Written by Will Stone, MBDA secondee
In the wake of a turbulent couple of years following the release of the Integrated Review 2021, in which Russia launched an illegal war in Ukraine and Chinese behaviour in the Indo-Pacific has become increasingly antagonistic, the UK has responded with the publication of the Integrated Review Refresh 2023.
The standout commitment within the IR23 is the additional investment of £5 billion for the Ministry of Defence over the next two years to support the replenishment of ammunition and modernisation of the nuclear enterprise. This raises the UK’s investment in defence to 2.2% of GDP this year (2.29% including Ukraine). This announcement is followed by an aspiration to further increase this figure to 2.5% ‘over time’ to support the recently announced AUKUS and GCAP programmes. However, this statement was not bounded by any firm timeframe, and to a certain extent protected by the condition that ‘fiscal and economic circumstances’ must be able to support this increase.
HMG has recognised the considerable risk that Russia and China pose to the international community and their respective regions of influence and aims to nullify their increased threat with a refined strategic approach.
The UK’s defined intent is to deny any benefit being gained from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to tackle the ‘epoch-defining and systemic challenge’ posed by China. There will also be funding to grow China-related capabilities across the UK and government, such as Mandarin language coaching and diplomatic expertise training.
Aside from the defence-focussed policies there are also multiple new strategies for national and economic security, both domestically and internationally. New designated organisations will be established for security advice and expertise, open-source intelligence, and critical minerals resilience; whilst strategies are to be updated or created for a range of areas such as supply chains and import, serious and organised crime, biological security, and the National Cyber Force. Lastly, HMG will set up a new Integrated Security Fund worth £1 billion to deliver on all these core objectives of IR23 and this will replace the existing Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).
Following the publication of the IR23, the Government has advised that a new Defence Command Paper will be published in June 2023. It is also expected that a review of the 2021 Defence and Security Industrial Strategy will be conducted later this year, though it is not yet confirmed if this will result in a new publication.