An expansionist Russia, highlighted by Gen Sir Nick Carter in his speech on Monday (Report, 23 January), is one of several contemporary security threats, but it is not the overriding one. Climate change, terrorism, financial insecurity and inequality, as well as protracted conflicts and insecurity overseas also threaten our shared security. The overriding response to these challenges cannot be defence and investment in more military hardware.
Conflict prevention and peacebuilding need to sit squarely among our tools and priorities for national security. This work is not easy or naive. It is practical and cost-effective. Yet the political support and investment it receives is woefully inadequate. By one estimate, annual expenditure on peacebuilding in 2016 was equivalent to less than 1% of the global cost of war that year. This, despite the fact that a recent survey showed that 60% of the UK public would support more investment in peacebuilding.
As chairs of internationally recognised peacebuilding organisations we are calling for clear political commitment to a long-term, comprehensive effort to end and prevent wars, and to build peace: this effort should become a central pillar of the UK’s strategy for national security. Peace is only sustainable when we see the wellbeing and security of others as being as important as our own. Indeed, it is through addressing the security of others that we reinforce our own security.
Rt Rev Peter Price Chair, Conciliation Resources, Chris Mullin Chair, International Alert, Jeremy Lester Chair, Saferworld
• Here we go again. The military establishment is warning of danger and pleading for more money. As you point out, Britain spends more on defence than other European countries. Much of it is wasted. Projects such as Typhoon, Astute submarine, aircraft carriers and the Type 45 destroyer were way over budget, years late and had design flaws. The even more expensive F-35 aircraft, bought from the US, with its unreliable software, will be a massive and increasing drain on the budget. Trident is going ahead and we can be sure that its cost will mount rapidly due to the weakness of the pound against the dollar and US-imposed changes in design.
Unfortunately the Labour party tries to avoid discussing UK defence policy. Perhaps the public, who fund this botched business, would welcome political exposure of the mess created by the military manufacturers and their collaborators in the Ministry of Defence.
• Your editorial (On national security, Britain is European, Brexit or no Brexit, 15 January) is correct in asserting that the UK is part of Europe come what may; and the defence of the European mainland is fundamental to our security. Europe knows this because it is the US and UK who have ensured its defence since 1945.
The editorial poses a false choice between the UK remaining a global military power or reducing to a regional one. What exactly are the assets required for each? As a regional power, are the North Atlantic and Arctic crucial to the UK’s defence? They certainly are to Europe. Is stability in the Mediterranean littoral and Middle East crucial? It certainly is to Europe. The maritime assets required to ensure the protection of those areas include carrier strike, nuclear attack submarines and amphibious capability.
We are a global trading nation, one of the five permanent members of the UN security council, and responsible for 14 dependent territories worldwide. Fortunately for us, the flexibility of our maritime forces means they have an intrinsic global capability. If “regional power” simply consists in the protection of our territorial seas, a small army based in Poland and an air force of limited range, then God help Europe.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead
House of Lords
• Perfect solution to the military funding shortfall – contract it out. I’m sure the best-known entrepreneur in the field, Milo Minderbinder, will jump at the chance. He might even subcontract to get our enemies to bomb themselves – for a price.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
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