Foreign Secretary’s campaign against China and Russia says London lost the plot
A fanatical neocon, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss presents world affairs in an uncompromising ideological struggle between “democracy” and “authoritarianism”.
She also seems to be addicted to Cold War fervor.
His Wednesday evening speech in London borders on the desire for war against Russia and China simultaneously. By first calling “to push Russia of all Ukraine”, Truss described the conflict as “our war”, then turned to China and taunted Beijing saying its rise “was not inevitable”. demanding that they “play by the rules” and even arguing that NATO should defend Taiwan in the eventuality. Truss again called for a “network of freedom” and urged avoiding economic dependencies on undesirable countries (again a reference to Russia and China).
But, unfortunately for Truss and despite the climate in which we now exist, none of this inflated rhetoric has any serious basis in reality. Yet if it gets what it wants, the potential dangers are existential: the British Foreign Secretary’s rhetoric is spoiling a direct conflict against not just one but two adversaries of the nuclear superpower. Trying to oust Russia from Crimea and preventing China from taking Taiwan if it decides to do so are two scenarios that could prompt a military, potentially even nuclear, response. That doesn’t seem to scare Truss, and European leaders probably won’t be happy about it, though his handlers in Washington will be glad to hear it. However, it ultimately speaks to a larger truth that the hubris and nostalgic vigor of Brexit is pushing Britain to the edge of a cliff, depositing its foreign policy of any sort of reason, restraint, moderation or realism about its current place in the world.
The history of Britain’s foreign policy since 1945 could be summed up as that of a declining empire going through stages of mourning. If the Suez crisis represented anger and denial, then Britain’s attempt to join the European Economic Community in the 1970s represented negotiation and acceptance. However, it didn’t last. Britain’s English-speaking exceptionalist identity, compounded of course by the geographical conditioning of separation from continental Europe, has produced a very different historical experience from that of its neighbours. While France and Germany have recent memories of the widespread devastation of centuries of warfare, Britain, unscathed and undefeated, sees its history as one of triumph and lacks the pragmatism of its counterparts.
As a result, the British Empire faded away instead of facing some sort of “count”, meaning British public opinion was never “reset” and continues to believe it was a force for good, allowing the political right to continue to iconize it, and it is precisely this nostalgia for imperialism that has manifested itself in the form of Brexit among many members of the Conservative Party. Given in reality that Brexit itself brought no economic benefit, the Johnson government sought to compensate for this by doubling down on nationalist rhetoric and the euphoria of “Britannia rules the waves”. The slogan of “Global Britain” is essentially a code word for Empire, the connotation of a country aloof from the infighting of European politics that instead pursues ambitious business ventures all over the world and seeks to dominate everything militarily. in the name of morality and ideological exceptionalism.
Not surprisingly, this rhetoric is getting worse as Britain’s economic environment deteriorates. Inflation is at a 30-year high, energy prices are out of control, Covid-19 has sabotaged the economy and, even worse, Boris’ own government is deeply unpopular after being rocked by a series of ever-recurring scandals, and seeks whatever distractions he can muster. In this context, and with the conflict in Ukraine, is it really surprising that Liz Truss is allowed to call thunder for the cold war and, potentially, even a hot war? This is not a display of Britain’s strength, dangerous as those comments may be, but a display of Britain’s weaknesses. The current government has nothing to do but appeal to nationalist and imperialist sentiment by considering the possibility of war with other great powers and by invoking the historically offensive rhetoric of the opium wars on China. But the reality is of course different. Truss won’t admit it, but the UK needs China as a vital post-Brexit economic partner, and of course we all know there’s no way Russia will be kicked out. Ukraine. It seems implausible that despite her position and given that even Boris himself is not so strongly anti-China, that she would have the real clout to single-handedly achieve her vision.
So while this rhetoric may be dangerous, it is also at best empty rhetoric from an increasingly unpopular government that wants to make as much noise as possible ahead of local elections, but that does not preclude Truss to do as much damage as possible to Britain. standing in the world as she can in her own aspirations for leadership first. Yet the fact that the Foreign Secretary has been reduced to this kind of talk is emblematic of the wider problems facing Britain, a country whose identity and aspirations are chronically out of touch with reality. It is no longer a projection of triumph, but a projection of misfortune.