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Despite ample warning over several years that Russia was not interested in respecting the sovereignty of other nation states, the West was caught sleeping when Putin sent his tanks into Ukraine.

South Ossetia, Crimea, Donetsk, and the Salisbury poisonings all served as warnings of Russia’s intent, but little was done by the West to prepare for the possibility of aggression. Europe’s reliance on Russian gas continued unabated – now limiting Nato’s room for manoeuvre on economic sanctions, and our militaries and national leaders were considered so weak that Putin felt Ukraine was ripe for the picking.

Thank goodness that the resistance of the Ukrainian people – led by their modern-day Churchill figure of Volodymyr Zelensky – has held up and kept Russian troops at bay so far.

But the West’s and the UK’s lack of preparedness for hostile state actors has implications that go beyond the current war and beyond Russia.

Just two months ago, Russia conducted a third set of naval drills with its allies, China and Iran. And in addition to their deepening military alliance, the three countries have long cooperated on economic issues, including China buying Iranian gas to subvert international sanctions, and Russia backing China in its quest for regional dominance.

As with Russia, there are signs that animosity from China and Iran to the West could develop into open hostilities, and a hope and a prayer that it won’t does not make for good foreign policy.

Time and again, Russia has tested our appetite to act and defend our stated values, found an open door to push on, and escalated further. The actions of China could be viewed in the same way, whereby genocide of the Uyghur people, China’s violation of the handover treaty in Hong Kong, and cyber-security threats have all exposed the West’s lack of resolve.

Limited by sanctions and already on everyone’s security radar, Iran nevertheless continues to play games. In recent times, it has used breaks in negotiations to develop its nuclear capabilities to a point that experts have labelled ‘uncharted territory’.  Iran may be very close to developing a nuclear weapon.

And now the West may be seeking to do a quick deal with Iran, whereby the removal of sanctions and support for nuclear reactors will be traded for oil – a move that would swap dependence on Russia for energy to reliance on Iran.

Instead of being party to yet another short-sighted mistake with dire consequences down the line, the UK should focus on building stronger, deeper ties with allies we can count on to mitigate the risks posed by these hostile countries.

On technology, we should look to South Korea to begin replacing critical infrastructure made by China which is widely recognised as a security risk. An enhanced trade deal between South Korea and the UK is already under discussion, and talks should be urgently accelerated.

Japan and Singapore could also help to plug this gap, and a smart trade policy would seek to support other countries looking to diversify into tech.

Energy security is, of course, at the top of everyone’s minds. More than any other, this sector shows the risks associated with relying on hostile foreign actors for something so critical as fuel. In addition to developing energy independence, Britain should be looking to its allies.

That means doing some soul-searching on who our friends really are, particularly after Boris Johnson’s trip to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to secure increases in oil production in a bid to ease the crisis in prices came to nothing.

Instead, we should consider our long-standing ally Oman, a country which hosts the largest British overseas military deployment in the world and reportedly had a key role in negotiating the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

A substantial producer of oil and gas, the bulk of Oman’s hydrocarbon exports are currently destined for China. A future deal with the UK has the potential to change that.

Qatar has, of course, already stepped up to help the UK meet our energy needs, last year diverting several gas tankers to lend a hand with our supply. This week, Qatar struck a deal with Germany to help wean Europe off of Russian gas too.

When it comes to military capacity, the UK has plenty of options. Looking to the Asia-Pacific region, the AUKUS deal – signed last year between Australia, the UK, and the US to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines – is a good start.

The UK should now look towards deepening cooperation with Japan, which already has one of the largest militaries in the world, as well as further opportunities to work with Australia.

And in the Middle East the UK can again look to Oman and Qatar, the latter playing a crucial role in the evacuation of Afghanistan and then securing the re-opening of Kabul airport after the Taliban took over. Israel is, of course, a strong ally in that region, and its Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, has stepped up recently to help smooth relations between the US and Gulf states, including hints of a deepening relationship with another strategic partner, Egypt.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine creating a humanitarian crisis and sending shockwaves through the world’s economy, now is the time for the UK to take a clear-eyed view of the threat also posed by hostile states China and Iran – and take action to mitigate that threat by working with a series of small, nimble allies that help to plug gaps in our current strategy.