At the ongoing G7 foreign ministers meeting in Liverpool, Liz Truss has the opportunity to set a new tone in international politics. Just months after her installation as British Foreign Secretary, Ms Truss is launching new ideas on how states can win the race for international influence.
At Chatham House think tank last week, Ms Truss took the opportunity to explain her approach to the job. Some trendy thoughts emerged in what was a disciplined discourse of what she thought was possible.
First, she argued that it was time to get rid of some of the usual obsessions of international diplomacy. She called for an era of ideas, influence and inspiration. The countries best placed to prosper in this context, she said, would be those who set out to strengthen their economic influence, define the terms of trade and pave the way for the technologies of the future.
In greeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other diplomats, Truss was to promote partnerships and networks spanning defense, security and technological cooperation, as well as ideas of freedom and opportunity.
It is no coincidence that she used her convening power for the G7 presidency to meet in Liverpool.
The city on the River Mersey was founded on international trade and migration from the British Isles to America. As the UK briefing paper for the G7 notes, Liverpool have a global reputation, which far exceeds the size of its population and level of prosperity. “Liverpool has a rich maritime history and has played a central role in international trade,” the note said. “He has fostered global connections through his diverse communities and has had an immense musical and sporting impact around the world.”
During the Museum of Liverpool sessions, these themes will be highlighted. There are sessions on Global Health Resilience, Accelerating African Investments, and Awareness at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
There were echoes of Ms Truss’ approach during the launch, also last week, of a new foreign policy framework of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
In the aftermath of Brexit, the ECFR downgraded its presence in Great Britain but its priorities are surprisingly close to those stated by the British Foreign Office. His claim is that the post-Cold War era is over, and the end of the 20-year battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan marked the moment the door was closed.
With the erosion of US security supremacy, ECFR asserts that a dream of an ever more binding liberal international order based on globalization and the Internet is no longer universal. The pursuit of a world defined by the flow of goods and services is not an option because interdependence has proved too “double-edged”. Or, as Ms Truss said in her speech, countries “dependent on cheap gas or dependent on other countries for vital technology like 5G” are guilty of strategic drift.
Instead, the think tank draws an alternate power map for the international decision maker on seven key terrains in a “Power Atlas.”
For the author of the economic file, the battlefield is complex and vast. Here, tools become weapons as states impose export controls, sanctions and data regulations or change market access conditions to punish or trade for concessions.
Second, there is the big maneuver around critical digital infrastructure, raw materials, artificial intelligence, and quantum technology. This is why some countries carry out cyber attacks. This is also why eavesdropping agencies and cybercommands are now eclipsing the traditional intelligence agencies that had perfected the art of leading humans like agents. Britain’s MI6, the fictional home of James Bond, was challenged by its own boss to change its culture to ensure it could win technology wars by working with Silicon Valley-style expertise.
The next field is the climate transition. Quick investment and a willingness to embrace the forces move away from the carbon economy and define the winners, presumes the ECFR team. Here, leadership in the process that saw Cop26 come to an end and the focus now on Cop27 in Egypt and Cop28 in the UAE is a key platform.
In a good example of the kind of governing that Ms Truss described, the UK harnessed the power of the City of London to align international investment forces with climate declarations. People are actors on this so-called power map – and not just as individuals but en masse.
ECFR has identified shifting categories, including “labor, migrants, refugees, tourists, students, expatriates and global elites” – all part of a strategic chessboard. Watch how Belarus and Turkey have leveraged their role at European borders for diplomatic dividends. The benefit and influence derive from the change in the dynamics of the world’s population.
It is no longer just national military strength that counts. Technology differentiates the attractiveness of countries seeking to be recognized as military players.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown the need to boast about health capabilities and systems resilience. Vaccine nationalism is more than proof of the reality of this sphere of competition.
As the G7 meeting began in Liverpool – the home of the Beatles’ band and the eponymous football club – the last battleground on the power map was culture and how that could contribute to a country’s soft power. . Take, for example, the impact of K-pop on strengthening South Korea but also on spreading American supremacy in this area. Along with this trend, there has also been the impetus in various parts of the world to shut down certain types of cultural influence to preserve the national narrative on history.
How countries choose to navigate this Power Atlas may well determine their place in the world in the years to come.
Posted: Dec 11, 2021, 2:00 p.m.