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Dr Matthew Ford @warmatters
, 23 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Yesterday my TL started with boats and ended with boats. We had refugees in the morning and ferryless-ferry companies in the evening.

In between we had read the fabulous news that is British expansion of overseas bases around the world.

Hmmm... defo the Brexit Xmas silly season
So while I can't be arsed with the ferryless-ferry company story - which is just so moronic that I can't bring myself to properly engage with it - I have RT-ed a really great thread on refugees and the "crisis" that Javid has come back to "resolve" here:

But what about this curious Telegraph story involving setting up bases around the world?

I read a good blogpost on this from @pinstripedline here:

thinpinstripedline.blogspot.com/2018/12/global…
But is setting up post-Brexit military bases around the world credible?

In short, my answer is no. Not in the short term. Not in the medium term.

This is mainly a story to placate the Tory base. It is a rhetorical "Make Britain Great Again" story

Why do I say this? Read on...
As @pinstripedline explains in detail, the UK already possesses a lot of defence networks. These are result from Britain's membership of NATO and its history as an imperial power.
But as the 2018 Modernising Defence Programme report made clear, forward basing is about putting "in the right numbers...in the right locations to protect the rules-based international order".
Rightly in my view the starting place is Germany:

"The UK’s agreement to retain key facilities in Germany, announced in September, will support critical NATO infrastructure, as well as providing the UK Army with a vital forward base on mainland Europe"
Why?

Because British security IS European security.
But say the UK balances force structure in such a way as to make it possible to maintain European Security AND extend its defence infrastructure beyond pure defence diplomacy and into a basing architecture in other parts of the world.

What then?
Here the question is balancing strategic benefits against financial burdens.

The question is what financial price do you pay for the following sort of strategic benefits:

-contingency responsiveness
-deterrence and assurance
-security cooperation
-managing political risk
The issue then becomes where to base. What makes sense in terms of:

-base security v proximity to volatile regions
-deployment rotation
-freedom of action
-(that old chestnut) balancing European and global commitment
-Logistics and staging of forces
-prepositioning equipment
Now while I don't doubt that some poor sod on the 4th floor of MB is doing the cost/benefit calculation over Xmas now that Williamson has raised the story in the Telegraph, the Modernising Defence Programme also made clear that the MOD was establishing a 'Net Assessment Unit'
& while I realise that the lovely people at Policy Exchange have been discussing British geopolitics with MB for the past year or more, the possibility that a full blown 'Net Assessment' of forward basing British capability won't have been done.
No doubt RAND Europe are going to pitch for the work but we're not there yet.

And here's why much of all this story is a pipedream...
Forward basing depends on alliance partners.

The choice of partner depends on how to balance the mix of variables I outlined above.

If the UK has the perfect location but the partner won't allow the UK to use it to project force then why bother?
No doubt partners can be found BUT right now the UK finds itself in a curious situation.

Not only is this entirely of its own making but there is also the potential for this challenging situation to remain until at least the next General Election in 2022.
This situation can be summarised thus:

1/ This government does not possess a majority in the House of Commons.

Consequently, and as we've seen over the MDP farrago, it has no mandate to take deep, grand strategic choices.

All it can do is tinker with defence.
2/ A key source of UK influence and power involves working with its EU allies in trying to strengthen security in regions at the edges of Europe.
3/ Until the UK resolves its relationship with the EU, the UK cannot identify the key variables that might shape a forward basing cost-benefit calculation.

Should the UK attempt to work through French or Dutch basing areas? Or should it develop its own independently?
In the circumstances then, you can see why I think the Telegraph story is sloganeering as substitute for a serious discussion of Britain's national interest.

Yes, UK defence twitter lit up with the possibility of winning wars in the South China Sea.
But right now, UK defence twitter also occasionally dabbles in the fantasy world that is withdrawing from European security as a way to secure British interests.
It is Brexit Xmas silly season after all...
grrr "had read"
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