Britain’s foreign policy is now out of step with the global majority

BRICS Leaders meeting 2023

By Fiona Edwards

Significant shifts are taking place in international relations that underscore how deeply unpopular and isolated Britain’s foreign policy agenda has become.

It is one that focuses on war and maintaining a world order led by the US that has enriched a small minority at the expense of the majority of humanity.

The British government has positioned itself as the US’s most loyal and belligerent ally. In the past two years Britain has been hitting the international headlines, not for pursuing any diplomatic efforts to achieve peace in Ukraine, but for its leading role in escalating international conflict both against Russia and China at the same time.

Most countries in the world, however, reject this US cold war offensive and are pushing for a framework of economic co-operation instead of escalating economic war and military conflict.

This growing international trend, which is seeing countries with a wide range of political leadership in the global South pursue a foreign policy independent of Washington’s agenda, is leaving Britain increasingly isolated on the world stage.

Unfortunately, in recent years there has been a lack of serious debate within Britain’s political mainstream discourse on foreign policy.

Engagement with different viewpoints across the world has been largely absent — perspectives from Asia, Africa and Latin America are often shut out of political discussion entirely.

This lack of serious debate means that there is an insufficient understanding within Britain of how isolated the country is internationally and how disastrous Britain’s foreign policy is for both the British people and the world.

The global North pushes for war amid economic failure

The priority of most global North governments, including Britain, has not been to tackle the economic and social problems confronting their societies.

Instead, under US pressure they have focused on escalating aggression against Russia and China — with the ultimate goal of stopping China’s economic development. Many global North countries have significantly increased military spending and sent tens of billions to sustain Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine.

In the US the military budget in 2023 reached $817 billion, with plans to increase this in 2024 to at least $842bn. Germany has approved €100bn for a special military upgrading fund and committed to spend 2 per cent of its GDP on defence.

France plans to increase military spending to around €60bn by 2030 — approximately double its 2017 allocation. Japan is doubling military spending by 2028. Australia is substantially increasing military spending to assist the US encirclement of China, including spending $368bn over the next 30 years on nuclear submarines through Aukus.

In Britain, the Tory leadership claims there is “no money left” for decent wages, properly funded public services or policies to tackle climate change.

The government has, however, been able to find billions to fund the proxy war in Ukraine and in March of this year announced that the military budget would receive an extra £11bn over the next five years. By 2024, Britain’s military budget will reach £51.7bn — one of the highest in the world.

No serious diplomatic efforts to negotiate peace in Ukraine have emerged from governments in the global North. On the contrary, these governments continue to escalate the conflict.

For example, the US announced on September 6 2023 that it will be sending a further $1bn in “aid” to Ukraine, including supplies of depleted uranium.

The global North’s war drive is taking place in a context of economic failure and declining living standards. The economic situation in these countries has been defined by high inflation, slow growth and increasing support for damaging cold war economic measures — which have made this situation even worse.

The IMF’s latest growth projections for 2023 and 2024 are bleak. Advanced economies are projected to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2023 and by 1.4 per cent in 2024.

In contrast, emerging markets and developing economies are projected to grow more than two-and-a-half times faster than the advanced economies, by 4 per cent in 2023 and 4.1 per cent in 2024.

The global South prioritises economic co-operation and peace

The priorities of global South countries differ starkly. The Brics summit in late August this year demonstrated this in an extremely clear way.

The agenda was dominated by strengthening economic co-operation in pursuit of development and the organisation’s expansion. Significantly Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa invited six new countries to join the Brics from 2024 — Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Once expanded, Brics will increase its share of global GDP from 32 per cent to 37 per cent on a PPP basis. The G7 — the world’s advanced economies group, namely Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US — represents a 30 per cent share of world GDP.

The expanded Brics will represent 46 per cent of the world population, while the G7 represents less than 10 per cent — and dozens more global South countries have expressed an interest in joining Brics.

A key leading force within Brics is China. Over the past decade, China contributed 40 per cent to global growth, while the US has contributed only 22 per cent and the eurozone 9 per cent, according to BCA Research.

The IMF projects that in 2023 China will grow 5.3 per cent, almost three times the US’s estimated growth of 1.8 per cent, and 13 times Britain’s estimated growth of 0.4 per cent.

China’s fast-growing economy, together with its foreign policy doctrine of respecting other countries’ sovereignty and seeking “win-win” co-operation has provided a completely different model of international relations than the US model of diktats, domination and generally offering no economic mutual benefits.

China’s approach has received a huge amount of global South support. This is reflected in China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure development initiative attracting the support of more than 150 countries and international organisations.

Alongside the global South’s push for economic co-operation and development, many countries have proactively been pushing for peace in Ukraine. In February 2023 China put forward a 12-point Ukraine plan which called for dialogue and negotiations to achieve a peaceful settlement.

The African Leaders Peace Mission, representing seven African countries, met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in June 2023 and advocated a 10-point peace proposal including a call for negotiations.

Brazil’s President Lula has been vocal in campaigning for peace in Ukraine, arguing for a “war on poverty” instead.

Build the anti-war movement

The prospects of Britain aligning with this global majority for peace and prosperity are not promising. The current Tory government is committed to escalating Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine and to stoking up tensions in the Pacific — whether that’s pushing forward the Aukus military pact with the US and Australia, strengthening military ties with Japan or sending British warships to roam China’s coastline. Unfortunately, a Labour government led by Keir Starmer will maintain these reckless policies.

Building an anti-war movement in Britain opposing this new cold war agenda is vital to give voice to what is objectively in the interests of the British people.

It is a perspective that is currently marginalised, smeared and a minority within Britain. But it is a perspective aligned with a global majority for peace and prosperity. It is necessary for people in Britain to contribute to building this crucial international movement.

The above article was originally published here by the Morning Star.

Image: President Cyril Ramaphosa hosts BRICS Leaders Retreat at Summer Place in Hyde Park, Johannesburg [Photo: GCIS], licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)  license.