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Month: November 2014

Rivers and swarms: how metaphor fuels anti-immigrant feeling

By Caryl Thompson 

In a recent interview with Sky News, the UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon, described British towns and communities as “swamped” by migrants, a controversial phrase he was later forced to retract. And while it’s easy enough to dismiss this as a sad glimpse into a politician’s personal views, Fallon’s language fits right into a rhetorical war that’s been waged on immigrants for decades.

The language used by politicians to depict migrants obviously influences public opinion – which, as surveys suggest, currently demonstrates high levels of opposition to immigration even though public perceptions of immigration figures are often inaccurate and exaggerated.

Russia resurgent? Russian military performance in Crimea and its implications on Western defence requirements

By Bettina Renz

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent developments in East Ukraine prompted much speculation in the West about Russia’s ‘new military prowess’. Many analysts and decision makers, including in NATO, concluded that modernisation efforts over the past few years had transformed the Russian military into a force that now posed a real threat to European and transatlantic security. Serious discussions are already underway about what this might mean for Europe’s and NATO’s future defence capabilities and requirements. There seems to be much agreement that Russia’s new-found military strength needs to be met with more military spending in the West. Sweden has announced an increase in its defence budget in response to the Ukraine crisis. This will include the expansion of its fighter jet fleet from 60 to 70 aircraft as well as the procurement of two new submarines. A UK Parliamentary Defence Committee report concluded that events in Crimea and Ukraine were a ‘game changer for UK defence policy [that] provoked a fundamental re-assessment of both the prioritisation of threats in the National Security Strategy and military capabilities required by the UK’. Is this a realistic assessment? What can the conflict in Ukraine really tell us about Russian conventional warfighting capabilities?

Pinpricks: MI6’s Approach to Covert Action in the Early Cold War

By Rory Cormac

Covert action represents the shadowy underbelly of international relations. It encompasses the dark arts of foreign policy; a key asset, but rarely acknowledged.

Covert action is a state’s intervention in the affairs of another in a plausibly deniable manner, including through propaganda, paramilitary, and subversive political activity. Unlike espionage, covert action is active and seeks to shape events itself. It seeks to elicit change in the behaviour of a target.

Out of the Hornet’s Nest: Legacies of the War in Afghanistan

By Andrew Mumford

On Sunday 26th October British combat operations in Afghanistan officially ended, as Camp Bastion, the last British military base in the country was handed over to Afghan forces. It was fittingly symbolic that only an American general spoke at the flag-lowering ceremony. No British voice was heard. This 13 year-old war had proven to be one of the most complex and protracted wars in modern British military history. The lack of fanfare at the return of British combat troops is a sign that a convincing ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan cannot be claimed. In many ways, for the British and their American allies, this was always going to be an unwinnable war.