Why is a British Carrier Strike Group Heading to the Indo-Pacidic? warontherocks.com

Alessio Patalano, director of the King’s Japan Programme at the Centre for Grand Strategy

On July 6, a British carrier strike group passed through the Suez Canal, heading to the South China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean for the first time since 1997. The last carrier deployment to the region marked a decline in British Indo-Pacific presence, as the task group visited Hong Kong prior to the handover of the former colony to the People’s Republic of China. This deployment, led by the new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, marks a renewed determination to wield British maritime power and influence “east of Suez.” […]

The answers to these questions are far from trivial. The British media has heavily criticized this deployment. The Observer categorically judged that “sailing into imperial delusions is no way to run foreign policy.” The Financial Times went to great lengths to present remarks by U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin so as to suggest that Britain would be “more helpful” closer to home — presumably in Europe — only to subsequently update the story to better reflect his rather “positive remarks.”

This comes as no surprise. Since its first appearance in a speech Theresa May delivered in 2016, the idea of a “Global Britain” has often attracted criticism from those who view it as a “lonely fiction.” Specifically, pundits have regarded the recalibration, or “tilt,” toward the Indo-Pacific — and the carrier deployment — as a post-Brexit “theatrical exercise.” The prism of Brexit has tinted much of these critiques, with the majority of skeptics viewing plans for the Indo-Pacific as a distraction from the loss of a close relationship with the European Union and, as a result, of relevance to the United States. Informed observers, on the other hand, have raised questions about Britain’s need to sustain its engagement for British intentions to be taken seriously within the region. Similarly, some academics have noted that the logistics of sustaining activities would inevitably stretch British military resources too thinly, like “butter scraped over too much bread.” Harsher critics have gone as far as considering British ambitions in the Indo-Pacific through the prism of “imperial nostalgia,” with the government’s rhetoric being “miles distant from reality.” Läs artikel