In this article for the Morning Star, Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez takes a look at the results of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent official visit to the US. Sunak’s summit with Joe Biden produced very little of substance, but the Atlantic Declaration for a Twenty-First Century US-UK Economic Partnership reiterates Britain’s ongoing commitment to the New Cold War and the Project for an American Century. Carlos writes that the document “represents a shared commitment to doubling down on the new cold war, continuing with the encirclement and containment of China, and proceeding with the proxy war against Russia.”
While talking up the need for a “rules-based order”, the Declaration makes clear that the US and Britain intend to continue violating international law via their AUKUS nuclear pact and their extensive set of unilateral sanctions. Meanwhile, their calls for global action to tackle climate change ring decidedly hollow given their sanctioning of China’s solar energy products and the trend of replacing Russian energy with North American fracked shale gas.
Noting that Labour in its current iteration offers no improvement on the question of Britain-China relations, Carlos concludes that “Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Sunak and Keir Starmer are all Trumpists when it comes to pursuing this incredibly reckless new cold war.”
Last Wednesday marked the second annual UK-US Friendship Day. Although this momentous occasion was met with near-universal indifference on both sides of the Atlantic, Rishi Sunak took the opportunity to celebrate by making his first official visit to the US as Prime Minister.
The discussions didn’t reap the variety of fruit Sunak had been hoping for; the Tories’ long-promised free-trade deal remains in deep freeze. Indeed, very little of substance was announced beyond the Atlantic Declaration for a Twenty-First Century US-UK Economic Partnership.
This declaration makes clear that the focus of US-UK collaboration today is to jointly manage “new challenges to international stability,” in particular “from authoritarian states such as Russia and the People’s Republic of China.”
Introducing the declaration, Sunak repeated the same tropes that Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo were circulating five years ago. “Countries like China and Russia are willing to manipulate and exploit our openness, steal our intellectual property, use technology for authoritarian ends or withdraw crucial resources.”
Attempting to sound dramatic — but succeeding only in sounding faintly ridiculous — he concluded: “They will not succeed.”
The declaration represents a shared commitment to doubling down on the new cold war, continuing with the encirclement and containment of China, and proceeding with the proxy war against Russia. In summary, it seeks to demonstrate a unity of purpose in the ongoing US-led struggle to prevent the emergence of a multipolar world.
On the one hand, Britain and the US proclaim the virtues of an “open and rules-based international order”; on the other, they talk proudly of having “taken significant steps to implement Aukus, including announcing our plans to support Australia acquiring conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines.”
As the CND briefing “Aukus: why we say no” makes clear, the Aukus pact “enables the transference of weapons-grade enriched uranium to power war-fighting submarines undertaking provocative actions in potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific region.”
As such it is in clear breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Britain, the US and Australia are all signatories. A salutary reminder that the “rules-based international order” means aligning with US imperialism or paying the price.
Similarly, international law is clear that the UN security council is the only body authorised to impose sanctions in response to a threat to international peace and security. Unilateral sanctions have no basis in international law and are therefore unenforceable — except by means of violence, threats and extortion.
Nevertheless, the US-UK declaration proposes “strengthening our world-leading partnership across sanctions strategy, design, targeting, implementation and enforcement.” Whilst curiously maintaining a visceral opposition to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the US and Britain are world leaders in illegal, unilateral sanctions.
Meanwhile the document talks of the two countries being “committed to making the 2020s the decisive decade for climate action.” Yet Britain and the US are actively impeding progress on climate action.
The unprecedented sanctions regime against Russia has meant a dramatic rise in North American fracked shale gas exports to Europe.
Aside from the serious environmental concerns around fracking itself, transporting shale gas across the Atlantic requires it to be liquified, stored at minus 70°C, and transported by ship. From an environmental point of view, it certainly doesn’t compare favourably with using existing pipelines running from Russia through Europe.
Meanwhile, both Britain and the US impose sanctions against China’s solar power industry, and the US has stated its aim to put a stop to Chinese innovation on green energy. As Noam Chomsky rightly pointed out in a recent interview with the Global Times:
“We know China is way ahead of the rest of the world in renewable energy. So do we want to stop its innovation that creates the kinds of advanced technology which might save the world? It’s beyond shocking… That’s the opposite of what has to be done if we want to survive.”
Sunak’s trip to Washington was, in essence, a loyalty pledge to the US and to the concept of a renewed Washington Consensus. In spite of some recent indications by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly that Britain was considering a relatively more sane approach to China, it’s abundantly clear that the only real priority in British foreign policy at the moment is to keep the special relationship in “real good shape,” as Biden put it last week.
Sunak certainly seems eager to prove he’s not a naughty boy like Emmanuel Macron, with his dangerous talk of European strategic autonomy. In a moment of cringey servility, Sunak told CNN that “the values that we’re fighting for are universal. They’re values that America has always stood up for, which is democracy, freedom and the rule of law.”
Readers might hope that Labour would offer a reasonable alternative to this nonsense. They stand to be disappointed. Congratulating the US for “de-risking its economy from China,” shadow foreign secretary David Lammy complained that the Conservatives have not been sufficiently forthright in standing up to China.
In Britain, as in the US, cold war mentality is bipartisan. Edward Luce recently commented in the FT that “Joe Biden’s language is far gentler than Trump’s, but his enforcement is more rigorous. Biden’s policy is Trumpism with a human face.”
In the current conjuncture, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, Sunak and Keir Starmer are all Trumpists when it comes to pursuing this incredibly reckless new cold war.