Defence and Security Forum
Defence and Security Issues Discussed in the 21st Century
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The DSF's Co-founder, Lady Olga Maitland
Welcome to The Defence and Security Forum

The Defence and Security Forum was founded by Lady Olga Maitland in 1983. It was originally a campaigning organisation known as Families for Defence launched to challenge the anti-nuclear protest movements such as CND. Families for Defence’s remit was to promote the NATO case for multilateral nuclear disarmament. In the course of doing so the purpose was to focus on the importance of a proper provision for the defence of the United Kingdom.
Major General Patrick Cordingley, our Chairman Our Keynote Topics

  • International Relations
  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Defence and Security
Tightening of UK-China Relations: Richard Knowlton comments on Silvia Frosina's recent blog Booking forms

It is difficult to disagree with much of what Silvia writes. China's geopolitical, economic, and military weight make it essential for the UK to make a careful assessment of its relationship with China. And I absolutely agree that we need to fill our “gaps in knowledge of China’s civilisation, history, society, and better understand the country’s current strategy and policy-making”. The same argument holds good in the case of other important players like Russia, whose historical experience is so different from our own.

The problem is that better knowledge and understanding will not necessarily make Chinese (or Russian) policy any more palatable to us, whether in its management of religious minorities and political dissidents, or its approach to international problems at the UN and elsewhere.

So while we should certainly pursue a policy of building friendship and mutual understanding, we need to retain the ability of all good friends to criticise. Therein lies a problem. China - and Russia and Trump’s US – do not want critical friends: if you are not with them, then you must be hectored and harried into acquiescence.

A medium-sized power like the UK needs to think very carefully in identifying and weighing its interests. The financial and economic benefits of a close trading relationship with China will bring obvious benefits. On the other hand, China expects political concessions in return. Any comment on China’s human rights record on the mainland or Hong Kong, for example, or any contact with the Dalai Lama, will have ‘consequences’.

I am not pretending that calculation of UK interests is easy or straightforward. I do worry, though, that repeated silent acquiescence in the face of China’s demands saps our moral authority and shows the weakness of our position.  Returning to Silvia’s original point, too, I am concerned that we currently lack the in-depth expertise that we need to inform our calculations.
Richard Knowlton

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A DSF speaker. Lady Olga Maitland talking to delegates. A DSF speaker
Delegates enjoying the debate. Lady Olga Maitland chatting to a delegate. Cordingley

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