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

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A guest post from Sir Humphrey. Firstly, may I say that I’m delighted at the level of interest shown in the first part of this short series. I shouldn’t be surprised though that so much of the commentary focused on CVF and the Falkland Islands. All one needed to do was mention the word ISO, and Think Defence ‘Buzzword Bingo’ would have called house!

Part Two of the series looks more broadly at the alliances we have and what the threat may be. As for the first part, this is purely a very personal viewpoint, and something which doesn’t in any way represent HM Government views or policy. Finally, I’m extremely busy at the moment, and will try to respond to the comments, but even if I don’t respond directly, rest assured that I do read all of them as they come up. Once again, thanks for reading and participating.

Military Alliances: Given the reduced UK military commitment to the region, the main mechanism for justifying a UK physical presence now should be seen through the auspices of the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA). This loose alliance was initially brought together in the aftermath of the 1971 UK withdrawal from the region, transferring responsibility for security – particularly for Malaysia and Singapore from a resurgent Indonesia onto the UK, and also Australia & New Zealand.

As an alliance, the FPDA is now over 40 years old, and has managed to remain an active and valuable grouping of nations. It works well on two levels – from the UK perspective it has served as a rationale for continued engagement in the region beyond the end of Hong Kong, and the maintenance of the Brunei Garrison. The other nations have benefited as it has kept the UK engaged physically in the region to provide high end military capability – in previous years this was arguably a higher priority than it is now, particularly as nations such as Malaysia and Singapore have developed capable military forces capable of deterring aggression. However, there is arguably still value to be had in maintaining a relationship which ties in a permanent member of the UN Security Council to the region, and one which can still deploy sufficient military capability in the area if required, particularly including assets which may not be readily held by some of the other nations – such as helicopter carriers, tankers, Air to Air Refuelling, and other high end military hardware.

FPDA is still a valuable arrangement – it provides a rationale for the UK to be in the region, it provides reassurance to nations that the UK is still interested in the region, and perhaps most crucially, it provides no legal obligation other than to consult – no nation is committed to military action against another as part of this treaty. A useful primer on the UK engagement with FPDA can be seen at the following website – http://ukinmalaysia.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-malaysia/defence-new/five-power-defence-arrangements

From the UKs view, the cost of maintaining FPDA membership is normally relatively small – a smattering of staff officers deployed in the integrated air defence system HQ in Malaysia and the deployment of Staff or HQ elements to exercises when appropriate. However, the challenge for the UK is to continue to deploy sufficient assets to show that it takes the relationship seriously – which is not always easy in the resource constrained, and operationally busy world of the MOD. Some could argue that the UK is going to have to strike a real balance over the next few years and show that it remains committed to the FPDA through more than just words; otherwise the UK relevance to the agreement could become questionable.

One crucial point to note is that there is a clear value associated in many countries in the region with being able to operate with high end, high capability platforms such as the UK Type 45 class. One reason why the UK is able to enjoy strong relationships is its ability to deploy advanced military hardware, much of which often sets the stage for similar procurement by other nations. Many countries value the opportunity to train with the UK and get exposure to working with military capabilities that they would not otherwise encounter (e.g. carriers, SSNs, complex amphibious forces, ISTAR etc). There is a value associated with this that is not the same as with operating a low end OPV or similar (as seen by some European nations which retain a permanent presence in the area). While it is always tempting to see suggestions of putting low level capability into Singapore (for instance an OPV or something similar), the author personally feels it would arguably have less effect than an occasional deployment of a high end capability such as Type 45 on an irregular basis.

What this means is that the role of the UK military in the region feels less to do with actual combat or military operations as it is to do with capacity building through access gained by deploying high capability platforms to the region. This in turn provides leverage to support UK influence in a manner which paradoxically may not be achieved were the UK to try and maintain a small low level maritime or other presence in the area

What is the Threat?

Having reviewed the presence and potential wider UK commitments to the region, it is now appropriate to begin to consider the threat, and wider policy drivers that justify this current force level, and also the UK goals in the area.

At its most simple, a fairly generic sweeping statement could be made to say that there is no current military or existential threat to the UK from any nation in the region. A bold statement, but in reality, an examination of the military powers in the area does not show any one nation which poses a direct military threat to the UK at present.

Similarly, it is hard to see any nation in the region posing a direct military or existential threat to our partners and allies within the area in the scope of a conflict into which the UK could become embroiled. This is not to say that there are not territorial disputes in the area, for there indisputably are – for instance the situation off the Spratly Islands is an incredibly complicated territorial dispute, however, it is highly unlikely that the UK would find itself directly sucked into any of them as part of a wider conflict.  It is this author’s strictly personal opinion that the Asia Pacific region does not pose any direct military threat to the UK in any conventional sense.

In this era of maritime dependence, we as a nation are reliant on many of our resources, imports and goods being shipped in from around the world. As a nation there are huge economic interests in the Asia Pacific market – a cursory glance at the UKTI website for the area shows a hugely interdependent region where the UK has vast business and financial interests at stake – http://www.businessinasia.co.uk/asiapacific/market-information.

But do these large business interests necessarily equate to military interests though? The argument could be made that the UK has a need to protect its interests in the region, but equally the sort of threat that is posed to the UKs interests would appear to be from more indirect challenges, such as piracy, economic instability, and other non-traditional threats, rather than the likelihood of another nation directly taking over UK interests.

The challenge therefore in the region is far more complex than that of just a straightforward preparation for military conflict with a hypothetical power. The region has a hugely complex and intertwined series of non-traditional security challenges, including piracy, terrorism, organised crime (particularly drugs), energy security, managing the challenge of climate change and so on. While the military do have a role to play in some areas of this, it could be argued that there is little that can easily be dealt with through a large scale conventional military presence. To that end, this author would suggest that there is no direct threat in the region that warrants or necessitates a significantly larger military presence than that which already exists.

The UK’s military interests in the region would therefore seem to stem more from a desire for wider  stability to protect its investments, and capacity building – for instance working more closely on counter terrorism issues, or providing support to tackling piracy, as well as enhanced training, as part of efforts to increase stability, and to encourage other nations to play a wider role on the world stage. For instance, the FPDA serves as an excellent model of a regional security mechanism, where although the original threat has long since changed, the organisation provides an excellent framework for training and security co-operation.  One example of this is with Indonesia, where the UK is now actively re-engaging with the Indonesian military, and seeking to build closer links, and for whom participation in multi-national exercises could be of real value.

One area where capacity building may occur is not actually in the region itself, but is being seen in the operations off the coast of Somalia, where a large number of military vessels from the Far Eastern nations, including Korea and China, are engaged in counter piracy operations. This area of work is a superb means of building low level contacts between navies who may have rarely worked together before. This author would argue that while the UK may not have a significant military presence in the Far East, the contacts and joint work being conducted off the coast of Africa probably represent a more valuable training opportunity than multiple training deployments by the RN into the region

In the final part of this series will focus on the future level of UK engagement in the region, and what form this could take.

 

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Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

@ Sir H – very interesting; especially the idea that occasional high capability visits might produce more influence than a continual low capability presence.

This goes against the usual argument that our “high-end” equipment is not suitable for training and influence bit I suspect different states/regions require different approaches.

Challenger
Challenger

Good part 2 Sir H, keep it up!

Yeah, low-end presence works in certain locations and circumstances. It can stop the flow of drugs and fly the flag around the Caribbean, add a layer of defence to the South Atlantic, contribute to counter piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean, etc.

I agree that with no direct threat or obvious value in low-end, permanent tasking only occasional, high-end deployments offer any tangible benefit in the Far East. The odd Type 45 or Astute (I won’t steer us in-to CVF territory once again) heading east would offer valuable training and give British representation to a useful alliance. If the area is packed with OPV’s and other light ships then sending some of our more impressive hardware would bring something new to the table.

Having said all this, I still think that this area of operations certainly isn’t a priority. Filling the void left by the Americans in the Mediterranean and protecting our trade routes through the Indian Ocean should in my view be our main areas of focus.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Sir H, the existential threat was dealt solely from the point of view of one felt by the UK (and further, that should there be an aggression occurring regionally, the UK obligation e.g. as a guarantor of the Cyprus tri-party agreement is stronger than the one taken on with the FPDA)
– however, there must be existential threats felt by some of the countries in the region
– taking the active military strength per 1000 in population brings three countries into the global Top Ten ( North Korea takes “gold” but we have a presence in the runners up: Brunei a global 4th and Singapore 8th)

SOURCE: Wikipedia [primary sources used by them also retained; rank added]
Active per 1000 capita State Global relative rank
48.8 North Korea[126] 1
35.7 Eritrea[55]
24.4 Israel[82]
18 Brunei[25] 4
16.5 Greece[66][67]
16 Jordan[86]
15.7 Armenia[7]
15.6 Singapore[154] 8
14.9 Syria[169]
14.7 Lebanon[96]

WiseApe

Challenger, you make a good point re Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. Luckily we already have bases around which we can focus – Cyprus and Diego Garcia. The Yanks are due to leave the latter and I would suggest this presents an excellent opportunity to establish a joint British/Indian base with the costs shared between the two. Could we even go so far as to forward-deploy a major unit, like an SSN for instance? Or something more visible like a Type26?

BadRobot

We can’t do more with less. Time to prioritise:

(1) Deterrance and if necessary defence of UK and BOTs.
(2) Contributions to standing NATO groups.
(3) Contibutions to NATO out of area operations or UN actions.
(4) Police actions (counter piracy/narcotics).
(5) Defence diplomacy (flying the flag & training non-NATO countries).

We can barely muster enough vessels to do (1) and (2) effectively. We stretch to include (3). But we could make it a hell of a lot easier if we stopped doing (4) and (5) altogther.

We’re not going to defend the UK or BOT by training with the Malayan Navy. We’re not going to fill the gap in Europe left by the yanks by deverting scarce resources to show the flag in Singapore. FDPA has been around for forty years, but did the Aussies or Kiwis help us dodge exocets off that island we must not mention? Nope. It’s bought us nothing and it’ll buy us nothing. Lets not waste valuable hull and crew time in a region that as you admit is not a threat to us. We’re not the world’s policeman anymore, and the new one is rather good at it, so we have a fantastic opportunity to cut our cloth to what we can afford but are still stuck with notions of maintaining presence all over the globe. It’s an interesting discussion, I’m grateful to Sir H for putting so much time into it. I just wish the RN had moved on from its past and this was only an academic exercise.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Challenger, Do not be to quick to write the US off in the Med. They are going to base an extra 4 Arleigh Burkes in Rota over next 2 years.Whilst it is true that 6th Fleet no longer gets a dedicated CBG or even an ARG these units will be useful and could be used as additional escorts for European CBG or ARGs,

Mark
Mark

Good series sir H. I think this is a vital region for the UK going fwd and it will be interesting to see how things develop. For my own view with uk forces now all to be UK bases in the not to distant future ive thought using both the cyprus and brunei garrison as a sort of uk meu type force in there respective areas maybe of use in training/disaster relief and flange waving but would require additional assets moved out there.

Jed

Sir H – Well written piece matey.

Badrobot – why does the UK need to fill a gap left by the US departure from Europe ? Why does deployment of a T45 every 3 years fill you with such scarce resource fueled dread ?

Furthermore, what is the point of mentioning FDPA and Falklands in the same breath ? Did the Aussies and Kiwis sign up to a pact to defend the Islands, as I don’t ever recall hearing that one before…….

Finally it has nothing to do with the RN moving on from it’s past, it has to do with previous, existing and potentially future HMG’s wanting (not necessarily needing) to be a global player. Believe it or not, the First Sea Lord does not write HMG’s foreign policy !

Simon257
Simon257

Another good piece Sir H.

Badrobot, you are correct, Australia were no help at all during the Falkland Conflict. If Im right Aussie PM Bob Hawke withdrew every exchange scheme servicemen from the UK.

However, the Kiwi’s did offer and did send a Frigate to the Persian Gulf to replace one of the RN’s warships on the Armila Patrol, so it could be sent to the South Altantic. It was either HMS Ardent or Antelope.

BadRobot

I’m grateful to Simon for his correction, although I suspect we would have withdrawn form the patrol anyway. Jed makes my point exactly, FDPA didn’t lead to far eastern countries assisting us at a time of war, arguably the point of defence diplomacy. Plus sending a T45 every three years is hardly likely to get us anything useful at all. Hope I’ve not wound you up too much…that’s a very long ellipsis. We’re not going to commit serious resources to it, and that demonstrateds one thing, we’re not serious about it. The nations out east know this too.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Well said, Jed, about

“Filling the void left by the Americans in the Mediterranean”
– why should we?
– France and Italy have lots of ships + the bases
– and Cyprus is not much of a Navy base (Gibraltar is, but while it is idling, the dedicated power station is keeping Europe’s biggest server park humming, that in itself being a tenant in the vacated space)

I am more for the “and protecting our trade routes through the Indian Ocean” where the “global navy” mentality and supporting assets can be leveraged, not to mention that having a few ships in that general area serves multiple purposes

Challenger
Challenger

@APATS

Point taken on the Americans in the Mediterranean. I wasn’t aware of the 4 additional Arleigh Burke being stationed in the area, that could indeed be useful.

I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was advocating a straight swap between US Navy and Royal Navy dominance, because obviously the RN couldn’t manage this. I think it’s fair though to say that all major European navies could and should take up some of the slack from the partial divergence of American assets.

The same in my book goes for the Indian Ocean, keeping trade roots open and clear in potential bottlenecks should be another priority.

Challenger
Challenger

@WiseApe

I think you’re right about the potential for British involvement.

I think a British presence in the Mediterranean should be part of a collaborative effort by all the major European players to work together in a partial replacement of American assets as they redeploy to the Pacific (a Libya sized operation should be the aiming point for what a joint European effort could handle in the future).

Similarly I think that the security of trade routes in the Indian Ocean is a European problem and Britain can lead the way.

A joint Indian/British base at Diego Garcia sounds like a great idea if the Americans pull out. Some low-end assets to tackle piracy sounds fine, I’m not sure though that any permanent high-end deployments are actually necessary, maybe the odd visit, either by a single ship or larger group for some flag flying and joint exercises would suffice.

Sadly both the money and will to invest in this kind of commitment doesn’t seem to exist.

Observer
Observer

badrobot, a military presence in an area is not only about military threats or even capability, it is a statement of intent, one that says “we plan to stay for a while”, not just till Christmas. This carries over economically as well. Countries are more likely to sign pacts and free trade agreements with someone seen as a long term player in the region, less likely with a “here today, gone tomorrow”. This aids businesses in getting a toehold in the area, and on better startup terms.

Look at the US. Do you even think 4 “LCS” are going to make that much of a difference militarily, especially considering some OPVs in the region even outmatch them in firepower on a 1v1 basis? Not likely. But they are a statement. And a declaration of long term involvement. And this makes it easier to get MOUs, FTAs and joint ventures.

Repulse

@SirH, another good post. The idea that occasional visits of high end assets has more impact than permanent low end ones is interesting and does have merit.

My view is that a permanently based low level asset in Singapore, the odd SSN visit and an occasional ’round the world’ ARG / CVBG exercise (like TAURUS 09) would be the way to go.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ ACC – “I am more for the “and protecting our trade routes through the Indian Ocean” where the “global navy” mentality and supporting assets can be leveraged”

Exactly, this is what i believe the “+” means when we talk about Britain being a “Regional+” Power.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Hi Jedi, a good term “we talk about Britain being a “Regional+” Power”
– who coined it (if you know)? Or is it just on TD

Brian Black
Brian Black

If we do have a genuine interest in that region, then as Repulse said, a combination of forward based low level assets with the high end stuff popping in for the occasional visit or FPDA exercises.

We withdrew from this region to concentrate our resources on the defence of Western Europe; now that we’re not facing off with the Rooskies, and our future conflicts are likely to be expeditionary rather than in NW Europe, it might well make sense to plant a permanant presence in a few more spots around the world – not whopping great military garrisons, but an archipelago of small detachments relevant to their particular site/region/host-nation.

If we’re talking about basing naval assets in the Far East, then I’d suggest pairing up a capable RN patrol craft -similar to a Thetis or Holland class vessel- with a new RFA ship -a combination of replenishment/transport/logistics- to support the patrol vessel as well as providing the Brunei garrison with regional mobility and offering a regional humanitarian capability too. That pairing based in Singapore could cover all the less-than-war jobs that we might reasonably expect to encounter out there – piracy, smuggling, disasters etc. Negotiating another pair into port Djibouti could be a handy permanant placing for security around the Horn.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

Professlor Julian Lindley-French:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmdfence/uc761-vi/uc76101.htm

“There is a very great danger that by default, if we hold our nerve, we could end up with quite a sound defence strategy. There will be two carriers, strategic mobility, Astutes-not enough, but in time you could build more over 20, 30 or 40 years-Type 45s and Type 26s. It is a concept whereby there is projectability, not globally but regionally-plus. We could actually have a defence strategy worth talking about, by muddling through and from the bottom up, which has nothing to do with the NSS or the SDSR. The issue is, can we hold our nerve over that longer investment period?”

http://www.blogger.com/profile/01634606743670025071

x
x

@ Brian

If you build the warship big enough you don’t need the RFA vessel too.

Dominic Johnson

Its interesting how you share my premise, ‘the second world is more interested in british technology than troopers’ but dont translate this into a troop low tech high ‘vision’

shall have to read in more detail tomorrow, my faux hammers are off to gw.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

In the final analysis our most reliable allies have always been either our Canadian, Australian or New Zealand first cousins or (within limits) our American second cousins. As the USA are forced to retrench – the world grows ever more dangerous – and the limitations of both NATO and the UN ever more obvious – a Maritime Strategy that links explicitly with all of them seems to me to be pretty obvious priority; and that clearly puts us East of Suez in big enough numbers to work with the Aussies and visit the Kiwis now and again.

We don’t rule the waves, and the Yanks will no longer do it everywhere – but the Anglo-Saxons collectively could, and in my view should at least give it some serious thought.

Anyone for a shared Anglo-Saxon Base on DG as a starting point?

Observer
Observer

@Foster

Count the Kiwis slightly out of the running, their military procurement problems are much, much worse than the UK’s. They have already scrapped all fast air, and their equipment is nearing the end of their lifespans with forseen difficulty getting funding for the next generation.

Australia on the other hand, is still very much in the running due to the raw materials+ trade with China creating a sustainable growth policy.

There is a possibility of joint development projects with Australia, unfortunately, Australia just completed a cycle of upgrades and aquisitions, and are in the “digestion” phase, not the starting development phase. Need a few more years before they are willing to look at new equipment.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

Agreed, in practical terms for the short term; however my key driver is that the world in twenty years time will be multi-polar, and there is a real possibility that the refocussing of the US on the Pacific will have left NATO in Europe as a broken reed – and in addition to this the UN may well have arrived at it’s “League of Nations circa 1935” moment.

By my reckoning that gives us about ten or twelve years to start building the foundations for a new generation of alliances which serve our needs as a world-wide trader operating from a smallish but densely populated island with few natural resources except our people, and a few handy islands here and there. In that context strengthening our ties with our first cousins and rebooting those with our second cousins on a maritime basis seem to me to be a key component. Ideally, of course, we would also be working with European neighbours to defend what might by then be hostile frontiers to the south and east – but that depends on how they react to the progressive withdrawal of the US from NATO and “old Europe” – which I think inevitable – and I am not optimistic on that subject…

WiseApe

@Foster and Observer

While I agree with your comments re Canada, Australia and NZ, I think it unlikely that they could afford/would be willing to meet the costs of a joint base on DG. India however is another matter – one of the growing “BRIC” economies, the world’s largest democracy, a trading nation with vital interests in the Indian Ocean, and at least one unfriendly neighbour. There is a long runway on DG perfect for Indian AWACS and AAR tankers. In fact, the more I think about how perfect DG would be for the Indians, the more I think we should be quick to offer them a base share before they decide to take DG away from us! After all, it’s not like there is an indigenous population to worry about – we already (shamefully) removed them.

Challenger
Challenger

@Observer

I found you’re point on the 4 LCS being based at Singapore interesting.

I do agree that this sort of move isn’t about exercising true military power, that it is more about providing constant presence and building relations with regional allies. It isn’t about fire-power, but it is a statement about the ability to provide fire-power as and when desired.

So yeah low-end presence does make a difference in some situations. I can’t however really see what the Royal Navy would have to gain by a similar move, for the simple reason that unlike the American’s Britain can’t back up a token presence with genuine power when it feels like it.

A threat of escalation only really counts when you have the ability to follow through, otherwise it is kind of hollow.

I think any British move to East of Suez would be more productive if a small amount of low-end assets were kept in the Western Indian Ocean to safeguard trade routes, either operating out of Djibouti or Diego Garcia (I like the joint Anglo/Indian base idea) and the occasional high-end ship or squadron headed to Singapore every few years to do some training and maintain defence ties.

Anything else would be a wasteful allocation of scarce resources.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Oman? RE “in the Western Indian Ocean to safeguard trade routes, either operating out of Djibouti or Diego Garcia”

martin

Nice article sir h, I think we can often get carried away with the concept of forward prescence with small OPVs. We should not forget that nation’s like Malaysia have these in spade’s and probably see little value in training with them. It would be great if we could have at least an annual war game in the region every year possibly alternating between ASW, Amphibious assault and air attack against a carrier. These are all area’s I am sure the likes of Singapore and Malaysia would love to train against and it would give us a great showcase in the region for our kit for the export market, We could even expand this annual event inviting the likes of Indonesia and Vietnam in. Obviously under current constraints this might be difficult however even a bi annual game would be pretty good and surley with in the realm’s of possibility for our over stretched forces.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

@ Observer, WiseApe and Challenger.

I agree – much to commend the Anglo/Indian base idea, not least as a part of a wider strategy to ensure that they remain the World’s largest democracy and a part of the free world in the long term – my concern is more with who holds the ring for the idea of a free world, and for that I believe we and the cousins remain critical and must try harder…China will not foster free world values in South America or Africa any more than the Arab Spring is likely to bring them to Egypt and beyond, nor an increasingly assertive and energy-rich Russia inculcate them in the kleptocracies of Central Asia.

If those things matter it is to us and – possibly – our European neighbours; if they eventually need to be fought for it will probably be by us.

Sad but true.

x
x

We mustn’t forget Brazilian moves not only at home in Latin America but in Africa to counter China.

Challenger
Challenger

@ArmChairCivvy

‘Oman? RE “in the Western Indian Ocean to safeguard trade routes, either operating out of Djibouti or Diego Garcia”’

I hadn’t forgot Oman, fair enough if that was considered to be the best option.

Obviously it has the benefit of being a better location, however using our own sovereign territory and building up a close working relationship with the Indians can be argued to be the counter advantages when choosing a site.

I’m not as keen on Djibouti, but it would at least keep costs down.

@Martin

Exactly, not one of our allies out there are going to be particularly impressed if yet another OPV or light frigate shows up, but they would almost certainly be pleased to have the opportunity of exercising with Carriers, Amphibians, an SSN, heck even a Type 45 would provide a nice sparring partner!

It doesn’t need to be constant, just once every couple of years, encompassing as much as possible pre-planned deployments to keep costs down. It’s only really an extension of what the RN already tries to do.

@R S Foster

I think you’re quite right, building a better working relationship with the Indians, whilst also maintaining our FPDA obligations should be seen as a very important goal over the next couple of decades, both as a counter to Chinese growth and in the protection of our trade routes.

The Americans sphere of focus is going to be the Pacific, so the Indian Ocean is an area where Britain can play a leading role.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

“The Americans sphere of focus is going to be the Pacific, so the Indian Ocean is an area where Britain can play a leading role”

And do what, for what purpose?

WiseApe

@ArmChairCivvy(great name btw)

Can we rely on Oman being steadfast allies in the region for decades to come? Heck, can we count on them until next Wednesday? What will Oman contribute, other than berthing rights? As Challenger says, I think it’s a good idea to get onside with the regions next super power (it’s not called the INDIAN Ocean for nothing).

While I agree with previous comments about leaving the Yanks to deal with the Chinese (hopefully peacefully!) we can lend our support to India in minimising Chinese interference/expansion into the IO.

And “X” if Brazil wants to park their newly built carrier in DG I would say the more the merrier. It might even weaken their alliance with the country that I don’t think I’m allowed to mention on this blog – you know, the country near the islands that I’m DEFINATELY not allowed to mention.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

RE “What will Oman contribute, other than berthing rights? ”
– a perfect location on the open side of the Hormuz Strait for any ops there, a punchy air force and about the same number of frigate-like surface units than we’ll ever have there (exc. in major crisis)

WiseApe

@ArmChairCivvy (wish I’d thought of that first!)

You are clearly more clued up than me on Omani armed forces but how stable is the regime? The nation? The region? Will they stand up to their near neighbours let alone the Chinese? In case you didn’t get the drift of my previous post, I’m perfectly happy to let other nations “do the hard yards” for a change. Just what sort of ops do you have in mind for us in the region? I’m up for a spot of anti-piracy but the first mention of “regime change” and I’m heading for the hills!

What “major crisis” do you envisage? If we’re talking Iran (are we allowed to talk Iran?) then we would only be riding US coattails again, so the odd frigate or minesweeper in Oman isn’t going to buy us much leverage even with our “special” friends – they’re going to be too busy talking to their new best friends the Indians who have just shown up with a carrier group. India is becoming a regional super power and may well become an international one in a decade or so – and don’t forget we can make a few quid out of them by sharing or even leasing DG to them. In short, I see more advantage to us in an alliance with India based on a shared base on DG than an alliance with Oman (no disrespect).

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Well, we have an alliance, a long-standing one, with Oman, they won their war (with a little help from us)

India seems to have a lot of wars, with varying success. Looking at the burden of the military on their economy, looks like they expect the next one soon (along with the two Koreas, Vietnam and Iran)?

State Active Military Reserve Military Paramilitary Total
North Korea 1,106,000 8,200,000 189,000 9,495,000
R. of Korea 687,000 8,000,000 4,500 8,691,500
Vietnam 455,000 5,000,000 40,000 5,495,000
India 1,325,000 2,142,821 1,300,586 4,768,407
China 2,285,000 800,000 1,500,000 4,585,000
Iran 523,000 1,800,000 1,510,000 3,833,000
United States 1,458,219 1,458,500 11,035 2,927,754

Observer
Observer

And BAE supplies the new Omani corvettes. Poor them.

Guess we’ll have a chance to see if ST Marine can do better with it’s 4 OPVs.

@ACC

If your neighbours were Pakistan and China and you had an ongoing low level insurgency in the South, your armed forces would be big too. :(

Brian Black
Brian Black

Hi, x. “If you build the warship big enough you don’t need the RFA vessel too”
But then we’d have deployed a large warship that on its own could not fight any wars. A smaller patrol vessel would be a more subtle presence in what can be a politically strained region, while still retaining sufficient fightiness to participate in a range of policing and general security roles. A permanently placed major warship could be seen as quite a pompous, overly grand statement which nevertheless has nothing to back it up. A smaller patrol vessel has greater shallow water access, while an RFA vessel can also support visiting Royal Navy ships. And two ships have more availability and coverage than one – they’re not necessarily tied together for all tasks. I think my suggestion is a flexible and value for money one, though of course there are other ways of doing things.

Brian Black
Brian Black

As well as Oman, Lemonnier and DG; Kenya could also be a potential host for the Royal Navy.
We have long ties with the country, and they’re not shy of participating in AU and unilateral security operations.
The Royal East African Navy used to be headquartered in Mombasa till the ’60s, and I believe the Americans kept two destroyers there during the same time. Possibly space to squeeze in a couple of berths amongst the Kenyan Navy’s various sites if we wanted to invest a little money.
Location doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable problem if we did want an Indian Ocean naval presence.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Hi Observer,

A good point “If your neighbours were Pakistan and China and you had an ongoing low level insurgency in the South [and the East], your armed forces would be big too.”
-constant flare-ups is the “weather forecast”

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

Two things of note;

“…. on Omani armed forces but how stable is the regime? The nation? The region? Will they stand up to their near neighbours let alone the Chinese?”

— THIS, is where actual influence comes in because the UK can actually do something that influences Oman, being that Oman is only a small player in a big pond.

“If your neighbours were Pakistan and China and you had an ongoing low level insurgency in the South, your armed forces would be big too. ”

— And this helps explain why India will struggle to become a global power, because so much of its force will be needed domestically to preserve its integrity against the two nations named above, a possible future entanglement with Bangladesh, and/or other regional actors.

Now we’re starting to move somewhere on geopolitics.

Think Defence

Defence diplomacy should never be viewed in isolation but its main goal is to further the UK national interest, however one might define that.

On the periodic high end v enduring low end debate I don’t think it is an either or, we need to do both and not just in one service but across all three. I know this is Far East based but having a Type 45 visit Freetown to work with the Sierra Leone navy has very little value in comparison with a team, for example, from the fisheries protection squadron, working with them to address the detabiising issue of over fishing by non nationals.

How that might be translated into the Far East is open for debate but I still think we need more enduring than occasional but not have one OR the other

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ wiseape – lol at the nation that probably shouldnt be named next to the islands that really must remain unnamed. :D

i think i can take credit for starting that gag, but boy has the community here run with it!

its got legs. ;)

WiseApe

@jedibeeftrix

The cheque is in the post. Actually, I thought it was site policy – sorry but I’m a newcomer here.

Dominic Johnson

But as a great cartoon diplomat once said
“**** Canada”

“I know this is Far East based but having a Type 45 visit Freetown to work with the Sierra Leone navy has very little value in comparison with a team, for example, from the fisheries protection squadron, working with them to address the detabiising issue of over fishing by non nationals.”

You are no doubt correct, but is it relevent?
Does a stable, or an unstable, Sierra Leon matter to the UK, one way or the other?
Really?
Yeah sure it could be another Afghanistan, but it **CAN NOT** be another Soviet Union, or another Nazi Germany, or another Napoleonic France, or another Habsburg Spain.
You know, a real threat to the UK.

And if you want to stop the next ones of those rising, you don’t need fisheries protection for sierra leon, they dont matter, you dont need fisheries protection for Chile and Vietnam either, they can handle that themselves, what they really need, is to be secure in the knowledge that if their coast guards intercept a fishing trawler, and if China/Brazil sends a warship to “contest” the arrest, an Astute, or a Virgina, or a Barracude, or a (properly equipped) Daring can pop up and make it very clear that if there is going to be a problem, it will be the Chinese/Brazilian crew having problems keeping their ship not on fire and/or not under water.

But thats just me.

****
The very idea that the Royal Navy has anything to teach the Malaysians about Anti Piracy is laughable anyway, THEY obviously read Think Defence

WiseApe

@everyone who pooh poohs my Indian alliance idea.

Not fair that you bombard me with reasoned arguments and facts, now you throw in maths as well. I only got O level grade C – at the 2nd attempt. I will have to go away and ponder – with the help of a calculator.

Re: Oman, Kenya, etc – aren’t we in danger of spreading ourselves alittle thin, or are you suggesting we pick one location and centre ourselves there?

WiseApe

@everyone who pooh poohs my Indian alliance idea.

Not fair that you bombard me with reasoned arguments and facts, now you throw in maths as well. I only got O level grade C – at the 2nd attempt. I will have to go away and ponder – with the help of a calculator.

Re: Oman, Kenya, etc – aren’t we in danger of spreading ourselves alittle thin, or are you suggesting we pick one location and centre ourselves there?

WiseApe

@ArmChairCivvy

We have an alliance with Oman? When did we sign that – I must admit I’m in the dark. Can you give details or point me at a source?

Would anyone care to speculate just what the Chinese are up to. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up in the “plentiful fossil fuel bubble” that I find it hard to believe that, in this day and age, nation states might actually go to war over a bit of real estate or mineral rights (jedibeeftrix, we’re in dangerous territory here). I mean, sabre rattling is one thing, but does anyone think it might actually escalate into a shooting match between major powers. Will the UK get drawn in or, Vietnam-like, will we stay on the sidelines and tut tut?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ WiseApe,

The tentative consensus about the South China Sea is that eventually a deal will be struck between China and the other claimants. The period between now and then is about jockying for position and improving each countries negotiating position.

China would benefit from unilateral negotiations with each country, as in this case it could bring its weight to bear and bully each country from a position of superiority. The other nations would benefit most from a multi-lateral deal, forcing China to agree to their collectiive bargaining position as together they have the most clout.

Washington is aware of this. Beijing is aware of this. What you’re going to see in the mean time is a game of dare, scare and chicken. See who flinches first.

Ali
Ali

@WiseApe

Well with a lowering of resources governments will look to gain these resources due to the public outcry! But we are a long way from this but it is entirely possible. The human race still has not changed that much and has only become increasingly intelligent but the survival instinct is still very visible.

The shooting match could just appear from two bordering patrols that mistake each other as crossing into ones territory and then it escalates. Although an extreme example it is possible as it slightly based on the start of the French and Indian war that led to the Seven Years War.

Ali

WiseApe

@ChrisB and Ali

Thanks for your thoughts guys. It occurred to me though that I’d framed my question badly. I was forgetting that China is a one party state, ruled by an elite. I should really have queried their motivations and ambitions rather than wondering what was in the Chinese national interest. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Chinese elite is divided in to factions, which makes second guessing their intentions even harder.

I was watching Phil Hammond (UK Defence Sec) on Newsnight last night. He came up with an apt phrase when discussing the role of the UK armed forces, he said they existed “to put muscle on UK foreign policy.” I know times are hard but we are not skint, our economy is not growing but nor is it in freefall – do we really have to trim so much of our “muscle” when other nations, some not so well disposed to us, are actively bulking up?

I have seen posts on this site from people arguing that some of our massive foreign aid budget be diverted to the defence budget. One comment: here here!

WiseApe

@ChrisB and Ali

Thanks for your thoughts guys. It occurred to me though that I’d framed my question badly. I was forgetting that China is a one party state, ruled by an elite. I should really have queried their motivations and ambitions rather than wondering what was in the Chinese national interest. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Chinese elite is divided in to factions, which makes second guessing their intentions even harder.

I was watching Phil Hammond (UK Defence Sec) on Newsnight last night. He came up with an apt phrase when discussing the role of the UK armed forces, he said they existed “to put muscle on UK foreign policy.” I know times are hard but we are not skint, our economy is not growing but nor is it in freefall – do we really have to trim so much of our “muscle” when other nations, some not so well disposed to us, are actively bulking up?

I have seen posts on this site from people arguing that some of our massive foreign aid budget be diverted to the defence budget. One comment: here here!

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