The UK will identify Russia as an “active threat” and China as a “systemic challenge” in the biggest review of foreign, security and defence policy since the Cold War.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, told Sky News on Tuesday that the UK would take a “calibrated approach” to dealing with Beijing, balancing a desire to trade with a growing superpower against a need to stand up for human rights and other values fundamental to the world’s democracies.

“We will never yield and we will never give up standing up for our values,” he said.

The 100-page Integrated Review will reveal a plan to increase a cap on the number of nuclear warheads held by the UK by more than 40%, ending a period of gradual reduction since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It will also signal a shift in UK foreign policy towards the Indo-Pacific region, though security in Europe will remain a core priority.

In addition there is expected to be a warning of a “realistic possibility” of a terrorist group launching a successful chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack in the next decade, according to newspaper reports.

The review – Global Britain in a Competitive Age – sets out a vision for the UK’s place in the world by 2030 amid fierce criticism over a significant cut in its overseas aid spending, seen as a core part of British soft power.

The document is expected to contain a commitment from Boris Johnson to return foreign aid spending to 0.7% of national income from 0.5% “when the fiscal situation allows”.

Mr Raab declined to comment on specifics about any increase in nuclear warheads ahead of the publication of the review later on Tuesday morning. Boris Johnson will present its conclusions to Parliament.

However, the foreign secretary said: “We have always said we will maintain a minimum credible deterrence – that is the ultimate insurance policy for the security of the people in this country.”

Tackling climate change and preserving biodiversity will be identified as the UK’s top international priority over the coming decade.

The review will also set out a “tilt to the Indo-Pacific” focused on diplomacy and trade, but which will see the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier head to the region on its first operational deployment.

The prime minister will travel to India next month on his first major international visit since Brexit.

On the eve of the official announcement, leaked details emerged about the content, including how Russia under President Vladimir Putin will be clearly described as an “active threat”.

The language around China is expected to be more nuanced.

Beijing will be described as a “systemic challenge”. This refers to China’s authoritarian system versus the democratic system favoured by the UK and its allies.

The Times newspaper, however, reported that the review will also describe China as the “biggest state-based threat” to the UK’s economic security, noting that the country’s military modernisation and growing assertiveness will pose an “increasing risk to UK interests”.

Mr Raab said the UK had to be “very clear-sighted” on China.

The country “is here to stay, it is a disproportionately large and growing economic power. Of course jobs rely on it in this country, we want to continue to trade and investment is important”, he said.

“At the same time, we will never do anything that puts at risk the integrity of our infrastructure, our telecommunications or anything like that.”

He said the UK, which will host a UN summit this year on climate change, must deal with China if it wants to bring the world together to tackle challenges like climate change.

But he also said London would continue to challenge Beijing on issues like the treatment of Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang province and a crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

“So of course that requires us to take a calibrated approach if you like to China but we want a positive relationship where it is possible but we will never yield and we will never give up standing up for our values,” he said.

On nuclear weapons, the review will say that a limit of nuclear warheads the UK is allowed to stockpile will increase to 260 from 180, according to the Guardian newspaper. Sky News understands that this figure is correct.

Such a move will trigger an angry response from the Scottish National Party, which is opposed to the renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrence.

In other details that were officially trailed by the government, rather than leaked, a Whitehouse-style “Situation Centre”, based in the Cabinet Office, will be established to respond to future crises, drawing on lessons learnt from the COVID pandemic.

There is also going to be a counter-terrorism operations centre, which will further fuse the work of the police, intelligence agencies and legal experts in the fight against terrorism and also against hostile foreign states.

The review sets out how the UK aims to help shape an “open international order” to support democracies, recognising that the old rules that have shaped global relations and security since the end of the Second World War are becoming outdated.

Subscribe to Into The Grey Zone podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

This will be built around what is described as a “new government foreign policy of increased international activism” that involves working with allies and “using all the tools at our disposal, to shape a more open international order in which democracies flourish”.

Enhancing new technology to give the UK an advantage is also seen as key.

Publication of the full document comes after the prime minister announced last November the biggest increase in defence spending since the Cold War, with an additional £16.5bn over four years allocated to the armed forces.

It also follows a decision to merge the foreign office and international development department into the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.

(c) Sky News 2021: Russia an ‘active threat’ and China a ‘systemic challenge’, Integrated Review will warn


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here