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Security review must prioritise ‘hostile state’ capabilities

The Defence Committee has urged the government to pursue a thorough assessment of the economic, diplomatic and military activities and the internal political dynamics of hostile foreign states, such as Russia and China.

The committee’s report, In Search of Strategy – The 2020 Integrated Review, arrives after Downing Street promised that its ‘integrated review’ of foreign, defence, security and international development policy - the first for five years - will be the most far-reaching since the Cold War.

MPs on the Defence Committee have questioned ‘the gap between this expectation and reality is widening’ and that ongoing review of foreign and security policy must prioritise looking at the capabilities of ‘hostile states’. This includes a ‘robust assessment’ of the threat Moscow and Beijing pose to UK interests at home and abroad.

The UK has accused Russia of attempting to steal UK scientists' vaccine research, a claim which coincides with Russia recently declaring itself to have given regulatory approval to a coronavirus vaccine after less than two months of testing on humans. Tensions with China also remain high, over cyber-espionage and security laws in Hong Kong.

The committee has also warned against a ‘behind-closed-doors’ approach to operations, urging for clarity over which ministers would chair key meetings if Prime Minister Boris Johnson was not attending and what input special advisers, including chief aide Dominic Cummings, would have.

Tobias Ellwood, chair of the committee, said: “The Integrated Review presents a rare opportunity to conduct a holistic assessment of the effectiveness of the UK’s security, defence, foreign and development policy. As we re-orient ourselves on the world stage, and react to significant geopolitical shifts in power, we must make an honest assessment of our country’s strengths and weaknesses, using this to inform our strategy going forward. Decisions must be made based on a clear view of the world and a detailed vision for the UK’s role within it, rather than short term economic considerations.”

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