So yes, we might have arrived where we are more by accident than carefully designed statecraft. But following Brexit, it makes sense for the UK to start reestablishing itself on the world stage through a security agenda, where it has undoubted strengths: a top class diplomatic corps, a prominent seat at the Nato table and membership of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
The review is currently uncosted and certainly not perfect. The decision to increase the cap on nuclear weapons feels like a policy specifically designed to put Labour in a bind. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which we fire off 180 nuclear warheads and are left kicking ourselves that we don’t have another 80 to let loose. There is also, for the time being, a very obvious Europe-shaped hole in the nation’s foreign and defence policies.
That said, security should be an area in which the UK could start mending its relationship with the EU. Some criticised the Government for keeping intelligence sharing and foreign policy out of the scope of the Brexit agreement, arguing it reduced our leverage during the negotiations. Now it looks like an astute omission; an area that is hopefully untarnished by the rankle and acrimony of the last five years, a foundation on which bridges can be rebuilt.
The overall thrust of the review strikes the right balance between ambition and humility for a sub-superpower state navigating the threats and opportunities of today’s hyper-connected world.
Earlier this month, Antony Blinken, the new US secretary of state, said: “Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.”
One suspects that if such a sentiment had been expressed by the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab it would be instantly derided as “cakeism”, the latest example of the UK’s hopelessly muddled attitude towards China.
Coming from the US secretary of state, such triangulation, which strikes a remarkably similar tone to the UK’s stated aims, can be described as what it is: diplomacy.