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Defence in Global Britain

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson gave a speech at RUSI outlining the future direction of the UK Armed Forces, 11th Feb 2019.



The UK MOD seems to have taken on a new lease of life over the weekend. The resultant statements and speeches by senior Government figures would  have us believe that the newly “independent” UK is a refreshed, resurgent power, bent on “telling things as they are” to the rest of the world.

In a speech to RUSI earlier today, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The UK is a global power with truly global interests. A nation with the fifth biggest economy on the planet. A nation with the world’s fifth biggest Defence budget and the second largest Defence exporter. And since the new Global Great Game will be played on a global playing field, we must be prepared to compete for our interests and our values far, far from home.”

Perhaps he was thinking of the statement over the weekend that the UK is to send its only operational carrier to the South China Seas to make the point that the Royal Navy, just like other navies around the world, has the right to navigate in international waters. Perhaps the announcement about the Queen Elizabeth jumped the gun, for in his speech Mr Williamson referred to:

Two new Littoral Strike Groups (which) are to be created. Complete with escorts, support vessels and helicopters, one would be based to the East of Suez in the Indo-Pacific and one based to the West of Suez in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic.

To compliment these groups, there will be a Warfighting Division with troops able to deploy from our bases at home and in Germany. This will all ensure we have a global force, capable of deploying around the world in a matter of days.”

Mr Williamson made it clear that he regards Britain’s place as being up there with the “Great Powers”, with the acronym “GB” now meaning Global Britain (which is presumably the new catchphrase in a post-EU world).  Harking back to Churchillian times when the Royal Navy could bring down a reign of terror on enemy coasts, The Secretary of State spoke about the ability to form a:

sovereign, lethal, amphibious force. This will be one of the largest and best such forces anywhere in the world.

Cynics amongst our readers (?) might detect a note of caution, not to say scepticism at this point. For where are the funds for the creation of these strike groups coming from? And the manpower? For most of us will recall times when funds were so short that fuel was in limited supply and paint as rare as hens teeth – let alone spare parts. Are we dealing in reality or a parallel universe?

TMT will take time to look at the whole speech in more detail and provide our readers with a feel for the direction of travel. The big picture includes the Army and Air Force of course. But it has already left many with a sense of bewilderment about just how Britain is actually going to be able:

to make sure that our great nation seizes and grasps the opportunity that present themselves with both hands.”


Image and speech-extracts copyright UK MOD.


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