A militaristic way of thinking seems predominant, promoted in part by the influence of military leaders and arms companies on the government. The United Kingdom is in fact the fourth largest investor country in arms and in the military sector in general.
The maiden voyage of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and a surprise alliance with the United States and Australia, unbeknown to the European Union, are two indicators of the United Kingdom’s interest in regaining military prominence under the “Global Britain” label.
The British Navy’s new 65,000 tonne flagship and her strike group of eig
ht supporting ships, a submarine and five air squadrons visited more than 40 countries during their seven months at sea last year, but their main destination was the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
As British Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the fleet’s deployment from Portsmouth last May, one of the objectives of the voyage was to show Beijing that the United Kingdom believes in the international law of the sea and that it was prepared to “vindicate that point”.
As the aircraft carrier was still manoeuvring around China, last September London, Washington and Canberra surprised the world by announcing a trilateral military alliance that threatens to destabilise geopolitics across the Pacific region.
Known as AUKUS (an acronym combining Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States), the alliance was agreed in secret, unbeknown to the European Union, particularly France, who lost a multimillion-pound contract previously signed with Australia to supply conventional submarines.
Faced with a barrage of criticism from Paris and warning calls from China, Johnson defended the alliance, stating that the three countries are natural allies, and that the new alliance will be increasingly vital for defending our interests around the world and protecting our citizens at home.
However, the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Kate Hudson, felt that the announcement of the AUKUS pact was carefully timed to deflect attention from the United States’ defeat in Afghanistan. In an article published on the Stop the War Coalition website, Hudson also pointed out that, like on previous occasions, the United Kingdom has joined with the United States, hoping to gain advantages in nuclear reactor production for Australian submarines and trying to boost its new profile as a global power post-Brexit.
Beyond the strategic nightmare created by AUKUS, much remains unclear, Hudson warns, stating that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty clearly stipulates that the exchange of nuclear technology must be for peaceful purposes.
On the domestic front, the United Kingdom also recently joined the race among the major powers to develop hypersonic missiles; as British Chief of the Defence Staff ,Tony Radakin, told The Times newspaper, “we haven’t got them and we must have them”.
Johnson had already outlined British post-Brexit military aspirations in November 2020, when he presented to Parliament what he described as the nation’s largest strategy review since the end of the Cold War.
Some months later, a report was published, openly citing Russia as the greatest threat to the United Kingdom, and China as a systematic danger for economic security, and suggesting an increase of more than 32 million dollars to the British military budget.
As for nuclear weapons, the cap set for the current decade of 180 warheads was scrapped and replaced by a cap of 260. According to the Conservative government, this increase is justified by the changing security context and the wide range of technological and doctrinal threats.
According to the British pacifist organisation Peace Pledge Union (PPU), this increase in the military budget, unprecedented since the Korean War in the 1950s, makes the United Kingdom the fourth largest investor country in arms and in the military sector in general.
This shows the predominant militarism, promoted in part by the influence of military leaders and arms companies on the government, PPU Campaigns and Communications Manager Symon Hill told Prensa Latina.
According to the activist, the Labour Party has done little to oppose the increased defence budget for fear of being smeared by the right-wing press.
Hill also decried the government’s decision to increase military spending when the country was in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He stated that this disease has been a deadly reminder that the armed forces cannot save us, so instead of preparing for war, we need to work together with other nations to tackle the dangers that threaten all of humanity, such as pandemics, poverty and climate change. (PL)