Wednesday, April 11, 2018

East of Suez 2.0

Britain has opened a naval base in Bahrain to enable operations in the Persian Gulf:

Britain has expanded its permanent presence in the Gulf with the opening of the United Kingdom Naval Support Facility at a ceremony at Mina Salman port in Bahrain.

The Naval Support Facility will play a central role in the UK’s ability to operate in the region say the MoD, and will be the hub of the Royal Navy’s operations in the Gulf, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

In 1968, Britain announced a withdrawal of forces east of the Suez Canal, including the Middle East, in order to focus on NATO military responsibilities.

Look, I appreciate the British help. Kudos. Britain is a good ally.

But can Britain meet NATO responsibilities from the Barents Sea to the Baltic Sea in the face of a more assertive and hostile Russia in Europe and recommit to security east of Suez with a much smaller navy than Britain had in 1968?

And note the decline is understated by not having mine warfare or patrol vessel data prior to 1975.

But the very small Royal Navy retains the muscle memory of its past global reach:

A British warship "changed its deployment" and arrived in Japan on Wednesday to join efforts to police U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

They can help. They can't act alone. Not that I don't appreciate the help. But a single frigate isn't a whole lot these days.

I just hope the Royal Navy can help dominate the Barents-to-Baltic arc even as it sends warships around the globe to show the flag.

UPDATE: A third British warship is on track to operate in the Pacific. The Royal Navy is spread thin.