A Guest post from Martin at the Fantasy Fleets Blog
The world of 2050 will likely be dominated by 6 major players:
United States of America
When we are looking to strengthen our diplomatic standing we must be careful to avoid conflicts with other allies. For that reason we must focus our attention on a few key countries.
It is hard to envisage a set of circumstances that could see us as anything other than close friends with America. However close friendship should not mean subservience, as we have seen many times over the past decade. We should always look to America as our main partner in any major conflict. We also have to look at what we can bring to the table to support America to maintain our special relationship.
We can help America in two ways and neither involves deploying 10,000 troops in F**knowswhereastan.
Firstly, we can be the linchpin that holds America and Europe together.
Secondly, we can help the USA to curtail Chinese ambitions especially in South East Asia and the Indian Ocean.
One way or another Europe will begin to assert itself more and more on the world stage. In the past the UK has tried to hamper this preferring instead for Europe to rely on NATO. However why do NATO and EDA have to be mutually exclusive. Why can’t one benefit the other? Why can’t a Danish battalion serve in a British commanded division under a US Lieutenant General as part of a NATO force? Europe having the ability to act on the world stage without the USA means America does not always have to be there. If you think we are weary of always having to be the ones to do something how do you think America feels. From Bosnia to Libya they constantly have to get involved to solve European problems.
America can no longer maintain the 4.5% of GDP it spends on its military. This realisation comes at a time when it is being forced to counter the rise of a new super power with a population 4 times its size. Looking around the world it sees very few people who can truly help with the burden.
Even with the piss poor military spending of most European governments Europe accounts for 25% of world military spending combined. Most of this is wasted on heavy fixed forces still waiting to counter the Soviet hoards rolling across the planes of Germany. Harnessing even a small portion of that money and capability into expeditionary warfare could give Europe some significant clout in world affairs.
We are the only country in Europe that can help to develop this capability. Europe will always struggle to form a coherent foreign policy view. Just look at Germany over Libya. This means that joint European owned assets will always be problematic to use. However building our forces as the spine that will allow Europe to act through a coalition of the willing will allow us to build relatively major force projection capability on a budget and will also give us the ability to essentially veto European action.
We must also start to steer Europe in the direction we want rather than just simply reacting to French and German moves for closer integration. The UK has always favoured a larger Europe based on free trade as opposed to the smaller one based on Federalism favoured by Germany. We must focus all our diplomatic efforts on brining Turkey into the EU. This should allow us to better counter Germany and France while giving Europe access to a massive and rapidly developing regional power.
We should consider a bi annual exercise deploying a European force based around a divisional HQ out of area to demonstrate our capability. In addition another bi annual exercise should be considered landing a reinforced brigade sized force of 10-12,000 troops from the sea. We should also look to deploy a full corps sized force every five years sending both UK professional forces and our reservist armoured division(more on that later).
India with over a billion people will probably be the natural nation to counter the rise of China in the 21st Century in the way the rise of America countered the Soviet Union in the 20th. We must embrace India for this reason. We share so much with India from history to sport from our legal system to language. Yet we have virtually no military connection with them at all. If we are to develop the close ties we need with India we should be prepared to consider mutual defence treaties with them. We are already honour bound through the commonwealth to come to their aid. Would a formal treaty really be so different?
There are a number of areas were we may have contentions with India but none of these is impossible to overcome. The Joint British American base at Diego Garcia has long been an annoyance for India. Pressuring the USA to possibly allow Indian forces there may be one potential way to resolve this.
India’s difficult relationship with Pakistan can also cause problems however we should remember that Pakistan is an ally of China. It is not our ally. Even though the current situation in Afghanistan has forced cooperation, given the choice I would take India over Pakistan any day. Pakistan has nothing to offer us except problems.
India should be entitled to full UN Security Council rights including a veto. We should make getting India this our prime diplomatic effort amongst other Security Council members.
We should also look to work with India much more closely in weapons development. India has great naval ambitions in the area but lacks the human and scientific resources we have. All areas should be considered up to an including the development of SSN capability. Every Indian SSN cruising the Indian Ocean is one less Chinese SSN we have to worry about.
A country with over 250 million people and some of the largest natural resource deposits in the world. The third biggest democracy in the world as well and we have almost nothing to do with them. While we have actually fought Indonesia in the past in the 1960’s and 1970’s the Indonesia of today is a very different country. They have virtually no formal military ties with anyone and like the rest of the region they are desperately worried over Chinese expansion. Again we should look to take advantage of this vacuum.
At present the only mutual defence organisation in the region is the 5 powers defence agreement. Expanding this to a 7 Nation organisation including India and Indonesia would allow us to formally ally ourselves with both nations and help to counter Chinese ambitions in the area. These countries are far enough away from China to mean that while the Chinese would be unhappy about it they are unlikely to feel threatened enough to do anything about it. It would also help the USA which is able to devote very little to the region in way of permanent assets which are mostly taken up in the waters of North East Asia around Japan and the Korea’s.
We should also look to lobby on Indonesia’s behalf for at least a permanent seat on the Security Council if not a full veto.
We will never be able to be allies of China. The Chinese have their own grand strategy and feel they need no help to achieve it. China’s main disadvantage is its lack of friends. No one trusts them and no major nation has anything to do with them. As India said recently “it is difficult to work with someone when they tell you they own everything”.
The rise of China does not have to spell doom for the world. The only way to achieve this in my opinion is to make sure that everywhere they turn they are countered.
If they know that other countries can and will stand against them and they find themselves unable to gain major allies then they will have little choice but to revert to peaceful means. In order to do this we and our allies must maintain the ability to prevent China from gaining crucial supplies. Especially oil from the Middle East.
Russia is a difficult country to deal with. Let’s not forget they used a Nuclear Weapon in London a few years ago. We have little chance of developing substantial relations with Russia other than through Europe. As such we should not expend any major effort trying to build bilateral ties with them.
In the long run with its population collapsing, its abundant natural resources and huge un-defendable boarders Russia probably has more to fear from China than anyone else. It would be allot easier for China to make a play for Siberia than the Middle East and the day that Russia’s Nuclear arms cease to be a problem is the day we may see that reality.
Again a country we have relatively little to do with but with over 200 million people and massive offshore oil reserves one we should be working with much more closely. We should not forget that we share some common interests. The UK owns a substantial part of the South Atlantic sea bed which may one day be developed for oil, gas or mineral extraction. Brazil is lacking in its ability to properly defend many of its new offshore oil installations. A mutual defence treaty in the South Atlantic might serve us both. While Argentina is likely to try to hamper this we should remember that Brazil is not exactly a lover of Argentina.
Offering Brazil help with UN Security Council membership, naval training and cooperation and possibly even basing aircraft at Ascension Island should be enough to sweeten any deal.
We have excellent relations with most Middle East governments. The rise of Iran is the biggest cause of concern for both them and us in the region. We should consider closer military ties and even formal defence treaties with Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman and also permanently basing naval forces in the region. Apart from being major energy suppliers these countries are also substantial purchasers of British military equipment and major focal points for British business.
Obviously these diplomatic and military efforts will involve a considerable expenditure on the part of the British people over the next 50 years. We should ask the question of whether or not it is all worth it. Should we continue to maintain a prominent role or should we follow the example of someone like Germany taking a back seat and letting others do the leg work. I would say yes. Britain does not have an obligation to do this but we do have a need.
On a per capita basis the UK has more inward and outward investment than any other G7 economy. We have more expats (5.5 million of them) than any other western country. British business is more plugged in to what goes on elsewhere than any other major nation. We have a vested interest to make sure that the world is a safe and stable place and that British companies can operate freely.
We should also look to tie our foreign policy and military cooperation with economic deals. From letting BP drill well and HSBC open branches to BAE selling guns.
When looking to win friends and influence people in the world we should use every asset at our disposal. These assets are considerable and are probably the main element that can let us punch above our weight on the world stage.
The UK’s news media is un-surpassed in the world. The BBC in particular is probably the world’s most respected news organisation. In a world where information is power we should not under estimate its impact. We should make a concerted effort to make sure that every person on the planet has access to the BBC World Service free of charge. We should not attempt to influence BBC coverage but instead allow the institution to maintain its high standards. The truth will point to itself and as long as we are on the correct side we having nothing to fear from the BBC’s impartiality.
We should also remember other UK institutions. Al Jazeera in particular has a major impact on the Muslim world.
Many of the world’s largest companies are headquartered in Britain. Companies such as HSBC, Shell, Rio Tinto and BP wield massive amounts of power and influence in the world. They can also help us to economically exploit opportunities in nations we hope to develop better ties with. I would like to see these companies given the opportunity to appoint a representative onto the National Security Council.
Sport and Culture
Our sport and culture has an impact on the world in ways that few people in the UK understand. In Asia many more people are concerned by the choice of manager for Manchester United than even the choice of the US president. Simon Cowell is better known than Winston Churchill and countries from China to Brazil bend over backwards to gain their own Grand Prix.
Remember most people on the planet today do not have a television. But in decades to come they will. We should give every support possible to these institutions to continue to maintain and expand their influence.
Perhaps the worst thing the last government left us with was a legal requirement to spend 0.5% of GDP on aid. Worst still we are required to increase it to 0.7%. The present government for reason only known to its self has refused to consider cutting this budget.
In an attempt to justify it they have now decided to spend more of the budget on supporting humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan to support the Army. So the same people who we already spend £4 billion per year on trying to bring peace and security to will receive more money. Worst still because of the security situation in Afghanistan projects cost massively more than they do elsewhere and we provide the guys we are fighting even more targets meaning our hard pressed troops have to invest even more blood and treasure defending them.
Will these same Afghans that we are helping buy anything off us? Will we be opening hundreds of HSBC branches any time soon?
Let’s put our foreign aid budget into perspective. At 0.7% of GDP we are talking £10 billion per year. Assuming 2.5% per annum GDP growth that’s £674 billion over the next 40 years. China builds high speed rail lines for $20 million a mile. With this budget we could build 53,922 miles of high speed rail enough to wrap around the world twice.
Currently this budget is basically divvied up around the world on a roughly even basis with £1 billion going to China and £1 billion going to India. It gets us nothing. If we concentrate this budget on a few key allies particularly India, Brazil and Indonesia then we can use it to buy substantial influence. Many of the world’s poorest people live in these countries so there is no moral imperative to say we should not do so.
We should also tie at least 20% of this aid to military aid. If India decides it needs 200 fighters to protect its self and we offer 50 Eurofighters for free, where do you think they will buy the other 150 from? If the Indian government has to spend less on defence it will spend more on helping its people develop. Selling our weapons to other countries helps us maintain relations and a modicum of control over their policies, “don’t piss of the Brit’s or you won’t get any more spare parts for your Eurofighters”.
It also allows us better interoperation capability and if we enhance the fighting ability of our allies we enhances our own defence.
Eurofighter and the Type 26 should be the two major programs to benefit from this through Brazil, India and Indonesia. We should also consider OPV and Corvette subsidies for India Ocean Nations such as Oman and Kenya to help tackle piracy.
These aid budgets should be used to gain formal defence treaties as well as special treatment for British Industries such as banking and oil exploration. We should also look to use this money to help influential British institutions gain access to these countries i.e. subsidising rural electricity schemes and satellite communication so more people can watch the premiership or BBC news.
This really seems like a win win to me. We help the countries and people we need most while enhancing our own diplomatic standing and at the same time securing tens of thousands of high tech British Jobs.