Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Limitations of Power

Its been an extremely challenging few weeks in the international arena. Developments in Russia and the Ukraine have brought about the biggest challenge to regional security for nearly 25 years and seen a decline in Russia’s wider relationships with the West to a level not seen since the end of the Cold War. Across Europe there has been growing concern amid calls to raise defence budgets to meet the emerging perceived risk.

In the UK, some areas there has been criticism of the UK response, suggesting that the predominantly diplomatic solution sought by the UK, coupled with wider defence cuts means that the UK is no longer capable of defending itself, or exerting influence on the wider global stage to help lead in the situation. Perhaps most prominently, the former Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannat has said that the UK should consider leaving a brigade of some 3000 personnel in Germany to act as a visible symbol of British commitment to Europe. 

But is Russia really a threat to the UKs national security at present, particularly to warrant a substantial reorganisation of the Armed Forces? There is no doubt that Russia poses a clear risk to some countries in her neighbourhood with whom she shares land borders and where disputes exist. However, it is hard to see this risk translated into a wider desire to take on Western Europe in an existential battle for control of the map. Rather, it is a battle for influence and control of what the Russians consider to be their ‘near abroad’.

For the UK, the issue perhaps neatly sums up the challenge faced by policy makers now about how to exercise UK influence and interests. On the one hand it is easy to call for a significant increase in military expenditure and retain extra soldiers in Germany. But the question has to be what is gained by doing so? The UK defence budget is struggling to support the military we have now, and many years have been spent orientating it to a deployable expeditionary force capable of projecting a reasonable level of power at a significant distance from the home base. Based on the budget, this provides the UK with a reasonably sized Armed Forces capable of doing most military tasks. To shift this focus into a force more capable of defending external aggression from a nation like Russia isn't just a case of saying ‘here is a brigade in Germany’, but instead would require a very significant shift in the training, equipment and organisation of the Armed Forces back into a model not seen since the early 1990s. The money does not exist to do both, and arguably the UK armed forces personnel costs are so great, that enlarging them to any great size is simply not possible without a sustained build up over many years, and with a lot of extra funding.

The real influence the UK can bring to bear in a situation like this is not military in nature – it is rather the ability to co-ordinate diplomatic, financial, political and other influences together in order to allow the Russian regime to make a judgement on whether further action is in its best interest. The idea that deploying a British brigade in Germany will somehow change the Kremlin's assessment of the situation is highly unlikely in the extreme. What matters is the manner in which the UK and other European and NATO allies are able to come together to take wider steps to calm the situation.

While it is easy to suggest that somehow the UK is not a relevant player in these debates, the fact that the UK can bring significant diplomatic clout (e.g. UNSC membership, leading role in NATO, EU and so on) helps ensure its voice is represented at the table. No country on its own could realistically hope or expect to be able to force a step change in Russian policy in this matter. It is only by working together and building a coordinated package of responses that real pressure can be put on the Russian position. While doubtless some commentators would welcome the Prime Minister standing alone and forcing the issue to claim some kind of leadership, in the real murky world of international diplomacy, its far better to work together than take a well intentioned, but ultimately futile isolated stand. It is also worth noting that for all the talk of how the UK seems irrelevant, the fact that US condemnation has not moved the Russians, would suggest that there was little to no chance of the UK ever having the clout or effect that some commentators dream that possession of a larger military would give us.

The problem for the UK and other nations is trying to work out how to handle situations like this, where clearly unacceptable behaviour has occurred, but where military action is simply not going to happen. 25 years of focusing resources on power projection and soft power have ensured that the UK is well placed today to respond to wider challenges (e.g. piracy, low level intervention, UN missions, and disaster relief) and so on. But, they do not help the UK in a crisis like this where putting troops on the ground is simply not going to happen.

Does this mean a radical rethink is required, taking the British armed forces away from their interventionary role into one of deterrence, or does it mean that there has to be a tacit acceptance that there are simply some challenges that cannot be dealt with as some would wish? To change back into a BAOR configuration would be extremely expensive, and would make the ability to carry out the much larger number of defence tasks of real value to the UK far more difficult. For instance, the reports last week talking about how the UK needs to place far more emphasis on the Sahel in terms of stopping terrorist networks, building capacity and trying to ensure that the area doesn't become a safe haven for terrorists. This sort of work requires light forces, able to deploy easily and with a small footprint, and who are able to work as part of a joined up military, diplomatic, police, security and development group to improve the region. This isn't necessarily cheap, and arguably plays a far more vital role in the protection of UK interests than manning an Armoured Brigade somewhere in Germany to deter the Russians.

In a world where the Westphalian system is becoming a cherished memory, the problem is working out at what point, and at what level, it is possible to take a stand in favour of territorial integrity. For the West, it is easy to issue impassioned pleas, send out strongly worded statements of condemnation and threaten economic sanctions when a nation is threatened. For Western countries able to deploy military force, it is arguably possible in some cases to deploy to a neighbouring country and take steps to support the country under threat. But this only works when the West feels it is able to exercise military power in a manner which will not escalate into a wider global crisis – e.g. look at somewhere like Guatemala and Belize in the 1970s and the UK was able to deploy forces to act in support of Belizean territory without risk of escalating the Cold War. What though can the West do when faced with a problem between two nations which share a common border and where one is significantly more powerful and where escalation could lead to much wider conflict?

So, for the West, the Crimean incident has perhaps been a useful reminder of the limitations of force as a tool of coercion when you do not share a land border with a nation. It is telling that despite the strong opposition from NATO, which let us not forget remains arguably the most potent military alliance on the planet, the Russians felt they could act with relative impunity. This suggests that no matter how theoretically strong the military power is, there remains a significant difference between possession and willingness to employ it when not directly in the national interest.  Perhaps for the West the Crimean incident has served to also focus the mind that the military option is not the only way to resolve a situation. While Russia has gained the Crimea, it has done so at a considerable damage to its wider international reputation, and the West has rightly realised that economic sanctions are key to helping bring about long term change. While militarily the Russians possess substantial forces, the long term economic potential for the country will be weakened, and ultimately jobs matter more than bullets.

Looking ahead to the wider outcome of this, does it really change anything in terms of the UKs defence posture? The incident has clearly highlighted the importance of cyber-defence, particularly looking at the manner in which hacking seems to have become widespread and as much offensive as it was orientated to information operations. This will serve as a timely reminder of the importance of cyber security – even though it comes at a high price in terms of acquiring skills, equipment and manpower.

More broadly, it reminds us that the possibility of state on state conflict remains real, and that this is a good reason to continue training at the very highest levels. While it is easy to slip into a ‘train for peace enforcement’ mentality, the fact that this situation came about so quickly would suggest this is not always helpful. For the UK, it may help serve as a reminder that no matter how unlikely it feels, there is still a compelling case to train at this level. This though comes at a cost – the skills required to conduct these operations are expensive to train in, and easily lost. The challenge is whether the UK can continue to afford a large Army, or whether it reduces its force in size, but in turn produces one still capable of operating at the very highest levels.

A similar discussion could equally apply to both the Royal Navy, and the RAF, which continue to focus on operating in the most challenging of environments. As HERRICK draws to a close, and the current crisis becomes part of history books, the challenge will be to make a compelling case for the continuation of training at this level. If you believe the media reports, then the UK defence budget seems likely to shrink over the next five years as a result of the 2014 budget, meaning that very hard choices will have to be made as to where to invest effort. Publicly, reducing the forces in order to preserve a  high end capability will be very difficult to push through and be politically damaging. But, would the UK have more influence and standing in NATO by still being able to generate forces capable of tackling the more difficult tasks, rather than just having a large order of battle that is less effective?

The media, the public and many politicians will oppose cuts on the grounds that they leave the UK national security dangerously exposed. But, what is more dangerous – having more ships, tanks and planes, or having more but being able to use them to their full range of capability? One suspects that the arguments in the run in to the SDSR will be as much about emotion versus logic, and how one can make a good case for a possibly smaller military as being better for our protection.


  1. General Dannat's comment is quite apposite. It is about maintaining the political symbolism that the UK is seriously committed to Europe. The current message going over to European countries is that the UK will withdraw all forces from the continent by 2019 (bar Gibraltar and Cyprus) and is gearing up for an EU referendum and quite possible departure from the main regional organisation. Falling defence expenditure means that the UK may gradually cease to be one of the main pillars of NATO.

    There is a clear message to foreign observers: the UK is steadily disengaging from European affairs and what goes on 'over there'. Some Americans describe this as the 'Switzerland with nuclear weapons' scenario and without a continental commitment and with a much reduced interest in intervention outside Europe one has to wonder if this is correct.

    Retaining a small force on the continent would carry political weight way beyond the costs. The alternative is to start thinking seriously about whether the UK should consider the non-aligned/neutrality option. At 2% of GDP the UK defence budget would certainly cover this and we can solve the carrier/F-35 problem by simply selling the former and cancelling the latter.

    Is this the track we are moving towards? Splendid Isolation anyone?

    1. The UK is a long way from being "Switzerland with nuclear weapons", anyway those sort of labels are just media nonsense, it was Holland last year, and Belgium the year before.
      Also there is no "carrier/F-35 problem" the first of class Queen Elizabeth will be named and floated out on the 4th July, construction is well underway on Prince of Wales, and the QEC/F-35B combination will give the UK a force projection capability second only to the USN. Obviously there have been delays to the JSF program, but progress is being made, forexample with the SRVL flight simulator trials at BAE's Morton facility, and in the US the first vertical landing of an F-35B by a British pilot.
      Neither of the QEs will be sold, thankfully that idiocy has been abandoned, even if they have not confirmed it yet, the politicians know they would be crucified in the press, PoW would not fetch anywhere near her build cost, and there are no potential buyers anyway, France is making defence cuts and has scrapped plans for a second carrier, the Indians are already building two carriers and have just brought an ex Russian carrier into service, and a QE class is way too large for the Brazilian Navy and of course it would not be wise to sell such a powerful vessel to a possible future ally of Argentina.

      Regarding the negative articles in the media this week,
      the UK actually still has quite a substantial armoured capability, for an island nation eg there are 227 Challenger 2 MBTs in service with another 104 in reserve. Also worth pointing out that it's not just the UK that has cut it's armoured units, the Dutch have sold all their MBTs, the French are cutting their Leclerc MBTs to 200, and the Germans are reducing their Leopard 2 fleet to 225.
      The problem with many so-called defence correspondents is they seem to have a very limited knowledge of the armed forces of other nations, even European ones, so they are not able to put the UK defence cuts in any sort of context, or contrast and compare the UK's military capability.
      The German army the Heer is now only 62,000 strong, although that does not include the logistics arm of their military, and the French plan to cut their "operational force" to just 60,000, so in the future the French armed force's maximum effort/deployment will be 15,000 compared to the UK's 30,000.

      Anyway on the broader point, there may be a change in government next year and they would probably want their own SDSR.

    2. Edit - BAE facility is at Warton

    3. It will simply not be affordable to run (or even man) both carriers within the likely future defence budget, especially once SDSR 2015 takes effect. The SSBN Successor will suck up much of the funding. The RN clearly wants to retain both carriers and use them as hybrid CVs/LPHs, but the Treasury will decide; MOD will have very limited say and I would lay money one of them will be gone by 2025, either permanently laid up or possibly sold to South Korea or some other rising power.

      The F-35B problem (apart from the technical aspects - see the latest GAO report on its software) is also affordability - the total buy is unlikely to exceed 3 squadrons worth, meaning that a carrier is unlikely in practice to carry more than around 6 aircraft, unless the USMC is planning on turning up. And a foreign purchasing team has already been to look over the QE incidentally.

      The problem with many defence correspondents is they do not appreciate the central role of funding or understand the issue of life cycle costs. On this score it is highly unlikely that the carrier force is tenable in a meaningful sense, especially as F-35B support costs go through the roof. The current OSDs for these ships are in the 2060s. Would you put your own money on the pair of them being in service until then?

      You have ignored the main point about the significant political consequences of UK disengagement from Europe. This may be exacerbated if the Scots vote for independence, as I would expect the country to then becoming increasingly introspective ands adverse to foreign engagements. The issue about the reductions in European spending is a red herring; these are not countries against whom the UK will have to operate and many of them are just as reluctant to be drawn into foreign wars as I suspect the UK will be in future. The UK is in danger of situating the appreciation by deciding in advance what the threat is and preparing for it (e.g. instability in Africa) but then ignoring other more challenging problems (e.g. increasingly well-equipped forces in the Middle East). Moreover, the carriers seem ill-suited for the sort of operations in which the UK may participate in future (assuming the political will still exists) - smaller LPHs and a lot more A400/C-17 would have been a better choice.

      In any case, the carriers are really a side issue, although if the UK is going to largely abandon intervention operations there seems little point in retaining Blair's folie de grandeur.

    4. There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking that one or even both of the QEs will be sold, in the same way many people who were always opposed to the UK building a new class of large fleet carriers, were certain that construction of them would never begin, or after it did they would be axed, or that only one would ever be built. Yet here were are with QE due to launch in July, and Prince of Wale 50% built. It is no surprise that opponents of the QEC have now shifted their arguments to saying they are too expensive, or cannot be crewed and must be sold etc etc.
      The QEs are designed to be light crewed and their compliment is not that much larger than an Invincible class (with Harriers) eg
      Invincible crew & air group about 1,350
      Queen Elizabeth class 1,600 plus 250 or more Royal Marines.
      The QEs are 70,000t compared to the Invincibles 22,000t, yet only require 250 extra personnel, and give the RN a huge uplift in capability, so the crewing argument does not stand up.
      Anyway the ships will be alternated eg one in refit or reserve, while her sister ship is the "on call carrier", which will still be a preferable situation to the Marine Nationale, which will only have one ageing carrier available half the time, CdG will be in refit from 2015 - 2019 and their maybe problems refuelling her in the future.
      The French will probably never build another large carrier, at least the UK has bit the bullet, will have spent over £6 billion by the time they are completed, and will have two large strike carriers/LHAs that will be in service for up to 40 - 50 years. And yes I do believe they will be in service for the long.
      Once Governments (Labour or Tory) get used to the influence and prestige of being able to deploy a 70,000 tonne strike carrier when a crisis occurs, or just to show the flag and put a bit of stick about, they will not give that capability up easily, also even if the public don't show much interest in the RN, there is a good chance that these two leviathans will become a national symbol and capture their imaginations, as the last fleet carriers Ark Royal and Eagle did, with the BBC TV series Sailor etc.
      The QEC will give the UK more influence and prestige than a brigade of troops in Germany ever could.
      As for the air group, 48 F-35Bs will be adequate for 2-3 Squadrons, so there is no reason why a QE could not put sea with a dozen JSFs aboard for routine deployments (the FAA Sqn) or RFTG exercises, then in a crises the ship's air group would be increased to "a warload" of 24 F-35s, the surge capacity supplied be the RAF's 617 Sqn.
      Routine deployment
      12 F-35Bs
      4 Crowsnest Merlin AEW
      9 Merlin Mk2s ASW
      2-4 Wildcats

      "War load "
      24 F-35Bs
      5 AEW Merlins
      9 ASW Merlins
      2-4 Wilcats

      Littoral Manoeuvre package / amphibious operation

      12 F-35Bs
      4 AEW Merlins
      12 Merlin HC4s
      4 Wildcat maritime helos
      Plus Chinooks HC5/6s & Apache AH1s depending on the type of operation.
      The above packages are perfectly doable, and will give the RN a capability above all but USN, and a least the equal of the French.
      As for the UK's position in Europe, I have no strong opinion on it either way.

    5. There should be a 10 minute edit option after posting, so can correct typos!

    6. Why not show how great the UK is and announce a Trident launch? So many people love Trident and want to retain it. Show it force.

  2. Thank you for your fantasy fleet breakdown of what the carriers will carry. You realise that even in peacetime that one carrier will be carrying 1/3rd of the Merlin ASW fleet? The war load of F-35Bs is purely theoretical unless the US provides, since it would leave the UK with only 12 more operational aircraft. As you are probably aware the current intention is that this aircraft will also be responsible for UK air defence once the Typhoon is phased out in the 2030s. The numbers hardly stack up.

    Running the carriers is unlikely to be affordable given steadily reducing defence budgets. This is the equivalent of someone on a council estate saving up and buying a couple of Rolls Royces, then finding they cannot afford the fuel or servicing costs. So they spend most of the time sitting parked outside. The crewing issue is another factor. The steady decrease in RN manpower means that manning both simultaneously will be extremely challenging at best. With further cuts in the pipeline this may actually be the killer issue, especially as the Services are finding it very difficult to retain trained skilled personnel.

    Personally I would like to see both carriers retained and used, but then I would also like to see defence spending increased back to 3% of GDP and P-8 Poseidons ordered too. Unless that nice Mr Putin lends a hand by some outrageous action I don't see much chance. One or both carriers will either be put up for disposal or left to fester as a hulked white elephant. It is very sad, but a reflection of the importance the political class now places on defence..

    1. Well the ambitious buyer of the Rolls Royce's would at least be able to use them on special occasions!
      The air groups were not my fantasy fleet ideas, they were mentioned in a speech by Rear Admiral Russell Harding head of the FAA.
      There are currently 9 Merlins (8 new Mk2s & 1 Mk1) aboard HMS Illustrious for the large ASW exercise deep blue in the Atlantic, so this should be possible for QE deployments as well.

      The 48 F-35Bs would only be the first tranche, Hammond has said that a second buy would replace Typhoon around 2030, they will probably be As or Cs. Otherwise when the Typhoons are retired the UK will only have 48 fast jets.

      Here's a link i'm sure will be of interest as well!

      100 days until Queen Elizabeth is named


  3. I think you will find there will be only one tranche of F-35s, regardless of the wishes of the RAF and FAA; it is just too expensive. In practice Typhoons will be eked out a little longer, but the likely fall in F-35 orders means it may well be out of production by 2030 anyway. The whole issue of replacing Typhoon is a potential crisis in the making - and it is quite possible by 2040 that the UK will only have 48 fast jets + UAVs. That is the scale of the likely force reductions without major budget increases.

    It is still a fantasy fleet. What the RN desires and what it will actually get are two different things - and you will note that the RN has been the least successful service in defending its corner. I have seen Admiral Harding's presentation and it is long on aspirations and short on political and economic reality. The top end of the RN is made up of a pretty unimpressive range of officers I'm afraid. So I think the argument still stands: the carriers are a wasteful and ineffective way of spending limited resources.

    1. It's not just the RAF & FAA, there will be enormous pressure from BAE and I assume other companies further down the production chain, for the UK to order a second tranche, as 15% of each aircraft will be built in the UK, with total US and other orders expected to exceed 3,000 airframes.
      If the UK cut it's order from 137 to just 48, then that work share would bound to be affected. Otherwise the UK would end up in the same boat as Italy eg they have spent 800m Euros on the FACO assembly line in Cameri, but have reduced their order from 131 - 90 and now possibly to just 45, which has led to Lockheed cutting Alenia's work share. However I suspect BAE would be a lot more influential in the UK than Alenia seems to be in Italian political circles.
      It's not all bad news for the Lightening II there have been firm orders from Japan and now South Korea, after all the F-35 will probably be the only western fighter in production by 2030, so even the French may have to grit their teeth and order it as a replacement for the Rafale.
      The RN are a lot more PR Savvy these days, and better at promoting themselves, just look at their website.

    2. The Crimea problem has revealed some sad truths - The EU is not, and never will be, a military power, and that Britain is no longer a world power.

      Politicians, civil servants, armchair warriors, and Uncle Tom Cobley can say what they like but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the cupboard is bare of food and appetite.

      Rumour control has it that Britain is sending one ship and one aircraft to help in the search for the missing airliner - this coupled with the fact that it took more than two days to send our one Home Defence ship from Portsmouth to Scotland is a good indication of the dire straits of our current and future defence policy.

      Once the Americans lose interest in NATO then this too will become a spent force.

      Oh how I wish that our leaders, of all persuasions, would decide a realistic policy, stick to it, and stop pretending that we are one of the worlds policemen.

      Even the dimmest bad guy now realises that Britain doesn't have an iron fist in a velvet glove and that we are nearly all bluff.

      But never mind, we can talk about past glories and comfort ourselves that once upon a time.............

    3. What on earth does the UK sending one ship and an aircraft to the Indian Ocean to search for the missing airliner have to do with the UK being a world power or not?
      How many aircraft & ships are France and Germany sending?
      It's the same with the Philippine aid operation after the Typhoon, the UK was able to deploy a T45 and a helo carrier, as far as i'm aware no other European naval vessels were sent.
      There is no point picking out particular headlines/incidents and trolling them to death.
      Likewise just because the UK cannot take on Russia single handed does not mean the UK is not a very capable military power, at least in force projection terms. However that is what the UK Armed Forces are geared toward as their are no credible military threats to the UK mainland.

      The UK can still:

      Deploy a brigade from the Sea (one of only 3 nations that can - the others being the US of course & France)
      Deploy a division sized force overseas (Which France, Germany, Russia, India, South Korea, Japan, Brazil etc cannot do)
      Build 70,000t strike carriers, the most advanced AAW destroyers in any fleet, and the second most capable class of SSN) - Where as the mighty Russian bear has to order 20,000t helo carriers, which are quite straight forward to build, from French shipyards, if they are delivered! Also worth pointing out that Russian SSNs have missed a whole generation of development compared to US/UK attack boats, and the Chinese SSNs/SSBNs are so noisy they are a joke, which is why the Chinese are focusing on the land & air elements of their nuclear trident.

    4. "Build 70,000t strike carriers," - but we can't man, or operate them.

      Other countries don't go around trying to be a "policeman" on the world stage.

      " force projection terms." - interesting phrase - but sadly not reality for the UK.

      "Deploy a brigade from the Sea" - The Canadians have CAST - The UN is "discussing FIB as a viable force but is struggling to get countries to commit to it as there doesn't seem to be the availability.

      It is all planning but no production!

      I quite agree with you that other countries don't have the armed forces that the UK does. But when trouble starts they tend to keep their heads down and their mouths shut because they realise that they can't do anything.
      We unfortunately open our mouths and our wallets, but are unable to do much else.

    5. Well as I said above, the QEs are light crewed for their size, also their is speculation the RN might increase recruitment slightly next year.
      The RM corps numbers have crept up slightly to 8,430 (7,730 Regulars and 700 Royal Marine Reserves), that's another capability few nations can match.
      Many senior British politicians do let their rhetoric run away with them when talking about international events, but the French are no different, and if anything they will have even less capable forces than the UK in the future eg maximum effort/deployment just 15,000, one ageing carrier with not much possibility of a replacement, possibly just 8 FREMMS, limited sealift, no ISTAR platforms etc.
      If Europe's other main players France, Germany & Italy were investing in their armed forces and increasing their military capability, then the UK would be in danger of being marginalized and having reduced influence, however they are not, they are cutting their armed forces across the board.
      So the UK still brings key capabilities to the table eg SSNs, TLAM, amphib task group/sealift, 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, strategic airlift, ISTAR & Sig intel, fleet of 60 heavy lift helos, 6 modern AAW destroyers compared to France's two, T23 & Merlin ASW combo, SF, UAVs etc and in the future carrier strike, T26s with TLAM or SCALP land attack capability, increased airlift with A400Ms, 14 Voyagers, RFA Solid Support Ships etc.
      Obviously there are capability gaps: MPA, lack of escort numbers etc, but we're not completely doomed, doomed either!

  4. I was wondering what line you would take to justify British impotence in Russia's annexation of Crimea, and its continued use of the threat of force as a means of extracting further concessions.

    And this rambling disjointed mess of 1990s pseudo-academic leftist excuse making has certainly not disappointed.

    However, as usual, reality is somewhat different to your MoD authorised sock-puppetry.

    Russia is a threat, is extensively modernising its Armed Forces, both conventional and nuclear, and has a demonstrable desire for territorial expansionism that directly threatens NATO countries. It has cleverly and cynically sought to exploit Western liberals to weaken its perceived foes all whilst brandishing its own hard power with a near reckless abandon. To choose to ignore this would be idiocy in the extreme and suggests the basic tenets of plausible deterrence have either been forgotten or are being deliberately ignored.

    Dannatt's remarks about sending troops to Germany were way wide of the mark. They should be sent to either Poland or the Baltic states to give those countries what they have for so long craved- a physical declaration that we see them as equals and not as sacrificial lambs to be offered up on the alter of appeasement, cowardice and in the case of the British establishment- greed for oligarch money.

    America is understandably losing interest in Europe, a continent that in its Western form is now so arrogant, cowardly, venal and undemocratic that it would happily send the once liberated Eastern European nations back into the Russian imperial darkness from whence they escaped merely to preserve the feather-bedded and unaccountable skins of its ruling elite. Those nations in Eastern Europe, with such recent and terrifying memories of Russian tyranny, are slowly starting to realise this and will act accordingly as the likes of Britain stand idly by. Of course they should expect nothing less, the Labour government of 1945 gleefully both abandoned and insulted the Poles so as to not displease their ideological bedfellows in the Kremlin. The actors have changed, instead of socialists appeasing socialists in return for ideological succour now kleptocrats appease kleptocrats in return for financial gain, but the play remains the same.

    Keep up the good work Sir H, government must be pleased with you.

    1. ""It is very noticeable in NATO that the one navy which never participates in NATO maritime operations is the Royal Navy, which sends a pretty bad signal for a navy which was once one of the worlds greatest"

      I wonder who said that at 3.30pm local time on 28th march 2014?

      I do hope that the MoD did budget for the dredging of Portsmouth Harbour and the strengthening of the jetty complex. Most importantly will the work be completed in time? - This is from The Sunday Times No. 9890.

    2. Hi Ianeon,

      I was wondering when the sunday times story would be raised! I think its fair to say that it is utter rubbish. There has been enormous investment in Portsmouth for many years now to prepare for CVF - indeed the Naval Base has had a great deal of funding spent on it to prepare for the carriers arrival. All of the issues raised are, I believe, well known and plans have been in place for years on sorting them.

      Don't believe all you read!

    3. Also, on the NATO operations issue, again a wider perspective is needed. In the Cold War then the STANAVFORLANT/MEDs were key tasks and treated as high priorities for filling by all NATO nations. Today its rare to see many ships at all participating, bluntly there are too few ships and too many tasks for all navies, and most countries have chosen to programme their hulls for real tasks and not NATO work.
      Also, its worth remembering that the RN contributes a great deal of expertise and staff to the more critical piece - namely HQs, battlestaffs and providing the expertise to actually run the campaign. Its been the case for many years that the RN (and most other NATO nations) don't provide vessels for the SNMGs - but its easy to think that the UK is the only nation in this position based on the interview in question.

    4. Whataboutery I am afraid Sir H.

      The RN is down to 19 escorts (from 50 in 1990) and 7 attack submarines (down from 26 in 1990 including SSKs) and ASW exercise participation has shrivelled whilst the MPA capability was literally smashed to pieces with a digger. Meanwhile, the ability to deploy land forces at maximum effort is down 30% plus on its 2003 level alone.

      The Portsmouth effort has been the minimum needed to operate the carriers, in much the same way the carriers are the minimum effort required to provide a mirage of power-projection capability but only in low threat environments.

      There is a limitation to power when you do not have very much of it, that is what the UK is now discovering.

    5. The RN recently deployed 3 Merlin Mk1s to Norway for a NATO ASW exercise, and HMS Illustrious will sail with an air group of 8 Merlin Mk2s & 1 Mk1 in June for exercise Deep Blue in the Atlantic, which will apparently be the RN's largest ASW exercise since the Cold War.
      So the RN's ASW capability is not withering on the vine.

      19 escorts is two few, however the other major European navies have cut their escort fleets equally as savagely since the 1990s.
      Also worth remembering that the RN wanted to be back in the large strike carrier business, and they were willing to sacrifice escort numbers and SSNs to get them.
      Personally I think it was the right decision, two large CVs/LHAs will give the UK greater weight with the US or EU, than just having half a dozen more frigates and two more Astutes would.
      If the UK does not have enough escorts for NATO task groups, chasing pirates in the Indian Ocean, or drug traffickers in the Caribbean, well so be it, let other European navies do it.
      For the Caribbean patrol a forward deployed OPV would be a better solution anyway.

      At least the RN's 19 T45s & T23s are all high-end escorts that can defend themselves, most European navies have a two tier escort fleet padded out by light frigates and corvettes.

      It seems even the US military is not immune to fiscal realities,
      the proposed budget for 2015 would see quite significant cuts:

      Reduction of strike carriers deployed on front line missions from four to two
      11 Ticonderoga class cruisers mothballed (some will be refitted)
      US Army cut from 520,000 to 444,000
      The entire A-10 fleet of 283 aircraft axed and all 32 U-2 Spy planes
      Ground Combat Vehicle program possibly cancelled
      Littoral Combat Ship buy cut from 52 to 32.
      USMC reduced by 10,000


    6. Waylander,

      You keep confusing the US, a country with a powerful military and a constitution founded in liberty, with the UK- a kleptocratic tyranny with a token military whose sole purpose is to massage the misplaced egos of its self-indulgent ruling elite.

    7. You seem to be taking the worlds most powerfull hallucinogens my friend!!!

  5. @Ianeon
    The RN SSN HMS Tireless has now joined the search for MH370.