Does Boris Johnson Intend to Redefine His leadership Role in the Post-Brexit World?

Boris Johnson ’s cabinet boosted the military budget to its highest level in 30 years under the pretext of unprecedented global risks. The budget for the Ministry of Defence will increase by

£ 16.5 billion over four years. This will be spent on transforming the military, strengthening the country’s influence in the world, and upgrading the national cyber force and space command.

Johnson, justifying such a considerable increase, said “The international situation is more dangerous and more competitive than ever after the Cold War, and Britain must be honest with history and stand with our allies. To achieve this, we will need to strengthen our capabilities in all areas”. He has repeatedly spoken of his policy of globalising Britain, which above all reflects the country’s concerns and frustrations with its voluntary isolation after leaving the European Union. Boris Johnson uses every opportunity to break this isolation and show Britain’s global influence.

Earlier, he had announced the publication of a comprehensive review document of his country’s foreign and defence policy; a document showing that London is preparing for major changes in the world order.

The media consider this document, which is about 100 pages long, the biggest review and change in British foreign and defence policy since World War II. In this review, Britain seeks to strengthen its foothold in the world system after leaving the European Union. The document shows that Britain is preparing for major changes in the world order.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly referred to the idea of a “Global Britain” and outlined British international policy to achieve such a goal. He also spoke about confronting countries whose values are contrary to Britain, and referred to China and Russia in this regard.

Explaining the country’s economic strength, Johnson said that with exports of more than £680 billion of goods and services in 2019, the country was the fifth largest exporter in the world. Of course, it should be borne in mind that this figure is related to before leaving the European Union and it remains to be seen how British exports will change in 2021 with the exit from this economic bloc.


Boris Johnson spoke of the presence of five to six million British citizens abroad as one of the means to reaching a “Global Britain”. These expats mostly live in the Persian Gulf area and Southeast Asia.

He emphasised Britain’s globalisation as necessary for its survival, and noted the government’s plan for economic prosperity after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Johnson also referred to cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region as one of his goals, stressing on cooperation with India as “the world’s largest democracy”. The British prime minister said that diplomacy would always be the first choice to advance Britain’s global goals, but at the same time he spoke of increasing Britain’s budget and military presence in the world and modernising its nuclear deterrence system. He also announced the establishment of a recent force in the country’s military called the “National Cyber ​​Force“.

Previously, it was said that Britain only had a defensive approach to cyber-attacks. But Boris Johnson made it clear that the country intends to pursue an offensive strategy in this sector and target countries and hostile groups.

He revealed the allocation of £24 billion to the defence budget and described the speed in the deployment of forces and technological advances as the key to the success of the military and considered the liberation of the seas as one of the military goals of his country. Johnson said the purpose of the military budget increase was to increase the country’s global influence, create jobs and maintain the country’s unity and integrity. He described innovation as the key to the country’s success.

Army Modernisation

The British military has been looking to upgrade and modernise its armoured fleet for nearly a decade, with options such as buying German Leopard 2 tanks. But now, most British military officers believe the army no longer needs tanks. General Mark Carlton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that the threat of tanks had disappeared in today’s wars and that the country’s security was owed the use of new data and ideas. He stressed the need to invest in emerging capabilities and move away from what he called sunset capabilities.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Boris Johnson’s government has allocated £6.6 billion to the development of supersonic missiles and the construction of laser warfare devices. The British Ministry of Defence has assessed this project as high risk.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the development comes as Russia has advanced cruise missiles capable of flying at Mach 8 and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead at 20 times the speed of sound. It has been claimed that China’s DIAF-17 missiles also have this capability, but according to the Daily Telegraph, this cannot be proved.

UK-Japan Military Ties to Control China

After sending a British aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, and its patrol boats to Japan via the high seas, where China competes with the United States and Japan, London has now announced that it will permanently deploy two warships in East Asian waters. In fact, plans to deploy the strike fleet coincide with deepening London-Tokyo security ties and Japan’s claim that China’s ambitions in the region are growing in recent months.

In a joint statement with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi, the British Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace, said: “Following the deployment of the strike fleet, Britain intends to deploy two warship groups permanently in the area till the end of this year. The Japanese Defence Minister also confirmed Wallace’s statements: We [Tokyo-London] reaffirmed our common position in resolutely opposing efforts to change the status quo through threats and coercion, as well as the importance of an open and free Indo-Pacific region based on the rule of law. According to a spokesman for the British Embassy in Tokyo, British ships will not have a permanent base.

Indo-Pacific: A Window of Opportunity for Britain

Currently among the top three European powers, Britain is the only country that has not yet clarified its Indo-Pacific strategy. France in 2018 and Germany in September 2020 defined such a strategy. The Indo-Pacific , a vast expanse of water that encloses the Indian and Pacific Oceans, was first formed in Australia in 2009 and expanded in 2016 by Japan, claiming protection of the right to sea in open waters. It was expanded and finally recognised by the United States in November 2017. Until now, Washington has pursued a policy of “turning to the Pacific,” which has a much narrower geographical scope.

Of course, this does not mean that London is lagging behind global competition in this strategic region. In fact, on 18 April 2018, then-British Prime Minister Theresa May, in a joint statement with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, used the word “Indo-Pacific” for the first time in a joint statement. But let’s not play with words; on the one hand, the main goal is to complicate the situation in China’s strategic realm, especially by involving a powerful rival such as India, and on the other hand, to give way to European and Asian partners who are going to fill the gap left by the US withdrawal from West Asia.

The British military presence in this vast blue zone can be assessed in two ways: one is cooperation with the United States, Australia and Japan in “controlling China”, and the other is returning to “the Suez Canal”. Explaining why the “Indian Ocean” and the “Pacific Ocean” alone are less important, especially for Britain, the term “Indo-Pacific” encompasses the vast expanse of water that stretches from East Africa to the western United States. It is less distant from Europe than Asia-Pacific and the Far East. In fact, the main reason for the change in the Indo-Pacific is Beijing’s insistence on expanding its sphere of influence from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean and beyond, to the Mediterranean, by expanding its deep-water capabilities and strategically strengthening ports. Ultimately, it ensures control over trade routes and energy lines originating in the Middle East.


Seeking a New Role in World Developments

Britain, by leaving the European Union, has independently pursued a strategy of restoring its power on the world stage, as part of the US-British security alliance, under the pretext of upholding the rule of law that pervades everyone has entered the Indo-Pacific arena.

About 50 years ago, at the same time as the decline of its empire and the independence of colonies such as Singapore and India, Britain made the historic decision to leave East Asia and the Persian Gulf – an area known as the East Suez Canal. But Boris Johnson in a speech in Bahrain claimed that the policy of leaving the region was a mistake and that London intended to make amends. According to British government officials, the increase in the military budget will strengthen the country’s position as the holder of the largest military budget in Europe and the second largest budget among NATO members after the United States. The US Department of Defense also welcomed the British decision, saying: it was our most reliable and powerful ally, and that increasing their military budgets would demonstrate their commitment to NATO and our common security.

However, the economic situation in Britain due to two crises and the withdrawal from the European Union is not well defined. Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union has hit the British economy by £90 billion so far, and the outbreak of Covid-19 has shrunk the economy by 20% in recent months. The Financial Times wrote that according to the estimates of the British Ministry of Finance, the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis will continue until the 2024 elections. The UK budget watchdog also predicts that economic power will be at its lowest level in 300 years. Accordingly, the Financial Times predicts that the London government will have to fill the void by raising taxes and reducing public finances. According to an official of the prime minister’s office, the budget report is not favourable in terms of government revenue and expenditure.

Final Word

Boris Johnson’s remarks are not new to those familiar with his policies. He has repeatedly spoken of his policy of globalising Britain, which above all reflects the country’s concern and frustration with its voluntary isolation after leaving the European Union. Boris Johnson uses every opportunity to break this isolation and show Britain’s global influence, whether it be the coronavirus vaccine, the number of British immigrants abroad, hosting international meetings or imposing unilateral sanctions.

Britain tries to portray itself as a global and international actor under any pretext, and therefore, engages in international conflicts as long as it can appear as an actor, and if not, as a spectator or referee or any other role.


Talking about the “historical mission” of this country is reminiscent of the colonial views that once used the export of civilisation as an excuse to colonise other countries. During the Cold War, the promotion of democracy was used for this benevolent cause or excuse. Now, with Boris Johnson overemphasising the issue of climate change and the environment, it seems that in the world order that Britain is preparing for, this role has been given to environmental philanthropy, and the country is using the popularity of the idea of ​​environmental protection in public opinion to open a window for the influence of its policies in the global arena.

Boris Johnson’s remarks expressed his concerns rather than announcing the country’s future plans. He is now worried about losing the country’s unity with the secession of Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as the decline of its international influence after leaving the European Union. Concerns about economic collapse, social unrest, and China’s growing power and influence on the world stage can also be clearly seen in these words.

The realisation of Brexit, the US effort to control China, and even the increase in the military budgets of Australia, Japan, and Britain, seem at first glance to be separate categories; but the fact is that, in the shadow of the Indo-Pacific approach, many global developments are incredibly interconnected. The interconnectedness of such issues might have led Britain to replace the term “Great Britain” with “Global Britain” and, by censoring colonial history, England is trying to redefine its leadership role in the post-Brexit world. On this account, despite the Covid pandemic and the economic hardship caused by its withdrawal from EU, we must look forward to the adventures that Britain will pursue under the illusion of re-conquering the world and reviving its empire.

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