The 2022 Peter Nailor Memorial Lecture
For 40 years Britain's national strategy rested on two main pillars: close partnership with the United States, and a leading role in Europe. Both remain important, but the dramatic shifts in global geopolitics of recent years must make us re-appraise Britain's diplomatic priorities. How has Russia's aggression in Ukraine changed the focus of our foreign policy? How can the UK- outside the EU- best exercise influence to protect its interests and promote its values in a fast-changing world?
A lecture by Lord Peter Ricketts
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- So, ladies and gentlemen, the international situation is I think more dangerous and more unpredictable than at any time in my 40 years as a diplomat. And actually, I think more than at any time since the end of the Second World War. And my aim in this lecture is to, first of all, give you some diagnosis of the trends in the world and the turbulent global landscape that we see, but also to end with some thoughts about what Britain's defense and security priorities should be in this unpredictable world. And because public debate about these issues is so important, including having young people's voices in the debate, I hope that there will be plenty of challenging questions in the time remaining at the end. Analysis is made more difficult by the fact that we are seeing a combination of some very significant long-term trends and some very short-term disruptive upheavals as well. I'll start with the long-term trends. They are familiar to you I'm sure, but worth just sketching in quickly. The international rules-based system, which is set out in the UN Charter of 1945, is under enormous strain now. Why is that? Partly because the Americans and their allies, including Britain, which were those who underpinned and underwrote the international system, are in retreat from the leadership role they played over decades. I would say that retreat began with the disastrous intervention in Iraq in 2003, together with that long and ultimately unsuccessful military campaign in Afghanistan. I think that undermined public confidence in the competence of those making our defense and foreign policy. It also damaged our authority in the eyes of many countries to uphold the international rules that they felt that we'd broken in Iraq. Then came the 2008 financial crash, which again tarnished the brand of liberal democracy and free trade in the world. And again it led publics to believe that the elites were not handling the outcome of that crisis in a way that was equal. In other words, that the burden fell on the poorer, on the less well off from that financial crisis. And I think you can trace the current populism in the politics in the US, in the UK, and some other countries to some combination of those events, a real loss of confidence in the competence of our elites. Chinese and Russian leaders have been quick to move into the vacuum that that has left in international affairs. For three decades after Deng Xiaoping in China, Chinese presidents were prepared to work with the West to help grow the Chinese economy because they believed that that was the way to strengthen China by economic cooperation and integration into the Western system. By the time Xi Jinping arrived as president in 2011, China had grown into a very powerful economic superpower, and emboldened by that he tore up the previous policy of cautious cooperation with the West. And we can now see very clearly that China is flexing its muscles in pursuing political and military dominance in Asia in competition with the US and in trying to control the next generation technology in their own interests. Russia under President Putin is a disruptor. It's a power that is declining economically and is pursuing an aggressive foreign policy partly to compensate for that. Looking back, the West was too mild in its reaction to Putin's partial invasion of Georgia in 2008, his invasion of Crimea in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, and now he's made an even more desperate gamble. I'll come back to that war in Ukraine. So we're dealing not only with shifting tectonic plates, shifted economic power towards Asia, emergence of authoritarian leaders in many countries who reject any notion that there is a universally binding set of rules and values such as human rights and the rule of law. If you think of President Erdogan in Turkey, President Bolsonaro in Brazil, and recently retired President Duterte in Philippines, they're all approaching the idea of an international order like that. We're also seeing a fracturing of the global trading system, the prospect of something similar happening in the world's financial system. We're seeing the emergence of two internets, an internet of control and state supervision in China and its countries dependent on it, and the internet dominated by the American capitalist giants. We're waking up to the fact that the model offered by China is quite attractive to a large number of rulers around the world. It's a model that says you don't have to have democracy and freedom of expression in order to have economic prosperity. They're trying to show that they've broken that link and quite a lot of people around the world find that quite attractive. That is a real challenge, I believe, for the Western countries. So much for the longer-term trends. Overlaying that is this series of upheavals that have come thick and fast in our world in the last few years. The Covid pandemic not only took an awful human toll and set back the global economy, but it also exacerbated tensions between the major powers, in particular by disrupting supply chains and in a way casting China as the villain for Western countries and exacerbating China's isolation from the West. It was just at this moment that Britain chose to leave the EU, not I would say a very auspicious time for Britain to venture out into the world as an independent country trying to champion free trade and open borders. And Brexit has been a massive dislocation for this country. It was partly sold as the opportunity to go and champion free trade. But apart from throwing up barriers to trade with our nearest neighbors and largest trading partners, we've also found it very difficult to land useful free trade agreements with other countries, in particular America. Britain left the EU at a time when global trade was actually shrinking and the barriers were rising. And although economists will disagree on exactly how much of a hit that produced for the British economy, it's nonetheless clear that it was significant and it is going to go on for many years. And the way Brexit was handled, the chaos in British politics over several years has itself damaged Britain's reputation around the world as a country that is stable, that has a good pragmatic sense of its own interest, and that is an upholder of the rule of law. The threats to break international law over the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol have really surprised and disturbed many countries around the world who never expected to hear that from the country that was the mother of the idea of the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty. And now on top of that we have the largest war in Europe since the end of the Second World War. Taken together, that is a pretty daunting set of issues for any British government to handle, let alone one that is weakened by a sudden financial crisis of its own making. Before coming to my prescription for what I think Britain can do to rebuild its badly damaged reputation in the world, I want to say a little bit more about the implications of this Ukraine war for European security. I declare an interest because that is my special subject, it's an issue that I have spent much of my career dealing with, from the middle 1970s when I was first posted to the British delegation to NATO in the middle of the Cold War and I watched the East-West confrontation at very close quarters, and then again as I was ambassador to NATO after the Iraq War in 2003. And when I talk to audiences about NATO, I often find that it's a rather unknown quantity for people now, not surprisingly because for 40 years since the end of the Cold War NATO was not front and center of people's concerns. It was an organization that got involved with mounting the expeditions to faraway countries trying to bring stability in the Balkans or in Afghanistan or in Libya, but it was not central to what people were thinking about and worrying about for their future. So I hope that a few minutes spent on why NATO has proved so durable might be of some interest. The short answer is NATO is a blend of two ingredients. First of all, it's a collective defense organization, as I'm sure everyone knows. Secondly, it's a political alliance committed to promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. And those two aspects fit together to produce NATO. A NATO member state can be confident that other members will come to its defense if it's attacked, not just because of words written in a treaty, but because of the strength of shared political commitment among the member states to support each other. The cement that holds NATO together is confidence. The Washington Treaty, which set up NATO in 1949, is not a legally binding text. There's no transfer of sovereignty. It's based on a solemn political commitment. But it preserves discretion for each member's status to how they carry out that commitment. The famous Article 5 of NATO, which you've perhaps heard mentioned, finds a point of balance between these different elements. The American Senate, in the run up to the NATO treaty, insisted that there couldn't be any automatic commitment of US forces to defense of an ally because it was always the prerogative of the US Senate to send their forces into conflict. The Europeans, led that time by British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, wanted to make as clear as possible that if an ally was attacked other members of NATO would come to their support. That's why you get in Article 5 this delicate balance. The article talks about each member state taking such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain security in the North Atlantic area. Such action as it deems necessary. It's not like the text of an EU treaty which spells out in exhaustive detail exactly what the member states are required to do, makes that law in EU countries, makes it subject to testing in a European parliament. It's a political commitment, a very important one, but it rests on the credibility of the political commitment among allies, confidence that it will be carried out and in particular that the Americans would come to the aid of European allies if they were attacked by the Soviet Union when it was first agreed and later of course by Russia, including of course the full weight of American military power with their nuclear arsenal as well. NATO has always been an unequal alliance. It's always been an alliance of one mega country and many smaller allies as well. The US has always been by far the strongest military and economic country in the alliance. And that unbalance could have been a problem if America tried to use its muscle to strong arm European countries into doing things that they didn't want to do. But that's always been avoided, there's always been a kind of mutual dependence. Certainly throughout the Cold War, the Europeans were very, very dependent on the Americans to deter the Soviet Union. But the Americans worked out that they too needed European allies. If they were going to confront the Soviet ambition to export its model worldwide, they needed allies in Europe and that's what we all provided. And that mutual dependence continued after the Cold War. The Europeans called on the Americans to come to our aid over Bosnia and Kosovo, to stop the awful ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. And then when America was attacked on 9/11, the Americans needed the European allies to go with them into Afghanistan to root out the Taliban and try and bring some stability there. So mutual dependence, mutual interest in seeing NATO survive. And that's why the open doubting of NATO by Donald Trump when he came into the president of the US was so toxic, because it chipped away at that fundamental trust in the US commitment. Fortunately, President Biden understands the importance of the credibility of the US guarantee, and that's just as well, because we now have for the first time in 80 years a large-scale conventional war in Europe and the NATO pact of collective defense has become more important than ever. To me it's quite extraordinary to find that 80 years after the Second World War we have again got cities being smashed to pieces by artillery fire on our continent with massive loss of human life and no doubt significant atrocities happening as well. So NATO is back to its initial purpose of 1949 of deterring and defending against threats to the national territory of our member states. Thank goodness NATO never actually lost its focus on that and it has elaborate plans for the defense of NATO member states' territory, and I think it's responded very professionally to the challenge of this major war that Putin launched in Ukraine. American forces have come back in large numbers to the European continent, Britain has deployed significant numbers of troops almost to the border with Russia in the Baltic states and in Romania, other NATO countries have as well. I think we are often encouraged to see Putin as some sort of master strategist who is unrolling a plan to rebuild Russia's position as a great power and a major force in European security. But his war in Ukraine has not only failed to achieve its military objectives, it's also undermined the reputation of Russia's armed forces. It's been a massive strategic setback for Putin already, whatever the precise outcome of the conflict, and it has left NATO stronger and more purposeful than I can remember at any time in my career. For example, it's transformed the security situation in the north of Europe. I was in Finland recently. Finland and Sweden have for decades been proud neutral countries, happy to work with NATO but wanting to stand aside in neutrality. Now both have decided to join NATO. That's an enormous change in the north of Europe and it makes NATO much stronger and actually much more coherent in defending all that territory. You've all seen reporting of Putin's reckless threats of nuclear weapons use. In my opinion, he's doing that primarily to frighten us. He knows Western public opinion hasn't thought about nuclear weapons for 40 years and to hear talk of possible use of nuclear weapons is very scary. But he knows that any use of nuclear weapons would also be catastrophic for Russia, not just because they might land up being used in territory which he now claims is Russian. But it would also completely scupper Putin's relationship with China, the Chinese would be absolutely against the use of nuclear weapons. That really would leave Russia as a pariah in the world. And he knows that NATO is strong. I think he has no doubt about the strength of the NATO military forces, America first and foremost. So I'm confident that NATO deterrence will hold and that certainly we won't have a Russian attack on NATO territory, and I'm as confident as I can be that he wouldn't take the absurd risk of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. But he's using the threat of them and because Western opinion is not well prepared for that, that can be quite effective. In the immediate future, my guess is that the fighting in Ukraine will subside as the cold weather comes on. Russian troops are demoralized, they are suffering huge losses, they need to pause, they need to resupply. And so I think there will be a reduction in fighting and through the winter it will be vital that Western countries continue to support Ukraine in terms of weapon supplies to make sure they're well prepared for the resumption of fighting in the spring and economic support. And it's absolutely vital that we maintain sanctions on Russia, not least to prevent Western technology like microprocessors getting to Russia so they can rebuild their weapons stocks using Western technology. I personally believe that Putin's annexation of the Donbas region a few weeks ago was a desperate effort to find something which he could report to Russian opinion as positive from this gamble that he's taken and that he's losing. But that was already overshadowed by the attacks on the bridge to Crimea and the continued forward movement of Ukrainian forces. So Putin is on the defensive. It's clear I think to an increasing range of public opinion in Russia that Russia is not doing well in this war. I think we will have a bit of a stagnation over the winter and that the fighting will resume in the spring. We also have to recognize that there is a risk of Ukraine fatigue in our own countries as economic pressures build across the winter with the spike in energy prices and all the other pressures on cost of living. I think there will be more and more questioning in public opinion of, is it really the priority to be standing fully behind Ukraine? I think in the UK that is still very widely accepted, although please tell me if you disagree. I think in the US that's true as well. I think across Europe questions are already arising. You can see Hungary is not at all in line with other European countries. The new Italian coalition is very divided on Russia and how firm to be and I think the debate is spreading as well. So I think we have a job to do and I wish that Britain would be as active as possible in doing it, in maintaining support for the tough sanctions policy on Russia. Europe has done remarkably well in my view. The EU moved far more quickly than I would've expected on sanctions and on supplying weapons to Russia, but the implementation is slowing now and these fractures that I've been talking about are becoming more apparent. However, if Europe can succeed in weaning itself off dependence on Russian gas, that would be a huge strategic benefit for the West, it would break a major part of Putin's leverage over our countries and prevent him blackmailing European countries using the the weapon of energy. So there's a big prize for seeing this through and countries like Germany I think understand that well. How does this end in Ukraine, I'm often asked. And of course I don't have a crystal ball, but I think it's clear that neither side can win an outright victory. There's no prospect, I think, of Russia succeeding in conquering Ukraine. Equally, I don't think Ukraine can push every last Russian soldier out of Ukraine including Crimea. I also see no prospect that Zelensky would accept a peace settlement in which he signed away parts of Ukrainian sovereign territory to Russia in order to buy peace. That doesn't feel to me like anything he could do after the extraordinary sacrifice and loss of life that Ukraine has been through. So the only other option, which I think is the most likely, is at some point a Korea-style armistice, a truce. A truce meaning the two sides accept that they won't fight any further, can't get any further, that there will be a line of separation which will be overseen by the international community, but neither side will accept that as a permanent settlement and sign a peace treaty. That's been the case on the Korean Peninsula since 1954, and so these things can last a long time, and that's what I would expect to see in Ukraine. That is a far better outcome than the subjugation of Ukraine, which is what Putin set out to do at the beginning. It leaves a strongly pro-Western, strongly nationalist Ukraine in most of the country. But it would also leave a considerable burden on Britain, America, the G7 countries, the EU, the international financial institutions to support Ukraine through years of expensive reconstruction. This conflict has also posed some quite difficult questions for the EU. It has to now really think about its role in the world. For decades, the EU was an economic superpower and a political and security pygmy, but I don't think that that's tenable anymore. And we've seen in Germany a huge shift of strategic thinking towards accepting Germany must now pull its weight as a security and defense actor. 100 billion euros committed to putting right the weaknesses in the German armed forces, a commitment to raise German defense spending to 2% for the foreseeable future. That's all good and is a major shift in German security thinking, but to translate that into actual military capability is a long process. It's a long process in terms of buying the equipment and training the troops, but it's an even longer process probably in changing German culture. Germany has had a very strong pacifist culture that preferred to think about treating commerce and international negotiation as what they were about, and the culture shift towards accepting Germany might have to be prepared to use its military power at least to produce political objectives in stabilizing Europe is an enormous shift and that will take time. All of these debates in NATO, in the EU, across our countries, will also be affected by what happens in the American presidential elections in 2024. Suppose Donald Trump comes back or a Trump-like figure emerges. That will send shockwaves again through Europe given the experience with Trump, it will accelerate thinking about European strategic autonomy, Europe being able to stand on its own feet without necessarily depending on American support. And incidentally, as I passed that point, it does strike me as odd that President Putin didn't choose a time when President Trump was in the White House to launch his invasion of Ukraine. Just think of how difficult the Western response would've been if we'd had President Trump in the White House. However, luckily for us all, Putin missed that opportunity and President Biden has been very effective in pulling the alliance together. But if the pendulum shifts back to an isolationist Trump-like president in the US, that will have major implications for how all Europeans think about security. I would say Britain as well then would have to think very seriously about a closer partnership with our European neighbors. That said, it is not by any means certain that a Republican president would take the same position as Donald Trump on, for example, NATO. I see that in the US Congress there's very strong support for NATO on the Republican side and on the Democrat side. So we should not give up hope, but that is a bit of a cloud hanging over the debate in Europe on security until we know who will be in the White House. Let me mention one other major factor in the minds of defense and security policy makers in our capitals, and that is China. Because although Russia is the immediate threat to our security, China is the bigger longer-term security risk. While Russia is a declining power, China is vying with US for economic dominance in the next generation. It's been investing massively in its military forces, including its nuclear forces. NATO, at its Madrid summit, squarely put China on the agenda of the NATO alliance. Not that NATO is going to go and play a military role in Asia, but that NATO should be aware of what's happening, should be considering the threat that China poses not just in military terms but in terms of its bid to dominate the next generation of technologies. We're already well aware of the systematic theft of our intellectual property by China, their cyber attacks, they're increasingly aggressive so-called wolf warrior diplomacy. But they are also more present around Europe in military terms as well. The Chinese navy is very active. Indeed, there was one point a few years ago when there were more Chinese warships in the Mediterranean than French warships. So China is increasingly a military issue for us in our part of the world as well. And I think we've lacked up to now a place where Europeans and Americans can talk about China, military terms, in terms of its technology threat. And I think we need to have a place where we can coordinate policy, perhaps NATO could do that. NATO already has a close partnership with Asian allies like Australia, like Japan, and we could perhaps use NATO as an expanded forum. But defining a workable strategy towards China for the next generation is a major task I think in front of policy makers all around the Western democracies. So I've ranged fairly widely over this troubled world, although I certainly haven't covered every area of conflict and instability, and I want to give you three thoughts to conclude on British national security policy in the years to come, and in doing so, and I thank Mr. Connell for his plug for my book, I'm expanding the analysis that I give in my book where I try to draw on my career as a diplomat to think about how Britain positions itself to be an effective respected operator in the world in the years ahead. As a preamble to that, let me remind you of a comment by William Gladstone in one of his Midlothian speeches in the 1880s. "Here is my first principle of foreign policy. Good government at home." And I think that that is actually very pertinent today. A country can't be effective abroad if its government is weak at home. To be credible, our political leaders need to convince their interlocutors around the world that they have the authority to deliver on deals and a political lifespan which is measured in more than weeks. (audience laughs) The political turmoil in the UK over the last six years really has damaged the credibility of our leaders, and that's even more the case at the moment. And getting back to a degree of stability in British politics is a precondition for Britain having real influence and respect in the wider world. So let's hope that happens and carry on on the basis that it does. First conclusion, major war puts everything else into perspective. It's now time for Britain to put aside the kind of exceptionalism and frankly the hubris that has exemplified our foreign policy since the Brexit decision. If you listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think Britain is still a world leading power in all sorts of areas, still a great power. But if our country has influence, it's going to be by working with friends and allies, coming forward with ideas that help to solve their problems as well as our own, and reinforcing the set of international rules on which we depend so much. The UK response to the Ukraine crisis I think has been impressive and it's a reminder that we can still be an international leader if we have a sound analysis of the problem, good policy ideas, and consistent focus from our political leaders. But despite all the efforts of US, Britain, NATO, EU, to convince other countries about the threat that Russia poses, there's a very strong message in the fact that over 100 countries have not wanted to get involved at all in sanctions against Russia. They haven't seen it as their problem. There are all sorts of reasons for that, but one of them is that countries like Britain haven't spent enough time in countries further afield talking to them about their issues. Britain has been so consumed by Brexit in the last six years that there hasn't been much active British diplomacy in many parts of the world. So now when British ministers come to countries to say, "We need your help over Ukraine," they're inclined to say to us, "But what have you done about the problems that matter to us?" So I think we need now to be putting much more effort into foreign policy dialogue with countries like India, like South Africa, like Brazil, like Indonesia, big influential countries who at the moment don't see the fact that Putin has ridden roughshod over the rules of international law by invading a smaller and weaker neighbor, and are much more inclined to think, "Well, it's just another squabble between the East and the West. We've been used to that. Let's let them sort it out." I think if we want these countries to be active in supporting the international rules when they're broken, for example, by putting sanctions on Russia, we need to show that we are actively talking to them about the problems that matter to them, probably first and foremost, climate change, but also issues of public health and access to vaccines and many other things. Second, the China threat. I said I think we need to have a proper worked out China strategy. The immediate risk of course is of a Chinese attack on Taiwan. I personally think that they will have been quite surprised by the strength of the Western reaction to the invasion of Ukraine. I think they will have be having to calculate now what would be the impact on us of being decoupled from the SWIFT banking system, for example. So I don't think an attack on Taiwan is imminent, but I also don't think that we can get through the next 10 or 15 years without some major crisis over Taiwan. I think Xi Jinping feels that he's the one to settle the Taiwan issue while he is in power, and, you know, he's just declared himself this week perpetual leader of China, but he can't last forever. So although the US will have the major responsibility for responding to a crisis over Taiwan and upholding the rule of law there, I think Britain as a close ally of America with our global diplomatic service, our global intelligence reach, and our powerful military, we also need to be working with the Americans to see what contribution we can make as their closest ally to a crisis on Taiwan. We heard when the government published its integrated review of security last year quite a lot of the talk about the Indo-Pacific tilt. I was always a bit skeptical about that because it sounded more like a slogan than a worked out strategy to me. And of course now the Ukraine war has shown that in fact European security is the center of gravity of British security interests, not the Indo-Pacific. But nonetheless, we do need to be talking to the Americans about a serious China strategy and it needs to be one which balances vigilance over security, clarity in calling out Chinese human rights abuses, but also, given the state of the British economy, preserving access to that huge Chinese market for goods and services which don't touch on issues of security and which we are going to need if we're going to grow our way through trade out of our current economic weakness. And I think standing in the City of London, there are probably plenty here who would agree with that. But that's quite a nuanced policy we need to work out, it's not black and white, and of course rarely is foreign policy black and white. Final conclusion, you'll be glad, and then we shall have time for some questions. My last conclusion and my profound hope is that the British governments in the coming years will use the Ukraine crisis to rebuild a mature working cooperation with the European Union. I think it can start in the area of foreign and security policy where there are no particular legal tangles to catch us out as there are in trying to restore links, for example, in trade or competition policy. But there are also energy issues of energy cooperation, climate cooperation, where we need to be working closely with the European Union. I know there are some discreet talks going on about sanctions policy and Russia, and it was very good that the Prime Minister went to that European political community meeting in Prague on the 6th of October. That was 44 countries outside the EU framework to discuss security. But that is not a substitute for talking to the EU, it has no secretariat there's no follow up. It is a meeting, a gathering that will happen every six months. It was very good that the Prime Minister used that to agree with President Macron that there will be a Franco-British summit in 2023. The relationship with France has been very broken over recent years, quite largely because of the way the previous Prime Minister handled it and the mockery and denigration we had of the French president. But we will only have a summit with the French, we will only be able to mend our relations with the EU if the government pulls back from the threat of unilateral action over the Northern Ireland Protocol that they signed with the EU three years ago. We have a massive Northern Ireland Protocol bill sitting in the House of Lords at the moment and I hope that we will agree to pause that, to postpone it, to give time to settle that issue through negotiations. If we can do that, that really opens the door to closer cooperation, not just with the EU but individual European countries, which we really need in today's troubled world. So, major crises put things into perspective, they also create opportunities. And I think Putin's massive strategic error in invading Ukraine is leading to a permanent reduction in Russia's leverage over other countries and a strengthen of the NATO alliance. And I think if Western leaders take the right decisions in the months ahead, this awful war in Ukraine can lead to a more stable European security order in the longer term. And ladies and gentlemen, I think that's a fitting objective as we remember the achievements of Peter Naylor and his generation. Thank you very much. (audience applauds) - Because of the crisis with Ukraine, we are not keeping an eye on events in Africa and South America, particularly with regard to Chinese and Russian activity. - Yeah, I mean the answer is yes. As I said, I think that Brexit has consumed so much bandwidth in British politics that there's been very little time to do much foreign policy of the classic kind. British diplomats have been working, but ministers haven't been out and about talking to other countries, and Ukraine has now been the central focus and there's no time for anything else. So I don't see active British foreign policy in the Middle East, in Africa, or in Latin America. And on top of that, Britain has cut its aid program significantly, damaging in my view a major soft power asset we had with DFID, which I think was very respected around the world. Now fused with the Foreign Office and with its budget cut, British development policy is in a mess and that is costing us reputation as well. Sorry to be negative, but I'm afraid that's my view. - Sir, your question. - [Audience Member] Yes, I think nationalism is the root of all our problems. I wonder if you could address the elephant in the room about the rise of Irish and Scottish nationalism and the possibility there might not be a UK in the next few years to have a joint policy. - Well, thank you for a very large question indeed, my goodness, and it is the elephant in the room. How long can Great Britain be great if we have these forces? I mean, I think that Irish and Scottish cases are probably different and I'm by no means an expert on either. I think there has been for a long time an English problem in our United Kingdom in the sense that England is 80% of the economy and of the population and has tended to behave like that. And although there were devolved settlements to the other nations, I think there's still a feeling that England called the shots on all the big issues, and for example, in relations with the EU. Scottish nationalism has been fueled by the fact that Britain left the EU while Scotland wanted to remain in the EU, there's no doubt about that. And I think probably the idea of a united Ireland has been fueled by the whole way the Northern Ireland Protocol issue has been handled and the fact that now Northern Ireland does manage to have a foot both in the British single market and in the EU single market, and there are perhaps quite a lot of people in Northern Ireland who are thinking that isn't a bad place to be. And indeed the idea of a united Ireland is on the agenda in a way it hasn't been. So what do we do about it? Well, first of all, I think England needs to take more notice of what's happening in Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland and factor it more into policy making, reduce the London-centric nature of our policy making. But in the end, we're going to have to tackle the issue of Scottish nationalism one day or another, I guess with another independence referendum. I don't think that's going to happen soon, but I think, you know, if Scotland continues to vote in its own elections for that, one day or another Westminster will have to face it. It's a huge question and I think it's going to be settled in decades, not years. - [Audience Member] It is likely that in the November midterms that Donald Trump will win a landslide victory in America. Now Donald Trump has already made it clear that he is a supporter and an admirer of President Putin and he is against us supporting and egging on Zelensky and his corrupt regime in Ukraine in war mongering against Russia. Now what my question is has Donald Trump, perhaps behind the scenes but perhaps also in public, already instructed Liz Truss, the GCHQ, MI6, the European Union, indeed perhaps NATO, to stop war mongering against Russia? - Okay, alright, thank you. I mean, there are so many assumptions in your question that I can't tackle all of them. First of all, no, I don't think it's at all certain that Donald Trump's party or people he backs will secure a landslide in the midterm elections. Until recently, the polling was showing, actually, that President Biden and the Democrats candidates were doing better. So let's see the result, I think it'll be much closer than you are suggesting. Donald Trump doesn't instruct anyone over here and nor would he if he was president. I think there is certainly an issue if he became president, where would that leave Western strategy on Ukraine? Of course that's two years away and I hope we will have got to this sort of armistice situation that I've been talking about. And I think, I suspect I'm not alone in the room in contesting what you say about Zelensky. Zelensky was attacked by Russia and Ukraine has responded very bravely and courageously fighting for their freedom, and I think they've got very strong support in this country for that. (audience applauds) - Over this side, and then there. - [Audience Member] Hi, I'm from Mulberry School for Girls and my question is, how concerned should we be about the situation in North Korea? In your opinion, is a solution possible with China and Russia's blocking of votes? - So the situation in North Korea? - Yes. - And Russia and China, could you just repeat? - [Audience Member] In you are opinion, is a UN solution possible with Russia and China's blocking of votes? - In the Security Council, blocking. - I mean, there hasn't been a solution in North Korea for 80 years and I don't think there's one imminent now, no. I think we have to all live with the fact that North Korea now has nuclear weapons. There's not much point in pretending they don't. But I think rather, like I was saying with Russia, I think their intention is to use them to frighten people and to increase their weight in negotiating because they are a nuclear weapon power. Bear in mind that they are very, very dependent on China still in many ways and the Chinese will be the first to act to stop if there's any sign of them looking like they're going to use nuclear weapons. So I think the standoff will continue for as long as the North Korean regime have this mindset that the world is against them and that their only way forward is to threaten and menace and intimidate in order to try and get their way. Maybe one day there'll be a new generation in North Korea who will see things differently, but I think we are in for a continuing long standoff in North Korea, but not I think any significant threat of them actually using these nuclear weapons. - [Audience Member] Hi. Thank you for a really fascinating tour of foreign policy. My question is really about influence at home. London is the laundromat, it's full of full of Russian money. There have been a sanctions that have have been implemented, but there are questions about how well and the coverage of those sanctions. China is purchasing the services of former British pilots. So how well are we positioned to counter the influence of unfriendly nations here at home? - Well, I think it's a very, very important question, and the answer I think is that we have been asleep at the switch for too long. Accepting London as a major base for yeah, hot money, for money laundering, for oligarchs, and others parking their money quietly, and the subversive intentions of countries like Russia and China. I mean, the very, very large number of Chinese students at British universities is in one way a welcomed thing, but what are they up to many of them? And you know, are we, do we have have our defenses up to protect our intellectual property and our technology secrets and so on? I think by and large now there has been no up to now. On Russian money, the Ukraine war has made it much, much more controversial, of course, to be handling Russian money. And we've seen sanctions on oligarch assets and we've seen a change in the law to make it easier to know who is the beneficial owner of property in the UK, which was always a very useful place to hide money. So I think the climate is changing on that. On China also, maybe people are not aware of it, but there's quite a lot of Chinese influence buying goes on I think as well. The best way to tackle this is to call it out, actually. And the more exposure there is of what's going on, of who may be being funded, you know, what the intentions are of those who are buying influence in the UK, I mean, that's a very effective way of reducing the effectiveness of efforts to subvert, to spread disinformation, or to buy influence and support. And I think the price for those who are taking money from these sort of people is going up all the time. So, you know, as usual I think publicity is a disinfectant here. - We need to spread questions a bit around the room. Can I take one down here? - [Audience Member] So thank you very much for your talk. I want to ask a question about a disruptor state which hasn't appeared yet in your conversation, although we have seen them supplying kamikaze drones to the Russians over the last few weeks. I speak with a kind of skin in the game as it were because I'm about to run a conference next monthon "Iran:
What Next?" in light of what's happening in the streets of that country and indeed in terms of demonstrations in this city against what the Iranian regime have been doing to their own people. So I suppose my question for you is Iran, what next, and what can the West collectively do about that? - Well, yes, that's a really interesting one, isn't it? Haven't the young women and girls been courageous in the way they've stood up to repression? I mean, it's been absolutely extraordinary and humbling in a way to see it's been the young women who have risen up against the regime, and who would've thought of that? So, I mean, that makes me a bit humble in trying to suggest what might happen next because nobody predicted that. And it's so often the case, isn't it, that these sort of popular uprisings are provoked by just one incident that cuts through and stimulates and inspires people. I'm thinking of the Tunisian fruit seller who set himself on fire and set off the Tunisian revolution. And I think, you know, how this young lady was treated in jail just became the trigger therefore for a lot of anger and a lot of opposition under the surface. Will it overthrow the theocratic regime and its very, very powerful security forces? I mean, not immediately, I don't think. But, you know, if young women can do this then perhaps others in society can as well. I think it must have worried them all at least. And they are of course suffering from pretty draconian Western sanctions, and so a lot of, you know, basic commodities of life are difficult to get, inflation is very high, the economy is weak, they're selling their oil mainly to China, I think. So with Chinese help they can no doubt struggle on for some more years, but it must be a serious wake up call. What can the West do? I mean, to try and interfere in or let's say influence opinion inside Iran, very difficult, I think. If we could negotiate an agreement which gave us oversight of their nuclear weapon program, which we've been trying to do for years, subject to Donald Trump making it more difficult, that would be help. Keeping up sanctions on the regime and also finding ways to support civil society, you know, through people-to-people link, through bringing people out of Iran, through supporting some of these brave civil society groups inside Iran. But honestly, influencing a country's internal affairs from outside when you don't have much of a presence there is difficult in any country, and I think it's probably particularly difficult in Iran. So in the end, you know, I think it's going to be the Iranian people themselves who find a way of throwing off this regime. Can't come soon enough, can it? - A bigger defense lecture, I think we need to a defense voice. Okay, your question. - [Audience Member] President Macron has often indicated that there should be a European army. Do you think he now realizes that Europe's best defense really is with NATO? - Yeah, I'm not sure that Macron really believes in a European army. I think he has once or twice said it. But the French, as you probably know, are, you know, the most touchy about their national sovereignty attached to the independence of their armed forces and their nuclear deterrent, and wouldn't for a moment think of diluting the French army in a European army. So I don't believe for a moment that that's, I think the smaller European countries with weak armed forces have sometimes seen an advantage in promoting the idea of a European army, which would give them a small stake in a larger organization. But it is completely inconceivable in my view that the EU would have an integrated army of its own. I mean the EU is, as you know, is set up to be a legislating body. It's an endless arguments about legal bases, it has the Commission, it has the Parliament, has the Court of Justice. All of this is good if you're making laws, it's absolutely useless if you were trying to run military operations. And what NATO has is the integrated military structure, it has a Supreme Allied Commander who takes over if NATO goes into conflict, as you know, and is, you know, is geared for military action. The EU is absolutely not. So I've never believed this talk of a European army. That the Europeans should do more to contribute to NATO and improve their own armed forces to use outside NATO if they want to, yes. But any idea of an integrated European army, no. - The voice of the young again. I'll come to you in a moment. - [Audience Member] Hello, I'm Abida from Mulberry School for Girls. So we are in a cost of living crisis. Are my taxes about to rise to pay for defense spending, and should they? (audience and presenter laugh) - Wow, got me there. - Your question? - Well, first of all, taxes are not being cut because the government ran into a brick wall with the financial markets, as you've seen, and our new chancellor has put them back to where they were. But it's a very good question. If we're going to raise spending on the national health, if we're going to raise spending on defense, if we're going to raise spending on social care, the money's got to come from somewhere. And in the end it either has to come from borrowing on the markets or taxes. I would say a little bit more on people's taxes to be sure we are safe and secure in this dangerous world would be a good cause. But I'm not a politician that has to sell that to people. In the end, I think it is, the most important thing is that the country should be safe and secure and should have the armed forces that can keep us safe. And if that means spending a bit more on defense, then I think politicians should be making the case to all of your taxpayers that that is worth paying. Equally they need to be thinking how to raise money for properly funding the NHS and other things as well, so it's going to be very difficult. But it shows, you know, it shows how shortsighted the government were in thinking that they could cut taxes as well as do all this good stuff to help us with energy prices and with the NHS and so on. But yes, I would like to see a bit more increase a bit more in defense spending because the world has got more dangerous and our armed forces are not frankly really ready for that challenge yet. - [Audience Member] Gladstone emboldens me to take you a bit off piece. I like the dictum about good foreign policy beginning with good government at home. It was in the 70s, I think, that Quintin Hogg commented rather presently on the rise of what he called the elective dictatorship, the concentration of power in Number 10. And in the House of Lords we have the second largest legislative chamber in the world, after the Chinese National People's Congress- - Kind of you to remind us of that. - Do you see a place for constitutional reform in the UK in the years to come? - Oh, I mustn't touch the House of Lords, no no no. (audience laughs) Yes, I do, I do, absolutely. I've been very struck over the last decade or so by the powers of the British Prime Minister who has a working majority in the House of Commons. Because we don't have a written constitution and it's all conventions, a prime minister can override conventions if he wants to, and Boris Johnson was very inclined to do that. Indeed I would say a British prime minister with a good majority has more power than most presidents and prime ministers in countries with constitutions that have checks and balances, you know, that have a constitution saying what the government can do, what the role of the Supreme Court is and so on. We don't have that, really, and therefore I think there's a real problem of the dominance of the executive over the legislature. I think we've seen that a lot in the last few years and all those Covid regulations that were made by ministers without consulting Parliament, for example, now this bill in the Northern Ireland Protocol to give ministers powers basically to make laws and to tear up laws if they choose to. And I think that that's wrong. So I think some rebalancing of the power of the Prime Minister as against the power of Parliament would be good, and I think that probably means writing into actual laws some of the things that are now conventions. You've probably heard Peter Hennessy, I've referred to Peter Peter Hennessy's theory, is that our constitution works when the good chaps are in charge. The good chap theory. If it's not good chaps and it's people who are prepared to override conventions, then there are no limits, really. On the House of Lords, I mean, I'm a little bit prejudiced, (audience laughs) but I agree. I mean, the size is completely ridiculous, and you know, I mean, the size is ridiculous because prime ministers keep appointing people to the House of Lords. We had 26 more named last week. Okay, I was named to the House of Lords. But if you ask people in the House of Lords, they would much rather that the thing was slim down significantly. And the problem isn't that, you know, people would be prepared to retire and so on, it's that prime ministers keep appointing people. And so, you know, that's a real problem. But at the end of the day it does a very good job in going through draft laws that come to us from the House of Commons full of rubbish, full of errors and in need of real scrutiny, and we work days and nights going through line by line the laws, sending back to the House of Commons lots of amendments. We have judges, we have QCs, we have experienced people from all sorts of walks of life, and I think we don't do a bad job of scrutinizing. Mostly the House of Commons then throws out what we've done and it goes on anyway, but nonetheless, somebody's got to do that. And so if you are going to reform the House of Lords, I think to preserve the idea it's a place where distinguished people from many, many different walks of life come together and bring their different expertise, not just 200 more politicians elected in a different way. I think if it was just that we would lose something. - [Audience Member] You've spoken about Brexit and you've certainly spoken about Donald Trump, but surely both of those are reflections of the society. They both were popular decisions. Donald Trump was elected and then he may be elected again. But aren't these really reflections of deeply divided societies, and how does a deeply divided society come up with a sustained coherent policy without it just getting flipped again in the next four years? - Well, yes, I mean, I agree with you, yes, it is. Populism is an explosion of anger against what people see as unaccountable elites failing to protect their interests, basically. And I mentioned in my talks, I think in the case of the UK the experience of Iraq and how that failed, the experience of the financial crash and how, you know, the disadvantages of that were not shared equally, all of those things contributed. And then on top of that I think populism feeds off the emotional appeal to identity, to quite visceral feelings, tribal feelings of I belong to this group and the other group are the enemy and they are to be, you know, to be destroyed. Social media I think encourages the polarization of our societies as well and gives populists the platform. And of course to say they're populist, you know, they can be popular. The appeals they make to people's sense of identity, emotional appeals, nostalgic appeals to, you know, the time when America was great or Britain was the most powerful country in the world, all that is popular and can be powerful. The problem with populists is when they get into office their recipes don't work and they fairly rapidly become unpopular. And that's what happened to Trump, is what happened to the British government at the moment here as well. So populism tested in trying to govern often fails and then countries can sometimes come back towards a more centrist position. But I think it's a challenge to the mainstream politicians, to those who do believe that there is something called, you know, facts and truth, and it's not all relative and what you want to believe. It's incumbent on them to make a better case, to show people that they too are concerned for the welfare of people, that they're listening and that they're not aloof, you know, and that they have answers for people's daily problems. 'Cause if they fail to do that, then it leaves the space open to populists. - [Audience Member] Thank you. My question's really about energy and German links with Russia. They've just fired the cyber chief today, actually, because of excess links with Russia. Where did it go wrong in the last 20 years of particularly European German policy towards Russia, and particularly the energy policy? - Well, yes, long story. I think it's part of this kind of German view of the world was that after the Cold War they took the peace dividend, they dramatically reduced their arm forces, and they concluded that German power in the world could be exercised by commercial diplomacy, by making and selling great things, and by the power of German influence to negotiate in peaceful settlements. And I think they applied that, you know, everywhere to China, very close relationship with China, and to Russia. And I think that under Chancellor Merkel in particular they felt they had a close understanding, that they understood the Russians, they knew them, they could build a reliable partnership with Russia, and that therefore it was safe to become very dependent on Russian gas, which was cheap, which was plentiful, which helped to fuel the German industrial revolution. And they didn't do the worst casing of what would happen if there was a sudden change of policy in Russia and the energy dependency became a weapon. I think they were warned about that. I think Britain, France, and others warned Germany. But then when Merkel then also removed all the nuclear power after Fukushima, she made Germany troubly dependent on Russian gas. And with hindsight, that was a massive strategic error. But I think it came from a sort of German worldview that basically the world was peaceful now and it was all a question of competition and building commercial links and therefore, you know, a close commercial and oil and energy relationship with Russia, you know, was part of that anchoring everyone into a pattern of commercial contacts. You know, it was a good policy until it wasn't. - Two very quick questions, please, then we must conclude, sir. - [Audience Member] My question was regarding, you spoke about collective defense, but there are some conflicting interests, you know, within the group, for example, Hungary. Do you think it can be relied upon if there is a problem? And also we heard a lot about Finland and Sweden- - Sir, we don't have the time for one more. Hungary. - Yes. Well, I try to say the subtlety of the NATO commitment is that it doesn't oblige countries to do anything specific. It doesn't say if one country is attacked you must provide a division of soldiers or something. It says, "Such action as they deem necessary." So yeah, if Hungary in the end didn't send troops to a collective NATO defense operation, I mean, they would get a lot of criticism, but it wouldn't break NATO. They would've exercised their sovereign right to stand aside from the military action. And that gives NATO a basic flexibility which allows it to cope with countries with different interests and different levels of commitment. One would hope that still the great majority of NATO countries would send troops to support an ally being attacked, and if Hungary didn't, it wouldn't be the end of the world. - [Audience Member] I'd like say at the outset I fully support all the direct actions you've mentioned in order to aid Ukraine, but I'd like to ask you about the sanctions. If I look at what Russia is doing with energy, with oil, it's selling it now to China and to India. And if you look at the ruble against the pound since all this started, it stood at 100 to the pound before the war, it then shot up to 180, and now the last time I looked it was about 60. So it seems to me that we're actually getting poorer while the Russians are getting richer. Is it possible to have effective sanctions against a huge resource-rich, self-sufficient country like Russia? Can they work? (audience member applauds) - Well, I wouldn't say Russia is a self-sufficient country. It is self-sufficient in energy. But I think where the sanctions are really doing longer-term damage to Russia is in its industry, because it is very dependent on the West for industrial goods, for technology, for basic things like chips and microprocessors and so on. There was a report recently examining Russian recovered weapons from the battlefield in Ukraine which hadn't exploded, and the analysts found they were stuffed full of Western electronics. And so if the West can make the sanctions effective and deny Russia access to our electronics, then the next generation of weapons won't be as good. So, I mean, you can't really stop an oil exporter from exporting oil, because you can certainly sanction it, you know, for the countries that apply sanctions, but you can't stop it sending oil to China or Iran or whatever. So it's oil exports short of a blockade, which would be an act of war, there's not much we can do about it. Gas, I mean, the only alternative for Russia to selling the gas to Europe is to sell it to China, build a vast pipeline and sell it to China. I wonder how much it's in Russia's interest to become a junior partner to China, completely dependent in terms of its energy relations on China. So I think the problem is Russia in the short term can exercise more squeeze on the Europeans than we can on Russia, but in the longer term the sanctions are doing real damage to Russia's industrial potential and are reducing Russia's options. And over time that will show, I mean, Russia's economy will weaken because its industrial potential is being weakened by sanctions. I think that's the best answer I can give you. - Thank you very much. I'm Martin Elliott, I'm the current provost of Gresham College. Now, over recent weeks, the national press has used a great deal of energy searching for an adult in the room of public policy. I'm sure you'll agree that Lord Ricketts tonight in his wonderful lecture is clearly not only that adult in the room, but also able to command it. We at Gresham College are used to excellent lecturers, but it takes a special skill to be both wide ranging and concise in the same talk, and more so to deliver a talk with the elegance and panache demonstrated by Lord Ricketts tonight. Now, politicians may struggle to be sensible, but we can all hope that they listen, and by listening, acquire wisdom. We the public, I think, should be grateful that we have expert analysts like Lord Ricketts to provide them with advice, and we hope and trust that governments ultimately might heed it. Britain clearly needs it now, even if it's not just one country. We do indeed live in interesting times and on behalf of the Gresham Society, Gresham College, and of course the Mercers and the Corporation of London, I hope you will join me in once again thanking Lord Peter Ricketts for his magisterial nailer lecture. Thank you very much. (audience applauds)