Towards the next Defence and Security Review: Part Two-NATO - Defence Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. For two decades the UK—and NATO's—security priorities have focused on terrorism and failed states. The UK still has significant commitments to the draw-down in Afghanistan, and to address the threat from terrorism following recent events in Syria and Iraq and the increase in the number and reach of self-styled jihadist groups in the growing number of ungoverned spaces across the world. These remain very important priorities.

2. However, events in Crimea and Ukraine represent a "game changer" for UK defence policy. They have provoked a fundamental re-assessment of both the prioritisation of threats in the National Security Strategy and the military capabilities required by the UK. The UK's Armed Forces will need now also to focus on the defence of Europe against Russia and against asymmetric forms of warfare. This will have significant implications for resources, force structures, equipment and training.

3. The Committee's report on Deterrence in the twenty-first century, published in March this year, concluded that

The 2015 National Security Strategy must reflect that threats to UK security include the re-emergence of state threats that we may have been tempted to think had diminished with the end of the Cold War. These state threats may become manifest in a range of ways, including through attack with CBRN weapons, conventional forces, terrorist proxies or cyber capabilities.[1]

4. This inquiry is the Committee's latest in a series aiming to inform the next Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and National Security Strategy (NSS). We have also timed publication of this report to inform the NATO summit taking place in Wales in September. It is clear that NATO is not the only international organisation with an interest in events in Ukraine. Both the EU and the UN have condemned the annexation of Crimea. The economic tools possessed by the EU will be an important element in deterring military actions against Member States. Whilst Ukraine and Georgia are not NATO members, it is our contention that events in Ukraine, seen in the context of the massive cyber-attack on Estonia in 2007 and the invasion of Georgia in 2008, represent the existence of a strategic threat to NATO, a threat that many had thought had disappeared with the end of the Cold War. NATO was founded upon three principles: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration. Therefore Member States must now be prepared to invest in NATO capabilities to enable the Alliance to deter, and if necessary counter, this threat.

5. During the course of this inquiry we have visited NATO and SHAPE and both Latvia and Estonia. We are grateful to the UK Permanent Representation to NATO and DSACEUR for hosting our visit to NATO and SHAPE. We would also like to thank the UK Embassies in Riga and Tallinn for putting together excellent programmes for us and to thank those who took the time to meet with us during our visits.

6. This report will focus first on Russian forces-their strengths and weaknesses in relation to conventional and unconventional warfare. Then it will analyse the strength and weaknesses of NATO forces, in relation to a potential Russian threat. It will conclude with specific recommendations to address deficiencies.

1   Defence Committee, Eleventh Report of Session 2013-14, Deterrence in the twenty-first century, HC 1066 , paragraph 75. Back

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Prepared 31 July 2014