The head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, was in the Welsh capital last night (January 28) to address members of Cardiff Business Club.
In an annual event organised at St David’s Hotel by the club, which brings together some of Wales’ foremost industrialists and business people, the First Sea Lord made a speech entitled ‘Delivering security in an age of austerity’
The speech focused on what the future security environment may look like, as well as describing the advantage of collaboration between allies to more effectively prevent crises from emerging, the ultimate prize in defence.
Greeted by Gerald Davies CBE, Cardiff Business Club’s chairman, Admiral Stanhope was then formally introduced by event host Lieutenant Colonel Guy Clarke, chairman of the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Wales.
The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines from Commando Training Centre, Lympstone performed a Beat Retreat in advance of the keynote speech and Sea Cadets from in and around the Cardiff area also played a part in the evening’s proceedings.
Admitting that times they are a-changing, the Admiral told the gathering that although fiscal constraint has brought a challenge to defence, it is perhaps a timely catalyst to achieving new ways of delivering the required effect in a smarter way.
“From my perspective, austerity does not alter the National Security Strategy ends, our level of aspiration in terms of advancing our national values and protecting our national interests worldwide,” he contended.
“Rather, what austerity does do – I would venture – is call for a change of approach. Rather than altering ‘the ends’, austerity alters ‘the ways’ and ‘the means’ to those ends.”
Speaking about increased co-operation with ‘friendly’ navies, the Admiral described how this not only made financial sense but also military sense.
The UK is not alone in this thinking, as defence cuts have bitten to a greater or lesser extent throughout much of Europe, too, making interoperability not only attractive but almost de rigeur.
Admiral Stanhope also took the opportunity to explain that the breadth of tasks provided by maritime forces mean they offer value for money.
He highlighted how and where the Royal Navy is lubricating the global economic engine by keeping the seas safe for trade, for example with counter-piracy patrols with our international partners in the Middle East and Indian Ocean, as well as building the capacity of West African nations’ navies.
In an increasingly uncertain world, he emphasised the importance of credible contingency in order to have the ability to respond to unforeseen crises that threaten our national interests.
And, while much of the change is driven by economic turbulence, the Admiral did also make a nod towards the fact that climate change could actually be altering our sea lanes, as melting polar ice opens up new commercial seaways, which are now beginning to be exploited for the first time, including a tanker of gas from Norway delivered to Japan via the Northern Sea Route, rather than the more traditional routes through some of the world’s so-called choke points.
He spoke too about the future capability invested in the two supercarriers, currently under construction, as well as the ongoing role played by the UK’s continuous at sea deterrent and its continued relevance in today’s changing world of threat and tension.
Well received, the floor was opened up to questions afterwards.
A vote of thanks was delivered on behalf of the club by Dr Peter Beck, Lord Lieutenant for South Glamorgan, himself an ex Royal Naval Reserve Surgeon Commander.
Wales maintains close alliances with the Royal Navy – there are no fewer than seven Royal Navy ships and one submarine affiliated to a variety of areas within the principality, including the state-of-the-art HMS Dragon, one of the brand new Type 45 destroyers, which is twinned with the capital, visiting her adopted port for the first time to great welcome from local people.
Naval Today Staff, January 29, 2013; Image: Royal Navy