Providing security for the nation and for its citizens remains the most important responsibility of the British government. Since the end of the Cold War, the international landscape has been transformed. The opposition between two power blocs has been replaced by a more complex and unpredictable set of relationships. Economic trends, including more open global markets, and technological trends, particularly in communications, have strengthened the connections between individuals, businesses, societies and economies. Travel is faster and cheaper than ever. The flow of ideas and capital around the world can be almost instantaneous. And distances between people and events are becoming less relevant.
All those are positive changes, empowering individuals and creating new opportunities for businesses, organisations and whole nations. But they also create new challenges. If the international landscape is entirely complex and unpredictable, so too is the security landscape. No state threatens the United Kingdom directly. However, the Cold War threat has been replaced by a diverse but interconnected set of threats and risks, which affect the United Kingdom directly and also have the potential to undermine wider international stability (such as Jihadist risings in the Middle East and now Indonesia). These and other threats are driven by a diverse and interconnected set of underlying factors: climate change, competition for energy, poverty and poor governance, demographic changes, globalisation, and many more. The aim of this first National Security Strategy is to set out how the Government will address and manage this vast though interconnected set of security challenges and underlying drivers, both immediately and in the longer term, to safeguard the nation, its citizens, British prosperity and British way of life.
The scope and approach of this strategy reflects the way our understanding of national security has changed. In the past, the state was the traditional focus of foreign defense and security policies, and national security was understood as dealing with the protection of the state and its vital interests from attacks by other states. Over recent decades, our view of national security has broadened to include threats to individual citizens and to our way of life, as well as to the integrity and interests of the state. That is why this strategy deals with transnational crime, pandemics and flooding – not part of the traditional idea of national security, but clearly challenges that can affect large numbers of our citizens, and which demand some of the same responses as more traditional security threats, including terrorism. The broad spectrum of this strategy also reflects our commitment to focus on the controls of security and insecurity, rather than just immediate threats and risks. We need to maintain a set of capabilities, at home and overseas, to deal with those threats and risks – to understand them better, act early to prevent them where we can, and ensure that we minimize and manage any harm they might cause. This is the first time the government has published a single, overarching strategy bringing together the objectives and plans of all departments, agencies and forces involved in protecting our national security. It is a significant step and the latest in a series of reforms bringing greater focus and integration to our approach.
by William H.