Strategic Wishes and What Happens Next: Assessing the UK's Integrated Reviews

In the aftermath of the 2019 election, the Boris Johnson government promised “the most radical assessment of the UK’s place in the world since the end of the Cold War.” The result was the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, published in March 2021 and updated in March 2023 by the Integrated Review “Refresh”. This paper aims to evaluate how far these texts achieved their aims so far, and with what consequences for British strategic policy. It begins by exploring the contexts of the reviews, how previous iterations informed the framing, approach, evidencing and rationale, and what innovations were introduced. It then engages in a detailed investigation into how these reviews were implemented across government. In the process, we consider what the IR process suggests about the relationship between grand strategic concepts, grand strategic practice, and measuring success in real time.

Dr Maeve Ryan is a Reader in History and Foreign Policy at the Dept. Of War Studies, King’s College London, and the co-founder and co-director of the Centre for Grand Strategy and the Ax:son Johnson Institute for Statecraft and Diplomacy.

Prof Jamie Gaskarth is Professor of Foreign Policy and International Relations at The Open University and co-Editor in Chief of Journal of Global Security Studies.