FOREWORD - DEFENCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, Issue 41
Dr Liam Fox MP
To say the very least, these are challenging times for the British Armed Forces and NATO, the security alliance on which we have based our security assumptions for the past 59 years.
Since 1997, the world's strategic environment has greatly changed. We now live in a world where Britain's economic and security interests are so interlinked into a larger global interdependent network that we have an unavoidable shared set of interests with a multitude of actors in all parts of the globe. We also now have the unavoidable importation of strategic risk, and as recent events have shown, instability in one corner of the globe will quickly affect everyone.
Consequently, this interdependence has major implications on how we think about and organise our national security structures. Our Armed Forces have to be equipped, trained, and ready to fight in any scenario at any location in the world. Unlike the relative stability provided by the bipolar world of the Cold War, we now find that we have to react with little or no notice to a full spectrum of security issues, all of which, no matter how distant from the UK, can impact on our national security and that of our allies.
The harsh reality is that we may not be prepared to respond to the unforeseen. When the next British Government comes into office in 2010, or before, it will inherit a Military that is overstretched, undermanned, and in possession of worn out equipment due to the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
NATO is encountering many problems, especially in Afghanistan. It has been argued that NATO's success or failure in this far away land may also be part of a struggle for the future of the NATO alliance itself. Furthermore, I fear that the deepening of European Union defence integration in the Lisbon Treaty will only make matters more difficult for NATO in the long term.
There is little doubt that times are tough for many in our Armed Forces and their families. We are fighting two wars on a peace time budget; by the Government's own figures the military is under-strength by more than 5,000 personnel, and the operation tempo and fighting is as high as it was during the Korean War. Operating under these difficult circumstances shows the degree of professionalism, ability, and dedication in our Armed Forces because our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, whose numbers and resources are limited, can still accomplish so much. Our troops are the best in the world and they deserve much more from the Government and the public. We are all indebted to their service.
Because of the shared challenges we face, I am pleased, in my role as the British Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, to write the foreword for this edition of The Defence Management Journal. I can hardly think of a more appropriate forum in which to discuss the security challenges of the 21st Century and how best to deal with them.