Britain must play a leading role in the right against the cult of ‘strongmen’ like Syrian leader Bashar Assad, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said.
Johnson also used his speech at London’s Chatham House think-tank Friday morning to throw his weight behind US President-elect Donald Trump’s call for more spending on NATO while arguing that boosting the military was key to saving democracy.
“We have the cult of the strong man, we have democracy in retreat, we have an arc of instability across the Middle East from Iraq to Syria to Libya,” the foreign secretary told the audience.
He said that Brexit did not mean Britain was pulling up the “drawbridge.”
“What is the answer of the UK? Is it to cower and put the pillow over our heads? Emphatically not,” he said.
Despite the impression left by some media coverage of the speech, Johnson did not mention Russian President Vladimir Putin by name. He did however insist that NATO defense spending could not be left to the US.
“It cannot be justified that one NATO ally – America – accounts for about 70 per cent of the alliance’s defense spending, while the other 27 countries manage only 30 per cent between them,” he said.
“I want every NATO member to meet the agreed target of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defense and 20 per cent of their defense budget on new equipment.”
The UK is one of few NATO states which pays the symbolic 2 percent of GDP to the alliance.
Johnson also warned against “non-state actors” who view “the whole concept of a global liberal order with contempt.”
“If we fail then we risk reverting to an older and more brutal system where the strong are free to devour the weak, where might is always right and the rules and institutions we have so painstakingly built fade away into irrelevance,” he said.
Johnson’s robust and optimistic defense of Trump’s forthcoming global role did not appear to take into account that the tycoon has often been framed as a strongman himself, not least by Trump’s electoral opponent Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s latest cabinet appointment, announced Friday, has been that of fiercely outspoken US Marine Corps General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
Mattis was one of the architects of the counter-insurgency strategy during the ‘War on Terror’ and also coined the life advice: “Be polite, be professional and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”