Great Britain decided to seriously change its approach to foreign and defense policy, calling Russia one of the main threats to its security. Boris Johnson presented the new strategy in parliament, focusing on interaction with China, pointing out strong cooperation with the United States and promising to increase the state’s nuclear potential.
The UK regarded Russia as the most acute and urgent threat to its security in a comprehensive review of the country’s security, defense and foreign policy issues, designed for the period until 2030. The report was presented to the British Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said it was the most significant overhaul of strategy since the end of the Cold War.
The 100-page survey is mostly centered around UK domestic and foreign policy after Brexit. The British side has been preparing the document itself for more than a year, formally the review was supposed to be submitted back in 2020, but the publication was postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Reactions to the document in the British Parliament turned out to be different, and mainly disputes arose around China and the country’s future nuclear arsenal.
A significant part of the document was also devoted to Russia. Its authors made the following conclusions in this regard:
Moscow continues to be an acute and direct threat to Great Britain, and it is likely that its activity in Europe will increase in the short term.
The authors of the review promise to reflect the danger allegedly emanating from Russia with the help of London’s NATO allies, as well as by supporting the countries of Eastern Europe – here they separately note assistance to Ukraine and the strengthening of its military potential. In addition, the UK is ready to support independent media, especially in the states neighboring Russia, to fight “news fakes and misinformation.”
The British side is particularly worried about the growth of the Russian military potential, as well as the increase in Russian investments in “information operations”. The authors are confident that the rivalry between the great powers and the “opportunism of such states as Russia, Iran and North Korea” has led to a weakening of the international legal order, and, in general, a worsening of the situation in the field of world security.
“The United Kingdom respects the people, culture and history of Russia, but until our relationship with its government improves, we will resort to containment and actively defend against the full range of threats posed by Russia,” the document emphasizes.
However, Johnson himself did not focus on these details of the review during his speech. The prime minister focused on such aspects as the future of relations with China, increasing funding for the British army, cooperation with the United States and increasing Britain’s nuclear potential – that is, refusing to reduce it, as the British authorities decided almost 11 years ago.
The survey calls the growth of Chinese influence the main geopolitical factor in the modern world. The UK authorities intend to deepen economic cooperation with the PRC, while strengthening the protection of critical infrastructure and increasing the flexibility of key supply chains.
“There is no doubt that China will create big problems for an open society like ours. But we will also work with China if it is in line with our values and interests, including to build stronger and more positive economic relations and address climate change,” Johnson announced in parliament.
Speaking about protecting UK values in cooperation with China, he noted that London has prompted the international community to express our deep concern about the massive detention of Uyghurs in the PRC. The review also cites this point as an example that the British side will not hesitate in case of violation of existing treaties by Beijing.
Discussing the future of relations between Great Britain and China, Johnson emphasized that the United States remains the main ally of London at the moment. In fact, Washington fully supports the British side’s concerns about alleged human rights violations in China.
Opposition MPs represented by Labor were skeptical about Johnson’s statement about China, noting that the government still retains the “tenacious naivete” since the premiership of David Cameron. However, the current head of the Cabinet of Ministers did not agree with this.
“Those who are calling for a new cold war with China or for us to completely isolate our economy from China … I think they are wrong. We need to find a balance. We needed to have a clear relationship with China,” Johnson said.
A large part of the report, as well as the prime minister’s speeches, is devoted to changes in the UK’s defense policy. The British authorities have decided to spend £ 24 billion to modernize the military infrastructure. Part of this amount should be spent on upgrading the UK’s nuclear potential.
According to the survey, the authorities are going to increase the total number of nuclear warheads by more than 40% – from 180 to 260 pieces. This decision in fact reverses the previous course to reduce nuclear potential, as pointed out to Johnson in parliament by representatives of the opposition.
According to Labor leader Kir Starmer, the government’s plans to lift the limit on the number of Trident 260 warheads heralded the end of Britain’s 30-year gradual nuclear disarmament and received little explanation.
“This review violates the goal of successive prime ministers and cross-party efforts to reduce our nuclear arsenals. He does not explain when, why or for what strategic goal, ”the opposition politician added.
In turn, Johnson noted that Labor cannot talk about protecting the British armed forces, since a number of party representatives voted against bills to increase the budget in this area. According to the prime minister, the decisions cited in the review will make the country stronger and safer, and will also help consolidate its place as a “scientific superpower”.
Actually, in the document itself, the need to increase the nuclear potential of Great Britain is explained by the fact that the security situation in the world is rapidly changing, including the increasing number of technological and doctrinal threats, so the policy of limiting the number of warheads is no longer possible.
In the review, the British side also focuses on the new cybersecurity strategy. It is expected to be presented during 2021 and focuses on protecting the UK from malicious attacks. Among the main priorities of the future document, the authors of the review call the strengthening of the cybernetic ecosystem to resist those who are trying to launch an attack and to protect British users.
Also mentioned is the creation of the National Cyber Force of Great Britain, which will be responsible for the fight against the malicious actions of cybercriminals, terrorists and other states. According to Johnson, the unit will be located in the northwest of England.
By the way, in the British media the review is positioned as the future of Great Britain after leaving the European Union, however, Brussels is directly assigned a rather small role in the document. In addition, Johnson never mentioned the EU directly during his speech, although he did give a small hint at the current attitude of the UK towards unification.
“Great Britain can never be content with the limited horizons of regional foreign policy, there are no distant countries for it, the concept of global Britain is not a reflection of old commitments and not an expression of vanity, but a necessity for the country’s security and prosperity,” the prime minister stressed.