Boris Johnson will today use his first major speech as Foreign Secretary to highlight how the UK can align with the incoming US administration of Donald Trump in order to strengthen the “special relationship”.
Mr Johnson will say Mr Trump “has a point”, after the President-elect used a campaign speech to hit out at Nato allies who fail to pay their share towards collective defence.
He will also suggest that it would be “sensible to talk” with Vladimir Putin, after Mr Trump indicated he could turn US foreign policy on its head and support Russia and the Assad regime in the Syrian conflict.
Yet Mr Johnson will also warn that without British influence, a new global order could be established in which the “the strong are free to devour the weak”.
The Cabinet minister will pledge that Britain will not “cower and put the pillow over our heads” as it leaves the European Union and forges a new role in the world.
The Foreign Secretary’s address at Chatham House, entitled Beyond Brexit, will see him underline how the UK stood alongside “our American ally” throughout the Cold War and at the creation of the United Nations and also Nato.
Mr Trump raised doubts over his commitment to the military alliance’s tenets when he said the US may not defend allies who do not hit the target of paying two per cent of GDP on defence.
Mr Johnson was to say: “President-elect Trump has a point. It cannot be justified that one Nato ally, America, accounts for about 70 per cent of the alliance’s defence spending, while the other 27 countries manage only 30 per cent between them.
“I want every Nato member to meet the agreed target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence and 20 per cent of their defence budget on new equipment. Britain already abides by this target and I note that Nato’s most exposed members, including Estonia and Poland, do so as well.”
Mr Trump has suggested he could halt support for rebels in Syria and instead side with the Mr Putin and the regime of Bashar Assad, something contradicting UK policy requiring the end of the Syrian leader’s reign.
Mr Johnson planned to say: “Britain is prepared to be tough with Russia, but that does not mean that it is not also sensible to talk.”
He will then add: “We cannot normalise relations with Russia or go back to ‘business as usual’.
“But as I have said time and again, Russia could win the acclaim of the world by halting its bombing campaign in Syria, delivering Assad to peace talks and abiding by the letter of the Minsk agreements in Ukraine and, once more, I will not shy away from delivering those messages face to face.”
He planned to tell his audience that the West was fighting non-state actors who view the concept of a “global liberal order” with contempt, and that if the UK failed to face up to the challenge “an older and more brutal system where the strong are free to devour the weak” could come about.
The minister was to add: “We have to acknowledge that in many respects the world is not in good shape. 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. What is the answer of the UK, is it to cower and put the pillow over our heads? Emphatically not.”
Denying claims that the country is now too weak to have any influence on the world, he planned to say: “We are a protagonist – a global Britain running a truly global foreign policy and my message to you today is that this global approach is in the interests both of Britain and the world.”