Sunday, 25 February 2018
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reviews

The UK government has announced that it will subject the defence elements of the National Security Capability Review (NSCR) to further review.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute has warned, however, that a long delay in the Defence Modernisation Programme 'could risk damaging consequences for the country's international credibility, especially if it has not been concluded before the NATO summit in July 2018. Despite being billed as a low-profile 'refresh', the NSCR has already lasted longer than either of the last two full Strategic Defence and Security Reviews (SDSRs), in 2010 and 2015, respectively. '

However, Professor Chalmers states that the review 'could be an opportunity for a more radical look at the balance of defence investment, accelerating the shift of resources into capabilities that are most relevant to a rapidly changing strategic environment.'

Ahead of the Franco-British Summit, a new RUSI Briefing Paper calls for Britain 'to work harder to maintain its key relationship with France, even in areas that lie outside the scope of the EU.' The paper recommends that the two countries step up joint work on defence, security and nuclear deterrence policy.

Written by Lord Ricketts, former National Security Adviser and UK Ambassador to France, the Briefing Paper states that 'Brexit will not weaken the case for close UK–French defence and security cooperation, but it will change the context and create the risk of the two countries drifting apart.' Theer's a summary, recommendations and conclusions, plus a link, on the next page.

Major General Mungo Melvin has managed to produce a very readable history of the Crimea and Sevastopol. This book serves to burnish his credentials as a military historian, following as it does his other work on the life and campaigns of Hitler’s great commander Manstein.  The book is very timely given recent and on-going events in the region. At just over 600 pages, Melvin takes the reader from the earliest references to settlement in the region of Crimea up to 2014; a tour de force.

The history of Sevastopol is closely tied to the history of Russia. In a year which marks the centenary of the Russian revolution, this book has the added merit of filling in the ‘back story’ of Russia for those unfamiliar with the way in which it pursued its own version of the ‘manifest destiny’ of expansion adopted by the US in the 19th century.

British readers will be familiar with Sevastopol from the Crimean War of 1854-55. The strategic significance of the port was the reason for the siege undertaken by the British and their French allies. The city was besieged again in 1941-42 by the Nazis, who largely destroyed it. The transfer of the Crimea to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954 was little noticed by western commentators in the middle of the Cold War. Melvin’s book reminds us that when politicians swap territory over the heads of the population, they store up trouble for future generations.

The author takes considerable pains to spell out the history of this strategic territory. It repays reading, as the tendency among commentators and policy makers is to listen to those who scream loudest. The history of this region, like most of Europe, did not begin in 1945 and cultural and folk memories are often shaped by a sense of grievance. This book helps the reader to make up their own mind about recent events. The author does well to maintain a neutral stance throughout.

As befits a book written by a military historian, Sevastopol’s Wars is well equipped with reference material. An extensive bibliography is complemented by a useful selection of maps (the author is a Royal Engineer, which has been the provider of military maps), and the book is well foot noted. The reader will be richly rewarded by this book, both in the reading and for future reference.

Reviewed by Nick Watts, Deputy Director, U K Defence Forum

Sevastopol's Wars is published by Osprey

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