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Category: SDSR2015

SDSR 2015: The Return of Ambition

Written by Wyn Rees.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015, announced on 23 November, marked a change in the defence debate.  Ambition on defence returned to the Conservative government. A series of announcements overturned the former impression of the UK as a shrinking military actor. These announcements included a new maritime patrol aircraft, two Army strike brigades for expeditionary operations, new ‘Protector’ drones and additional funding for Special Forces and cyber capabilities.

SDSR 2015: A foreign policy driven by trade will not provide security

Written by Jamie Gaskarth.

Downing Street has been a social whirl in the last few weeks. A procession of leaders have traipsed through the large black door of Number 10 and been warmly welcomed, including the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Narendra Modi of India. These visits form a part of the prosperity agenda that is driving Britain’s foreign and security policy. In many cases, they coincide with the announcement of trade and investment deals worth billions. Thus the Chinese Premier’s visit on 20 October was said to involve £30 billion worth of business, Nazarbayev met UK business leaders, and Modi’s trip was said to herald over £9 billion in agreements between UK and Indian firms.

This kind of bilateral diplomacy has been a feature of government policy since William Hague in the last parliament announced a ‘networked foreign policy’. In theory, this involved a more adaptive policy framework in which the UK could engage with individual countries to advance the national interest. In practice, it meant an ad hoc and often confused foreign policy that seemed to lack an overall rationale. In this vacuum, the Treasury emerged as the dominant influence on external policy. The desire to increase trade has dominated Britain’s relations with other states in recent years, and spread its influence into defence and security policy. Prosperity is now a central plank of the country’s security agenda.

Plugging the Gap: The SDSR, Covert Action and Special Forces

Written by Rory Cormac.

The landscape surrounding the 2015 SDSR is one of costs, threats, and Britain’s “global role”. The impending review will have to take each into account – and has the unenviable task of finding a balance.

Together, these factors have created a climate in which deniable intervention, through covert action and Special Forces, has become – and will continue to be – increasingly appealing to Cameron’s government.

Successive British governments have sought to maintain the global role. The 2010 SDSR continued along this theme. And the Prime Minister and his senior colleagues have recently spoken out against any decrease in British global ambition. This has been matched by pressure from Washington not to disengage from global commitments.