Brian Sims

State Threats Task Force formed by Royal United Services Institute

STATE-BASED threats against the UK and other democratic countries are rising. They are complex and multifaceted and yet, all-too-often, the policy response lacks vision and strategy. The Royal United Services Institute’s (RUSI) newly established State Threats Task Force aims to provide much-needed input to the policy debate at a time when the UK and its allies are adapting to this evolving and heightened threat environment.

The new Task Force has been set in motion to support the UK and its partners in assessing, characterising, attributing and acting on the entire spectrum of non-military state threats faced by today’s democracies. It’s scheduled to work for six months and draw on the expertise of RUSI’s cyber, organised crime and financial crime-centred programmes.

Tom Keatinge, director of RUSI’s Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies, said: “The recognition of the need to respond to the array of state threats faced by the UK and its allies has accelerated in the past two years, yet policy responses have lagged. Our Task Force will inform debate on this complex issue by linking expertise from the cyber, organised crime and illicit finance worlds.”

Keatinge added: “We’ve assembled a diverse and experienced group within the Task Force and I look forward to identifying innovative and practical ideas that can inspire strengthened policy responses to these rapidly evolving international security threats.”

Experts and practitioners

The Task Force includes experts and practitioners, primarily from the UK, and is chaired by Lord Evans of Weardale KCB DL, former director general of the British Security Service (ie MI5).

The first meeting of the State Threats Task Force took place on 9 February and examined the range of state-based, non-military threats faced by the UK and its global partners.

Reflecting on the gathering, Lord Evans noted: “The first meeting included wide-ranging discussions reflecting the diversity of the state threats faced by the UK and its allies, but it also included some clear thinking on how the British Government should develop policies that help prioritise and address these threats. As the work of the Task Force continues, we look forward to engaging the Government with our outputs in the months ahead.”

The second meeting of the Task Force will be held in spring 2023 and focus on developing response options that either leverage existing Government capabilities or require new thinking.

Energy security

The UK is currently facing multiple inter-connected energy security challenges that will test its resilience. As an independent Think Tank focused on UK defence, security and international affairs, in 2023 RUSI will be analysing the risks relating to fossil fuel reliance and securing the net zero transition.

RUSI will also be proposing policy options on domestic and geopolitical energy security challenges and publishing new research papers on five main topics: the decarbonisation of steel, risks relating to reliance on imports of Middle East and Russian hydrocarbons, improving energy security through the energy transition, the role of China in net zero supply chains and also wider net zero supply chain risks.

This project is funded by the European Climate Foundation and will be led by Dan Marks, a research Fellow focused on the national security dimensions of the energy transition in the UK and internationally, with support from experts across the Think Tank.

Critical issue

The project’s first paper on how the collapse of the domestic steel industry would be damaging for national security and how to manage risks arising from decarbonisation of the sector will be published in early March.

“Energy security has re-emerged as a critical issue demanding attention from Governments around the world as they grapple with supply challenges and the accelerating energy transition,” explained Marks. “The nature of the risks in the energy sector policymakers must contend with is shifting and new security paradigms are needed to manage them. This project will examine these risks and how the UK can respond.”

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