Tobias Ellwood is Chair of the Defence Select Committee, and is the MP for Bournemouth East.
In Part 1, I outlined the gathering geo-political storm, and why our foreign policy requires a rethink as we face a new Cold War. I said we needed one grand strategy – the New Containment – comprising three interrelated operational actions: for Russia, for China, and for the West.
1. A new approach to Russia – first win the war
To halt Russia’s aggression, we must do more than prevent Ukraine from losing. It must win and win soon. Increased support is welcome. But our support must advance from the tactical to the strategic.
The UK should lead like-minded nations to agree conflict objectives for 2023 as follows:
· Agree the mission. The West should declare ‘success’ as Russia’s removal from all Ukraine territory.
· Secure ‘UN Safe Haven Status’ for the Port of Odesa. Vital grain ships should be protected by a neutral maritime force. Just 20 per cent of the grain is currently exported, impacting the global, as well as our own, economy.
· Assist Ukraine to construct a major armaments factory in Eastern Poland to manufacture, assemble, and replenish its weapons and equipment without fear of bombardment from Russia – just as Taiwan is investing in a vast microchip plant in Arizona.
· List the state-sponsored Wagner militia. It has been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in Ukraine and should now be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.
· Directly sanction Putin and freeze his overseas assets. The Russian leader is responsible for this invasion. His name should be added to the sanctions list.
· Welcome Ukraine into the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). Ukraine will not be joining NATO any time soon. JEF, the British-led multi-national force of ten European democracies, offers that critical umbrella of security –deterring Russia from attempting to invade again.
· Appoint a senior UK Ukraine Envoy. Answerable directly to the PM this would help coordinate Whitehall support and align our efforts with international allies.
· Advance the remit of ‘Ramstein Group’ meetings of like-minded nations. As support for Ukraine grows to include reconstruction, humanitarian, and economic assistance, so should our central coordination.
Once the tide has turned in Ukraine’s favour, these proposals will generate a better climate to address four longer-term challenges. These include:
· How to deter any further Russian expansionist aspirations. This should include security guarantees for European non-NATO countries.
· How to frame a diplomatic route back for Russia to accept its place within the rules-based international order, linked to the easing of sanctions.
· Greater long-term support for the Russian people. If we are to prevent a China/Russia axis from strengthening, there must be an olive branch to the Russian people that counters Moscow’s narrative that the West (including NATO) poses a threat.
· Future proofing European markets (specifically energy) from future crises.
2. Accommodating China
As with Russia, standing up to Beijing’s military ambitions will buy time to address the more complex long-term challenge of how to manage China’s growing power. Whilst awareness of the threat against Taiwan has grown, it remains limited to moral and political support.
Immediate steps should be as follows:
· Increase public awareness of the economic and strategic importance of Taiwan. Explaining to the British people why we can no longer be indifferent to the China threat.
· Provide a clear statement of support relating to Taiwan. Any use of force will have significant international consequences. Strengthen our economic ties in support of Taiwan industry.
· Join America in offering Taiwan greater defence and security assistance. A wider alignment of like-minded nations supporting Taiwan will help dilute any retaliatory sanctions China may impose.
· Increase the international maritime presence around the Taiwan strait, including naval visits to Taiwan’s ports.
· Economically de-couple from China in critical sectors. Western businesses, especially in the defence sector, should prepare now if China punishes the West for its increased military activity around Taiwan over the next five years.
· Develop and promote a robust strategic stand with China combining containment against authoritarian expansionism with greater engagement, subject to international laws.
More widely regarding China we must:
· Strengthen resilience against intellectual property theft by reducing sensitive scientific, defence, energy, and academic cooperation but excluding climate change initiatives.
· Develop a ‘NATO’ for the Asia Pacific by building on the AUKUS and the QUAD initiatives. A security alliance should be created to include Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, USA, the UK, and France.
· Strengthen the Western alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative to give countries (many in the Commonwealth) an alternative to the onerous debt diplomacy practiced by China.
· Reach out to the Chinese diaspora beyond the regime to counter China’s influential propaganda or so-called “wolf warrior diplomacy” which operates through organisations like the Confucius Institutes.
3. And for the West?
We need leaders who can think big. In 1941 Churchill braved the Atlantic to meet with President Roosevelt and dared to speculate what a post-war world might look like. The resulting Atlantic Charter paved the way for the international economic and security model that served the globe well for decades.
We are not, thankfully, in the middle of a world war. But we are, perhaps, in 1938, the hinge year of appeasement. What must we endure before appreciating what we are about to lose as the Chinese century unfolds?
The West has a stark choice: address the decline in our global security architecture now or wait for inevitable global conflict soon. If a fresh approach to Russia and China is to succeed, it will require an overhaul of the West’s commitment to global order with a greater political appetite to defend it.
Therefore, we must:
· Convene an Atlantic Charter summit of like-minded nations to address the Thucydides Trap we are heading for and upgrade our global institutions to thwart the existential threats from Russia and China.
4 Britain: Time to lead, or wait to be led?
This is not a manifesto that should be misinterpreted as belligerent. The lesson of history is that revisionist nations always rise. Good statecraft accommodates them, and peace is retained. If we are smart, containment can – and must – go hand in hand with conciliation.
Britain is well-placed to help lead this balancing act with our reputation as a nation that defends and promotes hard-fought standards and values. But we have become risk-averse and distracted.
This is not just about hard power, but political will. Aspiring to raise our game in this way will require motivating other nations to work with us to help ensure a stable global environment. We have led in the most serious global battle of our times – climate change – but now we must widen our horizons further.
2023 will be a pivotal year. I hope our Prime Minister will appreciate the need to step up to the historic challenge of our times by rekindling our political appetite to lead as we pursue a new grand strategy – balancing deterrence and containment with engagement.
Time is against us. We cannot outsource our own destiny to the goodwill of others.