Core Assumptions and British Strategic Policy

By James Rogers

In this Report, James Rogers, the Director of the Global Britain Programme, identifies the fifteen core assumptions that have underpinned British strategic policy since the end of the Cold War. He then goes on to explain why these assumptions are under increasing strain as great power competition takes hold and challenges the dominance of the West.

Informing what is described as Britain’s ‘global’ approach to strategic policy, the fifteen assumptions include the idea that: globalisation is an immutable and desirable force; the West will remain technologically dominant; liberalism and democracy will continue to spread; and that ‘Zones of chaos’ are the primary threat to Britain and its allies and partners.

The report’s assessment is that Britain’s core assumptions are either outdated, inaccurate or wholly erroneous. Indeed, in the foreword for the report, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign and defence secretary, argues that the “principles that Number 10, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Ministry of Defence are guided by are progressively obsolete.”

It warns that each of Britain’s core assumptions requires urgent re-evaluation, particularly in light of the nexus between de-industrialisation, climate change and the emergence of powerful authoritarian states. Because of this, the report warns that a detour to strategic approaches like ‘compensationism’ or ‘isolationism’ is inadvisable.

In response to the new strategic environment, the report recommends that the government should:

  1. Embrace the need for substantial adaption;
  2. Acknowledge the nature of authoritarian competitors;
  3. Focus the power of the British union-state;
  4. Reassert intellectual and technological leadership;
  5. Reorder the institutions responsible for strategic policy;
  6. Recalibrate strategic resources, with boosts for diplomatic and military resources;
  7. Expand geographic horizons, particularly beyond Europe;
  8. Continuously test the core assumptions guiding British strategic policy.

The proposals come as the government conducts the “deepest review of Britain’s security, defence, and foreign policy since the end of the Cold War”.







British strategic policy for the past three decades has been founded upon several core assumptions birthed at the dawn of the end of the Cold War…This report by James Rogers not only challenges these principles but also makes a stimulating and persuasive argument for Britain to break out of its archaic constraints. In addition, it offers a number of ideas for ‘Global Britain’ to pursue as it seeks to reorient its foreign, security and defence policy as it leaves the European Union.

– The Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, 2010–2015

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth A­ffairs, 1995–1997

Secretary of State for Defence, 1992–1995

Member of Parliament for Kensington, 2005–2015

At the end of the Cold War, ‘enlightened’ Western statesman again turned towards internationalism – as they had done between the wars and also during the final phase of the Second World War. This time they relabelled it ‘globalisation’, while once again cutting our military capability. This incisive report critically analyses the weakness of our current posture and is a wake-up call for the overdue ‘regeneration of British state power’.

– The Rt. Hon. Dr Julian Lewis MP

Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, 2015–2019

Member of Parliament for New Forest East, 1997–

As Britain leaves the European Union and begins the deepest foreign, security and defence policy review since the end of the Cold War, we need to undertake a thorough re-appraisal of the dominant assumptions that have guided our strategic thinking. If we, as a nation, get those wrong, everything else will be misconstrued. As wider state competition intensifies, Britain needs to re-empower itself to compete with revisionist and expansionist powers.

– James Rogers

Director, Global Britain Programme, Henry Jackson Society


Media Coverage

10/01/2020 Global Britain: the UK’s policymakers need new operating assumptions
17/01/2020 A new Royal Yacht Britannia is needed to ‘project Britain’s image around the world’ says Henry Jackson Society report
17/01/2020 Malcolm Rifkind says Britain has to develop a new defence strategy and drop out-of-date Cold War assumptions
22/01/2020 Principles guiding British Foreign Policy ‘Progressively Obsolete,’ says Rifkind

Lost your password?

Not a member? Please click here