We’re living in an age of constant competition. Recently, we’ve seen the appalling terror attacks on innocents in Manchester and london. Besides contending with Islamist extremism at home, we’re facing Daesh in the Middle East, Russian resurgence in Eastern Europe and global cyber attacks. Such diverse dangers undermine our rules-based international order.
In response, our Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) of 2015 saw us reinvigorating deterrence for the modern age. Deterrence is about more than nuclear weapons. It’s about ensuring our adversaries understand that force won’t succeed or will reap a cost far greater than any potential reward. In the Cold War we massed troops along the Iron Curtain’s frontiers, and built vast nuclear arsenals. In today’s ambiguous and amorphous world of ‘grey zone’ conflict we are using all the levers of national power, in tandem with new technologies, to strengthen our modern deterrence.
So first, we’re getting better – increasing our budget year-on-year at 0.5% above inflation. We’re spending £178 billion on an array of high-end capability: Apache helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft; Dreadnought submarines and hunter killer submarines. I recently cut steel on HMS Glasgow, the first of eight City- Class anti-submarine frigates to protect our two new aircraft carriers. The first of those, the mighty HMS Queen Elizabeth, is undergoing sea trials and will soon be preparing to embark the world-class F35 lightning fast jet. We will have the most powerful carrier strike capability of any European navy.
Secondly, we’re getting busier – showing we have the willpower and firepower to front up to aggression. Today we have 10,000 personnel deployed worldwide. Yet we pack a more powerful punch by standing together.
So we’re strengthening our ties – especially with NATO, the bedrock of our defence. As I write, our forces are policing Black Sea skies, leading half of NATO’s maritime missions and commanding an Alliance Battlegroup in Estonia. Meanwhile, they are playing a pivotal role in the 72-member Counter-Daesh Coalition – helping defeat the death cult in the Middle East – and fortifying Afghanistan’s fledgling democracy.
Our brave people will always be our greatest asset but, in a more competitive labour marketplace, we must recruit and retain the brightest and best. So we’ve introduced legislation making it easier for personnel to work flexibly – where operational need allows.
Thirdly, we’re getting bolder. Our adversaries are seeking to re-write our Western story with unprecedented speed. So we’re delivering a faster truth, calling out their illegal actions and creating a counternarrative. We’re showing our values aren’t tradeable while making the case for liberty, free markets and innovation.
However, our modern deterrence must evolve. Since 2015, the international threats have intensified. We’re now reviewing our national security capabilities to defend and deter against these dangers. Building on our SDSR, we will develop our Joint Force 2025, ensuring NATO remains at the heart of British Defence and guaranteeing our investments remain as joined-up, effective and efficient as possible.
So we’re answering modern-day dangers with modern deterrence. Whatever the threats of tomorrow, defence will continue to deliver.