This week, the government announced a major shift in UK foreign policy by ramping up nuclear capabilities and increasing military spending – a sharp reverse from previous governments. This announcement is the biggest overhaul of the defence department’s priorities in a generation and has led to much criticism from the Labour Party.
Since leaving the EU, the UK has aimed to redefine itself as one of the world leading powers. The focus on military spending and increased nuclear power is a move from the government to establish dominance among our European allies in a post-Brexit era.
The most significant policy overhaul is the decision to increase nuclear warheads in the UK from 180 to 260. The move was justified by the UK government as a response to other countries “increasing and diversifying their nuclear arsenals”. Currently, the UK falls behind Russia, US, France and China on the estimated number of nuclear warheads. This increase would therefore put the UK on a level playing field with France. Many on the left would see this as a counterproductive policy from the government due to the fact that it could be seen as a hostile move towards some incredibly powerful enemies. The Labour leader, Kier Starmer, has accused the government of overriding a cross party consensus on post-cold war foreign policy, especially on relative nuclear disarmament, for no real strategic purpose.
Furthermore, the review has purposefully named China and Russia as the biggest adversaries on the international stage. Although It puts a focus on positive relations with these countries in areas such as ‘trade’, it maintains a hostile approach in areas such as value protections and national security concerns. Joining the likes of the US, this review has aimed to put pressure on other nations to join the effort to rebuke the recent actions of Russia and China.
Details of a restructuring of the armed forces will be released in a report next week, with leaked reporting suggesting an increase of about 10,000 personnel. Furthermore, the overhaul will require members of the armed forces to be deployed abroad more often and for longer periods of time in order to ensure continued cooperation with allied forces. Other significant announcements in the review include further investment and focus on space exploration as well as a new nine billion pounds ‘situation room’ style bunker under Whitehall.
During this incredibly unpredictable economic situation, many question whether investments like this are necessary at this point in time and whether the funding could be diverted to more appropriate sectors. However, given the UK’s newly assumed sovereignty, many see this as the optimal time for advancing the UK’s dominance on the international stage. Boris has never been the leader to follow the status quo but will this gamble pay off in the long run?