Written by Aliide Naylor This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence. As the Russian Federation marks the anniversary of WWII, the country has consecutively (and predictably) been bolstering its disinformation efforts – particularly those targeting northern and eastern European countries formerly under Soviet occupation. Meanwhile, Russian voters headed to the polls last week to ostensibly have their say in the country’s constitutional reforms, which will essentially allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to rule for two more consecutive presidential terms in 2024 – and, which could lay the groundwork for the Russian Federation to extend its reach. Victory Day celebrations in the Russian Federation are traditionally held on May 9. However, COVID-19-related complications prompted the country to postpone events until June 24. In June, Putin also published a widely-publicised 9,000 word editorial in the National Interest whitewashing the Soviet Union’s wartime activities. This editorial justifying Soviet occupations appeared at the same time as a handful of other Russian efforts which suggested that life in the Baltic nations was wonderful under the Soviet regime. Of the Baltic states, Putin writes: “In autumn 1939, the Soviet Union, pursuing its strategic military and defensive goals, started the process of the incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Their accession to the USSR was implemented on a contractual basis, with the consent of the elected authorities. This was in line with international and state law of that time … The Baltic republics within the USSR preserved their government bodies, language, and had representation in the higher state structures of the Soviet Union.” The Soviet occupation of the Baltics was extremely violent and traumatic, and to many residents, present-day Russia’s proclamations of its legitimacy is nothing short of a horrifying insult. As I detail in the first chapter of my book...
With the Integrated Review once again gathering pace in Whitehall, the CHACR would like to ask its full range of interested followers what topics, issues, conclusions and analysis you would like to see in the IR.  What does the British Army need to concentrate on in order to maintain its competitiveness for the next decade? Please send your thoughts and ideas to ArmyStrat-CHACR-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk with your contact details attached.  We’ll ensure that they get seen by the people shaping the review.  The closing date is Friday 10th July 2020.
Written by Dr Ziya Meral This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence.   When we launched the Global Analysis Programme (GAP) at the CHACR a little more than 3 years ago, the vision behind it was clear: the world was fast-changing and, as the world changed, so too did the current and future operating environment. We had to make sure that the Army (and wider Defence) personnel kept up-to-date with key developments in the world and that they had the opportunity to engage with leading experts, and so to expand their own horizons and strategic awareness. The pandemic has provided the CHACR team with some time to reflect upon what the GAP has done in pursuit of that vision, and to consider what lessons it can teach on how the Defence community can engage with external experts. At the same time, we have been able to think about how we may be better able to create spaces for people to think and reflect on a range of issues, especially in terms of engagement with different perspectives. The first question below lists all of the major activities of the GAP to be able to provide an overview of what it has done. Do feel free to fast read this first bit, before the next headings which reflect on what worked and what did not, and, of course, on what we need to do better. What events and products work?  As I say above, you may wish to skip through this section rapidly! It’s not designed to blow our own trumpet, but it was well worth pausing for just a short while to reflect upon the sheer volume and variety of what we have bombarded the Army with over the last three years, or so, in our...
Written by David Patrikarakos This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence.  The coronavirus pandemic has reordered global politics - and human existence. For months, billions of people remained confined to their homes: locked down to stop the spread of mass contagion.  As both a near ubiquitous health threat and a global economic catastrophe, the virus has monopolized the attentixon of the international community to a degree not seen this century. For malign actors seeking to further their own ideological and geopolitical goals this has been a fertile time: coronavirus is being used by an array of states and groups as a key tenet of their information warfare. Any vested interest with a narrative to promulgate is making use of the virus because of the informational advantages it offers First, it is a story that has dominated global headlines. A good Coronavirus narrative will have no trouble finding an audience among a transnational general public eager to absorb every new development. Second, is what is has done to our information ecosystem. Our public sphere is turbocharged by social media; it has long been infested with the disinformation regularly pumped out across the major platforms by a variegated array of actors. Now, further polluting the space is a wave of speculation and theorising about the virus from people who do not intend to deceive but who remain desperate for some kind of clarity. Alongside disinformation now sits a tsunami of misinformation– the unintentional spreading of falsehoods. We are in the midst of an “infodemic” – a general explosion of information brought about by the virus that makes truth and fact more difficult to discern than ever. And there is something else, too. as I wrote in The Spectator, coronavirus’s greatest gift to the propagandist is its...
With the Integrated Review once again gathering pace in Whitehall, the CHACR would like to ask its full range of interested followers what topics, issues, conclusions and analysis you would like to see in the IR.  What does the British Army need to concentrate on in order to maintain its competitiveness for the next decade? Please send your thoughts and ideas to ArmyStrat-CHACR-0Mailbox@mod.gov.uk with your contact details attached.  We’ll ensure that they get seen by the people shaping the review.  The closing date is Friday 10th July 2020.
Written by Dr Ziya Meral This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence.   A while ago, I heard a senior defence official noting that we still do not know how to engage with and bring in external expertise into the defence world. He gave the example of an official working on a key issue brushing away a recommendation to engage with an established academic with decades on that issue with: 'he is an academic, so not really relevant'. Thankfully, such reactions are rarer these days, and there have been increasing examples of how UK Defence has been engaging and drawing insights from the academic, think tank and corporate research worlds. However, if we are to be honest, there is also a trail of projects and engagement and initiatives that did not result in much outcome, or got derailed, no matter how well-intentioned their starts were. There are multiple reasons behind such failures, and if we are serious about our need to deepen engagement between the two worlds, we have to be honest and reflective about it. Below are some of the most common unspoken (and loudly-spoken) reasons I have observed as someone who has dwelled in the no-man's land between scholarship and policy practice for a decade now. First, intimidation: Often both academics and military personnel feel intimated with each other's qualifications and experiences, or what they lack personally compared to the other. Academics often feel intimated by uniforms, ranks, codes of military relations and the experiences and knowledge and skills that military personnel have which they don't. Military personnel, too, often feel intimidated with impressive lists of degrees, academic affiliations or publications. While a portion of this is healthy and a reflection of differences, at times this becomes downright unhelpful and triggers frustrations and...
Written by Francesca Ghiretti This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence.  2020 was to be a special year for EU-China relations: the Comprehensive Agreement on Investments was to be signed under the German Presidency of the Council of the EU. The materialisation of an agreement which has been under negotiation since 2013. The obstacles, however, are far from being overcome and movement in this direction would have been unlikely without the outbreak of Covid-19, but the pandemic and the ensuing battle of narratives has made its achievement almost impossible. China has proven its ability to turn a crisis into an opportunity before; the 2008 financial crisis served as springboard for its global ambitions. As Covid-19 hits the world and Europe with particular severity, China is paying attention to its recovery phase; which is not only concerned with health, but also, and arguably mostly, with economy and reputation. The two move in tandem, Chinese power and global outreach stems from its growing and innovative economy. Should this element no longer exist or be noticeably weakened, China’s global ambitions would be curtailed. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, for the first time, China demonstrably increased investment in several European (1) countries, actively engaging in European affairs by offering its hand to struggling economies (2). In the years which followed, while the West slowly recovered from the hit, China grew rapidly and carried the recovery of the global economy on its shoulders. As in 2008, the Covid-19 pandemic offers a great opportunity for Chinese enterprises to invest in European struggling enterprises and thus, augment China’s global presence. However, unlike 2008, China’s economy no longer grows at a double-digit pace and this time, the country was itself harshly hit by the epidemic. Furthermore, the...
Written by Matthias Strohn This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence.  On 8 May 2020, we see the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Celebrations and commemorative events had been planned all over the world before COVID-19 forced a general retreat. One could ask whether this really matters. 75 years is a human lifespan. Not many veterans of the conflict are still with us. Once we move from remembering to commemorating, does it really matter whether we place such attention on a date? The simple answer is that it does. It matters for a number of reasons, both historical and, even more importantly, contemporary. The Second World War has shaped our world and continues so to do. Without a thorough understanding of the causes of the war, its conduct and outcomes, it is impossible to understand our world in the 21st century and the realities of security and defence policies. And yet, perhaps even more important than the factual truths are the nations’ individual perceptions of this conflict, as these shape our inter-human and international relationships more than the naked truth. The first step needs to be a thorough the analysis of one’s own nation’s role in the war. Britain has got some work to do in this respect. The ideas that Britain stood all alone against Germany in 1940, that the Battle of Britain saved the free world, and that Britain was a major winner of the war can be easily challenged. Yes, Britain was on the winning side, but one of the major geo-political results of the war was the decline of British power in the world and the rise of the two super-powers USA and USSR. The general British perception of the war can perhaps...
The requirements for a Nation's Foreign Policy to adjust course in response to changes in the Geo-Strategic landscape is not new - nor is the fact that, in times of significant changes on the world stage, more significant alterations in policy direction will be required. In this commentary piece, Andrew Ehrhardt looks back at the significant changes to British Foreign Policy in the period 1900 -1905 and highlights some of the echos from history that are worth considering today. The Fifth Marquess of Lansdowne and Britain’s Grand Strategic Reset, 1900-1905 Written by Andrew Ehrhardt. This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence. The Fifth Marquess of Lansdowne’s tenure as Foreign Secretary between November 1900 and December 1905 has long been overlooked, but his policies initiated one of the most significant periods in British diplomatic history. He had inherited a grand strategy of non-alignment which, while largely successful in previous decades, was quickly becoming an outdated policy as a result of a changing international environment. The future of the international order, which was now beset with rising powers such as the United States, Germany and Russia, was uncertain; yet one thing was clear: Britain’s past position and influence was fading. Faced with this challenge, Lansdowne broke with the traditional foreign policy of his predecessor, Lord Salisbury, and settled longstanding disputes to repair historically strained relations and forged alliances to shore up British vulnerabilities. His three major achievements—the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902, the Anglo-French Entente of 1904, and the rapprochement with the United States—are lessons in strategic, pragmatic and innovative statecraft. By 1900, the elaborate celebrations that had marked Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in June 1897 were soon overshadowed by increasing doubt as to Britain’s position in a changing geopolitical landscape. The global hegemon, broadly speaking, since the...
The article 'Is this the evidence for Roman Britain's Great Plague?' originally featured in Issue 221 of Current Archaeology, and is used here with their kind permission.  The Current Archaeology website can be found at this link - Current Archaeology The Aurelian Plague; Pandemic Events and the Military Written by Colonel Al McCluskey, Assistant Head CHACR. This work is strictly the view of the author, not the British Army and Ministry of Defence In 2008, archaeologists working in Gloucester unearthed the remains of 91 men, women and children buried almost 2000 years ago by the former citizens of the Roman city of Glevum. However, unlike the respectful and ordered remains frequently encountered on such sites, the haphazard character of these burials suggested a community under severe stress, with ritual norms being overridden by the need for the emergency disposal of a large number of corpses. The remains date to the late 2nd Century CE, suggesting that they could have been victims of a plague that swept across the Roman Empire in this period. And as we contemplate the consequences of COVID-19 on the contemporary world, it provides a timely reminder of the impact such events may have had on armies in Britain, and across Europe, in the past. The Aurelian Plagues were recorded in historical sources as being the most severe to strike the Roman Empire, with widespread death reported across whole communities, including the military. Furthermore, while the disease counted Roman soldiers among its many victims, the Roman Army was also held responsible for the introduction of the disease into the Empire in the first instance. It was also the institution which had to grapple with the wider insecurity that may have been unleashed as a result. Historical commentators, such as the Greek Doctor Galen, generally considered the pandemic to have been brought back...