The West’s allies are falling like dominoes

CON COUGHLIN.

DEFENCE EDITOR.

Dec 2, 2021

For the British military, Russia is seen as posing the most acute threat to our national interests. But for Britain’s intelligence services, it is China’s communist rulers who are the main priority. And the challenge of dealing with these two very distinct issues is set to dominate Britain’s approach to security for decades to come.

The contrasting priorities of our intelligence and military leaders have emerged during the past few days, with both the head of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the head of Britain’s Armed Forces providing telling insights into their world view.

In his first public address since becoming MI6’s chief, or “C”, Richard Moore, while conceding that Moscow posed “a full spectrum of threats”, made it clear that China was his agency’s “single greatest priority”, both because of Beijing’s large-scale espionage activities in the UK and the pernicious influence it exercises elsewhere. Of particular concern was China’s carefully coordinated plan to lure poor countries into what Mr Moore termed “debt and data traps”, a policy designed to consolidate Chinese influence across the globe.

Sir Nick Carter, the retiring head of Britain’s Armed Forces, offered a different perspective, arguing in his valedictory interview in The Telegraph that Russia “was the most acute threat to our country”. To underline his point, he referred to Moscow’s recent test-firing of an anti-satellite missile, its aggressive conduct towards Ukraine and its role in provoking a migrant crisis in eastern Europe.

Reconciling these very different approaches represents a significant challenge. While China prefers to rely on its economic strength to expand its influence, Russia is more likely to resort to brute force, as is evident in its intimidation of Ukraine.

That said, Russia and China also have their similarities. Both are run by repressive, authoritarian regimes that have little interest in abiding by international standards of behaviour. Both, too, are opportunists, looking to exploit any weak point that emerges in the defences of the Western alliance for their own ends.

Russia, for example, is very active in the Balkans, where it has long resented Western involvement in stabilising the region after the collapse of Yugoslavia, and is involved in attempts to undermine the peace settlement implemented in the Dayton Accords.

Russia’s meddling in the Balkans is a direct result of waning interest in the region in Washington and European capitals, an attitude that also helps to explain the rapid expansion of influence China is enjoying in countries previously regarded as having pro-Western ties. And while Beijing’s tactics might be more subtle than Russia’s, they are nonetheless highly effective.

Pakistan, once a key Western ally in the war on terror, has become a client state of Beijing after the billions of dollars Islamabad has received for supporting China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Sri Lanka, another country with close ties with the West through institutions such as the Commonwealth, has also succumbed to Beijing’s economic clout, where it was forced to hand over a key southern port to Beijing after it struggled to repay Chinese loans worth £980 million.

Africa is another region where China’s master plan to control key trade routes has seen it involved in multi-billion dollar construction projects on both the east and west coasts of the continent. Of particular concern is Beijing’s deepening involvement in Nigeria, another Commonwealth country that has seen its historic ties to Britain superseded by growing dependence on Chinese riches.

Beijing has invested around $10 billion in developing Nigeria’s transport infrastructure, to the extent that there is genuine concern about the pro-China approach of Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari. Dr Bukola Saraki, a British educated opposition politician who plans to run against Mr Buhari in the next presidential election, believes this could result in China exerting greater influence and pressure on Nigeria: “There is a real concern that, without a concerted effort to change this trajectory, our long-term future will lie with China rather than democratic allies like the UK.”

After recent events in Barbados, where the decision to become a republic was said to stem from Bridgetown’s relationship with Beijing, the prospect of countries like Nigeria moving closer to China because of Western neglect must not be overlooked.

In Britain, there is certainly a recognition that more needs to be done to safeguard long-standing alliances from predators like China and Russia. The military, for example, is strengthening its presence in regional hubs in Kenya and Oman to better understand local challenges.

Initiatives like this are certainly welcome, but will need to be embraced by all the major agencies of government – including the military and intelligence agencies – on a far broader scale if we are to prevent erstwhile allies falling into the hands of our adversaries.

One comment

  1. The internet is swarming with conspiracy theories and theorists; all pumping out endless variations on the same lies that have been coming out of David Icke, Alex Jones etc for more than two decades. They are all pro-Russia. The new anti-vaxxers are also pro-putler, but strongly pro-Chicoms as well, since they usually like to push the bullshit idea that covid was created by a conspiracy between Fauci and big pharma.
    Meanwhile the real conspirators carry on regardless. The chicoms plotting to dominate the third world by thieving off it and the putinazis endlessly plotting to steal Ukraine and destabilise the western democracies that oppose their fascist revanchism.

    Liked by 1 person

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