TIMELY DEFENCE WARNINGS TO SCOTLAND FROM THE FIRST SEA LORD
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
15 Apr 14. As an island nation, the United Kingdom relies on both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force for credible deterrent capability and strength in the sea and in the air. The Army does its bit on the land but it is to the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force that we look to ensure that we are not vulnerable to attack from the air and that vital sea lanes are kept open in order to ensure that the supply of raw materials that, for a country that has limited resources of our own, we will always need to ensure are not interfered with. It is crucial that we protect our domestic and international trade, that we protect our interests abroad and those of our dependent territories. As a wealthy nation and one that intends to continue playing a role in international diplomacy we must ensure that we continue to project our nation forward. In terms of Foreign Affairs and international diplomacy the United Kingdom remains one of the most respected countries in the world. Our military, served by men and women from all walks coming from all parts of the United Kingdom be that England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and elsewhere are highly respected too for their large and diverse range of skills and capability. Today our economy is once again moving in the right direction and the benefits of this are being enjoyed across all parts of the United Kingdom. Yesterday I wrote on the likely defence industrial impact of a potential ‘yes’ vote in the Scottish independence referendum vote that will take place in September. Today I wish to write on the defence political aspects.
In an article published in the Daily Telegraph today the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas reminds us that 95% of the UK’s trade moves by sea and that 80% of our Liquid Natural Gas arrives by tanker from the Middle East. These are fact that can hardly be disputed but the importance of reminding should never be undermined. The Royal Navy with its responsibility for maritime force capability does a brilliant job wherever it goes in the world and it does so with a finite resource. Just as the Royal Air Force does as well the Royal Navy stands up for Britain wherever it goes. Be it in Somerset or South America when natural disaster strikes or when they are required to provide specialist capability such as to assist in the search for the missing Malaysian Airways plane they are there when they are wanted. We take the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force which provides a rather different more agile form of defence and deterrent capability, for granted at our peril. In the skies the Royal Air Force are our ears and eyes just as they are also our primary means of defence capability. Between them the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force provide large scale deterrent capability in terms of force projection, air power defence, maritime capability or, in the case of the Royal Navy, responsibility for the Trident strategic nuclear submarine capability. Stretched though capability is and with affordability on everyone’s lips we are very fortunate that wherever they are asked to go and whatever they are required to do the Army, Royal navy and Royal Air Force do a vital job of work for the whole of United Kingdom.
Of equal importance is the vital role that the UK and specifically our armed forces provide in terms of ongoing NATO support. Today we are once again seeing renewed fears that Russia has underlying ambitions on Ukraine. It is to NATO that we have in the past twenty-four hours seen calls from the current Ukraine administration for assistance and help. That such requests will at this stage most likely fall on deaf ears is not the point. But be in no doubt that if the situation was to deteriorate further it would be NATO that would be the first port of call for help despite Ukraine not being a member. I suspect the same would be true if