Integrated Review needs to be revisited in every aspect, says Ellwood
Amendments to the UK Integrated Review are needed to take into account the drastically different geopolitical climate in 2022, according to the head of the UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee.
Speaking to Shephard, Ellwood said that the Afghanistan debacle was a changing point which he described as telling Russia and China that the West had no appetite to invest in global security.
The influential MP also repeated calls for an increase in UK defence spending given the seriousness of the security situation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ellwood also decried the 'devastating' chunks taken out of the armed forces, citing the reduction in the size of the army and other defence cuts.
Published in 2021, the Integrated Review has been heavily scrutinised by the committee Ellwood chairs. In a July report, the committee wrote: 'The MoD tells us that the Integrated Review anticipated the potential for the conflict in Ukraine.
'Despite this, capabilities are being cut in the short-term but not replaced until the long-term.'
Asked if he thought the Integrated Review was still fit for purpose, Ellwood said he did not believe it was.
The MP explained: 'I think it needs to be revisited in every aspect. The world has changed fundamentally... I think the changing point has actually been Afghanistan because that told Russia and China that the West has no appetite to invest in global security. That we don't have the patience, and we eventually lose interest.
'That gave licence for China to upgrade its advancing dominance in the South China Sea, not least around Taiwan, and of course, for Russia to then invade Ukraine gambling that NATO would not respond, and that gamble proved right.'
The Integrated Review, as published, outlined Russia as the UK's most significant security threat and China as a 'systemic competitor'.
'I think the changing point has actually been Afghanistan because that told Russia and China that the West has no appetite to invest in global security. That we don't have the patience, and we eventually lose interest.'— MP Tobias Ellwood
While outlining plans to operate more globally and put the armed forces on a campaigning posture, government plans saw the size of the British Army reduced by 10,000 personnel, and the deletion of IFVs from the force mix with the cancelling of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme.
Ellwood said: 'The 2021 integrated view, I think, was bold and ambitious. It certainly spelt out what a dangerous and more complex world when are facing. It was also argued that our world is now becoming more dangerous than during the Cold War.
'But then this gets to the nub of the problem that I articulated then, but it's even more pertinent now, is that during the Cold War, we spent 4% of GDP [on defence] today, we're still on 2.2%.'
He added that the UK faced multiple threats from authoritarianism, extremism and the blurring of the lines between peace and war, adding it was right for the Integrated Review to direct investment into space and cyber capabilities, but criticised how it came at the cost of other capabilities.
Ellwood said: 'We remained in a peacetime mode of about 2%, and the consequences of keeping a budget capped but then investing in new capabilities mean that cuts were required elsewhere.
'That's why we've seen these devastating chunks taken out of our three conventional services; 10,000 troops, tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, fleet cuts, the number of Typhoons has been reduced, as indeed have F-35s. And heavy-lift aircraft has been removed, the Hercules has been cut, and the number of frigates; our frigate programme replacement programme has slowed down as well.'
The MP described this as a 'dramatic' reduction in the UK's conventional capabilities owing to cost constraints, which put the country at risk.
'This new government must recognise the decaying global security situation and the need to increase defence spending to at least a 3%.'— Tobias Ellwood MP
On top of this, he said Ukraine had exposed that just because there were 'new threats coming over the hill' like space and cyber, old threats had not disappeared.
'Our army, air force and navy and now hugely overstretched and require urgent investment.
'This new government must recognise the decaying global security situation and the need to increase defence spending to at least 3%,' Ellwood said.
During her campaign for leadership of the Conservative Party and to be Prime Minister, Liz Truss pledged to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030.
According to the RUSI, this would require an additional £157 billion ($180 billion) in spending over the next eight years.
More from UK Integrated Review: still on the right path?
Lessons learned from the war in Ukraine have been putting in check decisions taken under Integrated Review.
While the Integrated Review was broadly correct in some of its assumptions, events in Ukraine have challenged the thinking behind cuts to UK capability.
The UK Integrated Review outlined how the UK plans to compensate for the loss of numbers with more advanced technologies, novel training solutions and the acceleration of digitisation across all forces. A year on, it is still unclear how the British Army will reach the desired sophistication and readiness levels.
Along with the British Army, the Royal Air Force has lost out on the Integrated Review and the UK MoD has taken risky bets. It is in need of an honest review and ministers should accept that wrong assumptions were made.