The Admiral’s not for turning
There were three big takeaways from the Chief of the Defence Staff’s annual RUSI lecture, delivered last night. First, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin’s categoric statement that “Russia is losing” the Ukraine war. He warned Putin that:
“Russia faces a critical shortage of artillery munitions. This means that their ability to conduct successful offensive ground operations is rapidly diminishing… Morally, conceptually and physically, Putin’s forces are running low.”
Coming from someone who’s seen the intel, that has to be more than playing mind games — and if correct would be hugely encouraging to all those resisting Russian aggression.
Second was CDS’ assessment of the West’s diplomatic achievements in confronting Ukraine. “The real victory within our grasp,” he said, is much more significant than a Russian rout in Ukraine. It is, rather the ability to send both “classical and modern” messages to all dictators determined to walk away from the rules-based order. Classical, in the sense that any resort to war can blow up in your face; modern:
“…because we have a world where the leading powers and economies might be prepared to act. Extraordinary collective power that, when harnessed, puts an aggressor’s economy, authority and regime at risk”.
This assessment, too, is remarkably upbeat — and probably stems from a reading of the private communications of India, China and others during this summer’s scare over Putin’s nuclear rhetoric.
But it’s the third takeaway that is the most significant for British politics. Radakin signalled that the current “Refresh” of the government’s Integrated Review (IR) will have to be more radical than a simple update of the March 2021 document. After reeling off the ritual Whitehall list of good things about the IR, Radakin admitted:
“…events of the past year have trended towards the most negative scenarios we envisaged in the IR. So, it’s important to recognise what the IR got right while also having the humility to recognise what has changed.”
That’s a polite way of acknowledging there were flaws in the geopolitical premise of the IR . Because Johnson…