Global Britain and the International Rules-based Order

Part of Brexit, Science and Innovation – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 3:49 pm, 6th September 2018

The Minister was waving earlier, and I thought he was just being friendly and agreeing with me, as ever.

The international order is not being helped by President Trump, whose actions are deeply rash and foolish. However, the main structural threat to the international order comes from authoritarian states that are trying to break down the current system. As I have said, one of the key battles we face is how we will protect the future of open and free societies against states that want to undermine them. China is doing it gently, while Russia and Iran are doing so much more aggressively.

Although China is being more subtle, its aims are somewhat the same. It does not have Russia’s little green men, but it has little blue men pushing the maritime boundaries. It has claims in the south China sea, it has tried to change the law of the seas and it is building artificial islands. It is offering loans to Vanuatu and other Pacific states, and it is building up an unhealthy degree of influence in New Zealand and Australian politics, some of it corrupt. Against that, we need global as well as Atlantic and European alliances. That leads me to raise this question: NATO—the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation—has been a force for good in our area, but does it need to be extended to have a global front?

The international order is not perfect, but it is worth defending, but one of the things that is changing and making it more difficult for the international order to work is the nature of warfare. Conventional warfare is becoming rare and forms of non-conventional warfare are becoming much more common. Indeed, one of my roles when I was serving in the military was to understand these new forms of unconventional war. This has put significant pressure on the norms of war. For example, in Syria, the Syrian war—now in its seventh year—is arguably the first in history in which hospitals and medical facilities are the primary and, indeed, the priority targets for the Syrian regime backed by the Russians. Yesterday, we talked a great deal in this House about bringing to justice people in Myanmar, but there is an embarrassing degree of silence in the western world about naming Russian regiments and Russian planes that are dropping bombs on hospitals.