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described International Security in a networked world
Foreign Secretary William Hague delivered the fourth
speech in a series of four setting out the Coalition Government’s
foreign policy at Georgetown
University on 17 November 2010.
The Foreign Secretary set out how the UK will continue to be one of the strongest and most effective actors in world affairs.
He set out how our defence policy – ensuring the UK remains a first rate military power - will be accompanied by a strong clear-sighted foreign policy that not only makes the right decisions now, but also positions the UK for the long term.
The Foreign Secretary said that we “cannot protect our security or influence” unless we also champion our own values.
“Unless we stand up for democracy, the rule of law, political freedom and human rights and unless others perceive that we do this, we weaken our security and prosperity over the long term.”
He underlined the continuing importance of the US-UK relationship, including the counter-terrorism cooperation that saves lives and is fundamental to our security.
“The US-UK relationship is still special, still fundamental to both countries, still thriving and still a cornerstone of stability in the world”.
“As the Minister responsible for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service and our signals intelligence agency GCHQ, I witness every day, and sometimes every hour, that our relationship saves lives and is indispensable to the security of both our countries”.
International Security in a networked world
17 November 2010
Text of the Foreign Secretary's 4th and final speech on Britain's foreign policy
delivered at Georgetown University on 17 November 2010.
Speaker: Foreign Secretary William Hague
Good afternoon and thank you all for coming to hear me speak today. I am delighted
to be back at Georgetown. It has been quite a few years since my last visit
in 1982 at the tender age of 21, when I spoke in a debate about British policy
in Northern Ireland. I am glad to say that that policy has been successful
since that date, with a great deal of support from the United States. One of
the reasons I was so keen to come back was the very enjoyable weekend I spent
here after the debate, about which I will only say that students at Georgetown
University know how to have a very good time.
This is my first major foreign policy speech in the United States since the
formation of the new coalition government in Britain, between the Conservatives
and the Liberal Democrats.
I am here to speak on the theme of international security. But those of you
who follow our politics as avidly as we follow yours may have some curiosity
about Britain’s first coalition government in sixty-five years.
It may have surprised you, as it did many in Britain, that such passionate
political adversaries were able to form a coalition in just five days after
our remarkable General Election in May. If you watched any of the televised
leaders’ debates between the three Prime Ministerial candidates – the
first ever in Britain although such debates have long been a feature of your
political landscape – you may have been even more astonished that we
agreed an actual programme for five years of government in the same short period.
Our politics are famously adversarial. William Wilberforce - a God-fearing
man who devoted his entire political life to the abolition of the slave trade,
who is one of my political heroes - wrote that when he first came into Parliament
in the 18th century "you could not go to the opposition side of the house
without hearing the most shocking swearing". Being even-handed he did
go on to say that "it was not so bad on the ministerial side, though not
I’m afraid from their being much better than their opponents".
In fact we were in such uncharted waters during the coalition negotiations
that the journalists camped outside our negotiations were reduced to seeking
symbolism in sandwiches. One paper reported significantly that the Conservative
negotiators "were eating traditional chicken, beef, or egg sandwiches" while "the
Liberal Democrats were munching on tuna, and cheese and onion".
But we worked through our political and dietary differences to achieve a government
in the national interest, one that was made possible by the steady evolution
of both our parties in Opposition. For since David Cameron took the leadership
of the Conservative Party in 2005 we have become more socially liberal, while
under Nick Clegg’s leadership the Liberal Democrats have become more
economically liberal and many would say fiscally conservative. This has allowed
us comprehensively to occupy the centre ground in British politics, at a time
when strong fiscal policies are needed to overcome the largest budget deficit
our country has ever faced in peacetime and to lay the foundation for growth,
recovery, and a fairer and more prosperous society.
Britain last had a coalition government under very different circumstances,
during the dark days of the Second World War. Winston Churchill was called
upon then to form a coalition that represented, as he put it, the nation’s "united
strength" at a time of immense danger. In one of the first of the 1,750
private telegrams he exchanged with President Roosevelt during the war , Churchill
described countries being "smashed up, one by one, like matchwood" as
Hitler’s armies swept inexorably across Europe. Indeed by the time he
had been Prime Minister for just thirty-six days, Demark, Norway, Belgium,
Holland, Luxembourg and France had all fallen, leaving Britain dangerously
exposed until the formation of the alliance with the United States and the
Today, it is hard for any of us to comprehend such a threat to our national
survival. But the Special Relationship as we now know it was forged and tempered
in those fires.
In the 1940s a story did the rounds about a young man preparing for a career
in the Foreign Office who was asked what he thought were the most important
things in the world. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied: "Love,
and Anglo-American relations." I don’t know if that question still
features in our interview process, but our indispensable relationship with
America is at the heart of our view of Britain’s place in the world.
Our close cooperation in global security has always been at the core of our
relationship and gives it much of its compelling force and unique character.
On top of our cultural and commercial links we have a relationship in defence,
nuclear issues and intelligence that is without parallel anywhere in the world.
We also have an extraordinarily close working partnership in foreign policy,
as I observe every day in the Foreign Office and enjoy in my relations with
your formidable Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ours is a relationship in which each side has its own distinct identity and
interests and where we will sometimes disagree.
But today it is impossible to imagine a mortal threat to each other’s
security that we would not face together, or support each other in confronting.
The US-UK relationship is still special, still fundamental to both countries,
still thriving and still a cornerstone of stability in the world.
In addition to our cooperation on Afghanistan and on Pakistan, we work together
on a daily basis to address Iran’s nuclear programme and to avert nuclear
proliferation in the Middle East;
US efforts to restart negotiations on a two state solution to the Israeli
Palestinian conflict have the wholehearted support and active engagement of
the United Kingdom;
We work side by side on the Western Balkans, where the creation of new states
is over, but long term stability and prosperity has yet to be fully realised;
We are in close agreement over Sudan, which Secretary Clinton and I discussed
this morning after the special session of the United Nations Security Council
yesterday, which I chaired;
We are working urgently in the area of counter-proliferation to secure loose
nuclear material, limit illicit trafficking in nuclear weapons’ technology,
and uphold the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty;
And above all, we share unprecedented cooperation against counter-terrorism.
As the Secretary of State responsible for Britain’s Secret Intelligence
Service and our signals intelligence agency GCHQ, I witness every day, and
sometimes every hour, that our relationship saves lives and is indispensable
to the security of both our countries. The disruption of the recent Al Qaeda
cargo plot against aeroplanes flying to the US, thanks to the efforts of our
intelligence services and our partners including Saudi Arabia, is the latest
telling example of this bond.
This is why I have chosen to give my speech on security here in America. Our
government is determined to stand foursquare with the United States and our
allies to confront the security challenges of the 21st century as robustly
as we faced those of the past.
In Britain we have never shirked - and under this government never will shirk
- the international responsibilities conferred on us by our economic and military
strength, our alliance in NATO and by our membership of international organisations.
As a people in Britain we have always been restless and outward-looking in
disposition, ready to pay a price to confront threats to international security
or to help those less fortunate. We have a proud history, underpinned by broad
consensus across much of our society about where our national interests lie
and the country we wish to be.
We are the fourth largest financial contributor to the United Nations and
one of the largest international aid donors, working across the world from
Burma to Yemen to alleviate poverty and support human rights. We are ardent
advocates of free trade and the reform of international institutions, including
a more representative UN Security Council, a wider European Union and an expanded
NATO. We have arguably the best record among the nuclear weapons powers in
fulfilling our nuclear disarmament commitments, while remaining committed to
our minimum independent nuclear deterrent for ultimate self-defence and as
a contribution to the indivisible security of the North Atlantic Alliance.
And with our allies we have also shown an extraordinary resilience and determination
when military sacrifice has been required. Over the last twenty years the US
and Britain have fought five major military campaigns side by side in the Balkans
and Iraq during the Operation Desert Storm, and in recent years in Afghanistan
and Iraq. In most of these conflicts we provided the second largest contingent
of troops of any nation while bearing some of the hardest fighting. Our indomitable
Armed Forces are making great sacrifices in Afghanistan at this very moment,
alongside the forces of the United States.
As a nation we are far from immune from mistakes in foreign policy – no
country is. But I am confident that the UK will continue to be one of the strongest
and most effective actors in world affairs in the years ahead. There will be
no reduction in Britain’s global role under this British government.
But maintaining this ambition for ourselves as well as others does not mean
standing still or going about everything in the same way as before.
Indeed, as a new Government we knew that urgent changes were needed.
For ten years our country had been engaged in continuous military commitments
overseas, without any assessment of Britain’s strategic interests in
the round or the changes taking place around us.
Meanwhile the economic underpinning of our strength in defence and foreign
affairs had been weakened, as economic development in other nations outstripped
our own, even before the financial crisis struck home. And when it did, we
were spending more servicing the interest on our national debt than on our
annual defence, diplomacy and development budgets combined.
There was also a gap between where we really needed to focus our diplomatic
effort to maintain our prosperity and security, and where that effort was actually
being channelled. We had neglected to take full advantage of the opportunities
offered by globalisation and the emergence of new economic powers and markets.
For example we are still exporting more as a nation to Ireland than to India,
China and Russia put together, and more to Denmark than to the whole of Latin
America – a region of 20 countries and 576 million people.
But added to this, we could also see that the conduct of world affairs has
changed dramatically over the last decade. First, economic power and political
influence are diffusing around the globe, particularly towards the South and
East. Second, the circle of international decision-making is growing wider,
and new configurations of countries are emerging who do not always fully share
our approach to international issues. Third, international relations are no
longer the sole preserve of governments, as civil society, business and individuals
play an increasing role. So as I think of it, while the world is becoming more
multilateral, it is also becoming more bilateral at the same time. We have
to reinforce our bilateral relationships and to become more adept at leveraging
new forms of influence.
And in Britain we have taken a series of steps in our first six months in
office to put our country onto a stronger strategic footing.
We have established a new National Security Council, the first of its kind
in Britain. It brings Ministers and the chiefs of our Armed Forces and Intelligence
Services together each week, to consider our strategic interests in the round
and to ensure that foreign policy runs through the veins of the whole of government.
This week, for example, it held its first meeting on the security implications
of climate change. It has brought coherence to the oversight of Britain’s
effort in Afghanistan, conducted the first review of our country’s strategic
defence and security needs in more than ten years, and produced a new National
It did so against an extremely challenging financial backdrop – including
a defence budget that was overcommitted to the tune of £38 billion. To
put this in context for you, this is larger than our entire annual defence
budget, which is why the process was urgent. We have taken difficult decisions
which could not be put off any longer.
But I must correct the mistaken idea that we are in some way sacrificing our
national defence to meet budget deficits. Strong defences require strong finances.
The decisions we have taken are necessary beyond question and will ensure that
Britain will be able to defend all its territories and meet all its commitments,
including to NATO’s target of 2% of gross domestic product spent on defence.
It will allow us to emerge stronger in the future when our economy grows. This
should be good news for our allies, and a timely reminder to potential adversaries
that Britain still packs a punch on the world stage.
As our Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech in London on Monday,
in addition to having the fourth largest defence budget in the world the UK
he said “will be one of the few countries able to deploy a fully-equipped
Brigade-sized force anywhere in the world”, plus the required air and
maritime assets on an enduring basis. With the Joint Strike Fighter and Typhoon
aircraft, the Royal Air Force will have some of the most capable combat aircraft
money can buy, backed by a new fleet of tankers and transport aircraft. The
Royal Navy will have a new operational aircraft carrier, new Type 45 destroyers
and seven new nuclear-powered hunter killer submarines, the most advanced in
the world. And we will renew Trident, our ultimate insurance policy our nuclear
deterrent in an age of uncertainty”.
This month we also signed a new Defence Treaty with France. The two largest
military powers in Europe will now come together in practical ways to increase
our military capability and impact, contributing to NATO and Europe’s
ability to be more effective in security and defence. This goes alongside our
close cooperation in foreign policy with Germany and our highly active involvement
in all the foreign affairs discussions of the European Union, which extends
the impact and weight we bring to bear in foreign affairs. In recent months
for instance we have been instrumental in strong EU leadership on Iran and
on the Balkans.
Above all, we have made no reduction whatsoever in our commitment to the war
we are fighting alongside with the United States and our allies in Afghanistan.
Alongside our unwavering support for the mission, which remains vital to our
national security, we will increase our investment in protected vehicles, drones
and equipment to counter IEDs, ensuring that our troops have the tools they
need. In addition to agreeing the new Strategic Concept that will strengthen
the NATO Alliance and chart a clear course for the future, this weekend’s
NATO summit in Lisbon will commit the Alliance to a long-term partnership with
the Afghan people. It will mark an important starting point for our strategy
to transfer responsibility for security progressively to Afghan forces.
So Britain will remain a first rate military power and a robust ally of the
US and in NATO well into the future. As Secretary Clinton recently said, the
UK “will remain the most capable partner” for US forces.
But defence policy must be the instrument of a strong and clear-sighted foreign
policy. Today it is not enough to protect our citizens in their communities
and within our borders. Our whole way of life requires international trade
and travel, the safe flows of goods and people, open seas, secure energy supplies,
access to technology, a sustainable global economy and climate and food security.
In a networked world, we need to be able to address threats before they reach
our shores, and to use diplomacy, development and our intelligence services
to help avoid the need for military action which is a last resort.
It is this rounded approach to foreign policy and security that is the hallmark
of the new British government. Foreign policy is not just about making the
right decisions now, but also positioning our country for the long term so
that we can ward off threats and harness positive trends in the world.
In Britain this means that we need not only a strong and thriving transatlantic
alliance and a leading role in Europe, but also a distinctively British approach
to the building of new partnerships around the world, in North Africa, in Asia,
in Latin America and in the Gulf: the parts of the world where economic opportunity
increasingly lies and where solutions to pressing international challenges
also need to be sought. In some cases this will be in parallel to efforts by
the US and in support of common goals. In others we will act on our own in
pursuit of our national interest, which we will never neglect to do.
In our first months in office we have launched an initiative to forge closer
ties with our historic partners in the Gulf. We have intensified our dialogue
with Turkey and renewed ties with old partners like Japan and emerging powers
such as India. Last Tuesday I gave the Canning Lecture in which I called a
halt to Britain’s retreat in Latin America, and called for a diplomatic
advance to begin. We will be building our relations with Brazil, Chile and
other Latin American states in the years ahead. And we have set out to reinvigorate
Britain’s activity within the Commonwealth – a unique network of
54 nation states underpinned by a common language, by common attitudes, and
by commitment to the rule of law and good governance.
We are also placing a much greater emphasis on conflict prevention in our
National Security Strategy. We are increasing the amount we devote to international
development, so that from 2013 we will spend 0.7% of GNI on aid. Within that
we are doubling our investment in aid for fragile and unstable countries over
the next five years, so that we will spend nearly a third of our aid budget
in fragile and conflict-affected states. This assistance will help to create
security in some of the poorest countries in the world. And we continue to
place significant emphasis on the soft power aspect of our influence – another
area where your Secretary of State has set a powerful intellectual lead with
her advocacy of "smart power" – which in our case includes
the British Council and BBC World Service.
And we are meeting head on the insidious and growing threat to our national
security from cyberspace. Persistent and sophisticated cyber attacks against
our national networks and systems are happening every day – against our
banking networks, our intellectual property and commercial infrastructure.
There are over 1,000 targeted attacks on UK Government networks every month.
If unchecked, they threaten our prosperity, our defence capability and indeed
the very heart of our national security.
Cyberspace of course recognises no borders and no nation can defend itself
effectively alone. The United States has demonstrated truly impressive leadership
on cyber security and our cyber partnership with the US is of the first order.
We are working towards a joint UK-US approach to the cyber security challenge,
and devoting an extra £650 million to our own national cyber-security
We will need robust defences so that our nations can benefit from the immense
potential of cyberspace in a safe and secure way. But we must do so without
undermining the flow of ideas, information and people. This has been essential
to our prosperity and growth and is a key underpinning of liberty, allowing
citizens to challenge their leaders and hold them to account. If in our response
to genuine security threats, we inadvertently halt the last half-century's
march to greater freedom of communication, then the terrorists and criminals
who currently exploit internet openness really would have won. The UK is determined
to seek the right balance between security and freedom.
For we cannot protect our security or influence unless we also champion our
own values. Unless we stand up for democracy, the rule of law, political freedom
and human rights and unless others perceive that we do this, we weaken our
security and prosperity over the long term.
In our lifetime and that of our parents the US has been not only the "arsenal
of democracy" without which tyranny might have prevailed, but has also
been, because of its extraordinary political diversity and the power of its
example, a source of hope and inspiration to millions of people mired in conflict
or oppression. My belief and my hope is that the US will always continue to
fulfil this indispensable role in world affairs, and will find in the United
Kingdom a redoubtable ally.
We all have to recognise that in a networked world deviations from our own
values, or actions that are seen to cut across international law, are quickly
detected and instantly spread across the world. In our international diplomacy
we not only have to convince our allies or would-be partners, but we have to
bear in mind a sceptical global audience of seven billion pairs of ears and
eyes. As a politician I would be the first to say that we cannot hope to convince
everyone or to always prevail in international courts of opinion, but neither
can we ignore them.
If we are to maintain our influence in the world, we must always seek to retain
the moral advantage. Our adversaries have shown that there are no depths to
which they will not stoop. But we, as democratic states, will always be judged
by the highest standards. This is something on which the coalition government
in Britain and the US administration are in close accord.
Our Coalition Government has taken early action to make clear that we will
not be complicit in torture or mistreatment: we have published the guidance
we give our intelligence and military personnel on the treatment of detainees
held by other countries and we have decided to hold an independent Inquiry
to consider the allegations that Britain may have been complicit in the past,
so that we can learn the lessons and enable our security and intelligence services
to get on with their job of making us – and our allies - safe.
So we are confident that Great Britain is equipped to face the security challenges
of the next decade and beyond, and to stand firm with its allies. We have a
clear long-term vision of Britain as an active global power and the closest
ally of the United States. In a networked world the UK is now equipped to play
not a shrinking but a growing and increasingly effective role – both
in promoting our interests and in helping meet the major world challenges,
and so there will be no shrinkage of the UK’s global role in the lifetime
of this British Government.
In the years ahead our intelligence services will continue to work in the
most dangerous parts of the world, detecting threats to our security and supporting
that of our allies. Our aid workers will continue to be in the front line combating
deprivation, insecurity and hopelessness. Our Armed Forces will continue to
be the backbone of our defence and to train others around the world. Our diplomats
will remain among the very best it is possible to have, working from one of
the largest diplomatic networks of any country, with new partners as well as
our oldest allies. And our government will work to harness all the instruments
of our national power more effectively than in the past.
So ours is a foreign policy that will be based firmly on our enlightened national
interest, consciously geared to securing prosperity for our own citizens need,
but always connected to the needs of our allies. It will uphold our values
and defend human rights, without which we cannot hope to see stability entrenched
and democracy more universally enjoyed, and it will protect the security of
the United Kingdom - without which we imperil all we have achieved and hold
dear, and in support of which there is no single more important alliance than
our unshakeable partnership with the United States of America.
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