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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
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.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


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