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Britain revisits its foreign policy

IMarch 2021 The UK government has released a comprehensive review of foreign, defence, development and security policy, known as the “Comprehensive Review”. It warns that the world is becoming more competitive and fragmented. Exactly how many there are, it cannot guess. That summer, Kabul fell to the Taliban. A few months later, Russia invaded Ukraine. US-China relations appear to be in a free fall. On March 13, the government updated the review accordingly.

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The new report addresses two criticisms of the original report. One is that it has a European-shaped hole. At the time, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson was engaged in diplomatic trench warfare with Britain. European Union. The current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reached a truce by signing the “Windsor Framework” to reach an agreement on arrangements for Northern Ireland and ease relations with France.

The second complaint is that Mr Johnson’s “tilting” towards the Indo-Pacific is promoting stupidity, especially after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine. But the review declared the tilt a success, thanks in large part to nonmilitary means such as trade and diplomacy. The policy looks more substantive than before.In December, Japan signed an Anglo-Italian initiative to build a next-generation warplane, known as the GCAP. On March 13, Britain will jointly design a nuclear submarine with Australia as a OkusThe pact is a tripartite agreement announced 18 months ago by the US, Australia and the UK.Most importantly, the UK is also close to being accepted as a member CPTPP agreementAn Asian trade agreement.

The review, led by John Bew, deftly intertwined these two aspects of British foreign policy. “Prosperity and security in the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions are inextricably linked,” it argued.It demonstrates growing cooperation between European and Asian powers, including not only GCAP and Okus It also pledged to establish a “permanent” maritime presence with France in the Indo-Pacific region. It also highlighted China’s “epoch-making challenge” to the world order and pledged to double funding for “Chinese capabilities”, such as the government’s language skills.

The tone of the document is calm and often sombre. “The transition to a multipolar, divided and competitive world has been quicker and more defined than expected,” it acknowledges. “The risk of escalation is greater than at any point in decades.” China and Russia increasingly ties Closely speaking, they are all authoritarian powers committed to “undermining the international system or reshaping the international system in their own image”. It warns that protecting the system will require cooperation not just with western liberal democracies but with various “middle ground” powers – think Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – who refuse to join the idea bloc of the US or China .

The report avoids hyperbolic talk of the UK as a superpower. The phrase “global Britain” was favored under Mr Johnson but has been exiled. But it acknowledged the UK’s strengths, especially in science and technology, and the need to build economic resilience in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to semiconductors.A new government-industry working group will focus on strengthening the UK’s artificial intelligence “Basic model”, similar to Chatcommon technology.

As with the first review, the big question is whether the UK has the resources to realize this vision. The ambition to coordinate the various levers of power, from offensive cyber capabilities to sanctions, “is a fantastic goal,” said an official involved in the previous review, “but is there not already the mechanisms and human capital in place to properly integrate — to do this? everything?

Defense spending is a particular bone of contention. On March 13, two days before the budget was announced, the UK government said it would spend an extra £5bn on the MoD over the next two years. All of this will be absorbed by nuclear weapons, submarines and replenishing ammunition stocks depleted by the war in Ukraine. Instead of committing to spend 2.5% gross domestic product On defence, as military chiefs want it to be, the review said it was just “an aspiration … as the fiscal and economic circumstances allow”.

Malcolm Chalmers, of the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said that if the core defense budget did rise to this level within a decade, it would mean a 40 per cent increase in spending, accompanied by a rise in tax revenue. “The government leaves this difficult conundrum to its successor,” he suggested. In opinion polls, Labor leads the Tories by more than 20 percentage points. The next election will be held in January 2025.

Despite harsh public criticism of the government’s failures in foreign and defense policy, Labor has aligned itself with official Ukrainian policy in supporting plans such as GCAP and Okus, also skeptical of China. It will retain much of the strategic vision. Even so, Labour’s shadow defense secretary, John Healy, said he would undertake a new review in his first year in office. By then, events will surely change the situation again.

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