Liz Truss will announce a new UK defence and foreign policy review on Wednesday less only 18 months after the last was concluded, to take account of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the threat posed by authoritarian regimes.
Truss, in a speech at the UN in New York, will urge democracies to “prioritise economic growth and security” and will argue that they must develop a strategy to “constrain authoritarianism”.
She will also commit her government to raising Britain’s defence spending to 3 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030 in order to address new military threats and urge the west to stand firm against Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Asked if Putin had a way back into the international fold, she suggested that Russia should be forced to pay reparations for the devastation it had caused.
“First Russia needs to leave Ukraine, and we need to make sure that there is proper recompense for what has happened in Ukraine and we need to make sure Russia is never again able to threaten countries on its border,” she said.
In March 2021 Boris Johnson’s government published an integrated review of security, defence and foreign policy that was widely billed as a “tilt to Asia”, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced a rethink.
Truss has ordered an update to the review which, according to Downing Street, would “ensure the UK’s diplomatic, military and security architecture is keeping pace with evolving threats posed by hostile nations”.
Professor John Bew, the prime minister’s special adviser for foreign affairs and defence, will lead a Downing Street process to update the review, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
In her speech to the UN General Assembly, Truss will try to link her rightwing economic reforms, including tax cuts and deregulation, with a broader imperative for the west to build its economic resilience.
“The free world needs this economic strength and resilience to push back against authoritarian aggression and win this new era of strategic competition,” she will say.
“We will no longer be strategically dependent on those who seek to weaponise the global economy.”
In her first major speech on the world stage, Truss echoed some of the cold war rhetoric of Margaret Thatcher, in which the former British premier claimed that the free world would prevail over the Soviet Union.
“The story of 2022 could have been that of an authoritarian state rolling its tanks over the border of a peaceful neighbour and subjugating its people,” Truss will say.
“Instead, it is the story of freedom fighting back. But this must not be a one-off. Together with our friends and allies around the world, we will continue to champion freedom, sovereignty and democracy.”