General Sir Richard Shirreff KCB CBE MA (Oxon) was born in Kenya in 1955 where he spent his early years. Educated in England at Oundle and Exeter College, Oxford (Modern History), he was commissioned from Sandhurst into the 14th/20th King’s Hussars in 1978. His regimental service was spent in Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, the Gulf and, while attached to 6th Queen Elizabeth’s Own Gurkha Rifles for a year, Hong Kong and Brunei. He commanded The King’s Royal Hussars 1994-96.
He attended the Army Staff Course at Camberley in 1987, the Higher Command and Staff Course in 1999 and the Foundation Term of the Royal College of Defence Studies in 2003. Staff posts have included: Chief of Staff, Headquarters 33 Armoured Brigade; Military Assistant to the last Commander in Chief, British Army of the Rhine and Commander Northern Army Group; Colonel Army Plans in the MOD; Principal Staff Officer to the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Staff HQ LAND Command.
He commanded 7th Armoured Brigade 1999-2000, amongst other things forming the core of a multinational brigade in Kosovo and 3rd (UK) Division from 2005-7. During this time the divisional HQ trained as the Land Component HQ for NRF and deployed as HQ Multinational Division South East in Iraq between July 2006 and January 2007. He has commanded on operations at every level from platoon to division. This has included combat in the Gulf War of 1991 as a tank squadron leader, counter-insurgency operations in the infantry role in Northern Ireland (three tours), together with Iraq and Kosovo. He qualified as a military parachutist in 2005. Assuming command of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in December 2007, apart from preparing the Corps for deployment as the Land Component HQ for NRF and deployment in support of ISAF, he also oversaw the relocation of the Corps from Germany to the United Kingdom. He became the 27th DSACEUR on 4 March 2011, and therefore was also appointed as Operation ALTHEA Operation Commander under Berlin Plus arrangements.
He is married to Sarah-Jane and they have two adult children. He is Colonel of the Regiment, The King’s Royal Hussars and Honorary Regimental Colonel of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry. He is a Liveryman of the Salters’ Company and Honorary Freeman of the City of London. He is also an Associate Fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. He has a lasting fascination for history, particularly military history, would like to read more widely and loves travel. Sporting interests include skiing (downhill and touring), and game shooting. He is President of the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team.
Richard Shirreff’s 10 from 10
- The Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimea and Putin’s bizarre and hyper-nationalistic speech in the Kremlin on 18th March is a clear indication that Russian strategy aims to re-establish Russian power in its ‘near abroad’, the territory of the former Soviet Union. The consequence: we are now in a new defence and security paradigm in which Russia is a strategic adversary and no longer a strategic partner.
- This places a premium on rebuilding NATO’s Article V collective defence capability, which means paying for it. In particular, European defence budgets must increase to reduce dependence on the US. At present only three NATO nations spend more than the 2% of GDP on defence recommended by the NAC. This is simply not good enough.
- NATO needs to think through what Article V means in the 21st Century and therefore what its red lines are. Ambiguity, asymmetry, instigation of civil unrest by ethnic minorities as a pretext for intervention, followed by ruthless use of force will characterise the security and defence challenges of the next decade in Europe.
- The first priority for NATO is defence of the Alliance. This has far-reaching implications: deterrence (both conventional and nuclear); reinforcement options for NATO’s eastern borders; forward defence; force readiness and generation; rebuilding lost high-end warfighting capabilities must all be on the agenda. The best way to de-escalate the crisis and seize the initiative is to show a strong hand: ‘Thus far and no further’ must be the message.
- Demanding, rigorous training for high-end war fighting from the political to the tactical level will ensure NATO has both the mental approach and means to meet the challenges it faces.
- The Ukraine crisis has highlighted the critical need for strategic coherence between NATO and the EU because the second and third order of the decisions of one organisation will have impacts, sometimes unforeseen, on the other. As a minimum, Berlin Plus must be revived in order to harness and maximize complementarity between NATO and EU.
- Global security challenges will still pose a potential threat to Europe, hence the need for a strong, capable reserve. This, together with the threat posed by Russia to NATO’s eastern borders, highlights the importance of ensuring a politically and militarily credible NATO Response Force (NRF).
- Upstream capacity building to prevent a problem in a fragile or failing state degenerating into a crisis is a highly cost effective way of enhancing Alliance and European security globally. Capacity building is more than professionalizing armed forces and needs to be built comprehensively across government, hence the importance of NATO/EU synergy.
- Notwithstanding the need to rebuild capabilities to face the new challenge of an expansionist Russia, we must not lose what we have learned from the last two decades of stabilization operations ‘among the people’. In particular, we need to institutionalise the Comprehensive Approach to ensure unity of purpose between military and non-military actors in the problem space. Interaction and, where possible, integration between military and civilian partners (both traditional and non-traditional) will continue to be a sine qua non in resolving future security challenges – even in state on state conflict.
- Finally, we must not ignore legacy problems in the Balkans. There has been great progress in much of the western Balkans, not least because of the desire to join the EU. The general point is that this highlights the strategic importance of the EU as a force for stability and therefore security (for which the EU is seldom given credit). The specific point, as far as the Balkans is concerned, is that Bosnia-Herzogovina remains a politically dysfunctional state where security cannot be taken for granted.