Shifting Power and Influence

As the centre of global economic activity continues to move East, stronger Asian leadership and further US retrenchment stimulate a global power vacuum.

We are seeing fundamental changes in the global balance of power. Broadly speaking, we are witnessing an accelerating shift in global economic activity Eastwards, with stronger Asian leadership, especially from China, and simultaneously further US retrenchment stimulating a period of global uncertainty. Western markets are weakening, the US is becoming increasingly isolationist, and there is growing concern around China’s ambitions for wider influence. Alongside this, there is a trend in many regions towards more centralised, authoritarian rule, which is evident in countries such as India, Brazil, and Turkey, and typified by China and Russia. This has coincided with the rise of right-wing nationalist-populist governments and parties in parts of Europe where, with mounting pressures on the EU, the different priorities of north and south are also becoming evident.

It seems to some that the traditional global structures such as the United Nations (UN), World Health Organisation (WHO), and World Trade Organisation (WTO), some of which were established 80 years ago, may no longer be capable of steering a middle path. Indeed, several believe we have reached the end of the era of globalisation, and looking ahead, we will experience greater fragmentation, instability, lasting and significant economic pressure, stronger competition, and a potential escalation in international conflicts. All this at a time when Britain’s status and role in the world post-Brexit remains unclear.

Although currently enjoying a “healthy, international respect for its professionalism, bravery, and quality,” some believe that the UK Armed Forces’ reputation as an instrument of international power will be difficult to maintain. There is “a consistent demand to punch above our weight.” This is seen to be particularly difficult when “the challenge that we will have in a 10-year timeframe is whether the UK is still going to be an influential player in the world.”

An Implication: A lack of clarity on the purpose and role of the UK Armed Forces may result in reduced public and political support.



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