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24 May 2023

Day 2: The London Defence Conference, hosted by King's

Chair of the London Defence Conference, Lord Salisbury welcomed attendees to the second day of insight from policymakers, military experts and academics on lessons from Ukraine, understanding threats and the future of conflict.

Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President (International, Engagement & Service) at King’s College London
Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President (International, Engagement & Service) at King’s College London

Pål Jonson, Minister for Defence for Sweden and War Studies PhD alumni, delivered a keynote address which he opened by saying it was "great to be back at King's", before speaking about the path to Sweden joining NATO and the war in Ukraine.

When asked by Iain Martin, Director of the conference, about why Sweden didn't seek to join NATO sooner, the Minister said that for many people the concept of military non-alignment is "ingrained into Swedish identity” but that the war in Ukraine has "shown the difference between partnership with and membership of NATO. NATO supports its partners but defends its allies." 

Pål Jonson, Minister for Defence for Sweden, interviewed by Iain Martin
Pål Jonson, Minister for Defence for Sweden, interviewed by Iain Martin

The biggest risk for Swedish and European security would be a Russia win in Ukraine... Supporting Ukraine is both the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do... I see Ukraine as the shield for Europe right now... We’ll stand up for Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Pål Jonson, Minister for Defence for Sweden

Earlier in the day, Former Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Hague moderated a panel on Air, Space and AI. Panellists discussed how the war in Ukraine is shaping and being shaped by technological developments, with Christian Brose, Chief Strategy Officer at Anduril Industries noting that when it comes to tech advancement, the war in Ukraine has taught us lessons regarding speeds of application. Dr Ulrike Franke, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations predicted that Ukraine could become a drone exporter in the future as new systems are being tested and used rapidly in the country.

Lord Hague, Christian Brose, Dr Ulrike Franke, Air Marshal Edward Stringer, CB, CBE, Tim Marshall
Lord Hague, Christian Brose, Dr Ulrike Franke, Air Marshal Edward Stringer, CB, CBE, Tim Marshall

Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President (International, Engagement & Service) at King’s College London joined a panel in the afternoon to discuss command and leadership in the 21st Century, moderated by Deborah Haynes, Security and Defence Editor at Sky News. 

We are talking about Ukraine a lot today for obvious reasons. How we resolve Ukraine will say a lot about what happens in the rest of the world because tomorrow any country can now go and commit a war of aggression without any consequences. It is a big deal. We need to really think about this.

‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President (International, Engagement & Service) at King’s College London
Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President (International, Engagement & Service) at King’s College London
Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President (International, Engagement & Service) at King’s College London

Former Commanding General US Army Europe, Ben Hodges said "Ukraine is going to win the war, there is no doubt about that. What we don’t know is what happens in the Kremlin afterwards." On a future after the war in Ukraine, Luke Coffey, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute said we need to start thinking about this now, noting that “history has the ability to collapse time. Historians will look back and determine that February 24 2022 was the final act of the collapse of the Soviet Union”. 

During a discussion on future risks, which was moderated by broadcaster, Adam Boulton, panellists explored topics including energy and climate change, as well as pandemics, nuclear threats and the global locations defence should look to focus on. 

Speaking on energy transition Professor Helen Thompson, Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University said there won't be "risk-free energy" but that there would be "whole new geopolitical risks from the energy revolution". Whilst Dr Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo examined the threat of nuclear war from Russia. 

Adam Boulton, Professor Helen Thompson, Dr Francesca Ghiretti, Polly Scully CBE, Dr Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer
Adam Boulton, Professor Helen Thompson, Dr Francesca Ghiretti, Polly Scully CBE, Dr Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer

Future stars from the School of Security Studies shared insights from their PhD research during a breakout session, discussing a wide range of themes pertinent to defence and security; including the needs and motivations for space strategy, India's foreign and defence policies, military organisation in the South American states and analysis of RAF combat air acquisition programme. 

PhD students Julia Balm, Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, Arun Dawson, Raphael Lima, moderated by Professor John Bew
PhD students Julia Balm, Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, Arun Dawson, Raphael Lima, moderated by Professor John Bew

We should be really confident about what Ukraine is achieving and our role in helping Ukraine to achieve that success.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff
Professor John Gearson interviewing Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff
Professor John Gearson interviewing Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff

The conference concluded with an 'In Conversation' event with Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff, hosted by Professor John Gearson, Head of the School of Security Studies.

During the discussion, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin spoke about how Britain has been supporting Ukraine through both advising on military strategy and providing kit; as well as investment in the British army over the next 10 years and increasing deployability. 

Catch up on the highlights from day 1 of the conference, which saw a keynote address from Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. 

In this story

Wyn Bowen cropped

Professor of Non-Proliferation and International Security

JG new headshot

Head of the School of Security Studies

2022_Funmi_Olonisakin

Vice President (International, Engagement & Service)