This article was written for the News & Star.
It is strange how little foreign policy is discussed as part of our political discourse. Even in the run up to General Elections it is rarely deliberated in debates or literature. Yet, our country’s relations with the rest of the world can have a huge impact on us here at home.
It does seem that we appear to be moving into a far more uncertain and dangerous world, and one where international relations and the politics of foreign countries are reflected here in the UK. A large part of this is due to globalization; the increasing and deepening links through trade, diplomacy, and other means that all countries have with each other.
In a lot of ways globalization has been a force for good, increasing global trade has opened up a world of new products and produce. When it works at its best, it leads to global peace and prosperity. But since Covid there has been a change, and some of the negative aspects have been exposed – including the over-reliance the west has had (and still has) on unpleasant regimes, and the fact that destabilisation in parts of the world far away have ripple effects that reach us here.
Take the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. At times the conflict may feel far away, but the invasion had, and still has, a direct effect on the UK. This has been seen in the huge increase in energy and food prices, leading to inflation.
And this month we witnessed the tragic events in Israel and Gaza. There is a significant danger that this conflict ignites an even larger one in the region. This would only encourage Russia more, and I don’t think that there is any doubt that China has a very close eye on both Ukraine and Israel. And this is all before we get to the wildcard that is North Korea.
This is not to be too gloomy about things, but it is the case that for too long we (and many other western nations) have taken a too relaxed attitude to world affairs, having been focussed on domestic matters almost exclusively. That is going to have to change. Working with like-minded nations, we need to be more proactive in our attitude to foreign affairs. This does not, and should not, mean we have to get involved in wars or skirmishes across the globe. But it does mean we need to be actively engaged in trying to achieve peaceful resolutions of disputes while supporting countries such as Ukraine in the defence of their lands. And this does mean we need to review how much we spend on our own military and intelligence defence.
We do not live in isolation. We are affected by the actions of others. We need to be aware of this and pursue a foreign policy that will benefit us as well as the wider world. If we don’t, our own domestic lives may be impacted well beyond our own control and in a way we may not like at all.