In mid-March, the British government released its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, titled, “Global Britain in a Competitive Age.” This was followed a week later by a more focused defense review. The two documents represent the end products of an exercise conducted by the government every five years, a combination of stocktaking, horizon-scanning and threat assessment, with some new policy announcements thrown in. This one began in 2020, but its completion was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The headlines surrounding the latest review have focused on the announcements that the U.K. would increase the size of its nuclear stockpile and decrease the size of its army. The real interest, however, lies in the review’s broader attempt to reconceptualize what it means to be a middle power in the modern world.