The Integrated Review: What it says about nuclear weapons, China and Russia

Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent
·4-min read

The Integrated Review into the future of the UK’s foreign, defence and security policy has been published.

Billed as the most radical reassessment of Britain’s place in the world since the end of the Cold War, here is what is contains:

– What are the major changes?

The Integrated Review commits to increasing the amount of nuclear warheads Britain has at its disposal to 260, reversing a move to reduce the stockpile to 180.

In a “tilt” in strategic direction and diplomacy, the UK will look to become a bigger player in the Indo-Pacific, reflecting the region’s “growing importance”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce the findings of the Integrated Review in the House of Commons
Boris Johnson (Steve Parsons/PA)

“By 2030, it is likely that the world will have moved further towards multipolarity, with the geopolitical and economic centre of gravity moving eastward towards the Indo-Pacific,” the document says.

The shift will be underlined by the deployment of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to the region on its maiden operational mission later this year and a visit by Boris Johnson to India in April.

– Why does the review conclude the UK needs more nuclear warheads?

The review says a “minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent” remains “essential in order to guarantee our security”.

But ministers have concluded that, with a “developing range of technological and doctrinal threats”, it is not the time to press on with 2010 plans to lower the overall stockpile of nuclear warheads but increase them to “no more than” 260.

– Will anything stay the same?

The UK will remain committed to Nato and the so-called Five Eyes security alliance, made up of the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The UK wants to keep strong ties with Washington (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The UK wants to keep strong ties with Washington (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The review, detailed over 114 pages, confirms it will hold to the Nato pledge to spend 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), and the relationship with Washington will remain close as the US is “our most important bilateral relationship”.

– What are the main challenges the review highlighted?

The strategy acknowledges the risks posed by increased competition between states, including a more assertive China, along with terrorism, organised crime, climate change and the “realistic possibility” of another pandemic.

There is also a “realistic possibility” that a terrorist group will launch a successful chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack by 2030, the report added.

– Is the UK cutting ties with China as part of the review?

Not exactly. The year-long study recognises China as a “systemic challenge” but says trade relations and environmental co-operation will still be pursued.

“China’s increasing power and international assertiveness is likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s,” the review said.

“Open, trading economies like the UK will need to engage with China and remain open to Chinese trade and investment, but they must also protect themselves against practices that have an adverse effect on prosperity and security.

China represents a 'systematic challenge', according to the Integrated Review
China represents a ‘systematic challenge’, according to the Integrated Review (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

“Co-operation with China will also be vital in tackling transnational challenges, particularly climate change and biodiversity loss.”

The Prime Minister, due to address the House of Commons on Tuesday about the findings, will argue that China’s “military modernisation and growing international assertiveness” within the Indo-Pacific region and beyond “will pose an increasing risk to UK interests”.

– What about Russia – will the UK distance itself from Moscow?

Russia will, according to the foreign policy brief, “remain the most acute direct threat to the UK”.

Ministers judged that European and Atlantic partnerships will remain key to dealing with the threat from Moscow, along with growing threats in Asia.

Efforts will be made through legislation and by beefing up surveillance to tackle Russian disinformation, the report said.

The review also predicted that Russia would be just one of the players looking to “destabilise” the globe, with Iran and North Korea also mentioned.

– What will happen to the military?

Further details on how the review will impact the armed forces are due to be published on Monday.

The review does commit to Britain deploying “more of our armed forces overseas more often and for longer periods of time” for training and exercises.

It also confirmed there will be a £9 million “situation centre” installed in the Cabinet Office, similar to the White House situation room where former president Barack Obama was able to watch the US special forces operation to kill Osama bin Laden in real time.

The Prime Minister announced in November a £16.5 billion increase in defence spending over the next four years, focusing on the future battlefields of space and cyber.