A radical shift in British foreign and defense policy

On the 16th local time, the British government announced the country’s most comprehensive “comprehensive assessment of security, defense, development and foreign policy” since the Cold War. After completing Brexit at the end of last year, British Prime Minister Johnson said that this assessment will mark the country’s entry into a new era, indicating that the United Kingdom will return to glory on the global stage. The report bluntly defines Russia as “the most serious direct threat to the UK”, while at the same time using what is considered a “subtle” method, on the one hand, it claims that China poses a “systemic challenge” to the UK and on the other hand it seeks to establish a positive economic relationship with China. . According to the assessment report, the British policy will make two key changes: “Indo-Pacific tilt” and abandon the nuclear non-proliferation policy pursued in recent decades, and increase the number of nuclear warheads. The effect of the former was questioned in the UK, while the latter was quickly condemned internationally. Britain wants to restore its position in the world in a way that threatens global stability and security? Slutsky, chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma, said: “We have to be shocked by the British plan.”

“The most radical reassessment”

The report entitled “Globalized Britain in the Age of Competition” was described by the British “Times” as “the most radical reassessment of Britain’s status in the world after the Cold War.” The report is more than 100 pages long and sets a vision for a post-Brexit UK from four aspects: “Science and Technology”, “Future Open International Order”, “Defense and Security”, and “Building Domestic Resilience”. When explaining the report to Parliament on the 16th, Johnson said that the comprehensive assessment described how the UK will consolidate the alliance, strengthen its capabilities, and relearn the art of competition with countries that have opposite values. He is “very optimistic” about Britain’s position in the world and its ability to seize opportunities in the future.

The BBC commented that over the years, the status of the EU’s membership and the relationship with the United States have defined Britain’s position in the world, but Brexit has changed all of this. Therefore, the Johnson administration now wants Britain to play a new global role. Johnson’s article published in The Times on the 16th said that the purpose of “globalizing the UK” is not to make a big splash or an offensive attitude on the world stage, but to rely on Britain’s record-breaking expenditures on defense and science to obtain capabilities. The rest of the world interacts and provides help.

However, the first content of this report that attracted the attention of the world media was that the United Kingdom announced that at the end of this decade, it would increase the total number of nuclear warheads to no more than 260. Agence France-Presse said this means that Britain has abandoned its promise to reduce nuclear warheads to 180. The British “Financial Times” commented that this move is aimed at consolidating Britain’s position as a nuclear power and a solid ally of the United States. It also marks that Britain no longer adheres to the nuclear non-proliferation policy that has been pursued in recent decades.

In defending this major policy change, the report stated that emerging threats made it impossible for Britain to insist on its commitment to reduce nuclear warheads. The British “Guardian” said that although it was not explicitly mentioned, when he made this decision, Johnson was thinking of the two nuclear powers, Russia and China. The report referred to Russia as “the UK’s most serious direct threat,” and stated that it will actively contain and defend all-round threats from Russia until relations with Russia improve. The report claims that China is the “biggest national threat” to Britain’s economic security and poses a “systemic challenge” to Britain’s prosperity and values.

The “Guardian” commented that this is actually labeling Russia a “hostile country”. And the wording involving China may disappoint Britain to the Chinese hawks. While claiming that China’s military modernization and growing self-confidence will “pose greater and greater risks” to British interests, and threatening to continue to challenge Beijing on issues such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, the report uses “prudent and balanced language”. Discuss China.

According to the report, in the next 10 years, China will contribute more to world economic growth than any other country and will bring benefits to the global economy. China is becoming an increasingly important partner in responding to global challenges such as the epidemic, biodiversity and climate change. The UK also needs to seek to establish a positive economic relationship with China, including deepening trade ties and increasing Chinese investment. Johnson said on the 16th that although China poses “a huge challenge to an open society like ours,” Britain hopes to cooperate with China. The “Sydney Morning Herald” commented that Britain has one eye on China’s “threat” and the other eye on trade with China.

“The emotion of confrontation can only cause regret and concern.” RIA Novosti reported that after learning of the contents disclosed in advance by the media, Russian President Press Secretary Peskov said on the 16th that Russia was not, and is not an enemy of anyone, either. Does not pose a threat to anyone. Slutsky, chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma, said that Britain’s new strategy is supported by a suggestive “Russian phobia”. London is trying to play a role with the new US government and defend NATO’s aggressive route.

A brief introduction to the EU, and a long talk about “Indo-Pacific tilt”

Although one of the reasons the UK made this assessment is to complete Brexit, there is very little mention of the EU in the report. The Guardian reported that in the country-by-country chapter, the opening paragraph reads “The United States is still Britain’s most important strategic ally and partner.” The “European neighbors and allies” part is just a promise to find a “new way” to cooperate with the EU. Immediately afterwards, the report described “Indo-Pacific tilt” in two pages. This is also the key new policy direction of the entire evaluation.

According to the report, the UK will adopt a major and long-term preferential policy towards the Indo-Pacific region, with the goal of becoming the European partner with the “widest and most comprehensive presence” in the region by 2030. British Sky News reported that this tilt is both trade and diplomatic. Johnson announced on the 16th that he will visit India next month as his first major mission after Brexit. In addition, the British Royal Navy’s “Queen Elizabeth” aircraft carrier will be sent to the Indo-Pacific region for the first time this summer. A source in the British government said that this would help build a “fortress” against China.

Johnson said that Britain’s “deep involvement” in the Indo-Pacific includes inviting Australia, India and South Korea to participate in the Group of Seven (G7) summit in June this year, applying to become ASEAN’s dialogue partners, and seeking to join the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement. The BBC commented that the question is whether this tilt will come at the cost of failing to pay enough attention to repairing relations with the EU. “Financial Times” reported that Johnson’s invitation to Australia, India and South Korea to participate in the G7 summit has been questioned. Critics believe that the “Indo-Pacific tilt” cannot offset the economic and diplomatic damage caused by Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

There is a “huge gap” in words and actions

Johnson announced on the 16th that the first result of the comprehensive assessment was that the government decided to increase an additional £24 billion in defense expenditures to achieve a comprehensive modernization of the armed forces, promote the renewal of nuclear forces, and focus on investing in emerging technologies that can change the mode of warfare. The BBC said that members of the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons warned that additional funds may be swallowed up by the financial “black hole”, and the Ministry of Defense’s current equipment plan has faced a shortfall of 17 billion pounds.

Britain’s decision to abandon the number of nuclear warheads was quickly condemned internationally. Fienne, the executive director of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, criticized the British move as “irresponsible, dangerous, and against international law.” The Secretary-General of the Nuclear Disarmament Movement, Hudson, warned that Britain may start a “new nuclear arms race.” “(Due to the response to the epidemic) when government funds are tight, we don’t need to invest heavily in weapons of mass destruction.”

Agence France-Presse reported that other key areas covered by the assessment report include space and the Internet. Johnson previously stated that Britain plans to create a national cyber force that combines military and intelligence capabilities. In addition, the report proposes to establish a new counter-terrorism operations center in the Cabinet Office, similar to the White House Situation Room in the United States.

According to Reuters, this assessment report will still be reviewed to see if the British government can take specific measures. In particular, the country is struggling to face the reality of post-Brexit, and the number of deaths due to new crown pneumonia is more than that of many European countries. Nandi, the shadow foreign secretary of the Labor Party, ridiculed the “huge gap” between the words and actions of the Johnson administration. He said that the government hopes to uphold international law, but it has repeatedly violated international law; it emphasizes the importance of conflict resolution and counter-terrorism, while reducing related projects in Syria and Iraq; it hopes to play a leading role on climate change issues, but it has not achieved zero emissions. plan.