3 New Threats |
25. The clearest rationale for a complete rewriting
of the NSS and the SDSR is the events of 2014 in Ukraine, Africa
and the Middle East. These represent a fundamental change in the
nature of the threats to the UK and in the character of warfare.
Our successor Committee will need to ensure that the National
Security Strategy acknowledges these fundamental changes, and
responds accordingly. This requires a fundamental re-calibration
of the threats to national security identified in the National
Security Strategy and a corresponding re-assessment of the size
and shape of the Armed Forces that the UK.
26. We have long been concerned about Russian expansionismhighlighting
the invasion of Georgia in 2008 (from where Russian forces have
still not withdrawn), the cyber attack on Estonia in 2007, and
the annexation of Crimea and continuing operations aimed at destabilising
and dividing Ukraine in 2014. The West's failure to respond to
those earlier attacks encouraged subsequent Russian actions in
27. Our report on Towards the next Defence and
Security Review: Part TwoNATO noted Russia's use of
extensive asymmetric and ambiguous tactics including psychological
and information operations (in particular using Russian medium
television channels broadcasting to Russian language minorities),
economic attacks, cyber operations, and operations using proxies
(armed civilian or terrorist groups operating without insignia
or any official affiliation and working at times in association
with Russian special forces). 
These tactics have also been combined with the deployment of the
most up-to-date Russian military hardware. Chris Donnelly, Director
of the Institute for Statecraft, described Russian tactics as
the integration of the use of force with the non-military tools
of war, arguing that operations in Ukraine had been designed to
] break the integrity of the state [
before there is any need to cross its borders with an invasion
] So we are seeing a form of warfare that is operating
under our reaction threshold.
28. He described the Russians as deploying a concept
of war which involves
constantly increasing the level of activity and
getting us used to accepting it, so that we become like the frog
in a bucket of water, warming up slowly and not realising that
we are accepting more and more that we should not be. That is
the danger, so first we need more intelligence, and secondly it
is crucial that we revise our capacity for thinking and acting
29. In our report on Re-thinking Defence to meet
new threats, we considered whether there may be a case for
re-assessing the costs and benefits of withdrawal from Germany.
We wish to highlight the following headline questions that have
emerged from our scrutiny of the growing threat to NATO from Russia
which we wish to see addressed in the next SDSR.
30. What capacity does the Government have to
understand Russian motivations and strategy? What investment is
being made in increasing this understanding?
31. What will the UK's long-term contribution
be to the various NATO missions or organisations it is already
supporting or considering supporting: the Baltic Air Policing
Mission; the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force; Headquarters
Allied Rapid Reaction Corps and Headquarters MultiNational Corps
(Northeast)if tensions stay at their current level or continue
to escalate? Does the UK have the capacity to provide this contribution?
32. What new investments will the UK be making
in its conventional capacities in order to address new threats
from an advanced military nation? In particular what new investment
will it make in areas such as maritime surveillance, Chemical,
Biological, Nuclear and Radiological warfare, and in Ballistic
33. What steps has the UK taken to match the call
from Sir Peter Wall, the former-Chief of the General Staff to
"deliver a comprehensive carrier-strike capability; to sustain
sufficient combat air squadrons to police our skies alongside
our NATO partners; to expand cyber and surveillance and hone our
special forces capabilities; to ensure that we can field a resilient
land force at the divisional level, which means stemming the creeping
obsolescence of the Army's manoeuvre capabilities"?
34. What steps is the UK taking to acquire and
enhance the capabilities required to engage in ambiguous warfare?
35. Given the changing nature of the threats to
the UK, has the SDSR re-examined the costs and benefits of the
withdrawal of UK Armed Forces from Germany?
The Middle East and North Africa
and the threat of DAESH
36. The second major threat facing the UK is from
radicalised, terrorist-linked groups now controlling increasingly
large areas of state territory in the Middle East and Africa.
The most dramatic example of this is of course DAESH, which now
controls a territory larger than the United Kingdom, and has attracted
20,000 foreign fighters. Again, the UK appears to have been unprepared
for this resurgent threat, and its initial response seemedas
we argued in The situation in Iraq and Syria and the response
to al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq al-Sham (DAESH)strikingly
modest. As with Russia
and Ukraine there was a clear absence of intelligence and expert
analysis covering the emerging situation on the ground, and a
lack of a clearly defined UK strategy and mission.
37. This problem, however, extends from DAESH to
also encompass our response to the situation in Yemen, in Northern
Nigeria (where Boko Haram, at time of writing, controls large
swathes of territory), in Afghanistan (where the Taliban has re-established
a significant presence in the South and the East), and potentially
in regions ranging from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa. Initial
operations in Libya were, as we noted in our report, successful
in preventing Gaddaffi's attack on Benghazi, and toppling his
regime. But the country
is now in chaos, with a divided government, lawless militia groups,
and a growing DAESH presence.
38. Any future SDSR should provide for the ability
to conduct much more detailed analysis of the options available
in such theatres. It should allow, for a harder-headed assessment
of objectives (should they, for example in relation to DAESH,
be objectives of containment or of destruction). It should also
allow for the ability to analyse the risks inherent in the existing
local government or occasionally US-led strategy. A dramatic step
up in the level of defence engagement would be necessary to contribute
to deeper human understanding of the challenges in the country
and a much broader "comprehensive approach" coordinating
efforts across Government to further the chances of a political
settlement in the country. We emphasise the importance of working
much more closely with key regional powers in finding a long-term
political solution. We also called on the Government to do far
more by way of responding to specific requests for assistance
from the local Governments, whether in provision of counter-IED
training, contributing to military capacity building; or, if necessary,
providing money and materiel.
39. In February 2015 we visited the Sovereign Base
Areas (SBAs) on the island of Cyprus. The bases are supporting
Operation SHADER, the current UK operation in Iraq, and provide
the base for the Regional Standby Battalion involved in the aborted
airlift from Mt Sinjar and later the training of the Peshmerga.
The SBAs are an immensely valuable platform for operations in
the Middle East particularly when the UK Armed Forces do not have
carrier strike capability. They have the potential to play a key
role in the UK's defence regional engagement strategy. Much further
investment is required, beyond that already earmarked for the
improvement of infrastructure of the bases. We expect the next
SDSR to address the following questions:
40. What detailed analysis has been produced on
the situation in these failed states with terrorist links? In
Iraq for example, what analysis has been conducted of the Sunni
tribes and Shia militia? How robust, and detailed is the analytical
capacity available to the UK on the ground?
41. What exactly is the objective in Iraq or these
other theatres, what is the UK strategy, and campaign plan? How
does the UK assessment differ from or complement that of other
42. How many UK civilian and military personnel
are to be posted to such theatres, including Iraq, outside Kurdistan?
Will they be resourced and supported to be able to develop a deeper
human understanding of the challenges in the country and a much
broader "comprehensive approach"?
43. What steps are being taken to coordinate with
key regional powers in finding a long-term political solution?
44. How is the Government responding to specific
requests for assistance from the local Government?
45. What will be the scale of the UK's enduring
commitment to operations against DAESH?
46. What steps are being taken to address shortcomings
in the UK's analytic capabilities, ability to process intelligence
and understanding of the countries of the Middle East? What steps
are being taken to improve these capabilities in other regions
of potential instability?
47. How will the Defence Engagement Strategy contribute
to the monitoring of emerging threats in the Middle East and beyond?
48. What is the role of Cyprus in the UK's long-term
basing for operations in the Middle East and, in particular, what
thought has been given to the role of Cyprus in a strategy for
the South East Mediterranean basin?
49. What is the UK Gulf Strategy?
50. During the course of this Parliament, we have
closely followed the conduct of operations in Afghanistan, visiting
the country in January 2011, November 2012 and October 2013, publishing
three reports on the campaign as a whole.
Whilst the UK combat mission in Afghanistan drew to a close at
the end of 2014, with full responsibility for the country's security
passing to the Afghan National Security Forces, the UK's commitment
to and interest in Afghanistan has not ended.
51. The MOD retains a substantial commitment to the
country in the form of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy
at Qargha. The Department
for International Development remains engaged in the delivery
of programmes and other UK Government Departments are involved
in a range of projects including state institution building, developing
capacity in policing and justice and facilitating commercial development.
We expect the next SDSR to address the following questions:
52. Given that we have withdrawn our combat troops
before the completion of the two main tasks (the defeat of the
Taliban, and the creation of 'an effective, credible, and legitimate
Afghan state), what is the new mission in Afghanistan? Is it focused
on a political settlement, retaining a strategic base, on containment,
or on something else? Does the UK have the resources, and commitment
to fulfil that new mission?
53. If the security situation in Afghanistan were
to deteriorate, as it has in Iraq, what would be the UK's response?
What demands would be made on UK Armed Forces? What is being done
to mitigate this risk? What additional support would we be prepared
to provide for the Afghan government if the Taliban, or possibly
groups such as DAESH, were to significantly increase their presence
in the country?
10 Third Report, Session 2014-15, HC 358 Back
Towards the next Defence and Security Review: Part Two--NATO,
Evidence Q266 Back
Ibid, Q286 Back
Tenth Report, Session 2014-15, HC512. Back
Seventh Report, Session 2014-15, HC 690 Back
Ninth Report, Session 2010-12, HC 950 Back
Seventh Report, Session 2014-15, HC 690 Back
Operations in Afghanistan, Fourth Report, Session 2010-12, HC554;
Securing the Future of Afghanistan, Tenth Report, Session 2012-13,
HC 413; Afghanistan, Fifteenth Report, Session 2013-14, HC 994.
Ministry of Defence (AFG006) paragraph 9.1 Back