News / Europe

Britain Fears Being Sidelined As US, France Debate Syria Strikes

Britain Fears Being Sidelined As US, France Debate Syria Strikesi
X
September 09, 2013 9:05 PM
As the U.S. considers launching military strikes against Syria over its alleged chemical weapons use, there is much concern in Britain over the country's future role in the world after a parliamentary vote ruled out military action. In a country that has long prided itself on its ability to "punch above its weight," fears are growing that Britain’s global reputation is fading. More from Henry Ridgwell in London.
Henry Ridgwell
As the U.S. considers launching military strikes against Syria over alleged chemical weapons use, there is much concern in Britain over the country's future role in the world after a parliamentary vote ruled out military action. In a country that has long prided itself on its ability to "punch above its weight," fears are growing that Britain’s global reputation is fading.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated Britain’s support for military action against Syria when he hosted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in London Monday.

But Britain won’t take part itself after parliament voted against it late last month.

That shock result has prompted a period of soul-searching among politicians and media over whether Britain’s treasured "special relationship" with the U.S. is finished. Chris Brown is a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“We care more about the special relationship than they do because we’re the junior partner. And we’re now even more junior than we were two weeks ago; I think that’s certainly true," said Brown.

Since the turn of the century, Britain has fought alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq. Along with France, the allies worked together on the intervention in Libya in 2011.

Britain won’t take part in any strikes on Syria - but that doesn’t mean it’s doing nothing, says lawmaker Ben Wallace of the ruling coalition’s Conservative party.

“We are going to go and redouble our efforts in other ways - humanitarian, negotiated peace, and trying to get parties together. And I think Britain shouldn’t just think its power is derived from firing missiles. It has power all over the world in other areas. And, on the other side, Britain has tremendous intelligence capabilities," said Wallace.

Recent polls show only 1 in 5 British people support taking part in strikes on Syria. Parliament’s vote expressed the democratic will of the people - and that’s respected, says LSE's Chris Brown.
    
 “It did wonders, if you like, for Britain’s soft power. It may have hurt Britain’s hard power image, but in terms of Britain’s image within Western Europe at least, it didn’t do it any harm at all," he said.

But Brown says beyond Western Europe, military cutbacks and an apparent lack of appetite for intervention are affecting Britain’s reputation.

At the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg Friday, media reported that a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Britain as "just a small island." The spokesman denied making the remarks - but British Prime Minister David Cameron launched an impassioned defense.

“Yes, we are a small island, in fact a small group of islands. But I would challenge anyone to come up with a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart, with a greater resilience," said Cameron.

But Cameron - and future prime ministers - will find it increasingly difficult to get parliamentary backing, said Brown.

 “A precedent has been set. And I think it will be very difficult to get a House of Commons majority, in future, for this sort of action," he said.

With military action off the table, Britain says it is determined to take the lead on humanitarian relief - and has pledged to boost total spending on Syria to $628 million.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid