CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE STAFF, GENERAL SIR DAVID RICHARDS RUSI ANNUAL LECTURE, DECEMBER 14th 2011
Thank you Lord [John] Hutton for your kind introduction. It is always a pleasure to be here at RUSI and a great honour to be delivering this, the second of my annual CDS lectures in this fabulous place. It hardly seems just over a year ago that I took over from Lord Stirrup. It’s been a busy, challenging but rewarding year.
Like all good soldiers, I am a great believer in the KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid – principle. With an eye on the clock, I intend this evening firstly to examine the Global Environment, then to look at our Response to it and some of the particular Challenges we face including transition in Afghanistan, before drawing some conclusions and then taking your questions.
THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT
First of all, like most of you I am clear that the single biggest strategic risk facing the UK today is economic rather than military. Over time a thriving economy must be the central ingredient in any UK Grand Strategy. This is why the euro zone crisis is of such huge importance not just to the City of London but rightly to the whole country, and to military planners like me.
Seen through my prism the world looks especially unpredictable and unstable. Let’s look at just some of the factors in our Grand Strategic analysis…
Greater US military focus on the Pacific meaning less emphasis on Europe and her problems. For the first time the Pentagon has specified that its Main Effort will be South East Asia. I know this does not mean it will turn its back on Europe and NATO but countries this side of the pond need to think through what this means to us.
A hugely complex transition and withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The destabilising effects of Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the Middle East; The risk that the Arab Awakening leads to fissures and internal conflict that could be exported, including militant Islamism. They have diasporas reaching back to this country as does Pakistan, another state struggling with instability.
What is happening in Syria is in many experts view becoming a proxy conflict between Shia Iranians and Sunni Arabs. In the process of protecting its borders, a key NATO ally, Turkey, is intimately involved
How do we respond to China potentially becoming the world’s dominant economic power over the next 40 years? What impact will China’s need to keep its population content have on us? Equally what will the rise of the other BRICs mean for us? Natural allies or hostile competitors?
What impact will fiscal restraint and slow recovery have on European defence capabilities? Just 5 out of 28 NATO allies spend the target 2 percent on defence.
However much we rightly seek to accommodate each other’s legitimate aspirations, all this will lead to greater competition for raw materials and the risk, at a minimum, of ‘bumping into other states’ as they too seek to sustain economic growth. Then there is population growth and, in some countries, decline; what does this mean? Add global warming; terrorism; piracy and international crime to list just some, as the late and much lamented Richard Holmes might have said, of the ‘problemettes’ on my plate. And that is before another Holmesism ‘Bastards HQ’ inevitably intervenes to further complicate our calculations!
Oh and on top of all that, the Armed Forces will, with great pride, play a role in ensuring the security of the Olympic Games.
So how do we respond to this unstable, unpredictable future? The Secretary of State said only last week: “In this volatile age it would be a bold man who would plan for military idleness.”
To the contrary, as he inferred, we expect persistent and varied challenges to our national interests to continue and have planned accordingly. The SDSR rebalanced British Defence and Security for the next decade. Those decisions, which did reduce capability in som