One of the main assumptions behind the SDSR is that Russia is no longer a threat. We don't need cold war relics like Challenger tanks, Type 23 frigate or Typhoon interceptors. To defend our homeland an Europe its self all we need to worry about are rowdy Afghan war lords and Terrorists with box cutters hijacking planes. If the RAF has the ability to shoot down a slow lumbering airliner's the army can keep fighting in Afghanistan and the Navy can Chase pirates around the Indian Ocean we are safe.
However this assumption relies on one thing. Russia not being a threat, China being too far away to threaten us and the power play of Asia in the 21st century being none of our business.
We can quite happily sit here in fortress Europe safe in the knowledge that NATO will always rule supreme and that our Nuclear deterrent will always guarantee our security.
The main problem with this assumption is Russia. As some one who regularly work's in Russia and has allot of Russian friends I would like to give the UK some insight. Russia is not a threat as long as we have the ability to beat them in any level of fight. Russia is not a happy economically prosperous democracy. Its a quisy dictatorship with 200 million desperately poor citizens and a handful of super rich who keep the rest in check. It's not unlike the Russia of pre 1917.
Also lets face it in the last 4 years Russia has deployed a Nuclear weapon in London ( a small one but never the less a Nuclear weapon) If Al Qaeda had done the same there would have been mass panic in the streets and invasions of what ever country we associated with it.
They have also invaded their neighbours. Justified or not they invaded a European country which was an NATO applicant. Russians are like timber wolfs. If they sense any weakness they pounce.
If it was only the UK that was cutting back on defence then fortress Europe could continue. However other European NATO members are looking to drastically reduce their forces. Probably more than we are. However we can still rely on the US to take care of us. Or can we? America is more fu**ed than we are. The US will soon drastically begin reducing its military budget. While still fighting in the war on terror whats likley to be cut? Not light forces but the same type of cold war relics we are getting rid off. Remember also that America has some potentially fatal weaknesses in its armed forces.
No matter how good the F22 raptor is they only have 120 of them. At best they can deploy 20 to a theatre. 20 on the ground means a maximum of 5 in the air. Five in the air means 35 missiles able to fire at the enemy. All the Russians have to do is send 36 planes and the US Air Force is fu**ed. and us along with them.
The US navy has next to no specialised ASW capability and the Russians have allot of submarines. The US and NATO has always relied on us to provide this. However guess what we are getting rid of? In the modern age the Nuclear deterrence is useless. Its a bluff that we will never use. We get upset at the prospect of accidentally dropping a small bomb on a village in Afghanistan that lets face it was probably full of Taliban and their supporters any way. Are we really going to drop several mega-tonnes of fire power on Moscow. Even if the Russians rolled across Europe would we or America seriously consider firing nukes when we new that the consequence would be the destruction of our own country. Even if the Russians were rolling up Pall Mall would we really fire. It's much better to live in a country controlled by the Russians than to live in a Nuclear waste land ruled by no one.
While a Russian invasion of Western Europe is probably unlikely small scale Russian operations are probably very likley. If the Russian populations of Ukraine or Estonia rise up will we go to war against the Russians to save them. We might have sent an armoured division to the border or deployed an aircraft carrier to act as a deterrent however soon with out our cold war relics we will be unable to do anything. Will we fire nukes at Russia for these provocations. Definitely not.
If the Russian submarines begin to menace shipping in the North Atlantic or begin sinking oil rigs in the north sea will we resort to using Trident. No way. China relies on world shipping, free trade and low commodity prices. Russia does not. It has little in the way of need or interest for shipping. It transports most of its oil over land. It benefits from high commodity prices in a time of war.
Hiding behind an all or nothing Nuclear response will not save our country if the Russians become belligerent. If we do not have the ability to meet the Russians at every level of war fare then they will become belligerent in the future. Fundamentally Russians do not think like people in the west. They do not share our beliefs or play by our rules. They have their own play book. Just because we for the time being have bashed them down militarily does not mean this will always be the case. We must maintain the ability to conduct state on state war.
The last time we drastically cut our capability to conduct state on state war was during the 30's following a financial crisis. With an opponent that we had beaten in the past that had a number of its nationals scattered in other neighbouring countries following that defeat. We relied on our continental allies to provide the bulk of the heavy weapons in any future fight safe behind their bunkers and fortifications while we concentrated on expeditionary forces to police the third world. The treasury assumed that it would take 10 years for any potential advisory to appear and thus the budget would have plenty of time to rise to meet the threat. What they failed to see was that the threat would come from that old adversary and that re armament would take place in secret. They also failed to realise that world wide recessions don't just happen to us. They affect our allies as well who also cut back.
The assumption at the time was that the bomber would always get through and the threat of chemical weapons dropped on major cities would end wars. However neither Britain or Germany who dropped millions of tonnes of conventional bombs on each other ever resorted to use WMD because they feared the other guy would do the same.
Interesting parallel however history has a way of repeating itself.
The success of our armed force's making Europe a safe prosperous place should not be a justification for getting rid of them.
Any time we have tried to target our armed forces in one direction to meet a threat we have been attacked in the opposite place. That's not a coincidence. An enemy only attacks you where and when you are week. Its basic military strategy. Germany in 1940 did not try to fight us at sea but instead invaded France by land. Argentina attacked the Falklands believing we lacked the ability or will to reclaim the islands. Iraq invaded Kuwait believing that the USA lacked the will to fight a major war following Vietnam. Moving away from a balanced force to achieve a short term objective has always been a mistake in the past and will be again in the future.