Britain still has a part to play in global security affairs—so long as it can afford the billby Jay Elwes / March 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
“I tend to think that China is not going to become like the United States,” said David Petraeus, the former US general, as he pondered the relationship between America and its new super-power rival. “Our relationship is likely to become increasingly rivalrous.”
Petraeus, who led Coalition forces in Afghanistan, commanded the surge in Iraq and served as Director of the CIA, spoke exclusively to Prospect ahead of the publication of a new edition of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, for which he has contributed a new foreword. Petraeus is currently a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center.
Addressing Russian and Chinese long-term ambitions, he said that “both governments clearly assign considerable importance to the development of significant military capabilities.”
“In both cases, moreover, in recent years,” said Petraeus, “these governments have shown greater willingness to flex and indeed exercise their growing military capabilities in order to pursue their policy priorities.”
And that has been occurring, “even as they also seek to advance their strategic purposes through the use of a variety of non-military tools as well.”
And how might the west respond to China and Russia’s ambitions—and actions?
“Strategic dialogue at very senior levels can also be useful, as can firm, albeit not provocative, actions, when appropriate.” Ministers might ponder those words as they weigh the response that Britain will mount to the attempted assassination of the Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
And what about Britain’s neighbours—are the nations on the continent doing enough to oppose ambitious, authoritarian states? “European nations bring significant, useful capabilities to any military and intelligence endeavours,” said Petraeus. But, he added, “very few NATO nations do all that they should in the defense arena, in particular.”
“Given the European economic recovery, the aggressive actions of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and the emergence of the most complex array of security challenges since the end of the Cold War,” he said, “European countries clearly should shoulder more of their tasks associated with their national security.”
As for Britain, his assessment of the country’s defence capabilities comes with a caveat. “The 2025 force that has been described for the UK would be quite significant,” he said, referring to the MOD’s plan to develop, what it calls “a raft of cutting-edge capability.” This will include…