Conference on ‘Geopolitical realignment in a maritime century’

In and Out Club | 19th July 2022 | 09:00-18:15

The Council on Geostrategy was delighted to host a conference with the Royal Navy and Adm. Sir Ben Key KCB CBE, First Sea Lord, entitled ‘Geopolitical Realignment in a maritime century’, on 19th July 2022. The conference, kindly sponsored by CQS, was a day-long event in the heart of London, at a venue steeped in British naval and political history – the In and Out Club.

The conference further developed the themes discussed at the Council on Geostrategy’s inaugural naval conference ‘Extending “Global Britain” through naval diplomacy’, hosted last October by Wilton Park. This conference aimed to enhance understanding of the strategic impact of major naval deployments across the military, political, diplomatic, economic and cultural spectrums. Further information about this previous conference can be found here.

Context and key policy issues 

The Integrated Review launched in early 2021 calls the UK a ‘convening power’. It states that: ‘In the more interconnected, multipolar and contested environment we will face in the coming decade, the UK must be more active in shaping the open international order of the future: using our convening power and working with others to ensure it is fit for the 21st century and more resilient to short-term shocks and long term challenges’. The deployment of the Carrier Strike Group on its maiden international tour of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific was an excellent example of the Royal Navy’s ability in convening allies and partners across both theatres.

While this convening power is critical in drawing allies and partners together, Britain also needs the ability to form deeper and more durable relationships, particularly in an era of intensifying geopolitical competition and environmental degradation. In this sense, the UK has the capacity to become an ‘aligning power’ to uphold an open international order and push back against those who challenge it.

Consequently, whilst remaining deeply committed to multilateralism and the organisations which embody it, as well as its strong bilateral relations with traditional allies and partners, plurilateral initiatives are becoming increasingly important to the UK in this more competitive age. The recently announced AUKUS agreement between Britain, the United States and Australia has the potential to significantly realign Indo-Pacific geopolitics, just as the ‘trilateral’ between the UK, Poland and Ukraine holds the potential to reinforce security in Eastern Europe. New arrangements could follow with other like-minded partners in the Euro-Atlantic, as well as the Indo-Pacific, to enhance British interests and help uphold an open international order.

In light of the new geopolitical challenges and plurilateral opportunities, the Council on Geostrategy organised a one-day conference in the heart of London with the following aims:

  1. Examine the changing geopolitical and geoeconomic circumstances in which Britain and its allies and partners find ourselves confronting;
  2. Explain the importance of geopolitical realignment in an age of competition;
  3. Explore the potential for the UK to become an ‘aligning power’ to help meet the two key challenges of the 21st century – intensifying geopolitical competition and environmental degradation. 

Programme

09:00-09:30 | Registration and welcome

09:30-09:45 | Opening remarks

  • Viktorija Starych-Samuoliene, Co-founder and Director of Strategy, Council on Geostrategy
  • Lord Risby, Chair, Advisory Council, Council on Geostrategy

09:45-10:15 | Keynote speech

Adm. Sir Ben Key KCB CBE
First Sea Lord, Royal Navy

10:15-10:30 | Coffee Break

10:30-12:00 | Panel 1

Intensifying geopolitical competition: Decay of the rules-based system

Moderator:

  • Viktorija Starych-Samuoliene, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy, Council on Geostrategy

Speakers:

  • V. Adm. Andrew Burns CB OBE, Fleet Commander, Royal Navy
  • Dr Rob Johnson, Director, Secretary of State for Defence’s Office of Net Assessment and Challenge, Ministry of Defence
  • Prof. Andrew Lambert, Director, Laughton Naval Unit, King’s College, London
  • Air Mshl. (rtd.) Edward Stringer CB CBE, Director-General, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom (2018-2021)

12:00-12:15 | Coffee Break

12:15-13:45 | Panel 2

The emergence of geo-economic statecraft: Implications for the open international order

Moderator:

  • Patrick Triglavcanin, Research Assistant, Council on Geostrategy

Speakers:

  • Cmdre. (rtd.) Neil Brown, Chief Geopolitical Strategist, CQS
  • Julia Pamilih, Director of Research, China Research Group
  • James Rogers, Co-founder and Director of Research, Council on Geostrategy
  • William Young, Director, BloombergNEF and William Stanley Jevons Associate Fellow in Environmental Security, Council on Geostrategy

13:45-14:45 | Lunch

14:45-16:15 | Panel 3

Upholding an open international order: The importance of maritime power

Moderator:

  • Viktorija Starych-Samuoliene, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy, Council on Geostrategy

Speakers:

  • Prof. Steven Haines, Professor of Public International Law, University of Greenwich
  • Brig. Chris Ordway, Royal Marines
  • Capt. Ian Park, Assistant Head, Military Indo-Asia-Pacific, Royal Navy
  • R. Adm. (rtd.) Chris Parry, Director-General, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, Ministry of Defence (2005-2008)

16:15-16:30 | Coffee Break

16:30-18:00 | Panel 4

‘Global Britain’ as an ‘aligning power’

Moderator:

  • Maj. Gen. (rtd.) Mitch Mitchell, Member, Advisory Council, Council on Geostrategy

Speakers:

  • Sophie Guelff, Director, Strategic Advantage Cell, Strategy Unit, National Security Council Secretariat, Cabinet Office
  • Capt. Iain Feasey, Captain, HMS Queen Elizabeth, Royal Navy
  • Dr Matthew Rowland, Head, AUKUS Taskforce, Security Policy Department, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
  • Dr Philip Shetler-Jones, James Cook Associate Fellow in Indo-Pacific Geopolitics, Council on Geostrategy

18:00-18:30 | Closing remarks

  • Adm. Sir Ben Key KCB CBE, First Sea Lord, Royal Navy
  • Sir Michael Hintze GCSG AM, Honorary Captain, Royal Navy

The Council on Geostrategy is grateful to CQS for sponsoring this conference.