Redefining the UK’s strategic interests

I wish to write some pieces over the next few weeks on the future of the UK’s foreign policy and alliances. I do so because the future of our relationship with the emerging integrated state of Euroland is up for reconsideration in the General Election, and because many people in the UK are now tired of the US approach to the Middle East under the long shadow of 9/11. That too may change during the forthcoming US Presidential election.

The UK’s current stance is based on a central folly or misleading proposition – that the UK as a member of the EU, NATO and the Security Council has power by virtue of its membership of those bodies, and therefore has to keep compromising its own interests or beliefs to stay in or justify its membership of those bodies.

The truth is of course the opposite. Those bodies draw strength from the membership of the UK, to the extent that the UK is and remains a large world economic power, and to the extent that it continues to spend substantial sums on military force which it is prepared to use when necessary. As someone who broadly supports our membership of NATO and opposes our membership of the EU under the current terms and treaties, I wish to see substantial changes in the UK’s relationship with most international bodies, and a redefinition of the UK national interest and what we will do.

Once the UK has a new idea of what its national interest is, then it is easier to decide what new relationship we need with the EU, which type of NATO interventions we will join, and what defence forces we need.

At the high level, the UK’s first national interest must be to promote the prosperity, peace and happiness of UK citizens. This should mean we wish to promote free trade, democracy and peace around the world. Our second national interest must be to protect and ally with those of like minds and those who are formally under our defence umbrella. We need to recognise the limits to our military power, and make sure we have sufficient military might to deter aggression against us and those we wish to protect, and to carry out expeditionary interventions where appropriate. We also need to strengthen the potential of our political and moral influence, by avoiding conflicts which make us too partisan or compromised by those we would ally with.


  1. Sandra Cox
    December 21, 2014

    Thanks for running a series of articles on the UK’s defence strategy. I don’t have any answers but, as a media viewing member of the public, I realise I’m being fed only that which is good for me [or should I say “them”) so I do have quite a few questions.

    I do take an interest in our defence commitments but, unlike many of your contributors, I’m not into the detail, so I wonder if you’d be able to give a rundown on NATO and the UN – our influence, our responsibilities and our membership costs.

    For instance, I’d be interested to know what happens when we commit our military under the auspices of the UN or NATO – who pays for the bombs, the equipment, the training of local military personnel etc? Is there a NATO or UN fund?

    And where does the UN fit into this? I used to think it was a powerful organisation, but now see it as a tiger with no teeth in dealing with conflict. Worryingly, I now also see it as another left wing quango, surreptitiously handing down orders to us – on climate change, poverty, equality etc – via the EU.

    On the subject of the EU, what would happen if there was an EU/Russia conflict on the borders of Eastern Europe? I understand that Mrs Merkel’s airforce is mainly grounded, in disrepair, as are her warships, so who is she expecting to defend Europe and Germany in this largely self-inflicted mess? NATO? The USA? A few of the usual European countries who tend to step up to the plate in times such as this?

    Will Germany (who, let’s face it, has gained the most from the EU) be expecting every man to do his duty? It seems IS isn’t far from the EU’s southern borders, so my concern is just which countries’ men (and now women) does she expect to do the EU’s duty to prevent its porous borders being breached?

    Reply The UK pays for military interventions under UN flags unless we reach an agreement with others to help defray the costs. Were a conflict between Russia and the EU/NATO to flare up, it would be the joint response of NATO led by the US, with the US making the largest contribution.

    1. Max Dunbar
      December 21, 2014

      Interesting what you say about the alleged parlous state of the Germans’ defences.
      Of course, defence of the homeland must take precedence over all else and it would appear that the German people have lost faith in their political leaders and therefore taken the initiative in cities such as Dresden in eastern Germany. There have been large demonstrations against mass immigration there despite the fact that the immigrant population in that city is miniscule by our standards. It is reported that these demonstrations have no overtly political backing.

    2. Martyn G
      December 21, 2014

      Sandra – re your “…. or NATO – who pays for the bombs, the equipment, the training of local military personnel etc? Is there a NATO or UN fund”?
      Don’t know about the UN but in my Service time NATO costs were converted into ‘NATO Accounting Units’ (NAU), based of course on the mighty US Dollar. National share of the costs were converted into NAU based on the strength (or weakness!) of each national currency. It all seemed to work quite well and so far as I know might still be the case today…..

    3. eeyore
      December 21, 2014

      As an old hack, I’d like to reassure Sandra that the media are not feeding her only what is good for “them”. Nothing gives a journalist more pleasure than to cause pain to the powers that be. Their despair is our delight. There is no media conspiracy in Britain; on the contrary, the media are wild animals, only superficially house-trained and never to be trusted not to bite. If there’s anything to tell, and it can be discovered by digging, she can be pretty confident that it will be told.

  2. David Cockburn
    December 21, 2014

    I’d like to suggest that, before deciding on the strategic stance to adopt, we address our economic problem. Right now we run a current account deficit and a budget deficit so we must sell off assets and borrow abroad to balance the books.
    We have more influence and more freedom of action as we are more economically successful. So the first priority must be to make more money and spend less.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      December 21, 2014

      Everything is interrelated. A strategic foreign policy that encourages international trade will lead to prosperity. We did it with sailing ships, so it should be a lot easier now!

  3. Lifelogic
    December 21, 2014

    Indeed your last paragraph sums it up well.

    We are unfortunately not even close to that happy position.

    1. Hooe
      December 21, 2014

      Read Booker’s article today about the targets in the Climate Change Act, promoted by DECC, and you will be left depressed by the stupidity of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. It relates directly to JR’s last paragraph or rather how will it be achieved while we have MPs like Camwron, Clegg and Miliband being able to get anywhere near power of the country. People like this need to be ousted for our peace prosperity and happiness. There needs to be a radical change in the way MPs promote what they are going to deliver and held account for not doing so or alternatively we have reached the position where they simply cannot be trusted and we need more refer da on crucial issues ie economy, EU, going to war. On the basics of standards at Westminsier alone we have seen over five years that all three who promised change have deliberately failed and kicked into the long grass hoping we did not notice. Vote the same get the same, time for real change and a real change of party.

    2. Lifelogic
      December 21, 2014

      Andrew Marr this AM showing the BBC’s view of politics to the full with quotes from John Major and guests Ken Clarke and Peter Mandelson and “raving lefty” presenter Andrew Marr. No sensible questioning needless to say. More of what would you like to say now Sir?

      Wiki seems to think Marr is paid £580K why? Plus huge pension too one assumes.
      It seems rather a lot for a foolish, misguided, lefty, Trinity Hall English Graduate. It seem he is also married to the daughter of Jack Ashley, Baron Ashley of Stoke.

      I am sure they are all very nice, just totally misguided on every major issue, typical lefty, comfortable, art graduates. The BBC in the nutshell.

      1. Bob
        December 21, 2014


        “they are all very nice, just totally misguided on every major issue, typical lefty, comfortable, art graduates. The BBC in the nutshell.”

        It’s ludicrous that someone could face jail time for not funding them. The TV Tax is way past it’s sell by date.

      2. Tad Davison
        December 21, 2014

        I was aghast at the Andrew Marr show this morning LL. It might as well have been labelled a party political broadcast for the European Union. I think Mrs. Marr also writes for the Guardian.


      3. stred
        December 22, 2014

        The programme celebrated the year by including various interviews, one with Putin, but clipped to miss the interesting bits, when he explained Russian policy to gays, which was not too different to Mrs T’s. Then Sire John Major calling UKIP unpatriotic or was it un English? This from a PM that introduced French style to Downing Street.

  4. JimS
    December 21, 2014

    “At the high level, the UK’s first national interest must be to promote the prosperity, peace and happiness of UK citizens.”

    Something which can never happen as long as courts, foreign and national, determine that we have to have open our doors to anyone.

    A sovereign nation must have the absolute right to bar or deport anyone at will, the collective national ‘right to exist’ far exceeding ‘mission creep’, so-called human rights of the often hostile individual.

    1. backofanenvelope
      December 21, 2014

      I would have thought that first national interest was that the government maintains internal law and order and external defence. Whether that makes everyone happy and prosperous is rather besides the point.

  5. DaveM
    December 21, 2014

    Agree with these sentiments.

    I think it’s clear that we need to maintain our presence within the UN (although the political effect of that organisation is in serious doubt – all it ever really seems to do is ‘condemn’ things nowadays; condemnation doesn’t really prevent conflict or save lives.
    We need a trade agreement with the EU, and we need a defence alliance within NATO. Simple. However, in my experience NATO seems to be like a club that countries join nowadays in order to make them feel important – there is little or no contribution from anyone other than the UK, US, Netherlands, France, and Denmark. It needs to be seriously reformed and its aims redefined. Certainly as a major contributor we should be at the centre of that.

    You must feel, as much as anyone, that we are on the verge of major constitutional change in this country, and the issues mentioned in your post are all part of that. We need a vision for the short and medium term. We worry about the future of our children and our beloved country, and some of us worry about the balance of the world as a whole.

    If we spent the whole time waiting for the economy to recover we’d never do anything.

    JR:”We need to recognise the limits to our military power, and make sure we have sufficient military might to deter aggression against us and those we wish to protect, and to carry out expeditionary interventions where appropriate.”

    We do, and the military can’t take many more cuts without losing its effectiveness. With the lack of funding, it’s really quite hard work these days!! There is no appetite [among those who are inclined to join the military] to join a EU army – even if the conspiracy theory that the pro-EU cohort is preparing the way for such a thing (by cutting our forces beyond critical mass) is true.

    “Once the UK has a new idea of what its national interest is, then it is easier to decide what new relationship we need with the EU, which type of NATO interventions we will join, and what defence forces we need.” The sooner the better – no time like the present!!

    On a lighter note – please don’t call us “Defence Forces” or “Services”; my organisation has just celebrated its 350th birthday, and such terms are a bit insulting!! Armed Forces or HM Forces is just fine.

    1. Tad Davison
      December 21, 2014

      ‘You must feel, as much as anyone, that we are on the verge of major constitutional change in this country,’

      Dave, I hope to God you are right! The potential for a huge disaster is omnipresent. We have people in positions of power and influence who seem to be taking us in the wrong direction, and to what end?

      They don’t know the first thing about diplomacy, statesmanship, or an ethical foreign policy. And people literally pay for the failings of the political class with their lives.


  6. The PrangWizard
    December 21, 2014

    For my part I am of the view that the UK should take a much more independent role in the world, and as you say get closer to peoples who are more allied to our culture and history than we do at present, and not hostile to it, if that is their wish, and I look forward to your further views.

    However, I am sure you will take account of the future of the UK itself; – it cannot be the considered as the ‘old’ UK as there has to be much doubt about the loyalty and support of the government of Scotland, and a very large proportion of the people of Scotland. Indeed we must consider that Scotland may not even be part of it soon.

    In terms of defence, the ruling party SNP are anti-nuclear and do not want the Faslane submarine base to remain there, and our entire surface shipbuilding capability was moved to a potentially foreign country just months the referendum, which we now know did not settle anything.

    David Cameron and anyone else involved in promoting that move should never be forgiven by the English people.

    1. Max Dunbar
      December 21, 2014

      With respect to the needs of the UK population as a whole, Scotland and its naval and air bases are of crucial importance to the defence of mainland Britain and its islands. We cannot have a proportion of Scotland’s small population dictating the defence policies for mainland Britain in its entirety.
      Whatever the arguments are for or against Trident, it is not feasible to move the system from its present location on the Clyde. The terrain of the area which offers deep water access close inshore and mountain ranges ideally suited to secure weapon and logistics storage nearby are unique. The new Astute class of Hunter Killer submarine also requires base facilities of this quality.
      There seems to be a misconception amongst some correspondents that these submarines can simply be moved and moored alongside HMS Belfast in the Thames and their warheads stored in the basements of the Palace of Westminster. No doubt this arrangement would not be without appeal to certain elements of the Left, especially in Scotland

      Reply Clearly our country is better controlling the whole main island, as this makes it easier to defend and provides good harbours. There are however some good natural harbours in the south of the UK which can be adapted if the Scots carry on with their push to leave. Government claims it would be a very expensive and long winded process to put in the necessary installations, but doubtless necessity could be the mother of faster and cheaper invention.

    2. stred
      December 22, 2014

      Yes. Portsmouth scrapped by Eural McCameron in favour of his ancestral home.

  7. alan jutson
    December 21, 2014

    You are right to look at the way we have done war and business in the past.

    The world has changed, and so has the way we do business and fight wars/conflicts.

    We also now have the complication and misplacement/movement of millions of people who flee conflict and poverty and seem to be able to move freely from one country to another be it by refugee status, economic free movement, or illegal means.

    Our Government along with many others is now playing catch up, but are always one or two steps behind.

    The World is indeed a far more complicated place, where the old ways of doing things are no longer cutting the mustard.
    We now have a digital revolution and near instant communication, where almost every action and conversation no matter how trivial, can be broadcast to millions at the touch of a button.
    Given the above, it is also possible for people to manipulate real facts with fiction for their own advantage for a short term reaction and gain.

    We need to face facts, we can no longer afford both in financial and reputation terms, to act as part of the Worlds Police force, responsible for trying to solve all of the Worlds problems.

    We have to allow more countries to stand on their own two feet, and be able to a degree to isolate ourselves from some conflicts, instead of getting involved and complicating things to our own long term disadvantage.

  8. DaveM
    December 21, 2014

    Mr R,

    Please accept my apologies for continuing yesterday’s thread here, but the reply buttons have disappeared. I wouldn’t usually respond to a deliberately provocative post, however…


    @DaveM: Well Dave, you obviously didn’t die, although in your formulation you seem to claim credit for it. One could respond that wikipedia shows that 30x more Russian soldiers have given their life for my freedom (toppling Hitler) than British soldiers, but does that mean that I now have to bow for Mr Putin?

    No, I didn’t die because I wasn’t born, but family members did. I claim no credit whatsoever, but as someone who feels we owe that generation a debt I have given 24 years of my life to defending this country and its freedoms (which are now being given away by our politicians). Not as a pay clerk etc but as a frontline troop; I have been lucky, but many of my friends and colleagues haven’t, and the ones who are still alive bear terrible reminders.

    Due to close traditional links (and NATO) I have spent a lot of time with your countrymen and have genuine respect for, and some strong friendships with Dutchmen (whom I consider to be honourable, loyal, friendly, humorous, etc) – not one of them would consider uttering the total drivel you post here sometimes.

    No, you don’t have to bow to Putin (or indeed anyone), and neither do I, but the Russians would balk if they saw him betraying the memories of those millions who died defending their country against the tyranny of the Nazis. Many of your countrymen died during that war as well – would you have joined the Dutch Resistance? No need to answer that…

    1. Mark B
      December 21, 2014

      Well said, DaveM.

    2. Tad Davison
      December 21, 2014


      It is often said that at the war’s end, there were more Dutch soldiers in the SS than Germans. But volunteers from other European nations such as Denmark, Belgium, Norway, and Finland also enlisted in the SS.

      For the world to move on, old enemies and enmities have to be downplayed or even forgotten if we are to make progress. Curious then, that an old ally, Russia, is always demonised in the modern context rather than treated as an equal. The people who keep poking the bear really aren’t fit to be in a position of power. And yes Mr Cameron, you’re one of them!


  9. They Work for Us?
    December 21, 2014

    Digressing, Christopher Booker in the DT asserts that a DECC report (2050 Pathways Analysis) on how we will meet the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by four fifths implies/ recommends/ asserts that domestic gas for cooking and heating must be phased right out (by 2050) and be replaced by electricity. Cost and reliability of supply anyone?

    If this is true, this must be spelt out to the public, the need for scrapping domestic gas appliances and the real cost added on to fuel bills specified, followed by a manifesto commitment to hold a yes/ no referendum on the Climate Change Act to see if the public will allow politicians to proceed in this way.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 21, 2014

      Totally mad as usual. It clearly will not happen in the end but huge damage will be done and £billions wasted before some semblance of real physics and engineering (rather than religion and wishful thinking) returns to UK Energy production.

    2. acorn
      December 21, 2014

      I am afraid Booker is correct. The future is electric, it will replace all other forms of energy distribution and storage. Solid, liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels are by far the best for energy density per kilogram. So they should be. Nature has spent millions of years compressing solar energy into various forms and unfortunately humans will spend a lot less time reversing the process. Nature didn’t expect the reversal to be as fast as it currently is. Subsequently, the chemical equations nature left us with to do the re-balancing, are too slow.

      It is going to be solar-electric; wind-electric and even a bit of Biomethane-electric etc. All we need is someone to come up with the ultimate battery. You can get 200 watt-hours per kilogram in a Lithium Polymer battery. You get 12,200 watt-hours per kilogram (that is 1.37 litres) in R95 Unleaded gasoline (petrol).

      There again you get from the fission of Uranium 235, 25,000,000,000 Wh/kg. There’s an idea; nuclear-electric!!!

      1. BobE
        December 21, 2014

        Use nuclear to crack sea water into Oxygen and Hydrogen. Both are powerful fuels.

      2. Lifelogic
        December 21, 2014

        You also ignore costs you can store the 12,200W of petrol in a 5p plastic bottle the bottle. For the electricity (of just 200W) the bottle is the battery and it cost perhaps £200 and has a rather short life in charge discharge cycles. In short it cost far more than the energy it stores and loses perhaps 20% in the charge discharge cycle too.

        Yes role on nuclear fission, better nuclear reactor systems and nuclear fusion please. In the meantime oil, gas and coal are very good and very cheap.

    3. Vanessa
      December 21, 2014

      Zero-Carbon eh? And what do they propose aeroplanes use to fly with ? Huge batteries I don’t doubt ! These people are mad.

      1. stred
        December 22, 2014

        Vanessa. Biofuel- ethanol- from food crops or waste, ‘cooked’ using expensive green electricity.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    December 21, 2014

    You make no mention of the Commonwealth. I hope it features prominently and positively in you future writings.

    I think in the Commonwealth we will find many like-minded peoples. I think enough water has now flowed under the two bridges, independence from colonial rule on the one side, and a switch to the EU on the other, for parties on all sides to approach our common interests and ideals afresh.

    Despite the negatives, the positive aspects of Empire have dominated to the point that all commonwealth nations want to be in the Commonwealth. Britain should play to its strengths, and all commonwealth nations as equal partners should show the rest of the World how it is done.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      December 21, 2014

      Margaret Thatcher’s book, Statecraft, is generally excellent. But one thing that stood out by its absence was any mention of the Commonwealth. I do not understand why.

      Was it all to do with policy towards South Africa?

    2. DaveM
      December 21, 2014

      Absolutely agree Alan.

    3. Robert Taggart
      December 21, 2014

      Methinks all too many former colonies still have a heavy chip on their shoulders towards the ‘Mother Country’.
      All things considered (politics, economics, demographics, geographics, defence) – methinks Blighty still stands ‘head and shoulders’ above all its other members – on a one to one basis.
      Time for The Commonwealth to justify its continuance and any value it still has to Blighty.

      1. Alan Wheatley
        December 21, 2014

        I think you are taking a very blinkered view.

        For a start, the Commonwealth can’t do anything of its self, it is the Member nations of the Commonwealth that can choose whether to support or ignore it.

        The history does not inhibit, for instance, the Commonwealth Games, which continues to receive support from throughout to Commonwealth. It is known as “The Friendly Games” and for good reason.

        Commonwealth nations inherently share much common heritage and language. The Commonwealth is an enormous market, and, in contrast to the EU, one that is growing.

        The future is not one of colonial exploitation, but of mutual co-operation and shared benefit. The potential is there for the taking.

        1. Robert Taggart
          December 22, 2014

          ‘Bessie’ would be proud of you Al, but, Blighty methinks has ‘moved on’ !
          The Commonwealth be no longer comprised of former colonies only – Mozambique and Rwanda for example. Then there be the many former colonies / mandated territories – Eire, Israel / Palestine, the original thirteen United States… – who choose not to be members.
          No, methinks this institution will wither in time – all the more so once ‘Bessie’ ‘moves on’ herself !

  11. oldtimer
    December 21, 2014

    Thank you for raising this neglected subject. At present, in my opinion, both this and the previous governments have failed in their first duty towards UK citizens. They have surrendered sovereignty without proper consent, they have buried the nation under excessive national debt and they have put at risk its productive capacity by a wholly ill-conceived energy policy. The capability of the armed forces has been compromised, undermining their ability to mount the “expeditionary interventions” to which you refer.

    With the present course, and mind set, of the Cameron government I see little sign of these weaknesses being remedied. But I do see plenty of posturing and pandering.

  12. Bert Young
    December 21, 2014

    Dr.JR , a first class blog today . Reasserting our independence , substantiating our values , letting the world know where we stand – and having the means do do so if need be , is a good signal to send . US foreign policy has been wrong-footed for a long time and we have been very foolish to have fallen into line with them . The Middle East and Ukraine are at the top of the list at the moment ; in the past Viet Nam is still a very ugly cloud .

    The economic clout of the USA is a very important factor in our own commercial standing – something to accept and to go along with . At the same time we can punch our weight in the financial world and play a significant part in the scientific and research fields . Not to be underscored is our background and skills in diplomacy – features long admired by everyone .

    The EU is a fledgling scar ; we should be rid of it as soon as possible . What it is trying to be is a long way short of where we have been and where we ought to be now . By all means let us give it advice – and there the relationship should stop .

  13. ian wragg
    December 21, 2014

    Your boss continues to ponce around the world stage whilst destroying our capabilities.
    We are an island nation but I see we are only going to build 13 Type 26 warships as 1 for 1 replacements.
    Our maritime capability is laughable after the 2 Ronnies took an axe to the fleet. We live in the most dangerous times and you continue to waste money on the EU and aid when you should be protecting the population.
    Will you be recruiting Spanish, Portuguese or Filipino personnel for the armed forces as they will possibly be cheaper like the nurses?
    Putin keeps probing our territory but we have no means of detection. Shame on you.

  14. sm
    December 21, 2014

    A Times letter-writer reminded us this week of Palmerston’s wise aphorism: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual.”

    I look forward to your further postings on this subject, John.

  15. agricola
    December 21, 2014

    You pose a lengthy submission, please do not penalise an equal response. These are not questions for one liners.

    While I sympathise with the USA in their reaction to 9/11, and would support them in many instances, we need to lead the intellectual debate even if we lack the numbers we can put on the ground. We have been at the table longer. The USA has tended to act more like Rambo than George Smiley, leaving even bigger problems in their wake. If the seeking of a new relationship with Cuba marks a change I am all for it, having wondered why not for the past twenty years.

    I also advocate a more thoughtful relationship with Russia. I see the Ukraine, the EUs first shot at having a foreign policy as an unmitigated disaster. I have some sympathy with Russia’s reaction to it.

    Just as internal control of the UK has been and continues to be ceded to the EU, the trend in foreign policy is going that way too. The EU would reduce Westminster to the status of Warmington on Sea local council if it could.

    Cameron’s love of the EU remains unexplained, despite the increasing amount of their midden they throw at him and England, aided and abetted by the Lib/Dems and Labour. Just as Labour have created a dependency culture in parts of the UK, they would have us become dependant supplicants of the EU. An utterly despicable attitude , paying for the privilege of begging at their door.

    The UK’s destiny is outside political EU as a trading partner that remains a strong member of NATO and the Security Council. NATO has a good track record, resented in parts of the EU because it reinforces their historic and present day inability to act as a military entity. For instance the Anglosphere has returned France to the French people three times in the past two hundred years only highlighting their weaknesses in the process.

    At present the real threat to Russia, USA, Europe, the UK, and the rest of the Anglosphere and beyond is militant Islam. I do not see any answers coming out of the EU who cannot even run their own pretence at nationhood. This is why I advocate a coordinated response from all those nations listed above and any other suffering daily the obscenity of militant Islam.

    Talk of re-negotiation of our relationship with the EU is a political sop invented by CMD. Until we are out, all aspirations for the UK in the World are no more than a New Year wish list.

    1. Mark B
      December 21, 2014

      Good post.

      Thank you.

    2. Tad Davison
      December 21, 2014

      Obama said sanctions against Cuba haven’t worked for 50 years. On the same day, he announces a new raft of powers to allow him to use yet more sanctions against Russia!

      Oh what a tangled web these people weave!


  16. bluedog
    December 21, 2014

    Bold thinking, Dr JR, and your quest promises to be of enormous interest as well as entertaining in itself.

    Permit your correspondent to offer a few initial thoughts. Assume that the UK as it is today is starting again with a blank sheet of paper. History has been wiped from the national hard-drive and there is no need to consider the feelings of other nations, merely to draw up a manifesto for the sole benefit of the UK.

    The British Isles present the opportunity for the hegemonial power, which is England, to establish an archipelagic state. The geography of the British Isles dictates that England cannot be secure unless it obtains a peace settlement of some kind with any other powers inhabiting the island of Britain, which happen to be Scotland and Wales, as well as the other island in the archipelago, which is Ireland. The hegemonial power needs to be a naval power with the capacity to neutralise any threat that may emerge in the approaches to the British Isles. The naval force needs to maintain a capacity for amphibious warfare in order to recover outlying islands or remote parts of the mainland that may fall prey to enemy lodgements. The close proximity of France on the southern side of the Channel is a major complicating factor, in that a hostile power in France can present a debilitating threat to the English core and the current capital of London.

    Allowing history to intrude, this strategic imperative was well understood by the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties who worked tirelessly towards the end described. The Hanoverians subsequently inherited the strategy and ruthlessly repressed any revolt by the Scots while successfully alienating the Irish (and the Americans). However, by 1801, the overall plan reached its formal conclusion and coincidentally, the power of the United Kingdom approached its zenith.

    At this stage we need to stop because the United Kingdom is in the process of unravelling and the position of England is in serious danger of reverting to that of 1066 before the Battle of Hastings. The important exception is that in late 1066 the English crown was seized by the Duke of Normandy, who was a vassal of the French king. Accordingly, the problem of the close proximity of France was immediately resolved, although not on a favourable basis for the English people.

    1. Max Dunbar
      December 21, 2014

      Copy to Cameron.

  17. mickc
    December 21, 2014

    NATO has become an arm of US neocon foreign policy, with the UK under Cameron going along with the US no matter what, or being its spearhead (the abortive attempt to go to war with Syria).
    The reasons for the UK to have a new naval base in Bahrein are presumably because the US wants us there, for there is no benefit to the UK immediately apparent. The aircraft carriers (Brown’s folly…and bribe) we have built are not needed and cannot contribute to our security. They should be sold.
    The UK has no immediate or neighbouring military threats. Russia poses no threat whatsoever to us or any EU nation.However if it is impoverished by the West’s actions, Putin may be overthrown (very unlikely indeed) and his replacement is unlikely to be as tolerant.

    1. DaveM
      December 21, 2014

      Actually, Bahrain has been a centrepiece for a few years now due to anti-piracy ops, transport links to Afghan and Pakistan, etc, and the establishment of the base there will be extremely convenient and cost-effective to the UK’s operations at the minute.

      In addition, aircraft carriers are crucial not only in projecting force and maintaining a presence all over the world but also in allowing the UK to sit at the top table in NATO and the world.

      Sorry – I don’t mean to be pedantic, but this sort of thing is my job!!

    2. Tad Davison
      December 21, 2014

      I agree with Mick.

  18. Robert Taggart
    December 21, 2014

    Blighty does appear to have its fingers in rather too many international ‘pies’ – in no particular order…
    United Nations, Commonwealth, G20, G7, Council of Europe, Union of Europe, NATO, British-Irish Council (England excepted !)
    Truth is politicos love striding the ‘world stage’ – mefears therefore – we will be given many and varied excuses for justifying all their junkets !

  19. Mark B
    December 21, 2014

    Good afternoon.

    A very noble piece by our kind host. But !

    We can no longer have a foreign policy whilst we are members of the EU. What foreign policy we have, could be said to be little more than a Common Foreign Policy debated and decided amongst all the 28 Foreign Ministers / Secretaries of State of the EU. Even if we see something that is not in out interests, if out voted, we are unable to follow a different path.

    The EU benefits doubly from the Security Council at the UN. Both the UK and France are permanent members and, both have veto’s. So the EU is somewhat over represented in that department and, I can foresee a time when either ourselves or France, will be ask to give up our position and had it to another Country, or to the EU itself. And this is quite significant. Because more and more decisions are begin taken at a higher level, even above the EU.

    The UK would be better of out of the EU. We need to issue an Article 50 declaration and seek new terms. Terms based on trade, cooperation, friendship and shared interests.

    Once outside the political aspect of the EU, the UK will flourish. We can get rid of the ECHR and all the associated baggage that comes with it. An prosperous and free UK would, in my opinion, encourage other Member Countries to leave and seek a new relationship. That would just those who are committed to the concept of EVER CLOSER UNION, which the people of the UK are not.

  20. Tad Davison
    December 21, 2014

    Experience has shown me that some comments are off-limits, so I avoid writing about things that I know won’t be used. That is sad, for how else will the political class ever get to know of my displeasure, my dissatisfaction, my disaffection, and my disdain?

    Presently, I am having great difficulty in writing anything meaningful about today’s debate that stands any chance of being aired, so I have to couch my comments very guardedly. A reference then to some of the things one is able to learn about on the internet might therefore be in order.

    The internet is such an enlightening place and is so full of interesting facts and figures relevant to today’s debate. It has thousands of eminent people who explain all about controlled demolitions of buildings that take weeks to set up. Who give historic parallels of where buildings have been hit by flying objects, or have been entirely engulfed in flames, yet and have been left standing. It gives accounts of terrorists who are supposedly killed in suicidal missions who then turn up alive and well. It tells governments who create false pretexts for wars and incursions. Of lobbyists who manipulate government policies that favour big business – especially arms manufacturers – and then provide situations for them to be used, and stockpiles replenished at great expense.

    The internet also gives a great account of our collective global history and the need for a United Nations that actually does what it was intended to do.

    NATO also comes under the spotlight. The reasons for its existence to combat and deter an aggressive menace, and how it has been coercively and surreptitiously manipulated for offensive actions since the fall of the Soviet Union.

    I like the way the internet gives the freedom from the political slant of the likes of Fox News and the BBC, so that we can see for ourselves the vast amount of misinformation we are constantly being fed. I note that in the case of the latter, they have still not replied to my MP, Julian Huppert, who wrote to them on my behalf some time ago to ask them to explain why they used a false and stage-managed chemical attack upon Syrian civilians in their news bulletins, and put it out as genuine.

    I could go on for ever, but the internet does allow an alternative point of view to be heard, and in the interests of an open democracy, that is no bad thing.

    Tad Davison


    Reply Yes, the internet does help us by offering varied and different information. It also offers a lot of false conspiracy theories and poorly researched and libellous allegations, so it needs to be read with care and with an eye to the proof behind the charge.

    1. Tad Davison
      December 21, 2014

      Reply to reply:

      Some things we find on the internet, I grant you, are fanciful. Some people are away with the fairies. Yet some things are incontrovertible, such as the laws of physics and the laws of mechanics, and there are cases where people should be brought to book for trying to kid us of a version of events that simply could not have happened the way the official accounts say it did. That elevates something from a theory, to a fact.

      So the internet has also been most useful in resoundingly disproving official reports, and when we put all these things together, we then discover just how some elements of government are corrupt and have cheated the people for decades because prior to the advent of the internet, there wasn’t an effective way for a large number of people to get at the truth.

      The internet has also been most useful in exposing miscarriages of justice, and odious criminal practises that were covered up for years by a crooked establishment. Of course we need to be careful not to wrongly accuse anyone, for that is the original nightmare scenario, but where the internet does unearth credible cases of impropriety, it is only right that the charge is properly addressed by people whose integrity is beyond reproach.

      Frankly, I have little faith in government or its agencies to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but I didn’t come to that position on a whim. I came to that conclusion on the back of years of research. Everywhere we look, we see the vested interests of a few taking precedence over the interests of the many, and that naturally includes international affairs.

      I absolutely agree with your statement ‘ the UK’s first national interest must be to promote the prosperity, peace and happiness of UK citizens. This should mean we wish to promote free trade, democracy and peace around the world. ‘ But you must surely concede we haven’t made a very good job of doing that so far, and we need to ask ourselves why the world is now such a dangerous place. Then after a period of reflection, we need to change the system and lose the people who have made such a mess of it.


    2. Lifelogic
      December 21, 2014

      To reply: Well yes but it is far, far more reliable (on average) than the BBC and the vast government propaganda unit that we all have to fund. These have a huge systemic bias. Fewer people are actually being paid to be professional liers on the internet, We do not have to pay for them under threat of imprisonment either.

  21. Max Dunbar
    December 21, 2014

    Certainly all that you say is valid but it depends on a strong integrated and unified state to begin with. This, at present, we do not have. A redefinition of the UK national interest both within as well as outwith our country would be in order.

  22. Martyn G
    December 21, 2014

    John, whilst agreeing in toto with your well reasoned post it seems to me that first and foremost the overriding duty of government is to secure our borders, which clearly it has failed to do.
    Until our borders are made as secure as reasonably possible which, again, is patently not yet the case, instead of meddling in sometimes stupid ways with various middle-east factions and thereby increasing the number of our enemies, government should concentrate – ignoring if necessary all EU edicts on the subject – on properly securing our borders.

    1. Lifeligic
      December 21, 2014

      Ken Clark today on Andrew Marr said it was “illegal immigration” that was the problem (so not the open door EU immigration so beloved by LibLabCon then).

      Complete rubbish as usual, the problem is the quality and quantity of the immigration and how well it integrates in the UK. A hard working, skilled & talented, heathy and young but “illegal” immigrant one might be far more determined (and better economically & socially) than a legal but lazy or criminally minded one from within the EU.

      Or perhaps better than an ageing one one with severe health needs, perhaps even more elderly parents they brought with them and perhaps several children children who speak no English.

      We need a point based system that takes the best for anywhere in the World not the current EU good/rest of the World is bad. This is clearly racist by definition.

      1. Tad Davison
        December 21, 2014

        Absolutely! You beat me to it LL.


  23. forthurst
    December 21, 2014

    JR is correct to challenge the inherent assumptions of our place in the world and how we maintain it, as it is largely based on historical baggage of our own, of our own time as a great and powerful empire, and those of others who have not yet noticed that the Bolshevik Empire ceased to exist twenty years ago and, on the other hand, the USA has become the world’s superpower and international bully, projecting force not only through its military bases throughout the ‘free’ world, but also through those of its vassal states including the UK through EU/NATO.

    The USA ceased to be the “land of the free and home of the brave” on 9/11/01. That event has been utilised to turn the USA into a virtual prison camp controlled by the Department of Homeland Security, a domestic military force armed with hollow point ammunition and war fighting technology, and which through its FEMA operation, treats travellers to disgusting personal intrusions and which and has also set up a network of domestic ‘camps’ whose purpose remains unadmitted.

    9/11 also put the neocons in the driving seat for foreign policy and as a direct result there has been aggressive wars waged in the ME, Sub-Saharan Africa, and a now another totally unnecessary and economically damaging confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. We need to take a very close look at exactly who is driving the foreign policy which we have adopted by default and how on Earth being an active participant in it is either our own interests or any one else’s.

    etc ed

    1. Tad Davison
      December 21, 2014

      Well said, and I agree, but I would go back to November 22nd 1963 for the real watershed moment.

      I would have loved to have known what the ‘etc’ was.

      Everything you say can be proved. Doubters might wish to start with Bush’s Patriot Act. Implemented within weeks of 9/11, yet these things take months if not years to draft.


  24. Gumpy Goat
    December 21, 2014

    nato is the bedrock of our security, makes me think of the old KGB adage “useful idiot’ the Russians must be paying you a lot. Is not time you thought of leaving politics?

    1. zorro
      December 21, 2014

      What rot! So because John does not toe the neocon line, he is in the pay of the Russians?…. The Russians wouldn’t be able to pay him enough anyway! 😉


    2. Tad Davison
      December 21, 2014

      Silly thing to say Gumpy Goat. Can you say with absolute certainty that you haven’t been taken for a ‘useful idiot’ by listening to the propaganda put out by the side that always seems to be the aggressor?

      Does Iraq, Libya, and a host of other places ring any bells?

      As for getting paid, I doubt if John takes money from Russia, and I know I certainly don’t. My motivation stems from the fact that I have three great honest and hard-working kids of fighting age who are a credit to society, and I will do everything I can to stop them coming home in body bags from an unnecessary conflict all because of some neo-con or liberal interventionist.


      Reply The comment about me and Russia was too silly to bother with. I began the article by condemning Russian illegal acts. I do not receive any money from Russia.

    3. stred
      December 22, 2014

      When Nato was created, the Secretary Generals were selected from the military and diplomatic service. Int he 1950s the ex-Belgian PM became the Chief. More recently, the ex-Danish PM, Anders Rasmussen was chosen. He was a fan of Toy Blair and lost no time in telling the Russians to pull back from the brink- or else. He was a former head of the European Council, the unelected forum which decides our policies, such as Gay Marriage, the expelling of Russia and sanctions.

      From 13th Oct 2014, the new head, as recommended by Mrs Merkel, is Jens Stolteberg, ex PM of Norway, Labour Party, Blairite, ex Red/Green coalition, inluenced by sister when in Red Youth. Has been harshly critical of the Russians. See Wiki.

      For the future Nato could look to the attractive current Danish PM wh, when not taking selfies with Barrack and Eural, supported them in the overthrow of the Libyan regime and replacement with total chaos.

      The first question on this blog asked who pays for the bombs and aircraft. Who pays for the Secretary Generals and their staff too?

  25. Martin Ryder
    December 21, 2014

    The Defence and Security of the citizens of the United Kingdom and the protection of their money and property must always be the prime aim of any government.

    If everyone can’t sleep soundly in their beds then what is the point of all the other things that government provides. I think that this starts with: police officers controlling the streets; other police officers and MI5 officers controlling terrorism; and immigration & customs officers controlling our borders.

    These should be able to deal with threats to our people in peacetime. I doubt that they can, as matters stand today. This sort of work needs large numbers of people working effectively and intelligently 24/7 but the government wants to cut the numbers of just these people.

    In wartime – and no one can say for sure that there will never be another war that threatens the citizen – the three armed services must be capable of dealing with: incursions by air by land or sea based armed aircraft, including drones; incursions by armed bands of terrorists by air or sea; armed insurrection within the UK (similar to the ‘Troubles’); invasion by enemy forces from the air and sea, either before or after the EU has been attacked and defeated (Russia could do this now and China will be able to do it in a decade or so – the numbers do not have to be large, despite our supposedly having the fifth largest defence budget); and cyber and nuclear strike.

    The government should be confident that it can do all of this before getting itself involved in expeditionary wars in countries that are never going thank us for the blood and money wasted on propping up yet another government that cannot survive on its own. We should never again invade a country that is not at war with us nor should we ever help a government fight its citizens.

    Many people reading the above will laugh and say nothing like this could or would ever happen; why should anyone wish to invade poor old Britain? I hope that they are right but the world has changed from the Victorian age when we could fight wars overseas without any fear of retaliation at home. We are all vulnerable and the next war could easily be fought in our streets, with our front doors being the front line.

    1. DaveM
      December 21, 2014

      Never say never – that’s why we still have tanks and a navy!!

  26. Margaret Brandreth-J
    December 21, 2014

    ” I have a dream”

  27. matthu
    December 21, 2014

    Best news ever when I heard that Ken Clarke, Peter Mandelson and Danny Alexander have agreed to act as the main figureheads of a pro-EU campaign in the event of a referendum. (No doubt Hesseltine will be a figurehead of some sort as well …)

    Seems like it may be make your mind up time, David!

  28. bluedog
    December 21, 2014

    Continuing, with your permission, Dr JR.

    The first and most important priority for the British government today is to re-establish a constitutional settlement between the four nations inhabiting the British Isles. As we well know, the previous unitary system of government was thoughtlessly over-turned by the Blair government by means of its policy of partial devolution. You have rightly been active in trying to develop an equitable replacement.

    When Ireland became partitioned in the early twentieth century, it is clear to this writer that the creation of Ulster had two purposes, one unstated. The unstated objective was to retain a strong base on the island of Ireland so that Ireland could not easily be invested by a hostile naval power as had happened throughout history, thus threatening the island of Britain from its western approaches. There is pressure to re-unite Ireland, but this can only permitted on terms that re-incorporate the whole of the island of Ireland within the British power structure. A re-united and independent Ireland may initially be an amicable neighbour, but as with the possibility of an independent Scotland, it could lead to a different outcome. The possibility that England and Wales could now be confronted by independent and biddable micro-states (Ireland and Scotland) on both western and northern peripheries presents a very considerable latent risk. A constitutional settlement which neutralises this risk is therefore of the highest importance.

    Apart from the over-riding need to secure an amicable relationship with France to the south, the next most important foreign relationship is with Norway, which occupies the eastern littoral of the North Sea. The strength of Britain’s geographic position is that it enables the British fleet potentially to blockade the Channel ports, the mouths of the Rhine and the Baltic, thus crippling maritime trade conducted by a large number of European nations including Russia. Why is this necessary? To keep the boys in line. If the Norwegian coast is occupied by a hostile power, the ability to blockade the Baltic and the mouths of the Rhine by way of the North sea is constrained. Thus a close relationship with Norway is of critical importance and an alliance structure that facilitates this must be established.

    Dr JR, we are now starting to see the outlines of a bare minimum in UK treaty relationships that enable protection of the Realm and the growth of its prosperity through trade and commerce.

    Reply The UK’s approach to Northern Ireland and Scotland is the same – they can stay in our union if that is their wish, or leave if they vote to do so. Northern Ireland stays because the majority have no wish to leave and do not want a referendum. Scotland stays because the majority in the last referendum wish to stay. It is not the rest of the UK pulling the strings, but the wishes of the people living in these parts of the UK.

  29. Andyvan
    December 21, 2014

    Being a member of NATO is not in Britains interest. A shocking thing to say maybe but NATO is now merely a vehicle for America and it’s vassal states to wage war on whatever country has not followed it’s orders to the satisfaction of Washington. Despite extreme provocation there is absolutely no chance that Puting will invade Europe. Why would he? He can shut it down by turning off the oil and gas taps or announcing a holiday on debt repayment (causing the banking system to explode). The only way a war will start with Russia is if our stupid leaders allow NATO to be used by Obama and his neo con lunatics to start a hot war. It’s high time Britain got out from the NATO/American shadow and ran it’s foreign affairs properly.

  30. Boudicca
    December 21, 2014

    I would have thought the highest interest would be:

    Defence of the Realm
    Maintaining the rule of law; and upholding the laws and customs of the UK
    Maintaining our national Sovereignty

    LibLabCON have failed on all three. And there is no hope of them correcting their errors.

  31. Vanessa
    December 21, 2014

    JR – What do you think of Britain joining APEC when we leave the EU ? Good for global trade?

    Reply Do you mean OPEC? I do not think that a serious runner. We do not have to join any more clubs, just have sensible trade agreements with all the main economies of the world which we negotiate for ourselves as we used to.

    1. Vanessa
      December 22, 2014

      No, not OPEC but the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation – APEC. Is it an option? And a valuable one?

      Reply We do not qualify geographically, but as an independent country could have a trade deal with them.

  32. john malpas
    December 22, 2014

    Are you bsure there is any point to this all.
    From the outside it looks like the idea of nation is what the EU is out to destroy.
    The EU would likely prefer the UK to be just a province of the EU. Mass immigration is designed to eliminate nationalism wherever such immigration occurs. And nationalistic ( right wing) groups are suppressed with some vigour everywhere in the West.

  33. Iain Gill
    December 22, 2014

    We could do a lot better with our relationship with New Zealand and Australia. Its funny in New Zealand they are more pro British than we are, yet we give them such hassle if they want a work visa for a while or whatever. We really should get our priorities right.

  34. Daniel Hewson
    December 25, 2014

    The UK should create an Anglosphere commonwealth alliance with Australia, New Zealand & Canada. We should have a free movement of goods, people & services between our countries, we should form closer intelligence & military ties so as to work together to defeat Islamic terrorism.

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