CER: Can the UK be secure if Europe is not? The UK’s (un)integrated review

Having identified the Euro-Atlantic area as its home region and Russia as the most acute threat there, the British government must not ignore the EU’s role as a security partner.  

Next month, the Royal Navy’s largest ever vessel, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, will begin its first operational deployment. It will head for India, Japan and South Korea (among other places). The voyage will be a signal to the US (as an ally) and China (as a potential adversary) that the UK can once again bring military power to bear in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The choice of destinations for the carrier and its accompanying ships (which include an American destroyer and a Dutch frigate) reflects the ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’ proclaimed in the UK’s ‘Integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy’, published in March 2021.

The review claims to be “a comprehensive articulation of the UK’s national security and international policy”. But security developments in and around Europe in the weeks since its publication – in particular the heightened Russian threat to Ukraine – have shown that the review is neither as integrated nor as comprehensive as it claims. In particular, there is an EU-shaped hole that can only make it harder for the UK to pursue its security interests where they are most pressing: in what the review describes as “our home region of the Euro-Atlantic”.

The review sets out well the likely international environment over the next decade and the threats that the UK faces or is likely to face. It recognises the challenges posed by the rise of China and the shift of the world’s economic centre of gravity to Asia – both trends that are likely to continue for some decades to come. But it also says, rightly:

  • The Euro-Atlantic region will remain critical to the UK’s security and prosperity.
  • Russia will remain the most acute direct threat to the UK.
  • The US will continue to continue to ask its allies in Europe to do more to share the burden of collective security.

Based on these three points, the Euro-Atlantic area ought to be the focus of UK defence and economic efforts for at least the next decade. The more operational parts of the review and of the accompanying Command Paper on defence do not reflect this analysis, however.

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Πηγή: cer.eu

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