SC132 European Perspectives Field Study London, 23rd March, 2018
Senior Course 132 was received in London by General Sir Gordon Messenger, Vice Chief of Defence. He gave a warm welcome to the NDC delegation in the facilities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and talked about the importance of NATO for the UK, wishing participants a very interesting visit.
The next day, the Senior Course was received by the Rt Hon Earl Howe in the House of Lords. In his welcome introduction he spoke about UK security and the different challenges that the UK is facing, underlining NATO’s important role as the strongest alliance in the world. He told the audience that the UK is ready to do more, considering the 2% spending rule as a base and not a cap, and indicated that the UK is willing to make the necessary proposals at the next summit and will stay strongly committed to the collective work of the Alliance.
Following this much appreciated introduction, Mr Peter Watkins, Director General Strategy and International from the MoD, spoke about the relevance of NATO for the United Kingdom. He gave the views of the UK on the different roles of NATO and the EU in terms of defence and on the relationship with the United States. Citing the Strategic Defence Review, he gave some examples about capability development, doctrine and cooperation. Based on a constant adaptation to a rapidly evolving world, a new programme is being developed, with adapted capabilities, faster decision-making processes and renewed defence education. After his presentation, the speaker answered questions from Course Members.
The next speaker, Commander Eric Aujean, French Navy Exchange Officer in the MoD (Defence Strategy and Priorities), spoke about the Strategic Security and Defence Review. He focused on the UK’s global outlook and related threats and interests. He then moved on to Defence policy, explaining the planning processes, identifying the main ideas of the Defence review, from the objectives to the necessary responses and structures of the future Joint Forces 2025. The following speaker, Dr Gemma Warren from the Security Policy Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), described the importance of close national and international co-operation in the current strategic context. Taking many factors into account in her analysis, she qualified the present situation as a “flattening of powers” due to the loss of state control and the rise of non-state actors. This leads to complex relationships between states and raises the importance of strengthening cooperation between members and partners, precise risk assessment and timely decision-making. Mr Giles Ahern, Head of Euro-Atlantic Policy, then spoke about NATO’s most important issues from a UK point of view (for example, the balance between deterrence and engagement, what to do in the South or South-East and how this would be financed). He went on to discuss the European Union and the question of European defence. He also analysed NATO-EU relations in view of the different threats and challenges, and spoke about the difficulties in this domain. He briefly spoke about the UK’s membership in the OSCE and the UN, describing the UK’s position on current issues.
Another briefing was provided by Mr Andrew Pearson from the Department of International Development. He spoke about the activities of the United Kingdom related to development (UKAid). He described how conflicts are getting more complex and dwelt on the consequences for development. Explaining the cost of conflicts, he made clear that development is also in the interest of the UK, stressing that strengthening resilience also contributes to the prevention of conflicts. The last speaker, Ms Rosy Cave, Head of the Gender Equality Unit in the Human Rights Department of the FCO, described the different challenges men and women face during conflicts. She raised the issue of gender equality and how the international community is dealing with discrimination, and explained the UK’s national action plan in compliance with the international framework: she gave several examples of actions taken, such as in the role of women in peacekeeping, decision-making, humanitarian response, security and justice, and the prevention of violent extremism in several countries all over the world. She ended her presentation by saying that taking the gender issue seriously has a modelling role for future generations.
The UK’s contribution to the FS demonstrated a coherent and unified approach to security policy. Course Members were able to view current security issues in Europe and in the world from a UK perspective. The UK briefings proved to be very valuable, high-level and frank, perfectly in line with the objectives of the NDC.