Campaigning for an increase in defence funding

What is the definition of insanity, one A. Einstein Esq. had the answer?

insanity-source

And yet here we are in the run up to the National Security Strategy, Strategic Defence and Security and Comprehensive Spending reviews, the same thing being done by the same people over and over and bloody well over again.

With a depressing monotony the same tired cliches are trotted out about cutting into the bone, taking risks with Britain’s defence and making the country vulnerable to terrorism and rampaging hordes of new Russian tanks. The same talking heads, former officers, think tanks and media commentators talk of the sky falling in and the end of the free world as we know unless spending is maintained.

The latest, again, an echo from previous reviews, is to indulge in an unedifying grab for overseas development aid budget. For the record, clearly there is something quite wrong with much overseas development assistance spending, but scratching around trying to grab a few quid here or there in order to fund defence is not the answer.

The term ‘clutching at straws’ springs to mind.

If there is to be a successful strategy for maintaining spending, or even increasing it, there has to be an alternative to crying wolf, because every 5 hears we hear about wolves that fail to materialise and so those doing the crying, are seen to be devoid of any credibility, whatsoever.

Politicians will simply tune out the background noise being generated by well meaning people with real concerns.

I don’t know what that strategy might be, I don’t have the answers, but I know one thing, the current strategy is a failing strategy.

As Winston put it…

Churchill strategy

Those interested in, and concerned for the UK’s defence, must find a better strategy than warning of grave consequences that never seem to materialise.

 

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Roders
Roders
June 10, 2015 8:58 pm

The problem is that defence spending in Europe is like health insurance in America. I.e the benefits are only realised in the longer term. Many Americans do not purchase health insurance, because it is expensive, and that money could be spent on a new car. Yet they complain when they fall ill, and cannot afford treatment.

Britain fixed the health care problem by creating the National Health Service, providing universal healthcare for everyone. This is where the analogy ends. There is no higher power that can provide universal defence arrangements for every country in Europe.

If the politicians across Europe don’t sort out their priorities soon, someone will fall ill. And when someone fall’s ill, their entire family pays the consequences.

But we all know that anyway :) I’ll copy and paste it for 2020.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
June 10, 2015 9:33 pm

But are we getting value for money out of our defence spending? Even the BBC has drawn comparisons between the actual amount of spend, and what we get for it? If we need to have “bespoke kit” to protect indigenous industry and jobs, yet don’t order in the numbers to keep commercial concerns afloat, maybe nationalisation and a return to the State Arsenal model is the way forward?

At least a State Arsenal would keep the IP available to HMG, and also be able to retain tooling to produce further production runs quickly (e.g. if we are suddenly propelled into a large war).

Bruce
Bruce
June 11, 2015 12:40 am

A good place to start might be to consider and honestly declare what the role of defence is. Only then can the size, scope and composition be defined. However, no government or opposition or lobby group will be that honest. From cap badge wars to vested interests to budget cutters we only see lunatics dragging each other to the madhouse.

martin
martin
June 11, 2015 5:04 am

@ TD – I agree with what you are saying but what’s the alternative?

The UK still spends a fairly substantial amount of money on defence. However its no longer enough to allow sovereign operating capability. If our armed forces does not allow for sovereign capability then its really just a subsidy for other peoples foreign policy. So in my mind we either find a bit more money to fill the gaps and allow true sovereign capability or else massively reduce the budget and just focus on defence of the British Isles. The current salami sliced force is a bit of a waste of 34 billion a year that could be better spent on UK infrastructure or R&D. This situation will continue until we have a real defence review that pairs ambitions and budgets. It should also be noted that the current government also lacks any kind of foreign policy beyond pulling out of the EU if they won’t do what we say. So perhaps now instead of an SDR or SDSR it should not be a Strategic Defence Security and Foreign Policy Review.

Nick
Nick
June 11, 2015 5:52 am

@TD I completely agree with you and largely agree with Martin’s analysis, with one small difference.

In practical terms, the cost reduction agenda pushed by Osborn and the Treasury, which is impacting the equipment budget (eg delays in ordering Type 26, F35 numbers) and the operating budget seems to be largely shaping the Military and largely corresponds to the current Government’s foreign policy (such as it is).

Whilst I wouldn’t be able to say what exactly our foreign policy is right now, I think it is clear that post Iraq/Afghanistan, there is little appetite to deploy anything other than token support to US/International interventions (mirroring Obama actually), in an humanitarian role (Bulwark, Nepal) combined with some national/international training deployments and UK/dependencies home defence.

Our military forces are currently being funded to support this level of operation and not much else. Baring some paradigm shift based on a yet to happen event, it seems to me that the status quo is likely to continue for at least the next 5 years, even if the cost reduction emphasis reduces towards of the end of the next parliament. Although its hard to be precise, it seems like this level is something like 1.8 % or so of current GDP in a forward looking environment where GDP growth % will exceed government spending increase %, so absolute budget increases will result in a slow decline of %GDP spending. Our armed forces in 5 years time, will look and behave more like the German ones, but equipped better and with much more capability to deploy globally on a small scale.

This is where I differ with Martin. I think current ambition and current budget are largely aligned at a political level. The issue seems to be that some of current (perhaps ?) and many former senior defence staff, many commentators, some individual politicians and the US government would prefer to continue with a pre-2008 structure. The SDSR “gap” is not one of lack of political ambition, but one of refusal to acknowledge today’s reality in our formal national policy documents.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 11, 2015 6:10 am

Interesting to note this morning that the NHS top brass are promoting a centralised procurement agency rather than leaving each trust to negotiate for and buy their own stuff. NHSE&S? The bosses argue they have massive purchasing power and could negotiate better deals if they pooled the procurement activity. Personally I think it would shoot them firmly in the foot – currently there are about 20 health care trusts in England, seems like another 14 in Scotland, 5 in Northern Ireland and 1 for Wales (as best I can understand their websites) which means a lot of potential customers for health related stuff, which in turn means suppliers have a fair chance of some business if their product is reasonable useful and competitively priced. Lose one bid, never mind, try another trust. This is a sound competitive environment. If NHS bring in a single procurement portal then it becomes all or nothing for suppliers – if a supplier of ‘the machine that goes bing’ fails in a bid to the central procurement agency, they have no further options in England/UK (however wide the catchment area is of the agency). I would imagine just like the defence industry, all the small bright eager manufacturers will start to merge (or be bought out) in just the same way GEC & then BAE bought up the UK defence industry – “Oh; lost your bid? No credible business plan from here? Come join British Healthcare – its the only decent offer you’ll get, you know.” Also expect the procurement function to balloon & mushroom as the need to be squeaky-clean in competitions would dramatically increase – corporations chasing multi-billion once-in-a-lifetime opportunities will fight tooth & claw if they see sharp practice that disadvantages their organisation.

I think the clear message should be “Be careful what you wish for”? The consequences on the industrial side may well make procurement much more difficult and expensive than the current system.

Indeed, a case could be made for the purchasing system in MOD to be broken up and distributed to functional entities within the armed forces – for example and using old terminology, give the job of procuring transport aircraft to RAF Transport Command, as they are the people who really understand what they need? We might find the defence industry similarly dismantling the monolithic slabs of pan-defence corporations in response, leading to more agile, more eager companies and potentially a much richer field of competitors.

barbarossa
barbarossa
June 11, 2015 9:18 am

Chris,
From a perspective of a contractor to the NHS (My wife owns her own Opticians), the present Trust system has spectacularly failed to deliver any sort of meaningful improvement, in either clinical care, welfare or even financially. We have the ludicrous situation where certain trusts will fund some drugs and others won’t- and we’re not talking big ticket items either- Personal example: when I lived in Luton I was prescribed a particularly effective drug for my asthma- In North Dorset, I cannot get this drug, and have to make do with an older, increased dose of a steriod-based drug, not because it’s clinically more effective, but because it’s cheaper.
Returning to my wife’s practice:- After three years, she has finally been allowed to offer diabetic screening- It has taken North Dorset that long to inspect her practice, approve the equipment and the opthalmologist doing the screening (Despite all of these things being NHS approved, licenced and inspected). Had her practice been in Somerset it would have taken three weeks. Equally ten years ago, in Hertfordshire under the bad, old regime of central contracts, New practices would have been expected to offer the service.
As for payments, North Dorset used to take 3months to pay her NHS fees- Now this is all centralised, it is 6weeks. (From a nice lady in Wakefield apparently).

The other thing you might consider, All the manufacturers of the machines that go ‘bing’ are Japanese, german or US, likewise the drug companies- There are only three major players, all of whom are global- One british. There are smaller players, but they are very often doing the work on behalf of the big boys, anyway (and being very well paid too- a lot of these guys are UK based, and it suits the big players to keep them independent).
Seems to me, that as the NHS is a very important world market, it makes sense for the NHS to use centralised purchasing to leverage some decent savings. (It might stop health trusts using commercial healthcare providers to run clinics and hospitals, to save costs- only to find that said healthcare providers withdraw when there is no profit)

barbarossa
barbarossa
June 11, 2015 9:33 am

….Another thing, tiers of managment!, under the bad old centralised days- Settings were responsible through a regional health authority to the Dept of Health. Now we have Trusts for Settings (hospitals, clinics etc) others for ambulance services and yet more for specialisms, Eyecare (Local Optical Committees) & Dental. Added to that, Hospitals are now contractors as well so they need commercial management, as well as operational and clinical management too,

Successive governments, by tinkering, have created an enormously complex, and frankly unwieldy, structure, which often falls over itself, and interferes with itself, in its efforts to deliver its function.
My wife estimates that there are now four levels of control (plus the CQC) within the NHS now. Admittedly down from the seven there were in 2010, but up from the three there were under the bad, old centralised days

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 11, 2015 10:29 am

I think that the problem is that you don’t consider the defence industry as a source of revenues for the British state.

For example France has won € 25 billion contracts in four years.

Nexter, Renault Trucks Defense for the terrestrial, EADS, Safran and Dassault for aerospace, Thales and Sagem for electronics, shipyard DCNS for the naval, MBDA for missilerie, all being under the project management of the DGA, which monitors national programs and strategic coherence in research and development. Strong ties between the DGA (military status engineers) and defence companies lets talk about the military industrial complex.
What you no longer have.

We have sold one FREMM to Morocco.

One FREMM, four Gowind corvettes and 24 Rafales to Egypt.

24 Rafales for Qatar.

DCNS has won orders by means of technology transfers. DCNS is working with Brazil to build four Scorpene submarines. French employees work in Brazil, Brazilians come to work in Cherbourg. DCNS also assists the country in achieving the non-nuclear part of the first Brazilian SNA, and the construction of a naval base and a shipyard.

DCNS has signed contracts in India. The first of 6 conventional submarines Scorpene, which construction takes place at Mazagon Docks Ltd shipyard in Mumbai as part of a technology transfer agreement with DCNS, has been put into the water. This is an indication that delivery of the submarines, delayed for over 4 years, is finally in sight. The delivery date of the first Scorpene to the Indian Navy is now set at September 2016. The following five submarines will be delivered at a rate of one every nine months. The Scorpene is armed with Exocet missiles and torpedoes Black Shark. It should be added the command of 36 Rafales.

Thales delivered to Brazil a civil and military telecommunications satellite.

Airbus Helicopters has a contract in Australia for 47 NH90 and 22 Tiger.

More recently in Poland, Airbus helicopters has been selected for a contract of 50 Caracal. Regarding the contract for the air defense system, MBDA and Thales was vying with SAMP-T system against the Patriot of the American Raytheon, the Americans have won.

On the submarine market, DCNS is one of three groups selected by the Australian Government to submit a tender for twelve conventional submarines. A contract valued at 50 billion Australian dollars. We offer diesel-powered version of the attack nuclear submarine Barracuda.

Sorry if I seem to be arrogant, this is not my will.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 11, 2015 10:48 am

I think a big problem (you might not see it as a problem) is that this generation of politicians believe that relative economic standing is more important than relative military standing.

The politicians regularly talk up our armed forces and our defence budget, but their priority is the size of our GDP over the size of our forces. They clearly still see some importance in military ability, but they consider our G8(-1) ranking to be much more important in terms of global influence.

In the past, countries needed big armies and navies to establish and maintain trade blocs, called empires; our politicians today have a different perspective, and the magic number of 2% is more to do with peer pressure and buying into networking opportunities than it is to do with any real perception of threat.

GDP is what matters today; not the number of brigades or warships we have to hand. And that obsession itself is irrational; we’re not chasing per capita GDP to improve everybody’s lives, just overall GDP. The politicians would gladly cut our defence spending in half and in half again, but our defence spending is our subscription fee to a number of different clubs.

Defence reviews are there simply to see what we can cut, and to find the minimum level of spending we can get away with; they are certainly not about preparing for possible conflicts.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 11, 2015 12:12 pm

@Brian Black
You are right, if the politicians believe that the MoD is a source of expenses but not a source of revenue, for them this is to throw money out the window.
It would be relevant for the united kingdom to create a state body made up of military personnel and civilians responsible for the design, acquisition and evaluation of the systems that equip the armed forces. Imagine possible futures, anticipate threats and risks, prepare the technological and industrial capacities and to promote armament exports.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 11, 2015 1:20 pm

I note from this morning’s Times that according to a Pew Research Centre poll no European nationality now believes that they should honour their Article 5 NATO obligations, although all expect the USA to come to their defence if required. Curiously, the Cousins and the Canadians do still think they should provide assistance if required, although by a reducing margin. I wonder how much longer they will take that benign view…not least because the only thing that will prompt a re-think of the European position or indeed ours is their walking away and leaving us to it…

GNB

Martin
Martin
June 11, 2015 1:26 pm

@ Frenchie – we do much the same, 72 Typhoons sold to Saudi Arabia from the RAF production lots. Just a few years ago we had the highest defence export in the world. It’s all cyclical. while figures like EUR 25 billion sound like a lot compared to the total size of the French or British economy it’s very very small.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 11, 2015 4:17 pm


I agree, but BAE is a private enterprise, the money of contracts does not go directly into the coffers of the state, in addition, the state has no control over industrial policy of BAE, the President of BAE can delocalize all its factories in the USA or elsewhere, the British state has nothing to say. This changes everything.
Who will build the next French battle tank, I already know, it’s the Nexter-KMW group.
That said, I not spit on € 25 billion.

monkey
monkey
June 11, 2015 4:27 pm

I am with TD that it seems a bit mad and wasteful to cover the same remit by varying committees to achieve the same answers in effect. That’s if they do though , each group may skew its findings based on its own gestalt viewpoint thus confusing the issue for the Thicko’s , sorry Politico’s who make the final decisions. It complicated matters that we have a heritage of being a world spanning force and have a trail of both moral and legal obligations to assist peoples/countries outside our immediate sphere of NATO. The British Overseas Territories, those Islands , the Commonwealth, Entente Cordial, the UN etc etc. People would argue we live in a different world to that of say pre 1990 and the Soviet collapse but I see it as just a shift of emphasis to where politicians feel they can interfere, correction do the most good either in genuine humanitarian wishes, bringing ‘real’ democracy to those that have NEVER had it or understand it or even wants it except by a few who see it as a means of them obtaining power over the established regime and traditions. Other political forces from say an ex colony to secure middle eastern oil can skew their thinking too.
The present 100 day rewrite is being driven in my thinking by a genuine worry that our once peaceful(ish) borders are now in turmoil. Russia resurgent, Turkey moving away from a secular slant, Syria/Iraq in civil war , Lebanon/Israel /Palestine still at loggerheads,Egypt in turmoil, Libya in civil war , Tunisian terrorism resurging , Algeria and Morocco’s hinterland evermore difficult to control. That’s all within 3000km of the UK let alone what the near to bankrupt Mediterranean EU states are thinking. Peace dividend , sorry long gone , we are surrounded by Nations , the EU is , that could suddenly swing in favour of Russian , Chinese , Iranian ( now they can sell their huge oil reserves ) bailouts all around our eastern/southern boundary. China is already buying up large parts of Africa and their governments, Russia is making noises towards Greece, Cyprus and Syria , Iran has troops in Iraq/Syria and funding the rebuild of Shia dominated Army/Airforce units.
Time to think long and hard about our own shoreline ( that’s the UK ) and securing our eastern and southern frontiers now as EU/NATO ( its just a name who does it doesn’t matter ) force.

Midlander
Midlander
June 11, 2015 5:16 pm

Gloomy describes the core problem with great precision, basically Europe free-rides and outsources much of its security defence capability to the US. With the US “pivot to Asia”, Russia re-asserting a geographic sphere of influence by military means.
It puts a very uncomfortable yet practical question on the table for a post cold war Europe – Are we willing to resource and step up to the plate in our own security? The rest in terms of scale, resources and capabilities all follow from this – scaled to the threats and risks around. We delude ourselves if we think we can fix solo, only a reinvigorated NATO has the scale to do this, as it used to do……
So far the answer is “nope” and Mr Putins assertive behaviour reflects the perception of this weakness.
The logic points to expect some challenges (with plausible deniability) in the Baltics since the prize of showing NATO article 5 invalid is very tempting to Russia in the current context as well as getting that oil price to a more comfortable level.
What appears missing compared to the 1980s is the leadership, public debate so TD is correct in the need of raising this in a campaign.
TD for president?

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 11, 2015 5:22 pm

@Monkey
Sorry but I don’t understand what you said, you are considering defend only your country ?
We are in an open world, maybe tomorrow you would have thousands of migrants at your doors, we will not forever prevent them from crossing the Channel. We have had enough. If you think that we will do the dirty job alone in Africa for a long time, you are mistaken. The UK has obligations towards its allies. If you want to be a kind of big Switzerland give up your seat on the UN Security Council.
I offer my apologies in advance if I misunderstood your thinking.

monkey
monkey
June 11, 2015 6:44 pm


I am very much a pro European and want the UK to contribute to defending Europe’s borders . I was trying to say that due to our historic commitments from our old empire , the few territories we still retain direct defence responsibility for overseas and the ever increasing destabilization of the surrounding nations to Europe we are stretched to cover everything. We should be looking to provide a strong defensive contribution to Europe be it via the existing NATO system or by evolving an EU force that looks to defending our borders. I have proposed on other threads that much of the land forces are based in the wrong place due to nationalistic needs. Heavy armour located in bases in western europe are going to be of little deterrence to invasion from our land border in the east. A considerable sum of western European defence budget is spent on domestic bases and the equipment to move these forces to the east through the only invasion land invasion path. This is done obviously to spend UK,Portuguese,Spanish,French,Italian,Dutch,Belgium,German and Danish defence money on him soil but is a waste in a greater European sense. Why not base the troops and equipment for our land forces in the easternmost EU nations where they will be of use? By all means have training bases etc in domestic locations but the bulk should be in place . In terms of naval and air forces the present distribution is fine as they cover the 80% of Europe’s borders that are protected by the sea or can relocate rapidly , in hours if its fast jets , from one end of europe to another. Other than the US no nation on earth could execute and sustain a amphibious assault on Europe’s shores and even they would struggle so move the kit to where its needed .
A recent poll of NATO nations actually have a minority in favour of honouring article 5 of the NATO charter , an attack on one is an attack on all , Germany came in at 38% in favour. Wether this due to the US posturing in the Far East against China and Europeans thinking why fight a US war in the eastern pacific would be ironic I think.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 11, 2015 8:11 pm

@Monkey
The borders of Europe do not exist, you are the only ones with an almost impenetrable frontier, there is no European determination to have a border watertight. Migrants from Africa or the Middle East via Turkey are interested to cross Europe to come to the UK, Germany or France, other European countries do not interest them. So Italy, Greece, Poland, Spain, etc … have no problems to let them pass, it’s not their problem. Europe is a huge hoax, every nation sees his own interest, there will never be a common border. Neither common defense, today’s Europe is built for business.
Based on this observation, it is upstream that we must solve the problems.
We will solve the Russian problem by positioning the armoured brigades in Poland.
We will resolve the African problem, that eradicating Islamist paramilitary forces in the Sahel.
We will resolve the Middle East problem in eradicating the Islamic State.
If we keep talking like accountants percentage of GDP, Russian, Islamist or whatever which will come cut our throats in our bed.
It’s a little rough as discourse, it will perhaps laugh some, but if we show ourselves weak now we will pay dearly later, we remember the Second World War, French people keep a wound always open.

monkey
monkey
June 11, 2015 8:27 pm


Sadly you are right Europe as it is , is a business enterprise with little focus on protecting itself . As an island we have an advantage as has proved before but prevention of the same situation of a power trying to assert pan- European dominance by force needs a credible counterforce to hold it back or dissuade it from thinking about it.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 11, 2015 9:03 pm

@Monkey
Unfortunately we are alone. European’s defence is limited to our two countries.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 11, 2015 9:33 pm

@ Frenchie…mind you, we have stopped fighting each other, so that’s a plus… :-)

Chez Gloomy

40 deg south
40 deg south
June 11, 2015 10:41 pm

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world NZ and the US are finally learning to play together nicely, after a couple of decades of rather frosty defence relations. Some good footage of an NH90 being prepared for ship-board transport, something I haven’t seen before. Also, Japan is (very cautiously) dipping a toe in the water of multinational exercises.

https://twitter.com/jackrs55
The NZ Chief of Navy seems to take himself less seriously than others of senior rank.

40 deg south
40 deg south
June 11, 2015 10:42 pm

https://twitter.com/jackrs55/status/608925478607425536/photo/1
The CoN twitter link disappeared from previous post , and I can’t make it re-appear here. Apologies all.

martin
martin
June 12, 2015 1:36 am

@ Frenchie – The British government maintains a golden share in BAE which means it can veto any move by the company to leave the UK.

martin
martin
June 12, 2015 2:03 am

@ Frenchie and Monkey

I agree about re positioning armored and heavy forces to the EU Boarders in the East. The EU has plenty of credible military forces they are just in the wrong place. The Russians don’t have an amazing force but what they do have is in the correct place to achieve their goals. I think the EU should have some for of central military fund like the economic cohesion fund that pays for boarder security.

These funds could be used to help for instance the UK or Germany build bases in the Baltic’s or help boarder nations like Lithuania or Latvia purchase or modernize equipment. This would not see Europe try to replace NATO but merely better position its forces to defend the European boarder.

While the UK is not in shengen we have an absolute moral responsibility to maintain the EU boarders as much as our own. Armoured Brigades will probably be significantly more useful if we base them in Poland or Latvia than sitting around salisbury plain.

Not including countries bordering Kaliningrad there are only three EU nations that boarder Russia directly in the EU. The EU could easily afford to permanently deploy a division in each in the way we did with in Germany until recently. Having a division permanently based in a country like Estonia would also give the country a significant economic boost which would help to stave of some of Putins ability to conduct economic or hybrid warfare. British Forces in Germany contributed EUR 1.8 billion a year to the German economy. Not a major boost for a nation like Germany but it would be very significant for any of the baltics.

The Russians would be pissed about it but f**k them. Realistically what are they going to do that they are not already doing. Russia can only attack the EU through these three countries so by making them safe we neutralize most of the threat they can pose to us.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 12, 2015 7:28 am


Is what the factories and engineers of BAE based in the UK could still produce tanks or IFV without to import much of components from third-country, as this is the case for ASCOD SV ?

Martin
Martin
June 12, 2015 7:50 am

BAE no longer has armoured vehicle capability in the UK. General Dynamics UK is technically a British company. Not sure how much of FRES SV they will make in the UK obviously not the hull but realistically given just how Gucci and high end it is is there any market for export? Is it worth worrying about such things. Generally if we want to export significant numbers of finished equipment then we will have to make it cheap and low end. do we want our forces riding to battle on such equipment? How many VBIC’s or Rafales is France really likely to sell. Is it worth the vast cost to the French state in the bigger scheme of things? Defence contractors that we do have like Rolls Royce do very well with little support and have major civilian markets.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 12, 2015 9:19 am


France can produce high-tech systems as low-end systems, if you want to buy VBCI, we can make low ranges as high ranges, depending on the willingness of customers, we can relocate part of production in the UK.

I’m not here to tout the French defence industry, in fact I do not advise buying VBCI, not because it is a bad military vehicle, but it does not correspond to what you takes for your FRES UV, I’ll take SuperAV instead.

In short, all this for say that it is important to have a self-sufficient defense industry, more or less under state control, and able to build essential products such as battle tanks and fighter aircraft.

How would you have won the Battle of Britain, with fighter aircraft engines built in France :-) .
Just kidding of course, we were flat as pancakes by the German army in few days, fortunately you have resisted.
I’m here and not on a French military blog because I have great admiration for the British people and the British Army.

wirralpete
wirralpete
June 12, 2015 9:26 am
Reply to  Martin

@Martin&Frenchie….Working in the automotive assembly industry i don’t think assembling armoured vehicles is really a key requirement … think indigenously assembling a particular design would not be hard given the wealth of experience assembling a high end expensive AFV is not beyond the realms of the wit of good management.
However for such a small number of vehicles, 589, it would not be worth it, if however further extra block versions, eg overwatch in anti tank and anti air vehicles or ABSV versions and a long production run and follow on AFV’s ie Warrior and CR2 replacements it wouldn’t be worth it.
This is where a lack of joined up strategic thinking makes me despair.
As for BAE they are focused on high end systems integration, and high end products in UK only the huge numbers of US numbers of AFV’S make it worthwhile for BAE to do it in the USA.
What the government should be doin is provide the strategic narrative, commit to deliver it over 10-20 years.

wirralpete
wirralpete
June 12, 2015 9:31 am

Meant it ‘would’ be worth it with a 20 year timeline of assembling AFV’S ala the TOBA agreements with the maritime sector.

wirralpete
wirralpete
June 12, 2015 9:43 am

Think at least an entire armoured brigade should be exercised in Poland each year, would send a mssg to Putin without having to base the people in Poland but have a ready vehicle fleet based there to rapidly react and be manned from the high readiness taskforce.
Personally the UK/NL landing force should be brought upto a full brigade deployable within 30 days to reinforce and protect Baltics.
16AA brought back to full deployable brigade std based on foxhound and Jackal vehicles as well as the air assault elements as proper Rapid reaction brigade.
3rd adaptable brigade changed to a reaction force armoured brigade.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 12, 2015 10:03 am

France has two armoured brigades with 7.000 troops and 120 Leclercs each, which can relayed it in Poland, this will be a good thing.

wirralpete
wirralpete
June 12, 2015 10:19 am

@Frenchie… Think this is why we differ on our strategy, France engages in a much more forceful way in former colonies which requires a flexible medium weight AFV rapidly deployable over long distances, in particular in North and central Africa.
Our focus is now small mentoring teams from adaptable brigades providing training and security alongside DFID rather than dealing with issues ‘hot’ reacting rather than shaping.
As well as the big armoured brigades able to hit hard. But not to get bogged down in a COIN war like Afghan

Martin
Martin
June 12, 2015 11:29 am

@’Fremchie

I have no doubt the VBCI would eat our requirements for FRES UV, but so far have France exported any? I don’t doubt that we should make our own stuff But these days no matter what you are bound to find foreign content in any weapon.

I also think the days of having large defence export industries are over. Budgets are shrinking all the time and more and more countries are creating indigenous industries. Production runs for FRES SV and UV should be easily sufficient to sustain a domestic manufacturer. But then that domestic manufacturer in my mind could just as easily be General Dynamics UK instead of BAE. Having a single national champion did not work out well for us, nor do I think it will work out well for France in the long run.

I think FRES SV will be quite a capability and possibly the best in class in the world but at £9 million a pop their is zero export potential. If we ever do get round to ordering FRES UV in the thousands then it should be pretty simple to get the producer to move production to the UK.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 12, 2015 12:08 pm

Martin – interesting to note there would be much greater export opportunity for light/medium armour or even fast pointy jets than there has ever been for the RN’s frigates that would be cruisers. Maybe we should shut down the dead-end military shipbuilding and invest the saved TOBA cash in combat aircraft and combat vehicles, where at least there would be some chance of gaining exports to offset the Government funding? After all there are lots of shipbuilders around Europe and wider afield making perfectly viable frigates and destroyers.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 12, 2015 12:26 pm

@Wirralpete
I don’t understand very well, our armored brigades are not composed of AMX10RC or Sagaie, we reserve this equipment for Africa indeed.
Our armored brigades include two regiments of Leclerc tanks, two infantry regiments equipped with VBCI, one artillery regiment equipped with multiple rocket launchers and 120mm mortars and one regiment equipped with ground missiles-air Mistral.
These are not light forces and I think that will have a deterrent effect sufficient to Putin’s eyes. And you’ll be there to protect us :) .

ForesReviewUK
ForesReviewUK
June 12, 2015 1:34 pm

I would say treat it is the overall sense of security and not just about bullets, missiles, and nuclear deterrence. Is the impact of a high defence budget going to work to address security concerns? Do we have to place is the highest compared to foreign affairs, home department, DECC, Justice and even the “hated” DFID? How will a strong defence budget for bullets, ships, subs, fighter jets and personnel work in the security objectives of the UK?

Phil
June 12, 2015 6:49 pm

Gloomy describes the core problem with great precision, basically Europe free-rides and outsources much of its security defence capability to the US

If that did happen, for the sake of argument, just what is wrong with it? The big picture is that a free and liberal Europe is a vital US interest. So, what’s so wrong with exploiting that? Some good old realpolitik.

Europe’s single biggest security success has been locking the US into its defence. It’s not a negative thing.

El Sid
El Sid
June 12, 2015 8:03 pm
Reply to  wirralpete

Don’t forget the main reason for TOBA is to provide a framework for transferring about £700m of Yellow Book liabilities to the private sector, it wouldn’t make sense in the absence of those liabilities. So you’re not going to get a TOBA for vehicles.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
June 12, 2015 11:28 pm

The French goal, which they appear well on the way to meeting is to have a balanced Armed Forces. Yes they have the heavy end with the Leclerc and VBCI equipped brigades but they have a very well establish and equipped intervention capability, backed up by effective Special Forces and improving ISTAR assets. You only have to look at the Division deployed in GW1. The bulk was from it professional intervention units with the need for Heavy Armour provided by a scratch volunteer regiment equipped with AMX-30B2. It was a unique formation and ideally suited to the role it was given during the land component.

As I have said before, the United Kingdoms problem is that we either send in heavy units of basically light role infantry units with a few minor variations. Yes the Commandos have Vikings and we have one brigade that is airmobile (sort of) but we totally lack, what is becoming the most useful force, that of medium weight. If we configure our forces to totally avoid casualties from IEDs or individuals with RPGs let alone a tier 1 MBT then we might as well rebuild the BAOR. We do need to retain the high end capabilities, and maintaining two or three conventional Armoured Brigades makes sense, and these are the ideal place to integrate the reserves and TA to maintain manpower levels. What we need are in additional at least three Medium/Cavalry Brigades, based on wheeled platforms. Many NATO countries now have these formations and they have proven their worth on operations time and time again.

For some reason our military is controlled by what appears to be a Tracked AFV mafia, opposed to wheeled AFVs in any form, always mentioning that they cannot handle extreme terrain etc. Well most Tracked AFVs cannot manage extreme terrain either. Yes you can fly in MBTs and such like but they seriously lack in theatre mobility an have a very large logistics trail. Simply put, medium weight forces correctly configures can be deployed easier, as easier to support and can control a larger area once deployed. Just because they cannot take a Russian or Chinese Armoured Division head on doesn’t mean we should not look to establish such units. In fact given funding issues, it would make sense that four of our planned six brigades actually be medium weight. It would involve up front costs between now and 2020 but some savings would be made in reducing the need for FRES(SV), Warrior upgrades and improvements to the Challenger 2. On top of that the running costs would be substantially less, with almost any HVG garage being able to carry out routine maintenance.

So yet again I say we need to look carefully at what the French are doing and even look to they for equipment rather than the US or in house as is often the case. More money would help of course, but the fact that we would end up with a force structure that can actually do what the public and politicians feel is needed without a train load of UORs use to get up to minimum TES is a powerful argument for funds to be made available.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
June 12, 2015 11:29 pm

PS why does the edit function keep vanishing?

Martin
Martin
June 13, 2015 5:43 am

@ Lord Jim – I agree with you that the UK lacks medium forces, however the issue is what is a medium force. Pre the IED threat we would be thinking 15 tonne now it’s 30 tonnes. However the IED threat ain’t going to go away. If we send in follow on forces to any conflict then they will be prone to being attacked by IED’s and I am still of the belief that we must give our soldiers the very best equipment to expect to survive such a threat.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 13, 2015 10:43 am

Stop to think IEDs, think logistics, air mobility, flexibility.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 11:14 am

@French
About 60% of deaths in Afghanistan were in combat situations. Approximately 50% of those were IED attacks. We have suffered IED attacks since NI and Throughout Iraq. You think about the threat!

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 13, 2015 11:36 am

To go back to a couple of things posited by TD.

Firstly, ‘crying wolf’ about various perceived threats. Is this simply because of a lack of focus to defence planning? We’ll have a defence review, and whadayaknow, everybody and everything is a threat!

Can the MoD ever have enough money if the politicians and generals cannot slim down their list of defence priorities? If we increased defence spending to 2.5% GDP, I think that rather than improving certain specialty capabilities, we would instead spread the defence budget sideways – taking on more stuff to do with ever decreasing effectiveness and efficiency.

Instead of demanding more cash for defence, perhaps we should be demanding a more targeted approach to a smaller set of core tasks / objectives. Instead of all-singing and dancing forces that can do everything (but only on a tiny and almost irrelevant scale); we should primarily be considering our own regional defence issues (the NATO territorial area, and in particular our little corner of the North Atlantic), plus literally two or three other specific problem countries (Argentina included).

This mission-spreading mentality isn’t solely a defence issue; you could look at an organization like the BBC, constantly demanding more money and warning of a collapse of services, while also spending money on projects outside of its core tasks that nobody ever asked for.

Or you could look at DFID, with a budget one third the size of the MoD, but with no strategic spending plans. A multi-billion pound budget, but no multi-billion pound projects. Instead of major infrastructure projects that might actually develop the economies of countries and regions, increasing the DFID budget has only increased spending sideways – more African villages can now get LGBT awareness training than ever before, great!

Which brings me to a second point raised by TD.

Are calls to rob DFID of money really the best way of increasing defence spending?

Instead of obsessing on the size of the DFID budget, we should be more concerned with how it is spent. As with the defence budget, DFID should have fewer areas of primary concern, and should narrow its spending for greater effect and efficiency.

As an example of the lack of targeted spending from DFID, take a look at Libya. If you remember, we conducted a little war to get rid of the government. We maybe should have been a little more concerned with what would happen after the regime fell.

We did support the country after our short war to topple the regime, but only to the tune of tens of millions of pounds. We sent a handful of legal advisors, we helped to draw up a human rights action plan, we trained 300 border guards, we gave the European central bank a few million quid to help provide loans and investment… and the country’s gone down the toilet.

This financial year, according to DFID’s online development tracker, DFID will spend a whopping 0.06% of their budget in Libya. This is a country where we intentionally removed the ruling regime, leaving behind a near-failed state that will be the point of departure for the majority (~100k+) of migrants heading for Europe this year. Hardly a holistic approach.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 12:04 pm

@Bb
Interesting but fundamentally irrelevant without a major change in UK foreign policy.
Defence does not set policy it supports it and only supports it so the comparison to the BBC does not work, unless you are suggesting we only.partake in some areas HMG wants us to?
We do not have the luxury to pick and choose.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 13, 2015 12:41 pm

APATS – ref the threat – it might be fair to describe the army’s role in The Troubles as COIN just as much as the case in Afghanistan or Gulf 2. If COIN is the action of the day then go to the garages and take the Mastiffs, Ridgebacks and Wolfhounds as protected mobility best suited to the threat. But Gulf 1 and Kosovo and Bosnia were not noted for IED use. Perhaps the same hulking great thick-skinned trucks would have proven themselves quite pointless and unusable in those cases. Perhaps unlike the RN which has so few platforms the same ones must be used no matter what the need, the army’s platforms are small enough (and so relatively inexpensive*) to keep parallel fleets of platforms each optimised to a different threat environment, in which case Frenchie’s plea to focus on flexibility, logistic tail and air transportability would be very sensible – for the non-Mastiff fleet.

*One source suggests t26 will be about £800m each, that same figure might buy 1000 useful bits of light/medium armour although by the time MOD has stuffed every one with gold-plate the numbers would probably halve.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 12:51 pm

French actually said stop thinking about IED, I merely pointed out you can not simply stop thinking about your greatest cause of casualties in recent conflicts.
Nowhere did I suggest using Mastiff on conventional Ops but as a tactician I can see the ease and appeal of mines and IEDS used by conventional forces against light weight armour. It works!
As for £800 million,, well believe what you want :)

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
June 13, 2015 1:11 pm

If we fixate on zero casualties, especially form IEDs then we might as well never send our forces into harms way again. Most potential opponents have realised that casualties are the PR nightmare for politicians due to public outrage and rightly so if the troops are ill equipped. But if IEDs define our posture then we have already lost.

In wars people die, that is why it is vital to have a clear mission before a single soldier puts his or her boots on the ground. Mission creep must be avoided at all cost and most importantly sufficient assets must be deployed to get the job done. GW2 was a text book example of how NOT to conduct a campaign whereas GW1 was the opposite. Shock and awe works if you have the numbers to control the ground you have won.

You cannot turn all countries into model western democracies. In the middle east you need to install a strong man, to be blunt a dictator, but our dictator. Politics and religion are too ingrained for a democracy to work.

Bit off track there. Any way back to medium AFVs and IEDs. Most modern wheeled AFVs have a far degree of mine protection built in. Remember it was wheeled AFVs that first considered mine protection as part of their basic design. Our problem with IED casualties was using vehicles totally unsuited to the task, and if the insurgents are going to use a 2000lb bomb in an IED it doesn’t matter really what you are driving short of a full blown MBT and even then the risk is high. In addition you have to look at prevention, with ISTAR and other assets and use effective and appropriate tactics. Remember IEDs are basically improvised AT mines and we have been dealt with those.

As for defence supporting policy, that is the key issue, but you have to have the military to carry out the action required to meet said policy. If we see ourselves sending troops to intervene overseas then we need the force structure to accomplish this. Heavy formations are not at all suited and light role infantry with a few Vikings and or helicopter are not either in the majority of possible scenarios. If we intend to man NATOs eastern border to deter Russia, then fine the current FF2020 will do the job, with a lot of help from our friends. But you cannot use Boy Scouts as Riot police, the local sailing club deal with pirates nor can Easyjet gain and maintain air superiority over the battle space. You have to have the right resources, capabilities and troop numbers to be able to do the job. And the Politicians need to know where the goal posts are with regards to what our Armed Forces are equipped correctly to do! Deciding to do something then scrambling around to find something to do it with is no way to either set policy or carry it out

Sorry this turned into a rant.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 1:21 pm

@Lord Jim

Nobody is suggesting zero casualties but you cannot ignore the biggest casualty cause in recent conflicts and the fact these were achieved by under equipped barely trained insurgents.
Fast forward to a well trained well equipped opponent who has strangely enough studied our vulnerabilities and well if I was them I would have a field day against light and medium armour without ever engaging them directly.
instar works but could not prevent a lot of attacks against by irregular forces forces. Add in opponents with tech and AAW capability and it becomes even more obvious that it is naive in the extreme to file IED as a COIN only issue.

monkey
monkey
June 13, 2015 1:31 pm

The IED threat is here to stay as the knowledge is out there both on the internet and with thousands of individuals who have built and used them passing on their skills in the next conflict to an eager audience of new recruits. Cost effective designs ( sub million pound ) have been developed to resist most and for any movement on exposed and channelled routes will be an ever present danger. Moving cross country across the Sahel or the steppe less so but inevitably a choke point will be encountered and the threats back.
On the other note who wants to open a book on the total contract value divided by units delivered on the T26 ( Batch 1) ?
I am on £3.5bn for 8 .

Rocket Banana
June 13, 2015 1:32 pm

Forgive my ignorance but what if we didn’t use the roads?

Doesn’t that mean that a) it’s much less likely we’d encounter an IED, and b) we probably need tracks – but not loads of armour?

That along with MALE IS(TA)R should be enough to monitor a route and/or potential route.

Doesn’t this therefore lead to Reaper + CVR(T) rather than the huge ASCOD or even more massiver (sic) CR2?

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 13, 2015 1:45 pm

70,000 French soldiers were involved in the Pamir operation, with about 4,000 soldiers on the ground permanently.
89 French soldiers lost their lives in operation, including 10 in one ambush and 700 injured.
I don’t know the percentage of injuries and deaths caused by IEDs for the French troops.

150,000 British soldiers were involved in the Herrick operation, British forces had about 10,000 soldiers in Operation Herrick, 453 British soldiers lost their lives in operation and 2.188 injured.

I don’t know what to think of these figures, I understand the trauma of the British people, but this is not the problem, the problem is that we don’t choose the place where it will have to fight, and if we do wants to fight only in large areas flat and grassy, it is evident that we do not need a large variety of military equipment.

There are not that tonnes of steel to counter the IED threat, there is also intelligence and technical progress.

Topman
Topman
June 13, 2015 1:50 pm

@Simon

‘Forgive my ignorance but what if we didn’t use the roads?’

depends on the type of vehicles you have and the terrain you are in as to whether that’s an option.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 1:56 pm

@Frenchy

It is not about the ability to choose your battlefield it is about the ability to look at the threat and the manner in which it evolves. Not simply;y ignore it as you seem to suggest. We have learnt lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan but so have many potential enemies.
I see a high tech well equipped force able to take the tactics used against us in Iraq and Afganistan as a huge huge threat in the future.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 2:19 pm

@TD

Of course the threat varies, my original post was in response to Frenchy telling us to “stop thinking about IED” That is patently stupid. I have merely expanded the process to point out that we need to no longer consider an IED type attack the sole preserve of an insurgent.
Modern militaries will have seen just how effective they are and will bring afar greater ability to quickly deploy more sophisticated and deadly devices than 4 guys and a donkey ever did. That has to be a factor in planning.

Simon257
Simon257
June 13, 2015 2:23 pm

The problem we have in the UK is that we are led by people who have come out of University, and gone straight into a political career. They have no experience of real life. They have the attention span of a five year old. However noble the cause is, they soon loose interest and wander off to the next crisis!

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 13, 2015 2:33 pm

Simon – tracks are not a given if you want good off-road mobility. We have in the past rattled around the tracks vs. wheels debate so I don’t think it needs repeating, but the sort of summary is that they each have advantages for different criteria, with ultimate weak structured terrain and step/gap crossing advantage to tracks where wheels may well do better over rocky terrain. So wheeled armour could be good off-track platforms. By the numbers my wheeled designs would exceed the mobility of the unarmoured version of Jackal which has a reputation for being able to run over rocky sandy rubbly terrain at motorway speeds without drama. (The blast and side armour added almost 2t to the 7t vehicle and mobility suffered a bit as a consequence.)

Frenchie – agreed we cannot choose where our next war will be. Different opponents with different weapons and different tactics in different terrains require our forces to use different tactics and different weapons/vehicles if we want an efficient and effective response.

monkey – I see the IED as one of many threats. In The Troubles and Afghanistan the opponent was not a well equipped military force so the roadside bomb/IED was their major anti-vehicle weapon. Move up the foodchain a bit to a better equipped militia and RPG & MANPADS become the major headache. By the time we face a pier opponent the threats would be guided munitions and long range artillery and accurate direct fire weapons, cued by accurate sensors. As an example, would the British Army choose to create IEDs using buried artillery shells and Gucci triggers? Is it a preferred method of warfare? It would be as cost effective for us as it would be for other militias, but I don’t think our forces would choose to employ them in preference to the more accurate methods of delivering effect. Mines have existed since medieval times and have always had the same advantages; I don’t see why suddenly every potential opponent would major on their use.

My bid for a bunch of 8 off T26 – over £6bn. Including amortised design/development costs.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
June 13, 2015 2:40 pm

The IED is here to stay, ISIL have been using them in Iraq so the word has got around and the mine never disappeared. But you don’t need to choose either or, most 8×8 and 6×6 vehicles now have a good level of IED/Mine protection without sacrificing their usefulness in a manoeuvre campaign and can be used for enduring ops afterwards.

We should never have allowed ourselves to have been so massively put on the back foot due to the IED considering our experience in NI and the Balkans. I trully hope we never have the same situation arising where by the MOD are trotting out retired officers to spout crap about how the Snatch Landrover is the best vehicle in it’s class etc when we have just sold off our Mamba’s which were purchased for route clearance on operations in a mine infested theater. Everything we used to counter the IED threat such as ECM and types of vehicles required was known and available in the mid to late 90’s. The senior leadership were a bunch of c*nts for allowing it to seize the initiative (both politically and militarily) the way it did.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 2:42 pm

” I see the IED as one of many threats. In The Troubles and Afghanistan the opponent was not a well equipped military force so the roadside bomb/IED was their major anti-vehicle weapon. Move up the foodchain a bit to a better equipped militia and RPG & MANPADS become the major headache. By the time we face a pier opponent the threats would be guided munitions and long range artillery and accurate direct fire weapons, cued by accurate sensors. As an example, would the British Army choose to create IEDs using buried artillery shells and Gucci triggers? Is it a preferred method of warfare? It would be as cost effective for us as it would be for other militias, but I don’t think our forces would choose to employ them in preference to the more accurate methods of delivering effect. Mines have existed since medieval times and have always had the same advantages; I don’t see why suddenly every potential opponent would major on their use.”

Well they could for instance see just how effective they have been against Western forces as opposed to conventional means which allow Western airpower and ISTAR to track target and counter fire? They could also look at the cost and decreased risk involved? They could look at the psychological impact that the IED threat carried. The not knowing, the “can hit you anywhere anytime affect” that wears people down.
In short they can think and learn like effective soldiers should do.

Over £6BN, :)

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 13, 2015 3:01 pm

APATS – your amusement at my fear of T26 rising cost is charming, but on the grounds the ship will be the same size/displacement as T45 give or take, with the same max performance (but has to be quieter), carrying the same number of missile cells give or take – it seems a pretty reasonable bet to me that we’ll end up buying 8 off T26 for the price of 6 off T45. The two extra hulls afforded by the carry-forward of (refurbed) T23 electronics & systems.

But hey this isn’t my field of expertise so its just a harmless guess.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 13, 2015 3:10 pm

@All Politicians are the Same

I admit that I expressed myself badly, I must apologize to you, we can’t underestimate the problem of IEDs but basing a part of its strategy on this is a mistake. I can’t find the words to explain, sorry !

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 3:21 pm


@ Chris

You have to take into account the huge R&D sunk costs on PAAMS and Sampson. As well as the huge pull through of kit from T23, including the Radar, missile system, command system and lfas among others others. I find it amusing simply as you have just added £300 million a hull onto a pessimistic estimate.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 3:24 pm

@French

No worries mate, if I tried to post in French I would probably cause an international incident :) I just think the IED will see increased use outside of traditional COIN Ops.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 13, 2015 4:05 pm

@ Phil – A fair point, but IF they change their minds, how much warning would we need to reconfigure? The lead time might amount to a single unanticipated electoral triumph for an isolationist President…and they have the logistic capability to be clear of our backyard within a single Presidential term, probably less…

GNB

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 4:27 pm

@Gnb

Even if the US were stupid enough to elect an isolationist President what is the conventional threat that would require any sort of immediate restructuring?

Mike Whealtey
Mike Whealtey
June 13, 2015 5:19 pm

Why specifically would it be stupid for the US to elect an isolationist President?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 13, 2015 5:27 pm

@apats – As I understand it they provide about 70% of NATO capacity…presumably if that were no longer available, it would have some impact, somewhere? Or is the NATO set up three times bigger than it needs to be in the face of current conventional or indeed other threats?

And the US does not elect a President, it’s Citizens do…I would hesitate to call them “stupid” for taking a different view to us as to what might represent their national interest…are we “stupid” if we elect a Government whose policies inconvenience them? Bearing in mind their large domestic/near abroad markets, comparatively secure borders, substantial natural resources, emerging energy security, highly developed technology and education et al…how exactly does the “Team America, World Police” approach for which they are so often criticised benefit their people…at least in terms that our own Continent would recognise?

Less than 50% of Americans have a passport, and only about 10% travel abroad each year…why would isolationism seem to them “stupid”?

GNB

monkey
monkey
June 13, 2015 6:14 pm

@GNB
Ah the wonderful flexibility of democracy’s, one minute this way , the next ….. It allways surprises me that the US man/woman in the street puts up with its post WW2 Government posture in terms of defence outside of the Americas. The US could say ‘ you know what leys not bother and lets… ‘ and withdraw from NATO. However , much of the USA huge spending is not directly allocated to looking after Europe , it has alliances everywhere spreading its spending truly Globally. In terms of securing the immediate EU borders by land,sea and air we even know give any know single opponent a proper bitch slapping and then some ( even ignoring nukes and other WMD) if we acted together. That’s a big IF though , the US tends , to use their term , railroad us through for good for bad with its interests . The individual Russki fleet would for all its size and experience soon have a bad day , not many WW2 U-boat happy times . Same for a Chinese fleet well out side its normal stomping ( not that you stomp about in a sub much ) grounds. In terms of air power same and despite my misgivings the same for land ( my statements on shifting east are to reduce spending or at least more efficiently) . At present and if we keep track of them ( whoever they are) we can industrially and intellectually match them stride for stride on own own little EU lonesome . ( If you add up the individual EU member states economic and manufacturing ability we are number one in the world we just need to think like we are number one )

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 6:33 pm

@Gnb

For starters a President would have to run on an isolationist package with the full weight of how that has worked historically.
A country is the people so your pedantic pick up is slightly irrelevant.

To your final point, carefully avoiding my question. The US does supply a lot of capability in certain areas but basically the answer is yes. nato has overwhelming conventional superiority over any current threat and Europe would have conventional superiority against any threat says the US, especially given your 1 presidential term.
The Russians have just abandoned their ship building programme as they cannot even build a maritime GT in country and are expending an awful lot of resources whilst failing to defeat the Ukraine.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 6:44 pm

@Monkey

It has become sadly fashionable to ascertain that we could not survive as Europe without the U.
After all how could we ally with people who do not even speak English.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 13, 2015 8:32 pm

@Monkey – You would therefore view a US withdrawal and the end of NATO with equanimity? Would you look to develop an alternative, and if so what?

@apats “A (potential) President would have to run on an isolationist package (platform?)”… obviously yes, but then why should they not, and why should they not win? What benefit does NATO confer on the USA that makes such an outcome inconceivable?

“a Country is the people”…very often not, it is often the governing regime…which is why the distinction is important (as opposed to pedantic) when speaking of a Country whose constitution opens with the words “We, the People…”

I haven’t avoided your question about conventional threats…I simply haven’t expressed a view, which is not the same thing…not least because my question was “how much time would we need to re-configure”…to which I’m guessing your answer is “none, because there is no serious threat”. My original discussion with started because I mentioned a survey indicating that only a minority of European people (as opposed to governments, and the distinction IS important) supported our meeting our Article 5 Obligations…but DID expect the USA to protect them if needed…I think that presents a conundrum, less so.

In short, my interest is in the divergence between North American and European attitudes on these matters, and the possible consequences thereof…not the threats we or Europe face, which is a different discussion.

And finally, I made no comment on how either the UK or Europe might get on without the USA, much less if I thought it a good idea for any of the participants…and as an Historian, the fact that we spent most of our history forming war-winning coalitions with people who “(did) not even speak English” would hardly have escaped my notice; starting with our alliance with the House of Aviz in the Fourteenth Century.

That said, I do think the Five Eyes Agreement and the relationship of mutual trust on which it is based is pretty useful to us…

GNB

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 8:47 pm

@Gnb

You offer some interesting theories but consistently fail to back up the implications. You imply an increased time to re balance European forces will be bad but when challenged cannot say why.
Also Presidential candidates tend to be educated enough to know whyisolationalisn does not work.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 13, 2015 9:31 pm

@apats…I imply nothing…I asked how long it would take Europe to reconfigure it’s defences if the USA left NATO…your answer seems to be “no time at all, because no threat requires it”…or do I have that wrong? As I just said, my interest is in the long term health (or otherwise) of NATO in light of a recent survey on popular attitudes to honouring Article 5 Obligations, no more and no less…but do all means share your thoughts on why an Isolationist Presidential candidate could not emerge, stand and win?

What component of their education would tell them that isolationism does not work…they managed perfectly well on that basis until 1917, and although Woodrow Wilson relished his peace-making role after 1918, the jury with respect to further US entanglements with “old Europe” was firmly out until December 1941…in that context, the period up until 1989 was an aberration shaped by a profound distaste for Communism and the views of the (mostly European-descended) Patricians of the Eastern Seaboard (where the US centre of gravity was)…and to some extent the need for stability in the Mid-East to protect both Israel and the oil supply.

Three out of four of those considerations have materially altered in the last twenty years, some of them quite significantly…when the facts change, do not peoples opinions and concerns change?

Furthermore, in the US intellectual discourse, isolationism (now more commonly called non-interventionism) has perfectly respectable political and academic sponsors…including the odd Harvard Professor…

GNB

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 9:47 pm

@GNB

A whole Harvard Professor? Like a real one?
AS for the times article, reverse the wording to would you expect another nation to intervene and you get a different answer.
NATO is a strong well organised organisation but that would upset some people.
You still totally fail to answer my point ref re organisation. Tell me why even a Europe crazily minus the US (in your fantasy) would be threatened?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 13, 2015 10:33 pm

Professor Stephen Walt at the John F Kennedy School of Government, and I don’t imagine they think him incapable of holding and defending a serious intellectual position, nor adequately defending it in a rather good University that attracts some pretty clever people…nor that he is the only one holding and defending that view. As to “reversing the wording”, I’m not clear what your point is, so please clarify,,,mine was to question how sustainable a strong, well-organised Alliance is in circumstances where the populations of most of it’s Members don’t think they should honour it’s most basic obligation (despite in some cases having truculent neighbours)…but do expect somebody else (whose own borders are secure) to expend their blood and treasure to bale them out. And I say again, I have said nothing about threats…I am interested in the long term health of the Alliance in those circumstances.

Furthermore “a Europe crazily minus the US” is a touch hyperbolic…North America is some distance from Europe, and the USA is already showing some signs of impatience with our collective commitment to NATO…that, and the shift in the balance of economic power to the Sun-belt states and the West Coast…the changing demographic (many more Asian and Latino Americans, comparatively fewer Anglos and others of Old European descent)…and a well-established current of political and intellectual discourse…might quite readily remind them that the Atlantic is a big place, and we are firmly on the other side of it.

There is also an important difference between “fantasy” and “speculation” or indeed “thinking”…

Seem to recall that the idea of an Islamic State was a “fantasy” until comparatively recently… the “fantasy” now seems be the idea that it might last for very long; personally, I think speculation is a less loaded term…and a better one to employ in a site that is about Thinking.

GNB

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2015 10:49 pm

the Islamic state is still a fantasy, self declared and hugely fought over. You of course choose to believe what you want. Stephen Walt, employed to offer an opinion, never had a real job, never mind ever seen combat. #There is a reason that there is no opposition and that is the idea is so ludicrous it does not deserve one.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 13, 2015 11:03 pm

“The Islamic state is still a fantasy”…not for the people living in it or it’s shadow I shouldn’t have thought…

“Stephen Walt, employed to offer an opinion, never had a real job, never mind ever seen combat”…I’m at a loss as to the relevance of his military experience (or not), but in general there is a bit of a revolving door between politics and the top universities in the USA…I suspect Harvard Professors might have rather more influence on US policy-making than Officers in their own Navy; in fact I seem to recall that the current POTUS was a University Professor, at Chicago…he also attended Harvard Law School I believe…

Still interested in a reason why “We, the People” might not ultimately reconsider their commitment to NATO…especially if somebody draws their attention to how wafer-thin our commitment to it is…

GNB

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 14, 2015 8:32 am

The Islamic state is the greatest danger that we have to do. Russia demands that the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine, the Islamic State asks the great East. This is a much greater threat than the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. They threaten the whole of Europe, Russia and China. They can destabilize the whole of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Several hundred million people. A colossal army with the atomic bomb if Pakistan falls. And I’m not talking about the conversion of Europeans who are going to fight in Syria and Iraq and returning to Europe as true soldiers.
You will say that I am delirious but I do not think so.

Phil
June 14, 2015 9:34 am
But IF they change their minds, how much warning would we need to reconfigure?

If 3rd Shock Army was sitting opposite the Polish border you’d probably find that Article 5 would once again become a central and important tenet of NATO countries foreign policies.

The broad bigger picture is that Europe has never had it so good. Now that can and sadly will change at some point in the future but is it that surprising that Article 5 isn’t something that keeps politicians and citizens awake at night at the moment?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 14, 2015 9:46 am

– Don’t disagree…my underlying concern is the extent to which European attitudes to NATO impact on US thinking about the overall value of the organisation; a point must surely come when if we can’t be arsed, nor can they? Does our indifference to their concerns (which seem pretty obvious) accelerate their disengagement, or is a stable Europe of such significance that they will indeed do the job for us indefinitely…or perhaps NATO is massively OTT for any potential threat, as I think some comments here seem to suggest?

Does our indifference make a US withdrawal to isolationism more likely? What might the consequences of that be? Does NATO matter?

GNB

Phil
June 14, 2015 9:59 am

But whose indifference are you talking about? NATO countries face a myriad of challenges where the pooled resources of the differing countries are useful. There’s a lot of immature threats that are reasonably close to European borders and NATO has been active continuously since the end of the Cold War.

Regarding Article 5, once upon a time there was only one realistic threat and it was a clear and unequivocal one. Now there’s a lot more room for interpretation and matters are complicated since it is now entirely conceivable that a non-state actor could attack a NATO country. Is Germany obliged to defend Turkey against ISIS? Would we consider ISIS to be an attack by a state actor or a local security / terrorism problem?

There’s a lot of challenges don’t get me wrong. And the world around European borders is much more complex. And I suspect that we and others realise that Article 5 is very, very much something of a last resort against a threat which currently does not exist.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 14, 2015 10:28 am

Frenchie – if you are delirious then many of us are sharing your nightmare. IS is trouble, and they will not accept defeat. If their thugs kill others then its “Hooray! It is the will of God!”, if their thugs are killed its “Hooray! They are Martyrs!” – their defeat must either come from within (a counter-sect convincing them they do NOT do the will of God) or from an act of God itself (plague, famine, pestilence, massed lightning bolts targeting only them…)

Gloomy – I recall a couple of years back I think on an MPA thread (we’ve had so many) that the UK position that ‘someone else would do it for us’ was a very bad strategy but I was slapped down by those (experts I’m sure) who snorted derision at such feeble thinking; we were in an Alliance under NATO and it was perfectly acceptable to use better equipped forces to cover our weaknesses. “That’s what Alliances are for” I think was the statement. While I accept in an alliance not every partner would have the same strengths (or weaknesses), you would expect a fair level of quid-pro-quo where each partner makes a strength available to another in exchange for their cover of a weaker capability. Everyone in Europe seems happy to expect limitless US back-up without the slightest intention of offering more than a token contribution when the US would value help. Personally I think it would be a better strategy in the long term to weaken the alliance formally such that each member state has to create their own forces sufficient to credibly defend their territory before they can activate Article 5. otherwise with the perpetual dribble-down of European defence, we could see the likes of Greece (then Spain? Portugal? Italy?) shutting down their military completely on austerity grounds, because Uncle Sam is beholden to defend them anyway. At the moment only Article 3 calls for members to address self defence, but even their it allows “individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack” – well if its collective there’s no need to step-up as a nation, is there?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 14, 2015 10:31 am

– My starting point was the Pew Survey indicating a public reluctance across NATO state populations in Europe to honour Article 5 obligations, and the mismatch between that and the continued assumption that Uncle Sam will step in to save their bacon if required…and it seems pretty clear to me that where “there are no votes in Defence” the political class will and do plan expenditure and commitments accordingly. My concern is how long that dissonance between the European and North American attitudes on these matters can continue without having a corrosive effect on the health of the alliance…

GNB

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 14, 2015 10:31 am

The EI today controls a large area to the size of the UK, about 40% of Iraq, 170 000 km2, and 33% of Syria, to 60,000 km.

The Islamic State therefore have authority over some 10 million people out of rural and urban areas mainly Sunni Iraq and Syria.

According to a report by Jean-Charles Brisard and Damien Martinez published by Reuters in November 2014, the resources in the territories controlled by the EI reported him 2.906 billion dollars: 38% of these revenues come from the oil trade, 17% natural gas, 12% of taxes and extortion, 10% of the production of phosphate, 10% of the sale of cement, 7% in agriculture, 4% and 2% ransoms private donations

According to the Council on Foreign Relations and the Washington Post, the EI harvested in a month $ 8 million, or nearly $ 100 million per year11. According to a study published Iraq oil report July 9, 2014, the Islamic State would win one million to three million dollars a day just with smuggling pétrole. The US firm IHS believes meanwhile that oil production refers to the EI 800 million per year, the equivalent of $ 2 million a day.

This oil, cheap sold, bought mainly by Turkey, but also sometimes by Syria or by Kurdes. Beginning in September 2014 Ambassador of the European Union in Iraq, Jana Hybaskova, said before the deputies of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, that “unfortunately, the EU Member States buy that oil.” That assertion is disputed though that the EI oil is found in Europe via Turkish parallel networks is not impossible.

By the middle of 2014, the CIA estimated the forces of EI from 20 000 to 31 000 fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The highest estimates are given by Hisham al-Hashimi, a security expert and military advisor to the Iraqi government, to which EI has 100,000 soldiers in 2014. In November of the same year, Fuad Hussein, chief Massoud firm Barzani, given in an interview with British newspaper The Independent the number of 200,000.

I do not call it a terrorist group.

Phil
June 14, 2015 10:51 am
My starting point was the Pew Survey indicating a public reluctance across NATO state populations in Europe to honour Article 5 obligations

But the obvious point to make is that nobody can see a current threat worthy of invoking article 5 at the moment. So it stands to reason that it is not going to occupy a central contemporary position in policy.

I agree that without a clear narrative like it had in the Cold War NATO may be seen to be less important. But the US remains committed to the alliance. It remains very much committed to an active foreign policy. Isolationism is realistic only for North Korea. There’s no other country on Earth that thinks it can survive on its own. The pressure and damage we’ve done to the Russian economy over Ukraine shows the power of alliance and an international community on the same page.

I think NATO remains as relevant to the US as ever. They want to step back from it force wise because they can, perfectly justifiably, not see any mature existential threat to Europe and NATO. That will cause dissonance, but the underlying imperative for the alliance remains on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 14, 2015 11:28 am

Phil – my interpretation of the term Isolationist with respect to a potential change of US policy was that it would continue to trade with and interact with other sovereign states, but would not intervene if a state was at risk from another – in other words it would remain a citizen state of the world but would cease its role as world policeman. So not quite the same thing as the isolationism of Kim’s North Korea.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 14, 2015 11:45 am

It seems at least Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, Admiral Lord Boyce, Field Marshal Lord Walker and Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire think there should be an increase in defence budgets: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11673410/Defence-chiefs-UK-feeble-on-world-stage.html Or at least an increase in UK military potency, which may or may not require greater funds. At least one of the writers it seems thinks the lack of a lion’s roar has more to do with national will than allocated funds.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 14, 2015 11:56 am

You mean it would hope to continue trading with states that it is no longer prepared to back up.
NATO with Afghanistan, Libya behind it and a resurgent Russia is more relevant than it has been for 25 yearS.

Phil
June 14, 2015 12:16 pm

Yeah you can’t have your cake and eat it. If you want to trade globally then you need to have a hand in shaping that and protecting it. Nobody credible seriously supports isolationism in the US. Being the world policeman is not a choice. Just like it is not a choice for us to become passive and watch events continually develop.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 14, 2015 12:28 pm

APATS – in the same way the UK trades with Brazil, or South Africa, or Kenya, or India, or China? Yes I think trade is welcome whether or not there are Special Relationships. But as with Gloomy’s comments you assume there is some grand prediction of change, some desire for the dissolution of NATO. There is not. But NATO is made of autonomous states doing stuff that they each think give their country the best future. There is always a possibility that for reasons deemed advantageous to the country, the US might seek treaty change to remove Article 5, or even to cease its membership of the alliance. Its not our choice how the US might choose to behave. As I understood Gloomy’s comments, the basis of concern was the surveyed willingness to support Article 5 leading to the question being asked “What would we do IF the US moved away from NATO?” and not how likely it might be or what the soldiers might think of it or why it might be a really bad idea.

Of course it might not be the US leaving – it could be any state making such a choice. Imagine a case where the US was drawn into Korea the Sequel, initially helping South Korea against aggression but being sucked in, with Kim’s missiles being shot off at American islands or Alaska – what would the European response be to the US calling in assistance? I would hope and expect the UK to react as a friend, and I think the French Norwegian and Dutch forces along with Canada would pitch in. But Germany has a real reluctance to send fighting forces abroad, the Southern European states might struggle not only with the cost but also the idea of leaving the soft underbelly of the Med lightly defended, the old Eastern Bloc countries might decline on the grounds of the more immediate worry of a resurgent Russia. In such a case much of the European wing of NATO might essentially walk away from their commitments and leave the alliance by default. I doubt such behaviour would increase the US determination to support NATO.

The Other Chris
June 14, 2015 12:47 pm

I thought not being able to trade as freely as we can with pre-EU treaties (e.g. Commonwealth, USA) was one of the key points of the referendum?

We’re tied into Brussels rules which limits our BRICS involvement?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 14, 2015 12:49 pm


the initial Korean conflict would not be article 5. Further participation would be oban ability to influence and also look after commitments.
Germany did not walk away from nato over Libya, it is a bit more adult than you seem to think.

Chris
Editor
Chris
June 14, 2015 12:54 pm

TOC – excellent – put it on the Referendum Reason lists as a pro for leaving. Although whatever the Brussels rules might say I see no limits in place with India (for call centre supply) nor China (for supply of almost every manufactured item used in UK)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 14, 2015 4:59 pm

– spot on; I’m not looking for NATO to fold, nor (necessarily) expecting that it might…but I am conscious that previous alliances and treaties have eventually proved to have a shelf life, generally when the value system on which they were based experienced a step change…and their breakdown has generally resulted in a prolonged period of conflict.

Of no interest to those for whom all history is bunk, but the obvious examples from the past are the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), the Congress of Vienna (1815) and the Versailles Treaty (1919). The first of these brought an end to 150 years of religious warfare (that made the Sunni/Shia dust-up look like a pub brawl) and established a system of limited state to state warfare conducted by professional armies in a rather well-mannered way that ended with the French Revolutionary War. At that point, the Jacobins opened up the Pandora’s Box of unlimited class warfare involving whole populations…and the fighting lasted for about twenty-five years, and remade whole states. The Congress of Vienna settled matters after Waterloo, and more or less held the job together until Italian,Prussian and other nationalisms started to to stir the pot again from 1859; we then had over fifty years with some war, and rather more heavily armed peace until the wheels fell off completely in August 1914…and then came the Versailles Treaty, the re-ordering of Europe and the League of Nations; I rather hope we all know how that turned out…

As I see it, the post-War system had a pretty good run from 1945 until 1989…but since then all kinds of rules have changed, some of them pretty radically…so unless one is inclined to believe that “History has ended” (which I don’t) we are pretty much due for the current international order to experience the blue screen of death.

For those who do believe that history has ended, clearly this won’t happen, nothing will change and the current international set-up will presumably last forever…much as it was going to in the 1770’s, 1860’s and 1920’s…

Me, I’m not so sure

But then I am Gloomy

sugarboat
sugarboat
June 15, 2015 10:16 am

I hope the costs of BULWARK etc work in the Med is being met from the Overseas Aid Budget?