I was rather intrigued to read last week that the Royal Navy was reopening a base in the Gulf reversing the infamous East of Suez policy. The reason for my puzzlement at this story was the fact that the Royal Navy had actually announced more than a year ago that it was building a purpose-built base in the Gulf and construction was underway. So why did the British government take so long to make the announcement? At the end of the day we are talking a small base next to the giant headquarters of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, the site of the former Royal Navy base, at Bahrain. Now some political commentators have said that it is Britain trying to show the world that it still has some military muscle. For many years Britain has maintained a military presence in the Gulf area and this has grown over the last few years. Having a base in the Gulf could mean that British warships will be able to remain on station longer and therefore save money for the Ministry of Defence. Why the Royal Navy can´t continue to use the U.S. base at Bahrain I don´t know, but it is certainly a change in policy. I have heard that the U.S. wants the European powers to take a bigger role in the Gulf so that the U.S. can move its bigger units to the Pacific and China Seas to counter the threat of China and North Korea. It is amazing that 40 years after the East of Suez announcement by the then Labour government that Britain finds itself involved in a new policy operation in the Gulf area.
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