Cameron’s Strategic Defence and Security Review and the New Cold War

December 4, 2015 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Every state that ever existed in world history has sought to justify its actions abroad by claiming that it is has the moral right and justice on its side. Only fundamentalist regimes or non-state actors such as ISIS today still insist that ‘God is on their side’, but as recently as the First World War of 1914-18, both contending sets of imperial powers insisted that ‘God was on their side’.

Today modern states such as the UK seek to justify their foreign policy on the basis of defending the national interest, upholding human rights and supporting their Allies. In its The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, published 23 November, the British government has added an additional argument to support its foreign policy aims, which is the defence of “economic security”. In fact, Prime Minister David Cameron states in his introduction to the policy paper that “national security depends on economic security”.

The review states,

“The UK has a proud tradition of protecting its people, promoting civil liberties, upholding the rule of law, and building diverse, integrated communities tolerant of different faiths and beliefs.”

It should be patently obvious that these values of human rights, civil liberties, toleration, rule of law, are values that virtually nobody could dispute or dissent from; as such, they are not to be portrayed as the exclusive property of the UK or its western allies, despite Cameron’s insistence that the UK is “working hand in glove with” its allies in order to uphold these core values worldwide.

It is actually quite dangerous for one state to claim superiority over any rivals or in effect to assume unto itself the privilege of being a world policeman who seeks to impose any set of principles. It is indeed extremely arrogant to adopt such a position, but no-one could ever claim that David Cameron is a modest or unassuming person.

The review goes on to outline its core aims, of which one vital aim is to,

“Build stability overseas, upholding our values and focusing more of our development effort on fragile states and regions.”

To achieve this, the review insists that the UK has “strengthened our security partnerships in the Middle East, especially the Gulf, and in Africa”. Interestingly, it does not mention Turkey in this regard, although it does refer to NATO frequently and Turkey is of course a member of NATO. It also refers elliptically to “other allies” in the Middle East apart from the Gulf States, which most probably means Turkey. The UK is often shy about proclaiming its relations with Turkey, not without good reason. But we can surely assume that Cameron regards Turkey as a key ally.

The review argues that there are two main threats to the UK, to its NATO allies and to global security. These two threats are said to be international terrorism and Russia. As for terrorism, ISIL (or ISIS) is mentioned many times, but the review does not mean only ISIS or Islamist terrorism when it speaks of terrorism. It refers explicitly to other terrorisms such as, for example, a continuing terrorism threat in Northern Ireland. There is in fact no indication of any intention to amend, revise or update those groups that have been proscribed under the UK anti-terrorism laws. This proscription list of course currently includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), among others.

The review, in arguing that threats from terrorism are growing at home and abroad, states that the “world is more dangerous and uncertain today than five years ago”. There is little hope of any relaxation of anti-terrorist legislation offered by this statement. It anything, the law is likely to get even tougher in the coming period. Furthermore, the review states that defence will,

“Prioritise the fight against terrorism, radicalisation and extremism at home and overseas.”

Quite clearly partisan political prejudices determine the conclusions of this review. It reflects a New Cold War where Russia and terrorism are the twin enemies. The conclusions that are reached are influenced by the country’s strategic alliances and considerations of the demands of its key allies such as the United States, the Gulf States and Turkey.

The New Cold War mentality is clearly evident in the section devoted to Russia; which says,

“At the NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010, we committed to work with our Allies to build a partnership with Russia. But since then Russia has become more aggressive, authoritarian and nationalist, increasingly defining itself in opposition to the West. The illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and continuing support to separatists in eastern Ukraine through the use of deniable, hybrid tactics and media manipulation have shown Russia’s willingness to undermine wider international standards of cooperation in order to secure its perceived interests.”

These assertions are grossly biased and totally erroneous.

The characterisation of Russia as “more aggressive, authoritarian and nationalist” are, for example, exactly the words that could easily be used to describe Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Qatar, but these are key UK allies. In fact, these three states have sponsored the growth of radical Islamist terrorist groups such as ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front, who have been committing vile atrocities in Syria and Iraq. So it is futile and absurd for the review to say that the UK wants to “prioritise the fight against terrorism, radicalisation and extremism at home and overseas.” This is simply because the UK will never be able to get to the root of the problem and eradicate this Islamist terrorism while it receives material assistance, finance and ideological support in the form of the fundamentalist Sunni Islam called Wahhabism which is the official state ideology of Saudi Arabia.

Coming back to Russia, in reality the UK and the West see Moscow under Vladimir Putin as a threat simply because the country is no longer willing to bend its knee to NATO diktats and play junior partner to Washington at every turn. Russia is historically a great world power and reasonably wants to be treated with equal respect by other global powers such as the United States and the European Union. This is a perfectly fair demand for Russia to make but it has led to the western alliance launching a dangerous new Cold War of which the continuing conflict in Syria forms a part. The growth of groups such as ISIS can most accurately be seen as creations of western policy in the same way that the Mujahedeen was sponsored and encouraged by the West in the 1970s in order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. In fact, when examined closely Islamic fundamentalism has always been sponsored by the West and especially by the West’s regional Middle Eastern allies to undermine and fight left progressive forces such as the workers’ movement, Communist and socialist parties. The fight of the PYD and PKK against ISIS today can also be understood from this perspective.

Cameron’s strategic defence review will not provide the means to defeat ISIS because it fails to get to the root of the problem, which is the funding and support that ISIS receives from certain states already mentioned. This Conservative policy document instead prefers to fight a New Cold War and use the threat of ISIS politically to attempt to make strategic gains in the Middle East with the aim of undermining Russia and to weaken secular progressive forces such as the Kurdish movement which poses a threat to Turkey and fundamentalist Islamist regimes, who are the West’s allies. So, the conclusion must be: treat this defence review with great caution. It is far from being an impartial document and is meant to be a justification for the new Cold War.


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This post was written by David Morgan

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