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Snap out of this peacetime mentality - RNA President


War Hero
statement from RNA President

Saving The Royal Navy
Many Shipmates have expressed their concern at recent media reports of impending cuts in the surface fleet and asked where The RNA is in this. The article below will, subject to some final revision, be forwarded by the National President for publication in national media as well as to the Editors’ of Navy News, The Naval Review and to some MPs. The National President hopes he is not taking The Association’s name in vain in doing this. He has received positive assurances from the National Chairman, Deputy President and General Secretary. Any shipmate who also wants to take some action is urged to get on line with their own computer or that of a friend and sign the petition at http://petitions/ and to write to their own MP.


By Vice Admiral John McAnally CB LVO :

I don’t possess any privileged information and I haven’t received any leaks. Recent media reports have suggested that the MoD is contemplating savage cuts to the Royal Navy in order to live within a constrained Defence Budget. No doubt the reports exaggerate. Indeed there may for now be no truth in them. Certainly that was the implication of the answer given by the Prime Minister to the Editor of Navy News on 12 January in HMS ALBION. But there’s no smoke without fire and the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review is not due to report until July. If further media reports of a flat lined Defence Budget are true rather than the increase suggested by Tony Blair then cuts to the surface fleet could well resurface with a vengeance. As things stand various website chat rooms indicate Royal Navy morale has already been deeply affected. We know we have led the way in defence rationalisation- cutting the tail to preserve the teeth- for more than 20 years. The RN also has a world wide reputation for excellence and innovation in operations and training. An uncertain world needs this capability. It would shatter faith in the system if despite this record, UK capability for world wide naval deployment and our position as second most powerful Navy are forfeited. A former First Sea Lord has been quoted as saying that it would be outrageous if cuts on the scale cited in the media are implemented. I agree both as National President of The Royal Naval Association and as a former Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies. In fact I believe the UK needs more warships not less. Why? I offer three answers. I take full responsibility for the opinions expressed. I acknowledge however that they draw on contributions to the Conference on Future Maritime Operations held by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies last December.

The International Environment is one of increasing danger.

The Head of MI5 has all but told us we are currently in remission between 9/11 and its true successor attack. The pre-empted attack on airliners this summer was one version. Another could involve use of a primitive nuclear weapon. If such an attack gets past the vigilance of MI5 then resources for defence won’t be a problem but spending them wisely and getting the right results in time will be. Now is quite the wrong time for hasty cuts with far reaching implications. We need to think more widely. Not so much about a clash between Islam and Western civilisation but of the worldwide repercussions of Islam’s civil war. Europe’s 30 years war in the 17th century is a parallel. Relevant too is what in his warm up for the PM last Friday, Professor Rogers called the risk of a revolution of the world’s frustrated majority. Here he referred to the 5/6 of world population living in poverty. As the Prime Minister said their problems can’t be solved by aid and other soft power measures alone. For starters they need absence of conflict and that means peace making- a job for hard power. There is also the looming prospect of serious confrontation between Iran and other Middle East States which would deeply affect and involve the US and Europe and be very naval. Most of the Middle East’s exported oil and natural gas passes through the Straits of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. They are only about 12 miles from Iran and easy to squeeze. Which Navies and Governments are willing and capable of countering such a threat if it is posed?

I venture to suggest we need to go further beyond the analysis delivered by Tony Blair on 12 January. I believe the world changed more with the end of the Cold War and the return of globalisation than it did after 9/11 since that was more a symptom than a cause. There is an increasing imbalance of population and resources. Food could become a strategic resource. Urbanisation is increasing, much of it in shanty towns. There may be a scramble for African minerals -the Chinese have got off the blocks for such a race already. There could be others for the Polar regions, the Sea and Space. Where else does the sea figure in this? Mankind is going offshore: artificial islands, cities, industry, fisheries, leisure and aquaculture. Oil and gas infrastructure may create new disputes eg Russia’s Baltic pipeline which will run through other nations territorial seas and 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zones. Oceanic competition including for minerals in the deep ocean could lead to jurisdictional disputes. The UN Convention on Law of the Sea is likely to come under pressure. What about military developments? Hybrid warfare – the employment of sophisticated military instruments by irregular opponents will increase on land and at sea. Opponents are going underground including under the sea bed. Iran appears to be leading the way in both the above areas. Some experts believe that war between States may return within 15 years. Nuclear weapons could be used at sea.

Maritime Security is increasing in importance

The Sea is a physical world wide web. Within 20 years it looks like 70% of world population will live within 200km of coast- up from today’s 50% within 500 km. The need for maritime security of energy supply and transport will increase. All nations depend on free use of the sea but for none is this more true than it is for the UK. 90% of everything that comes in and out of these islands goes by sea and 95% of that passes through 9 choke points across the world where it is vulnerable to sustained attack. As one example, soon there will be a procession of ships carrying vital liquid natural gas 3-400 miles apart over all the thousands of miles of sea from the UK to the Middle East. Terrorist networks cross borders and are not just on land; they form alliances with crime and narcotics. Wide areas across the oceans are a significant potential battle space. Maritime security and the freedom of the sea on which the global economy and human society depend could be increasingly at risk from asymmetric attack.

Clear roles continue for maritime forces

Iraq and Afghanistan are primarily land campaigns but UK maritime forces are fully involved in many vital roles. These include air support from the Joint RN/RAF Harrier force, helicopter operations, the Royal Marines, surveillance, logistics, medical, staffs ashore and reconstruction teams. In fact more than half of all UK armed forces personnel currently in Afghanistan are Royal Navy or Royal Marines. The latter’s 3 Commando Brigade is the best equipped and supported infantry Brigade in the UK armed forces. And it is largely paid for by the Navy’s share of the Defence budget. But Iran and Afghanistan are not templates for all future British military operations. While they are likely to increase public and politician’s caution over further overseas adventures it is difficult to see what can replace the expeditionary strategy of dealing with recognised threats at a distance. Major naval deployments are forward based contingency capabilities able to intervene decisively in crisis. At lower levels Frigates and Destroyers enforce sanctions, conduct intelligence, surveillance and interception, anti piracy and anti slavery operations, protect oil and gas production, safeguard and promote trade and exert diplomatic influence. An expeditionary strategy has no reality without a Navy and aircraft carriers are indispensable for it.

In summary

The UK dependent as it is on global trade, on uninterrupted sea communications and with responsibilities to British citizens dispersed all over the world should not retreat to its 15th century past. We either remain what we became from the 16th century onwards- a prosperous global maritime trading economy - or we revert to being much poorer, less safe and of little significance in the world. Now is not the time for cuts in Defence capability. As Professor Prins has suggested all three Services have had the same problem imposed upon them. That of the UK fighting a war with a peacetime mentality. This is a special problem for the Navy because naval capability takes so long to create and because navies are so often out of sight and out of mind. The Army and Air Force will have their own urgent priorities but if we seriously deplete our Navy our opponents will adapt their strategy and move into the space left. We must hang on to the ships we have with plenty of life left in them and to Portsmouth and Devonport Naval Bases. And order without further delay the two new Aircraft Carriers the necessity for which was defined 9 years ago. At least 8 Type 45 destroyers should be built and their utility enhanced by fitting Tomahawk cruise missiles. We must do better with our future frigates than the 18 years it has taken to get the Type 45 into service. And they must be cheaper so that there can be many of them recognising the need for the RN to deploy globally and that there is a quality in quantity. There is an urgent need to implement Mr Blair’s recognition of the need for a larger Defence budget
Re: statement from RNA President

Admiral McAnally wrote (I have a verifiable paper copy of the above so I'm not asking for a link)

No doubt the reports exaggerate. Indeed there may for now be no truth in them.

Re: statement from RNA President

An interesting read chockhead and good to see that the Vice Admiral is alive and kicking out on our behalf. lets hope his example is followed by others of his rank and with luck, some of those actually still in active positions where their influence is even greater.

Couldn't get the link to the petition to work by the way.

Re: We need to snap out of this peacetime mentality'

The mention of safeguarding food supplies is interesting.

Smiling teeth stated after the foot and mouth disaster we will make farmers caretakers of the countryside for all to enjoy. And import food!!

So glad I have my allotment!!
Re: We need to snap out of this peacetime mentality'

Great link BH. After reading what the Vice-Admiral says I couldn't help thinking about the British public's attitude to conflict in general. Since the start of my formal interest in conflict studies I've been struck by the fact that I grew up with parents (ex-forces) who referred to WW2 as having kept the peace in Europe for xxx years thus completely ignoring the Cold War and the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland - the latter was written off as just a small matter of troublesome Catholics*. It occurs to me to wonder if this is a legacy of colonialism. A great many people still see our colonial history as having brought peace and prosperity to the benighted of the world whilst conveniently ignoring the negative aspects of that experience for the peoples involved and at the very least that it was a stability brought about by the use of overwhelming force. Perhaps this was necessary in order to sell the concept to the Victorians who were at that time developing a growing interest in the welfare of the poor within their own shores. In Victorian times when Britain had an unequalled status in iterms of its wealth in the international community but think of how this financial pre-eminence changed after WWs 1 and then 2. Justifying military expenditure has been very difficult since the end of WW2 especially since this conflict led to a massive increase in the amount of money which was needed to implement the welfare state and other health and social policies.

Some myths last a long time, think of the longevity of the Tudor Myth it wasn't really challenged until the 20th century and the accompanying myth that English forces conquered the Armada rather than as recent studies claim that it was the weather which caused the Spanish to lose - only the most arrogant determinist could believe that the weather was on the English side yet how frequently are we still told 'God is on our side' as if there were no objective view of internal or international affairs.

So - if our there is a historical prescedent for not educating the population as to the real nature of international affairs its perhaps no wonder that politicians find it difficult to justify the expenditure necessary to carry out its foreign policy.


* the anti-Catholic history of England is another fascinating topic - one that exploded into life for me thanks to the wonderful teaching of historians at Birkbeck.
Re: We need to snap out of this peacetime mentality'

Would this be the same story BH?

Yes it is. Threads and topic titles merged. Looks like at least one newspaper sat on it longer than Rum Ration, where it was posted in full on 24 Jan. Or maybe the linked newspaper got the heads up on Admiral McAnally's paper from RR :wink:

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