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On Britannia - Thursday 3rd June

On Britannia
Thursday, 3rd June, by Archishman Goswami
As we head into a new month with the promise of the end of lockdown continuing to hang precariously in the balance, the world of foreign policy remains as active as ever. Today’s newsletter introduces for the first time global perspectives on the state of British foreign, defence and security policy as we go over some recent assessments by foreign think tanks of where the United Kingdom (UK) stands in today’s increasingly multipolar world. So read on!

Leading the agenda
UK Intelligence agencies acknowledge ‘feasibility’ of Covid lab leak theory
In a significant development reported by both The Times and The Daily Mirror, sources with Britain’s intelligence community have acknowledged that the possibility of the Covid-19 virus being the result of a leak from the People’s Liberation Army-controlled laboratory Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The revelation, which as per The Daily Mirror has already elicited a concurring United States’ (US) response, is expected to amplify international calls for greater transparency on Beijing’s end regarding the origins of the disease. Indeed, thus-far ambivalent New Zealand’s call for a global investigation into the origins of Covid-19 during the recent meeting between Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison, prime ministers of New Zealand and Australia, respectively, demonstrates that the revelations by British intelligence services have made ripples already.
Iran and Russia warn the UK
Following meetings between Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, and Israeli and Palestinian leaders amid the fragile ceasefire holding between the two sides, The Tehran Times, a broadsheet reportedly close to Iran’s regime, has reported comments by Saeed Khatibzadeh, Spokesperson at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, warning Raab and Anthony Blinken, US Secretary of State, against ‘spinning the goals of the Vienna talks’ by ‘placating’ Israel, declaring Tel-Aviv ‘the sworn enemy of the JCPOA’.
In the same week, Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported Maria Zakharova, Spokesperson at the Russian Foreign Ministry, criticising the UK regarding the possibility of British sanctions against the NordStream II gas pipeline in response to the forced landing of a passenger jet by Belarussian authorities at the behest of Moscow, lashing out at Whitehall’s apparent ‘Russophobia’.
Both responses reflect the flutter that Britain has caused in both capitals as a consequence of its activities in two regions that both nations believe exist within their respective spheres of influence. It bears further testimony to the increased power of Britain’s discursive statecraft during an era of intensifying geopolitical competition.
Foreign Secretary to decide the fate of Venezuelan gold in British coffers
City AM has reported that as per a recent verdict by the UK’s Supreme Court, Raab has been delegated with the responsibility of deciding the fate of £1.4 billion worth of Venezuelan gold currently deposited with the Bank of England. The past year has seen a high-profile legal battle over possession of these gold reserves between the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) and the Juan Guaido-led government-in-exile recognised by the UK, the US and the EU. Guaido, as the British-recognised interim president, claims possession of the gold, a claim disputed by the Venezuelan regime and the BCV in British courts.
The verdict effectively sets the stage for post-Brexit Britain’s Latin America policy. Whichever decision the Foreign Secretary takes, the side eventually favoured will benefit considerably with consequences for geopolitics in not just Venezuela but much of South America.
Below the radar
OneWeb launches 36 satellites into space: The British private satellite communications company in which the British Government owns a 42.2% stake launched a number of its commercial low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites into space from a Russian cosmodrome. This comes at a time when the British Government seeks to bolster its space strategy amid the growth of astropolitics as various global powers seek to establish dominance in humanity’s final frontier.
New parliamentary select committee enquiries: The House of Commons Defence Select Committee has opened up two new enquiries. The first, on Space Defence, will be accepting evidence until the 1st July while the second, on the treatment of contracted staff for the Ministry of Defence’s ancillary services, will accept evidence until the 27th June.
News from the think-tank world: US foreign policy think tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has published a rather morose assessment of the UK’s post-Brexit foreign policy by Peter Kellner. He argues that Britain’s ‘days of exaggerated self-importance are finally over’, which ‘could change the way Britain, as a nation, thinks and acts; and very possibly for the better.’ Why would it be beneficial for one of the world’s leading democracies to curl up in a ball? No explanation is given.
On a more positive note, Prof. Richard Whitman writes in Britain’s World that the Integrated Review puts the UK in Europe’s ‘diplomatic vanguard’ when it comes to dealing with major power revisionists such as Russia and the People’s Republic of China.
Over and out
That is today’s newsletter over and done with. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
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