Security and prosperity are the outcomes of enhancing trade and investment. This “prosperity continuum” was first articulated by the Secretary of State for International Trade. It goes on to describe a flourishing domestic economy as enabling greater collective and global security. This link between who we are at home with who we are overseas is implicit. In 1945 the UK and US founded today’s “rules-based order”. Our worldview then enabled the creation of the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, today’s equal-member Commonwealth and NATO itself. The strategy was to create the means to defend western democratic values against those of authoritarian communism. Article 5 was its most collective expression. Our strategic nuclear deterrent was the ultimate one against those who might threaten our values. Those who offered the threat were similarly equipped, though our technological and economic predominance was evident.
Our place in the world then was clear; we accepted an inter-connected world which needed control to neutralise its worst potential aspects. The United Kingdom acted as an essential pivot in this system. We often spoke of being the bridge between the US and Europe so that the international system protected itself by wider global engagement at all levels within the rules-based order. We proved our willingness to deploy overseas. In only one year since 1945 were our forces not on operations. Over the last few years, perhaps since the crash of 2008 or since 9/11 itself, our world-view can be said to have become overly concentrated on the US dimension and our military on a counter-insurgency one. Loyalty has, on occasion, trumped wisdom. Our security policy is a very fine one, as is our capability, but it really is counter-terrorist in its nature and, essentially, delivers a crisis-response or crisis-preventative outcome. What it is not, however, is the drawing together of all our capabilities as a nation-state acting in pursuit of a common strategic aim. We might say that we lack an over-arching strategy. our nation is less collectively clear as to what the aim of the United Kingdom is and what their part is in it.
Our withdrawal from the EU however, is beginning to refresh an analysis of who we are in the many capability domains we have. The “hard power” elements are: intelligence, security, defence, trade and finance. The “soft power” ones are diplomacy, development, our law, our democracy, our arts, culture, music and sport. In the latter and parts of the former, we lead the world. But we remain the weakest in our national history since 1945 in the defence domain and soft power cannot be relied upon unless underpinned by a hard power capability and the understanding as to how it may be used.
Any strategy we seek to define must now, in the more enlightened age that the United Kingdom has entered, unite the domestic with the international. Our strategy for our place in today’s complex world must mirror to a large degree what we are aiming to become as a nation at home. That is why the Secretary of State’s “prosperity continuum” is so useful as we define our over-arching national and international strategy. At home, we might become the shining beacon of hope to our own people if we combine our rule of law with our deep-rooted sense of social justice underpinned by or economic prosperity. We might, for instance, become the first nation on earth to eradicate modern poverty, thereby releasing many of the 14.3m people currently on a form of welfare benefit, into fuller economic engagement. The dignity we extend to those in genuine need would be inspirational. A “whole of government” approach would deal with Iain Duncan Smith’s “pathways to poverty” and eradicate educational failure, homelessness, worklessness, family breakdown, addiction and indebtedness that combine to a national stain upon the greatest prosperity our country has ever known in 1,000 years. This would be our national domestic strategy; to create a nation sure-footed in its finest governance, predicated on the compassion we have learned to sometimes ignore as our national virtue and with it create the “one nation” that many of our finest playwrights struggled to make sense of 50 years ago.
So if we extend this from a domestic to an overseas strategy enabling our place in the world, it would mean a simple equation. That: Upholding the Rules-based Order + the Doctrine of International Engagement = the United Kingdom’s place in the world. It would necessitate the same “whole of government” approach to secure it. But once we have done so, the issues which are disturbing the peaceful progression of our world would be confidently confronted and neutralised. Nation-states which operate “in and out” of our rules-based order, do so as delinquents to it. Pragmatically we need to understand that all the soft power in the world may influence people, but they are less effective against authoritarian regimes, which respect only the “hardest” of power.
Authoritarian governments have survived the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, Iran and Syria and throughout North Africa. China survived its Tiananmen Square massacre and today is creating a maritime “belt and road” initiative that looks more like an international naval infrastructure, stretching from Asia to Europe, than an exclusively investment opportunity. Its roots are in the “pool” of the South China Sea that it has militarised over 40 years and offers the prospect of global disturbance to our allies across ASEAN, Australasia and up to South Korea and Japan. We need to understand that China associates “two systems”, placing authoritarianism alongside capitalism. If we assume that the US will join us as the architects of the next 70 years of our rules-based order, then we will be joining it and Japan in their ambitions to thwart China’s interference in the US-Japanese “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy”. China will speak of co-existence but will never be content to join our way of life until it believes in freedom too.
If this is to occur, then the United Kingdom will be in the vanguard of safeguarding our world. Global Britain will be enabled through our re-prioritisation from a continental to a maritime strategy, with a re-vitalised US relationship despite the awkwardness of the current President. We will see the world through the Five Eyes, a partnership that has done so much to secure our world in the intelligence, security and defence domains but which we will begin to extend to trade, diplomacy, development and finance too.
UK foreign and defence policies have rested on collective security with the US as our priority relationship and working together with it to create strong alliances with Europe, the Commonwealth and Rest of the World nations, principally Japan. In that order. It addressed the principal threat of Russia. It enabled victory in the Cold War, but the stretching of NATO borders eastward can be said to have generated the delinquency we see in Russian behaviour abroad in the cyber, influence and intelligence domains. It occurred as a consequence of our “values-based victory” where really it was our economic one that enabled our technological superiority and depleted the Soviet Russian military or naval ability to compete. That period since the Cold War led on to an interventionist approach in the Middle East and Central Asia which diluted our greater world standing. We saw it through a land and air prism. Both of these “phases” left China to be seen as joining the economic “comity” of nations and we may have been, in a sense, blinded to its growing military capability to oppose the “comity” we sought and disrupt the rules-based order we helped create.
As we exit the EU that order may be altered. Our world will once again be shaped by our key US relationship, but the emphasis on the rest of our allies who enable our collective security and its furtherance may change, so that lead Commonwealth nations (particularly the Commonwealth Five Eyes of Australia, New Zealand and Canada) assume an ascendancy and those with Japan and India become ever-more vital. The Asian pivot has begun. It is a pivot against authoritarianism. Our re-armament will begin and it will be in the maritime domain to cater to that Asian need. By the brilliance of our values, by a whole of government approach at home that combines our rule of law with social justice and compassion, the United Kingdom can extend those values to a strategy overseas that vigorously energises the rules-based order with a doctrine of international engagement.
But to achieve all of this, there is now no room to escape the need to enhance our Diplomacy on a grander scale than ever before; to re-orientate our International Development objectives so that they align with our foreign policy goals; and to underpin them both with a renewed maritime Defence ability that influences and stabilises a complex world in which our commitment to its order and its community have never been needed more.
If we take this opportunity now, then the United Kingdom will “leave no one behind” – at home or overseas and we will signal hope in a complex world which has lost so much of it in recent times.
Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter
A graduate of Durham and Sandhurst. Former Green Jacket Officer in the British Army. Considerable experience at overseas Governmental level as a senior consultant in aerospace and co-founder of Coltraco Ultrasonics, a high exporting designer and manufacturer operating in 108 countries. He has travelled to 30-40 countries annually for 25 years across his business career. Honorary Doctorate of Science of Durham University and Professor in Practice at Durham Business School. Fellow and Trustee of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects. Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering. Associate Fellow the Nautical Institute. Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers and Member of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, Chatham House and the Royal Aeronautical Society. Member of the UK-USA SME Dialogue created by the President of the USA and the Prime Minister. Policy Advisor to a Peer. Decision Making Panel Member of the Bank of England. The 37th Commonwealth First business mentor. Advisory Board Member of London International Leaders. Active Member and Executive Council Member of CLWCA and the Conservative Foreign & Commonwealth Council. Highly active in Westminster. Speaks regularly at industry events in support of HMG in regard to free trade, UK Export Finance, EU Exit, Exporting, SME Sector Invigoration, Innovation and the need for UK business CEOs to become “HMG Focals” within their companies. Interests include Physics, National Renewal, Healing the Nation, Increasing the 8.8% of UK companies which Export, Social Justice, Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development, Maritime Strategy, Global Britain, the Commonwealth, the USA and invigorating the SME sector to export for the UK’s prosperity, stability, security and global security sequence.