The multitude of Government advisors, “think tanks” and defence specialists, seem to have forgotten what the UK’s aims are. They are not inspiring global aims, nor are they aims at securing friendly relationships with various Middle Eastern states, nor states in South East Asia. Indeed, we cannot afford such luxurious entertainment and culturing.
Our sole aim should be to protect our sovereign state and its trade routes (in order to survive as an island state). Our trade routes by sea, are simply defined by the shortest routes to our major trading partners; USA, China, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe and several countries in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
There are, also, many trade routes by air, which have now become just as vitally important to the UK, as other methods; rail and road.
There is no formal organisation, yet, charged solely for the defence of the EU member states. This is about to change with the introduction of the EU Defence Fund, but is unlikely to lead to the establishment of an EU military force outside NATO or UN. Rather, there are some bilateral agreements which join two states to share defence activities independently of NATO. The UK is still a leading and active member of NATO together with the US and Canada. We will still need to contribute to NATO to help defend our trade routes across the Atlantic and around the Baltic.
Our focus however, should be through the Mediterranean/Suez to access both the Persian Gulf and South East Asia. This is where a huge volume of our trade takes place, oil, gas, textiles, tea, coffee and many other commodities. In the past, including recently, ships on these trade routes have been subjected to attacks by armed pirates and armed forces during world-wide conflicts and local conflicts; Vietnam, Korea, Japan, China and others.
This area cannot be left to other countries to defend on our behalf because the risk then reverts to the country or countries which carry out that defence. We have already seen signs of this with the US in Diego Garcia, China in Sri Lanka and Australia in Indonesia.
So, the defence of our trade falls to us, the UK.
The last SDSR 2015 implied that we wished to become a world power. Wrong. We cannot afford the cost of being a world power, colonialism is almost a thing of the past. When we finish wasting taxpayers’ money on expenditure that is not required, then we might be able to afford to protect all our trade routes ourselves.
Let us consider where we spend money on illegitimate defence. Our jungle training school in Brunei, for instance. We have another one in Kenya; how many do we actually need? Communications centres in Oman are expensive to operate and we pay millions of pounds to two UK contractors to carry out operations there. Diego Garcia has a naval detachment there – to supervise over 2000 US military personal – not even a sensible option. We have small military detachments based in the Falkland Islands – any concerted effort by South American countries could have a devastating effect in an armed confrontation. The UK has no fleet to send there in a hurry and during the 1982 Falklands invasion by Argentina, the US refused to help. We have no trade from these islands and as yet, no oil in commercial quantities. So very little, if any, revenue is earned there, yet. That is not to say we should not defend them. We are committed to defend ALL of our Overseas Territories.
These are just some well publicised examples and in the public domain. There are certainly many others and some overspending which has been discussed at length. For instance, the submarines and the base at Faslane, are they really necessary and if they are, can they be based elsewhere?
We withdrew from all our bases from East of Suez by the mid-1970s because it was alleged we didn’t need them and couldn’t afford them. Neither of these statements was true then and are not true today. We are intending to operate both of our new QE class aircraft carriers from Duqm in Oman (new base East of Suez). HMS Juffair in Bahrain (new naval base East of Suez) was opened this year but was found to be too shallow to allow alongside berthing of the new aircraft carriers (no real planning there!) Only one of those bases is required; we don’t really need to be honourable to either of the two regimes which were enabled by joint US/UK co-operation.