HJS Report Launch: “The Audit of Geopolitical Capability & Paper Launch: Towards a Global Britain”

Date: 12:00-13:00, 12th September 2017

Location: Committee Room 9, House of Commons, Houses of Parliament, SW1A 0AA

Speaker: James Rogers

Event Chair: Tom Tugendhat MP

Tom Tugendhat

Right, good morning ladies and gentlemen. It’s very nice to see you all here, including one’s old friends hiding in the back there – it’s very nice to see you. It’s an extremely great pleasure to welcome James today to Parliament because this is an extremely important report [repeating myself already]. But this is a very major report, and having just been elected Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’m very pleased to see that people are giving serious thought to Britain’s interests and the geopolitical capabilities of other powers. Now, just in case you don’t know who James is [although I’m sure everybody does], he is a founding member of the Henry Jackson Society as Director of the Global Britain programme, which, of course, is becoming more important, not only as emphasis is being placed upon it by the Foreign Office, but of course, because we are all talking in this post-Brexit world about how we reach further abroad. His expertise is in: British grand strategy, which has never been more important; on European geopolitics; and, on Baltic security, which, having just returned from Estonia, I can assure you is forefront of quite a lot of people’s minds, especially with the Zapad exercises going on. He has held various positions, including the Baltic Defence College in Tartu, and Acting Dean and Director of the Department of Political Strategic Studies, and Lecturer in International Relations – so, really expert in all these things. He has worked at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris, firstly as a Visiting Fellow and as an Associate Fellow, and later as a lead rapporteur for a research project commissioned by the European Union Military Committee. So, there is a lot of expertise here; and, he has also worked for RAND, Egmont Institute, and the European Council on Foreign Relations. So, look, I am extremely pleased that you are here, James. Thank you very much for the incredible hard work you put into this report, and I look very much to hear your thoughts.

James Rogers

Ok, thank you very much for that very kind introduction, and for outlining a bit about me. Maybe I could spend the first few minutes of this presentation explaining a little bit about what the Global Britain programme at the Henry Jackson Society actually is and, hopefully, will be. The programme was established in June when I returned to the UK, having been in Estonia the past five years [Baltic Defence College, as you just mentioned], and the idea of it is to look at the UK’s longer term strategic and foreign policy interests – not just in Europe, but in the wider world, as we move forward into a new era. The programme itself is neither for nor against the decision to leave the European Union, but simply accepts the new reality as it stands, and will move forward from there. It also accepts the need for an engaged, expansive, and internationalist UK after withdrawal, and the research it undertakes will be focusing on those objectives, as well as the wider role. So we do not think that the UK deserves a kind of parochial or narrow focussed world role or European role after – rather, as – we leave and after we leave the European Union. I hope you will expect to see a number of new reports that will come out in the coming months and, indeed, years; and the two we are about to present today are the basis or the foundation of this programme.

Why, then, did we decide to undertake these two reports? Well, the idea was that, insofar as we are now moving into a new era of foreign policy and defence policy, we should appraise where the UK stands in relation to the other major powers in the international system. These powers we chose were the permanent five members, of course, of the UN Security Council (of which the UK is a member), as well as three other countries that are commonly understood to be major powers in their own right or in their own respective capability sets – and those, of course, are India, Japan, and Germany. They are not members of the UN Security Council in a permanent capacity, but nevertheless, they have had a decisive role over the last decades or so in shaping (I think) international relations, both in their own regions, and even – increasingly – on the global plain. So we took these eight different countries and we tried to understand where they stood in relation to one another. Now, you probably are aware that over the years there have been a number of attempts made to assess where countries rank in relation to one another. These go all the way back into the 1960s; one of the largest is the Correlates of War Project’s ranking system, which did put together a number of different components to develop an outcome to rank the various countries. This system is still in operation and you can find it online. The one thing, though, we found about the system was that it was not really suiting what we considered to be [inaudible]. We thought that we should not look just at the overall mass that a country has behind it (for example, its land area, its total population, the number of military personnel it has in its ranks), and we should instead look at more modern capabilities that are used by major powers today to exert their interests in the wider world.

We sat down and had a number of different meetings to determine what these should actually be, and you can find them in the back of the report [in the first report, I should say, which is this one here] in Annex B. We divided them into seven different capability groups, and these include: geographic integration; demographic condition; economic clout; technological prowess; diplomatic leverage; military strength; and, cultural prestige. So there are seven different capability groups; each of them are equally rated in relation to one another when the final score is determined. And, each of these capability groups, or categories (as we have called them), includes five different indicators, and these five different indicators were selected to try and determine the most important attributes a major power should have in the early twenty-first century, in relation to the category itself. Of those, there are thirty-five indicators in total, and of the thirty-five indicators they all based on at least one component; but some indicators are based on more, and there are fifty-nine components in total. So there are fifty-nine different components forming thirty-five different indicators, forming seven different capability category groups. And we have basically put those together in a formula and determined the final outcome. You can see in the report where the countries sit in relation to one another overall, as well as where they sit in relation to the capability groups, and in relation to the specific indicators within each of those capability groups. As you will see, the countries are scored in relation to one another, so there is no formal score, as such, that is determined by an absolute kind of scale. It is not possible to determine how capable a country could be in total. Even a world state – for example: we would not be able to know what the world state is capable of doing; the world state could intensify its capability over time, or it could extend it even into other areas of our solar system and extract resources in time with its technology. So we determined it based on a relative system in relation to the strongest power, for each component, for each indicator, and for each capability and overall. The score is out of one hundred, and the US [it’s probably no surprise] maintains the lead in all areas bar one, which, of course, is demography. This is, of course, due to the fact that countries like China and India have vast populations which simply sit in another plain in relation to other powers.

The Audit reveals in total that, although there has been much talk recently – and over the last few decades – of the Western powers’ decline (and also of the US’ decline and of Britain’s decline, perhaps in particular), actually if you look at the different components and the different category groups, these powers are not necessarily in decline. They still loom over their rivals and their peers by some margin, particularly so for the United States. As I said, in every category bar one, the US is in the lead and in some cases it really is in the lead by some margin – particularly, for example, in the economic category, and also in the military category, where it is more powerful [more capable, I should say] than all of the rest of the world’s countries (or, countries in the Audit) put together. In this sense, the established Western powers still are in the ascendency, and it will be (I guess) over time to see whether they are actually reduced by the up-and-coming powers, in the form of countries such as China and India, and potentially also – although perhaps to a lesser degree – Russia. Clearly the US is still the global hegemon and the UK is coming in second, although quite a way below the US: it has, according to the ranking system, around forty percent of the US’ overall capability. Beneath that sit France, which comes in at third (with roughly thirty-three percent of the US’ capability), then China, also around thirty-three percent of the US’ capability (but slightly below France), then Germany at twenty-five percent, and then India at twenty-three percent, Japan at twenty-one percent, and Russia at the very bottom at sixteen percent. You can see there is quite a depth and range in the position of countries – but the US is on one side, and Russia is on the other, and all the other countries are in between.

What did we think when we came up with these scores based on our formula, and our system? I think there are perhaps three or four particularly interesting findings. Firstly, Russia is far weaker than I think we previously imagined. Now remember that this score system is based on a global spread or a global distribution of each country’s capability. This is not to say that the countries concerned have focussed capability within their respective regions, or around their respective homelands; but this does not necessarily mean that the capability is extended in other regions of the world. So, Russia is far weaker as a global power than perhaps we initially thought or might have thought before this system showed us the score that Russia actually achieved. Even in the areas where Russia is considered to be relatively strong, such as its armed forces, the system reveals that the Russian armed forces’ global reach – in relation to a country like the United States – are significantly less (in fact, vastly less). You might have imagined they would be twenty or thirty percent of the US’ capability, but the scoring we have determined suggests they are less than three percent of the US’ overall capability: their ability to project themselves out of the homeland, into multiple different theatres of the world simultaneously. The same applies also in relation to the UK and also China; Russia’s armed forces and China’s armed forces, based on the system, are comparable to the UK. So the UK still has a significant military capability in relation to all other powers with the exception of the United States, which looms over everyone. In relation to India, we expected it to perform more admirably. However, it does not; the only area it really excels is in relation to its demographic capability, or its demographic condition. India scores one hundred for that; it’s the leading power, and it’s the only area I said where the US does not lead. In other areas, such as economic clout and technological sophistication, India has some way to go. The same applies, to a similar degree, to China. China has leadership capabilities in relation to its economic clout, where it is strongest, and also in its diplomatic capability; but in other areas, it is much weaker, including its military capability – but that does not necessarily mean that it is not focussed as strongly in its local environment, particularly its local region, in east Asia; it is just to say that it is not globally extended around the world to the same degree as the United States and some of the other established Western powers.

The other interesting finding was that we found [I have already mentioned this to some extent] that the UK and France, the two established Western powers, still have a fair lead over most of their rivals; they come in, as I said, at second and third in the world, respectively. The idea that the European powers, or the United States, are in decline is increasingly [inaudible]. Finally, the other interesting finding which I expected to find to some extent was that Germany and Japan – two other countries which have a considerable capability in the economic and diplomatic domains – are much weaker in some other domains: for example, their military capability, as well as their diplomatic integration and extension. In some respects, although they are still quite well-rounded, in relation to some of the other countries, they are still ‘bit’ players; if they were to emphasise more their military or strategic capability, then they might rapidly move up the ranking system.

In sum, then, we have come up with a system which looks a little bit like this to help you visualize it on a map. Each of these countries have been ‘created’ in relation to one another based on the scoring. As you can see, the US still looms over everyone, and countries which are very small on a map – such as the UK and France – suddenly become much larger, and countries such as Russia, China, and India (which are rather large on a map) become much smaller. Even though they have a relatively small size, the findings of the Audit show that their compactness (and, in a way, their intensity) makes up for their lack of extension in the geographic context. They can use their small mass, their integration, and the effectiveness of their governments’ communications systems to extend themselves out of their national homeland and amplify their global reach … [End of recording]


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