Understanding British Foreign Policy Today

  • 0
  • 31 July 2017

Britain’s Foreign Office and diplomatic service have a proud history. Moreover, Britain’s engagement with the outside world goes back a few thousand years. These islands have historically been good at absorbing external influences within and influencing the internal situation of others.

One hundred years ago, I would be writing about the glorious empire on which the sun never sets, and the growing fortunes of our war against Germany. This was a time when Britain was looked to as the center of geopolitics and the map was red.

How times have changed!

In the recent-ish past Britain has re-asked the questions ‘who are we?’ and ‘what are we for?’ Be sure, Iraq has left a sour taste in the mouths of the British people and created a more cautious approach from the state in foreign interventions. Look at Libya and Syria. Yet as we try to figure out what we want from Europe, British foreign policy is at a tremendous standstill by a fork in the road. What we once were cannot be returned to (however much UKIP and the Tory right would like), but at the same time, the road ahead is not obvious or clear-cut.

Of course, the United Kingdom is one of the Big Five on the UN Security Council, but the response to that seems to be so what? It is not enough for many. The loss of empire and growing ties to Europe since created the impression that we are no longer the great and influential power we once were. But this is just a scratch on the bonnet.

In brutal terms, British foreign policy in the twenty first century is short-term in focus and aims. Currently, it centers on Brexit, migration and trade. These are not visions of Britain, rather self-inflicted issues. We have always been a maritime trading hub, but what is never considered is what trade means. Suppose a post-Brexit Britain leaves the European Single Market. What does trade with, for example, the Eurasian Economic Union mean or say about us? The answer is nothing. Trading more with America means nothing but trade.

The Brexit negotiations are not showing global leadership or obvious glories ahead – they are a chaotic shambles. This is not my opinion; it is a clear to anyone paying attention. Moreover, the idea of Europe will not just go away because Britain decides to revoke its club membership. European problems will always seek Britain’s voice. Other long-term problems such as climate change, terror and so on require the involvement and co-operation of the UK. This is the main problem of a short-term approach. What is Britain’s voice for if it cannot think ahead?

Let’s now look at the political context. Parties generally avoid issues like civil atrocities overseas. The reason is actually quite simple. In a democracy, the people set the agenda. The electorate are less likely to hear of civil atrocities or human rights abuses, and therefore, do not care. Domestic issues such as health and housing then become highly politicised as a result.

There is ample proof of this. Firstly, during any election campaign, foreign policy sections are often at the back of manifestos. Even when it comes up in public events, questions tend to be generalised and are satisfied with sound bite answers. Jeremy Corbyn for instance was asked whether or not he would use nuclear weapons by two elderly working class gentlemen. All they wanted to hear was ‘yes’, not an in depth analysis of various scenarios that may arise. However, during the 2017 general election, what lost it for the Conservatives was domestic issues, not Brexit. Likewise, Labour’s stance on immigration alienated some voters, but not enough to swing the election.

This is significant however, because when issues at home become more politicised it detracts from any progress on international matters of common interest. Brexit is struggling because it became politically toxic at home, thus, the parties refuse to work together and disagree too much amongst themselves. The reality is Brexit will not change things back to the way they were nor will remaining in the EU deliver us from evil.

What Britain has lacked for a long time is a wider more rounded discussion of foreign policy and international affairs. The population feels less affected by foreign policy so show little interest. As such, the population is ready to believe the worst lies and a great deal of hypocrisy runs through public opinion. Different countries are held to different and double standards. Then again, one might argue this demonstrates that international relations do not really exist; there are only national interests.

Although, this lack of discussion around foreign policy is a drawback of democracy itself. British governments (usually) serve for five years. A party could be voted out at any time and therefore any changes must be immediately effective. That means long-term planning is not doable and foreign policy suffers the most and changes little from one government to the next. Also, as the population is largely indifferent, parties can avoid discussing it altogether. The Liberal Democrats have in the last three general elections. After all, elections are fought on the economy, not foreign policy or social issues.

Britain is now something of a second tier global leader. The world still looks to us for answers, just not the same as it does the US or even Germany. This reality causes us a headache. Our diplomatic service is massively respected worldwide, yet the population does not see our government as respectable or acting as a global leader. We stand up on certain issues but not others the government would gain a lot of support for. To top it off, the British media rarely challenges foreign policy decisions unless controversial.

The UK could be ‘the shining city on a hill’ in many areas of foreign policy, but unfortunately, we are too consumed with our own nonsense to think ahead.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Russian Security Cannot be Anti-Russian

  • 0
  • 15 March 2022

To reflect on the period where the world now finds itself, we propose the term “cold hot war”, as this period has significant differences from the classical notion of the “Cold war”. Within the framework of the old Cold War, military confrontation between the two superpowers was always indirect. “Proxy” conflicts only emerged between their respective allies, when there was an intersection of interests in various regions of the world, but these never happened direc

citește mai mult

Russian Leadership Changes: How it was, is and how it might be

  • 0
  • 3 January 2022

Now that 2022 is finally here, it means Russia’s next presidential election is just two years away. The way has been paved for Vladimir Putin to run again if he chooses. The will he/won’t he? question is a favourite of pundits as is speculation of a potential or likely successor. Russia’s next leader will be immensely consequential, as will the time when he or she takes over.

It’s certainly possible that by the end of t

citește mai mult

Researchers from Six Countries Discussed the Challenges for International Psychological Security in the Context of the Use of Artificial Intelligence

  • 0
  • 23 November 2020

On 12 November 2020, a panel discussion "Artificial Intelligence and International Psychological Security: Theoretical and Practical Implications" was held at St. Petersburg State University as part of the international conference "Strategic Communications in Business and Politics" (STRATCOM-2020).

The discussion was moderated by Konstantin Pantserev – DSc in Political Sciences, Professor of the St. Petersburg State University,

citește mai mult

Conferință despre Transnistria, 4 – 5 Martie 2022

  • 0
  • 8 March 2022

Împlinirea a 30 de ani de la unul dintre cele mai dificile momente ale istoriei estului Europei a constituit temeiul unei conferințe științifice de prestigiu organizate în colaborare de către instituții de învățâmânt și cercetare din Chișinău, Târgoviște și București.

Conferința cu titlul „Războiul de pe Nistru din 1992: 30 de ani după...” a fost organizată de către Asociația Națională a Tinerilor Istorici din Moldova (ANTIM),

citește mai mult

Forcing the Correct Choice: Deterring Right-Wing Radicals and Preventing Threats to Nuclear Facilities in Ukraine

  • 0
  • 7 March 2022

According to official statements by the Russian Federation, its army’s special military operation in Ukraine aims to both “demilitarize” and “denazify” the country. This operation is being carried out in a large state with a developed nuclear power industry, fairly powerful army (the largest in Europe outside of Russia and Turkey) and high firepower (22nd place in the world according to 2022 Military Strength Ranking (Global Firepower, 2022)). One of the primary o

citește mai mult

Azebaijan, cheia geostrategică a Asiei Centrale

  • 0
  • 13 February 2018

După destrămarea URSS, Azerbaijanul a fost statul ex-sovietic care alături de    republicile Baltice a avut o dezvoltare constantă și durabilă. Desigur, aici pot fi adresate unele critici regimului de la Baku cu privire la democrație, care în opinia multor analiști este doar mimată la Baku. Însă faptul adevărat este că acest stat a reușit să își gestioneze eficient resursele de care dispune pentru a deveni o societate prosperă. I se atribuie Azerbaijanului etichet

citește mai mult

Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges for BRICS Psychological Security on International Forum “Russia and Ibero-America in a Turbulent World: History and Prospects”

  • 0
  • 17 October 2023

On October 5, within the framework of the VI International Forum “Russia and Ibero-America in a Turbulent World: History and Modernity” at St. Petersburg State University, two sessions of the panel “Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence and Challenges for BRICS Psychological Security” were held under the chairmanship of Professor Evgeny N. Pashentsev.

citește mai mult

Presentation of “The Palgrave Handbook of Malicious Use of AI and Psychological Security” at international forum in St. Petersburg

  • 0
  • 17 October 2023

On October 4, 2023, as part of the international forum "Russia and Iberoamerica in a Turbulent World: History and Modernity", held at the School of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University, the presentation of the collective monograph "The Palgrave Handbook of Malicious Use of AI and Psychological Security" took place. The presentation was attended by the editor and co-author of the publication – DSc., professor Evgeny Pashentsev, leading researc

citește mai mult

Strategic Communication of Russia and China in BRICS under the Global Crisis: Challenges and Prospects

  • 0
  • 12 July 2023

Prof. Evgeny Pashentsev, a leading researcher at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia presented June 29 2023 a paper at the international symposium on “Global Security Governance: Current Challenges and China’s Solutions” in Beijing.

Below we publish a summary of his paper there.

citește mai mult