to project what they were doing in an attractive way and not necessarily in English either was quite gratifying.

Question 5

Michael Line member of the Society. I was wondering if you could comment more specifically on what you feel the role of the Royal Navy may be over the next 20 years. What it needs to do more of and more important what additional things in the next 20/25 years you think the role will play.

James Rogers

I’m of the belief the Royal Navy it depends to some extent on the government’s strategic interests in relation to the geopolitical situation we are finding ourselves in. Now I think we have seen over the past 5 years or so the UK has taken a much greater interest in what’s happening in the Gulf region and also to some extent what’s also happening in the South East Asia region and if you go back 5 years ago there was a lot of kind of rumours that the UK was going to increase its role east of Suez and to some extent we have now done that in relation to the Gulf. We have opened a larger naval facility in Bahrain and we’re also going to set up a logistic facility and birthing facility in Oman, one within the Gulf and one outside of it. As I understand it the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers may be active in that region with escorting fleets in the future whether they are multilateral or some kind of a British effort.

So we are going to see the UK able to project itself out with a much greater degree of naval capability than we have in recent years not least because we’ve removed some of our aircraft capability but also because the Queen Elizabeth craft are 3 times the size of the previous invincible craft. So the sheer scale of the things are comparable to what the US has and that I think in its own right people will sit up and take notice when one of those things cruises into their ports or cruises past the coast.

So the UK has potentially a much greater role in this region and it may indeed attract people within the region towards UK defence industry. It is no surprise that the largest military spenders are also the largest exporters in military capability with potentially the exception of Germany which is doing very well in relation to defence industrial exports but has a very small military relative to the other major powers.

So I see firstly a major role for the Royal Navy in the Gulf region and the Western part of the Indian Ocean but potentially also significant roles for it in the North Atlantic in relation to the rising threat from Russia and submarine activity and wider naval activity but also to some extent in the Mediterranean and to some extent in South East Asia and there has been some discussion I think about potentially putting British frigates in the future in Singapore or say Western Australia so they can play a visible role in the region.

So the UK will have this kind of outreach capability that it can some extent amplify through the aircraft carriers and also potentially through its multilateral and bilateral engagement in countries like France and the US of course and potentially as time goes on with other countries in the Indo Pacific region. So I see a wider role there.

In relation to what the Royal Navy needs to think about in the future I think it’s going to be increasingly anti inaudible of some of the more land based countries particularly because the UK will be operating in the literals and to some extent its large aircraft carriers, escorting fleets are extremely expensive so if you have a fully worked up Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier at 3.5 billion just for the carrier perhaps another 4 or 5 billion for the aircraft on-board and the life’s of the sailors on-board which you know are without value , will the UK be willing to put this kind of asset into potential harm’s way or will it need to pursue development of capabilities that will enhance the protection of that asset if it is to move into the Gulf or South East Asia or the South China Sea where regional powers have the ability to basically project quite a ferocious fire power off the shore and into the sea. That’s something I think we need to think quite carefully about in the future so it might require more assets, more holds in other words and greater capabilities to project against those kinds of threats as time goes on.

Also the growth of direct energy weaponry which will probably in the future have the same kind of impact on warfare as cannon and gun powder did in the past in so far as it makes the shot cheaper and the fire power potentially greater and more accurate. So there are a whole array of areas I think need to be thought about in relation to this future environment that we’ll be operating in.

Audience member

Do other inaudible play a role in that as well?

James Rogers

Well potentially yes because inaudible much safer in the sea than a vessel on the land even though the strategic effect that you might be seeking to generate through having that thing there visible for all to see would not be so prominent. But I think in the context of projection cruise missile arms the capability onto the land will be a key component as we saw in the Libya intervention back in 2011. The UK and countries like France need to think about developing further in the future.

Question 6

My name is John Wilkin, you touched on bases in Bahrain and Oman would you agree that Iran’s emergence as a regional power is concerning and what can we do to help to contain that?

James Rogers

Well I think to some extent what we are doing is trying to contain that or at least to make it more complicated should Iran miscalculate. So it’s about creating kind of a system around Iran that potentially prevents it from engaging with countries we don’t want it to engage with in a military or this kind of new non-linear or hybrid context. So the more that we show ourselves in the region in the same way the more we show ourselves in the Baltic region the more likely I think it is that countries like Iran or Russia will calculate a little bit more carefully than if we, the Americans, the French were not there. It risks escalation much more rapidly into areas they might not be keen to engage in. It’s traditional deterrence in a way.

Lord Risby

Are there any further questions because I’d like to ask one more if I may. You’ve been living in Estonia, Estonia’s whole IT system was crashed by the Russians and this was probably one of the most dramatic things that has happened to any NATO country on the same scale. Their right on the border and all 3 Baltic countries have Russian minorities with a certain amount of interest by Russia in their Russian speaking minorities. I just wondered if you could give us a flavour of what this actually means in practice, you were working with the military in Estonia and literally right on the border and it would just be fascinating I think to know something about it.

James Rogers

Of course I was basically for those who do not know I was based in Estonia and I came home to the UK in June this year but I’ve been there in Estonia for the past 5 years living in Tartu which is the second largest settlement in Estonia, the population is around 100,000, it’s located around 35km from the border with Russia. Now I think that Estonian’s like their Latvian and Lithuanian cousins in the region, get a little concerned when they hear people in Western Europe are sort of concerning themselves with the issue of the Russia minorities.

They understand that there is a problem potentially but for example I think there was a case about 2 years ago when the former defence secretary in the UK stated that the situation in inaudible which is the extreme North Eastern province or country of Estonia which has a population of Russian speakers which is around 90% of the overall population of the counties could be in some ways similar to what happened in Ukraine. So that Russia may infiltrate the region with so called little green men and stir up trouble then suddenly the people would rise up and support Russia. From an Estonian standpoint I think this idea is not given much credibility and there is some disturbance or concern that we would ourselves think that this is possible because the Russia minorities in Estonia are quite well integrated into Estonian society. There are of course issues and there are of course some people within those minorities that are unfortunately supportive of the Russian leadership and the Russia regime and they are of course a concern but if you stand as I have done on the Swedish castle which overlooks Narva which is on the border with Russia in North Eastern Estonia.

On the other side there is a Russian settlement called Ivangorod and there is another castle what stands on the other side of the river and you only need to stand on that castle and overlook the Russian side of what was previously Narva to see there is an enormous difference in the wealth of the two countries. On one side it’s looking like a Western city on the other side it looks like something out of the Soviet Union. So I think the people living in Narva the Russian speaking minority albeit a majority in this region are actually aware that their lot is a lot better in Estonia where when they are pensioners they will get 350 euros a month as a pension than Russia where they will get 120 euros equivalent a month as a pension.

So I think there is some concern that we have this idea of them but the Estonians like the Lithuanians and the Latvians are concerned with what Russia is doing. To some extent they feel like they told us so, they told us throughout the 1990s and the 2000s that the Russian leadership was not settled, that it did not necessarily accept the post-Cold War settlement and it may seek to revise the established order which they subsequently did in Ukraine and there was some I think hysteria amongst my Estonia friends when this actually occurred when Russia annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine.

They became much more settled I think once they realised that countries like the UK and the US where actually going to contribute military assets to their own security particularly in relation to the enhanced force presence. Firstly the police admissions were stepped up which saw Royal Airforce jets patrolling Lithuanian and Estonian airspace for a period of months per year and then of course the input of British forces in Estonia, 850 in a military base in Tapa which is very close to Narva on the main highway which links Estonia’s capital to Russia. And the more rhetorical support that both the American President and British Prime Minister has given them over the last few years. They are also very receptive to the idea that countries like Germany and some of the smaller states of NATO are also contributing troops to the enhanced force presence in those countries.

So I think there is a great deal and this is in a way soft power albeit manufactured by us by putting them assets or offering those assets to help defend or to deter attacks on those countries. It sort of endeavours them to us in a way and build linkages which might have not been entirely there before. So I think we should in some respects if the situation becomes more volatile we should even consider increasing our effort along the eastern flank of the alliance not only to Estonia but also to the other two Baltic States should they require or request that sort of assistance and that’s part of our contribution to European security. We should emphasise it and also declare it to the world and our European friends as well so they can see that even though we are leaving the European Union where not leaving Europe.

Lord Risby

I’m afraid were going to have to end now. I think this has been one of the most brilliant presentations I have ever heard, I thought it was fantastic and I know all of you will share this. I think there’s just one or two things worth noting. There is a national security capability review underway, in 2015 there was a major defence review and were now looking to refresh it in this country. I would just say we lost a very effective Defence Secretary of State, I happen to know his replacement and I think from my knowing him that he will be an extremely effective voice for defence in the cabinet.

I just think also I can make this point James is that I’ve had the opportunity of meeting people in the US military. We have such an extraordinary relationship with them particularly in respect of intelligence it really is important as we enter our post-Brexit world that we really maintain our defence profile in a properly adequate way and not least because we still depend on the American umbrella and we don’t want it to end. But all of that James this has been just an exceptional discussion today your ability to grasp all the big geo and strategic defence issues of our time has just shone through and I think it’s been a massive treat for anybody interested in the subject to have heard you today and thank you again also to The Henry Jackson Society for producing you and for also for this discussion today. So thank you very much.


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