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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

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Lady Olga Mailtland: UK Outlook for 2020 Booking forms

16TH September 2019
Lady Olga Maitland
Defence and Security Forum
UK Outlook for 2020

The world is on the move. The dynamics are changing. Europe is drifting away from the US.

Although it has to be said that under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership he is shifting to Trump’s Washington, both in style and content.
The superpower upon whom we relied; the US is pushing a different agenda from us.   They are making disruptive unilateral decisions which impact on us all.

Threats to the UK are becoming more acute.

In truth There is an erosion of a rules based international order.

Common sense seems to be giving way to distrust, distancing from partners and relationships.
Compound this with the migratory movement across the world – estimated to be 60m fleeing economic crisis, deprivation, terrorism, conflict, war.  All adding to a sense of unreality.
Assumptions we took for granted have shifted.
And somehow post Brexit, the United Kingdom is having to straddle a shifting deck to find our role.

The first challenge

The US.  Traditionally the champion and guardian of world order.

Trump’s view on the world has created a minor earthquake.  America First has meant there is less room for allies to have a role.   His overseas policies can be decidedly erratic – starts an initiative then jumps the other way.
Multilateralism is no longer the norm.   And an increasing use of a new weapon – sanctions.

In the last year we have seen President Trump unilaterally withdrawing the U.S from the Intermediate Nuclear Arms Treaty with Russia.
He wants a new Treaty which includes China.

Were NATO allies consulted?

Not surprisingly Russia has pushed back and become more aggressive.

Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran despite the fact Iran had honoured its obligations.

Not surprisingly the Iranians are restarting their enrichment of uranium programme.

US trade war with China impacts on us all.  It has affected the world economy.
Add to that the threats from terrorism, and cyber attacks,
For us in the UK the erosion of the international rules-based order supersedes all other threats.

It is worth recalling, as Sir Mark Lyall Grant, our former National Security Adviser told us a few months ago that, when the victors of WW2 set up new organisations such as UN, NATO, IMF/World Bank, WTO, the universal declaration of human rights, WE DID SO, in our own image.

A liberal vision based on shared values of open trade, the rule of law, common security, and human rights.

It is hard to over-estimate the benefit that the UK – as the sixth biggest economy,   as a democratic, open trading nation gets from a rules based order.

It is as Sir Mark rightly said, ‘the sea in which we swim and we have invested more heavily than most in it.’ But now that rock of order is being shaken.   It is under severe threat.    After the ending of the Cold War, and a genuine rising warmth in relations (don’t forget how Reagan and Gorbachev,  moved into a new golden period, much facilitated by Margaret Thatcher who said of the Russian Leader, ‘this is a man we can do business with’.

Remember how moving it  was when Gorbachev arrived at Reagan’s Lying in State, went up to the coffin, and laid his hand on it in a very personal way  signifying a friend with whom together they  had created a new world order.
Today we have seen a systematic push back against this liberal international order.

Three reasons

-    In hindsight new reflections about military  intervention on sovereign states, be it  Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan.   Promoting regime change is none of our business but that was the effective message.
-    Financial Crisis in 2008 undermined public faith in elite’s ability to manage global capitalism.   Sup prime in the US caused an economic  flu elsewhere.
-    Most fundamentally,  geopolitical shifts have been significant,  especially the rise of China.  This has caught us on the hop.  They  used soft power to move across the globe.  Number 2 economy and growing fast, despite a slow down. In any case a different culture, language, different political system have made them seemingly unfathomable.
Add to all this, blatant violations of the international order, such as Russian annexation of Crimea, and China’s militarisation of disputed islands in the South China sea.

Next,  and indeed even in the UK, we see a rise in populism which is distorting the norms of democracy.  Brexit fever may have stunned us, but nationalism is on the rise everywhere including Europe – And to cap it  all, the  once champion of the liberal international order the United States with the Trump regime has overturned it all. Trump was quite open at the UN last year, he attacked the ‘ideology of globalisation’.

He pulled American out of the TransPacific Partnership, the Paris agreement on Climate Change, blocked the appointment of judges to the World Trade Organization (important for the UK as this is the model we will be working to) and now recognised Israel’s illegal occupation of the Golan Heights and West Bank  developments.

At the  strategic level,  Trump has  made it clear he   will challenge China in every corner, military, economic and technological fronts, hence attacks on Huawei.  The US see them as a tool of the Chinese government.   Theresa May approved the G5 equipment.   Boris Johnson is likely to reverse this and take the US position.

The trade war also impacts on the UK, handling a trade deal with Trump’s administration whose  priority is protecting their own market, and using tariffs as their instrument of enforcement.  Depending on how you look at it, unless the UK outside the EU  can be more agile, it will lack the leverage to be taken seriously.

Which leads me to life after Brexit

General Sir James Everard, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe at NATO, told us that while  the UK remains an honoured and trusted member  of the NATO alliance, at the same time, leaving the EU has  cast  us in another mould.    We will be very much on our own.

We will be free to decide our own economic destiny, and will do so. But in reality the world does not operate in isolation.  We work with people and alliances.   We will not have the luxury of being part of a trading block to support us.

It is true that our international  standing does not depend on our membership of the EU. What is important is  maintaining the supremacy of the  City of London, our economic weight, history, democracy, culture, English language, the excellent of our institutions, armed forces professionalism, universities, innovative technology. All these and indeed the Royal Family have a role in our Soft Power.

It is true  to say that outside Europe our identity is not solely linked, but we have been  the bridge to the EU. BUT, AND THIS  IS IMPORTANT, our influence and standing cannot be taken for granted.

It needs to be nurtured more than ever.  The slogan ‘Global Britain’ must ring true. As I have travelled all over the world, and seen our trading ability, much needs to be done to make ‘Global Britain’ a reality.

This will need  Government resource, backing, action. Just back from a business trip to Algeria I see how the Governments of France, Germany, Korea fund soft power in business and education.   Hence ascendency over us in contracts.

We have to strengthen our international links, not reduce them. Take a lead with the G7 and G20. Not leave that to Macron who brought in the Iranian Foreign Minister to the sidelines at the Biarritz meeting.

We must be clear minded as to our role and destiny.

I do not want to see a repeat of the UK trailing behind flawed decisions by the US to invade Iraq, and indeed Libya, let alone Afghanistan.

We should remember the days of Harold Wilson who was pressed by the US to send troops to Vietnam. He refused.  That did not break the ‘Special Relationship’. Certainly not.  Friends should be honest with each other. It was not in our interest to take part either there or as later it turned out, elsewhere.

A ‘Global Britain’ should be independent minded

The good news is that today’s government has pledged another 2b to defence.   This will raise our spending to 2.5 percent of our GDP, well above the sum decreed as the norm for NATO countries but largely not met.
I am uneasy about our 14b allocated to overseas aid.  Nearly half our defence budget.  In my view this should be reassessed vigorously.   Rwanda does not need to spend 60,000  a year on empowering women.  Far too much of it goes into the corrupt pockets of local chiefs.

The Bahamas however desperately need help and at last British frigates have arrived to deliver food and water.  For a Global Britain, we should divert resources to developing trade in markets all over the world from developed economies to frontier and emerging countries.

We should empower countries with professional and technical training thus enabling them to be more self-sufficient. We should certainly use the budget to fund UK UN peacekeeping troops – and increase the numbers there.
I was interested to hear reports of plans to expand our diplomatic network. But they must be properly funded and staffed.

I trust we will take a lead in bridging differences with perceived enemies.
We should always be open to meet and hear perspectives of other regimes and not be dictated the US. We should not shut the doors to dialogue as has happened in the past year with Russia.   Boris Johnson, while Foreign Secretary  refused to meet the Russian ambassador on the grounds there is nothing to discuss following the Salisbury poisoning.

And indeed in protest against annexation of Crimea and occupation of the Donbas region of Ukraine.

This is exactly the time to meet and talk.

There is a serious danger of miscalculation and misunderstanding.

To talk frankly and honestly is not giving into a point of view we are opposed to.

The former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov addressed DSF a few months ago.
He recalled the years of the Cold War when the Foreign Minister could lift the phone to his counterparts in the West.   They could meet, as diplomats should.   Today they cannot do so, either with London or Washington.
Over the years the aim is to try to reach mutually acceptable solutions. And when proved impossible, to at least minimize the impact on each other.

In Syria the US and Russia have co-ordinated.  At other times not.

But today the lack of political will to reach out is dangerous and serious.
Mutual accusations as against searching for solutions should be the answer.
On the UN Security Council we have the US and Russia diametrically opposed to each other.

It  is true that Russia is flexing its muscles. But as General Everard said, ‘they are more of an irritant than a real threat.  For all that we should remain firm with them, yes place more armed forces in the Baltics and Poland, but still maintain a full dialogue.’

Why cannot Britain take a lead in being the honest broker?

In my view we should resurrect the NATO Russia Council.
There are many issues when we should give leadership. Take Turkey for example.

Turkey, is an awkward member of NATO.  Matters complicated by their purchase of the Russian anti-missile defence system, the S-400.  
This arose out of the US refusing to supply Patriot missiles.
Tit for tat.   The US is now refusing to supply fighter planes, and plan sanctions.

The consequence is that Turkey is shifting its relationship  closer to Russia and in turn China. This is undoubtedly stretching the NATO’S patience but my contacts tell me it is better  to keep Turkey within the alliance, they make excellent fighters, they have a strategic position, and weather this out.
Realpolitik finally plays its role.  Hence the decision for a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia.  Hardly palatable after the downing of the Malaysian aircraft killing all 300 on board, or a realistic move to decrease tensions?

Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made.

We have entered a world of heightened security risks, on all levels. Technological threats mean that a cyber war can close down entire national systems. These are very real. Cyber attacks hitting our NHS, or power resources. 

The drone attacks on two Saudi oil installations is a potent of things to come.
This has to be managed.

The threat of Terrorism needs allies to share intelligence.
There is life after Brexit. We need to plan and work for it.  
We must show wisdom, independence of spirit and intellect.
Internationally we are respected and trusted.

Global Britain, means playing a role on the world platform. Demonstrating the ability to work on joint projects, maintaining close relationships with our European friends and allies – brokering new relationships.

We should be confident that with the right ambition and leadership, we enhance our influence in the world.

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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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