London [United Kingdom], March 14: The United Kingdom regards China as an “epoch-defining challenge” to the global order and believes that the security of the UK and Europe depends on Russia’s failure to succeed in its war on Ukraine, according to an update to the UK’s strategic foreign and defence policy blueprint, Al-Jazeera reported.
The 63-page assessment unveiled on Monday, emphasises the systematic and existential threat both countries offer to the UK, Europe, and the larger rules-based international order. It also toughens UK’s language and attitude towards Beijing and Moscow, the daily said.
While the review for 2021 had already identified Russia as the “most acute threat to the UK’s security,” the most recent review notes that the outcome of Moscow’s war on Ukraine and “denying Russia any strategic benefit from its invasion” are now linked to the collective security of the UK and of Europe.
According to Al-Jazeera, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the foreword to the review said, “Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, weaponisation of energy and food supplies and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, combined with China’s more aggressive stance in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, are threatening to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division.”
Even in 2021, when the most recent study was issued, Sunak claimed that “the pace of the geopolitical change and the depth of its impact on the UK and our people” could not have been anticipated.
The review notes that the UK’s provision of 2.3 billion pounds ($2.8bn) in military and humanitarian aid to Kyiv, as well as hundreds of targeted sanctions in coordination with allies, had “already weakened the Russian war machine … and set in motion international justice for Moscow’s egregious war crimes”.
According to the assessment, “The UK’s purpose will be to constrain and fight Russia’s capabilities and intent to disturb the security of the UK, the Euro-Atlantic, and the wider international order.”
The report also starkly warns of risks posed by China.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “poses an epoch-defining and systemic challenge with repercussions for nearly every area of government policy and the everyday lives of British people,” according to the study.
For the UK, it is troubling that Beijing has opted to maintain its close ties with Russia in spite of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine and that China continues to flout international agreements on human rights in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet read a report.
Although Beijing also engaged in “rapid and opaque military modernization” and maintained its view that force may be used to reunite Taiwan with mainland China, its “new multilateralism” also posed a threat to the protection of human rights and freedoms under the United Nations system.
Since the UK “does not accept that China’s relationship with the UK or its impact on the international system are set on a predetermined track,” the evaluation continues, there was optimism for relations with Beijing as opposed to Moscow.
“But we think that will rely on the decisions China makes, and will be harder if trends towards increased authoritarianism and aggression internationally continue,” the review adds.
According to the review, the UK needs to spend more money on defence and national security both now and in the future. Plans are included for an additional 5 billion pounds ($6 billion) to be spent on defence over the next two years, with a focus on strengthening nuclear resilience and replenishing exhausted ammunition stocks. The assessment reiterates the goal of increasing the UK’s existing 2.2 per cent defence spending to 2.5 per cent of the country’s yearly gross domestic product (GDP).
Many members of Sunak’s Conservative Party will likely be disappointed by the decision to downplay China’s threat to the UK in the review, according to the Reuters news agency. Party members also think that Sunak’s pledge to spend an additional $5 billion ($6 billion) on defence is insufficient to support Ukraine and adequately defend the UK.
The publication of the review on Monday happened to be the same day the UK, the US, and Australia announced they were strengthening their AUKUS military alliance by selling Australia US nuclear-powered submarines and working together in the future to develop a new class of nuclear-powered submarines.
In his address to the UK parliament on Monday, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly noted that “threats have escalated and systematic rivalry has sharpened” globally.
“There is an increasing prospect of additional deterioration in the future years,” he warned, addressing both North Korea and Iran, adding that we live in a competitive world, and the British people currently face significant security problems in at least a generation.