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I wasn't previously aware of the existence of the Oxford Research Group and assumed that they were just another well-funded pro-war think tank along the lines of the Henry Jackson Society, the Atlantic Council or the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation. Looking them up, however, and reading their submission, I found that they are something much more interesting. They are a body that is genuinely concerned with conflict resolution and alternatives to war. Although they originated in a Quaker initiative in Oxford, they are not pacifist - they recognise a need to develop a capacity for war - but the emphasis is sincerely on defence rather than military interference in other parts of the world. If we put the quotation from the ORG used by the 'Defence' Committee into its proper context we find that the Committee have distorted it to the point where they could be accused of dishonesty:

'5.1 [...] were the European states (here meaning the EU, including the UK, plus Norway, Iceland, Albania) to spend an equivalent amount (in current dollars) on defence as their assumed enemy (Russia), they would not increase average spending to 2% of GDP but decrease it to about 0.4% of GDP. Even using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates to give a more realistic picture of what capabilities such spending might procure, European states would match Russian spending by cutting defence budgets to less than 0.9% of GDP. (9) Of course, such assumptions that Russia is the only potential threat to European security are not wholly accurate and there are inevitably large inefficiencies in splitting spending between 31 militaries. But neither is continent-sized Russia wholly obsessed with NATO. It also looks east to peer rivals China, Japan and the US (Alaska), south to turbulent Central Asia and the Middle East, and is heavily deployed in operations in Syria, Ukraine and the Caucasus. The point is that, even without any US presence, Europe could, if it wanted to, balance any threat from Russia while reducing its own military expenditure, but only if its strategic ambitions were focused on the collective territorial defence of Europe and surrounding seas.

(9)  This makes a startling contrast to the views of Madeleine Moon. In the oral evidence (interview with Profs Porter and Blagden) she tells us: 'The 2% figure is nonsense, because in terms of the long-term maintenance and support and deployability of equipment, you need a heck of a lot more than 2% just to stand still. You need at least 6% to stand still. Why aren’t we being more honest about what people need to be doing, rather than getting into sideshows of popular jingoistic debates about 2%?'  Perhaps the importance to Wales of the Defence industry has something to do with it.

'5.2  A good example of how this has not been the case in recent years has been the decline of British anti-submarine capabilities and the ability (a core role within NATO) to patrol the North Atlantic. Core aspects of the UK’s territorial defence were neglected in order to fight wars of choice in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and project naval power into the Persian Gulf. Given the Russian Navy’s comparative advantage in submarine construction and warfare, the government already understands the need to redress this capability gap in partnership with the US and Norway.'

As an example of a radical misuse of defence expenditure the report gives the so-called 'war on terror':

'3.5  The idea that force must, and can, be met with force – that there can a winnable "war on terrorism" – has proved seductive within the contemporary political and media climate but is shallow and treacherous. The massive US and NATO-led intervention in Afghanistan since 2001 has not succeeded in lessening the terrorist threat to Western states, nor in stabilising Afghanistan or its region. While al-Qaida in its classical form has been substantially weakened by sustained military attack on Afghanistan and Pakistan, its affiliates have spread and metastasised into ever more radical and dangerous groups, not least the Islamic State. The aerial war against the Islamic State since 2014 has succeeded in killing tens of thousands of combatants and their supporters (amongst others), and diminished the size and capabilities of their pseudo-state, but not the threat it poses to the West. Indeed, the threat has increased, albeit still being very far from an existential challenge.

'3.6 With the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan the main focus (at US behest) of NATO’s energies between 2002 and at 2014, the alliance was hugely distracted from the collective defence objective that had guided it since its founding. Putting aside questions of whether NATO was well suited to a state-building mission or should have deployed outside of its operational area, ISAF’s major commitment to high tempo military operations in Afghanistan meant that, inter alia, European states devoted their defence resources to fighting counter-insurgency operations, buying equipment suitable for use in ‘hot-and-high’ conditions alien to Europe, and maintaining long logistic trains into landlocked Central Asia. Apart from being expensive and dangerous, this clearly came at a cost to maintaining the capabilities to deter or defeat a conventional rival (e.g. air defence, anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare), especially in the cold, maritime context of the North Atlantic.'

The ORG is more well-disposed to the US and to NATO than I might be but the main thrust of the argument is that not only should the UK be much more attentive to its own (relatively limited) needs and much less concerned with its usefulness to the US, but the countries of the EU should be much more attentive to their own needs and much less dependent on the US and the UK:

'5.5 [...] Giving the US military the dominant role over allied NATO forces in Europe does send the message that Europe remains incapable of providing for its own security. Seven decades on from NATO’s founding, that message retains some truth but is likely to be self-reinforcing as long as the two principal NATO powers – the US and UK – oppose European states taking greater ownership of continental security. In this respect, at least, the Trump administration’s push for greater European contribution to collective continental defence may be a welcome break with the status quo ante.'

If Labour really do want to develop a coherent defence policy that breaks with its own shameful past and with the current consensus, they could do worse than consult with the ORG. They may indeed find there everything they need.