On Strategy – East of East of Suez, The UK military presence in the Asia Pacific Region (Part Three)

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A guest post from Sir Humphrey.

This is the third part of the short series on UK Defence engagement in the Far East. So far the article has reviewed our commitments, our force levels and our potential engagement. Now in the short final part, we look briefly at the future, and try to get some mobile phone signal on the crystal ball…

What level of engagement is likely to occur in the near future?

So far this article has focused on the level of UK interest in the region, which it is clear is an area in which HM Government has very significant political and economic interests, but which is not a region that presents a direct military threat to the UK.  A good primer on the wider UK level of interest in the region can be seen in the transcript of a speech by the UK Foreign Secretary (William Hague), made in April 2012, which summarises the overall level of engagement by the UK in this region. A copy of the speech can be found HERE.

In terms of the level of future presence and engagement, this author would suggest that the current pattern of activity would seem to be about right – there is a regular flow of staff talks, and international discussions on all manner of issues between the MOD, wider Govt and other nations with whom the UK can work. These are in many ways the main forum for co-operation – by keeping dialogue alive, even at a relatively infrequent or low level, channels of communication are maintained, and make it easier to ramp up relationships in due course, when resources and international interests permit.

A good example of where defence relationships are likely to improve through lower level talks, and potentially exchanges of information in future, is the recent UK/Japan defence co-operation memorandum, signed in April 2012 (link HERE).

Similarly, the current exercise programme, primarily focused on occasional deployments of RN vessels, backed up by the odd wider deployment of an RAF fighter element to support exercises with the FPDA, seems to be a roughly appropriate level of engagement.

While it is fun to consider the world of ‘what ifs’ the reality is that HM Govt has a limited amount of funds to spend, and Defence is even more limited. With no genuinely credible threat to our interests in the region, it is hard to see the justification for a massive upsizing of purely military resources out there. Instead, this is an area where ‘soft power’ should be used to maximum effect to ensure that UK interests are protected.

This authors strictly personal predictions for the next few years (based on nothing more than a spot of thinking) would be though:

  1. The UK defence footprint in the region will remain relatively static, albeit with the occasional opening or closing of a Defence section.
  2. The UK will continue to see FPDA as the main focus of military engagement, and deployments to the region will be designed to coincide with major exercises.
  3. Task Group deployments and solo escort deployments will occur, but not necessarily on as frequent a basis as has previously occurred. Future deployments are likely to showcase specific high end capabilities for training rather than perhaps a fully balanced task force.
  4. The UK will continue to engage in staff talks and international engagement with most countries in the region, but this will not necessarily translate into any form of meaningful and substantive military engagement in the region.
  5. Continued operations against piracy will see engagement with some nations that the UK would not normally operate with (for instance Korea and China), and valuable multi-national operational experience will be gained in this manner, even if there are limited exercises in the region itself.

The reality is that in an age where an overstretched defence budget has to cope with many demands, the ability of the forces to sustain a commitment to a region with negligible threats is limited. Although it is currently unlikely that there would be a permanent withdrawal of UK assets from the region, it will almost certainly remain an area where the UK will seek to influence and engage by means other than the military in nature.

Summary

The Far East is the region that most ‘internet fantasy fleet’ discussions get most excited about when talking on ideal future structures of the RN, or how they’d use the existing network of relationships and alliances to put UK troops in the area on a permanent basis.

The reality is that the UK doesn’t need this sort of permanent presence – the threat to justify it doesn’t exist, and the costs associated with permanently basing a large proportion of the armed forces in the region simply can’t be justified by the level of concerns associated with the area.

The current situation, where a primarily diplomatic network, merged with some small exercises and ship visits, works to remind nations of the UK interest, but then exercises, training or co-operation on operations occurs elsewhere, seems to work well and provides for an appropriate level of engagement.

It remains highly unlikely on current international trends that there would be a major shift in UK presence or posture within the region within the next 2-3 years. Therefore, this author would suggest that the current UK military presence in the Far East is entirely appropriate, and in line with the nature of the challenges posed by a vastly complex region.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series of posts about a fascinating region. If the interest is there, then over the next few weeks and months, I will turn my attention to other parts of the world.

 

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Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

An excellent and informative series of posts Sir H! I for one would certainly like to read your views on other areas.

Challenger
Challenger

I entirely agree with you’re point of view and future predictions Sir H.

We all like to play fantasy fleets, but realistically their isn’t the money for an immediate expansion of military involvement, and furthermore the Far East doesn’t represent a direct threat to our interests and so just isn’t a priority.

I think, as you say, that the best plan for the near future is the soft approach. Maintain our current commitments, have the occasional deployment for some specialist training and keep some of the diplomatic chatter going. Brunei, Singapore and Diego Garcia make provision for a fairly rapid and effective build-up in the region, if, heaven forbid we faced some kind of crises.

The only possible fantasy I would indulge is the idea of an Anglo/Indian partnership filling the prospective void at Diego Garcia if the Americans want to leave in 2016. Nothing fancy though, I reckon that a very minimalist ‘footprint’ in residence would suffice.

Repulse

Sir H, I agree a very informative series. I also agree with the conclusion that beyond a very unlikely significant event which directly challenges the UK’s or allies existence, nothing drastic is going to change over the next 10 years or so.

I would say though that low level changes such as investment in the naval base facilities at Singapore, a permanent presence at Diego Garcia of a MRV or two and continued training exercises / defence pact initiatives would reflect appropriately the growing relevance of the region.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

V interesting mini-series…and we even found three births for the RN in Singapore in the process.

I think this Americans leaving DG in 2016 is a myth created on this site (prior to Sir H taking the baton!). There was a “what discussions” question about it in the Parliament v recently and the answer was “none”.Also the 40 staff there seem to be a pure adjunct to the American base.

Adding to “Brunei, Singapore and Diego Garcia make provision for a fairly rapid and effective build-up in the region” I think I saw a glimpse of the integrated air defence network remaining in place (from the bad Indonesian days) and a couple of RAF bods being with the central node of it; that might be dated information though?

Finally at the time of the SDSR there was talk about a bilateral defence treaty with Australia, the FPDA being seen as too nebulous (a point of view that I do not share). I guess nothing came out of that?

As Sir H says, the resourcing level has been well optimised while at the same time leaving room for rapid growth should that for what ever reason be required.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

missed the edit window…”berths” it was meant to be

Rocket Banana

I believe that, in addition to diplomacy, this nation would benefit from being able to submit a small intervention/stabilisation force to work with other nations in the area (FPDA).

I think that this would constitute something like a single showcase escort and a single RFA (Bay or tanker) and would (I hope) simply be a relocation of assets we had around the Indian Ocean. i.e. no permanent presence, but a nearby presence that can be re-tasked if necessary.

I therefore agree rather a lot with Sir Humphrey’s three posts on East of East of Suez. A very informative few posts. Thanks.

martin

@ Sir H – Great series, However I am not aware of any UK forces committed to FPDA exercises in the last few years. Perhaps you could fill us in. The last deployment I can remember to Singapore was Taurus 09.

I think the UK should commit to sending at least one major combatant every year be it a T45, Astute or T23 for some sort of annual FPDA exercise with a possible visit from an ARG or once we have them again CSG bi annually. This would be well with in our capabilities and it may serve to reinvigorate the FPDA.

While I agree that the UK her self faces little in the way of threat in the area the same cannot be said for our allies. Tension’s in the Spartly Islands and Scarborough Shoal continue to rise. Malaysia in particular as well as Brunei who do not share the same relationship with the USA as the Philippines must be increasingly alarmed and I think they should quite rightly expect some form of support from HMG.

That being said neither we nor they want to inflame the Chinese so our presence would have to be more low key that the USA’s.

Given the wind down in the Stan I think now is the time to start looking back towards such things.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Back in the 1960s the late Vice-Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly proposed in a paper that RN establish a task force for the India Ocean area so that there was a force to help support Africa, Gulf, and contribute to FP.

What did for our EoS presence was a need to concentrate diminishing resources on the North Atlantic not because it wasn’t needed. Now, apart from the deterrent, there is no great need for the navy in the North Atlantic.

What surprises me when I read anything about EoS and UK defence today is that younger amongst us (and dare I say those not as steeped in the UK’s maritime history) there is a sense that the Indian Ocean is a stretch, a reach, that it is exotic, and alien to us. Yet for a long time it was “our” ocean. In the space of my short life we have gone from a global security outlook to a parochial one where we abdicate our decision making on security to others and see only as far the Continent.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Churchill definitely did not want to “let go” regarding India
RE “Yet for a long time it was “our” ocean.”
– so, x, what’s the moral of the story?

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ ACC

The moral is “don’t waste time on the internet when there is work to do”…… :)

Quickly, the Indian Ocean is perhaps the best place for us to concentrate our defence efforts.

Got to go.

martin

@ X – I would agree with the point that there is little need for the navy in the North Atlantic or even the med and we should look to concentrate what spare capacity we have in the IO as its the area they are most likely to be useful. We actually have a fair presence in the region in the Gulf and the Anti piracy patrols however for some reason we have refused to categorise this force as a single command i.e. an Eastern Fleet.

Not sure why, half the time I think we outnumber the fifth fleet in the area.

martin

Just checked the fifth fleet and it still larger than what we have out there. Will be interesting to see what happens to it though with the draw down in the region.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

martin, google it
– over the next couple of years the 5th Fleet will be the beneficiary of “repivoting”
– only in the longer run the true Pacific fleet will benefit
– guess why the first four of the transoceanic LCSs will be based out of S-pore? So that they will be within a steaming distance from the Strait of Hormuz (they can only cross so many oceans in a hurry)

@ x, a while back you wrote a v considered comment on setting more focus on the IO; it seems that the RN history books get the better of you when you are in a hurry?

Challenger
Challenger

Perhaps the Americans won’t leave Diego Garcia in 2016, however I think either way it’s an area where we could do with a bit more presence.

I really believe that without getting too adventurous and fantastical we should have a more coherent force in the Indian Ocean. It would be a good way of staying on the sidelines of both the Middle and Far East as a sort of familiar observer, maintaining some soft power and building diplomatic/military ties with our regional allies.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Martin re Med

My main concern for the Med is that Arab Spring turns into a caliphate stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian border. A sort of latter day Islamic commonwealth similar to Medieval Christian Europe but with tangible external threats. All of a sudden the south shore of the Med is no longer friendly. And though not a threat to Europe on the same level as the Warsaw Pact still a threat; armed with Turkish and Chinese weapons, funded by the Gulf, and with a large manpower pool. I am not one of those Islamaphobe whack-jobs. I would be saying this if they were Methodists.

@ ACC

I say it as I see it. We live in a world where sending a navy ship to India is talked off in hushed tones like it is a moon shot. Whilst conveniently forgetting how much of what we buy comes from Asia in ships. No not the island don’t you know argument more pointing out a disconnect. I see the West needs to balance China and India. To do that it needs to position itself to be in contact with those two powers. We need to sit across the SLOCs to Africa and Australia. And I still maintain Gulf Oil is Chinese Oil and that if the interconnected world argument was total we wouldn’t be sitting here discussing defence.

Rocket Banana

I’d like to see three “fleets”:

1. Based in Blighty.
2. Based in Ascension.
3. Based in Diego Garcia.

They seem strategically sensible places to be based.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

@ x, aren’t they already balancing each other?
“the West needs to balance China and India”

@ Simon, the USAF 60’s/ 70’s concept of Bare Base comes to mind,
“2. Based in Ascension.
3. Based in Diego Garcia”
as in: there’s nothing there, you bring it all with you (once you deploy, BUT only for a limited period)

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ ACC

Three powers in competition, just like just three legs, is more stable.

martin

The major issue with basing in Diego and Ascension is that we don’t have amy ship’s. We are stretched thin covering half the standing patrols. When the carriers come back they will suck up most of the escort fleet.

We already deploy a fair bit in the way of assets to the IO. Diego Garcia is a good place to use for resupply ship’s etc. I think we could do with out the need for any major land based facilities out there. However I do think having a two star in the region with a fleet command is important. As Sir H points out having the people in place working on alliances can often be more important than the machines. a fleet HQ with offices in somewhere like Qatar would help us continue to build on the great work we already do in the region. If the USN does scale back dramatically on the 5th fleet which they may then we will be much better placed to capitalise. At present if congress does not gets its act together the US military is going to have to cut $ 1 trillion off its budget over ten years. They are working on the assumption at the moment that congress will work it out however I am not so sure.

A Eastern Fleet would also put us in a better place for training with FPDA. Even stretched as we are to have a T45 in or near the gulf, the four MCM’s we currently have and maybe a one or two T23’s with an assortment of RFA vessels and an SSN is doable with our current fleet and budget. Indeed this is pretty much the force we have at present. Through in an annual visit from either an ARG or CSG conducting exercises’s with Gulf nations, India, FPDA and Indonesia and we could score a major diplomatic boost in the region with out having to spend much.

These annual exercises especially in MCM, ASW and AAW could help us better show case our capabilities and may give a major boost to UK defence exports. We might even be able to start going back to RIMPAC once in a while.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ x- “Three powers in competition, just like just three legs, is more stable.”

ohhh – the number of essays and articles debating that statement….

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

The tsunami kept Japan away from the 13th year of this kind of exercises, between India, Singapore, US and Japan (may have missed out one?)
“conducting exercises’s with Gulf nations, India, FPDA and Indonesia and we could score a major diplomatic boost in the region with out having to spend much.”
– I think what we are trying to invent, has been invented already
– how to barge into a party (are we late, uninvited, or both?)

Rocket Banana

ArmChairCivvy,

I get your point about the “bare base” but just think that our naval forces seem focused for rapid intervention. The best way to be rapid is to be in the vicinity already.

DG is about a week away from most nations with coasts in the IO.
Ascension is about a week away from most of the west coast of Africa and two weeks from, ahem, the Flaklarns – trying not to say it ;-)

Trouble is I can’t decide where I’d like the carrier fleet to be based and where I’d like the assault fleet to be based – certainly not the UK, there’s no point (other than maintenance).

El Sid
El Sid

Sir H
Just wanted to say many thanks & BZ for your contributions here and over on TPL – they are much appreciated.

If you are doing requests, then might I suggest West Africa?

Our backyard, lots of historical involvement (including the only war we’ve unequivocally won in the last 20 years), rising strategic importance thanks to increasing production of oil and other resources, which in turn allow weapons procurement to pursue old ethnic divisions. Good microcosm of the Cold War against China. Plus it would be a perfect place to play with some SIMSS’s….

Would be particularly interested in your take on what the USN are up to – my sense is that they’re paying lip service to the importance of the area but it always seems to be sacrificed to higher priorities. But that may change as the focus moves away from SW Asia.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Swimming Trunks

Yep. Right up with define the national interest , 2500 words, abstract not included.

@ Simon re Ascension

No those islands would be a better bet because of distant and anchorages. The FI were a coaling station at one time. A force in the IO is just as far from the FI as the UK.

IXION

IO

I agree (I think) with Sir H.

Not a long way to go, not a long way to ship things thru, happens all the time. Not a long way to send a ship on a goodwill trip

But it is a long way

: To base anything other than ‘Forwards presence squadron’ (See the MCM’s and our contribution to the anti piracy team)
And way to far to support any kind of serious solo military operation.

Lets not get fantasy fleetish about this.

Rocket Banana

x,

“No those islands would be a better bet because of distant and anchorages. The FI were a coaling station at one time. A force in the IO is just as far from the FI as the UK.”

Sorry, I don’t understand.

Are you suggesting FI instead of Ascension (plus DG and UK)?

martin

@ Simon – I love playing fantasy fleets myself. However to base both a carrier and assault group over seas means we are going to need three of each.

That’s a hell of an increase in the RN. I take your point about being close however we can move these type of forces from the UK relatively rapidly to the Med, Western IO or mid Atlantic.

I just don’t think being able to save a few days on deploying forces warrants the massive extra cost. Also if we split up the assault and carrier task force then you risk a situation where neither can do the job until the other arrives. If we needed both in Sierra Leone for example and the assault force is at Ascension with the Carrier at DG then its going to take quite some time for the carrier to make it round.

Rocket Banana

martin,

I don’t think we’d need three of each (although I understand your concern). I’d work on one active carrier/LPD with the other in refit for 1-2 years. This means we’d need to rotate the crews (every 6-8 months) who would be based in Ascension or DG.

As for getting things together I appreciate what you’re saying. I just think that for the most part we need to “fly the flag” and do intervention ops that could (and are/have been) conducted by carriers and/or assault ships.

It’s only when things go “pear shaped” that we need to bring both fleets together and deploy them to the same location.

Statistically it is not efficient to have them based from the mid-point of our reach. By this I mean it would be best to have them based in the UK if we might deploy them on our doorstep, but we wouldn’t, we’d use the RAF for those kinds of rapid response ops.

martin

@ ACC – You are correct there is a FPDA annual exercise but as far as I know our attendance has been somewhat lacking as of late. While nations like Singapore send units to RIMPAC it’s not a substitute for conducting large exercises closer to home where more of their fleet can get a chance to participate. The USN holds massive exercises in East Asia with Korea and Japan but as far as I am aware they do not hold anything similar in SE Asia. Certainly not regularly anyway.
Giving Singaporean and Malaysian forces the chance to practice ASW against SSN’s and the like will I think be well appreciated in an area where Chinese naval ambitions are a concern. Show casing our kit which really is world class can’t hurt either. Many of these nations are beginning to purchase new kit to deal with the Chinese threat. If we bring in RAF units as well it could help with possible future sales of Typhoon to Malaysia and maybe even the Philippines.
Using this as a format to work with Indonesia as well can’t hurt. It’s not trying to re-invent anything just simply meeting our existing commitments in a better way.
As for India, I am not sure if they get the chance to train with anyone on a regular basis. The exercises the carried out with one of our T boats in 2010 during David Cameron’s visit seemed to go down well.
Progressing further I don’t see what would be wrong with a RIMPAC type exercise for the entire IO possibly centered of DG. This would give EU navy’s as well as the USA a chance to participate. It should not be too difficult for us to send a decent sized force to DG once a year.

martin

My point about us attending RIMPAC was more as a chance to gain export sales for ASW, AAW and MCM kit all of which the Japanese, Koreans and others need. Just because we know its the best and the Americans do doesn’t mean that others do. Nothing sells a Sonar like having your subs located over and over again by one.

Rocket Banana

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think we should base both carrier and assault fleets to DG in the IO.

It spreads our global influence the most.

Challenger
Challenger

You can’t station carrier or assault groups oversea’s, both because of the unjustified costs and the acute lack of vessels to actually do the job. As Martin said, a few days or weeks sailing time is worth the flexibility it brings the rest of the time. Plus without major installations I think you would find these capital ships heading back to UK far more often then one would like.

Better to have low-end assets acting as forward presence. Heck even without ships, just maintaining overseas bases as potential jumping off points would suffice.

As many other people have pointed out, soft power, such as training and very limited infrastructure, coupled with strong diplomatic associations is the way forward.

Keep a vigilant, bystander role 99% of the time, with the ability to rapidly build up a credible force on the off chance it’s required.

Challenger
Challenger

@Martin

‘Nothing sells a Sonar like having your subs located over and over again by one’.

I think you hit the nail on the head. All of the talk and specifications can’t compare to a real-world demonstration. It’s only then that observers say ‘wow, this thing really does what it says on the tin’.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Simon

Yes I mean the Falklands.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

I think we’re going in to fantasy fleet territory here; Sir H did say the current set up is more than adequate. However, Never one to pass up play fantasy fleets…

In the past we have deployed squadrons as well as fleets; with the CVBG/ARG at home ready to sail in an emergency (Home Fleet?), could squadrons be deployed abroad? The smallest I can imagine with current and planned vessels would be 1 Type 45 and one Type 23/26 to compliment each other, with perhaps an Auxiliary in support?

An alternative using suggested vessel ideas would perhaps be a squadron of (4?) Sloops (Black Swan, etc)with an auxiliary acting as depot ship with UNREP and different modular mission packages to increase flexibility, perhaps JSS or MESHD?

Such a squadron could perform forward presence, theatre security, training, SLOC patrols, etc. If the threat level rises then the Home Fleet (or elements) can be called to give support

Rocket Banana

I thought the point in FF2020 was for rapid reaction.

Isn’t the reaction you’re suggesting no quicker than a load of ferry/container ships packed with regular Army/tanks and tankered Typhoons flown into the nearest friendly airstrip?

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Fantasy fleets, lovely!
I would use DfID money to build an airstrip & deep water quay on all those remaining British dots. So Pitcairn for this region. Not base anything there, but know we have somewhere to operate from in an emergency.
For Diego Garcia & piracy patrol, one permanent ship. I want something handy & cheap to fill the gap in the shipyards. My fantasy was a new Engadine, 2 Merlins, 2 Wildcats, but armed this time, with a 114mm gun & 20mm Phallanx taken from a retired T42.

Repulse

@Simon, the first place to base a new fleet would be Gibraltar, no question. The facilities are there and they can move south or east just as easily.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

The dedicated power station in GIB is now running the biggest server park in Europe – as we have two patrol boats there, and no power is needed at the moorings or in the repair docks (are they still there?)

steve taylor
steve taylor

They can move east if the canal is open.

Rocket Banana

Repulse,

Sounds sensible, but it still doesn’t put a “fleet” within minimum reach of nearly every 2nd/3rd world country – i.e. the ones that have (or will have) “problems” in the future.

Just look at a globe – if you’re positioned at Ascension and DG (and the UK) you’re no more than 4000nm (ships range) of a lot of “interesting” places ;-)

Topman
Topman

@ ACC

They used to be a mini power station under the rock at Gib. The tunnels that aren’t yet open to the public have some interesting stuff all abandoned now of course, left to rot but interesting all the same.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Simon

At 500miles per day that’s a week sailing.

Ascension isn’t suitable. If you are wedded to the idea look at Sierra Leone.

Think Defence

X, I agree, I think Sierra Leone would make an ideal forward location but the facilities would need some serious work or we might accept that the type of support it would offer would be minimal

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

Re; The Indian Ocean,

Not quite sure why everyone is so keen to put a major combined arms/service battle group on Diego Garcia? What is it going to do? Why do you need it there? What Immediate international crisis do you forsee it having to respond to?

If you want to put a permanent overseas naval presence anywhere you’d be better off putting it at both/either Gibraltar and/or Oman. You have forces then on both sides of the Suez canal and at either end of the med.

More importantly, these are close to actual areas of interest for us. The Middle East is a large source of export orders for our military equipment, so being very close to them makes sense. These are also countries that Britain actually has some semblence of influence over.

Gibraltar puts us close to the next source of plausible Al Qaeda tension, that being the Mahgreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia), and is close to Western Africa, which is likely to be a much more interesting place as far as our economy and energy is concerned in the future than the Indian Ocean.

El Sid was right to highlight Africa. It is incredibly more interesting and important to our future than guarding ships full of plastic toys from Taiwan through the Indian Ocean.

@ X
“My main concern for the Med is that Arab Spring turns into a caliphate stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian border”
— Only in Al Qaeda’s warmest dreams is this likely to happen. The Arab Spring isn’t quite the democratic revolution that the press would like it to be.

“Whilst conveniently forgetting how much of what we buy comes from Asia in ships.”
— Toys, shoes, plates, cups, all the life essentials ;) . If Greece wants a way out of its current plight it’d do well to look at all the stuff that’s being imported from the East and considering manufacturing some of that itself.

@ Martin,
“The major issue with basing in Diego and Ascension is that we don’t have amy ship’s. We are stretched thin covering half the standing patrols. When the carriers come back they will suck up most of the escort fleet”
— On this point I have to agree with you 100%. We are struggling to cover some of the standing tasks. The last thing we need is to start permanently sending ships to go wondering around the Indian Ocean.

Rocket Banana

x,

Well it’s 4-days sailing for most coasts around DG and yes, 7-days sailing for the furthest islands to patrol in the South Atlantic ;-)

Not sure what your reference to Sierra Leone is about?

I’m not wedded to the idea it just looks like a point central to our interests rather than at one end (i.e. the UK).

Rocket Banana

x,

I think TD beat me to it.

Why base a fleet (or capability) in SL when you have UK soil a few miles south? What’s wrong with Ascension?

I admit it might need beefing up a little.

Mark
Mark

Sir H

Much enjoyable read over the three posts a really interesting region the far east and a area which will grow in importance significantly. With the instability along the north african coast and across the suez canal area I for one would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the med region given our bases in cyprus and gib and a popular holidaying region I suppose makes UK interest high I would have thought.

Ive always seen the the RNs frigate force standing deployments as a sort of early warning system in each region offering time for the UK to ready a further contributions to a region should that be necessary I dont see why that should change greatly and for that reason a regular far east deployment maybe of benefit as opposed to deploying the fleet to Diego Garcia.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Chris B

Unlike Santa I don’t believe in Al Qaeda. Wahhabism, America turning to the Pacific, and “open elections” are probably more dangerous.

As for the comment about life’s essentials I wasn’t on about what was shipped but the mode of transport and distance covered .

@ Simon

http://www.internetbs.net/faq/images/Image/ccTLD/AscensionIslandMapHiRes.jpg

http://mappery.com/maps/Freetown-Map.mediumthumb.jpg

http://www.portsdown-tunnels.org.uk/images/portsdown/Maps/portsmouth_location_map.jpg

Rocket Banana

x,

Ahh, the penny drops ;-)

And I always thought South East bay looked like a great place to put a ship… perhaps my dingy will be okay moored there!

Rocket Banana

I’d like to see three “fleets”:

1. Based in Blighty.
2. Based in Gibraltar (or Freetown, SL) :-)
3. Based in Diego Garcia.

They seem strategically sensible places to be based.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ X,

Open elections are not really much of a threat. Most of the extreme religious parties have agendas about the rest of government that are on an intellectual par with the kid of thing you’d expect to see from the BNP. They may hold some nice rallies here and there, but they lack any real widespread support. And in countries like Egypt, you can elect whoever you want to government, it’s the military that holds the real power.

As for the shipping to and from Asia, if you’re not interested in what is being shipped then who cares? You don’t protect ships because they’re ships, you protect them because they have something of value in them. Why protect shipping lanes to the Far East if you don’t care what’s in the ships?

steve taylor
steve taylor

Chris B said “As for the shipping to and from Asia, if you’re not interested in what is being shipped then who cares? ”

My point was “we” (well not me in that we more the collective you) hum and haw when anybody mentions sending a RN ship East of Suez. But we use goods that have travelled those distances by ship every day. At one time the RN had ships everywhere. But when I read stuff here it makes me think that some believe when we are talk about sending a ship out past the Arabian Sea it is like we are attempting a moon shot. Not interested in the goods themselves or the we are an island don’t you know only the distance ships move.

@ Simon

Ascension is the top of a volcano. It is round; sections of cones often are. It sits in the ocean in the middle of a healthy major current. Round things in streams of liquid or gas produce low pressure zones. Consequently the sea gets very lumpy around the island. Not good. Islands also tend to create their own weather too…..

Give the Sierra Leone government £250million of the over seas aid budget and they would happily let you base Trident there…….

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

Simon,

with you on the 3 fleets concept, and within each of those 3 fleets a 3-way cycle of ops, training and maintenance. I’d assume that an Andrew officer would do some staff estimating on deployment cycles for the DG and Ascension fleets to ensure that the boys and girls get sufficient time back in the UK, so perhaps an 18 way cycle in ratios*** of (1:1:1)^3:1(1:1:1):1(1:1:1) between the UK and the forward bases (sounds complex, it’s really only simple maths – think of big slow turning gears and smaller faster turning gears)

*** Gives you a need for 21 escorts doing 12 month tours in the UK fleet on 3 four monthly cycles, and 4 months in 12 in the second 12 month period forward deployed, plus 4 months sea training, to guarantee at any one time a minimum of 3 fully worked up escorts (one each from UK, Ascension and DG) plus another 3 at training readiness – 2 weeks? If you had 3 flagships (whether 2 x CVF + Ocean / Albion / Bulwark) you’d have a mustard little naval reaction force. Everything else like subs and MCMs and RFAs in multiples of 3 or more makes it all very sweet.

Nice thing is, you can do your defence diplomacy and Caribbean drug patrols, etc, while in the Ops or Training cycle.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Simon

Further the cone of the volcano means the sea bed as such falls away rather quickly too.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

X,

knowing the current and past Government’s for screwing things up royally, after the £250M contract for some new submarine sheds in Sierra Leone, they’d let the security contract to G4S and those numpties would immediately then try to recruit the West Side Boys to do some high-viz jacketing, only to find that none of them turn up.

Apart from the very odd incident on Astute in Portsmouth a couple of years ago, when an armed guard started firing (killed someone? I seem to recall), Jolly Jack Tar can normally be relied upon to keep his berthed ship somewhat safe.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ X,

“But we use goods that have travelled those distances by ship every day. At one time the RN had ships everywhere. But when I read stuff here it makes me think that some believe when we are talk about sending a ship out past the Arabian Sea it is like we are attempting a moon shot”

The problem is that a container ship travels one way and then rests up in port while being refilled. It then returns home. A Royal Navy ship would need to travel all the way out and then do a series of visits for it to be worth while. How much time do you get in the Far East before harmony guidelines start to rear their head?

And more to the point… why do you need to send a ship to the Far East in the first place? What does it actually achieve? It’s no good sending anything that far unless it serves some kind of purpose.

The only explanations I ever here for doing this is defence diplomacy. But how much actual value does a Frigate generate? How much diplomatic weight does it actually contribute? And why that region?

I don’t understand why people are so keen to spend good money exerting a minimal level of influence over a region that has very little interest to us from a military perspective and that we have very little ability to engage in.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Chris B

I am not on about the specifics of certain ships. What I am on about is an abstract ship travelling to the Indian Ocean. Not bothered about the engines that drive said ship, its colour, its crew size, whether said crew have leave or are shackled to their oars at the start of a commission or what ever. I was just talking about ships and the distances they can travel in a very general way.

@ James

It was last year in Southampton. I think Astute was there for Z Berth proving.

Matelots with rifles? Um. I am sure Somewhat and APATS are very safe with smoke poles.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ X

Maybe I’m missing your point, but a ship doesn’t exist in that kind of vaccum. We don’t just send, “a ship” to travel “a distance”. We send a frigate, or we send a mine hunter, or we send an assault ship. It has a crew and it has certain needs in terms of sustainment that we have to consider. It’s travelling to achieve an objective.

martin

I think setting up overseas bases that are not normally used is the way to go. We lack the ability to even put OPV’s into these bases which would offer relatively little utility anyway. SL and Kenya represent great opportunities. SL has the third largest harbor in the world and Kenya is desperately looking for funding for a container port and will have to turn to China. If we could get DFID to pay for large port facilities in SL and Kenya it would do a lot to spur economic development across the entire continent. In would not be much of a stretch to throw some births for RN warships and an RAF airfield near by as part of the plan. In SL in particular we could likely get BNP, Rio Tinto, De Beers and Xstrata on board to improve access for bulk containers and spur growth in the mining industry.
If we used the soft power options available to us in a coordinated way we could really help both UK plc and the people of the third world while at the same time further enhancing our diplomatic and military reach.
Putting a naval bases on Ascension island likely offers us little. There is no real conceivable need for a large naval fleet in the area and building facilities on a world renowned nature site would be difficult and expensive. There is also no way DFID would pay for it.
Basing a fleet in GIb offers us little other than saving half a day on deployment. We would still have to go to all the expense of basing people there not to mention winding up the Spanish.
@ Chris B – I have to agree with you that if we were to base anywhere out east it should be the Gulf. Oman would be the natural option however Qatar seems to be taking an increasingly active role and is defiantly someone I would like to work more with.
Many of the options outlined here i.e. squadrons in the IO of 1 T45 1 T23 and some MCM’s with a few auxiliaries is exactly what we have now. Tying this together under a rear admiral based in the gulf might give us a major diplomatic boost with little in the way of cost.
I believe we already have a naval staff in Dubai coordinating anti piracy patrols any way. Tying it together as a fleet command would also make it easier for us to assume control of international operations in the region.
I suppose the key element is little or no cost.

martin

@ Chris B – I agree with you about the utility of a frigate in the far east. However I do believe its a key diplomatic and military region for us and the rest of the world. However when we send ships out here it should be for training missions with key allies and we should send something large an useful. I do not believe it would stretch the RN too much to have a bi annual rotation between an ARG and CSG coming out for FPDA exercise.

I take your point about costs however if we have the ships anyway and we are paying the staff its better to send them out east than having them sitting on the quay side in Portsmouth.

@ Red Trousers

“with you on the 3 fleets concept”

Welcome to the dark side :-)

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ ChrisB – “And more to the point… why do you need to send a ship to the Far East in the first place? What does it actually achieve?”

I think it comes back to the notion of being a regional+ Great Power, and outside of our region that boils down to SLOCS.

In asia via the FPDA
In ME via bilateral defence cooperation with Oman/Bahrhain/Quatar
In Central America via our colonial possession
Around South America via the Falklands

http://europeangeostrategy.ideasoneurope.eu/2011/12/13/strategic-snapshot-no-3-published/

Dunservin
Dunservin

W.R.T. the RN’s permanent presence in the Middle East, the UK has its Maritime Component Commander (with personnel embedded in the Fifth Fleet’s CENTCOM organisation) at Mina Salman in Bahrain. The UKMCC is also the Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces (DCCMF). The associated port facilities are currently used by the four RN minehunters and their supporting Bay class RFA deployed in the Gulf since 2006, plus other visiting RN warships and RFAs. The 10 acre site was previously HMS JUFAIR, the RN’s main base in the Gulf between 1943 and 1971. It is now called NSA Bahrain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Support_Activity_Bahrain) and is the HQ of CENTCOM (http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/). Also see:

Combined Maritime Forces – http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/Operations/Enduring-Operations/Middle-East/Combined-Maritime-Forces

UK Maritime Component Commander – http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/leadership/ukmcc.html and http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/News-and-Events/Latest-News/2011/November/30/111130-GF-UKMCC-Cdre-Ancona

steve taylor
steve taylor

Chris B said “Maybe I’m missing your point, but a ship doesn’t exist in that kind of vaccum. We don’t just send, “a ship” to travel “a distance””

Chris, mate, it was an abstract. There was nothing beyond a “ship”, a modern ship capable of transoceanic voyages, travelling between here and the Indian Ocean. Nothing to do with crew sizes, international politics, costs of doing so, weapons, containers, their worth or utility, their worth or utility compared to another military system, etc. etc. All I am on about is a ship moving a distance, a vague distance of here and somewhere in the Indian Ocean and here, and another ship vaguely coming from China to here. Both of which naval architecture has been able to deliver for the last 300 years or so. When somebody says there isn’t enough room to swing a cat there aren’t set measures for cats or lengths of arms or how far off the wall cat has to be. Not many know the exact dimensions of the proverbial London Bus but it has been an apocryphal stand of measure for over a century. ALL I said was we live in an age where one sort of ship travels great distances and compared it, hypothetically, to another type of ship and alluded to how some regarded the deployment distance. For the former it isn’t questioned, for the latter to some such distances seem along way. Two perceptions of same class vehicle used in two separate spheres. Rather like how we discuss military systems here all day and then somebody says well war won’t happen because of a list of reasons. Difference between realist and liberal world view models; one set events, two different interpretations.
Nothing more. There was no subtle hidden meaning. It was just a throw away observation. A ship of one type moves a long way not questioned. A ship of another type moves the same distance and as I interpret it it perceived here by many a great distance, beyond the military facts and in and outs.

Ali
Ali

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/News-and-Events/Latest-News/2012/July/18/120718-Gday-Diamond-destroyer-joins-Australian-warship-East-of-Suez

Wow didn’t know the Somali pirates had such a sophisticated air force and anti-ship missiles…

On what we could send to forward presence, how about the General-purpose frigate based on Absalon?

martin

@ Dunservin – I take your point about forces in Bahrain, I see two issues with it though. By attaching our forces to the US 5th fleet we effectively gain zero diplomatic traction ourselves while subsidising US efforts in the region.
Its not like the US government is going to say to Saudi or UAE don’t buy F15’s guys the Brits have helped us out a lot why not buy Typhoon.
Secondly Bahrain as a regime has many flaws and it’s probably not the country in the region we want to work with. Qatar to me offers better options. In terms of bases facilities I doubt it would be much of a stretch to ether us Qatari naval facilities or get the Qatari government to pay for something.
The UK’s gas contract with Qatar also make it our biggest strategic interest in the area.

I am not saying we should not work with 5th fleet we obviously should but we should not be subjected to it.

Dunservin
Dunservin

@Ali

Don’t knock the deployment of high end assets on such deployments. The Somali pirates may not have “a sophisticated air force and anti-ship missiles” but other forces in the area do and any opportunities to monitor them in situ with a view to developing appropriate countermeasures should be exploited.

I wish I was still in a position to read the ROPs (Reports of Proceedings) of the ships involved in such operations. They usually contain a fascinating wealth of information ranging from the performance of own and others’ weapons and sensors in the ambient conditions to the many and varied training opportunities presented while operating with the military and civil authorities, ships, submarines and aircraft of other countries with whom we rarely work except in extremis.

Then there is the regional intelligence ‘take’, including a pretty interesting air picture in that part of the world, right down to cultural and political issues encountered while mixing with the high and the low in some fairly exotic locations. Par example, at the risk of infringing the Official Secrets Act, did you know that French diplomats are singularly unimpressed with the British idea of canapés and refer to them as “hens’ turds on toast”? ;-)

All this data is fed back into the RN’s corporate knowledge base and used to benefit the rest of the Fleet and other official agencies. Little is wasted. It’s what helps us hone our edge for whenever and wherever the balloon goes up.

martin

Little worries about sticking a T45 right in the middle of an international fleet with Russian and Chinese vessels. Seems like a very easy opportunity for them to spy on her. Fingers crossed they don’t switch the SAMPSON on.

Dunservin
Dunservin

@martin

Please don’t take offence but I regret your latest post is a prime example of what I have previously termed ‘opinionated ignorance’. Professional personnel take such considerations into account as a matter of course and act accordingly.

Ali
Ali

@Dunservin

Fair point!

Maybe we can look to use this as a training exercise to showcase Type 45 as a worthwhile vessel?

@Martin

Maybe look to do a similar deal for a forward base in Qatar as the French have done in Abu Dhabi?

Ali
Ali

If we want to increase our presence in the IO maybe look to create a joint carrier group with India in the region? But of course we would have to match each others interests first but surely they are similar?

For this maybe attach a Type 45 or a Type 23/26 to one of the Indian’s future carrier groups. You could also use this as a sort of showcase of these vessels and persued India in procuring some high-tech equipment from us.

Just an idea of course!

SomewhatInvolved

Nice post Sir H, as with many I agree with your outlook completely. Next deployment to FPDA will more than likely be a Type 45, though sales potential is pretty poor, rather missed a trick with the Aussies. Though I expect the Chinese will appreciate the intel gathering opportunity. Regarding generation, port visits have long since ceased to be ‘jollies’ and every one is now a result of the FCO submitting it’s effects requirements documents, turning every single visit into defence diplomacy/influence work or an essential maintenance package. Dauntless has been doing this splendidly with the Cape Verdians of late (http://www.world-traders.org/affiliations/dauntlessNewsletter.pdf).

Some wonderful comments about deploying our prime AA capability to ‘fight piracy’. Think there might be a little else going on in the region there Ali, maybe a tad further north around the Strait of Hormuz?

As for sailors with rifles, we have a few trained to a fair standard. They’re called Royal Marines. The rest undertake the same basic close combat shoot training as any soldier, one of the outcomes of the Cornwall incident. As qualified as anyone else in the three Services.

Dunservin, agreed. The wine storage potential of the average French warship is awesome, having had a couple of very painful ‘entente cordiale’ hangovers!

martin

@ Dunservin

Sorry to which post are you referring? Was it the one about the T45 being in close proximity to Russian and Chinese vessels?

Dunservin
Dunservin

@martin

Affirmative. There is nothing new about such situations and you can rest assured that appropriate precautions are taken. ;-)

W.R.T. the establishment of foreign bases for our maritme forces…

Wherever established, even a ‘bare bones’ naval base on some foreign shore is an expensive commitment in terms of rental, infrastructure, maintenance and personnel. Sod’s Law also states that it’s liable to be in the wrong place when a situation flares up.

Far better to share allies’ facilities (such as we do with the US in Bahrain) where possible and rely on our existing assets such as Gibraltar, Cyprus, Ascension, Diego Garcia, Falklands, Singapore, etc., augmented by mobile ‘sea-basing’ using RFAs and STUFT. Sea basing is viable anywhere our maritime forces may be sent. It requires no footprint in a foreign land subject to the vagaries of local politics and enables rapid deployment (and/or swift withdrawal should the occasion deserve). It also has utility for myriad operations in peacetime ranging from disaster relief to the support of forces deployed on distant exercises or other expeditions.

As things stand, we are struggling to justify the retention of our three surviving UK naval bases and avoid the risk of having all our maritime eggs in one or two baskets. Somehow, I can’t imagine the political will to establish even more bases further afield in the foreseeable future.

Simon257
Simon257

Great piece. As always Sir H

If we want to really win friends and influence people. Instead of sending a sole T-23 or a T-45 on diplomacy work. The UK would better off building and sending a new Royal Yacht off to Foreign Climes. With the Priince of Wales and especially the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on board, now that would be good for business. Getting rid of RY Brittania was disastrous for British Exporters.

Ali
Ali

@Dunservin

Maybe sharing the US facilities in the region of the French facility at Abu Dhabi as an extension of the Anglo-French defence pact?

Brian Black
Brian Black

I’d agree with that, Simon257. Getting rid of the Royal Yacht was a narrow-minded objective of the bitter class-warriors in the Labour party.

Not replacing the Yacht was all about symbolism, ignoring the reality of international trade and the work done by our embassies, trade delegations, and even warships while carrying out ambassadorial roles. Plus, receptions held on the Royal Yacht could impress and captivate foreign leaderships in a way that a visiting bog-standard little frigate never could.

Personally, I think we should invest in another Royal Yacht; though given its flag-waving diplomatic and trade role -rather than any actual military role- the FCO should pick up the tab for buying, fitting and running the vessel, with the Royal Navy covering only the crew.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Darts with that fine crew in 1973… and a friend of the RN forever after; can FCO do that?
– Red Arrows do similar things, leaving a lasting impression, but the budget always seems to attract darts

martin

Getting Rid of the Royal Yacht was silly, The replacement was budgeted at just £ 10 million. I also think its crazy that government has never been able to agree on some form of Airbus transport i.e. RAF 1.

It looked pretty shitty in Jakarta when call me Dave rolled up in an african 747 that was not even allowed to fly in EU sky’s when he was specifically trying to negotiate a Airbus deal.

For a nation with the second biggest aerospace industry in the world this looks bad.

The decision to scrap the yacht was nothing to do with the Labour governments class war. The decisions was taken by the palace which was put in charge of its own transport budget.

@ Dunservin – I would agree with you in term of spending on naval facilities except in the Gulf. I think this region is too important for us to just ride along on the US coat tales.

Simon257
Simon257

Martin, it was definitely a class war decision by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Even Mr Blair admitted since that it was a bad idea. If rumours are to believed, Her Majesty the Queen, blamed Gordon Brown personally for the withdrawal of Brittania.

martin

Ah Tony Blair that renowned class warrior. The decision to scarp the yacht and not replace her was taken by the major government in 1994. Labour simply did not over turn the decision. As major said later the thought of forking out £50 million when the country was in the depths of recession and the Royal Family was mired in scandal was too much.

I think this diamond jubilee year would be a great time to fund a replacement though. Times are tough and the guardian is likely to make a big deal of it but £50-80 million is hardly a lot of money to the UK and I am sure she will pay for her self 100 times over with trade deal’s and the like.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

A medical ship performing medical diplomacy would be an alternative idea…

steve taylor
steve taylor

Re Britannia

Not a fan of HMY to be honest. Apart from her engines she has never been of much interest to me as a ship. But as a “venue” for transmitting soft power and influence she probably paid for herself many time over. The Danes have a lovely royal yacht,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMY_Dannebrog_(A540)

as do the Norwegians,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HNoMY_Norge

The latter are rich so can be excused indulgences. But the former are more happy clappy wet liberal than we are so it is a mystery why we should be without.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Jedi – very interesting link. Ties in what I’ve been thinking vis a vie Engish School Theory and developing a British Grand Strategy.

El Sid
El Sid

Talking of Dauntless, her CO had a brief interview on Radio 5 last night :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00w724c

As it happens Bob Work has been turning up on ID again, he’s quoted a figure of the USN needing 4.57 ships in CONUS to maintain 1 forward – that’s one reason why they’re looking to forward bases to try and improve that ratio, but he reckons a new overseas base is $5-6bn….

I like the idea of a really adventurous design for a new Royal Yacht, like the FSP21 sailing ship or the really high tech one – I can’t find it on a quick Google, the closest I can find is the Britannia 2000 (http://www.minimalhome.com/article/show/26 – warning, gratuitous music) but the one I’m thinking of was a lot more bonkers. The FSP21 now seems to be being pitched as a http://www.universityoftheoceans.org but the server is down at the mo. There seems to be a separate appeal at http://www.jubileeyacht.org.uk/faq/ to raise some money to buy an existing superyacht for use by the Royals and other purposes.

SomewhatInvolved

The USN needs 4.5 ships to maintain one deployed? Wow – that’s considerably worse than what we work on! Mind you we are running our ships flat out and virtually on back-to-back deployments, so the Yanks have the luxury of a little more fat in their system. Sorry, at 4.5+ a LOT more fat, AND they spend considerably longer at sea than we do. Interesting.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Re Royal Yacht.
The last years of Britannia. Prince Phil got slagged off by the red tops for having a hol on board. Did he not know how much a day it cost to run? Scared off the royals, so the year after, the same red tops screamed look how few days a year Britannia is used. The royals could not win either way.
Any new royal yacht faces the same problem.
At the time & still today, I say we should have stretched a frigate/destroyer(new build), with a multi space amidships that could be switched from exhibition space to dining room or conference hall easily. VIP cabins above.
Could do normal escort duties, but be switched to defence diplomacy when needed.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

JH, some one thought about it before
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fodeeroy/6459108861/

Rocket Banana

SomewhatInvolved,

“The USN needs 4.5 ships to maintain one deployed“.

No, El Sid said…

“..USN needing 4.57 ships in CONUS to maintain 1 forward…”

There’s a significant difference and the level of that difference is dependent on how far forward it is maintained.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Swimming Trunks

Now that is a pretty ship.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

ACC
HMS Mermaid. They failed to mention it sank HMS Fittleton on 20 Sept 1976.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ Martin,
“However I do believe its a key diplomatic and military region for us and the rest of the world.”
— Why? What diplomatic or military benefit do we gain from the region? What can we offer beyond a very little contribution? As a commercial market it’s growing and certainly our businesses could exploit that, but they can (and will) do that independent of the military and diplomatic corps. If you want to help that region, boost the FCO budget for South East Asia. There is really no military role for us down there beyond some training opportunities.

@ JEDIBFTRX,
“I think it comes back to the notion of being a regional+ Great Power, and outside of our region that boils down to SLOCS,”
— Repeat after me; we are NOT a Great Power.

@ X,
“A ship of one type moves a long way not questioned. A ship of another type moves the same distance and as I interpret it it perceived here by many a great distance, beyond the military facts and in and outs”
— I don’t think anyone here doubts that if we really wanted to we could sail a Frigate right around the globe. I can’t imagine anybody in their right mind here looks at transoceanic ships and wonders what black magic is in their engineering spaces that allows them to travel such distances.

I don’t see ships visiting the far east as an engineering challenge. However it is a personnel challenge (time) and when we have resources as limited as we do thanks to cut backs, everything we do has to be justified. If we are struggling to meet our standing tasks then there has to be some justification before we start sending ships off on new tasks out to the far east.

I think that is what makes people baulk at the suggestion of sending warships to the far east.

martin

Only in the UK could we have this situation like this with Britannia. Most MP’s on both sides of the Parliament think it is a good idea. I dare say even the biggest chunk of the great unwashed would agree. Other than a few wingers at the Guardian most of the country wants it but no politician has the balls to suggest it.

Typical UK political mentality.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

It is hard to justify.

Think about it from the Governments position; you’ve just laid off a whole bunch of people, including serious cut backs to the armed forces. You’ve slashed pensions and taken a scythe to many areas of public spending. And now you want to spend several million quid (who actually seriously believes it will come in on time and on budget?) on a new yacht for the Royals so they can have holidays and cocktails parties.

That will get you slaughtered in the press by any editor with a modicum of a nose for a good kicking.

And the benefits? Again, we all talk about influence and how much it would pay back, but how do we know this? How do we measure it and then show the tax payer “your x amount of millions spent will result in y gain”?

martin

@ Chris B – If we were talking about a lot of money I might agree with you. Even at £ 100 million it’s well with in the stationary budget for the DFID.

If its built in the UK which it would have to be we would get a big chunk back right away in higher taxes etc. Even if the ship helps close one deal in her life time she would pay for herself in extra exports.

@ Swimming trunks – Its easy for the politicos to support a charity concept. Quite another to put their hands in their pockets. Its not really the same as a Royal Yacht either. Not to say I am against it I am in favour of it.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ Swimming Trunks – “very interesting link. Ties in what I’ve been thinking vis a vie Engish School Theory and developing a British Grand Strategy.”

To the limited degree that i understand IR theory I favour Wendt’s Constructivism, but I am not really in a position to provide a theory specific critique of the stratehic snapshot documents.

For what its worth I think they are often flawed in making assumptions about the EU’s cohesiveness as a single actor, in ignoring the social and cultural history that informs the preferences of the constituent nations, but the principle outlined in the map seems sensible enough.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ Martin,

£100 million maybe small change to DfID, but any newspaper editor with half a brain will do a splash front page showing soldiers walking out of a camp with bags over their shoulders and have the concept art of the new yacht underneath it, along with some suitably outrage rousing headline.

Now given how much she would cost to build and then run, she’d need to close more than one deal, unless it was a biggy.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ ChrisB – “Repeat after me; we are NOT a Great Power.”

From wiki:

“A great power is a state that is recognized as having the ability to exert its influence on a global scale.”

Really, is that not Britain?

“Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and soft power influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions of their own.”

Yup, still sounds pretty familiar, but lets have a closer look:

“International relations theorists have posited that great power status can be characterized into power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status dimensions.”

Novel stuff, lets have a closer look at those three functions:

“Power dimensions
In his essay, ‘French Diplomacy in the Postwar Period’, the French historian Jean-Baptiste Duroselle spoke of the concept of multi-polarity: A Great power is one which is capable of preserving its own independence against any other single power.”

Sounds pretty much like Britain.

“Spatial dimension
Other suggestions have been made that a great power should have the capacity to engage in extra-regional affairs and that a great power ought to be possessed of extra-regional interests, two propositions which are often closely connected.”

Ho hum! The very definition of the Regional+ strategy.

“Status dimension
Other important criteria throughout history are that great powers should have enough influence to be included in discussions of political and diplomatic questions of the day, and have influence on the final outcome and resolution. Historically, when major political questions were addressed, several great powers met to discuss them.”

Hmmmm, there was some stuff called; UNSC, G8, and other such jazz i recall………

So, i’ll finish with a question: if not us, who?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_power#List_of_great_powers_by_date

Mark
Mark
jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

the combination of goods [and] services has been over 50% to the RoW for well over a year now.

Rocket Banana

One of the reasons I was suggesting oversea basing was due to the increase in “business” with the up-and-coming countries (i.e. with “business” comes “trouble”).

These obviously include China, but more realistically India and Brazil. The thing about Brazil is that it should (hopefully) lift the whole of South America out of the doldrums – that’s one huge market!

With Ascension no longer a viable option for forward basing towards South America and FI being rather too sensitive to build up I’m at a loss to know how to “protect our interests” in the future in the most cost effective manner.

steve taylor
steve taylor

I would say we are a tad more independent than most think but not much. And probably a little more independent than France, but not by much. The difference is the French state acts as if it is independent for the good of France; the British state acts cowed and apologetic. An example; the French sink a trawler belonging to a pressure group causing trouble and give a Gallic shrug; the British sink a cruiser of an aggressive enemy state that is a threat and for decades after we guiltily rake over the coals. There is also always this allusion to the system knowing better that their game play is subtler and beyond the intellect of the (rapidly depleting numbers of) voter, the man on the street, for who supposedly the state acts. Then again we sat that here with military matters don’t we? From a defence perspective that is why these constant reductions are so annoying. They numbers of servicemen and platforms we have had may not be up to fighting a pro-longed high end hot war, but the latter isn’t what we are facing. But for the small wars, interventions, evacuations and rescues, pirate chasing, etc. they are ideal if we keep our mass. We need 12 SSNs (a capability that still with force cuts elsewhere puts on the naval top table), we need a dozen to eighteen C17, we need a Parachute Regiment that parachutes regularly, we need AAR tankers that work and are of good value, we need Typhoon with a wide range of weapons, or any other example. We need some of that fat that has been trimmed as we are loosing depth; we don’t want to be the US, but having similar reach and capabilities even on small scale puts up there as a global player. But the biggest force multiplier HMG can deploy is that if pushed we act like the French or Israelis or any of those states who act in their own first and answer for the most part to their own conscience. That why the EU doesn’t trouble France because the French know the state will put them first. The EU bothers the average Briton first because he believes, and belief is all he needs, is that the British state will put the EU first. It is a fundamental disconnect between state and people.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

x, sure is
How about a Europe of regions, just starting near us: Faroe Islands, Scotland, Ireland, The Rump (of)UK,Flanders, The District of Brussels, Wallonia, Basque Land, Catalunia…
– would that fix it?

Rocket Banana

x,

I think the state does put the Briton first. The trouble is that we are so reliant on internationalisation for our way of life that it’s nearly always more important to placate, be that the EU or the USA. This tends to make this state look weak.

It’s the same thing that’s been said on this site time and time again… shore up the finances first – it’s the foundation on which our way of life is built.

Having said this, I don’t agree that it should be the case, but whilst ever we pursue the American way (material wealth) we will be stuffed. We need to rebuild this country from the ground up so that we know we can survive without anyone else. This means farming and community, then industry and government, and then, and only then we can purse the faceless multinationals along with a complete lack of national identity.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Sounds like you agree with x (disconnect) and myself (regions, building on identities that actually exist, rather than have been made up)?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ Swimming Trunks – excellent read, thank you.

very much favour Bull’s definition in requiring that the status be recognised by [both] others [and] themselves.

one of the reasons i bang on about the Chatham House poll on Britain’s role in the world, and how it in large part hangs on continuing public support for an active military.

question – having read only halfway through the chapter at this point: can a Great Power be defined in the 21st century as a Regional Power that is also a Middle Power? Or, is it only the necessary precondition for what may later become recognised (internally and externally) as a Great Power? Explanation – being a Regional Power without any opposing regional pole allows the freedom to magnify the projected effect of a Middle-Power into that of Great Power…… Example – By solving its strategic problem with Pakistan India would de-facto become a Great Power rather than merely a Regional/Middle Power.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Simon

I think it is more complicated than that. Even the US isn’t above the tensions of the nation state system; they are not truly independent but have a greater degree of independence. And the EU as France demonstrates has little power beyond that which states choose to give it or allow to be acted upon them. Which country has the highest outstanding number of infringements of EU treaties and conventions? Who is the second largest net contributor to the EU?

As for our finances the UK, despite its debt(!), is still a very rich country. Our finances are in a shambles because of mismanagement not structural weaknesses. “We” choose not to do things, we are not bound to do them.

Rocket Banana

x,

I’d certainly hope it’s more complicated than I wrote – if that summed everything up perfectly then it’s easy to fix ;-)

I don’t want to get into a grumpy-old-man type rant but although this country is still very rich it’s all relative. As more and more countries leapfrog the UK, even if we manage to keep our TVs, PCs and mobile phones, we’re being left behind.

I still think (and I’m not suggesting that this is correct, it’s just my view from my window) that there is a structural weakness in the UK. It’s formed from lowering standards of education and the upbringing belief that “the world owes me”. We need a shake up :-|

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Simon

The weakness comes from, wait for it, us “being an island don’t know you”!

I think the UK entrepreneurial trading spirit has left us too open to the idea that our assets can be bought and sold, and that ultimately the market will deliver the best price. That entrepreneurial trading spirit comes from the simple fact that unlike the French we were soon dependent on outside trade to support the population which was compounded by advancements in agricultural that lead to specialisation. In some ways the UK is a prime example of a globised economy.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Jedi – good question. Regional powers with no rivals in their region or reach a understanding with potential rivals can become a regional hegemon which would appear to be one of the preconditions for becoming a great power – for example the US securing its northen and southern borders (by very different means) and England securing its northen border via Union, a strong navy to protect from invasion and the grand strategy of balancing against the threat of a continental hegemon – but it also requires material capabilities, internal stability and an acceptance by your peers. For example, to my knowledge South Africa has no serious regional rivals and is certainly a regional power but appears to lack the desire or capabilities to become a regional hegemon and so a great power.

To be honest its been a while since I read the book and I forget the exact definintions of Regional, Great and Super power but I believe it rests on capabilities, reach and acceptance.

The US is a superpower because it is involved on the regional security complexes of more than 2 regions, has the capability to support that, and is accepted as a regional “player” by the states of that region.

The US pivot is interesting because it hints at the possibility that it can nolonger, or doesn’t want to, continue being a Superpower. Its just a shift in focus at the moment but if it completely removes it self from a region then…

Rocket Banana

x,

“…In some ways the UK is a prime example of a globalised economy…”

And is therefore sensitive to global stability –> requires soft/hard power projection –> lack of money, etc, etc, etc.

Being reliant on things you can’t control is a recipe for disaster.

Swimming Trunks,

I thought the level of “power” that a country has is dependent on it’s capability to influence events, not necessarily it’s engagement in actually doing it. Isn’t this why Germany is considered by some to be more than just a regional power – her industrial “might” could regenerate a capability to become a Great Power again?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ Swimming Trunks – “The US pivot is interesting because it hints at the possibility that it can nolonger, or doesn’t want to, continue being a Superpower. Its just a shift in focus at the moment but if it completely removes it self from a region then…”

Indeed, but define “remove” in the context of capability, reach, and acceptance.

If I can speculate on definitions I have not studied, perhaps the pivot is recognition that it is no longer a hyperpower capable of unlimited freedom of action anywhere, so its pacific ceentury is no more than a re-prioritisation of resources still well capable of protecting its own independence in any given theatre.

However, the uncertainty above seems equally relevant to Britain’s situation:
1. We are a regional power
2. We are a middle power
3. By operating as part of the EU/NATO we are in effect a hegemon in what is therefore a monopole region

Does this mean we are a Great Power?
Or does it merely make us a Regional+ Power?
What in essence is the difference between the two.

Given that we will remain a top-ten economic power well beyond 2050, with a top five ability ability to project power in the same timeframe, and provided we retain a public willing to project power and neighbours that recognise than willingness, I’m not sure what the difference is between a Great Power and a Regional+ Great Britain………?

If we aren’t a Great Power, who is?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Jedi – again good qiestions which go to the heart of the problem. We are certainly a regional power but we have global responsibilities, both territorial and institutional so does that make us a Great Power? Or are we attempting to “punch above our weight” yet again? Do we need to choose a region or two to centrate on rather than trying to spread ourselves globally?

China is a regional power but increasingly active in Africa and South America so increasingly seen as a Great Power, or will be soon. Do attempt to compete?

Rocket Banana

In terms of terminology we (the UK) are a Great Power.

There are, of course, greater powers, but few nations can project their influence as widely as the UK. I’m sure, however, that will all change within our lifetimes :-(

JustBeef Trousers
JustBeef Trousers

“Do (we?) attempt to compete?”

Yes, where they threaten british prosperity, and only via our local support groups.
In africa via the EU
In SA via the US
In Far East via FPDA
In ME via bilateral defence agreements

But given that latter three are outside of our region the objective becomes more focussed, i.e. SLOCS.

@ simon

maybe not as much as you might imagine:
http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/britain-in-the-world-just-another-medium-sized-country/

Phil

If you want to know what type of power we are apply the Bismarck Test. You simply ask yourself, where would Bismarck place us. I believe he would say what he thought back then, that we are a maritime / global actor and a benign one but with potential to mobilise others to its bidding. We are not a regional power since we can not influence the region on our own and we are not a global power for the same reason. Not can we force anyone to do our bidding. But we are a global actor and can be coalition leaders.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Justbeef and Phil – I think between you we may have an answer – we act as a “Hub” nation, linking different groupings and regions, promoting free trade and international diplomacy, as well as our own interests? Regional power/Global actor and first call ally? On our own small scale operations, key ally in coaltions offering TD’s capability plus?

Does that count as Regional plus/Great power?

martin

@ Simon
“As more and more countries leapfrog the UK, even if we manage to keep our TVs, PCs and mobile phones, we’re being left behind.”
Who is leap frogging us. On a PPP basis of GDP per capita we are in a stronger position that we have been in a long time. Better than Japan, Better than France, Just recently moved behind Germany. Compare that to our position in the 1980’s and 1990’s when all of these countries were well ahead of us.
While our finances are f**ked and our military budgets is being slashed we should not lose sight of the fact that ever yone else is in the same position or wosre. Power is relative so relatively speaking we are no worse of that we were.
@ X – The UK is easily the best example in the world bar none of a truly globalised economy. Second biggest outward investor and second largest receiver of inwar investment on a far higher per capita basis that the number one player the USA.
Weather this is a good or bad thing I suppose is open to debate.

In terms of Great Power status we have it but out of all the great powers in the world we don’t use it. It’s interesting living in a foreign country to see just how much influence the UK has on the world. Most people in the UK really don’t comprehend the view that others have of us.

@ Jedi

“Does this mean we are a Great Power?
Or does it merely make us a Regional+ Power?
What in essence is the difference between the two.”

Good question, The answer is aircraft carriers :-)

Rocket Banana

martin,

A nation’s power is not dependent on the GDP per capita otherwise Luxembourg or Qatar would be hyper-powers ;-)

It’s to do with GDP or purchasing power and in the last few years we’ve been overtaken by Brazil and China and probably soon by India and Russia.

JustBeef Trousers
JustBeef Trousers

true, but we will remain top-ten well beyond 2050.

@ martin and Swimming collectively –

yes.

Dunservin
Dunservin

The RN may be unable to compete with the might of the US Navy but, where maritime power is concerned, its senior officers still wield considerable influence compared to those of other allied navies. I have already alluded to Cdre Simon Ancona as Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) at the Fifth Fleet HQ in Bahrain but other examples include:

Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC, Commander Allied Maritime Command (Northwood) – http://www.manw.nato.int/page_cv_com.aspx and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Zambellas

Vice Admiral Charles Johnstone-Burt OBE MA, Chief-of-Staff, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Norfolk, VA – http://www.act.nato.int/biographies/chief-of-staff and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Johnstone-Burt

Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, Operation Commander, European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) for counter piracy Operation ATALANTA – http://www.eunavfor.eu/chain-of-command-2/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duncan_Potts

Rear Admiral Jon Westbrook MBE ADC, Chief-of-Staff, Allied Maritime Command (Naples) – http://www.manp.nato.int/Biographies/cos.html

I assume our senior Army and RAF officers exert similar international influence in their own spheres.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Martin

I can never tell what others think of us. I think the Left oversell the myth that the brown/black/yellow man hate us with a passion. I think there is still a huge swathe of the American population who genuinely think a lot of Britain, while their politicians are more, um, pragmatic these days.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Dunservin

For me what puts the RN up there is our SSNs. I talk of 12, but I think we need 16, and perhaps a small force of 8 SSKs to support the whole venture. I have said here before I would rather have SSKs and extra SSNs over T26 in big numbers. Different platforms I know for different uses. But the submarine is really where we are on par with the USN.

Phil

We are nothing like a regional power!

Militarily and economically we cannot act alone to rapidly influence the region we exist in.

We can as part of a coalition, or we can try over the course of decades using soft power, but that certainly does not make us a regional power. We therefore cannot be a world power either.

There is no regional power in Europe. No one nation has the ability at present to make the rest of the Continent look over its shoulder like a united Germany or France were able to do. Or Soviet Russia. And there is only one global power, and no prizes for guessing who.

Back in times forgotten, we were a Great Power simply by virtue of the fact that no enemy had caught up with our naval power or had no design or ability to.

There is no way on Earth we are a Great Power. We are influential in a coalition, we act on the global and regional stage, we have a globalised economy, but we are definitely not a Great Power.

Observer
Observer

As much as I hate giving bad news, Phil is right. The East of Suez policy and the subsequent “pivot” to Europe as a “co-equal partner”, killed Great Britain’s influence as a “Great Power” by conceeding the field and accepting a lesser role. The vacuum that resulted was filled by the US and by local increases in military, political and diplomatic fields. It’s going to be hard to regain what you once let go.

Ironically, that policy was also the result of a shrinking budget. 1971, replay to 2012. Some things never change.

It’s also not helped by the fact that the other regions have grown as well. Influence in coalition, act on global and regional stage, globalizes economy, many countries now fit these criteria. Fields in which only the “Big Boys” used to be able to play in are now open to many others.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Sometimes looking in from the outside makes things so much clearer to see:
“The East of Suez policy and the subsequent “pivot” to Europe as a “co-equal partner”, killed Great Britain’s influence as a “Great Power” by conceeding the field and accepting a lesser role.”

Phil

Our Great Power status was based on three pillars in my view

(a) Our island situation: this meant we were at a particular and almost unique situation of being able to choose our weapon – the Navy. We thus had focus.

(b) Our money: this meant, we could oil the cogs of our allied armies and effectively sub contract a large part of the land war, thus still giving us focus whilst being able to have a land force and have great influence over that land force.

(c) We had no peers at sea which meant we could control it by default. France, Spain and Holland all had to divert most of their resources to land forces. Germany did not exist. Italy did not exist. The US was not interested, Russia was not interested, China was historically uninterested as was Japan.

What we see is our gradual loss of Great Power status as each pillar was eroded at different times:-

–Our focus from the early 20th Century was lost as we had to divert resources to the air and eventually land forces.

–Our money became far less useful relatively speaking as other nations caught up economically.

–Germany united and developed colonial aspirations, Italy united and her navy started to grow, Russia and especially Japan began to grow their navies and the United States grew hers.

So at the eve of WWI our Great Power status was already on life support and once it was over, with our money gone, our focus gone, and several powers able to challenge the Royal Navy it was gone.

Rocket Banana

Phil,

Which “several powers” do you refer to that can challenge FF2020?

Phil

I’m not following sorry mate. I don’t think I’ve said that at least to my interpretation.

Rocket Banana

Phil,

“…So at the eve of WWI our Great Power status was already on life support and once it was over, with our money gone, our focus gone, and several powers able to challenge the Royal Navy it was gone.”

Sorry, I had to put FF2020 because our current Navy is a bit of a shambles ;-)

Phil

Ah I see.

I was being a bit lazy. No one power at a time bar the still relatively fledgling USN would have been a drama, but from the 1890s onward more and more navies grew stronger and they were geographically dispersed and we then struggled to match their potential and then finally were surpassed. When other navies matured we had a threat in the Atlantic, in the Med and in the Pacific and IO. It wasn’t so bad in WWI but it all came to fruition in the late 30s.

Observer
Observer

The budget cuts didn’t help.

From a premier Navy with multiple capital ships around the globe, it was cut to the 2 currently under construction which in all honesty, actually means 0, and even the loss of purpose is felt now (no more Pax Britania to guard and fund the buildup) with many people questioning the purpose of even building such expensive behemoths.

IMO, the “pivot” and the East of Suez policy was one of the worst things that could happen to the UK. It lost most of it’s income sources from the East and lost out in the huge economic growth of the region, which it could have made a killing in, it relinquished all military power in that region, and as you currently see, it’s very hard to step back in when the US took over, and it lost any edge in diplomatic influence it had.

Pity.

Europe wasn’t good for the UK. It encouraged too much inward focusing. And you lost a dumping ground for aimless youths :). I could think of few better cures for aimlessness than dumping them in a foreign country to sink or swim. Which was done in the olde days of yore.

As for joining with Exercises (capital letter, bwahaha!!), other than RIMPAC, there is also CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) annually. I’m sure the UK can socket into that.

Militarily, there are a lot of exercises going on in Asia with regards to the Army and Navy and Air Forces. You can easily socket into any of them and having a new opfor would be nice. Not only Navy, but Air and Land too. I know Singapore does training for the Army side in the US, Germany, India, Thailand, Brunai, Australia, Taiwan and New Zealand. That’s 8 per year. I’m sure any of these can be easily expanded to turn into a multi-country training exercise, and I’m very sure they would be happy to. Adds value to the training.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ Jedibftrx,
““A great power is a state that is recognized as having the ability to exert its influence on a global scale.” Really, is that not Britain?”
— Well I take it all back mate. As long as Wikipedia thinks we’re a Great Power then that’s good enough for me.

“In his essay, ‘French Diplomacy in the Postwar Period’, the French historian Jean-Baptiste Duroselle spoke of the concept of multi-polarity: A Great power is one which is capable of preserving its own independence against any other single power.”
— We couldn’t preserve our independence singly against either the United States or Russia. That means we fail the first test.

““Spatial dimension. Other suggestions have been made that a great power should have the capacity to engage in extra-regional affairs and that a great power ought to be possessed of extra-regional interests, two propositions which are often closely connected.”
— By this definition, Holland is a great power.

“Status dimension. Other important criteria throughout history are that great powers should have enough influence to be included in discussions of political and diplomatic questions of the day, and have influence on the final outcome and resolution. Historically, when major political questions were addressed, several great powers met to discuss them.”
— And by this definition, Canada and Japan would qualify as Great Powers.

“So, i’ll finish with a question: if not us, who?”
— The United States clearly. Possibly China and Russia. Maybe India.

The problem is you’re using one persons definition, possibly written in another era as the end point, e.g. as long as we meet all the criteria of some written definition then it has to be so. Instead, definitions should serve as a starting point for a debate, where the facts and reality of the current era are addressed.

Just because we have met the arbitrary list of very vague attributes that some political philosopher believes is important does not mean that back in the real world we are considered a great power.

@ Mark,
In response to your link to the Telegraph article, the author appears to have come to a very, very faulty conclusion. They seem to be of the impression that non-EU trade has grown significantly. It hasn’t really.

EU trade has simply contracted due to the pressures of the economic downturn. Far from businesses hunting out customers in Latin America and Asia and showing some great trade boom to these areas, it simply shows that because export business to the EU has dropped, the percentage of total UK trade accounted for by non-EU markets has naturally grown, largely fuelled by a small increase in exports to the USA. The authors contention is nothing more than a statistical fallacy.

That doesn’t make the EU any less of a major trade partner for the future. It just means that the eurozone crisis has impacted our export trade for now.

@ Simon,
[a nations power]”It’s to do with GDP or purchasing power and in the last few years we’ve been overtaken by Brazil and China and probably soon by India and Russia,”
— Not really. Economics is a tool to a degree, but really a nations power is directly correlated to its ability to, if you’ll permit me to go all gangsta for a second, “mess your shit up,”.

You can have a nation that is quite poor, but retains a much larger, better equipped army compared to its richer neighbour. If it chooses to invade the rich neighbour, then modern hospitals, public works of arts, a first class education system and a high personal standard of living are not going to stop tanks and bombs and shells.

Power is more about the ability to force others to comply with your will, regardless of whether they wish to or not. To an extent that could be achieved by money, but it’s a bit sketchy.

I’d agree with @Phil and @Observer, in that the UK is not even really a regional power anymore, while still being consider a global actor. If we could just get over the mental hump that the public and politicians have about wanting to be the all powerful rulers of the world, we could probably make a lot of money and do some good along the way.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Chris B, if European trade has suffered more as a result of the economic down turn and euro zone crisis. Trade with the rest of the world proving to be more robust, combined with the growth in the BRIC countries must be a reason for us to concentrate on exploring and expanding these other links?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ APATS,

Not necessarily. Trouble is that a lot of countries, like China and India for example, have seen their growth over the years fuelled by the West and by high consumer demand in places like the USA and Europe. As a result, slow downs over here will eventually knock on over there and we may not see the effects for a few quarters to come.

The main issue I had with the telegraph article is that is was trying to portray export growth in Latin America and Asia as some kind of booming industry that was rapidly out pacing the EU. That’s not really what the figures showed, merely that as EU exports dropped they naturally made up a lower percentage of the overall pie, a percentage that was made up elsewhere.

Europe is and probably always will be our major trade partner. It’s just simple geography. Turning away from Europe now could be disastrous. If anything these figures show that we need to do a better job of engaging European businesses that are right on our doorsteps.

As France sets about preparing to open it’s cheque book and spend out of trouble, we should be there with a tray of treats waiting to help them. While I’m against the EU as a legislative and judicial body having undue influence on the UK, I’ve always been puzzled as to why UK leaders don’t spend as much time as their counter parts hob knobbing around Europe.

Maybe if our PM’s spent less time in Washington and Beijing, and more time in Copenhagen and Madrid we’d be much better off.

Observer
Observer

Chris, you are very right on the slow down part. It’s now starting. Growth figures and predictions for China and India have dropped last quarter.

It’s been 4 years damn it. The economic crisis should have been handled long ago. The US has managed to shove their problems under a carpet, for now, but Europe’s still a powder keg waiting to blow.

Any day now, Germany’s going to pitch a snit and cut funds.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Observer, the advantage that China and India have is that they have huge areas of their own country the at are shall we say undeveloped. The growth figures have dropped very marginally so that China will only grow by 8.0% in 2012 and 8.5% in 2013 whilst India will grow by 6.1% and 6.5% compare this to the 0.6% that the Euro zone is predicted to contract by in 2013.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ Observer,
“Any day now, Germany’s going to pitch a snit and cut funds.”
— There’s another one of those rumours going around that Germany is making plans to start printing D-marks again. Not sure it’s especially credible, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they have a back up plan.

@ APATS,
— A lot of that optimisim about India and China is betting on a small contraction of the Euro Zone and reasonable growth in the United States, along with steady growth in South Korea and Japan.

I’m not entirely sure how well that’s going to turn out. The Greece problem has been stemmed for now, but ultimately I think it has to break. When it does, it’s going to cause a shit storm of epic proportions.

With the growing cost of borrowing for certain countries like Spain and Italy, and confidence in the Euro going south rapidly, that’ll hurt exchange rates with the East, which will drive down imports from that region (and might actually make local European economies more competitive)

Those growth rates for China and India might hold for the immediate future (till Summer ’13), but these things take time to filter through. We won’t feel the real effects of stuff happening now until a little down the line. Personally I think that our economy is contracting more than some think and I’m worried that the Olympics income is going to serve as a blinding plaster over a deeper wound.

These recent export figures are bad news for a start. The knock on effect of them won’t be apparent until perhaps October-December, which is just when all the highly optimistic initial figures about the Olympics will be touted in the press.

Hold on to your cash boys and girls.

Observer
Observer

Chris, a very, very important question. Has any Olympics ever MADE money?

Of the ones I know of, that is since Atlanta, don’t think any one of them has shown a profit.

“Hold on to your cash boys and girls.”

Hold on my foot, change to a more stable currency. :) USD if you feel nervous, Asian currencies if you’re feeling adventurous.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

“Has any Olympics ever MADE money?”

Yes. L.A made a shit load.

But we need to differentiate between money invested in the Olympics offset by income streams such as advertising vs the figures that will be reported by service industries from the tourism and boosts to local economic figures by people travelling to certain areas to watch certain events.

We’re likely to see very happy people on TV telling us about all the millions of pounds in spending that were generated in various localised economies by visitors to the olympics, and these will artifically inflate spending figures overall for the country, at least for a while.

Then we’ll get back to normal economic activity….

Rocket Banana

Chris B,

I was really only using the generally accepted terms of power (hyper, super, great, medium, regional, etc) rather than one bloke’s essay. Sorry mate, there is no authority on generic definitions.

Bottom line is I tend to agree in what we are capable of (i.e. enabler) but the point in power is what you can do, not just what you do do. And that is almost wholly linked to your GDP.

Yes, a poor country can have a big army, but when they come up against a well equipped modern army they’ll lose a lot – e.g. 20 million Russians in WW2 was a huge price to pay for victory over a much smaller Germany.

Do you really think all the men-at-arms in China will stand a chance against the USA? It’s only when China can afford the jets, cluster bombs, anti-armour guided missiles, etc that they’ll triumph – and that comes from the wealth within the country, expressed for many years as GDP.

The only exception is Russia operating behind its iron curtain of yesteryear where a totally different mechanism brought about technological and industrial growth.

Phil

Latent power doesn’t make you a great power. It makes you a latent or potential great power just as I am a latent millionaire and Olympic athlete. And sex god.

In 1890 Germany could point to France and say, watch it. And France would notice. And vice versa. These nations had at the time the real power to completely unhinge the region and the balance of power within a couple of weeks of the mobilisation order. We have no such power at all. Our Navy might be able to single out a smaller island nation and terrorise it with our SSNs but that’s akin to saying a man is powerful if he beats a child.

Yes we are potentially a very powerful nation in the Bismarckian sense. But we’re not.

Rocket Banana

Phil,

I like your idea of “latent” power.

If we ever ditch Trident we will no longer be much of power at all. But whilst we have ~150 nucelar warheads there’s few (save every other nuclear power) that can stand in our way.

It’s this nuclear capability that makes us “capable” even though it is “latent”.

Phil

Nuclear weapons are very much a defensive weapon they are not an active offensive weapon. They could be used offensively, but that conceptual leap would require us to ignore our liberal democratic social norms which isn’t going to happen unless we have an existential threat.

I think we’re a global and regional actor, our security is assured by our nuclear weapons and we are latently extremely powerful but as things stand we’re just another of an ever growing number of rich countries that eskewed great power aspirations for peaceful economic growth. The difference I suppose is as has been said, we’re very capable and willing to intervene globally as part of and sometimes leading coalitions. We need a new term I think. We just don’t fit easily into a pidgeon hole. We never have. Our situation is unique.

JustBeef Trousers
JustBeef Trousers

@ Phil – “We are nothing like a regional power! Militarily and economically we cannot act alone to rapidly influence the region we exist in.”

I believe you are exaggerating the requirement of influence. I don’t believe it means being able to single-handedly turn a region on its head, against the will of all other regional actors.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Is there another actor in Europe (USA is not in Europe and the majority of Russia lies outside Europe)who can actually act at a short notice across the wide (maritime) arch stretching from northern Norway to further S. East in the Med than what Europe goes?
– and if Atlantic is the ocean of Europe, not just N. Atlantic but all of the S. Atlantic as well (much beyond the NATO limit, which itself has never been made official)

And other than that, can also contribute in a meaningful way to coalitions outside that broad area?

I mean taking those two characterisations together, not each in isolation. It was on this basis (seems like long ago by now) I agreed with Jedi about the Regional+ term

Phil

Of course it does. That’s power. Power is when you shake your fist and nations cower. Anything else is self pitying rubbish. And that power is very sensitive to context, obviously it depends on the relative strength of other states.

We’re an actor. Not a power. If we were ever a Great Power it was only by virtue of the context of the time we have never been a true power except from about 1916 to 1919. And 1815 to something like 1871. Maybe.

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