Integrated Review: Foreign perspectives

In March, the United Kingdom (UK) published the Integrated Review – entitled ‘Global Britain in a competitive age’ – setting the tone and course for British strategic policy for the next decade. Britain’s World has covered the publication of the review from a range of perspectives, including the Euro-Atlantic, Indo-Pacific, and Polar dimensions. Today we have assembled four ‘foreign’ perspectives, from the Americas, Europe and the Indo-Pacific regions. These countries – Chile, India, Lithuania and the United States (US) – are close UK allies and partners. Their perspectives matter to British interests in the South Atlantic and Antarctic, the eastern flank of Europe, the Indo-Pacific and, in the US case, globally. – Editor

The view from Santiago

The UK’s Integrated Review, which is defined in its own words as ‘a guide for action’, establishes, with precision, at least four major national objectives: to help shape an open international order; to maintain leadership through science and technology; to strengthen internal and external security, with British capabilities and in conjunction with allies; and to create a resilient society to cope with the future.

Leaving aside the valid discussion on whether the UK will be able to comply with everything that is proposed, the document has great value in itself, because it offers a model on how to develop an integrated strategy to orient a country’s international presence in turbulent times such as today.

For a country like Chile, which shares interests and values with the UK, certain aspects of the Integrated Review may be applicable here if, finally, we decided to compile a similar document. For instance: the integration doctrine (synergies); the definitions of national interests (as the foreign policy core); call things by their names (in particular, threats); and establishing priorities (Indo-Pacific).

To a greater extent than in the past several years, this new approach opens up opportunities to continue strengthening ties between our countries. Britain’s request to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP-11) has been strongly supported by Chile, which in turn was the first country to sign a free trade agreement with the UK when Brexit had not yet come to fruition.

Also, we look forward to the deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth – the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier – to the Indo-Pacific, because the security of that area is also crucial to us. Our main trade partners today are based in that region. Moreover, the Integrated Review grants crucial importance to science and the Antarctic, areas in which we have already been working together for decades.

However, the Integrated Review only mentions Chile once – when different regions are reviewed, namely Latin America. It says there that the UK is very interested in cooperating with Brazil and Mexico on matters such as trade and security, as well as with ‘Argentina, Chile and Colombia’. We would have expected to have a more noteworthy place, at least separate from Argentina in this aspect, given our close relationship with the UK, and the fact that recent maps of Argentina presented this very year lay claim to British and Chilean territories in the southern extreme of South America.

Finally, since the Integrated Review itself says that ‘Global Britain’ must be defined more by actions than by words, I hope that future actions will deepen the joint work between our countries, because the society we have built over 200 years has proven to be successful, especially in challenging times like today.

Juan Pablo Toro
Executive Director, AthenaLab

The view from New Delhi

Security, defence and development are critical elements of a country’s comprehensive national power and closely linked with foreign policy balancing. The UK’s Integrated Review is a fine reflection of this narrative highlighting how Britain is manoeuvring new contours of Indo-Pacific geopolitics to execute more cooperative and engaging partnerships in the region, of which India emerges as a cohesive and well-rounded partner. Having established a ‘strategic partnership’ since 2004, India and the UK upgraded their ties to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ in May 2021 under their ambitious ‘Roadmap 2030’. The Integrated Review provides the backdrop for a India-UK partnership that is comprehensive in nature. 

This is welcome news for New Delhi, which has been expanding its ‘new’ foreign policy canvas from ‘multi-alignment’ to a ‘pointed-alignment’ strategy. This new outlook focuses on deepening engagement with specific countries along the lines of particular goals related to defence, economy and more. Having left the European Union (EU), the UK has emphasised rebuilding its global strength, with a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific. The Integrated Review highlights this outlook: London wants ‘deeper engagement’ in the region and therein recognises the ‘importance of powers’, such as India, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Japan. This complements India’s own focus on Britain as a global (and Indo-Pacific) partner with shared democratic values and vision of multipolar order. 

Under such an approach, the Integrated Review points to areas with immense potential for the UK-India ties: research and innovation, multilateral cooperation via ventures like the Group of Seven, cultural linkages, democratic ideals, climate change, energy, defence, maritime synergy and mutual perception of common threats such as the PRC’s assertive rise. Roadmap 2030 marks the first step in realising such potential through broad-based cooperation and regular high-level and working group consultations, while also highlighting that UK-India ties are a ‘global force for good’. 

As ‘Global Britain’ extends itself beyond the EU, it will need to engage with partners not only bilaterally but also via multilateral groupings  – such as with Japan, Australia, or other EU states, especially France, that are focusing more on the Indo-Pacific. For India, the UK could emerge as a key maritime partner in the Indian Ocean; not only can both countries jointly promote a multilateral dialogue on maritime security in the region through platforms like the Commonwealth, but also broaden their naval cooperation through increased joint exercises and new Memorandums of Understanding on logistics and training (currently in the works). 

It is now vital for both states to sustain their current political momentum to ensure a positive outlook and keep their partnership from becoming stagnant. Regular foreign and defence secretary- or minister-level consultations will be critical for both states to bridge existing gaps in their outlooks and find avenues to enhance cooperation. In other words, London should build on the Integrated Review to adopt a more pointed and pragmatic approach to India, while looking to gradually construct a strong, robust and resilient partnership that imbibes its comprehensive strategic character. 

Dr Jagannath Panda
Research Fellow and Centre Coordinator for East Asia at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi

The view from Vilnius

The Baltic states and the UK share common values and geopolitical interests. From the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, which was never recognised by the British Government, to the common work in multiple international organisations, the strength of relationship has been proven continuously. Therefore, the UK’s Integrated Review is a document of significance for the Baltic states.

From the Baltic perspective, it is essential that the Integrated Review recognises the need for the UK to do more to reinforce parts of the international architecture that are under threat, not least by working with international partners. For instance, Britain plays an essential role in strengthening stability and deterrence on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) Eastern frontier with about 900 British personnel in Estonia where British troops are leading a multinational battlegroup as part of the Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP). Moreover, the Integrated Review specifies the need to improve interoperability between Euro-Atlantic allies and specifically mentions the Joint Expeditionary Force, which comprises the UK, all three Baltic states, as well as Iceland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The UK has always been on the same side with the Baltic states on Russia. The Integrated Review acknowledges Russia as ‘the most acute threat to our security’, a view widely shared in Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius. As the UK commits to continue spending at least two percent of Gross Domestic Product on defence, as well as contribute to efforts to tackle Russia’s malign influence on multiple fronts, such as cyber, hybrid and so on, strategic cooperation with the Baltic states will only be enhanced. 

The UK initiative to create a rapid rebuttal mechanism to counter Russian misinformation is of particular interest, as the Baltic states have faced the threat of Russian-linked disinformation ever since the reestablishment of our independence. Vast Baltic experience in dealing with this issue opens additional doors to work together with decision-makers and experts in Britain.

Linas Kojala
Director, Eastern Europe Studies Centre

The view from Washington, DC

The recent Integrated Review was a significant event in the UK’s defence posture. It picked up from where the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review left off in 2015. Unlike these 2015 papers, however, the Integrated Review spells out a vision that is much closer to that now held in Washington, DC and thus likely to herald greater strategic alignment. 

In its reassertion of the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region – a formal end to the ‘East of Suez’ policy – the Integrated Review aligns neatly with the US’ own rebalance from the Middle East to Asia that took place during the administration of President Barack Obama. As with America’s own thinking, the Integrated Review appreciates that the PRC is at the heart of this change, both in terms of driving the region’s economic growth and in terms of presenting challenges to the health of the rules-based order. 

Intriguingly, the Integrated Review differs slightly from US rhetoric on the rules-based order – some would argue more realistically – insofar as it recognises that defending a ‘status quo’ order is no longer possible. Instead, Britain will seek to ‘shape’ an ‘open international order’ in ways that reflect democratic values and human rights, something that certainly aligns with President Biden’s administration’s own lead in this area. 

The Integrated Review also adds the strategic vision to thinking where the UK has arguably moved ahead to the US – in responding to Russian and Chinese political warfare – by updating theories of non-nuclear deterrence and integrating operations across all levels of defence – including the information space. Finally, the Integrated Review’s focus of resources on science and technology brings London in line with Washington, DC’s recognition that the primary vector for competition with the PRC will be in new disruptive technologies – a response to Xi Jinping’s grand strategy to use technology to transform his country into a ‘cyber superpower’. 

For now, there are three camps in the US when it comes to thinking about the Integrated Review: the first camp does not think about it (‘ignorance is bliss’); the second camp is doubtful, after decades of British defence cuts, as to UK staying power (‘show me the money’), and the third as broadly welcoming (‘welcome aboard’). As the UK allocates resources, works more closely with the US on technology, and flies the flag in other ways alongside its allies in various ways, that third camp will surely grow.

Dr John Hemmings*
Associate Professor, Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies

*Dr John Hemmings writes exclusively in a personal capacity.

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