Cost of living crisis, post-pandemic costs, fractured global economy and Cold War II (last two care of Tsar Putin) – the impact on our economy will be huge. Accordingly, the arguments for rapid increases in defence spending will be problematic. But if we are to properly answer the question, of what is the first duty of Government, doubling defence expenditure back towards Cold War levels (with strategic reserve) would now seem imperative – no autocrat can be given the benefit of the doubt again. Worryingly the voices calling for rebuild seem muted as yet.
We have built risk on top of risk over the last 30 years, and fooled ourselves with many clever arguments (and I apologise I’ve made them as well) about how the web of trade and geo-political inter-connections should make disturbances to that global system to no one’s interest – Putin has put paid to that lie. And fooled ourselves that, even if crises do arise, real war will be fought remotely and in cyber space requiring a down play on heavy metal. But clearly mass and face to face engagement still retains import. And we can no longer abdicate our responsibilities expecting others to pick up the mass tab while we chase the cheaper soft power option. That route has also proven misguided – long term security requires the Roosevelt ‘big stick’ doctrine if one is to remain a credible and influential player in global geo-politics.
So the question is not should we rebuild – we must – but where should we place our emphasis in that rebuild? As part of the European ‘main’ – Continentalist and terrestrial in attitude – or more towards the maritime – Atlanticist in altitude – where our contribution in the Alliance focusses on our strengths as an island nation? This is not rebuilding of Europe post WWII (BAOR is for the history books) but a rebuild/rapid strengthening of the concept of what it is to be a Western aligned nation that believes in defending the rights of the individual, and democratic society all powered by liberal capitalism not growth by military adventure or acquisition.