The 2018 Ideas Network 2030 Launch Event

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Global Trends to 2030:
What are the pathways to a secure future?

By extrapolating from trends visible in 2018, it is possible to identify specific national security threats that will, with a probability that borders on certainty, and in the absence of any major unforeseen changes in global affairs, trend to 2030. The most important of these are threats posed by the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China and by Islamist and Far Right terrorism as well as the threats presented by Serious Organised Crime and People and Sex Trafficking.

At times, these threats will take kinetic formats, but they may also be experienced in digital cyber guises, and if current trends continue, then cyber threats to our critical national infrastructure as well as in contested cyber space, seem set to increase in number and severity.

To these threats about which we know today, we must add threats as yet unknown. Who twenty years ago would have predicted the multitude of today’s cyber threats to our security?

We will experience these threats variously as external and internal threats. Our system of parliamentary liberal democracy will be required to face up to them and because the delivery of security is one of the very few core duties of government, we must also expect future governments to face a myriad of serious threats to 2030 of which some, undoubtedly, will prove major and critical challenges to government.

We can also identify the spatial theatres in which these threats will be encountered. They range from the hard geographical places of the Eastern, Middle Eastern and Southern border regions of Europe to the virtual battle zones of cyberspace that exist with equal menace whichever part of the continent of Europe we call our home.

Currently the UK government entertains a vision of our becoming a ‘global Britain’. If so the space in which we encounter these threats will be vast and require vast resources to meet them. But it is also perfectly possible that the UK will pull back behind its own borders, to meet the need of a possible post-Brexit retrenchment, not least because of declining resources to spend on the UK’s global footprint. In this case, of course, the contested space in which encounters will take place will be much smaller. The Russian attack in Salisbury in March 2018, using a nerve agent that could have killed some 5,000, is a stark example of what one form of contested space looks like, and where it is to be found. Chinese ambitions in the Asia-Pacific and Russian incursions or adventures in the Middle East or Ukraine and the Baltic States are examples of other spaces.

Nor is there much doubt about some of the trending weapons to 2030 that will be exploited by truly dangerous state and sub-state actors, including new forms of kinetic tools such as the awesome Russian S-400 missile system or the ‘six new weapons’ announced by president Putin in April 2018, along with the exploitation of the new cyber weapons alongside those our National Cyber Security Centre in London have detailed just a few days ago.

To protect our liberty and way of life we will need to follow a series of clear pathways in a systematic fashion.

We must continue to call on the various institutions and agencies we possess to counter and contain the security risks of the next decade: first and foremost, our armed defence forces, then our police forces and services and finally our intelligence-led security agencies. Until 2019 these can be viewed in their NATO and EU28 formats. After 2019 and whatever security arrangements are developed post-Brexit, NATO will continue to be mainstay of our armed defence capability. What will happen to our police and secret agencies in terms of their continued working together with the EU27 is opaque but the Security Treaty with the EU27 that has been proposed by the UK government will, if accepted by them, ensure a high level of continuity.

Yet what is clear is that just as new and usually totally unforeseen threats emerged since the end of the Second World War (usually taking us by surprise), so it is to be expected that new and unforeseen dangers will occupy our strategic thinking to 2030.

In the panel session at our launch event on September 22nd, we will outline current and future security threats and consider the institutional and policy means at our disposal to address them.

  • Three deeply embedded trends span the period from 1945 to today and show any every indication of persisting until 2030.
  • First, that which is domestic and internal is no longer separable from that which is foreign and external; this even more the case than previously because we live in a globalizing world, set in the context of an all-pervasive digital connectivity.
  • Second, Russia remains a threat to the national security of Western states even if Communism is gone because it is ready to change borders in Europe by force, and seeks actively and prolifically to interfere in Western political discourse.
  • Third, there is no end in sight to the threat posed by Islamist and other forms of terrorism, not least the terrorism of the Far Right. Without a peaceful resolution of the Northern Ireland: Eire border question, a reappearance of terrorism from this quarter is to be expected.

There was a stimulating discussion on this topic at the launch of the Ideas Network 2030 on September 22nd, 2018. A summary is given below.

Session summary
Global Trends to 2030
What are the pathways to a secure future?

Chair – Anthony Glees

Comments raised regarding trends:

  • After March 2019, the UK’s future national security will and must continue to rely on the closest possible cooperation to the USA and to our European partners and allies. It seems plausible to believe that the threat from domestic and international terrorism might recede but that the threat from states such as Russia, China and Iran might well become more significant.
  • Future threats will continue to have both internal and external dimensions. This is as true for the implications of failed migration policies as for the safeguarding of cyberspace. Governments must order into cyber space and work, together with other Western allies, to deliver a rules-based system for cyber space that matches the need for a rules-based system in international affairs to guide the relationship between states.
  • It was possible to discern a primary short-term threat to the UK’s and EU’s security originating from Russia whose aim was to disrupt the balance of Western states and EU solidarity. China’s motives were perhaps longer-term and present in both economic and strategic formats. Its Asia-Pacific policies were being matched by growing involvement in Africa but also some of the states of eastern Europe. There will be on-going implications to its economic and political thrust in Europe.
  • Within the UK an entirely new crime terrain can be discerned. Driven by inequality, the impact on the UK of globalisation and technological progress, changes were already taking place in the field of modern slavery, organised serious crime and cyber crime.

Comments raised regarding Government:

  • Governments must have a demonstrable capacity to defend Western values and safeguard and extend the rules-based international order. They will require adequate spending on defence. This can only be delivered collectively, in the framework of a strong Atlantic relationship, a strong UK-EU27 partnership as well, of course, within the shield provided by NATO.
  • Governments must be able to exploit big data effectively and lawfully. Police and security communities must be able to share intelligence easily and, after March 2019, a new security relationship with the EU27 must provide ready access to modes of inter-agency cooperation, lawful data sharing and continued access to the Schengen Information System and other EU platforms. That which has a national impact will almost always also be of international and transnational significance; this is the inescapable rationale for future cooperation across borders.
  • Governments must be aware of the power of what can be called the ‘new populism’ to offer radical but easy nostrums to the panoply of increasingly complex domestic and external security threats. They must do more to safeguard their core values of liberalism and democracy and not lose their focus on the need to deliver prosperity in an uncertain economic and political future.

To view the outcomes from our 2019 event please click here

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