In a speech at Chatham House, Britains foreign secretary will warn that the cult of the strong man is taking hold internationally
Boris Johnson will issue a warning that republic is in retreat across the world and that a cult of the strongman is taking hold, raising future prospects that the concept of a global liberal order will fade into irrelevance.
In his first set piece speech as foreign secretary, he will argue that Britain outside the European Union could still play a global role in preventing a dystopian future in which the powerful devour the weak.
He will also set out a strong cautioning to Russia that the UK will not normalise relations with Moscow, or buckle over Ukraine or Syria, adding that he fully supports Donald Trump, the US president-elect, in demanding that more Nato member countries lift the levels of their defence spending.
The speech will be important in shaping Johnsons secretaryship, as well as shoring up his credibility as someone at the heart of the cabinets discussions on the shape of Brexit.
Since his surprise appointment, he has been accused of alienating European foreign ministers by trivialising the Brexit talks and by his determination to differentiate himself from the rest of the EU by praising Trump.
He has himself been annoyed by a series of public put-downs from Theresa May and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, as well as by leaks claiming that he backed a complete amnesty for all illegal immigrants in the UK on the date the UK Leaves the EU.
On Thursday he was forced to deny radio broadcasting report claiming that he had told four diplomats at a breakfast briefing that he supported the free movement of workers inside the EU, popular antagonism to which is supposedly the main force driving the UKs departure from the EU. He insisted: I said no such thing, and said he had argued that immigration had been a good thing for the UK in many respects but it had got out of control, and that we needed to take back control.
In his speech at Chatham House, he will advise that if the west fails, We risk restored 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.
Claiming that the world is still looking to the UK for leadership, he will say: We have to acknowledge that in many respects the world is not in good shape. We have the cult of the strongman, we have democracy in retreat, we have an arc of instability across the Middle East from Iraq to Syria to Libya. What is the answer of the UK? Is it to huddle and set the pillow over our heads? Emphatically not. We are fighting against non-state performers who view the whole concept of a global liberal order with disdain and it is precisely because of the intensity of these challenges that we need to redouble our resolve and to defend and preserve the best of the rules-based international order.
With the Foreign office still waiting to see the shape of the new US chairmen foreign policy and the extent to which Trump genuinely seeks to forge closer ties with Vladimir Putin, Johnson will not use the speech to rush to press the reset button with Putin.
He will say: Britain is prepared to be tough with Russia. But that does not mean that it is not also sensible to talk. Yes, it is Britain that insists on our resolve to enforce sanctions against Russia for their occupation of Crimea and their hand in the war in eastern Ukraine. And it is Britain again that has been the firmest in denouncing Russias part in the extermination of Aleppo. For all these reasons, we cannot normalise relations with Russia or are going to the business as usual.
Russia, he will reiterate, could still win the worlds acclaim by halting its bombing campaign in Syria, delivering Assad to peace talks, and abiding by the letter of the Minsk agreements in Ukraine.
He insists he will not shy away from delivering these tough messages to Russian leaders in person. Trump has suggested that he is happy for Assad to remain in power in Syria but the Foreign office does not believes that is a sustainable solution.
Johnson will also insist the Brexit vote does not entail the UK is becoming isolationist or turning its back on the world. The UKs future role, he will say, is to be a flying buttress supportive of the EU project, but outside the main body of the church. To those who say we are now too small, too weak and too poor to have any influence on the world. I say there are plenty of people who do understand what this country can do and the effect it was able have.
Indeed, there are many people in this country who would not recognise the image of Britain of ourselves as insured through the eyes of others. A nation taking back control of its democratic institutions[ is] not a nation hauling up the drawbridge or slamming the door. Instead it will show that the UK is a nation that is now on its mettle.
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