Britain’s global role: stepping up
Speech by Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence.
This year marks 70 years on from Winston Churchill’s famous speech “The Sinews of Peace” delivered in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946 in which he talked about the “special relationship.”
While that phrase is well known, it is perhaps less well known that Churchill was in the United States to receive an honorary degree from Westminster College.
An apt name as Westminster was the place he received a large part of his political education. And Churchill more than anyone seemed to embody the will of the British people.
To the extent that both sides in the recent Referendum campaign sought to claim that he would have backed their particular position.
We can’t ever be sure how Churchill would have voted.
We do know that whatever the outcome he would have accepted the result, rolled up his sleeves and got on and delivered using all the considerable powers at his command to help us forge a new path.
Now I’m very much aware that vote has raised questions about the implications for Britain’s role in the world.
I’m here to assure you that we have a new Prime Minister
…technically a new government
…who wants Britain to continue to play a global role
…a government that is determined to make Brexit a success
…but a government that will put security front and centre of its efforts.
Today I’d like to set out the UK’s government’s approach.
It is based around 3 things.
1. Defence of our values
First, on the defence of our values of democracy, of the rule of law, and of freedom.
Back in that speech of 1946, Churchill memorably imagined an “Iron Curtain” spreading from east to west across Europe.
Today the Cold War is over but new threats continue… that spread an equally serious shadow.
In recent weeks we’ve seen the horrific truck attack on innocent men, women and children from France enjoying a summer’s evening on Bastille Day.
That attack and the others we’ve seen over the last year in places as far apart as Orlando, Brussels, Paris, Ankara, and Baghdad are similar r manifestations of extremism.
This isn’t the only danger we’re facing.
We’re seeing a resurgent Russia and a more assertive China.
We’re seeing North Korea continuing to rattle the nuclear sabre.
We’re seeing cyber attacks on states as well as companies and hybrid warfare.
Dangers which, taken together, seek to undermine our rules based international order on which the security and prosperity of ourselves and the next generation depend.
Like Churchill, we believe Britain, like the US, has a responsibility not just to defend its own security but the global system itself.
And we do have have the will and intent to respond to those threats whenever, or wherever, they come from.
Thanks to the Strategic Defence and Security Review we published before the end of last year, we are going to match that will with greater capacity.
Our SDSR gives us stronger defence with more than $200 billion to spend over the next 10 years on a more agile Joint Force with more ships, more planes, more troops at readiness, better equipment for Special Forces, and increased spend on cyber.
Let me tell you about those forces.
Last year our forces were active all round the world.
Some 80,000 soldiers deployed on more than 383 commitments during the year.
More than 30,000 sailors deployed, on over 700 ship visits, from Africa to Asia, Europe to Latin America.
More than 10,000 Royal Air Force personnel deployed in over 60 countries on operations, training exercises and defence engagement.
And we will have a similar level of effort this year.
2. Stronger NATO, stronger defence
My second point is that to defend our values we will rely on a stronger more united NATO.
And we ill continue helping that alliance to adapt.
Two years ago our Prime Minister, David Cameron then stood with your President at the Wales Summit and challenged other nations to step up, to spend more on defence and new capabilities.
Since then we have led by example.
And having honoured our pledge to meet the 2% target we’re now seeing other nations follow suit.
Twenty allies have now increased their spending since Wales and the overall decline in alliance defence spending has been halted.
As well as increasing spending, NATO has now agreed its Readiness Action Plan to ensure that the allies can respond swiftly and strongly.
Once more the UK is at the forefront of these efforts.
Our Typhoons are today conducting Baltic air-policing missions from a base in Estonia.
Our ships are making a significant contribution to NATO’s naval forces.
And we will lead NATO’s Very High Readiness Taskforce next year, with 3,000 UK troops ready to deploy within days.
And at last month’s Warsaw Summit we again helped to lead the way as NATO adapted its deterrence posture to challenges from east and south.
In the east, we are helping to reinforce the Wales’ commitment to act against aggression by delivering an enhanced forward presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
The UK is one of four nations to lead a framework battalion, including the United States.
These battalions will be defensive in nature, but fully combat capable. Our force will be located in Estonia with 2 UK companies, a headquarters element and equipment including armoured vehicles, Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and mortars.
That contribution will be underpinned by our network of allies, including our partnerships with the French and the Danes… “multi-national by design”, reflecting the “international by design” approach in our SDSR.
In addition, to positing a formed Battalion to Estonia we will also deploy a company group of troops to Poland.
We also continue to train the Ukrainian Armed Forces with a further 4,000 troops due to be trained by this year.
All this is NATO’s response to Russian aggression.
A response rooted in balancing strong defence and dialogue.
Dialogue where it is right and in our interests to deliver hard messages to promote transparency and build the understanding necessary to avoid the risk of miscalculation.
As well as its efforts in the east, the alliance is also enhancing its role in the south.
We are increasingly seeing unstable, or fragile states threaten our collective security.
Putting a greater onus on NATO’s role in tackling potential conflict at source.
And following the Wales Summit NATO now has a defence capacity building initiative, to provide more tailored support to project stability.
And we will conduct more training and capacity building under a NATO auspices inside Iraq.
NATO’s biggest operation is its Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. That mission has helped local forces take on the responsibility for providing security across their country.
As a leading member of NATO, it is right that we stand by our allies and the Afghan people as they seek to build a safer Afghanistan because that also helps to keep our streets safe.
So next year, we will be increasing our t troop contribution by 10% to help build the capacity of the Afghan security institutions. And let me welcome the United States’ on going commitment to that particular mission.
Finally, we have promoted and supported initiatives that respond to the longer-term demands of 21st century warfare with initiatives on cyber and hybrid warfare among others agreed at Warsaw.
But if our defence and deterrence are to retain their credibility, they must respond to both conventional and nuclear dangers.
NATO remains a nuclear alliance, and our independent nuclear deterrent in Britain makes a key contribution to the overall security of the alliance.
That’s contribution recognised by the Warsaw Communiqué, and I quote:
“The independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France have a deterrent role of their own and contribute to the overall security of the alliance. These allies’ separate centres of decision making contribute to deterrence by complicating the calculations of potential adversaries.”
And what’s clear to us, as the world becomes more dangerous and unpredictable, is that the nuclear threat has not gone away. If anything, it is increasing.
We can’t today second guess the sorts of extreme threats to our very existence that we might face in the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s.
So our deterrent gives us that priceless advantage so that our adversaries know that the cost of an attack on the UK or our allies will always be far greater than anything it might hope to gain.
So our Defence Review committed to building 4 new Successor submarines to replace the Vanguard class which start going out of service in the early 2030s.
On Monday this week the Prime Minister made it her first duty in Parliament to lead the debate on renewing that nuclear deterrent.
And the House of Commons voted by an overwhelming majority of 355, over 100 more than when it was last debated in 2007, to maintain our deterrent to protect our way of life and that of our allies.
3. US-UK partnership
A powerful NATO is vital to our future.
So too are our key bilateral relationships.
And leaving the EU means will be we will be working harder to commit to NATO and our key allies.
We are now focused on reshaping our relationship with Europe, restoring sovereignty to the British Parliament but making sure our security, and trading relationship remain strong, while we forge new relationships right across the globe
70 years on from Churchill’s speech, the UK still has no stronger ally than the US.
We’re proud that together we continue to lead the world on security.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in our operations against Daesh.
At the end of last year, the UK erased the stain of its previous Syria vote in Parliament in 2013 with the new Parliament voting overwhelmingly to extend our airstrikes from Iraq to Syria.
Since then we’ve upped the intensity of our efforts.
Our aircrews have conducted more airstrikes in Iraq and Syria than any other country other than the United States.
Our aircraft are co-ordinating Coalition aircraft and providing a significant amount of the Coalition’s overall ISR.
And those collective efforts are paying off. Daesh has lost 40% of the territory it once held. Major progress has been made in the key cities of Ramadi, Hit and Fallujah.
But we’re going this year to go further.
At the Counter Daesh ministerial. which I have just come from, we have focused on reviewing our campaign plan and building on the progress we’ve already seen in the Euphrates River Valley and Tigris River Valley.
And we are responding to calls for the Coalition to accelerate its efforts by increasing our presence in Iraq.
We will be sending additional trainers to Al Asad Airbase in Western Iraq to instruct more Iraqi Troops in how they counter improvised explosive devices, improve infantry skills and provide combat first aid.
Those extra trainers will be working closely with US and Danish forces, providing training to the Iraqi Army 7th Division to their Border Guards and Federal Police.
We’re providing more people to assist in guarding the airbase, personnel to form an HQ to command the mission, and an engineering squadron to build the necessary infrastructure.
Those efforts as part of the Counter-Daesh coalition are just a small illustration of our co-operation with the US.
A collaboration as broad as it is deep.
And that joint-working is only set to intensify.
On exercises we’ve recently agreed to integrate a UK division more effectively into a US corps.
And on equipment there’s on going collaboration on F-35 and a week ago we saw this fifth generation fighter soaring over our new Queen Elizabeth carrier from whose decks they will fly in years to come.
And I look forward to the day when not only do our planes fly from your carriers but your planes too fly from ours.
And our carriers will be protected by another of our new equipment collaborations.
Our 9 new P-8 maritime patrol aircraft whose multi-billion dollar purchase I announced last week…alongside a further decision to buy 50 Apache attack helicopters.
But besides thinking of today’s technologies, we’re looking together with the US to tomorrow’s.
Last year, on his visit to London, Ash Carter and I challenged our 2 teams to develop together new technologies, new disruptive capabilities and new concepts of operation.
And we’re now seizing on the exciting opportunities. Last week, we announced the first project to develop autonomous robotic technologies…driverless technology that can ferry equipment over that last, most dangerous mile up to the frontline
That’s the kind of collaboration that will help us maintain the West’s technological edge.
And it’s that fraternal association between Britain and the US that Churchill was speaking about 70 years ago when he said:
“If all British moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in fraternal association, the high roads of the future will be clear, not only for us but for all, not only for our time, but for a century to come”
In conclusion, let me reassure you, Britain is not stepping back. On the contrary, we’re stepping up.
Standing up for our values.
Backing our nuclear deterrent.
And seeking a stronger alliance than ever with you in the US.
There’s been much speculation in recent weeks about our defence and security policy.
Let me reassure you.
The UK is leaving the EU.
But we’ve not forgotten that deterrence and defence are underpinned by cohesion and solidarity.
We’re still committed to those vital sinews of peace.
And we remain committed to European security and we are not turning our back on Europe or the world.