Senior Course 143 in London: Understanding the United Kingdom’s Defence and Foreign Policies
On Monday 6 November 2023, the NATO Defense College delegation was hosted at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), located on King Charles Street in London. The FCDO is the UK’s lead institution to safeguard the country’s security, defend values, reduce poverty and tackle global challenges with international partners. The visit involved discussions and updates on the United Kingdom’s understanding of world challenges, considerations on defence policy both from a UK and a Euro-Atlantic perspective, and an overview of current operational issues. It was also an opportunity to look at UK foreign policy outputs and priorities, as well as future strategies.
The welcome and opening remarks were delivered by Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the UK Defence Staff, who began by providing an overview of the global environment and its evolution over the last two years, marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East, with the ongoing special operation conducted by Israel against Hamas. He also pointed out UK priorities and its investments in defence and in the modernization of the Armed Forces, specifying that this is also a priority for the Alliance, to which the UK is one of the main contributors. Regarding cooperation with the European Union, ADM Radakin observed that the UK and the EU were working closely together to counter illegal immigration, then concluded by offering some thoughts about the Indo-Pacific and the strong interest the UK takes in that area.
The session continued with presentations on “Integrated Review Refresh and Defence Command Paper Refresh” and on “UK Defence and Foreign Policy Outputs”, delivered by Ms Liz Drew, Head of Cross-Government Strategy, FCDO and Mr Ayaaz Nawab, Head of Strategy Development at the Ministry of Defence, who spoke about investments, foreign strategies and cooperation, as well as the UK Defence Strategy, highlighting the main objectives, challenges and priorities. Questions asked by Course Members steered the discussion onto many other topics, including China and India.
Emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) and digital deterrence were the subjects of the following presentation, delivered by Lieutenant General Tom Copinger-Symes CBE, Deputy Commander, UK Strategic Command. As the officer responsible for multi-domain integration, he emphasized the important of digital transformation and the need to involve industry in the decision-making process. In his view, the Russian aggression in Ukraine has shown that prevention in digital technology is key and that the ability to use EDTs for deterrence and defence in NATO will be one of the main challenges for the future. The speaker rounded off his presentation by recognizing that new technologies help troops fulfil their mission and reiterating the UK’s strong support for the innovation process.
The day concluded with the last panel briefing on “UK Priorities for the Washington Summit”, presented by Ms Clare Cameron, Director, Euro-Atlantic Security at the UK Ministry of Defence and Mr Matt Baugh OBE, Director, Euro-Atlantic Security at FCDO. The two speakers set out the UK’s ambitions and aspirations for the next NATO Summit, to be held in Washington next year. Cyber; multidomain operations; space innovation; NATO Command and Control; the eastern flank; counterterrorism; as well as the defence industry and the modernization of the Armed Forces were among the topics of particular concern to Course members, who had many questions to ask the briefers at the end of their presentations.