Punching Above One’s Weight

25 december 2010

Does British Policy Offer a Pattern for Europe?

Maxim Minayev is a leading expert at the Center for Political Studies. He has a Doctorate in Political Science.

Resume: The conservative ideologists have come to the ultimate conclusion that it does not make sense to rely on the European Union as a protector of Britain’s national interests in the international scene and that its own independent capabilities should be built up. In the new European context London’s approach might become a model to follow for other major EU states.

Britain has never been among the spearheads of European integration. By virtue of its legacy of the world’s largest empire, the mentality of insular exceptionalism, and its own understanding of the essence of Atlantic relationship, London has always stood aloof from the capitals of the Old World. Nevertheless, starting from the 1970s, that is, after the country joined the European Economic Community, Britain’s policy has been drifting slowly towards the continent. Britain was gradually involved in the integration process, trying to preserve its identity, but at the same time adapting itself to the new realities of united Europe.

The Conservative Party’s return to power after a long pause (although it has had to share control of the government with the Liberal Democrats) heralded not only a radical change of the domestic political landscape, but also a dramatic turn in foreign policy. Apparently, the conservative ideologists have come to the ultimate conclusion that it does not make sense to rely on the European Union as a protector of Britain’s national interests in the international scene and that its own independent capabilities should be built up. In the new European context London’s approach might become a model to follow for other major EU states, even those considered to be the engines and agents of deep integration.

FOREIGN POLICY PERMISSIVENESS

The European Union spent most of the first decade of the 21st century on excruciating efforts to reassert its influence in the world. As it consistently built up integration in the socio-economic sphere, Brussels looked for opportunities to create on its basis a single political and defense structure. The architects of the European project were perfectly aware that without the consolidation of EU member states in these segments the product of their efforts would remain a faceless colossus with nothing but economic feet to stand on, unable to defend collective interests in the seen as a guarantee that the EU will emerge as a global center of power. However, the long-awaited Lisbon Treaty, which came into effect in December 2009, failed to transform the European Union into a single player comparable with leading world powers in terms of its defense and political capabilities.

The reasons for this are many: lasting resistance by the elites of some countries who are skeptical about the deep unification project; the will of citizens who ditched the most ambitious consolidation initiative – the EU Constitution; the innate imperfectness of the compromise proposals that formed the basis of the Lisbon document; and the inconsistency of integration leaders (France and Germany) which have remained undecided as to what is more important to them – delegating powers to a strong supranational center and trying to press for their national interests through it, or retaining their individual weight.

Whatever the case, the European Union’s chronic inability to achieve political consolidation has opened for its member countries a window of opportunity for explicitly independent activity in the world scene. There has occurred a kind of “emancipation” of united Europe’s member states. The failure of another phase of building a supranational edifice proved tantamount to a carte blanche for personalization of the foreign policies of the actors involved. All the key functions to ensure the interests of individual EU member states remain their personal competence. And the role that these players will play in the international processes depends essentially on the will and ambitions of their respective political leaderships and, of course, on how well these ambitions are backed up with the resource potential. In other words, a foreign policy “free from the European Union” is now available for the countries that are willing and able to conduct it. The UK’s line of action today is one of the most vivid examples of how a prominent member of the European Union may choose to behave in the international scene availing itself of the European foreign policy permissiveness.

The United Kingdom is among the top tier European powers. It has to its credit strong armed forces, an experienced diplomatic corps and a solid financial and economic potential. Britain has traditionally followed a policy “above the European average.” Now it largely serves as a model for other countries equal to it in rank. The deficiency of European federalization leaves such players as France, Germany and Italy no alternatives to following the “nationalized” course the British have mapped out. A look at London’s actions gives a general idea of how the European Union’s leader states are likely to act in the external environment “on the other side” of the current version of integration.

The United Kingdom’s foreign practices are an example of a relatively effective mode of conduct by a former empire in the international arena. It provides a formula of active “post-superpower” state policy. Although it has lost much of its former political and military resources, Britain has retained the right to have a say in shaping the global agenda. As a member of the UN Security Council, the financial Group of Seven, the Group of Eight, the Group of Twenty and NATO, it seeks to take an active part in developing and adopting decisions on the most high-profile issues facing the world community. These include international terrorism, Iran’s nuclear program and Middle East peace settlement.

Also, the British individualism provides an answer to the question of how a state of regional scale may pursue a diversified foreign policy. The UK follows an “active and engaged foreign policy,” far beyond the customary bounds most middle-of-the-road international actors normally stay within. London translates into reality the “global-within-regional” and “non-European-within-European” principles. Close ties with the former colonial possessions, most of which are part of the Commonwealth, let an EU member feel comfortable in Africa, Oceania, and the West Indies. And the heritage of imperial activity ensures influence in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and East and Southeast Asia.

Major European powers, most of which also have their own imperial (to varying degrees) past, may find it reasonable to take a closer look at the mode of foreign policy self-realization Britain has opted for. For truth’s sake it should be noted that modeling a foreign policy on the British experience should be used with reservations. The “emancipated” foreign policy of the United Kingdom is correlated with the conduct of the other EU member states, but at the same time it remains under the spell of the original political paradigm, which is markedly different from the continental patterns.

Since it joined the EEC in 1973, Britain sought to keep a distance from European affairs. Although it accepted the integration rules of the game, London has been following them on special conditions no other member of the union enjoys. Among the individual privileges there is the “British cheque” (London’s rebate on its EU membership contribution), its own national currency, a dissenting opinion on issues of pan-European tax and agricultural policies, and close trading, economic, military and political ties with North America.

Even during the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and the subsequent approval of the new EU leadership it became clear that Gordon Brown’s Labour Cabinet had no illusions about the prospects of building the “Lisbon vertical chain of command.” In the midst of the global financial crisis London acted within its capacity. The government’s policies were not flawless, but they were based on the interests of the United Kingdom, and not European Union requirements. It was not accidental that the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband decided against contesting the position of the European Foreign Minister to concede it to his fellow party member Baroness Catherine Ashton. Slim prospects in the fight for premiership and for the position of Labour leader proved more lucrative to him than the very solid chance of getting the status of the chief diplomat in Brussels.

The change of the ruling elites gave the final touch to the course towards playing one’s own game. The Conservative Party, which rose to power in May 2010 in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, put the idea of “getting rid of the European Union” in the center of its foreign policy platform. Realizing the inanity of the yet another institutional reform of the EU, the party leadership led by David Cameron arrived at the conclusion that in implementing any coherent foreign policy London could rely on itself only.

The British political establishment has always demonstrated greater Euro-skepticism than the ruling circles of other West European states. At the turn of the 21st century, a feeble attempt at overcoming estrangement from Europe was taken by the Labour Cabinet under Tony Blair, probably the most pro-European of all governments Britain has ever had. However, it evoked no response from a majority of Britons. In addition, the efforts of Brussels in building effective EU foreign and defense policies did not look convincing enough even then.

As for the Tory party, whereas in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s the Euro-skeptics still had no obvious advantage over the Euro-enthusiasts, since 1995 the opponents of united Europe have been steadily on the ascent. As a result, by the day of its return to Downing Street the party had developed a near-consensus attitude to European issues.

THE AMBITIOUS TORIES

A foreign policy “emancipated” from the European Union was a conscious choice by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. As early as the first hours of May 12, when it hurried to settle in Downing Street, the Cameron-Clegg team proceeded from the awareness its foreign policy will be outspokenly independent from united Europe.

The government’s foreign policy rests firmly upon ideas authored by the Conservatives who have occupied all key positions in the Foreign Office (of the five deputy foreign ministers only one is a Liberal). Before coming to power they had more than enough time to develop a strategy. Tory’s shadow foreign policy team, headed by future Foreign Secretary William Hague, got down to work in late 2005. And by 2009 Her Majesty’s opposition already had at its disposal a holistic vision of priority political and diplomatic problems they intended to address after victory over the Labour party. Then there emerged the ideological concept of the conservative platform – the term “traditional British foreign policy.”

The relative clarity of conservative views on the current condition of the international environment and Britain’s place in it explains why the main previews of future government activities in the field of foreign and security policy were presented virtually in no time. At the end of the fifth month in office, the Cabinet had at its disposal all the necessary doctrinal documents – in particular, the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defense and Security Review (a stark contrast to the Labour government of Tony Blair, which spent 14 months to draft its first defense doctrine). While the foreign-policy and defense programs bear a clear imprint of U.S. influence, the mere fact of their existence indicates that the Cameron-Clegg Cabinet has a clear understanding of where it is going and what it wants to achieve.

Whitehall needs a firm foreign policy without watching for reaction of united Europe in order to maintain Britain’s real involvement in world affairs. Maintaining the maximum possible involvement in global politics is regarded as one of the few effective means of retaining the potential of an actor in one’s own right. Only a course towards expanding the “global reach and influence” is capable of preventing Britain’s loss of a place in the top ten economies of the world and of ensuring its relatively equitable dialogue with such rising powers as Brazil, India and China.

Behind the efforts to defend Britain’s status of a full-fledged actor in world affairs one finds a very ambitious approach. Part of the Tory leadership under Hague has serious international ambitions, which is seen in its declarations of “a fundamental reassessment of Britain’s place in the world.” As Hague says, “we reject the idea of Britain’s strategic shrinkage” in world affairs, i.e. its conversion into a second-rate country. Such a scenario would mean not only the inevitable weakening of political and economic weight but also “loss of face,” something a party that prides itself on the heritage of the British Empire that reigned supreme in international relations for much of the 19th century, would find particularly difficult to reconcile itself with.

In the modern conditions the Conservatives’ bent for preserving the “Imperial Spirit” is positioned not as a product of personal preferences of the powers that be, but as an existential dogma having no alternatives. From Hague’s standpoint an exclusively reactive behavior in response to external challenges will sooner or later lead Britain to a decline. The country will be simply unable to get adapted to the transformation of the international system, and the arising problems will run it down. Against this background, it is it is worth noting the remarkable attempt of the Foreign Office chief to distance himself from Robert Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury’s description of Britain’s foreign policy as that of floating “lazily down a stream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boat-hook to avoid collisions.” What looked as a convenient reason for selective participation in international processes in the late 19th century has become a synonym for the voluntary undermining of the national foreign policy potential at the beginning of the 21st century.

The Conservatives’ attempts to camouflage their real ambitions reflect the desire to present to the Liberal Democrats and Labourists some irrefutable justification of their strategy. It is an open secret that the other two major political forces adhere to a far more modest vision of London’s international role. For example, the Liberal Democrats during the 2010 campaign put an equality sign between the British global policy and the global policy of the EU. Therefore, in order to maintain the fundamental choice in favor of “global reach and influence,” Tory needed to switch the default settings in favor of greater flexibility. Thus, the Cameron government is far more reserved in its public assessments of the EU than it could be expected from the Conservatives’ rhetoric throughout the period they were in opposition.

Tory is going to maintain the global status through active participation in international institutions and building up relationships with individual states, including new centers of power. In this respect Hague and his associates pin hopes on a return to the principle of “punching above one’s weight.” It was formulated back in 1993 by the then Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd who argued that military and political tools could compensate for the limited economic potential. Amid the realities of 2010 this approach has acquired a purely political connotation. Against the background of huge financial problems, which has led to a reduction in defense spending, only the art of diplomacy is able to guarantee London’s substantive – not declarative – international involvement.

SEIZING FORTRESS EUROPE

Although the foreign policy of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is a pattern of behavior that lets the country keep a distance from the European Union, there is nothing about it that might look like blatant disregard for Europe. Acting regardless of what the EU may say has not become a synonym of Britain’s complete refusal to participate in continental affairs. The EU countries are among the priority counter-parties. Maintaining a working relationship with them is perhaps the main task of the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defense and the Treasury. Europe’s place in Whitehall’s international system of coordinates is seen in the fact that Paris and Berlin were the first capitals Cameron visited immediately after taking office.

Breaking ties with one of the key centers of attraction in Britain’s foreign policy is impossible of course, since prudence and pragmatism are inherent qualities of the new people at the helm in Downing Street and the British elites in general. The idea of integration remains on the pan-European agenda, and it cannot be excluded that sooner or later the European Union will take the shape of a full-fledged supranational entity. The awareness of Brussels’ potential rise prompts London to keep Europe close at hand, the more so since the Conservatives have been trying to distinguish between matters institutional and territorial, and bilateral and multilateral. Their main efforts are aimed at developing interaction not so much with the European Union as such, or with everybody else using the latter’s support, as with individual members of this association, which fully corresponds to the trend of “emancipation” from the influence of united Europe.

However, a detailed analysis of the motives of the Conservative Establishment enables one to speak about a far more pretentious approach. The aim of the Cameron team’s European course is confined to “seizing the fortress from the inside” and using it for purely national interests. Tory is aware of the EU’s political impotence. However, the very fact the European Union is present as an actor within the European space is still there. The EU remains the main political and economic association of the Old World, which is based on a common market. The understanding of this combination of strengths and weaknesses has led to the idea that the European Union can be used as an institutional niche for building up weight “on the other side of the Channel.” And London has decided to put supranational resources in the service of national interests. Precisely this intention is behind Hague’s idea of gaining “proper weight” in the European Union. It implies intensification of contacts with medium and small countries in the union, participation in forming European economic strategies and expansion of Britain’s presence in the staff of the European Commission.

Tory opted for aggressive expansion of its influence in Europe, because its top leadership has developed a new perception of the European Union. In its eyes the EU, once an actor in international politics, has become an object, with respect to which “everything is permitted.” The foreign secretary openly views the EU not as an integration alliance, but as a regional grouping. Inside such a union, lacking firm one-man command, there can exist competing coalitions of states, who work not for some common European ideals and further federalization, but for strengthening their own capacities. In a situation like this, Britain hopes to lead one of the internal pressure groups, using its English bureaucratic clan in Brussels as a cover.

OVERCOMING THE POODLE-IZATION SYNDROME

Whereas shrugging off the load of liabilities to the EU has lent London’s European policies a qualitatively new meaning, the British-American ties have experienced no special influence. Using the right to “free game”, the joint Cabinet of Tory and the Liberal Democrats in its relations with the United States has chosen to follow the course mapped out by its Labour predecessors in 2007-2010. The Cameron team’s relationship with the main ally outside Europe is rather reserved, as it was under the Brown government.

The distancing from Washington is explained by the desire of the Liberal-Conservative coalition to avoid the loss of foreign policy sovereignty. In 1997-2007, the years of Tony Blair’s “personal union” with U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, relations between the two powers peaked to a record high ever since the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. However, the “cordial agreement” in fact led to the loss of London’s position as an independent international entity. For the sake of the “special relationship” with the United States, it meekly supported all major initiatives by the White House, regardless of their preparedness and response to them from the international community.

Britain’s “poodle-ization,” which first manifested itself after the final loss of the empire in the 1960s, climaxed in the outgoing decade. Gordon Brown made an attempt to halt this process. During his premiership the country went as far as limiting its allied commitments to the United States. Cameron decided to go ahead with this policy as consonant with Tory’s historical heritage. It was the Conservative Party that pioneered the skeptical attitude towards preferential relations with the United States. And Geoffrey Howe, a prominent representative of the Conservative Thatcher Cabinet, was the first to try to put an end to poodle-ization.

Gradual erosion of the “special partnership” phenomenon was another argument in favor of adjusting London’s “most important bilateral relationship.” Back in the 1990s, America emphasized the special status of its relations with such countries as Canada, Australia, Ireland, Israel, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In the 2000s, India, Pakistan and Poland were added to the list. At times the significance of these partners for implementing American foreign policy would overtop that of the traditional contacts between Washington and London. As Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to the United States in 1997-2003, said, some states had much more tangible opportunities to influence the position of the White House and the course of American foreign policy than the United Kingdom. Britain found it ever more difficult and ever less beneficial than before to maintain the role of the most privileged ally of the world’s sole superpower.

The Cameron Cabinet’s reserved approach suggests that it intends to place in the forefront only those aspects of friendship with Washington that best suit British interests. First and foremost this applies to defense partnership, cooperation between secret services, military-technical cooperation, and trading and economic contacts. These components of the “special relationship” are critical to London. Without them it would be unable to maintain its membership in the club’s leading powers.

In all other respects the United Kingdom reserves the right to its own opinion. In its first months in office, the Liberal-Conservative Cabinet disagreed with the American scenario of stabilizing the economic situation in Europe and left unanswered the White House’s demand for investigating the involvement of the oil company BP in securing the release of Libyan terrorist Abdel al-Megrahi. The stake on austerity measures to cut budget deficit and on expanding BP’s energy presence in Libya proved more important than requests from the American Administration. The British authorities did not support Washington in its intention to exert the maximum pressure on BP in connection with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is noteworthy that, although the company is a classical transnational corporation, in the course of the crisis the American press began to painstakingly refer to it by its full name, with a special emphasis on the fact the letter B stands for British.

The deliberate freedom-loving behavior of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats in their dialogue with Washington stems from the clear awareness of London’s importance for the American defense policy. Britain is one of the few truly loyal allies of the United States. Of all European countries only the United Kingdom is ready for real, not token, participation in military operations by the White House. Canada and Australia have a comparable allied status for the United States, but their defense capabilities are noticeably inferior to those of Britain. For this reason Washington cannot give up the “special relationship” with London overnight, simply because it would remain without major military and political partners.

A clear understanding of Washington’s system of priorities opens up before Whitehall enough room for restructuring British-American relations “in a solid, not slavish” format Hague has proposed, and for expanding the list of “special” counteragents. The same factor is behind the establishment in November 2010 of a defense alliance with France (partly, for economic reasons, but not only them), as well as attempts to build a “new special relationship” with India, exerted since last July. Both cases are not so much instances of frondeurish behavior in front of the United States as deliberate tactic pursued in view of the limited resources of the latter.

AUTHENTIC BRITISH STYLE

The actions of the Conservatives and the successors of the Whigs outside the Euro-Atlantic zone are the most graphic reflection of the genuine British foreign policy style the way the Hague team understands it. In an effort to overcome excessive focus on European issues, which has no prospects, and to strengthen the status of a strong power, London has resorted to old-time political and diplomatic recipes. This spells a return to the line that prevailed in the second half of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, when the country pursued well-diversified policies around the world. Outside the Atlantic community, the functional model for the Cameron Cabinet to follow are the practices of Lord John Russell; George Leveson-Gower, Earl of Granville; Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby; Robert Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury; Sir Edward Grey; and others. In this “traditional” way Britain seeks to keep pace with the growing trend for states to act as independent agents in the system of international relations.

The global financial crisis has shown that the supranational institutions are unable to cope with global challenges on their own. All of their regulatory activities are a derivative of the national will of individual countries. There has been a kind of “nationalization” of global politics, and the inter-state approach has resumed the key role.

The Conservatives interpreted this phenomenon as the primacy of bilateralism over multilateralism. They believe the real international politics is made within a network of intertwining relationships between sovereign states. And opportunities for exercising global influence will depend on how strong Britain’s contacts within the network community of self-sufficient countries are.

Relying solely on the matrix of intersecting bilateral communications in the Euro-Atlantic region is impossible. There are supranational restraints of NATO and the EU. However close Britain’s cooperation with individual European countries might be, it will have to make allowances for the existence of Brussels – one way or another. For this reason, without abandoning priority attention to developing a network of interstate contacts within the transatlantic space, London has been trying to fully implement this idea in other areas, primarily in Asia. The positions of supranational institutions in such regions are not so strong, but a majority of the growing centers of power are certainly there. And the latter have been trying to not so much assume multilateral obligations (of which the BRIC countries are an example – since 2008 they have not gone beyond the bounds of the dialogue format), as to focus on individual counteragents.

As they play their own original foreign policy game outside Europe and North America, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are aiming to secure a special position in the global arena for Britain. The development or resumption of extensive contacts with countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America will, from their point of view, let them act as chief mediator between the East and the West and between the North and the South, as an agent perceived as a “friend” in those regions of the world where the United States and the European countries are often looked at as “foes.” Control of this unique niche in international affairs should confirm London’s claims to “global involvement” and at the same time let it enjoy the freedom of action, independent from united Europe.

Hence the prevalence on the list of Britain’s leading “non-Atlantic” partners of either former colonies (Australia, India, Pakistan and South Africa), or countries whose political life bears the United Kingdom’s deep and lasting imprint (e.g. states in the Arabian Peninsula). Only with them London is able to build exclusive relations that may directly or indirectly support its political and economic weight. The former parts of Pax Britannica entertain the opinion of the United Kingdom since birth. With proper diligence, London can persuade these countries to adhere to the British point of view as their own.

The consolidation of the UK’s exclusive role in the global arena opens up a genuine opportunity for implementing the id?e fixe of Britain’s “post-superpower policy” – “punching above its weight.” The Cameron Cabinet hopes to lay hands on the main leverage of political decision-making to address the most relevant problems within the former British Empire, acting on behalf of the international community. This applies to settling situations in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. London’s claims are well-founded, because by virtue of its long war and peace experience it is a leading expert on these countries’ affairs. This enables the UK to propose original solutions, which have a chance to be more effective than ideas offered by more influential players, including the U.S. For example, in Afghanistan, the British rely on Hamid Karzai’s reconciliation with the Taliban, keeping in mind the likely return of the “furious mullahs” to Kabul, and in Yemen they advocate a solution based on a political compromise between the country’s south and north.

ENGLISH TIPS

In 2008, Sergei Lavrov, in his description of Russia’s relations with the countries of the Euro-Atlantic community, said that Britain stands out among them for its tangible contribution to the development of conceptual foundations of the national foreign policy. The minister said that since the 19th century, London regularly gave St. Petersburg and Moscow some “useful tips” – universal constructs that prompt the state’s conduct in the international arena. British political and diplomatic practices enriched Russia’s everyday diplomacy with such functional concepts as “splendid isolation”, “engagement in European affairs”, “pragmatic cooperation,” and “enlightened self-interest.”

In assessing the foreign policy activities of the Cameron-Clegg Cabinet, one cannot but note that Britain can provide Russia not only with original ideas, but practical solutions as well. By some criteria London’s current international experience is good for use on Russian soil.

The two nations have much in common. The Russian Federation, just like the United Kingdom, is a former empire that has fallen into the category of regional leader with global ambitions. Since the end of the Cold War, both states seek to preserve opportunities for involvement in world affairs, despite the reduction of their own military-political and economic potential. Russia and Britain have the tools of a superpower foreign policy – tangible evidence of their past grandeur, such as nuclear arms and a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Just like London, Moscow tries to exert preferential influence on its former colonies, treating them as a sphere of privileged interests.

The similarity of a number of status characteristics of Russia and Great Britain allows for identifying several British foreign policy tips the Kremlin might find handy.

First, the principle of “not handcuffing oneself to the Euro-Atlantic area.” An important priority of London’s behavior is intensified activity in East and Southeast Asia, as well as in the Persian Gulf. This course is not just a reaction to the “emancipation” from united Europe, but also a result of the correct assessment of global development trends. Since the 1990s, the center of world politics has been slowly but surely shifting from the Euro-Atlantic region to Asia. And Britain has no intention to remain on the sidelines of this process.

The second tip is: do not sacrifice your own national interests for the sake of partners, no matter what status or influence these may enjoy. It might seem that in international practice there are no examples of a closer alliance than that developed by London and Washington in the second half of the 20th century. But Britain was not afraid of turning it more pragmatic, when the “friendly embrace” made it gasp for air. Thereby London reasserted the supremacy of its national interests over any obligations of an ally.

This approach is indicative of Whitehall’s intuitive adherence to the practical rules Viscount Henry Palmerston formulated in 1848: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” This continuity has been confirmed by the current Secretary of State for Defense, Liam Fox. In 2006, he remarked: “Any British government has one duty that overrides everything else. That is to pursue Britain’s national interest in all circumstances.”

Finally, the third British tip can be formulated as follows: in conducting a foreign policy do not hesitate to put to use effective assets from the imperial past. While a Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague rightly referred to historical ties with many countries outside North America and Europe as one of the leading means of implementing a foreign policy. The Conservatives are aware that a system of stable communications with the former dominions, colonies and protectorates is one of the vital ingredients of the situation in the world scene. Without them Britain would be turned into a commonplace European country, the “special relationship” with Washington being its sole source of strength.

This recognition makes Downing Street not only strengthen cooperation with the former colonies (in fact, contacts with them have never been interrupted since the collapse of the British Empire), but also look for innovative approaches to those who have opted for their own way of development. For the sake of normalization of relations with India, the Cameron Cabinet simulates its willingness to press for an expansion of the list of permanent UN Security Council members. The prospects for such a reform are still very vague, but the very actualization of this issue can raise the level of trust between London and New Delhi.

Of course, the strategy of “punching above one’s strength” does not yet mean the ability to jump above one’s head. However sophisticated London’s policies might be, they will not break the global trend – the gradual loss of global influence by Europe as a whole and individual European states in particular. This circumstance explains the growing confusion in the Old World and its leading powers, including Britain. However, the desire to counteract to this objective process, most clearly seen in policies pursued by the UK government, is worth studying and respecting, to say the least.

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