CHINA, Russia and Iran could pose threats to Britain for decades – but Rishi Sunak insists we still need to work together with them.
A landmark review of Britain’s security policy published today warned the world will become more unstable and dangerous until after the 2030s.
Rishi Sunak stands by a decommissioned USS Midway Aircraft Carrier in San Diego, during his visit to the US for meetings with President Joe Biden and Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese
Authoritarian and rogue states are challenging the international order and deliberately trying to undermine it.
And China is deepening its ties with Russia, while Mad Vlad Putin is buddying up to Iran.
The review says risks to national security are now greater than at any time in decades.
To keep the public safe, Britain must hike defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP in the years to come.
Announcing the review in the Commons this afternoon, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “In our 2023 Integrated Review Refresh we set out how we respond to an even more contested and volatile world. Rightly, our approach is an evolution, not a revolution.
“On every continent of the world, the UK walks taller today than it has done for many years.”
But he added: “Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and attempts to annex part of its sovereign territory challenge the entire international order.”
The refresh of the 2021 Integrated Review – ordered under Liz Truss after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – still says Russia is the biggest threat to the UK.
But China is hot on their heels too – pursuing aggression in Taiwan and “threatening to create a world defined by danger, disorder and division”.
In a forward to the Integrated Review, the PM says: “China poses an epoch-defining challenge to the type of international order we want to see, both in terms of security and values – and so our approach must evolve.”
But the report adds that government “does not accept that China’s relationship with the UK or its impact on the international system are set on a predetermined course”.
Government officials would prefer “better cooperation and understanding, and predictability and stability for global public good”.
However, that will depend on “the choices China makes”.
The review makes four key recommendations for Britain’s international relations: Shape the international environment; deter, defend and compete across all domains; address vulnerabilities through resilience and generate strategic advantage.
Commenting on the report, David Lockwood, CEO of the defence company Babcock, said: “The clear direction of today’s Integrated Review refresh, underpinned by a commitment to invest in defence, will help ensure the UK continues to be a leader in global security.”
The PM faces strong backlash from MPs and China-watchers over his soft stance on China.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns said: “The threat of China cannot be seen primarily as an economic one.
“To do so is to fail to recognise that they are trying to undermine our security and our sovereignty.”
Luke de Pulford of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China added: “The language sounds much stronger, but dig a bit, and not much has changed. The fundamental signal to government departments is: keep trading.
“There’s no acknowledgement that this strategy has fed the beast for 22 years, and does nothing to hold Beijing to account for its abuses. Meanwhile, somehow Iran is categorised as a more present threat to UK interests than China! Try explaining that to a Uyghur in Britain with family in Xinjiang camps.”
The review comes as Mr Sunak meets with US President Joe Biden today to finalise and announce the major sale of nuclear submarines to Australia.
In sunny San Diego the PM and Mr Biden will hold one-to-one talks before joining their Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese to launch AUKUS.
Mr Sunak will also discuss a recently confirmed £5bn boost to defence spending.
But the new funding falls far short of the £11bn that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace originally said was needed to fill a black hole in army finances.
The minister has warned Britain’s Armed Forces have been “hollowed out” by inflation and kit and ammo sent to Ukraine.
Today Labour hit out at the Integrated Review, claiming it “fails to secure Britain’s national defence for the future as threats increase”.
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: “The first duty of any government is to defend the country and keep its citizens safe. But the Conservatives have failed to secure Britain’s national defence for the future.
“The Integrated Review and Budget will not address concerns over critical capabilities which weaken our national defence and undermine the UK’s NATO obligations.
“Labour’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable. We will publish a defence and security review in our first year of government to make sure capabilities match the threats we face.”