The UK’s Mobilisation since the War in Ukraine: The Catalyst for Renewed UK-EU Defence Relations?

In January 2024, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of General Staff of the British Army stated that “Ukraine really matters" (Sanders, 2024). In his address at the International Armoured Vehicles exhibition in London, General Sanders emphasised the significance of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the future. The General was referencing historical failures to understand crises’ consequences and previous failures in averting conflicts and cautioned against repeating history by failing to learn from it and stressed Ukraine’s geopolitical importance. In the same speech, the general calls for a substantial increase in the British army's size, aiming to nearly double its current capacity. This initiative is part of the UK military's broader strategy to address a persistent recruitment shortage that has diminished its manpower over time (Secretary of State for Defence, 2021). Additionally, he emphasised the significance of traditional mobilisation while stressing the necessity for ordinary British citizens to be ready for a level of civic involvement similar to World War mobilisation efforts. General Sanders is not the only notable figure alerting the British public that there are dangers to come. Grant Shapps, the UK Secretary of Defence, delivered a repurposed version of former US president George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” (Bush, 2021) speech in January 2024, remarking that the world has transitioned "from a post-war era to a pre-war era" (Shapps, 2024). This InfoFlash delves into the recent speeches delivered by Sanders and Shapps, which have sparked numerous news articles centred around military conscription in the UK and the potential for its reinstatement. Additionally, this paper also explores broader defence topics, examining the evolving recent dynamics between the UK and the EU in the realm of defence cooperation.

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Wagner’s Strategic Control in Africa: Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Legacy

Following the recent death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former leader of the Wagner Group, uncertainty clouds the future trajectory of this mercenary group and its strategic operations across Africa. Wagner has long been shrouded in ambiguity, often categorized as a Private Military Group (PMC), a Private Security Company (PSC), or simply a band of mercenaries. However, some analysts argue that it extends beyond these definitions, asserting that its influence campaigns are orchestrated on behalf of the Russian government to bolster Russia’s position in strategic competition with the West (Pokalova, 2023).  Over the past decade, the Wagner Group has wielded substantial influence across Africa, utilising defence and security services to obtain access to strategically vital natural resources. Moreover, emerging evidence from Russian documents suggests a deliberate endeavour by the Kremlin to reshape Africa’s mining sector, with the aim of sidelining Western competitors from critical strategic areas. Despite Prigozhin’s demise, the Wagner Group’s continued expansion across various African nations, including the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, and Sudan, underscores its persistent pursuit of objectives with unwavering determination. After setting the context for Wagner's activities under the leadership of Yevgeny Prigozhin, this paper will explore the current situation of the mercenary group's operations in three African countries (CAR, Mali, and Sudan). It will illustrate how the group offers security services in exchange for access to natural resources and how it has gained momentum in these contexts, partly due to the absence of a Western presence.

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EU’s presence in the Arctic

The EU presence in the Arctic region is acquiring decisive importance in terms of security and defence, especially since the escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war. However, not only geopolitical rivalries are an important change, but also the opportunism of the effect of global warming and the increase in commercial interest in natural resources. The joint communication of 2021, October 13, A stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic, proposed that the EU pursue a secure, stable, sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous Arctic region. There is a need to adopt a strengthened maritime security policy, especially in the areas of economic development, free trade, transport, and energy security.

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EU Mission Aspides to Secure Trade in the Red Sea: An Opportunity for Decisive EU Foreign Policy and Interoperability or Doomed to Failure?

The military conflict that broke out in Gaza in October 2023 spread when, out of self-proclaimed solidarity with the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (BBC, 2024), the Yemenite Shia Islamist Houthis began attacking civilian merchant ships in the Red Sea at the end of 2023. Due to Yemen's geopolitically significant location at the entrance to the Red Sea, the attacks led to a massive decline in trade through the corridor, which is of crucial importance for Europe. The US responded decisively in December 2023 with the naval mission Operation Prosperity Guardian, however, in contrast, the EU's own response, designated Operation Eunavfor Aspides, was slow to get off the ground. Notwithstanding, now that the EU’s plans have been finalised, this InfoFlash aims to analyse the EU mission with regard to its operational realisation, its creation and mandate, what exactly the EU can achieve through it, and its risks and challenges. Moreover, this InfoFlash will delve into the international consequences of the mission, and how it may shape the perception of the EU on the world stage. In this respect, the mission has the potential to provide a wide array of opportunities to the Union. For instance, the EU could seize the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that it is an internally united global player who is prepared to effectively carry out risky missions in order to fulfil its foreign policy responsibilities by promoting security and stability in the world.

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EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence

In recent years, the EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence has assumed paramount importance, driven by shifts in the geopolitical landscape and the imperative to update collective policy approaches. In this context, the enlargement of NATO and the ramifications of the Russo-Ukrainian war pose significant questions (Kolovos, A., 2023). More specifically, these geopolitical shifts underscore the urgent need for a unified defence system against potential common threats. This is an especially complicated task considering that the space domain presents nuanced challenges akin to those of the Arctic, where borders lack the tangible delineation seen in traditional realms of air, land, or maritime boundaries. In this sense, the new approach to space defence and security includes both military considerations and political and legal dimensions.

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