In a new report by Philip Shetler-Jones, an expert on international security and geopolitics and an associate fellow with the Council on Geostrategy, it is revealed how Britain’s allies seek to influence British policy and commentary through a form of political operation that the Council on Geostrategy has named ‘discursive statecraft’.
The report examines a range of public statements, comments and written extracts from three countries of great geostrategic importance to the UK, allies the United States and Germany, and ‘quasi-ally’ Japan. Of these three, Japan stands out for its positive approach to UK policy and pro-active embrace of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In contrast, the second half of the ‘special relationship’, the US, has frequently tried to leverage the UK’s uniquely close relationship with America to its advantage by highlighting how particular policy shifts, such as Brexit or changes in defence spending, may imperil the future of that partnership.
Germany, lastly, has repeatedly referred to the UK in terms far removed from the reality of the close UK-Germany security and diplomatic relationship, questioning Britain’s trustworthiness and commitment as an ally. This serves to cast doubt on the reliability of the UK as a partner and increasingly sets the stage for a more competitive relationship.
In different ways, all three of these countries are using public discourse in an attempt to influence the UK. Japan ultimately seeks to foster a closer relationship with Britain and is aware that a Britain more active in the Indo-Pacific would be beneficial to its interests. For the United States, it continues to see the UK’s proximity and close relationship with European countries as key to British power and influence and seeks to preserve that for its own ends. Germany takes a robust stance in order to prompt the UK to ‘reassure’ it by committing to certain policies or frameworks.
As the report makes clear in its recommendations, it is important that the UK recognises when other countries – even allies – are attempting to influence its actions through public discourse and calls out other countries when engaging in unhelpful commentary that undermines British interests.
James Rogers, Director of Research at the Council on Geostrategy, said:
“Allies are vital to the United Kingdom in the twenty-first century, but allies have their own interests. It is important that we are aware of them so we can craft effective policy. As this paper by Philip Shetler-Jones shows, allies often have different needs, which can conflict. This paper should help Britain understand intra-alliance politics during an age of intensifying geopolitical competition.”