Britain seeks to remain relevant in a world where it sees threats proliferating, while its finances are shrinking
The United Kingdom has outlined a vision for its defense and foreign-engagement priorities in its latest Integrated Review and Defense Command Paper.
The paradigm of defense reviews in the UK goes back at least to the 1950s. The new document, published in March, has implications ranging from raising and appropriating defense spending to setting up new international bureaucratic structures and strategic nuclear signaling that nobody expected.
It is no exaggeration to say that the document is Britain’s plan to remain relevant in a world where it sees threats proliferating, while its finances are shrinking.
Cummings couldn’t ‘cut’ it
Boris Johnson, the current British prime minister, promised an integrated review during his election campaign in 2019. However, at the time, Dominic Cummings, the technocratic chief adviser to the PM, was thought to be influencing the review. Until his exit from Downing Street in November last year, there was a lot of speculation on the review bringing a lot of cuts.
Cummings was thought to prefer investment in high-tech solutions and wouldn’t shrink from cutting personnel and conventional security and war-fighting capabilities in the belief that they’d be obsolete in the very near future.
But in the end, in the final document, the cuts are not as severe as initially thought, though the focus on high-tech solutions and new war-fighting domains like cyber, artificial intelligence, space and information technology remain.
In several places throughout the document, Russia has been identified as a major “active threat” to the UK and China as a “systemic competitor,” which broadly conforms to the general alignment and policies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In response, the Russian ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, has said that the “political relationship between Moscow and London is nearly dead” – under the circumstances, not an unfair observation.