Authoritarian Challenges to the Liberal World Order

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Authoritarian Challenges to the Liberal World Order

DATE: 8 March, 3:00pm – 4:00pm

VENUE: Online

SPEAKERS: Bob Seely MP, Alexander Lanoszka, Theresa Fallon




Robert Clark 00:00

Great stuff. Thank you to everybody tuning in to this Henry Jackson Society event this afternoon. I’m Robert Clark, Defence Fellow here at the ‘Global Britain’ programme. This event I think really touches on some key considerations not just for British policymakers, but also those of allied democracies, including our counter partners, the United States, European allies, and our democratic partners across the Indo-Pacific. The ongoing global pandemic has highlighted authoritarian states and the threats with which they seek to circumnavigate the rules-based order of which Britain remains an ardent defender. Questions over mounting human rights concerns and abuses, debt diplomacy, the wholesale suspension of the rule of law, and the wider attempts of seeking to undermine the liberal order upon which global security and prosperity is maintained. These are all crucial factors which all effect liberal democracies. As the world is beginning to adjust to a post-COVID age, so too must the geopolitical tools which we seek to utilise be changed and updated also. No longer a West-versus-East narrative, but rather democracies united the world over in seeking to uphold those very virtues, principles and values, in which the freedoms of those nations are underpinned and increasingly seen as an ideal, which authoritarian and revisionist states are so afraid of.

In seeking a broader basis for consultation and inquiry, it is my great pleasure this afternoon to introduce you to three expert speakers, who will all discuss some key themes, which are pertinent to these broader issues. Our first speaker this afternoon is Dr Alexander Lanoszka. Dr Lanoszka is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Waterloo and his research agenda encompasses international security, alliance politics, and theories of war with special focus on Central and North Eastern Europe. Dr Lanoszka, thank you.

Alexander Lanoszka 01:28

Thank you so much, Rob, for putting together this panel and for inviting me to participate. It’s quite a privilege. Chances are the four of us and much of our audience are attuned to the political and security challenges posed by either Russia or China. Of course, we may disagree on the severity of these challenges or the likelihood of particular scenarios, but what I want to do today is focus my remarks briefly on what we are doing or, more importantly, what we’re not doing. After all, so much of the political challenge that Russia and China pose is partly our fault. Now, I don’t mean to say that we have done things that have fuelled their grievances and that those grievances explain or justify their behaviour, rather, we give them opportunities to be a problem. One relates to corruption. Putin’s Kremlin is a kleptocratic regime seeking to enrich itself through criminal means internationally and domestically. Unfortunately, we abet this behaviour. For example, much dirty money is laundered through London, going towards the purchase of property, private schools and for goods. Some of this money does come directly from Moscow, but most of it comes via Britain’s offshore centres and other networks of tax havens around the globe. This results, of course, in a lack of transparency, since we can’t tell apart good investment from bad. The implications, I think, are significant. Not only can this all fuel inequality, which can make for greater political polarization, but it can also mean that politicians are liable to be captured. It’s not just a matter of tightening tax and investment laws to confront this particular challenge, it’s also a matter of giving law enforcement the resources needed to enforce existing rules, as well as providing leadership from our politicians on this very problem. Now, this very problem is not restricted to countries where finance looms large like in Britain. In just the last few days, we have seen an Austrian Export Minister – mind you, one linked to a far-right party – who had danced with Vladimir Putin at a wedding in 2018, being nominated to the board of directors at a Russian-state, oil giant – of course, I mean, here Rosneft – and this harkens back to what had happened over 10-15 years ago when Gerhard Schröder notoriously took up a position on Gazprom’s board just weeks after stepping down as Germany’s Chancellor. And we can point out examples in Hungary as well. We can also point out examples of neighbouring France – neighbouring to Britain of course – whereby Marine Le Pen’s political party received Russian loans from banks linked to the Kremlin. Even when neither corruption nor dubious financing is involved, there can still be a hesitation to affirm or assert red lines when norms are being violated or egregious behaviour ensues. In Canada, where I’m presently located, the government has been very reluctant to label China’s treatment of its Uyghur population as genocide or even as a crime against humanity. It has even, more problematically, from Canada’s own perspective, refrained from singling out China despite two Canadians held in arbitrary detention there and despite, in addition to that, having signed a multilateral text condemning arbitrary detention. So why might that be the case? Well, arguably, Ottawa is deterred, out of fear of economic retaliation, even though, funnily enough, there are opinion polls that indicate that most Canadians are in support of much stronger measures against China, even the prospect of relocating the 2022 Olympic Games from China, as dim as that prospect may be. So, in sum, as much as it is important to understand the aggressive and opportunistic behaviour as it happens and assign blame to those culprits as appropriate, I think still, we need to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves how much of our own failings are enabling the misbehaviours of others and creating these challenges to this liberal order?

Robert Clark 06:32

It’s very interesting, Alexander, thank you. Potentially, could I just draw out something? I think with one of the greatest threats, which is quite an interesting take to liberal democracy at the moment – and this is recently witnessed in the US, of course – is this notion of democratic backsliding. Democratic alliances are of little use if illiberal forces are able to erode them from within. How can we challenge this democratic backsliding when it occurs in order to ensure both social resilience and institutional integrity from illiberal states who will only seek to weaken these forces? And I use the example of the Kremlin’s response to the recent US elections.

Alexander Lanoszka 07:15

Right, to be sure, I’m a little wary of arguments about democratic backsliding. I mean, sure, relative to 10 years ago, we have seen democratic institutions under duress. Relative to 30 years ago, I’m not so sure. In fact, one could just as well argue there’s even more democracy than 30 years ago, depends on the metric that you use. Democracy is going to be fractious, because after all – in theory, at least – you’re inviting everyone to participate in political order, and conflict will therefore be inevitable. But I still take your point about how there needs to be this effort to boost social resilience. And we don’t want to become illiberal if we are to confront illiberal threats and, frankly, we just don’t need to be. Now, I’m not someone who’s known in my own circles as being a person of the left, but I think in the post-COVID period, we’re going to have to, perhaps, accept the need for a higher taxation, especially on very high-income earner in order to address the problem of inequality that has only worsened over the course of the pandemic. The economic dislocation that this pandemic has caused is going to be prime fodder for grievances and even more anti-systemic disenchantment of the sort that might not have yet been seen, even the West in the last 5-10 years. So, boosting social programmes aimed at reinvigorating the middle class may just as well be crucial. Closing those tax loopholes and tightening those investment rules may also get at the dirty money problem, which too is an exacerbating factor. Giving resources, like I said, just to enforce the rules in the books may be important. So, already we’re starting to see these efforts. The United States has just passed the Anti Money Laundering Act. The National Security Adviser has named kleptocracy as a threat to US and allied interests. And so, it’s just a matter of seeing other politicians step up and therefore putting more resources into these problems and making a decent effort of it because, with a pandemic, these challenges can only become more severe if they’re unheeded.

Robert Clark 09:33

That’s a great observation. Thank you for that. It’s now my pleasure to introduce our next speaker, Theresa Fallon. Theresa is the founder and director of the Centre for Russia, Europe, Asia studies in Brussels. Theresa, thank you very much for your opening remarks. Thank you.

Theresa Fallon 09:53

Thank you to the organisers, I’m delighted to be here. To paraphrase the historian Timothy Snyder, the arc of history does not bend toward justice: in fact, there is no arc of history. The way I interpret what he said is that we have to continue to support and defend the liberal international order. It’s not set in stone as Francis Fukuyama tended to think. So, I’ll make three broad points, because we’re limited, and then we’ll get into more details during the Q&A. So, my first point will be about China. We’ve just seen the National People’s Congress held in Beijing and the accent really was on dual circulation, which means that China wants to be less dependent on the rest of the world, and they want the rest of the world to be more dependent on them. And so, this is an interesting challenge for the rest of the world really. They don’t mind sacrificing economic growth now for security, which is very different than how the rest of the world is really looking at the economic situation in a post-COVID-19 landscape. So, this idea of strategic decoupling, or at least in strategic issues – like personal protective equipment (PPE) which the COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted that we really needed that. And so, we saw this idea of China’s self-sufficiency made in 2025; they wanted to be at least 70% independent from the rest of the international economy. So, this creates a paradox because – I’m based here in Brussels, this will be my third point, but I’ll address the comprehensive agreement on investment – because as countries want to become more closely entwined with China, China wants to step back from that. And in fact, China’s not 10 feet tall. This economic NPC is designed to dazzle the international community, as well as China’s domestic audience, but we know that China faces serious headwinds in regard to demographics and the ageing population, border disputes (which we saw recently with India with 24 soldiers killed there on the border,) and then a declining international popularity, especially during COVID-19.

So, my second point is about Russia-China. Since I’m based in Brussels, that’s how they tend to look at the world; they look at Russia as a competitor, or a real threat to them. So, this idea that Russia-China linkage is something anathema – most countries in Europe don’t want to see this type of linkage. And there have been many books written about maybe the “axis of convenience” or a “marriage of convenience”. But, in reality, if there’s a marriage of convenience, there are children. So, we have seen actually a growing like-mindedness among Russia and China. So, this poses a real dilemma for Europe. And we have seen this idea – I call them the “armchair Kissingers” – this kind of simplistic notion that if they can reset relations with Russia, they no longer have to worry about China. So, I think that High Representative Borrell’s recent visit to Moscow should have disabused others from that view. For those who might have missed the story, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov really gave him a shellacking, dismissed three European diplomats during the press conference and really humiliated him. So, he was advised not to go by many. There are 27 EU member states in here (since Brexit), but many had advised him not to go; he went anyway, because the French initiative is to have this reset – Macron has been pushing that since 2017 – and it was a huge failure. So, when he returned, they tried to spin it into a more positive story that “now all of us are on the same page about Russia”. But we’ve just seen a bilateral visit or meeting with Germany. So, Germany is still cultivating this idea of a Russian reset. And also, we see this issue of the Nord Stream pipeline, which also causes problems in transatlantic relations. So, this inability to be on the same page on seeing common threats is a problem as well.

Let’s move on then to the third point: transatlantic relations and cooperation on China. So, we know that, when I mentioned China earlier, one of the biggest Achilles heels is the semiconductor; they need chips, they actually import more chips, and the value of chips are more valuable than oil and that’s huge for an economy like China. So, we’ve just seen recently the US has made it quite clear they have blocked certain semiconductors from being exported to the PRC. And then just this recently – over the weekend, I believe – ASML, a Dutch semiconductor manufacturer has renewed a contract with China. So, this is another problematic issue in transatlantic relations. This is part of a trend. The difficulties in transatlantic relations have their ups and downs. I would say they date back to the Gulf War and then also, there’s a narrative here in Europe that these problems really are from the period of Trump. But, if you go back in time, I think there have been ups and downs in the transatlantic relationship, especially in regard to China. We saw with the Obama administration, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB. The UK, as well as other countries, joined without so much a heads up and President Obama had lobbied them not to join. So there has been these tensions in the transatlantic relationship in regard to China. But we’ve seen a huge increase in cyber-attacks, information warfare, as well as disinformation during COVID-19. So, this has changed dramatically, and the EU has only two people to work on China’s disinformation and Borrell last week commented that they don’t have the resources to deal with this disinformation. This is a very serious issue. It erodes a lot of these institutions and it’s something that should have resources, I think. There needs to be more cooperation on these issues. And there’s also deep European ambivalence. This dates for a while. They see China as the future. The US is in decline and they want to hitch their cart to the Chinese economic model. But we see also a moral slippery slope here and the biggest issue here is now German dependence on China. At the same time as the comprehensive agreement on investment was being negotiated at the end of December, we saw the final conclusions to the Brexit negotiations and the calculus in Europe has changed dramatically with the exit of the UK, because Germany is actually far stronger now. So, they try to dress it up as a Franco-German engine, but clearly what we’ve seen with the comprehensive agreement on investment, the negotiations, is that if you take the next five EU member states combined, they do not equal Germany’s investments or trade with China. So clearly, they were in the driver’s seat on this. The other issues are Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang; we see Europe largely silent on these things or sending out very low-level types of statements flagging these issues but really just saying “we are concerned” or “we are deeply concerned”, which really doesn’t seem to turn the tide on these issues. So, what we need to do is joint economic leverage. There are many discussions – alright, it’s early days of the Biden administration – but I think that there is a need for a joint approach and economic leverage to punish firms that steal technology, intellectual property, engage in other unfair and illegal practices. Everyone talks about burden sharing, but there’s also a need for burden shifting as the US focuses more on the Indo-Pacific. Germany, for example, even decreased spending on their military. So, there’s a big issue in Europe about even taking care of the immediate neighbourhood. And we need to revitalise international institutions and those elements of rules-based order that can limit competition between states. And then finally, rule of law. Basically, South China Sea, we see this heating up. And in 2016, it was the first time you really could see that the EU was not able to speak with one voice on China, with the arbitral tribunal decision on Philippines versus the PRC, the EU had a very watered-down statement. For example, it was Croatia, Greece and Hungary who were blocking agents on this. Croatia had a maritime dispute with Slovenia, so I understand why they set that aside, but Hungary and Greece actually watered down the statement to just acknowledge that it exists. So, they were not there to support rule of law in the South China Sea. Since then, member States have independently written statements to support it, but I think that we really need these organisations or countries to support rule of law in the South China Sea.

Robert Clark 19:19

No, I completely agree absolutely, wholeheartedly, particularly with that last comment. Theresa, some fantastic points brought out. Just a reminder to the audience watching, I’ll introduce the third and final speaker in a moment, and then after that, we’re going to open up for the audience Q&A. So, for those of us who are watching on the live streams, if you have any questions you’d like to ask either myself or our speakers, our panel, please do feel free to comment directly and we’ll adhere to address those shortly. So, Theresa, thank you again for those great observations. Our third and final speaker this afternoon is Mr. Bob Seeley MP. Mr. Seeley is the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight. As well as this, he sits on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Thank you, Bob over to yourself.

Bob Seely MP 20:07

Thanks very much indeed Robert, and thank you for the other two speakers, it was very interesting listening to them. I’m just going to make three or four brief points and then we can move to some questions. When it comes to understanding authoritarian states, you have to understand different notions of war and peace. In the West, there’s a very fixed, very limited idea of what is war as opposed to what is peace. And in countries like Russia and China – effectively countries that have a revolutionary tradition – there is a very different form of understanding of virulent and aggressive state competition. Russia, arguably, in the 20th century had two ways of war. There’s the way of war that we know about, which is the Red Army, some fantastically creative original thinking, especially in the 1920s, and 30s by Svechen, Isserson – all these people that sadly ended up being shot by Stalin. The Americans looked for inspiration in the 1980s and 1990s from a lot of Russian creative thinkers, military thinkers in the 1920s and 30s. However, there was a hidden way of war, that we’re only really beginning to find out about now as we are learning or relearning Russia’s ways of war and that is a subversive political conflict. We over focus far too much on information war, but it’s not really about information. Information is the tool, but it’s what the Russians do with it: creating a parallel universe of fake reality – an artificial reality. You know, this is the Bolshevik tradition. The left in this country got very excited when they could start saying ‘fake news’ to Trump. The Bolsheviks have been practising fake news, revolutionary anarchist movements and fake news, ever since the second half of the 19th century and it’s been part of the radical tradition on the left – but also on the right, if you look at the Nazis and the fascists in the 1920s, and 30s. So, I think when it comes to notions of war and peace, and the struggle, the ideological struggle as it was called in the Soviet Union, then I think that we have to understand the differences between war and peace. And the fact is that we are in a period of fairly intense state competition with Russia – which is very destructive – but also with China, which has a slightly longer term and slightly more subtle game, and far more focused on economic means. And then that builds into the development of covert influence; people like Clive Hamilton are very effective in describing that. Couple of other points: alliances. When it comes to dealing with authoritarian states, we need to develop and we need to renew our alliances. And there’s a problem there because CANZUK and the US, I think we are going to reach a like-minded attitude – with Canada, Australia, the United States, or hopefully even New Zealand and ourselves. I think the EU, as two previous speakers have said, is slightly more difficult. I think the EU is pretty weak on China and Nord Stream shows that the German business lobby is very powerful in the European Union. I think Nord Stream may, worst case scenario, enable Russia to have a much more aggressive, maybe conventionally orientated war in Ukraine, depending on the circumstances over the next few years. Thirdly, new alliances. So, India is going to become incredibly key in the future. Because if India permanently joins to the democratic open societies, that is going to be a significant boost for the free world effectively. When it comes to dealing with authoritarian powers, so little of it is about waving bony fingers at Russia and China and being outraged in the House of Commons and all that sort of stuff. I find it hugely frustrating because so much of it is just waffle. Actually, what we need to be doing is protecting ourselves, and both previous speakers were talking about that. Banking and finance – the use of these oligarchs using shell companies, using the western system, and then corrupting individuals. You only have to look at how many members of House of Lords have Russian business interests. I mean, it’s a real shocker. So, the use of shell companies. Our Investment in Security bill – instead of having a much more robust attitude, national security is going to be defined by the Secretary of State for DEIS. I don’t think that’s balanced. If you look at CFIUS – the equivalent in the United States – it’s much, much more rigorous, and you’ve got much more of a defensive security angle to it as well. Home policy, also, universities. I mean, the amount of UK universities, – I think Juliet Samuel wrote in The Telegraph recently – the amount of universities lining up to do work with secret and military universities in China that are just going to use this technology, either to oppress their own people potentially to oppress others, again, just where’s the long term strategy in this? I think Huawei’s entry to the UK about 15 years ago, and how they were effectively able to come up to co-opt BT to become a vehicle for Chinese interest in this country, I think would make a really good PhD subject for somebody who wanted to do it. And I think I’m going to leave it there for a moment as I’m aware of time.

Robert Clark 25:04

That’s great, thank you, Bob. In particular, your comments regarding Huawei and especially the US CFIUS as a model where potentially we can replicate here in the UK, I think is absolutely crucial to carry that debate forward.

Okay, we’re now going to open up to the to the audience Q&A. And if I can use my prerogative just to start there’s a there’s a great question sent in from, from a man, which I’ll pose to all three of you. The question is as follows: the Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping is an anaesthetist to a rules-based international order, a threat to rules-based global economy and prosperity. Does the panel agree that the US under Biden has understood it correctly, and hence, it is looking to prioritise its Indo-Pacific tilt, where India is and will play an even larger role in balancing the CCP threat to the world order? And the second part of that is: will the panel agree that here in the UK, we should press ahead to prioritise the push for the so called D10 – the Democratic 10 Alliance – with urgent sincerity and engage with India and Australia, leveraging our shared values and geopolitical interests in a much bigger way. So, if I can ask in reverse order. Bob, if I start with you.

Bob Seely MP 26:17

It’s a very good point. Slightly builds on what I was saying about India. I think it’s very much in India’s interest to align itself with the United States and the CANZUK nations – so Australia, Canada, the United States, Australia, and ourselves. So, I think that’s very important. I think the D10 is a really good idea and I’d like us to push on with it. If you look at the UK, and you look at the idea of UK strategic culture. We’re an island, so navy; an empire, so global Navy; Europe, preventing one single power from becoming dominant, we’re going to have to change that dynamic now, because the European Union was a failing federal state, sadly. But if there’s one thing that, arguably, United Kingdom is unique about it in the global order, it is our ability to develop alliances. And it’s not necessarily the thing you think of when you think about strategic culture. But without our alliances, we probably wouldn’t have survived World War One, we almost certainly wouldn’t have survived World War Two. And so, it’s those alliances that has made us prosper, but also kept us safe. And it’s those alliances – and because we’re good at alliances, generally, you can criticise us for leaving the European Union, park that – we need a new century of global alliances. And that’s going to be not only reinvigorating CANZUK, it’s going to be keeping the US relationship, the ‘special relationship’, and folding that into a wider CANZUK relationship but then bringing on board other nations as well. Not just India, but Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil – all these all these other nations in a new alliance. D10, I think, is a brilliant idea. I think India is really critical. I think it’s massively in India’s interest not to go down the same authoritarian model as China and Russia, but actually to be different. Because if you look at geopolitics, you know, you’ve got Russia as an authoritarian state, China as an authoritarian state – that massive landmass – and India as the odd one out, and I think India needs to keep being the odd one out and be part of a global alliance of free states. I think that’s a much better future for India but it’s also much better future for us as well that India is part of that alliance of democracy. So roll on D10, I think it’s a great idea, and I think we should be part of it and we should be really leading the charge to make this happen. Because there’s one thing the UK is good at it is building alliances globally.

Robert Clark 28:51

I agree completely. Thank you. Theresa, would you like to weigh in on those questions?

Theresa Fallon 28:56

Okay, three points. The Indo-Pacific strategy is something that will be published next month by the EU. So, France had already published a paper on this two years ago under the German council Presidency of Angela Merkel this was also one of their priorities, so they published guidelines and the Netherlands also published that. So, the Indo-Pacific is definitely on Europe’s radar. But what the paper will say. if it will really push back, remains to be seen. They do want to promote diversification, which is a key issue because even though Europe is signing FTAs, with Japan, South Korea, there’s actually more intensification of the market in China. So, they’re investing more in China, even though they have these FTAs with other countries. And the whole idea behind these FTAs was to diversify. The second point is about the D10. I think this is a brilliant idea. I think that we really do have to emphasise the values of democracy because it is really in decline, as we know from Freedom House. And I think that what is most telling is that on the side-lines of Davos, Chancellor Merkel said that she would not join any sort of block that would counterbalance China. And then a few days later, President Macron said the same thing to the Atlantic Council. So, you have France and Germany saying that they will not join any sort of counter-balancing block that would help shape China’s choices. I think it’s very worrisome. So, I’m glad that there will be a coalition of the willing and the D10 I think should be a place to start. Now, we saw with the Munich Security Conference speech of Angela Merkel, she changed it a bit, but it’s really unclear where they stand. And then finally – to pick up on the previous speaker’s comments about the UK – the one thing about the UK being outside of the EU, is that now there’s some competition going on. I think that this is very healthy. For example, even with vaccines. I mean, the EU, we know it’s a been a shambolic rollout of the vaccine programme, and they’re always looking at the UK and it rankles! Angela Merkel even said it rankles to see how well they’re doing. I think that’s healthy competition. And the fact that the BBC banned CGTN, they called it a propaganda channel. So that was banned for about one week across Europe because of these older agreements. So once the BBC decided that it was a propaganda channel, it wasn’t able to be played across Europe and on any station, and Xi Jinping picked up the phone and called Macron. And guess what, it’s back on the continent. So, I think the UK can be a conscience and I think that’s very, very important for the rest of Europe

Robert Clark 31:39

Very interesting remarks. Alexander, would you like to weigh in on that?

Alexander Lanoszka 31:43

Sure. I’ll just focus on the first part of the question, the one that dealt with the threat assessment of the Biden administration. So, as you know, many observers were worried at the outset that the Biden administration would adopt a much softer line towards China. There seems to have been some mixed signalling on the part of the transition team in the months before the inauguration, but it does seem to me at least that the threat assessment of the Biden administration have been more or less in line with even the Trump administration. Biden has spoken of extreme competition with China; the documents released so far – limited in numbers they may be – emphasise the challenges associated with China. There’s much focus on the Indo-Pacific. There may have been, of course, the extension of the New START treaty, but that was largely due to a desire to simply buy time, especially in light of the staffing issues in the Biden administration (there are a lot of vacancies that probably will not be filled for another year). But even so, the Biden administration has been very clear that it still takes very seriously the threat posed by Russia. And in fact, there was an announcement yesterday to the effect that there will be “covert” counter strikes on Russian cyber infrastructure in the weeks ahead. Now, how covert? I don’t know, because they literally just announced it yesterday. But the point is that, I think the Biden administration, will more or less continue on the same path of the Trump administration with regard to these threat assessments. But, unlike the Trump administration, I think it’s going to make a much more credible case for preserving the rule-based international order, predicated as it may be on liberal democracy. So certainly, we have been seeing that sort of language from the Biden administration. So, along those lines, I think the D10 is indeed a very good idea. Because I think there’s this temptation nowadays to more or less see everything through like a “realist lens”, where it’s all about strategic interest that sets us apart. I think, as the other speakers have pointed out, there is this ideological struggle. It may not be so apparent and obvious as during the Cold War, but it’s not by accident that on the one hand, you do have liberal democracies and on the other hand, you do have these authoritarian states that have only become more authoritarian over the course of the last 10 years. So, the D10 is a good idea. It will help strengthen democracy insofar as it demonstrates that solidarity and can provide a unified front.

Robert Clark 34:19

Yeah, certainly, I think this summer with the G7 summit in the UK, I think some interesting developments will come out regarding the D10 going forward and, crucially, hopefully, we’ll be able to see where the challenges in that in that lie. There’s a question here from members of the audience, Christopher Segar. Christopher, if you’re watching this, would you like to unmute yourself and ask your question, please?

Christopher Segar 34:51

Yes, thank you. I was just following up on D10. The question: the Commonwealth has democracy and open society as its core values. When countries in the Commonwealth fall short of that – as Pakistan did – they get pushed out of the Commonwealth. Is it not possible to see a role for the Commonwealth, as a collection of the much smaller states worldwide, who are signed up in a certain sense to the values that we’re trying to promote?

Robert Clark 35:25

Thank you, Chris. I think that’s a really interesting observation regarding the Commonwealth. Just one on that, obviously, Chinese influence in Barbados potentially influencing their decision to look at removing the Queen as their head of state. I think that that’s quite a good example of how the Commonwealth is absolutely integral to British national interests and foreign policy going forwards, but also the threat faced, from these authoritarian powers and their interests. Bob, perhaps I could ask you to start that one off please.

Bob Seely MP 36:05

I agree up to a point. A slight problem with the Commonwealth is we’ve been trying to turn it into – well, there are arguments to turn it into – an organisation which is much more structural and integrated for some time. And I’m not sure in practice, if that is ever going to work. But, because it is a looser collection of states, but with a with a pretty shared set of values and very often with the Queen still as nominal head of state (certainly as an influential figure), there probably are more things that you could do with the Commonwealth. The more that we can pull Commonwealth states into being part of that global alliance of free states, for sure, the better. So, I think it is a useful device and a potentially valuable and important vehicle. But I think it is slightly also tied up in renewing the Commonwealth, which is a separate development. So, it’s something that we can certainly be doing in parallel. And indeed, in the next 50-100 years, the Commonwealth may have some of the biggest – and has got some of the biggest – growth markets in it, and maybe more so. So, I think it may become more valuable and more important over the years. So potentially, yes, but there’s always a caveat, always a bit of a “but” with the Commonwealth.

Robert Clark 37:25

Interesting with the caveats there. Alexander, do you have any comments regarding the role of the Commonwealth going forward?

Alexander Lanoszka 37:31

I would just echo the previous speaker. I mean, the Commonwealth is an organisation of 54 states from multiple regions around the world. So just by virtue of that alone, you won’t expect as much structured or integrated cooperation as you would with an organisation with far fewer members of much more like-minded countries. So, certainly, the idea of using the Commonwealth is laudable along the lines suggested, but I think it’s going to run into these sorts of structural difficulties.

Robert Clark 38:04

Theresa, do you have anything to add to that?

Theresa Fallon 38:07

I would just echo the two previous speakers, but what’s needed is more than just values, but there has to be shared interest as well, in order to get everyone on board.

Robert Clark 38:18

Absolutely, thank you. There’s an interesting question from the audience here – Peter Astbury. Peter, if you’d like to unmute yourself, please, and ask your question to the speakers, thank you.

Peter Astbury 38:32

Yes, hi, thank you very much. My question is this. I don’t know if I’ll state it very clearly, but hopefully, the panellists can guess its direction. It seems to me there’s been such a lot of investment – emotional, intellectual investment – in the idea that we are moving towards a sort of post-nationalist, post-national future, or supranational future. I wonder whether it’s almost impossible for us to step back from that and think that it maybe it’s not working out as we planned and make the necessary adjustments – fine tuning – in our approach to policy going forward. Thank you.

Robert Clark 39:23

Thank you, Peter, who would like to tackle that one first. Theresa, would you like to?

Theresa Fallon 39:29

That’s a tough one. So, investment in the idea that we’re moving into a post-national future? I’m not sure how to handle that one at all. I’ll leave it to my other colleagues.

Bob Seely MP 39:43

I’m not quite sure of the question because I didn’t think it’s true to talk about supranational future. I’m not quite sure if that is to be dismissive of the idea of an alliance of democracies, which is an alliance of independent free states, which is not supranational, but international, or whether that’s a criticism of something like the European Union. I mean, the answer is when it comes to people dissing the supranatural future, that’s what Brexit was about. So, we are going back to a national sovereign model. You could also say, for very different reasons, Russia has done the same. The idea of managed democracy, the obsession with Russian sovereignty; clearly, they want to manipulate the states around them. So, Russia and the UK for very different reasons, have both rejected this liberal internationalist model. And in terms of this successful liberal internationalism, I wouldn’t say it’s dying a death, but it’s certainly taken some massive steps back. I remember Tony Blair back in, what, 20 years ago, talking about the right to protect and the UN bringing in the right to protect in, what, 2005? The Russians and the Chinese have done their best to actually kick the right to protect or, sorry, the responsibility to protect (RTP) absolutely kick it out into touch. So, the supranational future, people have been, knocking six bells out of it for the best part of two decades now. Including us, in this country. We’re about the only people who’ve actually done it for arguably decent reasons, which is democracy and respecting national sovereignty and people’s relationship with their political rulers. In many parts of the world, liberal internationalism has been given a tough time by neo-authoritarian states. So, I disagree where we are in that in that cycle. But, when it comes to the D10, alliances are free states are a really good thing. Free Trade, as long as it’s equal and fair, is a really good thing. That is not liberal imperialism. Liberal imperialism had its day, was arguably pretty flawed anyway – certainly the way that Mr. Blair argued it as the way he argued most things – and, and it’s pretty much been kicked into touch. If anything, we’ve gone probably too far the other way.

Robert Clark 41:56

Interesting, thank you for that, Bob. Alexander, do you have anything you’d like to add on to that?

Alexander Lanoszka 42:00

I suppose I would just say that our future is neither supranational nor national. Yes, there have been integrated pressures within the European Union that have stalled somewhat recently. Yes, we have been seeing populist movements that embrace the language of nationalism, and certainly have had tangible policy effects. But even so we’re still talking about free trade and democracies working in concert with one another. This is very much removed from the world of the interwar period where nationalism really was at its heyday, at least with respect to continental matters. So, there are strong limits to how far one can go on a nationalist path, even in Europe – or especially in Europe. And that, of course, implies to the other direction for the reasons that was just mentioned, right? That central governments are going to be protective of their sovereign authority to a certain extent – because even Poland and Hungary still respect parts of many parts of EU law all the same. So again, there’s there are limits in either direction and I think that’s indicative of some unique structural features of our own day and age, not least because of globalisation.

Robert Clark 43:25

That was a very considered answer. Thank you, Alexander. There’s a question here from Jack Clayton in the audience. Jack, would you like to unmute yourself and ask your question to the panel, please?

Jack Clayton 43:38

Hi. I just want to hopefully phrase this in a way that’s understandable. My question is, would a more democratic makeup of the UNSC members – or even the idea of actually just creating a new international organisation of democracies – strengthen liberal order against authoritarianism? How useful really, is it to actually have members like China and Russia being permanent ones? Trying to uphold international law when they perhaps violated it themselves?

Robert Clark 44:17

Yeah, it’s quite a sticky wicket but understandable. Alexander, I can see you chomping at the bit for this one. Would you like to lead this?

Alexander Lanoszka 44:26

Sure. I would definitely not jettison the United Nations Security Council, because after all, you do want to give a stake to other major powers in the international order, as it were. That was one reason why the League of Nations failed as it did; they just had no stake and the architects of the post-war period understood that and learn from that experience, flawed as the liberal international order may have been over the course of the Cold War and thereafter. So, I would not create parallel organisation as such, but I think still, as we have already mentioned today, democracies should deepen their cooperation with one another because of this ideological struggle that we have seen become more salient in the last decade.

Robert Clark 45:16

Thank you, Theresa, would you like to add?

Theresa Fallon 45:19

I would just add to that, that it’s important to revitalise organisations that already do exist, and I think it’s dangerous to just have it ‘democracy’ because like-minded partners could also be included if they’re aspiring towards democracy, or there are countries that are backsliding on democracy. So, to only make it democracies could be problematic. The whole idea is that we have this giant China, which has clearly, with the leaked document number nine on universal values shown they’re threatened by these types of enlightenment values. And we cannot just be quiet and sit back because they really are working hard to erode these – and they’ve been quite successful. So, I think that like-minded partners, even in these loose alliances. We’ve seen the biggest losers at the United Nations are actually your European countries. China has cultivated a great deal of expertise and influence in in these large multilateral institutions, which the EU tends to gravitate towards, but they’ve actually lost a lot more influence. So, I think that revitalising these organisations, understanding the tactics that Beijing is using in them, and counterbalancing them with like-minded partners is probably the best way forward at this point.

Robert Clark 46:33

I completely agree with that. Bob, do you have anything you’d like to add on all that, please?

Bob Seely MP 46:37

Yeah, just briefly. I think, when it comes to the UN, a new international organisation won’t work. Giving up on the UN won’t work. Just walking away is just not an option. That’s all there is, although the UN’s very imperfect. Actually, we just need to work much better on it. I mean, very often it’s the US and the UK who are the biggest payers for staff, but we get outmanoeuvred because we just don’t play the game. The Chinese treat this almost like a theatre of war, to dominate these technical committees and the international arena, and to dominate non-aligned groups. We just don’t get stuck in and actually play that game better than they are. And if our values are so strong, let’s get out there and let’s just really work the UN system so much better than we do and treat it as effectively a form of very, very intense state competition for the next 50 years. Humanity as a choice this century, whether you go down an open society route, however imperfect, and however dominated with a sort of drivel that we’ve been seeing today from the dreadful Sussexes, or whether we go down this closed society model of having authoritarian states. One good thing about China is hopefully they’re censoring that idiotic way. But yeah, that that aside, we’ve got a choice between open and closed societies, and we’ve got to defend, and we’ve got to champion the values of open societies. On the UN Security Council, adding membership won’t necessarily work. There’s a right to veto on the Security Council. So, we need to work the UN system much better. We need to work in tandem with the Canadians. The Australians are pretty good, I must say, and we need to fight much more with them, we need to make sure that, you know, the US and likewise; we need to get the Europeans as much on board as possible despite the fact that they are they’re banging on about European values, but they’re becoming really quite morally complicit in both Russia and China which is, I think, really showing them up in a very poor way. So, we’ve just got to continue fighting, and that means we’ve got to be pushing for the D10.

Robert Clark 48:36

Thank you, Bob. Just, while I’ve got you, Bob, there’s a question here from Joyce and I think this will, this will be right up both of our streets. Bob, if I can put this to yourself. Regarding ‘Global Britain’, where do you see Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain featuring in global Britain’s foreign policy outlook to deal exclusively – or specifically, I should say – with the authoritarian challenges to liberal order?

Bob Seely MP 49:01

That’s a fair question. I think I wouldn’t park Bahrain in there. I occasionally get letters from people conveying about human rights in Bahrain and by the tone of the letter and the people who are writing them, they know absolutely nothing about Bahrain and have never been there. I don’t think Bahrain is a particularly bad case. I think there are some Left groups in this country in the West that have got the hump about it, which I think is rather misplaced. Likewise, the UAE – I mean, these aren’t perfect. There is a moral quandary, potentially, with a country like Saudi, because it clearly isn’t a democracy. It occasionally does very bad things and its war in Yemen is morally problematic. I mean, I can tell you what Putin would do, and Putin would stand by his allies, and they might come hell or high water, no matter how bad they were. Am I saying that we should do that? No, we shouldn’t do that because we’re better than these authoritarian states. But if we have long term alliances and relationships with people, going off in a fit of pique or denouncing them to make ourselves feel better in the short term is not an answer. We need to try to take people with us and win people over. And yes, that does mean you get into morally complex and morally difficult territory, as undoubtedly we are in Saudi. But if we pulled out of Saudi and stopped selling arms, the Russians or the French would move in tomorrow. I’m sorry, I just don’t have time to concede the argument. I think I’d rather have influence over a country, to improve their targeting, to improve the quality of their military decision-making, to actually have some kind of pull on people and leverage, rather than just walking away saying “we’re morally perfect” and then have another 5000 people unemployed in the back of it.

Robert Clark 50:42

I think that’s a very realistic outlook to have regarding what’s undoubtedly a tricky situation, Bob, thank you. If I could pose to the other two: a broader theme through some of the questions posed by the audience has been where the Middle East and North Africa region, for instance, fit into the idea. You know, we’re talking about democracies, there are a lot of young democracies in in the broader MENA region. Theresa, can I just ask if you’ve got any views and thoughts on where this fits in with the wider debate, please?

Theresa Fallon 51:14

Well, I think that China’s investments in these regions – in Africa – is incredible. China has grown their influence dramatically. And this is an area where Europe used to have far more influence. For example, we’ve been saw with the recent FAO chair, Europe has poured millions and millions into Africa so they expected to get votes from them, (they have 27 votes plus possible, you know, Andorra, countries like that; altogether, they could possibly count on 37 votes at the UN), but China won because of all these votes in Africa. So, I think that – we touched on it earlier – the ability of China to play the system so well, and the influence they’ve been able to garner through these. I’ve seen an interesting grouping between India, the US and Europe in regard to pushing back on language that Chinese diplomats manage to get into official UN documents about the Belt and road initiative about the “common destiny for all mankind”. So, the fact that they finally twigged on that these statements were in UN documents, I think is key and that pushing back is important. But I think that this region, in addition, China is very clever. They’ve reimagined geography. So, I would say that the Mediterranean region, you know, they have reimagined it, and the investments in port infrastructure and how they see trade in North Africa to Southern Europe will really be key for the future of development. And I think many have not twigged onto the important strategy that China has for this region. So, I think this is a key region for the future and as we see tensions in the Eastern Med as well, you know, Europe might not be interested in geopolitics, but geopolitics is on their doorstep right now.

Robert Clark 53:08

I think that last remark is incredibly pertinent, especially regarding the Eastern Mediterranean – it’s an area that’s not really talked about much. Alexander, do you have anything to add onto that?

Alexander Lanoszka 53:17

I mean, the question is about how America and Europe can deepen their engagement with non-Western partners. I think one very specific way of doing so is to, in fact, bring Taiwan more firmly back into the international community. You know, it is a successful liberal democracy of over 23 million people pushed far too long to the margins of international community. There is, in fact, a precedent for Taiwan to be a member and the United Nations General Assembly. I mean, think of West and East Germany in the Cold War and North and South Korea right now. So, although there may be a major dispute across the straits as to international claims, there is that precedent. But of course, you know, Taiwan’s application to the United Nations is going to be a bit of a long shot, considering, of course, China’s opposition. Even within Taiwan, you have to bring the Taiwanese on board because they’ve had their own referenda over a decade ago as to whether to widen their participation in international organisations and those referenda had failed. But things do change. Taiwan’s not where it used to be even 10 years ago. Chinese-American relations are much different now. And indeed, the United States has been moving progressively closer to Taiwan in such a way that – if the United Nations is a bridge too far – then one can think of Taiwan’s participation in more functional organisations like the World Health Organisation, which I think would be a good start precisely because of China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the remarkable success that Taiwan has had throughout this entire crisis.

Bob Seely MP 54:57

Can I just add to that, Rob?

Robert Clark 54:58

Absolutely, Bob

Bob Seely MP 54:59

I agree completely with Alexander saying but I’d actually go further. Of all the democracies that we need to be including in a D10, if we ever do it, the democracies in the Pacific – especially in the South China Sea – are absolutely critical: South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, etc. And not only that, but we’re meant to be modernising our slightly dysfunctional bureaucratic state at the moment. I wouldn’t bother looking at places in Europe. I mean, the Germans do a great job – I’m half-German, we love the Germans and all that, you know – but actually, the places I’ve been looking at on how to build an ultra-modern 21st century state is not Germany. It might be Estonia, but actually, it’s Taiwan, South Korea – it’s these countries because they’re in the cutting edge. A) they’ve coped with the pandemic incredibly well and B) they seem to have a really good balance between a very advanced use of technology with a profound respect for human rights. We’re still muddling our way through these issues in a way that they’ve got it sussed. So, I would be getting on a plane to Pacific to look about really what really modern well-functioning states look like.

Robert Clark 55:59

That’s a really interesting observation, especially with regards to Taiwan from you both. It’s something that we try and incorporate here a lot of the Henry Jackson Society, particularly with Gray Sergeant’s work. So no, I completely agree that. Time is of the essence, so there’s one last question I’d like to ask and if I can just ask for the answers to be quite succinct, which I think there may be for this. John Dobson from the audience. John, if you’re still on, would you like to unmute yourself and ask your question, please?

John Dobson 56:27

Yes, thank you very much. The subject of Nord Stream 2 has been raised by the panel already. And curiously, it was the subject of my column in yesterday’s Sunday Guardian – the Indian Sunday Guardian – where I posed the question: should it be cancelled? If the members of the panel had the power to do so, would they cancel the Nord Stream 2?

Robert Clark 56:51

Alexander, would you like to go first?

Alexander Lanoszka 56:55

I mean, if it were up to me, I would but I guess I’m biased. But I just don’t see it happening given the German domestic climate as well as just how much investment Germany has put into it. I mean, it’s a sunken-cost fallacy at this point. You do see a number of interesting but problematic solutions put forward by Wolfgang Ischinger and others to make Nord Stream 2 more palatable. The problem is that none of those solutions seem to be very credible. The notion that Germany would simply close the tap were Russian to have misbehaved just does not seem to resonate, especially in light of ongoing concerns that Germany is really not pulling its weight as it should with regards to handling the issues that other European countries have – or just the European Union more generally have – with Russia. So, I don’t see it being cancelled but if we’re up to me, sure. But I don’t have to face a German business or voting constituency all the same.

Robert Clark 58:02

Thank you. Bob, do you have any comments for that.

Bob Seely MP 58:07

It may be a good idea to cancel it, but it’s not going to happen. The minute it was started to be built, it was not going to be cancelled. Germany is too dependent on Russian fuel. Unlike Poland, unlike Lithuania, they haven’t diversified for political reasons. I think there’s still a little World War Two war guilt there, which really there doesn’t need to be, you know, that was 70 years ago. I heard recently some Germans justifying some of their decisions on a discomfort with a sense of guilt dealing with Russia. Really, that doesn’t help decision-making now. I really wish Germany would diversify away from dependency on Russian energy, because the idea that they’re going to turn off Russian fuel in order to punish Russia for another round of warfare in Ukraine is simply not going to happen. And actually, all it does is mean that Germany is effectively paying for Russia’s rearmament, which is not necessarily a very good thing.

Robert Clark 58:57

That’s a very good observation, thank you. Theresa, do you have anything to say for that?

Theresa Fallon 59:00

Well, it’s 94% built and I would still say no to it, because I think that this sets a dangerous precedent. We see the same thing happening on the ground in Germany with Huawei. The UK was the first country to ban Huawei. We saw France follow, the Netherlands, but Germany has never shut the door on Huawei. I did interviews a year and a half ago – before COVID – with policymakers there and they were saying Huawei is establishing facts on the ground, even though the Bundestag has not made up their mind on it. So, it seems to be a policy that they just continue to build these things and say “it’s out of our hands”. But it’s a Germany first policy, because clearly, Nord Stream 2 undermines not just Ukraine, but it also undermines European interests and I think that this is a problem. It’s Germany first. And I also would add that this narrative of German war guilt is ridiculous, because then Poland said, “really, you feel guilty, but what about us? What about the other Central or Eastern European countries that suffered under the Nazis?” So, this kind of war-guilt narrative is very odd. I think it’s a red herring and an excuse for this. We know that German influenced Schroeder, all of this. It’s appalling. And I think that this should have been nipped in the bud far earlier than to let it go on too long and just say “facts on the ground are established, it’s going to go ahead anyway”, I think that that’s a very dangerous precedent to follow.

Robert Clark 1:00:16

I completely agree, thank you for that. And if I could just ask for a final, very brief closing remark from each of you, too. So, Theresa, you’re still on if I could just ask for a very brief closing remark, please.

Theresa Fallon 1:00:27

Okay. I think that liberal international order is definitely on the backfoot. The eroding of values is of deep concern, and China has put the effort and the budget into improving their role in the world and, this political warfare, long warfare, information warfare has been going on for quite some time, but we have not been paying attention. Finally, I think COVID-19 has woken up the world, but I really think that they need to have concerted effort to push back on China’s practices.

Robert Clark 1:00:57

Thank you, Bob, would you like to go next?

Bob Seely MP 1:01:00

We need to understand the threat, we need to rebuild our alliances, and we need to stand up for our values.

Robert Clark 1:01:06

Thank you very much, Alexander?

Alexander Lanoszka 1:01:08

Democracies may backslide, but autocracies fail. So, I would of course bet on our free and open societies. I think the long-term trends are rather good all things considered. Russia and China have faced enormous challenges from different directions. We have our own challenges, too, of course – I would not want to make light of them, they pose challenges to us in addition to those internal challenges – but still, the history of liberal democracy is actually one of perseverance and endurance.

Robert Clark 1:01:44

It is and, with that, I’ll thank each of the three speakers. Alexander, Theresa and Bob, thank you ever so much for your time and thank you to everyone who’s tuned in, watched and posted your questions. I apologise if we didn’t get around to answering all of the questions today. Just one as a final remark for myself. We’ve got two more events this week at Henry Jackson Society, one tomorrow regarding Tibet with Gray Sergeant and another one later on in the week with Jade McGlynn regarding Russian influence in the Balkans. So, if you’re interested in those be sure to check out the website and sign up to them. I thank you ever so much for your time, and thank you again for tuning in. Thank you.


Lost your password?

Not a member? Please click here