British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has given a major speech on foreign policy at Wednesday London's Mayor Easter Banquet in which she said geopolitics is back and called for a reboot in the free world's approach to tackling global aggressors in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.
The secretary started by saying that recent months have shown the deep resilience of the human spirit and of free societies, faced with appalling barbarism and war crimes, which we’d hoped had been consigned to history, the free world has united behind Ukraine in its brave fight for freedom and self-determination.
Those who think they can win through oppression, coercion or invasion are being proved wrong by this new stand on global security – one that not only seeks to deter, but also ensures that aggressors fail.
Freedom and democracy are strengthened through a network of economic and security partnerships and this is the long term prize: a new era of peace, security of prosperity.
During the Cold War western allies fuelled each other’s prosperity, and we restricted flows of trade, investment and technology to the USSR.
In the 1990s these constraints were removed but it didn’t lead to the expected gains in economic openness and democracy. We took progress for granted instead of applying the necessary carrots and sticks.
And leaders like Putin spurned the opportunity to change because they feared losing control. Instead they took the money from oil and gas and used it to consolidate power and gain leverage abroad.
And the assumption that economic integration drives political change – didn’t work. We now need a new approach, one that melds hard security and economic security, one that builds stronger global alliances and where free nations are more assertive and self-confident, one that recognizes geopolitics is back.
There must be nowhere for Putin to fund this appalling war. That means cutting off oil and gas imports once and for all.
At the same time, we need to deliver support to the Ukrainian people. It means helping refugees, it means delivery of food, medicine, and other essentials, and it means keeping the economy afloat.
Our new approach is based on three areas: military strength, economic security and deeper global alliances.
Firstly, we need to strengthen our collective defense.
And we reject the false choice between stronger traditional defense and modern capabilities. We need to defend ourselves against attacks in space and cyberspace as well as by land, air and sea.
We also reject the false choice between Euro-Atlantic security and Indo-Pacific security. In the modern world we need both, a global NATO.
NATO must have a global outlook, ready to tackle global threats. We need to pre-empt threats in the Indo-Pacific, working with our allies like Japan and Australia to ensure the Pacific is protected.
And we must ensure that democracies like Taiwan are able to defend themselves.
Secondly, we also need to recognize the growing role that the economy plays in security. In the UK we are now using all of our economic levers – trade, sanctions, investment and development policy – in a much more assertive way.
We recognize that growth from cheap gas and money siphoned from kleptocracies is growth built on sand. It’s not the same as real, sustained growth from higher productivity and greater innovation.
We will always champion economic freedom. But free trade must be fair – and that means playing by the rules.
For too long many have been naïve about the geopolitical power of economics. Aggressors treat it as a tool of foreign policy – using patronage, investment and debt as a means to exert control and coerce.
Countries must play by the rules. And that includes China.
Beijing has not condemned Russian aggression or its war crimes. Russian exports to China rose by almost a third in the first quarter of this year.
By talking about the rise of China as inevitable we are doing China’s work for it. But they will not continue to rise if they don’t play by the rules.
China needs trade with the G7. We represent half of the global economy. And we have choices. That’s why we’re building new trade links, including working on Free Trade Agreements with countries like India and Indonesia and joining the CPTPP.
That brings onto the final point, which is that our prosperity and security must be built on a network of strong partnerships. This is what I have described as the Network of Liberty.
The fundamental principle is that no matter the challenges, we should not turn inward and pursue autarky. We should reach out and embrace new partnerships, what the Dutch and others have called “open autonomy.”
Partnerships like NATO, the G7 and the Commonwealth are vital. The G7 should act as an economic NATO, collectively defending our prosperity.
If the economy of a partner is being targeted by an aggressive regime we should act to support them. All for one and one for all.
And to the 141 countries, from all continents, who voted to condemn Russia’s actions in the UN, I say, I hear your voice and share your outrage at Russia’s illegal war.
I share your fundamental belief in sovereignty, in fair play and the rule of law.
We want to see a network of partnerships stretching around the world, standing up for sovereignty and self-determination, and building shared prosperity.
In other words, geopolitics is back. After the Cold War we all thought that peace, stability and prosperity would spread inexorably around the globe.
We thought that we’d learned the lessons of history and that the march of progress would continue unchallenged. We were wrong. But this is no counsel of despair.
In the face of rising aggression we do have the power to act, and we need to act now, and make sure they get the right message..
We must be assertive. Aggressors are looking at what has happened in Ukraine. We need to make sure that they get the right message.